Freedom for an Old Believer

by Paul John Wigowsky

by Paul John Wigowsky
Copyright 1982

Dedicated to the Old Believers

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission.

All names, characters, and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons which may seem to exist is purely coincidental.

Chapters = Major Holydays in the Church Calendar

Major Holydays in the Church Calendar
HolydayOld (Julian)New (Gregorian)
1. Birth of Bogoroditsa (Mother of God)Sept. 8 Sept. 21
2. Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross Sept. 14 Sept. 27
3. Protection of the Mother of GodOct. 1 Oct. 14
4. Presentation of the Mother of God Nov. 21 Dec. 4
5. St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Dec. 6 Dec. 19
6. The Birth of Hristos (Christ)Dec. 25 Jan. 7
7. Synod of the Mother of GodDec. 26 Jan. 8
8. Circumcision of Hristos (Christ)Jan. 1 Jan. 14
9. The Epiphany (12th day)Jan. 6 Jan. 19
10. Presentation of Hristos (Christ) Feb. 2 Feb. 15
11. The Annunciation Mar. 25 Apr. 7
12. EASTER WEEK (PASKHA) 1ST Sunday after Spring Equinox
13. Mid-Pentecost Wednesday 25 days after Paskha
14. Ascension 40 days after Paskha
15. Descent of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Paskha
16. Saint John the Theologian May 8 May 21
17. Transfer of relics of St. Nikola May 9 May 22
18. Birth of St. John the BaptistJune 24 July 7
19. Saints Peter and Paul June 29 July 12
20. Transfiguration of Hristos (Christ)Aug. 6 Aug. 19
21. Assumption of Mother of GodAug. 15 Aug. 28
22. Beheading of St. John the Baptist Aug. 29 Sept. 11

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

CHAPTER 1 - Birth of Bogoroditsa (Mother of God)

"A nu, Masha," (Come on, Masha) ordered the bearded husband to his young and tired-looking wife, Masha. "Let's get everything that we need packed and ready to go. We're leaving this god-forsaken land."

Masha looked up from her sewing work. Her dark blue eyes glanced sideways towards her strong, hard-working husband. Ivan had just come back from the town of Harbin, where he had been for three days, and he had received the good news that the Old Believers had been granted permission to leave the country. China no longer wanted to have anything to do with the Russians. It was the year 1957, and things were changing fast in China, and in the world.

Ivan cast a slanted look into the eastern corner of their small peasant house. The eyes of Saint Nicholas, the adopted patron saint of all Orthodox Russians, stared into the depths of his inner soul. Ivan bowed three times in the direction of the approving saint, and two fingers ran across the front of his body in the sign of the cross. The bows from the waist down and the crossing from the forehead down to the navel and up to the right shoulder and across eye-level to the left shoulder were performed in such a rapid manner that the two acts seemed to be simultaneous.

"Where are you hurrying to?" slowly asked the gray-haired grandfather as he meandered from the kitchen to the living room.

"We're leaving China tomorrow," announced Ivan triumphantly as he finished his obeisances.

"But what country will accept you?" persisted the old man whose gray whiskers and beard made him look like an Old Testament prophet. Iov stopped pacing around the room and looked at his grandson with piercing eyes. His head shook from side to side, and his hands nervously fingered a woolen rosary. In his mind the often repeated prayer, "Gospodi Pomilui," (Lord, have mercy) automatically continued while he waited for an answer to his question.

"The people in town are talking about a country named America," answered Ivan.

Masha looked up from her cross-stitching. A red rose design lay in her lap. She was making it for Ivan's new shirt. Something in her mind associated the word America with freedom and lots of riches. She had heard her neighbors talking about a land where people didn't have to work, where money and food was plentiful, and where people lived like kings and queens. She faintly remembered a sweet ringing in her hear when she heard, "A-mari-ka, A-mari-ka."

"And you want to go there and forever give up hope of ever returning to our Rodina (Motherland)?" questioned Iov.

"What chance is there with the Soviets persecuting us and forcing us to give up our belief?" retorted Ivan. "And what good is it staying here in another communist country, waiting for God knows what?" He turned away without waiting for an answer.

Ivan's face turned red with anger when he said the word "communist." He despised everything associated with that word. To him it meant anti-God, anti-man, anti-morality, anti-everything-that-was-important-for-man's-salvation-on-earth. He had lost his father during a Soviet raid on the village. That ordeal was firmly etched in his mind. His mind flashed back to the days before the big war, World War II, when he was just 10 years old.

He recalled a day in autumn when his father, Makar, took him on his first hunting trip. He had helped his dad skin an elk on that day. He could still feel the blood freezing inside his body and his face turning pale when he saw the bleeding elk. But he quickly recovered from shock when his dad taught him how to hang the elk between two strong limbs and skin it from the top down. After that day, when he was initiated into the life of a hunter, he joyfully awaited the days when his dad would take him hunting for elk, squirrel and various birds. He didn't enjoy eating the squirrel, though. He also remembered that his dad would never take him on any trips that involved hunting for tigers or bears for the zoo. His dad thought it was too dangerous for him.

A tear formed in Ivan's left eye as his mind skipped to the next scene with his dad. He remembered crying bitterly on that cold winter day. The Soviet troops were helping the Chinese fight the Japanese at that time, and his father Makar was taken by the Soviets and marched off to work on repairing and extending a railway system, which was important for supplying troops at the front. The Soviets drove up one day in jeeps and trucks; they raided the villagers of all the food they could get their hands on; then they forced several able-bodied men into their trucks at gun-point. Ivan remembered crying and running after the truck, calling out "Tyatya, Tyatya" (Papa, Papa).

Ivan hid his tear-stained face from his wife's eyes. He didn't want to be seen crying like a baby. His dad never returned after that fateful day. The last they heard of Makar was that he was shot by a Soviet soldier for trying to run away from the railroad during a battle between Soviet and Japanese troops. The soldier on guard duty told the men to keep working on the railroad even though the battle was raging all around them. The men had refused and began running for cover since they were not equipped with weapons. The strict Soviet soldier shot several men. The rest escaped. Makar was one of the men who was shot in cold blood.

"What kind of future will you have in America?" muttered Iov. Ivan was no longer listening to his grandfather; he was too wrapped up with his own thoughts. Iov continued talking as he stared out the window onto their small plot of farmland. "Think how hard it will be," he continued. "You won't understand the language. It will be hard finding a good job to support the family. Your wife is due to deliver a baby soon. It won't be easy, you know. You don't know how hard it will be to keep the faith in a strange land. There's a possibility that you'll be separated from each other and scattered all over the world. That's what happened to us when we began to run away from Russian soil during the Revolution. I'm too old to be running any more."

Iov sank down into an old sofa-chair and sighed. He had seen three generations go by. He had witnessed the collapse of Imperial Russia. He had land taken away from him. He was forced by circumstances to follow a small group of Old Believers from the maritime province of Russia near the Sea of Japan into the province of Manchuria in China. The wrinkles on his face were like the rings of a tree: each displayed a period of time and also a period of growth. The time of troubles that he had lived through were sculptured into the wrinkles on his face. It was as if for every trouble or sorrow that he went through another wrinkle was added to his face to wear. They were the rewards or medals that Mother Nature gave him for each cycle in the life of man that he had completed.

Masha had been sitting all this time and listening with apprehension while Iov talked about the future. Her ears had perked up and she felt a sharp jab and kick when he mentioned the fact that she would deliver any day now. She had asked her Godmother, Yuliana Lazarevskaya, to act as midwife together with the village midwife. Now she wasn't sure what would happen. A surge of panic raced through her stomach and got caught in her throat as she began to rise to her feet. She had to grip the chair with her left hand as she stood to her feet.

"Do you want something to eat?" asked Masha as she wobbled from side to side towards the kitchen. She tried not to think about her own problems. She always felt, and had been taught by her mother, that her first duty was to her husband, then to her children. Masha was the only child and her mother took special care to indoctrinate her in all the ways of a pure and respectable girl who would be obedient and subservient to her parents and, later in life, true and faithful to her husband. In such a way, she was taught, she would be looked upon by God and by people as a virtuous woman worthy of a good husband and a good life.

"I'll just have a piece of bread and sausage," answered Ivan. "We've got to hurry and get our clothes and essentials packed. Then I've got to run over to Andrey Ribrov's."

"Don't forget to come back before sundown," called Iov. "We've got to go to the molelnya (church) tonight. It's the Eve of the birth of the Bogoroditsa (Mother of God.)."

Ivan was ashamed of himself. He was so excited about leaving China and going to a new land that he had completely forgotten about observing the religious holyday of the birth of the Mother of God. It was one of the twelve great feasts of their church calendar. September the 8th was also the first major holyday on the church calendar, which began with September the 1st.

Masha placed the plate of food on the table. The piece of bread was just cut from the fresh loaf of Russian bread that she had baked in the morning. The cold homemade sausage was cut into small round pieces and placed beside the bread. Ivan sat down, crossed himself, and recited the Lord's Prayer in a rapid manner before partaking of the food. Masha did the same together with her husband.

"You will need to pack mostly the clothes," began Ivan as he took a bite of the soft white bread. "And don't forget to pack my holy books and our ikons. Those are our most precious treasures. The man at the consulate told me I won't be able to take my hunting rifle with me. That's what I want to see Andrey Ribrov about. He says there's a Chinaman who'll pay good money for it."

"You should give up that hunting business completely," chimed in Iov, who had awakened from his reverie. "We've lost many of our best young men because of hunting accidents." He was referring especially to the latest accident that Ivan himself had told his grandfather about. It happened to an impetuous young hunter named Simeon who wasn't aware of a hunter behind him when he stood up from behind the bushes to shoot an elk. The hunter, Nikita, swore to give up hunting and to confess his sins daily as he cried over the body of the twenty-two year old Simeon that he had shot accidentally.

"I've always told you," continued Iov, "that if a man lives by the sword, he'll die by the sword. That's what our Scriptures tell us."

"I know, I know," replied Ivan. "But a man has to make a living somehow. And a man has to get food for the table somehow, too. That's his sacred duty and responsibility to God and to his family."

"Yes, but there are other means of making a living," concluded Iov. He said no more.

Masha sat quietly and listened. She reminisced about that hunting accident. It was the last week in March, and she had begged Ivan to stay home. She sensed that something tragic was going to happen. She remembered the foreboding dream that woke her up before the sun rose. She had seen a dead man lying in a coffin. She told Ivan about the dream, but Ivan reassured her in a manly, fearless way that there was nothing to fear. Ivan was the third man in that party. When Ivan returned from the hunting trip and told her about the death of Simeon and the unfortunate incident, she broke down and cried for several hours. She felt it was partly her fault that the others had gone hunting without her warning them.

But then the mood of Masha's internal soul changed as she reflected on how Ivan had loved her after the week-long absence. She knew that was the day when her baby was conceived. Masha could still hear the angelic words that her husband spoke to her as he lay by her side that night.

"For every death there is a birth," he had said. "The child that you'll have will be a replacement--a soul for a soul."

Those words were like an electrical charge that pierced her womb like a flaming arrow and gave her a new life. Peace came over her soul.

Two months after that climactic period in her life, Masha was positive that she would be blessed with the arrival of a baby. She would be a mother, finally. Her purpose and function in life as a woman would be fulfilled. Masha felt her heart open up like a rose, and love poured out in ever-widening circles to the expectant baby.

Presently she was approximately seven months into her pregnancy, and the date of arrival was expected to be sometime before the third week in December.

"Will you be able to take down the embroidered sheets around the ikons before you go to Andrey's?" asked Masha, turning her attention back to her husband and to their immediate needs. "I'll need to pack those separately with our ikons."

"Yes, of course," answered Ivan, remembering that his wife was pregnant and unable to stand on chairs in fear of falling down and losing the baby. Ivan felt a compassionate warmth flow through his body for the woman who was going to bear his baby. He leaned over to his right and kissed the mother-to-be on the lips. Masha responded by throwing her arms around his neck and embracing him.

"Hurry home so we can finish packing together," Masha said in between kisses.

"Of course, my dear little golubka (love-dove), responded Ivan affectionately. He always referred to his wife as his dear love-dove whenever he felt passion rise in him.

Ivan quickly stifled his feelings and said a quick prayer; then he stood up and crossed himself before leaving the old wooden table. He went through the two small bedrooms and the living room and took down the religiously significant sheets, which were embroidered with flowers. He grabbed his hunting rifle and opened the door of the hut, which now belonged to the Chinese and which was the only piece of property that was left for them to use while they still lived in China. He walked half a mile down the dirt road to Andrey's house. The land beside the road used to belong to Ivan before the Communist Chinese came in the name of land reform and took the land for their own use. Ivan glanced over the once fertile wheat land and felt remorse and grief at what the Chinese revolutionary cadres had done without warning in 1949 in their area. Not only had they left them without a source of income, but they had humiliated them and had taken away their human dignity. The Old Believers were tillers of the soil. Without the mother earth to rely on, they were left like orphans--left to fend for themselves as best as they could.

These and other thoughts crowded their way into Ivan's mind as he walked to meet with his friend, Andrey Ribrov.

Ivan knocked on the door of Andrey's small farm house. When the door opened, Ivan walked in and bowed toward the eastern corner where the ikons were displayed on the wall. He muttered a fast short prayer to himself.

"Bozhe milosti bud' menya greshnego sozdav menya Gospodi, pomiluy menya bez chisla sogreshiv, Gospodi pomiluy e prosti menya greshnego," he prayed.

As he ended the silent prayer -- "God be merciful to me a sinner my creator and Lord, have mercy on me who has sinned without number, Lord be merciful and forgive me a sinner" -- he yelled out, "Zdorov Zhivyosh!"

The greeting, "Live in Good Health!" was accepted and returned with a response greeting by Andrey.

"Milosti prosim," (We ask for mercy) responded Andrey.

After mutual respect and bowing toward each other was exchanged, Ivan handed the rifle to Andrey.

"Will you be able to get the money from the Chinaman before noon tomorrow?" asked Ivan. He stood with his arms crossed against his chest.

"Sure," replied Andrey as he invited Ivan with a gesture of his outspred hand to sit down at the table with him. "I'll be riding in to town early in the morning to sell some squirrel skins that I trapped yesterday."

Andrey was a good businessman, and he got along considerably better with the Chinese than his fellow Old Believers. He had gone to a provincial school and had learned enough Chinese when he was young to be able to communicate with the natives, especially in business matters. He helped many of his fellow-believers in most business transactions with the Chinese. Because of his good standing with the local leaders, he was allowed a small plot of land to call his own and to grow wheat on. He felt it was a reward from God for all of his charitable deeds.

"I hear you won't be coming with us to Hong Kong on the first train load," inquisitively remarked Ivan.

"That's true," admitted Andrey. "I've got to settle matters with this izba (hut) and plot of land. I hope to sell it to the highest bidder in town. It might take me a while to get the money though, so I'll have to wait until I do. And then I have to attend the funeral of that fool, Stefan Durakov. Did you hear that he went and got himself killed yesterday (Thursday) by a tiger?"

"No, I didn't hear about it," replied Ivan with a puzzled look on his face. "I was in town all day making arrangements for the trip to Hong Kong. I was with an English representative from the World Council of Churches. What happened?"

"Alyosha told me that he, Yasha and young Stefan had gone three days after our church new year to stalk and capture a tiger for the Chinese zoo," said Andrey. The church new year that he referred to began on September the 1st. "According to Alyosha, Stefan decided to start out early in the morning on the third day. They had already searched for two days without spotting a tiger. The cautious and fearful Stefan had begun to think that they would never see a tiger, so he decided to walk along the creek a little ways and report back. The other two, more experienced, hunters warned him not to go alone, but Stefan wanted to show that he was no longer afraid."

Andrey stopped talking for a moment. He was trying to recollect what Alyosha had told him next.

"A ha," continued Andrey after the slight pause, remembering what transpired next. "Of course, Alyosha and Yasha weren't going to let anything happen to the young eighteen-year-old kid, so they hurried after him. That's when they heard a loud scream, "Ee Ah!" And then the cries for help were intensified as Stefan fought for his life. When Alyosha and Yasha came upon the scene with their fierce cries to frighten away the tiger in order to save Stefan from further harm, it was too late. The tiger's claws had torn through Stefan's neck and had opened up his jugular vein. Two sharp teeth had pierced through the chest and had punctured the heart."

"O, Bozhe moy," (O, my God) exclaimed Ivan, as the muscles on his face twitched at the thought of the bleeding heart.

"The tiger ran away with her two little cubs trailing behind her when she saw Alyosha and Yasha," proceeded Andrey without noticing the convulsions that were shaking Ivan's inner being. "Stefan had lost consciousness. Blood oozed out from his pierced heart and squirted from his torn jugular vein in rhythmic pulsations. Alyosha tried to stop the bleeding with his fingers, but it was to no avail. Yasha prayed over him with his "Godpodi Pomilui" (Lord, have mercy) prayer, but Stefan's soul was already soaring up into heaven like a bird who had been freed from a cage."

"That's sad, very sad," said Ivan reflectively.

"It was his first tiger-hunting trip," admitted Andrey sorrowfully. "He told us he wanted to help his parents and make some big money. You know yourself that a tiger is worth a substantial amount of money, especially if it's captured alive. The reward is well worth the effort even though there is a risk of losing one's own life. Butif he would have listened and stuck together with his partners, he would still be alive. His partners caught many tigers before, and they only suffered minor injuries because they respected the power of the tiger. Well, Stefan was young and inexperienced. Alyosha told me that he was going to break the young hunter in and teach him the ropes, but he just got too anxious. The hard part for Alyosha was when he brought the body home. Alyosha and Yasha had washed Stefan's body by the creek after the blood had completely coagulated, and they had wrapped him up in his sleeping bag. Alyosha told Stefan's parents that he had put up a good fight, and they briefly mentioned that he had insisted on going alone without waiting for them. 'God, in his Heavenly Wisdom, knows why my boy had to go,' was all the father said as he mourned over his son's body. The mother only kept repeating, 'Godpodi Pomilui, Gospodi Pomilui' (Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy), as she crossed herself over and over."

"He could have been going to Hong Kong with the rest of us tomorrow," remarked Ivan.

"That's right," said Andrey. "As it is, his bones will rest in the red dirt of China. He'll be buried the day after tomorrow alongside his friends at our church cemetery. His father, on top of it all, has to build the box in which his own son will be laid."

"They'll probably have to wait for the next train load out to Hong Kong," added Ivan.

"The parents told me just the close relatives and his Hrostnaya (Godmother) will stay for the funeral," informed Andrey.

When Ivan finally excused himself from the talkative Andrey Ribrov, the sun was beginning to set and the sky was aglow with red, orange, and pink colors. The rays of the setting sun spread out in all directions from behind scattered clouds.

"Well, good-bye, my dear friend," exclaimed Andrey as they parted on the steps of the back porch. "Go with God, and remember us in your prayers. Hopefully, next year we'll be free from our cares here and make our way in search of hospitable land."

"Keep the old belief," responded Ivan. They embraced in the Russian fashion, arms flung around the back and shoulders, and then they bowed respectfully and religiously to each other as a sign of their mutual belief.

"Till we meet again, Ioann Bogolubov," cried Andrey as Ivan began walking down the path back home.

Ivan turned and waved at the mention of his religious name, Ioann. A warm smile beamed back at his boyhood friend, who had always called him Ioann whenever he wanted to stress the religious nature of the boy who was raised by Grandfather Iov to read holy books in church. At the age of eight, Ivan was already reading the Psalter during the church service. He had spiritual pride in that prominent position, for when he stood and read the words of wisdom that King David had left for all generations, he felt a flowing grace embrace his entire body and soul. People sensed his contact with something divine, and they remarked to one another that here was a boy chosen to bring God's Grace to men through the reading of the Holy Word.

By the time Ivan reached his humble little hut, the first stars and planets in the sky had become visible. Venus, the bright "evening star," sparkled in blue-green colors as Ivan entered through the door.

"Try this rubaha (shirt) on," said Masha as she slowly rose to meet her husband. "I finished it for you while you were gone."

Ivan took the colorful violet shirt in his hands, inspected it, and put it on. Three large roses adorned the front panel of the shirt down the middle of the chest and nine small roses circled around the collar which covered his neck. Green vines with leaves connected the roses.

"You can wear it under your halat (robe) tonight when you go to the molelnya (church)," continued Masha as she admired the way her husband looked in the bright, new shirt.

"It fits nicely," remarked Ivan, "and it's really beautiful." Ivan came closer to Masha and kissed her on the cheek as a sign of gratitude for all the long hours spent on sewing just one shirt for him.

"Get yourself ready," chimed in Grandfather Iov as he walked out of his tiny bedroom in his long black monk's robe. "It's time to begin the service for our most venerable Deva (Virgin), the Bogoroditsa (Mother of God)."

Iov was the nastoyatel' (superior elder) of the small community church, and it was his duty to open the door and light the candles in preparation for the service.

"We'll be ready in a minute," responded Ivan and Masha in unison.

"Hurry, we can't be late," urgently insisted the punctual nastoyatel' (elder) as he began to go out the door.

"You go ahead, and we'll catch up with you," said Ivan as he bowed his head into the kitchen sink. "I have to wash up a bit before I go."

Iov slowly trudged down the dirt road to the village church, which was another mile past Andrey's house. He had served his people for thirty years now in the village church near Harbin. He walked with his head bent low, and he contemplated his past history. He reflected on the innocent pre-revolutionary years when he lived near Khabarovsk in a similar village of Old Believers. Those were the years of plenty and prosperity, when war and famine were unheard of except as rumors. By the turn of the century he was already thirty years old, and he had a family of his own. When the first rumblings of Russian revolution were heard in 1905, everyone in the village thought that the end of the world was near. He could still hear the sounds of cannons, guns, and horses' hooves that ravaged the Russian land and made Russian people flee in every imaginable direction for safety and shelter. He recalled the land grabbing of the Bolsheviks and the portraits of Lenin in the streets of Khabarovsk. Iov bitterly fought back the tears of nostalgia for his mother country as he remembered how hard it was to sing the Lord's song in a strange land. Persecution for the Old Belief wasn't half as bad in Russia as humiliation and total alienation had been in China. In Russia he felt at home; in China he was a stranger.

It was totally dark by the time Iov reached the small molelnya (church), which had been built by Iov and his fellow Old Believers as a home and was later converted into a church. He fumbled for his key in his pants' pocket, and he crossed himself and bowed three times before stepping up a step to insert the brass key into the green front door. The light of the moon gave him enough light to see where to step and where to insert the key, but once inside the door he had to step cautiously in the darkness and feel his way along the wall in order to turn on the light. He went about his duty of lighting the candles in front of the ikons, which were located at the eastern end of the rectangular building. The simple green building was beautifully decorated on the inside with hand-sewn curtains above the doors, around the windows, and along the side walls. The most adorable section belonged to the centrally-located row of ikons with candles lit in front of them in their honor. At the center of the long row of gold-tinted ikons hung a large image of the Bogoroditsa (Mother of God) with the Christ-child. On the wall above the ikons hung a long white linen cloth with seven Russian Orthodox crosses strung from left to right; the seven crosses signified that the Old Believers carried on the tradition and teachings of the Seven General Councils, which convened periodically from 325 AD to 787 AD to establish the basic tenets of Christianity.

By the time Iov had finished lighting the entire row of candles, Ivan and Masha had arrived at the church. It took them longer to walk now that Masha was with child. Other worshippers continued to enter the hall-like building. As they entered they made their three obligatory bows of obeisance and crossing with two fingers. Each participant in the ritual concluded the preparatory rites by bowing once to the right, once to the left, and once to the center before moving to their chosen spot to stand in. A choral group was assembling at the front part of the hall to chant the sacred liturgy, while a group of women assembled toward the back and an group of men assembled toward the front. The men were dressed in black monk robes; the women wore their brightly-colored flowery dresses and scarves with fringes. The children stood beside their parents with their arms crossed and imitated them in every detail of the sacred ritual.

The first part of the liturgy to the Mother of God was chanted at dusk. Mention was made in the liturgy of the holy parents of Mary--Ioakim and Anna. They were placed by God in a position to bring blessing and mercy to the human race. They had consecrated their life for the fulfillment of God's promise to bring a Blessed Deva (Virgin) who would conceive and bear a Savior.

The second part of the liturgy to the Mother of God was chanted several hours after midnight, when the worshippers gathered again to celebrate the great day when the eternal tabernacle and temple was created by the merciful hand of God in preparation for the heavenly bridegroom. "Blessed art thou among women," chanted the worshippers as they rejoiced at the thought of the Mother of God interceding for them and nourishing them. The joy was to be universal, for from her would shine the sun of righteousness, Christ the Lord, who would defeat death and darkness and grant unto the worshippers eternal life. The birth of the Mother of God was to free the original parents of mankind, Adam and Eve, from the chains of sin and death.

As dawn approached, the heavy substance of darkness changed colors as the sun began to make its appearance. The worshippers, who had commemorated and personalized the mysterious birth of the Mother of God through whom the equally mysterious union of the divine Word with human nature had been accomplished, now scattered somberly and fervently to their own homes. The night vigil was part of the sacred tradition that the Russians had inherited from the monastic tradition of the Holy Byzantine Empire. Time seemed to stand still when the eternal liturgy was celebrated. It was a world within a world, a sacred world of monastic worshippers within the secular, business-like world of ordinary men.

As the sun lifted its head over the eastern horizon to signal the beginning of a new day, Ivan and Masha walked hand in hand to their little hut with hurried steps. Ivan anticipated a better future in a better world, and Masha expected a better home for the child who was anxiously stirring within her womb.

Links to other sites on the Web

Russian Story
Old Believers in Pennsylvania
Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity
Collection of Old Believer's History and Tradition
Greek / Russian Alphabet (Comparison)
Guide to English Transcription

Copyright 1982 by Paul John Wigowsky

Sign Guestbook

View Guestbook

Student Pages