Wednesday, November 4, 2015

1917 Cross cultural practice across religious borders

From the book; Return to Russia with Flag Unfurled

Возвращение в Россию с развеваю щимся флагом

Russia's conversion to Christianity 929 years earlier introduced icons as an important part of the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church. And in our age (1917) were an important part of the domestic life of ordinary Russians as early as the 16th century. Throughout the turbulent centuries of repression in Russia icons offered comfort and support in the Russian psyche providing spiritual strength. Icons representing Christ were most popular and the veneration of his mother Mary was widespread.

(Ten Years in Russia pp. 67-68)

Colonel Larsson, recognizing the significance of the icon in the life of the Russian people, believed that their inclusion in some respectful form would serve as a valuable representation of the Army’s attitude to the Orthodox church. The Army had already adopted the Russian Orthodox cross into its crest as a symbol of this newly established Christian church’s predilection for the mother church of Russia. 

Icons, depicting a painting of Christ, were already displayed in some Army posts and a common display in the homes of converts and those joining as soldiers.

Larsson writes in detailing the decisions made by influential church members, and following exhaustive discussions, that the following guidelines would be adopted:
  • An icon would be accepted for display in all SA halls. It must be a painting of Christ. It must to be mounted on a wall between the platform and the congregation in such manner that no one will ever have to have their back turned to it; seen as an injustice. 
  • The sign of the cross. Although it’s sometimes abused  (used inappropriately) our Orthodox comrades are free to observe this practice. We also allowed our Salvationist to observe this practice in the opening moments of our meetings (worship service).
  • We also introduced the Orthodox practice of singing the Lord’s Prayer in unison.
  • Confession and attendance at mass once annually, during the Easter season, was a matter of personal choice.

One Salvationist explained that for her confession was the same as giving her personal testimony to the priest. Soon thereafter our soldiers, who always wore their SA uniforms, found that the priests no longer welcomed them. This caused them to separate in large part their interest in continuing this church practice.

Other questions remained open for discussion; marriage ceremony, infant baptism and funeral ceremonies, at which an Orthodox priest would officiate.

It soon became evident, something we'd counted on, that the newly converted orthodox believers remained faithful to their ceremonies, however, they saw after a time another 'light' and lost interest in them.

Translation: Sven Ljungholm

Sven Ljungholm

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