Monday, October 13, 2014

The Empire of Russia: Greek Christianity

The history tells of a ruler named Vlademer (958-1015AD) who invites Christianity into his empire by the strangest stratagem.  As a pagan, he sends his army to send an army to threaten Constantinople.  In the suing for peace, a Christian princess is reluctantly sent to marry Vlademer, who then announces his acceptance of Christianity while receiving a gift of distinguished clergy.  "The ceremony of baptism was immediately performed in the church of St. Basil, in the city of Cherson, and then, at the same hour, the marriage rites with the princess were solemnized.  Vlademer ordered a large church to be built at Cherson in memory of his visit.  He then returned to Kief, taking with him some preachers of distinction ..."  Christians are so easy to fool.

The Greek influence is thus what started Christianity in Russia, but things were not to remain so simple:  "Nearly all the pastors of the churches were Greeks from Constantinople, and Yaroslaf, apprehensive that the Greeks might acquire too much influence in the empire, made great efforts to raise up Russian ecclesiastics, and to place them in the most important posts."  It looks like the Russian Orthodox church is having its foundations laid.

At this point the Russians are twice removed from the Popery of Rome, but Rome finds a pretext through the woes of a ambition crazed prince whose schemes have backfired:  "The banished prince thus disappointed, turned his steps to Rome, and implored the aid of Gregory VII, that renowned pontiff, who was ambitious of universal sovereignty, and who had assumed the title of King of kings.  Ysiaslaf, in his humiliation, was ready to renounce his fidelity to the Greek church, and also the dignity of an independent prince.  He promised, in consideration of the support of the pope, to recognize not only the spiritual power of Rome, but also the temporal authority of the pontiff".  Ysiaslaf (1024-1078) raises another army and gets himself killed.

Having spurned Papism for the moment, I was struck by the Mariolatry, as another genocidal madman, Mstislaf, attacks the city of Novgorod (113x?AD) which was in no mood to surrender themselves to a brutal execution.  To aid in the coming battle, the following event is recorded: "The clergy in procession, bearing the image of the Virgin in their arms, traversed the fortifications of the city, and with prayers, hymns and the most imposing Christian rites, inspired the soldiers with religious enthusiasm".  God granted victory to the city, and the attacking horde perished as it retreated 200 miles back through the desert wasteland they had created.  Which leaves me wondering what image we would carry about our modern fortifications if The Army of Doom were at our borders.  And who would be our honored clergy?

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