Monday, September 24, 2018

Saved by the Czar?

"Orthodox Miracles" is a short and very confusing e-book, comprising material from a wide variety of sources. The main stories included are about miracles associated with the last Czar and his family, regarded as saints and martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church. A rather basic text on Christmas celebrations in Serbia have also been included, and some hymns in commemoration of Mary's husband Joseph, one of which is Catholic! Why a Catholic piece has been smuggled into this otherwise pretty hard line Orthodox material is, I suppose, an interesting question. The illustrations of angels are modern, not Orthodox.

As already noted, Czar Nicholas II and his family are honored as saints and martyrs (or “passion bearers”) by the Russian Orthodox Church (not without some controversy). The main reason is that the imperial family was killed by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. One item in the e-book is a modern miracle story. A young couple in Dayton, Tennessee claim to have survived a car crash due to the supernatural intervention of the imperial family, Tsarevich Alexis in particular.

The most interesting piece is a memoire of life in the Soviet Union, written by a woman who was saved from a chronic lung disease by Grand Duchess Maria (one of the Czar's daughters), who mysteriously appeared in her room and even entertained her by reading a slightly frivolous story! More conservative believers may not be amused. The story also gives us short glimpses of the semi-secret life lived by Orthodox believers under Soviet rule. At night, people gathered at the Ipatiev House in Sverdlovsk (where the Czar and his family had been executed by the Bolsheviks) to offer prayers. The story-teller's grandmother was a “nun in the world”, i.e. a secret nun who pretended to be a secular person, but who occasionally dared to wear a nun's headdress. The story takes place in the Urals, to which the story-teller's family had been banished by Stalin during the 1930's (presumably, they were kulaks).

It's not clear who published “Orthodox Miracles”, but the frequent references to the magazine “Orthodox Word” points to supporters of the late Seraphim Rose and the Saint Herman Monastery. The combination of Russian and Serbian material points in the same direction, since the Brotherhood of Saint Herman was originally associated with a Russian Orthodox group in exile, later becoming part of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The “far out” character of some of the material also points, to be honest, in the direction of Rose's admirers. The only anomaly is the Catholic stuff!

Overall, not the most interesting e-book around (and badly formatted, too) and really only worth two stars, although the Russian miracle story could be given the OK rating.

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