Thursday, December 15, 2016

"A Snap-Shot from Russia"

The Churchman | February 16, 1918

The Rev. Jesse Halsey, who sends from Moscow “A Snap-Shot from Russia,” is pastor of the Seventh Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati. He sailed from San Francisco in September with the first Y.M.C.A. contingent to go to Russia, where he was placed in charge of the supplies department of the Y. in that country. The Bolshevik General has ordered all the secretaries out of the camps, and it is probable that the Y. men are now on their way to France. In a note sent with his article, Mr. Halsey says: “I was so fortunate as to stand within ten feet of the patriarch during parts of the ceremony, thanks to the American embassy. There were only 500 admitted to the church besides the high clergy. A recent “revolution (we have them every week here) had closed the Kremlin to most people. I stood with the ‘bishops and other clergy’ and saw everything. It was four hours long, but was like going back to Constantinople in the days of Constantine. The music is tremendous, even in the smallest churches—and there are nearly 300 in Moscow alone. I have been through one battle, a week long, but got no scratches.”

For four years Mr. Halsey was with Dr. Grenfell on the coast of Labrador, where the Doctor dubbed him “the saint in overalls” owing to the unclerical uniform he wore on six days of the week while installing all the heating and lighting systems of Dr. Grenfell’s hospitals.

A Snap-Shot From Russia

The following article published in The Churchman of February 16th has a very local interest coming as it does from the pen of one of our own “boys.” Mr. Halsey went out to Russia last September with a party of eleven colleagues to engage in Y.M.C.A. work in Russia. He was stationed in Moscow and was priviledged to witness the ceremonies herein described.

The last message from Mr. Halsey was from Kola, where he had gone on a long sledding trip to Murmonsk, which is on the shores of the Arctic Sea, 200 miles north of Archangel.

Moscow, December 6.—On the spot where the late (and we supposed the last) Czar of all the Russias crowned himself; where many of his predecessors had stood on similar occasions; with the thirty bells of “Ivan Veliky” chiming out on the frosty, sunrise air; with the boom of the sixty-ton “ascension” bell landing diapason to the majestic choral of the choirs; in the presence of saints and angels, frescoed from the floor to the dome; before the iconostas studied with its profusion of precious stones; under the rough scaffolding, hiding the cruel scars of bombardment from the latest “revolution;” in the many-shadowed light flung down from the hundred tapered candelabrum (made from French silver picked up by the Cossacks after Napoleon’s retreat); here in the Uspensky Sbor (Cathedral of the Assumption) on the Kremlin hill in the holy city of Moscow, the new Patriarch of the Greco-Russian Church was set apart to his high office.

At the completion of the ceremony surrounded by his clergy, preceded by the holy icons, and followed by the crowd, he made a circuit of the Kremlin courtyard, dispensing his blessing and sprinkling holy water up on the bystanders, from a vessel used by many of his ancient predecessors.

In 1721, Peter the Great suppressed the patriarchate and placed the mitre upon his own head. In its place he instituted the Holy Synod which, until the revolution of last March, was the ruling body of the Russian Church. The Metropolites of Kief, Moscow and Petrograd, and the Exarch of Georgia were ex officio members. In addition, the Czar “nominated” eight clergymen, six of them bishops and the other two, ordinarily, his private chaplains. The convener of the Synod, called the procurator, was always a layman, and appointed by the Czar. He held a portfolio as a minister of State, and directed the schools and seminaries of the Church. These, with other powers, made him the practical dictator in all ecclesiastical policies. The Czar might dismiss any member of the Synod, at will, and at his convocation each member took the following oath: “I acknowledge him (the Czar) to be the supreme judge in this spiritual assembly.”

With the fall of the old regime the Church was free to elect its own head, and for the past months, throughout the country, delegates have been selected to choose candidates for the office of patriarch. At length, these delegates, two hundred in number, selected and training to fill the position. On Sunday, November 18, in accord with Apostolic usage (Acts 1:26) lots were cast “and the lot fell upon” Tichon, Metropolitan of Moscow. On December 4 he was inducted into office.

It would require Dean Stanley’s knowledge and insight rightly to appreciate and interpret the symbolism of the majestic pageant, but even upon the untutored mind it made a strong impression. At sunrise the procession emerged from the Synod and proceeded to the cathedral, where the candidate was conducted to a raised dais near the east end. Here, surrounded by the abbots of the great monasteries, arrayed in their purple robes, the new Primate received the homages of his bishops. One by one, “glorious in their apparel,” copes rigid with gold, jewel bedight mitres, they came, bowed low and kissed the Patriarch’s hand, yielding allegiance in feudal fashion.

The Eucharist was celebrated with all the gorgeous pomp of the Greek ritual; then Anastasiu, Archbishop of Kishinef, delivered the sermon, outlining the duties of the holy office and urging the people to uphold the hands of the “Holy Father” during these troublous times.

The Patriarch was then led out before the alter by the two unsuccessful candidates and Vladimar, the senior Metropolitan, charged him with the duties of his office and presented him as a symbol of his authority, with the staff of “Peter the Wonderworker.” Recognizing the weight of the responsibility placed upon him, and asking for the prayers of the people, he would undertake to bear “this cross of responsibility even as Christ bore his,” the Patriarch said. Several of the higher clergy then came forward and presented him with valuable historical memorials of former patriarchs of the Church, and as the mitre of Nikon, appropriated by Peter two hundred years ago, sparkling with diamonds and pearls and surmounted by a jeweled cross, was placed upon his head by Vladimar, the choirs broke out in a glad Te Deum, in which the congregation heartily joined. Each worshipper had provided himself with a candle when entering and at this point in the service these thousand tapers were lighted while the Primate made his way to his throne—once that of Czar Alexis Michalovich—and from there blessed the people. In deep, resonant tones, the officiating deacon proclaimed—“Long live our Holy Father, Tichon, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia,” and with all still singing, the clergy filed out of the cathedral.

The Russian service is always impressive, especially the music, as the well-trained choirs are seconded by the congregation in the chants, which everyone seems to know. There is no instrumental accompaniment, but the unison singing of one choir, with studied pauses the leave the echoes reverberating through the recesses of the church, is taken up by a hidden choir in another part, and in his turn the priest answers back—one continuous antiphonal. This particular service “for the installation of a Patriarch” had not been heard for two centuries, but so careful was the preparation that no pauses nor discords were apparent from one end to the other.

The new Patriarch is just past sixty, of medium stature, somewhat bald, but with an ample fringe of modest proportions, quite white, frames a mouth that pictures gentleness rather than decision. He is reported as interested in church affairs solely, is not a politician and has hopes of making the Church a contributing factor in restoring stability to Russia in the present crisis.

The new Synod has just convened—December 8—and consists of the Patriarch and six members, elected for two-year terms. Thus is the spirit of democracy working in the Russian Church; it remains to be seen whether the Church, until so recently a State institution, can adjust itself to an environment permeated by extreme democratic ideals.

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