The blood of Russians washed away their sins

So what is orthodox about this teaching from an Orthodox patriarch?

Church debate in Russia continues to simmer over the role of  dictator Josef Stalin, but Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church has said in a Moscow sermon that the Second World War was redemptive for his country, while making  no mention of the former Soviet ruler's name in his address.

“The church does not look at the war as historians or politicians do,” said Kirill on 9 May at the Church of Christ the Saviour. “The church has a particular stance, a particular spiritual point of view.” The Patriarch said he believed the war had redeemed Russia from its sins.

“We know what took place among our people after the bloody events of the beginning of the 20th century,” said Kirill. “How many lies, how much evil and human suffering there was. But God washed away these lies and this evil with our blood, with the blood of our fathers, as has happened more than once in human history.”

“And that is why we must come to a special understanding of the redemptive meaning of the Great Patriotic War,” Kirill added.

The patriarch did not mention by name Stalin, who led the Soviet Union during the Second World War, but the church leader did take issue with historians who equate Nazi Germany with Stalin-era Russia.

“When some homegrown historians tell us that the evil here was no less than there, they are not seeing beyond their own noses, and fail to see the divine horizon beyond their extremely primitive and sinful analysis,” said Kirill. “The Great Patriotic War [as Russians call the Second World War] revealed to us God's truth about ourselves. It punished us for our sins but revealed to us the great glory and strength of our people.”

via Touchstone Magazine – Mere Comments: Russian Patriarch avoids ‘Stalin’ as dictator debate simmers.

You get that in Dostoevsky too, the notion that OUR sufferings are what redeem us.

Bo Giertz’s new novel

Bo Giertz (1905-1998) was a confessional, orthodox Lutheran bishop in the Church of Sweden. He was also a notable novelist. Many of you have doubtless read  Hammer of God, about three generations of pastors, each facing the various challenges to the Gospel of each era.   That novel has been a life-changer for many readers.

Now, at long last, another Giertz novel has been translated into English, The Knights of Rhodes.

It’s a historical novel about the Knights Hospitaller and the siege of Rhodes.  The Hospitallers started as a hospital order–which remained a part of their ministry–but they became a military order during the Crusades.  Think monks–complete with vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience, as well as performing the daily liturgies–plus swords and cannons.  This novel is set in the 16th century, with the knights in their formidable citadel on the island of Rhodes having to face the Turkish empire under the young sultan Suleiman, beginning his plan to conquer Europe.

The characters come alive and stay in the mind.   The battle sequences are thrilling.  The spiritual complexities are fascinating.

The Knights of Rhodes is not as pre-occupied with theological issues as Hammer of God, at least not on the surface.  And yet, even this story of Roman Catholic monastic knights is full of what Luther was preaching about the same time as the Turkish invasion.  The characters have piety of various kinds, but in a climate of sin, violence, betrayals, and the competition of a triumphant Islam, they need to discover Jesus and the Theology of the Cross.

Not only all of this, but the translator is our own Bror Erickson, frequent commenter on this blog.  Let’s give it the Amazon bomb treatment, buying it up and advancing its sales ranking  (currently in the 800,000s) to attract other people’s attention to it.

I do have one complaint:  Doesn’t Wipf & Stock have any copyeditors or proofreaders?  There are typos and other mistakes on every page. (Bror, insist on a new edition!  If you need someone to do the copyediting, I’ll do it.  The book deserves that.)

Anyway, you can buy it by clicking the links.

Four dead in O-hi-o

Coming home from Fort Wayne, after the baptism and the call service I was telling you about, we stopped for the night at a motel in Kent, Ohio.  It turns out, that is the location of Kent State University, where 77 National Guardsmen fired on some 2,000 protesters of the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine.  As many as three of the fatalities were not even part of the demonstration, either onlookers or students on their way to class, one of whom was in ROTC.

Anyway, Kent State was holding a conference on the event, which marks its 40th anniversary today.

I was a student back then, hardly an activist, but I remember the trauma of it, the thought that our government could kill us.  Shocked too that many of our parents said that if we protested we would deserve it.

I know, I know:  Both sides were just young adults.  The guardsmen, the same age as the privileged college students with their draft deferments, scared to death of the rocks and tear gas canisters that were being thrown at them.  Investigators found that 67 shots were fired.  Surely they weren’t all aimed to kill, or many more would have died.  Those who were shot were from 300-500 feet away from the Guardsmen, but stray bullets go a long ways.  Here are more details.

We think America is polarized today, but it was nothing compared to 1970.  May the American military never again be unleashed on its own citizens.

The motel we stayed in had a breakfast.  There was a guy about my age in a wheel chair.   We exchanged pleasantries.  In researching this post, I came across his picture.   He was one of the wounded, paralyzed when the bullet pierced his spine.   He was there for the conference.

Two parallel tragedies at Katyn Forest

April 7 was the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre.  Here is the story, in brief, a chilling example of Stalin’s tactics, knowing that he was about to take over Poland:

In March 1940, Joseph Stalin signed an order for the mass execution of more than 22,000 Polish officers being held as prisoners of war. The April 1940 executions were systematic: Each office’s hands were tied behind his back, and each was shot with a single bullet through the base of the skull.

According to Poland's conscription system, the Polish officer corps included anyone with a university degree — Poland’s intelligentsia.

“By murdering these people, the Russians created a leadership vacuum,” said Alex Storozynski, the president of the Kosciuszko Foundation.

via Meeting of Russian, Polish leaders could shed light on 1940 massacre.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, that aircraft went down in Russia, killing 130 passengers, including that country’s president and a big part of its government and military leaders. It crashed in the KATYN FOREST! With tragic irony, the group had just come from the commemoration of the massacre. And there are other connections:

The Polish President and numerous top officials died aboard a TU-154 while trying to land at Smolensk airbase.He was on his way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre which took place in the woods near that city. Lech Kaczyński “was an activist in the pro-democratic anti-Communist movement in Poland … During the martial law introduced by the communists in December, 1981, he was interned as an anti-socialist element. After his release from internment, he returned to trade union activities, becoming a member of the underground Solidarity.” A BBC blog soliciting reader reactions said “Mr Kaczynski has been a controversial figure in Polish politics, advocating a right-wing Catholic agenda.” . . .

Dozens of important Polish officials died with him. Among those in the crash were Poland’s first lady, the head of the National Security Bureau, the Chief of the Polish Army General Staff, the President of the National Bank of Poland and the Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of the Polish Army. In terms of loss it is a miniature of the decapitation event he gone to commemorate: the Katyn Massacre.

After Poland went down before the onslaught of Nazi and Soviet forces in 1939-40, Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria decided to decapitate the country’s society. Since the Polish army required all university graduates to become reserve officers, the NKVD decided to kill two birds with one stone and eliminate the both the trained military manpower of Poland and its “intelligensia”. In 1940 the Communists shot more than 22,000 Polish officers in woods near Smolensk. These included an admiral, two generals, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant colonels, 258 majors, 654 captains, 17 naval captains, seven chaplains, three landowners, a prince, 20 university professors, hundeds of physicians lawyers, engineers and teachers, more than 100 writers and journalists among others.

In true Bolshevik style, there was a cover story: the Soviets claimed the Nazis did it. But although the Nazis were guilty of many other crimes, Katyn was not one of them. “In April 1943, when the Polish government-in-exile insisted on bringing the matter to the negotiation table with the Soviets and on an investigation by the International Red Cross, Stalin accused the Polish government in exile of collaborating with Nazi Germany, broke diplomatic relations with it, and started a campaign to get the Western Allies to recognize the alternative Polish pro-Soviet government in Moscow led by Wanda Wasilewska.” That government in exile continued until the end of Communist rule in Poland in 1990. In one of the crash’s cruel ironies of the accident, the last Polish President in Exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, was onboard the doomed aircraft.

Also, see this: The Curse of Katyn.

The site of the Resurrection

There is historical evidence to suggest that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem really was erected on the site of Christ’s Empty Tomb.  Go here for a series of panoramic 360-degree virtual tours of both the exterior and the interior of the church. (Be sure to click the smaller boxes for the various interior views.)

HT: David Mills

A new Shakespeare play discovered?

Well, not exactly, even if the claims are verified. From ‘Shakespeare’s lost play’ no hoax, says expert | Culture |

It has thrills, spills, sword fights, violent sexual assault and – to modern ears – a terrible ending, but the little-known 18th century play Double Falsehood was propelled into the literary limelight today when it was claimed as a lost Shakespeare.

Professor Brean Hammond of Nottingham University will publish compelling new evidence next week that the play, a romantic tragi-comedy by Lewis Theobald is – as the author always maintained it was – substantially based on a real Shakespeare play called Cardenio.

Hammond has been backed in his assertion by the Shakespeare publisher Arden and there are unconfirmed rumours that the play will open at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford when the venue reopens after its three-year closure.

The claim represents 10 years of literary detective work by Hammond. “I don’t think you can ever be absolutely 100% but, yes, I am convinced that it is Shakespeare,” he said. “It’s fair to say it’s been something of an obsession. You need to ask my wife but a fair few of my waking hours have been devoted to this subject.”

Theobald’s Double Falsehood, or The Distrest Lovers was first performed in 1727 at the Drury Lane theatre in London, along with the remarkable claim that it was based on Shakespeare’s “lost play” Cardenio, which was first performed in 1613. Theobald claimed to have three original texts of Cardenio.

Double Falsehood went down well with audiences, but it was badly received by expert observers who dismissed Theobald as a hoaxer. Alexander Pope, in particular, was scornful but the two were committed enemies. “Theobald was the author of a volume in 1726 called Shakespeare Restored which was a hatchet job on Pope’s editing of Hamlet,” said Hammond. “In that volume Theobald made it pretty clear that he considered himself superior to Pope.”

The denunciation became accepted as fact: Theobald was little more than a hoaxer, albeit an audacious one. The play then went largely to ground apart from a performance in 1846 when – after the audience shouted “author? author?” – a plaster bust of Shakespeare was brought out. It was laughed off stage.

The play reads like Shakespeare, but reworked Shakespeare. Hammond called Double Falsehood a “flawed play”, adding: “This version of the Shakespeare play has been doctored. Theobald cut out material that he didn’t think appropriate, but this was quite common. Shakespeare was very frequently rewritten in the 17th and 18th centuries.”

The play is much shorter and more bitty than a normal Shakespeare play and there are no long speeches. But there is plenty of action that centres on two men and two women, including an aristocratic villain called Henriquez who ravishes the virtuous young girl Violante. By the end he has repented and is strikingly forgiven by all.

At most, this is saying that a lost Shakespeare play, “Cardenio,” may be behind Lewis Theobald’s 18th century play “Double Falsehood.” Theobald said that it was and that he actually had copies of the missing play. To say this is not a hoax means that Theobald was not a hoaxer, not that this is an actual play from Shakespeare.

I am highly skeptical. For one thing, Shakespeare never wrote any tragi-comedies! This was a genre quite popular at the time, in which characters could be of noble birth and get killed, while arriving at a happy ending. This hybrid genre was pioneered by the writing team of Beaumont & Fletcher. These tended to have little literary merit–we would call the genre “melodrama”–although, ironically, this would be the genre that would win out, to the point that most of our “dramas” today are neither comedies nor tragedies but tragi-comedies.

Shakespeare stuck to comedies and tragedies, and though he bent those genres considerably (especially comedy), he stayed away from the melodramatic tragi-comedies. In fact, he makes fun of them, as well as other mixed-genre hybrids, in Hamlet, in which Polonius comes up with “The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited” (Act II. scene ii. line 243). If “Cardenio” was a tragicomedy, of course, then Shakespeare did write one, but I find it, while possible, quite unlikely. But I’ll be interested to see Professor Hammond’s evidence.

HT: Joe Carter