If you come to Moscow in winter, you have a chance for two Christmases, your own on December 25th, and the Orthodox on January 7th.
The tradition is fairly new and had not ousted The New Year celebrations – and I hope it does not, either.
This is how the parish church looks where I live. I could not really make out if the Nativity scene was painted, or was it a fresco, or anything else – it was too dark. Anyway, it looks more like the old European art, on our icons the saints have a somewhat different expression on their faces.
The tent with was place outside the church building, in the open – and very frosty – air, next to the stand where they sold pastries and honey-cakes. A holiday is good for merchants.
If you read Russian, you will see a lot of 'prohibiting billboards', like 'don't park your car here!'
Russia is a traditionally Russian Orthodox country. Many of its traditions are based loosely on the Greek Orthodox Church. And, both 'eastern' churches are break-aways from the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, but some of the ceremonies remain similar.
A woman collecting water at a church near the Sokol metro station on Tuesday for Epiphany, traditionally called Kreshcheniye, or Baptism, in Russia. More than 800 people waited in line for the blessed water.
Family is of course very important in Russia. I have been invited to and involved in many family events, and the guest friendliness of the hosts is legendary. The people are by their nature giving. Perhaps it has something to do with society, but I think in difficult environments, such as in the collapsing former Soviet Union, one has to rely more on the extended families to survive and thrive. Perhaps this is the reason that the family is a close economic and social unit, with extended friends and family being a part of the network, especially for special occasions?
Official Georgian Godmother. Newly baptised Russian baby, Arteom or Tyoma for short. Unofficial Canadian Godfather. Three strikes against him. He does not speak Russian. He is not Russian Orthodox. And, his name is not in the book of names kept by the Church.
The end of the ceremony and the official baptism certificate. The names are carefully checked against a list of official names. If the baby's name is not on the official list of the church, they cannot be given this name at baptism. The names of the godmother and godfather are also checked to make sure they are official church names. Mine was not.
Here you can see the mothers and godmothers with the babies infront of the metal fence, with visitors and family behind. This is good for crowd control. Everyone had to stand for the entire time, so it did get quite tiriing towards the end. It would have been nice to sit on one of the benches in the viewing area. I suppose this allows visitors to view the chapel when the priest is not there by shutting off the viewing area from the altar area, too.
As I said, lots of strange customs that I was not familar with, each executed almost automatically, one after the other, with little in the way of explanation. Here the godmothers light a candle, carry the babies, and follow the priest as he circles the altar three times. The mothers play very little role in the ceremony, aside from one prayer, and the fathers none. Technically, they are supposed to stand outside the altar area in the chapel. In reality most were the ones taking pictures and videos of the service. Friends and family waited behind the iron screens from where they could see, but not take part.
As I mentioned earlier, women should wear something over their heads while in the church. Mostly, women wear headscarves, but one girl wore a cap. Also, shorts are not acceptable in the church either, so wear either a long skirt or slacks. I think I was the only person in the church at the service in a suit, so I guess for men the fashion rules are a lot less stringent. Also, as I mentioned earlier, you should seek permission before using your camera and flash or video camera. In our case, it was okay, but during Mass it might not be.
Okay, so despite my lack of Russian language skills, I did enjoy the service (for a while). However, it was quite long, and with so many bodies in the room, it started to get quite warm in a suit. Of course, all the better for the babies who were just about to get a rude plunge in the holy water. Also, the ceremony was quite complex, much more than dabbling a few drops of water on the baby and saying a prayer. Also, we got the history and religious study lessons, which no one appreciated much. All told, it took about one hour. The children all started out quite quiet and behaved, but by the end, they were restless and cranky. My godson slept for most of the time, until it came time for his bath, which he did not like very much. Towards the end with all the crying and the priest shouting to be heard above the noise, you would not have thought our intentions towards the children were malevolent. However, it was soon all over and done with. Surprisingly, us being heavens in the Church's eyes, ours was the only group that made a donation to the Church at the end. I guess all the other true defenders of the faith were too busy to support their Church.
If I remember my history right, about 300 years ago there was quite a fight between Rome and Moscow. The Orthodox Church split from the Roman Church, but took many of its customs and traditions with it. Furthermore, the Russian Orthodox Church split from the Greek Orthodox Church. However, I believe most of these cleavages were more over control of the Church than fundamental differences in belief. However, during the service, the priest went on quite a bit about having to defend the Russian Orthodox Church against other religions, and Russia from outsiders, and other such unrelated themes. As I am a Protestant, officially the Church does not recognize me as the godfather to the child. Never the less, I did not have the heart to tell the priest that actually my Lord was born Jewish, and so was his. There you go, religious pride and prejudice, even on the day of baptism of a small baby, which is supposed to represent bringing the child into the House of the Lord. At least, I know I am morally obliged to do my duty, with or without the Orthodox Church's blessing.
The chapel, if I can call it that, was very ornately decorated. As I mentioned, this was one of the most important churches in Moscow during communist times, when so many others were destroyed. It was hard to get really good photos due to the number of people crowded in the hall for the baptism, but also because of the light.
This is not the inside of the church, but in a separate area where they perform the baptisms. Normally, you should not take pictures in the church. However, it is up to the priest. In this case, he allowed pictures during the baptism. As a matter of fact, it was a like a press scrum in the room as parents and on-lookers tried to get the best view of their nieces and nephews. Never the less, proper decorum dictates that you respect the altar and ask for permission before you start snapping pictures or taking videos. Women should wear a headscarf or something to cover their heads while in the church.
I was lucky enough to go to the baptism of my godson in this church last Saturday. It was a beautiful, Fall day, and the weather was perfect for picture taking. I am not a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, so it was a rare chance for me to see their services and take part in one. It was a really special experience.
I have more photos than commentary, so please excuse my lack of comments. Thanks.
Before the Saint Savior Orthodox Church was rebuilt after the fall of communism, Elokhovskaya Church was one of the main, if not the most important Orthodox churches in Moscow. It is located near Baumanskaya Metro not too far from Yarisloval Vokshall (trainstation). It is a very beautiful church, and the inside is quite ornate.
Moscow is multiconfessional city. You can find not only hundreds of Russian ortodox churches, but a lot of other christian churches as well mosques and synagogues.
On the picture - Moscow Chorale Synagogue near m. Kitai Gorod, B. Spasoglenischevsky per.