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WATCH: US Ambassador takes the pain, jumps into icy waters in Russia

“I want to feel close to the Russians.” US Ambassador Jon Huntsman took a plunge into an old Russian Orthodox Epiphany tradition, showing respect to Russia.

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A video surfaced of the US Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman plunging into the freezing waters of the River Istra, just after Russian President Vladimir Putin did the same.

For those of you unfamiliar with Russian culture, Mr. Huntsman is participating in an old Russian Epiphany (Theophany) tradition. His “baptism” in the frozen waters symbolizes the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. The River Istra where the Ambassador participated is located in the shadow of the great New Jerusalem Monastery. [Photos below]

Epiphany, better known amongst English speaking Orthodox Christians by the Greek word Theophany, or Богоявление (Bo-go-yav-LE-ni-ya) in Russian is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church which is celebrated in Russia on January 19th according to the Julian Calendar. The feast celebrates the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, and the word itself in Greek and Russian means “Revealing Forth (or appearance) of God”.

The feast is celebrated according to the rubrics of the Church, with divine services and the blessing of Holy Water, however, it is common in many Orthodox countries for there to be a water-based tradition; for example, in some countries, a Cross is thrown into a river and soldiers dive to retrieve it.

In Russia, people “get baptized” in the colloquial term, by jumping into frozen water blessed by a Priest. The Church generally does not like this term however, as in Orthodoxy, only one baptism is recognized. People do not believe they are actually being baptized in a sacramental way, they are merely practicing a tradition which is not by any means a required part of the religion, like traditional baptism (in normal water) is.

It is symbolic that the US Ambbasor would plunge into the waters of the Istra River, as upon that river a massive and beautiful monastery is located: New Jerusalem Monastery. The monastery was built to be a “Russian Orthodox Zion” and as a result, the Istra River represents the Jordan River in which The Lord was baptized.

New Jerusalem Monastery was founded in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon, one of the Russian Orthodox Churches most controversial leaders. Under Patriarch Nikon, the schism with the older believes occurred, though while we may not all agree on the Patriarch’s legacy, no one can doubt the profound beauty of the Monastery.

It was built on a hill in the Moscow region, in the village of Istra, chosen because the countryside was said to bear a slight resemblance to Jerusalem. Due to the dangers of long-distance travel in the 17th century, the Monastery was built in order to simulated a trip to the Holy Land for Russian faithful.

President Putin visited the Monastery last year in order to see the finished restorations and the beauty there is amazing.

It is likely that the US Ambassador was taken to the Istra River for the Theophany tradition was due to the symbolic value of the river as a Russian Jordan, just as the Monastery was built to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other Holy Cities in the city of Jerusalem.

For those of you with musical interests, below is the Troparion Hymn of Theophany performed by a Russian choir in the ancient Church Slavonic Language along with an English translation.

When in the Jordan Thou wast baptised, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bare witness unto Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son, and the Spirit, in the form of a Dove, confirmed the steadfastness of that word. O Christ our God, who didst manifest Thyself and dost enlighten the world: glory to Thee.

It is worth saying that there is sure to be some respect for Ambassador Huntsman, for participating in the tradition. It shows his respect for the Russian culture. This is how any diplomat should convey their friendship to the Russian people, not with meaningless words precipitating a backstab, but by plunging into the Russian culture.

Naturally, this has political motivations, it is not purely a sign of friendship, but also an intentional gesture to show respect to Russia, but that respect will not go unnoticed. Just as we shouldn’t take the meaning of the gesture too far, we also shouldn’t be so cynical as to criticize it. Regardless how small a sign it is, a small action speaks larger than thousands of words.

It is refreshing to see a western Ambassador truly delve deep into another culture, rather than remain foreign and aloof while giving meaningless compliments from an ivory tower. Bravo, let’s hope we see more of this spirit in general, though we’re not holding our breaths.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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