Home

 

 

 

Anatoly Leshchinsky

The sources of Orthodoxy of the Mother of God

and the origin of the Church of the Mother of God Derzhavnaya  

              

Over the past thirty years, the socio-political and religious situation in Russia has radically changed. The legislation not only declares religious freedoms, but basically guarantees them. When religious associations carry out civil laws, the authorities provide them with the opportunity to act in accordance with their internal statutes. Currently, there are several tens of thousands of centralized and local religious associations in the country, both pre-existing and emerging new ones. One of them is the Orthodox Church of the Mother of God Derzhavnaya (hereinafter - the Church of the Mother of God).

In accordance with the Federal Law “On freedom of conscience and religious associations” (adopted in 1997), the Council for State Religious Expertise under the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, under the guidance of Doctor of Philosophy Professor M. Mchedlov, made a regular examination of the religious doctrine and practice of the Church of the Mother of God. The religion of the Church of the Mother of God was recognized as “orthodox of the branch of the Mother of God”. The Church of the Mother of God was re-registered.  [10, p.192].

What are the sources of Orthodoxy of the Mother of God, the features, and conditions of spiritual formation of the Church of the Mother of God, and its influence on the flock?

To answer these questions, the researchers studied the internal documents of the Church of the Mother of God, carried out field research (visited the divine services; talked with clergy and laity - the respondents); analyzed the literature on the Church published in recent years, the works of its founder Archbishop John (Veniamin Yakovlevich Bereslavsky), in particular.

The special veneration of the Mother of God by separate Christians and the Christian churches arose in the 1st century.  As is noted in the works of the Orthodox Holy Fathers [2], after the crucifixion of Christ, She led spiritually the early Christian communities for 16 years.

Theologians of the Church of the Mother of God, speaking about the mission of the Virgin Mary in the early Christian period and about Her role in the enlightenment of the Slavs, insist that "Jesus Christ, before His Cross testimony at Golgotha, edified His disciples in His teaching and faith for three years. And with His Mother Mary He spent thirty years. All those years, She wrote down in Her Heart His innermost, hidden from the world, teaching (Luke 2:19).  It was not in Christ’s earthly days that the apostles acquired the gift of living faith. Christ repeatedly reproached them for the lack of it (Matt. 17:20 and others). Only after they were edified by Mary in the Zion Chamber, were enlightened by the Mother of God herself, they could accept the fiery tongues of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost"[7]. Since the first centuries, Christianity has glorified the Virgin Mary as the Teacher of apostles, teachers of the Church, devotees; as the Guide and Keeper of the Church; as the Mother Superior of monasteries… Practically all the teachers of the Church note how important it is to have the cover (the aegis - according to theological terminology ) of the Mother of God on the way to Christ.

In Western Christianity, the special veneration of the Virgin Mary existed in many secular and monastic communities, orders, and similar associations. In the 20th century, the world Marian Movement arose. It spread especially wide in the years of the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II (1978 - 2005), who personally participated in this movement and actively supported it.   

In the Eastern Church, since the very beginning have existed many monasteries, brotherhoods, temples dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the events of Her life. Her parents Joachim and Anna have been revered as saints. More than 500 of Her miraculous icons of different iconography are revered to this day.

The priceless heritage of both the Churches: numerous liturgical texts, spiritual songs, akathists and theological treatises, which reveal the mission of the Virgin Mary in Her earthly life and in the hypostasis of the Queen of Heaven Mother-Wisdom, has reached our days.  To this day, in the temples dedicated to the Mother of God are performed the chants of St. John of Damascus (675-753), a hymnographer, theologian, religion philosopher. In the calendar of such ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches, as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria[1] and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church[2], there are more than 30 holidays dedicated to the Mother of God.

Many researchers of Russian Orthodoxy emphasize the special worship of the Mother of God, Bogoroditsa[3] Virgin Mary in Eastern Christianity. Historian and theologian, hieromonk John (Kologrivov) (1895-1955) notes: "All Russian  spirituality ... is penetrated with the spirit of Bogoroditsa; the cult of the Mother of God has such a central meaning in it that, viewed from the side, Russian Christianity may be taken for the religion of Mary, but not of Christ.

Studying the hagiographies of Russian saints and looking for the highest moments in their lives, i.e. those which speak of their mystical experience of uniting with God, we find rather amazing facts. First of all, the hagiographies contain very few indications of such feelings. And when there are some, in the centre of the saints’ mystical experience is usually not Christ, but His Mother. This mysticism, inseparably connected with Bogoroditsa, is especially clearly manifested in the lives of the great national Russian saints St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Seraphim of Sarov ”[6, p. 150]. "Rus is the garden or the house of the Eternal Virgin" [1, p.4].   

The ancient Russian folk views on the Most Holy Virgin, which are reflected in prayers and legends, are of great interest for studying the worship of the Mother of God. According to Professor Archpriest Georgy Fedotov, who studied the peculiar features of the worldview and faith of the Russian people, "the divine motherhood" is "the heart of the people's religiosity." For the Russian people, "Bogoroditsa is not only the Mother of Christ, but Mother in general, our common mother ("Mother of gods and people"). It is in this sense that Mary is simply called Mother, Mother Mary. Her motherhood stems not only from the fact that She adopted the world and loves Her adopted children, but because She gives direct birth to people.” Sometimes we see that She is really  thought of as the parent and creator of the world: "If the Most Holy Bogoroditsa/ Does not give Her help, / Nothing living can be born on earth, / Neither animals, nor birds, / Neither people." ... She created for us / The sky and the earth, the sun and the moon, / And countless stars." Abiding in the very heart of the divine world, Bogoroditsa is not separated from God. The prayer to Her, and the prayer to God is the same "[5, p.56]. "O Lord, Heavenly King, / O our light, Most Holy Bogoroditsa" [5, p.54]. "My Mother - Mother Mary, / Most Pure Virgin, Most Holy, / our Light, Mother Mary, / Most Holy Bogoroditsa, / Beautiful Sun, / Most Holy Dove, / Mother of God, Bogoroditsa / Quick Helper, / Warm Intercessor, / Intercede, save and forgive ... "[5, p.49].

In the original text of the Bible (in the Book of Genesis), the Holy Spirit and Wisdom, which is "understood as the Divine emanation, the source of all good that penetrates everything, moves everything, and is a constant inspiration of prophets and sages", are both of the feminine gender [4].

Religious research shows that in Islam Mary is also highly revered. In the Quran, Her name is mentioned 33 times (even more often than the name of Her Son), and a separate sura is dedicated to Her.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, are highly revered the female images of the heavenly patroness, of wisdom, of the patroness of prosperity, happiness. The holy texts note three main features of the Mother Goddess: generosity, wisdom, and power. In the world’s museums are kept numerous sculptural images of the Goddesses-Mothers from the Neolithic and other periods of human history.

Thus, we can conclude that there is not a single religion in the world, in which the merciful patronage of the Heavenly Father, personified by the female and god-motherly origin, is not revered.  

The deep worship of the Virgin Mary in Christianity is a natural continuation of the universal archetypal human worship of the Mother of all the living, the patroness of the family, nation, state, who personifies warm motherly care for Her children.

Archbishop John, a mystic and the spiritual leader of the Church of the Mother of God notes with emotionality and picturesqueness inherent in his style that he "revealed to Russian culture its reserved layer - authentic Christianity from the 1st to the 10th centuries, which is incomparably more sincere and reliable than all modern widespread  knowledge about faith in ancient Rus. Returned to Russian culture the image of the living Mother of God… The Queen of Heaven (...) showed the Apostle Andrew the First-Called the way to Scythia (the spaces of future Rus – a note of A.L.) saying: "My child, this country has been anointed and initiated into Our mysteries since the beginning. Go and teach God's people the wisdom of My Divine Son.” Further, according to Archbishop John,  he, based on numerous sources and revelations given to him, "entered into the treasury of the archetype and returned to Russia its original solar identification, and thereby outlined the way of its spiritual rebirth and flourishing" [8].

And now, let us turn to the documents which reveal the origin of the Church of the Mother of God, its current state, and the content of sermons of its priests.

The document "The fundamentals of the doctrine and practice corresponding to It, the history of emergence of the religious association "The Orthodox Church of the Mother of God Derzhavnaya" submitted for consideration to the Council for State Religious Expertise under the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, reveals its traditions. "In its teaching and life, the Church follows the tradition of living faith and holiness inherited through the devotees non-possessors of Holy Rus (St. Neil of Sora, St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. John of Kronstadt, St. Patriarch Tikhon, and others), who were establishing Rus on the basis of the spirit of peace, holy love and Evangelic truth. Following the Holy Tradition of the Greek-Catholic Orthodox Church; the living, elder's tradition of righteous life and goodness, the Church of the Mother of God enriches its teaching with the pearls of the Holy Fathers from the treasury of the Orthodox Church liturgical teaching, which has been professed since the Christening of Russia, though it was party lost by official theology in the 17th century."  According to the priests of the church, the Church of the Mother of God returned, for example, the "patristic and liturgical teaching on the immaculate origin of a new, holy, virtuous life in Christ. The Most Holy Virgin, Intercessor for the salvation of mankind, who stands at the right hand of the Most Holy Trinity and prays for the salvation of the world, is bringing this teaching to humanity." 

In the above-mentioned document "The fundamentals of the doctrine ..." and in the daily spiritual practice, the followers of the Church of the Mother of God preach about “the light transfiguration and salvation of Russia through ardent penitential, heartfelt prayer, through the Psalter prayer, and zeal for forgiveness of sins; through the appeal to God and renewal of the covenant with God which was lost (according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers "repentance is a renewal of christening"); through the prayer of the Sobor of New Martyrs; through the intercession for salvation and the guidance of the Most Holy Virgin, the eternal Mother of Holy Rus, who saved it many times in the past and does not leave it now."

Based on visits of many years to the church services, conversations with clergy and laity, study of their spiritual testimony in the world, the author of the publication states the following. The Church of the Mother of God in its relation to marriage and family, education, the human personality, health of people, service in the army, etc., follows the traditional Orthodox teaching and practice.  It affirms the principles of holy peace, righteousness; of full disclosure and development of spiritual and psychic gifts of the personality; of healthy and moral lifestyle; of the righteous family.

The Church seeks to support motherhood and fatherhood, actively opposes abortion and debauchery, drug addiction and pornography. It follows the principles of selfless, peacemaking life and service of ancient Christians and Russian Old Believers. The preferable values for parishioners of the Church of the Mother of God are the purity of evangelic principles, non-possession, peacefulness, peacemaking, aspiration to goodness and acquisition of the Holy Spirit. In the Church, there is no collection of money for performing ritual ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, christening, requiem services, prayer for the deceased, and other forms of serving.

Preachers of the Church of the Mother of God seek to free themselves from the heritage of religious fundamentalism, including the false ideas of institutional opposition to dissent, dominance of some over others which took root in Christianity already in the 4th century. In publications of the Church [9], is given a critical appraisal of figures of the “Josephian”, “possession-focused” direction in Orthodoxy; of Christian inquisition; of the retreat from evangelic and patristic commandments; of the disregard for the apparitions and revelations of the Virgin Mary all over the world in the 19th and 21st centuries.

Peacemaking and spiritual enlightenment activity of the Church of the Mother of God received international recognition. In May 1992, it was admitted as a full member to the International Council of Community Churches, which is a collective member of the World Council of Churches. In November 1994, the Church participated in the international conference of Marian (i.e. especially worshiping the Most Pure Virgin Mary) Orthodox and Catholic bishops held in Japan. In May 1995, in Moscow, the Church held its 12th All-Russian Congress, and the World Congress of Marian bishops, which gathered spiritual leaders, bishops and priests from Russia, USA, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, France and countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Based on the material studied and presented here, it is possible to make some generalizations.

With the abolition of the tsarist synodal and later of the Soviet party-state tight control over the activity of religious associations; with the beginning of democratic transformations in Russia; in the conditions of religious freedoms, it became possible to give an organizational form to the age-old national deep worship of the Mother of God, Bogoroditsa Virgin Mary. This led to the emergence of the centralized religious organization The Orthodox Church of the Mother of God Derzhavnaya.

The origins of Christianity of the branch of the Mother of God go back centuries. What can be regarded as new in the Church of the Mother of God? Above all, it is the organization of the branch itself, some specific features of the teaching, innovations in the religious practice, mainly borrowed from other religious traditions. One may get the impression that much, what outwardly seems new in the Church, is in its essence the forgotten but revived old. In the Church of the Mother of God, the new is inextricably connected with the old, flows out of the archetypical, universal. And this distinguishes this Church from other Churches of Ecumenical Orthodoxy.

I am going to finish with what I began. How should we treat the emergence of religious diversity in Russia that was caused by the emergence of a great number of different religious associations? And what should be our attitude to the diversity of Orthodox directions and organizations there? They were, are and will be. This is a kind of regularity, based on the existing difference of opinions, pluralism of opinions, on a new attitude of people to traditional churches. Especially concerned about the church divisions and the emergence of associations of alternative orthodoxy are the hierarchs of Ecumenical Orthodoxy. The confrontation is very noticeable. In a secular state, it is possible to overcome the heat of confrontation only through dialogue. Representatives of the civil authorities need to be aware that in Russia has passed the time of the division of religions and faiths according to ranks. All religious associations are equal before civil law, and they all have equal rights.

 

Bibliography.

1. Averky (Taushev). Archbishop. Russia - the House of the Most Holy Bogoroditsa.  Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1963, Vol. 4, - 20 p.

2. Gregory Palamas. St.  Holy Omilia XIV. “On the Annunciation of our Most Pure Sovereign Bogoroditsa and Eternal Virgin Mary” / St. Gregory Palamas. Conversations (omilias) of St. Gregory Palamas. Part I. Moscow: Palomnik, 1993.

3. Dimitry of Rostov. St. Christian chants to the Most Holy Queen of Heaven Eternal Virgin Maria Bogoroditsa: composed in the likeness of the Psalms. Moscow: Publishing House of the Russian Athos St. Panteleimon Monastery, 1881.

4. Encyclopaedia Hebraica. In 16 volumes. Vol. 12. Column 1887. St. Petersburg: TJSC Brokgauz-Efron, 1908-1913.

5. Fedotov, Georgy. Spiritual verses. Russian folk faith in spiritual verses. Moscow: Gnosis, 1991, - 169 p.

6. John (Kologrivov), hieromonk. Essays on the history of Russian holiness.  Brussels, 1961, - 423 p.

7. Poselyanin, E. The Mother of God: A description of Her earthly life and miraculous icons. Moscow: ANO “Orthodox magazine “Rest of a Christian”. 2002. Vol. 2. 1919.

8. John (Bereslavsky). Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of the Mother of God. The overcoming of Byzantism. "From my sorrowful vigilant nights, I declare the great civilization of virgins and poets in Holy Rus." The interview to Roman Lunkin. 2008.05.20. Publ. on the "Russian Review of Keston Institute" website, https://www.keston.org.uk/rr/30/02Bereslavski.html

9. Ilya (Popov). priest, John (Bereslavsky). Archbishop. 500 years of the Inquisition in Russia. Joseph Volotsky. Moscow: New Holy Rus, 1997, - 319 p; Ilya (Popov). priest. Orthodoxy of saints and inquisitors. Moscow:  Sophia Press Ltd., 2003. - 592 p.

10. The Conclusion of the Council for State Religious Expertise under the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. February 25. 1999./ / The author’s personal archive. Folder “Alternative orthodoxy”, file 12. // In the book by A.N. Leshchinsky. "The features of the movement of the Mother of God in Russia" (Based on socio-philosophical analysis). Moscow: ROIR, 2005.

 

About the author: Anatoly N. Leshchinsky, Russian religious scholar, specialist in philosophy of religion and religious studies, expert on state-confessional relations, Ph.D., Counselor of the Russian Federation, 2nd class. The author of more than a hundred scientific papers, including 11 monographs and books. The author of about two hundred articles in reference and encyclopedic publications (1987 - 2017).

Anatoly Leshchinsky published several educational and methodical works, including: State-confessional relations in Russia: history and modern times. (2005).

Among his monographs are: The features of the movement of the Mother of God in Russia: (Based on socio-philosophical analysis), 2005; The Problem of Church Unity, 2nd ed., 2015, 3rd ed. in Canada.

 

2019.03.24.



[1] The Coptic Church was established by Mark the Apostle in the middle of the 1st century (c. AD 42). (Translator)

[2] Socrates of Constantinople, a 5th-century historian of the Christian church, includes Ethiopia in his list as one of the regions where Matthew the Apostle preached. (Translator).

[3] Bogoroditsa is an ancient archetypical name of the Divine Heavenly Mother. “Bogoroditsa” is literally translated as “Mother giving birth to God (or gods)”. (Translator).


(c) All rights reserved. Centralized religious organization Orthodox Church of Mother of God Derzhavnaya, 1999. New Holy Russia. Fr. Iliya Popov.

You may write to us:mail @ avemaria. ru (without spaces)