August 14, 2018
My apologies to readers. As I said on July 30, my granddaughter and I are on a cruise, and I managed to miss one blog entry, and this week I am a day late because yesterday was incredibly demanding because from 7:00am to 10pm, we were either on tour, at supper, or involved in other activities.
It is the tour on Sunday which has inspired this blog entry. In St. Petersburg, we took a tour of important sites in the city, and that included two magnificent churches. The largest cathedral in Europe, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood are both amazing buildings, both inside and outside.
Beloved Czar Alexander II was murdered in a St. Petersburg street by assassins after he had freed the common people from serfdom, offering them their first opportunity at freedom, private business, and prosperity. The people who admired him were devastated and decided to contribute funds to erect the most dazzling church in Europe on the site where he died. The church is breathtakingly beautiful, colorful and architecturally amazing.
Since our first impression of St. Petersburg was of dismal grey Soviet-style apartment buildings and dismal grey skies and weather, the colors and magnificence of the church are a welcome sight. However, what broke my heart is that the church is only a museum. Then we learned that St. Isaac’s Cathedral is also only a museum.
Wait a minute! The Church of the Savior on Spilled Bood was built with donated funds as a house of God to honor a czar who was a devoted believer! How can it be a museum rather than a church? The answer, of course, lies in the years of the Soviet Union, when the State became God and religion was condemned. Of course the Soviets preserved both the castles of the czars and the churches because of the value of their contents. But the meaning is gone.
During my undergraduate college years as an English major, I studied Russian literature extensively. As expressed by great writers like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Russians were a deeply spiritual people. They were troubled, of course, with angst and obsessiveness affected by depressing weather and history. But underneath was strong belief and dedication to God.
Considering the land of Tolstoy as atheistic is so difficult for me. But as I viewed the beautiful church, I realized that at least some of Russia’s difficulties are due to that atheism. God is not dead – He still holds history in the palm of His hand and waits for people to realize that any “way” other than belief in Jesus is not the way to Heaven nor to true joy.
So I said a prayer as I always do at churches – a prayer for the people of St. Petersburg, that they might return to faith and the freedom it offers. And for those who attend the few open churches, that their faith and devotion might be strengthened. Amen.