08/20/2019, 10.26
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Moscow, Feast of the Transfiguration: apples, ships, spiritual renewal

by Vladimir Rozanskij

On the feast the "metamorphosis" from paganism to Christianity is remembered.  Even the social changes of the revolution are seen as a "taboric renewal".  Patriarch Kirill in St. Petersburg,




Moscow (AsiaNews) - Yesterday 19 August, according to the Orthodox calendar, the feast of the Transfiguration, also called the "Savior of the apples", was celebrated with great popular participation. 

In fact the Russians received the tradition from the Greeks in their own way, and also attributed the "metamorphosis" from paganism to Christianity to the feast, replacing the bacchanals of the grape harvest with apples.  Indeed in ancient Russia, the popular liqueur was hand-made mead in the countryside;  vodka was introduced only by Peter the Great in the eighteenth century, imported by Baltici after the conquest of their territories.

The poet Shmelev, in a famous composition, explains the blessing of apples as a "correction of original sin", in which the forbidden fruit was the cause of the fall of Adam and Eve.  The blessing of apples is like a "new creation", a source of continuous inspiration in the Russia of yesterday and today.

The popularity of the "taboric light" has taken root in Russia as a sign of rebirth, especially after the long night of the "Tartar yoke".  The extraordinary icons of Theophanes the Greek and Andrej Rublev are testimony to this, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, as well as many other icons of the same subject, both ancient and new, and the many Russian churches dedicated to the Transfiguration.

Not only churches, but also squares, streets and villages carry the title of the Preobrazhenie, as the revelation of Jesus to the disciples Peter, John and James is called in Russian.  The first assault ship with 66 cannons, called Preobrazhenie Gospodne, which at the end of the eighteenth century covered itself with glory under the orders of the legendary rear admiral Ushakov is very famous.  The oldest regiment of the imperial guard, protagonist of many events in Russian history, which gathered the elite of the aristocracy, was called Preobrazhenskij Polk.

The Transfiguration was exalted by many Russian poets, including singers of the revolution like Blok and Esenin, who also saw a spiritual "transformation" in social changes.  The greatest Russian writer Lev Tolstoj describes the Russian soul in the "transfiguration" of Natasha Rostova, the female protagonist of War and Peace.

Today, the feast begins wth the moleben of thanksgiving to God "for the gifts of the earth", this year recited by the same patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) presiding over the liturgy of the eve in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in St. Petersburg, his hometown.  The cathedral, built in the nineteenth century with the portico in imitation of that of Saint Peter's in Rome, was also "transfigured" and returned to worship after the sacrilegious decades of the Soviet regime, in which it had been transformed into the Museum of Atheism.  The patriarch underlined that he wanted to celebrate precisely in Kazanskaja to magnify the miracle of Russia's spiritual revival in recent years.

On the day of the feast Kirill then presided over the rite in the other St. Petersburg Cathedral of the Transfigured Savoir, where he recalled the 265 years of the consecration.  It is one of the few churches that have remained open even after the revolution, where the young Kirill celebrated as a monk and bishop.  It houses the icon venerated by Peter the Great, the "Savior not painted by a human hands", blessed by the patriarch in memory of the same reforming tsar.

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