04/12/2017, 12.45
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The Great and Holy Week of the Russian Orthodox Church

by Vladimir Rozanskij

This year the dates of the Orthodox and Catholic Easter coincide. Two thousand young faithful in procession to ask for the return of St. Petersburg church. The elaborate preparation of Miron, the Holy Thursday oil which also anointed the tsars. Some martyrs of the Soviet period "downgraded" to mere "victims of repression."


Moscow (AsiaNews) - This year Russian Catholics and Orthodox Christians are preparing together in Easter services. As happens every five or six years, in 2017 the date of Easter coincides for all Christian denominations. The Great and Holy Week - as it is called in the Byzantine Rite (also the title of "Authentic Week" or "Passion") – began three days ago with crowds of faithful gathered with the willow branches (the olive tree does not grow in Russia) in procession around the Orthodox churches, but also Catholic ones (about 300 across the country).

The church of St. Isaack returned to the faithful

A very special procession was held in St. Petersburg, under the guidance of Metropolitan Varsonofij: more than 2 thousand people, half of them under 15, waved the branches, symbols of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, as they processed three times around the Cathedral of S. Isaack, which is still a museum. The Orthodox Church has been calling insistently for its total return to Christian worship. It is a great building of the late nineteenth century, whose heavy columns, and dome mimics the basilica of St. Peter in Rome, internally it is coated with precious marbles and rare stones. Until now, the cathedral has been used as a museum of the czarist times (in the Soviet period, swayed the biggest "Foucault pendulum" in the world from the top of the dome), and only a side altar is reserved for worship in certain times. Unlike the Cathedral of Sts. Savior in Moscow, blown up by Stalin for demonstration purposes and grandly rebuilt in the nineties, the big Petersburg church escaped destruction because of its special architectural quality, and now hopefully can return to the functions declared by the large marble inscription on the facade: "my house is the house of God."

The Patriarch Miron

In Moscow Patriarch Kirill started Holy Monday with the grand ceremony of the consecration of the holy oils, which concludes tomorrow, during Holy Thursday, called "Rite of Preparation of Miron ". Miron is the term used in the Byzantine rite to distinguishes the Sacred Chrism for sacramental functions, and it is prepared with a special mixture of about 50 species of olive oil with extracts of herbs and resins from sweet to savor. Its fusion over a fire lasts three days, from Monday to Wednesday, to be consecrated on Thursday morning; the procedure is so complex that it is not carried out every year, but once every three to four years. The equipment for melting is found only in Moscow, in the monastery of St. Dmitry Donskoy, from where the Miron is distributed to all eparchies and parishes in Russia.

In the past Miron was also used to consecrate the tsars. The Patriarch took the opportunity to make an appeal to the rulers, and to all men called to powerful functions, highlighting the example of Jesus' humility, welcomed royally in Jerusalem and then crucified by the crowds. According to Kirill, the powerful man who knows how to keep the spirit of humility remains a model for the entire nation, even after concluding his functions; as an example of "strong Christian", the patriarch cited the famous Russian commander Aleksandr Suvorov, the last "generalissimo" before Stalin, who won many wars against the Turks and Poles and the protagonist of the first true "world war", the War of Seven years (1756-1763). Suvorov is a well-known figure also for Italians, to whom he addressed a Proclamation in 1799 during the campaign of Italy, relying on religious values ​​of the Italian people.

Martyrs, authentic and non

Just this week, waiting for the celebration of the sacrifice of Christ, a rather unusual decision by the Synodal Commission for the Causes of Saints of the Moscow Patriarchate, headed by Metropolitan Juvenaly was announced: some martyrs of the communist era, already raised to the honor of the altars, have been de-canonized, that is, reduced to the role of mere victims of repression without the palm of martyrdom. The reason for this choice is found in the complex discussion on the value of witness during the Soviet period and Stalinist concentration camps, where it is not always easy to distinguish witness to the faith from simple counter-revolutionary opposition, or even from collaborating with the executioners. After years of continuous and rapid canonization, on the wings of post-communist past decade, a thorough review of these processes has taken place, with a progressive restriction of access to archives and documents, which were open to anyone who wanted to consult them in the nineties; not surprisingly, last week President Putin also assumed the position of Director of the State, which gathers the most important and delicate funds, like those on Soviet repressions.

The canonization of the martyrs of the twentieth century, after all, is a complicated matter even in the Western camp, in the sphere of repression during fascism, Nazism, the Spanish Civil War and others. The concentration camps system made it almost impossible to collect adequate information and testimonies about people persecuted and condemned to death, perhaps with the type of collective executions of Nazi gas chambers, or the Spanish mass shootings. The Catholic Church, which attributes a value of infallibility to the act of canonization, has never proceeded to withdraw any of them. In the Russian Orthodox Church commemorates the famous de-canonization of Anna-Sofia Kashinskaja in 1677, almost thirty years after the discovery that her hands in her tomb formed the sign of the cross with two fingers, forbidden by the Council of Moscow in 1666 as a sign of heresy of old-believers, who had not accepted the liturgical reform which imposed the "three fingers."

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