Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs A Sad Pascha

    Among hopeful signs of changing Church State relations, Keston College reports that a five-minute segment of the Easter service at the Patriarchal cathedral of the Epiphany in Moscow was shown as a news item on Soviet television-something unprecedented late at night on April 10, and that "although the militia were present outside churches in Moscow and Leningrad to keep order, believers were not prevented from entering churches'' (KN S 4/14/88). But while the situation is seen to have somewhat improved, one should be cautious about overly optimistic generalizations, as the following letter from an Orthodox Christian in the West illustrates: 

    "...Although I was in Moscow, it was for me a very sad Pascha. I went to church at 9 PM, knowing that later there would be too many people and police. But even at this early hour it was not without difficulties and obstacles that I got inside. I was stopped twice by the police. They had barricaded all the entrances to the church, and were stopping practically everyone except for the old women. Their principal task, clearly, was to prevent young people from getting in. There were about 70 militiamen and a lot of "druzhiniki" (volunteer aids to the militia). Some young people walking just behind me were stopped and I heard the voice of a militiaman: "What have you forgotten there? Why don't you go to a discotheque? What a stupid idea--going to church." There was a dance in practically every school and college in Moscow that night.

     "The church was full. I bought some candles and a beautiful icon of the Saviour. Considering its small size, the price was exorbitant--18 rubles; the authorities don't miss a chance to make a tidy profit.

    "Gradually the church became so packed that it was impossible even to make the sign of the cross. Behind I overheard a middle aged woman explaining, rather simplistically, the meaning of Pascha to two young men. 'Now they are reading the Acts of the Apostles. It's my dream to read this book, but it is impossible to obtain.'

    "The service began. I was chilled by the sly expression on the face of one of the priests. It was also distressing to see that few of these standing near me were praying. No doubt many had come out of curiosity, or because, among young people, it is 'fashionable' to go to church, as a kind of protest.

    "The procession began promptly at midnight. It stopped at a side entrance and, after the Troparion was sung, the clergy reentered the church. But only some of the people managed to follow after them before militia closed the doors, refusing to let the rest of us back into the church. We had to stand there outside for some 40 minutes in the dense crowd; one elderly woman became hysterical; it was fearful. Then gradually we were allowed inside.

     "I have written all this because there is so much propaganda now on TV and in the newspapers, both in the Soviet Union and in the West, about positive steps being taken to improve Church-State relations...

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