Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Thursday, 10 February 2005

This morning dawns bright and clear, not quite Colorado blue, but close. It is beautiful, and not quite as cold as the previous days. Classes go well in the morning, first year Greek, taught by Nina, and then theology where we go very slowly through the free will vs. sovereignty debate. After lunch with Alene, Nina, and Oksana, we four head to the Lavra Monastery, a tenth century Greek Orthodox place. Lots of gold, lots of history, and not much truth. They have caves filled with the coffins and bones of their saints, and a really impressive set of buildings. We start by climbing the bell tower, some 240 spiraling steps to the top. Big bells and a fantastic view of the city to the east, across the Dnipro River, and north and south along the river banks. An imposing metal statue of Mother Russia, by legend modeled on Brezhnev’s wife, dominates the view. Then we go for a tour of the caves. You can either take the guided tour for a fee or go by yourself. They don’t let you go by yourself… and no photos allowed! Oy! A monk gives us the tour, a very earnest man who looks to be in his mid-30s. He seems to believe everything he says on the tour.

The caves are filled with the coffins of saints, and there is a very serious message – live right or die a terrible death and be tortured by demons. There are a number of stories related about saints – how they lived and died, what miracles attended their lives – but nothing that any child would believe after Santa Claus has been debunked. I notice one woman is praying over the coffin of one, something that is encouraged there, so that the saint might intervene; she comes away with tear-stained cheeks, and it makes me sad too. You have to buy a taper, a candle in order to enter in; they do the whole thing by candlelight. Immediately Alene and I think, this would never happen in the states – lawsuits galore. Mid-tour, Oksana leans in to translate something to Alene, and she catches the fringe of her hood on fire; Alene puts her out with quick thinking, and we spend the rest of the tour laughing and making jokes about how Oksana’s face was aglow during the excursion. Afterwards we have coffee and baklava at a cafeteria and head home. We have more coffee at Jim Dumas’ place, and Nina and Oksana tell us how they came to know the church and the Bible school. Nina is a former Greek Orthodox person, so she has many reflections on their curious ways.

I am told that I look sort of like a Ukrainian, but everyone knows that I’m an American because I am so pleasant, always smiling and laughing. The point is, everyone is so darn grim here. No smiling or laughing aloud. There is no Russian word for fun!

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