28 August 2014

The geopolitical consequences of S. Matthew 7

Our Lord said: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’

This seems like an easy teaching to keep. But it really isn’t. On the one hand, judgement (as in the virtue of prudence) is a virtue which we exercise, and which we are supposed to exercise, all the time. We are supposed to be able to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, that which sustains us and that which destroys us, moderation and surfeit. But we are being told by Our Lord not to judge. Following Our Lord, our Holy Father S. Ephraim the Syrian teaches us to pray each night: ‘Grant me to see my own faults, and not to judge my brothers and sisters’. It is worth considering, therefore, why we are taught to pray against our own exercise of judgement.

Note, for one thing, to whom Our Lord is speaking and why. ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ It is important to note that He is not engaging in that fashionable form of subjectivist, relativist ‘tolerance’ so common amongst the modernists of the West. Indeed, a few verses later he is speaking about trees which bear good fruits versus trees which bear bad ones, and how to tell good trees from bad. Even in this verse, though, He is not necessarily seeking to excuse or ‘let off’ the one being judged, but seeking to protect the one in danger of doing the judging! Likewise, in the prayer of S. Ephraim, we are asking of God, indeed begging of Him, to grant us to see our own faults and to keep us from judging others! Clearly it is for our own benefit, spiritual and otherwise, that we refrain from judging. This refraining from judgement is something we are expected to ask of God as a spiritual gift.

It’s counterintuitive, yet true all the same. If we puff ourselves up proudly, and go around condemning everything and everyone we find to be wrong, speaking as though we are God who is the only true Judge, two things will happen. Firstly, we will not ourselves bear the good fruits we wish to see and claim to value. Secondly, we are going to bring down upon ourselves the same judgement we mete to others.

Is this in doubt?

Then look at Ferguson, Missouri. Look at the weapons the police brandish at the protesters. Listen to the threats the police issue to the protesters. Consider the death of an unarmed eighteen-year-old boy. Consider the casual cruelty with which the police met his mourning. And then look at the reactions to this story around the world.

We have given nations like Iran, Egypt, China and North Korea ample cause to revile us – but they would have had no reason to do so in the first place, if our politicians and our civil society had not been so high-handed and sanctimonious, and if we did not arrogantly ignore and dismiss any like criticism of our own government as ‘whataboutery’. Moreover, we have, through the prideful collective behaviour and imperial hubris which we routinely display in our dealings with them, given these nations a certain degree of moral standing and sympathy – including North Korea, which in particular does not deserve it.

Think of it this way. What are the odds that Hillary Clinton genuinely, humanly cares about a teenage woman from Anhui working 12-hour days and 6-day weeks on a factory floor in a Southern SEZ? What are the odds that Samantha Powers has ever even seen a North Korean peasant family fleeing over the Yalu on the off chance that they might be able to work and avoid starving to death in China – if they can avoid being ‘repatriated’ by the local authorities? What are the odds that Jen Psaki or Lindsey Graham would even give the time of day to a Coptic shop-owner who had to live every day in fear of bloody reprisals from radical Islamists for ‘blasphemy’ and supposed support of the current government, from which they face the continued threats of police harassment and forcible eviction? What are the odds that John McCain gives a rat’s hindquarters about a gaoled pro-democracy blogger-activist in Tehran, a city on which he is so eager to start dropping bombs? Caring is not a part of their business; in the case of elected officials, their business is winning votes and saying things that sound nice to their constituents. In the case of politically-appointed officials, their business is furthering the ideology of the politician who appointed them. They don’t care. And when they cast down judgement about such matters, it is not they but we who come off looking like the hypocrites we are. Because we put them where they are. And, left and right, we love it when politicians pontificate about human rights violations elsewhere, not because we actually do wish the good for the above nations, but because judging them makes us feel smug and superior.

Let’s be honest. We don’t give a rat’s hindquarters about these people struggling to survive in adverse political environments around the world. We care about scoring ideological points in domestic partizan politics. We bicker and we squabble and we gossip and we openly spout off on the world stage about how we’re better than everybody else, because something-something-freedom. And then we turn around when a black high school student in Missouri gets gunned down on the street for jaywalking, and give more money in support of his killer than in support of his family! God sees. God knows. And God knows I’m among the worst of the lot, because I’ve just said all of the above, and I’m just as much a part of it, just as much complicit in it, as any one amongst you, my dearest readers.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Have mercy upon us all.

Because judgement is a dangerous, dangerous thing. In the hands of no man save one is it safe, and especially not in my own hands. It is a weapon given to us by the Evil One, which we continually aim at others thinking our aim is true, but which inevitably fires in the direction of our own feet.

We are seeing this now in the reaction abroad toward our own government’s actions in Missouri. Sadly, the ones who have the most to learn and to benefit from Our Lord’s teachings, will probably be the last to get the message.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Because do we ever need it.

26 August 2014

Pointless video post – ‘Rotten Roll’ by Goat Horn

In belated commemoration of the two hundredth anniversary of one of the greatest things Canada ever did for this country, I am here posting the official video of ‘Rotten Roll’, produced on a budget of 60 looneys by Canadian doomster trio Goat Horn. What does this have anything to do with the Burning of Washington? I dunno, you got me. Both are Canadian? Both are awesome? And both involve… burning… polymers? Maybe? You know what, screw it. Everything about this video rocks, eh? Why? ‘Cause it’s Ca-fookin’-adian, that’s why. And it’s ‘eavy. And it’s doom. Now pass me another two-four of Labatt Blue.

24 August 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson

If I have had very little to say about Ferguson on my blog these past two weeks, it is largely because others (most notably The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates) have said anything I might say here better than I can, and because I find myself somewhat unqualified to discuss it, since the police generally put on a different public demeanour and comportment for me than they would for a black man of my age and build. But it has to be discussed. There is no other choice.

An eighteen-year-old kid was gunned down, shot six times in broad daylight by a police officer. His body was left uncovered and unmoved from the crime scene for hours, as the members of the Ferguson community looked on. No report was made of the shooting – the only report to dispatch was to call for crowd control. When the protests of the shooting began – largely peaceful, but with some looting and vandalism of local businesses as night fell – the response of the Ferguson police was to crack down with military-grade hardware, armoured vehicles and police dogs, firing rubber bullets, sonic cannons and tear gas into the crowd.

Several observers (including Julie Bosman and Emma Fitzsimmons at the New York Times) pointed out that such tactic some off looking like enforcement of Jim Crow circa 1964, rather than anything fit for American society in 2014. However, the difficulty of saying so is that, even acknowledging the massive gains of the Civil Rights movement, our underlying race-relational dynamic remains depressingly unchanged. Black bodies are treated as property subject to the total domination of the state in ways which white ones are not, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has astutely observed: even if it is only the extremity of a society which has a long and entrenched history of expressing that libido dominandi in subtler ways (‘friskings, detainings, beatings and humiliations’), the final end of that libido dominandi in the destruction of the black body is nevertheless something which must be reckoned with. As Coates notes, the police are ‘the tip of the sword wielded by American society itself’.

I wish I could disagree. But as I have watched events and commentary unfold (one illustrative example being that material support for Michael Brown’s killer has now outstripped material support for Michael Brown’s family, and for reasons which are – understatedly – less than admirable), it is very, very hard to do so. When one man kills another in my church, even if it is by accident or with justifiable cause (including in wartime or in self-defence), it is customary and expected for him, as recommended by our Holy Father of the Church S. Basil the Great, to express contrition by abstaining from the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist for three years. I will not demand that the officers of the Ferguson police force hold themselves to the same standards as members of the canonical Orthodox churches (and even if they are members, it’s between them and their spiritual fathers and therefore none of my business), but I cannot help but shudder in fear and in outrage when I behold the utter, deafening dearth of such contrition from the Ferguson police and from the supporters of Darren Wilson. Regardless of the motives, it speaks volumes, and none of it good, that our society has shown measurably greater empathy for a killer more than it does for his unarmed victim.

This is not even to approach the topics of police militarisation, of the ill-treatment of the American press (much as they may wilfully suck at their jobs in ways which Upton Sinclair would have appreciated, they still are and ought to be subject to certain protections) or of the Calvinist-flavoured class dynamics underlying and reinforcing the racial ones. But police brutality aimed largely against black men is, firstly and foremostly an issue touching upon the innate dignity of human life, and ought to be approached as such by our political and spiritual leaders. It is an issue of overriding moral importance.

23 August 2014

The theopolitics of busyness and time

Cross-posted from Solidarity Hall:

One of those very new books that I want to add to my ever-growing pile (oh dear, now I’m doing it too!) is Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. From the cover it promises to be a fascinating exploration of the psychological and social phenomenon of ‘busyness’, a chronic state in which a certain type of urban upper middle class American proclaims, with a certain degree of boastfulness camouflaged by a patina of self-deprecation, that she is always and perpetually behind in her work and living her life at a frantic breakneck speed, and simply does not have the time to commit to leisure activities or social relationships. The phenomenon itself seems to be of particular interest because it both contributes so greatly to an unhappiness, unease and dissatisfaction with life, and yet also is considered a kind of status marker – of the sort which says: ‘I have so many demands on my time because I am important, useful, productive, indispensable.’ Moreover, this sort of status marker points to a fundamental misrelation, to use the Kierkegaardian language, that ‘relates the self to itself’ – a way of measuring self-worth by comparison to the most ‘valuable’ people as measured by the standards of capitalist modernity.

Value is measured under capitalism in terms like gross domestic product and purchasing power parity. Along these lines, a person is valued based on how much she produces, and how much she is able to buy with what she earns from her production. So great has this value become that productivity has become a sacral marker, a marker of personal purity and holiness. Those who cannot produce or who do not produce in the ways which the capitalist economy measures value are robbed of their moral capital. I am not speaking merely of the jobless or the homeless here, though the analysis absolutely and unequivocally includes them as well. The jobless and homeless are the first victims of this form of moral deprivation, and those hit the worst. But there is another, more insidious aspect to this measuring of value and the religious and moral consequences of that measurement. A recent article (29 July 2014) by Sarah Burnside in the Guardian (of all places!) notes:
The approving glow that surrounds remunerated work entails disregard for both leisure and, more damagingly, unpaid care. Manne quotes a stay-at-home mother unable to sit down while her children are at school - “I feel anxious. I have to be productive” - and a man looking after his elderly mother who observes that caring for others “shows the world he has failed as a man”. Being busy, by contrast, denotes success, and much of the focus on this phenomenon centres on the upper middle classes.
It is not merely paranoia, bluster or contrarianism on the part of those of us who consider ourselves left-traditionalists, when we draw the conclusion that capitalism harms the family. The ways in which capitalist economies define value and in which they flatten or disregard all morally-relevant differences (including those between the sexes) place precisely these sorts of cross-pressures, particularly on stay-at-home mothers. The labours of care are disregarded and religiously devalued in ways which produce intense social and existential pressures on people who are made to feel as though they are worthless when they are not ‘producing’ anything which the society around them values.

Even this political-level analysis, though, only scratches the surface of the deeper question, which is a psychological and theopolitical one. For one thing, it says something about a deep void in our self-formation that we feel the need to erect a barrier of ‘busyness’ in order to validate ourselves. ‘Busyness’ may indeed be real, but the need to be seen as successful (or important, or useful, or productive, or indispensable) seems to be driving a lot of the language one hears from those who are overwhelmed, to the point where the gloss of ‘busyness’ provides a sort of cover for narcissistic behaviour. With the ‘busyness’ rationalisation, time may not only be used as a means of self-focussing and instrumentalising relationships, but also as a means of sorting them into hierarchies of usefulness. But at an even deeper level, as Christopher Lasch suggests, ‘busyness’ may be a reflection of the inability of our culture to take an interest in the well-being and life of future generations, or more generally to cope psychologically with the reality of mortality. Lasch writes in The Culture of Narcissism:
The real value of the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime is that it can be handed on to future generations. Our society, however, has lost this conception of wisdom and knowledge. It holds an instrumental view of knowledge, according to which technological change constantly renders knowledge obsolete and therefore nontransferable. The older generation has nothing to teach the younger, according to this kind of reasoning… Because the older generation no longer thinks of itself as living on in the next, of achieving a vicarious immortality in posterity, it does not give way gracefully to the young. People cling to the illusion of youth until it can no longer be maintained, at which point they must either accept their superfluous status or sink into dull despair. Neither solution makes it easy to sustain much interest in life.

[Journalist Gail] Sheehy [in her book Passages] appears to acquiesce in the devaluation of parenthood, for she has almost nothing to say about it… Her solution to the crisis of aging is to find new interests, new ways of keeping busy. She equates growth with keeping on the move. She urges her readers to discover “the thrill of learning something new after forty-five.” Take up skiing, golf, or hiking. Learn to play the piano. You won’t make much progress, “but so what! … The point is to defeat the entropy that says slow down, give it up, watch TV, and to open up another pathway that can enliven all the senses, including the sense that one is not just an old dog.”
As seen here, for adults who grow old without children – and even those who, with children, find themselves increasingly marginalised in a technological society which can find no use for them – face enormous pressures, and ‘busyness’ is one way of fending off these pressures, even as early as we enter the workforce. And where there is just such pressure on the ninety-nine per cent of us who rely on wage labour to sustain ourselves to be ‘productive’ in a way which the society values through the medium of the wage system, all such forms of leisure are made to seem like a moral deficit to be taken against and justified by how much we produce, even if those forms of leisure are spiritually upbuilding and necessary to true human and civilisational flourishing: reading, writing, socialising (face-to-face), gardening, building, listening to music, making music or praying. For all intents and purposes, we are being pressured into praying to an idol not of our own making when we begin measuring ourselves by our contributions to the gross domestic product, by our personal purchasing power, or by our personal cost-benefit analysis.

Capitalism places us at odds with right Christian practice (orthopraxis) as well, when ‘busyness’ pressures our relationships. This is not to make a defence of the sin of sloth (akedia), which at any rate has been already much altered in meaning by those forms of Christianity which want to make themselves amenable to capitalism, in order to give it the vernacular flavour of what is generally meant by ‘laziness’ (meaning, those who don’t produce according to the capitalist standard of value!). Given the context in which the Church Fathers were writing, akedia referred on the first order to dejection and despair, rather than to physical want of productive use. Note well the description of S. John Cassian:
And when [akedia] has taken possession of some unhappy soul, it produces dislike of the place, disgust with the cell, and disdain and contempt of the brethren who dwell with him or at a little distance, as if they were careless or unspiritual. It also makes the man lazy and sluggish about all manner of work which has to be done within the enclosure of his dormitory. It does not suffer him to stay in his cell, or to take any pains about reading, and he often groans because he can do no good while he stays there, and complains and sighs because he can bear no spiritual fruit so long as he is joined to that society; and he complains that he is cut off from spiritual gain, and is of no use in the place, as if he were one who, though he could govern others and be useful to a great number of people, yet was edifying none, nor profiting any one by his teaching and doctrine.
In akedia, therefore, we can see there is a greater element of distress arising from an awareness of inadequacy than there is of physical laziness (which is a result rather than a cause of the sin). Ironically, akedia bears a greater resemblance to ‘busyness’ than to the ‘laziness’ decried by capitalist-apologetic Christians: akedia in S. John Cassian’s hypothetical spiritual patient’s case arises from discontent with his surroundings, with his neighbours, with himself; grows when he compares oneself against an imaginary standard; and flourishes when he begins complaining (perhaps in a somewhat boastful way) that he can be of no use among such worthless people and in such a worthless place.

But how can it possibly be that the demands of the rat race which keeps us so ‘busy’ can give rise to the sin of sloth? May it not be because we are orienting our labour to the service of the wrong things – things which don’t enlighten us or fulfil us or care for us? Let us look instead to another Father, a saint of the desert, S. Isaac the Syrian. S. Isaac was no friend to akedia. ‘Ease and idleness are the destruction of the soul,’ he wrote, ‘and they can injure her more than the demons.’ But if he felt idleness to be so destructive to the soul, what did he find most suitable for its nourishment?

If he had found ‘busyness’ to be suitable for the soul’s nourishment, he would never have written that ‘as a man whose head is under water cannot inhale pure air, so a man whose thoughts are plunged into the cares of this world cannot absorb the sensations of that new world.’ No – instead, he instructed that the soul should seek silence: ‘What watering is to plants is exactly the same as continual silence for the growth of spiritual knowledge.’ Silence, stillness of the heart, is needed for any person’s soul to grow. Being receptive to the presence of God which, though persistent, is often drowned out by wilful chatter and mental noise, requires silence, a silence which is regularly observed in time. The kind of silence which S. Isaac the Syrian described, the kind he lived and cultivated in his life, is not idle dissipation, but rather a discipline – but it is a subversive discipline fundamentally at odds with the allures of cyberspace, with the 24-hour news cycle, with the demands of a job where one is always on-call, with the entire world of modern commerce.

The capitalist economic world colonises time away from the practical purposes of human use. The Daily Show host Jon Stewart consistently ridicules CNN as well as FOX News for eating up time with non-stories, cheap special effects, speculation and gossip when they have nothing to report, but they are always on air anyway. The omnipresence of the digital world, as wireless technology has become portable and increasingly affordable and accessible, is there to consume time as well as space in entertainment and in the generation of idle chatter and outrage (it certainly does so with mine!). To those less privileged even than myself, for the lowest-paid workers, it has instituted mandatory overtime and flex time. Cellular communications have diminished the silence of our private lives, and regimented and subdivided our time in ways hitherto unimaginable.

The new urbanists, including thinkers like Jane Jacobs and Philip Bess, rightly worried about the modernist division and regimentation of our physical space, and the evaporation of public spaces in favour of single-use urban and suburban zones dominated by private concerns, each dedicated solely to work or consumption or rest, and at that usually only to a single socioeconomic or racial stratum. However, these divisions can make sense only when considerations of time on the personal level – and how it is spent getting to and from these privatised physical spaces – are ignored or overridden. As such, the new urbanist critique of modernity must address the way in which so much of our time has been broken up for the service of the same economic and political powers which have depersonalised our use of space. Now not only is the employee’s – or the consumer’s – spatial life so attenuated, but also the employee’s now-morally-suspect leisure time is made available around the clock, especially for the employer’s concerns.

One of the challenges that faces the Christian who values orthopraxis as well as orthodoxy, will be how to resacralise spaces and times away from the economic background noise – how to bring the silence of the monastic life into the spaces normally dominated by the ‘busy’ life. This will naturally have to involve the public assertion of a distinctly non-material set of values and measure of value – a Sabbath economics, and an assertion of the value of non-busyness (to be distinguished from idleness). This may be a problem of near-intractable scope, because the busyness mentality is embedded within the technological orientation of our relationships, especially education and younger generations’ relationships with their elders. Youth having forgotten how (and more frighteningly why) to honour age, ageing in such a society has become a moral and an existential crisis. Our Sabbath economics may have to assert that – as a society – we must undergo an examination of our love-affair with technical over liberal education, possibly informed by the critiques of George Parkin Grant, Simone Weil and Jacques Ellul. Until that examination comes, we may be faced with ameliorating these contradictions.

11 August 2014

The measure of a bad idea

I cannot really improve at all on what Daniel Larison has written at The American Conservative, discussing a recent Benjamin Friedman piece in reference to the intellectually-vacuous appeals to credibility so often forwarded by American hawks on Syria and the Ukraine:
Considering how many times U.S. “credibility” has supposedly been shattered or ruined, it is remarkable how many dozens of eager would-be clients and long-standing allies still line up with Washington and fully expect the U.S. to protect them and/or do as they wish. Warning about “credibility” is a giveaway that the person issuing the warning has run out of persuasive arguments and has nothing else left. Friedman sums it up this way:
A good rule of thumb for foreign policy is that if someone tells you our credibility depends (sic) doing something, it’s probably a bad idea.
This true not only because “credibility” hawks are always invoking credibility in order to justify more aggressive policies in places of little or no importance to the U.S., but because the reliance on the “credibility” argument is confirmation that these policies can’t be defended on the merits. The arguments for deeper U.S. involvement in conflicts that are at best tangentially related to U.S. vital interests are not compelling ones, which is why the “credibility” argument is used so often in these debates. “You may not agree with doing X, but you don’t want to risk encouraging a North Korean invasion, do you?” At its core, the “credibility” argument is a sort of extortion: if you don’t agree to do what the hawks prefer in one place, your actual allies somewhere else are supposedly going to get hurt. This should alert us to the weakness of the policy arguments, but instead many Americans allow themselves to be tricked into letting “credibility” concerns overrule all of their objections.

09 August 2014

Pointless video post – ‘Тамо’ by Деспот

Believe it or not, the other songs on this album aren’t this folksy at all, but rather have a more power metal or traditional heavy metal texture to them. Which makes me wonder why they chose to do this track for a music video. Oh well. The song isn’t without its charm, though, that’s for sure! Serbian Orthodox folk metal; what’s not to love? The lyrics of this song in particular are all speaking about awaiting the heavenly Kingdom to come, but some of their other songs have a patriotic feel, with one about the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. It makes one think that perhaps, if they took themselves about half as seriously as they do, they would be very much akin to Slough Feg; the musical style is quite similar, and the inspirations taken from Celtic folk music are evident in both. Anyway, please do enjoy the opening track from Despot’s debut album - as with other up-and-coming metal bands in the Balkans, it’ll be fun to see where they go!

06 August 2014

Remembering the quintessential Russian saints: the Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb, the sons of Grand Prince S. Vladimir

The Holy, Glorious and Right-Victorious Martyrs Boris and Gleb, Princes of Kievan Rus’

More so even than the Baptiser of the Rus’, the two saints whose lives and story reflect best the most alluring and most attractive elements of the Russian soul, in its burning, near-ecstatic self-denial and its simple but eloquent ‘no’ to power politics and worldly concerns, are without a doubt the baptiser’s younger sons Boris and Gleb. They are the first truly Russian saints. Of these two princes, the Orthodox lay-philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev had this to say:
Folk tales and heroes are associated with the Russia of Kiev and St. Vladimir. But chivalry did not develop on the spiritual soil of Orthodoxy. In the martyrdom of St. Boris and St. Gleb there was no heroism, the prevailing idea is that of sacrifice. The exploit of non-resistance—that is the Russian exploit. Simplicity and humility—these are Russian traits.
This is not to say, of course, that Orthodoxy has no place for chivalry or for heroism or for the defence of home, hearth and motherland – for these speak the histories and hagiographies especially of Serbian saints such as Great-Martyr Lazar, Prince of Serbia – only that the ideals of non-violence and passive resistance are still greater.

The tale of the two non-violent saints ought not to be taken as a denigration of the military profession, only as a caution against the conceits of its use. Boris was a military man; his murder at the hands of his brother Sviatopolk the Accursed came at the end of a military campaign against the Pechenegs. However, the last of his deeds before his death reveals the mildness of his heart: though he knew that Sviatopolk had nothing but ill intent towards him, and had under the guise of brotherly affection sent assassins to murder him, he took no action against them despite the advice to do so given to him by his father’s thegns [дружина]. He would not lift his hand against his brother. He sent his armies away from him, all but a few thegns, and then prayed before an ikon of Christ to give him strength to endure the suffering that he must face and to ‘lay not this sin to his [Sviatopolk’s] charge’. Sviatopolk’s hirelings slew the faithful thegn George, and then the saintly Boris himself, with lances and swords upon his direct order.

Sviatopolk then moved against the younger of the two brothers, Gleb. Gleb he summoned to Kiev with a message saying that his father had taken ill, and the filial son obeyed. Gleb received the warning from his brother Yaroslav and his sister Predislava not to go – that his father had already died and that Sviatopolk had already betrayed and murdered Boris – but Gleb continued on. Sviatopolk having sent his men to kill Gleb, the young prince, knowing that they sought only his life, told his own thegns not to raise weapons against them and thus spared their lives. Gleb’s throat was cut by his own cook on the orders of Sviatopolk’s men. Thus Gleb joined his brother in repose.

Sviatopolk was by marriage related to Bolesław Chrobry, king of Poland, and had the Polish king’s political and military support. He was defeated, however, in a war with his elder brother Yaroslav. Yaroslav had garnered the support of the Varangian thegns and citizens of Holmgård, to whom he expressed great gratitude later in extending to them rights of self-rule for their role in helping him to wrest Kiev from the grasp of Sviatopolk, the Polish king and their Pecheneg compatriots – thus laying the foundations for the Novgorod Republic. Upon his victory over Sviatopolk, Yaroslav had the bodies of his slain young brothers interred together at the Church of S. Basil, where at the site where their relics reposed many miracles took place. Yaroslav was then able to persuade the Orthodox hierarchs to grant the saintly brothers Boris and Gleb the status of passion-bearers.

The first of the saints of the Russian people may have been S. Olga Equal-to-the-Apostles and Grand Prince S. Vladimir. But the truest saints and those who exemplify what is best in the Russian soul are their descendants, Ss. Boris and Gleb. With a single-minded self-denial, each of the two brothers strove earnestly and valiantly to embody the example of the chaste and guiltless Lamb whom each of them called Lord; to the end each stood faithful to both his earthly father and his heavenly Father, as witness to the emptiness of the striving for earthly power. In these days their example and witness is needed now more than ever, as once again the princes and powers of Holmgård and Konugård vie amongst themselves, as Westerners collude with murderous usurpers in Kiev and as brothers let each other’s blood on the same grounds as they did a thousand years ago. Boris and Gleb, righteous and victorious passion-bearing princes, pray for us needy and unworthy Orthodox Christians in these times of fratricidal civil strife to Christ our God.