Glorious Ascension

I was pleased to be able to visit the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension yesterday in Resaca, Georgia. This is an Orthodox community associated with ROCOR – that is, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which I regret to say that I had never heard of before. ROCOR has its origins in the Russian Revolution and the exile of some Russian clergy, who declared their independence from the Patriarch of Moscow, now taking orders from the Bolsheviks. It was a happy day in 2007 when ROCOR reunited with the Moscow Patriarchate (now under Patriarch Kyrill; ROCOR itself is headed by the Metropolitan Hilarion in New York City). I especially enjoyed speaking with Father Thomas Janikowski, visiting from Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church in Davenport, Iowa, who reminded me that the division between Protestants and Catholics, which has dominated western Christianity for over 500 years (and with which I’m reacquainting myself in preparation for teaching this fall) comprises “two sides of the same coin – one that Orthodoxy doesn’t even use.” The Orthodox hold themselves as practitioners of the true, original Christian faith, with others being deviants from this. For instance, regarding ecclesiastical priority, one should not look to Constantinople (founded in the fourth century), but to Jerusalem, whose patriarch remains Orthodox. Furthermore, at the beginning, the leader of the Jerusalem Christian community was James, the brother of Jesus, who had the final say at the Council of Jerusalem in AD 50 – not St. Peter, whom Jesus allegedly designated his spiritual heir and from whom the Bishops of Rome claim the right to be preeminent as “Pope.” (According to Orthodoxy, Peter was bishop of Antioch, not bishop of Rome. He may have been martyred at Rome, but he was never designated the leader of its Christian community in any ancient source.) 

I did not know any of this!

Unfortunately, their shop had no St. George icons for sale, but there were a number of other ones for saints whom I had not heard of before. I gratefully acknowledge permission to take these photos.

An icon of an “Angel Deacon of God.” 

St. Irene Chrysovalantou (fl. ninth century in Cappadocia). The icon illustrates a cypress tree bowing down to her, and her possession of three apples, a miraculous gift from St. John the Evangelist. 

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896-1966), hierarch of ROCOR and thaumaturge. Visit his shrine at the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. 

A detail from a Romanian altarpiece of Christ making wine from grapes from a vine, supported by a cross-shaped trellis and growing from his own side, graphically illustrating the doctrine of transubstantiation (or perhaps I should say metousiosis). 

A Serbian warrior saint from the fourteenth century, I believe St. Nikita

St. Spyridon (c. 270-348) was a Christian shepherd of great piety who became a monk and eventually Bishop of Trimythous (on Cyprus). In this capacity he attended the Council of Nicaea and forcefully denounced Arianism. He also used a potsherd to illustrate how one thing (a pot) could be composed of three different things (fire, water, and clay), an analogy for the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity. Whether or not this is Partialism I am not equipped to say, but a pagan philosopher was convinced by it, and by the miracle that followed: the potsherd burst into flame, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in Spyridon’s hand. 

As a bishop Spyridon wears an omophrion, and holds a bible in one hand and makes a blessing sign with the other. A more particular attribute is the straw shepherd’s hat that he wears, a reference to his original profession and to his shepherding of his Christian flock. 

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