A New Symphony

The Russian Federation today is an Orthodox power, even though not a monarchical one. It is a democracy. Authoritarian—not liberal. Orthodox—and not secular.

The Church and the State are mutually supportive, the initiative residing in whichever’s sphere the issue at hand belongs.

There still remain things that concern solely the one or are the particular province of the other respectively. And so there is no one-sided control or any danger of one side coming to control the other and illegitimately subjugating it to its interests.

That the Church is not the State and that the State isn’t the Church keeps a correct balance and legitimate level of cooperation—not the complete separation of them. For that is an idea that has consistently proven itself impossible.

This is a mode of governance in desperate need of a proper definition and description by better-qualified minds than mine. A State, a formal federal declaration, would solidify it into a true model, recalling Byzantine symphonia, rather than it remaining a mere mode of governance, i.e., just the state of affairs at present.

In the first place it would make government in the relevant countries more representative rather than having politicians – creatures of finance – residing in the international aether, wholly beyond the people and unconcerned with the fate of ordinary mortals.

St. Sergius of Radonezh blesses Dmitry Donskoy and his forces before the Battle of Kulikovo field.

St. Sergius of Radonezh blesses Dmitry Donskoy and his forces before the Battle of Kulikovo field. Painting by Ilya Glazunov.

Modern “statesman” are hardly even accountable when exposed directing criminal activity. Every other idiotic, economically harmful, militarily unsafe policy, however much hated by the general population, is theirs to pursue to ruin. Some angry articles and a powerless protest are all they have to ignore; they seem to live with it and live well.

In the second place, a new symphony would provide a supra-national framework within which closer cooperation between Orthodox countries would be possible. This seems to me to be patently desirable. If we have something that unites us, we’d do well to be united.

Holy Orthodoxy can unite more of us in a more meaningful way than say, race. Slavdom alone would exclude brotherly nations like Greece and Georgia. Our Orthodox Faith is bigger than geography. It brings us closer to each other and makes us of one mind more than the word “Europe” ever can. We all know that – if we are honest with our own hearts.

Finally, a mode of governance in which the Church has a proper place in policy and workings of State and its own federally recognized position in national life, supportive in the former and supported in the latter, is better for harmonious international relations.

Holy Orthodoxy is not a proselytizing religion. The Church adheres to Christ’s call to be an authentic witness to the world—not an annoyance. Bees come to flowers, not flowers to bees. The bells for Divine Services heard by passers-by have led to more conversions than any amount of dumbed-down apologetics or cunning “missionary” work, the classic tools of the West, ever could.

The Church appreciates and respects other peoples and cultures in the knowledge that God exists, even in China, India, and every other corner of the world. And God’s Loving Providence works even where we are not— the salvation of nations is not in our power, but His. That also brings the Church closer to the true common concerns of all humanity than Western liberal imperialism.


It is often asserted by proponents of political liberalism that “rights” come before “the good.” The good is equivocal, occasions arguments, and just generally can’t be agreed on by all parties.

Rights, the narrative reads, are recognisable by all. There is or ought to be a higher sphere of vague “values” – modern Western liberal values –  above moral convictions and the deepest-held beliefs of a people. And all peoples should acknowledge the precedence of this higher sphere of values, brought to you by Hollywood and Washington, over morality and religion.

This is not only false; the exact opposite is true. Historically and today, most common grounds for agreement among most people are moral and religious—that is, the good. Not rights.

That there is a God or something like Him. That it is wrong to steal or to lie. That it is good to be kind and to care for those who need help. That selfishness is bad, women are not sentient sex-toys, offensive language indecent, and so on.

These simple sentences will be met with unqualified approval by the Sunni in Egypt, the Shia in Iran, the Sufi in Turkey, the Buddhist in Tibet, the shaman in Mongolia, Catholics in Hungary, or animists in Africa. And that approval will proceed from their respective religious teachings.

Nations are under assault by a patronising, irreligious political ideology with messianic pretensions. And whatever its ridiculous world-historical claims, liberal ideology is not the way to harmonious, sustainable, open relations in a world where the majority of all people are some description of sincerely religious.

To counter such subversion through a broad alliance, certain emphasis ought to be placed on the shared inherent religiosity of humanity—which goes back to Cro-Magnon man, the earliest examples of homo-sapiens. Early man certainly didn’t appear to have had any concept of rights, it must lamentably be reported, and the common morality advocated by all our different religions should be the stuff out of which bridges of peace and friendship are built.

We in no way advocate universalist syncretism, which serves only to be equally insensitive, unsatisfying, and poisonous to all involved. Trivializing as it does the differences that make us what we are, Orthodox and not Muslims, etc. But there is ample common ground that we are all trying everywhere to stand firmly on. Why not do it together?


What is that idea as great as Rus that Gogol mused must come out of her?

I can’t say that I know precisely, but we would agree that there is one idea that is even greater than it.

Russia’s greatest export is not energy or arms. It is our Holy Orthodox Faith.

Alexander Pushkin, when considering the problem of pacifying the Circassians, put it perfectly.

The influence of luxury might make it easier to tame them—the samovar could be an important innovation. But there is one method more powerful, more moral and more in tune with our enlightened times—preaching the Gospel.

This does not mean door-to-door, internet polemics, charities with fine print, and all those corrosive phenomena of which Orthodox countries themselves were the victims during the dissolution of the USSR. But it does mean being prepared to offer what we have when asked, and to encourage the asking by the discernible influence of what we have over our lives.

How much we love our Orthodox Faith will be proportional to how strongly the heterodox might be drawn to it. To that degree that we love Holy Orthodoxy and work to give it expression in our lives, our art, our architecture, our music, our literature—our everything. The same degree of interest and appreciation will be invested in it from those who indeed don’t know anything in the least degree like it.

This is that idea that Gogol himself said has been waiting, reposed intact in the Orthodox Church of Christ, which embraces and satisfies not just the heart or the mind, but both. This is the True Enlightenment that humanity unconsciously hopes for in its honest moments.

The holy fathers say that the mind and heart are the eyes of the soul. It seems to me if you have the mind open but not the heart, you’ll be a happy Latin Christian (Muslim, agnostic, atheist, Buddhist). If you have the heart open but your mind closed, you might make a fine Protestant (deist, Hindu, animist, shaman). If you have both open—you are Orthodox. That is Enlightenment—to see with both eyes open.

And what are the eyes taken together apart from the rest of us? Holy Orthodoxy involves each of us. Christ satisfies man in all that he is. His teaching, passed down through the Church, involves the brain, the mind, the heart, the soul, and even one’s body. Beginning from full immersion in Baptism and the anointing with oil, and ending in your reverently receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Kisses, icons, incense, prostrations, lamp-light, candles, the kliros, Crosses and crossing oneself. It involves all of you—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing, but also mind and heart.

As we pray in the preparation for Holy Communion—Пришел еси от Девы, не ходатай, ни Ангел, но Сам, Господи, воплощься, и спася еси всего мя человека. For from a Virgin You came forth, not as an ambassador, not as an angel, but You Yourself, Lord, incarnate, and did save me, the whole man.

Theotokos with Christ

Man made whole by the God-Man. And this is for the whole of humanity. And we have it.

Should any of us claim to be worthy? Certainly not. But we have our gift of faith by the mercy of God all the same.

Постойтеже, придетвремя, будетвремя, узнаетевы, чтотакоеправославнаярусскаявера! Уже и теперьчуютдальние и близкиенароды: подымается из Русской земли свой царь. . .

You wait, the time will come when you will discover the glory of the holy Russian Faith! Even today nations scattered far and wide about the world can sense it: a new Tsar is emerging from the Russian soil. . .

Тарас Бульба, XII

God knows.

Martin Kalyniuk is a young man of letters, a contributor to the Oriental Review and presently resides in Australia. All thoughts, comments, criticism, provided they are in the spirit of honest enquiry, are welcome. Please send them to martinkatishka@gmail.com