Prayers for the Ukrainians

Violence is like a weed – it does not die even in the greatest drought.”
Simon Wiesenthal

For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.”
Simon Wiesenthal

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This is a very old, very tiny Russian Icon.
It is just a tad bit larger than a postage stamp.
I found it in an equally small antique shop tucked away in a small alley in the ancient hill town of Cortona, Italy, one summer, several years ago.
The small image of Christ the Pantocrator is hand painted and very detailed to be so small but difficult to capture with a camera as much of the detail is lost.
The sterling silver covering, the Riza, or риза meaning “robe”, is not intended merely to protect the underlaying painting, as is often the common assumption, but rather is an added bit of reverence or veneration.

After being the guest at large for the past three weeks, the world has most recently departed Sochi, Russia happy, pleased, as well as relieved. We were welcomed into what is a massively vast country, which for so many of us, for so very long, has been steeped and shrouded in dark mystery. Those of us who have lived through the inception, duration and eventual fall of the tangible walls of a bitter cold war, delightfully enjoyed this most recent and uplifting visit. A large exhaled collective breath could be heard reverberating across the world as the extinguishing of the Olympic flame signaled not only the closing of this year’s games but it also signaled the closing of the possibility, of what so many believed to be inevitable which thankfully had not taken place after all— that being an act of terrorism.

With the unifying events of the Olympics being played out in living rooms around the globe, a more sinister fog hung heavily in the air, seeping its way eastward from the neighboring unrest playing out in the Ukraine. Ukraine, which in fact translates to “borderland,” shares not only its eastern border with its massive overshadowing neighbor Russia, but the inextricably intwined bond of a people bound by language, religion and blood. For years the relationship between the two countries has been tenuous and strained as Ukraine has woven in and out of life under Czarist Russian rule, Soviet rule, eventually turning sovereign neighbor. Yet now, as the world waits and watches, the disturbingly new question begs to be asked if Ukraine does not currently play the part of occupied nation by that of a much larger hostile nation?

As the very fluid events unfold faster than I can type, we, the world hold our collective breath fretting what may be next, not only for the Ukrainians, but for us all as well. We see the faces on the news of people just like you and me—men, woman and children caught in the middle of a power play of political ideologies. The rhetoric escalates as European and American leadership dicker over roles of responsibility. All as the situation seems all too familiar, with actions from the past demigods unfolding as if in a stop frame slow motion camera. The once massive growling grizzly portrayed under the banner of a red hammer and sickle snidely nicknamed “Uncle Joe” sweetly gave way to the childlike cuddly teddybear of the Olympics.

What we must cautiously remind ourselves of today is that all wild animals, even those tamed circus bears and sweet Olympic teddybears, still remain wild at heart, naturally demonstrating tendencies of reverting back to the unpredictable ways of their wild nature. We wonder which bear Vladimir Putin claims for Russia.

May we all pray for a peaceful resolve to the very dangerous and fluid situation in the Ukraine.

All is given by Grace

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ Troupe Co. GA/ 2013)

“Spiritual knowledge comes through prayer, deep stillness, and complete detachment, while wisdom comes through humble meditation on Holy Scripture and above all, through grace given by God.”
St.Diadochos of Photiki