"We have experienced all kinds of difficulties before: pandemics and wars. We have lived through them all. And we will survive it now. The Church always testifies to the most important thing: to be in unity with Christ. . ."
Alaska's chief Orthodox priest tells Pro Gorod about what will unite Americans and Russians during a pandemic
Pro Gorod already wrote about an American priest who left the U.S. to serve in the Yaroslavl countryside. At the time, many readers wondered why the young man traded American comfort for Russian spirituality in a simple hut. Perhaps the other heroes of our interview, American Orthodox priests, will provide the answers to these questions. These days, the ruling bishop of the diocese in Alaska is visiting Yaroslavl. He and Archpriest Daniel came to us from the U.S. on a pilgrimage visit. Yesterday they were in Tolga monastery, and today, November 18, held a service in the Church of the James and the Annunciation.
Pro Gorod talked to Bishop Alexis, whose name in the world is John Trader, about Dostoyevsky, the influence of the coronavirus on religion, and the fundamental difference between Russians and Americans.
"I found love and humility in Orthodoxy."
Pro Gorod: Father Alexis, which Russian cities have you already visited, and which did you like best?
Bishop Alexis: I've been to Moscow, Sergiev Posad, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Rostov, and Yaroslavl. Each has its own beauty.
Pro Gorod: Tell us about your path in Orthodoxy. Why did you decide to become a priest?
Bishop Alexis: Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov: I read that book and it made a huge impression on me. Immediately afterwards I decided to visit an Orthodox church. I especially remember the conversation between Alyosha and the elder Zosima. I read that moment 20 times and realized that this is the kind of Christianity I want to find. In other places, I could not find the humility and love described in this story anywhere else.
"Times are not easy."
Pro Gorod: How does the Russian Orthodox Church cooperate with the American Church?
Bishop Alexis: My visit to Russia is one example of cooperation. And in general there is a representative office in Moscow, that is essentially like an embassy. And a lot of joint projects go through it.
Pro Gorod: What exactly is your role?
Bishop Alexis: I am the ruling bishop of the Diocese of Alaska. Alaska is probably the closest diocese to Russia both geographically and mentally. I believe the connection between the two churches is very important, especially in our difficult times. I would like to note that as a bishop, I am very pleased that my first trip out of the United States was to Russia.
Pro Gorod: You mentioned some difficult times. In connection with the situation in the world right now: the coronavirus, constant wars, and so on, do you sense any changes? And to what extent do these problems affect religion specifically?
Bishop Alexis: The Church lives in the world, so everything that happens around it affects it too. We have experienced all kinds of difficulties before: pandemics and wars. We have lived through them all. And we will survive it now. The Church always testifies to the most important thing: to be in unity with Christ, with the saints, and with the Queen of Heaven.
"The struggle is the same."
Pro Gorod: Is there a difference between "being Orthodox in America" and "being Orthodox in Russia"?
Bishop Alexis: For those who are close to Christ, the struggle is the same: either in the United States or in Russia.
Here Archpriest Daniel joined the conversation. Up until then, he had only translated the bishop's answers into Russian. But this time he decided to express his own point of view as well.
Fr. Daniel: We are all made of the same cloth", he began. "That's why those struggles that touch an American, they touch a Russian too. Of course, there are differences: you have snow here, and it's +35 in Miami, and you have birches here and palm trees there. But as Bishop Alexis rightly said, for a man whose life center is Christ, it doesn't matter where he lives. Many people think the grass is greener next door, but we know that "where you were born, you are welcome. I have been a part of Bishop Alexis' diocese for 17 years and have encountered this problem. Americans marry Russians or Ukrainians and bring them to America. Everything is fine for the first few months, but then they start to get used to it and face difficulties because of the differences. There are three of them: culture, language, and most importantly, religion. So the idea that it's so good there is an illusion. The struggles are the same. And Christ is the most important thing a person should have."
Source: progorod76.ru (Russian)
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