Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Russian Orthodoxy - Once upon a Time

My Life's Journey
The Memoirs of Metropolitan Evlogy
As Put Together according to His Accounts by T. Manukhin
Part One
Translated by Alexander Lisenko
St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
Yonkers, New York, 2014

By sheer happenstance, a gift, I find myself initiated into a world propagated until now by Russian speakers, that being the world of Metropolitan Evlogy, now available in a most readable English translation. I don't know if I will be quite so interested in volume two, which takes up with his move to Berlin in 1921 to assume his duties as Russian Orthodox Metropolitan for Western Europe, but this first part from his birth in old Russia in 1868 up until then has truly been captivating.

Apart from giving to the Bolshevik Revolution a very personal perspective, I found Part One particularly captivating because it recounts his life as Bishop of Lublin, vicar of the Archbishop of Warsaw-Kholm, Archbishop of Kholm, and then Archbishop of Volynia, which is to say here in my territory of Ukraine.

During his imprisonment at the end of World War I, Evlogy was for a time house guest of Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytskiy in Lviv. Places familiar to me have taken on new historical depth, thanks to his memoirs. There's even an odd little encounter with the "Red Prince", the tragic, comic Habsburg figure who sought to set himself up as ruler over Ukraine.

If I were to claim that Evlogy's Russian chauvinism was oppressive I would be lying. At the distance of a century, his prejudices against Polish and Ukrainian Catholics, his disdain for Austrians and his characterization of Don Cossacks border on the humorous, viz. his refusal to accept food or drink at the old Dominican monastery not far from Pochaiv for fear of being poisoned by the good friars who received him so warmly.

Anyway, volume one reads quite well and offers a wealth of information about a famous offspring of a Russian Orthodox priestly family, about the world in which he lived. I do not regret a moment spent and would not hesitate to recommend it to others.

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