First Biennial Conference
The first biennial conference of ASEC devoted to a broad range of topics in our field was held in Columbus, Ohio on 21-22 October 2005. It was organized by Jennifer Spock and Russell Martin, ASEC officers, and co-sponsored by the Center for Slavic and East European Studies, The Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures, the Hilandar Research Library, the Resource Center for Medieval Slavic Studies, and Eastern Kentucky University. We gratefully acknowledge their aid and are especially indebted to Halina Stephan, Jason Vuic, and Predrag Matejic for their constant encouragement, advice, and support.
Session I. Problems in the Reconstruction of the Ancient Religion of the Eastern Slavs: Inherited Elements and Innovations
- Chair and Discussant: Juan Antonio Álvarez –Pedrosa Núñez, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain.
- Matilde Casas Olea, Universidad de Granada, Spain. “An Appraisal of Epigraphic Texts as Sources for the Reconstruction of the Slavic Pre-Christian Religion”.`
The paper posed the question of the application of Slavic epigraphic sources as valid documentation to extract information about the religious mentality of the early Slavs, since they include direct records about the beliefs of a wide scope of old Slavic society. The value of epigraphic records as a source of knowledge of Slavic religious reality within the Slavic textual environment should be appraised by regarding both their documentary richness and their novelty within the textual corpus traditionally analyzed. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged in advance that epigraphic texts emerge among Slavs as these peoples are Christianized and writing is consequently introduced among them, which narrows the epigraphs’ function and content in their interpretation as a possible source for the study of religious practices of early Slavs. Therefore, the analysis of epigraphic documents should be approached taking into account the different strata of Slavic belief and religious mentality, i.e., an autochthonous pre-Christian Slavic pagan substratum, in which different levels could be identified, from the common Indo-European to the endogenous and intrinsically Slavic, and an inherited Christian super stratum, in which elements from popular Byzantine religious tradition are also to be found, resulting from syncretism with other, more ancient, cultures. The specific focus of the paper was on the Rusalia and the integration of this pagan festival into medieval Rus’ popular religion and the final assimilation of it into the feast of Pentecost.
- Inés García de la Puente, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain. “The Indo-European Heritage in the Povest’ Vremennykh Let (PVL)”
The paper dealt with the comparative mythology of cultures whose languages are Indo-European with particular attention to the PVL which reveals inherited Indo-European traditions. The 18 gods mentioned in the PVL are all rooted in the Indo-European pantheon. But as a whole the system in the PVL does not completely correspond to the Indo-European pantheon; reliable conclusions are thus not possible. Numerous oral narratives are woven into the PVL. Specifically, the liberation of Kiev from the Pechenegs is compared to the liberation of Rome from a siege by the Etruscans. Particular events and incidents are remarkably similar and similar physical descriptions of protagonists are especially telling. The spread of the tale may be attributed to Roman-Slavic trade contacts. Also, the Roman and Slavic accounts seem to go back to a common original source.
- Susanna Torres Prieto-Hay, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain. “Christian Magic in Kievan Rus.”
The study of the volkhvy and their role in society is difficult because the extant sources are one-sided and inconsistent in terminology. It is productive to separate the act from the actor, the practice from the agent. Volkhovanie appears with charodenie and involves magic, amulets, protective spells, and foretelling the future. The term volkh (the feminine volkhva, often a wife of the volkh) seems to by synonymous with koldun and charodei but also refers to a performer of non-Christian religion. The statutes of princes Volodimir and Iaroslav specify penalties for volkhvy and their practices but the penalties were not especially severe nor was the prosecution especially acute or vigorous. In the PVL volkhvy are mentioned as predicting future events. In the Radzivil letopis’ volkhvy are frequently leaders of an opposition to new rulers who are Christian, with political power and Christianity being linked. The term also was used to describe persons with social prestige, often having oracular powers, who may have been pagan priests. But the church, itself, showed little zeal in persecuting volkhvy though it differentiated between “miracles” (God’s work) and “magic” (pagan and by extension the devil’s work).
Session II. Defining the Self and the Other: Topics in Eastern Christian Relations, Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries
- Chair and Discussant: Eve Levin, University of Kansas, USA.
- Olga Tsapina, Huntington Library, USA. “Us and Them: Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth-Century Russia.”
The fear of Catholics in England (the anti-papist Anglican tradition) was presented as a model for reference. The study of 18th-century Orthodoxy is largely a blind spot; after the Petrine reforms attention is usually limited to church-state relations. In continental Europe, Catholicism broadly penetrated culture and Jesuit activity was especially instrumental in such penetration during the 18th century. The anti-clericalism of the Enlightenment was essentially anti-Catholicism. As the Enlightenment reached Russia, it accentuated existing anti-Catholic sentiment. The annexation of Poland brought contact with Catholicism, though anti-Catholic feeling may be traced to Byzantium and the excesses of the 4th Crusade. The Union of Brest was also a major factor. Attempts at reconciliation caused counter-reactions. A virulent debate in the 1680s over the moment of transubstantiation did not help matters. Peter’s mission to Europe exposed him to anti-Catholic views. Feofan Prokopovich criticized the papacy in his writings. During Catherine II’s reign the polemics took on a political and popular social aspect. The division of Poland was seen as a liberation of the Poles from Catholicism.
- Lucien Frary, Rider University, USA. “Russia and the Autocephalous Church of Greece, 1833-1834.”
The paper dealt with the question of identity which in the West is not especially bound to the state. But in Russia, identity is Russian national identity and includes religion. During the 1830’s Russian peasants (not the Europeanized element) invariably saw themselves as Orthodox. The educated citizens of Russia sought to combine pietism with social amelioration. Russians were very concerned about religion in the newly independent (1832) state of Greece. The “Greekness”of Russian Christianity as a component of Russian identity was largely a construct of the Nikolaevan period. The new Greece had a Catholic sovereign placed on its throne (the prince of Bavaria, 17 years of age). Russia began strong action, financial aid and diplomatic pressure, to resuscitate Orthodoxy in Greece. Hundreds of thousands of rubles were contributed. In 1853 Greece reconciled itself with the patriarch in Constantinople, who was suspect because he lived under Ottoman rule. The Greeks had at first created a holy synod on the Russian (Petrine) model. The Russian embassy was staffed by Russian citizens of Greek background and with Greek surnames. Russian newspapers avidly followed events in Greece. (Greece was only the second sovereign Orthodox state in the world.) The Russian empire opposed the Catholic regency in Greece and acted to maintain Greek faith and Greek national identity.
- Roy R. Robson, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, USA. “Old Believer Education and Identity in Riga, 1900-1945.”
The paper addressed attempts to create/re-create Old Believer identity in Latvia. It raised the question of how the Old Believers responded to rapidly changing events of the 20th century; how they saw themselves and how they hoped to shape their future. Latvia became independent in 1918 and in 1924 there were 91,000 Russians living there, 70,000 of whom were Old Believers with 60,000 living in an enclave. Old Believers held all education which did not come from Old Believer sources to be suspect. As a result, the majority of Old Believers were poorly educated or illiterate. The leadership of the Old Believers turned to the Latvian government for aid in instituting Old Believer schools. This was a departure from their traditional isolation. The emphasis was on Russian language teaching and proper religious instruction. There was a movement which saw the Old Believers as participating citizens in Latvia’s future. A split occurred at an Old Believer congress: a faction (the left wing) saw union with other Russians as politically advantageous while the right wing chose to remain conservative. In general, there were few schools with Russian as the medium of instruction, only 17 above the elementary level. Old Believers feared mixed Russian-Latvian schools which led to loss of national identity. But both members of the left and right identified themselves as Latvian citizens and patriots, especially in opposition to the Soviet Union.
Session III. Evidentiary Issues in Early Rus’ Church Texts.
- Chair and discussant: Russell E. Martin, Westminster College, PA, USA.
- Francis Butler, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, USA. “Iaroslav’s Kievan Church of St. George: Old Questions and Elusive Answers.”
The autumn St. George’s Day (26 November) was widely celebrated in Kievan Rus’ and was apparently linked to St. George’s church in Kiev. The problem is in locating the original church and its dedication to St. George. Is seems that the so-called church in the “cypress grove” referred to a church in Constantinople. There was a diversity of opinion on the subject among 19th century scholars. According to Greek and South Slavic sources, Iaroslav and Hilarion (circa 1051-1054) may have consecrated a church of St. George specifically in November. The date of dedication is a point of debate, but modern Greek Orthodox tradition holds to 24 November. Examination of East Slavic sources reveals scant evidence of 24 November being celebrated nor shows any consecration at that time (Menology of the Yuriev Gospel, for example). The chronicles (First Novgorod Chronicle) only refer to a St. George’s feast day without specifying a date. Thus there is no evidence that the eastern Slavs associated the date with the consecration of any church until the 14th century when the connection to Kiev was first made.
- Donald Ostrowski, Harvard University, USA. “Biblical Citations in The Tale of Bygone Years.”
The Bible is a source text for the PVL, and comparison of the citations in the PVL with the corresponding Bible passages may help us to determine primacy of readings. There are over 120 separate Biblical citations in the PVL, the vast majority from the Old Testament. The most cited book is Psalms, with 41 quotations, followed distantly by Isaiah with 16, and Proverbs with 14. In order to evaluate the primacy of readings in the PVL, we need to ascertain readings in the Bible that would have been available to the author of the PVL. Not all readings from the Bible remained the same between the 11th and 16th centuries, and in some verses readings in particular books of the Bible underwent such significant changes that they were virtually unrecognizable. So, merely using a late Bible, such as the Gennadii or Ostrog, is inadequate. The Bible developed in Slavonic translation not as a complete text, but as separate parts of the Bible and separate books – the Octateuch, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels, and so forth. Furthermore, readings from the Prophets were rearranged from their book order to a thematic order. Not until 1499 is there a text of the complete Bible in East Slavic territory. This means that in studying the various books of the Bible we encounter different problems. And each quotation from the Bible has its own set of considerations depending on which book is being quoted.
- William Veder, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. “The Slavic Translation of the Euthalian Apparatus to the New Testament.”
In times past every book of the New Testament had an introduction which summarized the book; a kind of abstract. The present paper addressed the questions of authorship, sources, and dating of the Slavic translation. Previously, the dating had ranged from the 4th to the 14th centuries and the localization ranged from Egypt, to central Greece, to Sardinia. An Italian scholar, Lorenzo A. Zacagni, was the first to address the issue (1698). Modern scholarship began with J. A. Robinson (Cambridge, 1895), L.C. Willard (1970), and J. G. van der Tak (2003). There are known translations from the 5th century (Gothic), 5th-6th century (Armenian), 6th century (Latin, Syriac), and after 893 (Slavic). Questions: were these homogenous texts or conflations, who was the author(s), and where was the locale. The paper places the apparatus in the tradition of Athanasius of Alexandria who strove to preserve Christian tradition in the face of Gnostic influence and suggests that Euthalius was a deacon who authored the accompanying “booklet” to the Apostolos. The Slavic translation was from a Greek source in which the Euthalian comments had been incorporated into the text.
Session IV. Administration, Theology, and Practice: Responses within the Church.
- Chair and Discussant: Jennifer B. Spock, Eastern Kentucky University, USA.
- Charles Halperin, Indiana University, USA. “The Administrative Culture of the Russian Orthodox Church during the Reign of Ivan IV.”
While the Stoglav Council (1551) and a series of other contemporaneous issues have been studied, church administration remains relatively unexamined. For this paper the documents of the archbishops of Novgorod and Tver’ and then those of Moscow were studied. The bishops’ policies of shaping administrative norms were essentially re-active, frequently in response to petitions. Church charters usually replicated established codicils; were necessary to resolve claims and disputes, fiscal, and judicial affairs, and spiritual as well as non-spiritual matters. Especially valued were immunities (from fiscal obligations) granted to monasteries and parishes. In general, charters could specify fiscal obligations, grant term tax immunities (e.g., for five years). Poslushnye gramoty would announce to peasants their new landholder, for bishops were, in a sense, feudal lords, enterprising in many areas. Ecclesiastical administration paralleled civil (state) administration, sharing concepts and language.
- Eve Levin, University of Kansas, USA. “Innocent and Demon-Possessed in Muscovite Russia.”
The paper dealt with the case of a nun (Anastasia) who was visited by a mysterious light and heard the voice of St. Peter bidding her to come and pray at his chapel. The story suggests that for pre-Modern Russians spirits and demons were seen as real entities which could take up residence in human beings. This belief also provided a theory of disease and, consequently, spiritual treatment was sought for physical ailments. Ill (possessed) individuals were not ostracized, for humanity was seen to be in a fallen state and thus collectively responsible for all. Spiritual and physical impurity, not keeping fasts, and not confessing sins to a priest were judged to be causes of affliction. Certain situations and behaviors such as swimming/bathing or excessive sexuality (especially on wedding nights) made individuals vulnerable to possession by demons. Symptoms of possession were incoherent babbling/screaming and attacking others. Shrines were centers of healing. The tradition was to remand demoniacs to monasteries for treatment or to physically keep them from harming others. A number of compelling cases were graphically described. In Muscovy there was no specialist, “star” exorcist. Priests merely facilitated the process; few are named in accounts.
- Nikolaos Chrissidis, Southern Connecticut State University, USA. “The Absolution of Sins and Satisfaction in Eastern Orthodoxy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.”
The paper viewed “indulgences” as a key to understanding the absolution of sins and satisfaction. The Greek church has been issuing indulgences for the living and the dead since the 14th century with Constantinople issuing those for the dead and Jerusalem those for the living. The text of indulgences became codified by the age of printing. A typical (document) indulgence was presented by the speaker. Rather than the expected “absolved of sins” the words “God regards you as forgiven” appeared in the generic document reflecting Orthodox tradition, in which only God forgives. A copious visual parade of indulgences was provided demonstrating increasingly complex design and graphics. Since there is no concept of purgatory in Orthodoxy, indulgences had to be justified theologically in some other way. The concept of “satisfaction” was brought in. The rationale was to diminish or eliminate penance. The indulgence was administered by one’s spiritual father. Satisfaction is seen as the fruit of penance; it is curative rather than punitive.
Session V. Women Religious in Imperial Russia.
- Chair and Discussant: Christine D. Worobec, Northern Illinois University, USA.
- William Wagner, Williams College, USA. “Chronicling Faith: Maksim Dmitriev and the Renaissance of Female Orthodox Monasticism in Late Imperial Russia.”
The paper dealt with female monasticism in Nizhnii Novgorod oblast’ in the late 19th and early 20th century. A series of photographs by the early photographer M. Dmitriev provided visual evidence of the growth and transformation of female monasticism. Previously, male monasticism had been dominant. But the relationship was reversed with the rise of convents; true in numbers as well as in wealth. The women’s monasteries engaged the lay community through education and ministering to the sick. They were also involved in major economic activities. Two artists (Perov – negative, Nesterov – positive) represented the polarized public debate on the value of monasticism. Women were usually cast in a positive light while venality and hypocrisy were assigned to male monastics. Dmitriev presented a positive, reverential portrayal of nuns and convents. Portraits of abbesses reveal not just spiritual leaders but energetic and strong persons who were capable administrators of major enterprises, one convent having 700 members. Half of the nuns were young, unmarried peasant women or women from poor urban surroundings. The convents provided them with education and vocational training which was otherwise unavailable.
- Nadieszda Kizenko, SUNY, Albany, USA. “Nuns’ Penance and Confessions in Late Imperial Russia.”
The sacrament of confession was a legal requirement throughout the era of the Romanov dynasty. This has led scholars to assume great religiosity among the Orthodox residents of the Russian empire. Lay people were “tracked” for their religiosity; it was assumed that monastics were obviously pious and needed less or little oversight and supervision. Nuns were deemed to be obviously most devout. But this assumption leaves a lacuna. What was the nature of nuns’ confession. Often there was no assigned confessor, which complicated the issue. A differentiation was made between a nun’s spiritual father/elder and confessor. Often there was no specified model or path for confession. A question arises: were nuns different in their confession from monks and lay women and men. The secrecy of confession complicates the issue. An 18th century written confession by a Feodosia who spoke of sectarian activity was sent to an archimandrite. It described the activity of a schismatic group, of which the nun was a member, that claimed the presence of the holy spirit and assured salvation. The nun had a change of heart; chose to return to Orthodoxy; asked for guidance, and sought secret admonishment and absolution. In another confession the author, by insisting that it was not a denunciation, strained the borders between the two processes. In the 19th century written confession became something of an epistolary genre with the addition of a request for absolution. The confessions of nuns were marked by more organization, integrity, sobriety, piety as well as by a desire for more frequent communion.
Session VI. Crossing Borders: The Transfer and Transformation of Christian Practice.
- Chair and Discussant: Nikolaos Chrissidis, Southern Connecticut State University, USA.
- Emilia Guergova, Ohio State University, USA. “Some Sources of early Christian Liturgical Practices and Their Reflection in the Slavic Tradition.” [The paper was read by William Veder (see above) since E. Guergova was unable to attend.]
The paper examined the work of St. Methodius as a translator in the context of proselytizing of the Slavs and specifically looked at the Paterik, the original title. Later translations acquired an epithet – Paterik sinaiskii or Paterik rimskii — which supports the assumption that Paterik was the initial name. The Greek source was from the Latin by Pelagius or John but had a distinctive difference being interspersed at certain points with foreign material which also appears at the end of the codex. The interspersions are not from a systematic collection. The original was not of Constantinopolitan origin, but an Italo-Greek text. The translator into Slavic consistently simplified the text in the area of worship. This suggests its missionary function. All religious service is reduced either to penie or molitva said silently. These are the two basic types.
- Andrei Psarev, Holy Trinity Seminary, Jordanville, NY, USA. “The Nineteenth Canonical Answer of Timothy of Alexandria: On the History of Sacramental Oikonomia.”
It is a little known but established fact that individuals may be received into Orthodoxy in exceptional cases without baptismal, provided an earlier baptismal was close to Orthodox procedure. Historically there were two ways of accomplishing this — through chrismation or repentance for schismatics. Cathars were received through chrismation as stated by St. Basil in his writings and canonical letters. Basil permitted each church to follow its own tradition, i.e., Roman tradition, Carthaginian, or Alexandrian. Gnostics, however, were viewed by St. Basil as heretics and had to be baptized. But schismatics did not have to be baptized again. Basil proposed a gradation of separateness from the church. Individuals baptized by Donatists were considered to be in the church. Repentant schismatics were differentiated from militant schismatics. The nature and degree of schism were considered. Heresy, however, remained a fixed norm. In 19th-century Russia the teaching of sacramental Oikonomia was revived by Khomiakov and later Bishop Antonii (Khrapovitskii).
- Gregory Myers, Independent Scholar. “Original Hymnody and the Assertion of Religious Identity in Kievan Rus’: A Chant for Synaxis of Archangel Michael and the Incorporated Host.”
It is known by musicologists that Kievan Rus’ had a fully developed liturgical-musical culture. Many musical manuscripts had been translated, but few of the original sources are extant. Six books of choral chants of Byzantine origin were translated with all musical notation in the 11th through the 13th centuries in Kiev. But the Kondakion script has yet to be deciphered. The words are comprehensible but the musical notation is not. Archangel Michael has been intensely venerated since the 4th century with many churches and chapels dedicated to him throughout the Greek and Slavic Orthodox world. The existing texts provide documentation of the complexity and richness of Byzantine and Kievan vocal art. The origin of the St. Michael chant is a mystery as is the disappearance of the entire cultural tradition of such chanting.
Session VII. Defining Orthodoxy in Russia: Late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.
- Chair and Discussant: George Pahomov, Bryn Mawr College, USA.
- Allan Smith, St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Canada. “The Dogmatics of Identity: Sergei N. Bulgakov’s Early Theological Writings.”
The paper dealt with Bulgakov’s perception of the Theotokos/Mother of God and the shaping of his religious sensibility in the early and middle years of his life. As recounted in his autobiographical Svet nevechernii (Unfading Light), Bulgakov’s 1898 encounter with the Sistine Madonna in a Dresden museum took him on a path away from Marxism toward Christianity. There is little doubt that the experience touched him deeply for after Svet nevechernii there is scarcely a major philosophical or theological treatise penned by Bulgakov that does not contain an extended reflection on the Mother of God. Also noted was Bulgakov’s connection between the Mother of God and his understanding of Sophia, Divine Wisdom. His fascination with the Mother of God may be seen as an excursion into Mariology and a general interest in Roman Catholicism. But this was not to last, for another (final) encounter with the Sistine Madonna in 1924 brought a counter reaction. A trip to Constantinople that same year and a visit to Hagia Sophia reawakened his fascination with the heavenly Sophia.
- Jonathan Seiling, Emmanuel College, Toronto, Canada. “Soloviev’s Early Idealism and the Birth of Sophia.”
The paper dealt with the genesis of the concept of Sophia in Soloviev’s thought. The presenter suggested that inadequate attention has been given to the connection between Soloviev’s idealism and his initial use of the divine Sophia motif which appears in his writings of 1876. The motif appears in a short but significant piece, The Principles of Universal Doctrine, and is also evident in several short dialogues found in his research notes. The dialogues are between “Sophie” and “Milyi” (dear one). She, Sophie, assures “dear one” (viz. Soloviev) that she will wait for him and that they will be united forever. This may be assumed to be the same Sophie as the universal subject described in Principles of Universal Doctrine. In this work Soloviev defines Sophia as a universal willing subject, the absolute substance, the first principle of creation. Sophia as the cosmic soul and Logos as the cosmic intellect together play a coordinated role in bringing creation toward its perfection. The Logos is the incarnation of Spirit in the ideal process, while Sophia is Spirit in the real process of creation. The process whereby Spirit is manifest in matter creates Love, which is Sophia’s essence. Sophia as a feminine principle, as soul, needs to submit to the divine Logos. Christ is perfect union of Sophia and Logos, which bears strong resemblance to the description of Sophia in the Lectures.
- Scott Lingenfelter, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA. “Sergei Bulgakov and Orthodox Civic Identity in Late Imperial Russia.”
During the Russian social and political crisis of 1905 Sergei Bulgakov proposed a new definition of civil society. The goals were presented in his article “Neotlozhnaia zadacha,” published that September. Bulgakov’s quest for a progressive civil society wedded the perspectives of the intelligentsia and clergy in order to promote political and social change in Russia. He, essentially, proposed a Christian socialist coalition; believed that theological education should include more social science; expressed his vision of religious pluralism in Russian society and stressed the need for broader political participation as well as enhanced higher education. But he also maintained that the Russian Orthodox Church, integral to Russia’s past, was indispensable for its future. It would keep progressive politics rooted in Orthodox human values, enable clergy to serve modern parishioners, and work towards sobornost’ by promoting freedom of conscience. Then, an ecclesiastical intelligentsia composed of liberal clergy and converted intelligenty would provide the spine for a new politics and a teaching church.
Session VIII. Orthodoxy in the Twentieth Century: Identity and Tradition.
- Chair and Discussant: Francis R. Mcclellan, Princeton University and Holy Trinity Seminary, USA.
- Irene McManman, University of Washington, USA. “Orthodox Traditions of Hagiography and Mysticism in Contemporary Literature.”
The paper traced the tradition of hagiography from its beginnings to the contemporary era. Hagiographic literature was introduced as early as the first liturgical texts. The tradition was in place before a united state or even a polity existed and was richly productive. The first life/zhitie of a saint with a specific Russian sensibility of patriotism and national feeling was that of St. Sergius of Radonezh. Metropolitan Makarii’s Cheti minei, though mostly Byzantine, had some Russian saints. This work was read in all literate venues, not just in monasteries, but at meals in homes. The work molded values and provided models of behavior. Currently, a modern work by Father Arsenii, a pious (not canonized) person whose work is widely read, serves as a moral/ontological matrix in a similar fashion. Another book, Starets Ioann, a biography of a pious man written by a current archimandrite is read widely. It and the work by Fr. Arsenii are written in the tradition of podvizhniki blagochestiia, a genre popular in the 19th century.
- Scott Kenworthy, Miami University of Ohio, USA. “Conditions and Reform of Women’s Monasticism in Early Twentieth-Century Russia.”
The rapid growth in the number of women monastics (especially after the 1861 emancipation) raised concerns that the traditions and integrity of monasticism might be compromised. An ecclesiastical congress was called to review and regulate monasteries, but women’s monasteries were largely overlooked. No abbesses were invited to the congress. An abbess, Taisiia, made a strong case for addressing the governance of convents. A number of convents were not communal (cenobitic); there were private transactions, traffic in commodities and a (limited) money economy. Taisiia’s document included the following points: 1. postulates/novices were abusing the system by transferring from one convent to another and avoiding authority, called for more discerning recruitment 2. nuns were not attending services, they were being used as labor to promote the economy of the convent 3. many girls were uncultivated, untutored, and illiterate; they often chose convent life for its relative comfort and security, not for spiritual reasons 4. ancient contemplative monasticism as practiced in men’s monasteries had to be instilled and reinvigorated; recommended the establishment of small hermitages.
- Any Slagle, University of Pittsburgh, USA. “Tradition à la Carte: Competing Visions of Orthodox Identity in an American Parish.”
The paper provided a cultural-anthropological view of Americans converting to Orthodoxy. The study was based on several parishes in the Pittsburgh area and the central questions were how converts are received and how they reflected on their own transition. In one parish of 140 members 20% are converts. The converts are seen by parishioners and priest as being more zealous and devoted, and are viewed as ontologically distinct through their conscious choice. Converts demonstrate agency, a valued attribute in modern American culture. “Cradle” orthodox are seen as passive inheritors of tradition. The converts chose to convert because they saw American religions as too commercial and too individualistic. But they also felt that modernity, with its market lexicon, had begun to penetrate Orthodoxy. They valued the fact that their conversion was a choice rather than a birth event. They simultaneously held two views: that religion in America is, and should be, a matter of choice, a market concept; that Orthodox tradition holds a profound and timeless truth and that Orthodoxy is self-protective and communal.