an everyday connection

I opened the book to its preface. It was a large, thick tome. I'd heard that many Orthodox Christians have read it; in fact, in Russia the original version has become popular, selling well over a million copies.

72078.pI had no idea if it would interest me. After reading the brief introduction, however, I had to buy the book. And, yes, it's about (among other things) life in a monastery. Half a world away. The stories begin in the 1980s; then they reach backward and forward in time. They assume some knowledge of Russian life. They often express miraculous happenings in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

A few weeks ago I started posting bits of my Orthodox conversion story. More posts are slowly taking shape in my writing files, and I'd like to hang them up here on the blog. The past two years have been an amazing time in my life, in largest part due to Christianity of this sort. When I read Archimandrite Tikhon's words at the beginning of his sharing of stories, my heart related to what he described:
Why had we come to the monastery? And why were we planning to stay here for the rest of our lives? We knew very well. It was because, for each of us, a new world had suddenly opened up, incomparable in its beauty. And that world had turned out to be boundlessly more attractive than the one in which we had previously lived our young and so-far very happy lives.
You can read the rest of the preface at Every-day, and there are links to selected chapters.

Despite my enthusiasm, I don't expect American readers to make the book a best-seller. I can just hear folks saying, "Hm. Rather obscure, quaint, even eccentric stories, these." Perhaps I'm getting used to this kind of reaction to my whole life. It's all right.

Recently I heard a (non-Orthodox) friend of mine described as eccentric. I realized I agreed that the term fits; in fact, I'm sure it fits me and, maybe, a majority of the people I know, because I've never run with a conventional crowd in any setting. I also mused that I think becoming Orthodox doesn't automatically make you eccentric, but it sure makes you look eccentric pretty fast.


American Christians might take an interest in historical aspects of these stories. Many concern people who survived the Soviet era with their faith intact. I find here an awe-inspiring legacy. Because there were Christians to be found throughout the USSR, inquiring young people like the book's author could connect with the Church, with the faith of Christ, years before communism fell.

His education gave the author his first nudge in this direction:

Gradually we came to a surprising revelation. All the great figures of world and Russian history with whose philosophies we became acquainted during our studies -- all those whom we trusted and loved and respected -- all of them had thought about God in a completely different way than we did. Simply put, they were people of faith. Dostoyevsky, Kant, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Goethe, Pascal, Hegel, Losev -- there were too many to list. [...] Of course, these people's perceptions of God might turn out to be quite different from ours. Even so, for most of them, the question of faith was the most important, even if perhaps the most complicated, question in their lives. [From "In the Beginning," p. 5-6.]

No matter the origin on the map or in history of thoughts like these, they meet me on the street where I live. Such is the gift of experience in story.


Dee Ready said…
Dear Deanna, this line speaks to me on many levels: "No matter the origin on the map or in history of thoughts like these, they meet me on the street where I live. Such is the gift of experience in story." Thank you for writing it and for letting it bubble up into being. Peace.
Deanna said…
How encouraging and kind to say so, Dee. Thank you.