Jan 16

Old Believer and the Brave New World

Siberian Hermit uses Satellite Phone

A woman living alone in Siberia for decades would be interesting enough, but more so given why she was there.

Lykova is an Old Believer. Her family fled to Siberia 80 years ago due to persecution by Stalinist regime. See even then there were too many Russian Orthodox to ban them completely in the newly formed USSR, but restrictions on them were tight and non-Orthodox faiths were even harder pressed. The Old Believers were a sect that broke away from the Russian Orthodox church in 1652 after changes in ritual, an effort at unifying Greek and Russian Orthodox practices, was unilaterally implemented by the Patriarch of Moscow. Several churches rebelled over going counterclockwise in procession and making the sign of the cross with different fingers and became what Catherine the Great would later call "Old Ritualists."

More seriously here are the differences between the two:

Old Believers use two fingers while making the Sign of the Cross (the pointer finger straight, middle finger slightly bent, two fingers joined with thumb, held at point, three folded) while new-style Orthodoxy uses three fingers for the sign of cross (three fingers (including the thumb) held together at point, two fingers folded). Old Ritualists generally say the Jesus Prayer with the Sign of the Cross, while New Ritualists use the Sign of the Cross as a Trinitarian symbol. This makes for a significant difference between the two branches of Russian Orthodoxy, and one of the most noticeable (see the picture of Boyarynya Feodosia Morozova above).
Old Believers reject any changes and emendations of liturgical texts and rituals introduced by the reforms of Patriarch Nikon. Thus they continue to use the previous Church Slavonic translation of the Greek texts, including the Psalter, striving to preserve intact the "pre-Nikonian" practices of the Russian Church.
Old Believers only recognize performing baptism through three full immersions, in agreement with the Greek practice, but reject the validity of any baptismal rite performed otherwise (for example through pouring or sprinkling, as the Russian Orthodox Church has occasionally accepted since the 18th century).
Old Believers perform the Liturgy with seven prosphora (the loaves of communion), instead of five as in new-rite Russian Orthodoxy or a single large prosphoron, as sometimes done by the Greeks and Arabs.
Old Believers chant the alleluia verse after the psalmody two times rather than the three used in the Nikonian reforms.
Old Believers do not use polyphonic singing as the new-style Russian practice, but only monodic, unison singing. They also have their own musical notation: not with linear notation, but with special signs—kriuki or znamena ("hooks" or "banners"; see Znamenny Chant). Old Believers practise several different types of Znamenny Chant: Stolpov Chant, Great Znamenny Chant, Lesser Znamenny Chant, Putevoi Chant, Pomorsky Chant (or Khomov Chant), Demestvenny Chant, etc. In this respect it represents a tradition that parallels the use of Byzantine chant and neumatic notation.

A more resent example would be the Catholic Churches that rejected the change in liturgy after Vatican 2.

Of course a bigger split, over a bigger issue, also happened in the last week or so. The world wide Anglican communion denounced and separated from the American branch over the issue of homosexuality. This is likely to continue to be a point of contention between the industrialized West and the nations of Africa and South America - where social pressures to remain traditional are strong. Particularly in Africa, where competition between Islam and Christianity can be fierce even when nonviolent.

In a seemingly fragmenting and fanaticized world the Siberian wilderness sometimes doesn't look so bad.

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