A great man is one who collects knowledge the way a bee collects honey and uses it to help people overcome the difficulties they endure - hunger, ignorance and disease!
- Nikola Tesla

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- Franklin Roosevelt

While their territory has been devastated and their homes despoiled, the spirit of the Serbian people has not been broken.
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Dostoevsky between the Realism of the Transcendent and the Hyperrealism of the Mundane

A talk delivered at a painting exhibition “Saved by Beauty” at The Maliotis Cultural Center, Hellenic College Holy Cross, Brookline, June 24, 2022

Your Eminence,
Very Reverend Fathers,
Dear guests,

Kindly allow me to congratulate The Maliotis Cultural Center Executive Director Presbytera Chrysoula Kourkounti, and Assistant Director Markella Patitsas for welcoming the idea of hosting an exhibit during this summer season dedicated to Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, an event fitting into Boston’s cultural and intellectual environment.

My sincere gratitude goes to His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Archdiocese, who embraced the proposal of sponsoring and promoting this crucial exhibit.

This exhibit gives visual expression to characters and existential and moral themes from the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky through a variety of painting styles. The painters of the visual group “OCHRA” have attempted to visually express this world of hopeless, dark heroes and others, positive heroes, who have experienced repentance. According to Fr Stamatis Skliris, “this exhibition shows many visual trends. Some works are more emotional and more romantic, or even darker. Some seek to describe scenes from Dostoyevsky’s novels; some are portraits of his heroes, others, more existential, penetrate the streets of the psychic world, while some move into a spiritual bullet showing spiritual points and messages broadcasting the work of the great writer. The entire exhibition awakens our spiritual restoration and serves as a reminder of the first literary adventures of the psychological novel. It expresses nostalgia for the great literary genre called novel, which was popular in the author’s years, and nowadays it fades away.”

The group “Ochra” was established in 2018 in Athens and its main goal is to continue the traditional Byzantine style painting in our postmodern world. According to George Kordis, “based on the belief that this style is a complete and integrated painting system the artists joined the group attempt to use this artistic language not only in rendering religious themes, but in visualizing the contemporary life, the feelings, and the anxieties of contemporary people and mostly to capture and render in visual terms their hopes and their vision for a better world. A world characterized by reconciliation, peace, love and above all by the unity of a community.”

A Community with Those Who Disagree With Us

Christian Bobin remarked: “I have never met an admirer of Dostoevsky, but I have met many who were deeply shattered after reading his works.” His heroes do not want to spend their lives in the elusive pursuit of happiness—they want the true, living life.

When he first appeared on the Russian literary horizon, Dostoevsky stunned his readers and his words opened their eyes to new perspectives. This is because the structure of Dostoevsky’s fictional world is polyphonic and, as Mikhail Bakhtin claims, “profoundly pluralistic.” A well-known remark about Dostoevsky’s philosophical polyphony stemmed from his faith in true equality of all people before God.

Dostoevsky did not advocate a narrow anthropocentric position when he defended the view that God cannot be reached through ideas, not even through religion if it ignores the reality of man as a living image of God. Driven by some other, internal suppositions, he managed to overcome the “pure” humanistic temptation.

The Magic of Narration

In Dostoevsky we find all we need to be thoroughly awakened from our lethargic state; active love as a harsh and fearful thing, personal guidance through the dark spaces of the subconscious, compassion with hearts radiating sorrow because of unrepented sins, silhouettes of sickly heroines, eccentrics in grotesque poses, mysterious footsteps in a dark passage towards sunrise on the Volga River ... Some heroes are willing to abuse everything, including the truth; others, on the other hand, seek pleasure everywhere and in everything, even in that which is purest, revealing the best and worst of human nature in the process.

The magic of his narration is metaphysical. Just as van Gogh used light to lend the painting of a pair of worn-out leather clogs an ethereal quality, so did Dostoevsky use words to lend an ethereal quality to his characters such as drunks, prostitutes, snivellers, and made them our kin, because they and we share a common hope in that which transcends time. As an author, he does not maintain a safe distance from some two-dimensional characters that feel like museum pieces, but keeps close company with those flawed, intense and broken personalities. Sometimes their physiognomy is so unstable that, in the words of Fr. Stamatis Skliris, it is reminiscent of Picasso before Picasso. What prevents these characters from ending up in nihilism, as Skliris observed, is their “apophaticism which, even in the event of failure, leaves room for something better to happen in the future, for hope that they will have a real relationship in the future.”

Dostoevsky’s artistic view was influenced not only by the moments of revelation, but also by his Siberian exile, torture, epilepsy, poverty, the desire to gamble, his passions, and the crises he went through. Having had the power to sublimate these extreme experiences, Dostoevsky spoke in the prophetic language, that is, in the sincere language of universal experience.

To elucidate his comparison between Dostoevsky and Van Gogh, we can add that:
a) madness seems to weave the brushstrokes/ink in a panicked way that gives the painted surface/novel a pulse; b) the genius seems to manipulate the panicked touch to create a successful tumor formation;  c) the freedom that madness gives them leads to inexplicable unpredictability, which give the painting/novel an inconsistent, exotic, paradoxical, original character and in the final analysis build a unique artistic identity, as if only one man paints/writes them that way.

Rebellion against “Eternal Principles”

Taken aback by details and complexities of his critical and aesthetic vision, we become more capable of discerning what the illusion of virtue is and what the modesty that delights is. According to Maria Skobtsova, Dostoevsky “rises even against the laws of virtuous necessity.”

In his recent book about Dostoevsky, reposed bishop Atanasije Jevtić, also one of the great connoisseurs of the Russian writer, boldly states: “The truth which forces me to accept it, denies both me and itself.” Consequently, in our search for the living God, we are certainly not deprived of rights and should rebel against “eternal principles” and “objective truths.” Dostoevsky’s heroes, therefore, are not epigones who submissively mimic the gurus, but are free people who freely express their thoughts and defend their views—similar to Orthodox monasticism, where monks are free to voice their thoughts. This stands in stark contrast to the inquisitor who falls into the trap of underestimating man and assumes the prerogatives of God by attempting to manipulate man’s conscience.

This brings us to Dostoevsky’s next important topic.

The Weakness that Conquers

Enduring the hardships of existence in sin brought on by loveless loneliness is hard enough. In Dostoevsky’s novels we find a much-needed encouragement to start breathing freely, with full lungs. It is that breath that resurrects downcast souls. His ideas are potent and can inspire us to perhaps begin to live a living life again, responsibly and selflessly. Dostoevsky indeed strives to make us aware that freedom is the most precious gift and that life is inconceivable without suffering.

If you look at “The Underground Man” (acrylic on canvas, 2021, Stamatis Skliris) you will notice that the underground space is not a real-life one, but rather a conventional rendition of the hero’s descent into solitude and alienation. His wide-open eyes desperately try to restore substantial communication channels, and his face, deeply etched by the agony of his spirit, mirrors the labyrinth he finds himself in.

Vasileios of Iveron: “Dostoyevsky comprehended an important idea that we find in St. Isaac the Syrian. St. Isaac says that God does not give His great gifts without a serious examination. Therefore, the one who is not inclined to pass through great temptations cannot receive God’s great gifts. I believe that Dostoyevsky gives us exactly this message: a person without great temptations cannot arrive at great values. Reading Dostoyevsky, you are not simply reading crime novels but receiving a testimony that you reach life through death.”

The gaze of the long-suffering, but blessed Dostoevsky crystallizes in that portrait. When we look at him and his eyes and then his torn coat, we can say: this man has gone through a storm, yet his eyes possess a sweetness that says: Thank God, we are saved!

I invite you to look at “Sonia Marmeladova”, acrylic on canvas, 2021, painted by Fr. Stamatis Skliris. She looks like a simple young woman who is led astray into corrupt paths by her beauty and love for her failed father. Yet, her eyes show the ethe:real oil of her devotion to her father and her loved one, and this devotion is precisely what saves an uncorrupted integrity deep in herself.

Instead of Conclusion

The words of Marmeladov—which after all describe Christ who welcomes all at the end of time, all those damaged, failed, and humiliated people—are undoubtedly an echo of the Easter Sermon (attributed to St. John Chrysostom) which is read during Matins of Pascha, the service that begins Easter. This Sermon reveals the Paschal logic with the following words: all is filled with light, all are called to the feast of faith, no-one is to remain hungry, and those who have fasted and those who have not, let all enter the feast of joy, that no-one should remain dead in the grave, but than all should rise from the graves.

May I, once again, express my profound gratitude to Maliotis Cultural Center, which has fostered this exhibition.

Thank you very much!

 


SA

 

People Directory

Oksana Germain

Oksana Germain completed her Bachelor’s degree in May of 2018 at the Eastman School of Music in the studio of Nelita True. Currently, she is attending Anton Bruckner Privatuniversität in Linz, Austria as a graduate student in the studio of Oleg Marshev. Her childhood dream of playing piano with a symphony orchestra came true when she was chosen as one of the San Diego Symphony’s Young Artist “Hot Shots” Competition winners in 2010. She performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, 1st movement with the San Diego Symphony at their 100 Year Anniversary Gala in December of that year. She was also invited to perform in the San Diego Symphony's Children's Concert Series “Bravo, Beethoven!” in May, 2010. Oksana also performed in the La Jolla Music Society's Discovery Series Prelude Concerts in 2012, and was a regularly featured performer for the Music 101 Radio broadcast on San Diego’s classical station 104.9 FM. In addition, she has been a featured soloist with the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra performing Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto and Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3.

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Савремени еклисиолошки подсетник о Дијаспори

Историја и анализа тзв. „Америчког раскола“ (1963-1992) и предлози за његово превазилажење

Епископ Атанасије (Јевтић)

У издању Севастијан преса из Лос Анђелеса и Братства Св. Симона Мироточивог из Врњачке Бање, недавно је изашла нова књига Атанасија (Јевтића), умировљеног Владике херцеговачког, Савремени еклисиолошки подсетник о Дијаспори - Историја и анализа тзв. „Америчког раскола“ (1963-1992) и предлози за његово превазилажење.

Текст ове књиге је написан сада већ далеке 1990.године, и до данас био необјављен будући да је само за Синодске Оце Архијереје био намењен ради превазилажења тзв. „Америчког раскола“. Данас, када је тај српски раскол литургијски и административно превазиђен, сасвим је разумљиво и пожељно било да се овај текст предочи јавности.

На молбу Светог Архијерејског Синода, ондашњи јеромонах Атанасије је сва питања везана за болни раскол у српској дијаспори ставио под светлост православне Еклисиологије и Предања, што је био једини начин за њихово суочавање како би се дошло што ближе до зацељивања раскола. Читалац ће приметити како је он савесно и непристрасно проанализирао цело питање раскола и дао целисходне икономијске предлоге за његово решење. Ова књига је резултат његовог савесног христољубивог и црквољубивог рада.

Конкретан резултат Атанасијевог еклисиолошког предлога била је обнова евхаристијског општења и помирења које је постигнуто на празник Сретења Господњег, 15. фебруара 1992. године у Саборној Цркви у Београду, када су Српски Патријарх Павле и чланови Светог Архијерејског Сабора служили са Митрополитом Иринејем (Ковачевићем), дотадашњим епископом у расколу. Коначно, 21. маја 2009. године, Свети Архијерејски Сабор је донео одлуку и о коначном административном јединству Српске Цркве у Северној и Јужној Америци.

Истовремено, ова књига осветљава битно питање Дијаспоре. Дијаспора је пред Православну Цркву поставила два битна проблема: питање провере исправности нашег схватања Цркве, оног које се у последњим вековима код многих од нас усталило, и питање мисије Цркве у свету.

Књига је изашла са благословом Епископа новограчаничког и средњезападноамеричког Лонгина и Епископа западноамеричког Максима.

Књигу можете наручити по цени од $15 код:
Western American Diocese
1621 West Garvey Avenue Alhambra CA, 91803
847 571-3600, 626 289 9061, 626 284 1484 (fax), Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Visit our online store at http://westsrbdio.org/en/sebastian-press/sebastian-press-publications


Contemporary Ecclesiological Reminderon the Diaspora:
History and analysis of so called “American schism” (1963-1992) and recommendations for its overcoming

by Bishop Athanasius (Yevtich)

Recently, a new book by Athanasius (Yevtich), retired Bishop of Herzegovina, was published in Serbian by Sebastian Press of Los Angeles in cooperation with St. Simeon the Myrrh-streaming of Vrnjacka Banja.

This book was written in a now already distant year of 1990. This is its first publishing since the original intent was to have it available only for the hierarchs of the Holy Synod for the purpose of overcoming the so-called “American schism” within the Serbian diaspora. Presently, as the Serbian schism has been liturgically and administratively vanquished, it is understandable and desirable to have this valuable research available to the public.

At the request of the Holy Synod, back then hieromonk Atanasije acceded to collect all relevant documents in reference to painful schism in Serbian Diaspora, placing them in the light of Orthodox Ecclesiology and Holy Tradition, which was the only way to face it properly and bring it closer to healing.The readers will notice how Bishop Atanasije analyzed responsibly, and impartially the whole question of schism, and at the same time provided comprehensive, integral and thorough ecclesial economy, recomendations for solutions.This book is the result of his Christ-loving and Church-loving labor.

A tangible result of Atanasije's ecclesiological recommendation was the Eucharistic renewal, communion, and reconciliation which was established on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, February 15, 1992. At the Cathedral in Belgrade, His Holiness Patriarch Paul and hierarchs of the Holy Episcopal Assembly celebrated for the first time together since the schism, with Metropolitan Iriney (Kovacevic), up until then, schismatic bishop in Diaspora.Finally, on May 21, 2009, the Holy Assembly made a decission about conclusive administrative unity of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America.

In the same time this book reveals crucial question regarding Diaspora, because ecclesial organization of the Orthodox Church abroad presents itself with at least two problems: a) a check-up of our interpretation and comprehension of the Church, especifically of the last couple of centuries existing convictions, and b) a question of the Church mission in the World.

This book is published with the blessings of His Grace, Bishop Longin of New Gracanica - Midwestern America, and His Grace, Bishop Maxim of Western American Diocese, of the Serbian Orthodox Church for North and South America.

Price $15

Call us today with your order!
Western American Diocese
1621West Garvey Avenue Alhambra CA, 91803
847 571-3600, 626 289 9061, 626 284 1484 (fax), Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Visit our online store at http://westsrbdio.org/en/sebastian-press/sebastian-press-publications