The Effect Of The Russian Orthodox Religion


The Effect Of The Russian Orthodox Religion On The Cult Essay, Research Paper

The Effect of the Russian Orthodox Religion on the Cult

Orthodox Christianity has had an immense effect on the culture of Russia.

The adoption of the Orthodox faith from Constantinople by Prince Vladimir in 988

introduced cultural influences that profoundly affected the Russian

consciousness. As the people embraced Orthodoxy it developed a uniquely Russian

flavor and rooted deep in the fertile Russian soul. Orthodoxy had a major

impact on politics, art, and nearly every other aspect of Russia’s culture.

Orthodoxy helped forge Russia’s world view and defined her place in the world.

The church affected the thought patterns and motivations of a whole culture and

changed the way Russians thought about themselves and the ways that they lived

their lives.

The church acted as a unifying factor for the Russian nation. Church

holidays and fasts enriched and brought meaning to the cycle of seasons and

sowing in the subsistence society. Russians possessed a deep religious faith

and from it they derived a sense of purpose in the universe and the promise of

salvation. The church nourished and preserved the culture of Russia during

centuries of internal strife and foreign intervention. Orthodox people feel a

strong sense of community and brotherhood towards one another through a shared

bond of faith. As a result of this emphasis on community, the rights of the

group tend to take precedence over the rights of the individual in Russian

culture. The Orthodox and Catholic faiths had an adversarial relationship for

years. As this rift deepened and grew increasingly antagonistic, the rift

between the East and the West also grew. The difference in religion between

Russia and Europe can largely explain the vast differences that developed in

their cultures.

The Tsar of All Russia derived his power and right to rule from his

status as God’s chosen representative on earth. As it is God alone who bestowed

power on the tsar, it was in the best interest of the monarchy to protect and

promote the church. This conception of the tsar possessing a divine right to

rule contributed to the political passivity of the Russian people. In the

Byzantium tradition the concept of symphonia defined the relationship between

the church and the state and acted as a balance on the unlimited power of the

tsar. As the head of the church and the head of the state, the metropolitan and

the tsar were equals and the metropolitan had the right to censure the tsar.

The dispute between the Possessors and the Non-Possessors challenged the idea of

symphonia, or harmony and cooperation between the pillars of society. The

Possessors and the Non-Possessors held vastly different ideas about the role the

church should play in society and politics. When the philosophy of the

Possessors triumphed, the church gained the right to wealth and serfs at the

expense of political influence. The tsar became superior to the metropolitan,

and the regime could now interfere in secular matters of the church. The

release of the tsar from any source of accountability left the tsar with

absolute, unlimited power. The abuses of Ivan the Terrible typify the danger of

absolute rule left unchecked. The Russian people actually believed that God had

sent Ivan to rule Russia as a punishment for her sins. The split between the

two factions caused the losers, the Non-Possessors, to be reviled as heretics.

This had a negative effect because the church came to be represented by a

faction instead of through a consensus. This led to only one set of ideas being

developed in the church and the culture and as a result it lost some of its

vitality. The Possessors made ritual sacrosanct. Every gesture, word, and

movement was significant and to deviate from the service in any way would be

heresy. This emphasis in the exterior form of religion over inner exultation

paved the way for another conflict that was to seriously undermine the power of

the church.

The third Rome theory was formulated by the monk Philotheus in the

fifteenth century. He asserted that Russia was the heir and protector of the

only true faith. Rome and Constantinople had both fallen and Moscow was the

third and final seat of Orthodoxy. This theory legitimized the Russian

Orthodoxy’s power and affirmed that she was no longer dependent on

Constantinople. A church schism occurred in the seventeenth century due to

changes in ritual implemented by the Patriarch Nikon. His attempts to rectify

inconsistencies in the rituals of the Greeks and the Russians were merely to

establish greater solidarity and continuity between the two faiths. Russia was

trying to help the Greeks who were living under Turkish rule since 1439. Russia

had a sense of manifest destiny and she felt that she had been chosen to defend

the Eastern Orthodox peoples. The belief that ritual must be sacrosanct caused

the alteration of ritual to be considered heretical. Those who refused to

change their rhythms of worship were called Old Believers and they were executed

and silenced by the authorities. The Old Believers insisted on following the

old forms because they feared committing heresy. The way they saw the situation

was that Rome had fallen because of heresy. Moscow was the last seat of

Orthodoxy and if Russia fell from the grace of God, it would mean the end of the

world. The basic issue in the schism was the relationship between the Russian

and Orthodox churches. Some felt that since Russia had adopted Orthodoxy from

Byzantium she should remain a ?junior partner’. Others felt that it was

Russia’s destiny to be a leader and to free her Eastern brethren.

The Orthodox relegion has been essential to the people to bring them a

sense of hope and destiny and a glimpse of heaven on earth. The choice of

Orthodoxy was as influential as the Mongul Yoke on the formation of the Russian

character. Orthodoxy brought the people a lot of joy, created a sense of

community, intensified the countries isolation, created beautiful art, started

wars, complicated politics, and best of all, reminded the people to love each



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