For God is with us!

Собор Софии Премудрости, г. Вологда.

Saint Sophia’s Cathedral  in Vologda.

Temples and cathedrals of Saint Sophia in ancient Russia. One in Novgorod, another in Polotsk, and one more in Kiev. Temples of 11th century, they are the greatest, the most important unity cathedrals of ancient Rus. Here they are — the temples of Saint Sophia uniting the country from the north to the south. They represent the collegiality and unity of our people. They stand for the wisdom and power of Russia. Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev is the starting point. Here our Pantokrator Christ shines in the gold of the central dome, He is in the sky above the ground and He sees everything. He is inexorable and relentless. Christ is here, with us, and in the eternity at the same time.

“Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.”
— Isaiah 8:9–10

If you dare to come into Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev, the Holy of Holies, you will see hell before you, you will see your hands covered with blood of innocent victims. So come and stand before God and pray to Him for your forgiveness! Pray to the Lord and then you will see what you have done! You, poor mothers whose sons are shedding blood of innocent people! How can you live after everything they have done? Your sons are so cruel. You need to stop them! You need to pray for them!

Another Saint Sophia’s Cathedral is on a slope above the river Vologda. It is dazzling us with its white walls. The temple of the 16th century, it is like a huge Warrior standing tense and majestic. It is all rigor and power. The temple covers all the space around it with its monumentality. There is the whole power of Orthodoxy, the power of Russia in the brilliant simplicity of cathedral’s architecture. No decor. Sole spirit. Everything is so ascetic. Narrow windows look like loopholes. The great white walls of the cathedral are bending the corbel archs with their power and drawing the sky apart with their domes. Quietly, the domes are humming like the skies before a storm. The sound is faint, but you can feel the power in heavenly domes. It seems they are moving like great planets in the sky. With the Universe is spinning inside, the domes are spinning in the Universe.

Your head is raised, but your eyes cannot cover these magnificent white walls. They cannot see the entire great white space and the entire Universe of the cathedral. This temple on earth is like the one in heaven — it is there to empower us, to support our spirit in the time of trouble.

The domes are driving into the blue sky and breaking through it, rushing up to the Lord! All our endless Russian fields covered with snow are seen within those white walls. Spring thunderstorms are heard in those magnificent domes. Russian power is felt within that cathedral. Our soulful simplicity and Orthodox prayer are within those stones. The white walls are reddened with the crimson of the skies above the domes like blood shed on the snow in Saint Sophia’s land. But the Sophia standing on the Vologda keeps no silence, it is praying. It is standing there like a warrior in a bloody helmet. Its bells toll a tocsin for the whole Russian land. The domes of northern Sophia have reddened with tocsin red color for Sophia of the south.

Now is the time when every pagan rite, embroidery, amulet, used to replace true Orthodoxy, is vanishing. They look too shallow, too decorative in the days of trouble. And it is time when drear cuckoos in the trees are calling for us, for those who are living their easy peaceful lives away from grief. The birds are cuckooing about the eternal and the meaning and transience of life. The birds make us remember the death, remember the dead, remember the suffering.

The Vologda, hiding in the grass, and all the writers of the Russian land, Northern Thebaid! Where is your Belozersk Regiment — your noble warriors! Stand up! Speak up! Where are you? Are you fainthearted?..

Exodus. Exodus of Russians searching for salvation. The tragedy of the situation is enormous and inconceivable. There they are, those refugee women holding their children tightly. Peer into their faces and try to understand. These are the faces of orphans, the faces altered by the war forever. Their faces are open, and you can see they are Russians. They have no defense. No defense. Silent, they are crying inside. Heartbreaking like The Scream of Munch. They are silent, with no power to cry out. Each one of them has his own story, his own broken life. Enough to write a whole novel like the one of Bulgakov’s about people in misery. Remember, he felt their suffering as if it was his own, he was with them in their misery. What about us? We are with them in our minds and souls every minute. We can neither sing nor dance. We have our faith, and the truth of our Holy Fathers, and our prayers. A clear distinction between black and white. No grey compromise. There is a war. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Saint Sophias are Holy warriors, ready for battle with their domes rising in the sky like helmets. The temples are human-like, with their windows serving for eyes, the dome for the head, the base for the feet. The temples are our spiritual warriors in the invisible everlasting battle. They are standing for those who accomplish their feats in Donetsk, Lugansk, and Slavyansk. Wherever we are, whether in Vologda, or in Moscow, we think of those in the battlefield… Our whole country is with you. We are with you in our churches and in our prayers. Like Papanin’s crew had been once rescued on an ice block with the whole country empathizing sincerely.

Мозаика на станции метро Комсомольская, г. Москва. Фотография Ольги Толстиковой.

Mosaic at the Komsomolskaya subway station, Moscow. Photo by Olga Tolstikova.

Komsomolskaya subway station. Mosaics on the dome lights designed by Pavel Korin. Russian troops before the battle, the gonfanon above them, the Holy Savior’s image as the banner. This is the image that saved the besieged city. This is the image that Dmitry Donskoy prayed for when he received the news of Mamai attacking Russia. This gonfanon had accompanied Russian troops in many campaigns from the battle of Kulikovo until the times of World War I. Later it was called “znamya” meaning “a banner”, the word “znamya” replacing the old Russian “styag.” The Holy Savior’s image soon became a talisman of the city and the whole country. This image is most important for Russian Orthodoxy, its value and meaning close to the one of the cross and the crucifixion ». The eyes of Christ on the icon “Christ the Ardent Eye” are piercing the enemy with its ardent power, immense and inexplicable. The power to fight and win. Let this power of Christ protect you and defend you the same way it protected the warriors of Dmitry Donskoy. The soldiers of Christ are bright and courageous. Every righteous man is a warrior accomplishing a feat.

“A great thing it is, brethren, to lay our lives for the Orthodox faith.” No mercy to enemies!

“God may cause his face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health
among all nations!”

“Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered. For God is with us!”

Художник. Золотая Медаль Академии Художеств России, Серебряная Медаль Академии Художеств России.

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