TIsk… tisk… look at all those traditional hats! Fancy vestments! Gold! Tradition!

I am watching a live stream on Russian TV of the Christmas Divine Liturgy.  The feed started in the Moscow Cathedral and then cut to Vladimir Putin’s church, where he seemed to be following the prayers attentively.  Then it returned to Moscow and Patriarch Kiril.

A couple observations.  First, the liturgy is at midnight and not at 9:30.

Next…. look at all those CROWNS!  Look at all that GOLD!  What’s with all that tradition and rigid adherence to the way it has always been?



Meanwhile… back at the dacha…


And back to Moscow…





I suppose some people will want to titter at all this and suggest that it somehow isn’t manly.













Lots more singing and then they closed the doors.  They closed the doors and the TV feed of what was going on was suspended!

Our Rite and theirs manifest the apophatic dimension of worship: at certain times your senses must be deprived.  In the East you see certain things at certain times, and your view is obscured.  The same goes for the West.  Showing everything all the time to everyone eviscerates our rites.




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  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    That’s an insanely awesome Chalice at the end. Is that the leavened Eucharistic species on the right side of the photo or antidoron or what?

    And: no obscuring iconostasis?

  2. aquinas138 says:

    That is indeed the Eucharistic species. The altar is largely obscured by the iconostasis which is fairly solid; the royal doors are open in most of those pictures. Patriarch Kirill is standing in front of the opened royal doors most of the time. When the royal doors are closed, the altar area is completely obscured. A pretty good look at it with the doors closed can be seen here (can’t vouch for other content of blog):


  3. Ages says:

    Atra Dicenda –

    Yes, that is the holy bread on the paten. Only one loaf of bread can be used as the Lamb, so big cathedrals need big loaves of bread and big chalices. (Usually it is then transferred into several normal-size chalices after the consecration for the people’s communion.) The antidoron is the portion cut away to form the square Lamb, and this is distributed to those who do not receive communion.

    The iconostasis is there, it’s just not a straight wall like normal. It wraps around the altar to form what looks like a miniature church. You can see the whole thing in the last picture. The holy doors are also very large at this cathedral, so when they’re open it looks like there is no iconostasis, depending on the camera angle.

    Merry Christmas to all who observe the Julian Calendar. Christ is born! Glorify Him!

  4. JustaSinner says:

    How does Putin receive Communion…being divorced and remarried and all.

    [Don’t fall into the modernist, suburban parish trap. Don’t assume that he went to Communion.]

  5. Ages says:

    I am impressed by Putin’s church attendance. Whether he does it merely to set a good example for the people (as Jefferson did), or if he really is engaged with his faith, no one can really know. But in any case, he attends church far more faithfully than our outgoing president (and our incoming president for that matter).

  6. THREEHEARTS says:

    Mike Hurcum
    forget all the gold look at the crowds all pious. this is at midnight in Moscow at what temperature

  7. un-ionized says:

    Threehearts, -15 F.

  8. acardnal says:

    I wonder if Putin went to confession. You know . . . just in case there was anything on his conscience.

  9. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Kyrie eleison.

    This reminds me of how the high have fallen. #TypicalNovusOrdoChristmasMass.

    Seriously, google search the SNL skit about “St. Joseph’s Christmas Mass Spectacular” from 2014. Pretty much nails the mark for how millennials/modern-progressives view the true banality of our liturgies which they are still forced to endure, annually, with their backward lukewarm Catholic parents.

  10. MrsMacD says:

    And all the ladies heads are veiled..,

  11. mobrien says:

    What beautiful vestments. The music must have been spectacular — and the chalice was wonderful — but the best thing was how crowded the liturgy was — packed with young people. Good for them!

  12. TWF says:

    You won’t see liberal Catholics criticizing this. The East seems to get a free pass. An Eastern bishop can look every bit the part of a Byzantine Emperor in all his glory and no one says a word. Cardinal Burke uses the cappa magna and the insults fly in all directions…
    Cardinal Burke and his like are rigid and cold and arrogant and stuck in the past. Eastern bishops are simply exotic.

  13. Auggie says:

    I absolutely love the Orthodox.
    And I absolutely love the SSPX.

  14. un-ionized says:

    Twf, yes, that’s right, the ornateness is different and okay then! And the crowns are like potato chip bowls, an important feature for some.

  15. Absit invidia says:

    “Showing everything all the time to everyone eviscerates our rites.”

    . . . . I’m in my early 40’s attend the Novus Ordo each Sunday and Holy Day with my 7 children and this is the most poignant pinpointed response to the current dilemma in our NO masses.

    This ABSOLUTELY summarizes why their is only lackluster interest in Catholic worship today.

  16. un-ionized says:

    If you walk up behind him and say, Mikhailov! will he turn around?

  17. ce lathrop says:

    It was growing up RC in California in the 70s–seeing burlap “vestments” and banners, the Gospel done in mime, liturgical dancers, the occasional priest dressed as a clown for Mass, etc. etc.–that helped propel me into the Orthodox faith (there was a lot more besides).

    The beauty of the Divine Liturgy can be found not just in these impressive Russian cathedrals (in fact, I think the ROC overdoes it a bit) but in little Orthodox parishes. Come and see a foretaste of the Kingdom. And I always recommend to my RC friends to visit a Melkite or other Eastern rite Catholic church.

  18. iamlucky13 says:

    Thanks for sharing the awesome images. I think it’s worthwhile to learn more about our Eastern brethren, including witnessing their reverence.

    “You won’t see liberal Catholics criticizing this. The East seems to get a free pass.”

    I don’t think many of them have any clue about the Eastern Orthodox Church other than a vague understanding that it’s distinct from Protestantism. Most of those who are more aware of its existence probably think of it as obscure and irrelevant. Never mind that they comprise over twice as many adherents as the next largest Christian denomination.

    Perhaps some of them ignore it simply because they don’t sense any political relevance in the US, as I think some have trouble thinking of large organizations in any terms other political power.

  19. spock says:

    And those women and girls with their heads covered. How demeaning is that?

    that was to add my little piece of snarkitude to this thread …..

    But seriously folks, within the last year or two Patriarch Kirill caught some flack because he was photographed wearing a very very expensive watch. They even doctored the photo to remove the watch but the dummy who did the doctoring failed to remove the reflection of the watch on the table he was sitting at which made the situation worse. Oops.

    Perhaps we should draw distinctions between secular “pomp” like the watch and religious “pomp” like gold vestments etc……

  20. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Most of the women in the congregation are wearing kerchiefs or headgear, but quite a few aren’t. Even the Orthodox in faraway Russia have tradition and identity problems.

  21. Nan says:

    With regard to Putin, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Orthodox have the same exact view of divorce that we have. Orthodox aren’t so formal as the Latin Rite Catholics; a divorced Orthodox person would speak with Father about the divorce and remarriage. A second marriage may or may not be approved. It’s a different philosophy.

    With regard to communion, a) nobody is required to receive communion; b) Orthodox priests typically allow communion only for those they know have made a recent confession, often confession is offered before the liturgy as it is in my Ruthenian parish; c) this may or may not be Putin’s parish and the Orthodox have different traditions surrounding receipt of communion and require paperwork to receive away from home. Visitors may not want to jump through the hoops.

    Confession is also viewed from a different philosophy, in small parishes there may not be many for confession and rather than the hurried, commandment/sin/number of times, confession is more akin to spiritual direction as it’s a conversation, albeit at the corner of the Iconostasis, in front of everyone, under Father’s stole.

    The real questions is this: After the Romanov’s were done gilding everything, how was there any gold remaining for this church?

  22. Nan says:

    Oh! I didn’t immediately realize, this is church I went to a few years ago when I was in Russia. It’s gigantic. When there are 2500 people in it, there’s still plenty of room. There are two churches, one on each level. The second church isn’t a mere chapel as it’s the same size.

    Note that people are standing because that’s what the Orthodox do. No innovation such as pews for them! There are chairs and benches around the walls for the elderly and others unable to stand so long.

    un-ionized, only -15? Meh. It was that cold here recently. Now it’s 0, down from 5. I went to school in a place that was -30 for weeks at a time in winter. It keeps the riff-raff out.

  23. I am so sorry but I cannot help it. The Russians are so kicking our bums when it comes to the arts. Backing out slowly.

  24. Caesar says:

    This is Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. While the original was finished in 1883, the current building is practically brand-new in architectural terms. The original cathedral was dynamited on Stalin’s orders in 1931 to make room for the “Palace of Soviets”, a structure which never got beyond the planning stage. After the fall of the USSR the Russian Orthodox Church rebuilt it almost exactly using donations- it was consecrated in 2000.

    Think about that. THIS was built twenty years ago on the donations of millions of average people (who were also suffering the economic depression of the Yeltsin era). It’s also just one of many churches and monasteries rebuilt in less than three decades since the end of Communism in Russia.

  25. un-ionized says:

    Nan, I have been out shopping in -48, -65 chill. Of course beauty is nice but Kirill is one of the most dangerous hypocrites on the planet. Never forget that.

  26. Nan says:

    un-ionized, I had no idea you were one of Santa’s Elves!

    I was looking at the beauty. I know nothing save the Kirill is Moscow Patriarch. He has no jurisdiction over me. Although I went to Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra and Sergeyev Posad (the town outside the gates), it was part of a tour and to the best of my knowledge, Kirill wasn’t there.

  27. Absit invidia says:

    Pope Benedict said it best when he said: “the West has passed from self criticism to self destruction.”

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  29. Kerry says:

    Absit invidia, David Clayton, writing at The New Liturgical Movement, suggested the missalette music (sic.,…?) is responsible for poor attendance. His argument, to me, is persuasive. The link:
    As an instance from my observations, the ‘responsorial’ Psalm ‘music’ is especially “sic.”, as tones move about the tonic, and stumble to their end, “re…ti”. (I presume some musical knowledge of all the readers here.) If not, imagine instead of “…By the dawn’s early light”, the words were, “Light the early by dawn’s”. Tones can similarly be out of order, and while one may not be able to explain why, one’s guts can tell that something “just don’t sound right”.

  30. un-ionized says:

    Nan, i would be honored to be an elf. I’m in a more temperate clime now, it only gets to zero here rarely. I don’t miss taking the bus with my shopping cart and walking two miles home with it, cursing the people who didn’t shovel. I would like to retire farther south.

  31. un-ionized says:

    It is beautiful, I have watched this service via TV in years passed. I feel so badly for the Russian Orthodox and have no illusions about Putin’s faith as he has never repudiated anything.

  32. un-ionized says:

    Spock, there was a picture of Kirill wearing the watch which was airbrushed but still showed the reflection of the watch on the table. The person who did the touchup was “disciplined.”

  33. un-ionized says:

    Caesar, it is important to know that the ROC is very wealthy, receiving millions annually from the government. An look up “Metropolitan Tobacco.”

  34. un-ionized says:

    The relationship of the ROC with the government is one reason why nobody bats an eye about Operative Mikhailov.

  35. The Egyptian says:

    If we (the RC) could reclaim just HALF the beauty that is seen here think what a difference it could make. My heart would be a flutter for one thing. I am so tired of the banal things I see every Sunday at “mass”

  36. mo7 says:

    It is remarkable that after generations of communism and totalitarian oppression, the women in attendance still know to cover their heads at Mass. In the West, it took only 2 generations for the ‘we-have-to-meet-them where-they-are’ thinking to bring down the faith and the culture. We’ve been left to swing in the wind where faith is concerned. These pictures demonstrate it most especially with respect to the reverence given the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
    It’s no surprise then that prelates who insist on the authentic faith are vilified and the woman standing next to leader of Russia covers her head at Mass.

  37. Joan M says:

    Ove the pictures. Last Sunday my parish priest surprised us by chanting the Eucharistic prayer in latin. I made sure to mention that the latin gave me a surge of joy and that I had enjoyed it immensely.

    [You mentioned it to the priest, I hope…]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  38. Sandy says:

    And there are no women running around near the altar! No lay “Eucharistic Ministers” either!

  39. iprimap says:

    I’ll bet that they used Church Slavonic for Divine Liturgy, their equivalent of Latin for our Holy Mass.

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  41. Nothing short of scandalous! Think of what all of that money could have been done to aleviate the plight of the refugees and the poor. Or, at a minimum, have helped subsidized the U.N.’s divine mandate for the globe.

  42. Mathieu says:

    Hopefully they come back in the fold of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the meantime, that is an extremely beautiful book of the Gospels. And it’s a pretty big chalice. Too bad they don’t kneel. It looks like they were also very generous with the Holy Water… as usual.

    Well, at least Putin goes to Church. He’s a not perfect, but he’s still a much better leader than most of the Western leaders. Obama Vs. Putin? Trudeau Vs. Putin? Hillary Vs. Putin? Merkel Vs. Putin? It’s not hard, Putin.

  43. Joan M says:


  44. jskelley says:

    In the East, standing is a higher form of reverence than kneeling. During the Lenten fast, Eastern Christians do make prostrations frequently and they bow frequently other times of the year. It’s simply a different form of piety.

  45. Filipino Catholic says:

    @iprimap Church Slavonic has also kept certain letters now dropped from Russian orthography, another mark of detachment from modernity.

    It’s no wonder the East will not reciprocate the (admittedly paltry) overtures towards reunion the West is making. Among the “Latins” (as once we were polemically called) Scripture is read through historical-critical lenses, Tradition is downplayed as antiquated, Magisterium is twisted into abhorrent interpretations… the current state of the Western Patriarchate is a scandal to the “sheep not of this fold” and those who have yet to even be found by the Good Shepherd as well.

    One can only hope the words used to mystically describe the Church still hold true: “Nigra sum sed formosa“.

  46. un-ionized says:

    Church Slavonic is more properly called Old Church Slavonic. It hasn’t retained letters because it never changes, being used only in Church. Sound familiar?

    I don’t think western Catholics would like to prostrate themselves!

    The Saul to Paul story of Putin is just plain wishful thinking. Look at the history, ditto for Kyrill. The KGB was not a joke.

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  48. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    Putin has great regard for his faith and church. Yes, he uses these type opportunities to be seen, but he has a good relationship with the Patriarch. There is also a biker gang that is sorta a modern knight association that works with both the church and Putin. I have see more than a few Europeans that envy Russia’s leader that is not ashamed of the church.

  49. aquinas138 says:

    The Church Slavonic (CS) that the ROC uses is distinct from Old Church Slavonic (OCS), the latter being the register “created” by SS. Cyril and Methodius in their evangelization of the Slavs. CS is in reality a catch-all term for at least four separate strands of tradition descended from the original OCS. The Russian Synodal strand is subdivided in to Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian/Rusyn varieties, mostly reflecting pronunciation.

    Regarding standing v. kneeling, postures have different meanings in different rites. In the West, kneeling is a sign first and foremost of humility in the presence of God; in the East, it is decidedly penitential. The Byzantine Rite emphasizes “paschal joy” on Sundays and dominical Feasts, and penitential postures are reserved for another time. Standing is a sign of humility and respect; if one stands when an earthly dignitary enters a room, how much more should we stand in the presence of God? Nevertheless, each right has its own genius, and it is inappropriate to “mix and match” for that reason. Standing in the Novus Ordo has a very different connotation than in the Byzantine Rite.

  50. aquinas138 says:

    Oh also, the East stands instead of kneeling because of Canon 20 of the First Council of Nicaea!

  51. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Not sure it’s accurate to say that communion is “not required” in the Orthodox church. Do you mean as in “Required for Salvation”? Then the answer has to be yes, for no Orthodox is baptized without also taking communion.

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