Visits in Russia

Since the two pilgrimages in 2011 and 2015 with youth to Moscow during Holy Week and Easter, links with Orthodox parishes in the city have continued and deepened. Recently a brother returned to Moscow and also visited St Petersburg.

In central parishes of the two cities, a day was held on successive weekends for young Russians beginning with the Divine Liturgy, then a Bible study and small groups in the afternoon followed by prayer with songs from Taizé. The day finished with Vespers. Everything was organised by young adults, with the blessings of their priests. Here are the reactions of some of those who took part:

Ksenia: “The brother spoke on the text of the anointing woman in Luke chapter 7. At first, the things he was saying seemed so simple, so clear, so obvious that, I must confess, I considered them to be a bit trivial. But slowly but surely, the things he said were becoming more and more complex, when at last I have heard something I personally had never thought about before. He said that perhaps the most important words in this passage are the words of Jesus to Simon “Do you see this woman?” These words show that God sees everyone as a person, sees the real self of every human being and would like us to struggle to develop such a way of seeing in us as well. Jesus saw the woman, the child of God, whereas Simon only saw the sinner, somebody who was excluded.

I thought to myself, “Indeed, what (or whom) do we see in others? Do we see something apart from the prejudice and labels we have put on other people? Do we see a person or just mere function? And if not, do we at least try to see a person behind the label?”

For me this question has become a sort of a milestone of the discussion, as if I have been challenged to try to truly see people around me, to see the God’s light in them, to be open to their feelings and thoughts, to feel empathy for their sorrows.”

Ekaterina: “A discussion on religion involving “ordinary” people is not something I am used to, I have no idea how to talk about these things if you’re not a priest or a scholar. However, whichever stereotypes I had, this very real meeting destroyed them all. The Bible introduction was not a lecture, but rather a story about real people, not just some characters. And as they were so human, it was so much easier to understand and to sympathise with them – all of them including the Pharisees.

I was a little afraid of the small-group discussions, as sometimes I find it difficult to be honest and civilized at the same time during the debate, especially when the people around dare have opinions of their own. But here again I was totally wrong and felt at home instead of feeling awkward. Aside from some people speaking more than the others (me being one of them!), the discussion ran smoothly and it was really interesting to hear so many ideas inspired by the short excerpt from the Bible.

It is such a pity that I couldn’t stay for the prayer, but even this short meeting has given me so much. If I had to describe that day in one word, it would be the word “discovery”. I am so grateful to Taizé for coming to us with so many wonders and looking forward to a new meeting.”

Vadim: “The joy of meeting and a sense of unity that came in during the day, multiplied and acquired some kind of wholeness during prayer. More pleasing still was getting to know new people who through the meeting came to our church for the first time.”

Varvara: “I really appreciate that different people could gather together. For many, this was the first meeting with the community of Taizé. I am pleased that the discussions in small groups after the Bible introduction were alive, intense and sincere.”

Veronika: “Coming from another Christian denomination, I really enjoyed the Divine Liturgy. I was surprised and delighted that, not being able to receive Holy Communion, I could take blessed bread, as it happens in Taizé.”

Last updated: 12 June 2016