As you probably know from my profile on my blog, I am a Religious Studies major. I always spend much time debating about what classes I am going to take each term. There is so much selection and so many interesting courses at the UofA. This term I signed up for a class called “Eastern Orthodoxy”. I went to the first class and almost decided to drop it because I realized that it was going to be a lot of history.

I’m so glad that I stayed in the class. I’m actually enjoying all the history lessons. I’ve always been intrigued about who the Byzantines actually are and why doesn’t Constantinople exist anymore or was it actually an imaginary place? Now I know and I can fit all the pieces together. The Eastern Church is left out of many Christian histories. I’ve learned about the reformation and about the branch off of all the Protestant churches, I’ve even learned more of the History of the Catholic church and the councils. While the Reformation was happening there was a separate development in the eastern world. I’ve been introduced to bits and pieces through reference in some books I’ve read, but I never really put it all together. I never learned where these people came from or what kind of environment they developed their view of God in.

I’ve become fascinated with their icons. They are so beautiful. This is an image of St. Searphim. He became a monk in 1793. He is one of the best known Russian monks/mystics. He lived a reclusive life and spent much time in the forest praying. This icon shows him kneeling on a rock praying and it is believed that he spent 1000 days and nights praying on this stone. He also was a very sought after spiritual director or as the Russians say a “Staretz”. Many pilgrims sought after him for spiritual advice. These icons provide a visual reminder of admirable people who lived a life in devotion to God.

This is just one of the fascinating people that I get to learn about for my presentation on Wednesday. As much as I enjoy what the Professor brings up in class, I most enjoy the essay/presentation component of a course as I get to research what interests me most. I read and read and read . . . I love reading. I’m so glad that this presentation is at the beginning of the term so I have so much more time to read and learn about Russian Mysticism/Monasticism.

Here is another unique icon of the Virgin Mary with Jesus in her womb. I was looking through many icons and this provided the most interesting depiction of Mary and Jesus. It shows just how amazing it is that God came to earth through a human. He came to be one of us and yet still God. That is amazing that he loves us in that way. Icons help me to see these events that I’ve learned about in new and fresh ways.