Waggs Walkabout

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Orthodox Christmas Eve

In addition to Dave and I receiving the greatest Christmas present ever, our trip to Russia gave us an opportunity to experience a part of the Russian culture that few foreigners get to see. We were privileged enough to be able to visit two different churches on January 7 for Orthodox Christmas Eve.

The first of the churches was the Belaya Gora (White Mountain) Monastery which is the biggest cathedral in the Urals. It’s situated 120 km from Perm and 80 km from Kungur. The snow was falling heavily and the icy winds were coming straight out of Siberia (and I mean that quite literally).

Stepping inside the cathedral was a surreal experience, that delivered a sense of calm and serenity that I didn’t even realize was so missing in my soul. At the Belaya Gora Monastery a sort of church service was in progress when we arrive in the lower level of the church. There was a priest in full regalia praying and swinging the really big incense burner (I’m sure there is a more reverent way of explaining the incense). A group of 8 monks were chanting/singing in the most incredible copula style that melded the voices to sound as one. It was the most amazing sound I’ve ever heard. The perimeter of the room was decorated in fresh cut spruce trees decorated in white paper angles. The scent of the trees combined with the incense and the bees wax candles filled the air with a heady aroma which defies description. All of this was taking place in the lower level of the cathedral while the main part upstairs was being ready for evening service.

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