Originally published on 03/11/2013
Today was an especially spiritual Sunday for me. Really the only thing out of the ordinary was me botching my talk in Sacrament meeting. Perhaps that is what made it such a great Sunday. Judging by the various blog posts out there, it was a good Sunday for others as well.
Anyway, this post isn’t about my Sunday, if you were wondering. This post is about St. Petersburg, among other things. A few weeks back, the group of BYU interns made an exodus to St. Petersburg to see the Hermitage and other sights, such as the Orthodox temple Spas’na Krovi. Despite all of the craziness with a hostel we didn’t end up staying in, sore feet, and ticket confusion, I had a great spiritual experience there.
One of the first sights we saw was the temple Spas’ na Krovi. This temple has great historical significance, as it was built in memory of the Tsar Alexander II after he was assassinated. Naturally, it was high on our list of things to see. When we got there, we found out that we had to buy tickets in order to get in (well, I suppose receive free tickets would be more accurate – students get free admission to most museums throughout Russia). Once inside the temple I was shocked. Normally when entering an Orthodox temple, one passes into a different world, the smell of incense and candles washing over you as you step into halcyon reverence mingled, perhaps, with seraphic singing. No votive candles placed before the ancient icons. No mystique. And assuredly no reverence. People spoke openly. Flashes bounced from cameras as tourist (including us) snapped pictures. Profits made on tourism. This was simply a museum.
It all just felt wrong. And it was definitely not what I was accustomed to. There was no reverence. No passion. No devotion. While the temple was astoundingly beautiful, I left with an odd feeling of regret like I had just seen the Mona Lisa with spaghetti sauce on the corners of her mouth.
The spirit. Later that day we visited the Kazansky Cathedral. It was everything I know an Orthodox temple to be, despite its very unorthodox exterior (the photo to the left is NOT the Kazan Cathedral… I simply didn’t have a good picture of it). However, I did notice something different. Something I guess I hadn’t really noticed during my other visits to Orthodox temples.
The spirit was very strong. We happened to arrive in the middle of one of many ceremonies preparatory for Easter. There were many people there worshipping. They really were worshipping Heavenly Father and you could really feel their faith. Albeit, doctrines are confused, rituals incorrect, and a completely foreign understanding who God is, however, none of those things negate the temple-goers’ faith. The spirit was there for those who truly believed and it was a very touching experience.
The spirit was there with our brothers and sisters in Christ.