The Russian Orthodox Church uses a different calendar than the Catholic Church and so they celebrated Easter Sunday, May 5.
Intentionally or unintentionally we toured several monasteries the day before. From the Middle Ages onward dukes and princes from Moscow help to finance fortified monasteries in northern Russia to help extend their influence and protect from Swedish invaders. As our guide at the first monastery told us, these compounds served four purposes: military fortress, religious education, landlord and prison. Their trading was largely free of any taxes and they made large profits as landlords.
I wowed the crowd (aka my team) by helping explain lots of the stories and biblical context for the frescos we saw in each church. Sister Rosemary would be so proud and probably deserves a big thank you email.
The last site we visited was an incredible surprise. A convent originally built by females relatives exiled by Ivan the Terrible, the building is still home to three nuns. These nuns, along with many lay volunteers, run the most incredible farm with vegetables plus chicken and a full dairy.
The place had such incredible energy. Everyone there was so committed to hard work and serving others. Growing up those were always the glimpses of the Church I liked the best. However, it’s also easy to see why revolutionaries felt the need to challenge the Church as well as the State. Their wealth was overwhelming and their grip strong. It wasn’t so much they were against people’s individuals beliefs but challenging the Church as an institution.