You may have seen my parish in the Dallas Morning News. They’re featuring an article and a video about the wonderful subdeacon who came to Dallas from the Ukraine to paint the walls of St. Seraphim’s Orthodox Cathedral. Eight years later, he’s almost done. I don’t know Vladimir well, but I am impressed with his humility, some of which comes out in the article.
An atheist, he ventured into secular landscapes and abstracts before finding a calling in iconography – the painting of religious images in what he has called the revelation of “the ultimate truth about God and man.”
“Trying to find the universal or real art, I came to church art,” Mr. Grigorenko says. “And the icons brought me to the church and to Christ.”
Eight years after he came to Dallas, Mr. Grigorenko, 43, is nearing the final strokes on a job that has drawn rave reviews.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to finish the whole church with my own hands,” he says.
“I feel good about the work. The project is successful,” he says point-blank. “But I have nothing to be proud of.
“The project is a work of God and me. He chose me, and I fulfilled his wish.”
Few Orthodox parishes are blessed with this wealth of artistic and theological blessings. It is healing just to walk into St. Seraphim; healing and conducive to prayer. The last time that I was at confession the priest pointed to an icon on the wall and offerred a couple homiletic words, words that have stuck with me.
There has been a great deal of talk about what an American Orthodoxy will look like. Vladimir has given something tangible to the discussion.
Let God arise!
Let His enemies be scattered,
Let those who hate Him flee from before His face.
As smoke vanishes so let them vanish,
As wax melts away before the fire.
This is the day that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death!
On Great and Holy Saturday Jesus keeps the Sabbath by resting in the tomb.
Today “We behold as a corpse the source of life.”
“How will I wrap my God in a winding sheet?”
From Wendell Berry’s “How to be a Poet (to remind myself)”
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obsucres the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
I spoke to a professor at UD about the recent article in the Dallas Morning News that drew attention to two warring parties within the University. The Professor said that he saw the longstanding debate between the old president and the faculty not in terms of liberal or conservative, but about the role of the University in the church community. One vision – the one that to this day has won out – is that UD should aim to be of academic excellence at the national level; appealing to thoughtful liberal arts minded folk who have some dislike the modern research University. The other vision is one where the University is at the service of the local community; serving the needs of the lay people, many of whom are immigrants.
I joked that the bumper sticker should read: “UD – Not for your average RCC layperson”. Continue reading “The Service of the University?”
When I first arrived in Dallas and told parishoners at the cathedral that I was attending UD, the responses I got was very favorable. One friend told me that he has been “breathing second-hand smoke from UD for decades; and it is all been good.” Thus far my experience has been quite good; both academically and as a Christian who is concerned for the work of the Kingdom. There are few places that let you think rigorously about you field and talk about serving God with you life and obeying the Bible. UD is one of those places. In my short time here I can see that it is a great blessing to the Dallas area.
But then there is this. Even in this school, one of the few bastions of conservative Christian thinking, an internal war is raging. At the same time I am reading this article I am being told of another true Universtiy whose students’ behavior is suddenly taking an ugly turn for the worse, and whose faculty are unsure about possible changes in direction.
Pray for our Christian Universities, especially since they function as a beacon light to the world that burns brighter and more true than most churches and parishes. But that’s a conversation for another day…