Do you hear that great silence? It is the Russian Orthodox Church saying NOTHING to condemn Putin’s war in Ukraine. Why so silent? Because the Russian Orthodox Church is complicit in the invasion. The Moscow Patriarchate is furious that the Patriarch of Constantinople has recognized the right of Ukraine to have its own recently independent (2019) Orthodox Church of Ukraine, no longer under the domination of the Patriarch of Moscow. And the Russian Orthodox Church head — the Patriarch of Moscow — and Vladimir Putin support each other in their radical, poisonous mix of religion and nationalism and corruption.
Leo Tolstoy wrote:
The sanctification of political power by Christianity is blasphemy; it is the negation of Christianity. After fifteen hundred years of this blasphemous alliance of pseudo-Christianity with the State, it needs a strong effort to free oneself from all the complex sophistries by which, always and everywhere (to please the authorities), the sanctity and righteousness of State-power, and the possibility of its being Christian, has been pleaded. In truth, the words a “Christian State” resemble the words “hot ice.” The thing is either not a State using violence, or it is not Christian.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky is absolutely correct in what he said a short time ago: Russia is at present a terrorist state. Open, blatant, soulless terrorism. Putin is a war criminal. As he continues to perpetrate horrors on Ukraine, there seems to be no end to his loathsome, vicious, brutal malevolence. And the Russian Orthodox Church is resoundingly silent.
Now for some talk about icons.
Here is a pleasant icon of the Adoration of the Magi from the Ostroh (Остро́г) icon painting workshop, which was opened by Pavel Mykolayovych Zholtovsky at the end of the 17th century.
We see in it the characteristics considered typical of the Ostroh Workshop: thin and sharp arching eyebrows, large and clear eyes, rounded features, and a plump lower lip and thin upper lip, all making for a cheerful and friendly expression, so unlike the asceticism of traditional Byzantine iconography that it is considered a happy innovation.
If we look above the Magi at left, we also see another characteristic of the Ostroh Workshop: Incised and silvered acanthus leaves in the background. Notice also the incising on the crowns and vessels of the Magi:
We see the same cheerfulness in this “Protection of the Mother of God” Ostroh icon from 1739, though in this example it is the garments of Mary that are silvered and incised.
The Ostroh Workshop is generally considered a part of the Volyn/Volhynia icon painting school. Here is a map showing the location of Volyn in Ukraine:
And here is another, showing the location of Ostroh/Ostrog, just below the center of the map.
I should not end this posting without mentioning the immense threat posed by the current violent and careless Russian invasion of Ukraine to the country’s museums and cultural artifacts. Already Russian forces have burned the Museum of Local History in Ivankiv, destroying 25 works by the Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko. The city of Kyiv is a storehouse of Ukrainian art and history, and there are many other cultural sites, museums and institutions of Ukraine in danger of destruction. So it is not only people Russia is waging war against; it is also the art and cultural history of Ukraine.