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Russian Orthodox Christmas: Peace and Victory

Many of my friends with whom I exchanged the New Year and Christmas wishes expressed a special hope for Peace and Victory. Judging by dispatches from the Western media, the end of the Special Military Operation is imminent because the West is losing the nerve and financial capacity to carry on with the campaign.

Despite our common wish, we harbour no thought that the end of a military campaign might turn the time back in domestic policy. So many changes are due, and people are so keen, that the year 2024 is set to be a decisive one in many careers. Still, today, when the Star of Bethlehem is shining upon our world yet again, we feel immense gratitude for witnessing the Miracle of Love. The energies of Love and Goodness (Kindness) are presently revisited, showing the majorities the previously unknown (unrecognized) facets. Here, war truly becomes an act of Love whereas peace at the cost of one’s independence is an unequivocal Evil. We don’t redefine things; rather we begin to see them for what they truly are.

Holy Night to all my Orthodox readers! Happy Christmas, Peace, and Love! Let us celebrate Glorious Nativity of Jesus Christ!

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On the Eve of Russian Orthodox Christmas

It’s been a custom to write a “sochelnik” (Christmas Eve) post here on January 6th. I don’t normally do it in December because I don’t celebrate Western Christmas as a religious festival. However, I do celebrate the Russian one. A few years ago I even went to a night service at my local church. This year it is still very cold, so I’m going to connect to an online service at one of Moscow churches.

Christmas Eve is the time when less religious people make wishes and burn candles; the more faithful pray in the solitude of their homes and get ready for a service. I love to watch the long day of the Eve slowly enter the Holy Night of Nativity.

There were many attempts to “see” the Nativity of Jesus Christ. St Brigitte of Sweden, for example, had a vision that the Child miraculously left His Mother’s womb and lay on a spread cloth. The Byzantine tradition believed in a “real” birth, in which Mary remained “untouched”, nonetheless. Yet these are the details that may appear insignificant on the grand scale, whereas the most important thing is that the Creator chose to come and live among people.

To me, this is a metaphor of a person with a mission who comes here to realize it here, on Earth. The mission is not about “saving” anyone; it is about the understanding of God’s plan for your life and following it through. If there is anything truly sad about the story of Jesus Christ and the apostles, it is that the physical martyrdom and death have got strongly associated with God’s will. Naturally, not many people want to leave this life too soon, so they shun away from discovering their mission altogether. As a result, we are deprived of many talented people.

Of course, as we follow the path of our mission, some parts of us will “die”, figuratively speaking, so that our new self can emerge. Nativity, in this sense, is a celebration of the New Life, La Vita Nuova, that promises the new beginning.

I hope those of us who celebrate Nativity on January 7th will spend the Christmas Eve in soulful gratitude for the gift of Life.

Happy Christmas Eve!

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Frozen, Not Stirred

Since Tuesday it’s been abnormally cold in Moscow. Last time the temperature was so low in 2016 when it fell down to -33. This year it hasn’t gone below -30 at night, but -27 in the day isn’t something we’re used to in early January. Such frosts are typical around Epiphany (January 19th) but not Nativity (January 7th).

In spite of this I went out yesterday and today, and I’ll still have to go out tomorrow. It hasn’t snowed since Monday, and the frost seems more bitter when it isn’t snowing.

The streets are unusually empty; those who dare to leave their abode hurry to finish their business and get back home. There is a special atmosphere of a still life where you are but an element of the composition.

Below are some photos to illustrate the point. In the final photo you can see me and my frosty scarf. Even my eyebrows and eyelashes were frosty, too! When I saw it, I vividly recalled the stories about the Arctic explorers who performed their heroic deed in the abnormally cold conditions. Going out for some shopping was not a big deal, after all!

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Our Resource and Holidays

Psychologists today talk a lot about our “resource”. You either need to build it, or to maintain it and, if worst comes to worst, to recover it. Resourcefulness, overall, is paramount to our success in life.

Apparently, the long holidays that we have in January is the opportunity to recover the lost resource.

Source: Pinterest

But, of course, this is not just about recovering. This is about watching, reading or listening to something you have missed out on before. This is about visiting your friends and relatives, to share your positive emotions with each other.

Here’s a list of things that help me to recover my resource:

  • reading classical or professional literature;
  • watching a good film;
  • knitting;
  • silence;
  • taking a walk;
  • an unhurried day;
  • spiritual reading.

Still, what really helps me to recover is not the sleep as such, as the opportunity to slow down. During winter holidays I don’t want to travel or go anywhere, not to mention being in a hurry. Just calmness, peace, and quietude – these three work wonders for me.

Another aspect of building or recovering our resource is by generating positive feelings. This is not about positive thinking as such because, frankly, your current stage in life may be a bitter one, so imbuing good thoughts is probably challenging. Instead, try to focus on “good vibrations”: enjoy a sunrise or sunset, watch your favourite comedy, take a walk in the park where you are likely to meet some cute squirrels. The more goodness you learn to notice and feel, the more will come to you.

And how do you build or recover your resource?

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January Wishes

Thinking about January wishes, I wish us, dear friends and readers, a good year. I won’t call it happy or prosperous, although I certainly want it to be such. But not all things can be foreseen, whereas goodness needs no foresight. It exists. And I wish you to have as much goodness in 2024 as possible.

I also wish you to find Love or to cherish the one you already have. Love makes the Earth go round, this is true, so I wish you to experience more of it in 2024.

Finally, I wish us peace – the peace of mind, the peace of your home, the peace in your country. It has to be good and lasting. I believe our January Wishes are similar on this one.

When we are at peace with ourselves, we let others be what they are. It doesn’t mean we approve of everything they say or do. It merely means that we take them for what they are, while remaining focused on ourselves. We take time and pleasure in our own work and development; and if others should remain with us, they will, and if not, it is better that we don’t keep them around for fear of remaining alone.

Source: Pinterest

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December Magic – 30 (Belgorod Attack)

I wanted to have a lazy day this Saturday, so I didn’t set the clock. Indeed, this is my best way to relax and recharge: to have no alarm clock go off when I haven’t slept enough.

Then I went to do some shopping because I really don’t like to do it on December 30th or 31st. And by that time we had already started getting reports about the Ukrainian forces attacking the city of Belgorod that borders on the Kharkov Region. Yet around 4pm it got worse. The Russian forces obviously worked well to counter the attack. Yet it still resulted in several deaths, including three children’s. Around 20 people are currently in hospital in life-threatening condition.

As I have a student from Belgorod this year, I messaged his mother to ask if they were fine – just in time to learn that she was going to go out for something. Apparently, my mission was to remind her that there are some important things at this time, especially her safety.

This is not the first time something atrocious happens days before New Year. In those years, despite tragedy, no celebrations were cancelled. This year the capital cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg cancelled fireworks, although the decorations and Christmas markets are in full glory. It is evident, however, that when our entire country is investing in our war effort lavish celebrations are inappropriate.

The case with Belgorod has been reported by the other side as an air raid of a military object. But as you can see in the photo the attack aimed at the central square with New Year tree and the Christmas market. Hence the casualties among civilians, including children.

Source: Readovka TG- channel

I wrote last year that all the so-called civilized nations and allies had ever done was killing children. Not all children, of course, but certainly those they deemed unworthy of walking the Earth. Such was their treatment of the Soviet children, then the Vietnamese, then the Russian kids at the Nord-Ost musical and in Beslan, then the children of Donbass. In autumn this year we have witnessed a totally unacceptable destruction of Gaza in Palestine, resulting in mass killings of children. The truth is, the same conductors operate this devilish orchestra. And today they ordered an air attack on the Belgorod city centre, two days before New Year.

As much as they understand the futility of these actions, they still undertake them, for their desire to annihilate those they consider their adversaries is stronger than any common sense. We just wait to see this desire finally turning against them.

Our condolences go to the Belgorod families.

December Magic: Happy Christmas!

I wish all my readers who celebrate Christmas today a lovely and peaceful festive season. May you and your near and dear stay warm and safe, and may the Eternal Light shine on you in all its bountiful abundance.

I spent a quite evening yesterday, eventually winding up to decorate my room for festivities. Today I’m filming an interview about one of Moscow streets and its ghosts. Later in the day I will do some teaching. Starting Saturday 23rd, I’m ticking off the students who I’m going to see in the new year.

I also plan to visit a church to celebrate St Spyridon of Trimythos whose day falls on December 25th in the Russian Orthodox calendar. It is a great serendipity, I believe, that two of the most venerated Christian saints – St Nicholas and St Spyridon – are both venerated in December. Once again, it proves that December is always a magical month!

Source: Pinterest

As usual, it was hard to find a single photo to add to this post, so here’s a galore of Christmas pictures for you to enjoy! And below is a very cute GIF to mark the involvement of our fluffy friends.

Source: Pinterest

December Magic – 24

Today is Christmas Eve in the countries that celebrate it on December 25th. As for me, this time has marked, for the past few years, the period of celebrations that end on January 7th. I celebrate December 25th as a family day, a reminder that Christmas and New Year is all about the family and miracles.

In 2019, I wrote a fairy tale about a girl asking Santa Claus to help raise the notorious fog in the Lake District, so that her parents could reach home in time for Christmas dinner. The main idea I expressed there was this: Love and Faith make miracles. This is what I believe, and this is what the story of Nativity teaches us.

I had a rather calm day today: I went to give a home lesson to my student, then I had lunch, and around 4 pm I decided to have a lie-down. After the most eventful 4th quarter I do need some rest, especially as I still have to do a lot of filming and teaching in this last week of December.

I’m going to spend the remainder of the day preparing for tomorrow, putting up the garlands, and possibly recounting the great moments of the passing year.

Source: Pinterest

December Magic – 9

I don’t often write about my birthday on this blog. I am very grateful to all my Russian and some foreign friends who sent their greetings. I spent this day with my father at the performance of the Nutcracker Ballet by Saint-Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre at the Hall of All-Church Congregations of Christ the Saviour Cathedral. After the performance I went to the Cathedral to attend a part of the service and came home. It was a roller-coaster day but I chose to live it on my terms although in someone’s opinion it was totally heartless.

You see, we are often so hard on ourselves, and in time this burden becomes unbearable. I had to make a difficult decision, but when I spoke to my good friend he suggested this was a leap of faith for me. Either I would choose myself, especially on a day like this, and enjoy the ballet; or I would stay home and sink in tears. So I went to enjoy the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky. I did cry during the performance, and it is obvious now that I wasn’t totally heartless, but I firmly stood by my decision, and this clearly counts.

I shall write about my 2023 in this year’s final post. Now I’d only say that it takes courage and determination to follow your dreams, but the payoff is massive.

Source: Pinterest

December Magic – 5

Today I gave a masterclass on working with different kinds of sources when writing a Wikipedia-style article.

Earlier in 2023 I have become a member of Znanie Society, which used to be a highly reputable Soviet organization involved in education and enlightenment. In June I took part in their project Znanie.Wiki, which saw me contributing several articles on one of Moscow’s historic districts. Finally, in November and just now, in December, I gave two masterclasses. The first was on self-editing (which is a very important skill for online writers); the second was on finding and working with sources for an article.

It is a great opportunity to bring my life-long experience as a writer, editor, and researcher to a big audience. I believe in importance of sharing our life and skills with others, and I am always happy to do this, especially as I am getting older, and my experience is becoming richer. I know I could share it with my children, but I don’t think it would be enough for me. I would still look to spread my knowledge far and wide. Hence I am very grateful when such opportunities come my way.

Source: Pinterest
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