The Role and Place of the Baptism of Rus in the European Spiritual Process

of the Second Millennium of Christian History

by V.N. Trostinkov

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia




In our unreliable world, where promises are not kept and hopes are not realized, it is especially valuable to know that there exists something that will not deceive and will inevitably occur: the times and seasons.  For they are established not by princes, the sons of men in whom there is no salvation, but by Him Whose sanctity cannot be violated.  And now, one of those seasons has arrived.

We waited a long time for this.  Remember how many years ago the first thought flashed: The Millennium of the Baptism of Rus is not far away, it must be observed somehow ... Yet, absorbed in everyday life, we kept putting off preparations, until it became obvious that to organize a celebration on the level it warranted was impossible for lack of time, but that we had to organize something somehow.  And then the panic began.

But now, when the days we awaited with such trepidation have arrived, the worry has suddenly disappeared. We are no longer concerned whether or not this or that was done properly, and what remains is an unwavering joy in the soul, the type which occurs only during the first days of Pascha.

This is fully justifiable.  Pascha is made Pascha not only through the piety of the faithful: this would not have the power to spontaneously ignite the lampadas in the Jerusalem temple.  Likewise, our Jubilee is not a psychological, but an ontological fact.  It is not a cause for speeches and toasts, but a boundary of destiny.  Although the apostles were told It is not for you to know the times or the seasons [Acts 1:7], it was precisely an apostle who added: But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day [II Peter 3:8].  And the completion of a day is a distinctive occurrence.  Today's Jubilee is not the remembrance of an event, it is an event in itself.  Even if, as a result of some memory failure, we had passed it by without notice, the very rocks would have noticed it.  Therefore, that we observe it is not so important as the fact that it came to pass.

Let us reflect on this boundary and understand what has gone into the darkness of the night with the completion of this Day of God, and what promises to shine forth in the morning rays of the upcoming Day.  We shall do this not to replace faith with rational constructions, but in order to fill it with comprehensible content.


In order to sum up the Day, we have lived through, we must remind ourselves of our beginning.  Our beginnings lie at the very end of the tenth century and actually in the beginning of the eleventh century, when Sts. Anthony and Theodosius erected the first monastery in Russia on the banks of the Dnieper River, and the sapling planted by holy prince Vladimir had sent down its own mystical roots, without which it could not have survived.  In order to understand what the providential meaning of this planting in Eastern Europe was, it is imperative to look at what all of Europe was at the time.

The time was significant and unrepeatable.  We find events significant and insignificant, but both shook the centuries.  For here too we are dealing with a jubilee – the millennium of the acceptance of Christianity by the first people who ever accepted it.  And as if for festive illumination, in the constellation of Taurus a star of great brilliance shone forth, and was seen even during the daytime.  Having stood for ten centuries as one, the Christian Church was divided into the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  The Battle of Hastings rumbled, and the Normans, having conquered Britain, merged with the Anglo-Saxons and Celts to lay the foundation for a future great nation which was to give the world Newton, Watt, and Fulton, invent insurance companies, become the ruler of the seas and provide conversational language for half the world.  The first Crusades thundered by, and the Europeans took Jerusalem from the Saracens.  And also an event less obviously significant occurred – in Western Europe there was an argument between two theologians.  One of them defended the Platonist opinion, traditional Christianity, the idea that origins and species came before more narrow concepts.  The other announced something new: "Universalia post rem" [General concepts after things].  In developing his thesis he asserted that general categories are only names, "the rending of air," and in reality there exist only concrete single data; in other words, things that can be experienced by the senses.  The name of this other theologian was Roscelin and he entered the history of philosophy as the first representative of nominalism – the theory that gives priority to the particular over he general, the lower over the higher.

Were there not myriads of philosophical disputes at that time?  Why is it necessary for us to stop at this one?  Because this dispute was unusual.  Little by little it grew, and in the end the problem of universals became the fundamental problem of Western scholasticism.  The dispute begun by Roscelin ended only in the 14th century, and it was won by the nominalists.

There is a yet more significant reason for considering this dispute about universals to be of great historical importance.  In principle the world view of the nominalists is in full accord with that which predominates today.  So, in the presentation of Roscelin one can see the beginning of a millennial spiritual process.

And in reality, the most characteristic notion of our civilization is the firm conviction that the lower levels of the universe ontologically, logically, and chronologically precede their higher levels; that is, one can speak with more conviction about the existence of something simple than about something complex, for it came first and it existed earlier in time.  Contemporary man can be a supporter of any philosophical school, but to him this logical precedence of the simple over the complex is an undeniable truth.  Although he does not even particularly think about it, yet it not only determines his view of the world and himself, but it influences the way he poses problems.  If we tell an educated person of our time that higher forms of being existed prior to lower forms, and that things complex are not necessarily made up of simpler components, he would consider this a bad joke.  The point of view of the nominalist has totally triumphed.  Today we believe that the complex can always be reduced to the simple; so like the nominalist, we take the position of reductionism.  The only difference is that, unlike the 11th century, this position is now very established and universal, and its establishment is defended by science itself.  The postulate of reductionism is revealed by current scientific thought through six concepts which,taken as a whole, represent a type of contemporary "Creed."  It goes something like this:

1. We believe that Matter "consists" of particles: protons, electrons, photons, etc., which themselves do not consist of anything, cannot be further reduced and are considered "elementary."  Our world is organized on the principle of a child's construction set, wherein the nuts and bolts exist prior to the items which can be constructed out of them – for these constructions exist only until they are taken apart again, or perhaps only in potential form.  An analogous hierarchy of existence is established in physics: the elementary particles are maximum vitality, and as for the systems which consist of them, their vitality diminishes as their complexity increases.  This is indeed the ontological precedence of the lower over the higher.

2. We also believe that the planets arose through the gradual condensation of the homogenous fields of simple particles, most likely hydrogen atoms, albeit this occurred naturally, that is, by the blind action of the laws of nature – the law of universal gravity, the law of conservation of the moment of impulse, etc.  In other words, we support the concept of cosmic evolution, which combines within it the thesis of chronological existence of the lower before the higher, and the thesis of natural formulation of the complex from the simple, i.e., the logical priority of simple over complex forms.

3. We likewise believe that as the various heavenly bodies arose naturally out of gaseous clouds, so living creatures arose spontaneously out of inorganic matter, and afterwards also on their own, became more complex and developed.  The current abundance of living forms is a result of two factors: hereditary changeability of organisms and environmental effects. Since the characteristics of children do not entirely repeat the characteristics of their parents, and the most fit of the resultant variables survive and multiply, then during the vast extent of time which was made available to nature, forms gradually evolved in the direction of maximum adaptation.  As for the very first organisms, they were so primitive and so difficult to differentiate from chemical complexes it is no wonder that at some point in time a random connection brought about living from non-living matter.

4. We are also convinced that through the same power of natural processes humanity gradually perfected itself.  It is this idea that gave birth to Marxism – the doctrine which has been accepted in many countries as an official ideology.  Here the concept of natural social progress is expressed in simple terms, which is why it still commands many convinced supporters.  According to Marxism, history is moved by the material needs of people [the reductionist thesis of Marxism].  These needs can be met only through work, and the more effectual the work, the better these needs are met.  From this arises the mandate for perfect production, which leads to the consequent changes of the social systems: from the primitive community to serfdom to feudalism to capitalism to socialism, and finally to communism.  Each subsequent form is better than the one preceding it in terms of the organization of labor and the quality of the tools of labor, and improvement is objectively inevitable.  A mass of human goals is combined to create a resultant goal which acts for each individual, that is, to all humanity together, as an outside force, independent of anyone's individual will, i.e., as a law of social progress [evolutionistic thesis of Marxism].  As we see, in the teaching all three forms of precedence of lower over the higher exist: a person "consists" of primitive physical needs; a simple society exists earlier than a more complex one; a complex society logically inevitably evolves from a simple one.  We do not all accept this picture of social progress which is painted by Marxism, but we all believe in progress and its historical conditionality.

5. We do not doubt that any results of individual consciousness also arise from lower phenomena, more primitive and more real.  Psychoanalysis gives this theory its credence.  Moreover, no matter what concrete of self we believe in, we are convinced that our inner life, no matter how exquisite it may seem, is constructed from the collection of simple elements, the discovery of which is the goal of analytical psychology.  Freud spoke of only two elements – the thirst for life [eros] and the thirst for death [thanatos].  Subsequently, the school of Jung added a few other "archetypes," which was analogous to adding mesons to the table of elementary particles in physics.

6. It is obvious that, just as a physical body is made up of atoms, the government and society consists of citizens.  Another, non-atomized conception of the organization of a complex system we just do not allow and cannot imagine.  But that means that citizens are more vital than government, for they have the priority of rights.  Consequently, societal decisions should be lawful only if they express the summation of decisions by private citizens, i.e., by the process of voting.  Accordingly, the ideal of societal organization for us becomes parliamentary democracy.  This ideal is accepted by all, and the fact that there are many countries with totalitarian regimes does not contradict this.  For in those countries the authorities proclaim that democracy is practiced and that elections are held, perhaps fictional, perhaps with pressure on voters and juggling of the results, but elections nevertheless.  The tyrants distort the ideal or secretly replace it with something else, but cannot bring themselves to defy it openly, for it reigns over minds more tyrannically than they do over their own subjects.

Here in the preceding six points, is the credo of our world-view, based on scientific thought.  Speaking in symbols, it is reduced to the concept that the myriad of physical, psychic, and social elements of our world were formed in an ascending current.  Into this stream we channel our knowledge of the world, thinking that one must begin research from the smallest of its constituent elements.  This means that in addition to the ontological, logical, and chronological precedence of elementary forms over complex forms, we accept their gnosiological precedence as well.

Yet this is not all.  The basic postulate of our time determines not only metaphysics and gnosiology, but also our existence and lifestyle.  In life we concern ourselves with the most basic of needs, thinking that if these are met the more lofty ones will be taken care of as a matter of course.  This wholly applies to those of us who reject philosophical materialism.  For example, in the now popular theosophy and astrology the fate of individuals and nations is guided by the movement of planets; in the no-less-widespread "Eastern systems of spirituality" the future of a person is simply reduced to a baggage of actions which are preserved in a chain of reincarnation [karma].  The stimulus for turning to extrasensory experiences and our belief in their supernatural powers is our need to attain physical health, i.e., to benefit the body.  That is, even those who consider themselves idealists also revere the lowest states of being, and take this to the point of overt worship.  In order to prolong the existence of our body we feed it raw vegetables, stand on our heads, and swim in holes in the ice.  In Russia, and America, and in France, one can see a great number of people running out of driveways in any weather, barefoot and in shorts, in order to begin an exhaustive ordeal in the name of their cells and tissues...

This article is written before "Christian evolutionism" was invented. Read with this in mind.  To rightly understand Christian evolutionism, [and worse, Orthodox evolutionism], read Fr. Seraphim's Genesis, Creation and Early Man.  "Christian evolutionism" and atheism share the same origin and the same goal.  - jh