BEFORE WE BEGIN – AND/OR YOU GET UPSET…WHICHEVER IS FIRST!
8 September 1380
Alexander Peresvet, was a Russian Orthodox Christian monk who fought in a single combat with the Tatar champion Temir-murza at the opening of the Battle of Kulikovo. The battle was opened by single combat between the two champions. The Russian champion was Alexander Peresvet. The Horde champion was Temir-murza. The champions killed each other in the first run, though according to a Russian legend, Peresvet did not fall from the saddle, while Temir-murza did. Peresvet's body was brought to Moscow, where they lie buried at the 15th-century Theotokos Church in Simonovo.
Moscow was occupied by Polish invaders, Hermogen had become Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. From prison, he called for a three-day fast and ordered the icon of Our Lady of Kazan to be brought to Princes Minin and Pozharsky, who were leading the resistance to the occupation. This icon was carried before their regiments as they fought to regain the capital from the Poles. When the Polish army was finally driven from Moscow on October 22, 1612, the victory was attributed to the intercession of the Mother of God.
The King of Sweden Charles the XII was building up his European empire when he faced the Russian Tsar Peter the Great near Poltava, a small town in Ukraine. Charles was aware of the power of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan and he knew Peter had it moved from Moscow closer to the battlefield. He was petrified when the soldiers he sent to destroy the icon reported back saying they did not find the icon but also could not even put the church it was kept in overnight on fire. The fire wouldn’t start. Charles had beaten the Russian in the battles numerous times before and was set for victory with his highly experienced army against unexperienced former farmers and peasants quickly trained to fire a gun. Before the battle the icon of Our Lady of Kazan was paraded in front of the Russian troops. By the night fall Charles was defeated, wounded and escaped the capture with some of his troops by riding through the night towards Ottoman Turkey.
Napoleon was facing the Russian Army near Borodino. He had advantage in numbers of soldiers and the most experienced army in the world which hitherto had not known defeat. Before the battle the Russian priests presented to the troops the icon of Our Lady of Kazan during a morning liturgy. After the battle Napoleon had lost killed and wounded over 30.000 soldiers. In total over 80.000 troops were killed or wounded on that day on both sides making it the bloodiest day in modern history. After the battle the Russian withdrew but a year later they were marching. In Paris!
Germans were 20 kilometres from Red Square in Moscow. The leader of the Communist Party Josef Stalin ordered the icon of Our Lady of Kazan to be airlifted over the Soviet defence lines. The Germans never crossed those lines. They were defeated shortly afterwards and in a counter attack withdrew from their positions for the first time in their Russian campaign. This was the beginning of the end for the Germans. IT SEEMS to me the Orthodoxy has got something to do with the fact the nations of modern Europe still speak their own languages and not Mongol or Swedish or French. Or German. I believe the Orthodoxy is the religion of the brave, who realise they start from a position of total weakness. I believe it is the religion of people who despite their weakness, make strong decisions and do not stop until they reach their goals. I believe Orthodoxy is the religion of fight, struggle, and victory. Against overwhelming odds. And very powerful enemies. Including the most dangerous one. The one I see every day in a mirror.
STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN WHEN A MAN QUITS DRINKING. MY STORY
I remember the day I decided to quit. Back then I did not realise by doing so I was actually changing my whole life. Because back then drinking was my life. It was a moment when I thought about why am I so lonely while surrounded by so called family, unfulfilled in my business, depressed and stuck in a destructive marriage. I suddenly realised I would need to stop drinking. And I did. And voila..
It was strange but when I decided to do something right – taking the whole responsibility for my life, trying to speak honestly to myself, stop blaming anybody else and moving the preferences inside myself the whole thing got totally out of hand. It was almost like having a bull’s eye drawn on my forehead! I was drunk driving possibly for years and was never stopped once… and suddenly after a month of sobriety I would reward myself with a beer and was stopped and to my surprise I was over the limit!
Within a short time I was arrested twice for something I (almost) didn’t do. I was blackmailed into bankruptcy with the threat of losing my son forever. So I did it. And. Lost my son anyway. I have lost friends and money and time. And guess what.. ? The drinking was back! Stronger than ever!! Yeah baby!! One day I did not even know who to call so I looked through my contacts on the phone and found Father Raphael there whom I met only briefly before. I called and an hour later Father was in my living room looking at a human wreck I was wondering who he should call first the Ambulance or the Police. Or both. And that was the best call I ever made in my life.
This was in 2010. Today, I wish I could say “and look at me now” kind of thing. Fr Raphael describes learning to live again as rather like learning to ride a bicycle as a child. Remember what it was like? Wobbling. Falling off. Getting up and back onto the saddle. For some people it can be easy for others it may take a long time.
Well, I’ve not had a drink today but what I found in that room back in 2010 is the following:
Life is taught. It is unpredictable. And dangerous. As we go through life we lose friends, family, loved ones, money, reputation, anything. We may end up in jail for something we never did (trust me I was almost there). And no friendship, personal power or motivation or self-discipline will ever compensate or help you to bounce back (and dance the Irish jig) other than the power of faith. Also known as belief in God!
And for me this faith is Jesus Christ! And the way I learn about Him is the Orthodox way.
I am still struggling about a lot of issues in my life – partly due to my own shortcomings as a human being partly to others’ shortcomings as human beings. We are all the same. The only difference is how we deal with our human nature. I decided to introduce my way of dealing with it on this website with podcast titled WALK THE WALK, acquiring true grit the Orthodox way and within next 7 episodes I’ll be talking with Father Raphael about spiritual aspects along with the practical steps of acquiring TRUE GRIT: faith, mindset, health, self-discipline, time management, relations and money the Orthodox way.