*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 5th of June 2021 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The 5th of June is the traditional day on which the Russian Orthodox Church remembers the events of 988 in which Vladimir the Great, the Grand Prince of the Kievan Rus, was baptized by representatives of the Byzantine church, and this set in motion the Christianization of the Rus. So, a few questions:
How did Russia become Christian? How did it become Eastern Orthodox? Why was it considered the 3rd Rome?
Remember that the Rus were “Vikings” that migrated down through the North into what is today Western Russia and Eastern Europe. Vladimir the Great, our man today, was born to Norman-Rus parents.
An early capital was Kyiv (Kiev) on the Dnieper River. You might remember that the Dnieper could take you south to the Black Sea and the doorstep of Constantinople.
There were various diplomatic missions between the Byzantines and the Rus throughout the 10th century. There are reports that Byzantine Christianity (Eastern Orthodoxy) had made some inroads among the Rus but local religion and suspicious princes helped stamp it out.
The story of exactly how Vlad decided to become Orthodox is shrouded in mystery.
It was likely tied to dynastic interests between Constantinople and the growing Rus.
One story is told about Vladimir deciding on religion and having representatives of the three major religions come to him.
He was suspicious of the Jewish faith because history had shown that they were unable to keep their own land.
It is said he was suspicious of the Muslims because they didn’t drink or eat pork.
And thus, Eastern Orthodoxy was the last religion standing.
But why didn’t Catholicism get a shot?
The Byzantine Model of state supremacy over the church was certainly more appealing to Vladimir than the Roman model of Church supremacy overstate.
Secondly, the Latin West was just that: Latin. St. Cyril and Methodius had already established the Slavic alphabet and the Byzantines were (for the most part) cool with the Rus translating the liturgy into Slavic where the Latin west required language conformity.
With the rise of Russia and the autocephalous Russian Orthodox Church within the Eastern Orthodox Communion, there was cemented an important relationship for both. And then in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople, the last remnants of the glories of the Byzantine world had been removed (through marriage) to Russia giving them the right to assume the mantle of the “3rd Rome” after “the 2nd Rome” had fallen.
The story of Russian Christianity is perhaps as interesting as any regional church in the last century with the plight of the church amidst aggressively state-sponsored atheism. Nevertheless, in 1988, on the 5th of June, a celebration was held marking the then 1000 years since the baptism of Vladimir and the Christianization of Kievan Rus.
The last word for today comes from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, the 17th chapter:
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 5th of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Vladimirs include: The Great, Nabokov, and WWE star Kozlov, he is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man for whom there is only one Vlad, the great Vlad Guerrero, I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.