Today is Holy Saturday, the end of Lent and the last day before Pascha, the term Orthodox Christians use for Easter. As a shout-out to my brothers and sisters in Christ on this very special weekend, I give you a pretty awesome video out of Russia.
The public embrace of Orthodoxy by V.V. Putin and the Kremlin in recent years has been hard to miss. While the Russian Orthodox Church is not the state religion, in has a great deal of support in the power ministries, including the “special services” (what Moscow calls the intelligence agencies) and the military. As part of that, the Russian Defense Ministry has been adding Orthodox chaplains to its units to meet the spiritual needs of the troops.
Most recently, the MoD has trained Orthodox priests to be chaplains to the elite Airborne Forces (VDV). As I’ve written recently, Russia’s special forces, including the VDV, are getting a lot of attention in Moscow’s military modernization efforts. VDV chaplains have to be jump-qualified, of course, and as you can see in this clip, the long-bearded volunteers, clad in full Airborne garb, do their best. Once safely on the ground, they then set up a remarkable inflatable chapel, complete with portable icons.
The Airborne Forces were established in the 1930s, during the worst of Stalinist repressions. I can’t help but a find a bit of tasty irony in the fact that, having survived the Bolshevik nightmare, the Orthodox Church is back in the field, among the Russian military, doing what it has done for two thousand years.