Tuesday, November 17, 2009


A Twitter friend of mine tweeted this today: "If the church is to survive, it must abandon the idea that it is sacred and everything else is profane. It is all sacred."  This reminded me of Iulia de Beausobre, who wrote an essay called “Creative Suffering” If you get a chance to read her story, she is quite an amazing woman.  But here is a little bit of her essay.

(And my deepest gratitude to the yurodivy's of my life, who have walked with me through my most terrible moments and taught me to dance. You know who you are.)

This matter of participation brings us to a figure as popular as he is typical in Russian history and life--to the yurodivy, 'the born fool', so hard to describe to anyone who has not grown up in Russia.

It is perhaps best to begin by pointing out what the yurodivy is not. He is not a monk, though there is much about him that might lead the passer-by to think that he was: his speech, intonation, cant phrases, sometimes his clothes, and always his absolute voluntary poverty lend him a monkish air. He is nobody's son, nobody's brother, nobody's father, and has no home. He is as old as the history of Christian Russia and wanders over the whole of that huge country feeling equally at home everywhere. But he settles down nowhere and is usually to be met on the road. As often as not he has a practised trade, but prefers for the most part to live on the people, and in return for his meal and night's lodging will give them a piece of his mind, seldom mincing his words. Though he has no schooling at all, he is always ready to express, in chant and rhyme, his views upon the world of matter and the world of spirit; on Russia, her friends and her enemies, and on infinity; on the past, present and future, and on eternity. And yet he remains somehow lovable, and he is loved; cherished in fact, because he is a living personification of what most Russians take to be true Russia, and in him every Russian is confronted with something of his own essence.

From a practical point of view, no useful purpose is served by anything that the yurodivy does. He achieves nothing. Yet there must be some strong attraction at work to draw men (and women too), poor creatures most of them, to choose such a rough and comfortless life, manhandled from time to time, pelted by children and set on by dogs. The attraction is found in participation, participation in all the dregs of life. The aim of the yurodivy is to participate in evil through suffering. He makes of this his life's work because, to the Russian, good and evil are, here on earth, inextricably bound together. This is, to us, the great mystery of life on earth. Where evil is at its most intense, there too must be the greatest good. To us this is not even an hypothesis. It is axiomatic.


  1. "Where evil is at its most intense, there too must be the greatest good."

    This might sound weird, but this reminds me of a part in the movie "From Dusk Till Dawn". Seth (played by George Clooney) tells the pastor who has lost his faith, Jacob (played by Harvey Keitel), that having met and been attacked by vampires that he now KNOWS that Hell exists, "And if there is a hell, and those sons of bitches are from it, then there has got to be a heaven... Jacob, there's gotta be."

    I just referenced a Quentin Tarantino movie in a church blog... should I feel weird?

    Maybe, maybe not... "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill" both had their religious moments.

  2. @Digital Kahuna I think this is what my friend was trying to say--all of creation is sacred. There's no way to put up a fence and keep the sacred inside church walls and the profane outside. This creation is more complex and nuanced than that, so pop culture references are more than welcome!

  3. I am glad to be able to contribute.

    And my inner editor feels that I should point out that Quenttin Tarantino only wrote "From Dusk Till Dawn", Robert Rodriguez was the director.