Mission on the White Continent:
Αn Interview with Hieromonk Pavel Gelyastanov
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
We often complain about life: Public transport is really annoying… Where are all these people going anyway?… We’ve had enough of this rain… Why is this heat so unbearable?… What do they want me to do anyway? I’m fed up with all this shouting and noise and fuss… We could go on listing the complaints, dreaming about being on our own and how nice it is everywhere else, and in general having a moan and making out we want to get away from it all. But once you are at the end of the earth, suddenly everything is the other way around and you look at the world in a completely new way.
These are the thoughts I had when I met Hieromonk Pavel (Gelyastanov) who had just come back from an obedience of 15 months in the Antarctic. I don’t know if it is correct to call the Antarctic the end of the earth, but it could probably be called the end of the planet or the end of the map. Though, on the other hand, you can’t really see any earth in the Antarctic, rather it’s all ice, snow, water and rocks and Polar birdlife. But on top of this you have the people who are always there, far fewer than the visitors, but they live there in the kingdom of snow for about a year on average: they come from various countries to carry out some special task and then go home. This is why the Antarctic, discovered in 1820 by the Russian explorers Bellingshausen and Lazarev, is called a free country: there are no politics, no economy, no citizenship, no social divisions…
How did Fr Paul, a monk from the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, end up there? I tried to find the answer to this question not among the ice, but in Minsk, in our monastery where Father had come to ‘thaw out’ after his very long winter stay.
Tell us, Fr Paul, how come you went to the Antarctic?
At the request of Archbishop Theognost, the Superior of the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Monastery, a decree was issued by his Holiness the Patriarch that I should be sent as a member of the 56th Russian Antarctic Expedition. I arrived there on 3 March 2011 to serve in the Holy Trinity church in Bellingshausen.
This is the only church in the southern continent and, it must be said, as such it is not only the object of curiosity, but also of respect. Anyone who goes to our island first of all goes to church, has their photo taken, asks about the history of the church and many come and venerate the icons. It’s a local sight.
When we flew in, the first thing we did was to hold a thanksgiving service. We Continue reading “Mission on the White Continent: Αn Interview with Hieromonk Pavel Gelyastanov”