Сергей Умнов
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11.10.2021, 15:32

12.10.2021, 18:01

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The Day of Saints Peter and Fevronia must not turn into a "Merry Christmas"

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Сергей Умнов

There is one day of the year when everyone in Russia is reminded of family. And also, of course, about love and marital fidelity. This day is July 8th, the feast of the saints Peter and Fevronia. In the Russian Church they have been remembered since at least 1547. But among the laity, the holy spouses came into fashion relatively recently. Only in 2008 when the "holiday of family, love and fidelity" began to be celebrated throughout the country. The initiative came from Svetlana Medvedeva, head of the Foundation for Social and Cultural Initiatives and wife Dmitry Medvedev who was the President of Russia at the time.

Of course, a large-scale family day was timed to the memorial day of the famous couple from Murom. The idea seemed good, and the pair looked quite suitable.

Since the 16th century there have been many legends and legends around Peter and Fevronia and their life together. The most likely to be true is the version that Peter and Fevronia are the Murom prince David and his wife Euphrosyne, who received those names in monasticism. And the only written source of their life is "The Story from the Lives of the holy new wonderworker of Murom, the Blessed and venerable and praiseworthy Prince Peter, named in the monastic rank of David, and his wife, the blessed and venerable and praiseworthy Princess Fevronia, named in the monastic rank of Euphrosyne" – a classic of ancient Russian hagiographic literature of the mid—16th century. This story was written by a church writer and monk Ermolai-Erasmus, commissioned by Metropolitan Makarii.

Ermolai’s manuscript, however, was itself rather a work of fiction, than a historical document. Hence the many disputes around whether Peter and Fevronia should indeed be viewed as an ideal for the family. There certainly is a lot to argue about. According to the book, the love of the heroes was not at all cloudless. First of all, according to the book, Fevronia almost blackmailed Peter into marrying her. There is also no mention of any children (and without them a family can’t be considered full, now can it?)

From the point of view of medieval fiction, the story of Peter and Fevronia is quite fascinating. By the way, the possible prototypes of the book heroes, David and Euphrosyne, the princes of Murom, had children and a quite prosperous family.

When the Family Day or Peter and Fevronia Day just entered our lives, there were many other offers for the role of the "holy family". For example, Maria and Kirill of Radonezh, the pious parents of St. Sergius of Radonezh. There is a perfect Orthodox family for you. Or Dimitri Donskoy and Evdokia (in the monasticism of Euphrosyne) Moscow. A heroic prince, a family of two saints, 12 children – what is it if not the ideal of the Orthodox Russian family?

But it were the semi-legendary Peter and Fevronia who have become the symbol of the family in Russia largely through the works of the mass media (even the ones not Orthodox at all). Well, they are a holy and venerable couple, so it seems all right.

What doesn’t seem all right to me is the way this day is celebrated. Since 2008 the new holiday tradition has been growing according to all the laws of the secular celebration. There are concerts, fireworks, mass show programs and round dances with daisy-chains. The meaning of family, love and loyalty behind all the hype is gradually being lost. And most importantly, the image of the holy couple Peter and Fevronia is lost.

This family-celebrational ruckus bears a distinct similarity with the way the Nativity of Christ is celebrated in some Western countries. Everyone has long forgotten what this day is dedicated to. Behind the large-scale advertising, happy faces on billboards, shopping in malls, the image of the "spirit of Christmas" - Christ was lost. Now it's not exactly Nativity, but Christmas. The point is not to be involved in the holy Church of Christ, but in Coca-Cola, which spends a lot of money on associating itself with Christmas.

I'm afraid it might work out that way with us. The open-air shows will overshadow the divine services, and the daisies will smother the green sprouts of the faithful family.

I want the holiday to become truly homely and associated with family, with a quiet prayer and a memory of Fevronia's ardent love for Peter both in this life and in the next.

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