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IN A MIRROR

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									IN A MIRROR*
“For the present we see things as if in a mirror, and are puzzled; but then we shall see them face to face…” Saint Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:12) APOCALYPSE On one May day in year 1453, the Great City ceased to exist. The bells of Saint Sophia were in stillness, destroyed was the Mother of God’s icon of apostle Luke, the Constantinopolitan libraries were burned, the Imperial Palace of Vlaherna turned into a barn, Arch of Constantine and Golden Gate were forever immured. The inhabitants of Constantinople lived to see the Judgement Day of their Empire. Under the hoofs of the cavalry of Mehmed the Conqueror collapsed the seemingly indestructible order of the oldest Empire. The sophisticated subtle world of the Byzantine orthodox civilisation was simply trampled… However, it was not the end.

THE SPIRIT BREATHES WHERE HE WILL Luckily, nothing that is truly grand ever simply dies just like that. It does not cease to exist even when it’s not physically present any more. While immortal are all the works of God. And great is the Secret of eternal presence of the divine Spirit of Creation and Creativity. A little group of intellectuals has moved, from Constantinople and Mistra to the urban centres of the fifteenth century Italy. The mystical brotherhood of the guardians of Secret carried with them the undying flame of the Byzantine spiritual fire. They carried with themselves the sacred seed of the true faith, the one that stops the Sun and moves the mountains. The ones chosen by the Providence, carried with themselves to the West all the enormous (and immaterial), endlessly important (and invisible) preciousness of the Byzantine culture.
*

The text was published in a special video DVD: Divna & Melodi – The Mirror, published by Choire and Studio for spiritual music and Monastery Vavedenje, Belgrade, Serbia, 2008; Translated from Serbian by Marija M. Jovanovic.

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Through their effort and experience originated the outline of what we call “Renaissance” today. We will mention only two of them, the ones which are the most visible: John Argyropoulos of Constantinople became the teacher of Lorenzo de' Medici, Marsilio Ficino and Leonardo da Vinci. And George Gemistus Plethon has introduced Zarathustra, Pythagoras, Plato, Jamblichus and Proclus to the spiritual life of the great Mediterranean Rebirth. All of them, actually, become teachers of the new sensuality. Fathers of the modern epoch of the West. Unhidden paragon of creation of Neoplatonic Academy in Florence. The founders of the “Byzantine code” of the western God-seeking culture. Without any exaggeration, we may say that all the best of the West develops from this miraculous eastern legacy. The direct descendants of Constantinopolitan wise men are, without any doubt: Sandro Botticelli, John Don (and all Elizabethan metaphysical poets), El Greco, Friedrich Schlegel (“The Philosophy of History”), Goethe (“Heidelberg”), Ludwig the First of Bavaria (his “Byzantine Project”), John Ruskin (“The Stones of Venice”), William Morris (entire Arts & Crafts movement), Richard Wagner (“Parsifal”), Rainer Maria Rilke, Oscar Wilde (“De Profundis”), Parisian architects Paul Abadie (the famous Basilica Sacre-Coeur in Montmarte) and Paul Tournon (Church of St. Esprit, which was built according to the model of Constantinopolitan Hagia Sophia), the British constructor John Francis Bentley (creator of monumental Westminster Cathedral), then Theophile Gautier (“Italy”), Gustav Moro, Joris-Karl Huysmans (“Against the Grain”, “En Route”), Maurice Denis (his “iconic” paintings, as well as the “Notes on Religious Art” where he directly says: “in our time, the revival of religious art corresponded to a return to Byzantium and Byzantine symbolism”, Puvis de Chavannes, Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, Gustav Klimt (experiences enlightenment after visiting the Byzantine Ravenna), Clive and Vanessa Bell (and entire Bloomsbury group), John Singer Sargent, Antoni Gaudi, Bertram Goodhue (the master builder of Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew in New York), mosaics of Antonio Salviati (in the Royal Mausoleum in Frogmore) and Edward Burn-Jones (in American church of Saint Paul in Rome), William Butler Yeats (“Sailing to Byzantium”), craftsman and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, contemporary British composer Sir John Tavener (The Protecting Veil)… and so many others. The Angels from the West side. Reflections of the Spirit in the mirror of time. The Byzantines after the Byzantium…

However, again - that is not all, at all.

CASTING OF THE BELL Let us return to the beginning. To the horrific moment of the Constantinopolitan apocalypse. Churches and monasteries on fire. Icons and shed relics of Saints on fire.

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Garments and sacred things on fire. It is disappearing, under burning ashes, the thousand-years-old Christian empire. And the second group of Byzantine spiritual fathers and iconographers is leaving from Constantinople to the North. To their orthodox Slavic brothers. Towards Moscow, “the third Rome” of the eternal Empire. And there, with their knowledge and their talents, they inspired that Godmanhood and superior (Neo-Byzantine) aesthetics, which shall in the centuries to come establish and shape the Great Russian culture. Somewhere in-between Theophanous the Greek and Andrey Rublev, the new Greek-Russian child of the Byzantine seriousness and the Russian (ontological) tenderness will be born. This spiritual and civilisation exploit will achieve its culmination in the so called “Silver Age”, at the very end of the reign of the Tsar Nikolai the Second Romanov. And then, at the miraculous moment of the great Russian rebirth, the powerful creativity of the most talented heirs of the Byzantine pilgrims and teachers will flourish. It is just as if (in a flesh of these some twenty fruitful years) the most gifted and most delicate cultural-artistic scene of the whole Christian era was formed in front of the eyes of entire world. And it is as if the pulse of the Heart hidden in the depths and heights of the centuries and millennium one more time, again and again, started to beat. The pulse of love of the Heart with no beginning and no end is echoing again, inside the heart of everyone who recognised their true invocation. And all this happened in some spontaneous way, by the fateful dramaturgy of what was inevitable to happen. The most romantic spirits of the Russian culture leave to further their education to the West, having no idea what will happen to them there. They will encounter in Europe with their spiritual brothers. They will find there the native melody of the eternal Byzantium. The descendants of the Byzantine Russian teachers will meet the descendants of the Byzantine European teachers. To the mutual surprise, they will look each others with the same eyes, face to face. Like in a mirror.

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And they will recognise each other. “Those who are spread around the world and time will be brought together, at one place, by the secret of Divine Liturgy”. In the common temple found themselves, with painfully uplifted heads, the Constantinopolitans from all (both Russian and European) suburbs of their Capital in the eternity. Joined were the experiences of the Renaissance and the Orthodoxy, of the West and the East, of culture and theology. Intersected were, in a symbolic frame, the intuitions and talents of two Byzantiums. And it has never happened before to have at one place the light of so much spiritual gifts – dressed in their literal, philosophical, musical, theatrical and artistic shapes. That so specific Russian spiritual renaissance came to existence, the unique synthesis of the opposites that were not joinable ever before. At the God-seeking task gathered were around the same idea: philosophers of Moscow, artists of Saint Petersburg and theologians from Kiev. Solovyov, Diaghilev, Mamontov, Somov, Dobuzhinsky, Bakst, Benua, Kustodiyev, Gumilyov, Stravinsky, Chaliapin, Nijinsky, Rachmaninoff, Skryabin, Rerikh, Vrubel, Serov, Malevich, Petrov-Vodkin, Nesterov, Blok, Byeli, Kuzmin, Bryusov, Bilibin, Filonov, Berdyaev, Shestov, Florensky, Ern, Merezhkovsky, Sventitsky, Sergei Bulgakov, Vyacheslav Ivanov… One Natalia (Goncharova) and two Annas (the ballerina Pavlova and the poetess Akhmatova) and two Zinaidas (the writer Hippius and the painter Serebryakova)… In the angel wings of Russian silver flyers weaved are all those shining (and prophetical) images and verses, music notes and notes, movements and scathes, lines and sentences, enthusiasms and spitefulness, day and night prayers – which still leave us breathless today. We are dazzled, speechless, enchanted.

LEGACY Russia was shining in glory. At all sides, the absolutely new and incredibly important things were going on: in ateliers and assembly halls, in the streets and city squares, at the theatre stages and in dance halls, in the university classrooms and artistic saloons. Literary societies were being born, exhibitions opened, disputes leaded, art magazines published, philosophical lectures held, eternal themes were analysed and discussed, symphonies were composed, the fruitful dialog of the Church and intellectuals organised.

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The true eruption of the forces that were silent for centuries occurred. It was the culmination of all different kind of energies that were unconnected and asleep until then. And it all had one goal – the change of the entire visible world. Its complete, essential transfiguration. And exactly at that point (in the moment of great, reawaken hope in new beginning), the abyss was opened. Instead of Resurrection what happened was the new Crucifixion. Russia experienced the biggest temptation in its history. The Passion and Golgotha. The martyrdom of soul and body. The closure of heaven. The hell on earth. Desecration. And the feeling of being abandoned by God. On one October day in year 1917, the Great Empire ceased to exist. The bells of Temple of the Christ the Saviour were in stillness, destroyed were the Icons of the Mother of God and Christ, the libraries of Moscow and Saint Petersburg were burned, and in the father’s arms the thirteen-year old prince Aleksey Nikolayevich Romanov was killed… The inhabitants of Russia lived to see the Judgement Day of their Empire. Under the red flags of the Revolution collapsed the seemingly indestructible order of the Russian Empire. The sophisticated subtle world of the last Byzantine civilisation was simply trampled… However, like five centuries before, it was not the end. Survived Russian Byzantines went off to the new uncertainty. They were neither scared of the enemy, nor were they scared of death. Therefore they have brought with them (and inside them) all their knowledge and their talents. Carried by the faith, armed with hope, filled with love – they survived the Second Fall of Empire. They went, again, to the West. To Europe. To Prague, Berlin, Paris, London, Sofia and Belgrade. In soul they carried the memory of their unfinished endeavour. The memory of the dream that was not dreamed until the end by their misfortunate generation. And the primal need for the golden Constantinopolitan dust of the Christian secret of Salvation not to die in their exile nights full of sorrow and humiliation.

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“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it…”

REVELATION There is no more Byzantine Empire. And the sacred things of Constantinople are still immured and desert. The sovereign colours are in museums; just as well as purpure covering, armouring, uniforms, crowns, coats of arms, charters, rings and seals. “Body is weak, but the Spirit is strong”. The golden line of the Byzantine tradition is lasting today too. But now it is hidden. And it exists in a quite another way. We were convinced in that in, now already long gone year 1969, when the last frame of the unrepeatable masterpiece by Andrey Tarkovsky was recorded and the editing was completed. Then “Andrey Rublev” emerged, the ingenious film on temptations and salvation of the Russian soul. As a reflection of the invisible world in which reigns the “reversed perspective”, the film turns our entire reserves of secular experiences in the chain of images. We have again in front of us the obvious fact of miracle, found in “everyday”. It slides from the earth reality – “to which it should be a servant and a mirror”. Instead, he returns us to the traditional origins of sensuality. “The truth expressed by beauty is secretive, it can not be decoded, nor can it be interpreted in words. But, when human being, its personality, finds itself next to this beauty, faces it – it will feel its presence, if nothing then by the chill down the spine which it would give you. Beauty is like a miracle which is being witnessed, without intention, by man”, said Tarkovsky, soon before he dies. And added: “My art is a prayer to God”… Like a Byzantine mosaic, also the film pieces of “image in time” are being connected with the invisible chains of universal unity of a frozen, eternal dream. Cinematographic vision, embodied in the genius of director of “Andrey Rublev”, develops in us the endless possibilities of “practicing imagination”, focused direction towards achieving the highest goal. Redemption, Revelation and Salvation. Or, as Eric Rohmer would explain it: “Behind what the film is showing to us, we are not instructed to seek for the existence of atom, but rather – existence of something beyond

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the phenomena, some soul or some other spiritual principle. Poetry is, above all, in the discovery of God’s presence” (“Celluloid and Marble”). Something similar to the film miracle of Andrey Tarkovsky, equally rare and unexplainable, happened in Serbia. Something important and unexpected. Something truly miraculous.

LOVE But, let us take another step back before that. A step back to the year 1920, more precisely, to the moment when the sisterhood of the monastery Lesna arrives from the burning Russia to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, in mount of Fruska Gora. Leaded by the Abbess Ekaterina (countess Jefimovska), the Russian nuns came to Hopovo and Kuvezdin. It is exactly this group of nuns and monasteries of Fruska Gora that will play the key role in restoration of the women monasticism of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the years after the First World War. They will bring to Serbia the traditional style of the Russian Church Byzantine chant, unchanged thought the centuries. The winds of war will carry this group of Russian nuns all around the world: from Russia, across Fruska Gora, to France. But the most beautiful branch of their virtue of the ancient chanting liturgy will show (and flourish) nowhere else but in Belgrade, in the Monastery of The Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple at Topcider (Vavedenje). The ten-year old girl with the name Divna will be there to be gradually introduced to the so far puzzled secrets of the Orthodox spiritual music. Under the patronage and protection of Abbess Agnia, Divna Ljubojevic will, in time, become the most original representative of this tradition which we had the chance to hear and see in our time. At the quire of the monastery Vavedenje; at the conducting stand of the choir Mokranjac and The First Belgrade Singing Society; at the concerts in Greece, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Portugal; as a guest lecturer at the seminars on music all around Europe; in her studio and her Garden, among her friends and “Melodi” members – Divna grew into one quite an extraordinary phenomenon. The unique and incomparable. The unrepeatable. “One of the most pure voices I have ever heard”, wrote, in a sincere ardour, Lycourgos Angelopoulos, Director of the Byzantine Choir of Greece. Or, as Pavel Evdokimov would continue on this (only if he had a chance to hear her voice): “There one can directly feel the voice of Christ and the elevation reaches the liturgical heights of His presence”. The Russians had heard for sure some voice like hers, in the Constantinopolitan Hagia Sophia, when they – for reasons of beauty – chosen the Christianity (more precisely they had fallen in love with the Orthodox Christianity). When Divna starts to sing, we simply do not know if we are on earth or in heaven. We feel, with our entire being, that God is with us at that time. Truly with us.

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Then, with her, we feel all the secret of exciting beauty of orthodoxy, about which from the depths of the centuries speaks Gregory of Nyssa: “Anyone who sings well the Psalms brings the soul into the harmony. And makes uneven even. And the soul, reaching the state which corresponds to its true nature, does not fear anything anymore. It catches the everlasting, eternal longing for the life of the world to come.” In front of Divna’s voice that usual block before elevation, transcendence, ecstasy seems to disappear. Scattered is, in a second, the deceitful power of evil. And the soul is encouraged, as if receiving the wings. Divided from everything unnecessary, we become accomplices in her exploit. Together with her, we overcome ourselves. We elevate ourselves above any sin. We rest in humbleness which is given to us through her. Divna’s voice is directing us to the greatest secrets of human existence. Without any effort, it discovers to us the meaning of living. It testifies the beauty of the world to come. And it was Plato who used to say that road of beauty is – “the road to doing well”. Divna’s gorgeous voice is also the promise of the even greater (above-gorgeous), endless Beauty. And nobody, really nobody, and never ever - before her - sang in this way the Divine Liturgy. Again, we hear (in Divna’s voice revealed) the truth of it, like thousand years ago, people used to hear it too. And like it is yet to be heard. And even more beauteous than that. Through her voice God is giving us to hear something that our hearing can not reach. When we listen to her, we hear with heart (“mind of heart”) what is also impossible to hear. And yet we do hear, through our own disbelief. And we do start to believe, in the reality of miracle. And finally, through her, we understand that liturgical appeal: “Let us have the heart!” Because our heart is spiritual sense with which we perceive the One who deservers and calls us for our love. The beauty of Divna’s singing carries in itself not only the physical beauty of the music, but also something much more than that. It is as if, through her voice, the Holy Spirit teaches us how to fall in love with God as much as we possible can. And we feel there at first hand the presence of the Holy Spirit, of Its Uncreated Energy.

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As this would be explained by one of the Russian Byzantines, father Pavel Florensky: “There are three important characteristics of the Holy Spirit – beauty, enabling community and consolation”. And therefore – because of beauty and because of participation in community, and because of consolation – we can never be alone while we listen to her voice. She always sings in synergy, and never only with her own energy. Through Divna revealed to us is the secret of “sobornost” (“togetherness”), fact that a person exist only in community, in a council. And that an attempt to reach the so called “objective”, impersonal truth – is actually impossible. That the only true way of existence is – the way of existence of the Holy Trinity: the free community of persons. Because of all this, it would be meaningless to consider Divna to be only “singer”, “chorister”, “artist”, and “musician”. Because she performs the divine service - on each occasion. When she chants in church, and when she sings at concerts, and when we hear her in any other way. Like the Holy Fathers, she is healing us by wounding us. She is wounding us with Godlonging. Because “Christ is the wound that can not be healed!” Divna has invocation (charisma) of spiritual priesthood. She is, at each liturgy, “by the unexpressed sighs”, praying for each one of us. And that is a special blessing of God. The invocation blessing. Both for the believers and for those unchristened, with no difference. And for those who are in the altar and for those in narthex, and for those who are outside church. For the believing people and for those who still did not recognise the God. Let us remember the image of God as “the beggar of love at the doors of our heart”: “I am now standing at the door and am knocking. If any one LISTENS TO MY VOICE and opens the door, I will go in to be with him and will feast with him, and he shall feast with Me.” (Rev. 3:20) And here is another quote. “"Go the whole world over, and proclaim the Good News to all mankind!” Yes, Divna is proclaiming the Good News. By her voice, music and melody. She is an authentic witness and confessor of faith. Her voice is icon, the melodious window to the invisible world. The simplicity of her gift is ingenious.

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POST SCRIPTUM I could say here for Divna what once a friend of Andrey Tarkovsky said about him: “Divna – that is so much. That is not just a name, but an entire level in our culture”. The Golden Gate of Constantinople opens again… By Dragoslav BOKAN In Belgrade, at the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, 2008

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