Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation
952 Kelly Rd., Mt. Jackson, VA 22842
Tel: 540-459-8334 E-Mail: email@example.com
For me You have created the skies scattered with stars . . . and all the beautiful things on earth
(St. Maximilian Kolbe) http://www.kolbecenter.org
February 23, 2005
Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Thanks to your prayers and support, three members of the Kolbe Center have recently returned from a most remarkable and fruitful visit to Russia where we participated in a creation conference in Moscow organized by members of the Russian Orthodox Church. In this letter I will briefly report on the conference and share some reflections on our visit to Moscow in relation to Kolbe’s mission to help restore the traditional Catholic understanding of Genesis.
First, a little background may be helpful. There is no question that the groundwork for our visit was laid by advisory council member Guy Berthault during several decades of scientific collaboration with colleagues in Russia, particularly in the areas of physics and sedimentology. Another important factor in our orientation toward the Russian Orthodox Church was our discovery of the work of the late Fr. Seraphim Rose, an Orthodox theologian who dedicated his life to the study, defense, and propagation of the patristic understanding of Genesis. Through our study of the work of Fr. Rose, some of our members discovered the existence of a strong movement within the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad to uphold the traditional patristic understanding of Genesis. Two years ago, we made contact with Fr. Constantine Bufeev, a Russian Orthodox priest with a Ph.D. in geology, who directs an organization in Russia to defend and propagate the traditional understanding of Genesis from the perspective of Scripture, patristic tradition, and natural science.
As a professional geologist, Fr. Bufeev appreciated the profound significance of the experimental work of Guy Berthault, invalidating the principles upon which the geological time scale was based. Successful applications of Guy’s research in the Caucasus by another Russian geologist, Alexander Lalomov, further strengthened Fr. Bufeev’s conviction that Guy’s research holds a key to breaking theistic evolutionism’s stranglehold on the intellectual leadership of the Christian world. Another major breakthrough took place when Fr. Bufeev agreed to publish an article that I wrote on the Roman Catholic doctrine of creation in his Russian language journal Shostednev. In his foreword to that article, Fr. Bufeev wrote: “Orthodox Christians are very glad to observe such a spiritually healthy current in the bosom of the western church. If it is possible to achieve a theological reunification of East and West, it is only feasible in one way: through a . . . return to primordial Revelation as contained in the sources of apostolic dogma.”
The meeting organized by Fr. Bufeev featured many outstanding speakers. These included Dr. Valeri Shlenov, executive secretary of Department of Religion Education and Catechism of the Russian Orthodox Church, Lilijana Colic, Professor of philology at Belgrade State University, Dr. Alexander Lalomov, director of ARCTUR Geological Research Laboratory, Dr. Alexei Akifiev, Professor at the Genetic Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, and many others. The participants were particularly grateful to Guy Berthault for his experiments in stratification and they recognized the devastating implications of Guy’s research for uniformitarian geology and the geologic time scale.
One of the most inspiring talks at the conference was delivered by Fr. Daniil Sysoev, a young Russian Orthodox priest with a doctorate in theology, who spoke on the importance of the traditional doctrine of creation for successful evangelization. Fr. Sysoev described the spiritual landscape of contemporary Russia as one in which atheism is “normal” but where the New Age movement and numerous cults—notably the Jehovah’s Witnesses—are making rapid inroads. In this atmosphere, Fr. Sysoev observed that the traditional doctrine of creation and the scientific evidence against evolution hold the key to challenging the world views of unbelievers and opening their hearts and minds to the Gospel.
After our participation in the conference, we received an invitation to attend a reception with the Patriarch Alexy II at the newly-constructed Orthodox Cathedral of the Savior. The reception was held in the crypt of the Cathedral and consisted of a concert of Russian religious and folk music followed by a meal. The concert featured some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. It was truly remarkable to stand in the former capital of world communism and to be part of a crowd of 1000 Russian bishops, priests, and lay people as they stood and fervently sang “God save the Tsar”! Still more wonderful was the opportunity to visit the Kremlin and to enter some of the most venerable churches of Russian Orthodoxy. Particularly beautiful was the Church of the Assumption where the Tsars of Russia worshipped for hundreds of years. Icons of spectacular loveliness covered the four interior walls of the church from the floor to the ceiling. I understood immediately the testimony of a Russian scientist, baptized as an infant but raised an atheist by his parents who were communist party members, who told me that at the age of 30, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he had held a Bible in his hand for the first time and, after reading it, had become a Protestant Christian. As a Protestant he had been taught to distrust the Russian Orthodox Church and to regard its clergy as corrupt and idolatrous. But upon attending services one evening at the Church of the Assumption, he had been overcome with the conviction that that he had at last come home, that he belonged in the Russian Orthodox Church, and that he had rediscovered his lost heritage—and so he had begged to be received into communion with the Orthodox Church that very day.
Indeed, Russia is the first of the 20 or so nations I have visited in my life where I sensed that an authentic Christian culture had not only been preserved but that it was actually gaining strength, and that it had the potential to draw an entire nation to itself. And, although I returned home thanking God for my Catholic Faith and for the gift of the Magisterium, I could not help feeling deeply humbled by the example of the Russian Orthodox and by the way that they have preserved—in practice—essential elements of our common Tradition much better than we Latin Rite Catholics have. I could write a book on my impressions of a week in Moscow, but in this letter I will just mention one of the significant ways in which the Russian Orthodox practice of the Faith puts western practice to shame. Not surprisingly, it has everything to do with Genesis.
Perhaps the best way to introduce this particular topic is to recall my delight when, while seated in the crypt of the Orthodox Cathedral, I noticed to my left on the wall of the crypt a large mural. The mural depicted the creation of Adam, and showed God with Adam, fully-formed, and fresh from his hands. Other parts of the mural depicted other portions of the Genesis account, but it was this first scene that impressed me the most. It clearly showed that Adam was created before Eve, to be priest, prophet, and king, first for her, and then for the whole human race. It somehow conveyed the maleness of the holy priesthood of the first Adam, fully realized in the fullness of time in the New Adam. This image sounded a keynote that seemed to harmonize with a multitude of impressions of Russian Orthodox life—women and girls with kerchiefs on their heads; manly bishops and priests with beards dressed in solemn black robes; the patriarch with his flowing white beard; the deep bass of the men’s voices; the loveliness of the women’s voices from the standing congregations; and the utter absence of women from the sanctuary and from the altar.
For the first time in my life, I saw a priesthood that consistently imaged the manhood of Jesus Christ the God-MAN, and bishops who imaged the fatherhood of God the Father. I saw many women whose dress and deportment consistently evoked the femininity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All of these things seemed to recall the truth that God created every man to be priest, prophet, and king, first to his wife and then to his children—and to be intimate with Him and to mediate Him to the world. In short, I returned to the United States astounded at the feminization of the western Church, the emasculation of so many men both as priests and as fathers of families, and the de-feminization of so many women—all in violent contrast to the traditional Russian Orthodox way of life, so deeply rooted in the traditional understanding of Genesis.
The Holy Father has repeatedly been frustrated in his efforts toward reconciliation with the Russian Orthodox Church. What is rarely if ever acknowledged, however, is that an ecumenical approach that focuses primarily on a longing for unity rather than on a common theological and spiritual patrimony enjoys little hope of success with the Russian Orthodox. According to a recent article by columnist Peggy Noonan:
Mr. Novak noted that John Paul II has often spoken of the need to heal the thousand-year breach in the church between East and West. The pope believes his work did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall, that it includes attempting to repair the great split between Rome and Constantinople and Moscow. Mr. Novak said he may well be using his suffering, giving it to God to heal it. "He will be a very unhappy man if he doesn't get to Moscow before he dies," said Mr. Novak (emphasis added).
If the Kolbe Center has been invited to Moscow ahead of the Holy Father, it is because we have focused on the interpretation of Genesis that formed the foundation of our common theological heritage for the first 1000 years of Christianity. We hope and pray that the Holy Father and his advisors will reexamine the way origins are being taught and see that the traditional, patristic interpretation of Genesis is the only solid foundation upon which to rebuild the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.
During the coming months, we will build on the foundation that has been laid in Moscow to strengthen our ties with the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia as well as with the Russian Orthodox Church abroad. Please keep this initiative in your prayers, and, if possible, consider becoming a prayer and financial sponsor of our work.
In addition to this project, our regional conferences, and other activities, we plan to undertake the first English translation of St. Laurence of Brindisi’s masterful commentary on Genesis. St. Laurence of Brindisi was a seventeenth century Doctor of the Church who knew the entire Bible by heart and who was fluent in Hebrew and Greek. Of his work on Genesis Pope John XXIII wrote: “Especially pleasing to us is the book Explanation of Genesis, in which St. Lawrence, employing the doctrine of the Jewish masters, the Fathers of the Church, and that of the schoolmen, examines the divine truth, and as a most severe judge, passes judgment on various opinions and controversies.” The translation of this work into English will be a significant contribution to the defense of the traditional Catholic understanding of Genesis.
Thanks to the hard work of our webmaster Edward Razz, the Kolbe Center is about to open a web store so that you will be able to purchase books, tapes and other materials on line, and also to register for conferences, and to make donations. The next public excavation for dinosaur and human footprints in Paluxy, Texas, will take place June 13-17, 2005. This is a wonderful opportunity for your family to take part in a professional “dinosaur dig” with other Christians. God willing, one of our priest advisors will participate again this year and will offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for us again each day. Please contact me as soon as possible if you are interested in joining us. And please keep our work and our membership in your prayers.
Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Hugh Owen, Director
Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation
952 Kelly Rd.
Mt. Jackson, VA 22842