Conflict over the Name of God
Among Russian Monks and Hierarchs,
On July 3, 1913 some four hundred monks of the Athonite monastery of St. Panteleimon fled to one of their dormitory buildings and set to work barricading the entrances with bed boards. Bayoneted rifles in hand, sailors of the Russian Imperial Navy surrounded the building while their officers exhorted the unarmed monks to give up peacefully. To no avail. Prepared for martyrdom but hoping in God’s help, the monks sang, prayed, did prostrations, and took up icons and crosses to defend themselves. Finally the trumpet rang out with the command to “shoot,” and the calm of the Holy Mountain was rent by the roar … not of firearms, but of fire hoses. After an hour-long “cold shower” dampened the monks’ spirits, the sailors rushed the building and began to drag recalcitrant devotees of the contemplative life out of the corridors.
These events took place on a narrow peninsula in northern Greece some forty miles long by five miles wide, named “Mt. Athos” after the 6,000 foot mountain towering over the end of it. Since the tenth century this stretch of land has been set aside for the exclusive use of Eastern Orthodox monks, a status instituted by the Byzantine Empire and maintained by the Turks after they conquered it in 1453. Though located in Greece it eventually became an international center for Orthodox monasti cism, and the nineteenth century saw such a mass immigration of Russians that by the beginning of the twentieth the mountain was really more Russian than Greek. That situation was not to last long, and the events narrated above marked the beginning of the end. In 1913 the Russian government forcibly expelled more than eight hundred of its own citizens from Mt. Athos, and these were followed in succeeding months by as many as one thousand more who would have been expelled had they not left voluntarily.
Their crime: disagreeing with the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in a controversy about the phrase “The name of God is God himself”
The text is from Tom E. Dykstra who wrote an article about this topic in 1988 and can be found on the internet. The foto is from the french site (see nr. 145 on this log ) or http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/memoire_fr Search for ” Mont-athos”.