At the far end of kirkkokatu (Church street in English) sits the Joensuu Lutheran church. Want to take a guess what sits at the other end of the street?
I’m back from a week-long trip to Germany. Have no fear, there will be posts on the trip at some point. It may be next year by the time I get to post them, but so what – there are so many great things to post on. And yes, Bavaria was beautiful. But I’ll tell you more about that when we get to that trip.
As for right now, I’m continuing with my trip to Joensuu back in February. During the trip , we visited Valamo Orthodox monastery. Today’s post concerns the new church.
One of the neat things about visiting an Orthodox church is the icons. I was once told that all the icons and pictures of the saints around the church held a special place for worshipers. The worshiper would come in and visit each one around the church in a similar way that a person visits a family member on a holiday.
New Valamo church is beautiful, as you can see. Another cool thing about Orthodox churches is this – they are unapologetic. You have a problem with something they are doing or displaying – too bad for you. There’s no couching their beliefs for fear of offending someone. I think the Western church could use a little bit of this every once in a while.
And all the pictures and relics remind us of the community of saints who have gone before us. The visual reminder is important. It’s so interesting that these ancient visual reminders match up with our modern visual age so well.
The interior of the church is pretty much preserved as it was – mostly because the church is still used – but only in the summer. There is no longer any heating for the building. When we were there in February, it was cold outside. That meant it was cold inside too.
The relics weather this cold just fine because the relics are all made from natural products and so they adjust to the temperature well.
The picture above shows the original Valamo monastery with Sts. Sergius and Herman, who founded the monastery in the 10th century (well, there actually debate about the year of founding – anywhere from the 10th to the 15th centuries, but I’m going with the what the vice abbot of the monastery told me).
One of the neat things about the old church is a side room that is preserved to show the living conditions of the monks. In this room there is this wonderful piece of religious clothing.
I take a break from posting next week – I’ll be traveling again. This time to Germany. Have no fear, there will be pictures at some point. When I return, we’ll continue with pictures from the trip to Joensuu. Next post will be the new church.
During my trip to Joensuu, we traveled by car about an hour, to visit Valamo Orthodox Monastery.
It is a Finnish Orthodox monastery and had a long, long history dating back many centuries. The monastery was originally on an island in Lake Ladoga, which at that time was a part of Finland. Things change though with wars. During WWII, the monks left old Valamo as the Soviets went on the advance. The Finnish army pushed back and were able to help the monks recover many relics and other valuable items from the monastery. The monks resettled at what is now called New Valamo monastery. Since then, Valamo has become a center of Orthodoxy in Finland and also a pilgrimage site for many believers as well. There is a chapel, housing for visitors, a restaurant, classroom areas, the old chapel, offices, a souvenir shop and a distillery as well.
We spent a few hours at the monastery and it was quite impressive. I learned a great deal about the Finnish Orthodox Church and its relationship with the Lutheran Church of Finland.
The picture above is the outside of the new chapel at the monastery. It was February in Eastern Finland, so there was snow and it was cold.
Here’s a picture of the outside of the old chapel. More on this in the next post.
After visiting the church office, we made our way outside to enjoy some fresh, cold air and to get a sense of the town. We went to Joensuu Lutheran Church – the main church in Joensuu.
But our misfortune turned out alright because we got to look down Kirkkokatu, or Church street in English.
Here’s something special about Joensuu. The eastern part of Finland has a significant influence from the Finnish Orthodox Church – which is not the same as the Russian Orthodox Church. On Kirkkokatu, you get a visual representation of the influence of Christianity in the city. At the one end of the street is the Joensuu Lutheran church and at the other is the Orthodox church. Hence Church Street. The influence of these two churches would continue to be felt throughout the trip.
Next travel post – we head to Valamo Orthodox monastery.
An Orthodox priest led the service and the foot washing was done by the Catholic bishop who was assisted by a Lutheran pastor. It was held in a the chapel of a Dominican facility.
This is actually the first time I ever participated in a foot washing. The service was in Finnish and was very nice. I stopped trying to translate what was being said so that I could just experience the service. I’m glad I did.
It was the perfect mix of Orthodox and Western Christian practice complete with incense.
The service got me thinking about foot washing and the symbolism that it holds. In so many ways, we need foot washing.
We need to be washed of the nastiness that we set foot on each day and carry around with us – our sins. We need to be washed to learn how to receive. We need to be washed to learn how we can serve. We need to be washed to see and experience humbleness. We need to be washed to experience vulnerability. We need to be washed to come to terms with who we are, with our own weaknesses and whatever shame we might carry, especially concerning our bodies.
We need to be washed. And today we have an opportunity to be washed, ready to go forward into the rest of Holy Week.
Be washed my friends.
When you are on Harju Hill, you get your first glimpse of one of the most beautiful sights in Tallinn – Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
The Cathedral was open for people to go into, which we did, but pictures are not allowed. All I can say is that it is gorgeous inside. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, Orthodox cathedrals do a great job of making a place feel holy. A friend of mine told me that you never feel alone in an Orthodox church – there are icons all over the place and paintings of saints and so much more. You go and kiss some, you visit with others, just as you would with a family member. In a sense this is a physical representation of the community of saints.
Since I can’t show you what the inside looks like, you’ll have to live with pictures from the outside.
In case you are wondering, Alexander Nevsky is quite the fascinating historical figure. It is well worth reading his history. Here’s the short version in one sentence from Wikipedia:
Popular polls rank Alexander Nevsky as the greatest Russian hero in history.
That’s quite an honor!
Regardless, the cathedral that bears his name here in Tallinn is beautiful.
After I walked through Vermanes Garden, I headed over to Nativity Cathedral.
The structure is large and sits in a park, so there is little else around it, except for trees. Unfortunately, photography inside of the cathedral is prohibited. Let’s just say that like most old Orthodox cathedrals, it is ornate, beautiful, and focuses your attention heaven-ward. Another little fun fact about the cathedral from the tourist map that I had: “The construction of this cathedral was completed in 1884. During Soviet times, it was converted into a planetarium and cafeteria called ‘God’s ear.’ It has since been transformed into a fancy golden masterpiece for worshippers and visitors alike.
The cathedral is the Orthodox cathedral.
It’s very ornate and beautiful.
When you walk into the cathedral, your head immediately looks up when you go inside. The cathedral gives you a natural need to look towards heaven and to God.
And as a good Orthodox cathedral, there are plenty of icons and images and other religious items – all designed to remind the visitor of the holy.
There are saints…
and other items
The cathedral was a gorgeous reminder of God’s presence in a secular society.