The Stranniki (Russian for Runaways or Wanderers) are the strong Pomorsky Old Believers who rejected prayers for Tsar Peter and all government papers (identification, passports, money, etc). They would not wear clothing contrary to Old Orthodox Russia, nor eat with those of contrary Faith and Practice. Keeping themselves separate from the antichrist society they went far into the Siberian wilderness. This blog is about these people and my effort to conform my life to theirs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

‘Spiritual’ Marriage

Harvard Theological Studies, X, Russian Dissenters,
The Bezpopovtsy, The Stranniki, Pages 160, 2-3

...the [Stranniki] initiates are under a vow themselves to adopt the wandering life before they die. In old age or in case of sickness felt to be mortal they retire into a wood, and there live till death overtakes them. The excuse for their disappearance from the ranks of society is usually that they have set off on a pilgrimage. ...The sick person is withal removed to a neighboring house or into a hiding place where he spends his time ‘in concealment and salutary fear,’ till presently he is received, baptized and installed a ‘perfect’ Stranniki. His vocation is then complete.

The dead are buried in obscure places, in a fest, a field; children often under ploughland or in kitchen-gardens. A Stranniki’s grave is unrecognizable, for no mound ever marks it...

Ivanovski [an untrustworthy New-Rite author] states, ...Beginning with Euthymius, everyone on of their leaders or elders kept a mistress... But it is possible that the ‘mistress’ of Eitheymius was a ‘spiritual’ wife, a relationship common though often reprobated in the Early Church from the time of St. Paul onwards for about four centuries. The Stranniki certainly regarded marriages contracted before a Nikonian or orthodox priest as mere fornication...

Such a relationship led to grave scandals in the Early Church: ...The institution was plainly incompatible with the idea of religious vagabondage, of inhabiting neither city nor village; and yet the conditions of human life had to be met, and in the sixties of the last century [that is the 19th century] the followers of Euthymius found themselves suddenly compelled to make their decision, whether or no a Strannik after initiation could or could not continue to lead a family life.

A convert, Nicholas Ignatiev Kosatkin in the Government of Novgorod, had fallen sick and sought ‘perfection’ ere death should overtake him. But in making his confession prior to being baptized he avowed no intention of parting from his wife, and even declared he would abandon the sect if its statues and if scripture were so interpreted. Nevertheless the prior or spiritual authority, deputed to ‘receive’ him, admitted him to baptism, because he was so grievously ill, and so he became a full member of the sect. Then he recovered after all, but refused to abandon his wife and children, nay, begat a new child. Thenceforth he began a propaganda in favor of marriage in the sect.

He found an ally in one Miron Vasilev, and it was resolved by most of the society under their guidance that marriage was allowable, along with the two other sacraments of baptism and penance, until the second advent - a sensible conclusion. Forthwith members who were married before they joined the sect began to live together again, where they had not done so all along. There was a minority however that held out against marriage, and met the argument that the early Chrisitans allowed it with the counter agerment that these only fled into the desert to escape persecution and hoped to return when the persecution was ended, whereas they, the Stranniki, had fled into the desert for good and ever, never meaning to return and live in an unregenerate world. In view of Uzov’s account of the sect one suspects that Ivanovski somewhat over-generalizes and accepts as valid and significant for the entire sect of Stranniki events and quarrels and decision that only really concerned a section of it.

There were other questions also which led to dissensions in the society, for example the trivial one whether a Strannik should carry in his pocket coins that bore the stamp of Antichrist. Euthymius had avoided this problem but one of his stricter followers Vasili Petrov raised it, and an insignificant minority followed him in his objection to money, and were known as the ‘moneyless’ ones. They got over the practical inconvenience by getting novices to carry money for them and make their disbursements...