Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 819 pages of information about Russia.

CHAPTER IV

THE VILLAGE PRIEST

Priests’ Names—­Clerical Marriages—­The White and the Black Clergy—­Why the People do not Respect the Parish Priests—­History of the White Clergy—­The Parish Priest and the Protestant Pastor—­In What Sense the Russian People are Religious—­Icons—­The Clergy and Popular Education—­Ecclesiastical Reform—­Premonitory Symptoms of Change—­Two Typical Specimens of the Parochial Clergy of the Present Day.

In formal introductions it is customary to pronounce in a more or less inaudible voice the names of the two persons introduced.  Circumstances compel me in the present case to depart from received custom.  The truth is, I do not know the names of the two people whom I wish to bring together!  The reader who knows his own name will readily pardon one-half of my ignorance, but he may naturally expect that I should know the name of a man with whom I profess to be acquainted, and with whom I daily held long conversations during a period of several months.  Strange as it may seem, I do not.  During all the time of my sojourn in Ivanofka I never heard him addressed or spoken of otherwise than as “Batushka.”  Now “Batushka” is not a name at all.  It is simply the diminutive form of an obsolete word meaning “father,” and is usually applied to all village priests.  The ushka is a common diminutive termination, and the root Bat is evidently the same as that which appears in the Latin pater.

Though I do not happen to know what Batushka’s family name was, I can communicate two curious facts concerning it:  he had not possessed it in his childhood, and it was not the same as his father’s.

The reader whose intuitive powers have been preternaturally sharpened by a long course of sensation novels will probably leap to the conclusion that Batushka was a mysterious individual, very different from what he seemed—­either the illegitimate son of some great personage, or a man of high birth who had committed some great sin, and who now sought oblivion and expiation in the humble duties of a parish priest.  Let me dispel at once all delusions of this kind.  Batushka was actually as well as legally the legitimate son of an ordinary parish priest, who was still living, about twenty miles off, and for many generations all his paternal and maternal ancestors, male and female, had belonged to the priestly caste.  He was thus a Levite of the purest water, and thoroughly Levitical in his character.  Though he knew by experience something about the weakness of the flesh, he had never committed any sins of the heroic kind, and had no reason to conceal his origin.  The curious facts above stated were simply the result of a peculiar custom which exists among the Russian clergy.  According to this custom, when a boy enters the seminary he receives from the Bishop a new family name.  The name may be Bogoslafski, from a word signifying “Theology,” or Bogolubof, “the love

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook