Cover letter for the Fall 2003 issue of In Communion:
It may be the most familiar of all icons: the Vladimir Mother of God. The Church regards this as one of the icons actually painted by the hand of St. Luke. The original is kept in a bullet-proof glass case in Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery. Even in a museum setting, it inspires prayer.
The copy reproduced at the left -- a lacquered paper print mounted on a thin piece of dark wood -- has its own special history. It was a gift to OPF founder Mariquita Platov when she visited Russia in 1928. Quita -- a young woman fresh out of college -- had decided to visit the Soviet Union. It was then only a decade since the Revolution. The smoke from civil war was still in the air. Stalin was fully in charge. A nightmare time was underway in which Christians were suffering the worst persecution of the past two thousand years.
Quita was deeply touched by the wordless message of the icon: Christ embracing his mother; his mother supporting her son while drawing our attention to him; Christ's bare feet -- feet that walked on the same troubled world that we stand upon; the climate of love. Even in a copy, one can sense the history of Russia in the icon's battered surface.
Until that trip, Quita had given very little thought to Orthodox Christianity. What most impressed her were not the Communist posters promising an earthly paradise but rather the way suffering believers gathered in any church that was still open, and the intensity with which they prayed. Her experience of Christianity in Stalin's Russia marked the beginning of her journey to Orthodoxy. She was chrismated in New York City ten years later. (The icon was Quita's gift to me when I was chrismated in 1988, not long before she asked me to serve as OPF secretary. For more of the story of OPF's history, see the article "Learning to be Peacemakers" that starts on page 9 of the latest In Communion.)
It seems appropriate that this issue also includes an article about a Russian whose family was driven to the West by the Revolution. Metropolitan Anthony was one of the Church's most remarkable bishops of recent times. An influence in shaping the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, he wanted us to be not pacifists but "men and women of peace." You will see what he meant by this distinction in the article that starts on the first page.
While writing, let me once again appeal for your help to keep the Orthodox Peace Fellowship going. Subscription payments alone are not enough. Especially now that we have a staff person on each side of the Atlantic, we need to substantially enlarge our base of support. Please send a donation. There is already a community of donors who make monthly or quarterly donations. Might you join that core group? Without their help, OPF would have achieved much less. Could you manage 15 euros a month? Or 20? It would make such an enormous difference in our capacity to serve the Church.
Please help us take the next step forward.
in Christ's peace,
Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary