In Hope

If you were given a year to spend in any way you wish, what would you do?

To be given a year to spend as one chooses is clearly an unreasonable expectation, but for the sake of hypothetical situations I would say that I would spend that time around Russia's monasteries, helping rebuild those that a rise in awareness is reconstructing from the dirty and broken ruins of a Soviet epoch that, for example, even came to use some of Russia's churches as warehouses. And so now, across the nation, churches, monasteries, chapels are being shaken by the hands and warmed by the breaths of clergymen and common folk alike, communally rebuilding both a physical structure and their faith.

There was a day this past summer while I was staying with my grandfather in the Russian town of Lesnoy that I traveled with my mom to visit the female monastery at Jotkov. It was founded at the beginning of the 14th century, but in 1932 the government proceeded to strip the central church of all its marble and silver fixtures, and turned the grounds into a tractor repair shop. The cemetery was destroyed, the bell tower torn down, and the ruins slowly overgrew with bushes from within. Only in 1992 did the monastery begin slowly coming to life and functioning again.

Surprisingly, most of the reconstruction, including the...

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