Friday, January 25, 2013

"Student's Day" (Russia)

Today is a popular holiday in Russia (i.e., not an official public holiday) and is celebrated two different ways depending on who you ask; or more precisely, on which party you attend. This is “Student’s Day” or “St. Tatiana’s Day” and no matter how one observes the day (or with whom), the feast remembering a christian martyr is oddly coupled with a landmark in education.

Think of the day as the last day of finals exams (that is probably enough to explain the reason to party). Students in the Universities have been taking exams since the first of the year, and now they are done! Interestingly, the day falls on the birthday of the University of Moscow, so toss that into the mix. This is the largest and oldest educational center in the country, founded in 1755. The celebrations actually started as “The Day of Moscow University,” a simple acknowledgement that education was accessible to all countrymen.

Years later, the Russian Orthodox Church built the Church of Saint Tatiana on the campus and declared St. Tatiana as the patron saint of education. St. Tatiana (according to the Orthodox Church) was the daughter of a wealthy family who found spiritual matters more significant than earthly ones, so she pursued God through prayer and by helping others, including visiting the poor and the sick. Her death came by the hands of leaders who were more compromising in their spirituality, under an emperor who often vacillated between Christ, Apollo, Abraham and Orpheus.

Here’s a great place to ask a meaningful question: “so what?”

Permit me to venture toward an answer through another set of questions: What does it mean to be a human being and what kind of person do you wish to become? What do you need to learn and how are you going to do it?

First glance makes it seem as if there is really no connection between spirituality and education, but a closer look is revealing. A closer look demonstrates the very point to be made: one is bettered by education, by looking closer. One might consider St. Tatiana the model student in that she evaluated who she was, what she had, where she was and where she was headed (in every sense of the word) and found a choice to be made. She chose to pursue God and in so doing actually impacted culture in a way that mere classroom learning could not prepare. She made a university of her spirituality. Her education (if we can be so bold to call it that) drove her made decisions backed by conviction that led to action.

What kind of person would we be if we did not explore our world, including the spiritual realm?

Here I return to my questions, adding another approach: in what ways have you explored what it means to be human and what kind of person do you wish to be? What do you need to learn and how are you going to learn it?

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