It was in front of me and I could only stare and mumble, “Thank you.” Hardly the grateful gesture I wanted to give to the Russian Orthodox priest proudly standing before after he’d given me his gift. In May, 1992 this rather large Russian Orthodox priest gave me that gift of a phonograph record commemorating the 1,000th year of baptism in Russia.
But I couldn’t take my eyes off of the cover of the phonograph record he had given me as a token of his respect to me for my lecture on free agency and enterprise. The Berlin Wall had fallen, Gorbachev had instituted a radical restructuring (perestroika) and openness (glasnost). As part of this awakening in the USSR I had been invited by the recently retired Deputy Minister of Higher Education to speak some of the leading new businessmen and women in Moscow, Russia.
To hold that phonograph record and see the painting on the front left me speechless.
“Who painted this,” I asked him.
“A great painter for our church about 1900; Mikhail Nestorov who painted so much canvases of faith,” he smiled so broadly as our translator proclaimed the history. “His Holy Rus is a favorite of all of us and it hangs today in the Russian Gallery in Leningrad.”
“What does it depict?”
“Our Savior visiting ancient Russia or Rus.” The translator didn’t wait for the priest to provide the history. “We all know this story.”
“Tell me, Igor,” I asked quietly, “and please ask him where this story came from.”
Igor wanted to tell me, but obliged and asked the priest. They let me know Nesterov based his painting upon an ancient Russian folk tale about how Jesus came to visit the Russian people after his resurrection.
“Who are the haloed visitors behind him?”
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