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Статья

‘Cast Thy Burden upon the Lord, and He Shall Sustain Thee’: Consolatory Letter Practices at the Muscovy Tsar’s Court in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century

Preobrazhenskaya A.

Consolation in Orthodox Christianity, tightly bound with the idea of death, was traditionally included within the scope of religious and church practices, and constituted a distinct consolatory discourse. Preachers and parish priests consoled relatives of deceased persons with their sermons, quoting verses from the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 9.24, Phil 1.23, Jn 11.25, etc.), and by engaging laity in oral consolation discourses in private conversations. Ecclesiastic authorities created consolatory epistles1 that functioned as a written substitute for spoken dialogue and were addressed to tzars and princes, sometimes to fellow clergymen, and in later periods — to laity. However, consolatory discourse was not solely a verbal practice, though the verbal aspect constituted a large part of it. In general, consolation encompassed icons (icons depicting the Virgin Mary, mainly of the Eleusa type, Ἐλεούσα), accompanying liturgical texts (kondaks, acathistoses, troparions), and corresponding parts of the Old and New Testaments, read during liturgies and included in sermons and literature. In the canons and decrees of the Sixth Ecumenical Council it was stated that, ‘Depiction is inseparable from the Gospel, and vice versa the Gospel is iconic […] What is communicated by a word through hearing, iconography shows silently, through depiction.’2 The verbal part of the discourse being the most powerful and the most commonly used was built upon three principal biblical figures and associated motifs: God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary. By referring to ‘God the Father’, the inevitability of death and its necessity in accordance with the divine plan was explained; Jesus Christ was referred as an example of a positive aspect of death for a faithful Christian; and the Virgin Mary was probably the most important figure for Orthodox consolation, symbolizing protection and comfort.