Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saintly Saturday: St. Artemius of Verkola

Today marks the feast of one of the more intriguing stories that I have had the privilege of writing about on this blog — the feast of the Holy Righteous Artemius of Verkola. He was born in 1532 in the village of Dvina Verkola. As a twelve-year old child, he and his father were caught by surprise by a fast moving thunderstorm out in the fields. He fell dead as a massive thunder burst broke right over their heads. Despite being a pious, courageous and virtuous child, everyone interpreted the death as a sign of God’s judgment. Therefore, the body was left in a pine forest without burial.

Several years later, a villager witnessed a light shining over where the body lay in the forest. When people went to investigate, the body of St. Artemius was incorrupt (it had not decayed). The holy relics were taken into the Church of St. Nicholas in 1577 where they were found to be a source of healing. A monastery was later built in the village which came to be known as Verkola.

Ironically, the most tragic part of the Saint’s story didn’t happen in his life, but at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1918 the Communists chopped the incorrupt body of St. Artemius into bits and threw the remains down a well.

Although this inspires is a great back story for a megadungeon quest (a kind of anti-Eye and Hand of Vecna kinda thing) that sees a party searching for the various remains of a saint that was thrown down the well and then skattered across various parts of the dungeon, this story puts me more in a sci-fi frame of mind.

Communism did its best for two generations to wipe out the Orthodox Church. Indeed, the Synaxarion (list of saints) includes many martyrs murdered by the Bolsheviks.

The Communist regime of Russia fell in 1991. Last year, just twenty years after (and in commemoration of those twenty years), the Church of Russia put together the following:

It is a reminder to all of those science fiction writers out there that despite the discovery of life on other planets, giant leaps in scientific understanding and a whole host of other excuses used to rid their fantasy worlds of Christianity that Christ said these words:

...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. — Matthew 16:18

If systematic eradication for two generations (something that the Church has endured on multiple occasions, by the way) failed to destroy Her, the Church is going to survive whatever science can throw at Her. Indeed, since God created outer space and everything in it (including any alien species — especially any with funny foreheads), the Church will embrace what ever it is that humanity finds out there.

Space will become the new desert. Monastics will build monasteries in the remote areas of space (and I secretly hope that they carve churches on the interior of asteroids) and conquer the new Wilderness for Civilization.

Our modern world has replaced the faerie and the monster with the alien as its stand-in for our cultural demons (see the transformation of vampire from villain to protagonist in my life-time). Thus, a science fiction campaign is just as capable of exploring the (Christian) Civilization vs. (Demonic) Wilderness theme as is the classic D&D campaign. Things get only more interesting when the alien (demon) is us.


  1. "and I secretly hope that they carve churches on the interior of asteroids"

    That would be very neat. :)

  2. I read a (now forgotten) short story years ago in which neo-Samurai were the rulers in space, due to their self-discipline and their discipline of others. Monastic orders in space are an excellent alternative... and where better to escape our worldly societies?

  3. Glad to see you back! Hope all is well now with you and your family.