I'm in the process of reading a new book out written by Jim Forest called 'The Ressurection of the church in Albania - Voices of Orthodox Christians.'
As you know, during communisim Albania prided itself as being the only 'completely athiestic county' in the world. There was not one church, synagogue, or mosque left open in the entire country.
I just finished a story about two sisters in Korca that kept the church alive by having a secret priest come in the middle of the night to their home to serve Liturgy. What they would do on Pascha was listen to the radio which was broadcasting the Liturgy from Greece (if they had been caught they could have been arrested). As a group, they would put the Phrosphora and wine on top of the Radio and when the Liturgy was finished they would partake of Holy Communion! That story really touched me because there is no doubt in my mind that, through Gods love and mercy, the bread and wine had truly become His flesh and blood as much as it had in the Greek Church that was bradcasting the Liturgy. The faith and love was already there and the words came from the radio.
It made me remember some of the other stories I have heard about how Orthodox Catholics reconciled their faith and practices in the midst of such persecution. It seems that no matter what the government did they found a way around it. God, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, showed them the way. And thank God for the Babas he provided who kept the church alive to provide the Sacraments to the faithful in so many ways. So many wonderful stories come to mind -
1) When someone in the family was married in the 'marriage palace' (which was required by law). The couple would give the wedding rings to Baba. Baba (who had nothing to lose) would take the rings to church and have the priest say the entire marriage ceremony over the rings and Bless them. The rings were then returned to the couple and it was a way to reconcile a civil ceremony (required by law) with a secret religious ceremony.
2) When some one died they would of course have the state (communist) funeral. Baba would wait until everyone left the grave site. She would then scoop up a container of dirt from the grave. Take it to te priest and have the funeral service read over it. She would then take the dirt back to the grave and sprinkle it on top along with her own prayers.
There is no doubt in my mind that these three Sacraments I have mentioned, though performed in an unorthodox manner, were as valid as any performed in the finest Cathedrals of the country.
Guess its one of the reasons I kind of go bonkers when I hear about so many westerners who want to bring Jesus to these people who have suffered so much in His Name. Or when western Christians moan and groan about how much they had to suffer under communism and insinuate that the Orthodox had it better because they were all KGB agents and were spared the persecution. All religions suffered under communism. But no religion suffered longer or more than these beautiful Orthodox Catholics like Marika and her sister Demetra along with their mother I started to tell you about in the beginning of this post.
OH LORD. SAVE THY PEOPLE AND BLESS THINE INHERITANCE.
GRANT VICTORY TO THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS OVER THEIR ADVERSERIES.
AND, BY VIRTUE OF THY CROSS, PROTECT THINE INHERITANCE!