This section is critical to the entire storyline, plot, and theme. This is the introduction of the Orthodox church in Wien, the Ecclesia. We get a description followed by an introduction. An even more important introduction will happen tomorrow.
Aksinya’s uncle and aunt took them to an Orthodox church on Sunday morning. It was the Orthodox Ecclesia close to Sacré Coeur and her house. The Ecclesia was in an old building that had not begun as a church at all. The exterior was dark aged stone. It was a low building with a roof that shot upwards in a graceful arch that lifted to a high Saxon styled point near the back. The interior was very luxurious but filled with items that were obviously not part of the original building or of the same style. The pieces appeared as though they had come from many different places, but they were all beautiful. The font was silver and the communion patens and cups gold. The large cross at the back was a wonderful sculpture with gold and silver highlights. The icons were the most perfect ones Aksinya had ever seen, and she had seen many. Natalya stared in awe. They were a little late and sat at the back. An older priest, a young priest, and a deacon took care of the very long communion service. It was in Greek and Russian and exactly what Aksinya and Natalya were used to.
The moment Aksinya entered the church, the Ecclesia, she felt nauseous. She had to avert her eyes from the crucifixes and crosses. Her mother’s crucifix next to her skin burned her. She was miserable. It was the worse since she went first to the chapel. Natalya clasped Aksinya’s hand the entire time. When they went forward for communion, Natalya held a handkerchief for Aksinya. She almost vomited when she was given the mixture of bread and wine. She held it down only by sheer willpower. Still, Aksinya was happy with herself. She would fight the demon in this small way. She would regain some control over her life. She promised herself, she would not be dragged again and again into sin. She would do this.
At the end of the service, the Freiherr introduced the Priests to her, “Father Makar.” The Freiherr stumbled over the simple Russian pronunciation. Father Makar was a short man with a very calm face. His smile pressed through his full beard and even touched Aksinya’s heart. The Freiherr continued, “This is the Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna.”
Father Makar put his hands together, “We heard that you were in the city, Countess. We are very pleased to greet you in our Ecclesia.”
As Aksinya's aunt and uncle promised, they take her to the Orthodox church in Wien. I showed you the building and indicated how wealthy the congregation is. You can guess why it is so wealthy. The congregation is made up of the wealthy who early have escaped the fighting in Russia.
Aksinya's reaction to the Ecclesia is important too. It isn't much different than her reaction to the Catholic chapel. I'm not trying to draw lines between or compare the Catholic and Orthodox churches, in fact, you will find they are broadly equal in their goodness and badness in this novel. Aksinya's problem isn't a problem of denomination, but a problem with God.
We meet Father Makar. We will learn more about him tomorrow.