The Life of St. Theodosius teaches us that the Russian Orthodox Church had nearly impossible standards for the “Ideal Christian.” According to the Chronicles, St. Theodosius–also known as Feodosii–was a child whose love for God led him to withstand a life of social exclusion and horrible abuse from his mother. Feodosii’s mother continuously bought him nice clothes, but he always gave them away to the poor, preferring not to exhibit his own wealth in order to be closer to God. His mother also beat him over and over again as he tried to bake loaves for the church or run away to learn more about God, but Feodosii’s faith remained steadfast. Finally, his total devotion to God, exhibited by his lonely, pained life, led the monks to accept him into their monastery.
This story teaches that the “Ideal Christian” should retain his faith in God no matter the physical, mental, or emotional costs. But even more drastically, it teaches that these losses and pains lead to a better relationship with God than a happier, more balanced life might. Feodosii’s adamant refusal to wear nice clothes or to fight back against his abusive mother were signs of his complete devotion to God. Even once he enters the monastery, Feodosii’s life is still hapless: “Thus he humbled himself by self-denial in every way and tormented his body with labors and abstinence so that the venerable Antonji and great Nikon marveled at his meekness and submissiveness and at such virtue, steadfastness, and good cheer  a youth” (“The Life of St. Theodosius”). Here, we see that the life of a monk–the life of one who is closest to God–is filled with physical pain, denial of all pleasures, and submissiveness of character.
If the Russian Orthodox Church venerated St. Theodosius lifestyle, then did it expect the same type of character from all its followers? In class today, we discussed how the law code worked both to enforce Christianity and to build up a strong, structured civilization. While the ideals of self-denial and submissiveness which St. Theodosius exhibited might also have helped create a civilization of loyal, submissive citizens, these characteristics might also inhibit cultural advancements because they stunt creative thinking and personal desires. I wonder if such a strict, painful lifestyle was really beneficial–let alone attainable–to Rus civilization at this time.