Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 23

Seated woman (Olga) - Pablo Picasso
Seated Woman (Olga), Pablo Picasso

The news that Anna Karenina has left her husband, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Karenin, and is now living with Count Vronsky is now commonly known. The pair have spent a "honeymoon" in Italy and are passing through Petersburg. Anna has begun to deeply miss her son, Seroyzha. In hopes of being granted permission to visit him, see sends a letter of appeal to Karenin's close friend, The Countess Lydia Ivanovna, who is now managing all of Karenin's household affairs.

"Madame La Comtesse --
The Christian feelings with which your heart is filled give me the, I feel, unpardonable boldness to write to you. I am miserable at being separated from my son. I entreat permission to see him once before my departure. Forgive me for recalling myself to your memory. I apply to you and not to Aleksey Aleksandrovich simply because I do not wish to cause that generous man to suffer in remembering me. Knowing your friendship for him, I know you will understand me. Could you send Seryozha to me, or should I come to the house at some fixed hour, or will you let me know when and where I could see him away from home? I do not anticipate a refusal, knowing the magnanimity of him with whom it rests. You cannot conceive the craving I have to see my son, and so cannot conceive the gratitude your help will arouse in me.
                                                                                                                               Anna "                                                                                                                            
Everything in this letter exasperated Countess Lydia Ivanovna; its contents and the allusion to magnanimity, and especially what seemed to her its free and easy tone.
"Say that there is no answer," said Countess Lydia Ivanovna, and immediately opening her blotting pad, she wrote to Aleksey Alexandrovich that she hoped to see him at one o'clock at the levee.
"I must talk with you of a grave and painful subject. There we will arrange where to meet. Best of all at my house, where I will have your tea ready. Urgent. He sends a cross, but He sends the strength to bear it. " she added, so as to prepare him somewhat.


He sends a cross, but He sends the strength to bear it.

The Countess Lydia Ivanovna misuses Scripture here. She hopes to ease Karenin's conscience and conform his thoughts to her own agenda. She desires that Seryozha should never see his mother again.

The idea of "bearing one's cross" come from the Gospel of Luke.
23 And [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Luke 9:23-24
The promise that God will not put on us more than we can bear is from 1 Corinthians.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)


  1. The Luke 9 passage is a tough one. If looked at as pre-New Covenant, then it is a call to works and perfection. If it is a New Covenant teaching, then it must be read in light of John 15 and the letter to the Galatians. In both of those, we see that it is Christ's own sacrifice and his bearing fruit in us that is effective, so our bearing a cross would mean that it is Christ actually who bears it because he lives in us.

    I think one thing is certain, though, and that is that we are not to bear a cross as some sort of effort to show we follow him. Instead, we bear witness to belonging to Jesus by abiding in him. That way his completed suffering and sacrifice on our behalf is seen as a blessing and as God's complete grace in us now.

    Thanks for helping me think on these things today, Adriana.


    1. I was raised to view the greater portion of the four Gospels as pre-New Covenant teachings. The more I look into it, the less sure I am about that view. Regardless, I agree with you that it is Christ who actually bears our cross in us.

      Tolstoy would have fallen squarely in the "Luke 9=New Covenant" camp. However he went even further. He was a Christian anarchist who believed that Paul played a role in the Church's "deviation" from the teachings of Jesus.

      Here is a quote from a booklet he wrote called "Church and State":

      "...since Christ's time, and down to ours, we find a deviation of doctrine from the foundations laid by Christ.

      This deviation begins at the time of the apostles, especially with that lover of teaching, Paul: and the wider Christianity extends, the more it deviates and appropriates the methods of that very external worship and dogmatism the denial of which was so positively expressed by Christ."

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