Friday, December 31, 2010

St. Sebastian the Martyr

Joyous feast! St. Sebastian was one of the more widely venerated martyrs of the Roman Empire from the period prior to its conversion to Orthodoxy. A native of what today is France, St. Sebastian was educated in Milan and later rose to serve as the commander of the Praetorian Guard. The Emperor Diocletian loved him and did not know of his Christian faith, only later discovering it and martyring him when he refused to abandon it. More on his life can be found here. May his blessings and prayers be with us all!

Quote of the Day: St. Irenaeus of Lyons

The glory of God is in man fully alive.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Quote of the Day: St. Ignatius of Antioch

It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is then one Teacher, who spake and it was done; while even those things which He did in silence are worthy of the Father. He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognised by his silence. There is nothing which is hid from God, but our very secrets are near to Him. Let us therefore do all things as those who have Him dwelling in us, that we may be His temples...

Nativity Services Disrupted in Turkish-Occupied Cyprus

The Turkish Cypriot regime occupying the northern third of the island has been criticized in the European Union for disrupting the celebrations on new style Nativity in one of the few remaining Cypriot Orthodox churches in the north of the island permitted to hold services. More here.

Bulgarian Orthodox Protest Restoring Apollo Statue

Metropolitan Joannicius of Sliven of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is strongly protesting the proposal of authorities in the seaside town of Sozopol to restore a 13-meter high statue of the pagan god Apollo that used to stand at the entrance to the town's harbor. The town was the site of the rediscovery of relics of St. John the Baptist over the summer, but is now the center of a controversy over Apollo's statue, which the town's mayor thinks will resemble the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro. More here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Russian Orthodox Diocesan Assembly in Sydney

Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, presided over the recent assembly of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand in Sydney in his capacity as the diocese's ruling hierarch. More here.

'Orthodox' Beer Featured in Porn Flick

A beer partially owned by the Cypriot Orthodox Church has been featured in a pornographic movie, apparently without the approval of the Church's representatives on the company's board. More here.

Bulgaria Fails to Extradite Macedonian Archbishop

The Bulgarian authorities have yet to confirm whether they will extradite Archbishop Jovan VI (Vranisovski) of Ohrid of the Serbian Orthodox Church to Macedonia for trial on trumped up charges. More here.

Quote of the Day: St. Ignatius of Antioch

The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognized by their conduct.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Session of Russian Orthodox Holy Synod

At its recent session the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church accepted the retirement of Metropolitan Chrysostom of Vilnius and Lithuania and elected in his place Archbishop Innocent (Vasilyev) of Korsun as Archbishop of Vilnius. Bishop Nestor (Sirotenko) of Caffa was then elected Bishop of Korsun with responsibility for the Western European diocese. Inside Russia Bishop Daniil of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was elected Bishop of Arkhangelsk and Archimandrite Tikhon (Dorovskikh) was made Bishop-elect of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Archpriest Aleksandr Osokin was made Bishop-elect of Karaganda, Kazakhstan's newest diocese.

In other appointments Bishop Petr of Hîncesti, auxiliary to Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and Moldova, was elected Bishop of Ungeni and Archimandrite Nikodim (Vulpe) was elected Bishop of Edineţ and Briceni (another diocese of the Orthodox Church in Bessarabia).

And lastly, a friend of mine and my confessor during my months in Nizhniy Novgorod, Archpriest Igor Pchelintsev of St. Alexander of the Neva's Cathedral, has been transferred to the patriarchal Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem to serve the dependency of St. Tabitha's Church in Jaffa, Israel.

The full report on the Holy Synod session can be found here.

Quote of the Day: St. Basil the Great

The bread which you use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Progression of a Convert"

I just discovered this cartoon about the progression of converts on a Roman Catholic blog and thought it was hilarious, sad, and so true all at the same time. I feel like there should be a seventh state though (resignation perhaps? ;-) ).

University Exams in Egypt Rescheduled

The Supreme Council of Universities in Egypt has heard the complaints of the Coptic Orthodox Church concerning the scheduling of university exams immediately after the Nativity and has mandated that universities which failed to follow national guidelines advising against such scheduling to reschedule their exams so as not to conflict with Coptic Orthodox holiday celebrations. More here.

Bishop Teodosije Enthroned in Prizren

The newly elected Bishop Teodosije (Sibalic) of Raska and Prizren of the Serbian Orthodox Church was enthroned today by Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovich) of Pech in Prizren's Cathedral of St. George. Prior to his election to shepherd the Diocese of Kosovo and Metohija Bishop Teodosije had served as abbot of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo and as the diocesan auxiliary as Bishop of Lipljan. More here.

Sunday in Edmonton

I had the great blessing of worshiping with other Canadian Orthodox Christians here in Edmonton this Sunday of the Forefathers, among them Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) of Ottawa of the Canadian Orthodox Church (OCA). Vladyka Seraphim didn't serve and the commemoration of the diocesan hierarchs was very strangely done (the metropolitan followed by the diocesan auxiliary, and lastly Archbishop Seraphim), but it was still a pleasure to see him. Please continue to remember him and his accusers in your prayers as the investigation into the latter's allegations continues.

President al-Assad Congratulates Orthodox on Feast Day

On new style Nativity this year Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of Antioch was visited by a representative of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who sent him congratulations and greetings on the occasion of the feast. More here.

Quote of the Day: St. Ephraim of Syria

I Ephrem am dying and writing my testament,
To be a witness for the pupils who come after me:
Be constantly praying, day and night;
As a ploughman who ploughs again and again,
Whose work is admirable.
Do not be like the lazy ones in whose fields thorns grow.
Be constantly praying, for he who adores prayer
Will find help in both worlds.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"An Englishman in Orthodoxy"

Some excellent thoughts on Orthodoxy and ethnicity by Bishop Porfirije of Jegar of the Serbian Orthodox Church can be found here.

Muted Christmas Celebrations in Kerala

Celbrations for new style Nativity in Kerala are somewhat muted this year due to the recent death of the Indian state's chief minister, whose funeral cortege passed through predominantly Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic central Kerala on the eve of the holiday. More here.

St. Herman of Alaska

Joyous feast!!! St. Herman was one of the first people to welcome me to the Church. The day I became a catechumen I bought his icon and found out later that it had also been his feast day. Thank God I didn't end up taking his name at my baptism :-), but I still feel close to him and ask him for his prayers in all things. May his protection be with us all! An account of his life can be found here.

Constantinople's 'Iron Church' to be Restored

The former seat of the Bulgarian Orthodox exarchs in Constantinople, the 'Iron Church' of St. Stephen, is to be repaired with substantial assistance from the Turkish government. The church served as the first cathedra of the Bulgarian Orthodox first hierarchs when the Church of Bulgaria regained her autocephaly from the Greek-controlled Ecumenical Patriarchate, which had used its influence at the Ottoman court to have it suppressed (as they also had the independent Churches of Ohrid and Serbia abolished). More here.

Macedonia Upholds Church Calendar

The schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church, the largest Orthodox Church in the Republic of Macedonia, has refused to switch to the Gregorian calendar as many Orthodox (constituting a majority of the Local Orthodox Churches, but a minority of the world's Orthodox Christians) have done and will continue to celebrate the feast of the Lord's Nativity on the traditional date (currently 7 January on the Western calendar). More here.

Quote of the Day: St. Basil the Great

Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Quote of the Day: St. Isaac of Nineveh

There is no sin which cannot be pardoned except that one which lacks repentance, and there is no gift which is not augmented save that which remains without acknowledgement. For the portion of the fool is small in his eyes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"I'll Fly Away, O Glory, I'll Fly Away..."

As of tomorrow I'll be taking off for my winter holidays. Some people escape to the comfort of warmer climates this time of year, but I've chosen to celebrate winter in all its bleak, frozen darkness and will instead be headed to northern Alberta and the Midwest :-).

In the meantime the quotes of the day as well as the feast and saints' days will post as they're scheduled, but unless something catches my eye on an airport television screen or comes to me by word of mouth during my New Year's pilgrimage to the "Fourth Rome" (and a fifth there shall not be! ;-) ), I won't be posting until after I've returned from my travels on 2 January.

I wish everyone on the Gregorian calendar a merry Christmas, Westerners throughout the world a happy New Year, and all the Orthodox on the church calendar a saving last few days of the Prophets' Fast! Your prayers as I travel - you are in mine.

Pictured are Edmonton (upper right) and the countryside near the Fourth Rome (lower left), around this time of year. Brrr!

Iraqi Christians to Petition for Autonomous Assyrian Province

Leaders of sixteen Iraqi Christian parties have met in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan to prepare a petition to the Iraqi government for the creation of an autonomous Assyrian province on the territory of two largely Assyrian districts on the plains of Nineveh in the heart of ancient Assyria in northern Iraq.

Long after their empire ceased to exist Assyrians continued to live in their heartlands on the plains and in the mountains of what today are northern Iraq, western Iran, southeastern Turkey, and northeastern Syria. Along with the Armenians the Assyrians suffered the first modern genocide at the hands of the Turks and the Kurds in the early 1900s during World War I as payback for their support for invading Russian armies, which they had hoped would liberate their homeland from Arab Muslim rule for the first time in over a millennium. Between 500,000 and 750,000 Assyrians were murdered in the Genocide, which eventually forced most into the Diaspora, among them the patriarch of the Church of the East (who now resides in the Chicago area). More information on the national tragedy of the Seyfo, the Assyrian Genocide, can be found here.

More on the petition and the prospects for an Assyrian province can be found here.

Pictured is the memorial to the Assyrian Genocide in Kiev, Ukraine.

South Ossetian Bishop on Leave

According to the website of the Synod in Resistance of the Greek Orthodox Church Bishop George of Alania, the only Orthodox Christian hierarch caring for the Orthodox faithful in South Ossetia due to the tensions between the Churches of Russia and Georgia over their canonical status, is on a year's leave of absence from his diocese due to health issues. In the meantime Bishop Ambrose of Methone is responsible for the care of the diocese. More here.

Pictured is Bishop George of Tskhinvali and Alania [South Ossetia].

Beit Jala Parish Protests Visit of Theophilus III to Bethlehem

During the visit of Patriarch Theophilus III (Giannopoulos) of Jerusalem to the Bethlehem area this past Sunday for St. Nicholas' day the parishioners of the Palestinian Orthodox parish in Beit Jala, a suburb of the holy city, refused to meet with the patriarch and instead protested his visit because of revelations that the Patriarchate has continued to sell lands owned by the Palestinian Orthodox Church in the occupied West Bank to Israeli citizens for development as Jewish settlements.

The predecessor of Theophilus III, Patriarch Irenaeus I (Skopelitis), was removed from the Patriarchate for selling land to Israelis, so the failure of the new patriarch to stand up for the interests of his flock and to serve instead the interests of the predominantly Greek Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher (which administers the Patriarchate and the holy sites of Palestine) has come as a great disappointment to the Palestinian Orthodox faithful. In addition to his mishandling of church property in the Holy Lands Patriarch Theophilus also recently abandoned the Jerusalemite Orthodox faithful in North America under pressure from the Phanar, transferring them to the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

More on the Beit Jala protests can be found here.

Article on the Zabaleen

An interesting article on Cairo's zabaleen, the Coptic Orthodox garbage collectors and recyclers, can be found here.

A Review of Dawn Treader

A rather well rounded review of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader both in its original form and in its latest film incarnation can be found here.

Mubarak Calls for Toning Down of Religious Rhetoric

According to sources inside the Church of Egypt at a recent meeting with Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) President Hosni Mubarak asked him to tone down religious rhetoric due to the current tensions within Egyptian society. He has reportedly asked the Minister of Religious Endowments and the head of al-Azhar University to do the same. More here.

Christian Exodus from Iraq Continues

Officials in Iraqi Kurdistan report that over 1,000 Iraqi Christian families have taken refuge in the region as violence in Baghdad, a large center of Christianity in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, has worsened. The United Nations also reports that the number of Iraqi Christian refugees being registered in neighboring Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon is also significantly up. More here.

Session of the Georgian Orthodox Holy Synod

In addition to its decision regarding the Eparchy of Sukhumi, at its recent session of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church also resolved to provide financial assistance to priests serving rural areas and to discipline parishes not using traditional Georgian Orthodox music in the divine services. The former Metropolitan of Sukhumi, Daniel (Datuashvili), was also elected Metropolitan of Chiatura and Sachkhere, and Bishop Jacob (Iakobashvili) of Tsurtavi was elected Bishop of Gardabani and Martkopi. More here.

Imprisoned Derg Members to Appeal Sentences

The members of the Derg, the Ethiopian Communist government, who still survive in jail are to appeal their 2007 death sentences for genocide and crimes against humanity on the Nativity, 7 January 2011. The Church of Ethiopia, the main Ethiopian Muslim organization, the Ethiopian Catholic Church, and the Lutheran Church in Ethiopia are all supporting the appeal, which will be addressed to both the government and the nation as a whole. More here.

Russian Judge Protests Strasbourg Ruling

A judge of the Constitutional Court of Russia has criticized a Strasbourg ruling calling Russia's ban on pride parades in Moscow a violation of the rights of the country's sexual minorities, implying that the events were banned for their organizers protection, not to violate their freedom of life or expression. More on the judge's comments can be found here.

Much of modern Russian society is strongly homophobic as well as racist and minorities of any variety face a variety of challenges in everyday life. Some progress has been made since the collapse of the USSR, but when I studied in central Russia in late 2006 my friends from Malaysia, Kenya, and other ethnically distinct regions were afraid to go out in public alone or even in pairs for fear of being beaten or killed. The treatment of women is also atrocious, being much closer to the norms of 1950s America than 21st century Europe.

I disagree with the judge's statements in principle, but the audacity of Moscow Pride's organizers amazes me still. Russia and Russian society have a long, long way before being non-Russian will be acceptable, much less being gay or lesbian...

Quote of the Day: St. Augustine of Hippo

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kursk Icon Visits Columbus

The Kursk Icon of the Mother of God has visited Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Columbus, Ohio. More on its visit can be found here. Some beautiful pictures from the visit, among them the one included with this post, can be found here.

Foundation Established for Russian Orthodox External Affairs Department

The Moscow Patriarchate has established a foundation to fund the activities of its Department of External Affairs and certain other patriarchal ministries. The foundation will be starting out with the modest sum of $50,000,000. More here.

Upper Nazareth Mayor Bans Christmas Decorations

The mayor of a largely Jewish suburb of Nazareth has refused to allow any decorations to be put up in honor of Christmas or the Nativity despite the fact that roughly 15% of his community is Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian and the vast majority of nearby Nazareth is Palestinian Arab (and a third of them Christians). More here.

"Liturgical Renewal"

The first part of David Petras' survey of liturgical changes and reforms within Ukrainian and Ruthenian Catholicism can be found here. Petras is a Ruthenian Catholic archpriest serving in the Metropolia of Pittsburgh.

Pictured is St. Mary's Ruthenian Catholic Church in Sheppton, Pennsylvania. Its iconostas is a good example of the latinizations formerly (and currently?) common in Byzantine Catholicism, although it is more substantial than was often the case in pre-Vatican II Ruthenian Catholicism.

"Mixed Attitudes: Interethnic and Interreligious Marriages Remain Common Despite Criticism"

Andrei Zolotov's survey of and thoughts on mixed marriages in modern Russia can be found here.

Muted Holiday in Gaza

Nativity celebrations will be muted this year in the Gaza Strip due to Israel's tightening restrictions on visits to Bethlehem by Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics living in Gaza and the ruling Hamas party's restrictions on the territory's Christians. More here.

Pictured is an Orthodox church in Gaza.

Pope Shenouda Meets with Mubarak

Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of the Coptic Orthodox Church met today with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt over the recent actions of the Egyptian government against the country's native Coptic minority. More here.

Iraqi Churches Cancel Nativity Celebrations

Iraqi churches in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk and the southern city of Basra have canceled Nativity services and celebrations due to the continuing threats from Al Qaeda affiliates. More here.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Blasted for Anti-Semitic Comments

Following blatantly anti-Semitic comments made on Greek television Metropolitan Seraphim (Mentzelopoulos) of Piraeus of the Greek Orthodox Church is the subject of a campaign by American Jews to have his comments publicly condemned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as Archbishop Jerome II (Liapis) of Athens and All Greece. More here.

Turkish Influence in Gagauzia a Threat to Russia

A Russian analyst has published a report claiming that Turkey's growing influence amongst the Gagauz, an Orthodox Christian minority concentrated in Moldova and the southwestern Ukraine, is a threat to Russian influence within the former USSR. In recent years the Gagauz have switched from using the Cyrillic alphabet to the form of the Latin alphabet used by modern Turkish and growing numbers of Gagauz from the autonomous Gagauz state in Moldova have moved to Turkey for advanced studies. More here.

Pictured is a map of the region of Gagauzia in the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

Ilia II Made Locum Tenens of Sukhumi Eparchy

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church has transferred authority over its Sukhumi Eparchy in Abkhazia from its former hierarch, who has not ruled the diocese for years, to Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Gudushauri-Shiolashvili) of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and All Georgia. More here.

Quote of the Day: St. Ephraim of Syria

Blessed is the person who has consented to become the close friend of faith and of prayer: he lives in single-mindedness and makes prayer and faith stop by with him. Prayer that rises up in someone's heart serves to open up for us the door of heaven: that person stands in converse with the Divinity and gives pleasure to the Son of God.

"Martyred Priest Daniel Sysoev and American Orthodox Missionary Work"

An excellent article by Fr. Gregory Jensen on Orthodoxy in North America and its mission can be found here.

St. John of San Francisco on the Ecumenical Patriarchate

I recently rediscovered a fascinating report by St. John (Maximovich) of San Francisco on the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church given at the second All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1938. Among other things he highlights the Ecumenical Patriarchate's expansion into areas already possessing canonical hierarchies because of its losses in the Balkans and Anatolia and its innovations in supporting the 'Living Church' schism in Russia and introducing the Gregorian calendar. The report was delivered as part of a general survey of the state of the various Local Orthodox Churches at the time. The full report can be found here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Order Renews Chinese Translation Grant

The Order of St. Ignatius of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America has renewed a grant to the Fellowship of All Saints of China to enable it to translate into Chinese and publish the full Prologue from Ochrid compiled by St. Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Libertyville. More here.

Al Qaeda-Affiliated Website Threatens Copts

An Al Qaeda-affiliated website has listed the names of more than a hundred Coptic Orthodox Christians in Canada, together with their addresses and phone numbers, whom it claims have sought to convert Muslims to Orthodoxy. On the website's forum participants spoke of forcing those named to 'return to Islam' (a foreign faith to Egypt and especially to its native Copts) and of beheading them if they refused to do so.

Nearly a hundred other Copts living in other parts of the world were also listed on the website. Copts living in Canada said they had no one to fear save God and have already begun talking with the Canadian police, but also stated that they were concerned for those Copts named on the website who live in Egypt, where the government's commitment to their security is nominal at best. More here.

Pictured is a Coptic Orthodox church in Canada.

CIS Official Calls for an International Jerusalem

The co-chairman of the Interreligious Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the loose cooperative organization that replaced the Soviet Union after its collapse, has called for the Holy City of Jerusalem to be designated as an international city, possibly under United Nations supervision, as a way to lessen the tensions of the political and religious conflicts in Palestine. More here.

Latvian President Visits Patriarch Cyril in Moscow

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow recently received the President of Latvia during the latter's state visit to the Russian Federation.

In stark contrast to neighboring Estonia, in Latvia the national government has regularized the legal standing of the Latvian Orthodox Church, allowing it to care for Orthodox Christians in the armed forces, protecting its property against claims from schismatic groups, and designating the Nativity (according to the traditional calendar) as a national holiday.

More on the Latvian president's visit with the patriarch can be found here.

Quote of the Day: St. Isaac of Nineveh

Do not reckon as a truly wise man that one whose mind is subject to fear on account of temporal life.

Vladyka Job's Memorial in Black Lick

Vladyka Job finally has a tombstone at his grave in Black Lick. Pictures from the one year memorial served at the Black Lick parish by Bishop Melchisedek (Pleska) of Pittsburgh and clergy of the Western Pennsylvanian and Midwestern American Dioceses of the American Orthodox Church can be found here.

Also pictured is St. John's, the parish in Black Lick. Vladyka Job is buried outside the altar to the east of the church.

1898 Photos of Holy Nativity Church

Some beautiful photos of the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine, from 1898 can be found here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

St. Mary's Malankara Orthodox Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur

My reading tonight has taken me to Malaysia and to the website of St. Mary's Malankara Orthodox Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hope it's of interest!

"Ecclesia Americana" by K. Myers

Touchstone has a most interesting reflection on ecclesiology in the United States here. It was first published this past summer.

Quote of the Day: St. Augustine of Hippo

Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

Forward in Faith in Australia Begins to Join the Roman Church

Forward in Faith in Australia has become the first part of the Anglican Communion to initiate the process of their clergy and faithful being received into the Roman Catholic Church under the offer of Pope Benedict XVI of Rome to form Anglican Rite ordinariates for Anglo-Catholics disaffected by recent developments within the Communion. More here.

Frederica Mathewes-Green on Marriage Equality

Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green has recorded a remarkably open-minded podcast on the issue of marriage equality in US society (outside the Orthodox Church) and sexual issues generally that can be found here.

Damascus Conference Calls on Christians to Remain in Middle East

A recent Muslim-Christian conference in Damascus has called on the Middle East's Orthodox Christians and Eastern and Roman Catholics to remain in the region so that their homelands will not be completely devoid of any Christian presence. Life for Christians in Syria is far better than in the rest of the Middle East and Orthodox and Catholics together comprise roughly 10% of the population. More here.

Ilia II Speaks Out Against Anti-Russian Reporters

This past Friday Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili) of Mtskheta spoke strongly against statements made by Georgian reporters claiming that the Russian Orthodox Church was an agent of Russian political influence, saying that the statements were untrue, undermined the warm relationship between the Churches of Rus' and Georgia, and were unhealthy for Georgian society. More here.

Controversy Over New Church in Tallinn

The controversy in Estonia over the construction of a new Orthodox church in a largely Russian-speaking district of the capital, Tallinn, is ongoing as the Estonian Security Police have criticized the city's mayor for allowing donations to the church from a Russia-based foundation, the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called. The Foundation has responded by questioning the police's accusations that the new church represents an extension of Russian political influence, especially as the Estonian government recently contributed to the renovation of an Estonian Lutheran church in St. Petersburg and this action was not seen in either Russia or Estonia as an aggressive extension of influence on Estonia's part. More here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

St. Nicholas of Myra

Joyous feast!!! St. Nicholas is a saint almost universally loved in the Christian world. More on his life and the many wonders and miracles he continues to work can be found here. May his blessings and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Memoriam: Vladyka Job

It's been a year since Vladyka Job's death and it's still hard to believe what happened. I still feel that if I went to Chicago I could just give him a call and meet up with him at Christ the Savior or Holy Trinity or have dinner with him at his apartment near the Moody Bible Institute. He was such an incredible, loving man. I had met bishops before I moved to the Midwest and found myself in the American Orthodox Church's Midwestern American Diocese, but for me he exemplified what a bishop was supposed to be. He was truly Christ's icon in our midst.

I remember waking up in Addis Abeba not feeling well and finding out later that morning that Vladyka had died. I was unable to go to his funeral because of being out of the country, but when I returned to the States I made a pilgrimage to his grave in Black Lick. I do not know what his fate was, but because of changes in certain issues in my life that I brought to him and the continuing strengthening of our Diocese of Chicago I feel that he is still with us, praying for us. May his memory be eternal! Fr. John Matusiak has posted a lovely tribute to Vladyka Job on the website of the Midwestern American Diocese here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

UNHCR on Plight of Iraqi Christianity

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has noted the ongoing exodus of Orthodox Christians, Assyrian Christians, and Chaldean Catholics from central Iraq to Iraqi Kurdistan and abroad. It has also called on governments returning assylum seekers to Iraq not to return them to parts of the country where their lives will be in danger. More here.

Church of Greece Criticizes EU Intervention

The Church of Greece has released a sermon for delivery this Sunday that criticizes the Greek government for allowing the country to fall into such debt that it is now essentially a country under occupation, its policies being controlled by its creditors. The sermon questions whether Greece's financial rescuers have influence solely over fiscal policy or whether they also have a say in cultural and religious matters. More here.

St. Barbara the Great-Martyr

Joyous feast! More on St. Barbara's life can be found here.

Quote of the Day: From the First Hour of the Agpeya

You are the honored mother of the Light; from the rising of the sun to its setting praises are offered to you, O Theotokos, the second heaven...

Orthodox Norway

It's late and I'm much in need of sleep, so of course I've been wasting time online reading about random stuff :-). Tonight's reading has been about Orthodoxy in Norway. The Russian Orthodox Church, which appears to be far and away the largest Orthodox Christian presence in the country, has a great Norwegian and Russian-language website here.

Pictured is the Orthodox church in Barentsberg, Norway.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Epistle of the Synod Abroad on the 90th Anniversary of the ROCOR

The epistle of the Synod Abroad of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia on the occasion of its 90th anniversary can be found here.

ACOBNCA Website

The Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America has a snazzy new website. The names we twentieth and twenty-first century Orthodox Christians and the weird acronyms they result in will never cease to disappoint me ;-), but it's a beautiful website and remarkably up to date for an official website (Bishop Mark (Maymon), for example, is already listed as a member of the American Orthodox Church.). Enjoy!

New Dioceses in Armenia

Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II (Nersessian) of Echmiadzin and All the Armenians has established two new dioceses for the Church of Armenia on the territory of free Armenia. The Diocese of Vayk is situated in central Armenia and the Diocese of Tavush is located in northeastern Armenia.

Bishop Abraham (Mkrtchian) of Syunik has been appointed Bishop of Vayk, leaving his former diocese vacant, whilst the cathedra of the Tavush Diocese remains vacant for the time being. God grant Bishop Abraham and all the faithful of the new dioceses many, many years! More here.
Pictured is a newly built Armenian Orthodox church near Vayk, Armenia.

Kerala Mediation

Mediation between the two parts of the Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala has begun. More here.

Pre-Islamic Monastery in the UAE

The site of a pre-Islamic monastery of the Church of the East in the United Arab Emirates has just been opened to the public. More here.

Upcoming Anniversary of Vladyka Job's Repose

This Saturday, 18 December, will be the first anniversary of the repose of Archbishop Job (Osacky) of Chicago of thrice blessed memory. Please remember him in your prayers wherever you are.

Quote of the Day: Alexander Pushkin

If as I die I love, pray let me die.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Dear English-speaking Orthodox Christians,

"Saint" is one of many words in the English language brought to merry old England by the damnable francophone Normans who many nowadays also like to blame for taking England out of Orthodoxy when they arrived on the Isles in 1066. (It's not true - everything credible I've read places England firmly within the Church of Rome and therefore as much outside of world Orthodoxy after 1054 as the rest of Western and Central Europe was. Admittedly things went back and forth till 1204, but that's not the subject of this announcement, so we won't go there :-).) Apparently many people think it's a title and not an adjective, so I'm here to disabuse you of that notion. "Saint" means holy. It is therefore redundant (as well as highly annoying) to say or write something like "Holy Saint So-and-So, pray to God for us." Either say "holy" or "saint" - both are unnecessary, though God knows we Byzantines have a thing for the wordy and the redundant ;-). Perpetrators, you know who you are! Please stop now ;-).

Many thanks,
The Administrator

P.S. Yeah, there's not a lot of news today :-).

Bishop Irinej of Bachka on the Holocaust, Communism

Bishop Irinej (Bulovic) of Bachka of the Serbian Orthodox Church has stated that the crimes of the Nazi Germans are not equal to those of the Yugoslav Communists after World War II despite a number of concerning similarities to one another. Bishop Irinej also condemned anti-Semitism and reminded reporters of Patriarch Pavle (Stojchevic) of blessed memory's strong stance against the rise of anti-Semitism in post-Communist Yugoslavia and Serbia. More here.

Bulgarian Orthodox Priests Unionize

Bulgarian Orthodox priests in the Eparchy of Vratsa have unionized due to the failure of the diocese to pay them on time. Metropolitan Cyprian of Vratsa decries the priests' actions as scandalous. The priests' union will be open to other levels of clergy and others who work for the Church of Bulgaria (in the candle factories for example).

In Bulgaria most of the Church's clergy salary funds come from the sale of candles. When these are not adequate, however, the dioceses will often pay the priests in kind (often with unsold candles :-) ). The average priest's salary is around US $240 a month. More here.

Pictured is Sts. Peter and Paul's Cathedral in the Bulgarian city of Vratsa.

Quote of the Day: St. John of the Ladder

As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so, at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Calculating Christmas" by W.J. Tighe

A great article by William Tighe on the reasoning behind the date of the Lord's Nativity and more recent claims that it was fixed on 25 December/7 January to absorb a preexisting pagan Roman sun festival can be found here.

OCA Hierarchs Present at ROCOR Synodal Meeting

At the recent session of the Synod Abroad of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia on 8 December Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of Washington and Bishop Tikhon (Mollard) of Philadelphia of the American Orthodox Church participated as guests of the Synod Abroad. This was the first such hierarchical interaction since the efforts of Metropolitans Anastasy (Gribanovsky) and Leonty (Turkevich) of blessed memory in the 1950s to reconcile the North American Metropolia (now the OCA) and the ROCOR. More here.

OCA/ROCOR Joint Statement

The American Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad have finally released the November joint statement of their dialogue commissions. The statement reviews the long history of the OCA and the ROCOR both in North America and worldwide and commits both to working together for the sake of unity and Orthodoxy, confirming the restoration of full communion between the two churches as a result of the union of the Moscow Patriarchate and the ROCOR in 2007.

The commissions that drafted the statement were led by Bishops Tikhon (Mollard) of Philadelphia of the OCA and George (Schaefer) of Mayfield of the ROCOR (both converts to Orthodoxy interestingly enough), but the statement itself has been approved by both the Holy Synod of the OCA and the Synod Abroad of the ROCOR. The full statement can be found here.

St. Philaret the Merciful

Joyous feast! More on St. Philaret's life may be found here. May his blessings and prayers be with us all!

Patriarch Kirill Calls for Restrictions on Xenophobic Organizations

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow has called on the Russian government, the various religions present in Russia, and his own Russian Orthodox Church to step up measures to restrict the activities and influence of fascist organizations in the country so that ethnic tensions already present in Russian society do not deepen and errupt into worse violence than has already occurred. More here.

Quote of the Day: Fr. Zachariah of Tolleshunt Knights

Prayer is a matter of love.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bishop Mark Received into the OCA

Glory to God for all things! Bishop Mark (Maymon) of Toledo of the Antiochian Orthodox Church has been released to the American Orthodox Church! Vladyka Mark will for the time being serve as auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore under Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) and will be administrator of the Diocese of Dallas and South[east]ern America.

God grant Vladyka Mark many, many years! More here

Metropolitan Hilarion in Armenia

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) is visiting Armenia at the invitation of Catholicos Karekin II (Nersessian) of Echmiadzin. His visit began with his reception by Catholicos Karekin at Holy Echmiadzin and a tour of the holy sites there. More on the visit can be found here and here.

Pictured is Catholicos Karekin receiving Metropolitan Hilarion in Holy Echmiadzin, Armenia.

Pope Shenouda in Retreat

Pope Shenouda (el-Suriani) III of Alexandria is going into retreat at St. Paisius the Great's Monastery in Wadi Natroun to protest the Egyptian government's refusal to release the Copts arrested during the Omraneyya church building protests in Giza or even to enter into dialogue with the Coptic Orthodox Church over the situation. Prior to this Pope Shenouda stated in Cairo that "the lives of Copts are not cheap," referring to the two Copts killed by Egyptian Arab police during the incident in Giza. More here.

Prince Irmiyas Sahle Silase Made Grand Patron of Order

I'm afraid this particular news is a bit dated, but apparently the head of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, H.I.H. Prince Irmiyas Sahle Silase (a grandson of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Silase I of blessed memory), was made a patron of the Order of St. Hadrian at the end of October in Manchester, UK. The Order promotes greater awareness of the inter-connectedness of Christianity in Western Europe and Africa. It made Prince Irmiyas one of its grand patrons to bring a greater profile to its work. More here.

Pictured is H.I.H. Prince Irmiyas Sahle Silase after the October ceremony in Manchester's Anglican cathedral.

OCA Consistory to Transfer to D.C. in 2011 or 2012

Metropolitan Jonah of Washington of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) has stated that the administration of the OCA will be transferred from New York to Washington, DC, following this coming November's All-American Council in Bellevue, Washington (the real Washington, not the District of Columbia ;-) ).

The statement comes as a disappointment to American Orthodox, the author among them, who had hoped that the OCA would eventually return its primatial see to the more international New York and seek to be a continental, pan-ethnic Local Orthodox Church for both of the Americas instead of continuing to narrowly focus on the interests of the United States' Orthodox Christians. The dream of an international, truly American (in the broadest sense of that word) Orthodoxy that could overcome the narrow ethnic obsessions and phyletism characteristic of Old World Orthodoxy is apparently dead.

More here.

First Russian Orthodox Services in Zimbabwe

The rector of the Russian Orthodox representation in Johannesburg recently made a visit to Harare to minister to the spiritual needs of the Russian Orthodox community there and to discuss the state of the Russian community in Zimbabwe with government officials. The services were the first ever in Zimbabwe to be celebrated in the Slavonic language. More here.

Next Dalai Lama from India or Russia?

The Dalai Lama has stated that his successor may well be from one of the Buddhist republics of the Russian Federation (Kalmykia, Tyva, et cetera) and may even be a woman. More here.

Lukashenko Denies Existence of Human Rights Issues

In a recent address to the Belorussian National Assembly President Alexander Lukashenko denied the existence of problems for ethnic, sexual, or religious minorities in Belarus. Belarus has been criticized for years for its maintenance of a Soviet-style dictatorship since the 1991 collapse of the USSR and its suppression of the human rights of its ethnic minorities, particularly those of the Polish population in western Belarus. More here.

Ethnic Violence in Moscow

Following this past Saturday's clashes in Moscow that resulted in 32 people being hospitalized and 66 arrested, the Russian Orthodox Church has called on efforts to reduce ethnic tensions in the city to be stepped up to prevent future outbreaks of violence against the city's large population of immigrants from the former Soviet republics in Transcaucasia and Central Asia. President Dmitriy Medvedev has also called for efforts to maintain public order to be stepped up. In the past year there have been 26 ethnically-motivated murders in Russia that were reported as such. More here.

Coptic Orthodox Church Opens in Al Ain, UAE

At the recent consecration of a Coptic Orthodox church in Al Ain, UAE, by Metropolitan Abraham of Jerusalem the Minister of Higher Education and Scientic Research of the UAE reaffirmed his country's dedication to toleration, fraternity, and peace between Islam and other world religions. Other prominent members of the UAE government were also present at the service. More here.

Patriarch Maxim "Alive and Well"

Despite rumors to the contrary circulating in Bulgaria 96-year old Patriarch Maxim of Sofia is "alive and well" and concelebrated this past Sunday Liturgy with other senior hierarchs of the Church of Bulgaria at the synodal Church of St. Boris in Sofia.

Patriarch Maxim was elected first hierarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church under the Communists, but was retained as patriarch after the overthrow of Communism in the country despite his offer in the 1990s to retire. More here.

Church of Georgia Open to Dialogue with Church of Abkhazia

Glory to God for all things! The Georgian Orthodox Church is finally willing to begin discussions with the Abkhazian government concerning the restoration of a universally recognized Abkhazian Orthodox Church. More here.

St. Frumentius, Apostle of Ethiopia

Joyous feast!!! St. Frumentius, known in Ethiopia as Abba Selama ('Father of Peace') and Kesatay Birhan ('Bringer of Light'), wasn't the first enlightener of Ethiopia, but he was by far the most influential. Before his enslavement and service at the imperial court in Aksum there were certainly Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia, but they were scattered and disorganized and in all likelihood primarily foreign in origin.

Thanks to St. Frumentius' labors both at the court and in the country generally, first as a layman and later as a bishop, the empire was converted to Orthodoxy (the second country in the world to do so after Armenia) and church life was organized on a firm and lasting foundation. Today his flock is divided between two autocephalous churches, the Patriarchates of Addis Abeba and Asmera, and shepherded by several dozen hierarchs in the Horn of Africa and around the world. More on his life may be found here. May his blessings and prayers be with the Ethiopian and Eritrean nations and with us all!

Quote of the Day: Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev

"We are temporary visitors here on earth, who must drink from the chalice of the Lord until our death, which will not tarry, and if we sense that it does, then we must think even more about our passage through death and prepare for it with prayer and struggle.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quote of the Day: Mother Thaisia of Leushino

If you think to find paradise on earth, even in a monastery, then you are very mistaken. Paradise - full blessedness - does not exist on earth, and cannot...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Quote of the Day: St. John Chrysostom

The grace of love is greater than the grace of resurrecting from the dead.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quote of the Day: St. Seraphim of Sarov

My joy, I beg of you, acquire the Spirit of peace! That means to bring oneself to such a state that our spirit will not be disturbed by anything. For one must go through many sorrows to enter the Kingdom of Heaven...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quote of the Day: St. John Chrysostom

Every work which does not have love as its beginning and root is nothing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Crisis of Consultation in the Church" by Fr. Touma Bitar

Fr. Touma (Bitar) has an excellent article on conciliarity in the life of the Church in the past and the present here.

Thai Orthodox Church Congratulates Rama IX on Birthday

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand, Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin), congratulated King Rama IX of Thailand on his recent birthday. Although the king is Buddhist, he is the protector of all the faiths present in Thailand and is indirectly commemorated in the divine services of the Thai Orthodox Church. More here.

"Raising a Saint" by Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen Freeman has a lovely post on raising children and the example of St. Silouan the Athonite here.

Feast Day of the American Orthodox Representation in Moscow

On the altar feast of the American Orthodox Church's representation to the Moscow Patriarchate, the Church of St. Catherine the Great-Martyr 'in the Fields,' Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk concelebrated the festal Liturgy with Archimandrite Zacchaeus (Wood), the representation's administrator, and Russian and Polish Orthodox clergy. More here.

Poles Protest Serbian Orthodox Parish in Vienna

Polish Catholics in Vienna are protesting a recent decision of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna to donate one of the city's parishes, which was in danger of closing and being sold, to the Serbian Orthodox Church. More here.

Quote of the Day: St. Clement of Rome

Prove your love and zeal for wisdom in actual deeds.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St. Catherine the Great-Martyr

Joyous feast! St. Catherine is great for too many reasons to list :-). I hope I can make it back to her monastery in the Sinai someday, preferrably with a dear friend or two who are named after her :-). An account of her life can be found here. Her protection and prayers be with us all!

Quote of the Day: St. Nectarius of Pentapolis

Love should never be sacrified for the sake of some dogmatic difference.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Metropolitan George of Mount Lebanon on Islam and Christianity

An interesting article on the relationship between Islam and Christianity by Metropolitan George (Khodr) of Byblos and Mount Lebanon of the Antiochian Orthodox Church can be found here.

Putin Speaks on Russian Sexual Minorities

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has stated that the federal govenrment has no objection to the presence of sexual minorities in the country, but that it is focusing its efforts on promoting marriage and procreation because of the severe demographic issues facing Russia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union violent clashes have taken place between human rights activists and anti-gay protesters on numerous occasions, but the legal restrictions placed on homosexuality during the Soviet era have been repealed. More on Prime Minister Putin's statement here.

23,000 Churches Restored Since 1991

In a recent meeting Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow noted that some 23,000 churches have been restored and reopened in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the end of the Soviet era only 7,000 churches remained open, at least half of them in the Ukraine. Despite this the work of restoring Russia's churches is ongoing and the country still has far too few churches for the number of Orthodox Christians. More here.

Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church Prepares Request for Lost Properties

Following the return of the property deed to the Buyukada Orphanage the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been preparing claims to twenty-three other properties, primarily churches and schools, whose deeds were arbitrarily taken from the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church by the Turkish government in recent years. More here.

Mosul Martyrdom

On 2 December a Syrian Orthodox Christian, Fadi Walid Gabriel, was murdered by fundamentalists in Mosul. After his abduction from his home he was taken to a nearby shop and killed execution-style. More here. May Fadi's memory be eternal!

90th Anniversary of the ROCOR

The celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) begins today in New York. In addition to various hierarchs of the ROCOR Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan and Archbishop Justinian (Ovchinnikov) of Narofominsk, caretaker of the patriarchal Russian Orthodox churches in the Unioted States, will also be participating in the events. The schedule for the anniversary celebrations can be found here.

Renovation of the New Kursk-Root Hermitage Continues

A committee established not long ago to renew the New Hermitage of the Kursk-Root Icon in Mahopac, New York, recently met to discuss work recently undertaken to renovate the existing structures of the hermitage and what should be done to develop a long-term plan for the renovation and expansion of the site. The New Kursk-Root Hermitage was originally intended to serve as the summer residence of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and hosted several meetings of the Synod Abroad.

The ROCOR's release on the meeting can be found here.

Holy Synod of the OCA on Autocephaly

The Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) recently released an epistle to its flock on the Russian Orthodox Church's granting of independence (autocephaly) to its daughter in North America. The epistle reminded the American Orthodox faithful of the purpose of the OCA not to master the jurisdictions of the other Local Orthodox Churches currently present in the Americas, but rather to be the servant of their unity, to work with them to achieve a unity that will be acceptable to all the sister Orthodox Churches in the Old World as well as to the New World's only autocephalous church, the OCA. The full epistle can be found here.

Meeting of Romanian Orthodox Hierarchs in Diaspora

Over the weekend Archbishop Nathaniel (Popp) of Detroit and Bishop Ireneu (Duvlea) of Dearborn Heights, both of the American Orthodox Church's Romanian Orthodox Episcopate in America, met with the various hierarchs serving in the Romanian Diaspora in North America and Western and Central Europe. These gatherings of the Romanian Orthodox hierarchs in the West have been taking place for several years to allow them to discuss how to deal with the pastoral needs of the Romanian Diaspora.

The most recent meeting of the Romanian Orthodox hierarchs abroad took place in Paris, but the ROEA has also hosted them in the past in the United States. Since the reconciliation of the Romanian Orthodox communities in Western Europe formerly associated with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the Bucharest Patriarchate the ROEA is the only Romanian Orthodox jurisdiction involved not part of the patriarchal Romanian Orthodox Church. More on the recent meeting can be found here.

St. Alexander of the Neva

Joyous feast! I hadn't really heard of St. Alexander before I lived in Russia, but he was practically everything I went in Russia. When we arrived in St. Petersburg I venerated half of his relics at his lavra there, when we visited Vladimir I venerated the other half of his relics in the city's main cathedral, and while I lived in Nizhniy Novgorod I went to the cathedral dedicated to him there (the third largest in Russia, soon to be the fourth) for confession and communion. Since then I've found him everywhere I've gone and often found his relics embedded in his icons. He's a favorite of mine not only because I run into him so much, but because he lived in the world and then died a monk (he's also known by his name in monasticism, Alexis), bringing together the earthly and the heavenly in his service to God and his country. More on his life here. May his protection and prayers be with us all!

Quote of the Day: St. John of the Ladder

He who loves the Lord has first loved his brother, because the second is a proof of the first.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

St. Clement of Ohrid

Joyous feast! St. Clement is one of the great lights of Bulgaria and Macedonia and quite possibly one of the developers of the Cyrillic alphabet. More on his life can be found here. May his blessings and prayers be with us all!

Quote of the Day: St. Cosmas of Aetolia

The main name of our God is love...just as we love our God, let us also love our brother.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple

Joyous feast!!! The Mother of God's protection and prayers be with us all! More on this great feast can be found here.

Also, a joyous feast to everyone devoted to St. Alexander (Khotovitsky) of New York, who witnessed at the end of his life as a new martyr of the Soviet Yoke. More on his life can be found here. May his blessings and prayers be with us!

Expect the Unexpected

My trusty laptop recently died. It'd been in hospice for a while and I had hope that it would make it to the New Year, but alas, its appointed time came Thursday morning :-(. Thank God I was already planning on picking up my new laptop next weekend, but in the meantime my internet access might be hit and miss. (I'm using a friend's old laptop right now, but it's on life support itself, so God knows how long it will last.) In the meantime posts that I've already scheduled will continue to automatically post at their appointed times (like the quotes of the day and the interview with Fr. Pimen), but I can't make any guarantees for anything beyond that.

Your prayers, as always! 'Fasting without prayer is the fast of demons' and I fear I've already fallen into that sort of fasting not even a week into this year's Prophets' Fast :-/. I hope this finds you well in God's mercy wherever you are!

With love, The Management. ;-)

ROCOR Studies Interview with Fr. Pimen Simon

I recently came across an excellent interview from back in June with Fr. Pimen Simon of Holy Nativity Cathedral in Erie, Pennsylvania, the Old Ritualist parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Fr. Pimen's comments on Bishop Daniel (Alexandrov) of thrice blessed memory are especially moving. Вечная память!

Quote of the Day: St. Paisius of Neamts

A moderate and sensible fast is the foundation and chief of all virtues. One should fight evil as one fights a lion and a fierce serpent—in the infirmity of the body and spiritual poverty. He who wishes his mind to be firm against defiled thoughts should make his body refined through fasting.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quote of the Day: St. Sebastian the Equal-to-the-Apostles

The speech of him who fasts is plain and distinct; the mind is pure, and then it is that the mind shows forth its true image of God, when, as if in an immaterial body, it quietly and undisturbedly exercises the functions belonging to it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Monastic Life (and the Lack Thereof) in Metro Portland

Today is a testament to why the Portland area is in desperate need of a monastery. I woke up before 5am wide awake after six hours of sleep (what up, I know :-/ ) with nowhere to go. If I were still living in the Jackson area, then on a morning like this I'd take the opportunity to drive up to Holy Dormition and get an hour or two of prayer in (and maybe some awesome Romanian food too ;-) ) before my work day started. And I know plenty of other people who do the same thing, generally on a far more organized and disciplined basis than I do :-).

But here in Portland? God knows I'm perfectly capable of doing the reader services on my own, but do I? No. It's been over an hour now and so far I've putzed about the house and online, had my morning coffee, and generally just wasted time. I know the local Greek Orthodox church does some Matins services, but I don't go there generally and so when I wake up I don't know whether it's a day they have or don't have :-/. If there was a monastery, I would wake up on a day like this and be able to think, 'Okay, it's 4:42am. Matins starts in 18 minutes and it takes about 30 minutes to get there, so I could get most of Matins and the Hours in today!'

So, you see our great need ;-) (aka my laziness). Anyone else interested in starting a monastery in the Portland area should contact me here immediately! Once we've got enough popular demand and a few novices rounded up we can petition Holy Dormition to start a dependency out here. I don't care if it's a men's monastery or a women's (okay, I lie - women's monasteries are much cleaner and friendlier than men's in my experience :-) ) - we can go with whatever the novices' gender is :-).

Okay, instead of writing more ridiculous blogs I'm going to go and try to get a nap in before work now :-). Your prayers!

Quote of the Day: St. Nicholas of Libertyville

Gluttony makes a man gloomy and fearful, but fasting makes him joyful and courageous. And, as gluttony calls forth greater and greater gluttony, so fasting stimulates greater and greater endurance. When a man realizes the grace that comes through fasting, he desires to fast more and more. And the graces that come through fasting are countless...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quote of the Day: Bishop Daniel of Erie

"What does 'grace' mean? 'Gracia' is a gift from God. Who are we to make this determination that someone is without grace?"

Bishop Daniel (Alexandrov) of Erie of thrice blessed memory responding to claims that world Orthodoxy was graceless.

"If I Come, Will I See?" by Vassili Borisevitch (translated by Nikita Eike)

I am a sinner Baba, an old Cossack, broken and ugly, a beggar of mercy.
Who came with wounds to see faces without a name.

Names are many;
But One is Wisdom,
His Truth makes merry,
His Love never gone.

You told me to come to your parish Baba, and so I came;
And saw a Christ that God knows not.

Chants and hymns and words and noise,
A choir, to its glory many a sounds;
While His Beauty, while His Silence,
Lost in a world that spins around.

I prayed and begged words of mercy,
They sneered and jeered and showed their teeth:
God, they know Him not.

I am a sinner Baba, a blind old man with two kopecks;
Who came helpless to see more stones answer his pain.

To God I pray and rejoice always;
Every speck of time is glory and praise, love to take and love to give.

You told me to come Baba to your parish and so I came;
Before Hours, there I stood very few hearts with me to cry.

Later, then I came; and in a hall a crowd I saw,
Armed with gossips and lust and lies;
While empty laid a nave;
Ten souls or few, all to slumber.

Later still I came, and I saw a hell followed by those,
Who lit candles that give no light,
Who kiss a Bible they do not read,
Who say words they do not pray,
Who commune with mouths that speak no truth,
For bodies in works never broken,
Their blood for love never be spilled,
Bowing to a Cross their faith won’t bear,
Carried by hands that bless no more.

So I came, and death I saw,
So I came and so I cried.
So I came, and stood alone.
So I came, and so I saw,
Many eyes closed,
Alone I die, no one can mourn;
No one can cry.

You want me to stay in your parish Baba,
But if I stay, thorn in my side, will it vanish?
Blinis and perogies in your parish Baba,
But of hunger will I perish?
Speeches and pride and shallow dreams,
True heart and hope will I cherish?
Ladies of the night, men of the world in your parish Baba,
But if I stay, to rest in Christ where will I lay?

I am an old Cossack, Baba, an Orthodox, a child of God;
I am not a bear in a circus of tears enchained to dance,
for double-hearted clowns who worship a God they do not fear.

It is heart-rending how accurate this poem's description of so many of our Orthodox churches is. Apparently it was written in response to questions as to why its author, a devout Orthodox Christian who had served as an imperial Cossack until the 1917 Revolution, wasn't more involved in the life of the local Russian Orthodox parish where he had settled in Belgium. The poem was originally posted here. The painting pictured, "Russian Pascha Service at Midnight," is by Nicholas Roerich.

SSPX on Condoms

The traditionalist Roman Catholic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has posted a statement on the Roman pope's recent comments on condom use. God knows the SSPX couldn't keep believing Rome was still Roman Catholic in faith (in the historical sense of that term, not the post-Vatican II one) if the city's pope blessed the use of condoms, whatever the situation...

"Anglican Options: Rome or Orthodoxy?" by Fr. Chad Hatfield

In light of the recent happenings in the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Church of England, and the Anglican Communion as a whole I thought I'd post the following article by an American Orthodox priest, currently chancellor of St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York, from the website of the Western Rites Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, which includes both Roman and Anglican Rite parishes and missions.

I can
still remember the confusion and pain at Nashotah House Seminary when the news began to spread that the 1976 General Convention had passed, by a razor thin margin, a canon to permit the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. The 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, was teaching theology at the seminary in the fall of 1976. His powerful presence had an almost spell-like effect on everyone and we all looked to him for guidance and wisdom. In true Anglo-Catholic fashion, most, but not all of us, decided to stay and suffer through! We rallied around Lord Ramsey and other sound bishops, like Robert Terwilliger, and we made our threats to stay and not leave!

There are days now, when I wish that I had been able to recognize that the Anglican house was no longer inclusive enough to find room for orthodox Christians. It would take me another 18 years before it became clear that I truly no longer had a place at the family table in the Anglican Communion, which had been the very place where I had been formed as an orthodox Christian.

In my case, I fell victim to an Episcopalian bishop who totally ignored the Eames Commission, Lambeth pronouncements and the so-called conscience clause by trying to force me to stand with a woman priest to renew ordination vows. This action was not long after his promise not to force the issue with his clergy who held theological objections to female ordinations.

The scene was set at the 1993 Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas, meeting in Dodge City (a great place for a show-down). When Canon Joseph Kimmett and I failed to show for the renewal of vows with the woman priest, we were charged with breaking communion with our bishop and the rest of the diocese. This is a serious charge by the bishop, who admitted that no canons had been violated, but his own rules had been broken! Faced with this charge, Canon Kimmett and I found ourselves alone, with absolutely no support from the small group of orthodox bishops who were left in PECUSA. I had watched this sort of thing happen, time and time again. My family and I now knew that we would soon be joining the ever growing list of orthodox Anglicans who were being forced from their ecclesiastical home. We were truly victims of the PECUSA policy of ethnic cleansing!

When your house is on fire, you have a moral obligation to warn as many as possible who are in the house with you, but you do not have a moral obligation to stay with those who refuse to leave and to burn up with them! The question was which road would we walk? Like most traditionalist Anglicans, I had been checking out my options.

I had watched the pitiful hissing and fighting within the Continuing Anglican churches for years. I had come to the conclusion that the main vocation of these various groups was to serve a kind of chaplaincy to small elderly congregations. I had admired Bishop A. Donald Davies for his courage in starting the Episcopal Missionary Church, but again, for a younger priest, this body was a cul-de-sac.

The real issue was becoming more and more clear for me. It was really an ecclesiastical issue. I wanted to be, without any debate, a member of the Church of the Apostles. The curse of Henry VIII had become active and I had to admit, with much regret, that Anglicanism is now and always had been a Protestant Church1.

Rome has been the answer for many former Anglicans who have reached an understanding of this truth about our Anglican heritage. There are many who have walked in the footsteps of Cardinal John Henry Newman, and the 11 November 1992 vote in the General Synod of the Church of England to approve the ordination of women is converting this steady stream into a fast flowing river. Recent converts include Charles Moore, the editor of The Sunday Telegram, the Duchess of Kent, author and priest William Oddie and, of course, the most senior prelate ever to have left the Church of England, Graham Leonard, sometime Bishop of London. Surely then, this is the logical road to walk for people who, according to the branch theory, are part of the Western Catholic Church2? Personally speaking, as a former member of the Society of the Holy Cross, re-union with Rome was a formal part of the rule of life which I faithfully lived.

I had learned from Archbishop Michael Ramsey that the Anglican Communion was provisional by nature. I had heard the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, say that our vocation as Anglicans was to put ourselves out of business3. We were a part seeking to be united with the whole.

The efforts towards corporate re-union in the last century, under the leadership of Lord Halifax and the Malines Conversations, were a rightful inheritance. In our own time we watched our hopes rise and fall with the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission. The work of ARCIC is now dead. The Pope has made it clear that the ordination of women is a most serious obstacle to re-union, calling it a new and insuperable barrier to Christian unity.

So, why did I not walk the Newman path to Rome? Why did I not take the Pastoral Provision for married clergy, now provided by the Vatican? Surely, Episcopal laity would feel more at home in the Roman liturgy, when comparing it to the Byzantine Rite, now used by my convert laity?

When wrestling with these questions, I was often reminded of the old Anglican cure for Roman Fever. The cure was always simply to attend a Roman Mass! Post Vatican II Catholicism has a liturgical style, which most Anglicans find simply dull and uninspiring. I too was reminded of something a priest friend often said, which was: I liked Rome better when Rome didn’t like us!

Those Anglicans looking to join the Church of Rome need to remember that the much touted book Ungodly Rage was written not about the state of The Episcopal Church, but of the Roman Catholic Church4. While exploring the Roman Church, with my own ears I had heard radical nuns invoking Sophia and the Mother God. Time and again, in theological conversation with Roman Catholics, priests, nuns and laity, I would find myself defending the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger! Did I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I have been doing in The Episcopal Church, only in a larger circle?

As I contemplated my concern that a jump to Rome was from the fat to the fire, I was reminded of a saying from the Eastern Orthodox Church—Rome is simply the flip-side of the Protestant coin. It seems to me, and many others, that Rome is experiencing a re-discovery of the Protestant Reformation with people like Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee, Anna Quindlen, Rosemary Radford-Reuther and Richard McBrien leading the charge much like a new vision5 of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Cranmer!

I remember one Roman priest telling me that Anglo-Catholics were medievalists caught in a time warp. My own Anglican theological formation by-passed the Council of Trent, looking for roots in the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. Being a Patristics man was far more natural for an Anglican than to be a medievalist. I had to remember that the Western Patriarchy, the Papacy, has been in schism since 1054. Any Church historian can tell you that the vote at the time of the Great Schism was four to one. If schism is sin, as several Episcopalian bishops have told me, then the Western Church has been in this sin for nearly a thousand years!

In 1992, I was asked to present a paper at the special convocation marking the 150th Anniversary of Nashotah House Seminary. The focus of this paper centered on two great bishops, Charles Chapman Grafton and the newly canonized St. Tikhon of Moscow. Grafton was deceiving to the eye. He looked every inch a Roman prelate, but to read his theology is to find a strong anti-Roman strain of thought. Grafton wrote that in times of theological confusion it is natural for Anglicans to turn to the East to find our way. Both Grafton and St. Tikhon shared a common vision of Anglican/Orthodox unity in the Faith, but Grafton had few fellow Anglicans who shared his vision.

There were, and still are, a handful of great Anglican bishops who professed that a strong East wind had affected their own theological thought. Men like Michael Ramsey, Robert Terwilliger and Stanley Atkins come quickly to mind. Canon H. Boone Porter, writing in a forum published in The Evangelical Catholic wrote: …the Eastern Churches embody many of the unachieved goals of Anglicanism6; I believe that the great Anglican bishops have known this to be true.

Orthodoxy is not strange and foreign reading for classical Anglicans. Father Carl Bell (now Father Anthony Bell, an Orthodox priest), again writing in the options forum in The Evangelical Catholic, makes a strong case showing that the Anglican way and the Orthodox way are one and the same with the appeal to Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition. Orthodoxy is the best of classical Anglicanism preserved in our day, with an unquestioned link to the Apostolic Church7.

Anglicans have sought the stamp of approval and validity from the Orthodox Church, almost from the very beginning of the Church of England. Great progress was made, especially in the early part of this century, but, as with Rome, our own actions dashed any formal Orthodox recognition of Anglican validity8.

Modern Orthodox theologians had become an anchor for so many orthodox Anglicans, and I was no exception. Lossky, Schmemann, Meyendorff and Hopko are only a few of the Orthodox theologians quoted often in traditionalist Episcopalian circles. I cannot count the number of times I have heard traditionalists repeat how much they felt at home reading Orthodox theologians but they could never become Orthodox because the Byzantine Rite was just too exotic!

There was a time when I would also nod my head in an understanding gesture when this kind of comment was made, so I expect many doubters when I now, in all honesty, after six months as an Eastern Rite priest, write what follows. I understand your concerns, but I can tell you that the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil no longer seem complicated and long. They are now exciting and re-newing. Having made a choice between the modern Roman Rite, formal BCP worship, and the Byzantine Rite, I am now delighted and thankful to worship with the Fathers. Orthodoxy is right belief and right worship.

As a married priest, my wife and family also had to look at options. The Roman Pastoral Provision would have made my wife an exception. She is, indeed, exceptional, but she is not an exception! That she is a vital part of my life and ministry is fully understood in Orthodoxy. In the Orthodox tradition the priest’s wife is, in fact, highly exalted. My wife is learning the wonderful role of being the Khouria9. So often the married Anglican priest who takes the Pastoral Provision is not given a parish. In Orthodoxy, parish priests are normally married.

Children are also normative in Orthodox clergy families and what a joy it is to see the high priority that young people have in the Orthodox Church. My eldest son was excluded from Episcopalian campus activities due to his conservative Christian views. He found the Roman campus ministry just as secularized and strange as Canterbury House. The only difference was that it was so much bigger. Now, as an Orthodox student, he finds that he is in complete theological harmony with his fellow Orthodox students and faculty. He is, in fact, the President of the University of Kansas Orthodox Student Fellowship, which is a far cry from the reception he got in the other places. In Orthodoxy I no longer worry about what my children will experience or be taught when they attend a church function away from their own parish. I could not say the same if we were part of the Roman Catholic Church. Who can guess what strange ideas Roman nuns promote these days at Catholic Youth events?

In a reflection paper, written by Fr. Peter Geldard, former General-Secretary of the English Church Union, three questions are put to Anglicans who are looking at their options. They are as follows:

  • Does the Church in which I wish to be sustained guarantee me the continual grace and comfort of the sacraments as they were instituted by Christ?
  • Does my choice work for the building-up and the unity of the Church or its further disintegration?
  • Is it a Church into which I wish to inculcate my children and grand-children because I am convinced of its future and its ability to convert our nation10?

In Holy Orthodoxy I can give a most vigorous Yes! to each of these questions. I could not give the same response if I were part of the current American Roman Catholic scene. In the Roman Church, I would still be defending the Church of God. I would be finding like minded groups striving to be the Church within the Church. As a member of the Orthodox Church, I no longer defend the Church; She defends me.

Endnotes

  1. For a recent theological history on the nature of Anglicanism see: Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Panther and the Hind; Edinburgh 1993.
  2. See Gregory Mathews-Green, Whither the Branch Theory, The Anglican/Orthodox Pilgrim, Vol. 2, No. 4.
  3. Comments made at the 1989 North American Conference of Cathedral Deans in response to questions regarding ecumenism. See also: Robert Runcie, The Unity We Seek; London 1989.
  4. Donna Steichen, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, San Francisco 1994.
  5. See E. C. Miller, Jr., Toward A Fuller Vision, Wilton, Ct. 1984, for a complete development of this Anglican/Orthodox vision.
  6. H. Boone Porter, An Unexplored Territory, The Evangelical Catholic, Vol. XIV, No. 8, March/April 1992, p. 14.
  7. Fr. Carl Bell, A New and Unknown World, The Evangelical Catholic, Vol. XIV, No. 8, March/April 1992, p. 11.
  8. See address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaio to the Church of England General Synod, November 1993. Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1993/94.
  9. Khouria is the Arabic term for the wife of a priest. Presbytera is the common term for Greek Orthodox Christians and Matushka for Russian Orthodox. Thus, just as I would be addressed as Fr. Chad, my wife would be addressed as Khouria Shelley.
  10. Unpublished paper written by Peter Geldard; Exploring the Future, 1994.

Georgia, Abkhazia, and Autocephaly

I'm brushing up on my Abkhazian history as it's been a while since I read anything of that genre and I find it most fascinating that at one point the Local Orthodox Churches recognized the Catholicos-Patriarchs of both Mtskheta and All Georgia and Pitsunda and All Imereti, Abkhazia, Ossetia, and the North [Caucasus] as shepherding autocephalous churches. And this despite the fact that both were unilaterally granted their independence by the patriarchs of Antioch, not the ecumenical patriarchs of Constantinople. In our times one of these churches has regained its recognition and the other is seeking it.

It's all very interesting as regardless of what happens in Abkhazia, Georgia sets a very clear precedent for the granting of autocephaly by a mother church to its daughter. I'm sure there's another example of this somewhere, but it escapes my mind right now. Hm...well, I'm sure that if this happened again, His All-Holiness Bartholomew would be sure to recognize the action of a sister Orthodox Church in granting autocephaly to her daughter church. He is, after all, a great force for conciliarity and unity within the Church...

Pictured are St. Andrew the Apostle's Cathedral (upper right) in Pitsunda, Abkhazia, the former patriarchal see of the Imeretian/Abkhazian Orthodox Church, and St. Nicholas of Myra's Cathedral (lower left) in Washington, DC, the current primatial see of the American Orthodox Church (OCA).

Orthodoxy in Abkhazia and Ossetia

The United States has criticized restrictions on religious freedom in independent Abkhazia and Ossetia, formerly autonomous republics that were united to Georgia under Joseph Stalin and officially remained parts of Georgia until 1999 and 1991 respectively. In both countries independent Orthodox Churches have been established due to the phyletism of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which had established jurisdiction over both republics following the restoration of its autocephaly in the early 1900s.

In Abkhazia the Abkhazian Orthodox Church declared its separation from the Church of Georgia in 2009, reestablishing the Catholicosate of Pitsunda that had existed from the 1470s till its abolition by the Russian government in 1814 and had exercised jurisdiction over the western Georgians, Abkhaz, and Ossetians. As far as I'm aware the Abkhazian Orthodox Church remains without hierarchs as it is waiting for the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches to negotiate recognition of Local Orthodox Churches in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In Ossetia the Ossetian Orthodox faithful were initially care for after South Ossetian independence by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (...in Russia :-) ), but later submitted to the the Holy Synod in Resistance as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in the former USSR fractured into various synods. The Holy Synod in Resistance has organized the Ossetian Orthodox as a self-governing eparchy, the Diocese of Alania (the ancient name for Ossetia).

More on the US report can be found here. The official website of the the Ossetian Orthodox Church can be found here. Interfax's report on the Abkhazian Orthodox Church's appeal for an autocephalous Orthodox Church of Abkhazia can be found here.

Pictured is an Orthodox church in Ossetia.