Wednesday, August 31, 2011

St. John of Rila

Joyous feast! Today we commemorate one of the great lights of Bulgarian Orthodoxy, our Holy Father John of Rila. St. John was born in the late 800s in the vicinity of the current Bulgarian capital, Sofia, and at a young age was orphaned and became a cowherd. Even as a youth he worked miracles, once rescuing a calf from the Struma River by causing its waters to part by his prayers.

As a boy the Saint left his village, becoming a monk in an unknown monastery and pursuing a life of extreme asceticism on a hill and then in a cave alongside his nephew St. Luke. After twelve years of laboring in the cave St. John withdrew to the Rila wilderness, where he settled in the hollow of a tree to fast and pray, eating only grass when he needed food until God caused beans to grow nearby for the ascetic to eat.

The Saint was eventually discovered by nearby shepherds when their sheep led them to the monk's tree and soon they began to bring him the sick and possessed, who were healed through St. John's prayers. Fleeing the celebrity he attained through the healings St. John took refuge on a rock crag that was difficult to access, dwelling there for seven years under the open sky.

Despite his flight from the world the reports of St. John's holiness continued to spread, reaching even the Bulgarian imperial court and bringing a number of monks and novices to Rila, where the Saint eventually accepted them as his disciples and allowed them to build a monastery with a church in the cave where he had previously lived.

St. John shepherded the Rila Monastery until his repose on this day in 946 at the age of seventy. Before his death he wrote one of the most celebrated pieces of literature in the old Bulgarian language. Through both his holy life and his prayers St. John did much to strengthen the Orthodox Faith amongst the newly baptized Bulgarians.

St. John's relics remained at the Rila Monastery until their transfer to Sofia in the face of an invasion of Bulgaria by the East Roman Empire. At some point one of the Saint's hands was translated to Russia, to the city of Ryl'sk, which was named after the place of St. John's ascetic struggles, and he soon became as beloved amongst the Russians as he was amongst his native Bulgarians. The main part of the Saint's relics were later translated back to Rila from the new Bulgarian imperial capita, Turnovo, in 1469, where they remain to this day.

More on St. John's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Chariot of Israel and Its Horsemen"

Fr. Stephen Freeman has posted a beautiful reflection on the life and ministry of the newly reposed Archbishop Dmitri (Royster) of Dallas here.

Turkish PM Declares an End to Ethnic Discrimination

At an iftar or Ramadan fast-breaking dinner hosted by the Turkish government for representatives of Turkey's religious minorities (none of whom, if the author is not mistaken, actually fast during Ramadan) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated in part that, "There have been times when people in our country were put under pressure for their beliefs, ethnic background, for the way they dress and their different lifestyles, but those days are over...nobody in this country is anymore privileged than anyone else in the eyes of the constitution or other laws."

Following the end of the iftar Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople, who participated in the event, welcomed the Turkish prime minister's statements as well as the recent decree of the Turkish government returning previously appropriated properties belonging to Turkey's religious minorities and expressed his hope that in the future Turkey would go further in its efforts to undo the injustices suffered by its minorities. More here.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Signs Agreement with State Penitentiary

Representatives of the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine have signed an agreement confirming and broadening the cooperative efforts of the two organizations to care for the spiritual needs of prisoners in Ukraine. More (in Ukrainian) here.

Brusa Metropolitan Elected Abbot of Halki Monastery

At today's meeting of the Holy Synod of the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Brusa was elected abbot of the Monastery of the Trinity on Halki. The decision was taken in the hope that the Halki Monastery will soon be able to reopen its theological seminary as the Turkish government has begun significantly easing the restrictions previously placed on Turkey's religious organizations. More (in Greek) here.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Begins Visit to Central, Eastern Siberia

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow has begun a pastoral visit to central and eastern Siberia. The visit, which will include stops in the eastern Magadan Region and the central Irkutsk Region and Republic of Tyva, began with the Republic of Khakassia in central Siberia, where the patriarch met with Archbishop Ionafan (Tsvetkov) of Abakan and other hierarchs of the Russian and Moldovan Orthodox Churches in the local diocesan Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Abakan before going on to tour the institutions of the Eparchy of Abakan in the Khakassian capital. More (in Russian) here.

68th Anniversary of Tsar Boris III's Repose Commemorated in Sofia

The 68th anniversary of the repose of Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria was commemorated yesterday in the patriarchal Monastery of St. John in Rila, Bulgaria, with a memorial served by the Rila Monastery's abbot, Bishop Evlogiy of Adrianople. When the tsar died in 1943 he was initially buried in the Rila Monastery's catholicon before being disinterred by the Bulgarian Communist regime. The location of his remains are unknown, though his heart was discovered and returned for reburial at the Rila Monastery following the collapse of the Bulgarian Communist government in 1991. More (in Bulgarian) here.

Although responsible for allying Bulgaria with Germany during World War II, Tsar Boris worked first and foremost to unify the Bulgarian nation, making the alliance with Germany in the hopes of regaining historically Bulgarian territories lost to neighboring Yugoslavia and Greece and refusing to hand over Bulgaria's Jews to the Nazis or to send Bulgarian troops to fight the Soviet Union due to the close bonds formed with Russia during Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Turks.

Palestinian President Meets with Visiting Russian Orthodox Metropolitan

As part of his ongoing visit to the Holy Land Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) has met with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank city of Ramallah. During their meeting the two discussed relations between Palestine and the Russian Orthodox Church and the ongoing political developments in the Middle East. Archimandrite Isidore (Minayev), head of the patriarchal Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, and the representative of the Russian Federation to the PNA also participated in the meeting. More here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Turkey to Return Religious Properties

In a decision announced Saturday the Turkish government has committed to returning the numerous churches, synagogues, cemeteries, and formerly church-run hospital, orphanage, and school buildings confiscated from Turkey's native religious and ethnic minorities since the foundation of the modern Turkish state following World War I. Properties already sold to private owners by the Turkish government are to be substituted for financial compensation from the state. The move comes as part of Turkey's ongoing efforts to qualify for membership in the European Union, which has long been concerned by the country's treatment of its non-Turkish citizens. More here.

In Memoriam: Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas

Retired Archbishop Dmitri (Royster) of Dallas of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) has fallen asleep in the Lord. Archbishop Dmitri, who was eighty-seven at the time of his repose, was born into a Baptist family in Texas, later converting to Orthodox Christianity as a teenager along with his sister and joining a parish under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.

After serving in the US Armed Forces the future archbishop went on to undertake undergraduate and graduate studies before returning to Dallas in 1954, where he worked to translate the divine services of the Byzantine Rite into Spanish for a Mexican Orthodox mission in the city under Bishop Bohdan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Later that year he received Bishop Bohdan's blessing to found what became St. Seraphim's Cathedral as an English-language mission, being ordained by Bishop Bohdan that same year to the holy priesthood to serve the new mission.

In 1958 Fr. Dmitri and St. Seraphim's were received into the Russian Orthodox Metropolia of North America (now the OCA). In 1969 Fr. Dmitri was elected Bishop of Berkley and auxiliary of the Metropolia's Diocese of San Francisco, becoming the second convert to be consecrated to the episcopacy in North America. A year later he was elected Bishop of Washington and assigned as auxiliary to the First Hierarch of the OCA, Metropolitan Irenaeus (Bekish) of New York.

After serving in New England and as the OCA's exarch for the Mexican Orthodox missions under its care Bishop Dmitri was elected to the newly created Diocese of Dallas, where he served faithfully until 2009, being elevated to the rank of archbishop in 1993. Under Archbishop Dmitri's care the young diocese grew from a handful of communities to a flourishing diocese of over seventy parishes, missions, and monastic communities.

More on Archbishop Dmitri's life as well as information about the upcoming funeral services, which will be served by Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of the OCA, can be found here. May his memory be eternal!

Dormition and Assumption of the Mother of God

Joyous feast! It may seem a little late to be celebrating the Dormition given that the Orthodox following the Armenian, Gregorian/'New Julian,' Coptic, and Ethiopian have all celebrated it already (on 13, 14, 22, and 21/22 August respectively), but greetings with this beautiful feast regardless!

Today is called the Pascha of the Mother of God by some and the services mirror this in several ways, most notably with a funeral procession of the Mother of God's funeral shroud (painted, like the Lord's, with an icon of the sleeping Mother of God) during the festal Vigil. We celebrate the Mother of God, who has been brought over from death to life by her Son, Who allowed her to fall asleep to greater glorify Himself by resurrecting her and bringing her to dwell with Him in the fullness of His Kingdom.

More details on today's feast, as well as the fast which precedes it, can be found here and here. May the Queen of Heaven's protection and intercessions be with us all!

Of the icons pictured the first is a Byzantine-style icon of today's feast, which in the Byzantine Rite combines the celebration of her Dormition and Assumption on a single day, whilst the second is a Coptic-style icon showing the Assumption, which is the primary focus of the Alexandrian Rite's observance and which in the Ethiopian Rite falls a day after the observance of the Dormition.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Serbian President Chooses Northern Kosovo Over Candidacy for EU Membership

Pro-European Union (EU) Serbian President Boris Tadic has rejected recent calls for his government to dismantle the administrative structures it has maintained in largely Serb northern Kosovo, saying that Serbia will accept delays in its acceptance as a candidate for EU membership as the price for maintaining its interests in Kosovo. More here.

Abkhazia Votes for New President

Abkhazians are voting today to elect their next president, who will be the third elected since Abkhazia gained independence from neighboring Georgia in the 1990s. No clear frontrunner emerged prior to today's elections, with three main candidates competing for votes. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the total votes, then a run-off election will be held between the two leading candidates. More here.

Ukrainian Orthodox Local Synod Meets, Elects New Bishop of Obukhov

The Local Synod of the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church met today under Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of Kiev at the Kiev Caves Lavra to take decisions concerning the life of the Church of Ukraine. Among other things the Local Synod elected Archimandrite Iona (Cherepanov) as Bishop of Obukhov and auxiliary of the Metropolitanate of Kiev and called on Metropolitan Volodymyr to protest the schismatic activities of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Chisinau and Bessarabia on the canonical territory of Ukraine to Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) of Bucharest. More (in Ukrainian) here.

First Coptic Orthodox Church in Hungary Consecrated

Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria has consecrated the first Coptic Orthodox church in Hungary in the country's capital, Budapest. The consecration came a day after national celebrations of the founding of the Hungarian state which the Coptic Orthodox pope participated in at the invitation of the Hungarian government. More here.

Russian Orthodox Archbishop Visits Bratislava, Karlovy Vary

Archbishop Mark (Golovkov) of Yegorevsk, auxiliary of the Moscow Patriarchate for its institutions abroad, has visited the representations of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church in Bratislava, Slovakia, and Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, to discuss the life of the representation in Bratislava and plans to build a Russian cultural center in the Slovakian capital, whilst in Karlovy Vary Archbishop Mark led commemorations of the 300th anniversary of the visit of Tsar Peter I of Russia to the city. Metropolitan Krystof (Pulec) of Prague and Archbishop Juraj (Stransky) of Michalovce were both present for the services in Karlovy Vary. More (in Russian) here.

Religion Curriculum Issued in Moldova

The Moldovan Ministry of Education has issued a curriculum for the teaching of the Orthodox Faith in Moldovan schools. As religion can only be taught in Moldova's primary and secondary schools at the request of students' parents the Moldovan Orthodox Church has called on its faithful in the country to approach their local schools about the organization of religion classes. More (in Romanian) here.

Russian Orthodox Church Plans to Established More Metropolias, Dioceses

In his sermon during his recent visit to Moscow's New Savior Monastery Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke at length on the work of the Russian Orthodox Church in creating new dioceses, noting that it is grounded in the decisions of the All-Russian Council of 1917 and 1918 and done to reestablish the diocesan church as a family known and truly cared for by its shepherd in fact and not only in theory. The patriarch also touched on the All-Russian Council's call for the establishment of regional metropolias to organize and oversee the life of the Russian Orthodox Church at an intermediate level. More (in Russian) here.

Serbian Muslim Leader Call for Autonomy for Sandzhak Region

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls on Serbia to abandon its claims on Kosovo, including predominantly Serb northern Kosovo, to strengthen its candidacy for membership in the European Union a leader of the country's large Serb Muslim minority in Sandzhak, Mufti Muamer Zukorlic, has renewed his calls for the Serbian government to establish Sandzhak as an autonomous region due to its Muslim majority. Sandzhak is one of Serbia's more backward regions, with resentment over its economic state be aggravated by the largely Orthodox Christian composition of its security forces. More here.

Russian, Romanian Orthodox Hierarchs Celebrate St. Stephen's Day in Budapest

On the new style celebration of the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary and the celebration of the founding of the Hungarian state Archbishop Mark (Golovkov) of Yegorevsk, auxiliary of the Moscow Patriarchate and administrator of the Eparchy of Budapest, and Bishop Siluan of Gyula of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of Hungary concelebrated the Divine Liturgy in Budapest's Cathedral of the Dormition, afterwards staying for a celebratory meal with the cathedral's parishioners. During the state celebrations of the holiday later that day the rector of Budapest's Church of St. Sergius, Archpriest John Kadar, was awarded the Knight's Cross by the President of Hungary. More (in Russian) here.

Estonian Orthodox Local Synod Meets

The Local Synod of the self-governing Church of Estonia under the Moscow Patriarchate has met under Metropolitan Cornelius (Jakobs) of Tallinn to discuss issues in the life of the Estonian Orthodox Church, among them the amendment of the Church's charter in the aftermath of the creation of its second diocese, the the Eparchy of Narva, and the ramifications of a newly enacted Estonian law on cemeteries. More (in Russian) here.

New Kiev Patriarchate Bishop Consecrated

Patriarch Philaret (Denysenko) of Kiev and six other hierarchs of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church have consecrated Abbot Afanasii (Yavorskyi) as Bishop of Konotop. The consecration took place this past weekend in Kiev's Cathedral of St. Volodymyr. Bishop Afanasii will serve as an auxiliary of the Kiev Patriarchate's Eparchy of Sumy. More (in Ukrainian) here.

Bulgarian Orthodox Representation Church to be Built Near Bucharest

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has acquired property near the Romanian capital in the city of Snagov for the construction of a church and cultural center for the members of the Bulgarian Diaspora in Bucharest. The process is underway to have the future church canonically established as a representation of the Sofia Patriarchate to the Romanian Orthodox Church. More (in Bulgarian) here.

Ukrainian Orthodox, Catholic First Hierarchs Meet at Kiev Caves Lavra

Ukrainian Catholic Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk has met with the head of the Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of Kiev, at the latter's residence at the Kiev Caves Lavra. During their meeting the two discussed ways to peacefully resolve disputes over church property ownership, which have been complicated by the transfer to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukrainian Catholic churches closed by the Soviets. More here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Visits the Holy Land

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has begun a visit to the Holy Land. As part of his stay in the Holy Land Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem to discuss issues concerning relations between the Jerusalemite and Russian Orthodox Churches as well as the Local Orthodox Churches generally. After his stop at the Jerusalem Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion went on to visit the seat of the patriarchal Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem at the Holy City's Cathedral of the Trinity, where he met with Archbishop Aris (Shirvanian), who serves as director of ecumenical and foreign relations for the autonomous Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. More here, here, and here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

OCA Metropolitan, Bishop Visiting Czech Republic

Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) has begun a visit to the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church at the invitation of Metropolitan Christopher (Pulec) of Prague. Metropolitan Jonah will be accompanied on his visit to the Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic by the OCA's Bishop Benjamin (Peterson) of San Francisco. More here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan Hilarion Meet in Turkey

The Russian Orthodox Church's Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has visited Turkey to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople. After meeting with the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople and visiting the city's Cathedral of St. George Metropolitan Hilarion proceeded to Patriarch Bartholomew's native island of Imbros, where the two met with local clergy and visited the island's metropolitan cathedral. More here.

St. Lawrence the Archdeacon

Joyous feast! Today we celebrate the Holy Martyr Lawrence the Archdeacon of Rome and his companions, Pope Sixtus, the Deacons Felicissimus and Agapetus, and Romanus the Soldier. Pope Sixtus was enthroned on the Roman cathedra at a time of persecution and was arrested not long after his election, being imprisoned with two of his deacons. In jail St. Lawrence visited the confessors and begged to be allowed to join them St. Sixtus told him to wait, for in three days God would given him a greater trial and martyrdom than he and his deacons would endure.

At Pope St. Sixtus' trial it was revealed that St. Lawrence had distributed the Papacy's monies to the poor, per St. Sixtus' instructions, and the Saint was arrested and imprisoned. In prison St. Lawrence healed the sick through his prayers and baptized many of those around him, including his jailer Hyppolitus. When he was brought before the Roman Emperor Valerian St. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the Church's treasure for him, after which he presented to the emperor a crowd of the poor and the sick who had been helped out of the Church's charity.

The emperor handed St. Lawrence over to brutal tortures, having him scourged with an iron flail, burned, and struck with metal switches. One of his torturers, the soldier Romanus, was converted by a vision of an angel healing some of the Saint's wounds and later baptized when St. Lawrence was returned to jail. At the last St. Lawrence was placed in an iron cage and burned alive in it, praying to his God, saying, "I thank You, O Lord Jesus Christ, that You have counted me worthy to enter into Your gates!"

After the Saint had given up his spirit his former jailer, Hyppolitus, took his relics in the night, anointed them with ointments, and gave them into the care of a priest of the city, who served the Holy Mass over them and then buried them in a cave. Three days later St. Hyppolitus the Jailer and his companions were also martyred for the Orthodox Faith. The Holy Archdeacon Lawrence and the other Holy Roman Martyrs before and after him suffered in 258.

More on St. Lawrence's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Serb Men Marry Albanian Women

As tensions remain high between Serbian and Kosovar authorities an increasing number of men from the southern Serbian region of Raska have begun arranging marriages for themselves with women from neighboring Albania as the ongoing exodus from the Serbian countryside to the cities leaves men in rural areas with fewer marriage options. Roughly 1,000 marriages have already been contracted between the region's Serbian farmers and Albanian women while another 8,000 immigration applications for Albanian fiancees are currently being processed by the Serbian government. More here.

Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop to Seek Help of Jordanian King

Archbishop Chrysostomos II (Demetriou) of the Cypriot Orthodox Church will reportedly return to Jordan next week to request the help of King Abdullah II in gaining permission from Northern Cypriot authorities for Cypriot Orthodox clergy to serve the Divine Liturgy in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus' abandoned churches and monasteries. In recent discussions between Cypriot and Northern Cypriot authorities the Church of Cyprus acquiesced to Northern Cyprus' request that imams be allowed to lead services in mosques in Cyprus proper, but Northern Cyprus refused to reciprocate in allowing Cypriot Orthodox clergy to visit the Turkish zone of occupation. More here.

Patriarch Ignatius IV, Metropolitan Hilarion Meet in Damascus

Patriarch Ignatios IV (Hazim) of the Antiochian Orthodox Church received Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk earlier today at the seat of the Antioch Patriarchate in Damascus, Syria, to discuss relations between the Antiochian and Russian Orthodox Churches and issues concerning world Orthodoxy as a whole. The two also discussed the ongoing unrest in Syria and other countries in the Middle East before Metropolitan Hilarion's departure for Constantinople. More (in Russian) here.

Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Blames Outside Forces for Division with Abkhazia

Commenting on the 19th anniversary of the Abkhazian war for independence, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Gudushauri-Shiolashvili) of the Georgian Orthodox Church has said that Georgians and Abkhaz need one another and that it is outside forces that are trying to ruin the "good relations" between the Georgian and Abkhaz nations, not the tide of Georgian nationalism that has swept the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union. More (in Greek) here.

Yakut Orthodox Celebrate Birth of Bible Translator

Celebrations have been held by the Orthodox Church in Yakutia to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the restoration of the diocesan Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Yakutsk and the 105th anniversary of the birth of Dmitriy K. Sivtsev, who translated the Bible into the Yakut language.

Friday's celebrations were led by Archbishop Herman (Moralin) of Kursk, former Bishop of the Orthodox Church in Yakutia, and Bishops Theophylact (Kur'yanov) of Pyatigorsk, Roman (Lukin) of Yakutsk and the Lena, the newly enthroned ruling bishop of the Orthodox Church in Yakutia, and Ambrose (Yermakov) of Gatchina, an auxiliary of the Eparchy of St. Petersburg. More (in Russian) here.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitans Debate Mandatory Retirement Age

The announcement of Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Zakynthos that he will retire this 1 September at the age of seventy-two has reignited a debate within the Greek Orthodox Church about whether a mandatory retirement age should be introduced for the Church of Greece's ruling metropolitans. Some support a retirement age, saying that the metropolitans need to be able to actively shepherding their flocks to remain the heads of their metropolises, while others defend the traditional system of leaving ruling metropolitans in place until their retirement or death because of the role of the metropolitan as the icon of Christ in the diocesan church. More (in Greek) here.

Bishop of Nizhniy Tagil Consecrated in Moscow

As part of the festal celebrations of the Lord's Transfiguration at Moscow's Church of Christ the Savior Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow together with eight other hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church consecrated Archimandrite Innocent (Yakovlev) as Bishop of Nizhniy Tagil and Serov. Bishop Innocent is the first ruling bishop of the newly established Eparchy of Nizhniy Tagil in the region of the Ural Mountains. More (in Russian) here.

St. Horus of the Thebaid

Joyous feast! Today we commemorate our Holy Abba Horus (or Hor) of the Thebaid, one of the Desert Fathers who adorned Egypt in the 300s. St. Horus withdrew as a youth into the Thebaid wilderness to live as a hermit, struggling there for many years before moving to Alexandria to struggle against the temptations of urban life.

In Alexandria Abba Horus continued to deepen his ascetic and spiritual life, busying himself with bringing water to the city's prisoners and visiting its sick. While he was still living in the city he once happened to be near the site of an accident when a passing chariot struck a child and killed him instantly. The crowd that gathered began to accuse the Saint of killing the child, so he picked him up and signed him with the Cross, after which the child returned to life.

Fearing the praise of men after his resurrection of the dead child, St. Horus fled Alexandria and returned to the desert, remaining in one of the many monasteries then filling the desert until his falling asleep at the age of ninety, which he foretold to his brothers in the monastery. During his last years in the desert Abba Horus gathered many disciples and spiritual children, none of whom dared to lie to him as he could see their thoughts.

More on St. Horus' life can be found here and here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

LA Parish Vandalized, Desecrated

St. Andrew's Church in Los Angeles, a parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, has been vandalized by an intruder. The intruder, whose identity is as of yet unknown, trashed the church's sanctuary, tore the altar out and dragged it into the nave, and scattered the reserved Body of the Lord and the sacred vessels on the sanctuary's floor.

Despite the desecration the parish proceeded with the celebration of the Lord's Transfiguration following the visit of area police to the church. More here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Polish President Participates in Transfiguration Celebrations on Grabarka

Polish President Bronisław Komorowski has visited Mount Grabarka and its Polish Orthodox monastery to participate in the Transfiguration celebrations there. More here.

Transfiguration of the Lord

Joyous feast! I'm still on holiday and don't have a lot of time right now to follow the news, much less post any of it (less than a week until I finish moving back to the Midwest!), but it's a great feast day of the church year and so I wanted to post a link for more information on today's commemoration.

"You were transfigured on the mount, O Christ our God, revealing Your glory to Your disciples as much as they were able to bear it. Shine forth also Your everlasting light upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Theotokos. O Giver of light, glory to You!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

OCA, ROCOR Bishops Concelebrate at Historic South Canaan Monastery

As part of the recent new style feast day celebrations at St. Tikhon of Zadonsk's Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, Bishops Tikhon (Mollard) of Philadelphia of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) and George (Schaefer) of Mayfield of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) concelebrated the Divine Liturgy in the presence of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. The concelebration was the first between hierarchs of the ROCOR and what now is the OCA at the historic South Canaan Monastery in nearly 70 years. More here.

Jerusalem Patriarchate Questions Canonicity of New Hostel in Jordan

The Jerusalemite Orthodox Church has issued a public reminder to the Moscow Patriarchate's Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem that it needs the blessing of the Jerusalem Patriarchate to open a dependency church at its new pilgrimage center in Jordan as Jordan remains part of the canonical territory of the Church of Jerusalem. The Mission is currently in the process of building a hostel for pilgrims on the east banks of the Jordan River near what is believed by many to be the historic site of the Baptism of the Lord by St. John the Baptist. The Jerusalem Patriarchate's statement not withstanding, the Mission's website does not mention the building of a church as part of the overall construction at the site. More (in Greek) here.

Ecumenical Patriarch Visits Misappropriated Pontian Monasteries and Churches

As part of his pastoral visit to Pontus, in what today is northeastern Turkey, to celebrate new style Dormition at the historic Soumela Monastery Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople also visited several other historic Pontian monasteries and churches that were turned into mosques or museums following Turkey's expulsion of its large Greek-speaking minority after World War I. More (in Greek) here.

Pyongyang Church Celebrates 5th Anniversary

With the blessing of Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church led by Archbishop Mark (Golovkov) of Yegorevsk has visited North Korea to lead celebrations of the 5th anniversary of the founding of the Moscow Patriarchate's parish in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. Representatives of the nearby Eparchy of Vladivostok in Russia and of the Ethiopian, Romanian, and Russian Embassies and diplomatic missions in Pyongyang also took part in the celebrations. More here.

Russian Old Calendrists Consecrate Bishop for Serbia

An Old Calendrist schism from the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian True Orthodox Church under Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk, has consecrated a bishop for a synod of five Old Calendrist parishes and monasteries in Serbia. The consecration is the first of its kind, though some schismatics in the country have hierarchical oversight in the person of the deposed Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren. The new bishop, Bishop Akakije of Resavska, was consecrated at the Lesna Monastery in Normandy. More here.

South Ossetian Government Supports Ossetian Orthodox Autocephaly

The South Ossetian government has confirmed its support for the eventual independence of the Orthodox Church in South Ossetia from both the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches. Ossetian Orthodox Christians hope for the recognition of their ecclesiastical independence on the basis of the early conversion of their ancestors, the Alans, to Orthodoxy in the 300s. More here.

Al-Qaeda Iraq Bombings Make Dormition Bloodiest Day of 2011

Today marks the bloodiest day in Iraq this year, with some 31 bombings, presumed to be the responsibility of al-Qaeda, taking place in the country. One of the bombings targeted St. Ephraim's Syriac Orthodox Church in Kirkuk, but thankfully the bomb went off well before new style Dormition celebrations at the church. More here and here.

Ecumenical Patriarch Celebrates Dormition at Sumela Monastery

Nearly a thousand pilgrims from Greece, Georgia, and Russia gathered at the Soumela Monastery in Pontus today to attend festal services celebrated by Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople. The services are the second annual services permitted by the Turkish authorities at the Soumela Monastery on new style Dormition. More here.

Update (16/8/2011): There were also pilgrims from Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, the USA, and other countries present at yesterday's services in Soumela, which were concelebrated by the ecumenical patriarch and Archbishop Demetrios of New York and two metropolitans of the Church of Greece, with Archbishop Panteleimon of Yaroslavl praying at the services.

During his homily Patriarch Bartholomew welcomed the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church led by Archbishop Panteleimon and expressed his hope that Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow would someday come to concelebrate the feast with him. More here.

Israel Approves Construction of 1,600 Housing Units in East Jerusalem

The Israeli Interior Ministry has authorized the construction of 1,600-unit apartment complex in predominantly Palestinian Arab East Jerusalem. The Interior Ministry simultaneously announced that it would shortly approve the construction of a further 2,700 more housing units in East Jerusalem. The approval comes as the Palestinian National Authority prepares to request admission to the United Nations as an independent state. More here.

Kyrenia Metropolitan in ICU

Please keep the Cypriot Orthodox Church's Metropolitan Pavlos of Kyrenia in your prayers as he has been hospitalized and placed in an intensive care unit to treat an assortment of medical issues. More details (in Greek) can be found here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Thousands Celebrate New Style Dormition on Tinos

Thousands of faithful gathered today on the Greek island of Tinos to celebrate the new style feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God in the presence of her wonderworking Tinos Icon of the Annunciation. The services were concelebrated by five metropolitans of the Church of Greece. In addition to the many clergy and faithful representatives of the Greek national and local governments were also present at the festal services. More (in Greek) here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Greek Foreign Minister Visits Turkey

Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis has begun a state visit to the Turkish island of Imbros, where he met with representatives of the island's Greek community, among them Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople, and expressed his support for Turkey's application for membership in the European Union. Lambrinidis' visit was occasioned by the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Patriarch Bartholomew to the priesthood. More here.

At the time that Imbros was awarded to the modern Turkish state by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 its population was 95% Greek and Orthodox Christian. Although Turkey committed to guaranteeing the security of the island's population, over the decades following the treaty it settled large numbers of Turks on the island, prompting many of its native inhabitants to immigrate. The island's population today is 97% Turkish.

Submarine Victims Commemorated in Russia

Memorials for the victims of the sinking of the Kursk submarine were held across Russia today to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the disaster. The memorial in the city of Kursk itself, where a monument has been erected to the dead, was led by Archbishop Herman (Moralin) of Kursk. More (in Russian) here.

Festal Services with Armenian Orthodox Catholicos to be Broadcasted Live

On this year's commemoration of the Dormition and Assumption of the Mother of God according to the Armenian calendar (13 August) the festal Divine Liturgy celebrated by Catholicos Aram I (Keshishian) of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cilicia will be broadcasted live on television. More details on the upcoming broadcast can be found here.

South American ROCOR Bishop Visits Venezuela Parishes

Bishop John (Berzins) of Caracas, administrator of the Eparchy of Buenos Aires of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), has made his first pastoral visit to his cathedra and the other Venezuelan parishes of the ROCOR. More (in Russian) here.

The country's parishes were largely established by the wave of imperial Russian and Soviet emigres and refugees leaving Europe after World War II. Although many later moved on to the United States and other countries, as was the case with my godmother's family, many also settled permanently in Venezuela and have been joined in recent years by a second wave of Russian Orthodox emigres from Belarus.

Pittsburgh Bishop Hospitalized

Bishop Melchisedek (Pleska) of Pittsburgh, interim chancellor of the American Orthodox Church, has been hospitalized in New York due to abdominal pains caused by a hernia. Please remember him in your prayers! More here.

Update (16/8/2011): Bishop Melchisedek has undergone surgery for his hernia and will remain in New York until his doctors there permit him to return to Pittsburgh. More here.

Quote of the Day: St. John Chrysostom

Let us afford our children from the first an incentive to goodness from the name that we give them. Let none of us hasten to call his children after his forebearers, his father and mother and grandfather and grandmother, but rather after the righteous - martyrs, bishops, apostles. Let one be called Peter, another John, another bear the name of one of the saints. Let the names of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Syriac Catholic Exarch Criticizes Suryoyo Abroad

The exarch responsible for Turkey's tiny Syriac Catholic minority, Metropolitan Yusuf (Sag), has criticized recent calls by Suryoyo living in the European Union for the Turkish government to ease the legal restrictions impeding the return of Suryoyo to their homelands in southeastern Turkey, saying in part that, "Those who left are telling lies, and we can't approve of everything they say." More here.

Pope Shenouda Preaches Weekly Sermon, Prepares for Visits to the USA and Hungary

Taking rumors of his death lightly, during his weekly Wednesday sermon Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria told those present that he "came from the other world" because he missed his flock. The Coptic Orthodox pope will travel to Hungary next week to consecrate that country's first Coptic Orthodox church and then make a brief trip to the United States for medical checkups. More here.

Emigre Metropolitan Reburied in Latvia

Metropolitan Alexander (Kudryashov) of the Orthodox Church in Latvia served the reburial of his predecessor Metropolitan Augustine (Petersons) of Riga. Metropolitan Augustine, a native Latvian, served as First Hierarch of the Latvian Orthodox Church until the occupation of Latvia by the USSR during World War II, after which he took refuge in Germany, where he reposed in 1955.

Although buried in Germany following his repose, Metropolitan Augustine left instructions in his will that he be reburied in Latvia after it regained its independence. More (in Russian) here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ann Arbor Area Church to Build New Temple

Pictures of plans for the construction of a magnificent new temple for the only Russian Orthodox parish in Michigan's Ann Arbor area, St. Vladimir's Church in Dexter, have been publicly posted here.

Romania Designates Dormition as a State Holiday

The Romanian government has added the date of new style Dormition, 15 August, as a national holiday in its labor code, which requires employers to either give their employees time off on full holidays or to pay them overtime. More here.

In Memoriam: Padinjarethalakal Cherian Alexander

The former Malankara Orthodox governor of India's Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra states, Padinjarethalakal Cherian Alexander, has fallen asleep at the age of ninety at a hospital near his home in Chennai (formerly Madras), India. Alexander, who also served as principal secretary to Indian Prime Ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, is to be buried at his home parish in Kochi, St. Mary's Church. May his memory be eternal! More here.

Syria Appoints New Defense Minister

In an effort to accelerate the repression of Sunni Muslim uprisings across Syria the country's President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed his defense minister and replaced him with General Daoud Rajiha. The appointment comes as a surprise as the key position in the Syrian government has normally been reserved for members of al-Assad's Alawi Muslim minority. (General Rajiha is an Antiochian Orthodox Christian.) More here.

Coptic Orthodox Church Denies Pope Gravely Ill or Deceased

The Coptic Orthodox Church is denying rumors spread last night that Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria is gravely ill and had reposed during the night, saying that he will be giving his weekly sermon at St. Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya, Cairo, this Wednesday as usual. More here.

Bangalore Metropolitan Visiting USA

Metropolitan Abraham Mar Seraphim of Bangalore of the independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has begun a 3-week pastoral visit to the United States during which he will visit Malankara Orthodox parishes in metro Chicago (where he previously served as an assistant priest), the East Coast, and Texas and lead celebrations of the Dormition and Assumption of the Mother of God in Chicagoland. Metropolitan Mar Seraphim will also visit St. Tikhon's Theological Seminary in eastern Pennsylvania during his time in the United States. More here.

Mark Stokoe Dismissed from OCA Metropolitan Council, Midwestern Diocesan Council

Bishop Matthias (Moriak) of Chicago of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) has dismissed Mark Stokoe, editor of the OCA News website that published information leading to the forced retirement of Metropolitan Herman (Swaiko) of the OCA and the deposition of Protopresbyter Rodion Kondratick for rampant corruption, from his positions on both the OCA's Metropolitan Council and the diocesan council of the OCA's Diocese of Chicago and Midwestern America.

According to Bishop Matthias' announcement to the Metropolitan and Midwestern Diocesan Councils the dismissal was based on his belief that OCA News "is not a positive force for the Church." The dismissal comes, however, on the heels of an epistle from Bishop Matthias to his diocese on the subject of homosexuality apparently prompted by New York's recent decision to legalize gay/lesbian marriage.

Stokoe was previously dismissed from the Metropolitan Council by Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor) of the OCA for inquiring about corruption in the management of the OCA's national finances, but later elected back to that body and to the Midwestern Diocesan Council with the blessing of Archbishop Job (Osacky) of blessed memory. More here.

St. Eutropia Glorified in Kherson

In accordance with the decision of the Local Synod of the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church this past December to canonize the Nun Eutropia (Isayenkova) Metropolitan Pitirim of Mykolaiv, Archbishops Ephraim of Kryvyi Rih and Ioann of Kherson, and Bishops Panteleimon of Ivano-Frankivsk, Alipiy of Dzhankoy, and Nikodim of Rakitnyansk concelebrated the festal Divine Liturgy yesterday in Kherson to formally glorify St. Eutropia. St. Eutropia was native to the Kherson region and entered a women's monastery there, becoming renowned for her clairvoyance and commitment to praying for the dead who had no one to serve funerals or memorials for them due to the Soviets' closure of churches. When she reposed in 1968 she was 105-years old. The Saint's relics now rest in Kherson's Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. More (in Russian) here.

Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev

Joyous feast! Today marks the 75th anniversary of the repose of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, a onetime contender for the patriarchal cathedra of the Russian Orthodox Church and the founding first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) after the triumph of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War.

The future Metropolitan Anthony was born in March 1863 to members of the eastern Ukrainian nobility from the area of Kharkov as Aleksey, so named after St. Alexis of Rome. As a child Aleksey desired to live the monastic life and became closely involved in the divine services, even meeting, while serving in the sanctuary, the future missionary St. Nicholas (Kasatkin) of Tokyo in St. Petersburg. While still a child the future metropolitan even composed a Slavonic-language service to Sts. Cyril and Methodius that was later approved for use by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After finishing his primary education Aleksey entered the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and at the age of twenty-two, having finished his theological studies, was tonsured a monk with the name Anthony and ordained first to the deaconate and then to the priesthood. Fr. Anthony served as an inspector at his alma mater, but was exiled to the Kholm Theological Seminary in the western reaches of the Russian Empire when he refused to denounce the seminarians under his care to the authorities.

Fr. Anthony remained in Kholm for a year before being recalled to St. Petersburg to teach at the Academy. During his time as a professor Fr. Anthony strongly defended the movement calling for the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church's patriarchate and attracted many of the seminarians, among them the future Patriarch St. Tikhon (Bellavin), to the monastic life through his example. At the age of twenty-seven Fr. Anthony was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed rector of the Academy, becoming its youngest rector ever and a year later being transferred to serve as rector of the Moscow Theological Academy.

Due to the dislike of the newly enthroned Metropolitan of Moscow Fr. Anthony was transferred from the former imperial capital to Kazan, where he taught at the Kazan Theological Academy before being elected to the episcopate at the age of thirty-four as Bishop of Christopol' and auxiliary of the Eparchy of Kazan. Within three years Bishop Anthony was elected ruling Bishop of Ufa, where he soon doubled the number of parishes in his diocese and ordained many non-Russians to the priesthood to minister to the area's native pagans and Muslims.

In 1902 Bishop Anthony was transferred to the Eparchy of Zhytomyr in Volhynia in the western reaches of the Russian Empire. During his twelve years in Volhynia Bishop Anthony did much to uproot the corruption that had been prevalent in the diocesan administration and amongst the Eparchy's clergy while also renewing the spiritual life of his flock and strengthening its witness to the area's many Ukrainian Catholics, Roman Catholics, and Jews. Despite the political tensions of the times Bishop Anthony, who was elevated to the rank of archbishop in 1906, protected Volhynia's Jews from pogroms by ultranationalists while also defending the institution of the monarchy during the revolutionary fervor of 1905. Archbishop Anthony also oversaw the renewal of the Pochaev Lavra, which built its great Cathedral of the Trinity during Archbishop Anthony's episcopate.

Archbishop Anthony remained unpopular in government circles for his support of the patriarchate and prevention of pogroms in Volhynia, but remained in Zhytomyr until Austria-Hungary discovered his involvement in missionary work amongst the Ruthenians living in northeastern Hungary as exarch of Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III, at which point Vienna had pressure applied to have the archbishop transferred to the Eparchy of Kharkov in 1914.

When World War I began Archbishop Anthony became involved in caring for the wounded in local hospitals, visiting soldiers regardless of their nationality thanks to his command of the German language. He also took refugees from Serbia, among them the future Patriarch Barnabas, into his diocese, forging ties that would later be of vital importance to the survival of the ROCOR. Following the March Revolution in 1917 Archbishop Anthony was expelled from his diocese by the revolutionaries and retired to the Valaam Monastery for several months before being called back to Kharkov by his flock.

In late 1917 Archbishop Anthony arrived in Moscow to take part in the All-Russian Council then being held. When the patriarchate was restored and elections held Archbishop Anthony was the leading candidate of those proposed, receiving over a third of the votes in the first round of voting. When a lot of the top three was used to chose the next patriarch the archbishop's former pupil, St. Tikhon (Bellavin), was chosen by God to be the first restored Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus'.

Following the election Archbishop Anthony was elevated to the rank of metropolitan and, in 1918, transferred to the Eparchy of Kiev to replace the martyred Metropolitan St. Vladimir of Kiev. In Kiev he was imprisoned first by Ukrainian nationalists and then by the invading Poles before being liberated by the Whites in 1919. When the Soviets began occupying central Ukraine Metropolitan Anthony wanted to remain in his diocese, but was persuaded to board an evacuation ship to serve a thanksgiving for the capture of the Hagia Sophia by the Greeks (which had not taken place), with the ship weighing anchor as soon as the metropolitan was aboard.

In the huge Diaspora that formed following the end of the Russian Civil War Metropolitan Anthony initially thought that the refugees should submit to the Local Orthodox Churches on whose canonical territories they found themselves. Taking the precedent of the exiled Cypriot Orthodox Church, however, Metropolitan Anthony was persuaded in late 1920 to participate in Constantinople in the organization of a 'higher church authority,' with both the Church of Constantinople and Patriarch St. Tikhon approving the move that December.

In 1921 the headquarters of the 'higher church authority' were established in the former seat of the Orthodox Church of Austria-Hungary in Smreski Karlovci, Yugoslavia, and at the end of that year the first All-Diaspora Council took place there. In 1922 the authority was reorganized on the instruction of Patriarch St. Tikhon as the ROCOR with its own permanent local synod to direct its internal life until the Russian Orthodox Church in the USSR would be free again.

Metropolitan Anthony was recognized as the First Hierarch of the ROCOR and courageously led it throughout its early years, seeking to prevent the schisms of Metropolitans Eulogius of Paris and Platon of New York and also highlighting the war crimes committed by the Soviets both within the USSR and in northern China. In 1934 the aging Metropolitan Anthony together with St. Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Zhicha consecrated his spiritual son in monasticism, Archimandrite St. John (Maximovich), to the episcopacy as Bishop of Shanghai.

Two years after the consecration of St. John Metropolitan Anthony, then wheelchair-bound, reposed peacefully on this day in 1936 in Serbia. Three days later Patriarch Barnabas of the Serbian Orthodox Church together with six other hierarchs served Metropolitan Anthony's funeral in Belgrade's Cathedral of St. Michael, after which the metropolitan was buried in the city's new cemetery beneath the Chapel of the Icon of the Mother of God 'the Gatekeeper.'

More on Metropolitan Anthony's life and labors can be found here. May his memory be eternal!

St. Irene Chrysovolantou

Joyous feast! St. Irene, who was a native of Cappadocia in what today is central Turkey, was brought as a youth to Constantinople because of her great beauty and virtuous life to be a prospective bride for Emperor Michael of the East Romans. She was not chosen as the young emperor's bride, however, and instead entered the monastic life, becoming renowned for her ascetic feats and as a novice spending the entire night in prayer.

Because of the many signs and wonders worked through St. Irene as well as her clairvoyance she was chosen to serve as the Abbess of the Chrysovolantou Monastery. After a long life St. Irene reposed at the age of one hundred and three and continues to be glorified by miracles worked through her prayers.

More on St. Irene's life can be found here. May her blessing and prayers be with us all!

Icon of the Mother of God 'the Tender-Feeling'

Joyous feast! The Icon of the Mother of God 'the Tender-feeling' (Умиление in Russian) was treasured by St. Seraphim of Sarov, who prayed before it daily in his cell and anointed the sick and suffering who came to him with oil from the lampada that burned before it. St. Seraphim called this depiction of the Mother of God both the 'Tender-feeling' and the 'Joy of All Joys.'

After St. Seraphim reposed while praying before the Tender-feeling Icon it was given by Abbot Niphont of the Sarov Monastery to St. Seraphim's spiritual daughters at the Diveyevo Monastery of the Trinity, where it is treasured to this day by the sisterhood and enshrined on the south side of the nave. (St. Seraphim now rests on the north side of the nave.)

May the Mother of God's protection and intercessions be with us all!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

North American Bishops-Elect to be Consecrated in Middle East

The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America has announced that its Bishops-elect John, Anthony, and Nicholas will be consecrated by Patriarch Ignatios IV (Hazim) of Antioch this coming December in either Syria or Lebanon. (The exact time and place has yet to be determined.) More here.

Clashes Occur in Upper Egyptian Governorate

The state prosecutor in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya has ordered the arrest of three local Muslims involved in ongoing clashes in the Minya Governorate this week. So far the clashes have resulted in the death of a Coptic Orthodox Christian and the burning of six homes. Reconciliation meeting have been held between local leaders of the mosques and the Coptic Orthodox Church, but it is understood that the violence is intended to encourage Copts to leave the region, which has a much higher percentage of Copts than Lower Egypt. More here.

Auxiliary Bishop of Palmyra Consecrated in Lebanon

Bishop-elect Yuhanna (Haykal) of Palmyra has been consecrated to the episcopacy by Patriarch Ignatios IV (Hazim) of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the catholicon of the Monastery of the Dormition in Balamand, Lebanon. Bishop Yuhanna will be serving as an auxiliary in the Antiochian Orthodox Church's Archdiocese of Paris and Western Europe. More (in Greek) here.

St. Panteleimon the Healer

Joyous feast! St. Panteleimon is one of the more beloved saints in the East, well known in Eastern Europe and the Middle East for the many healings he has worked both in his life and since his death. The Saint was born in the 3rd century in the city of Nicomedia to a pagan father and a Christian mother and received a good education, being trained as a physician and eventually becoming attached to the court of the Roman Emperor Maximian.

While at the court of Maximian St. Panteleimon came to know several secret Christians who had survived the persecutions in 303 and began to discuss the Christian Faith with them. Passing by a child newly bitten by a viper, the Saint prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ to heal the child, saying that he would accept baptism if He did so. The child was healed on the spot and St. Panteleimon was baptized, also converting his father to the Faith and healing many who were sick through his prayers.

St. Panteleimon treated all to came to him free of charge, healing the sick, visiting those in prison, and helping the needy. When Emperor Maximian discovered that the Saint had been visiting imprisoned Christians he demanded that the doctor sacrifice to the idols and then had him handed over for torture when he refused the emperor's command. When after many tortures St. Panteleimon was thrown into the circus to be devoured by the wild animals kept there they instead lay down at his feet, causing the crowds to shout, "Great is the God of the Christians!"

After the incident in the stadium St. Panteleimon was bound to an olive tree and beheaded. At the moment of his death the tree to which he was tied burst into fruit, converting many more to the Christian Faith. The Saint's relics were cast into the fire, but did not burn and were eventually handed over to Nicomedia's Christians. His relics are today scattered throughout the world, with his head being kept as one of the treasures of Mount Athos' Panteleimonou Monastery.

More on St. Panteleimon's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Sts. Clement and Naum of Ohrid

Joyous feast! Today we celebrate Saints Clement and Naum of Ohrid, disciples of the Holy Equals-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius who labored in western Macedonia in what today is the southwestern corner of independent Macedonia. The Saints initially labored in Moravia together with their fellow disciples of the Enlighteners of the Slavs, Sts. Gorazd, Sabbas, and Angelyar. When the competing German missionaries present in Moravia began banning the use of Slavonic in the Mass and other divine services and persecuting the Saints, however, they were scattered.

Several took refuge in the newly enlightened Bulgarian Empire, where they began the work of translating the divine services of the Byzantine Rite into Slavonic. St. Clement eventually settled in the western Macedonian city of Ohrid, where he organized his disciples and students into a renowned school. After his election as Bishop of Velitsa, possibly making him the first ethnic Slav to serve as a hierarch in the Church of Christ, St. Clement was succeeded at the school in Ohrid by St. Naum, who had until then taught in the school he had founded in Preslav.

After several years teaching in Ohrid St. Naum founded the Monastery of Sts. Michael and Gabriel near the city and retired there following its consecration by St. Clement in 905. St. Naum reposed in 910 and was buried in his monastery, which was later rededicated to his holy memory. In the early 900s St. Clement also established a monastery near Ohrid, that of St. Panteleimon, and continued his translation work, also becoming the first author of original works in the Slavonic language. After his falling asleep in 916 St. Clement's relics were likewise buried in the monastery he had founded.

More on Sts. Clement and Naum's lives can be found here and here. May their blessings and prayers be with us all!

St. Herman of Alaska

Joyous feast! С праздником! Today is one of the few fixed feast days that share the same day on both the Julian and Gregorian calendars as we commemorate the simultaneous glorification of St. Herman of Alaska by the American Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which took place on this day 41 years ago. A full account of St. Herman's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Today is a special day for me as it's the day I became a catechumen in 2002. I coincidentally noticed St. Herman's icon in the local parish bookstore and bought it shortly before I was made a catechumen and have felt a connection with him since, though unfortunately not strong enough of one for me to have been baptized as Herman or Germanus. (I get enough weird looks from my family as it is ;-).) St. Herman is truly the father of every Orthodox Christian in North America - I hope his blessings are with you in a special way today!

"O Blessed Father Herman of Alaska, North Star of Christ's Holy Church! The light of your holy life and great deeds guides those who follow the Orthodox Way! Together we lift high the holy cross you planted firmly in the Americas! Let all behold and glorify Jesus Christ, singing His Holy Resurrection!

Monday, August 8, 2011

500 Pilgrims Attend Feast Day Celebrations at Ellwood City Monastery

Western Pennsylvania's Monastery of the Transfiguration marked its feast day again this year with its annual pilgrimage. The festal divine services were celebrated by Archbishop Nathaniel (Popp) of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate in America (ROEA) and Bishops Melchisedek (Pleska) of Pittsburgh, Michael (Dahulich) of New York, and twenty-two other clergymen serving in the American Orthodox Church, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese of Toledo, and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. More on the pilgrimage, which drew some five hundred faithful from through the United States and eastern Canada, can be found here.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery was founded under the ROEA by Mother Alexandra (Issarescu), a member of the Romanian royal family, to provide a home for English-speaking women desiring to live the angelic life. Mother Alexandra's vision has largely been fulfilled as most of the sisterhood's members today are native to North America and, again for the most part, converts. The Ellwood City Monastery is also mother to Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan, which was founded by Holy Transfiguration's second abbess.

Metropolitan Kallistos to Speak at Anglican/Orthodox Conference in New York

The North American Conference of the Fellowship of Sts. Alban and Sergius will feature Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diocleia this year, who will be delivering the Conference's keynote address. The Conference, which encourages dialogue between Orthodox Christianity and Anglicanism, is being hosted by St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of the American Orthodox Church, who was raised in the Episcopal Church (the US province of the worldwide Anglican Communion), will also be in attendance at the Conference. For more details please visit the Seminary's website.

Weekend Protests in Israel Draw 300,000

Over 300,000 Israelis took to the streets over the weekend in one of the largest popular demonstrations in the country's history to protest what demonstrators called the Israeli government's social justice violations, with one speaker (a rabbi) saying that, "[Israel] has room for all...Jews and non-Jews." More here and here.

Prizren Diocese Supports KFOR-Serbia Interim Agreement

The Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Raska and Prizren has appealed to its flock in largely Serb northern Kosovo to support the interim agreement reached between the Serbian government and the KFOR over the management of the border crossings in the region between Kosovo and Serbia, arguing that support of the agreement will return peace to northern Kosovo while also displaying the trust of the area's residents in Serbia. More (in Serbian) here.

St. Jacob of Atka

Joyous feast! St. Jacob (Netsvetov) of Atka, better known as St. Jacob of Alaska and also known as St. Yakov of Alaska, was born in the early 1800s on Russian Alaska's Atka Island to a Russian father, Yegor, and a local Aleut woman, Maria. St. Jacob loved the Church from his youth and when his family moved to Siberia he entered the Irkutsk Theological Seminary at the age of twenty-one.

In 1826 St. Jacob graduated from the Seminary, married, and was ordained to the deaconate and assigned to a parish in Irkutsk. Two years later Archbishop Michael of Tobolsk ordained the Saint to the priesthood and gave him two antimensia, one to be placed in a church he charged St. Jacob to build on Atka in memory of St. Nicholas and the other to be used during missionary travels.

That same year, 1828, St. Jacob left with his family for Atka, there serving a parish encompassing a number of islands covering some 2,000 miles of territory. Despite the vast size of his parish St. Jacob traveled frequently to preach the Gospel and visit his scattered faithful, doing a great deal through his teaching and way of life to strengthen the area in the Orthodox Faith, while also overseeing the construction of the Church of St. Nicholas on Atka and instructing the island's children in both the Aleut and Russian languages.

While living on Atka St. Jacob maintained an active correspondence with St. Innocent (Veniaminov) of Sitka, labored to translate the Bible and divine services into Aleut, and collected specimens for museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg in addition to providing for his family and serving his parish. In 1836 St. Jacob lost both his wife and his father, who had served St. Nicholas' as a reader, and petitioned the Church to be transferred to Irkutsk to enter a monastery there.

Although permission was granted for the transfer in 1837 St. Innocent persuaded St. Jacob to remain in Alaska. In Alaska St. Jacob continued to serve on Atka for another seven years before moving to the mainland to evangelize the nations of the Yukon. His subsequent years in southwestern Alaska were spent preaching and baptizing, building new churches, and bringing an end to the conflicts that had divided the local peoples.

In 1863 St. Jacob traveled to Sitka to appear in a case falsely brought against him by a former worker in his mission, after which he was assigned to serve a local Tlingit-speaking parish as his health had deteriorated too much to allow him to return to the Yukon. On 26 July 1864 St. Jacob fell asleep in Sitka and was buried at the entrance to the church he had served there, being glorified one hundred thirty years later by the American Orthodox Church that had grown out of his and others' missionary labors in Alaska.

More on St. Jacob's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Les Vacances d'Août

In line with that venerable Western European custom of keeping August as a month for holidays I will myself be going on holiday. If working half the month, moving from one end of the United States near to the other, and beginning another term of my masters classes can be classified as a holiday anyway ;-). In truth I'll have a week and a bit in the middle of all of that to travel about visiting family and friends, so it won't be a total zoo of a month (and thank God!).

Regardless, while I'm sure I'll still be posting, I will likely not have the time to monitor the news at home and abroad with the thoroughness that I normally attempt. Additionally, I will be scaling back work this fall while also taking more classes, so how that will impact my ability to maintain this blog remains to be seen.

So, your patience over this next month or so please and, as always, your prayers! God grant all of you a joyous Dormition, whether you're celebrating on the Julian or Gregorian calendars or even the Ethiopian ;-)!

Macedonia Refuses to Prosecute War Crimes Cases

The Macedonian Parliament has decided not to prosecute four war crimes cases dating from the past conflict between the Macedonian central government and largely Albanian areas in the northwest of the country. One of the four cases shelved by Parliament involves the kidnapping, torture, and murder of ethnic Macedonians by members of the Albanian-backed National Liberation Army. The cases are being overlooked in an effort at national reconciliation between the country's Macedonians and Albanians. More here.

Cypriot President Appoints New Government

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias has appointed a new government as the country struggles to recover from the economic impact of losing the power plant supplying most of its electricity. The new government's finance minister, economist Kikis Kazamias, has stated that Cyprus should not need a bailout from the European Union as Greece has. More here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bishop Jovan of Nish Enthroned

Bishop Jovan (Puric) of Nish has been enthroned in his eparchy by Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovic) of Pech and twelve other hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church. More here. Bishop Jovan's homily at the enthronement services can be found here.

Ukrainian Orthodox Priest on Hunger Strike Passes Out in Mariupol'

A clergyman of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol' has passed out in front of the city administration. The priest, Fr. Volodymyr Koskin, began a hunger strike with two of his parishioners when the Mariupol' city authorities refused to allocate land to the Kiev Patriarchate for the construction of a temple for his parish, the Church of St. Panteleimon. Although parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in need of land are allocated it free of charge, in the region Kiev Patriarchate parishes must first request a land allocation and then buy it outright.

The Mariupol' city administration says that the parish's application for land was not rejected because of its jurisdictional affiliation, but rather because it applied for land in an area of the city not designated for church construction. More here.

Pro-Democracy Iftar Organized in Egypt

Sufi Muslims, Copts, and several Egyptian political movements are calling for a mass iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fast) on 12 August to demonstrate the unity of Egypt and to call for the establishment of a civil, democratic state. More here.

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Opposes Partition of Kosovo

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovic) has rejected calls for the partition of Kosovo between an independent Albanian-controlled state and the Serb enclave in northern Kosovo, which would remain part of Serbia. The patriarch's opposition was not based on the hope of guaranteeing the freedoms and security of Serbs in an independent Kosovo, but rather on the reincorporation of all of Kosovo into Serbia. More here.

Eritrean Orthodox Abroad Divided Between Two Patriarchs

As Eritrea sinks deeper into an economic depression caused by the dictatorship of Isaias Afewerqi divisions within the Eritrean Diaspora between supporters and opponents of the Isaias regime are becoming increasingly apparent, to the point of dividing the Eritrean Orthodox Diocese of North America, which associated itself with the Coptic Orthodox Church following the Eritrean government's deposition of Patriarch Abune Ant'oniyos of Asmera, between supporters of the deposed patriarch and supporters of the new, government-appointed patriarch, Abune Diyosqoros. More here.

Copts Express Concern Over Gubernatorial Appointments

Representatives of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Coptic Orthodox political movements are expressing concern over the Egyptian transitional government's recent appointment of governors, of which one out of a total of twenty-seven was a Copt. (Copts as a whole form at least 10% of the Egyptian population.) More here.

Patriarch Cyril Released from Moscow Hospital, Attends Services

After reportedly suffering a heart attack Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of the Russian Orthodox Church returned from Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital to the patriarchal residence, where this morning he attended the Sunday Liturgy in the residence's house church. Although discharged from hospital care the patriarch has been placed on a restricted workload for the short-term to avoid a recurrence of whatever caused his recent ill health. More (in Russian) here.

Photo of the Day: Papal Divine Liturgy in Greece

Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church celebrating the Sunday Liturgy in one of the churches on the Greek island of Amorgos.

Dormition of St. Anna

Joyous feast! Today we commemorate the falling-asleep of St. Anna (or Hannah), mother of our Lady Mary. It is said that St. Anna, having born the Mother of God in her old age, fell asleep shortly before the Annunciation after having lived seventy-nine years.

As the Mother of God is in a sense the mother of the Church, so St. Anna is in a sense the grandmother of the Church and many turn to her for prayer and protection just as they do in life to their earthly grandmothers. Because of her love for her children St. Anna has been glorified by many miracles, most notably in our times through her weeping icon (pictured), and is the protectress of many cities, among them Detroit.

More on St. Anna's life can be found here. May her blessing and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

St. Christina of Tyre

Joyous feast! St. Christina of Tyre lived in what today is Lebanon in the 3rd century, born into the family of Urban, the Roman governor of Tyre. The Saint was exceptionally beautiful and because of this and her privileged background was sought after as a bride. St. Christina's father, however, wanted his daughter to become a priestess and settled her in quarters set apart from the family and filled with many idols and charged her with the duty of offering the daily incense to the idols.

It was in this solitude that St. Christina began to wonder which god had created the heavens and the earth. Casting aside the worship of the idols as foolishness since they had been made by men, the Saint came to believe in the one God and began to fast and to pray to Him with increasingly fervor to reveal Himself to her. God heard her prayers and sent an angel to the Saint to tell her of the coming of the Christ into the world and to forewarn her of the sort of death she would suffer for her faith in Christ her Bridegroom.

After the angel's visit St. Christina destroyed the idols she had cared for and cast them out. When the Saint's father learned what had happened he had his daughter beaten and thrown into prison. When she would not recant the Christian Faith at her trial the governor had St. Christina bound to an iron wheel with a fire set beneath and tortured in this way before being returned to prison. An angel visited the Saint the following night, healing her many wounds and giving her food. Seeing this Urban had his daughter thrown into the sea with weights, but the weights sank while she remained on the sea's surface.

St. Christina underwent many tortures for her faith in the Christ and her witness was so strong that roughly three hundred of the people of Tyre were converted to the Orthodox Faith because of her sufferings. The Saint was finally taken from this world to the next when the new governor of Tyre had her beheaded. More on her life can be found here. May St. Christina's blessing and prayers be with us all!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Assyrian Patriarch Visits Canada

Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV (Khananya) of the Assyrian Church of the East has begun a pastoral visit to the Church of the East in Toronto, concelebrating the Divine Liturgy at the city's Cathedral of St. Mary with Bishop Mar Ammanuel (Yosip) of Toronto and afterwards exhorting the cathedral's parishioners to remain strong in their faith and their Assyrian culture. Patriarch Mar Dinkha will also be visiting several other Assyrian parishes in Ontario while in Canada. More here.

Israel, Jordan, Dispute Site of the Lord's Baptism

Jordan and Israel are disputing which country occupies the site of the baptism of the Christ in the Jordan River, with each claiming to have the true site. Israel recently renovated its site, which is technically in the West Bank and therefore part of Palestine, and opened it to regular visits by pilgrims, but the authenticity of Jordan's site has been affirmed by both the recent Amman meeting of representatives of the Alexandrian, Antiochian, Jerusalemite, and Cypriot Orthodox Churches and by the Roman Catholic Church. More here.