Monday, February 27, 2012

Clean Monday

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”

So rend your heart, and not your garments;

Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
Who knows if He will turn and relent,

And leave a blessing behind Him —
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the Lord your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion,

Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the people,

Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,

Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord,
And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?'"

From the prophecy of St. Joel.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

ROCOR Metropolitan to Undergo Surgery

Please remember Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in your prayers as he undergoes knee surgery in Australia this coming Monday.

Update (28/2/2012): Metropolitan Hilarion's doctors successfully performed the knee replacement surgery and are pleased with the results of the operation. More here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Old Calendrist Metropolia Consecrates Bishop for Miami

The 'Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles,' formerly the North American diocese of the Milan Synod, has a new hierarch, consecrated by the Metropolia's head, Metropolitan John (Lobue) of New York, and its Bishop Fanourios (Michael) of Lincoln. The new bishop, Christoudolos of Miami, has been assigned by the Metropolia to head its missionary outreach in Cuba and Latin America. More here.

In Memoriam: Metropolitan Mar Osthathios of Niranam

Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthathios of Niranam fell asleep today at Parumala's St. Gregorios Hospital. Although afflicted by kidney failure, Metropolitan Mar Osthathios pleaded not to be put on dialysis because of the many poor throughout the world without access to such treatments. The medical team responsible for him attempted to put him on dialysis regardless of his request, but the attempt was unsuccessful and Metropolitan Mar Osthathios reposed under their care. May his memory be eternal! More on Metropolitan Mar Osthathios' repose can be found here.

Alexandrian Orthodox Pope Visits Nigeria

Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria has begun a pastoral visit to the Alexandrian Orthodox Church in Nigeria. The papal delegation traveled first to Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, where it was met by Metropolitans Alexandros (Gianniris) of Lagos and Gregory (Stergiou) of Yaounde, the Greek ambassador to Nigeria, and the Egyptian consul in Lagos.

The day after his arrival in Nigeria Pope Theodoros visited Lagos' Cathedral of the Resurrection, where he concelebrated a thanksgiving with Metropolitan Alexandros and the cathedral's clergy. From the cathedral the papal delegation went to the nearby Monastery of St. Anthony, an outpost of Orthodox monasticism in West Africa and seat of the Nigerian Orthodox Church's seminary.

During his time in Nigeria Pope Theodoros will visit a number of the country's parishes, celebrate his nameday with the consecration of a new church in eastern Nigeria, and lay the cornerstone for the new cathedral in Lagos. More here and (in Greek) here.

OCA Seminary Releases Strategic Plan

The American Orthodox Church's St. Tikhon's Theological Seminary has released its 3-year strategic plan for the institutional, educational, and communal development of the historic seminary. More here.

Greek-Americans Establish Relief Fund for Greece

The Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has established the Relief Fund of the People of Greece to provide assistance to the Greek people as living conditions in Greece continue to deteriorate due to the country's ongoing economic crisis. More here.

Minneapolis Cathedral Replaces Frescoes

Minneapolis' historic Cathedral of St. Mary, pastored at one time by St. Alexis (Toth) of Minneapolis, has completed the first phase of renovations of the cathedral's frescoes, which are being replaced by more traditionally Orthodox frescoes. More here.

Turkish Constitutional Commission to Meet with Ecumenical Patriarch

The constitutional commission of the Turkish Parliament has invited Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople to speak to its members on 20 February about the issues facing the country's ethnic and religious minorities and how the new draft constitution being considered could best protect their place in Turkey. More (in Turkish) here.

Northern Kosovars Reject Government Authority

In a recent referendum criticized by both the European Union and the Serbian government northern Kosovo's ethnic Serb majority has overwhelmingly rejected the authority of the independent Kosovar government. The Kosovar Parliament downplayed the referendum's results, which saw 99.7% of northern Kosovo's 40,000 Serbs voting against the Albanian-dominated Kosovar government in Pristina, whilst the Serbian government criticized them as harmful to Serbian interests, which under the leadership of Serbian President Boris Tadic have been focused on developing a dialogue with the Kosovar government aimed to allowing for Serbian membership in the EU. More here.

St. Nicholas of Japan

Joyous feast! С праздником! Today we celebrate the memory of our Holy Father Nicholas the Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of Japan. Born to a deacon in what today is western Russia in 1836, the future missionary pursued theological studies that eventually took him to the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, where he was tonsured a monk and ordained to the priesthood at the age of twenty-four.

Not long after his ordination in 1860 Hieromonk Nicholas was assigned, per his request, to serve at the Russian consulate in the Japanese city of Khakodate. He went to Japan with the desire to convert its people to Orthodoxy, but made little headway his first eight years in the country as he learned the Japanese language and studied Japanese culture. In those eight years only twelve Japanese were converted to Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, due in part to a report to the Holy Synod submitted by Fr. Nicholas in 1869 a Russian Orthodox ecclesiastical mission to Japan was organized under his leadership.

Not long after the organization of the mission and his elevation to the rank of archimandrite Fr. Nicholas moved from Khakodate to Tokyo, where in 1873 he established a church and ecclesiastical school that was upgraded five years later to become a seminary. Both the Tokyo and Khakodate parishes established multiple schools, whilst the ordination of native Japanese Orthodox to the priesthood in 1874 gave added impetus to the growth of the Orthodox Church in Japan, which by 1878 had over 4,000 members.

The results of Fr. Nicholas' missionary labors led to his consecration to the episcopacy in 1880 at St. Alexander of the Neva's Lavra in St. Petersburg, after which he returned to Japan to continue his ministry there as head of the ecclesiastical mission to the country. Under his guidance the Cathedral of the Resurrection (commonly known as the Nikolai-do or 'House of Nicholas') was built in Tokyo while the work of translating the services and Orthodox theological works into Japanese continued. Although significantly effected by the Russo-Japanese War the Church's mission in Japan continued, and after the war Bishop Nicholas was elevated to the rank of archbishop.

Archbishop Nicholas fell asleep on this day in 1912 after 51 years of service in Japan. By the time of his death the Japanese Orthodox Church included some 266 parishes and missions with approximately 35,000 members. Fifty-eight years later the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church glorified Archbishop Nicholas as a saint, recognizing him as an equal to the apostles because of his labors in Japan. More on St. Nicholas' life can be found here and here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quote of the Day: St. Jonah the Prophet

It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord...but the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?"

From the Prophecy of St. Jonah.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Quote of the Day: St. Ephraim of Syria

This is the fast which exalts; which appeared from the First Born,
So as to extol the younger ones. There is occasion for delight for the discerning ones in fasting;
When one sees how much he has grown. Fasting secretly purifies the soul
So it can gaze on God and grow by the vision of Him.
For the weight that is from the earth, bends it back to the earth.
Blessed is He Who gave us fasts,
The sheer wings by which we fly to him!

From St. Ephraim of Syria's Hymns on Fasting.

Monday, February 6, 2012

In Memoriam: Bishop Peter of Nicopolis

It has been reported that Bishop Petros (Karatroupkos) of Nicopolis, a retired auxiliary of the Alexandria Patriarchate, fell asleep in the Lord on 31 January. Bishop Petros, a native of southern Macedonia, was ordained to the priesthood in 1960, after which he served parishes in southern Macedonia and Canada before being transferred to serve in the Metropolis of Carthage in northwestern Africa. In 2001 Bishop Petros was elected the first Bishop of Lusaka and Zambia, serving in that capacity until his retirement in early 2003. More here. May his memory be eternal!

Russian Orthodox Patriarch, ROCOR Metropolitan Meet in Moscow

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow and Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of New York of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad have met during the latter's recent visit to Moscow to discuss the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church and the upcoming fifth anniversary of the reconciliation of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Synod Abroad. More here.

Photo of the Day: 3rd Anniversary of the Enthronement of Patriarch Cyril

A picture of the services at Christ the Savior Church in Moscow on 1 February marking the third anniversary of the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev).

Quote of the Day: St. Jonah the Prophet

So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord...and Jonah...cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"

So the people of Nineveh believe God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, "Let neither man nor beast...taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?"

Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

From the Prophecy of St. Jonah.

Fast of the Ninevites

We've arrived again at the Fast of Nineveh, the three-day fast commemorating the repentance of Nineveh and God's mercy on the Assyrian people. Many Orthodox - in Greece, Russia, and elsewhere - mark the approach of Lent with a fast-free week, but the Syrians, Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians, and Indians rigorously observe the Fast of Nineveh to prepare for the coming Great Fast.

Historically the Fast of the Ninevites originated in Mesopotamia, where it was kept strictly by the Assyrians and from whom it was passed to other parts of the Orthodox world. In the past the fast was six days long, but was later reduced to three. More on the fast can be found here.

"The Ninevites trembled at the voice of Jonah, the son of Mattai, and took refuge in penitence by watching, fasting and prayer; and by tears and groans the sentence of judgment pronounced by Jonah concerning the destruction of Nineveh was annulled. Blessed is the Compassionate One who turned them from evil to good!" (A prayer of the West Syrian Rite.)

Whether you're celebrating a week free from fasting or following the example of the Ninevites, God help you in your preparation for the approaching Pascha of His Son!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saidnaya Monastery Attacked

It is being reported that Syrian rebels have attacked the Antiochian Orthodox Church's world famous Saydnaya Monastery, firing shells at the pilgrimage center that fortunately did not explode upon impact. (Their failure to explode is being credited as a miracle of the Mother of God, to whom Saydnaya is dedicated.) More (in Greek) here.

There are concerns that as the Syrian uprisings continue Syria's religious minorities, who have enjoyed equal rights under the secular Baathist rule of President Bashar al-Assad, will increasingly become the targets of the anti-Assad rebels. Please keep Syria and its peoples in your prayers!