Sunday, July 26, 2009

Orthodox Benedictine Monastery Receives Favorable Media Coverage

I'm very late in posting this, but I'm thrilled to see Christminster Monastery in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, is receiving yet more positive coverage. Reporter Paul Wilson of The Hamilton Spectator recently went inside that holy house and came out with more good news. Below is the article, which appeared in that newspaper on April 3, 2009. It is reprinted here with the author's permission. Christminster is a Benedictine Monastery within the Orthodox Church (ROCOR), which celebrates the Mass of St. Gregory.
Cannon Street's spiritual haven
From coffee shop to reflective monastery
Paul Wilson
The Hamilton Spectator
April 3, 2009

Frs. Michael, Dom James, and Fr. Joseph of Christminster Monastery in Hamilton, Ontario, CanadaMonasteries are in short supply these days, but three out-of-country monks have now found peace, quiet and prayer nine times a day at a new haven on Cannon Street East.

These monks don't mind if you stop by. Somebody did visit on behalf of an online review site called Mystery Worshippers. The guest complains about "a spate of sirens" during the service. But on comfort, he reports "it was probably the best pew I've ever experienced."

And how did the service make him feel? "Ecstatic and, dare I say, a little envious of Orthodox Christians."

So I'm off to Mass, on that struggling stretch of Cannon, just west of Wentworth, at Steven.

For many years there was a coffee shop here, plus a hairdresser and an auto glass company.

But now the corner has been claimed by the new religious settlement. There's fresh brick on the buildings. The sign by the oak double doors, royal blue and gold, declares this to be Our Lady of Glastonbury Orthodox Church. The sign by the steel door beside it, with the image of a robed monk, says Christminster. That's the monastery.

It's 5 p.m. and a service is under way. There usually is.

There's room here for about 30, but today there are five of us. It is a quiet service. Yes, you can hear the traffic, but somehow it seems a long way away.

The man at the front in the black habit -- with the generous profile of Friar Tuck -- is not in a hurry. There are long, quiet pauses. He sings, chants. And then it is over.

There are individual bedside prayers at 5 each morning. More prayers, held in the church, are at 6:15 a.m., 7 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 9:15 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.

A lot of prayer. "It's a monastery," says Father James Deschene, abbot of Christminster. "That's what we do."

Pray much, talk little. There is the Great Silence, which begins after the 8:15 evening service. Meals are consumed in silence, though there may be something on the CD player -- classical music or James Earl Jones reading the New Testament.

"We don't want just idle chatter," Father James says. "We feed the mind." Yet he is a man of considerable humour and, when it's OK to do so, quite the talker.

He is 66, grew up in Rhode Island, went to a Roman Catholic seminary for four years.

But later he saw the light. "I explored, and Orthodoxy won. I found truth, the real and original church as it was meant to be, no fiddling with the teachings."

The church has small monasteries in Florida and Tasmania. And there was one in Providence, R.I., just Father James and Father Joseph in a little house, no room to grow.

Enter a local man of means, Bob Sherwood, who runs an operation called the White Rabbit Treatment Homes, owns property on Cannon and has a passion for Orthodox religion.

He came to know of the cramped conditions in Rhode Island and offered to renovate the property here for the monks. He would charge no rent.

He spent $200,000 fixing the place up, because, he says, "it seemed the right thing to do."

Last spring, Fathers James and Joseph moved in. They were joined by Father Michael, a convert from California.

Father James says there is still much about Hamilton unknown to him, though he has been to the Black Forest, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Farmers' Market.

He often goes to Fortinos or Food Basics in his habit and black Crocs. The robe doesn't create a stir.

"I imagine you could wear pretty much anything in Hamilton," he says. "That's not true back in Rhode Island."...

The neighbours have not been hostile...The occasional person has come for a retreat of up to a week, discovering life minus the chatter, the iPod, the TV.

"I'm sure most people would think this doesn't make much sense," Father James says. "But God is real. Our lives are being wasted if He's not."

Their lives are not wasted. Their holy lives are examples for us all, and their holy intercessions open the ears of Heaven to our pleas delayed by our coldness of heart.

Please, never cease to pray for us.

This article and the accompanying photographs appear with the author's permission.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Met. JONAH's Speech to the Anglican Church in North America

Oops; I didn't realize I had not posted this when it first surfaced the week of the speech! Old age is catching up with me...In all, a very well-done and uplifting speech, which does not mention any necessity of adopting Eastern Orthodox liturgical forms.

The viewer may find it interesting that, at 39 minutes into the speech, he is applauded for critiquing the Anglican tradition -- by Anglicans.

(Hat Tip: Byzantine, Texas)


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Met. JONAH Renews St. Tikhon's Dialogue with Anglicans

Met. JONAH presents an icon of St. Tikhon (Bellavin) to the ACNA assembly this morning.

As I noted yesterday, Met. JONAH of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) spoke to the inaugural assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) this morning (10:30 CDT/8:30 PDT). One observer described his speech as nothing less than "a 'barn burner' complete with numerous standing ovations and cries of agreement." He recorded that Met. JONAH:
reopened a dialogue with this Anglican group. With arms open he hopes to pick up where St. Tikhon left off. He gave an historical account of how the Episcopalians forced the dialogue to end by their actions and listed off (in "truth in love" and in a way "sure to offend some of you") about those things that they would have to do to if they wished to share the chalice. Most of you can guess what he listed: removal of the filioque, a rejection of Calvinism, no female ordinations, no gay marriage, and an extensive scholastic discussion about what unites and divides the two groups. In October at Nashotah House the OCA and the ACNA will meet to begin this dialogue. It is being billed as a picking up where the talks broke down and as such Metropolitan Jonah presented an icon of St. Tikhon to Archbishop-elect [Robert] Duncan. (Emphasis added.)
Note: adoption of the Byzantine Rite, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom/Basil, was not among the conditions.

Met. JONAH intends to take St. Tikhon's move to reunite Anglicans with the Holy Orthodox Church serioulsy. Even the ACNA's press release says, "This significant gesture represents the possibility of full communion being exchanged between the churches." It adds that the metropolitan's message "focused on unity but did not fail to address areas of contrasting beliefs between the two churches. Though united in upholding the authority of the Bible and uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Orthodox Church and Anglican Church in North America have differing opinions on matters such as the ordination of women and other doctrinal issues. Despite this, the Metropolitan told the audience that 'our arms are open wide.'"

Following his 45-minute speech, Met. JONAH presented the assembly with an icon of St. Tikhon (Bellavin). The conscious invocation of St. Tikhon is most significant. St. Tikhon had been approached by a group of Anglicans while he was bishop of North America, and as ruling prelate asked the mother church in Russia about the possibility of allowing them to use some form of the Book of Common Prayer. Although the Episcopalians withdrew before the Russian church sent observations intended to "serve in the negotiations as materials for the determination in detail of the conditions on which Anglicans disposed to Orthodoxy can be received," St. Tikhon clearly and undeniably acted to bring former Anglicans into a Western Rite within the Orthodox Church while retaining some form of the BCP.

Today, Met. JONAH followed in his foosteps. May he bring about the goal for which St. Tikhon longed.


The Next Western Rite?

Here's an interesting news item: an Orthodox metropolitan has been invited to deliver a keynote address to a group of conservative Anglicans in the formative stages of "a new denomination." News reports described the formation of the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA):
After years of preparation, evangelical, orthodox and traditionalist Anglicans from across North America, many of them recently departed from the Episcopal Church, will meet in Texas this week to formally launch the new denomination. ACNA unites eight Anglican groups under a single Archbishop and positions itself as an alternative to the U.S. Episcopal Church within the global Anglican Communion.
It is fascinating whom they wanted to hear from:
Ecumenical speakers including Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America will offer keynote addresses.
In fact, Met. JONAH will speak later today at 10:30 a.m. to noon CDT. It appears you can watch his speech live here.

His Eminence certainly makes an interesting contrast with Rick Warren. (Warren is author of The Purpose Driven Life and a favorite of the ACNA's evangelical members.) Despite boasts of their alleged death, there are yet a number of Anglo-Catholics who rejoice that, in their view, the ACNA constitution affirms "the Seven Ecumenical Councils" and its "Canons recognize that we embrace the faith 'once for all delivered to the saints' of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church." They may not know they are seeking the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church, but they are.

And Met. JONAH surely knows.

As a former Episcopalian, His Eminence has personal insight into their views. It is also significant that just this April Met. JONAH acknowledged, "It doesn't matter if we Eastern Rite or Western Rite, doesn't matter the language in the service is...we are one indigenous Church." This is in accordance with the views of some Russian New-Martyrs, St. Tikhon (Bellavin), St. Nicholas of Japan, St. Raphael of Brooklyn — and even of the OCA's own founding hierarch.

One can hardly say this meeting will result in new waves of Western Rite Orthodox, though it cannot hurt. As I have noted, Anglicans are largely impervious to moving anywhere, no matter the difficulties, and there are many places easier to enter than Orthodoxy, much less the Western Rite of Orthodoxy.

It is good this meeting of traditionally minded Christians did not go wtihout an Orthodox voice. Perhaps as the speech commends their step of faith away from apostasy, it will show them the limitations of the ACNA: it has essentially restored a slightly more conservative status quo of 1979. In addition to being a big tent church open equally to "Puritans and papists" (to paraphrase Fr. Alban Waggener), fully one-quarter of its dioceses allow women's ordination to the priesthood. The ACNA's Anglo-Catholics write its constitution will not force priestesses upon any diocese, and parishes will retain their property rights...but the fact remains: this is not the faith of their fathers. That can be found only in the Holy Catholic, Apostolic, and Orthodox Church. Lord willing, this will prove a first step to that destination.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The 140th Anniversary of Dr. J.J. Overbeck's Conversion Remembered

According to the Dean of the ROCOR Cathedral in Chiswick, London, today is the 140th anniversary of the conversion of Dr. J.J. (Julian Joseph) Overbeck, the instigator of the modern Western Rite Orthodox movement. Today, his home church is remembering his historical contributions. Fr. Nicholas Savchenko wrote:
Next Sunday there will be a 140th anniversary of doctor Overback [sic.] conversion to Orthodoxy as it is said in our parish registration book (21 June 1869). I'll be making a speach after Liturgy about him. His book was translated to Russian and Holy Synod and Pobedonostsev supported him. He was a member of our parish untill 1905 when he died and his wife and children were members too.

fr. Nikolay
Incidentally, Pobedonostsev was no small supporter and "had connections," as they say. Overbeck pressed for a Western liturgy that resembled that of the Roman Catholic (and, more to the point, Old Catholic) churches of his day, with only the modifications he deemed necessary to bring that living tradition into line with Orthodox theology and practice -- and his plan received widespread support, including that of multiple patriarchates including (temporarily) the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Although his attempts to woo the Union of Utrecht failed, the Orthodox Church accepted the concept of a revived Western Rite, specifically one that began by taking the Roman Mass as its starting point.

The idea of Western Orthodoxy did not come to fruition in his lifetime, but it is unlikely it would have come about at all without his actions, all of which began with his conversion to the Orthodox Church 140 years ago today. Our most profound thanks to Fr. Nikolay and the rest for the remembrance. (Hat tip: Hieromonk Michael, for forwarding it.)

Below are links for further reading about Dr. Overbeck:

Dr. J.J. Overbeck and His Scheme for the Reestablishment of the Orthodox Church in the West
by David F. Ambramtsov.

Catholic Orthodoxy and Anglo-Catholicism, by J.J. Overbeck (1866)

A Plain View of the Claims of the Orthodox Church as Opposed to All Other Christian Denominations by J.J. Overbeck, D.D. (1881)

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Pope Shenouda III on Pentecost

In honor of the Feast, here is an article on that topic by the Coptic Pope, Shenouda III.
The Feast of Pentecost
by Pope Shenouda III

The Glorified Lord Christ lived with them in His body until He rose to Heaven then promised them the Holy Spirit to stay with them forever, the Spirit of truth, the Comforter. So what should we know about the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, therefore it existed since ever. We read about it in the first verses of the Genesis Book. The divine response says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gn 1:1, 2).

And Isaiah talks about the Holy Spirit and gives Him names in his saying: “The Spirit of the LORD…The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” (Is 11:2).

And we add to that in the third Hour Prayer (Terce) of every day and say: “a spirit of prophecy and chastity, a spirit of holiness, justice and authority” and call Him by saying: “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who is present in all places and fills all, the treasury of good things and the Life-Giver”.

And the Lord says about Him in the St John’s Gospel “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father” (Jn 15:26). And the doctrine of being proceeded from the Father was mentioned by the Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in the Faith Creed. Yet our brothers, the Catholics add to it “Filioque” meaning “and from the Son”. And this is opposing to the Holy Trinity Doctrine. In assimilating the Holy Trinity to Fire we say: "Fire brings forth heat; and light proceeds from it” and we do not say that the light proceeds from heat! But the light and the heat both come from the origin, which is the fire and not one from the other.

The Holy Spirit used to work in the Old Testament as well.

In the story of Samson we read that “the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan” (Judges 13:25). And we also read that after Saul was anointed as king that “the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied” (1 S 10:10). This also happened when David was anointed by Prophet Samuel to be king “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:13). And the way the Holy Spirit came upon both Saul and David was through the Anointing Oil that the Lord ordered them to prepare in Exodus Book (Ex 30:22-31). And Aaron was anointed as a high priest when Moses poured from this holy anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him (Lv 8:12), as we say in the psalm “It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.” (Ps 133:2). And with this anointing oil the tent of meeting along with the altars and the utensils were anointed and became holy (Ex 40, Lv 8). With this anointing oil also kings and prophets were anointed (1 Kings 19). And as a result to the anointing, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and so comes His gifts as well.

And we read in prophet Joel the Lord’s saying: “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28).

And this is what happened on the fiftieth day (the Day of Pentecost), as St Peter the Apostle explained this verse from Prophet Joel’s Book (Ac 2:16, 17).

The Holy Spirit also could be transferred from one person to another.

This happened to the seventy elders on the days of Prophet Moses when the Lord said to him: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them” (Nm 11:16, 17). And here the bible says: “Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied” (Nm 11:25).

We notice that before Moses, when Joseph the Righteous interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, “Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?"” (Gn 41:38). And here was the Holy Spirit’s gift interpreting dreams, i.e., the Spirit of knowledge.

Also there is another work for God’s Spirit in every art, so as to what the tent of meeting needed “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship” (Ex 31:1- 5).

Here we see that the Holy Spirit works even in the talent of workmanship that is given to some even in jewelry and carving woods.

Among the most important characteristics of the Holy Spirit is that it is Who spoke in the prophets.

This is a statement in the content of the Faith Creed. This means that the Holy Spirit is the source of the divine response of the Holy books. the Holy Spirit was the source of all what the prophets and apostles said in the holy books.

In this St Peter the Apostle said in his second epistle “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 P 1:21).

Nowadays, in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given through three ways: The holy anointing, laying priests’ hands and the holy breath.

As for the holy breath, it was written in St John’s Gospel that our Lord Jesus, after His Resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples, the saints, in the upper room, He told them “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."” (Jn 20:21-23).

In the ordination of the bishop or the priest we breathe in his face and say “Accept the Holy Spirit”, so he opens his mouth to accept the holy breath and says with the psalm “I opened my mouth and accepted myself a spirit”.

As for laying hands, the Holy Spirit in the time of our fathers the apostles was given through the apostles laying hands. This was mentioned in giving the Holy Spirit to the People of Samaria. The Apostles Synod in Jerusalem sent them St Peter and St John “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Ac 8:14-17). And the same was done to the People of Ephesus “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Ac 19:7). Same applied to the Priesthood Sacrament, St Paul the Apostle said to his disciple Timothy “I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Ti 1:6).

The holy anointing was also known in the apostolic age. St John the Apostle says about that: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One…” (1 Jn 2:20) “… But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you” (1 Jn 2:27).

We, in anointing children after baptism: we anoint them with the Holy Chrism (Myron) and lay hands on them and breathe in their faces. And say to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

With the Holy Anointing Sacrament, we become temples for the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit dwells in us. St Paul the Apostle talks about that in his first epistle to Corinthians and says: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Co 3:16), and “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Co 6:19). Then every one of should remember that on the day he was anointed with the Holy Chrism (Myron) that he became a temple for the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit became dwelling in him.

The Holy Spirit works in priesthood and priesthood is granted through the Holy Spirit. It has the power of forgiving sins. But someone may say: How is that? And no one can forgive sins except God alone! We say: Yes, the Holy Spirit that is in the priest is one who forgives sins. As we say in the Holy Liturgy “be absolved by my mouth through the Holy Spirit,” so it is the Holy Spirit that forgives sins. And this forgiveness comes from the priest’s mouth. And the absolution that the priest gives through the absolution prayer in which he says: may God absolve you, may God pardon you, may God forgive you. And the Holy Spirit is present also in all the Church Sacraments. He also is present in all the Holy Synod decisions. In the first decision that came from the Synod in Jerusalem on the days of our fathers the apostles, they said: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” (Ac 15:28).

The Holy Spirit works in the Service too. The Church fathers, the apostles did not start the service until the Holy Spirit came upon them and the Lord’s promise saying: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Ac 1:8) was fulfilled in them. The Holy Spirit was the One choosing the servants, like when He said: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Ac 13:2, 4). And it was Him who directed the servants in their paths and worked in them and using them.

Asking for the Holy Spirit is a point of our daily prayer of the Third Hour (Terce). We ask it to come upon us and purify us from all defilement of body and spirit. And we cry to God saying: Your Holy Spirit, O Lord, do not take away from us.

It is part of our freedom to accept the Holy Spirit, work with Him, and go into the “Holy Spirit Partaking”. And we are also free to reject and quench the Spirit and fight the Spirit. And the most serious thing is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, meaning to reject it completely all through the life. But how beautiful is the bible’s saying: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Ro 8:14).

Here I would like to warn those who are deceived and think that every spirit that leads them is God’s Spirit!! The apostle says: “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn 4:1).

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pope St. Gregory the Great on Doubting Thomas

The following is an excerpt from the homilies of Pope St. Gregory the Great (known in the East as "St. Gregory the Dialogist"). In both East and West, the Sunday after Easter (Pascha) is devoted to "the beautiful unbelief of Thomas," whose doubt stands as a proxy, making our own unnecessary:

Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; He offered His side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out His hands, and showing the scars of His wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.

Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvelous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his Master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.

Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God. Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Paul said: Faith is the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what can not be seen. What is seen gives knowledge, not faith. When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: My Lord and my God. Seeing, he believed; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see.

What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts One we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practices what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.

Let us confirm our faith by stretching forth our hand to aid the needy.

See also: St. Augustine on Doubting Thomas.

(Hat Tip for St. Gregory's excerpt: The Crossroads Initiative)

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Holy Saturday

In honor of Holy Saturday, here is quotation of a quotation of a saint. (I believe that makes this a third-class relic of a quotation.):

Holy Saturday, according to [St.] Epiphanius of Cyprus.

Something strange is happening … there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”....

You can read the rest by clicking here.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Good Friday, East and West

Here are my observations from 2007:
In Holy Week, perhaps more than any other time, the unity of the Orthodox Church is manifest. The words, emphases, and actions of both Byzantine and Western Rite Orthodox could not be more clearly of-a-piece. I write in haste (I often do on this blog) and cannot give more than a cursory overview, but consider:

In the Western Rite on Maundy Thursday, the priest consecrates a second Host, to be consumed during the Presanctified Liturgy of Good Friday. He then processes with the presanctified Eucharist from the altar to a side chapel and "buries" It. Upon arriving at the altar, the priest and servers kneel in adoration (as did the people as It passed in procession). In the Byzantine Rite, on the Great Vespers service of Holy Friday ("Good Friday" in the West), the priest removes the icon of Christ affixed to the Crucifix and "buries" it. He and the clergy process around the church with the epitaphios (a cloth with the icon of Christ being prepared for burial), then places it and the Gospel (cross-side up) on a bier. The people often kneel as it passes. Then the clergy and people kneel and venerate the epitaphios and Gospel.

On Good Friday, in the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church, the people pray the Great Intercessions, so reminiscent of the Byzantine litanies. The priest then unveils the Cross, as the people kneel. As the Reproaches (Improperia) are sung, the clergy and people then prostrate and adore the Cross. In the Byzantine Rite, in Orthros of Holy Friday (anticipated on the evening of Holy/Maundy Thursday; this service is also known as the "12 Passion Gospels"), the priest processes with the Cross about the church, as the people kneel. The clergy then prostrate and adore the cross.

The Byzantine Prokeimenon (Tone 4) before the 7th Gospel, during this service celebrated on Maundy Thursday evening, is: "They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast lots." This is the same verse the priest chants in the Western Rite on Maundy Thursday before the stripping of the altar.

Moreover, the content of the Western Rite Reproaches (Improperia) are closely echoed by the words of the Byzantine services for the same liturgical day:

Today the Jews nail on the Cross Him Who did cleave the sea with a rod, and made them to pass through the wilderness. Today they pierce with a spear the side of Him Who scourged Egypt with curses for their sake; and will give Him bitterness to drink who rained down manna for their nourishment.

(Sixth Antiphon, Orthros of Holy Friday - 12 Passion Gospels.)

Why doth the law-transgressing people of false worship meditate in falsehood? Why was he condemned to death Who is the life of all?
(Stichera Verse, Tone 2, Great Vespers of Holy Friday.)
O My people, what have I done to thee? Or wherein have I afflicted thee? Answer Me. Because I led thee out of the land of Egypt, thou hast prepared a Cross for thy Savior.

(Good Friday Reproaches)
Say ye, O transgressors of the law, what heard ye from our Saviour? Is it not that He appointed a law and the teachings of the Prophets? How then did ye think to deliver to Pilate the Word, God of God, and the Deliverer of our souls?

They who benefited always by Thy gifts, O Christ, were crying: Let Him be crucified. And the killers of the Righteous sought to free an evildoer in place of the Benefactor. But Thou wast silent, enduring their arrogance, wishing to suffer and to save us, since Thou art the Lover of mankind. (8th Antiphon, Orthros of Holy Friday.)

In place of the good things that Thou didst for the Hebrew people, O Christ, they condemned Thee to be crucified, giving Thee vinegar and gall to drink. (11th Antiphon, Orthros of Holy Friday.)

Thus saith the Lord to the Jews: My people, what have I done unto Thee, and wherewith have I harmed Thee? Thy blind have I lighted; thy lepers have I cleansed, and the man on his couch have I raised.

O My people, what have I done unto thee, and wherewith hast thou rewarded Me? Instead of manna, gall; and in place of water, vinegar; and instead of loving Me, thou didst nail Me to the Cross. (12th Antiphon, Orthros of Holy Friday.)

My firstborn, Israel, hath done double evil, having forsaken Me, the Fountain of the waters of life, and shaped himself a broken cistern, crucifying Me on a a Tree...thou O Israel did not refrain but delivered Me unto death. O Holy Father, forgive them, for they know not what they have done. (Praises, Tone 3, following 9th Gospel, Orthodos of Holy Friday.)

When Thou wast led to the Cross, O Lord, Thou didst say, "For what act do ye wish, O Jews, to crucify Me? Is it because I have strengthened your cripples? Is it because I raised your dead as from the sleep, healed the woman of her issue of blood, and showed mercy upon the Canaanitish woman? For what act, O ye Jews, desire ye my death?" But ye shall behold Him whom ye pierced, O law-transgressors, and know that He is Christ. (Idiomela Hymns, Tone 5, 3rd Hour of Holy Friday.)

Thus saith the Lord to the Jews: My people, what have I done unto thee; and wherewith have I harmed thee? Thy blind have I lighted; thy lepers have I cleansed, and the man on his couch have I raised. In my food they gave me gall, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Idiomela Hymns, Tone 8, 6th Hour of Holy Friday.)

When the lawless nailed Thee upon the Cross, O Lord of glory, Thou didst cry unto them, "Wherein have I caused you sorrow? Wherein have I angered you? And who before Me delivered you from sorrow? And now wherewith do ye reward Me? Instead of goodness, evil; for the pillar of fire, ye nailed Me on the Cross; for the clouds, ye dug Me a grave; instead of water, ye gave Me vinegar to drink. (Idiolmela Hymns, Tone 2, 9th Hour of Holy Friday)

Oh, how the assembly of the law-transgressors condemned to death the King of creation, not being ashamed nor abashed by His benevolences, of which He had assured them formerly, calling them to their remembrance, saying, "My people, what have I done to thee? Have I not showered Judaism with wonders? Have I not raised the dead by only a word? Have I not healed every sickness and every weakness? With what, then, hast thou rewarded Me? And why forgetest thou Me? For healing, thou hast inflicted wounds upon Me; and for raising the dead, thou dost cause Me, the Benevolent, to die suspended upon a Tree as an evil-doer; the Giver of the Law, as a law-transgressor; and the King of all as One Who is condemned." (Stichera Verse, Tone 6, Ibid.)
Because I led thee out through the desert forty years: and fed thee with manna, and brought thee into a land exceeding good, thou has prepared a Cross for thy Savior.

What more ought I to have done for thee, that I have not done? I planted thee, indeed, My most beautiful vineyard: and thou has become exceeding bitter to Me: for in My thirst thou gavest Me vinegar to drink; and with a lance thou hast pierced the side of thy Savior.

For thy sake I scourged Egypt with its firstborn: and thou didst deliver Me up to be scourged.

I led thee out of Egypt having drowned Pharaoh in the Red Sea: and thou to the chief priests didst deliver Me.

I opened the sea before thee: and thou with a spear didst open My side.

I went before thee in a pillar of cloud: and thou didst lead Me to the judgment hall of Pilate.

I fed thee with manna in the desert; and thou didst beat Me with blows and scourges.

I gave thee the water of salvation from the rock to drink: and thou didst give Me gall and vinegar.

For thy sake I struck the kings of the Canaanites: and thou didst strike My head with a reed.

I gave thee a royal scepter: and thou didst give My head a crown of thorns.

I exalted thee with great strength: and thou didst hang Me on the gibbet of the Cross.

(Good Friday Reproaches)

UPDATE: How could I forget: After Maundy Thursday, the Western Rite faithful keep vigil before the "tomb" containing the presanctified Eucharist (the "40 Hours Devotion"). On Good Friday, it is traditional for Byzantine Orthodox to keep vigil at the "tomb" of Christ. In both cases, it is to undo the disobedience of the sleep-ridden Apostles and arouse a sense of watchfulness over our souls.

Also, on Good Friday in the West, during the Presanctified Liturgy (the only one of the year in the WR), the people recite the Greek, no less. -- BJ.

Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, "The Eastern and Western Rites are merely different ways of doing the same thing."(TM) Though a certain school of Orthodox obscurantism rejects us, let's all humble ourselves, prostrate before whatever our particular Orthodox rite proffers, and meditate upon the life-giving Death necessitated by our numberless sins and transgressions - the truth so clearly driven home by both rites. And then let us embrace one another as fellow inheritors of that grace-bestowing Life. If we are to, in the words of the Paschal stichera, "call brothers even those that hate us," certainly we should do so for Orthodox brethren worshiping according to approved Rites of our Holy Mother the Church. Especially when we are praying the same things to the same Lord in the same Church.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 09, 2009

OCA's Met. JONAH Acknowledges the Western Rite

Some of you may be following the back-and-forth between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and North American Orthodox hierarchs; a representative of the Phanar invited all churches of the "diaspora" to "submit" to Constantinople, and His Eminence Metropolitan JONAH, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), responded by citing the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in North American Orthodoxy. Others can focus on the political aspects of this tug-of-war (and have), but we must not pass over another passage of His Eminence's sermon last Sunday. Met. JONAH spoke at St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas on April 5, 2009, where he said:
We are a single community of Orthodox Christians, and we are the local Church in Dallas, the local Church in Northeast Texas. It doesn't matter that we have all these various administrative jurisdictions, ultimately, because we gather together as one Body, to pray with one mind and one heart, to celebrate the same Eucharist, to come to the same chalice. It doesn't matter if we Eastern Rite or Western Rite, doesn't matter the language in the service is, but...we are one Church. We are one local Church, and I might add, we are one indigenous Church. (Emphasis added.)
That is, Met. JONAH specifically affirmed the authenticity of Western Rite Orthodoxy. More specifically, members of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate in northeast Texas were in attendance at this sermon. Thus, the head of the OCA said the Western Rite as presently practiced within the AWRV is Orthodox and a part of the indigenous Orthodox Church in North America.

This is significant, since some in the OCA may be ignorant of or antipathetic toward the Western Rite (and these are hardly mutually exclusive). However, affirming the Western Rite and specifically the approach of the AWRV is in keeping with the views — not only of some Russian New-Martyrs, St. Tikhon (Bellavin), St. Nicholas of Japan, and St. Raphael of Brooklyn — but of the OCA's own founding hierarch. Abp. Platon (Rozhdestvensky), who would go on to found the Metropolia, said to a group of Western Christians in 1911: "When we agree concerning dogmas, there will be no need to speak of rites. They will not prevent us from being one in Christ and having the same belief in Christ."

As I noted when he was ordained, Met. JONAH is a former Episcopalian, and may have some understanding of Western prayer and spirituality. Whatever his personal experience, he has made clear in his remarks that the Western Rite has a future in his vision of a unified Orthodox Church in North America, as it did in the original under the Russian Church. You can hear the whole sermon here:

(Hat tip: Dom James for calling attention to the speech, and Rod Dreher for running the full text)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Western Rite Mission in Maryland: St. John the Baptist

We told you years ago that more Charismatic Episcopal Churches stood ready to join the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church. Since then, many have followed. The Antiochian Archdiocese has announced that, it's official: within two months of the last group of former CEC becoming Western Rite Orthodox catechumens, another church has joined the fold:

St. John the Baptist Mission began as a small mission in the Charismatic Episcopal Church (called Lamb of God Church) on Christmas Eve, 2005 under the pastoral leadership of Fr. James K. Hamrick, a CEC priest and a former United Methodist pastor. The congregation, made up mostly of former Methodists, found a historic chapel for lease in Lewistown, Maryland, just north of Frederick, Maryland, an hour west of Baltimore and an hour northwest of D.C. The chapel, originally built in 1833 as a Methodist Church, has been home for the congregation since.

In August 2006, Fr. James met Fr. Gregory McGregor, an Orthodox priest in southeastern Virginia, which prompted Fr. James to begin examining the claims of Orthodoxy. Two years later, in the summer of 2008, the congregation's bishop retired, causing the people to search in earnest for where God was leading them next. Fr. James and the people of Lamb of God Church examined a number of continuing Anglican groups, but only with limited enthusiasm. Finally, at a clericus gathering in Towson, Maryland on September 17, 2008, Fr. James heard a compelling presentation given by Fr. Patrick Cardine and Fr. Alban Waggoner on the Orthodox Church. Father James presented the congregation with this invitation to consider the Orthodox Church, and in short order the people began to discern that the Holy Orthodox Church was where God was indeed directing them. At the request of Fr. James, Bishop THOMAS visited the congregation in October 2008 in order to answer questions and to encourage the people as they discerned their call. With strong consensus among the people, Lamb of God Church officially became a catechumenate mission of the Orthodox Church on November 30, 2008, with Fr. Patrick Cardine and Fr. Nicholas Alford as the assigned catechists.

In coming into Holy Orthodoxy, the people requested a new name for their mission to represent a whole new beginning, but since St. John the Baptist had been their patron saint, they requested to bear his name. Metropolitan PHILIP agreed and the new mission became St. John the Baptist. God willing, on April 11th (Lazarus Saturday), nearly 30 people will be chrismated by Fr. Nicholas Alford at St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church in Washington, DC. (See Update Below!) Saint John the Baptist will become a Western Rite mission, and until Fr. James is ordained a priest in the Orthodox Church, Fr. Peter Jacobsen, a retired Western Rite priest from New York, will be serving the mission

What an inspiring story of faith, with a search for truth lasting many years finally about to be realized.

The season of Lent traditionally has been a time of completing the catechumenate. Lenten fasting had its historic origins in the faithful fasting in solidarity with those about to be illumined, born again, through the Sacrament/Mystery of Baptism. As we are all praying and fasting together, please, as the Byzantine services of this time ask, "Let us the faithful pray for the catechumens." God bless them all, richly rewarding their faithfulness with His mercy.

Update: A reader e-mails that Fr. Nicholas Alford just alerted them of a new location for the chrismation service, to allow more people to attend:

With Metropolitan PHILIP's blessing we are moving the service of Chrismation for the people of St. John the Baptist Mission to Ss. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, 10620 River Rd, Potomac, MD. The service will be on Friday evening, April 10, beginning with Vespers at 7PM. . . . The Chrismations will follow Vespers and then the Liturgy for the feast of St. Leo will be celebrated.

Thank you. Whatever the proximate location, God will unite all of you to His Mystical Body, the Church. God bless you!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Well, it's Not Quite the "Holy Hand Grenade," But....

Pastor, Parishoner Arrested for Shooting an Arrow in Church. I guess the pastor of Pentecostals of Sheboygan County (Wisconsin) thought this would be a neat illustration of some sort.

Maybe he was preaching on St. Matthew 18:9?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This video, of the FSSP transforming a Novus Ordo altar into a reverent traditional altar, inspired me. To paraphrase a joke about lawyers, it is "a good start." But there is also a parable about our souls during Lent to be found in such renovation. Enjoy.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Additional Celtic Hymn for St. Patrick's Day

To honor St. Patrick's Day, here is another Celtic hymn, though not one written by the saint himself. The words are traditionally attributed to Ireland's blind poet-saint, St. Dallan Forgaill (d. 598). A recording is below (which is far from perfect, but the most reverent and least "Christian contemporary" I could find online.)

Be Thou My Vision
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
Be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true Word,
Be Thou ever with me, and I with Thee Lord;
Be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
Be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be Thou my whole armor, be Thou my true might;
Be Thou my soul's shelter, be Thou my strong tower:
O raise Thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise:
Be Thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, Thou Heaven's bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Be Thou My Vision - The Irish Tenors

(The poem contains an interesting, pre-Schism reference to the Heart, as well....)

Labels: , ,

St. Patrick's Breastplate

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here is a hymn traditionally attributed to the Apostle to Ireland himself. The words have been set to music, which is below.

The Breastplate of St. Patrick ("I Bind Unto Myself Today")
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet "Well done" in judgment hour;
The service of the seraphim;
Confessor's faith, apostles' word,
The patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun's life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need;
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.
Of Whom all nature hath creation;
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.

Here is a link to the music of this hymn, as well:

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Two Milestones in One Day

St. Aristibulus of the Seventy, Bishop of Britain

Today is not merely the Second Sunday in Lent, but it is also the day our friend Aristibule "Ari" Adams can point to the Byzantine Menologion and say, "See? 'Aristibule' is a saint's name!" (Depending on the Menologion; at least one lists this saint on March 16.)

Happy Name Day to Aristibule!
Holy Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy, Bishop of Britain

March 15


Saint Aristobulus, the brother of Saint Barnabas, was ordained to be bishop in Britain by the Apostle Paul, who mentions him in his epistle to the Romans (16:10). He suffered many afflictions at the hands of the pagans, but also brought many to Christ. Having established the Church there, he finally reposed in peace.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Aristobulos, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

- From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website.

A bit fuller life:

The Holy Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy was born on Cyprus. He was chosen by Christ and sent out to preach (Luke 10:1). He and his brother, the holy Apostle Barnabas of the Seventy, accompanied the holy Apostle Paul on his journeys. Saint Aristobulus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:10).

Saint Paul made Aristobulus a bishop and sent him to preach the Gospel in Britain, where he converted many to Christ. He endured the torments and malice of the pagans, and eventually baptized them. He later became a bishop to the Celts of northern Spain and Britain and is known as the Apostle of Britain.

Saint Aristobulus died in Britain among the people he had evangelized. His memory is celebrated on October 31 and also on the Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles January 4.

Saint Aristobulus is also commemorated on March 16, and on October 31 together with Saints Stachys, Amplias, Urban, Narcissus, Apelles.
(Hyperlinks to Scripture added.)

May we mark both the Sunday and the saint's day with appropriate joy.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Bishops

H.G.Alexios Mar Eusebius

No, not those bishops; there are plenty of places to lose your Lenten peace over that.

On March 2, the Malankara Orthodox Church (Indian non-Chalcedonian Orthodox under the Catholicos Didymus I) appointed two new bishops for North America: H.G. Zacharia Mar Nicolavos is appointed Assistant Metropolitan attached to the North East Diocese of America, and H.G. Alexios Mar Eusebius is Metropolitan of the Diocese of South West America.

Many other dioceses were also created.

Many years to all.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Happy Name Day in D.C.

Best wishes for a blessed name day to St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church (AWRV) in Washington, D.C. Ad multos annos!