Saturday, November 04, 2006

St. Raphael of Brooklyn, Bishop and Confessor

St. Raphael of Brooklyn, intercessor for the Western Rite, ora pro nobis!

The Western Rite Ordo today commemorates St. Raphael of Brooklyn. St. Raphael of Brooklyn is known for many things: his sanctity, his wise pastoral leadership, and also for being the first Arab-American saint (at least, the first canonized). He should also be praised for his work promoting the Western Rite within Holy Orthodoxy.

When a group of Anglicans approached St. Tikhon (Bellavin) about joining the Orthodox Church as its Western Rite (retaining some variant of services found in their Book of Common Prayer), Fr. Edward Hughes says it was St. Raphael who drafted the letter of inquiry to the Synod. The result was the 1904 Russian Observations Upon the American Prayer Book, delineating the exact contours under which such union would be possible. The document demanded certain changes to the eucharistic liturgy, which the Western Rite (under Antioch and ROCOR) has since implemented.

Throughout St. Raphel's pastoral life, he longed for the return of Episcopalians to the Orthodox Church and worked tirelessly for reunion. (The Church had invited PECUSA Bp. Charles Grafton to attend his consecration in 1904, but he had to decline for health reasons.) St. Raphael was a loving and trusting man. When High Church Episcopalians told him their faith (and that of all their brethren) mirrored Orthodoxy, St. Raphael issued a statement that Orthodox may seek out Episcopal priests in cases of extreme necessity, provided no Orthodox priest was available. PECUSA promptly took advantage of his trust, sheep-stealing as many Arabs as possible. This caused St. Raphael to resign his position as vice president of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union in 1911 and rescind his pastoral decree. St. Raphael continued to promote the idea of an American Church with a Western Rite until his repose in 1915.

Shortly after his translation, the Orthodox Church would task one of his successors with forming an American Orthodox Church., resulting in the ordination of Fr. Ignatius Nichols as Bishop (later Archbishop) of Washington, D.C., and head of the Western Rite. When St. Raphael's successor proved less than saintly, and the Bolshevik Revolution engendered the canonical confusion still evident in North America, Abp. Nichols founded the Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil (SSB). The group's canonical status would be re-established when Antiochian Patriarch Alexander III (Tahan) approved the formation of the Western Rite Vicariate on May 31, 1958. Like another recent convert, Bp. Alexander Turner lay aside his mitre to join Orthodoxy, becoming the first Vicar-General of the Western Rite. No Western Rite would have been possible without the wise and loving view of St. Raphael of Brooklyn, who worked and longed for its development and the reconciliation of the West. May he always remember the Western Rite in his prayers; bathed in his sanctity, his petitions will not go unheard.

(P.S.: Spraznikum to Huw, whose heavenly intercessor St. Raphael is.)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

For All the Saints

From the Hymn of First Vespers (Christe, Redemptor Omnium)
...And hear with reconciling care
The blessed Virgin's holy prayer.
And ye, O ever blissful throng
Of heavenly spirits, guardians strong,
Our past and present ills dispel,
From future peril shield us well.
Ye Prophets of the Judge adored,
Ye twelve Apostles of the Lord,
For us your ceaseless prayer outpour,
Salvation for our souls implore.
Martyrs of God, renowned for aye,
Confessors ranged in bright array,
Let all your orisons unite
To bear us to the realms of light.
O sacred Virgin choirs may ye,
With Monks of holy ministry,
And every Saint of Christ obtain
That we his fellowship may gain....
From the Hymn of Lauds (Jesu, Salvator Saeculi)
...Mother of God, in time of need,
For contrite hearts salvation plead.
Let all the bright Angelic choirs,
The ranks of Patriarchal sires,
And Prophet Saints, devout and meek,
Forgiveness for our errors seek.
The Baptist, Thy great harbinger,
With heaven's appointed Keybearer,
And all Apostles strive to win,
From God remission of our sin.
So may the sacred Martyr band,
Confessors, Priests, adoring stand,
And every Virgin chastely pray
That he would purge our guilt away.
Your suffrages, ye Monks, unite
With all the citizens of light
To speed our vows, combine your powers
That life's eternal prize be ours.

I note both of these hymns follow the general progression so familiar to those acquainted with the Byzantine liturgy:

And again we offer unto Thee this reasonable service for all those who in faith have gone before us to their rest: Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith: Especially our all-holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin whose supplications look down upon us, O God.

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Indian Orthodox: New Catholicos-Designate

This is belated news, as it took place on October 12, but still of importance:

A meeting of the Malankara Syrian Christian Association , 4,051-member parliament of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, held at the St Gregorios Nagar (Parumala seminary premises) on the banks of the Pampa at Parumala near Thiruvalla at 1 p.m. on Today is over by electing Metropolitan Paulos Mar Militheos as Catholicos-designate.

A meeting of the Malankara Syrian Christian Association , 4,051-member parliament of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, held at the St Gregorios Nagar (Parumala seminary premises) on the banks of the Pampa at Parumala near Thiruvalla at 1 p.m. on Today is over by electing Metropolitan Paulos Mar Militheos as Catholicos-designate.

Catholicos-designate Paulos Mar Militheos, right, seated next to Catholicos Basileos Marthoma Didymus I (on throne).

The Catholicos is the head of the Malankara Church, the rough equivalent of a patriarch. The Malankara are Oriental Orthodox, not Byzantine Orthodox.


An Orthodox Symposium on St. Augustine

I found this note about an upcoming event of interest to our readers:

Orthodox Readings of Augustine

First International Conference of the Orthodoxy in America Lecture Series

Co-Sponsored by the Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham University.

June 14-16, 2007, at the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University in The Bronx.

For more than one thousand years, Eastern Orthodox theologians have offered conflicting interpretations of the orthodoxy of one of the most respected fathers of the Western Church, St. Augustine of Hippo. Although Augustine is regarded as a saint of the Orthodox Church (commemorated on June 15) many find fault with his Trinitarian formulations and his teachings about original sin and predestination. This conference will bring together prominent Eastern Orthodox theologians and historians to offer their own interpretations of Augustine's place in the Orthodox Church. The conference also includes the perspectives of well-known Roman Catholic and Anglican scholars who are knowledgeable about the reception of Augustine in the East and/or the continued theological dialogue between Eastern and Western Christians.

Plenary Speaker: Andrew Louth

Other Speakers include:

  • Lewis Ayres
  • John Behr
  • David Bradshaw
  • Brian Daley, S.J.
  • Elizabeth Fisher
  • Carol Harrison
  • David Hart
  • Joseph Lienhard, S.J.
  • Andrew Louth
  • Jean-Luc Marion
  • John McGuckin
  • John Milbank
  • David Tracy

For more information, contact George Demacopoulos (demacopoulos AT or Aristotle Papanikolaou (papanikolaou AT

It would be most interesting to hear what is said. This much-maligned saint has absorbed the brunt of "super-Orthodox" hatred for quite a long time. At least this announcement refers to him as a "saint," which is more than hyper-Orthodox do. May this saint's legacy be properly respected in His Church once again.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Godspeed Fr. Fenton

On Sunday, our friend Fr. John Fenton has tendered his resignation from Zion Lutheran Church in Detroit. Many of us have admired Fr. Fenton's insights and patristic knowledge. We wish him well during a stressful time of transition. (He is a family man with a number of dependents.) What's striking is the lack of anger or malice, and the pure, gentle decency of his letter:

When I became Pastor of Zion Church more than 11 years ago, my intention was to remain at Zion until death or retirement. That is still my heartfelt and sincere desire...[However,] Zion wants to be a Lutheran congregation. The members of Zion rightly expect their Pastor to be Lutheran—a man who holds unreservedly to the Book of Concord as a true and correct interpretation and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. I can no longer do so.

When a man pledges himself to a confession, he doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts he’ll abide by and which parts he’ll ignore or go against. Most of the Book of Concord is true and correct, and for that God is to be praised. However, I am convinced that the Book of Concord contains defective or deficient doctrines not in accord with the faith of the apostles. In simple terms, these deficiencies include the acceptance of an amended Nicene Creed, the notion that Jesus died to appease His Father’s wrath, a man-centered understanding of the church, the denial of prayers to the saints, and the idea that the liturgy is a man-made product. In addition, there are correct Scriptural teachings in the Book of Concord that are denied in practice by nearly all Lutherans today. These include the teachings that the saints do intercede for us, the affirmation of the perpetual virginity of Mary, the proper respect due the elements in the Lord’s Supper, and the scriptural mandate that only ordained men should celebrate Mass and give the Sacraments. Because of these deficiencies and errors, I can no longer confess and teach from the Book of Concord...

I tender my resignation because, over time, I have come to see and believe that the faith believed, taught, confessed and lived in the Orthodox Church is the faith of the apostles. Therefore, I sincerely believe that the Orthodox Church is the true visible Church of Christ on earth. For this reason, my family and I will seek to be received into communion in the Orthodox Church.

Your new bishop recently asked me what core issue motivated me to embrace the Orthodox Faith. It is this: The Liturgy never changes. I don’t mean that chants or prayers or feasts are not added or subtracted gradually over time. What I mean is that no priest or bishop or congregation can decide to cut the Eucharistic Prayer or go with a new style of worship or change things to suit his convictions or the times. Why? Because the liturgy is not something smart men have created and so can modify. The liturgy is from the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Scriptures are from the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the Holy Spirit rightly instructs us in Holy Scripture and His presence transforms us and the gifts set forth in the Holy Eucharist. So the liturgy is the way the Faith is given, confessed, prayed and proclaimed. As the liturgy goes, so goes the Faith together with your certainty and surety....

Perhaps the most touching part of the resignation is the dignified way he treats the congregation, tells them he continues to love and care for them, and states that while he believes all should come to Orthodoxy: "But a good spiritual father should never force or manipulate any of his children to believe as he does. In addition, my own struggles have taught me to acknowledge and respect that each person must reach this decision on his own, in his own time." You can read the whole announcement here.

May God bless Fr. Fenton and his family, tend to all their needs both spiritual and temporal, and grant them the desires of their hearts: full communion with the Holy, Apostolic, Catholic and Orthodox Church. (And may he become an example for thousands more.)


Well, That's Reassuring

You have a 17% chance of going postal!

Good news! You're not very likely to kill your coworkers. You seem very well adjusted. You rock! Talk about those feelings!

How Likely Are You to Go Postal?
Create Your Own Quiz

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