Friday, August 15, 2008

A Homily on the Dormition/Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

This day the holy and animated Ark of the living God, which had held within it its own Maker, is borne to rest in that Temple of the Lord, which is not made with hands. David, whence it sprang, leapeth before it, and in company with him the Angels dance, the Archangels sing aloud, the Virtues ascribe glory, the Principalities shout for joy, the Powers make merry, the Dominions rejoice, the Thrones keep holiday, the Cherubim utter praise, and the Seraphim proclaim its glory. This day the Eden of the new Adam receiveth the living garden of delight, wherein the condemnation was annulled, wherein the Tree of Life was planted, wherein our nakedness was covered.
This day the stainless maiden, who had been defiled by no earthly lust, but ennobled by heavenly desires, returned not to dust, but, being herself a living heaven, took her place among the heavenly mansions. From her true life had flowed for all men, and how should she taste of death? But she yielded obedience to the law established by him to whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, who is the very Life Itself, had not refused ; but, as the Mother of the living God, she was worthily taken by him unto himself.
St. John of Damascus, from the second nocturn of Matins (Roman Breviary).

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Merits of the Saints: St. Peter Chrysologus

Over on Conversi ad Dominum, Fr. John W. Fenton quotes St. Peter Chrysologus' sermon of the feast of St. Lawrence (celebrated Sunday), which ends thus:
Therefore let us honor and esteem the merits of the martyrs as being the gifts of God. Let us beg for them, and add the inclination of our own will.
Fr. Fenton notes the the term "merits" is familiar to most of us only through the medieval dispute over works of supererogation, etc., but intimates it may not be inexplicably bound up with such notions. He writes:
St Peter Chrysologus, however, is certainly not medieval, and does not, to my mind, evidence "pre-medieval" tendencies (whatever these may be). Hence, his use of the term "merits" suggests that, perhaps, there is a proper use of the term that neither reactively requires its deletion nor unthinkingly compels it to be understood in a scholastic context.
Of St. Chrysologus, "the Western Chrysostom," Fr. Fenton is certainly correct.

Subdn. Benjamin Andersen has a few comments on Fr. Fenton's post, which are, as always, enlightening.

We had a discussion of merits on this blog in March, 2006. I was humbled that discussion spurred Subdn. Benjamin Andersen to write an outstanding blog entry on the topic, which I link for those able to access his blog. For those who can't, I quoted and commented upon his entry here.

Though this discussion is in a most embryonic stage, Fr. Fenton's post alludes to a fascinating question: to what degree would the term "merits" be applicable within Orthodox theology, and should such use then be made of it? Everyone agrees further study is needed; I would love to see such be undertaken. Surely somewhere there must be an Orthodox philanthropist or medievalist willing to underwrite such research? Or someone with the appropriate grounding in patristics and Western history willing to read? Is Bp. HILARION (Alfeyev) out there somewhere? :)

As I wrote before, this merits discussion.

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Met. PHILIP Responds to the Jerusalem Patriarchate Transfer

Here's Metropolitan PHILIP's letter on the topic:
August 7th, 2008

To: The Esteemed Hierarchs, Members of The Archdiocese Board of Trustees, Clergy and Faithftil of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

On August 5, 2008, The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America issued a press release which established a vicariate with the name 'Vicariate for Palestinian/Jordanian Communities in the USA'. The membership of this vicariate will consist of those communities in the USA which were originally part of the Patriarchate of Antioch, but most recently (since 1993) were uncanonically claimed by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. From an historical perspective, it has been clear since the disintegration of Orthodox unity which existed in North America until 1917, that the Arabic-speaking Orthodox people in North America have been exclusively under the pastoral care of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Similarly, the Greek-speaking Orthodox people (e.g. Cypriot, Greek, Egyptian, Turkish, etc.) have always been under the pastoral care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. What reaction would occur if the Antiochian Archdiocese were to establish a vicariate for Greek communities which separate themselves from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese?!

These former "Jerusalem Patriarchate" communities separated themselves from the Antiochian Archdiocese without canonical releases, and in some cases are served by priests who are under canonical suspension. It is important to point out that since this separation occurred in 1993 we have taken extraordinary measures to reconcile these communities with The Antiochian Archdiocese and have appealed to both the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Antioch as well as others for their assistance. Unfortunately, none of our numerous appeals for intervention were answered.

As such, our directive of May 2, 2003 remains in force. To emphasize the main point or that directive, the clergy of The Antiochian Archdiocese are still forbidden from communing and/or concelebrating with any clergy who are a part of this newly-formed "Vicariate far Palestinian/Jordanian Communities in the USA" of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, whether in our parishes, their parishes, or as a part of pan-Orthodox gatherings.

We lament this action by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which further complicates the already uncanonical jurisdictional situation here and continues to undermine the efforts of all Orthodox hierarchs of SCOBA to achieve administrative unity and canonical normalcy in North America.

Praying that this urgent situation will be resolved in a spirit of peace, harmony and love, we remain

Yours In Christ,
Metropolitan PHILIP
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America

Copy to:
His Beadtude IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East
His Holiness ALEXY, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
His All-Holiness BARTHOLOMEW, Patriarch or Constantinople
His Beatitude THEOPHILOS, patriarch of Jerusalem
All Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA)

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