Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Strong pro-life message from Church of Russia

MOSCOW ( – In the first-ever speech by a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Duma, Patriarch Kirill has called on the Russian government to build on its support for the family and traditional marriage by defunding abortion in the country, with the objective of eliminating the killing of pre-born children altogether.

“If we manage to cut the number of abortions by 50 percent we would have stable and powerful population growth,” said the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

“The argument that a ban would cause an increase in the number of underground abortions is pure nonsense. People have to pay money for these operations and our task is to make the price of a legal infanticide the same as of the illegal one. Taxpayers must not pay for this,” the Orthodox Church leader told the MPs.

Patriarch Kirill said that while the solution to Russia's impending demographic disaster is complex, the most pressing need is, apart from banning or at least restricting abortion, for the state to help young couples regain the confidence they need to want to have children by providing material support, and by giving doctors additional incentive to care about the life of “conceived children" by introducing pro-life ethical norms in the medical professions.

The Russian patriarch also condemned the practice of surrogacy in his parliamentary address, urging lawmakers to take steps to completely replace it with adoption.

Momentum to eliminate abortion in Russia has been building for several years, with both religious and political leaders calling for legislative changes to defend life from conception.

Last August, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, said Orthodox Christians should actively strive for a ban on abortions.

“It is unacceptable that such terrible crimes as abortions are committed in Orthodox countries, moreover, in such large quantities! This phenomenon must make us think seriously about it; I would say, we must be shocked and distressed, we need to raise the alarm,” the Archimandrite wrote in an address to participants of the international pro-life conference with the title “Large Families and the Future of Humanity” that took place in Moscow last year.

In 2013, the Russian Federation enacted a law banning abortion advertising in an effort to stem the country's decline in population.

The head of the State Duma Committee for Family and Children, MP Elena Mizulina, said the Russian people must stop tolerating abortion and the recent rise in surrogacy because they threaten to “wipe out the population of Russia.”

“The problems of abortion prevention and the shift in public opinion towards abortion are currently very urgent. Although the number of abortions in Russia is falling, it still exceeds 5 million every year,” Mizulina said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pageau icon carving

Monasteries in America

This is some fascinating reading. Parts that leapt out at me...

  1. Most monasteries are female.
  2. Most of US monasteries are relatively ʺyoung.ʺ Indeed, an absolute majority of them (39 out of 71) were founded after 1990. All the old ones are Slavic. Among all currently functioning monasteries, the oldest Greek Orthodox monastic community was founded only in 1983.
  3. If you put ALL THE MONASTICS in the US together you get 512. The average monastery has 7 people. Greek monasteries are by far the largest.
  4. In services the OCA monasteries speak the most English (83%). The Greeks speak English the least (11%). 50% of the monasteries in the US are English speaking.
  5. 73% of US monasteries use email. 51 out of 71 monasteries have a website.
  6. Old calendar to New is essentially even.
  7. All US monasteries combined own 5,806 acres of land (largest Jordanville with 700 acres).
(AOB) - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America has released a new research report, Orthodox Monastic Communities in the United States.

There are more than 70 Orthodox monastic communities in the United States today, with significant diversity in terms of size, liturgical practices, openness to outside visitors, and educational programs. The Assembly’s Committee for Monastic Communities is tasked with studying and comparing Orthodox monastic communities in the US; this study was designed as a first step toward that goal. The report's findings are based on a survey that was conducted of all Orthodox monastic communities in the United States in late 2013 and early 2014.

Read the full report here (PDF).

Access summaries and links to all of the Assembly's research reports here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

They asked for it

A man has interrupted the consecration of the Church of England's first female bishop.
The unidentified man said that "it was not in the Bible", when Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu asked the congregation if it was their will that Mrs Lane should be ordained.

The man asked to speak to Dr Sentamu about the "absolute impediment" before walking off.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Distribution of communion at Papal mass in Manila

Lamentable. Shocking. Thanks to the Internet, there will be a record of this forever. If you cannot commune people properly, do not commune them. The Catholic Church has other services that might have been more reasonable for 7 million people.

Ending 500 years of "Greek occupation" in Palestine

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Al-Monitor) — The Greek Orthodox Church in Palestine and Jordan is witnessing a movement akin to an intifada against Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan over actions that organizers of the movement call “racist and wasteful.”

On Dec. 27, the executive committee of the Arab Central Orthodox Council in Palestine and Jordan began a campaign against the patriarch, coinciding with his participation in Christmas celebrations. A number of protesters raised banners that read “unworthy” during sit-ins and marches organized in Bethlehem on Jan. 6 and posted “Theophilos is unworthy” on social networking sites. You can see more of a few of these declarations of Anaxios in videos on Youtube.

Movement organizers accuse the patriarch of “diverting church lands to Israel and making unfair decisions against Arab monks,” the latest being the removal from office of Archimandrite Christophoros and the reduction of the salaries of Archbishop Atallah Hanna and Archimandrite Meletios Basal.

Protesting Arab Orthodox youths in Jordan and Palestine issued a Dec. 16 statement describing the decision as “uncanonical and taken by an unqualified synod,” adding, “Theophilos is not the legitimate patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem. He is unworthy of trust and neither he nor his synod represents us or represents the Arab Orthodox flock in Jordan and Palestine.”

The patriarch's leasing of 71 dunums (16 acres) of land belonging to the Saint Elias Monastery south of Jerusalem to an Israeli company raised the ire of the Orthodox community in Palestine when the deal became public in 2009. In a press conference attended by Al-Monitor on Jan. 5, Central Orthodox Council member Uday Bajali described the move as serving the settlers’ interests, saying, “This deal will besiege the village of Beit Safafa and will allow the expansion of settlements in Jabal Abu Ghneim, Gilo, Givat Hamatos and Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.” Bajali accused the patriarch of “colluding with Israel to divert lands without any oversight,” adding, “Unworthy is he who sells property to Israel, does not serve his flock and contributes to displacing our youths.”

But Hanna Omeira, the head of the Presidential Higher Committee for Church Affairs, told Al-Monitor, “As per legal procedures, the [Palestinian] Authority is keeping abreast of news about the diversion of land in Jaffa Gate and the areas around St. Elias. The latest row against the patriarch was caused by his decision to dismiss Father Christophoros; a decision that we asked the church not to implement, while bolstering coordination with the Jordanian government to study and find solutions to all contentious issues.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

Halki Seminary: the situation today

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On the Dikirion and Trikirion (δικηροτρίκηρα)

From the blog Classical Christianity...

Special items of the hierarchical service are the dikerion and the trikerion. These are two hand-held, ornamental candlesticks in which two (dikerion) or three (trikerion) candles are placed. The use of the dikerion and trikerion at the patriarchal liturgy began in the twelfth century. [1] Originally these candlesticks were ascribed only to kings and patriarchs (and not to all bishops) as they were perceived as attributes reflecting the dignity of teaching. This is mentioned in the twelfth century by Theodore Balsamon, the patriarch of Antioch, who insisted that the right to bless the faithful with candlesticks belonged to kings, patriarchs, autocephalous archbishops of Bulgaria and Cyprus, and also a few metropolitans to whom the kings had given this right. [2] You see a similar broadening of use to lower ranks with the mitre and the use of a mitre with a cross atop it.

Later the dikerion and trikerion came to be used by all hierarchs at church services. The trikerion is interpreted symbolically as an indication of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, while dikerion indicates the two natures of Jesus Christ. [3] Candles placed in the trikerion and dikerion may be connected at the top in such a way that a single flame is formed. A more common style has crossing candles whose top ends are directed in different directions. [4]

[1] Jacob, “Le chandelier a trois branches de l’eveque Pantoleon: A propos de l’inscription de Geroges de Gallipoli,” Bolletino della Badia greca di Grottaferata 53 (1999), 187-199.

[2]Theodore Balsamon Reflections, PG 138, 1016D-11017C.

[3]Simeon of Thessalonica Concerning the Holy Temple 59, 61. PG 155, 721BC.

[4] Deacon Mikhail Zheltov, “Dikirion” in Orthodox Encyclopedia, vol. 14, 693.
And from the New Liturgical Movement...
"The bishop is reciting commemorations at the "Transfer of the Gifts or Great Entrance". He would be singing: "May the Lord God remember in His Kingdom [N.N.] always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." He is holding the chalice covered with a small veil. There are priests holding blessing crosses to the north and south of the holy doors and the trikirion and dikirion held by subdeacons, as well as subdeacons holding ripdia [fans] over the diskos. We see in the foregound two subdeacons. The one on the north is the candle bearer and the one on the south is the staff bearer [crozier]. The staff is not visible from our perspective but he should have it in this procession. Notice the icon on the analogion of the Baptism of Christ. The apodosis [leave taking] of the Feast of the Baptism is today."

"The bishop is blessing with the trikirion [a triple branched canle symbol of the three persons of the most Holy Trinity] and the dikirion [a double branched candle symbol of the two natures in the one person of Christ] following the deposition of the unconsecrated holy gifts upon the holy table. The bishop says nothing at this blessing but the choir/assembly responds: "Eis polla eti, despota". [Many years, master.] He is wearing the small omophorion which originally was a folded great omophorion [pallium]."

"At the Trisagion when the clergy sing the second "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." the bishop makes the sign of the cross with the dikirion [a double branched candle symbol of the two natures in the one person of Christ] over the gospel book."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Exorcist: Desecration of the Lenin's Mausoleum

(The Moscow Times) - Two members of an art collective were detained for flinging holy water at the Moscow mausoleum containing Vladimir Lenin's corpse, in an apparent bid to resurrect the revolutionary leader.

In video footage of the incident published by news site, artists Oleg Basov and Yevgeny Avilov can be seen emerging from a nearby church and approaching the mausoleum with two bottles of water labeled with crucifixes.

Basov and Avilov, members of the art collective Blue Horseman, then managed to bypass a security gate before flinging holy water at the walls of the mausoleum while chanting “Arise and be gone!”

Their performance, entitled “The Exorcist: Desecration of the Mausoleum” took place on Monday, when Orthodox Christians celebrated Epiphany — a religious holiday marking the baptism of Jesus.

The two men were soon apprehended and taken to a nearby police station, where they were detained overnight, police monitoring site OVD-Info reported.

Basov and Avilov now face charges of disorderly conduct, which is punishable by a fine of up to 2,500 rubles ($38) or 15 days in jail.

Vladimir Lenin, whose embalmed corpse has been housed in the mausoleum since shortly after his death in 1924 barring a wartime evacuation, was one of the founding fathers of the Bolshevik party. He famously rejected religion as “opium for the masses.”

Pornography, beyond a simple prohibition

(Pravmir) - Pornography camouflages itself as something unreal, virtual, something that is one’s private business, something that does not hurt anyone. Our culture tells us that we are free to do whatever we want, as long as it does not hurt anyone.

According to surveys, nearly one third of Orthodox Christian teens are unsure whether pornography is right or wrong.[1] This is approximately the same number as that of teens who are unsure whether premarital sex is right or wrong.[2] This is very telling in two ways. First, teens who are unsure about premarital sex are probably also unsure about pornography. And second, while the Church makes its position very clear – premarital sex and pornography are wrong – it needs to do a better job of explaining why. In this short paper, I would like to step away from the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ After all, Christ did not come to bring us laws and legislations. Sins are not right or wrong because someone issued a regulation. Instead, I would like to talk about things that are good for you or bad for you.

The Church teaches us that sexual intimacy is an important part of the sacrament of marriage: there, it has its rightful place; there, it helps the two become one; and there, it fulfills all of its functions – from the expression of love and commitment to the co-creation with God in continuing the human race. Marriage is a sacrament with the “principal and ultimate goal [of] the spiritual and moral perfection of the spouses.”[3] As with any sacrament, that which is sacramental, should not be used for profane purposes. Imagine that a priest throws a party in the holy altar, and then on Sunday, after having picked up the trash, he serves the Divine Liturgy there. Or, he uses the chalice to drink his coffee in the mornings, and then on Sunday he uses it for the Eucharist. Even on an intuitive level we understand that this would be blasphemy. And yet, it is the same with our bodies. The Apostle Paul teaches that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19), and it belongs to your spouse for the fulfillment of the sacrament of marriage (7:4) whether we are married now or will one day be married. Imagine your love for your spouse as a cup filled to the brim, and you want to give all of it, the fullness of it to your beloved. If you start bumping into strangers along the way or allowing them to take some of what you are carrying, then you will not be able to preserve the fullness of your love, and will hand to your beloved a cup half empty, if not altogether unworthy of a sacrament.

All of this can be said about premarital sex in general, but what about pornography? Pornography is just as bad as premarital sex, but more dangerous. When a person engages in a sexual act with another person, both are aware that they are giving up a part of themselves; and the more partners a person has, the more fractured he or she becomes. But pornography camouflages itself as something unreal, virtual, something that is one’s private business, something that does not hurt anyone. Our culture tells us that we are free to do whatever we want, as long as it does not hurt anyone. Let us heed this advice and remember that ‘anyone’ means us as well. Let us make sure that whatever we do does not hurt us physically or spiritually.

Christ said: “…every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). The reason Christ equates looking lustfully, the very definition of pornography, with adultery, a physical act, is because we are not some bags full of disconnected parts body, soul, mind, spirit, will, etc. but whole and interconnected beings. If we have a toothache, our mind may become irritable; and if our mind is anxious, our whole body may ache. This is why when we allow pornography to enter into our eyes and our mind, our entire being is affected. The “virtual” sin of pornography most often leads to very physical masturbation. And once something is seen, it cannot be unseen it imbeds itself in the mind, the memory, the subconscious. We would not want to share our spouse and our marriage bed with a bus load full of porn actors and actresses. But in reality, this is what we do when our minds are polluted with pornorgaphy and we enter into the sacrament of marriage bringing all those “passengers” along. On second thought, porn ‘actors’ and ‘actresses’ perform sexual acts for money, and there is another term for that prostitution. The Apostle Paul says that “he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her” (1 Cor. 6:16). These are very powerful words. This means that when we commit adultery in the heart – watch pornography we become one with that prostitute, instead of our spouse. This is not only destructive to the sacrament of marriage, but also to our own souls: with how many prostitutes can one become one before the soul is completely broken, damaged, fractured, and polluted?

Ways to Fight Against Pornography

1. Avoid those television shows, movies, magazines, and websites that arouse sexual passion. It is much easier to fight against sin while it is still a little worm than to battle it once it becomes a fire breathing dragon.

2. Do not underestimate the brute power of sexual desire. People have killed and died under the influence of the sexual passion. Do not play with fire or you risk being burnt.

3. Remember that demons, including those of lust, are best resisted through prayer and fasting. Pray often and ask God for help. Keep the real fast, not a vegan diet.

4. Keep your eyes and your mind on our Savior and His Most Pure Mother. If you spend time on the computer or watch television place an icon next to the screen. If looking at what is on your screen and in the eyes of Christ at the same time makes you uncomfortable or ashamed, then something is wrong with what is on your screen. Do something about it! (There is an OFF button on every device.)

5. Seek healing in repentance. Once something is seen it cannot be unseen. But God can heal and restore the soul. Remember: repentance is not feeling bad about something. It is a firm decision to turn away from sin and turn to God. It is a decision to fight against sin, not merely feel bad about having committed it. It is a sacrament of reconciliation with God, not a formality of entering a guilty plea on a heavenly court docket.

[1] Purpura, J. Moral and Ethical Issues: Confronting Orthodox Christian Teens across North America, 2002, 57.
[2] Ibid.
[3] “The Mystery of Marriage in a Dogmatic Light.” Bishop Artemy Rantosavlievich. Divine Ascent: A Journal of Orthodox Faith. (Vol. 1 Nos. 3/4), 48.

Russian catechism almost here

I've been following the development of this catechism on this blog for years. It looks like we're close now.

( - On 20 January 2015, a plenary session of the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission in its new composition, approved by the Holy Synod at its meeting on 25-26 December 2013 (Minutes #159), took place at the Department for External Church Relations under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.

Taking part in the session were Metropolitan Avgustin of Belaya Tserkov and Boguslav, chairman of the Theological and Canonical Commission of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Archbishop Yevgeny of Vereya, chairman of the Education Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church, rector of the Moscow Theological Academy; Bishop Amvrosy of Petergof, rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy; Bishop Kliment of Irpen, chairman of the Education Committee of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR vice-chairman; archpriest Vladimir Vorobyov, rector of St Tikhon’s Orthodox University; archpriest Boris Danilenko, director of the Synodal Library named after Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia; archpriest Maksim Kozlov, Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy, first deputy chairman of the Education Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church; archpriest Andrei Novikov, secretary of the Odessa diocese; archpriest Dimitry Kiryanov, head of the Chair of Theology of the Tobolsk Theological Seminary; archpriest Vladimir Shmaly, pro-rector of St Cyril and Methodius Theological Institute for Post-Graduate and Doctoral Studies, secretary of the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission; Hieromonk Ioann (Kopeykin), pro-rector for education of St Cyril and Methodius Theological Institute for Post-Graduate and Doctoral Studies; and others.

The Commission members discussed the preparation of a catechesis of the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular, its third part, devoted to the Orthodox Divine Services and church order. The first draft of the catechesis is due to be completed by the end of the year.

The participants in the session summarized the work of the Coordination Centre for Developing Theological Studies in the Russian Orthodox Church, established under the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission in compliance with the decision of the Holy Synod taken in 2014 (Minutes #156).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Abp. Jovan's early release hits a snag

SKOPJE (B92) - The Macedonian Appellate Court confirmed the first instance ruling against Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan Vraniskovski.

He was sentenced to three years of imprisonment on charges for embezzlement of EUR 250,000.

The Appellate Court also confirmed the probation for 18 followers of Archbishop Jovan, including his mother and sister, on charges of aiding the embezzlement, Macedonian media reported on Thursday.

The second instance court previously denied the appeal by Metropolitan Jovan as unfounded and found him guilty of embezzlement of funds which he used to purchase land in Ohrid during his mandate as the bishop of the non-recognised Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC).

Reports of Macedonian media state that the decision of the Appellate Court is crucial for further talks with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on canonical recognition of MPC.

Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid was sentenced in Skopje on July 2, 2013 to three years of imprisonment and he appealed the decision in November.

In keeping with the ruling of the Skopje Criminal Court, the authorities seized MKD 4.9 million from the bank account of the Association for enhancement of civil and religious freedoms in the village of Nizepolje near Bitola to the benefit of the canonically non-recognised MOC as the damaged party.

Archbishop Jovan said in the appeal that the ruling is discriminatory and was adopted for political reasons, adding that the verdict is also unclear and is not backed by a single piece of tangible evidence.

The appeal Vraniskovski filed to the Skopje Appellate Court states that the Orthodox Archdiocese of Ohrid is being persecuted by the (Macedonian) authorities in various ways even though 12 years have passed since its establishment, adding that the request of the Archdiocese to be entered in court registers, whereby it would become a legitimate religious organisation, has been denied to this day.

Since 2003, Macedonian authorities have arrested Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski six times, on different charges, including public disorder when he tried to conduct a baptism ceremony in a church the MPC sees as its own.

He has also been charged with "inciting ethnic and religious hatred" for having "slandered the MPC" and has spent a total of almost 18 months in prison. The Veles Basic Court then sentenced him to 2.5 years of imprisonment for alleged tax evasion in the period during his mandate as the MPC bishop.

He was last arrested on December 12, 2011, upon entering Macedonia from Greece, on charges of embezzlement of EUR 250,000.

He returned to the country to request a retrial, but was arrested and taken to the Idrizovo prison near Skopje, where he is still being kept in, as his defence team says, very difficult conditions.

The MPC is canonically non-recognized, and the SPC considers it schismatic since it declared autocephaly unilaterally in 1967.

The MPC has defrocked Bishop Jovan and the SPC has appointed him as Serbian exarch in Macedonia.

The SPC believes Archbishop Jovan is a victim of rigged political trials because of his being against the schism, while Amnesty International and Freedom House have said that he is a prisoner of conscience.

A new sui iuris Catholic Church - The Eritreans

(NLM) - It was announced yesterday on the Bulletin of the Holy See (see here) that the Holy Father has erected the Eritrean Catholic Church to sui juris status as a Metropolitan Church, separating its territory from that of the Archeparchy of Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia). The 23rd sui juris Church, which follows the Alexandrian liturgical tradition, will comprise four eparchies, covering the entire territory of the nation of Eritrea: the Archeparchy of Asmara, seat of the new Metropolitan and the national capital, and the Eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Segheneity. The Pope has nominated as the first Metropolitan His Excellency Mons. Menghesteab Tesfamariam, who has served hitherto as the Eparch of Asmara. In 1995, the Latin Rite Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea was abolished, and so the Latin Rite Catholics of Eritrea are also under the spiritual jurisdiction of the new Metropolitan and his suffragans.

The Pope has also created a fourth eparchy of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, that of Bahir Dar - Dessie, the territory of which is also removed from the Archeparchy of Addis Ababa.

The City a Desert

(SF Orthodox Institute) - The Sts. Cyril & Athanasius Institute is pleased to announce its fourth set of regional symposia, on the theme of The City a Desert: Living the Life of the Desert in the Midst of the World, to take place both in Southern California (Riverside, near LA) from 7th-8th February, and in Northern California (San Francisco) from 14th-15th February 2015.

St. Athanasius the Great, one of our Institute's patrons, famously wrote of the young monastic movement: "And the desert became a city, filled with monks." So great was this avenue of spiritual life that it gave rise to giants of asceticism, hesychasm and prayer that have remained central to the Orthodox Christian life for centuries. But what of Christians who live in that very different sort of "desert": the city? Is there hope for such spiritual progress for those who live in the midst of the world?

This fourth suite of regional February symposia will address the way that "the city may become a desert" — that is, a fruitful place for life-changing, deep spirtiuality and the Life in Christ. As always, our symposia bring together leading Orthodox lecturers (this year's speakers include Metropolitan Joseph of All North-America, Dr Christopher Veniamin, Archimandrite Gerasim (Eliel), Hieromonk Alexii (Altschul), Archpriest Josiah Trenham, Priest Andrew Cuneo, and others; see the program for Riverside and for San Francisco), celebration of the Divine Services, panel discussions, opportunities for fellowship and many other dimensions that make these weekends important and prayerful events.

The high cost of war

(RISU) - Funerals of Artyom, 4 years old, killed by shelling on Sunday. Rebel artillery moving around and shooting from the cemetery.