Thursday, November 23, 2017

Preach!


Pray to God for us, New-Martyr Daniel Sysoev!

If you are a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that I have special devotion to the martyr Daniel Sysoev (you can buy many of his books in English here). On this day of thanks, we might do well to remember the ceaseless efforts of good men in His vineyard.


(Orthodox Christianity) - Today is already eight years form the beginning of the eternal life of our dear brother and sincere pastor Fr. Daniel Sysoev!

A priest once wrote these words in his last book: “The best end, which only a Christian can imagine, is a martyric death.” These words were written by the murdered priest Daniel Sysoev. His Holiness the patriarch wrote in his message: “The Lord honored his faithful servant with a confessor’s and martyr’s death, and he now abides in the Synaxis of the saints among the righteous, in the Synaxis of spirits made perfect.” St. John Chrysostom once said, “It is not only death that makes martyrs, but the whole dispensation of life.” But the whole dispensation of life.

Fr. Daniel’s mother, Matushka Anna, said, “He grew up a very weak boy, and was near death three times, not distinguished by such a fighting nature as he later had, when he became a priest. He was a very bookish person, always reading books, which led to him needing glasses. Then he went to school. Remember, he was born in ’74; it was ’81 when he was seven—the peak of Soviet life. He missed the beginning of class in September in second grade. His homeroom teacher came to our house and suddenly saw a circle of icons. She was in shock. She told the headmaster, she talked about it at the teachers’ meeting, and they began to brainwash him, overloading him with books from the library. His physics teacher even brought some kind of device to our house (maybe you remember from when you studied), which produced lightning, saying, ‘Look, son, it’s not God in Heaven, and it’s not the prophet Elijah making the lightning—there’s no miracle here—it’s just this device.’ And nothing helped. Once his teacher stood him in front of the entire class and said, ‘Laugh at him. What, you believe in God? What, you know some prayers?’ My son said, ‘Yes, I believe in God, and I know some prayers.’ His confession began in second grade. He was the black sheep in those times, you know—Soviet, terrible godless, a-religious times. When he was six, our family spiritual father, an archimandrite, once asked him, ‘Danyush,[1] what do you want to be—a married priest or a monk?’ And he answered, ‘No, neither.’ ‘Then what?’ ‘The patriarch.’ He was always a maximalist.”

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple at the Phanar


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Today the temple that contains God is led into His Temple


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

More anti-fundamentalism pap from OCL

It might as well have been a "Make your own Straw Man" workshop. She also doesn't seem happy with the "patriarchy" of male clergy in leadership positions, not being inclusive of LGBTQ people or their "civil rights," the "ascribed status of the Orthodox bishop," the sheer audacity of a priest requiring his parishioners go to confession and have fasted to be communed, and (amazingly) women being forced to wear long skirts at monasteries.


Talk given on October 28, 2017 at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois, by Dr. Frances Kostarelos, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences Governors State University, Chicago, IL. She has written on issues related to religion and has served as a program evaluator for a Lilly Endowment grant awarded to Hellenic College for several years.

Russian Church sits down with Ethiopian Church delegation

(ROC) - From November 14 – 18, 2017 – With the blessing of Patriarch-Catholicos Abuna Mathias of Ethiopia and at the invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, a delegation of the Ethiopian Church has come to Moscow for a working visit. The Primate of the Ethiopian Church has sent to Patriarch Kirill a letter expressing interest in the resumption of active cooperation that existed between the two Churches earlier. The delegation includes Bishop Abba Philipos of South Omo Diocese, and Priest Elias Abraha, Manager of the Ethiopian Church’s Printing Department.

As part of their trip, the guests visited the Sofrino Art Production, where they were received by its general director Ye. Parkhaev. They discussed plans for establishing cooperation between Sofrino and appropriate structures of the Ethiopian Church. The guests were taken on a tour of the factory to see the wide range of the Sofrino output.

The delegation also visited the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR). With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, talks with the guest were held by Hieromonk Stephan (Igumnov), DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations. The sides discussed a possible agenda for bilateral cooperation, which is fairly broad as it concerns such areas as common concern for the situation of Christians who are persecuted in various world regions, advocacy for basic traditional morals in the modern society, youth service, and development of academic contacts. Especially important is the exchange of experience in social service and church-society relations.

Among the traditional areas of cooperation between the two Churches, which intensively developed in previous years, was the practice of students exchange. In this connection, the program of the visit also included a visit to the Ss Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies (CMI). Hieromonk Ioann (Kopeikin), SMI pro-rector for training, told the guests about the work of this educational institution of the Russian Orthodox Church and the work of the Moscow Patriarchate commission for regulating students exchange.

The delegation of the Ethiopian Church also visited the St. Sergius Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Moscow Theological Academy, the Convent of the Protecting Veil at Khotkovo, the Cathedral Church of Christ the Saviour and the Patriarchal Convent of the Protecting Veil in Moscow. During their visit, the guests were accompanied by R. Akhmatkhanov and S. Alferov, DECR staff members.

***

The Ethiopian Church is part of the family of Oriental or ‘pre-Chalcedonian’ Churches along with the Coptic, Eritrean, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Jacobite and Malankara Churches. It was granted autocephaly in 1959, before which it was an autonomous part of the Coptic Patriarchate. Today the Ethiopian Church is not only the largest of the Churches of pre-Chalcedonian tradition, but also one of the largest Christian communities in the world; the number of its faithful exceeds 65 million who live in both Ethiopia and in diaspora, predominantly in the USA and Canada. Christianity came to Ethiopia as early as the 1st century, when St. Philip preached in those lands.

The history of relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Church goes back to the 18th century, when the first contacts were established between the Russian and Ethiopian (Abyssinian) Empires. The most intensive inter-church contacts happened in the period from 1950s to 1980s especially through the efforts of then-head of the DECR, Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Novgorod. In that period there was an intensive exchange of official delegations, including on the highest level, and Ethiopian students were sent to the Moscow Patriarchate educational institutions. Today these relations are being resumed. In September 2011, a meeting took place in Addis Ababa between Metropolitan Hilarion and then-Patriarch Mathias Abune Paulos.

Uncanonical Macedonians looking to Bulgaria for recognition

(Orthochristian) - An unprecedented document has been released in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC) from the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church. According to Romfea, the uncanonical church is ready to recognize the Patriarchate of Bulgaria as its Mother Church.

The letter, sent to the Holy Synod of the BOC on November 9, speaks of the restoration of Eucharistic communion and of the historic opportunity for the patriarchate to become the Mother Church of the so-called Macedonian Church under the leadership of Archbishop Stephanos.

The Synod from Skopje has asked the BOC to establish “Eucharistic communion with the renewed Ohrid Archbishopric,” asking that that the Macedonian Church be recognized as autonomous, according to meta.mk.

There have been both official and unofficial contacts between the people of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria and of the schismatic church lately, although the Bulgarian Church had been hesitant to make the first step. Relations between the Macedonian Church and the canonical Local Churches of the Orthodox Church have been strained and complicated by the previous persecution of Archbishop Jovan (Vraniskovski) of Ohrid, the sole canonical bishop operating in Macedonia, who is a member of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric under Abp. Jovan separated from the Macedonian church in 2002 to seek reunification with the Serbian Church.

In May 2015, the Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church resolved to resume the dialogue of its representatives with the self-declared Macedonian Orthodox Church in order to settle the issue with its canonical status, which the synod stated depends upon the positive resolution of the proceedings against Archbishop Jovan.

His Eminence Archbishop Jovan was imprisoned for many years on trumped-up charges of “inciting national, racial and religious hatred, schism and intolerance.” At times he was placed in solitary confinement, and he was allowed few visitors from the Serbian Orthodox Church. He was released from prison on February 2, 2015, although new proceedings against him began soon afterwards.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that the Republic of Macedonia is guilty of violating the rights of the canonical Ohrid Archbishopric by refusing to register it as a separate religious community. The state has been ordered to pay 9,500 euros ($1,1193) to the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Diocese of Ohrid.

Communication between representatives of the schismatic Macedonian church with the Bulgarian Patriarchate began already several years ago. In May 2015, Patriarch Neofit officially received Archbishop Stephanos, who had visited the country at the invitation of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, at the Cathedral in Sofia.

"The Sweetness of Grace," an interview with the author

Matushka Constantine R. Palmer has written another book - this one entitled "The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victory." I earlier interviewed her about her book "The Scent of Holiness" a few years back; a title that continues to be quite a popular read. She has again agreed to answer a few questions for the blog about her latest book in the following interview. Enjoy!



So what prompted this second book? I know your first publication was well received and it seems to be a staple in many church bookstores that I've visited.

A large impetus for this book was all the "untold stories" that I had mentally compiled even while writing The Scent of Holiness. I felt that I couldn't tell all the stories I would have liked to because they wouldn't necessarily fit in the confines of a book predominantly about women's monasteries. I believe I snuck one story about my theology professor in the first book, and maybe one about my parish priest from Thessaloniki. But even then I was aware that those stories fell a little outside the perimeters I had constructed for the book.

It wasn't until one of the sisters started asking me about writing a second book that I even thought seriously about trying to present various stories of my experiences and conversations not only in Greece but in South Korea and North America.

But to be frank, the honest truth behind why I wrote this book is that I don't like to keep things to myself. I'm excitable and I like to share stories that inspire me because I get excited and inspired all over again when I see that my stories resonate with others. I also felt like after the first book my readers would know me well enough that I could perhaps share some of the more weighty experiences without scaring them off. I hope and believe these stories compliment the light-hearted elements of The Scent of Holiness and bring out another layer of Christian spiritual struggle.

You took a very circuitous path to end up in a mission church in Newfoundland. Can you speak a little about the journeys through Greece, South Korea, to your new home in Canada? How did that all work out and do you feel like a Newfie yet?

In 2006 I finished an amazing undergraduate degree in a Great Books program in New Brunswick (where we're originally from). Around the same time my husband, John (now Fr. John), was finishing his Masters degree in Patristics at Durham University in England. While we have never regretted our choice of studies, they didn't exactly provide us with a means of living right off the bat.

Friends of ours had previously lived in South Korea teaching English and this inspired my brother and sister-in-law to take the leap and move there. For anyone who has ever heard my brother speak you will know his power of persuasion was enough to convince us to do likewise. So we moved to South Korea mostly to pay off student loan debt but also to buy some time while we tried to figure out our next steps in life.

While living in Seoul we heard about the School of Modern Greek Language in Thessaloniki where foreign students would learn Greek and then proceed to study at Aristotle University. At the time my husband wanted to continue his studies so we were looking for a university anyway. While we spoke of different European schools I really wanted us to go to an Orthodox country to further immerse ourselves in Orthodoxy. Our spiritual father agreed that Greece would be a good next step and we headed in that direction just a few months after we finished teaching English in Seoul for one year.

In Greece, as most may know of me, I studied theology as well. My Master's thesis was on the iconographer and the theology of icons more generally. During the nearly six years we lived there we spent significant amounts of time at women's monasteries and I also learned to paint icons and I (somewhat) learned Byzantine chant.

Midway through our Greek adventure we came back to Canada one summer to visit our families and while visiting with an abbess she suggested we meet Bishop Irenee of Quebec City, the OCA bishop responsible for Eastern Canada. (He is now Archbishop Irenee of Ottawa and all of Canada). We began getting to know the bishop and about a year later Fr. John was ordained to the deaconate. However, he continued to serve in Greece until his PhD studies were finished.

It was very important for us to be able to return to the East Coast as Canada is so large you really connect with where you live regionally. Vladyka spoke to us about trying out a few places: St. John's, Newfoundland was one of those places. My father is from Corner Brook (the second largest town on Newfoundland – population 20,000). So I wasn't unfamiliar with Newfoundland and Newfoundland culture or dialect (despite living on the mainland for over 35 years my father still has an accent).

We visited the community here in St. John's after Fr. John's ordination to the priesthood in 2013. We arrived late on Lazarus Saturday and stayed until after St. Thomas Sunday. Fr. John served every single day; very quickly we both felt that this was where we should be.

There has been a OCA mission in St. John's since 2003; the first two years of which there was a priest. In the following eight years the mission had two other priests come, but each only stayed briefly. While the mission now has a permanent priest it still does not have a permanent location for our chapel. We use a chapel at the Anglican seminary here which means we have to set-up and take-down the chapel every weekend. Glory to God, since 2015 we also have a house-chapel that we use for daily services (Matins and Vespers) as well as for vigils when feasts fall during weekdays. [If any reader would like to be the benefactor of a small, but beautiful, Orthodox church on the island of Newfoundland please contact us! J]

When you come to a place where there is only one Orthodox mission on a huge island with no priest it makes it very difficult to turn away and head elsewhere. Through the grace of God we have managed to stay here despite the strong winds (both literally and figuratively). We collected a lot of blessings both in South Korea (with its two Orthodox churches in Seoul) and in Greece and owe a great debt to God. Perhaps I could say just as we moved to South Korea to pay off student loans, we've moved to Newfoundland to pay off spiritual ones.

Monday, November 20, 2017

OCA's Holy Synod meets in Fall session

(OCA) - The Fall 2017 Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America was held at the Chancery here November 14-17, 2017.

The session opened on Tuesday, November 14 with the celebration of Prayers for the Opening of a Council and a Panikhida for the departed family members of the Holy Synod and all hierarchs of the OCA. In his opening address, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon reported on the ongoing development of the “Four Pillars of the Church” document which he plans to release to the Church in the coming months. He thanked the OCA’s officers and Chancery staff for their good work and reported on a number of issues, including his recent travels and initiatives.

Reports were offered by Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor, who presented the revised document, “Guidelines for the Reception and Transfer of Clergy into the Orthodox Church in America,“ which the hierarchs will continue to review.

Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, Secretary, reviewed the ongoing redesign of the OCA web site, offered an update on the renovation of the Archives, and presented a report on the highly successful third OCA Mission School. He reported that the new metric book is in the final stage of printing, reviewed the Chancery/Department Travel Policy, and presented the minutes of the Fall 2017 Metropolitan Council Session, which were blessed by the hierarchs.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Man who killed Coptic priest found guilty

It's much more common for the claim to be that the cause of such acts is insanity.


(Egypt Independent) - The North Cairo Criminal Court decided on Wednesday to refer the documents of the Ahmed Saeed, who is accused of killing the Coptic priest, Samaan Shehta, to Egypt’s grand Mufti, seeking the Mufti’s approval to execute the defendant.

The referral of Saeed’s documents to the grand Mufti indicates that the court’s judiciary approved of a death sentence. The court set the date to declare a final verdict to January 15 2018.

In October, the priest was stabbed to death in the northeastern Cairo suburb of El-Marg.

The defendant admitted he had purchased a knife and monitored the priest’s movements before deliberately killing him.

Shehta’s vehicle was allegedly blocked by the defendant, who then asked Shehta to step out of the vehicle before attacking him and escaping. Another priest, Benjamin Moftah, was present and also assaulted but survived the attack, according to a statement confirming the events from the Egyptian Coptic Church.

A pre-trial investigation determined that Saeed does not suffer from any psychological disorders and that he was entirely aware of his actions.

In historic move, Saudi Arabia opening a church

(The961) - The Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al Rai is in Saudi Arabia for a historic visit.

It’s the first time that the kingdom invites a church leader, unlike Christian politicians who visit the kingdom often.

The patriarch met the King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. He also met with the Prime Minister Saad Hariri who said that he would return to Lebanon within days.

The kingdom intends to restore a 900-year-old church. It will be a symbolic gift to the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch and the symbol of the beginning of the Christian-Islamic dialogue.

This visit has an important significance since Saudi Arabia vowed to be open to other faiths. The Crown Prince is aiming at moderating Islam and making Saudi Arabia a country open to all religions and cultures.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Be transformed

"He came in shorts."


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Luna Lovegood and the Quibbler couldn't have done better

(TNH via OCL) - The issue of the salaries and benefits of the clergy comes up very often for discussion in many if not all parishes, and certainly at various gatherings of Greek-Americans through the country.

Something has to be done to review this issue, because the way we are going, fewer and fewer parishes will be able to afford the high salaries and the demands of many of our priests.

Let me say that I have great respect and honor for those faithful, humble, and ethical priests and bishops, no matter in what corner of the world, who serve because they are heavenly men or earthly angels, if you wish. Be assured that there are such priests and bishops, but they are invisible amid the showy lightweight noisemakers.

I do believe that the priests should get decent salaries in order to enjoy a decent quality of life with their families. Like everyone else, they have necessities and obligations. They have children to raise and educate, and of course, those of us with college-age children know first hand the high cost of tuition.

Certainly, the issue here is not about them, but rather about those who make more than CEOs of large corporations. I take issue with those who use “the piety to make money” and exhibit scandalous mercenary-like behavior. If you are going to say something like this, you had better back it up. Otherwise, it's just petty slander.

The Archdiocese of America is the Orthodox Church’s golden fish. That is primarily why priests from other jurisdictions such as the Orthodox Church in America, including Russian, Antiochian, and Romanian clerics, go to the Greek Archdiocese, because the Greek communities pay well. Those priests earn $30,000 per year on average and are forced to take on second jobs in order to survive. I don’t think the day is far off that our Greek Orthodox priests will have to do the same, because our communities become smaller and smaller and cannot endure the huge financial demands many priests have and that the bishops impose on the parishes. The generations who used to put their hand into their pocket and gave generously or burned themselves cooking at the grills at Greek festivals, or went around selling lottery tickets to collect money to pay the priests’ and the bishops’ salaries are gone. The new generations have woken up, and they are not willing to continue the pathetic system to finance the lavish lives of the clergy of every rank. The average Greek parish, were it to shrink by two thirds, would still be larger than many other jurisdictions' parishes. The new generation has "woken up?"! The new generation is not coming to church and not participating in the life of the church as good stewards. You're trying to draw a line between priestly pay and the health of the parish. Actually look at the line items on a Greek parish budget and you'll come to a much different perspective on where funds are going.

Here are some suggestions:
  1. It is time the so-called “tihera” (tips) given to priests and bishops when they do sacraments or Vesper Services to stop, because it is a kind of unprejudiced simony. It is unacceptable the moment they have good salaries and benefits. Basically, they are paid to pray, to condescend to accept “tips,” like waiters in restaurants. We laypersons should acknowledge that we are at fault as well for tipping the priests and bishops. Just think for a moment that all those who enter the churches on Sunday morning are volunteers, except the priests and the bishops who actually get paid by the parishioners. They are the “employees” of the Church, meaning the Body of the Laity, as simple as that. So you want to pay priests less and then remove their ability to supplement what pay gaps there may be by forbidding acts of appreciation by the faithful? I know many priest who rely on this money to put food on the table because they are willing to accept less pay to help grow a church that can't afford the full parish-status rate. Also, calling priests employees shows as distinct lack of understanding about the sacrificial role of the clergy.
  2. Celibate priests wrongly serve in parishes, because as monks, they belong in the monasteries. But they have created a separate sect of a careerist Archimandritism. They should receive the smallest possible salary, because they don’t have wives and children to support. You want to pay men who have chosen the difficult path of celibacy to receive a celibacy tax of lesser pay? Where else in any industry does the employer get to look at your family situation and dock your pay for not having a wife or children? Also, where do the future bishops get parish pastoral experience from these monasteries (that both the OCL and TNH have lashed out against as dangerous)?
  3. Priests and bishops shouldn’t scandalize the faithful with their lavish lifestyles: dining at expensive restaurants, driving expensive luxurious cars, and living in multimillion-dollar homes, when there are members of their parishes and metropolises who don’t even have a plate of hot food to eat. Again, such blanket statements without evidence are scurrilous slander. Also, as there is always someone more blessed than you, there is always someone who is struggling more than you. You should neither be jealous of one nor look with disdain on the other. That said, what are your metrics for deciding on how someone else should live? Did your parish council spot make you the feudal lord of your parish priest?
  4. The chancellors of the metropolises should be abolished. The bishops can do the job by themselves if they manage their time correctly and care only for the Church and no other activities. Two or more million dollars will be saved from salaries, benefits, car expenses, insurances, travel expenses for meetings, and other costs. I don't think you understands the immense responsibilities of the chancellor. My own chancellor runs himself ragged keeping diocesan affairs in order. I don't think you want your bishop sitting in his office doing paperwork when he should be with his flock. The arch-pastoral role and the administrative role are separated (and have been for quite a long time) for a reason.
  5. It is time put an end to the out-of-control spending. Our people in the parishes are sick and tired of the continuous begging one day from the Archdiocese, the next from the metropolis, the third from the camp, the fourth day from the Theological School, and the fifth from the Academy of St. Basil. The milk of the big cow called the Greek-American Community is drying up. Luckily, there are those Greek Festivals with the roasted pigs and lambs that keep the doors of many churches open; otherwise God knows how many parishes would be closed by now. It is true that 400 or 500 families are contributing and working at the festivals basically for two things: to pay the priest’s salary, and to pay the Archdiocese. Does the economic model need some adjustment? Of course. Is the answer to not give money to the orphans at St. Basil's? How about not investing in the future by ignoring the seminary? Where do you want your children to go in the summer? If they don't go to an Orthodox camp, do you wonder which protestant group is going to host them? You seem to not like being asked for money. My pastoral experience is that the person who complains most about money is the least likely to be seen pitching in when it's time to paint something or move something or set up for an upcoming feast. Those people give what they can in time, effort, and money as they can and don't fret - knowing that God sees them building up treasure in Heaven.

"I love the beauty of Thy house..."