Sunday, August 21, 2016

On the recent innovation of the Theotokos Burial Service

(Melkite-Newton) - An increasing number of Byzantine churches are observing the Feast of the Dormition by conducting the Burial Service of the Theotokos. This observance comes to us from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the traditional site of her death and burial.

On the morning of August 14 a procession sets out from the Patriarchate, bearing the icon of the Dormition. They leave the Old City and cross the Kedron Valley, arriving at Gethsemane and the tomb of the Theotokos. There the people, passing beneath the icon, enter the church where the burial shroud of the Theotokos has been displayed for veneration. On the closing of the feast, August 23, another procession returns the icon and the shroud to the Patriarchate.


We do not know when the site of the Virgin’s tomb in Gethsemane, at the foot of Mount Olivet, became a place of Christian devotion. Some say that the first church there had been built by St Helena in the fourth century. There was clearly a church there in the fifth century. It is well documented that the first Patriarch of Jerusalem, St Juvenal, had taken the veil of the Theotokos from this shrine and sent it to the Empress Pulcheria who had asked him for the Virgin’s “relics” after the Council of Chalcedon (451). The patriarch replied, “Three days after her repose, the body of the Holy Virgin was raised up to heaven, and the Tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane bears only her Veil.” The patriarch then sent this relic to Constantinople where it was then enshrined in the church of the Theotokos at Blachernae, a district of Constantinople.

A church was built at the site of the virgin’s tomb in 582 by the Byzantine Emperor Maurice. Thus church was destroyed during the Persian invasion of 614 but rebuilt soon afterward. During the Crusades it was destroyed again, leaving only the crypt – the actual place of the tomb – and the steps descending to it. Today the crypt-church is served jointly by the Greek Patriarchate and the Armenian Patriarchate. The church also contains chapels used by the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

For all you incoming seminarians

For all you men headed to seminary. This sort of thing is a distinct classroom possibility. Good strength to you all!

Why Teachers Weep

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and, gathering them around him, he taught them saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are you who thirst for justice. Blessed are you who are persecuted. Blessed are the peacemakers..."

Then Simon Peter said, “Do we have to write this down?"

And Philip said, "Will this be on the test?"

And John said, "Could you repeat everything you just said?"

And Andrew said, "But John the Baptist does not make his disciples learn all this stuff!"

And Matthew said, "Huh?"

And Judas said, "What does this have to do with real life?"

Then one of the Pharisees, who was an expert in the law, said, "I don't see any of this in your syllabus. Do you have a unit plan? Is there a summary? Where are the student hand-outs? Will there be any follow-up assignments? Is this thematic? How will you assess this?"

And Thomas, who had missed the sermon, came to Jesus privately said, "Did we do anything important yesterday?"

And Jesus wept.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts

(NPR) - Surrounded by shouting, he's completely silent.

The child is small, alone, covered in blood and dust, dropped in the back of an ambulance with his feet dangling off the edge of a too-big chair.

He doesn't cry or speak. His face is stunned and dazed, but not surprised. He wipes his hand over his wounded face, looks at the blood, wipes it off on the chair.

And he stares.

The world is staring back...
Complete article here.

++++++++++++ A Prayer for Peace in Syria ++++++++++++

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the King of Peace, I call for:

Archangel Michael, who is in charged with divine dispensation to run the affairs of mankind to act according to the mind of Christ. We ask you, Lord of angels, to focus your spiritual presence in Damascus, Marja Square and control the fate of Syria.

We ask you, Lord of angels: liberation of the prisoners, binding the snipers, expelling the strangers, disabling cars with bombs, and consume all corrupted men in the land. Bind and consume all forces of evil and all demonic forces of darkness that operate in Syria and undermine the innocent sons and daughters of God.

Archangel Michael, free by your power the Syrian people from the currents of fear, anger and despair, in order to be able to achieve a better future for them. Help them to accept that they can have the ability to govern and direct their fate according to the will of God. Destroy and burn all past records that refer to the misuse of power by the people, in order to embrace a better future of peace and do constructive works. Help them to take a free choice between the consciousness of death and consciousness of life.

Archangel Michael: Preserve the unity of Syria, or it will fall and be divided. (3 times)

O Mary, mother of Jesus: Send the Light of your Love to the hearts of all the Syrians, in order to love each other. (3 times)

Amen. Grant O Lord our prayers and supplications.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Old Ritualists in photos

The rise of ecumenism in our seminaries

New effort to stop throttling of church construction in Egypt

If you've followed this story (really the story of all of the Muslim countries that don't ban construction outright) you know that requests to build churches in Egypt often sit in local government offices for years. In frustration Christians will build churches or rent space for worship anyway only to have the buildings torn down or shuttered. This is a united Christian effort to demand a real timeline on government response to new church construction requests.

Cairo (All Africa) - Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical leaders have signed a bill approving church construction and restoration in the country.

Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Magdi al-Agati said August 11 that Egypt's Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical leaders signed the bill in front of Bishop Paula of Tanta, Head of the Coptic Orthodox Council for Marital Affairs.

"The law sets a four-month deadline for governors to respond to any request for a license to build a church," Agati said in a press statement.

He added that the bill would be discussed within the week during a cabinet meeting before it is submitted to the State Council and then to parliament for final approval.

The country follows the Islamic Law of Classical Islam back from the era of the Ottoman Empire in 1856 that made it difficult for Egyptian Christians to build their own church buildings.

Former Interior Minister Mohamed Ezaby Pasha also made the situation worse in 1934 by adding 10 more conditions in order to grant building permits for churches.

The signing of the law also came just after Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, the 63-year-old leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, met with members of parliament last month.

"We will not accept the control of a particular party over the construction of churches in Egypt, and the current law had been in force since the era of the Ottoman Empire," the Coptic Pope told the lawmakers.

Memory eternal Khalid Jabara!

(St. Anthony Tulsa) - Friday night, tragedy struck as Khalid Jabara, a member of St. Antony Orthodox Christian Church, was gunned down outside of his parents’ home in Tulsa.

As the news coverage continues about Khalid, those of us at St. Antony will always remember the young man who grew up in our parish. Khalid had a huge heart and loved his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. He was kind, funny, bright and caring; everyone who knew him was truly the better for it.

The entire St. Antony family mourns with the Jabara family and feels the loss of Khalid. May the love and compassion of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ along with the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and all the saints bring their family peace and comfort and may the memory of Khalid truly be eternal.
And also...
(Tulsa World) - Less than three months before a 37-year-old man was shot on his front porch Friday evening, Tulsa County prosecutors deemed the man suspected of killing him “a substantial risk to the public.”

Prosecutors had attempted to keep 61-year-old Stanley Vernon Majors in jail while he awaited trial on an assault charge alleging that he drove his vehicle into Haifa Jabara in September, but he was granted bond and released in May.

Court records show a history of conflict between Majors and the family of his next-door neighbor, Jabara, who was granted a protective order against him in November 2013 after telling a Tulsa County judge that he had harassed her and “is very racist towards foreigners and blacks.”

Majors was prohibited from going near Jabara or her home or possessing firearms for the next five years. But now, within three years, he is accused of fatally shooting her son, Khalid Jabara, at the family’s south Tulsa home.

Majors, who also uses his middle name, Vernon, as a first name, had been ordered to remain 300 yards away from Haifa Jabara and her home. He was prohibited from having any contact with her and from possessing firearms until November 2018.

Majors was charged with violating Haifa Jabara’s protective order in March 2015 after she told police he had yelled racial slurs at her in her driveway and threatened to kill her.

While arresting Majors, officers asked him multiple times to put down his beer, and he “chugged his beer before he put it down,” according to an arrest report.

Majors was charged with misdemeanor counts of violating the protective order and obstructing an officer, and he posted bond and was released from jail. His trial in that case is set for Oct. 3.

Last Sept. 12, prosecutors say Majors hit Haifa Jabara with a car in the 8700 block of East 95th Street and then left even though she had a broken shoulder and other injuries.

He was charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon, leaving the scene of a collision involving injury, violating a protective order and public intoxication.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The neologism of a "personal relationship with Jesus"

(Religion Prof) - I was asked on Reddit about a topic that I blogged about at some point in the past, but not finding the post in question, I thought I would revisit the topic. The phrases “personal relationship with Jesus” and “personal savior” are not only not found in the Bible, but are much more recent than that. Here is what Joel Miller discovered by performing an ngram to see how frequently the phrases appear in books...

Complete article here.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

Doing amazing things in Africa

(OCA-DOS) - St. Philip the Apostle parish in Tampa, Florida has helped to raise funds to build a medical clinic in northern Uganda. Located thirty miles south of the South Sudan border, a 2,500 square foot clinic was constructed, opening in January of 2014 with a staff of two. Since then five more have been added to the clinic staff, including the recent hiring of a certified midwife. On August 6th of this year, a 550 sq. ft. maternity ward annex was dedicated. Three days later the first baby was born at the annex. She was named Nektaria in honor of St. Nektarios patron the medical center. The clinic’s web address is

The clinic is the result of a visit to northern Uganda in 2010 by St. Philip priest in charge, Fr. Joseph Ciarciaglino. In 2010, he was part of a medical mission team sent there from OCMC. In this part of Uganda, rebel forces kidnapped young children and turned them into soldiers. Only recently had peace come to the area and medical services in the rural areas was nonexistent. Together with Fr. George, a native Orthodox priest in that area, the dream of a medical clinic was born. Two years were spent by Fr. Joseph, aided by his parishioners, raising the necessary funds. Since 2011 all pan-Orthodox Lenten Vespers collections have gone to the support of the clinic as well. Fr. Joseph is an advisor to the clinic on financial matters and travels to the clinic each year. The clinic now has a deep well and solar power.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dormition of the Birthgiver of God

Shout, O David, and declare: * What is this present feast? * And he says: Today has Christ * unto the mansions above * translated her from whom He was born without seed * and whom I have extolled * in the Book of the Psalms * as daughter, child of God, * and as a virgin as well. * And for this reason do mothers and daughters * and brides of Christ now rejoice and say: * Rejoice, O Lady who were translated * unto the royal courts on high.

Consider being an African missionary

(Orthodox Africa) - Fr. Silouan Brown reflects, "As I contemplate all the things that have happened on this mission trip I think back to my formative years in a protestant church that I completely hated with the one exception and that was a pair of missionaries who were home on furlough from Thailand. In some small way they inspired me to think that Christianity might actually have something to offer even though at that time I certainly didn't see it.

"As I have gained 18 God-children and had the privilege of shaking hands, holding and or playing with literally hundreds of children over the last month or so I can just pray that they can look back at their lives some day and say that there was a Christian "mzungu" (white guy) who loved me and showed me that Orthodox Christianity truly has something to offer. If even one kid can say this 20 years from now than all of the pain will be worth it.

"This phase of the mission is coming to a close for me but there is still lots of work to be done. Maybe you are the next Orthodox Christian who God is calling to come over here and reflect the love of Christ in the lives of some of the most destitute people on earth.

"Please think how you can also help spread Christ's words to the ends of the universe and help save if only one life by your prayers and support.

"Our mission at continues and we will continue to seek help from all of you so that together we can build a self sustainable Church in Kenya."

Clergy spotlight: Fr. Alexis Baldwin in North Augusta, SC

Readers may remember Holy Resurrection Mission and Fr. Alexis from this post last year. You all were wonderful enough to donate thousands of dollars to the mission's roof campaign. God's blessing to you all!

( - Fr Alexis Baldwin converted to the Holy Orthodox Church in 2009. A graduate of St Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in 2013, he was ordained to the holy priesthood on July 14 of that year on the feast of All Saints of Britain and Ireland. He is currently the priest in charge at Holy Resurrection Mission in North Augusta, SC.

I had the joy of studying with Fr. Alexis in seminary and getting to know him and his wife Matushka Veronica and their children. Fr. Alexis was always approachable, in a good mood, passionate about the Orthodox faith, and hard-working, even pulling double duty as the seminary cook while simultaneously taking classes.

I had the great pleasure of catching up with Fr. Alexis recently in Kiev where he was on pilgrimage, and especially of attending services together at the Kiev Caves Lavra. While there we also found some time to chat about his life, work, struggles, and joys as a young priest serving in a small mission parish in the American south.

—Fr. Alexis, please tell us about your work as the priest of a small mission parish.

—Of course being a mission priest is a challenge because the mission priest usually has a double task, meaning they have to work and work at the mission at the same time, and I think that’s the biggest challenge. Anytime you work it divides up your time, and that’s not good. As Fr. Atty1 used to say, a priest has to give 100% to his family and 100% to the Church.

—How do you work that out?

—You don’t. It doesn’t have to make any sense. There are a lot of things in the spiritual life like that, and I think we began to encounter them even in seminary. Things don’t necessarily have to make sense on paper, but by the grace of God they work out and they make sense. If you put the work in and you’re under the guidance of your bishop and working with priests in your diocese then God provides the fruit. But it’s a lot of work and it’s a challenge.

That was a big concern. We didn’t move out to South Carolina to work my secular job, which is roasting coffee. It pays the bills and I’m happy that God has allowed me to be in a place where I can have a job that not only am I good at but I enjoy, but from the very beginning there was an understanding with the secular job that the reason I’m in South Carolina is to be a priest and serve the Church, and there can never be a conflict in those schedules.

—It’s good that you found a place that is understanding about that.

—Thank God, they’re very understanding. From the very beginning I was very open with my boss and manager about who I am, what I do, and what’s important. I like working there, but they understand that my priority lies with the Church. They may not understand the Church but they understand where the priority lies. That’s part of the struggle, but of course, I have to tell you, Fr. Atty used to say that every priest is a mission priest, and because of that I think mission priests share in the joy of the priesthood, period. It’s all joy. Even the struggle is a joy. It may not feel like it sometimes, but it’s all a joy...
Complete article here.

"... not My will, but Yours, be done."