Friday, July 22, 2016

Rare word #17: isapostle

My daughter Magdalena's New Calendar name day is today so, before we feasted a little, I did my normal hagiographic reading. The word isapostle came up. It makes perfect etymologic sense (think of isosceles from ἰσοσκελής equal-legged), but is not a word I had noted at all before.

Isapostle - Equal to, or contemporary with, the apostles; a name given in the Greek Church to bishops consecrated by the apostles, and to other persons eminent in the primitive church.

Etymology: ecclesiastical Greek ἰσαπόστολος equal to an apostle

The title alone is going to fill up the comments box

Tonsure of a monk of the Holy Cave of the Bethlehem Basilica

(Patriarchate of Jerusalem) - On Wednesday, the 7th/20th of July 2016, H.B. Theophilos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, performed the tonsure of novice Georgios, deacon at the Holy Cave within the Basilica of Bethlehem, giving him the name of Gabriel and offering paternal and patriarchal advice for his Hagiotaphite and venerating labour. The tonsure took place at the Pentecost Chapel in the presence of Primates and Priests of the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood and His Eminence Theophylaktos, Archbishop of Jordan.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blagoveschensky Kerzhensky Monastery. Ascetic monk. 1897.

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Women Hymnographers of the Church by Dimitris Salapatas

(Londinoupolis) - The role of women in the Orthodox Church is of increasing interest. What is evident in a number of publications and conferences is the fact that we need to hear not only what the Church proclaims on this issue, but how women themselves understand the theology and the tradition of their role in Orthodoxy.[1] Quoting verses from Holy Scripture such as Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” can only take us so far. In order to understand the role of women in Orthodoxy we need to go further; we need to establish their role today, identify the true Orthodox Tradition and examine the history of this matter, practically, historically and theologically. Here we will examine the role of women by looking at women hymnographers in the Byzantine Tradition...
Complete article here.

Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) at Antiochian Clergy Symposium

I, along with almost anyone else who has read his works, am quite indebted to Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios for the depth and breadth of his scholarship. A lot of what he has written is in English and is required reading in our seminaries. Enjoy the below podcasts!

(AFR) - Held at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, Metropolitan Joseph invited as his speaker His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios (also Ierotheos) He serves the Metropolis of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios in the Church of Greece. The them of his three lectures was Theology, Pastoral Care, and Psychology. The interpreter is Anastasios Filippides, Economist (B.A. Yale University, M.A. Georgetown University). Secondary interpreter is Dr. Christopher Veniamin – Professor of Patristics St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA. Also Founder and President of Mount Thabor Publishing.

Orthodoxy Theology and Western Theology

Orthodox Psychotherapy in Relation to Modern Western Psychology

Biology, Bioethics, and Biotheology

Abp. Demetrios prays at RNC Convention

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Small Parish Forum held in Ohio

I'm really sad that I couldn't go this year. It's a great experience that I recommend to everyone.

Canton, OH (OCA-DMW) - Fifty-four individuals representing parishes from five dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America, as well as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, participated in the Small Parish Forum at Holy Assumption Church here July 14-16, 2016.

Small Parish Forum attracts over 50 participantsJointly sponsored by the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of the Midwest and Diocese of Western Pennsylvania, the Forum — the third in a series initiated in 2014 — had as its theme “The Small Parish: Possibilities and Opporunities in Worshipping, Caring, Teaching and Sharing.” The program was facilitated by Joseph Kormos, Parish Development Ministry Leader for the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania.

His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest welcomed the participants and offered their insights throughout the three-day gathering. Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, delivered the keynote address, titled “The Critical Role of the Small Parish: The Apostolic Work.” He also offered a workshop titled “The Evangelizing Parish.”

Among the other presenters were
  • Priest Justin Patterson, Rector of Saint Athanasius Church, Nicholasville, KY, who offered insights about youth and education in his presentation titled “The Eight Person Sunday School and Four Person Youth Group: Making Things Work When You’re Small.”
  • Priest Daniel Mathewson, Rector of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Edinboro/Crossingville, PA, who encouraged participants to look beyond their walls during an interactive session titled “Inside Out, Outside In: Seven Keys to Understanding Your Parish Neighborhood.”
  • Archpriest Peter Baktis, Rector of the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission, Princeton, NJ, who moderated a panel discussion titled “The Tentmaker” that took a serious look at the positives and challenges of bi-vocational clergy in small parishes.
  • Archpriest Marc Vranes, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Willimantic, CT, shared renewal efforts in his small heritage parish. A similar presentation was offered via live remote link by Priest Jonathan Bannon, Rector of Christ the Saviour Church [ACROD], Rockford, IL.
  • Benedict Sheehan, Music Director at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary, offered sessions titled ‘Singing in Small Ensembles: Tips from the Field” and “With One Heart and One Mouth: Building Beautiful Church Music in a Small Parish.”
Mr. Kormos also facilitated a number of workshops on related themes.

“Joe Kormos used a photo of a Great Dane and a Chihuahua to make a point about large and small churches,” said Bishop Paul as he reflected upon the Forum’s content. “One is not ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong;’ one is not better than the other. They are just different. This made an impact on me in light of my recent visit to Russia (the Great Dane Church) and some statistics Father Eric Tosi shared at the Forum on the OCA (the Chihuahua Church).… For those of us who are baby boomers and have grown up in Great Dane churches, could we be falling into the trap of trying to help Chihuahua churches using Great Dane methodology?

“A perfect example of this is in the area of Church school programs,” Bishop Paul continued. “I grew up in a parish that had a youth population of 200-plus kids. We had classes for K to 12th grade averaging about 20 to 25 students each. Even in our larger OCA churches today, we are nowhere near being able to match that past reality. Yet I think we are still affected by this past classroom methodology in organizing Church school programs in our small parishes today.”

A photo gallery of the event can be viewed here.

Blueprints for the Little Church

I just finished reading a new book from Ancient Faith Publishing entitled Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home. I'm of course all for families finding a way to develop their domestic churches and so my bookshelves are full of books on the topic. Even considering the venerable age of some of these titles, they have held up well over time. There's an immutable quality to the Church that makes bringing a family together in prayer a timeless and priceless enterprise; the true wisdom of one decade is often the wisdom of the next for those who have ears to hear.

Blueprints of the Little Church begins with a discussion of why praying at home is important but also points out that prayer alone is insufficient. As the authors put it, "These three foundation stones for your little church are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving." With this expanded framework the book then walks unearths and then carefully places one stone after another in an organized manner so that by the time you've finished the book you have the beginnings of a strong substructure to build your family on. I don't say spiritual life or church life or any other such thing because these three things (prayer, fasting, almsgiving) should permeate everything. And, as the book points out, a Christian is not only a Christian when praying at home or on Sundays. We are expected to bear the image and likeness of Christ with us everywhere.

There is a lot in this book on how to start praying and how to avoid common pitfalls. No little space is given to prayer corners and developing a prayer rule that works with the family schedule. What it also has, and what I see a lot of value in, is a constant return to realizing that this part of your life will never be perfect. It will never measure up to that "glow in the dark" holy family in the parish that is always at church on time with children who are never at odds with one another or with parents that never seem to lose their tempers. Readers of this book will make mistakes and their children will push back against these formative efforts. As the authors say it is about love reflective of the love of God that will always be a better choice than anger or frustration. This is your family's walk and no one else's so avoid the trap of comparing your family to others you know. To fall down is human. To get up and try again is salvific.

The book moves onto how to begin fasting and how to set realistic expectations. As with much of this book (in fact from the opening words of the Blueprints) there is a recommendation to consult with your priest. This book isn't a replacement for a parish priest, it's in no small way a study guide for how to make the most of the pastoral relationship. This section is followed by some words on stewardship and then an appendix on the liturgical year.

All the above should point to my fondness for the Blueprints for the Little Church. I wouldn't hesitate to give this book to catechumens of mine with small children. Truly, I wouldn't feel awkward putting this in a parish bookstore for "cradle" families to read. It's a handbook for family growth and betterment for those families that want a little direction or encouragement in turning the family towards Christ and His Church.

Let me say, though, that families with older children (say teenagers) may well flip through the pages asking, "Where do I learn how to get my fifteen year old interested in praying with us?" That is somewhat outside the scope of this book. At a pastoral level I can say that this situation has so many unique difficulties that it would need another book entirely to fully address teens and the Church. Convincing a 7 year old to pray and come to church is not the same discussion you will have with a teen. In broad strokes prayer, patience, and love are the same colors to paint with, but Blueprints is not going to speak to that situation in as direct a way as parents of older children may like. This doesn't detract from the merits of the book in any way and I offer this only in clarification.

(AFP) - How do we as Orthodox parents keep our children in the Church throughout their lives? It all begins with involving them in the life of the Church from birth onward—in the parish and also at home. Blueprints for the Little Church provides practical ideas and encouragement—without judgment—for incorporating the primary practices of Orthodox spirituality into your family life at every stage of its growth and throughout the church year.

About the Authors:

Elissa Bjeletich hosts the popular Ancient Faith Radio podcast, Raising Saints: Educating Our Youth in the Orthodox Faith, Both at Home and in the Parish. She is the author of In God’s Hands: A Mother’s Journey through Her Infant’s Critical Illness (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2013) and the Sunday school director at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. She lives near Austin, Texas, with her husband, Marko, and their five daughters.

Caleb Shoemaker is the father of four children. A graduate of Gordon College with a BA in Youth Ministries and an MA in Biblical Languages from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Caleb has worked in church and parachurch ministry for seventeen years. He and his wife Emily converted to Orthodoxy in 2012. He blogs very sporadically about the importance of bringing the life of the church and the life of the family together at This is his first book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

EP moves ahead on Ukrainian autocephaly considerations

What one has to remember is that for Constantinople, autocephaly is completely determined by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The EP decides who is autocephalous. Not Russia, not the Pentarchy, not the body seeking autocephaly itself. So, while a move to establish autocephaly in Ukraine without Russia or some "coalition of the willing" consensus from other Churches is possible from a Constantinopolitan perspective, it would turn the current crack formed by the Crete Council into a vast chasm.

( - The Patriarchate of Constantinople has reacted to the appeal of the Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) deputies on granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reports Interfax-Religion.

The Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has not turned down this appeal but, instead, has charged a special synodal commission with examining it, reports the Romfea Greek Church news agency.

As was earlier reported, the Verkhovna Rada recently called upon Patriarch Bartholomew I to issue a Tomos granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine and to recognize the 1686 act, in accordance with which the Metropolitan See of Kiev was transferred to the Patriarchate of Moscow “in defiance of canons”, as invalid. However, the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not respond to that appeal.

Commenting on this initiative, the Russian Federation’s Foreign Ministry Ombudsman for Human Rights Konstantin Dolgov has said that it is a transgression of the Ukrainian law and that the Venice Commission should provide an opinion on this matter. The ombudsman has also pointed to the fact that the Verkhovna Rada is promoting a number of bills that “are aimed at the ultimate legalization of taking over church buildings of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate by raiders.”

There are three active Orthodox religious organizations in the Ukraine: the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), the “Kyiv Patriarchate”, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and the latter two are not recognized in the Orthodox world.

Earlier Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko more than once expressed the idea of establishing one local (autocephalous) Orthodox Church in the country. One of the goals of this initiative is to separate UOC MP from the Patriarchate of Moscow.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Russian Church regular session: Crete, new saints, and more

( - On 15 July 2016, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church met for a regular session under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at the Patriarchal and Synodal residence in St Daniel’s Monastery. The meeting began with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in Nice.

The list of permanent members of the Holy Synod includes Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine; Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna; Metropolitan Vladimir of Chişinău and All Moldova; Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan, head of the metropolitan area in the Republic of Kazakhstan; Metropolitan Vikenty of Tashkent and Uzbekistan, head of the metropolitan area of Central Asia; Metropolitan Varsonofy of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate; Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslavl, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus; and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.

Invited to take part in the summer session (March-August) are Metropolitan Dimitry of Tobolsk and Tyumen; Metropolitan Georgy of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas; Metropolitan Mitrofan of Gorlovka and Slavyansk; Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; and Bishop Alexander of Daugavpils and Rezekne.

The members of the Holy Synod expressed the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Council held on the Island of Crete on June 18-26, 2016. The Synod acknowledged that the Council that had taken place in Crete, in which the Primates and hierarchs of ten out of fifteen autocephalous Orthodox Local Churches had participated, was an important event in the history of the conciliar process in the Orthodox Church, and stressed that the principle of consensus constituted the basis for pan-Orthodox cooperation throughout the conciliar process. At the same time, the members of the Synod stated that the holding of a Council in the absence of consent from a number of autocephalous Orthodox Churches violated this principle; therefore, the Council that took place in Crete cannot be considered to be pan-Orthodox while the documents adopted by it to be considered expressing pan-Orthodox consensus. The Holy Synod the Russian Orthodox Church charged the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission with publishing and studying the officially attested copies of the documents approved by the Crete Council, taking into account possible responses and remarks of the Most Reverend hierarchs, theological schools, theologians, clergy, monastics and laity, and after a comprehensive study to submit the conclusions to the Holy Synod.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Arson attack on Ukrainian cathedral in Winnipeg

(CBC) - Officials with Winnipeg's Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral are scrambling to come up with another plan for Sunday's service after a fire Thursday evening caused extensive damage to the north Winnipeg church.

"I went down to the church [last night] and surprise, surprise, there was about 15 fire trucks and smoke billowing out of the south side of the cathedral," said Cathedral president Greg Palaschuk.

The fire, which investigators say was arson, started around 9:30 p.m. Thursday at the Main Street and Redwood Avenue building. No one was hurt. Damages are estimated at more than $1 million.

Palaschuk and others suited up in protective gear Friday afternoon to look at the damage. He said it's extensive and is going to take many months to repair.

"It's going to take months and months of renovations because of religious artifacts and the stained glass materials.… It's horrible, that's what it is; it's horrible," he said.

"Everything was soaking wet," Palaschuk added. "Some of the wood is charred, some of the stained glass windows on the second level are damaged."

"Extensive damage is an understatement."

"The parishioners are strong, the congregation are strong. Is it a setback? Big time, but as a group we will pull together and get through this."

Church members he's talked to can't believe it and are struggling to come to grips with who might have started the blaze, he said.

The church's security alarm went off shortly before the fire alarm went off, police said. Fire officials said the blaze was contained mostly to the main floor, but smoke and water damage in the building is extensive.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Also in ROCOR episcopal news...

While this may be a shocking screen capture or simply an amusing one, this process of declaring a "job opening" is consistent with Canadian law requiring a fair chance for local people to get a job when an immigrant is in the mix. Archbishop Gabriel (Chemodakov) of Montreal is going through this immigration process and ROCOR has to jump through this hoop. I'd post the link, but the ad has been pulled: I expect this caused no small consternation to the faithful. Thanks to the reader who forwarded this entertaining link to me. It was good while it lasted.

Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg) to be Bishop of Sacramento

Fr. John Whiteford has announced the below. I can only say that this is one of the best things to happen to the American Church in recent history. Not only is he a gifted scholar he is also a pastorally adept cleric with a strikingly refreshing and powerful verve for evangelism. A simple search of this blog for his name will show how much he has accomplished as will even a perfunctory Google search. Axios! Axios! Axios!

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church just approved the election of Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg) as bishop. Here is a machine translation of the Russian text.


CONSIDERED the approval of the decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on election Archimandrite Irenaei (Steenberg) bishop of Sacramento, Vicar of the Western American Diocese.


In accordance with paragraph 17 of Chapter XI of the Constitution of the Russian Orthodox Church, the norms of the Charter apply to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in view of the Act of Canonical Communion of 17 May 2007.

In accordance with the Act of Canonical Communion of 17 May 2007: "The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are elected by her Council of Bishops or, in cases stipulated by the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Synod of Bishops. The election is approved by canonical norms by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. "

July 1, 2016 the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church elected Archimandrite Irenaei (Steenberg) bishop of Sacramento, Vicar of the Western American Diocese. July 6, 2016, His Grace Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York Hilarion addressed to His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill with the request to approve the decision of the Holy Synod.


To approve the decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on election Archimandrite Irenaei (Steenberg) bishop of Sacramento, Vicar of the Western American Diocese, leaving the place and time of his ordination to the discretion of the Hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
You can read about Bishop-Elect Irenei here.

Savagery in Nice

The savagery of what was done in France - to strike and drag people with a truck - is beyond my imaginings. I think everyone has struck something with a car and had that moment of panic about it. Whether it be a squirrel or even some inanimate object on the road, the event is still jarring. And of those people I know who have had the great misfortune to have struck a person with their car even at low speeds in a parking lot, there is a haunted look in their eyes when they recall the moment. So it is shocking to think of purposefully plowing into men, women, and children with the express purpose of killing them. Merciful God, save us.