Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bishop Michael of New York visits Poland and Presov

(OCA-NYNJ) - At the invitation of His Eminence, Archbishop Abel (Diocese of Lublin and Chelm), Bishop Michael journeyed to Poland from 11-22 August 2014. Joining him from the diocese were Father Wiaczeslaw Krawczuk, Father John Shimchick and his son, John. Beginning in Warsaw, the group was formally received by the leader of the Polish Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa. Accompanied and guided by Archbishop Abel they visited many churches, monasteries, and pilgrimage sites.

Of note was their participation in the yearly celebration at the Holy Mountain of Grabarka on the Feast of the Transfiguration (old calendar, 18-19 August).

His Grace and Father Wiaczeslaw also traveled to represent the Orthodox Church in America at the enthronement in Kiev, Ukraine, of the newly elected primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry.

The visit also provided unique opportunities for reconnecting with family. While in Presov, Bishop Michael met for the first time a cousin, Father Michal Rosic, an Orthodox priest living in Slovakia. While the others were in Kiev, Father John and his son spent time with family in Jaczno, about an hour north of Bialystok.
Two very interesting stories from the trip available here.

More notes from annual Assembly of Bishops meeting


(AOB) - More than 35 members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America joined in celebrating the Divine Liturgy Tuesday morning, September 16, at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the bishops offered a memorial service for the repose of the soul of Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. The bishops are gathered in Dallas for the fifth annual meeting of the Assembly of Bishops.

In opening remarks following the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman of the Assembly, said that the Assembly’s convening would “certainly send a clear message to the world that we, the members of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops are all one in Christ through His life, death and resurrection. We have begun our work with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and the partaking of His One Body and Blood, thus constituting His One Holy, Undivided and Sacred Body. “

His Eminence called on the Assembly to intensify its work in preparation for the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, which is scheduled to be held in the Spring of 2016 in Constantinople.

The Assembly remains “prayerfully and painfully aware of developments” in the US and abroad, said His Eminence, including the persecution of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, the violence in Ukraine that has caused suffering for our Orthodox brethren, and attacks, both direct and indirect, on our Faith in various forms of atheism, agnosticism and perverse religiosity, including a constant attempt by society to redefine what is moral.

In the afternoon session, the Assembly’s committees provided reports on their activities. Church and Society, Ecumenical Relations, Legal, Military Chaplaincy, Monastic Communities, Pastoral Practice, Theological Education, Youth and the newly-formed Committee for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations reported on their progress since Assembly IV and their plans for the coming year. The committee reports will be available on the Assembly's website.

The Canonical Affairs committee made a presentation on the creation of a clergy database which, once completed, will be accessible to the faithful on the Assembly’s website. A second presentation highlighted the benefits of Bulletin Builder, a program that revolutionizes the creation of parish bulletins and significantly enhances communication within and between parishes. The program was created by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s Department of Internet Ministries with the generous support of The Virginia H Farah Foundation and Leadership 100 and is now offered free of charge to all parishes in the Assembly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Assembly of Bishops annual meeting underway

(AOB) - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America commenced its fifth annual meeting Monday, September 15, with a Pan-Orthodox Clergy-Laity Gathering in Dallas, Texas. Some two hundred people attended, including more than 30 bishops representing the member jurisdictions of the Assembly.

The evening began with a Doxology—a service of thanksgiving—presided over by the Chairman of the Assembly, Archbishop Demetrios of America. His Eminence welcomed those in attendance, remarking that the Doxology was an opportunity to thank God for all His gifts and for bringing the Assembly together once again. His Eminence expressed his wish that the evening would make the faithful more aware of the sacred and great work that the Lord is doing through the Assembly.

Following the Doxology, a panel of bishops answered questions submitted by those in attendance. Questions pertained to the work of the Assembly, including youth ministry, inter-church relations, and evangelism and outreach, and challenges facing the Orthodox Church today, including questions of language, administrative reorganization, and persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

Five bishops were on the panel: Archbishop Demetrios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America), Bishop Basil (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese), Bishop John (Russian Orthodox Church in the USA), Archbishop Nicolae (Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese), and Bishop Gregory (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese). The panel was moderated by Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides, a member of the Assembly’s Secretariat.

The evening concluded with a meal and fellowship in the church hall.

The Assembly is grateful to the parish of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which hosted the event, and the numerous Orthodox parishes in the Dallas area that helped make the evening fruitful.

The event was professionally videotaped and will be available on the Assembly’s website in the near future.

The Assembly’s official deliberations begin on Tuesday, after a morning Divine Liturgy and memorial service for Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory, who passed away in March.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Groundbreaking on Ground Zero shrine date set

NEW YORK (GOARCH) – A Ground Blessing ceremony for the St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center is set for Saturday October 18, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. The ceremony will include a combined prayer service of blessing of the site (aghiasmos), a doxology (a service of thanksgiving) and a memorial service for the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The small Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas, which was established in 1916, was completely obliterated on Sept. 11, 2001 when the South Tower fell. The new Saint Nicholas National Shrine will be rebuilt only a short distance away at 130 Liberty Street, overlooking the 9/11 Memorial.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America will preside at the historic event with the participation of the hierarchs of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. It will be attended by dignitaries and officials of the City of New York, officials of the States of New York and New Jersey, chaplains and interfaith representatives, family members of victims of 9/11, representatives of Archdiocese institutions and organizations and many faithful Orthodox Christians.

Details of the event will be forthcoming.

Orthodox-Catholic dialogue meeting in Jerusalem

(Zenit) - The eighth plenary session of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will take place in Amman, Jordan from 15 to 23 September, following the invitation from the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilos III.

The session will be co-chaired by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis (Zizioulas) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As on previous occasions, the meeting will be attended by two representatives of each of the fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches and many other Catholic representatives. The plenary session will examine a draft document entitled “Synodality and the Primate”, drawn up by the Co-ordinating Committee of the Commission during the two meetings held in Rome in 2011 and in Paris in 2012.

The study of the theological and anthropological relationship between the primate and synodality in the life of the Church in local, regional and universal contexts should offer a framework for reference for considering the crucial question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the universal Church. In Amman, the members of the Commission will be required to evaluate whether the draft prepared by the Co-ordinating Committee adequately reflects the currently existing consensus on this delicate issue or if it will be necessary to explore the theme in further depth.

The plenary session will also offer participants the opportunity to share moments of prayer with the local Christian communities and to express their closeness to those who suffer as a result of ongoing conflicts in the region.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

More on the Ted Cruz debacle

(Huffington Post) - My mother was fond of saying "if you want someone to hear you, you must first listen to them" -- know them, understand the questions they are asking, and be sensitive to their concerns. If you do this, she would say, "you will be able to speak with people and not at them."

What happens when you don't follow this simple rule of communication was on display during the "In Defense of Christians" conference that was held in Washington from September 9-11.

Addressing an audience of 900 mostly Arab Christians, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) launched into a passionate defense of Israel arguing that "Christians have no better ally than the Jewish State". The audience booed. Undeterred, Cruz continued, to more booing, "Those who hate Israel hate America" and "those who hate Jews hate Christians." When the audience would not stop, Cruz cut short his remarks charging, "Some here are so consumed with hate... if you will not stand with Israel and Jews, then I will not stand with you." He then walked off the stage.

It is generally known that Ted Cruz can be a demagogue, a quality that makes him immensely disliked by his colleagues. He is also considered to be quite bright and calculating. And so as I have attempted to understand why he did what he did, two distinct scenarios come to mind. It is possible that he went to the IDC conference to provoke a "Sister Souljah" moment -- which he could then exploit with his supporters on the fundamentalist right as evidence of his political courage. It is more likely that he had no clue about the reaction his taunting remarks would receive and was, therefore, stunned by the audience reaction -- and that it was only mid-stream that he decided that he could use the audience reaction to his political benefit.

In either case, Cruz displayed a shameful insensitivity to the concerns of Middle East Christians and a total lack of awareness of their history and current needs. Like too many of his colleagues, he can only see the Middle East through then lens of what is good for Israel. Because he comes out of the Christian fundamentalist world and now operates in the bubble of Washington politics, he simply had no understanding of his audience and no desire to listen to them and learn from them.

Naked illegal trespass apparently legal in France

(Reuters) - A French court acquitted nine women from protest group Femen on Wednesday over a topless protest last year inside Paris's Notre Dame cathedral, a Catholic cathedral visited by millions of tourists and religious devotees every year.

The feminist activists mixed with hordes of queuing visitors to enter the 12th century church unspotted in 2013 - one day after Pope Benedict resigned - before bearing torsos painted with slogans such as "Pope No More" and "Get lost, homophobe".

"We are extremely happy with the decision," said Michael Ghnassia, a Femen defence lawyer who announced the verdict.

The only convictions the court handed down, he said, were suspended fines imposed on three members of the Notre Dame security staff.

The Femen women, some of whom were smacked in the face by angry Catholics before security staff bundled them out of the church, had been pursued on the grounds that they degraded a place of worship in a protest during which they tapped on the cathedral's bells with wooden sticks.

The protest, just after Pope Benedict resigned on Feb. 11 2013, was staged during a period of sometimes violent street demonstrations over a law that has legalised same-sex marriage in France, a secular republic but predominantly Catholic.

Notre Dame, straddling an island in the middle of the Seine river in the heart of Paris, was being fitted with new giant bells at the time to celebrate its 850th anniversary.

Months after the Femen incursion, tourists fled Notre Dame in panic last May after a 78-year-old opponent of gay marriage committed suicide at the altar, shooting himself in the mouth, three days after the law on same-sex marriage was adopted.

Since it was founded in Kiev in 2008, the Femen movement has won notoriety in Europe for its stands - usually topless -- against sex tourism, homophobia and religious institutions.

Ahead of Wednesday's ruling, the group had warned on its Facebook page that a ruling against them would do nothing to blunt their activity.

The Sept. 8 page entry said: "Are we gonna be condemned for blasphemy? Let's hope not otherwise we will have to invade all the catholic places with our sacred boobs!"

Friday, September 12, 2014

An historic moment at the White House

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2014 (SINA) — For the first time in history, five Christian Patriarchs representing Christian communities in the Middle East visited the White House to discuss the protection of Christians in theMiddle East with President Obama and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

In Defense of Christians President Toufic Baaklinisaid, “We want to thank President Obama at this critical moment in history for meeting with the representatives of these Christian communities from the Middle East who face suffering and hardship for professing their religious beliefs.”

Attending the meeting with the President are:

His Eminence, Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Raï
Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

His Beatitude, Gregorius III Laham
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem

His Beatitude, Mor Ignatius Aphrem II
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch

His Beatitude, Ignatius Youssef III Yonan
Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

His Beatitude, Aram I Keshishian
Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church

His Eminence the Most Reverend Metropolitan Joseph Al-Zehlaoui
Archbishop of New York and All North America of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church
(Official representative of His Beatitude Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch and all the East)

His Grace Bishop Angaelos,
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church ofAlexandria
(Official representative of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of St. Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria)

His Excellency Ibrahim, Ibrahim
Bishop Emeritus of Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle
(Official representative of His Beatitude Louis Rahphael Sako I, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church)

Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue cancelled over homosexuality

(yle) - The Russian Orthodox Church has cancelled an official doctrinal dialogue with the Finnish Lutheran Church over the Lutheran stance on homosexuality. The Orthodox side wanted to pre-approve a communique before the meeting, but talks broke down over the Finns’ refusal to condemn homosexuality.

Finnish and Russian attitudes to gay rights are poles apart, and that’s helping to derail doctrinal dialogues between the two countries’ largest religions. Archbishop Kari Mäkinen says that he was forced to cancel planned ecumenical dialogues when he met the Russia Patriarch Kiril in Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox Church wanted to agree a statement in advance, as the meeting was scheduled to discuss anthropology—an area where sexuality was bound to come up.

”Our church’s line, which doesn’t directly condemn homosexuality, is such that from their point of view they don’t want to continue official ecumenical discussions,” said Mäkinen.

Mäkinen said that the Russian side wanted to agree a negative statement on homosexuality, but that the Lutheran church takes a different tack. In his opinion the end result of the talks should not be dictated in advance.

”Discussions are discussions,” said Mäkinen.

When it became clear that an agreement in advance wasn’t possible, the patriarch indicated that the discussions could not go ahead. Mäkinen says that ecumenical work will continue despite the setback.

”Doctrinal discussions are cancelled, but co-operation will certainly continue in other forms,” said Mäkinen.

The Lutheran Church is the national religion of Finland, with more than 70 percent of the population registered as members and paying ’church tax’ to fund its activities.

His Holiness Aram I on growing extremism & Christian unity

His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, outlined a five point plan to defeat growing extremism in the Middle East at his keynote presentation during the "In Defense of Christian" inaugural conference held in Washington DC from September 9th through 11th.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Beheading of St. John the Forerunner

The Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John, Troparion, in Tone II

The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise,/ but the Lord's witness is sufficient for thee, O forerunner./ Thou wast truly shown to be more honorable than the prophets,/ in that thou wast counted worthy to baptize in the streams Him Whom thou didst proclaim./ Wherefore, having suffered, rejoicing, for the truth,/ even unto those in hades thou didst proclaim God,/ Who had manifested Himself in the flesh,// Who taketh away the sin of the world and granteth us great mercy.

Kontakion, in Tone V

The glorious beheading of the forerunner/ was part of God's dispensation,/ that he might proclaim to those in hades the coming of the Savior./ Let Herodias, who demanded the iniquitous murder, therefore lament;/ for she loved not the law of God nor the age of life,// but rather this false and transitory one.

Herod Antipas, son of the elder Herod, who was the slayer of the children of Bethlehem at the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus, was ruler of Galilee at the time when John the Baptist was preaching. This Herod was married to the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian prince. But Herod, an evil sprout of an evil root, put away his lawful wife and unlawfully took unto himself Herodias as his concubine, the wife of his brother Philip, who was still living. John the Baptist stood up against this lawlessness and strongly denounced Herod who then cast John into prison. At the time of a banquet in his court in Sebastia in Galilee Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Philip, danced before the guests. The drunken Herod was so taken by this dance that he promised Salome that he would give her whatever she asked of him, even though it be half of his kingdom. Being persuaded by her mother, Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod gave the order and John was beheaded in prison and his head brought to him on a platter. John's disciples took the body of their teacher by night and honorably buried it and Herodias pierced the tongue of John with a needle in many places and buried the head in an unclean place. What later happened to John the Baptist's head can be read on February 24. However, God's punishment quickly befell this group of evil doers. Prince Aretas, in order to cleanse his daughter's honor, attacked Herod with his army and defeated him. The defeated Herod was sentenced by the Roman Caesar, Caligula, to exile at first to Gaul and later to Spain. As exiles, Herod and Herodias lived in poverty and humiliation until the earth opened up and swallowed them. Salome died an evil death on the Sikaris (Sula) river. The death of St. John occurred before the Pascha (Passover) but its celebration on August 29 was established because, on that day, a church which had been built over his grave in Sebastia by Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena was consecrated. In this church the relics of John's disciples, Eliseus and Audius, were also placed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz walks off stage at Middle East conference

(Daily Caller) - Sen. Ted Cruz was booed offstage at a conference for Middle Eastern Christians Wednesday night after saying that “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”

Cruz, the keynote speaker at the sold-out D.C. dinner gala for the recently-founded non-profit In Defense of Christians, began by saying that “tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews. Tonight, we are all united in defense of people of good faith, who are standing together against those who would persecute and murder those who dare disagree with their religious teachings.”

Cruz was not reading from a teleprompter, nor did he appear to be reading from notes.

“Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations,” he continued. “ISIS, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas, state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East. Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together, that we have to understand their so called nuances and differences. But we shouldn’t try to parse different manifestations of evil that are on a murderous rampage through the region. Hate is hate, and murder is murder. Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice, a humanitarian crisis.”

“Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” he said, at which point members of the crowd began to yell “stop it” and booed him.

EWTN News Nightly’s Jason Calvi caught the moment on video.

“Those who hate Israel hate America,” he continued, as the boos and calls for him to leave the stage got louder. “Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. And the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason.”

The cries of “stop it, stop it, enough,” and booing continued. “Out, out, leave the stage!” At this point IDC’s president, Toufic Baaklini, came out to the stage to ask for the crowd to listen to Cruz, but Cruz had already had enough.

“If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews,” he said. “Then I will not stand with you. Good night, and God bless.” And with that, he walked off the stage.

Many Christians in the Middle East take issue with Israeli military policy, which has made life for Palestinian Christians in their homeland very difficult, and driven many from their homes. “Israel’s policies have led to demographic pressure that’s made the West Bank and Gaza far more Muslim than in 1948,” explained one Middle East analyst.

IDC’s Executive Director, Andrew Doran, then came out on stage, saying “For the love of God, we’re here to talk about Christians and we’re here to be united.”

Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Joseph Zahlawi, who leads the Antiochian Orthodox in North America, soon after led those present in the Lord’s Prayer.

Moses the Black, angel in the flesh

http://www.archangelicons.com/saintsm.html
St. Moses the Black, Troparion, in Tone I —
A desert-dweller, an angel in the flesh/ and a wonderworker wast thou shown to be,/ O our God-bearing father Moses./ For, having acquired heavenly gifts through fasting, vigilance and prayer,/ thou dost heal the infirm/ and the souls of those who have recourse to thee with faith./ Glory to Him Who gaveth thee strength!/ Glory to Him Who crowned thee!// Glory to Him Who worketh healings for all through thee!

Kontakion, in Tone IV —
Having beaten the Moors and spat in the faces of the demons,/ thou didst shine forth noetically like the radiant sun,// directing our lives by the light of thy life and thy teaching.

Houston clergy hold town hall meeting on "Silent Holocaust"

(Antiochian.org) - On Friday evening, September 5, 2014, The Orthodox Clergy Association of Southeast Texas held a Town Hall Meeting at St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas (with rector The Rev. James Shadid), titled "The Silent Holocaust—The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East." The press release following the event reported that all of the Orthodox, Coptic and Syriac Christian communities in the area participated—approximately 300 persons, including 16 priests. Jurisdictions represented were the Greek Archdiocese (GOA), the Antiochian Archdiocese, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Serbian Diocese of Midwestern America, and Coptic and Syriac Dioceses.

There were four speakers, including Hieromonk Bashar (al-Shamany) of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Originally from Mosul, the he spoke about the current situation in the Middle East. Father Bashar's family are currently among the thousands of scattered refugees. A question and answer period followed, and a large collection was taken for the IOCC's relief work in the Middle East.

At the conclusion of the Town Hall, all of the Orthodox clergy offered up the Trisagion Prayers for those who have died.
  • Read the full press release.
  • Listen to the audio of this event on Ancient Faith Radio.
  • Listen to the Arabic presentation by Fr. Bashar Al-Shamany, Syriac Priest from Mosul, Iraq, of St. Ephrem the Syrian Church of Houston, posted separately at the same link, or alone here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Roma celebrating the Theotokos

(Boston.com) - The Roma community in Romania celebrates the Birth of the Virgin Mary in Costesti, Romania. Thousands of Gypsies or Roma gather on a hillside after attending a religious service in a nearby monastery and celebrate the holiday by sharing food and playing traditional music until the next dawn. The feast day of the Assumption of Mary, or simply Assumption Day or St Mary’s Day, is one of the most important feasts in the Orthodox Christian calendar.
A woman passes under a table, part of a local tradition at the Bistrita Monastery in Costesti, Romania. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)