Most Holy Theotokos intercede for us!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Moving on

This blog is moving to:

The contents will be expanded, but remain pretty much the same, but hopefully more regular and more interesting.

Hope to see you there.

Eric John

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Christian Service in War

Blessed Metropolitan Philaret of New York (+1986)

Christian Service in War
by Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) of New York
Translated by Hieromonk Varlaam Novakshonoff

Avoid war, but when it must be fought it can be the sacrifice of laying down one's life for the friend.

Naturally, this Christian patriotism we have spoken of requires from each of us as great a service as possible to the nation. The value of such service is even more significant if it is rendered unselfishly - free of any material calculations and considerations. A person serves the country in one way or another when he participates in its life by, for example, expressing himself in the press or in civil elections, etc. In this, one must strive to bring benefit to the whole country, the whole people, and not to one's own personal or party interests - then one's conscience will be at peace. It may be that one will not attain great external success, but let him, nevertheless fulfil the duty of a patriot and a faithful child of the nation in an honorable and Christian manner.

There is a saying, "In misfortune, a friend is known." Love for the nation is most clearly manifested in times of national trials and troubles. We all know how it feels when someone close to us is ill. We do not want diversions or satisfactions. In our sorrow and concern, we sometimes cannot even eat or drink or sleep. One who truly loves one's nation will manifest similar feelings during times of national troubles. If our heart is filled with nothing but our own personal experiences and interests, if we moan and sigh while our deeds remain far from our words, then our love for the nation is poor indeed.

One of the clearest and most self-denying struggles of service to one's homeland is to die for the nation. A Christian soldier is a defender of the homeland, and clearly fulfils Christ's precept, "there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's brethren."

War in itself is absolutely evil, an extremely sad phenomenon and deeply contrary to the very essence of Christianity. Words cannot express how joyous it would be if people ceased to war with one another and peace reigned on earth. Sad reality speaks quite otherwise, however. Only some dreamers far removed from reality and some narrowly one-sided sectarians can pretend that war can be omitted from real life.

It is quite correct to point out that war is a violation of the commandment, "Do not kill." No one will argue against that. Still, we see from the Holy Scripture that in that very same Old Testament time when this commandment was given, the Israelite people fought on command from God, and defeated their enemies with God's help. Consequently, the meaning of the commandment, "Do not kill," does not refer unconditionally to every act of removing a person's life. This commandment forbids killing for revenge, in anger, by personal decision or act of will. When our Savior explained the deep meaning of this commandment, He pointed out that it forbids not only actual killing, but also an un-Christian, vain anger.

Nevertheless, in a conversation with the apostles about the last days, the Lord told them, "You will hear of wars and reports of wars. See that you are not distressed: for all this must be." With these words, the Lord refutes all statements that war is avoidable.

True, we have already examined the fact that war is a negative phenomenon. Yet, it will exist, sometimes as the sole defense of truth and human rights, or against seizure, brutal invasion and violence. Only such wars of defense are recognized in Christian teaching. In fact, we hear of the following event in the life of St. Athanasios of the Holy Mountain.

Prince Tornikian of Georgia, an eminent commander of the Byzantine armies, was received into monasticism at St Athanasios' monastery. During the time of the Persian invasion, Empress Zoe recalled Tornikian to command the armies. Tornikian flatly refused on the grounds that he was a monk. But St. Athanasios said to him, "We are all children of our homeland and we are obligated to defend it. Our obligation is to guard the homeland from enemies by prayers. Nevertheless, if God deems it expedient to use both our hands and our heart for the common weal, we must submit completely ... If you do not obey the ruler, you will have to answer for the blood of your compatriots whom you did not wish to save." Tornikian submitted, defeated the enemy and rescued the homeland from danger.

In a conversation with Mohammedans, about war, St. Cyril the Enlightener of the Slavs said, "We meekly endure personal offenses; but as a society, we defend each other, laying down our lives for our neighbors..."

One can, of course, sin and sin greatly while participating in war. This happens when one participates in war with a feeling of personal hatred, vengeance, or vainglory and with proud personal aims. On the contrary, the less the soldier thinks about himself, and the more he is ready to lay down his life for others, the closer he approaches to the martyr's crown.


Reprinted from the booklet published by the Committee on Education of "The North American Traditional Orthodox Mission" and "The Department of Education of The Canadian Orthodox Church"
Missionary Leaflet # E37b
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca

Friday, January 12, 2007

Interesting Icon

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Pronouncement from the Holy Mountain of Athos

Karyae, 30 December 2006.

The recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the occasion of the feast-day of Saint Andrew (30th November 2006) and thereafter the visit by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos (14th December 2006) gave rise to a multitude of impressions, evaluations and reactions. We shall bypass those things that the secular Press had evaluated as positive or negative, to focus on those things that pertain to our salvation, for the sake of which we abandoned the world to live in the barrenness of the Holy Mountain.

As Monks of the Holy Mountain, we respect the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under whose jurisdiction we fall. We honour and venerate the Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and we rejoice in all that he has achieved and so diligently laboured for, in his love of God, for the Church. We particularly commemorate the stolid and untiring defence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, amid the many unfavourable conditions that exist, as well as the impoverished local Orthodox Churches and the care that is taken to project the message of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. Furthermore, we the Monks of the Holy Mountain honour the Most Holy Church of Greece, from which most of us originate, and we respect His Beatitude the Primate.

However, the events that took place during the recent visits of the Pope to Fanarion and of His Beatitude the Archbishop to the Vatican brought immense sorrow to our hearts.

We desire and we struggle all of our life to safeguard the trust of the Holy Fathers, which was bequeathed to us by the holy Founders of our sacred Monasteries and the blessed reposed fathers before us. We strive to the best of our ability to live the sacrament of the Church and the unblemished Orthodox Faith, according to that which we are daily taught by the Divine Services, the sacred readings, and the teachings in general of the Holy Fathers which are set out in their writings and in the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. We guard our dogmatic awareness “like the pupil of our eye”, and we reinforce it, by applying ourselves to God-pleasing labours and the meticulous study of the achievements of the holy Confessor Fathers when they confronted the miscellaneous heresies, and especially of our father among the saints, Gregory of Palamas, the Holy Martyrs of the Holy Mountain and the Holy Martyr Kosmas the First, whose sacred relics we venerate with every honour and whose sacred memory we incessantly celebrate. We are afraid to remain silent, whenever issues arise that pertain to the trust that our Fathers left us. Our responsibility, towards the most venerable fathers and brothers of the overall brotherhood of the Holy Mountain and towards the pious faithful of the Church who regard Athonite Monasticism as their non-negotiable guardian of sacred Tradition, weighs heavily upon our conscience,

The visits of the Pope at the Fanarion and the Archbishop’s visit at the Vatican may have secured certain benefits of a secular nature, however, during those visits, various other events took place which were not according to the customs of Orthodox Ecclesiology, or commitments were made that would neither benefit the Orthodox Church, nor any other heterodox Christians.

First of all, the Pope was received as though he were a canonical (proper) bishop of Rome. During the service, the Pope wore an omophoron; he was addressed by the Ecumenical Patriarch with the greeting “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” as though it were Christ the Lord; he blessed the congregation and he was commemorated as “most holy” and “His Beatitude the Bishop of Rome”. Furthermore, all of the Pope’s officiating clergy wore an omophoron during the Orthodox Divine Liturgy; also, the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer, his liturgical embrace with the Patriarch, were displays of something more than common prayer. And all of this, when the papist institution has not budged at all from its heretical teachings and its policy: On the contrary, the Pope is in fact visibly promoting and trying to reinforce the Unia along with the papist dogmas on primacy and infallibility, and is going even further, with inter-faith common prayers and the pan-religious hegemony of the Pope of Rome that is discerned therein.

As for the reception of the Pope in Fanarion, we are especially grieved by the fact that all of the Media kept repeating the same, incorrect information, that the psalms that were (unduly) sung at the time had been composed by Monks of the Holy Mountain. We take this opportunity to responsibly inform all pious Christians that their composer was not, and could never be, a monk of the Holy Mountain.

Then there is the matter of the attempt by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens to commence relations with the Vatican on social, cultural and bio-ethical issues, as well as the objective to mutually defend the Christian roots of Europe (positions which are also found in the Common Declaration of the Pope and the Patriarch in the Fanarion), both of which may seem innocuous or even positive, given that their aim is to cultivate peaceful human relations. Nevertheless, it is important that all these do not give the impression that the West and Orthodoxy continue to have the same bases, or lead one into forgetting the distance that separates the Orthodox Tradition from that which is usually presented as the “European spirit”. (Western) Europe is burdened with a series of anti-Christian institutions and acts, such as the Crusades, the “Holy” Inquisition, slave trading and colonization. It is burdened with the tragic division which took on the form of the schism of Protestantism; the devastating world wars, and the man-centered humanism and its atheist view.

All of these are the consequence of Rome’s theological deviations from Orthodoxy. One after the other, the Papist and the Protestant heresies gradually removed the humble Christ of Orthodoxy and in His place, they enthroned haughty Man. The holy bishop Nicholas of Ochrid and Zitsa wrote the following from Dachau: "What, then, is Europe? The Pope and Luther.... This is what Europe is, at its core, ontologically and historically". The blessed Elder Justin Popovitch supplements the above: "The 2nd Vatican Synod comprises the rebirth of every kind of European humanism.... because the Synod persistently adhered to the dogma on the Pope’s infallibility" and he surmises: "Undoubtedly, the authorities and the powers of (western) European culture and civilization are Christ-expellers".

This is why it is so important to project the humble morality of Orthodoxy and to support the truly Christian roots of the united Europe; the roots that Europe had during the first Christian centuries, during the time of the catacombs and of the seven holy Ecumenical Councils. It is advisable for Orthodoxy to not tax itself with foreign sins, and furthermore, the impression should not be given to those who became de-Christianised in reaction to the sidetracking of Western-style Christianity, that Orthodoxy is related to it, thus ceasing to testify that it is the only authentic Faith in Christ, and the only hope of the peoples of Europe.

[We note] The Roman Catholics’ inability to disentangle themselves from the decisions of their pursuant (and according to them, Ecumenical) Synods, which had legitimised the Filioque, the Primacy, the Infallibility, the secular authority of the Roman Pontiff, ‘created Grace’, the immaculate conception of the Holy Mother, the Unia.

Despite all these, we Orthodox continue the so-called traditional exchanges of visits, bestowing honours befitting an Orthodox Bishop on the Pope and totally disregarding a series of Sacred Canons which forbid common prayers, while the theological dialogue repeatedly flounders, and, after being dredged from the depths, it again sinks down.

All indications lead to the conclusion that the Vatican is not orienting itself to discard its heretical teachings, but only to “re-interpret” them – in other words, to veil them.

Roman Catholic ecclesiology varies, from one circular to the other; from the so-called “open” ecclesiology of the Encyclical "Ut Unum Sint", to the ecclesiological exclusivity of the Encyclical "Dominus Jesus". It should be noted that both of the aforementioned views are contrary to Orthodox Ecclesiology. The self-awareness of the holy Orthodox Church as the only One, Holy, Catholic (overall) and Apostolic Church does not allow for the recognition of other, heterodox churches and confessions as “sister churches”. “Sister Churches” are only the local Orthodox Churches of the same faith. No homonymous reference to “sister churches” other than the Orthodox one is theologically permissible.

The “Filioque” is promoted by the Roman catholic side as yet another legal expression of the teaching regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit, and theologically equivalent to the Orthodox teaching that procession is “only from the Father” – a view that is unfortunately supported by some of our own theologians.

Besides, the Pontiff is maintaining the Primacy as an inalienable privilege, as one can tell from the recent erasure of the title “Patriarch of the West” by the current Pope Benedict XVI; also from his reference to the worldwide mission of the Apostle Peter and his successors during his homily in the Patriarchal Temple, as well as from his also recent speech, which included the following: "...within the society, with the Successors of the Apostles, whose visible unity is guaranteed by the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the Ukrainian Catholic Community managed to preserve the Sacred Tradition alive, in its integrity" (Catholic Newspaper, No.3046/18-4-2006).

The Unia is being reinforced and reassured in many and various ways, despite the proclamations by the Pope to the contrary. This dishonest stance is witnessed, apart from other instances, by the provocative intervention of the previous Pope, John-Paul II, which led the Orthodox-Roman catholic dialogue in Baltimore into a disaster, as well as by the letter sent by the current Pope to the Cardinal Ljubomir Husar, the Uniate Archbishop of Ukraine. In this letter dated 22/2/2006, the following is emphatically stressed: "It is imperative to secure the presence of the two great carriers of the only Tradition (the Latin and the Eastern).... The mission that the Greek Catholic Church has undertaken, being in full communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter, is two-fold: on one side, it must visibly preserve the eastern Tradition inside the Catholic Church; on the other, it must favour the merging of the two traditions, testifying that they not only can coordinate between themselves, but that they also constitute a profound union amid their variety".

Seen in this light, polite exchanges such as the visits of the Pope to Fanarion and the Archbishop of Athens to the Vatican, without the prerequisite of a unity in the Faith, may on the one hand create false impressions of unity and thus turn away the heterodox who could have looked towards Orthodoxy as being the true Church, and on the other hand, blunt the dogmatic sensor of many Orthodox. Even more, they may push some of the faithful and pious Orthodox, who are deeply concerned over what is taking place inopportunely and against the Sacred Canons, to detach themselves from the corpus of The Church and create new schisms.

Thus, out of love for our Orthodoxy, but with pain as regards the unity of the Church, and with a view to preserve the Orthodox Faith free of all innovations, we proclaim in every direction that which was proclaimed by the Extraordinary, Double, Holy Assembly of our Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain on the 9th / 22nd of April 1980:

"We believe that our Holy Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, having the fullness of Grace and the Truth, and for this reason, an uninterrupted Apostolic Succession. On the contrary, the “churches” and the “confessions” of the West, having distorted the faith of the Gospel, the Apostles and the Fathers on many points, are deprived of the hallowing Grace, the true Sacraments and the Apostolic Succession...

Dialogues with the heterodox - if they are intended to inform them about the Orthodox Faith so that when they become receptive of Divine enlightenment and their eyes are opened they might return to the Orthodox Faith – are not condemned.

In no way should a theological dialogue be accompanied by common prayers, participation in liturgical assemblies and worship by either side and any other activities that might give the impression that our Orthodox Church acknowledges the Roman Catholics as a complete Church and the Pope as a canonical (proper) Bishop of Rome. Such acts mislead the Orthodox as well as the Roman Catholic faithful, who are given a false impression of what Orthodoxy thinks of them....

With the Grace of God, the Holy Mountain remains faithful - as do the Orthodox people of the Lord - to the Faith of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and also out of love for the heterodox, who are essentially helped, when the Orthodox with their steadfast Orthodox stance, point out the extent of their spiritual ailment and the way they can be cured.

The failed attempts for union during the past teach us that for a permanent union, according to the will of God, within the Truth of The Church, the prerequisite is a different kind of preparation and course, than those which were followed in the past and appear to be followed to this day".

By all of the Representatives and Superiors of the common Assembly of the twenty Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain Athos.

Originally posted at the Ely Forum by Fr. Michael

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mohammedans take over former Christian church building--with Christian complicity

Two PCUSA churches in Louisiana merged, according to the Layman, and sold one church property to a local Islamic Association, turning down two offers from Christian churches to purchase the property. Perhaps they didn't offer as much money. The church they sold was First Presbyterian Church (Bossier City, LA), and the steeple "was once topped by a cross."

According to the Layman, Rev. Beth Sentell, one of co-pastors of the merged congregation, "said two considerations influenced their decision to sell the church plant to the Islamic Society. First was the amount of money offered, second was the opportunity to engage in interfiath dialogue and friendship." She and her husband, Dr. Web Sentell, "plan to invite the Islamic congregation and its imam to a church supper where the imam will field questions. Dr. Sentell said, 'We worship the same God.'" Co-pastor J. Daniel Hignight was asked "if he would ever seek to lead a member of the Islamic Society to Jesus Christ." He replied, "I don't feel a particular need to convert them to Christianity."

Get the scoop.

He doesn't feel a particular need to convert them to Christianity. Hmm... Sounds like he's a perfect candidate for dhimmitude. He's already submitting himself to Muslim rule even before being threatened with death. And with most non-believers in a state of religious apathy, our list of allies against an Islamic global takeover is growing thin. Perhaps the Islamists won't have to resort to more violence after all. There seem to be enough people in the world who'd be more than happy joining hands with them and singing kumbaya.

Many thanks to Fr. Joseph at the Orthodixie Blog.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thoughts on Orthodoxy's "Eastern ghetto"

I think a lot of people in the Orthodox world, although they acknowledge the pre-schism Orthodoxy of the West, are content with importing specifically Eastern Christian things into modern Western Orthodoxy (meaning, in this case, Orthodoxy in the West) --Eastern Rites, the Philokalia, Byzantine chant. And, with these things, many Western converts become "Easternized." They gravitate more toward St. John Climacus rather than St. Benedict, for example. Not that this is wrong, it just seems strange to me.

I chant in a Byzantine style, I celebrate the feasts of Eastern Saints with Eastern liturgics, and yet I'm a product of Western culture, a descendant of Western Christians whose long-ago ancestors were Orthodox Christians who used Western Rites and Gregorian Chant, went on pilgrimages to Einsiedeln, Compostela, and Tours, blessed themselves with Holy Water, prayed in Latin, and fraternized with Benedictines. Their blood flows in my veins and their ideas still flow through Western culture, albeit obscured by godlessness as silt clouds a once pristine lake or river.

In sermons, I hear about the decrepitude of American/Western culture and how I should conform my life to the Church. That's all well and good because the Church is universal and its culture transcends all others. But at times it doesn't seem like my Church, while giving me, the individual, life and purity, is working very hard to heal my Western culture, to remove that which has polluted it, to cure its hurts and correct its thoughts. Sometimes it seems as if my Church would rather my Western culture be replaced entirely with something of a more singularly "Eastern" flavor.

The Orthodox Church, it seems today, wants to preserve itself as "Eastern," and so is not concerned with rediscovery of its Western past, traditions, and outlook. Sure, some books have been written about Western Orthodox Saints, and some jurisdictions have Western Rites blessed for use (albeit the users of these Rites are numerically miniscule and their practices are, wrongly, looked down upon by other Orthodox), but, as modern Orthodoxy has lived in the West for over a century, it only seems like Western converts are becoming more "Eastern" in their expression of Orthodoxy. Instead of a rediscovery of a lost Western heritage, converts mostly rush into the "Eastern" side of things, even to the point of viewing Orthodoxy as an Eastern religion, ignoring or being ignorant of Orthodoxy's Western heritage and Western incarnation. Some Orthodox even view the Western inheritance as something lost, mysterious, unknowable, or, worse, tainted by heretical trends like the Filioque or St. Augustine's theological mistakes.

This is a real shame. If the Orthodox Church in the West remains exclusively or predominately "Eastern" in its expression of Christian culture, I don't think it will outgrow its foreigness and exoticism enough to become for modern Westerners what it was for ancient Westerners--simply, the Church of Christ. True, real mission work is not about numbers, but it's also not just about the conversion of the individual. Classical Orthodox mission work has always focused on the society, the culture. Make the culture Orthodox, and it will support the people for generations. Westerners becoming Orthodox do not stop being Western culturally. Such a thing would be impossible. However, the current trend is that they are becoming Eastern in their spiritual and religious culture. Thus, what they have to offer by word and example to their non-Orthodox Western brethren, is a praxis which is foreign to Western culture because it did not develop in Western culture. Therefore, fellow Westerners will not necessarily recognize it as being something in which they can take part in a natural, familiar way. Orthodoxy does, however, have a particular Western praxis which developed in the Western cultural milieu. While it is Orthodox and Christian (and, thus, still strange to many Westerners), it is fundamentally familiar, and non-Orthodox Westerners will be able to view it as something which belongs to them.

There are a few things to keep in mind. 1). The Western Orthodox praxis is not a carbon copy of the Eastern Orthodox praxis. 2). It did not die in the East-West schism. 3). There's no manual on how to construct it. Just like with the Eastern praxis (unless someone is affecting it), it is intuitive and experiential and recognizable as piety. It's not about beards or rubrics or fasting rules--it's proper Church culture in Western form and you'll know it when you see it. How's that for an answer?

Maybe, eventually, we'll get to a point where an Eastern Rite priest can lead a Lenten retreat on St. Benedict's Holy Rule instead of St. John Climacus's Ladder of Divine Ascent without raising eyebrows. Perhaps statues of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Saints will not be put in the same category with Hindoo idols. The shrine of St. Martin of Tours might one day recover its ancient status and receive more visitors than Disneyland. But none of this will happen unless the Orthodox of the West are willing to venerate the ancient Orthodox Saints, emulate them, learn from them, become like them in praxis of Orthodoxy. The culture and the religious and spiritual praxis of the individual should be of the same substance so as to avoid confusion and foster personal and cultural growth in the Faith. Individuals who have an inner cultural split of a kind such as this will be more likely to pass on such a split to their children and neighbors. And, if this cultural split is perpetuated amongst the Orthodox of the West, there is little hope of the Western culture becoming Orthodox again. The Western culture is sick because it has dispensed with it's appropriate spiritual and religious praxis. Grafting an Eastern spiritual and religious praxis on to the sickened Western culture runs the same risk of a mis-matched organ transplant--rejection.

Happy Feast of St. Ambrose of Milan

Here's the entry from Orthodox Wiki.

And, fittingly, the entry from Vicipaedia Latina, the Latin Wiki.

And, since he is a great hymnographer of the Church, a summary of his hymns.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Orthodox Missionary Priest, 110 years old and still evangelizing

Read more about Father Elias Wen and the 75th anniversary of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood here.

May God grant our good Father peace, health, salvation, and many more years. And, especially, to see the renewal of Orthodoxy in China, something which must be very dear to his heart, as he is Chinese and was a missionary in China for many years, serving under St. John Maximovitch in Shanghai and San Francisco.

New Blog Launched

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The place of Fr. Seraphim Rose in the Orthodox Church

Blessed Father Seraphim Rose, Monk (+2 September 1981)

Those who Thy glory shall attain,
How wondrously Thy grace doth train!
O God unseen, how very near
Art Thou, their vows and prayers to hear.

Far from the only home they love
They lift their hearts and hands above,
And greet their mansions in the sky,
With many a tear and longing sigh.

Since death to Thee must shew the way,
Their flesh with toils and fasts they slay,
And long for that dear hour to come
When death shall call their spirits home.

By torments swift, and sudden pain,
The Martyrs heavenly glory gain,
But these, to make their crown secure,
A daily, lingering death endure.

+ All laud to God the Father be;
All praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

--Tua beandos gloria, Vesperal hymn for the Common of Abbots, Hermits, and Monks, from the Breviary. The English translation may be a bit contrived in order to fit into rhyme, but the point is understood.


The Orthodox world, being what it is, has conflicting opinions of Fr. Seraphim. Besides what may be the majority of Orthodox with views in the middle of the road, there are, of course, the extremists. On one hand, you have the malicious revilers, those who call him a gnostic or even, very bizaarely, a Nestorian. On the other hand, you have the eager beaver cleavers who hang onto every word he wrote and don't seem to get any farther than that. Obviously, Father Seraphim means many things to many people--perhaps too many things to too many people. For this reason, along with the imminent end of the world (which we've been expecting for 2,000 years, by the way--not to disparage those who believe the end is near, the world is certainly not rushing toward a blessed utopia), I think that Fr. Seraphim will not be glorified on earth before the meek inherit it.

If, however, Fr Seraphim is glorified, I wonder what the Eastern Rite service texts will look like. (The Western Rite texts will probably be the same as for a Confessor or Monk with perhaps a proper Collect.) I must say, though, that not all liturgical texts for saints really do justice to the saint, if that's a way to put it.

For example, the ROCOR akathist to St. John of Kronstadt reads more like an apologia for right-wing Russian politics than a witness to St. John's holiness, his love of the poor, his dedication to priestly service. I would love to see a translation of the Moscow Patriarchate version for comparison purposes. St. John Maximovitch's akathist, which, if I'm not mistaken, was written by Fr. Seraphim Rose, is also not very--I don't know--appealing, something I could read over and over again. (It's sort of fit into a mold, if you will.) This could be a problem with Byzantine Rite liturgics in the first place--there are just too many things one has to put into a service--unlike the Western Rite where one can't put in as much as one would like. Byzantine liturgics vary widely in their content and quality and Western liturgics vary only ever so slightly.

I could imagine Fr. Seraphim being venerated as some kind of visionary or teacher. Of course, one of his main attractions is that he is a white-bread American convert to Orthodoxy, like so many of us, and, indeed, I think a case could be made that he displayed what I would consider the most worthy attributes of American culture, together with the true Orthodox monastic spirit.

It's interesting that, as much as his own writings get promoted so often (like "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future"), he was more of a translater than a writer--and a very skilled translator at that, being able to read a Russian text and record the English translation on a cassette tape. And, even as a writer, he was more of a relayer or redacter of patristic teaching, especially 18-19th century Russian patristic teaching which is NOT different essentially from ancient patristic teaching, it's just for a different age with different issues.

More than these things, however, I think of Fr. Seraphim as an example of repentance. Personal repentance is too often swept under the rug in the lives of and liturgical services for saints, in my opinion, which is too bad because we are living in an age in need of repentance (what age wasn't?). More investigation should, of course, be done into the circumstances and fruits of his repentance, if this is possible. However, I'm not sure how much real academic research can be done at this point, since Fr. Seraphim already has a kind of mythic aura around him. The historical record is obscured by the legend of Father Seraphim and also by the debacle between Fr. Herman and the Church Abroad after Fr. Seraphim died.

Thus, investigatory committees that look at eye-witness testimonies and writings will probably never be able to reveal his sanctity to everyone's satisfaction. That's why I think that, if Fr. Seraphim is to be venerated more widely and glorified, God will reveal his holiness in some way.

Even though Orthodoxy does not require miracles of its saints, miracles serve as a means of dispelling doubts, as well as increasing love for the saint. A miracle worked through a saint's prayers builds a very strong and special relationship between the saint and the person or persons for whom the saint worked the miracle.

I'm not sure, but right now at 1 a.m., I can only think of 2 American saints--St. Herman of Alaska and St. John of San Francisco, both Wonderworkers in their earthly lives--who have worked miracles after death. The others were glorified for their holy lives, their martyrdom, their selflessness and zeal for spreading the Word of God, which is, of course, good enough reason for venerating them.

So, even if Fr. Seraphim works no miracles, one cannot deny him his zeal, his selflessness, the sacrifices he made and the pains he endured for the sake of Christ. Not to mention what appears to be a victory over many, many temptations and sins. Perhaps this will come to light, or perhaps God is saving it for the real, heavenly life, I don't know. I do know, however, that Fr. Seraphim's books--those he wrote and those he translated, are making a big impact on Orthodox Christians throughout the world, especially in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This is very good because his writings are Orthodox and traditional. Also, his veneration is spreading in America. Many have visited his grave and several different Orthodox clergymen have concelebrated at the anniveraries of his repose. I hope that knowledge of his work and sanctity will grow even more so that it will be possible for people to get to know and love Fr. Seraphim. In my view, he appeals to a lot of people for various reasons. It's just hard to see through the clouds of denunciation, hyper-enthusiasm, and the way Fr. Seraphim's life and works have been used to justify so many agendas of lesser folk. All those things hide his real qualities, in my opinion.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Good Rumor

In honor of a good rumor I heard recently, I'm posting this icon as a commemoration. As you may know, if you've been reading this blog from it's beginning, "Einsiedeln" or "Orthodox Tidings," as it was first called and still named on the Web address, is dedicated to my patron saint, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. I heard from a fellow parishioner yesterday that a friend of mine who makes candles for our church and several others, is building a chapel dedicated to St. John on her property. I've helped here work on another chapel in the past. When this is done, the count will be at four, not including the plans for a chapel to St. Nectarius, God-willing. I haven't called her yet to ask if this rumor was true, but, true or no, even the idea of building a church for St. John deserves a little commemoration.

Ethiopian Orthodox Liturgical Snippit

This is a excerpt from a liturgy which was held in the Ethiopian Orthodox (Oriental) Monastery Church in Jerusalem. I'm not sure, off the top of my head, if the Ethiopians have only 1 site in the Holy City. I think they have at least two. I'm classifying their monastery on the "roof" of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with the succession of chpaels and small rooms which appear to be in a narrow stairway. (I mean, the area is small, one room per level, with stairs in between and some beautiful iconography on the walls.) If any of you dear readers have had the blessing of going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, you might remember the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre. To the right of that are the crosses people carry in processions on the Via Dolorosa and further to the right is a doorway leading into the Ethiopian church. I was able to visit it once (sometimes it's closed) and was greeted by a monk (can't recognize him as one of the clergy here, but I think I remember seeing him on TV), but it's an amazing place, as you can see. I have yet to make it to an Ethiopian liturgy, but it's high on my list.

Unfortunately, this video is too short. Being a liturgical maximalist, I would much prefer to see the four-hour long Sunday morning service, but until then this little bit will have to suffice.

Rejoice, O Virgin Mother of God, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, for thou hast born the Savior of our souls.