April 16, 2014

Met. Philip offers background on new Archpastoral Directive

Metropolitan Philip, the head of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America, issued a statement today explaining some of the background to the Archpastoral Directive of March 3. The letter follows: Beloved Hierarchs and Clergy, Members of the Board of Trustees of the Archdiocese, Parish Councils and Faithful of this God-Protected Archdiocese: Greetings and blessings during this Holy Lenten Season! There have been some questions raised regarding the February 24th decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which addressed the status of bishops across the entire See of Antioch. The purpose of this letter is to try to answer these questions so that confusion may be avoided. The first question deals with whether or not I am supportive of the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which was taken on February 24, 2009. I am supportive of this decision, for a simple reason. I am convinced that the institutional structure of our Archdiocese here requires it at this time. One of the … [Read more...]

Fr. Harakas: St. Athanasius the ‘supreme model’

St. Athanasius

Orthodox Christians have "a message and a way of life" that they must present as "an alternative to the morally and spiritually down-spiraling contemporary American lifestyle," says Fr. Stanley Harakas, Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology Emeritus at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Fr. Harakas was the keynote speaker at Fordham University’s Orthodoxy in America lecture on Feb. 17. He said that St. Athanasius is a useful model for Orthodox Christians as they anticipate their future in this country because "his battles for the Orthodox faith, his acceptance of repeated exiles and his unrestrained resistance against opposing forces in high places earned him in history a description as Athanasius contra mundum, or 'Athanasius against the world.'" Also, Alexandria, the city in which St. Athanasius was born and raised, was, in the first few centuries of Christianity, "a pluralistic place, full of variety and within the Christianfold of a wide range of … [Read more...]

Srdja Trifkovic on Patriarch Aleksy

Cultural commentator Srdja Trifkovic writes on Patriarch Akeksy in the latest issue of Chronicles Magazine: Aleksy II, Patriarch of Moscow and head of the Russian Orthodox Church, died of heart failure on December 5, 2008, at the age of 79... Aleksy II came to the throne just as the Soviet state was beginning to disintegrate. The early years of his tenure were dominated by the tremendous task of restoring the moral authority of the Church in a nation devastated by seven decades of lethal anti-Christian rule. The scale of that devastation defies imagination. Persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other denominations under the communists is one of the greatest crimes in history. Its death toll was several times greater than that of the holocaust. It had killed more Christians than all other persecutions in all ages put together, with Islam a distant second. In 20 interwar years (1918-38), the number of churches that remained open in Russia was reduced from 54,000 to … [Read more...]

Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Sts. Cyril and Methodius

In "Bulgaria Commemorates 1140 Years since Death of Saint Cyril," the Sofia News Agency reminds us of the great work of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Saint Cyril died in Rome in 869. The two brothers had some early missions, but in 862, they were to enter upon the work which gives them their historical importance. That year the Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia, who sought to assert his independence from the Franks, expelled missionaries of the Roman Church and instead turned to Constantinople for ecclesiastical assistance and political support. Rastislav requested that the Emperor Michael III and the Patriarch Photius send missionaries to evangelize his Slavic subjects. The task was entrusted to Cyril and Methodius, who began translating the Bible into the language now known as Old Church Slavonic and travelled to Great Moravia to promote it. OrthodoxWiki: While events only a few decades after the death of Methodius seemed to destroy their work in Moravia, their work … [Read more...]

The Church of New Martyrs

Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and Gallich

The Orthodox Church today commemorates St. Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople, famed for his "lofty eloquence and ... wondrous breadth of learning." In Russia, today is also the feast day of the New Martyrs, the millions of faithful Christians who perished under the Communist terror. Among them was the holy New Martyr Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) of Kiev and Gallich, the first bishop to be tortured and slain by the Communists at the time of the Russian Revolution. The Church was an immediate target of the Bolsheviks who saw the faithful as "a threat from the opposing political force." On January 23, 1918, during the battle for Kiev, the Bolsheviks seized the Kiev Caves Lavra, and the monks were taken out into the courtyard to be stripped and beaten. A few nights later, according to one account, five armed soldiers and a sailor came looking for Metropolitan Vladimir. The hierarch was tortured and choked in his bedroom with the chain of his cross. They … [Read more...]

Obama and Moral Imagination

Newly elected President Obama, writes John Couretas, Executive Director of AOI in his essay "Obama and the Moral Imagination" frequently makes use of the phrase "common story." This phrase "may sound strange to the ears. But it is impossible to understand the new president unless his brilliant use of narrative is first grasped," Couretas says. It's a page taken from the Reagan playbook and masterfully executed. Couretas writes: Reagan biographer Lou Cannon told the Chicago Tribune last year that Obama has "a narrative reach" and a talent for story telling that reminds him of the late president. Reagan "made other people a part of his own narrative, and that's what Obama is doing," Cannon said. "By doing it, it expands his reach because he isn't necessarily just another partisan Democrat." … [Read more...]

Disarray, Disunity and the Metropolitans

AOI has published an article by George C Michalopulos titled "The Role of Metropolitan and Its Relationship within the Episcopate: A Reappraisal." This original work looks at the historical antecedents of the office of the Metropolitan from early Christianity to today. Along the way, we discover that although the office arose out of the episkopos (overseer) in the first centuries and lasted a millennium, the fall of Constantinople and the Ottoman oppression changed that early practice. The Patriarch and his bishops, while still holding some authority over the Orthodox Christians under the Ottomans, lost their episcopal sees and the office took on bureaucratic functions along with the petty intrigues, corruptions, and loss of prestige that followed the historic catastrophe. We've inherited that model today, Michalopulos argues, and it explains in some measure why the American Orthodox are afflicted with jurisdictional confusion. He also suggests how the episcopal hierarchy might … [Read more...]

‘Work to Eat, Steal to Have’

What a beautiful country and what a heartbreaking spectacle of anarchy and self-hatred. A friend forwarded me this note that he received from a relative in Athens. The matter-of-fact closing line is revealing. Athenians have been coping with this malaise for a long, long time: Every person you ask will have his own take on the riots/events in Greece/Athens, mine is the following: What Greece faces is a situation were you no longer have a society. You have people who happen to be at the same place and everyone is going for his own with no regard to anything. The "System" is considered unfair & ineffective by almost all. This attitude comes across in the quote: "work to eat and steal to have" The situation is the result of the bureaucratic nature of the State, the statist ideology of the Country, and a System/attitude that does not reword work nor allows the most competitive bids to usually win. Concerning specifics: Karamanlis is not considered to be making money … [Read more...]

Alexy II: A ‘Transitional’ Patriarch

Vladimir Berezansky, Jr., a U.S. lawyer with experience in Russia and former Soviet republics, recalls an interview with Patriarch Alexy II in 1991. Like many Russians at the time, the Patriarch was coping with a "disorienting change" following the fall of the Soviet Empire, Berezansky writes. At the time, he seemed overcome by the changes taking place around him, and he did not know where to begin. "For our entire lives, we [clerics] were pariahs, and now we are being called on to do everything: chaplains for the military, ministries to hospitals, orphanages, prisons," he said. He even voiced regret about taking the time to travel to the United States. But he had gambled -- correctly, as it turned out -- that he could do more for his flock by seeking foreign assistance than by staying home to manage the Russian Orthodox Church's destitution. His plate was full and overflowing, and he seemed keenly aware of the ironies of his situation. The Russian state was returning … [Read more...]

The Church and the Terror State

Priests, archbishops and a metropolitan imprisoned in the Solovetsky labor camp (1926). Solovetsky, a thriving monastery before the Bolshevik takover, was returned to the Russian Church in 1990. Source: Tomas Kizny

The Moscow Times reports on the funeral of Russian Patriarch Alexy II: Candles flickered and white-robed elders chanted prayers as the country bade farewell Tuesday to Patriarch Alexy II, who guided the country's dominant Russian Orthodox Church through its remarkable recovery after decades of Communist-era repression. Nuns, believers and government officials looked on as prayers filled the soaring Christ the Savior Cathedral at a six-hour funeral service for Alexy, who died Friday at age 79. He was buried later Tuesday at the Epiphany Cathedral across town in a ceremony closed to the public and media, the church said ... "We are burying a great man, a great son of our nation, a beautiful holy fruit grown by our Russian church," Reverend Dmitry Smirnov, a Moscow archpriest, said in an address at the funeral, which was broadcast live on state-run television. "Our whole nation has been orphaned." The BBC has a clip from the very moving funeral service here. I published "The … [Read more...]

Thoughts from a great historian

A quote from Catholic historian Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) in "Religion and the Modern State" (1936): Religion gradually retreated into man's inner life, and left social and economic life to the State and to a civilization which grew steadily more secularized. A man's debt to religion was paid by an hour or two in church on Sundays, and the rest of the week was devoted to the real business of life -- above all, the making of money. Such a division of life into two compartments -- and very unequal ones at that -- was not the Christian solution, nor could it be permanently successful. If religion loses its hold on social life, it eventually loses its hold on life altogether. And this is what happened in the case of modern Europe. The new secularized civilization is not content to dominate the outer world and to leave man's inner life to religion; it claims the whole man. … [Read more...]

Met. Jonah: Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches

In June, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America delivered a talk on "Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches: A Monastic Perspective" at the Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius at St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary. The audio of the talk is available on Ancient Faith Radio along with the other presentations from the conference. The PDF version of Metropolitan Jonah's presentation is available on the OCA site, where the Church is also archiving his articles and speeches. On the subject of the Mother Churches and the “Diaspora,” Metropolitan Jonah has this to say: ... almost all national Churches have extended their jurisdictions beyond their geographic and political boundaries to the so-called diaspora. But Orthodox Christians who are faithful to the Gospel and the Fathers cannot admit of any such thing as a diaspora of Christians. Only ethnic groups can be dispersed among other ethnic groups. Yet the essential principle of geographic … [Read more...]