Met. Jonah — The Necessity of Unity

Metropolitan Jonah

Metropolitan Jonah

At the Friday night Sept 4 first session of the Missions and Evangelism conference, OCA Primate Met Jonah makes a strong call for unity preceded in importance only by the preaching of the Gospel.

Listen here:



  1. George Michalopulos :

    This speech was undoubtedly the best I’ve ever heard about sanctification and unity. The last anecdote that His Beatitude mentioned about Matushka Olga sent shivers up my spine. We need to repent.

  2. George,

    I agree. You will not hear a more precise or inspiring explanation of the need for Orthodox unity on this continent than this stirring and illuminating presentation.

    Some of the comments include:

    “We are not Christians unless we evangelize…”

    “Be transformed in the renewal of your mind,”

    “The Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Archdiocese have an imperative to come together.”

    “…we’ve got to get over this – we’ve got to get over these divisions…but we have to respect the diversity within the Church – because that ethnic diversity, the cultural diversity is actually something beautiful which can enrich our experience of Orthodoxy…”

    “The bishop with his clergy and the faithful serving the Divine Liturgy…wherever that is present – there is the fullness of the catholic church…”

    “If we think that by the fact that we are in some kind of a canonical relationship with an Old World patriarch – that that patriarch is the guarantee of our catholicity..if that’s the case, then we have no choice but to submit to Rome…that’s Roman Catholic ecclesiology, that’s not our ecclesiology. Orthodox ecclesiology is the ecclesiology of the local church…the local church territorially defined, and quite frankly, this doesn’t look like Damascus – it doesn’t look like certainly doesn’t look like Moscow…”


    Best Regards,

  3. “We are Apostles because we are sent out by the Lord.” Only the Church evangelizing is the Apostolic Church.

    “Our unity only comes from our vision.” As his beatitude stated, he is not pursuing a “administrative” unity.

    I like how he points out that the monks in 1794 were least concerned about the Russians, more about the natives: he even made mention of the Russians having problems with seeing any Russian anywhere as a member of the Orthodox Church.

    “A Uniform American Orthodox Church, another ethnic Church” whereas “we have to respect the diversity of the Church…it can enrich our experience of Orthodoxy, and our experience of each other.” “We are a local, indigenous, territorial American Church…whether if they native people here hundreds of years or just off the boat, our mission is to our people…this has to be a basis of as we going into the Chambasy process.”

    I only hope that the Episcopal Assembly here will pick up where Ligonier left off, but how many of those at Ligonier will be in the Episcopal Assembly? “Mutual respect.” That I am afraid is lacking in some quarters….

    I’ve heard many times the point of a GOA member going to Thessalonika and finds out that he is American.

    I second the comments on the Old World Patriarchal ties ecclesiology, as opposed to Orthodox local ecclesiology.

  4. Isa,

    Yeah..that part about being “Greek” right up until you go to study at the Univ of Thessaloniki struck home with me too. I was one of those “rah rah I’m a Greek” guys right up until I visited Greece a couple of times. It struck me in the first day, “Over here (USA) I’m a Greek…over there, I’m an American.”

    I read in a biography of St. Innocent that he would tell the natives in Alaska, “Those people (the Russian fur traders) are the WORST examples of Orthodox Christians…don’t be like them.”

    One thing is certain…this is going to be one bishop they (the Old World) is going to have to contend with. No more “Hermans”.

    Best Regards,

    PS I’m in Chicago every week – out by Ohare. What part of town are you in?

  5. Just North of O’Hare.

    If you want, go over to and PM me.
    I’m ialmisry there.

    I hope you say “no more Hermans,” you don’t mean Hermans of Alaska, LOL. We need lots more of them. And by we, I mean the Old World too.

  6. Michael Bauman :

    Matushka Olga, I think, opens the way of officially recognized sanctity for ‘householders’ especially in this country. I mean to say that she shows clearly that one need not be a monk to achieve holiness. Tending to one’s daily business without thought of self but thought only of God in Jesus Christ. I’m rather sure she had no care at all for whom her bishop was, Orthodox Unity, social/cultural norms, capitalism vs other economic models, or any of the other causes that do more to distract us and create division than lead us to sanctity.

    If we have Christ, we are one. If we don’t we are divided and scatter. She and St. Herman and the other saints of Alaska are our common heritage.

    God forgive me for being so easily distracted.

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Michael, you’re absolutely right. As much as I admire the few monks I’ve known, one can live a life of sanctity in the world. Matushka Olga was an exemplar of this.

  8. Isa,

    that’s close to me…I’m at Foster and York, on the western border of Ohare.

    No…and by “no more Herman’s” I mean no more Metropolitan Herman’s…

    I agree, we need a lot more St. Herman’s…St. Raphael’s, St Innocent’s St. Tikhon’s etc.

    They are clearly praying for our success.

    I’ll try the other site.

    Best Regards,

  9. Priest Seraphim Holland :

    I was not inspired.

    The two groups that supposedly have an imperative to join have severe internal problems. They need to fix those first. One is coming (slowly, with many missteps) out of captivity to gross dishonesty and sexual immorality, and the other is still immersed in a cult of personality. Both need to be more Orthodox in their lifestyle. The greatest impediment to evangelism in our country is poor quality of our bishops and clergy.

    We have forgotten rigor and truth. We need good, monastic bishops, who make the entire church stronger. Just rearranging stuff at the top will do nothing to increase our witness.

    We need a more rigorous Orthodoxy – then we will be more effective. We need to fast as Orthodox (including monastic bishops and not just bachelor career clergy), and serve the services with zeal and completeness. We need to teach our people about confession and struggle. From inner strength, we will have an evangelistic outreach. Only if we are more Christian in the way we live will an evangelistic programs be truly effective.

  10. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Welcome Fr. Seraphim. Good to have you on board!

  11. Michael Bauman :

    Fr. Seraphim, I agree with your observation on the OCA and AOCNA. Both are quite flawed. However, I’d appreciate a little more expansion on what you mean by ‘rigor’. Too often I’ve seen mindless legalism protrayed as proper Orthodox ‘rigor’ an almost Manichean denial of the world that somehow lay people are supposed to conform to while being married and raising a family.

  12. Priest Seraphim Holland :

    I have NEVER seen mindless legalism in any parish I have been in. I have seen rigor. Feast days with properly served vigils. Teaching about and following the fast in parish events. Bishops who were monastic. They did not eat meat, and had a sobriety about them that I have found to be missing in other churches.

    We must struggle to be saved. When the services are shortened, or made up (such as the so-called “Vesperal Liturgy”), when people are not taught to fast, when parishes do not follow the fast in their gatherings, when confession is forgotten or optional – all these things are not rigorous. I also believe that the way clergy dress is important. Why should I want to look like an Episcopalian?

    First, fast correctly. What an individual is able or, more often CHOOSES to do is not the point. The church must teach the standard by example. We should not even talk about evangelism when the bishop is eating ribs with the parish on a Friday. It is not legalism, but rigor that is needed. Some in my parish choose not to fast, or have passions that lead them to break the fast. Privately, I am lenient, but publicly, I must show how to fast and teach how to fast. Oh, and since I am a priest, I had better fast! What lunacy it would be to expect that I could teach my people ANYTHING if I was not obedient to the church in fasting! If you heard me teach about fasting you would see the difference between legalism and rigor.

    Second, serve the services properly. There are large churches which do not serve evening services, or very abbreviated ones. They run through matins like it is a race. This is not the Orthodox way. Short, easy services cater to our laziness and lethargy. We must serve correctly. I am not talking about straining to follow the typikon EXACTLY at every moment (that will make you crazy!) – it is complicated, and we make mistakes, and we must shorten things a little bit, but having the 3 antiphons in liturgy zip by in 3 minutes is lazy and cheats the people. Dispensing with the VERY important “Lord I have Cried” psalm and going to the stichera is laziness and cheats the people. Omitting the litany for the catechumens is lazy, horrible ecclesiology, and cheats the people. There are many more examples.

    Third. Be a confessor to the people. Confession is very important.

    I have witnessed large gatherings of clergy and bishops with NOT A SHRED of monastic food, except a little bit of lettuce. I was told by a person later that she asked to be able to provide fish for the (at least 50) monastics but was told that everyone “had a blessing” to eat meat. This is wrong! Fix these kinds of ideas before thinking of being great evangelists. The people were cheated. Those who have a passion about eating (and many do) do not see anything in their bishops or monastics to inspire them that day.

    I have also heard of people that were DENIED baptism because they were “already” baptized. They begged for baptism and were denied! Now we have the unfortunate, lamentable situation where something that can be done according to economy becomes the status quo. Who are we inspiring? It looks like we are afraid to offend people and have weak ecclesiology.

    There are many more examples.

    We need bishops and priests who inspire to holiness. We are not an institutional – we are the church. Our calendar should have more services in it than meetings about every little thing. Pray first, fast first, struggle in your personal life first, and then evangelize. We cannot give what we do not have.

  13. What do you mean “made up” Vesperal Divine Liturgy? Father, you have never been to the DL on Great and Holy Thursday? On Great and Holy Saturday?

    You must be in the OCA:

    I’ve been to plenty of weekday morning DL where I was the congregation, or perhaps a few grandmas, and plenty of Vesperal DL where I’ve been among several families and dozens in the congregation. I much prefer the latter, not that I have anything against grandmas!

    The OCA link suggests serving DL at 5 a.m. for practical considerations, so as to maintain “tradition.” And what of those who have to drive an hour to DL, not an uncommon occurance in the USA? Will they make it to work on time?

    In Egypt I remember going to DL on Fridays (and occasionally on Sunday), for the simple reason that you don’t get Sunday off.

    As for piety, I always have a problem during Great Vigil when the priests exclaims “Glory to Thee Who has shown us the Light!” in a pitch black darkened Church.

    While the OCA link is correct in stating that liturgical archaeology is a dangerous thing, so too is the idea that the height of piety was achieved in 19th century Russia.

  14. Fr. Seraphim, thank you for your explanation. My parish is a cathedral parish and I am fortunate to have a bishop and a dean who demand that food served there be in accord with the fasting discipline. We have Vespers every evening and morning Divine Liturgies during the week for feast days. In fact, most of what you describe, we follow. Our services are getting longer than what they were a few years ago as some of the omitted items are being returned. Much yet to do.

    Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, repentence. Just as the Church has always taught. They are the weapons that allow us to be victorious in the struggle that is already intrinsic to being fallen human beings. Would you agree?

    The legalists I have encountered present them as the struggle, often the goal itself. Which brings me to the point that seems to get ignored too often–why pray, why fast, why give alms, why repent. These are the questions that have to be answered to evangelize but as you point out, we often don’t know the answers ourselves.

  15. Priest Seraphim Holland :

    “What do you mean “made up” Vesperal Divine Liturgy? Father, you have never been to the DL on Great and Holy Thursday? On Great and Holy Saturday?”

    There are AT MOST 4 canonical Vesperal Divine Liturgies a year. Two you mention above, and most years, there is one for the prefestival services of Nativity and Theophany. It is a unique service, and in all of our books.

    The idea of making up a Vesperal Divine liturgy for, say, Dormition is very recent innovation. It is purely “made up”. The trouble with doing things for convenience is that we become lazy and lose our understanding of what is normal. We lose our “edge”. We are teaching our people the wrong things by making up services so more can attend. Many of these people have just finished their dinner and show up for an abbreviated Vesperal DL and have communion. This is not teaching them to struggle.

    I have served liturgies with just a reader. Psychologically, it is difficult, but God’s grace still prevails and permeates our ENTIRE parish.

    You must be in the OCA: I am in the ROCOR.

    Priest Seraphim
    BTW – if you want to help our poor and small parish, we are trying to raise 40.000 for our current building project. See our web site. We are permanently commemorating, for the lifetime of the parish, all benefactors.

  16. LOL. I expected as much. No, I’m Antiochian, but those sparsely attended Divine Lituries during the weekdays were in the OCA. The OCA Cathedral here had a few more, and serve only morning DL, except Pascha. And full vigil on Saturday night, and Feastival Eves. Vigils are well attended, but vigils for what?

    Do you know for a fact that they just finished their dinner and shown up for an “abbreviated” DL? Because I go to them routinely, and such is not the case. They do usually have breakfast that day, and maybe an early lunch. Nor is the DL appreciately shorter.

    And I’ll repeat, because they didn’t do it in 19th century Russia, that doesn’t make it “made up.” Having services with a priest and a reader so grace will “permeate” the parish perpetuates the idea that prayer is something that the clergy do. Not working families with kids, etc…That’s normal?

  17. I usually refrain from posting on this website, as argument without the person before you, or the remembrance of that person even (as I have met no one here in person, in the face), often leads to intellectual sin directed towards that man or woman… sin because it is devoid of love. I myself have been guilty of this in the past and I beg you all to forgive me if I do so once more.

    First off, I must say that I must ultimately agree with Fr. Seraphim, though I must agree with Michael B. in saying that all these practices are only edifying if the goal is Christ. If one is fasting, praying, or following a canon for the purpose of discharging the rule, this is one of the many symptoms of the heresy of Legalism. However, we should strive to be obedient to the canons and Tradition of the Church with all our might. These rules law out the law of a Christian life in which we live perfectly in a world without flaw. We will fail to live up to the canons, which are guidelines to our life, and Tradition, which has been entrusted to us, because of our own imperfection or because it is more loving to forgo the canon (such as accepting the the gift of a candy-bar from an old woman in thanks, even though it is a fasting day). However, we must strive to live up according to the canons to the best of our ability and not use situations to indulge in our passions in the name of economia (which is just as legalistic as following the canons for the sake of them being canons). The canons are guides to our lives which aide in our ability to live in the life of Christ’s love. Economia allows us to discharge this love in ways which the canon-writers never did or were able to forsee or in ways which should NEVER be made a general guideline for our Christian lives. If it has become a general practice in our lives, we must question it and strive to come back in line with the Church.

    The Church sets the bar at perfection in Christ, no lower… only Christ himself and His Holy Mother the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary have been able to reach this bar, but does that mean we should not strive to be in Christ or in the example of our most faithful intercessor? NO! I fail, repeatedly, as a Christian, but only by going to regular Confession and partaking in the Mysteries of the Church can I hope to be healed of this failure and grow as a person.

    We live in a culture where it is indeed hard to attend all the services, but are we slaves of this culture or servants of God? I work M-F from 4-midnight… this makes it difficult to attend weekday Festal Vigils or even weekday Divine Liturgies (as getting up for a 7 AM Liturgy when you get home at 1 AM is something I have failed at more than once). The advantage of being a student, however, is that I can skip class easily to attend a service. Getting out of work is more difficult, but I strive to do so and usually am able to for the Twelve Great Feasts, though not for more minor evening services. Our culture would have us work on the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day, but as Christians we must strive to avoid working on these days and most especially from working on Saturday evening on Sunday morning. Though it has cost me many a good job opportunity, I have flat-out refused jobs which would require that I miss the Resurrectional Vigil or the Sunday Divine Liturgy. Yes, I would be in a better financial situation, but what of my soul? We must be willing to give all that we are and all that we have to God, even if it leaves us in “poverty”, though we know as Christians that this poverty is no poverty at all, as we have the Pearl of Great Price.

    If those families cannot make it to Liturgy in the morning for Great Feasts, they must question their lifestyle, not question and, God help us all, CHANGE the Church’s sanctification of time. It might be very possible that they simply cannot make it, and that is a tragedy, but that does not mean you should destroy the Church’s sanctification of time for your own convenience. We must meet Christ and the Church, which is His Body here on Earth until He and His Body are reunited at the second coming, where He/the Church is, not where we want it to be. If you are living a lifestyle which makes it impossible to attend the divine services it is your responsibility to change, not the Church’s. What is better, a nearly-empty Church of a few Christians living responsibly and obediently (cf. the Holy Climacus’ words that obedience is the tomb of the man’s own will) in Christ or a Church full of people not taking responsibility for their lives in Christ and thus not growing in Him at all? I think the answer is obvious.

    It is disheartening to a certain extent, yet Holy all the same, when the Church is empty for her divine services. There have even been times when I have been asked by the priest at a neighboring parish (who knows I often can accommodate myself for the Church due to being a student) to come there instead to be the reader due to no other readers or choir member being able to make it (and I am not even a reader, but a 21-year-old full-time student and full-time employee).

    “As for piety, I always have a problem during Great Vigil when the priests exclaims “Glory to Thee Who has shown us the Light!” in a pitch black darkened Church.” Pitch black?!? What of the fire which burns upon the candles, let alone the Light which is Christ which is always with us? This Light, that of Christ, is what the priest is here referring to, the Light which shines even in the pitchest black.

    19th Century Russian Orthodoxy had its problems, to be sure, but religious rigor was not one of them and claiming that anyone who wants rigor in their Christian lives is a 19th Century Russian is simply being dishonest.

    PS: It must be noted that Bishop Tikhon is not suggesting that services be held at 5 AM but that the priest must be willing to perform a service at such an early hour IF that guarantees more parishoners can make it.

    PPS: All that being said, I am happy to call Met. Jonah my Metropolitan and found this speech excellent and edifying.

  18. “What is better, a nearly-empty Church of a few Christians living responsibly and obediently (cf. the Holy Climacus’ words that obedience is the tomb of the man’s own will) in Christ or a Church full of people not taking responsibility for their lives in Christ and thus not growing in Him at all? I think the answer is obvious.”

    Only if you assume that the former aren’t bound by legalism, and assUme that the latter are not taking responsibility for their lives. If that were true, why would they be there at all? The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

    The fact that the Vesperal Liturgy exists, as ALL must admit, is a fact that it is 1)not made up, 2) cannot be less a DL than one done in the morning. The gnat is only how many times a year it should be celebrated.

    As for Great Vigil, it is the usual service among the Slavs, but not the rest of us, Matins usually being held before DL. “Glory to Thee who has Shown us the Light” was the prayer recited at day break during the all night Vigil, which ran all night. It has been moved, and yes it can be interpreted as you do, nonetheless it won’t stand up to the standard being proposed here.

    Following the train of thought here, why should we be celebrating the abbreviated DL of St. Chrysostom? Why not the fuller St. Basil’s, or rather the original St. James (celebrated only in a few places, and only on his day)? Why isn’t All Night Vigil ALL NIGHT?

    Because those accomodations are the ones that they made in Russia under the Czar? Sorry, that is not the criteria of piety.

    I too, when I was a student, was able to take full advantage of the Church services according to what is described here, by the letter of the Typikon (the local Church by the University did that. It was, as I said, OCA btw), and turned down job opportunities. But later, having to support not just myself, but two sons whom I have to raise in the Church (over their mother’s strenuous objection: she decided to reject the Church when the Church decided to enforce its views on divorce), and couldn’t so indulge myself. The word “monk” means alone. That is why they are charged with upkeep of the full services, as they can, as the monk need attend only to himself. I’ve been to Sinai. St. Climaticus had only his will to worry about.

    I answer only because the false dichonomy presented is just that: false. When I first went to that OCA, the priest shared that the previous weekday service he had, two elderly women came, expecting a Slavonic DL for the feast. The priest, knowing them, asked if they understood Slavonic and if they planned on communing. When they answered “no” to both, he celebrated a reader service in English. What rigor would be preserved by communion in the morning of the priest alone in a language he alone understood?

    Reading accounts from 19th century Russia rather than the nostalgia over it, I don’t say any Christian who wants rigor is a 19th cent. Russian, I just question that that is the standard. The Orthodox in the Middle East today, where getting martyred is not theoretical, probably would not pass.

    Lobster perhaps sums up my position: it was a fasting food, being a poor man’s diet (workers in colonial America went on strike if forced to eat it). I don’t eat ribs on Friday, but I don’t eat lobster either.

  19. To be clear, I am not disagreeing with Fr. Seraphim just wanting clarification. It has been my unfortunate experience that those who most loudly proclaim ‘rigor’ are unloving autocrats or those who mistake the struggle for the goal. I want rigor, but genuine rigor born out of a love for Christ and His Church. However, I must also confess that it is all too easy to reject the call to rigor as simple legalism.

    Sanctifiction of time: what time? Pre-industrial, agraian time or modern time? Time is not a constant, it is mutable. Do we have to stick to the old time? Is not time sanctified by the sanctification of the believer rather than by some magical ceremony? Are we to ignore the stuggle that modern life presents to anyone who wishes to live in the way the Church directs? Has not the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, always adapted herself to the specific stuggle of a certain time and place? Discernment is necessary and we must never denigrate those who proclaim with gusto the fullness of the practice as it has always been known.

    If the fasting rules were being written today, as Isa points out, it is highly doubtful that lobster would be included on the exception list. I would also think that sugar would be excluded as it is a passion inducer.

    Still the main reason services are empty is due to lack on the part of those for whom the feast is prepared.

    Met. Jonah indirectly addresses this lack in his address with his emphasis on the love of and fidelity to Christ being the root of genuine unity. We also have to get over the jurisdictional spitting matches. I was almost certain that Fr. Seraphim was ROCOR as his focus and his language normally only comes from ROCOR in my experience. That does not automatically invalidate what he says.

    ‘Everybody knows’ that the Greeks are crazy, the Antiochians and the OCA are too worldly and the Russians are morose and legalistic. We each have our concomitant strengths however which seem to be more difficult to identify and far less enjoyable to talk about.

  20. A quote from Fr. Melitos Webber’s book, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God:

    The heart is quiet rather than noisy, intuitive rather than deductive, lives entirely in the present, and is, at every moment, accepting of the reality God gives in that moment. Moreover, the heart does not seek to distance or dominate anything or anyone by labeling. Rather, it begins with an awareness of its relationship with the rest of creation (and everything and everyone in it), accepting rather than rejecting, finding similarity rather than alienation and likeness rather than difference. It knows no fear, experiences no desire, and never finds the need to defend or justify itself. Unlike the mind, the heart never seeks to impose itself. It is patient and undemanding. Little wonder, then, that the mind, always impatient and very demanding, manages to dominate it so thoroughly.

  21. I was thinking about this at Church tonight, Monday for Holy Cross. I don’t like the Vesperal Liturgy when it is the night and not the eve of the feast.

    We had over 30, not counting children (half dozen or so), clergy (3) and visitors (over a dozen). I can’t speak for anyone else, but I didn’t have dinner until after communion. If DL had been in the morning, I would have been there but I don’t know how many else would.

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