Archive for June, 2007

His Eminence Archbishop KYRILL (Yonchev), OCA Ruling Hierarch of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, and the Bulgarian Diocese, who I believe had been sickly for a number of years, and in failing health for the past year, reposed in hospital this morning, aged 86 or so.

Born in Bulgaria I believe, he entered The OCA in 1976, bringing his Bulgarian Diocese in Exile (sometimes also referred to as the Diocese of Toledo) with him from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Subsequently he was also elected Ruling Hierarch of The OCA’s Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. (Historically the Ruling Hierarch of their Albanian Archdiocese has also served as Ruling Hierarch of their New England Diocese; the Ruling Hierarch of their Romanian Episcopate [diocese] does not have a territorial diocese besides, maybe because he already has so many parishes to oversee throughout the U.S. and Canada!)

Consecrated an Orthodox Bishop in 1964 by ROCOR, KYRILL was the living OCA Bishop longest in the Orthodox Episcopate. As such IIRC he presided over the election of Metropolitan HERMAN as Primate of The OCA in 2002 at the All-American Council in Orlando, Florida. The report to that Council of The OCA’s External Affairs Department noted that Abp. KYRILL has been able to maintain fraternal relations with the Patriarchate of Bulgaria despite the history; he has also had some priests from there in his Diocese of Pittsburgh. (He reflected on some of this, as well as on then-retiring Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, during the Council’s Grand Banquet [Windows Media 19-minute home-style video].)

Memory Eternal!

I believe Metropolitan HERMAN, as Primate, automatically becomes locum tenens, or temporary Ruling Hierarch, of both of KYRILL‘s dioceses, so a local Church is never without a Bishop. (The OCA’s Statute online is currently unavailable.) Probably one or two priests will be appointed administrators of the dioceses, until a new Ruling Hierarch(s) can be elected – probably either by translating an existing Bishop(s) to these Sees, and/or elevating one or two unmarried priests/priest-monks to the Episcopate.

(NB: This Abp. KYRILL should not be confused with Abp. KYRILL [Dmitrieff], Ruling Hierarch of ROCOR’s Diocese of San Francisco and Western America.)

Today is the Feast of the Holy Prince, Monk, and Martyr Nectan of Hartland, Devonshire, England, a member of one of the Three Holy Families of the Celtic Britons. IIRC all three holy families descend from a branch of my Irish tribe, the Decies of Munster Province (Ir. na nDeise Mumhan), that left Ireland in the 3rd century AD and became kings of several parts of South Wales, continuing to speak Irish there for several centuries, as well as retaining ties with their cousins across the Irish Sea in the region of County Waterford. (All these named places lacked these names at the times of which we speak! Though to the present West Waterford is called The Decies.)

By tradition St. Nectan and I have a common ancestor from the first couple centuries AD in Ireland… and through descendants of his branch at least two different ways, so does Queen Elizabeth II of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Belize, etc etc. – through the Welsh King Henry VII Tudor, and through Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, from Scotland. Along with Nectan’s sainted parents and 23 siblings(!), and the other two holy families, they would also be kinsmen of St. David of Wales.

All of which is probably a good thing, ’cause I can use all the help I can get!

Not in all languages! This page reminded me of my discovery that four (not just one) days of the week are known in Irish by Christian names, three highly evocative of the Emerald Isle’s original Orthodoxy!

Sunday = Dé Domhnaigh, Day of the Lord (I believe it’s pronounced jay-DOWN-ee. [He was my first grad-school faculty advisor… and a fine way to remember how to pronounce Dé Domhnaigh!)
Wednesday = Dé Céadaoin, First Fast-Day (jay-KAY-deen… which I’ve always thought would be a pretty name for a girl: Kaydeen!)
Thursday = Déardaoin, Day Between the Fasts (JAIR-deen)
Friday = Dé h-Aoine, Fast-Day (jay-HEE-neh)

Cognates in Scottish Gaelic according to the page linked = Di-dómhnuich, Di-ciaduinn or Di-ciadaoin, Diardaoin, Di-haoine or Dia-aoine. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce Scottish.)

As you can also see there, about halfway down the page, Christian Latin (sometimes) and many other Latin-derived languages preserve the Hebrew and Christian Greek designation of Saturday as Sabbath* in some form. (Ultimately it just meant seven, like seventh day of the week, but via Christianity came to connote, for Gentile Christians, Biblical Sabbath.) I’m guessing even the French samedi represents merely the transformation of the original pronounced B into an M, since both are labials: lip involvement. See also Russian subbota here.

Russian calls Sunday Voskreseniye (sp?), Resurrection – as in “Khristos voskrese!” – recalling that for Orthodoxy every Sunday is “Little Pascha.” I really like that idea! (Would it be pronounced vo-skre-SAIN-yeh?)

As the original linked page indicates, Christian Latin (sometimes) and many Latin-derived languages call Sunday variations of The Lord’s Day… as does Modern Greek, Kyriaki (which apparently really is a girl’s… er, woman’s… name!). The traditional English rendering of the appropriate Commandment among Catholics, at least, is, “Keep holy the Lord’s Day.”

(Does Santo Domingo, the former name of the Dominican Republic and still the name of its capital, really mean Holy Sunday? Though one might’ve thought the English for Republica Dominicana would be Dominical Republic, ie, pertaining to Sunday… or is that pushing too far?)

Speaking of Modern Greek, I know they simply call the other days by numbers, like the Portuguese on the other linked page – except Friday, Paraskevi, which I believe I read some hours ago (another of those irretrievable web-trails) means Preparation: a reference to the Jewish “Day of Preparation” surrounding the Lord’s Crucifixion perhaps?… as well as another girl’s/saint’s name (Paraskeva). Interestingly, traditional Quakers and some other Protestants also call the days of the week by numbers, with Sunday as First-day, specifically to avoid taking false deities’ names on their lips.

As these charts show, most Georgian days incorporate sabbath – I’m guessing in its meaning of week rather than Sabbath or Seven in the case of weekdays – and Friday is Paraskevi. Manx, like Scottish Gaelic, follows its parent-tongue, Irish. Icelandic – briefly in communion with Orthodoxy – has “Fasting-Day” on Friday, and three number-days, more or less. Tagalog (Filipino) shows Spanish influence in calling Saturday Sabado. Ecclesiastical Latin – technically not dead! – calls the weekdays numbers. Actually a number of languages simply call many, most, or all the days numbers. Estonian calls Sunday holy day. A number of Slavic languages call Saturday Sabbath, as does Hungarian I’m guessing. Lithuanian calls the month of June “birch” for the traditional Northeast European Pentecost decorations shared by Slavic Orthodox just recently.

(*–Some Orthodox I’ve read even claim that Sunday doesn’t represent a “transfer of the Sabbath,” and theoretically insist on Saturday for “rest” and Sunday for worship/church. So Orthodoxy invented the weekend?!!! 😉 But when would we “get anything done” if we had to rest on Saturday and go to church on Sunday?!! 😉

might be decoded here. I don’t follow all the astronomy terms used by our friends at the U.S. Naval Observatory, but I didn’t realize:

To fix incontrovertibly the date for Easter, and to make it determinable indefinitely in advance,* the Council constructed special tables to compute the date. These tables were revised in the following few centuries resulting eventually in the tables constructed by the 6th century Abbot of Scythia, Dionysis Exiguus.

[Although I’ve never read that the Council of Nicea devised tables. They may have developed roughly pursuant to it, after it… see below. Also:

*–This isn’t just trivia for people who want to know when Pascha is, say, 1,527 years from now. {Or even 5.7 million years from now, the length of time it’ll take for the pattern of Gregorian Easters to repeat!} When you read about how Jewish, and then early Christian, feasts had to be scheduled by sky observations at Jerusalem, or Alexandria, or wherever, and then announcements sent out throughout the Mideast, North Africa, and Europe… by foot… in uncertain weather and political and martial situations… the need for Christians everywhere {eventually} to have a reliable date for Pascha at least several years in advance becomes clearer. Why not permanently?!]

The usual statement, that Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox, is not a precise statement of the actual ecclesiastical {ie, T/traditional} rules. The full moon involved is not the astronomical {ie, necessarily observable} Full Moon but an “ecclesiastical moon” (determined from tables) that keeps, more or less, in step with the astronomical Moon.

The ecclesiastical rules are:

  • Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first “ecclesiastical full moon” that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox;
  • this particular ecclesiastical full moon is the 14th day of a tabular lunation (new moon);** and
  • the vernal equinox is fixed as March 21.

resulting in that Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25.*** The Gregorian dates for the ecclesiastical full moon come from the Gregorian tables. Therefore, the civil date of Easter depends upon which tables – Gregorian or pre-Gregorian – are used. The western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) Christian churches use the Gregorian tables; many eastern (Orthodox) Christian churches use the older tables based on the Julian Calendar. {Boldface, underline, quotation marks, and curly brackets added by Leo Peter.}

(**–Think of the prescribed Biblical Hebrew date of 14 Nisan for Jewish Passover!)

(***–This range of dates seems to apply to Western Easter computed and displayed on the Gregorian Calendar, and Orthodox Pascha computed and displayed on the “Julian” Calendar, but not to Orthodox Pascha displayed on your “Revised Julian” or Gregorian calendars, where the dates are advanced out of March and into May – even though “both” Orthodox Paschas are obviously the same day, merely dated differently, except in Finland, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s jurisdiction in Estonia, which both now mark Pascha on Western Easter.)

Just for added comprehension…. 🙂

As for the question of the shifting Spring Equinox vis a vis the “Julian” Calendar, Fr. Andrew Phillips (ROCOR) in the UK says (in the course of defending the whole Old Calendar, not just the continued dating of Pascha by nearly all Orthodox thereby, which I’m not necessarily doing here):

Q: If we continue to observe the Church calendar, then eventually we shall find ourselves celebrating Easter in the autumn and Christmas in the summer.
A: In answer – no feast has to fall in a particular season.**** To say otherwise is either folklore or else nature-worship. Indeed Orthodox in the southern hemisphere already celebrate Easter in the autumn and Christmas in the summer. They do not seem to suffer from it. In any case it would take some 20,000 years for this to happen in the northern hemisphere – and then those in the southern hemisphere would have Easter in the spring and Christmas in the winter.

(****–By which Father Andrew means it theoretically doesn’t matter if Julian March 21 ceases to have anything to do with [Northern Hemisphere] “Spring”… as he expands upon:

The Fathers {of the 1st Oecumenical Council} showed that, while it is impossible to find harmony in astronomical, i.e. fallen, time, it is possible to find harmony through the Resurrection. Thus, at the First [O]ecumenical Council, the Church gave harmony to the disharmony of Fallen Creation. For the Church is harmony in a disharmonious universe, hallowing all things by the Holy Ghost, restoring them, transfiguring them into the things of Christ. The new-found harmonization of the solar and lunar calendars represent the harmony between God [the Sun of Truth] and Man [the moon being a symbol of the Mother of God, Who represents the greatest holiness attained by Man]. The Church calendar is spiritual harmony restored to the universe by the Resurrection of Christ, which is also the Resurrection of Man and the whole Cosmos.)

To which I’ll only add that the number of Orthodox in the Southern Hemisphere is growing by leaps and bounds, via conversions in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia, as well as Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa, maybe even South America!

And I’ve started putting “Julian” in quotation marks under the influence of this paragraph:

The Fathers chose to introduce a new calendar into the world – the calendar of the Resurrection, the calendar of the Church, which although linked to astronomical time, the fallen time of the fallen world, is not the same as astronomical time. And it is not the same because it is centred on the time of Christ’s Victory over Death, and not on the movements of the stars, planets and satellites of the Fallen Cosmos. By adopting the Julian calendar and a lunar calendar {ie, Hebrew}, neither of which was quite accurate, the Fathers managed to harmonize the solar and lunar calendars to the end of time. Accuracy in time for the Fathers was of little import when time itself will end. What was important was the Resurrection of Christ which takes man across time into Eternity – Timelessness.

What he means by “to the end of time” is that the whole Old Calendar has a 532-year great, repeating, perpetual cycle of Feasts. (The Gregorian Calendar’s is the 5.7 million years I mentioned above, and supposedly the “Revised Julian” has no cycle[?].) And Pascha affects the whole calendar, not just the so-called Moveable Feasts of the Paschalion, because every day of the year is designated either a day of the Triodion (pre-Lent), of the Great Fast (“Lent”), of Pascha (“Easter season”), or After Pentecost (not merely “Ordinary Time” as in some parts of Christendom), along with whatever Fixed Feast any given day may be (or Forefeast or Afterfeast). This is why it’s said to be a new, ‘combination’ calendar. (I’m not arguing for the whole Old Calendar here, just explaining what Fr. Andrew and the other link are saying.)

(BTW, speaking of calendars, this doesn’t really bear on Orthodoxy per se, just a pet peeve of mine: the problem people on the internet have over The Year Zero, its logic or illogic. The reason the Christian calendar system doesn’t have a Year Zero is because some years are “Before Christ” and others are… NOT “After Christ” [or His Incarnation], in which case Year Zero would make sense as an in-between year, but “of the Lord” [Anno Domini, A.D.]. Thus, the conventional year He was Incarnated was “the first Year of the Lord.” It wasn’t a non-year – Zero – it was an actual year [that actually may have begun with the conventional month of His conception in the womb of the Theotokos, March, so He spent most of that First Year in utero!]. The last year before Christ was 1 BC; the next year, the First Year of the Lord, was logically AD 1. Maybe you could have a Moment Zero – 12:00:00.01 AM on March 1 or 25, whichever day was considered the start of that month, I don’t know; more like an Instant Zero, the Turn of the Age the dot of 12 midnight. Whatever. And yes, the new millennium started 1/1/01, not the admittedly much more appealing “odometer moment” of 1/1/00… because the first one started in 1, because… there was no Year Zero.)

Orthodox are used to contrasting the Latin Church’s traditional imposition of the Latin language on the liturgical usage of all Western Catholics before the 1960s, with our supposed tradition of worship in the vernacular. But many of us worship at least in part in “dead languages” of our own, specifically Koine Greek (that of the Bible, more or less), Church Slavonic, and IIUC a form of Arabic no longer spoken. Who rises to shed light on this but Her Majesty’s Canadian Ministry of National Defence (sic)?! It’s on a page intended to inform Canadian Forces officers about potential religious requirements of their charges (but not in all ways accurate on Orthodoxy):

The Orthodox Churches have historically been committed to the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, whereas the Roman Catholic Church used Latin until modern times. However, the conservative nature of the Orthodox Churches has resulted in the retention of old spoken forms of national languages in the liturgy. For example, the Greek churches today use the ancient Greek of Byzantium in the liturgy, and some Slavic churches use 17th-century forms of Slavic languages. This is somewhat analogous to the use of 16th-century English in the King James version of the Bible and in The Book of Common Prayer of the Anglicans.

(Strangely, the site also incorporates information on groups most officers probably won’t encounter in their units: Quakers, Hutterites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Doukhobors! Gotta love Canadian inclusiveness!)

In the Liturgy and traditional daily prayers, Orthodox pray explicitly for various non-Orthodox persons, from their government officials to “all apostates from the Orthodox Faith, and those blinded by pernicious heresies” (“Illumine with the light of grace all apostates from the Orthodox Faith, and those blinded by pernicious heresies, and draw them to Thyself, and unite them to Thy Holy Apostolic Catholic Church.” From the petitions at the end of personal Morning Prayers.). They also pray for persons in many other states and conditions of life and difficulty, without making distinctions regarding these persons’ faith.

However, as stated at the article I linked to the other day, normal Orthodox church services for the deceased are not offered for the non-Orthodox. That author neglected to say explicitly why: the words of the prayers in these services presume that the decedent was Orthodox, refer to things that might not have been part of the life of a non-Orthodox, that were (or are presumed to have been) so for an Orthodox. For example (from here):

To the faithful member of thy household who hath fallen asleep before us, vouchsafe, O Lord, a heavenly abiding-place, a meed of thy gifts, granting unto him (her) redemption from his (her) sins.

But Orthodox are officially encouraged to pray for all on their own, both because it may yet benefit the non-Orthodox deceased, and because it represents the love of a heart filled with the All-Holy Spirit of God, as discussed here. (In that website’s own way, the linked article begins in a harsh tone, but leads to good.)

That same article concludes with a brief discussion by Fr. Seraphim (Rose) (1934-1982) about so-called near-death experiences, pointing to traditional Orthodox ‘faithful skepticism’ regarding extraordinary ‘spiritual’ experiences, and the need always for humility. Remember, “even the devil can appear as an angel of light”!

(This is my first Seraphim Rose link. He was a gay [ie, homosexual] California ‘new-ager’ who converted to Orthodoxy in 1962, and became a priest-monk of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [ROCOR]. His writings appeal to many Orthodox and some non-Orthodox and would-be Orthodox, around the world, and some already venerate him as a saint. But some of his teachings have been called heretical by some other Orthodox writers, including Archbishop LAZAR [Puhalo] of New Ostrog, whom I have referenced here recently. AFAIK I’ve only read one or two uncontroversial online articles of Rose’s, and none of his books, but also articles of a couple of his adversaries about him. If as a journalist I were asked to do a piece on him, I would not feel competent to say much more than I have.)

If you’ve followed any of my links to, the Chinese Orthodox website, you may have encountered on that site the account of Protopresbyter Elias, born in Beijing in 1896, who served for a time under Archbishop St. John (Maximovitch) the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Fr. Elias reposed two days ago in SF, aged over 110 1/2. If he wasn’t the world’s oldest living Orthodox priest, he was certainly one of them. (Now that’s what I call “Many Years”!) And he lived to see the reconciliation of his jurisdiction, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), with the Patriarchate of Moscow, his mother Church, last month!

Memory Eternal!

This brief write-up is on a site of the OCA Diocese of the West.

(Two comments:

  • The priest who received me into the Greek Archdiocese also told me we are not embalmed, so that if they ever exhume our bodies in the process of declaring us Saints, they can see if [hopefully!] our relics have been preserved intact by God’s Uncreated Energies/Doings. He also said funeral directors know this.
  • I’m a little weirded-out by some of the talk about organ donation on “Traditionalist Orthodox” websites, eg, spiritual/salvational implications, etc., as well as by recently learning that often donors’ organs have to be removed before death, often technically causing death!
    1. I won’t link to the Traditionalists because I don’t know how well their thoughts fit-in with Orthodoxy at-large on this question. But they point to the idea that we’re supposed to be purifying our “heart,” so if you get implanted with someone else’s “heart,” it’s almost like a science-fiction brain transplant, or you have to ‘start over’ with your spiritual and ethical work! And when Fr. John Romanides somewhere talks about “those whose hearts only pump blood” and about 20th-century discoveries of functions scientists didn’t used to associate with the heart {which I can’t find just now}… [Even his talk about “the illness of religion” consisting in a short-circuit between the circulatory system and the spinal fluid… which I’m not entirely sure he meant metaphorically!!!] And when you hear about transplant patients taking on qualities of their donors even if [as usual to date] they never knew them or about them…! It’s of concern to me, that’s all I’ll say.
    2. Apparently organs are no good to someone else once the body has reached a certain point in its shutdown… which makes sense when you think about it. Cells die without blood, oxygen, etc. But I’m put in mind of the Monty Python sketch about the guy with the organ-donor card: “May we have it?” “The card?” “No, the organ!” “But I’m not finished with it yet!” Now, I don’t buy the fear of the most radical pro-lifers that doctors are in a widespread profiteering conspiracy to kill their patients and harvest their organs; after all, a living patient rings-up more reimburseable expenses than a dead one! But still, I’m concerned about just when, from whom, and under what conditions organs are removed for donation, and decisions are even given to donate. Again, it’s of concern to me, that’s all I’ll say.)

It occurred to me that another way to comprehend the use of the word “canonical” in connection with Orthodox jurisdictions is to think of it as referring to recognized extensions of recognized autocephalous Churches.

This would cover The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) for those who don’t recognize its autocephaly, but consider it still an extension of the Moscow Patriarchate, with which it reconciled in 1970 in the form of its grant/recognition of autocephaly by its founding Patriarchate, after alienation following the Bolshevik Revolution. This would also cover Moscow and Constantinople’s mutual recognitions of jurisdictions in Estonia, after their brief break in communion in the 1990s: ‘agreeing to disagree,’ so to speak. Presumably this will cover the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) since its May 17 reconciliation with Moscow – for those who doubted previously – barring some kind of objection by somebody else. (Participating in the Liturgies in Moscow that day were representatives of the Autocephalous Churches of America, Alexandria, Antioch, Bulgaria, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia.) But this definition would exclude jurisdictions of Churches – rightly or wrongly, I will not or cannot say – not considered autocephalous, such as (the former Yugoslav republic of) Macedonia, HOCNA, UAOC, UOC-KP, BAOC, ROAC, ROCiE, l’ECOF, HOCAJ, FEA, IGOARCH (not to be confused with GOArch), HOCACNA, THEOCACNA, or groups with True or Genuine or Old Calendar or Traditional(ist) or Celtic [Faraor géar!] in their corporate bynames, or many others. Nor would it include recognized Autocephalous Churches’ extensions in other lands, which extensions may not recognized by the Autocephalous Church to whom you may be speaking at any given moment – which I will not go into to avoid controversies which I do not care to go into!

Hence versions of this list to which I have referred previously for convenience (that’s all).

Is there theological, s/Spiritual, Patristic, rational, political, sociological, anthropological rationale for such “recognition” or its withholding?

All of the above.

There is plenty of all of these behind most “claims” made by Holy Orthodox Hierarchs and others in The Church, and it sometimes takes a while for t/Truth or the best idea to ‘rise to the top’ here, with our conciliar form of governance. Also, sometimes “economy” (Greek oikonomia) is applied to situations by one or more Ruling Hierarchs involved, ie, not strictly applying ‘the rules,’ in the interests of persons’ salvation. Finally, even the Orthodox Saints are human, sinners, and at war with the passions until they repose. St. Basil the Great himself was on the wrong side of a jurisdiction fight once!

So whom is an inquirer into Orthodoxy to believe? ME, of course!!! 😉

Seriously, one approach to take would be to go with the overwhelming – I mean overwhelming – majority of Bishops, clergy, and laity, throughout the world, who ALL guard the Faith, in Orthodoxy. The laity themselves have on more than one occasion, and not just in ancient times, resisted wrong which even Bishops attempted to impose. And the overwhelming majority of those – Bishops, clergy, and laity – who go by the name of Orthodox throughout the world, are whom I attempt to reflect in this blog. In the end, I’m just a journalist again: “I don’t make the news, I just report it.” 🙂

(Some may evoke St. Maximos the Confessor, a mere monk who during a very trying time for the first millennium Church, declined Communion with all five Patriarchs – Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem – because he believed, rightly, that they were teaching heresy at that time. But I’m not St. Maximos the Confessor yet. Are you? [Just askin’….])