Archive for March, 2008

…are on the Australian Antiochians’ website, quite a fascinating collection.

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The Antiochian Archdiocese in Australia has recently announced it expects to receive into its ranks members and prospective clergy from two denominations in The Philippines, who a Wiki author reports to number approximately 6,000 in 35 congregations / missions (link probably won’t last forever).  They’ve already got an interesting English-language website for mission in that country.

This reminds me of the initial reception of ‘just’ 2,000 “Evangelical Orthodox” into Antioch’s North American Archdiocese back in 1987 I’ve read so much about!  There’ve been growing pains, but they’ve transformed that jurisdiction, and in significant ways, much of the rest of the Orthodox Church on this continent, especially in the U.S. where most of them are, as Fr. Peter Gillquist points out in the linked article.  You can bet Metropolitan PAUL Down Under has been in touch with Metr. PHILIP*and Fr. Peter up here, as well as with Antioch itself, regarding such a large reception.  (*–Although both their family names are Saliba, IIUC they’re not related.)

There doesn’t seem to be much information about those “incoming” on the Web yet, that I can locate.

Many years to them!

…has been key to the growth of the Faith in Indonesia, as illustrated by one of the newer converts and priests there in this interview with Orthodox.cn, the Chinese Orthodox website.

Martin Luther once remarked that he believed the pure Faith of primitive Christianity is to be found in the Orthodox Church,” according to this very informative UK site on Orthodoxy.  I’ve also read that some early Lutheran leaders in Germany corresponded with a Patriarch of Constantinople over a number of years.  But in the end, IIUC, the Patriarch concluded they weren’t quite coming around, but instead just debating with him.  Too bad.  Imagine how history might have changed!

The impending arrival of St. Raphael (Hawaweeny) of Brooklyn (1860-1915) as a priest-monk to serve Arab Orthodox in North America was announced on page 16 of the NY Times on September 15, 1895.  In true human-interest fashion, the “lede” is buried down in paragraph 11, although the preceding grafs provide interesting Victorian-Era-style information about the Arabs of that time in the City, including their “amazing beauties”(!).  I never knew that at that time Syro-Arabs were “of course nearly all … Christians,” nor that they were considered “the mainstays of industry and commerce there, as well as of agriculture,” nor that at that time the Islamization of Syria and vicinity was foreseen rather than a long-accomplished fact.

St. Raphael went on to become the first Orthodox Bishop consecrated in the Western Hemisphere, Titular Bishop of Brooklyn, NY, auxiliary to the Ruling Hierarch of North America (part of the Patriarchate of Moscow), and head of the Diocese’s “Syro-Arab Mission,” its ministry to Orthodox Arab-Americans throughout the continent.  He was glorified a Saint by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) along with the Patriarchate of Antioch in 2000.  His Akathist service proclaims him “Good Shepherd of the Lost Sheep in America,” and quotes his own self-image, “‘Syro-Arab by birth, Greek by education, American by residence, Russian at heart and Slav in soul.'”

The main meaning of the Greek verb baptizo, from which the English word baptism is ultimately derived (as Mr. Portokalos advised us!), is to dip, as in water.

Christianity as such didn’t invent the practice of dipping converts in water.  The Old Testament Church sometimes baptized proselytes, and so did some other Near Eastern religions.  But dipping quickly became a hallmark of Christianity.  The Lord was baptized by the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist, John, and very early, Christians commemorated this on a yearly basis, along with the Lord’s other “manifestations,” on the Great Feast of the Theophany, January 6.  The Gospel According to St. John the Theologian 3:22, 4:1-2 indicates that the Lord Himself and/or His disciples baptized followers very early.  Water imagery is frequent in the Gospels.  And of course, the Lord commanded his Apostles to ‘make students [disciples] of all nations, dipping them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ which they did, as the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles attest.

However, I haven’t made a study of it, but I have never seen a depiction, East or West, of the Lord’s Baptism by John, in which He seemed completely immersed in the waters of the Jordan River by John.  (That might be hard to draw or paint.)  Usually what seems to be going on is that the Lord, or both He and John, are standing in the river, partially immersed, with John pouring water over the Lord’s head.  Today Orthodox Judaism requires total immersion for some mikvah bath-taking, including for conversion to the faith.  Something similar is reflected in Orthodox Christian theology, East and, originally, West, from very early on, including in the canonical Epistles.  The most profound o/Orthodox theology around Christian Baptism is actually uniting the convert to Christ’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection from the Dead, as the Holy Apostle Paul is well-known to point out (see Romans 6).  The early Fathers of the Church discuss how triple-immersion Baptism mimics burial in the ground and resurrection from the dead – done three times, once for each day the Lord spent in the tomb; or for His (1) Death, (2) Burial, and (3) Resurrection from the Dead; and of course for (1) the Father, (2) the Son, and (3) the Holy Spirit, as He commanded.  In fact some Christian sects baptized by single-immersion, and this was condemned by Ecumenical Councils as “baptism only into His Death,” as if not also into His Burial and Resurrection from the Dead.  Thus, even now, the unbaptized enter Orthodox Christianity by triple immersion.

Theologically, Orthodox Baptism unites you to the Lord’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection from the Dead – the Mystery of our Salvation.  In this way, you are united energetically – in His Energies, but not His imparticipable Essence – to Him, becoming a member of His Body, His Orthodox Church, just like His hands and feet, eyes and ears, mouth and nose, as St. Paul says repeatedly.  God’s All-Holy Spirit, of course, is “everywhere present, filling all things,” as Orthodox pray constantly in the prayer “O Heavenly King.”  But especially in Christ’s Body, whether during His three years on Earth, now in Heaven, or in His Body on Earth the Orthodox Church since Pentecost.  So it is as a member of Christ’s Body that you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you too after Baptism and the sealing with the Holy Spirit, Chrismation (“confirmation”), immediately after Baptism.  Thus is Adam and Eve’s sin, the Ancestral Sin, removed from you – through your “death,” “resurrection from the dead,” union with Christ Himself “who knew no sin,” and filling with His Divine Spirit.

Somehow much of this has been lost in Western Christian tradition, where baptism became associated only formalistically with water, washing, joining the church, and salvation, as exemplified by the old Catholic Encyclopedia article.  By which I mean that they may sometimes still say the words in the homily or in spiritual journals or theological essays, but as someone who studied for both Latin and Protestant ministries, I can say they lack the resonance that they have in an Orthodox Church that baptizes by immersion.  As the CE points out, non-immersion Baptism was (and still is, in Orthodoxy) always considered permissible in unusual circumstances – unavailability of sufficient water, illness or decrepitude, disability, maybe even a perceived need for secrecy in situations of persecution.  But according to this source (scroll to bottom), baptism by pouring became the usual method in the West just on the eve of the Protestant Reformation.  I am unable to find out why it did so even in the case of infants – the most common candidates for baptism – who should be pretty easy to dip!  But I have a theory: In what might be called ‘standing immersion,’ as with depictions of the Lord, water was poured over the candidate’s head – in o/Orthodox Christianity, perhaps evoking His Burial at least by completely covering the body with some water, even after the fashion of throwing dirt on the grave.  Now if the association of Baptism with Christ’s Burial and Resurrection from the Dead was essentially lost in the West, you were left with pouring water over the head without standing in water, a theology mostly of (merely) washing (ie, “washing away Original Sin”), and from there, the degradation of the rite and its associations in faith and practice, until you reach a point where a slightly-revived Immersion practice (post-Vatican II) is feared by some Latins as threatening the theology of the sacrament!  You even have the obsession of some Western schools of theology – Latin and Protestant, for and against – with the question of ‘how little is required to have a “valid baptism”?’, leading to exhaustive, contrived discussions of sprinkling, smudging, use of sand, baptism by a nonbeliever, even baptizing in utero, and all the other s/Scholastic excesses that never had any significant place in actual Western Christian life.  I don’t have specific historical information regarding how the association with Christ’s Burial and Resurrection from the Dead were essentially lost, except to cite the general erosion of o/Orthodox t/Theology in the West, especially after the final real loss of Communion by the West with the rest of the Church dated at AD 1054.  (Celt that I am, I’m developing a renewed appreciation for just how “dark” the “Dark Ages,” a Western phenomenon,* really became – tragically.  Why would God allow that?)

Under Western influence, some Orthodox dioceses (and apparently most Byzantine-Rite Eastern Catholics) temporarily adopted Baptism by Pouring as their main method in the 16-1800s, but I believe most if not all Orthodox now normally use some form of Immersion again.  There is some discussion about how to receive converts to Orthodoxy who have been previously baptized by various methods in Heterodox Christianity, and it has varied somewhat historically from time to time, from place to place, and from Heterodox church to Heterodox church, but I believe the most common method, at least in the United States now, is by Chrismation – as I was received into the Greek Archdiocese of America in 2002 – not seeing an absolute need for a fresh Orthodox Baptism given the situation here.  (It’s actually more complex than that, and I don’t have a firm grip on it myself, but this is the decision of our Bishops and Synods, whose responsibility it is.  Greek Orthodox Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver, who I am under the impression is quite the theologian, discusses this pastorally in a couple letters to his clergy in 2000 here and here.  The Archdiocese also advises me that it’s technically on a case-by-case basis.)

(*–Remember that only in the West did the true Empire of the Romans fall in the middle of the first Christian millennium.  It lived on in the East for another 1,000 years, with civilization, urbanity, literacy, science, etc.  Constantinople was the world’s largest city outside China!)

I just found an intriguing ‘inside look’ in a public letter to his priests by then-Ruling Hierarch of the OCA’s Diocese of San Francisco and the West, Bishop TIKHON (Fitzgerald).  I can’t offer any more about it than His Grace does, though.

You may have heard an episode of the TV sitcom Seinfeld (fan transcript) featured a religion – a supposed version of diaspora Eastern Orthodoxy – which the writer claims he thought he’d made up,* Latvian Orthodoxy.  In fact, TV-Jerry’s sidekick, George Costanza, converted to the Faith – apparently from a lapsed or merely-cultural Catholicism, but with heavy doses of comedy-stereotype Jewish behavior – in order to date a Latvian Orthodox American young woman, Sasha, he apparently truly loved – for a change! – whose parents would only let her date other Latvian Orthodox.**

All this is a long way of leading up to a link to the current lead story on the OCA’s homepage, the visit of a Latvian Orthodox scholar and discussions of further collaboration with Latvian researchers into Orthodoxy here.  I didn’t know there were so many Latvian bishops and clergy in the OCA’s history!

(*–Well, he knew about “the hats;” he didn’t always precede “Orthodox” with “Latvian,” sometimes just said “Orthodox;” he knew the difference between a nun and a novice, and knew a novice monastic woman is not referred to as a nun but as “Sister;” Kramer even wrestles a bit with the passions over Sister Roberta’s attraction to him; and they don’t mutilate squirrels!  So maybe the only thing he didn’t know about was Orthodoxy’s spread to Latvia 1,000 years ago … though the stuff around the church ceremonies was mostly generic high-church, though rather plain.  I think I’ve read of at least one OCA parish having been founded by Latvians, and I haven’t seen the episode for years, but folks on the ‘Net seem to think the church whose exterior was seen on Seinfeld was actually this ethnic-Galician-heritage OCA Cathedral in Brooklyn. An older view is near the bottom of this page.  [Galicians from Eastern Europe, not Spain. Related to Carpatho-Russians.])

(**–George’s complaint about her parents being devout would be echoed a decade later by John Corbet’s character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, in discussing with his ‘non-devout’-WASP parents his conversion to the Greek Orthodox Church, to marry Nia Vardalos’ character, in a situation loosely based on her own real life.  The implication was that Corbet had never been baptized with water in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or not in a denomination whose Baptism Nia’s Greek jurisdiction would ‘make complete’ by mere Chrismation [cf. Confirmation], therefore Nia couldn’t marry him in the Orthodox Church, and if she married him outside the Church, she would be barred from Communion and certain other church activities, eg, being a godmother … all of which was why it was such a big deal to her immigrant parents.  In Seinfeld we don’t see George wet like Corbet, but he is wearing a white robe, suggesting he too has just been baptized and not only Chrismated – not to try to read too much into a 22-minute comedy! – implying he actually hadn’t been baptized previously either.  In any case, I hear that among ethnic-Orthodox in North America, there’s alot more marriage to non-Orthodox Christians – or to people who’ve recently converted for the marriage – than to Orthodox of other ethnicities or jurisdictions.  FYI, Orthodox are expected to raise their children Orthodox, even in a marriage with a non-Orthodox Christian … though I don’t know how much this is actually done in mixed marriages.)

Archimandrite Sebastian (Dabovich) (1863-1940) was the first person ordained to the Orthodox priesthood who had been born in what was, at the time of his birth, United States territory, to wit, San Francisco, California, the son of Serbian immigrants.*  He was one of the pioneers in the service of the Moscow Patriarchate to Orthodox immigrants of many ethnic backgrounds in the Contiguous U.S. around the turn of the last century, including but not limited to Serbs.  He also served other Serbs around the world and in the Balkans.  And he may be called a founder of the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Serbia on this continent in the 1910s-20s.  Before then he also assisted in Orthodoxy’s first missionary outreach to people of Western background in the U.S.  He is being considered for glorification as a Saint by the Patriarchate of Serbia, and is already considered one by some Orthodox.  As this article indicates, his relics were brought from Serbia to Jackson, Calif., last summer.  The article also features a preliminary icon of him!  Google offers quite a bit about him.

(*–However, a number of Alaska Native priests born under the flag of Russia were ordained before he was.)

has a website!  They’re an Orthodox, largely-African-American fellowship with a mission:

“The Brotherhood of St Moses the Black is a pan-Orthodox nonprofit organization. Its mission is to minister to Americans the gift of Orthodoxy. In an effort to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God (I Peter 4:10), the organization presents an annual conference that targets those who have little exposure to Orthodoxy as well as the African roots of Orthodoxy. Its vision is to bring Americans closer to Jesus Christ.”

PS: Calling dark-skinned Africans “Blacks” goes back to ancient Greek times apparently.  St. Moses is also known as “St. Moses the Ethiopian.”

PPS: Although they use the common term Brotherhood, they also have women members.

PPPS: It’s not a religious order; it seems to have clergy, monastics, and laity involved, and to be led by a priest and a laywoman.

I just came upon the NY Times obituary for Fr. David Kirk of Emmaus House/Harlem in New York City, who reposed last May 23, the week before Pentecost.  The obit is reproduced at Wikipedia. More details at The OCAThis seems to be a website archive/homage of him.  There’s quite a bit about him through Google, including a National Public Radio report after his death.  Memories of him from Fr. John Garvey in the journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, as well as from Albert and Julia Raboteau (see below).

Emmaus House/Harlem continues as a broad community of (formerly) homeless people and others with them – sounding very much like the Catholic Worker movement of Dorothy Day with which/whom Fr. David was also associated – including Albert Raboteau (sometimes officially referred to as Al Raboteau), an Orthodox professor of religion at Princeton University and African-American convert from Catholicism, and his wife Julia.

Emmaus House needs money and other material help, as well as prayers and solidarity.

An Akathist (sometimes spelled Akafist or Acathistos, etc.) is a poetic or quasi-poetic devotional service dedicated to a Saint or God Himself, or themed around a Feast day, a need being prayed for, possibly other things.  It’s divided into stanzas, each of which is called an Ekos (Ikos, Oikos) or a Kontakion.  Several times during the year an Orthodox parish might serve the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos, including during the Great Fast as now.

  1. Ekos 7 of this Akathist reads, “The Creator showed us a new creation when He appeared to us who came from Him. For He sprang from a seedless womb, and kept it incorrupt as it was, that seeing the miracle we might sing to Her….”  This “new creation” echoes 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ – Behold! A new creation!”  Never have I associated St. Paul’s “new creation” with Christ’s own Incarnation as in this Akathist, but usually with Genesis and some relatively vague renewal of prelapsarian Creation.  But as o/Orthodox Christianity is about joining energetically with Christ, then linking us even with His miraculous Incarnation is totally appropriate and mind-blowing!  It’s even bigger than renewing Genesis!  Actually Quaker founder George Fox had an expression about a potentially two-stage perfectibility, first “to the state Adam was in before he fell,” and from there “to the state of Christ that never fell.”  Pretty wild.  (Not that God literally becomes incarnate in us of course; something like that is the heresy of Appolinarianism.)  It also underlines the importance of the Incarnation for Orthodoxy; it’s not merely a prelude to Calvary or even Pascha, but wholly part of Christ’s saving activity, uniting created nature to Uncreated in Himself, and human and Divine natures in Himself, in fact making salvation possible … and “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
  2. Kontakion 11 reads, “Every hymn is defeated that trieth to encompass the multitude of Thy many compassions; for if we offer to Thee, O Holy King, songs equal in number to the sand, nothing have we done worthy of that which Thou hast given us who shout to Thee: Alleluia!”  This is a poignant image of how far and different God is from created things including ourselves; how nothing we do can save us or raise us to godhood by ourselves, yet how hard we must work to collaborate with the only real God; perhaps even why encountering His Uncreated Energies without sufficient Purification in life will feel like a painful, purifying fire, which however will never lead to perfection, ie, the fires of “hell,” because of the infinite separation between us and Him.

Orthodox prayers are highly “theological,” not in the first place sentimental like Western prayers, because “we do not know how to pray as we ought.”  There’s feeling also, but it takes second place to theology – as it should in life.

This was Pope Gregory XIII’s idea of SpringEven in Rome it’s a bit colder than usual right now, according to the Weather Channel.

It’s a shame people in the Midwest had their Good Friday services cancelled owing to the snow in the north and the flooding in the south.  This year Orthodox Pascha (Easter) is 5 weeks later, and so is everything leading up to it – the Great Fast (Lent), Great Holy Week….  Like some Orthodox say, we’re not married to tying this liturgical season to (Northern Hemisphere) Spring.  But ironically, for a good while the Orthodox Paschalion (our scheduling of Easter, Lent, etc.) will continue to tend to do so better than the Gregorian, until in some distant future ours drifts into Northern summer … which will still be more Spring-like than March!  And like some weather expert said, “early Spring” snowstorms aren’t unusual!  So what we have is a technical Spring — scientific? legalistic? “juridical”? ‘outer-space’?! — that alot of people usually experience as still Winter!

Now, Western Easter can occur any time from March 22 to April 25 (NS) inclusive.  So obviously wintry weather becomes less and less of a possibility with each passing day – a phenomenon I believe most people associate with Spring!  For now, Orthodox Pascha can occur any time from April 4 to May 8 (NS) inclusive – 13 days later on average, basically a whole half of a month.  So logically Orthodox Pascha should tend more to reflect the Western-valued association of Lent and Easter with Spring than the West’s own Paschalion!

I’m not making light of the blizzard or accompanying flooding at all, and any deaths, injuries, damages, losses, even inconveniences being suffered.  (God have mercy on them.)  Rather the opposite.  It’s tragic at any time of year, and even moreso during most of these people’s great holiday, the Paschal Triduum, Easter weekend.  Would that they could postpone Easter to a later weekend.

As Orthodox usually do — 1, 4, or 5 weeks later.

From an article featured in the new newsletter from US-based International Orthodox Christian Charities.  Remember they’re outnumbered something like 90 to 1 just now, with most Serb residents still refugees farther north in Serbia and independent Montenegro.  IOCC and the big Serbian Orthodox monastery in Kosovo, Decani (pronounced “deh-CHAH-nee”), are trying to help people of all religions and ethnicities there.  IOCC has gotten busier in Kosovo in the last couple months, as indicated here and hereHere’s more about the work of the monastery there mentioned in the headline story of this post.

And some Orthodox welcome Kosovar independence (from a church in Philadelphia’s website, from which I guess it will pass at some point):

February 21, 2008

We greet the Declaration of Independence of Kosova with joy and prayers that justice has been accomplished for a long suffering people in what has been a sorely troubled region. We have watched with concern the saga of Kosova unfold over the decades And now we add our prayers to the many who shall work with integrity and devotion in the governance of the new state.

The journey to statehood has been a long and arduous one, replete with obstacles and misgivings, martyrdom and heroism as well as with hope and aspiration for a secure and sane way of life. The actual tasks have only just begun as Kosova faces the challenge of building up a society based on constitutional guarantees, human and civil rights and equality before the law for all citizens. In so doing, it shall secure international credibility and thus earn respect and confidence among nations.

As an Albanian Orthodox Christian, I pray that all the God-loving people and citizens of Kosova regardless of ethnicity or religious persuasion shall enjoy all the rights, priviliges and responsibilities as are accorded to the citizens of Europe’s new republic.

Sincerely,

Very Rev. Arthur E. Liolin
Boston

Fr. Arthur is Chancellor of the OCA’s Albanian Archdiocese, pastor of its cathedral, and brother to its Ruling Hierarch, Bishop NIKON.  The Archdiocese celebrated the 100th anniversary of organized Albanian Orthodoxy in America, last Sunday in Boston (at this moment the celebration is the lead item on the OCA’s homepage) with help from the world’s other two organizationally-distinct Albanian Orthodox jurisdictions, the Albanian Diocese of America, of the Patriarchate of Constantinople; and the Autocephalous Archdiocese of Albania; with the presence of their primates.  (Archbishop ANASTASIOS of All Albania is the Greek missiologist and missionary to Africa, recruited to lead in “resurrecting” the Orthodox Church in that country in the ’90s, who has made a point of offering material assistance to all Albanians without regard to religion, including the refugees from Kosovo back then. He turned many Muslims there – the majority of the population – from hating, suspecting, and [some] trying to kill him, to loving him.)  Albanian Orthodox in Boston were key in that country’s early years of independence almost a century ago, and in emerging from Communism in the ’90s.  Here’s the Wikipedia piece, and OrthodoxWiki, which reminds us that Orthodox Christians have been in Albania since the Apostles!  Probably the best-known Albanian-Americans are the Orthodox Belushi brothers from Chicago, Jim and the late John, comedic actors.  (Sorry, Reege, this is about ‘Albanian-Albanians,’ not Italo-Albanians! Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)  This is the website of an amazing family, the Hoppes, the parents originally U.S. Protestant converts to Orthodoxy, who went to Albania to help rebuild the Orthodox Church there.  Lynette Katherine’s struggle with terminal breast cancer wrenched a sizeable portion of the U.S. and Albanian Orthodox communities, but by all accounts she not only endured with honesty and strength till the end (+August 27, 2006, Memory Eternal), but seemed to acquire, and share with all around her, a real sanctity amid it all.  She too wrote a book about the Church’s “resurrection” there.  She’s on my list of reposed possible Saints for whom I pray and whose prayers I seek.

Yes, the Southern Continent has its first two official permanent(?) Orthodox chapels.  Go here, and scroll down to the word Mundo, about 3/4 of the way down the page, in red in the middle of the page (or text-search it).  The picture on the left is the Patriarchate of Bulgaria’s chapel (the Ohridski in the name of the base means “of Ohrid,” the same town associated with St. Nikolai whose feast day was yesterday), the one on the right, the Patriarchate of Moscow’s.  They’re both in connection with research stations those countries have there.

Lots of beautiful pictures on that Portuguese page, too!