Archive for July, 2008

Perhaps non-Orthodox Americans’ most familiar Orthodox temple (church), an unintended virtual – and ironic – symbol of the Soviet Union and the Cold War because of its strategic / photogenic location on Red Square just outside the Moscow Kremlin, is officially called The Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God (or Intercession, or Holy Virgin, or Theotokos) on the Moat.  The cathedral’s museum custodian would like to remind us of the fact!

Wikipedia has details.  While this Cathedral isn’t inside the Kremlin complex, the Kremlin itself contains several additional cathedrals, along with government buildings, etc.

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…is discussed, along with a good presentation of the theology of ecumenical synods (councils), here.

Conciliar theology has also been the subject of a series in The Orthodox Herald by Fr. Michael Dahulich of St. Tikhon’s Seminary (OCA) in Pennsylvania.  It’s not available online, but I really recommend getting it if you can.

Yes, Orthodoxy still commemorates and venerates her (today, Saturday), because we still remember not only that she ministered to the Lord in His time of need on the way to the Cross, but also, by Tradition, that she was the woman He’d healed from her continuous flow of blood (Gospel according to St. Matthew 9:20 and parallel passages), and that she and her husband, the short St. Zacchaeus (Zacchaios) from the Gospels, evangelized in southern France.  Here is a writeup from a Greek-published book alongside an icon of her that doesn’t look as ‘new’ as the other one (though the hymns they give for the date are those of a pair of other saints commemorated today, not Veronica / Bernice).

Bishop JOHN (Berzins) of Caracas, (temporary) administrator of the Diocese of South America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, is one of ROCOR’s newly-elected and -consecrated hierarchs.  Many Years, Master!

Interestingly, as their news release with lots of interesting photos mentions, he was consecrated a couple weeks ago at, and according to, what I believe is the only canonical Old Believer parish in the Western world, Nativity of Christ in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Furthermore, most of their members are converts to Orthodoxy or their families!

Old Believer is the traditional nickname for a group more accurately called Old Ritualist because they follow the Old Rite of (Russian) Orthodoxy.  In Russia they have traditionally been termed Schismatics, Raskolniki, and I believe I read that the Russian surname Raskolnikov / Raskolnikoff derives from this also.

Although the Orthodox liturgies are ancient, “usages,” or how they’re carried out, have continued to adjust a little bit since ancient times.  The Russian Old Rite derives – or persists – from practices in the Russian Empire before the 17th century.  I can’t personally vouch for everything in the Wikipedia article or others linked from it, but it seems like it gives a good idea of the topic.

The Old Rite is not just about how one holds one’s hand while making the Sing of the Cross, though like many things in controversies, that became emblematic of them and for them.  This page seems to provide the clearest description of it, relatively briefly, that I can find.  But when I try to do it, it’s very uncomfortable for my hand, almost painful, especially when going for the right shoulder, so maybe I don’t quite have it.  The main point is that while “new rite” Orthodox hold together the thumb, index finger, and middle finger to represent the Trinity, and touch their forehead, torso, and shoulders with these (with their 4th and 5th fingers planted in their palm) … those of the Old Rite hold together the thumb, 4th and 5th fingers, but touch their forehead, torso, and shoulders with their index and middle fingers (held together with the middle one bent slightly) … as everybody tries to explain.

It’s the same gesture often seen when figures in icons, including Christ (eg, from the famous 6th-century Sinai icon), hold up their hand in blessing, when it’s not the “newer” ICXC gesture.

The Erie parish is led by Bishop DANIEL (Alexandrow) of Erie, an Auxiliary Bishop to the First Hierarch of ROCOR, with an interesting life discussed in the linked article.

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Just for the record, I don’t necessarily endorse everything on sites I link to for purposes I do endorse.  In fact, some I have serious enough concerns about that I’ll avoid linking to them, let the copyright cops come and get me!  It’s religion we’re dealing with here, after all….

Weird coincidence: The other day my aunt wrote her nephews and nieces that she’d read about St. Bertha of Blangy-sur-Ternoise, Artois, France, a 7th-8th-century Anglo-Saxon (Kentish) and Frankish princess, wife, mother, widow, and abbess, because her mother’s, my paternal grandmother’s, name was Bertha Rider Filon (God be good to her).*  Today happens to be St. Bertha’s feast day (she’s the third personage covered by this old Catholic Encyclopedia roundup article).  And Atlantic Tropical Storm Bertha was born just yesterday.  Not knowing either fact a few hours ago, I started looking for some information about Blangy for my aunt at her request.  This appears to be the website of the village’s historical society, all in French, but I note dramatic improvements in Google’s machine translations, with only minor improvements and interjections from myself (additional ones exceed my capabilities) in this piece about Bertha and the town:

Blangy-sur-Ternoise is a small village in the valley of the Ternoise in the department of Pas de Calais (62).

Blangy-sur-Ternoise, nestled at the bottom of its valley, a little pass unnoticed from an historical perspective, it was the seat of the imposing abbey Saint-Berthe. However, we know that the Romans were probably occupied the site to 50 BC-AD, and that, according to historian Malbrancq, the village was the scene of bitter fighting between the Huns and the Franks. It is in the plain of Blangy, indeed, that Wilbert, Count of Boulogne and {of the town of} Saint-Pol, surrounded by most of the lords of the country, would have cut into pieces. Rigobert, Count of Ponthieu, who had pointed out during the battle, was then appointed Count of Blangy, a village which was at that time an important post, Clovis II having built a fortress on the banks of the Ternoise, to resist the invasion of northern tribes.

From the union of Rigobert and Ursane, daughter of the King of Kent, was born, circa 644, Bertha (first name meaning clear and bright). After her childhood spent at the castle of Blangy, at age 18, Berthe married Siegfried, Baron of Auxi-le-Chateau. After the death of her husband, in 680, and after the death of two of his daughters, Bertha decided to build a monastery on the banks of the Ternoise. Of this abbey founded under the {monastic} “Rule of St. Benedict,” Berthe became the first abbess in 682, while the king Thierry III gave it the status of royal abbey. The monastery was so vast that sixty nuns there were installed there. Died in 723, July 4, at age 79 years (which was exceptional for its time), Berthe was buried within the abbey, in a sandstone tomb.

Soon, if we are to believe the sacred writers and historians, miracles occurred around the tomb: “The blind were returned to sight, paralyzed hands became active, the lame walked aright, the violence of fevers was dissipated and every class of infirmity healed.” So many miracles that they resulted in the canonization of Saint Berthe.

Over the centuries, the abbey has, however, experienced many problems. While the holy relics were transported to Alsace for protection, Normans looted and destroyed the monastery in 892. It was not until 1032 that the relics were returned, and a new monastery was built, then occupied by the Benedictines of Fécamps. During the XIV, XV and XVI centuries, Blangy and its monastery suffered from wars, new buildings being damaged and the relics again had to be removed for safekeeping, in Saint-Omer this time. Sold as a national asset in 1791 {ie, as a result of the French Revolution}, the abbey was destroyed in the nineteenth century, except the farm (1771) and the mill (1777) that served as a secular school, then hospice, before being donated in 1956 to the institute Notre-Dame de Vie {“Our Lady of Life”?}, which has restored it into a spiritual center and retreat.

The website also says that relics are still venerated at a shrine there each year during her novena, July 4-12.

(*–Grandmom, too, was of English background, and spent most of her life as an Episcopalian – things I never knew – converting to her late husband’s and her children’s Catholicism before she died.)