Archive for October, 2008

The other day Cuba’s first Russian Orthodox Cathedral was consecrated by a high-level bishop from Russia.  It was built in Old Havana largely by the Cuban government itself, beginning in 2004.

Earlier this year the government gave the Greek Orthodox Metropolis covering Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and nearby parts of South America, a large old building for its regional seminary.

Also in 2004 a new Greek Orthodox church had been opened, also built with a major government financial contribution.  This account from a Greek source (now on an unrelated website) supplies more religious details, including at least one convert priest from Cuba.

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No, I wasn’t one of those kids who enjoyed reading dictionaries (much) … but you may do well to pray the O Heavenly King before reading this essential, profound definition-list ‘in a nutshell’ from Metropolitan HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos, courtesy of this website:

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and filleth all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of Life, come and abide in us and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

From one of the greatest Fathers of the Church, St. Gregory of Nazianzus (presumably Gregory the Theologian, aka Nazianzen), honored East and West, courtesy of the masthead at http://www.palamas.info/:

Not to everyone, friends, does it belong to philosophize about God, not to everyone; the subject is not so cheap and low. And, I will add, not before every audience, nor at all times, nor on all points; but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits.

Have you ever heard a couple million people cheer all at once?  Have you ever heard them continue cheering for three-quarters of an hour?  It was moving, but also a little creepy!

So there I am, IBS’ing under an open window (upper pane) a little after 11:30 ET tonight (Wednesday), out of reach of TV and radio.  The Phillies-Dodgers game was in its 6th inning when I had last seen or heard it.  All of a sudden I hear a dull roar outside – not from my neighborhood!  I don’t live in a very noisy part of Philadelphia, so this was definitely coming from some distance away.  It was like the sound from outside a stadium – but the stadium in question was about 3,000 miles away!  So basically this was the whole Delaware Valley cheering the Phils’ 5-1 win in Game 5 of the NLCS, clinching the National League pennant for the first time in 15 loooong years, punching their ticket to the World Series.  After a moment my own neighbors joined in with yelling and firecrackers.  But then it was quiet.  I think Philadelphia was getting into its cars, because about ten minutes later, the roar started up again, accompanied by more firecrackers and car horns.  And it went on like that for 45 minutes!

I’ve never heard anything quite like it in my life, not even for either of the Flyers’ Stanley Cups.*  I guess exasperation can unite a region when it finally breaks!

Does God pick winning or losing sports teams, athletes, plays?  Apparently it’s not uncommon or unusual in Orthodox countries to offer services for national sports teams.  Well, IIUC God’s Uncreated Energies, and Holy Spirit (One of the Trinity), are “everywhere present, filling all things.”  What I’m not clear on myself yet is where God’s Energies leave off and the created energies of non-human creatures / objects come into play, like wind, gravity, the weather, lighting, what umpires see, etc.  But human free will is definitely involved in athletes’ self-conditioning and practice, choices and performances, teamwork and precision, as well as how umps decide to rule, and coaches decide to call; that’s not God.  Though out of human decisions and created energies, God works to try to bring about good, in particular, people’s Salvation or Theosis, Godlikeness.  This is the ultimate object of all Orthodox prayers of petition, eg, “grant their saving petitions and eternal life,” “which conduce to salvation,” etc.

(*–I was in suburban New York when the Phillies last won the World Series, in 1980, so it wasn’t the same for me anyway!  In fact, I was attending a Catholic high school seminary, so we couldn’t even watch or listen to the whole game because of our schedule of study hall and lights-out.  The superior of the religious community was from Kansas City, so he and I were the two people there most invested in that Series.  After Mass early each morning we both ran for the newspaper to check it out.  [“For a Special Intention, let us pray to the Lord.” No, just kidding!]  I actually don’t remember that final morning in detail though….  In ’93 I was in Seattle.  The closest I came to sharing that experience was on a mental-health day-off, driving back to town from the Olympic Peninsula, tuning in via a Vancouver BC radio station … though the following summer I enrolled in Mennonite seminary with a classmate from southern Ontario who wore her Blue Jays victory T-shirt to Biblical Hebrew class!)

This weekend 9 Primates and 5 other Bishop-representatives of Orthodoxy’s 14 universally-recognized Autocephalous Churches convened a “synaxis” in Istanbul chaired by the First Among Equals, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople BARTHOLOMEW.  Their end-of-summit communique, released just today, is worth reading in its entirety.  In particular, Section 13(ii) declares

our desire for the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements, such as in the so-called Orthodox Diaspora, with a view to overcoming every possible influence that is foreign to Orthodox ecclesiology. In this respect we welcome the proposal by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene Panorthodox Consultations within the coming year 2009 on this subject, as well as for the continuation of preparations for the Holy and Great Council. In accordance with the standing order and practice of the Panorthodox Consultations in Rhodes, it will invite all Autocephalous Churches.

It’s signed

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
+ Theodore of Alexandria
+ Ignatius of Antioch
+ Theophilos of Jerusalem
+ Alexey of Moscow
+ Amphilochios of Montenegro
(representing the Church of Serbia)
+ Laurentiu of Transylvania
(representing the Church of Romania)
+ Dometiyan of Vidin
(representing the Church of Bulgaria)
+ Gerasime of Zugdidi
(representing the Church of Georgia)
+ Chrysostomos of Cyprus
+ Ieronymos of Athens
+ Jeremiasz of Wrocław
(representing of the Church of Poland)
+ Anastasios of Tirana {Albania}
+ Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

Although if the Rhodes meetings are the exemplar for the Unity meetings, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA) won’t be invited, since a number of the other Churches don’t consider them autocephalous, but still part of the Patriarchate of Moscow, their Mother Church — a position the OCA has officially seemed to take in stride since Moscow recognized it as autocephalous in 1970.

Just last week, the “fellowship” in Hong Kong associated with Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev, which I believe includes both ex-patriates and Chinese, was formally reactivated as a parish by the Moscow Patriarchal Synod, 36 years after its closure following the repose of its last pastor.  Many years to the new parish and its new rector, Fr. Dionisy!

This year has also seen the first public ministry since the Cultural Revolution, by China’s last two surviving native clergy, to whom God also grant Many Years!  This article,* I believe copied from HK’s South China Morning Post (scroll down for English), depicts the Priest Michael Wang up top hearing a confession, and the Deacon Evangel Lu beneath taking part in the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy (analogous to the Offertory Procession in Latin-Rite Masses).  The article notes that Fr. Michael and Fr. Deacon Evangel have applied to the Communist government for permission to resume regular ministry to Chinese on Chinese soil (as opposed to in Russian diplomatic facilities as they did at Pentecost).  Also, that even the PRC is seeing conversions to Orthodoxy from Protestantism.

And I read earlier this year somewhere that the new Greek Metropolitan of Hong Kong, NECTARIOS, wants to extend ministry to Greek mariners in (other) Chinese port cities.  I note that Greece has a consulate in Shanghai; IIUC PRC law would allow them to hold services there regularly for non-Chinese, as in the Russian diplomatic facilities.

(It’s true that Moscow and Constantinople dispute canonical jurisdiction in Communist China, between the MP’s Church of China [50 years Autonomous], straitened since the Cultural Revolution but not dead and now rebounding, and the EP’s Metropolis of HK and Southeast Asia, set up in 1996 to care for Diaspora Orthodox and evangelize from Afghanistan eastward.  [This year the EP Metropolis’ western and southern countries were set off as the Metropolis of Singapore.])

(*–On Fr. Dionisiy’s blog.)

This is common and EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ADVICE for Orthodox, seemingly paradoxical considering all the talk about Uncreated Light, angels, theophanies, visions, etc.  “Even the devil can appear as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).  We’re even supposed to avoid visualization-meditation of any kind, which he can make use of.  And if we do see some apparition, we’re not to trust it or obey it, but consult our spiritual parent or priest or bishop.  This is not the same as Western skepticism toward “private revelation” or needing to get “ecclesiastical approval.”  It’s checking your experience with someone who traditionally knew from his or her own confirmed experiences and Divine Gift how to “discern spirits.”  The reason for this is how easily we can delude ourselves regarding spiritual things, in severe form known by the Slavonic word prelest, in Greek plani.  And it’s dangerous because we can be spiritually mis-led and imperil our salvation.  Holy Tradition is full of stories of the greatest Saints and Fathers of the Church who were temporarily deceived or even deluded.

All we do, then, is struggle with life on the Orthodox Way, in The Orthodox Church if available, aided by God’s Energies and an Orthodox spiritual parent.  Purification, period.  Illumination and Glorification / Theosis are in God’s hands and Mercy and Love.

If that doesn’t sound like much, remember this(!), and the great Saint or Father who, as he lay dying in the Monastery, had his brethren around him.  They saw his lips moving, though they couldn’t hear what he was saying, so they asked him.  He said he was seeing an angel, and asking for more time to repent.  They were incredulous: ‘If anyone has purified himself of all his sins and readied himself for God’s Glory, it’s you.’  But he countered, “I’m not sure I have even begun to repent.”  This isn’t “poor self-image;” even my Latin novice-master told us, “The closer you get to the sun, the more cobwebs you see.”  Hence Orthodox prayer asks God ‘merely’ to help us “make a good start.”

From St. Feofil, the Fool for Christ’s Sake, courtesy of this blog:

If you are praised, be silent. If you are scolded, be silent. If you incur losses, be silent. If you receive profit, be silent. If you are satiated, be silent. If you are hungry, also be silent. And do not be afraid that there will be no fruit when all dies down; there will be! Not everything will die down. Energy will appear; and what energy!

And a well-known story about advice from St. Macarius the Great about indifference to praise and insult, ‘Insult the Dead.’

Every time I made it to Divine Liturgy while he was with my parish, or just about,* the priest who Chrismated me, preceded Communion with a collective reminder about the o/Orthodox understanding of the Mysteries (sacraments) as special encounters with God’s Uncreated Energies.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he said Communion is like a fire that risks consuming the unprepared, but purifies those who receive it with preparation, including prayer, fasting, repentance, Confession if necessary, reconciliation with others if necessary, reverence, etc.  I also remember either hearing or reading somewhere – not from him IIRC – a story about someone who once received Communion without preparation, and immediately fell down dead.  I’m reminded of St. Symeon Metaphrastes’ Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion.  I’m also reminded of Fr. John Romanides’ words about how we will all see God’s Glory in the end, but for those who haven’t struggled for Purification, God’s Energies won’t be experienced as Uncreated Light, but purifying fire: IIUC this fire’s job of purifying is never completed because God is infinitely better than we are, whereas if you’ve at least tried to put yourself on the right trajectory in life, God may, as Orthodox constantly pray, “have mercy.”  And my own conclusion: Created light burns up close but lights at a distance, whereas Uncreated Light lights up close, but burns at a distance.

PS: Nobody’s “worthy” to receive.  The best we can do is prepare, and hope in God’s Mercy.

(*–My health usually prevents me, so I don’t know if he does this all the time.)

There’s a new mission (OCA) in Dagsboro, Sussex County, Delaware, originally located in Fenwick Island, DE.  Another recent mission (Antiochian) is in nearby Lewes,* Delaware [known somewhat for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry across the mouth of Delaware Bay, a neat boat ride in nice weather, by foot or by motor vehicle].

These drew my attention because my great-grandmother, Lula Fisher (sometimes recorded as Lulu Fisher), came from Dagsboro.  Although I grew up urban Irish Catholic and currently look something like a leprechaun(!), through her I’m also related to the Nanticoke Indians based in that neighborhood.  I’ve visited their September powwow a couple times in recent years as I’ve learned about them.  Many of them belong to a historic Methodist congregation (text at link quotes from its State historical marker).  This newspaper article provides a quick sketch and information about the Nanticokes.

Speaking of Indigenous peoples, one reason for the huge spread of Orthodoxy among Sub-Saharan Africans in the last 70 years or so — over 100,000 today — is said to be Orthodoxy’s lack of association with Western European colonialism there.  I know that some Native Americans rebel against (Western) Christianity for similar reasons.  OTOH, Orthodoxy has helped Indigenous Siberians and Alaskans preserve their cultures and identities — everything not deemed in direct conflict with Orthodox theology, generously construed — translated Orthodox texts into their languages, and defended their rights, especially in Alaska against Russian commercial and general U.S. violation.  In the Middle Ages, when the Western Church was imposing the by-then-dead Latin language on all liturgical and religious usage, the Eastern Church was translating the Faith into Georgian, Armenian, and Slavonic.  Also of interest in this respect would be the account of St. Innocent of Alaska and the Aleut Orthodox “Shaman” Ivan Smirennikov, in the last three paragraphs here.  (My source was a book of research papers in a college library near me that I no longer recall.)

(*–Pronounced like Lewis.)

From Saint Symeon the New Theologian, one of the key Fathers of the Church (his feast is commemorated this Sunday 12 October, and two hymns of his feast are here):

Our holy fathers have renounced all other spiritual work and concentrated wholly on this one doing, that is, on guarding the heart,* convinced that, through this practice, they would easily attain every other virtue, whereas without it not a single virtue can be firmly established(Emphasis added.)

(*–NB: In the Author’s Prologue, in the second paragraph, I believe the phrase “it is not anthropocentric but the anthropocentric” should read “it is not anthropocentric but theanthropocentric,” ie, centered on the Theanthropos, the God-Man — Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, Theos and Anthropos, God and Human.  One might also say “Christocentric.”

NB2: The online text from Metropolitan HIEROTHEOS’ Orthodox Psychotherapy linked to is not the entire book, which you might wish to buy or borrow [or steal?! Just kidding.].

NB3: This work is not to be confused with this one of Russian provenance, which I have not yet read through.

NB4: Metr. Hierotheos may well be a living Father of the Church.  At least as of 1994 he was spiritual father to “a vast number” of people, especially in Greece, but also worldwide, even through “a treatment network” of “the more spiritually healthy” of his spiritual children.  Since ’95 he’s been an active Ruling Hierarch of a diocese in Greece northwest of Athens [on this page he’s spelled Ierotheos, without the H].  As you can see, they have quite a few dioceses over there … where they’re called Metropolises, as with most Greek / Hellenic jurisdictions.)

A very insightful post at Alana Roberts’ blog.  She’s converted from Evangelicalism.