…may be December 17!

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Short reflection inspired by St. Theophan the Recluse is here.

(Theophan, sometimes called Theophanes [the original Greek version of his name], was a 19th-century bishop in Russia who retired early from the active episcopate – hence “recluse” – and became an incredible spiritual father and writer!  A real latter-day Father of the Church.  He even wrote an acclaimed book on how to raise children!  And he was glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate at its Council in 1988, its first chance in 70 years, under glasnost in the waning days of Communist rule; for this reason, older printed references to him might not say “Saint.”)

It’s being noted in news coverage that Moscow Patriarch-elect KYRILL was “Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne” since shortly after the repose of Patriarch ALEXEI.  This concept is not unknown in Western Christianity … in fact, locum tenens is the traditional Latin-language term whose Greek or Slavonic counterpart I do not know, but seems commonly used by Orthodox jurisdictions in the English-speaking world at least.

A locum tenens is “the person holding the place” of another — in Christian contexts, the post of a bishop who has died, resigned, or been removed from office.  Sometimes traditionally in the case of a typical diocese, the local primate or metropolitan-archbishop would automatically become locum tenens upon the vacancy.  Sometimes he or the local synod of bishops might proceed to choose another bishop to be locum tenens more long-term, until a permanent successor takes office.  Currently in North America, Orthodox Church in America (OCA) primate, Metropolitan JONAH, is Locum Tenens of the Bulgarian Diocese, but their synod has named Eastern Pennsylvania bishop TIKHON Locum Tenens of the Western Pennsylvania diocese.*  Similarly, two of the Antiochian Archdiocese’s new local dioceses still await Bishops of their own, and so their primate, Metropolitan PHILIP, is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Worcester and New England, but Bishop JOSEPH of Los Angeles and the West is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Eagle River and the Northwest.  Relatedly, Metropolitan JONAH is also locum tenens of the OCA’s Alaska Diocese (since the retirement of Bishop NIKOLAI), but Bishop BENJAMIN of San Francisco and the West (who previously served in Alaska as a priest) is temporary Administrator of the Alaska Diocese, assisting Jonah with his responsibility.

The idea seems to be that a flock should never, or only very, very briefly if necessary depending on jurisdictional practice and guidelines, be without a shepherd in at least some capacity, considering that in o/Orthodox Christianity a Bishop is not only some kind of feudal lord or bureaucrat, but ideally spiritual father of the Church … and a local Orthodox Church, and Orthodox Christians, should always have spiritual guidance.

When it’s a Patriarchate or Autocephalous Province whose incumbent has moved on, similar procedures may be put in place, since he is not only his diocese’s spiritual father, but his region’s or country’s, and an important overseer of that Church’s central administration.  In the case of Moscow, Patriarch ALEXEI reposed on December 5, and on December 6 the Synod met and chose Metropolitan KYRILL Locum Tenens.  Thus, he remained Ruling Hierarch of the Diocese of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Chairman of the Patriarchate’s external relations department, and also took on the Patriarchal locum tenentes, the state of being locum tenens.

Once again, the Western Christian post most comparable to Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow is Pope of Rome.  When a Pope dies (a few in the distant past have abdicated), that office is said to temporarily cease to exist, the state known in Latin as Sede Vacante, vacant See or Throne, a state accompanied by elaborate activities around the actual, dramatic suspension of Roman Catholic Church and Vatican State activity except the burial of the late Pope and election of his successor, as amply covered by newsmedia.  Some Latin commentators have even ventured that the RCC itself temporarily ceases to exist, since the Church is in the reigning Pope, there.  And this takes weeks or longer, especially in the age before telecommunications and air travel.  In the meantime leading Cardinals in Rome assume temporary administration of these activities, but to my knowledge, Locum Tenens theory is not technically employed: the Diocese of Rome and the churches in communion with it are without an actual shepherd for as long as it takes to elect a replacement.  I would gladly be corrected on this point; it seems to be a different approach, a different theory, a different attitude, a different theology, from Orthodoxy.

Locum Tenens theory early on was subject to abuse: an early Church council issued a Canon condemning locum tenens — obviously lower-ranking hierarchs — who used the temporary post to lobby for election to the vacant See as a means of careerist promotion not necessarily in that diocese’s or province’s own best interests.  Remember that this was also a time when local dioceses almost everywhere had the tradition of electing or nominating their Bishops, usually from among their own local clergy or laymen (even primatial or patriarchal Sees), more rarely from outside their own locality or district, and when provincial synods had the tradition of extremely reluctantly translating Bishops from one post to another  (normally a Bishop “married” his Church for life, and still today Orthodox refer to a vacant See as “widowed”), by Canon only in a case of anticipated extraordinary benefit to the destination-diocese.  So bishops maneuvering like chess pieces, angling for “promotion,” was officially heavily frowned upon; even today I don’t hear about bishop transfers in Orthodoxy nearly as much as I did as a Catholic … for good or for ill.

OTOH, locum tenentes of the Patriarchal Throne of Moscow seemed to be  all who held that whole Church together during the very darkest times under Communism.  Moscow’s 1917-1918 Council restored the Patriarchal dignity allowed to lapse by Tsar Peter “the Great” in the early 1700s.  St. Tikhon (Bellavin), former Archbishop of North America, was elected Patriarch by lot just in time to deal with the first flush of Revolutionary rule.  He was martyred in 1925, and leadership of the Church passed to locum tenens, Metropolitan St. Peter of Krutitsy, himself martyred in 1937.  When St. Peter was arrested at the end of 1925, deputy locum tenens, Metropolitan Sergius, effectively became primate of the Church under Peter’s nominal or technical locum tenentes, until assuming the full locum tenentes upon a premature report of Peter’s death in prison in 1936.  It wasn’t until 1943 that Stalin, feeling the need of the Church’s support for the war effort, allowed Sergius’ election as Patriarch, and lessened its harsh treatment.

(*–His Late Eminence Archbishop KYRILL led both dioceses simultaneously.  In November the assembly of the West. Pa. diocese nominated a priest-monk with area roots, Archimandrite Melchisedek [Pleska], for consideration by the Synod possibly in May to become their new Ruling Hierarch.)

What’s a Patriarch?

The election just announced (“Новым Патриархом стал митрополит Кирилл” — with an icon streaming myrrh right there in the church in Moscow! More here and here temporarily. Good short biography here.) of a new Patriarch for around half of the world’s quarter-billion or more Eastern Orthodox Christians (after the repose last month of His Holiness Patriarch ALEXEI II of Moscow, All Rus, “and the Far North” as it was classically described at least once) — Metropolitan KYRILL of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Russia, widely considered the “frontrunner” (God grant you Many Years, Your Holiness!) — might raise the question of what an Orthodox Patriarch actually is.

And myself coming from a Latin background and living in the West, addressing mostly others living in the West, in English, very familiar with the Pope of Rome — if you’ll permit me, I’ll start off by saying that an Orthodox Patriarch is not normally a “little Pope” whose word is law among those whose Patriarch he is.  Although like all Orthodox Bishops he is officially a leading teacher of Orthodoxy, he does not “develop doctrine,” alone or with anybody else, but merely teaches together with his brother Bishops “that which was handed down from the Apostles,” ie, Holy Tradition (traditio, handing down), including Holy Scripture.

The Orthodox Church is organized into clusters of dioceses, a Tradition established after the First Ecumenical Synod aka the Council of Nicea in AD 325.  No Orthodox Bishop in communion with The Orthodox Church stands alone, but with his brother Bishops, normally on a geographic basis.  (The best comparison for our purposes might be the Anglican Communion’s normative structure, with separate Church Provinces in different countries or regions, each led by its bishops collectively as equals, based on this tradition.)  Such a cluster might be called an ecclesiastical province, a catholicosate (historically), a patriarchate, or other terms such as National Church, Local Church (with a big-L and a big-C), jurisdiction, or simply Church.  And some of these may be ‘clusters of clusters.’

Normally the Ruling Hierarch of the political capital, largest city, or leading diocese, serves as ex officio chairman of the Bishops of that cluster of dioceses — First Among Equals — as well as overseeing its central administrative offices and functionaries, providing stability and focus for the whole Church in that cluster.  Traditionally his diocese was called that cluster’s metropolis, and he, its Metropolitan, or Metropolitan Archbishop.  Today some are instead called Archbishop, primate, or Patriarch.*  In a cluster of clusters, still one of the primates is traditionally ex officio presiding bishop of the whole, with seniority over fellow Bishops of equal rank … although often in such a case the chief bishop is titled Patriarch, so it’s clear.  Orthodox have never recognized any Bishop with greater seniority than a patriarch, and maintain the ancient dictum, “A patriarch never submits to another patriarch,” but takes his turn in the traditional established order of seniority even among patriarchs, as an equal.

(This, naturally, is the [big-T] Traditional problem — ecclesiopolitically if you will — with the claim of the Patriarch of Rome to jurisdiction over other Patriarchs, even back when he was First Among Equal Patriarchs.  “Pope” was never recognized as a rank higher than Patriarch outside the Western Patriarchate; in fact, Christendom’s other Pope, he of Alexandria, Egypt — no unimportant city in the Roman Empire or the later Church — has never aspired to what Orthodox have come to call papalism, that universal, immediate, ordinary, supreme, full jurisdiction over every Christian, asserted by Rome.  Nevermind all the other problems with Rome’s claims, which are not the topic of this post!  BTW, Orthodox Bishops have differing titles, “ranks,” and seniority, only for purposes of order, honor to the dioceses they lead, and varying responsibilities.  That is to say, at every meeting of them their speaking order and chairmanship is predetermined, with the aim of making things run smoother than otherwise; also who presides at a Liturgy with more than one Bishop present.  And a Bishop’s basic responsibilities may be as an auxiliary bishop, or else a Ruling Hierarch, which latter may along with that serve as provincial primate, or primate of a cluster of provinces.)

Today 9  of Orthodoxy’s local primates are Patriarchs, those of Constantinople (Istanbul), Alexandria, Antioch (resident in Damascus), Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia (this last titled Catholicos-Patriarch).  Each is the lead Bishop for Orthodox in the area around his city or country, and some also elsewhere because of 20th-century expansion in Orthodox evangelization and mass migration.  As such, a Patriarch’s (or other primate’s) exact responsibilities vary from place to place.  Besides administering his own diocese, chairing local meetings of synods and councils of Bishops and other churchmen and -women, and overseeing central Church administration and institutions, he often visits throughout his Local Church and other Local Orthodox Churches to maintain ties of fellowship / communion (Greek koinonia) in person, serves high-profile Liturgies, preaches, writes, advocates for public wellbeing and improvement and traditional, Orthodox-influenced culture(s), meets with governmental and non-Orthodox religious leaders, provides overall leadership in his Church, leads in the Church teaching and formation of young people and future churchpeople, and overall tries to help his people be saved….  In short, it’s the work of any Orthodox Bishop, ‘writ large’ if you will.  But normally in a far more collaborative spirit than many Westerners might expect considering Orthodoxy’s ‘oldness’ and ‘conservatism,’ “long beards, robes, and services,” headscarves (often), lack of “praise bands,” dearth of agitation, exhortations to piety and humility, ‘cloistered’ or semi-cloistered monasticism….

It’s a commonplace in the field of  Church History that a Bishop’s “job one” was to ensure the unity of his local flock, protecting it from the divisions of heresy and schism.  A Patriarch’s (or other primate’s), then, is to also ensure the unity of his Patriarchate or Province.  This is similar to the role of ruling bishops and primates in other Churches similarly structured, such as Anglicanism, Catholicism (Western and Eastern, papal and “independent”), the Oriental Churches (ie, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, Armenian, Asian Indian, etc.), and the Assyrian Church.  In this way, it’s not unique to Orthodoxy.  Even the title of Patriarch is used by other “Eastern” Churches besides us.

And why the title Patriarch?  Really, Patriarch is ‘just’ a primate and Local Church granted more honor and seniority by the Church, for whatever reasons.  It’s not strictly theological or ‘necessary.’  All Orthodox Churches are equal.  Another irony is that Pope Benedict XVI of Rome the other year dropped the one of his many historic titles — Patriarch of the West — that o/Orthodox Tradition can theoretically deal with!

Also, a Patriarch (or Primate, or any Bishop ideally) is revered by Orthodox Tradition as a sacrament, symbol, sacred embodiment of his Church, hence their vestments and their hand-kissing by laity.  He is in a sense the father of his Church; episcopal consecration is part of the “Mystery” of Holy Orders, after all.  The ultimate ‘icon’ of a Church is its primate presiding over Divine Liturgy alongside his clergy, surrounded by the faithful.  After all, it’s not just about pushing pencils!

(*–BTW, an Orthodox Patriarchate is not in the first place what feminist theorists refer to as a patriarchal structure.  In Orthodox usage the word patriarch derives not from Greek words for father-ruler, but country-ruler [in broad and religious senses] … patria as fatherland or motherland, meaning simply a sizeable territory.)

On the site of the University of Michigan’s newspaper.  It’s just a few minutes, but includes BEAUTIFUL Russian choral music (in Church Slavonic, I presume), as well as service excerpts, and a few words from a priest about ‘Christmas in January.’  (Crank the volume, because it’s really low on the video.)

I just learned of the demise last year of the Milan Synod’s St. Hilarion Monastery in Texas, and of their website, odox.net.  This group was not in communion with the Orthodox Church, but the Wayback Machine seems to have stored at least their images of Western Saints icons, which I have always found edifying.

Strong Safety Troy Polamalu spoke with Yahoo Sports last fall about life, the universe, and everything, including his faith, Orthodoxy, which seems very important to him since converting a few years ago.  They even named their son, born this October, Paisios!  (If the Yahoo link breaks, you might find the interview here, or here [That’s right, use for a search term the most unlikely phrase in the copy!].)

Like Polamalu, I can attest the helpfulness of having weekday Liturgies available.  He and his wife are in the habit of going every Tuesday to a Greek Orthodox women’s monastery – Nativity of the Theotokos – an hour north of Pittsburgh; and sometimes my health permits me to attend during the week at St. Tikhon’s Monastery 3 hours north of Philly (five, the way I travel).

Last year I found a brief discussion of how it could’ve gone if Norse Orthodox visitors and settlers here from the 10th to 15th centuries, and rumored Irish Orthodox monk-visitors, had evangelized (more?).  A few years ago I saw this somewhat more detailed discussion of the history from Fr. Andrew Phillips of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), in Britain.  Eye-opening, perspective-improving stuff!

Also a remark in the paragraph immediately above this anchor tag, suggests how slowly some who maybe could have some idea of the matter, thought it could’ve taken for Church change – such as the West’s decline from o/Orthodoxy – to reach Old North American Norse:

Not knowing whether the old Norse civilization remained in Greenland or not—and worried that if it did, it would still be Catholic 200 years after the Scandinavian homelands had experienced the Reformation—a joint merchant-clerical expedition led by the Norwegian missionary Hans Egede was sent to Greenland in 1721. Though this expedition found no surviving Europeans, it marked the beginning of Denmark’s assertion of sovereignty over the island….  {Emphasis added.}

This was after the Medieval Warm Period in the Upper North Atlantic had yielded to the “Little Ice Age,” making communication between Greenland and Scandinavia extremely difficult.

New OCA Primate ex-Episcopalian; Serbia Patriarch staying on; new Mexican ruling hierarch

On the 1st of this month Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen) from California was consecrated Titular Bishop of Ft. Worth, Texas, and Auxiliary Bishop in the OCA’s Diocese of Dallas and the South — probably the newest Bishop in the entire Orthodox Church.  Yesterday (Wed.) he was elected Primate of the OCA, quite possibly the first convert Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate in Orthodoxy in over a thousand years, succeeding Metropolitan HERMAN, who retired for health reasons in September.  Some say clergy and laity taking part in the OCA’s 15th All-American* Council in Pittsburgh, PA, this week, were really impressed when Bishop JONAH presented theological as well as frank responses, at the Synod’s request, to some poignant questions raised regarding the financial scandal of the last few years – the main topic of the Council apart from the primatial election – attracting several standing ovations.  (I’ve never heard him speak before, but after listening to a couple other excerpts of him, and hearing in this brief Ancient Faith Radio interview that he got only about 5 minutes to prepare his remarks, and that things were getting a bit unruly in the hall just prior, I think it’s reasonable to think he was just nervous and/or maybe a little emotional.)  His banquet speech after being elected is moving.  (I wonder if he slept, or was up all night pondering it, and everything else!!)  If you want to hear his sermon right before the election, use this audio MP3 link (availing yourself of the opportunity to use your own, more flexible, software), and advance to about 41 minutes in; the sermon is about 11 minutes long.  (The whole Liturgy is about 2 hours [“…Blackwood!’].  NB: The Scripture Readings used, Metropolitan JONAH says, were those of the day, and not specially chosen for the occasion of the Council or the Election.  Through the Fathers of the Church who composed the Orthodox Lectionary, the Lord moves in mysterious ways!)

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the local newspaper of record, provides their version of coverage (although at 62, Archbishop JOB of Chicago is hardly “elderly”!!!  Though DMITRI of Dallas, who’s 85 and has been trying for a few years to get an Auxiliary, certainly qualifies, and not as a put-down: his place in history starts with the Warren Commission investigation, in 1964, of the JFK assassination, since he was ministering to Russians and others in Dallas and vicinity, with whom Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife might have interacted.).  This link includes details about the election procedure.  Briefly, the clergy and lay parish representatives nominate candidates, and the Synod elects them, or if one receives two-thirds support from the clergy and laity, may only reject him with stated reasons why.  A Provincial (or Patriarchal) Synod prerogative or requirement to confirm the election and translation of Bishops was established I believe around the middle of the first Christian millennium.  Later lower clergy and laity corporately – not counting Orthodox (or Muslim) Monarchs – mostly lost the right to nominate or elect Bishops, but the Moscow Council of 1917-18 attempted to re-establish it there in some form.  Although the Patriarchate was prevented from going forward with this plan by Bolshevik rule, those in North America followed through with it; also owing to their early developmental stage, and the importance lower clergy and laity had in swelling the size and structures of the North American Diocese (‘proto-OCA’) with the conversions and immigration from the late 1800s.  (It should be noted that in the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, the Patriarch of Constantinople was chosen by a “mixed council” of Bishops and laity, though this council was abolished after the fall of the empire.  Also, I believe I have read that the actual Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem includes some lower clergy, who participate in Patriarchal elections.  And in Romania, as we recently saw, lay reps also take part.)  God Grant Metropolitan JONAH Many Years!

I’ve been busy with politics the last few weeks, so I didn’t know Patriarch PAUL of Serbia (Serbian PAVLE) asked to retire on account of physical disability.  But his Assembly of Bishops has just gotten him to agree to stay on.  I believe he’s been ailing for quite some time.

At the time I did note the election of the OCA’s Bishop ALEJO (Pacheco-Vera) of Mexico City to be Ruling Hierarch there, but didn’t make it over here to post it.  Fascinating story here.  In 1972 now-Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas was instrumental in bringing into the canonical Orthodox Church (a contingent from?) the Mexican National Catholic Church — an “independent Catholic” group that IIUC has been the source of Westernly-“valid” episcopal consecrations for many independent, uncanonical, or vagante groups — and as the OCA news brief notes, adding their bishop, JOSE (Cortes y Olmos), to the Holy Synod after Orthodox consecration.  (JOSE was even a Rome-trained canon lawyer before joining the MNCC.)  In fact 2008 is the 25th anniversary of JOSE’s 1983 repose.  (Memory Eternal!)  The MNCC’s discovery of Orthodoxy foreshadowed that of the Evangelical Orthodox who in ’87 were received into the Antiochian Archdiocese en masse after study:

The new bishop and his clergy became gradually convinced, through study and reflection, that the Old Catholic ecclesiological principles did not conform to the criteria of the One, True, Catholic Church. They came to identify with Orthodox Holy Tradition, and adopted the designation “Orthodox” – Iglesia Ortodoxa Catolica en Mexicao (Orthodox {Catholic} Church in Mexico).

Or put more chronologically, the EOs’ conversion echoed the Mexicans’.  Now, ALEJO was considered ‘only’ Titular Bishop of Mexico City before last month, serving as Auxiliary Bishop and Administrator for the Exarchate of Mexico under Abp DMITRI and/or Metropolitan HERMAN.  As Ruling Hierarch he now becomes actual Bishop of Mexico City.  And why “Exarchate”?: I believe the OCA doesn’t consider Mexico part of its ‘proper’ canonical territory … only the U.S. and Canada, as reflected in its Autocephaly documents.  IIUC they call Mexico an exarchate in the sense that it is a ‘jurisdiction-outside,’ the literal meaning of exarchate from the Greek, and akin to what they often call the exarchates of other Patriarchates here in the Western world outside their canonical territories as commonly understood.  I know of Greek, Antiochian, Moscow Patriarchal, and Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) institutions also in Mexico; I’m not sure if there are others there.  And while Orthodoxy doesn’t encourage us non-Bishops to play Canon Lawyer at home, ISTM functioning outside your canonical territory is considered OK if it isn’t anybody else’s canonical territory, “according to the ancient Fathers” as I believe it says somewhere, probably in the spirit of evangelizing new lands sooner or later — think of it as ecclesiastical Common Law perhaps … though preferably there’d only be one jurisdiction in each place embracing all Orthodox of all languages and cultures and identities, etc….  Anyway, Many Years to Bishop ALEJO of Mexico City!

(*–The expression “All-American” here isn’t necessarily meant to evoke patriotism or non-ethnicity, simply that it covers all of “America” in the East European [not Latin American] sense of all North America, including Canada.  [So technically it wasn’t ironic to have the previous All-American Council in Toronto.]  The precedent comes from the OCA’s mother Church of Russia, which has “All-Russian” councils; in fact, there are many “all-Russian” things, even non-religious, and this habit even survived during Communism, when instead they were “all-Union” as in Soviet Union-wide.  Similarly, the biggest gatherings of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [ROCOR] are “All-Diaspora” Councils.  ISTM possible this usage came from the Greeks, who even today have numerous “Pan-Hellenic” entities and organizations, pan being Greek for all.  The same for the OCA Primate’s title, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, parallelled by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus … which is similar but not the same as “Tsar of All the Russias,” where historically you had Great Russia, Little Russia, White Russia, etc., hence, “All the Russias.”  Unless this is simply a translation issue, where I’m sure I’ll welcome correction!)

The sociologist and novelist, not the boxer … though he’s always been a fighter too!  Over the weekend his coat got caught in a taxi door in the Chicago area and he was dragged a bit, suffering a skull fracture.  (I’m sure he’s wondered since then if coats should be made of such strong stuff!)  He’s critical-but-stable in a Lutheran hospital’s surgical ICU.

His fiction as well as nonfiction have helped me learn about my Irish and Catholic background(s) in ways my working-class status couldn’t otherwise afford — no bagpipes or jigging growing up, no trips to The Old Country….  If anyone stood a chance of keeping me in the Catholic Church, it would’ve been he.  As I was returning to it in ’98 after 7 years among the Quakers and Mennonites, I asked him in an email, “What if I don’t agree with everything the Pope says?”  He responded, “Who does?”

Intriguingly, in recent years the religious resurrection of formerly-Communist Eastern Europe caught his attention as a sociologist of religion, and formed the backdrop of at least two of his novels — The Bishop Goes to THE University, about the apparent locked-room murder of a Russian monk at the U. of Chicago (it’s always apparent, isn’t it?!); and the stellar Star Bright!: A Christmas Story, which latter you must buy and read — meditatively — before the Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, especially if you’re American, Irish, and/or of Catholic background!  Fr. Greeley’s information about Orthodoxy isn’t perfect, but passable.  Star Bright! is not a murder mystery, but one of the blossoming romance between a Chicagoan Irish Catholic college Russian Studies major and an artist and art history major from Russia, a mystical young lady raised there without religion in the final years of Communist rule, who embraced Orthodoxy as a teen, ie, just a few years prior.  I imagine she’s a stand-in for her entire country / church, though sadly, an American Russian Studies major certainly isn’t, for our country, yet.  Atypically for Greeley, although the girl is “luminous,” the boy is not described as great-looking, which he pointed out to me when I chided him once for making most of his good characters good-looking and his evil characters ugly.  Also, this novel contains almost no sexual material — just one mild, and as always sincere, grope above the waistline, IIRC, as well as evocative allusions to an alleged tradition of “Christmas love,” around which the novel turns.  No violence, but some US Irish Catholic family holiday conflict; as one character complains, “It’s too bad Christ had to be born at Christmas!”  IMHO a true Western-style spiritual classic, though of a lay, not clerical / Religious, orientation … and an acceptable little dip into Russian / Orthodox faith too.  The pair even visit a traveling exhibit of Alaskan and Siberian Orthodox artifacts, complete with references to Saints Herman and Innocent of Alaska, serenaded by a recording of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary choir: I believe this is the coffee-table book based on the actual exhibition, put together for the 200th anniversary of the 1794 Valaam Monastery (Russia) mission to Native Alaska that formally brought Orthodoxy to the Americas to stay.

As for The Bishop Goes to THE University (a Blackie Ryan mystery), my most memorable line comes from Bishop Blackie’s boss, Sean Cardinal Cronin of Chicago, after attending the monk’s lengthy funeral liturgy (probably liturgies): “Three hours, Blackwood!”  His Eminence was not amused!

O Holy Father, heavenly Physician of our souls and bodies, Who hast sent Thine only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to heal all our ailments and deliver us from death, do Thou visit and heal Thy servant, Father Andrew, granting him release from pain and restoration to health and vigor, that he may give thanks unto Thee and bless Thy holy Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.  Amen.  (From the service of the Orthodox Mystery of Anointing.)

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.

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.

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