Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Crimean church begins construction... under water

(Moscow Times) - Divers in Crimea began construction of an underwater Russian Orthodox church, placing a giant cross at the bottom of the Black Sea, Crimean news service Krym.Realii reported Wednesday.

The 3-meter cross, styled as a ship anchor, will become the “initial structure, around which the world's first underwater temple will be built, which will bear the name of St. Nicholas — sailors' patron saint,” a spokesperson for the Russian Orthodox Church in Crimea was quoted by Krym.Realii as saying.

The cross was placed at a depth of 20 meters approximately 100 meters off the coast of Cape Fiolent, the report said.

Construction is sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Kremlin-linked nationalistic biker gang, the Night Wolves, the report said.

Orthodox Church leaders in Crimea hope the underwater temple will draw tourists to the peninsula, the spokesman was quoted by Krym.Realii as saying. The Russian government has been trying to promote Crimean tourism, following last year's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.

No date for construction completion has been set, as the timing “will depend on many factors,” the spokesman was quoted by Krym.Realii as saying.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

VOA: Saving Russian Religious Music Traditions

(VOA) - Many religions use music to help communicate their message.

What you are listening to is a choral work performed in the Russian Orthodox Church. This kind of singing is different from other religious traditions. And it is this kind of singing that a U.S.-based choir hopes to keep alive.

The group recently went to Russia for training in what is known as the Slavonic tradition of music.

All 35 members of this choir are Russian and citizens of the United States. The group sang during religious services in Moscow. The choir’s leadership said they want to protect this musical tradition.

In North America, the Russian Orthodox Church has about 2,500 churches and monasteries, which are properties for religious workers.

Music is an important part of the Orthodox religious experience. The choir’s website states that Orthodox Christian worship in public “cannot take place without singing. In the Russian Orthodox Church,” it says, “a glorious tradition of church singing dates back at least a thousand years.”

The group says it is interested in building better relations between Russians and Americans at a time of tension over Ukraine. And they see music as a way of doing that.

Vladimir Gorbik is the head of the choir. He says his group is about religion, not politics. But western media often note close ties between Russia’s Orthodox Church and the Russian government.

Alexei Malashenko is with the Carnegie Moscow Center. The center is part of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Malashenko talks about the connection between politics and religion in Russia. He says President Vladimir Putin uses the Orthodox Church to support his secular goals.

"Russian Orthodox Church is used by Putin, by president, as a tool for mobilization of the population, of Orthodox population, in order to support what power, secular power, is doing now."

The Russian Orthodox Church in the United States shares religious values with the Orthodox Church in Russia. But the U.S. church operates independently from the Russian church.

Alex Lukianov is with the musical institute. He explains that in Russia, the government and religion have always been connected, or as he says, intertwined. But he adds changes within the government have not kept up with changes in the church.

"The government and the church have always been closely intertwined in Russia. The government's changed more so than the church has. You know, I think there are some things that have caused tension as a result of that."

But it is not all politics for the church leadership in Russia.

Mr. Lukianov says the church in Russia is also doing a lot of good things, such as building and fixing churches and monasteries.

With the help of the Russians, the choir hopes to bring a group of Russian Orthodox Americans to Moscow every year to keep up the singing tradition.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Talk on Christianity and Islam to be given in Wisconsin

Monday, September 28, 2015

Holy Martyrs of Libya, pray unto God for us!

(Malankara-Northeast) - Holy Martyrs of Libya, pray unto God for us!

Let us continue to pray for all our brothers and sisters al over the world, who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. May their prayers preserve us, and may their example inspire us in our faith!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Canon Law conference held in Thessaloniki

(HTS) - SLEC Conferences are held every two years and focus on a selected topic. From September 10-15, 2015, I took part in the twenty-second congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches, held in Thessaloniki. The theme of this conference was oikonomia (in Byzantine canon law this term means "wise implementation of strategies designed to assure salvation"). The theme of this year's congress was especially relevant to my recent research. I recently published an article titled The 19th Canonical Answer of Timothy of Alexandria: On the History of Sacramental Oikonomia" in St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 51 (February 3, 2007). At SLEC conferences, papers are presented at the invitation of the Board of the Society, which at this time is headed by Bishop Kyrillos (Katerelos) of Abydos (Ecumenical Patriarchate).

In the course of the four-day event, participants from 15 countries read 27 papers covering terminology, church teaching, and specific areas of application, such as the relations of episcopate and monastic houses, and Orthodox relations with non-Orthodox. In 2013, I was invited to present a paper at the conference in Bari, Italy on the current laws of the Russian Church, which has since been published in Kanon, the journal of the SLEC.

The conference presents a unique opportunity for participants to meet leading Orthodox canonists and to get first-hand updates on a wide spectrum of issues relating to canon law. For instance, at the 2011 conference, in Athens, I became acquainted with the Finnish canonist Jelisei Heikkila, who later visited Jordanville and held a seminar for our students on the discussions about divorce during the All-Russia Local Council (1917-1918).

Every seminarian has a copy of this book. 
As a regular participant of this conference my knowledge of the subject matter grows and I am able to not just represent the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia but also Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary. On a daily basis, I am able to explain to my students the current canon law issues of the day and the various responses of other scholars. An example of a canon law discussion I have had in canon law class can be found here.

I would like to thank the anonymous donor and the Fellowship of Sts. Alban and Sergius for their donations, without which my participation in the SLEC conference would not have been possible.

Deacon Andrei Psarev

Fr. Andrei Psarev received his B.Th from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, M.Th. from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at Queen's University in Belfast, Ireland. He is currently the professor of Russian history, Russian Church History, Byzantine History, and Canon Law at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Treasures of the Fathers of the Church: a new Marian text
(LA Copts) - With great joy and enthusiasm, we present to you The Holy Theotokos, part of the Treasures of the Fathers of the Church series. This book contains excerpts from patristic writings related to the Holy Virgin Mary. In addition, the book features several theological articles related to the place and faith of the Holy Theotokos in the Orthodox Church.

​~ From Preface by His Grace Bishop Serapion ​

​O​ people of Christ, let us acclaim her today in sacred song, acknowledge our own good fortune and proclaim it. Let us honor her in nocturnal vigil; let us delight in her purity of soul and body, for she, next to God, surpasses all in purity. It is natural for similar things to glory in each other. Let us show our love for her by compassion and kindness towards the poor. For if mercy is the best worship of God, who will refuse to show His Mother devotion in the same way? She opened to us the unspeakable abyss of God’s love for us. Through her the old enmity against the Creator is destroyed. Through her our reconciliation with Him is strengthened, peace and grace are given to us, men are the companions of angels, and we, who were in dishonor, are made the children of God. From her we have plucked the fruit of life. From her we have received the seed of immortality. She is the channel of all our goods. In her God was man and man was God. What more is marvelous or more blessed? I approach the subject in fear and trembling. With Mary, the prophetess, O youthful souls, let us sound our musical instruments, mortifying our members on earth, for this is spiritual music. Let our souls rejoice in the Ark of God, and the walls of Jericho will yield, I mean the fortresses of the enemy. Let us dance in spirit with David; today the Ark of God is at rest.

~ St. John of Damascus

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The ethnocentric Church of today

From the blog Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, the below excerpt from a post entitled "A new ecclesiology for the Orthodox Church?" by Seraphim Danckaert. I'd call this essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand how ethnicity is still king in many parts of the Orthodox world.

Orthodox Christians often find themselves answering the following question: why is Orthodoxy divided along ethnic lines into different churches?

At least officially, the answer to that question has been quite clear: we are not divided; we are one Church, united in faith and worship, with an administrative structure that organizes itself along local lines, in accordance with the ancient traditions and canon law of the first millennium of Christian history.

In recent years, however, there’s been a problem: while the answer given above is true in theory, it’s often not implemented in practice.

Starting in the late 19th century, and in increasing numbers after the World Wars, millions of Orthodox Christians began to emigrate from their ancestral homelands to Western Europe, the Americas, and Australia. Instead of organizing churches in these new lands in accordance with the canonical and theological principle that there be only one bishop in each locale, a web of overlapping Orthodox “jurisdictions” developed. As a result, parish churches in some of the larger American cities are under the authority of eight or more different bishops: the Greek parishes under a Greek bishop; the Serbians under a Serb; the Russians under a Russian, etc.

Some were happy with this arrangement, some saw it as a necessary pastoral accommodation to the realities of an unprecedented emigration, and some were dissatisfied for theological and practical reasons. But everyone agreed that the situation was a temporary aberration, a departure from apostolic church order, and at odds with the Orthodox theological tradition.

Starting in the early 60s, as immigrants became more assimilated, a number of prominent bishops and theologians began to speak and write with passion about the need to conform our modern-day polity to our traditional theology. A relatively broad sense of enthusiasm for “Pan-Orthodox” cooperation and unity emerged. Various institutions and organizations appeared, working across jurisdictional lines on local, regional, national, and even international levels. A series of Pan-Orthodox Conferences took place in Rhodes, where bishops and other official representatives of canonical Orthodox churches from around the world met to discuss common concerns.

By 1968, a plan to hold a “Great and Holy Council” had emerged, and, by 1976, an agenda of ten items had crystallized, including the question of how to organize the administration of the Church in the “diaspora.” Meetings and preparations for a worldwide council of bishops continued with relative enthusiasm through the late 80s.

Then, in 1989, the Iron Curtain fell and another massive emigration began. In the last 26 years, millions of Eastern Europeans have left their homelands for economic opportunities elsewhere. From Bulgaria alone — a country whose total population is only 7 million — an estimated 3 million people have emigrated to Western Europe and beyond. The emigration of Orthodox Christians from their traditional homelands shows little sign of ending soon. In fact, it’s spreading, as a solid minority of the refugees and migrants who are currently leaving the Middle East are Orthodox.

Despite these demographic shifts and an emerging impasse in the attempt to find a common vision for Orthodox polity, plans to hold a “Great and Holy Council” never dissipated entirely. Some progress occurred in the early 90s, and, more recently, a flurry of activity has taken place since 2008.

Within the context of these preparatory deliberations, every Orthodox Church around the world formulated an official position on various topics, including the governance of the Church in places like America and Australia.

In the course of these deliberations, a stark theological division has emerged. Years ago, almost everyone agreed that the status quo of overlapping jurisdictions in the diaspora was a clear violation of Orthodox canon law and a departure from the apostolic tradition of church order. In recent years, however, some of the largest Orthodox churches have started to argue that the status quo accords with the Orthodox understanding of the Church. A change of this magnitude has required these Orthodox churches to re-think the way in which they explain the governance of the Church and, in some cases, modify theological principles.

The emerging majority opinion is not merely that administrative division in the diaspora allows for the maintenance of distinctive liturgical, theological, and spiritual traditions (and is therefore a pastoral benefit to the Church), but that the division itself is either (1) not actually a departure from apostolic church order and canon law, or (2) only a violation in a technical sense, and not a serious concern, as various present-day sources of authority (e.g. statutes passed by a national church’s synod of bishops) are of equal or greater authority to the canons promulgated by the Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium of Christian history...
Complete article here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Behind the Monastery Walls

( - The monastery is the sacred home of God, but also home to the nuns and monks who have dedicated their lives to God. Romania’s monasteries are known worldwide for their magnificent beauty, but what do we know about the people that live there? How different is the life they lead? How different is the way they see the world?

Behind the Monastery Walls presents a selection of intimate and inspiring interviews in which nuns and monks in Romanian monasteries lay bare their thoughts and real beliefs.

Behind the Monastery Walls is one Orthodox Christian's graduation film from the BA in Media Production program at Coventry University. Having received a scholarship from the Peter Kirk Memorial Fund supported by the European Parliament he produced 2 short documentaries which talks about monastic life in Romania (Behind the Monastery Walls) and in England (Sisters in Love).

Basil and the Elevation of the Cross

(OCN) - When I was a child, I would frequently visit my grandmother (Yiayia) and grandfather (Papou) who lived in a small town east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They had a large yard with a view of the Monongahela River. The climate created the perfect conditions to grow a beautiful garden every summer.

My papou grew tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers, from what I remember. He also planted a few large basil plants, or “Vasiliko” (Greek), every year. My yiayia loved basil. She would frequently pick a stem and smell it, over and over, sometimes finally placing it to rest behind her earlobe. I imagine she found the scent comforting, as if it reminded her of her homeland in Chios, Greece. I have strong memories of my yiayia and her love of basil.

For the past several years, I have planted a small basil plant at the start of summer. I place it near my house so I can tend to it easily. If it does not rain on a given day, I give it a good drink of water. I trim the stems to help it grow large. My husband is a beekeeper, and his bees are attracted to the white flowers that bloom at the top of the stems. This summer, I gave both my daughter and son their own basil plant to grow. It feels like an act of faith for me to tend to my basil.

When September 14 draws near, I say a prayer and remove many stems from my basil plant. I place them in a container filled with water and transport it to my church. Presbytera places the stems around the icons, or Father gives basil to the parishioners at the end of service.

I was curious to find out what was the true significance of basil in this holiday of September 14. I researched and found that the Empress Helene discovered the Cross in 326 A.D. in the place where Jesus had been crucified. At that same place was the flowering basil plant, which she named “Vasiliko”, meaning “of the King.” This is what ties basil to the Elevation of the Cross, the holiday we celebrate on September 14.

The story also goes that when the Empress Helene looked under the basil, there were two other crosses as well. Those crosses were used in the crucifixion of the two thieves on either side of Christ. The Empress needed to figure out which cross was the true Cross of Christ. In order to do this, a sick woman was brought to kiss each of the three crosses. When she kissed the True Cross, she was made well immediately.

Now when you see fresh basil, remember this story and its significance to the Elevation of the Cross. This has given even more meaning to my task of planting and nurturing my yearly basil. Thank you, Yiayia, for demonstrating to me at an early age your love for this beautiful and blessed plant.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Orthodox unity in America now in extreme jeopardy

The below is a huge blow to the idea of a united, canonical Orthodox Church in America. When ROCOR declared that they didn't want to be a part of the Chambésy process (see here) because they believed that their faithful needed strong Russian (or at least Slavic patrimony) oversight the popular reaction was "Oh, those crazy Russians and their extremism. Too bad for them that they'll be shunted to the hinterlands of American Orthodoxy just like the pre-reunion Old Days™." People thought we'd move on without them and maybe eventually they'd come back to the table.

The below declaration from the Antiochian Archdiocese, on the other hand, is a complete surprise to everyone I have spoken to.

Today we see that Antioch has made a similar declaration and a table set for the whole family is now half empty. "Why?" you might ask. The answer seems to be a combination of factors. First, and some would say foremost, is the amazing lack of primus inter pares-like action from the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the matter of Jerusalem's incursion into Qatar. Antioch was exceedingly clear on her dismay at the Orthodox world's lack of action on this topic and Constantinople's unwillingness to lead the charge for a correction to this territorial violation. Antioch responded by breaking communion with Jerusalem and the patriarchates of the world were silent.

Second, the Middle East is in a state of chaos not seen since Mohammedan scimitars cut a swath across the known world. We know that the so-called "Arab Spring" combined with ham-handed American interference has proved disastrous to the lives of our people in the Levant. A tie to the money, influence, and stability of her American parishes is a lifeline for a patriarchate seeing her people driven out of their homes when not sold into slavery or killed outright.

Third, there seems to be some reluctance to be under the "subjugation or domination of any." The Internet is rife with people decrying the perceived hegemony of the Greek Archdiocese in this Assembly of Bishops unification process. This does not now seem to be isolated to the vocal cyber-laity. This is apparently a very real impediment.

What the below appears to be saying is that the Antiochian Archdiocese is all for getting together and talking as "a voluntary Assembly" that can speak together with the other jurisdictions on topics and iron out difficulties. She simply doesn't want this body to cut the ties of Antioch with her parishes in the New World. That transformation into a single body is exactly what is supposed to happen and without fidelity to this charter, the process is essentially dead.

This doesn't mean things won't improve in the lives of Orthodox in America. If everyone is on the same page about in vitro, divorces, baptisms, crownings, clergy incardinations, excommunications, etc. we'll at least look like a single Church even if we continue on as a loose coalition. We seem to be happy under the equivalent of the Articles of Confederation with no Constitutional integration in sight.

For the many, many faithful hopeful for an Orthodox Church in America this is a very sad day.

( - Statement of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States Regarding the Draft Proposal of the Committee on Canonical Regional Planning

Presented at the Meeting of the Assembly of Bishops Convened in Chicago, IL

September 15-17, 2015

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has always prayed for and been committed to unity and cooperation of all of the Orthodox Christians in North America. The unity that we seek is true Orthodox unity based on mutual respect, love and cooperation with all of the Orthodox in America without subjugation or domination of any. Unity must allow for the continued work and support of each of the jurisdictions for their people and continued unity with the respective mother churches.

There is no doubt that the Christian Fellowship and work of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America as well as that of the Assembly of Bishops has been very valuable. We have come to know each other and have discovered how we can even better cooperate and support each other. We can enhance the ministries of each other as well as promulgate corporate ministries. Our relationships provide even more effective ministries. We are grateful for the candid and honest exchanges of the bishops at the meetings. We are committed to continuing this process of building up our relationships and working together in every area possible.

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America continues to be committed to the unity of the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Antiochian Patriarchate. The Church of Antioch, even while under persecution, stands firm as a witness to the incarnation of Christ and the history of the Savior in this world. By maintaining our unity with Antioch we provide a subtle witness to the world that Jesus Christ is the incarnate God who lived in the Holy Lands among us and is one with us.

Each of our bishops at our first confession of faith committed “myself to the preservation of the peace of the Church and …(to) obey and follow the directives of His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; and (to) uphold and protect the honor of the Patriarch of Antioch all the days of my life.” The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch and her Patriarch JOHN X remains committed to the unity of the Patriarchate with all of Antiochian faithful wherever they are. The Antiochian Metropolitan and bishops of North America remain committed to our consecration pledge.

We suggest that the Assembly of Bishops in the United States work as a voluntary Assembly of all the Canonical Bishops in the United States to accomplish the mission of the Assembly as articulated in the founding documents: “The mission of the Bishops’ Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry of the Orthodox faithful of the region, as well as their common witness to the world.” We also agree that decisions should be made on the basis of the principle of unanimity of the Orthodox which are represented therein by bishops. In order to show filial love and respect, we would like all of the officers to be elected by the local assembly and to sit by order of the diptychs. We encourage the bishops in each geographical area to meet regularly and cooperate in ministry. We also support the continued work with inter-jurisdictional agencies and Orthodox theological groups. In this day of easy travel and communication, bishops can effectively serve their parishes in America without restructuring present geographical boundaries. Our churches are not yet homogeneous and there are jurisdictional needs within our parishes.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Any questions?

Met. Kallistos to meet with Orthodox, Anglican leaders

(Buffalo News) - Nearly 30 religious leaders from around the world are in Buffalo for an annual meeting to discuss ecumenical relations between the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church.

It marks the first time the International Commission for the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue is being held in the United States.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Buffalo at 146 West Utica St. is hosting the weeklong event, which begin Saturday and runs through Friday.

The dialogue includes delegates from 14 Orthodox churches and 14 Anglican churches or organizations in Canada, England, Australia, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Greece, Scotland, Ireland, Philippines and Sri Lanka. The Orthodox Church has about 250 million followers worldwide, while the Anglican Church Communion has about 77 million members.

The Rev. Metropolitan Diokleia Kallistos Ware, an Orthodox bishop in England, is chairman of the dialogue, while the Rev. Christos B. Christakis, parish priest at Annunciation, serves as secretary, a post he’s held since 1994.

“It’s a great honor to have world leaders meet in Buffalo,” Christakis said. “More importantly, the relationship building is paramount to reinforcing similar goals within Christianity.”

The dialogue takes place each year, alternating between an Anglican and an Orthodox location. It was held in 2014 at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem. The dialogue between the two traditions first began in 1973. The International Commission was created in 1989, and previous discussions have explored the question of who may be ordained and doctrine related to the Trinity.

Ware wrote “The Orthodox Church,” one of the world’s best-selling English language books about Eastern Orthodoxy. He is presenting a series of lectures that are free and open to the public, including at 9 a.m. Saturday in Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church; at 5 p.m. Friday in the Millard Fillmore Academic Complex, Room 320 on the University at Buffalo North Campus; and at 10 a.m. Sept. 26 in Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.

House votes that murdering children is murder

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The House has passed a pro-life bill that makes it a first-degree murder for abortionists to kill children born alive through botched abortions.

In a nearly party-line vote of 248-177, with one Member voting "Present," the House passed H.R. 3504, the "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act." The bill was introduced and debated in light of the Center for Medical Progress' videos that indicate Planned Parenthood clinics may be killing babies post-birth. Can you imagine voting against this?

The bill makes killing a baby born from a botched abortion first-degree murder, and requires reporting of violations of the law. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, and Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Trent Franks, R-AZ, said in a statement that "this legislation sends a strong message to those who are in the horrific business of abortions that there are real consequences for those who would kill or abandon children after they are outside a mother’s womb."

The statement called the bill "a somber reminder of the horrors of abortion" and of the actions of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell.

The bill was one of two pro-life bills passed by the House today. The other was H.R. 3134, the "Defund Planned Parenthood Act," which eliminates federal funding for abortion for one year and transfers $235 million to Federally Qualified Health Centers -- which do not conduct abortions.

Episcopal Assembly closes Chicago meeting

(AOB) - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America concluded its sixth annual meeting on Thursday, September 17 in Chicago.

The Assembly issued a message to the faithful, which can be read here (PDF). Reposted below.

In other business, the Legal Affairs Committee presented a five-step plan to the Assembly for consideration. The hierarchs unanimously authorized the committee to commence with the first three steps of the plan, in which the committee will assess, gather and analyze the relevant legal documents of the Assembly's various jurisdictions. The hierarchs also approved the 2016 budget. Before adjourning, the hierarchs chanted the Apolytikion of Pentecost in six languages.

Assembly VII is tentatively planned for early October 2016. Documents pertaining to Assembly VI, including the minutes, 2016 budget and committee reports, will be forthcoming on the Assembly's website.

St. Basil on the poor

Who has the best blog supplying daily quotes? Dover Beach in my opinion.
“What keeps you, now, from giving? Isn’t the poor man there? Aren’t your own warehouses full? Isn’t the reward promised? The command is clear. The hungry man is dying now, the naked man is freezing now, the man in debt is beaten now – and you want to wait till tomorrow?

“I’m not doing any harm,” you say, “I just want to keep what I own, that’s all.”

Which things, tell me, are yours? Whence have you brought them into being? You are like someone who sits down in a theater, and would prohibit everyone else from entering, saying that what is there for everyone to enjoy is for himself alone.”

– St. Basil the Great