Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Good Samaritan: A Children's Catechism

This book is over a hundred pages. You might think from the cover that this is some booklet or short title, but there is a lot here. Thirteen chapters of material with illustrations throughout. And those illustrations are quite approachable for children. They aren't photos clipped to fit the text, they were made specifically for this book and it shows.

The summary below puts this book to use in a number of places, but to me this book is ideal for the person told to run a church school program who has no idea where to start. With minimal preparation a new church school teacher could have a class ready to go. It would be an easy thing to print out some supporting material and look like you know what you are doing. They also mention homeschooling uses. This would certainly work for a parent who needs some prompts or for a child who is reticent or reluctant to listen to mom talk about "Church stuff." Plan out how much you want to do a week, post-it note stopping points, and you're off!

I recommend this book without reservation.

(Ancient Faith Store) - "The Good Samaritan: A Children's Catechism" by Fr Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara.

The Good Samaritan is a first-of-its-kind catechism written specifically for young people (ages 6-12) to communicate the unchanging truths of the Orthodox Faith in the most accessible and engaging way. This beautifully illustrated, hard cover book (100+ pages) catechism follows the patristic model of sin as illness, Christ as the Medicine and the Church as the Hospital for the healing of the soul.

The introduction and thirteen interrelated chapters form a perfect kid-friendly catechism for use with priests, Sunday school teachers, and parents. Chapters can be taken in one-at-a-time, as brief lessons or as bedtime story reading. It may also be used as part of a homeschooling curriculum.

In the catechism we are taken from life in Paradise (Lesson 1), through the Fall of Adam (Lesson 2) and the reality of sin (Lesson 3), and into life and redemption through Jesus Christ (Lesson 4). In The Church (Lesson 5) we then encounter Holy Tradition (Lesson 6), the dynamic "river" that runs through the midst of the Church and provides the living water for thirsty souls. The treasure of Holy Tradition then presents the Holy Mysteries of the Priesthood (Lesson 7), the Eucharist (Lesson 8), and Baptism (Lesson 9), along with Repentance and Confession (Lesson 10), all of which are essential for the health and salvation of our souls. Finally, Prayer (Lesson 11), Fasting (Lesson 12) and Almsgiving (Lesson 13) are shown to be the indispensable means of union with God and as life-giving manifestations of faith, hope, and love.

The text brings together Father Michael Shanbour's many years of work and interaction with young people (particularly pre-teen children) as a youth director and priest, for the purpose of sharing the fundamental truths of the Faith as taught and lived out in the Orthodox Christian Church. Nicholas Malara's illustrations and artistic formatting help to bring the teachings to life.

Holy Transfiguration's new Horologion

I needed a new icon, so it was convenient and fortuitous timing that Holy Transfiguration just put out their new two-volume Great Horologion. If you don't know what that is, I'll let Wikipedia come to the rescue:

The Horologion is primarily a book for the use of the Reader and Chanters (as distinguished from the Euchologion, which contains the texts used by the Priest and Deacon). Several varieties of Horologia exist, the most complete of which is the Great Horologion (Greek: Ὡρολόγιον τò μέγα, Horologion to mega; Slavonic: Великий Часословъ, Velikij Chasoslov, Romanian: Ceaslovul Mare). It contains the fixed portions of the Daily Office (Vespers, Compline (Great and Small), Midnight Office, Matins, the Little Hours, the Inter-Hours, Typica, Prayers before Meals). The parts for the Reader and Chanters are given in full, the Priest's and Deacon's parts are abbreviated. The Great Horologion will also contain a list of Saints commemorated throughout the year (with their Troparia and Kontakia), selected propers for Sundays, and moveable Feasts (from the Menaion, Triodion and Pentecostarion), and various Canons and other devotional services. The Great Horologion is most commonly used in Greek-speaking churches.

Really, I think every family should have a copy of either a complete version like this or the reduced versions that you can order inexpensively. St. Tikhon's used to have a very reasonably priced paperback "The Hours and the Typica" for example. 

As a first impression, what I like about these books is that the binding and covers are quite sturdy. They just feel like they're going to hold up for a long time. And for books that are constantly going to get pulled from the kliros pile, that's a must. Conversely, the pre-printed annual orthros books (from another press) that I use every Sunday already have their common first pages falling off the backing. It's still January. I'm not at all worried about that with these texts.

The font is eminently readable and the right size. Church lighting, while you'd think it would be optimized for actually reading what you are looking at, rarely is. Many a church I have served in have "sweet spots" where you can make out the text, with many more locales of murky darkness. Regardless of the lighting, I trust that I won't be hunting for my place while the congregation wonders what is wrong. The illustrations seamlessly match the text and don't feel incongruous at all. All in all, it's a professional product. 

"What about the translation?" you might ask. That's going to take some time for me to review. While one quick read through of the EP's attempt at a unified translation made one howl in pain, I won't be able to speak to the translations here without a few months of use. Expect a follow-up review.

(HTM) - Translated from the Greek by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Revised Second Edition, 2020.

Hard-cover binding. 392 pages, 2-color printing. 7⁠-⁠1/2 x 12 inches.

In church or at home, The Great Horologion is indispensable for the divine services. Printed in black and red throughout in large format for easy reading in church, in the same typeface in the same size printed on the same acid-free Mohawk Vellum paper as the Menaion, Pentecostarion, Octoëchos, and Holy Week.

Part One provides the order of services with complete texts and Lenten variants for the Midnight Service, Matins, the Hours, Vespers, Small and Great Compline.

Part Two contains the Troparia of the Resurrection in the Eight Tones, Troparia for Weekdays, and Theotokia; the Katavasiae for the Seasons of the year; and the Eclogarion, which contains the psalmic selections used for the Polyeleos.

Part Three contains Akathists to our Saviour, the Theotokos and the Cross; Supplicatory Canons to our Saviour, the Theotokos, the Guardian Angel and to the Angels and All Saints; and the Communion Prayers.

Friday, January 15, 2021

OCA gets serious about clergy compensation

One thing that perplexes people is the vast compensation differences between jurisdictions. You have often had the GOA and Antiochians on one side, Serbs and OCA somewhere in the middle, and ROCOR at the other end. So it's interesting to see the OCA apply a Median Family Income-based approach to clergy compensation. But what I found really admirable was this line:

"Whether a parish priest is or is not married, does or does not have children at home, and whether or not the parish priest has a spouse that does or does not work is immaterial in setting the salary for the job of the pastor."

Some parishes try their darnedest to take care of their priest and his family. They take it as a point of personal pride that their priest is able to feed his family, send them to school, pay medical bills, and not worry about things unduly so that he can be freed to be on-call 24 hours a day to shepherd his flock. But many more parishes are looking for a "deal." So it becomes a situation where anything a clergy family may or may not have goes to some imaginary compensation tally. In response the priest and his wife spend much of their time on defense and their children are told not to mention where they are going on vacation or mention a new bicycle or wear jewelry to church. In short, compensation becomes adversarial.

And attempts to ratchet the tenseness of monetary discussions is as often as not harmful to the next priest. If Father Nikolai is able he chooses not to take the housing allowance because he already has a home or he might choose to not have the parish fund his health insurance because it is covered in some other way. Naturally, the funds that should go there go elsewhere. And when the parish finds that the next priest, Father Sergei, requires the complete compensation to diocesan standards, the parish balks. Father Nikolai has done the parish no favors and he has most certainly made Father Sergei's situation in a new parish assignment that much harder. As I once heard recounted from a priest placed in a similar situation when he spoke to a member of the parish council, "You better be worth it." Hardly the footing anyone wants to start his job on.

The OCA has set a standard. Parishes are free to do more than the standard, but there is no confusion here. If you want a priest, you must care for him. If you are unable to do so, you are not a parish. The missions and mission stations of the OCA for so many years are going to take on a different role it looks like. And while jurisdictions will still not find parity with one another for many years to come, I am more inclined to place Metropolia alongside the GOA and Antiochians where a mature approach to clergy compensation is concerned than I ever have before.

(OCA) - The Office of Pastoral Life, chaired by His Grace Bishop Alexis, has released updated Guidelines for Clergy Compensation (PDF). The guidelines cover determinations for the minimum salary of full-time clergy in parishes of the Orthodox Church in America, housing allowance, vacation, and other necessary expenses when determining compensation. These updated guidelines were blessed by the Holy Synod of Bishop at their recent meeting in November of 2020 and replace the previous guidelines from 1995. An additional document outlining the Clergy Housing Equity Salary Program for clergy who live in parish-owned housing is also provided.

Questions regarding the implementation of these guidelines should be directed to the respective Diocesan Chancellor.

The Saints of North America

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Shuffling in Malta, Portugal, Spain, and Italy

(Orthodox Times) - The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarch, met for the three days, from the 12th to the 14th of January 2021, at the Holy Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi in Valoukli, where they ratified the minutes of previous sessions and addressed the issues on the agenda.

On the 14th of January, the Holy Synod, following the suggestion of the Ecumenical Patriarch, proceeded to fulfil the demand of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy, after having previously removed from its jurisdiction Malta, which will henceforth be an Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Metropolitan Polykarpos of Spain and Portugal, who had served for some years as Protosyggellos, was elected the new Shepherd of Italy.

Archimandrite Bissarion Komzias was elected Metropolitan of Spain and Portugal. He will be ordained a bishop at the Phanar on the 25th of January, on the Feast of St. Gregory the Theologian.

Finally, following a proposal made by Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, the Holy Synod elected the Auxiliary Bishop Athanasios of Tropaion Metropolitan of Kolonya (Asia Minor) as a reward for his long service.

In addition, during the sitting of the Holy Synod, the defrocking of the presbyter of Australia, Konstantinos Thermos, and the monk of Mount Athos, Theonas Lavriotos, was lifted and they were restored to priesthood.

Also, the Holy Synod congratulated Archbishop Makarios of Australia who paid tribute to the memory of the late Archbishop Stylianos through the release of the film on his life and work and through the publication of a Tomos dedicated to him.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


"Homeschool Tea" available for moms online

(Antiochian) - Calling all homeschool moms! The Department of Homeschooling​ invites you​​ to a monthly online "Homeschool Tea," hosted by Kh. Kristina Gillquist for encouragement, conversation, and support. 

Topics to be discussed in these one hour sessions will include:

  • Motherly Boldness and Confidence in a World of Heretical Noise
  • Out-of-Eden Syndrome: What happens when we fall short?
  • It's True, We Actually Have Nothing Better to Do
  • And much more!

Register today for these free sessions!  (Donations appreciated)

Youth and Camp Workers Conference coming up

(OYDNA) - You can join virtually Thursday, January 28th and Friday, January 29th for our Annual Youth & Camp Workers Conference! Click here to register.

2021 Conference Speakers

Creation of Beauty: Using Our Talents to Create God-Pleasing Art

Dr. Peter Bouteneff teaches courses in ancient and modern theology and spirituality at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary (SVOTS), where he is professor of Systematic Theology. After taking a degree in music in 1983, he lived and worked in Japan and traveled widely in Asia and Greece. He has an M.Div. from St Vladimir’s Seminary and a doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied under Bishop Kallistos Ware​. He has broad interests in theology and is committed to exploring the connections between theology and culture. He is director of the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir's Seminary, an in-depth endeavor involving concerts, lectures, and publications. As of 2016 he also directs the Seminary's Sacred Arts Initiative. His most recent book, How to Be a Sinner, is an SVS Press bestseller, and Dr. Bouteneff has given dozens of talks and parish retreats on the subject.

True Beauty: Image of Christ or Self-Image?

Khouria Erin Kimmett is a graduate of Wichita State University, where she earned a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. She has designed and produced curriculum materials for the Orthodox Christian Education Commission as well as the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. A trained Byzantine iconographer, Kh. Erin writes icons for Orthodox churches across the country, and owns and manages The Annunciation Press. She also authored Hospitality & Joy, a cookbook about food and faith, cooking and ministering, and filled with "favorite recipes and cherished memories inspired by her grandmother's kitchen." Kh. Erin lives in New England with her husband, the Very Reverend Joseph Kimmett, pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, a small 100-year-old Byzantine church in Norwood, Massachusetts. They have two sons: Nicholas and Zachary.

Consecration of the Senses: Experiencing Beauty

The Very Rev. Dr. Sergius Halvorsen is Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary and director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. He received his MDiv from St. Vladimir’s Seminary 1996 and his doctorate in liturgical studies and homiletics from Drew University in 2002. From 2000 to 2011 he taught at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell Connecticut.  Since 2011 he has taught at St. Vladimir's and his courses include Homiletics, Rhetoric, Christian Education, Orthodox Christian Apologetics and Faith and Science. He is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America and is attached at Christ the Savior Church in Southbury CT. Fr. Sergius is an accomplished liturgical musician, and has contributed to a number of "Archangel Voices" recordings.  He currently lives in New Haven CT with his family.

Seeing Yourself Through the Eyes of the Liturgy

The Rev. Jonathan Bannon grew up in Connecticut where he obtained an Associates degree in Fine Art with a focus in painting and a Bachelors Degree in Art Education K through 12 graduating from Central Connecticut State University. Continuing on to Seminary at Christ the Savior in Johnstown Pennsylvania he received a degree in Theology writing a thesis on Iconography. Father continued to study iconography in the Greek and Russian Russian styles with Marek Czanecki and Theodore Papadopoulos in the Egg Tempera medium and in acrylic at the Liturgical Arts Academy in Atlanta with Fr. Anthony Salzman. He has illustrated a children's book for a Serbian Orthodox publishing company and continues to explore how faith and art can be used to share the Gospel message. Serving a Belarusian founded Orthodox parish in Rockford, IL in the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church he has been asked to give lectures on iconography to Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Orthodox groups. Married to high school physics teacher Marianna Ruggerio they have two boys, a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old.

Collateral Damage of 2020 on Children

Presbytera Dr. Roxanne Louh, a native of Gainesville, is a licensed clinical psychologist in Jacksonville, Florida, where she uses her extensive training in private practice. She is in great demand both as a therapist and as a speaker with expertise in a variety of concerns, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, marriage and parenting issues, and eating disorders.

Best Practices for Difficult Conversations

Fr. Martin Johnson, Jr. converted to Eastern Orthodoxy after completing his service in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps, was ordained to the Holy Diaconate in 2018, and began serving at St. Anthony Antiochian Orthodox Church in Butler, PA shortly thereafter. In 2020 he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood and became the rector of the same parish. He is the Chief Operating Officer of the Neighborhood Resilience Projects located in Pittsburgh, a Senior Consultant for Federal Occupational Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, and works as an Executive Coach for the Department of Homeland Security. He has extensive experience in public speaking, coaching, pastoral care, crisis counseling, and community outreach. Fr. Martin also serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and is the Dean of Formation for the Antiochian House of studies. Fr. Martin is married to prolific Orthodox author and editor Khouria Melinda Johnson with whom he is the proud father of their daughter, Majesta.

Ministering to Youth with Special Needs

Presbyeta Melanie DiStefano graduated from Youngstown State University (BChemE), and from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (MDiv). Married to Father Joseph DiStefano for 16 years, they have one son, Michael Seraphim. Michael has special needs that greatly impact his health and his level of independence. One of her goals is to reach out to other families who are facing similar parenting challenges in order to provide faith-based perspectives, resources, and overall encouragement in their unique walk with Christ.

Online Ministry that Works

Jennifer Morris and Kathryn Ashbahian, working together since October 2015, have grown in their ministry as a camp-planning, grammar-slamming, retreat-crafting, resource-developing team. Jennifer double-majored in Psychology and Elementary Education, and then earned her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University. She was an elementary school teacher before beginning her service to the Armenian Diocese in 2005. Kathryn double-majored in English and Women & Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey, and then earned her Master of Arts in Theology from St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. Though one works from Michigan and the other from New York, they collaborate daily through the technological wonder of Skype and Google Drive. Kathryn focuses her energies on St. Vartan Camp and the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA) Juniors, while Jennifer focuses her attention on Hye Camp and ACYOA Seniors.

The Joy of Returning to Camp

Fr. Chris Shadid was appointed Camp Director at Antiochian Village Camp in May 2020 after spending the past thirteen years serving the Camp in a variety of positions, including the last seven as Assistant Camp Director. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and a Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. Outside of his Camp Director responsibilities, Fr. Chris works as a Licensed Social Worker providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families of all ages and backgrounds who struggle with a variety of mental health issues.

Fr. Anthony Yazge has had an amazing career in Youth Ministry for the last four decades. The last 14 years he was the Camp Director of the Antiochian Village, he served the Antiochian Archdiocese as the Chairman of the Department of Camping, was the Chairman of the Department of Young Adult Ministry and the Antiochian Archdiocese representative on the OCF Board of Directors. He also served 21 years as the Spiritual Advisor of Teen SOYO and has overseen the Teen SOYO Special Olympics Camp. Fr. Anthony has been a priest for 32 years of which he spent 18 as the pastor of St. George Church in Terre Haute, IN and is currently the pastor of St. George Orthodox Church in Fishers, Indiana (just outside of Indianapolis). Fr. Anthony is widowed and a father of three: Matthew 31, Mark 30, and Alexis 26.

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov: The Danger of Academic Christianity

From the blog of Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov. a post entitled "The Danger of Academic Christianity."

It is not uncommon to hear the comment from those outside the Church that Christians seem to be no different from most secular people or from non-believers. Christians recognize this problem as well and often retort that while the Church is indeed “spotless and without blemish” (Eph 5:27), the people who make up the Church “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). It is often said that the Church is like a hospital that is naturally full of sick people. Indeed, even such holy men as Saint Macarius the Great prayed: “O God, cleanse me a sinner, for I have never done anything good in Thy sight.” (Yet this should hardly be an occasion to propose that since such great saints never did anything good in the sight of God [and they would not fib or lie about that, would they?], then we are also justified in not doing anything good.)

To be sure, Christianity is not about ‘doing’ per se, and certainly not about ‘doing enough.’ One cannot earn salvation by fulfilling a list of obligations or demand that God pay up for services rendered. God is never indebted to us. But this also does not mean that our action or a lack of one carries no consequences.

Have you ever met a doctor who is a fan of junk food or a nurse who smokes? They possess proper medical knowledge as attested to by their degrees and licenses. They also regularly attend a place of healing – in fact, they work there. They may even undergo regular tests and procedures and take medications for hypertension or diabetes. By the way, these medical professionals are perfectly capable of offering sensible medical advice and prescribing proper medications. And yet, clearly, something is amiss. No one is ever cured by blood pressure pills or insulin. These medicines merely manage symptoms and postpone the inevitable. Diplomas or places of work seem to have even less relevance to one’s health than do pills and injections. Something else is necessary to actually address the illness, something which cannot be picked up at a pharmacy or displayed on a wall...

Complete article here.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Get your fresh, hot Peshitta right here!

The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (Archdiocese for the Eastern United States) is selling a new Peshitta English New Testament. It can be purchased for $35 plus shipping. More on it available here Have no idea what that is? NT Canon provides some insight (direct link here and Wikipedia here).

At Edessa, capital of the principality of Osrhoëne (in eastern Syria), and western Mesopotamia neither Latin nor Greek was understood. Therefore, the native language Syriac (a Semitic language related to Aramaic) was used in Christian writings. The political fortunes of Edessa present a remarkable contrast to those of other centers of Christianity. Until 216 CE in the reign of the Emperor Caracalla, Edessa lay outside the Roman Empire. Christianity seems to have reached the Euphrates valley about the middle of the 2nd century, that is, while the country was still an independent state. Since its people did not speak Greek, like their neighboring Syrians in Antioch, it is not surprising that the Christianity of Edessa began to develop independently, without the admixture of Greek philosophy and Roman methods of government that at an early date modified primitive Christianity in the West and transformed it into the amalgam known as Catholicism.

According to early traditions and legends embodied in the Doctrine of Addai (~400 CE), the earliest New Testament of the Syriac speaking Church consisted of the Diatesseron, the Epistles of Paul, and Acts. The Diatesseron was written by Tatian by weaving the 4 canonical Gospels together into a coherent and continuous account. Tatian was born of pagan parents in the land of the Assyrians and received an education in Greek culture and its philosophical systems. Tatian came to Rome, made the acquaintance of Justin Martyr, and converted to Christianity. While there, he composed the Diatesseron about 150 CE. The original language of the Diatesseron (certainly either Old Syriac or Greek) is still a much-debated question. The term diatesseron borrowed from musical terminology and designated a series of 4 harmonic tones. It was Tatian's private judgment that the format of a fourfold harmony was the most convenient way in which to present the whole Gospel story at once instead of confusing people by offering them 4 parallel and more or less divergent narratives.

After Justin's martyrdom (~165 CE) Tatian broke with the Roman church, returned to Syria in 172, and founded the sect of the Encratites (i.e. the self-disciplined). This sect rejected matrimony as adultery, condemned the use of meat in any form, and substituted water for wine in the Eucharist service. While in the East Tatian introduced the Diatesseron among the local churches. His influence at Edessa must have been considerable, for he succeeded in getting his book read in the churches there, and afterwards its use spread throughout the region. It was quoted by Aphraat, Ephraem (who wrote a commentary on it), and other Syrian Fathers.

Because of Tatian's reputation as a heretic, however, a reaction set in against the use of his Diatesseron, and Bishop Rabbula of Edessa (d. 436 CE) instructed his priests to take care that in all the churches the 4 'separated' Gospels should be available and read. Theodoret, who became bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in upper Syria in 423, sought out and found more than 200 copies of the Diatesseron, which he 'collected and put away, and introduced instead of them the Gospels of the four evangelists'...

Complete article here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The significance of the Nostra Aetate from an Orthodox view

(Orthodox Times) - Archimandrite Nikodemos Angnostopoulos, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain and Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame in England, contributed with a book chapter entitled “Eastern Orthodox Perspectives on Nostra Aetate and Muslim–Christian Relations” to the volume Nostra Aetate, Non-Christian Religions, and Interfaith Relations published by Villanova University.

In the light of the ongoing development of the relations and the cooperation between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches through the initiatives of the primates of the two Churches Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archimandrite Nikodemos Angnostopoulos analyzes the Ecumenical significance of the Second Vatican Council under an Orthodox perspective.

It should be noted that the convocation of Vatican II was not only a significant religious internal event for the Catholic Church. The Council and especially the “Decree on Ecumenism” and the “Declaration on Religious Freedom” placed the foundation for the beginning of the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the other Christian denominations and religious communities.

The analysis of the contribution is based on these two important documents for two reasons.

First, the “Decree on Ecumenism” makes a special consideration to the relations and the dialogue between the Catholic and the Eastern Churches, acknowledging that from the beginning, the Churches of the East have had a treasury from which the Western Church has drawn, and the fact that the Ecumenical Councils, which held in the East, defined the basic Doctrines of the Christian faith. Nostra Aetate is an interesting document. It continues a dual covenant theology that Orthodox does not find acceptable. It strives to end anti-semitism by greater understanding and - some say - by placing Judaism on an equal footing at the expense of the essential saving grace of our Savior. 

Secondly, the “Declaration on Religious Freedom” is directly related to the challenging circumstances that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is still facing in terms of Church administration and religious freedom based on the legislation of the Turkish Republic.

"every time you go to church... is a confession of faith"

( - Every Church service and every time we go to church during the pandemic is a confession of faith, according to His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

During a service in the Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov in Skouriotis, Cyprus, on his feast day on January 2, Met. Neophytos preached that “every service that takes place now, whether it be festive, as today, or a simple service with just a singer, the priest, and two believers, is very important,” reports Romfea.

According to him, “every service and every time you go to church, whether inside or outside the church, is a confession of faith.”

“Every time you commune in the traditional way, established by the Mother Church throughout the ages, it is a confession of faith. Please to continue so in our humble diocese. Let the law do what it’s supposed to do, and people of faith do what they are supposed to do,” His Eminence called.

We live not only for the earth, but also for Heaven. When Heaven tells us something different from earth, we prefer Heaven. I’ll go to prion a thousand times, but I will be with the Great King and will serve the Liturgy, I will concelebrate with St. Seraphim. A thousand times!” Met. Neophytos emphasized.

In conclusion, the Metropolitan said: “Remember that we are approaching a very big feast. The Fathers say that Theophany is equal to Pascha. Let no one miss the Theophany Liturgy.”

Met. Neophytos earlier said that he would not obey the state order to close churches, explaining that the law of God is above the law of the state.

He also recently stated that he will not accept the COVID vaccine. “I will not become a mutated product of the New Order of things,” he declared.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A little Georgian... in Oklahoma

H/T: Monomakhos

PIEDMONT, Okla. (Enid News) — Prayers of the faithful, the words of Scripture and the fragrance of incense once again fill the sanctuary at the former St. Joseph monastery west of Edmond, now reopened as an Eastern Orthodox monastery.

The former Roman Catholic monastery, which was built for the Discalced Carmelite nuns in 1985, had been closed and listed for sale, and was purchased earlier this year by monks under the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate of North America. It reopened on Thanksgiving Day as St. Iakovos “New Studion,” with Bishop Saba celebrating the Divine Liturgy and enthroning Archimandrite Athanasios as the monastery’s first abbot. The Georgians might be the least online jurisdiction in the US. I say that, but you can get some nice coffee from St. Nina's Monastery or set up a visit with them. My family did so recently and found the trip quite rewarding.

The News & Eagle visited the new monastery on Dec. 20, for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy — what Catholics and Anglicans better know as Mass — and a meal and tour of the monastery. I was frankly surprised how well this reporter did with the complexities of this topic. Even in strongly Orthodox states like Pennsylvania, the media tends to flub the basics in reporting on things like when Christmas is or what Pascha is or easily google-able terms.

About 30 worshipers came to the monastery for the service, traveling from as far away as Tulsa (about two hours away) to worship with the monks of St. Iakovos. Catholics and Anglicans may recognize the general flow of the service, but it was otherwise unmistakably Orthodox, with the emphasis on icons, chanted liturgy — assisted by several Orthodox nuns who came to help establish the new monastery — and frequent administration of incense.

Gail Sheppard traveled from Tulsa with her husband, George Michalopulos, to attend the service.

Like most of the attendees that day, Sheppard is a convert to Orthodoxy. Raised in The Episcopal Church, she left the liturgical tradition in the 1970s for an evangelical church. But, she always felt something was missing in evangelical worship.

She found that missing piece about 15 years ago when she learned of the Orthodox Church from a high school friend who had converted.

Sheppard said she immediately felt at home in the history, tradition and continuity of Orthodoxy.

Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) is first to receive vaccine

(Greek City Times) His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios, representing Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, received the coronavirus vaccine on Sunday.

The Metropolitan of Nafpaktos is the first hierarch to be vaccinated against coronavirus in Greece.

It is recalled a few days ago, Metropolitan Hierotheos in an interview emphasised that vaccines are responsible for the increase in life expectancy. “Vaccines boost the body’s immune system to fight off viruses. I have also been vaccinated, because otherwise I probably would not be alive and every year I get the flu vaccine. But I will also take the new vaccine after the approvals of the competent Organizations and the decision of the Holy Synod and the suggestions of my treating doctors.”

Earlier on Sunday, Greek President Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Mitsotakis and professor of Pathology and Infectious Diseases, Sotiris Tsiodras, were vaccinated.

“This is an important day for all of us, today we can be optimistic,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said upon his arrival at Attikon Hospital.

The first Greek to receive the coronavirus vaccine was Efstathia Kambissiouli, head nurse of the intensive care units at Athens’ Evangelismos hospital.

“In my person, all health professionals are being honoured and (it) is a recognition of our work and our contribution. I hope a new page is turned on today, but we got a lot of way to go, we must adhere to measures and hold fast to our goal and when we are all vaccinated we can take our lives back,” she said.

Greek Bishop Ierotheos receiving the Covid Pfizer vaccine. While he was not the first (the first to receive the vaccine was a Greek female nurse), he send a strong message today. Greece has a high percent of Covid-deniers among Church members.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Serbs deciding on new Patriarch in February

(SOC) - The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, at their meeting on December 24, 2020, decided to summon the Holy Assembly of Bishops for the election of the new first hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to be held on February 18, 2021.