Friday, October 23, 2020

Orthodox Times: An interview with Hieromonk Lukas

(Orthodox Times) - The Tomos of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, apart from being a very important church document, is also a fine example of the Byzantine tradition in the writing of official documents.

Materials and know-how that had been lost for centuries revived on Mount Athos and were used for its writing. Hieromonnk Lukas from Xenophontos Monastery on Mount Athos, who prepared the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, is a hagiographer and one of the main guardians of the hagiographical tradition of Mount Athos.

He spoke to as soon as he returned from New York where he coordinates the hagiography work carried out in St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero.

Interview with Kostas Onisenko

– What are the technical specificities of the Volume of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine?

Parchment is the writing material used for the Tomos as has been the case for the imperial sigillia. It is made from specially prepared skins of animals. Accordingly, the text was written in Indian ink. The miniatures are painted in egg colors. All patriarchal and imperial sigillia have always been written in a special calligraphic font, which has certain specificities in relation to the calligraphy of the time and was practiced by specially trained craftsmen. I had been studying such documents for a long time, so I was already familiar with this writing style when the Patriarch wrote the Tomos. It took us a few days, just four, to complete the paperwork. Extra time was given to writing the text than creating the document.

– How did you decide to engage in hagiography and how did you learn these old Byzantine traditions of hagiography and calligraphy?

As a child, I visited the Xenophontos Monastery. As I was painting from a young age, Elder Alexios encouraged me to engage in hagiography and, in particular, with the colors of hagiography. When I was 16 years old, I started to delve into hagiography. So, I was 21 years old when I came to Mount Athos to reside permanently, I already had some knowledge of hagiography and I could paint portable icons. At that time the Byzantine tradition in hagiography had disappeared from Mount Athos, so some hagiographers and I tried to revive it during the 50s and 60s in terms of style and materials used.

I learned from the old fathers various forgotten recipes for creating colors. Still, I tried to use whatever information I found in old hagiography books. This is how I learned to use some color making techniques that trace its origins to Byzantine hagiography. For your information, I looked at the old icons and realized that the gilding technique in them is very different from that used by modern hagiographers. I searched and found the old recipes, I did a lot of practice and spoiled many icons until I learned to apply correctly the thin coating of gold as the Byzantine tradition stipulates.

– What are the unique features of Mount Athos hagiography?

Prior to the 1950s, most hagiographers on Mount Athos preferred naturalistic art. What we call Nazarene art. However, Byzantine art is not interested in the depiction of realistic reality rather in the transmission of the spiritual message behind each event. This type of art is not interested in naturalistic characters. It is interested in seeing the spiritual background through these objects.

The legacy of the great hagiographer Manuel Panselinos (13th – 14th century) holds a dominant position on Mount Athos. It is the point of reference for today’s hagiographers. This is the style I follow. There are also other great teachers of this tradition such as Dionysius of Fourna (1670 – after 1744) who wrote a book on hagiography that collects some techniques, Theophanes the Greek (c. 1340 – 1410) and many others.

– Is Byzantine hagiography taught on Mount Athos today? Do you share your knowledge?

Hagiography is a course taught at the Athonite Academy. We admit some foreigner hagiographers, either monks or laypeople, who ask to learn some of our techniques. They stay with us for a few days to see special features and learn some secrets. They see and learn them, and then they apply them in their work.

– Is there a great interest in buying Byzantine icons that have been made on Mount Athos?

There are many who are greatly interested in an icon painted on Mount Athos by the fathers. However, we, too, are monks and we have our duties. Our spiritual duties, prayer, services.

– Tell me a few words about your recent trip to the US.

We had previously consulted and collaborated with Archbishop Elpidophoros of America in order to paint the Saint Nicholas Church at Ground Zero. We had already started the project by painting the portable icons and the murals but we stopped for a while due to the pandemic. Now I went to the church to observe at close the area and write down what we need to do, we start working again. Much of the work will be done on Mount Athos. In addition to the portable icons, the murals will be partially made on Mount Athos, and then transported to New York and will be placed there.

Russian hierarchs of Western Europe meet

(ROC) - On October 22, 2020, a meeting took place between Metropolitan Anthony of Chersonesus and Western Europe, Patriarchal Exarch for Western Europe, and Metropolitan Ioann of Dubna, head of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition.

In the course of a long fraternal talk, the archpastors dealt with numerous issues concerning cooperation between the two canonical structures of the Moscow Patriarchate in France and other countries in Western Europe.

The hierarchs also discussed preparations for the celebrations of the first anniversary of the unification of the Archdiocese with the Russian Orthodox Church.

It is supposed that if the actual epidemiological situation in Paris allows, on November 8 Metropolitan Ioann and Metropolitan Anthony will celebrate the Divine Liturgy and thanksgiving at the Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky on rue Daru, the website of the Diocese of Chersonesus reports. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

"The Suffering of the Armenian People is Our Suffering"

True virtue, signaled proper.

Chaldean Catholics "renewing" their Liturgy

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The Chaldean Church, at the instigation of the Chaldean patriarch and the bishops, has recently renewed its liturgy. The decision was made to meet the demands of modernity, in response to the renewed needs of the faithful and to be understood by a Muslim world that watches and assists with growing interest in the celebrations.

In this message entrusted to AsiaNews, Card Louis Raphael Sako explains the motivations for the renewal:

The renewal of philosophy and science is a necessary, vital and legitimate natural state due to the change of people, time, mentality, culture and circumstances. In the religious field, it should represent a priority because much has changed - especially in recent times - following the influence of social media that have transformed the world into a small digital village. This is why the renewal of religious discourse has become an urgent and essential requirement.

In this sense, the Church cannot be a prisoner of ancient traditions and a rigid heritage based on indoctrination and memorization. It must bring the good news of the Gospel to every time and place, responding to the missionary call. The Church is open to the world with a more pragmatic and holistic spirit, its main feature is ecumenism, it is not for a specific people, a specific gender, a specific language, a specific geography, but it is for everyone! It should also not ever change the deposit that it has treasured and protected for millennia as if it were new cell service or switching out Diet Coke for Diet Pepsi.

1) The Eastern Catholic Churches are Churches sui iuris, that is, they have a structure (the Synod) for the governance of their internal life. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches was created a century ago, to help these realities to develop, not to give orders or cancel the decrees of a patriarch or of the Synod as there is unanimity within it. This is what is a source of shock for the Orthodox Churches, not the liturgical updating which today is a pastoral and spiritual need. An Assyrian bishop has taken copies of the new missal and hopes that they too will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to make a reform. On February 9, we Eastern Catholic Patriarchs met Pope Francis and expressed our difficulties to him. He replied: "When the light is red it is hard to move forward". Today our bishops are all graduates, prepared and are aware of the pastoral challenges.

2) In the Chaldean Church there are three anaphoras: the first of Addai and Mari, towards the third century; the second by Nestorius and the third by Theodore of Mopsuestia. The latter two are of Byzantine tradition, long and characterized by a complex vocabulary that is difficult to understand for our culture. For years now there have been no liturgies celebrated with these last two anaphoras.

3) Given the change in the culture and sensitivity of the people who are educated today, together with the bishops we have tried to update the rites based on the Second Vatican Council to help our faithful to participate in the liturgy and live what they pray. A step that follows in the footsteps of what the Latin Church has already done. We do not have two criteria in the Church. Saint Chrysostom says that the liturgy is for man, not the other way around. The words "based on the Second Vatican Council" and "follows in the footsteps of what the Latin Church" should send one running for the Imodium. Nothing has shattered the Latin Church like the rampant innovationism of the Novus Ordo and all that it ushered in.   

4) At the Synod in Rome in 2005, the committee formed to implement the liturgical update presented us with the anaphora of Addai and Mari. The bishops made several proposals but the President of the Committee had promised to include our observations in the text and this is why we signed it before its publication. However, the president did not insert our indications or our observations, keeping the original text. Hence the unanimous decision of all the prelates and of the then patriarch Emmanuel Delly not to celebrate with this new missal. This was not what we wanted and asked for as bishops for our Church. It was a serious problem!

5) At the time of my election as Chaldean patriarch I immediately had liturgical reform at heart, a task assumed in communion with the bishops because our people no longer understand the Syriac language and its vocabulary. Mass is not a museum, but a common heritage to talk to people. We also took into consideration Muslims who follow our celebrations on television or on social networks. In recent years great work has been done on updating the anaphora of Addai and Mari, the second of Nestorius and we have also prepared a new shorter and more dynamic anaphor of "St. Thomas", with alternating prayers, inspired by our liturgy, theology, spirituality. Theodore's third anaphor remains valid for those who want to celebrate, but I don't think they will do so in terms of length and vocabulary. I hope that in the Synods to come we will make a further reform; all the bishops have signed unanimously. From Sunday we began to celebrate with this missal, putting an end to the confusion. With this work we have sought the spiritual good of the faithful, who face many problems, especially emigration. For the first time the missal is in Syriac, Arabic, English and Chaldean dialect.

* Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad and president of the Iraqi Bishops' Conference 

Primates of Constantinople and Rome meet in Vatican

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Online pan-Orthodox retreat scheduled


Monday, October 19, 2020

Psalm 50 In Aramaic: Have mercy on me, O God

Saturday, October 17, 2020

OAJ: Elena Murariu: Tribute to Romanian Martyrs

(OAJ) - Elena Murariu’s exhibition “Martyrs”, as well as the album published on this occasion, bring to our attention the story of Romanian martyrs who prayed for their country and for the whole world. Some recognized, but most unknown, these martyrs are the gift of their people, an offering to God. Their bones cover the land of their country here on earth as their prayers resound in heaven. Their lives and sacrifice were as the rose’s petals falling one by one,  covering the earth and painting it red. Without these martyrs living and acting as they did, there would have been no church, for they are the seed of the church. Elena Murariu’s work and her associations between martyrs of different times reveal the continuity of these martyrs in the Romanian land.

The album is a must see, as it unveils the new faces of these martyrs. If text usually lays the foundation for the image, this time the image is the one inviting us to read and discover the lives of these persons. Some of them are already known, whereas most of them may not be so familiar. Each character trait underlines the care of the painter to represent particular martyrs as accurately as possible. They seem to come alive under our very eyes. The focus laid on apparently insignificant but carefully presented details unveils how these details bear in themselves the fruits of holiness. Such details allow us to find out more about the lives of these saints and open the gate to new possibilities of interpretation. Apparently insignificant details are in fact the root of sanctity...

Complete article here.

What's an Apodyaqno?

I saw a recent article about someone becoming such and had no idea what it was. The Internet provides.

Example vestments

(Malankara-NEAD) - The original role of an Apodyaqno was that of door keeper, to remove those who were not baptized Orthodox members in good standing from the nave of the church into the narthex area just before the beginning of the recitation of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. Now, his roles include overseeing and guiding those in the lesser ranks (up to Qoruyo), holding the candle during the various parts of the liturgy, and generally making sure that everything in the sanctuary runs smoothly during liturgy. Due to the dearth of sub-deacons (not including those in seminary), this role is now usually fulfilled by the senior altar assistants, together with the help of the chief altar assistant (ideally a permanent full deacon).

Friday, October 16, 2020

STOTS Lecture Series: 1st Principles & Popular Theology

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Abp. Elpidophoros hugs it out with Met. Evangelos of Sardes

Sardes: A titular see of Lydia, in Asia Minor probably the ancient Hyde of Homer (Iliad, II, 844; XX, 385), at the foot of Mount Tmolus; see also Strabo (XIII, iv, 5); Pliny (Hist. nat., v, 29), Stephen of Byzantium, s.v. The name Sardes, which replaced that of Hyde, seems to have been derived from the Shardani, a people mentioned in the cuneiform inscriptions as inhabiting this region. At an early period Sardes was the capital of the Lydians, an early dynasty of whom reigned from 766 to 687 B.C.; a second, that of Mermnades founded by Gyges in 687 B.C., reigned until 546 B.C. Its last king, the celebrated Croesus, was dethroned by Cyrus. Thenceforth it was the residence of the Persian satraps, who administered the conquered kingdom. The capture of the city by the Ionians and the Athenians in 498 B.C. was the cause of wars between the Persians and Greeks. In 334 it surrendered without a struggle to Alexander the Great, after whose death it belonged to Antigonus until 301, when it fell into the power of the Seleucides. Antiochus III having been defeated at Magnesia by the Romans 190 B.C., Sardes was incorporated with the Kingdom of Pergamus, then with the Roman Empire, becoming the capital of the Province of Lydia. The famous river Pactolus flowed through its agora, or forum.

In the Apocalypse (3:1-3) a letter is written to the Church of Sardes by St. John, who utters keen reproaches against it and its bishop. Among its martyrs are mentioned the priest Therapon, venerated 27 May, and Apollonius (10 July). Among its bishops, of whom Le Quien (Oriens Christ., I, 859-66) gives a long list, were St. Meliton (second century), writer and apologist; St. Euthymius, martyred for the veneration of images (26 Dec., 824); John, his successor who also suffered for the Faith; Andronicus, who made several attempts for the reunion of the Churches. As religious metropolis of Lydia, Sardes ranked sixth in the hierarchy. As early as the seventh century (Gelzer, "Ungedruckte. . .Texte der Notitiae episcopatuum," 537), it had 27 suffragans, which number scarcely varied until the end of the tenth century. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the town, which was still very populous, was captured and destroyed by the Turks. In 1369 it ceased to exist, and Philadelphia replaced it as metropolis (Waeechter,"Der Verfall des Griechentums in Kleinaim XIV Jahrhundert," 44-46). Since then it has been a Greek titular metropolitan see. At present, under the name of Sart, it is but a miserable Turkish village in the sandjak of Saroukhan, and the vilayet of Smyrna. Not one well-preserved and important monument is found among the very extensive ruins.

(GOARCH) - Today, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros received Metropolitan Evangelos of Sardes, and congratulated him on his election to this historic Metropolis of the All-Venerable Ecumenical Throne.

During their fraternal and cordial meeting, the two hierarchs discussed the practical issues of transmission and reception of the Holy Metropolis of New Jersey, and the Archbishop had the opportunity to announce to his esteemed guest the conclusions of the Holy Eparchial Synod on his future presence and activity in America.

There was an agreement of views on all the issues discussed and in conclusion, the Archbishop invited the Metropolitan of Sardes to preside at the Divine Liturgy next Sunday, October 18th, at the Saint Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria, New York, where the same hierarch served as presiding priest for a number of years, demonstrating labors and pastoral work worthy of emulation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Byzantine Film Festival launches soon

More communiques from the Greek Archdiocese

New York (GOARCH) - On Monday, October 12, 2020, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America convened the Holy Eparchial Synod via videoconference for an extraordinary session to consider the current issues concerning the life of the Church.

Significant decisions were made, such as:

  1. The expression of gratitude to His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy and Sacred Synod of the venerable center of Orthodoxy for the opportunity provided to the Archdiocese of America to draft a new Charter. This distinguished prospect is made even more profound in light of the celebration in the year 2022 of the first centennial since the inception of the Archdiocese. The compilation of the new Charter, with the collaboration of the Hierarchy, the clergy and the laity of the Church, will inaugurate the new centennial of Archdiocesan ministry, and for this reason two Committees will be commissioned with this great and sacred task: 1) An extensive committee in America, composed of representatives of the Holy Eparchial Synod, the clergy and the laity and 2) a second committee, assigned to participate in the Joint Committee that will be devised by our Mother Church, in order to convey and communicate the essence and the ideas of the former committee. 
  2. The validation of the Press Release of the Holy Archdiocese regarding the uninterrupted authority and continuous operation of all the Archdiocesan administrative bodies until the ratification and publication of the new Charter by the Patriarchate such as the Holy Eparchial Synod, the Archdiocesan Council, the Executive Committee, the Clergy Laity Congress and the respective administrative bodies of the Metropolises. So it looks like they will still exist, just without a coordinating document to rule their behaviors.
  3. The dedication of upcoming meetings of the Archdiocesan Council to the formulation of the vision for the new Charter.
  4. To ensure a dignified life with sufficient earnings, befitting to his hierarchal distinction and to the tradition of the Church, for His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of Sardes, who has served the Archdiocese for many decades. Does anyone know why he was removed?

Lastly, the Archbishop announced the a) composition of the Executive Committee and the National Board of the National Philoptochos Society, b) the appointment of the V. Rev. Archimandrite Constantine Moralis as the Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of New Jersey and the appointment of the Metropolitan Council of the aforementioned Metropolis and c) the dates for the ordinations to the Sacred Hierarchy of the Bishops-elect: His Grace Spyridon (Kezios) of Amastris on November 14th, His Grace Timothy (Bakakos) of Hexamilion on December 5th and His Grace Ioannis (Constantine) of Phocaea on December 19th of this year.

From the Office of the Chief-Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod

Monday, October 12, 2020

An interview with Bp. Irinej of Eastern America