Friday, January 30, 2015

The origins of the Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs

( - Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom: During the eleventh century, disputes raged in Constantinople about which of the three hierarchs was the greatest. Some preferred St Basil (January 1), others honored St Gregory the Theologian (January 25), while a third group exalted St John Chrysostom (January 27 and November 13).

Dissension among Christians increased. Some called themselves Basilians, others referred to themselves as Gregorians, and others as Johnites.

Some argued for Saint Basil above the other two because he was able, as none other, to explain the mysteries of the Faith, and rose to angelic rank by his virtues. The partisans of Saint Chrysostom retorted that the illustrious Archbishop of Constantinople had been no less zealous than Saint Basil in combating vices, in bringing sinners to repentance and in raising up the whole people to the perfection of the Gospel. According to a third group, Saint Gregory the Theologian was to be preferred to the others by reason of the majesty, purity and profundity of his language. Possessing a sovereign mastery of all the wisdom and eloquence of ancient Greece, he had attained, they said to such a pitch in the contemplation of God that no one had been able to express the dogma of the Holy Trinity as perfectly as he.

And this mutual feast day was established in XI century during the reign of of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1081-1118).

By the will of God, the three hierarchs appeared to St. John the Bishop of Euchaita (June 14) one night in the year 1084 as a vision in his dream, and said that they were equal before God. "As you see, the three of us are with God and no discord or rivalry divides is not among us a first, a second or a third, and if you invoke one of us the other two are immediately present with him."

They ordered that the disputes should stop, and that their common commemoration should be celebrated on a single day. Bishop John chose January 30 for their joint Feast, thus ending the controversy and restoring peace.

This feast day the Greek people consider not only as the church but also its greatest national and school holiday.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Small Parish Forum on for July

I went to this last year and hope to got again this year. People drove from the far reaches of Canada to get to it. Consider making the trip.

(OCA) - The Diocese of the Midwest and the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania will host the second annual Small Parish Forum at Saint Nicholas Church here July 18-20 2015.

Titled “Help, Hope, Stability and Identity,” the forum will focus on the needs of “small” parishes throughout the OCA and other Orthodox jurisdictions.

Workshops and presentations will explore ways to assist parishes with memberships of 75 or less souls to achieve stability, build a positive self-image, and accept their calling to live a life in Christ without necessarily becoming “big.”

“Small Parishes can bring people to Christ in intimate and exciting ways often unavailable to larger parishes,” said Joseph Kormos, Forum co-chairperson and Parish Development Leader for the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh. “The sessions will offer actionable, hard information, and tips and good practices for strengthening small parishes that will be valuable to clergy and lay leaders alike,” added Mr. Kormos.

The agenda will include panel discussions, a music workshop focusing on small parish worship, an array of speakers, parallel sessions for clergy and laity, and case studies. Sessions will begin at 3:00 p.m. Thursday, June 18 and conclude at noon on Saturday, June 20.

Archpriest Daniel Rentel, co-chairperson for the Forum, said, “We hope to build on the success of last year’s forum in Byesville OH. In that session we drew over 50 persons from six OCA dioceses and three other Orthodox jurisdictions. We’re working on new presentations on stewardship and education in the small parish. David Drillock will return to lead the music sessions. The Forum location is 20 minutes from the Pittsburgh airport, less than four hours from Detroit, four and a half hours from DC, and five hours from Scranton/Philadelphia. Over half of the OCA’s parishes are within a manageable drive of the site.”

While registration will not open until March 15, those desiring additional information may send their requests to To help build fellowship and dialogue among attendees, registration will be limited to 75 persons, so early registration is recommended.

Sessions will take place at Weirton’s Saint Nicholas Church, 604 Colliers Way. A block of rooms has been reserved at two local hotels. The registration fee of $100.00 per person will include meals, coffee breaks, and forum materials. Many OCA Dioceses offer scholarships to small parishes desiring to send attendees.

Whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
God blessed our family with the birth of a new child in December. I suspect Adam spent somewhat more time naming all the animals, but we haven't arrived at a name quickly for any of our children. After all that time spent in study, the mind continues to cogitate on the topic even after the paperwork is signed. Recently I thought to myself: "Wouldn't people name their children differently if the hospital loaned them iPads with an app on it with a database of name origins?"

You have selected: Chandler

Are you a candlemaker or from a family of candle enthusiasts?

You have selected: Hannibal

Are you a follower of the demonic and nefarious false god Ba'al? Do you believe he imparts grace? If so, this is the name for you. We have scheduled a visit with the chaplain during today's lunch service.

You have selected: Gomer

Buck up. This is a name of Hebrew origin good for both boys and girls and can be denominated with pride. Marine families can also choose this name with impunity. Oorah!

The crescent and the cross

Recently I was reading some discussion about the Cross over Crescent seen in Orthodoxy. Many origins for it were given (below is one from Wikipedia). From reference to the moon in Revelation (a common Marian image), to an ancient symbol of the Church, to an anchor, to a simple statement against the Ottomans. If anyone has a scholarly source on this development, I'd love to hear about it. Please email or place in the comments.

(Wikipedia) - One variation of the Orthodox Cross is the 'Cross over Crescent'. "In 1486, Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) conquered the city of Kazan which had been under the rule of Moslem Tatars, and in remembrance of this, he decreed that from henceforth the Islamic crescent be placed at the bottom of the Crosses to signify the victory of the Cross (Christianity) over the Crescent (Islam)." This 'Cross over Crescent' is sometimes accompanied by "Gabriel perched on the top of the Cross blowing his trumpet."

Most Holy Theotokos save us!

This is commonly said, but not universally understood. Well worth your time to read this blog post from Roads from Emmaus.

Today I read the comments on this YouTube video. I know, I know—YouTube comments generally are the lowest form of discourse on the Internet, and I wasn’t terribly surprised to see that someone thought that the musical line “Most Holy Mother of God, save us” was “blasphemous.” (He preferred to hear his blasphemy in Latin, apparently.)

I must admit to being a bit baffled, because usually those who would regard the idea that the Virgin Mary could “save” us as “blasphemous” come from traditions with a strong attachment to the words of Holy Scripture. Presumably, “save” should only be used regarding God Himself. But the Scripture itself doesn’t set that limit.

The Apostle Paul is of the opinion that he can save people and that others can do so, too, that they can even save themselves...

Complete article here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Strong pro-life message from Church of Russia

MOSCOW ( – In the first-ever speech by a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Duma, Patriarch Kirill has called on the Russian government to build on its support for the family and traditional marriage by defunding abortion in the country, with the objective of eliminating the killing of pre-born children altogether.

“If we manage to cut the number of abortions by 50 percent we would have stable and powerful population growth,” said the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

“The argument that a ban would cause an increase in the number of underground abortions is pure nonsense. People have to pay money for these operations and our task is to make the price of a legal infanticide the same as of the illegal one. Taxpayers must not pay for this,” the Orthodox Church leader told the MPs.

Patriarch Kirill said that while the solution to Russia's impending demographic disaster is complex, the most pressing need is, apart from banning or at least restricting abortion, for the state to help young couples regain the confidence they need to want to have children by providing material support, and by giving doctors additional incentive to care about the life of “conceived children" by introducing pro-life ethical norms in the medical professions.

The Russian patriarch also condemned the practice of surrogacy in his parliamentary address, urging lawmakers to take steps to completely replace it with adoption.

Momentum to eliminate abortion in Russia has been building for several years, with both religious and political leaders calling for legislative changes to defend life from conception.

Last August, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, said Orthodox Christians should actively strive for a ban on abortions.

“It is unacceptable that such terrible crimes as abortions are committed in Orthodox countries, moreover, in such large quantities! This phenomenon must make us think seriously about it; I would say, we must be shocked and distressed, we need to raise the alarm,” the Archimandrite wrote in an address to participants of the international pro-life conference with the title “Large Families and the Future of Humanity” that took place in Moscow last year.

In 2013, the Russian Federation enacted a law banning abortion advertising in an effort to stem the country's decline in population.

The head of the State Duma Committee for Family and Children, MP Elena Mizulina, said the Russian people must stop tolerating abortion and the recent rise in surrogacy because they threaten to “wipe out the population of Russia.”

“The problems of abortion prevention and the shift in public opinion towards abortion are currently very urgent. Although the number of abortions in Russia is falling, it still exceeds 5 million every year,” Mizulina said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pageau icon carving

Monasteries in America

This is some fascinating reading. Parts that leapt out at me...

  1. Most monasteries are female.
  2. Most of US monasteries are relatively ʺyoung.ʺ Indeed, an absolute majority of them (39 out of 71) were founded after 1990. All the old ones are Slavic. Among all currently functioning monasteries, the oldest Greek Orthodox monastic community was founded only in 1983.
  3. If you put ALL THE MONASTICS in the US together you get 512. The average monastery has 7 people. Greek monasteries are by far the largest.
  4. In services the OCA monasteries speak the most English (83%). The Greeks speak English the least (11%). 50% of the monasteries in the US are English speaking.
  5. 73% of US monasteries use email. 51 out of 71 monasteries have a website.
  6. Old calendar to New is essentially even.
  7. All US monasteries combined own 5,806 acres of land (largest Jordanville with 700 acres).
(AOB) - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America has released a new research report, Orthodox Monastic Communities in the United States.

There are more than 70 Orthodox monastic communities in the United States today, with significant diversity in terms of size, liturgical practices, openness to outside visitors, and educational programs. The Assembly’s Committee for Monastic Communities is tasked with studying and comparing Orthodox monastic communities in the US; this study was designed as a first step toward that goal. The report's findings are based on a survey that was conducted of all Orthodox monastic communities in the United States in late 2013 and early 2014.

Read the full report here (PDF).

Access summaries and links to all of the Assembly's research reports here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

They asked for it

A man has interrupted the consecration of the Church of England's first female bishop.
The unidentified man said that "it was not in the Bible", when Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu asked the congregation if it was their will that Mrs Lane should be ordained.

The man asked to speak to Dr Sentamu about the "absolute impediment" before walking off.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Distribution of communion at Papal mass in Manila

Lamentable. Shocking. Thanks to the Internet, there will be a record of this forever. If you cannot commune people properly, do not commune them. The Catholic Church has other services that might have been more reasonable for 7 million people.

Ending 500 years of "Greek occupation" in Palestine

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Al-Monitor) — The Greek Orthodox Church in Palestine and Jordan is witnessing a movement akin to an intifada against Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan over actions that organizers of the movement call “racist and wasteful.”

On Dec. 27, the executive committee of the Arab Central Orthodox Council in Palestine and Jordan began a campaign against the patriarch, coinciding with his participation in Christmas celebrations. A number of protesters raised banners that read “unworthy” during sit-ins and marches organized in Bethlehem on Jan. 6 and posted “Theophilos is unworthy” on social networking sites. You can see more of a few of these declarations of Anaxios in videos on Youtube.

Movement organizers accuse the patriarch of “diverting church lands to Israel and making unfair decisions against Arab monks,” the latest being the removal from office of Archimandrite Christophoros and the reduction of the salaries of Archbishop Atallah Hanna and Archimandrite Meletios Basal.

Protesting Arab Orthodox youths in Jordan and Palestine issued a Dec. 16 statement describing the decision as “uncanonical and taken by an unqualified synod,” adding, “Theophilos is not the legitimate patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem. He is unworthy of trust and neither he nor his synod represents us or represents the Arab Orthodox flock in Jordan and Palestine.”

The patriarch's leasing of 71 dunums (16 acres) of land belonging to the Saint Elias Monastery south of Jerusalem to an Israeli company raised the ire of the Orthodox community in Palestine when the deal became public in 2009. In a press conference attended by Al-Monitor on Jan. 5, Central Orthodox Council member Uday Bajali described the move as serving the settlers’ interests, saying, “This deal will besiege the village of Beit Safafa and will allow the expansion of settlements in Jabal Abu Ghneim, Gilo, Givat Hamatos and Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.” Bajali accused the patriarch of “colluding with Israel to divert lands without any oversight,” adding, “Unworthy is he who sells property to Israel, does not serve his flock and contributes to displacing our youths.”

But Hanna Omeira, the head of the Presidential Higher Committee for Church Affairs, told Al-Monitor, “As per legal procedures, the [Palestinian] Authority is keeping abreast of news about the diversion of land in Jaffa Gate and the areas around St. Elias. The latest row against the patriarch was caused by his decision to dismiss Father Christophoros; a decision that we asked the church not to implement, while bolstering coordination with the Jordanian government to study and find solutions to all contentious issues.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

Halki Seminary: the situation today

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On the Dikirion and Trikirion (δικηροτρίκηρα)

From the blog Classical Christianity...

Special items of the hierarchical service are the dikerion and the trikerion. These are two hand-held, ornamental candlesticks in which two (dikerion) or three (trikerion) candles are placed. The use of the dikerion and trikerion at the patriarchal liturgy began in the twelfth century. [1] Originally these candlesticks were ascribed only to kings and patriarchs (and not to all bishops) as they were perceived as attributes reflecting the dignity of teaching. This is mentioned in the twelfth century by Theodore Balsamon, the patriarch of Antioch, who insisted that the right to bless the faithful with candlesticks belonged to kings, patriarchs, autocephalous archbishops of Bulgaria and Cyprus, and also a few metropolitans to whom the kings had given this right. [2] You see a similar broadening of use to lower ranks with the mitre and the use of a mitre with a cross atop it.

Later the dikerion and trikerion came to be used by all hierarchs at church services. The trikerion is interpreted symbolically as an indication of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, while dikerion indicates the two natures of Jesus Christ. [3] Candles placed in the trikerion and dikerion may be connected at the top in such a way that a single flame is formed. A more common style has crossing candles whose top ends are directed in different directions. [4]

[1] Jacob, “Le chandelier a trois branches de l’eveque Pantoleon: A propos de l’inscription de Geroges de Gallipoli,” Bolletino della Badia greca di Grottaferata 53 (1999), 187-199.

[2]Theodore Balsamon Reflections, PG 138, 1016D-11017C.

[3]Simeon of Thessalonica Concerning the Holy Temple 59, 61. PG 155, 721BC.

[4] Deacon Mikhail Zheltov, “Dikirion” in Orthodox Encyclopedia, vol. 14, 693.
And from the New Liturgical Movement...
"The bishop is reciting commemorations at the "Transfer of the Gifts or Great Entrance". He would be singing: "May the Lord God remember in His Kingdom [N.N.] always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." He is holding the chalice covered with a small veil. There are priests holding blessing crosses to the north and south of the holy doors and the trikirion and dikirion held by subdeacons, as well as subdeacons holding ripdia [fans] over the diskos. We see in the foregound two subdeacons. The one on the north is the candle bearer and the one on the south is the staff bearer [crozier]. The staff is not visible from our perspective but he should have it in this procession. Notice the icon on the analogion of the Baptism of Christ. The apodosis [leave taking] of the Feast of the Baptism is today."

"The bishop is blessing with the trikirion [a triple branched canle symbol of the three persons of the most Holy Trinity] and the dikirion [a double branched candle symbol of the two natures in the one person of Christ] following the deposition of the unconsecrated holy gifts upon the holy table. The bishop says nothing at this blessing but the choir/assembly responds: "Eis polla eti, despota". [Many years, master.] He is wearing the small omophorion which originally was a folded great omophorion [pallium]."

"At the Trisagion when the clergy sing the second "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." the bishop makes the sign of the cross with the dikirion [a double branched candle symbol of the two natures in the one person of Christ] over the gospel book."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Exorcist: Desecration of the Lenin's Mausoleum

(The Moscow Times) - Two members of an art collective were detained for flinging holy water at the Moscow mausoleum containing Vladimir Lenin's corpse, in an apparent bid to resurrect the revolutionary leader.

In video footage of the incident published by news site, artists Oleg Basov and Yevgeny Avilov can be seen emerging from a nearby church and approaching the mausoleum with two bottles of water labeled with crucifixes.

Basov and Avilov, members of the art collective Blue Horseman, then managed to bypass a security gate before flinging holy water at the walls of the mausoleum while chanting “Arise and be gone!”

Their performance, entitled “The Exorcist: Desecration of the Mausoleum” took place on Monday, when Orthodox Christians celebrated Epiphany — a religious holiday marking the baptism of Jesus.

The two men were soon apprehended and taken to a nearby police station, where they were detained overnight, police monitoring site OVD-Info reported.

Basov and Avilov now face charges of disorderly conduct, which is punishable by a fine of up to 2,500 rubles ($38) or 15 days in jail.

Vladimir Lenin, whose embalmed corpse has been housed in the mausoleum since shortly after his death in 1924 barring a wartime evacuation, was one of the founding fathers of the Bolshevik party. He famously rejected religion as “opium for the masses.”

Pornography, beyond a simple prohibition

(Pravmir) - Pornography camouflages itself as something unreal, virtual, something that is one’s private business, something that does not hurt anyone. Our culture tells us that we are free to do whatever we want, as long as it does not hurt anyone.

According to surveys, nearly one third of Orthodox Christian teens are unsure whether pornography is right or wrong.[1] This is approximately the same number as that of teens who are unsure whether premarital sex is right or wrong.[2] This is very telling in two ways. First, teens who are unsure about premarital sex are probably also unsure about pornography. And second, while the Church makes its position very clear – premarital sex and pornography are wrong – it needs to do a better job of explaining why. In this short paper, I would like to step away from the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ After all, Christ did not come to bring us laws and legislations. Sins are not right or wrong because someone issued a regulation. Instead, I would like to talk about things that are good for you or bad for you.

The Church teaches us that sexual intimacy is an important part of the sacrament of marriage: there, it has its rightful place; there, it helps the two become one; and there, it fulfills all of its functions – from the expression of love and commitment to the co-creation with God in continuing the human race. Marriage is a sacrament with the “principal and ultimate goal [of] the spiritual and moral perfection of the spouses.”[3] As with any sacrament, that which is sacramental, should not be used for profane purposes. Imagine that a priest throws a party in the holy altar, and then on Sunday, after having picked up the trash, he serves the Divine Liturgy there. Or, he uses the chalice to drink his coffee in the mornings, and then on Sunday he uses it for the Eucharist. Even on an intuitive level we understand that this would be blasphemy. And yet, it is the same with our bodies. The Apostle Paul teaches that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19), and it belongs to your spouse for the fulfillment of the sacrament of marriage (7:4) whether we are married now or will one day be married. Imagine your love for your spouse as a cup filled to the brim, and you want to give all of it, the fullness of it to your beloved. If you start bumping into strangers along the way or allowing them to take some of what you are carrying, then you will not be able to preserve the fullness of your love, and will hand to your beloved a cup half empty, if not altogether unworthy of a sacrament.

All of this can be said about premarital sex in general, but what about pornography? Pornography is just as bad as premarital sex, but more dangerous. When a person engages in a sexual act with another person, both are aware that they are giving up a part of themselves; and the more partners a person has, the more fractured he or she becomes. But pornography camouflages itself as something unreal, virtual, something that is one’s private business, something that does not hurt anyone. Our culture tells us that we are free to do whatever we want, as long as it does not hurt anyone. Let us heed this advice and remember that ‘anyone’ means us as well. Let us make sure that whatever we do does not hurt us physically or spiritually.

Christ said: “…every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). The reason Christ equates looking lustfully, the very definition of pornography, with adultery, a physical act, is because we are not some bags full of disconnected parts body, soul, mind, spirit, will, etc. but whole and interconnected beings. If we have a toothache, our mind may become irritable; and if our mind is anxious, our whole body may ache. This is why when we allow pornography to enter into our eyes and our mind, our entire being is affected. The “virtual” sin of pornography most often leads to very physical masturbation. And once something is seen, it cannot be unseen it imbeds itself in the mind, the memory, the subconscious. We would not want to share our spouse and our marriage bed with a bus load full of porn actors and actresses. But in reality, this is what we do when our minds are polluted with pornorgaphy and we enter into the sacrament of marriage bringing all those “passengers” along. On second thought, porn ‘actors’ and ‘actresses’ perform sexual acts for money, and there is another term for that prostitution. The Apostle Paul says that “he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her” (1 Cor. 6:16). These are very powerful words. This means that when we commit adultery in the heart – watch pornography we become one with that prostitute, instead of our spouse. This is not only destructive to the sacrament of marriage, but also to our own souls: with how many prostitutes can one become one before the soul is completely broken, damaged, fractured, and polluted?

Ways to Fight Against Pornography

1. Avoid those television shows, movies, magazines, and websites that arouse sexual passion. It is much easier to fight against sin while it is still a little worm than to battle it once it becomes a fire breathing dragon.

2. Do not underestimate the brute power of sexual desire. People have killed and died under the influence of the sexual passion. Do not play with fire or you risk being burnt.

3. Remember that demons, including those of lust, are best resisted through prayer and fasting. Pray often and ask God for help. Keep the real fast, not a vegan diet.

4. Keep your eyes and your mind on our Savior and His Most Pure Mother. If you spend time on the computer or watch television place an icon next to the screen. If looking at what is on your screen and in the eyes of Christ at the same time makes you uncomfortable or ashamed, then something is wrong with what is on your screen. Do something about it! (There is an OFF button on every device.)

5. Seek healing in repentance. Once something is seen it cannot be unseen. But God can heal and restore the soul. Remember: repentance is not feeling bad about something. It is a firm decision to turn away from sin and turn to God. It is a decision to fight against sin, not merely feel bad about having committed it. It is a sacrament of reconciliation with God, not a formality of entering a guilty plea on a heavenly court docket.

[1] Purpura, J. Moral and Ethical Issues: Confronting Orthodox Christian Teens across North America, 2002, 57.
[2] Ibid.
[3] “The Mystery of Marriage in a Dogmatic Light.” Bishop Artemy Rantosavlievich. Divine Ascent: A Journal of Orthodox Faith. (Vol. 1 Nos. 3/4), 48.