Saturday, July 4, 2020

GetReligion on former MIT chaplain Daniel Moloney

It is to be expected that when someone is mistreated that he should ask after God's justice, but when that same man errs himself he wants less justice and more mercy. It being one thing to clamor for the prosecution of the man who speeds past you on the highway, but you must also acknowledge the same man will find it perfectly reasonable - and even desirable - to be given a warning in lieu of a ticket for his own speeding. Mercy is a strange thing. We find it natural when applied to ourselves, but difficult to cultivate in response to the actions of others. And we can apply this "self" to people we identify with and those deserving what we perceived justice for those who we do not.

So it is that a Catholic priest attempted to tackle this interplay of justice with mercy and got burned. He called for societal reflection and personal introspection, and was punished for not saying the right words in the right order. A chaplain's role is not that of the shaman's rote incantations. His role is in no small part to tackle the difficulties of right now and apply them to the timeless wisdom of God and His Church. That is rightfully going to prove uncomfortable. MIT didn't want to be discomfited and opted for a bubble of silence in an ocean roaring waves.

The problem is that such a unity of opinion doesn't exist. There are people who believe that racism is systemic, that our nation at its core is irredeemably unfair, and that the only answer is to tear it all down and build something new. There are people who believe people with long rap sheets are being released too easily already and so a knee on the neck is a reasonable and "just" response. And there are people who believe all this has nothing to do with them and they deserve to be left alone. We as a people don't agree. There must be a national dialogue before we are so far apart that we can no longer even hear each other. Perfect justice and perfect mercy are impossible on this side of heaven, but we are obliged to seek after those things according to God's plan.

Our path to the other side of this maze is not obvious. Pulling people such as this cleric out of his position as he tries to navigate towards a solution is done in the name of some perverse justice, at the expense of peace, and in the absence of mercy.

(GetReligion) - Earlier this year, a Catholic priest published a book entitled "Mercy: What Every Catholic Should Know," focusing on doctrine and discipleship issues that, ordinarily, would not cause controversy.

But these are not ordinary times. Acting as a Catholic chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Father Daniel Moloney tried to apply his words about mercy and justice to the firestorm of protests and violence unleashed by the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.

In the end, the priest resigned at the request of the Archdiocese of Boston, in response to MIT administration claims that Moloney, in a June 7 email, violated a campus policy prohibiting "actions or statements that diminish the value of individuals or groups of people."

Moloney wrote, in a meditation that defied simplistic soundbites: "George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and shouldn't have been. He had not lived a virtuous life. He was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery. … And he was high on drugs at the time of his arrest.

"But we do not kill such people. He committed sins, but we root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel. Catholics want all life protected from conception until natural death."

Criminals have human dignity and deserve justice and mercy, the priest said. This is why Catholics are "asked to work to abolish the death penalty in this country."

On the other side of this painful equation, wrote Moloney, police officers struggle with issues of sin, anger and prejudice. Their work "often hardens them" in ways that cause "a cost to their souls." Real dangers can fuel attitudes that are "unjust and sinful," including racism.

In a passage stressed by critics, the priest wrote that the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck "until he died acted wrongly. … The charges filed against him allege dangerous negligence, but say nothing about his state of mind. … But he showed disregard for his life, and we cannot accept that in our law enforcement officers. It is right that he has been arrested and will be prosecuted.

"In the wake of George Floyd's death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don't think we know that."

An editor who has worked with Moloney stressed that the scholarly priest – with degrees from Yale University, Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame – is a precise writer.

Thus, it's important to note what he was "actually saying and, equally important, what he was not saying," noted Joseph Pearce, in The Catholic World Report. "He wasn't saying, as some have alleged by misquoting him, that George Floyd's death was not an act of racism. He was simply saying that we don't know whether it was racist."

Citing Catholic teachings, the priest noted that "racism is a sin. … So is rash judgment." The email ended with these words: "Blessed are the peacemakers, our Lord tells us. May we all be counted among them."

In an online post the day before writing the fateful email, entitled "Mercy in a time of national anger," Moloney said that it helps to remember that leaders of the Civil Rights Movement – especially the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – struggled to obtain justice, but also sought to "cultivate mercy."

Right now, Americans are shouting at one another – or worse – about politics, class struggle and violence.

"Some people think that the right thing to do is to enact reforms of the police; others think that the right thing to do is to kill the police and bomb the precinct," wrote Moloney. "Some people think that nonviolent protests are an appropriate response; others think that injustice justifies robbing the local Target. Some people are satisfied when the bad cops are arrested, prosecuted and convicted; others want to overthrow the government. Some are just so upset that they don't know what to do.

"All agree that something deeply wrong happened to George Floyd, but our consensus stops there, at the level of justice. Mercy is the virtue that comes into play when things go wrong. Once we decide that something is unjust, we still have to decide what is the right thing to do."

Friday, July 3, 2020

Dn. Nicholas Kotar: from cradle to conscientious Orthodoxy

Fr. Dn. Nicholas is an important anglophone voice for Orthodoxy. He is an intriguing mixture of great respect and reverence for tradition while at the same time not being afraid to engage with ideas for fear of breaking them. Our faith is not a brittle antique but something with which we really should - as Israel did - wrestle. The Christian is obliged to evangelize and he is best empowered to do so when he is informed, engaged, and unafraid of the topics of the day. What value the Internet? What value social media? What value the epic narrative format? What value the Church's understanding of sex, friendship, love, and more? After you've watched this video, do be so kind as to visit his blog at A Light so Lovely.

Pope of Rome helps fund first Orthodox monastery in Austria

(Orthodox Times) - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will lay the foundation stone of the first Orthodox monastery in Austria – the first in the region of Central Europe – on September 26. The ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone would have taken place on June 27, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 restrictive measures. 
The foundation stone will be laid by the Ecumenical Patriarch together with the Metropolitan of Austria and Exarch of Hungary and Central Europe, Arsenios, Roman Catholic Bishop Ägidius Johann Zsifkovics, and the governor of the Austrian state of Burgenland, Hans Peter Doskozil. The construction work will begin at the beginning of October. 
The first Orthodox monastery will be built in Sankt Andrä am Zicksee in the Austrian federal state of Burgenland, which is located in eastern Austria near the border with Hungary. The Roman Catholic Bishop, Ägidius Johann Zsifkovics, granted this plot of land to the Holy Metropolis of Austria for the construction of the monastery.

Announcing in October 2014 the founding and forthcoming construction of the “first organized Orthodox monastery in the region of Central Europe,” Metropolitan Arsenios said that it would be a bridge that would unite Austria with Greece, the Catholic Church with Orthodoxy.

As he had stated in Vienna at the time, the Metropolis wanted to establish and operate an Orthodox monastery under the jurisdiction of the Metropolis and Exarchate from the very beginning of his priesthood in December 2011. The Metropolitan managed to do so with the conclusion of the donation agreement, after many months of contacts and discussions with Bishop of Burgenland, Ägidius Johann Zsifkovics.

For the construction of the monastery, Pope Francis had donated EUR 100,000, a check which was festively delivered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Arsenios of Austria in Vienna in late February 2018, as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Austrian Federal Law on Orthodoxy.

"What did Augustine know?"

This is a new series and I find the first installment fascinating. Give it a read, from the blog Multa Legenda...

There are things that everyone just knows, there are things that “everyone knows” but few actually understand, and there are things that “everyone knows,” but some don’t believe.

Let me state a few propositions, by way of example:
  1. Britain is currently under partial lockdown, Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom, and Boris Johnson is Prime Minister. (I am writing on June 17, 2020).
  2. The Earth goes around the Sun, and the novel pneumonia that began spreading in China in roughly November 2019 is caused by the coronavirus denoted (by the standard nomenclature while I write this post) SARS-CoV-2.
  3. The Earth is undergoing climate change due to increased production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by human, who are a product of several millennia of mammalian evolution by natural selection.
Every one of these propositions represents the standard view, among experts, on the political situation in Britain, astronomy and medical science, and the origins of the human race and the present ramifications of its industrialization for the Earth’s ecosystem. But they hold quite different significance for most people.

That Britain is in lockdown is, for the person in Britain, an obvious fact, like saying that grass is green. To deny it would require careful qualifications (this “lockdown” is not a real lockdown; grass is often brown in winter or in summer heat), and, without them, would risk making one look utterly ignorant or out of touch with reality. Likewise, if I said that the Sun goes around the Earth. But that is not, though I have studied a fair amount of physics, something I have actually tested directly. I take it on the trust of universal consensus, and confirm that trust by the knowledge that ordinary experience of seasons, the phases of the moon, and the calendrical cycle do not contradict it.

That the Earth goes around the Sun has, as people sometimes say, a different epistemic status than the claim that Britain is in lockdown or my grandmother’s hair is grey. I believe all these things to be true, but I know some in ways that I do not know others. And, of those things I know on others’ authority, I of course hold some more deeply than others. I would be greatly surprised to hear that SARS-CoV-2 does not cause the novel pneumonia and reluctant to believe anyone who said so. Still, if such evidence were to be produced and gain evident currency among virologists, I would not hold onto a hypothesis formed under the pressure of a spreading epidemic with the tenacity with which I would hold onto a hypothesis upheld by centuries of astronomical observation and confirmed by the great successes of engineering (satellites, space stations, moon landings) enabled by an astronomy that includes, among its many findings, that the Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path.

There are many people who would insist with equal certainty on anthropogenic climate change and human evolution, but there are also many people who would adamantly deny them. Among either group, one view can become what everyone is supposed to know in that group, even if only one view holds the general respect of the educated (and so constitutes what everyone–in society as a whole–is supposed to know). To hold to a position or resist can thus take on overtones of politics and of something more indefinite and yet undeniably important: class will not quite do, as it suggests that social rank is decisive, but perhaps status. Controversy and opposition can shape what one thinks is under discussion, and imbue the discussion with a moral hue that, say, doubting heliocrentrism would not.

Today, the obvious objects of such tenacious, socially-inflected belief and disbelief involve science, sex, and some issues of practical governance. In late antiquity, we find that kind of tenacity focused on sexual lifestyles, too, but it’s ordinarily self-denial and refusal of marriage, not any sense of orientation, that is the main issue at stake. It’s monasticism, not liberation. The great dividing lines have to do with religion. There’s no party politics to speak of in the later Roman Empire, and very little substantial public controversy over natural science.

What I aim to do in this series of posts, therefore, is to take a number of topics–science, economics, civic life, and so forth–and say what it was that everyone knew about them in Augustine’s day. I do mean to keep those different senses of “everyone knowing” in play. Augustine will usually be our main source, and his views weren’t always uncontroversial. In fact, on many issues, they are distinctly controversial: he is describing what he thinks ought to become common knowledge, or what he wishes were, or what was common knowledge in his overlapping monastic, catholic, and educated circles. In some cases, we will quite distinctly be seeing “the world according to Augustine”: what he thought, possibly alone. But even then we are seeing what a particular ancient person thought, and that’s worthwhile in itself.

Your donations keeping Kenyan seminary going!

(OCMC) - His Eminence Elder Archbishop Makarios of Kenya recently sent OCMC an update on the Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus Patriarchal Seminary in Kenya. Thankfully, your support has made it possible for the seminary to make the necessary adjustments and continue its operations amidst COVID-19. Read His Eminence's update below:

Greetings in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Allow me to write this letter in regards to my email and telephone conversation with Fr. Martin, to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center fraternity and moreso the OCMC board headed by Fr. Martin Ritsi, the Executive Director, for the cordial relationship and the support for our mission work here in Kenya that has spanned for many years.

Through your support and grants for the Orthodox Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School: Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus Seminary, and especially during these times of global economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we thank God that the seminary is still functioning through an online learning program, which was mandated by government restrictions and guidelines to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in Kenya. We have continued to offer the learning process through the online platform, which has really helped us to complete our syllabus and prepare for the graduation of our students towards the end of the year. This has proven to be the best way to engage our students, but at the same time our expenditure has largely remained constant. This is because the lecturers and subordinate staff must be paid their monthly salaries, and we still have office and administration costs for the preparations of lessons, as well as security, electricity, and general maintenance bills which remains to some level constant. The only overhead that is not expensed is the food and catering service, although we still have a budget for it.

Your moral, spiritual, and financial support has enabled us to fulfill the Gospel of Jesus Christ through teaching. It is really a great blessing for all of us – and we note the great sacrifice from our brothers and sisters at OCMC. May the Almighty God continue to bless you.

In Christ’s Service,
Archbishop Makarios of Kenya

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Ordination of Arch. Elisée (Germain) to the episcopate

On June 28, 2020, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Metropolitan John of Dubna, head of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Rue Daru in Paris. Concelebrating with Metropolitan John were Metropolitan Antony of Chersonesus and Western Europe, Archbishop Nestor of Madrid and Lisbon, and Bishop Symeon of Domodedovo, vicar of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition. During the Liturgy Archimandrite Elisée (Germain), rector of the French-speaking community of the Holy Trinity at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky, was consecrated Bishop of Reutov, vicar of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition.

New St. Athanasius College course offerings

( - St. Athanasius Academy Announces Class with Bishop JOHN, Other Resources

Father John Finley, Chairman of the Department of Missions & Evangelism, and Interim Dean​ of St. Athanasius College and St. Athanasius Academy, announces several resources:

His Grace Bishop JOHN: This fall, Bishop JOHN is teaching an online class called "Pastoral Care Revisited." Registration is currently open to Antiochian clergy only. On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, the registration will open up to clergy from all Orthodox jurisdictions. There are only 20 spots in this class. Reserve your spot for only $50! Register and learn more!​

Fr. Michael Oleksa: Fr. Michael is teaching two sociology courses for the college. His first course, Communicating Across Cultures, is an excellent course to help us understand and deal with current events. Learn more HERE. Let me give a personal nod on this one. If you have not heard him speak before, you are in for a treat.

Academy Core Subjects: The academy is offering core subjects from 4th grade to 12th grade. Subjects include language arts, math, social studies, civics & economics, and Greek. Learn more HERE.

Parenting Conference: We are working on our next parenting conference. We have tentatively scheduled this to take place this fall. Details will be shared as soon as possible.

New bishops for Russian Archdiocese of W. Europe

(ROC) - On June 28, 2020, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Metropolitan John of Dubna, head of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Rue Daru in Paris. Concelebrating with Metropolitan John were Metropolitan Antony of Chersonesus and Western Europe, Archbishop Nestor of Madrid and Lisbon, and Bishop Symeon of Domodedovo, vicar of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition.
During the Liturgy Archimandrite Elisée (Germain), rector of the French-speaking community of the Holy Trinity at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky, was consecrated Bishop of Reutov, vicar of the Archdiocese of Western European Parishes of Russian Tradition.

The decision concerning the election of two vicar hierarchs for the Archdiocese was taken at its general assembly on January 24, 2020, and approved by the resolution of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of March 11, 2020 (Minutes No. 12). The rite of nomination of Archimandrite Symeon (Cossec) as Bishop of Domodedovo and Archimandrite Elisée (Germain) as Bishop of Reutov took place in the evening of June 26. The episcopal consecration of Archimandrite Symeon was performed on Saturday, June 27.

Among those concelebrating the Sunday Liturgy were also Protopresbyter Anatole Rakovitch, Protopresbyter Jean Gueit, Archpriest Eugene Chapyuk, Archpriest Nicolas Crnokrak, Priest Maxim Politov, and clergy of the Archdiocese.

After the Liturgy Metropolitan John of Dubna expressed his best wishes to Bishop Elisée of Reutov in his lofty episcopal ministry. Vladyka Elisée gave his first archpastoral blessing to numerous parishioners, website of the diocese of Chersonesus reports.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

EP affirms non-negotiable nature of Eucharist


Between​​ June 23 - 25 2020, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was convened for its regular meeting of the current month at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva. On the first day, the chairmen of the synodal committees were engaged in their cooperative work. Many of the Hierarchs of the Throne in Europe were present as well.

During this meeting, the Official Letters of Their Beatitiudes the Orthodox Primates that had been received thus far in response to the letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch to them of May 17th of this year, on the issue of the mode of distribution of Holy Communion that emerged after the appearance of the coronavirus pandemic, were read and discussed. It was satisfactorily determined that their opinion coincided with that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This consists of the following:

a) The Mystery of the Divine Eucharist is non-negotiable, because we believe that through it it is transmitted to the faithful the Body and Blood of the Savior Christ "unto the remission of sins and life eternal" and it is impossible that through this Mystery of Mysteries any disease might be communicated to those who partake. For this reason, the Church remains steadfast and immovable in its teaching towards the essence of the Mystery of Holy Communion.

b) As to the mode of distributing the ineffable Mysteries to the faithful, the Church, respecting Holy Tradition that is interwoven inextricably with the daily ecclesiastical practice and kenoitc experience, and as the guardian and vigilant watchman of those traditions handed down from the Holy Father, finds no need for a change of this mode, especially under pressure from external factors.

At the same time, the Mother Church, mindful of the special needs of Her children in the Diaspora, urges the Chief Shepherds who serve in the Diaspora that with a pastoral sensitivity, responsibility, and consciousness, to temporarily make, by economia, accommodations to problematic situations that arise from local laws of the State for the greater spiritual benefit of the Christian people, always in coordination with the Sacred Center at the Phanar.

In Geneva, 25, June 2020

From the Chief Secretariat

of the Holy and Holy Synod

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

On the Sunday of the Chinese Martyrs

(OMSGSA) - Sunday of the Chinese Martyrs - Second Sunday after Pentecost/Second Sunday of Matthew

On this day, second Sunday of Matthew, we celebrate the Synaxis (gathering) of the Chinese Orthodox Christians who were martyred in Peking during the Boxer Rebellion in the year 1900. 

Short History

In the year of our Lord 1900, when the Empress Dowager reigned over the vast country of China and supported the Boxer Rebellion against all foreigners, two-hundred twenty Orthodox Christians in Peking died as martyrs, although a few others lost courage and renounced the truth of the Gospel. Leader of the martyrs was the Priest Metrophanes Tsi-Chung. Many others followed his example and became martyrs with him, by various means, among whom were his wife Tatiana and sons Isaiah and John, Isaiah’s fiancée Maria, also Paul Wang, the teacher Ia Wang, the eight year old boy John, Clement Kui Lin, Matthew Chai Tsuang, his brother Witt, Anna Chui, and many others, whose names are known by the Lord of life who awards the crowns. 


China, too, possesses Christ-bearing Martyrs,
who continually lift their hands in prayer for her.

The good  earth of China bore fruit, the God-loving Martyrs.

By the intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Mode 3. Seeing how beautiful.

When you renounced your false ancestral errors all, * you came to know that Christ is God and Lord of all. * When you courageously proclaimed that He is the only Savior, * you endured the suffering and the tortures as if you were * bodiless, and you received from His hand the unfading crown. * And now you intercede for all of China * to see the light of knowledge, O Martyr Saints.

Mode 4. You who were lifted.

In recent times you imitated the martyrs of former times in your victorious contests, O blessed Saints, for you competed valiantly for Christ. Watering the holy Church of the great land of China with your blood, you have received a crown from Lord’s hand. As you are standing near Him in the heights, commemorate us who honor your martyrdom. 


Sweet is the death of Martyrs and full of gladness; for the abuse and tortures endured for Christ bring an abundance of honor. Therefore the great multitude of Chinese martyrs has brought spiritual joy to the entire Church today, as she marvels at their courage and steadfastness of mind, and also their indomitable confession of faith, by which they glorified Jesus the giver of the crowns, after being killed in various ways. We who love martyrs dutifully celebrate them and in faith cry out to them: “Athletes of the Lord, worthy of God, as you are standing near Him in the heights, commemorate us who honor your martyrdom.

Russian Church sees reason where many of us do not

Moscow, June 20 (Interfax) - Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion believes that toppling of statues in the USA is an attempt to rewrite the history.

"We certainly should not project modern standards to the past. People of the past lived according to other rules, they spoke a different language, they acted in a different way, and just automatically transfer all acting standards, especially the existing in the West so-called liberal standards, to the past of humanity - it means to rewrite history permanently," the metropolitan said on air Church and the World program on Rossiya-24 TV.

According to the hierarch, it is impossible to rewrite the history and "it is necessary to pay tribute to outstanding figures of the past basing on the standards that existed that time and not artificially project modern standards to the past."

Thus the Russian Orthodox Church official responded to mass dismantling of monuments in America to people who had to do with slavery, which commenced on the back of the protests against murder of Afro-American George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Find yourself on this chart or add your own entry

One of the interesting things about Orthodoxy in the North America is that every jurisdiction has their own template for types of people in every parish. I can almost guarantee you will have the same grouping wherever you are. In some situations the template can be even more specific. For example, I could post a short video of a coffee hour in Texas and you'd be able to say "OCA Diocese of the South!" with a very high degree of certainty. Or I could post a similar video for a Greek parish and (even without the smattering of Greek as a giveaway) you'd be able to say, "There's the lady who attends everything on the church calendar. There's the guy who opens the door for everything, but is oddly never at the services. There's the mother who asks about childcare for everything. There's the homeschooling mom who has to defend her choice to every bejeweled boomer who wants to compliment her kids while feeling compelled to ask bemused questions about why they can't be "normal" and go to school. There's the supposed "ξένος" spouse who has been married for 5 years and still just sits in the corner sipping coffee looking at his watch and waiting to be allowed to go to the car." You could easily do the same for a ROCOR parish or a pan-Slavic parish in the midwest.

It will be interesting to see if over time we go the way of Catholicism which used to have an ethnic parish for each group (Slovaks, Italians, Irish) until consolidation closed down all but one church and everyone just identifies as Catholic. But then the fault lines are on how traditional or radical a Catholic you are determines which parish you go to.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Abp. Peter of Chicago on revolution

(ROCOR-Chicago) - Dear in Christ Clergy, Brothers and Sisters of our God-loving Diocese of Mid-America,

I greet you all with the great feast of Pentecost — the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and establishment of the Holy New-Testament Church of Christ.

Since the day of Her foundation, the Holy Church always defended and cared for the oppressed, widows, orphans, and homeless. (Acts: III, 45; IV, 34-35; VI, 1-3) Besides, all charity was of free will and non-compulsory. (Acts: V, 4) And so it was throughout the ages.

State social services appeared rather recently.

The Holy Church was always against any kind of revolutions or forceful overturning of power. Instead, She supported civil evolution. For example, being persecuted, She peacefully, without any riots, changed the course of the pagan Roman Empire, having completely regenerated it.

The same was done by Orthodox Christian missionaries, who spread the Holy Gospel among different nations. Look at the history of Holy Russia and compare by what means the Bolsheviks planted “equality”.

Now we are experiencing great turmoil in our United States. Attempts are made to destroy all foundations of law and order. In the name of “justice” we see looting, destruction, and mayhem.

The Holy Church was always against such actions, and Orthodox Christians cannot participate or support them.

Apostle Paul writes that we should pray for the land we live in and its authorities. If there is peace in the land, so will the Church and Her children live in peace and prosperity.

Therefore, we should enforce our prayers for our American land and its peace and tranquility.

“O Lord Jesus Christ our God, do Thou calm the agitation and discord in our American land, banish from us slander and conflict, murder and drunkenness, bitter disputes and scandals, and burn out of our hearts every impurity, conflict and evil, that again we all may love one another and abide, as one, in Thee, O Lord, our God, as Thou has commanded and directed us. Grant peace to Thy Church and to Her children, that with one heart and one mouth we may glorify Thee, our Lord and Savior, unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

Peter, Archbishop of Chicago & Mid-America

Rikonian neforms and other such spoonerisms

(Orthodox History) - On June 8, the OCA website published “A Letter of a Parish Priest to His Flock.” This letter has been shared widely on social media, by people of many different Orthodox jurisdictions. It was written by an unnamed OCA priest in the Diocese of the South and was made public by his bishop, Archbishop Alexander of Dallas. Certain aspects of this letter touch on historical matters, and it is on these things that I’d like to focus.


The unnamed priest writes, “Many people, particularly online, are now in a huff about practices concerning cleaning or even replacing the spoon. The use of a spoon for Holy Communion is approximately 1000 years old. That means, prior to that, there was no Communion spoon. I will not take time to go into the more ancient practices for receiving Holy Communion, I will only say that to make a dogma out of the spoon is wrong.”

What were the “more ancient practices” that the priest does not discuss? From the time of the Apostles, all of the faithful received Communion in the way that the priests and deacons still do to this day: they received the Body in their hands, and then they sipped the Blood from the chalice — a common chalice. The spoon appears to have supplanted the older method for purely practical reasons — it’s much less messy to feed the faithful by the spoon than it is to put the Body in their hands, which risks the dropping of crumbs, etc. It also happens to be quicker when you’re communing a large number of communicants at a single Divine Liturgy. In any event, the older method is certainly not “more sanitary” than the spoon, from a secular perspective, as it involves the faithful sucking up bread crumbs from their hands and drinking from a shared cup. I'd go further. It is also not a dogmatic issue if a priest should choose to wear a tank top and flip flops to celebrate the Liturgy, but I wouldn't call such a change insignificant either. We also are not in the same predicament as those men and women were when the spoon was introduced. Are we a society of Orthodox Christians showing great faith, building hospitals, and feeding all of our poor? I'd say we're not in a strong enough place to think that we're equipped to change things such as how we commune people using arguments one might make about the need for a new car air filter. "See all those leaves, sir? It really is time to get a new one."


The priest then turns to the Old Believer schism:

Brothers and sisters, there is real danger of another sort of Old Believer schism affecting the Church today as it did in Russia a few hundred years ago when people refused to accept changes to the service books and some of the practices of the faithful even when it became clear that the old ways were mistaken. At that time the corrections were often introduced heavy-handedly, but that is not the case in our situation, where the bishops have considerately and in the face of a serious health crisis introduced temporary changes, changes which in no way affect the dogmas or teachings of our Faith. I'm sure he knows that many of the Nikonian reforms were just mistakes. Plain and simple errors that were done with good intentions, but lacked real theological foundations. Now that does sound familiar... 
In 1652, Patriarch Nikon ascended to the throne of the Moscow Patriarchate. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes in The Orthodox Church,Nikon was probably the most brilliant and gifted man ever to become head of the Russian Church; but he suffered from an overbearing an authoritarian temper.” Nikon discovered a number of differences between the practices of the Russian and Greek Churches, and he decided to “correct” these Russian practices by ordering immediate, unilateral changes applicable throughout the entire Moscow Patriarchate. The most famous of these changes involved the Sign of the Cross — the Russians had been making it with two fingers, and Nikon insisted that they must now make it with three, like the Greeks.

A significant minority in the Russian Church rejected Nikon’s reforms. In a 1957 paper, Serge Zenkovsky explains, “What were the real causes of this contention over the reforms? The Patriarch and the Tsar wanted to remove the discrepancies which had crept in over the centuries; they wanted to introduce a common Orthodox ritual. Opponents of reform regarded the Muscovite practices as an inseparable part of the Russian Orthodox way of life — as, indeed, sanctified by generations of Muscovite clerics, saints, and laymen.” This is a classic problem every jurisdiction has especially in this cross-pollinating New World. If Father Yuri down the road is lifting up bread and making little circles with it, am I missing out on something I should be doing? Is that some new thing I should avoid? Priests are constantly carbon dating the practices and (frankly) eccentricities of their fellow local clergy. The flip side of this is tucked away areas of the globe that continue very ancient practices only to visit some other place and wonder if they are doing this or that incorrectly because their little recess didn't innovate when they did.

This was a sensitive pastoral situation, and Patriarch Nikon was not up to the challenge. Metropolitan Kallistos writes, “Had Nikon proceeded gently and tactfully, all might yet have been well, but unfortunately he was not a tactful man.” Opponents of Nikon’s reforms — “Old Believers” — were harshly persecuted. In 1666-67, a Pan-Orthodox Council was held in Moscow, presided over by the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. The Council’s decision was nuanced. Metropolitan Kallistos summarizes it in this way: “The council decided in favour of Nikon’s reforms, but against his person: Nikon’s changes in the service books and above all his ruling on the sign of the Cross were confirmed, but Nikon himself was deposed and exiled, a new Patriarch being appointed in his place.” I'm not sure if the correct thing was jettisoned. Or to borrow from the military world, when the soldier means to throw the grenade but throws the pin, things get chaotic.

Unfortunately, the schism was not healed — it has persisted to the present day, although in recent times some Old Believers have reunited with the Russian Orthodox Church.


So what does the Old Believer schism have to tell us about the present controversy over the Communion spoon?

Firstly, it’s important to note a significant difference between Nikon’s reforms and the spoon issue: In the case of Nikon’s reforms, there was broad consensus among the Orthodox hierarchy. This is not the case with the spoon. The majority of the Orthodox Churches are not changing the traditional practice. The Moscow Patriarchate has introduced a temporary measure to “disinfect” the spoon between communicants, and outside of that, a relative handful of bishops in the so-called “diaspora” have mandated some version of multiple spoons. Everyone else is sticking with the common spoon.

This is in stark contrast with the Nikonian reforms, in which Nikon attempted to align the Russian Church with the practices of the other Orthodox Churches. A comparable approach today would be for the “multiple spoons” bishops to switch back to the common spoon — not the other way around. Instead of Nikon’s reforms, the current changes are perhaps more akin to the “Living Church” in 1920s Communist Russia, when changes in the external conditions of society created momentum for advocates of change within the Russian Church. In addition to the headline revisions of the Living Church, such as allowing clergy (including bishops) to marry after ordination and retain their ranks, those renovationists made liturgical changes, including moving the altar to the center of the church.

The Old Believers were primarily laypeople who rebelled against a united Russian Church hierarchy. American Orthodoxy, with its tangle of jurisdictions, is nothing like this. The American Orthodox laypeople who are currently questioning their bishops live side by side among other Orthodox faithful whose bishops are not innovating.

Furthermore, the unnamed priest insists that, unlike Nikon’s “heavy-handed” approach, the OCA bishops (the subject of the author’s letter) have introduced their changes “considerately.” This, of course, is a matter of opinion, but any mandate handed down from above, without exceptions and without the hard work of consensus-building, runs the risk of being “heavy-handed” and creating unintended divisions. I suspect that the OCA's general counsel would not have felt the need to write a public letter on the topic had the communicants of the Metropolia universally agreed that things were done with a light touch.

I am sure that the bishops who are introducing liturgical changes today are all gentle and loving men, acting in what they believe to be the best interests of their flocks. I’m not saying this in a pandering way — I mean it. Precisely because of this, it is important that they consider the Nikonian reforms as a warning, not only to their frustrated parishioners (i.e., don’t be like the Old Believers), but to themselves (i.e., don’t be like Nikon). Nikon may have been right, but his pastoral approach was wrong, and had disastrous consequences.


Finally, the unnamed priest assures us that the spoon issue is not dogmatic. And to be sure, there is nothing inherently “dogmatic” about the use of a spoon — after all, it wasn’t used for the first thousand or so years of church history. But the underlying issues most certainly are dogmatic: What is Communion? Can it be a vector for disease? If I become sick after taking Communion, what does it mean? The answers to these questions have significant dogmatic and soteriological implications. As I have said innumerable times, it is not incumbent on the Church to answer "Why not?," but to be able to fully and completely answer positively as to "Why." This keeps us from doing things because "why the heck not." We are not the Church of "hold my beer." We are the Church that holds tradition dear.

The priest says that many people “are now in a huff” about the spoon issue and he decries “‘Armchair bishops’ without the grace of the episcopacy.” From the context, it seems that the priest is focusing his criticisms on people who pontificate on the Internet. Fair enough. But many faithful Orthodox clergy and laity are genuinely concerned about the changes being mandated by certain hierarchs, and the correct response to those concerned people is not the stereotypical counsel to “pray, pay, and obey” that seems to underlie this anonymous letter. There are real dogmatic issues here, and they concern the entire Body of the faithful.

It seems to me, then, that both the frustrated clergy and laity and the innovating hierarchs should take heed: we the faithful should not become like the Old Believers, but likewise the hierarchs should strive not to imitate Patriarch Nikon.

Spoons for miles...

(Orthodox Observer) - Holy Tradition is one thing; long-held Church customs are another. The former is divine in origin, Apostolic and unchangeable; the latter varies throughout time and place in response to varying human considerations. Those who fail to distinguish Holy Tradition from temporal traditions introduce confusion into the Faith, inviting rancor and even schism. 

For example, clergy today employ an applicator for the Mystery of Holy Unction: a stick or brush or cotton swabs. Yet the Apostolic injunction for the anointing of the sick (James 5:14) uses the Greek verb ἀλείφω, meaning “to rub or smear” oil on the body, as ancient athletes used to do after a workout. This was done, not with brushes or swabs, but with bare hands. (Just as clergy apply the Oil of Gladness at Holy Baptism even today.) 

Over time—and no doubt for practical considerations—clergy began to use applicators for the Agion Euchelaion instead of their fingers. This change was an innovation, but nothing spiritual or sacramental was at stake. The same grace of the Holy Spirit was given through Holy Unction, regardless of the instrument used to anoint. And so even today, we experience fully the power and efficacy of this Great and Holy Mystery of healing.  This is stated as if this is the universal practice. It is not. Carpatho-Rusyns continue to use their thumbs for example. 

Some clergy employ a single applicator for all parishioners, while others use disposable swabs, one for each person. This variation in practice has existed for many years. No one ever deemed it a cause for division in the Church or grounds for accusations of heresy.  No one ever suggested that individual swabs either impugned the sacredness of the Mystery or implied that Holy Oil could convey corruption. Regardless of the applicator used, the Apostolic Tradition of anointing the sick was maintained unchanged, while being administered in a variety of ways. I'm not sure who he has spoken with. I have had several discussions and overheard more about the use of disposable swabs and on people giving away holy oils from used swabs and cotton balls to non-Orthodox in the misguided belief that they are being friendly and doing nothing wrong.

So it has been also for the Mystery of Holy Communion. The Lord’s command to receive His Body and Blood has been followed unchangingly in the Orthodox Church for 2000 years. Even so, the method of distributing the Holy Gifts has changed several times. At first, the Holy Body of Christ was placed directly into the hands of the communicant, as the Lord most certainly did for His disciples at the Mystical Supper. Thereafter, a common cup was shared by sipping from the same chalice (much as a bride and groom do in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony even today). This is where you try to apply the malleability of one aspect of a thing and claim similar mutability to another. So it is well to begin by making square mirrors and then decide to make oval mirrors, or to go from unframed looking glasses to great gilded things, but it is another thing entirely to go from reflective mirrors to clear glass and claim that removing a primary aspect of a mirror is just another alteration.

We learn from Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Mystagogical Catechesis, 5.21-22) that these practices were still in place in his time. Only much later did the practice develop of using tongs or spoons. From other sources we know that the Eucharist was sent home with laypeople so that they might commune themselves daily or provide the Gifts to others unable to attend the Liturgy. (Cf. Tertullian, Second Letter to His Wife, 5; Pope Damasus, Inscription for Saint Tarcisius; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 6, chapter 44.) A vestige of this is the practice of retaining antidoron for the week and consuming a bit every day.

The Church has since ceased all these earlier methods for distributing the Holy Gifts for practical and pastoral reasons. Nevertheless, the sacred deposit of the Faith remains unchanged, as day by day we celebrate the Eucharist and receive the Lord’s Body and Blood.  

Consider the possibility of multiple spoons for the Eucharist. Would these not be preferable to a common spoon, with the “drop” technique of distribution that some now favor? No. First, many of our communicants are senior citizens. For sixty years or more, they have closed their mouths on the spoon, just as they were taught in childhood. Try as they might, simple muscle memory will take over. They will close their mouths on the spoon despite their best intentions. This mishap will make the act of communing a cause of embarrassment for them, and not the joy it should be. And what of very young children, whose impulse will always be to close their mouths on the spoon? Moreover, their mouths are often too small for the priest to drop in the Holy Gifts without spillage. I communed several older people last Sunday. No mishap. I don't rush people through the process. If an older person needs more time to receive, he gets it.

Second, some parishioners cannot open their mouths wide for the drop technique due to arthritis or TMJ disorders; others cannot tip back their heads adequately due to balance problems. In such cases, the Law of Gravity applies to the Holy Gifts just like everything else in the world. The Gifts will fall—hopefully onto the napkin, but possibly onto the floor. Again, this mishap is a cause for embarrassment and even shame for our elderly. I have been dropping communion in the mouths of people for quite a while. I've communed children a month old and women that are a hundred years old. In much the same way you prepare for any event, you prepare for communion. 

Why not switch to multiple spoons, which parishioners can securely close their mouths on? Some say that this practice would impugn the dignity of the Holy Gifts. But we contend that it would safeguard the Gifts even better. When the laypeople have no fears about closing their mouths on the spoon, they will receive the Gifts with a confidence that makes spillage less likely. More spoons will make for fewer spills. We should all be in favor of that. Another argument that takes what the author desires and finds supposedly universally attractive merits to garner support. No, I don't favor any such thing. I have served at several churches of all different jurisdictions. Let me say that the plating on several of those spoons was lacking. I hold out no great hope that a parish that can't care for one spoon is going to find a way to do so with God-knows-how-many spoons. In fact, I don't see spoons surviving very long if we go with this new method. We'll be communing in the hand before the next decade.

Some will object that multiple spoons cater to weakness of belief: if people have sufficient faith, Holy Communion cannot possibly harm them. But then what of our parishioners whose faith is weak in this regard? They may fear contagion, not from the Holy Gifts, but from some residue left on the spoon by a parishioner before them. Must they be excluded ever hereafter from the Holy Chalice for their doubts? When the father of the demoniac boy came to Christ, he cried out: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) And the Lord most certainly helped him in his unbelief. Must we now make fear of contagion the ultimate criterion for judging whether a parishioner is worthy of the medicine of immortality? Or does a quaver of doubt consign him forever to excommunication? Where is the fatherly kindness in any of this? Is not the whole mystery of the Incarnation God’s way of condescending to humanity’s weakness of faith? I find that changing my behavior to suit the fears of people actually strengthens their fears, not lessens it. If a parishioner is SURE that he is going to be hit by a meteor, my constantly looking up and saying "My God, what is that?!" doesn't help him at all. It exacerbates his delusion. Let us not invite modern ideas of sterility into the discussion. Have we not learned enough from the ill-effects of hand sanitizing our children into all manner of problems when what they needed was more time making mud pies and getting their knees skinned?

If our salvation depends on our own strength of faith rather than the unqualified mercy of God, which of us should ever dare commune again? Remember that the great and holy Apostle Peter had faith enough to step out onto the surface of the sea to join Christ, but thereafter his faith wavered and he sank into the waves (Matthew 14:22-33). And what about our people, who might come forward with the fear of God, faith, and love; but then with the precious Gifts already in their throats, hearing their neighbor cough or sneeze, lose courage? Will one’s faith protect him from contagion in that case? A false argument. If I support multiple spoons, then I am saving someone from illness and death. If I do not, then I don't care if people get ill, die, or lose faith. Again, no gymnast grows brave by his coach constantly lowering the bar on every exercise. One might as well take up thumb wrestling - with gloves on of course.

We note also that St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, in his commentary on the 28th Canon of the Quinisext Council, allowed for innovative methods for distributing Communion. These methods were designed to forestall the spread of contagion. In other words, his approach in time of plague is NOT to say, “Your faith will keep you from getting sick in the act of distributing the Gifts.” Rather, this holy Father advises practical and hygienic measures to achieve a spiritual end. 

Some also claim that multiple spoons will cause a rift in the worldwide body of the Orthodox Church. This objection is sheer casuistry: there are a myriad of ways in which liturgical practices differ across the various autocephalous churches of Orthodoxy. We use different kinds of liturgical chant, color schemes for vestments forms of the Burial service, and so on. The Orthodox Church of Finland even celebrates Pascha on a different date from the rest of the Orthodox world! None of these variations in liturgical practice disrupts the unity of the Faith. Holy Tradition remains unchanged, even as our customs for practicing it vary. A modest Q-tip or extra spoon cannot disrupt the unity of the Faith that is truly One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.