Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An open letter to the IOCC

(Orthodoxy Today) - by Ronda Wintheiser – Dear Mr. Triantafilou, board of directors, and the staff at IOCC:

I did finally receive a response to the email and the letter I wrote recently asking you to reconsider your selection of Senator Sarbanes as an honorary chairman for the upcoming gala planned for May 8th. Thank you for it.

The letter read, in part, that: “Senator Sarbanes was selected as an honorary co-chairman for the event for his steadfast commitment and support for IOCC’s ongoing humanitarian mission. While we recognize that you do have concerns about his participation, we hope you will not allow it to overshadow a 20-year legacy of positively impacting the lives of so many people.”

I’m sure you hoped that such a carefully crafted letter would smooth this over and make me go away. But it’s Great Lent, and one of the Scripture readings selected by the Church for Clean Monday just happens to be a warning from God about coming to worship Him with blood on our hands (Isaiah 1) — and I take that very seriously.

Do you realize that the argument made in the letter written by Rada Tierney for why I should continue to support IOCC is the same argument used to defend Planned Parenthood? ‘So what if they are the largest abortion provider in the world? They do so much good! Why allow your concerns about abortion to overshadow their legacy of positively impacting the lives of so many people?’

In Romans 16, St. Paul admonishes Christians to “associate with the lowly”. As far as I can tell, there are none so lowly as unborn children, nor as needy, isolated, and vulnerable, and as we are about to celebrate on March 25th, Christ deigned to become an unborn Child Himself.

It isn’t my choice to overshadow your “20-year-legacy” with the spectre of abortion — it’s yours. You have made it clear it doesn’t matter to you whether Senator Sarbanes supports killing unborn children as long as he keeps giving his money to you. That makes it painfully obvious that you prefer to associate with rich, powerful, politically correct figures than with lowly unborn children — or with nobody housewives like me, for that matter.

You have Senator Sarbanes’ support, so you surely don’t need mine; therefore, I am writing to request a refund of the $100 check I wrote to IOCC on February 5th during the Souper Bowl of Caring drive. It’s not very much; I’m sure you won’t miss it, and if you do, perhaps Senator Sarbanes will make up the difference.

Lord, have mercy on me, and on you all as well.

On "Challenges of Orthodox Thought and Life"

Fr. Milovan Katanic recently posted about a new book on his blog Again & Again. Here's a snippet from that post followed by the publisher's info for the book.



Lent isn’t only a time we try to find something nourishing to eat so that we might feed our bodies but we also look to feed our souls with something good to read. Luckily for us a new book has just come out which promises to do just that.

The book is “Challenges of Orthodox Thought and Life: Reflections on Christian Foundations and Living Traditions” by Hieromonk Calinic (Berger). The book is, in fact, a collection of essays which were, as is noted in the preface, “originally published in Solia-The Herald, the diocesan periodical of the Romanian Episcopate of America, where they appeared in the column Orthodox Thought and Life. Here they have been arranged by topic, edited and in some cases, slightly expanded.”

And just who is Fr. Calinic? Well, I know him because he’s my neighbor, parish priest of the local Romanian Orthodox Church here in Hermitage. What I didn’t know however, was that many others – if they don’t know him personally, have at least heard of him. And so I’ve noticed his articles re-printed in a number of our Serbian parish bulletins. What’s more, they have been translated into Serbian and appeared in church periodicals in Serbia as well. Why? I think for the simple reason that his articles are so rich in theology yet, at the same time, written in a simple, straightforward prose, “not in persuasive words of human wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1). Which is to say this book is filled with essays written for all of our faithful parishioners, all of whom are hungry and thirsty for the Word of God...

Complete post here.
(Orthodox Gifts) - A challenge - something which causes us to free ourselves from distraction and to focus our spiritual and mental energy in order to achieve a goal. A challenge demands effort and dedication. If met, it grants the goal as its reward. In Orthodox Christianity, the goal is salvation, our union with God in Christ.

"Challenges of Orthodox Thought and Life" presents a series of short essays centered around essential and provocative questions of Christian belief and life, all meant to bring the reader into the spiritual arena, where the decisive challenge of salvation is presented. Based on the Holy Scriptures, engaging the living and patristic Tradition and informed by contemporary scholarship, these short reflections provide a source-book of knowledge and inspiration for a vibrant Orthodox faith in today's world.

About the Author

The Rev. Hieromonk Calinic (Berger) has written and lectured on Orthodox theology in numerous academic and popular venues. He is a graduate of Santa Clara University (BSEE, 1988), Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (MTS, 1994), and the Catholic University of America (PhD, 2003). He is the pastor of Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.

Memory Eternal, Metropolitan Nicholas!

In 2002 Met. Nicholas assisted in the Consecration of Holy Chrism in Constantinople.
JOHNSTOWN, PA (ACROD) - The Diocesan Chancery has announced that special memorial services will take place at Christ the Saviour Cathedral and St. John the Baptist Parish in Perth Amboy New Jersey to mark the one year anniversary of the repose of +His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas, who Fell-Asleep-In-The-Lord on March 13, 2011.

On March 13, 2012 a Parastas Service will take celebrated by Very Rev. Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro, Diocesan Chancellor at 5:00 pm at Christ the Saviour Cathedral. A lenten meal will follow the service at 6 PM in the Pyramids Lounge near the Cathedral. Those who wish to attend the dinner are asked to contact Fr. Miloro at 814-539-8086 or fpmiloro@atlanticbb.net by March 7, 2012.

On Sunday March 18, 2012, His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America, Locum Tenens, will celebrate the Parastas Service at 4:00 pm at St. John the Baptist Church in Perth Amboy, NJ, the home parish of +Metropolitan Nicholas. He will be joined by His Eminence, Archbishop Anthony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A, and assisted by Very Rev. Protopresbyter Michael Rosco, pastor of St. John's Church. A dinner hosted by the Smisko family will follow.

At the direction of His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, special prayers seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in discerning God's will for the successor to +Metropolitan Nicholas will be added to the Litany of Fervent Supplication during Divine Liturgy in all Diocesan parishes beginning on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Diocesan Consistory has been working closely with Archbishop Demetrios in discerning qualified episcopal candidates for the vacant office of Diocesan Bishop.

May Almighty God Rest the Soul of the Ever-Memorable +Metropolitan Nicholas in the Mansions of the Just, where there is neither sickness, sorrow or mourning but life-everlasting. May His Memory Be Eternal!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jurisdictional Lenten resources

I'll add more as I find resources or you make me aware of them.

American Carpatho-Russian Diocese



Antiochian Archdiocese



Greek Archdiocese



Orthodox Church in America

Lent, East and West

(AFR) - Fr. Andrew Damick comments on a recent article in Christianity Today by Mark Galli entitled "Giving Up Self-Discipline For Lent." He contrasts the western view of Lent with an Orthodox perspective. Listen to Fr. Andrew's commentary below or read it by clicking on the image.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Holy Transfiguration Monastery: How Church Books Work

Just found a great set of instructional materials on the Church year and how to use the books for each. From Holy Transfiguration Monastery Publications. It's a treasure trove.


(HTMP) - Besides presenting Holy Transfiguration Monastery’s books themselves, this website was conceived to explain and illustrate what the Church books are and how they are used.

We begin with The Liturgical Year Introduced, a series of diagrams that show when the Menaion, Triodion, Pentecostarion, and Octoëchos are used throughout the year, the difference between moveable and immovable feasts, and how they work together...
Site available here.

ROCOR Seminarians visit Old Rite parish

(HTS) - On February 4–5, 2012, a small group of instructors and students from Holy Trinity Seminary visited the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Erie, Pennsylvania. The parish was formerly a priestless Old Believer congregation which was received into the Russian Church Abroad but still maintains the typikon of the medieval Russian Church. The group from Holy Trinity, having studied the history of the Old Believer schism in the classroom, was interested in experiencing Old Rite liturgics firsthand and learning more about the Old Believer movement from people within it. The last group of seminarians from Holy Trinity came to Erie in 2009.

The visitors arrived on Saturday afternoon. Archpriest Pimen Simon, the parish rector, welcomed them into his home and gave a short history of the parish: Priestless Old Believers from Russian Poland founded the church in the early 20th century. Fr Pimen, upon becoming the leader (nastavnik) of the congregation, felt a need for the fullness of the sacramental life. With the help of Priest Dimitri Alexandrow (1930–2010), Father Pimen brought most of his congregation into ROCOR in 1983. Fr Dimitri was consecrated a bishop for the Old Rite, becoming Bishop Daniel of Erie.

Vigil soon began with Small Vespers at 4:15pm. After a short break, the services continued with Vespers, Matins, and First Hour, lasting over four hours. The students saw many similarities in basic structure and texts used, but also noticed many differences in practice. For example, commentary on the Sunday gospel is read during Matins, Znamenny chant is exclusively sung on the “krylos” (kliros), and the sign of the cross is made at different times of the service. “We follow the ‘Tserkovnoe Oko’ [Eye of the Church],” said Fr Pimen in reference to the Typicon of St. Sava, first translated into Church Slavonic in the 14th century, “and many of the things we do are found in the New Rite as well. You just don’t do them.” Students had many questions about Old Rite practice, which Father Pimen answered over supper after the All-Night Vigil. He also related a few anecdotes about Bishop Daniel of blessed memory.

The next morning, the students attended the Divine Liturgy, which was preceded by the Midnight Office and the Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours. All the seminarians participated in the Liturgy, whether on the chanter’s stand or in the altar. After liturgy, the students shared a meal with the parishioners and participated in a panel discussion; the congregation had as many questions for the seminarians as they had for the parishoners! The seminarians related how their misconceptions were changed by their visit. “I thought that all the men would have beards down to here and the women would wear seven layers of clothing,” said John Martin, a second-year seminarian, “but now I realize that you’re all regular Orthodox people, and I feel quite at home at this church.”

The instructors and seminarians are especially grateful to Fr. Pimen and the clergy and parishioners at the Nativity of Christ Church for their warm hospitality, and they hope to return again soon.

Pan-Orthodox youth choir hosted by ROCOR in Philadelphia

An exposition of the Forgiveness Sunday icon

A look at the liturgical language of the Forgiveness services and their iconography from the blog A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons.



Adam sat opposite Paradise and, lamenting his nakedness, he wept, ‘Woe is me ! By evil deceit was I persuaded and robbed, and exiled far from glory. Woe is me ! Once naked in my simplicity, now I am in want. But, Paradise, no longer shall I enjoy your delight; no more shall I look upon the Lord my God and Maker, for I shall return to the earth whence I was taken.Merciful and compassionate Lord, I cry to you, ‘Have mercy on me who am fallen’.

- Doxastikon of the Stichera - Tone 6

A composition of Icons and portions of Saturday vespers and the Sunday hymns on the theme of Forgiveness Sunday: The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise

From Saturday Vespers:

The Lord, my Creator, took me as dust from the earth, and with the breath of life He gave me a soul and made me a living creature.

He honoured me as ruler on earth over all things visible and as a companion of the Angels.

But Satan the deceiver, using the serpent as his instrument, enticed me by food, separated me from the glory of God and gave me over to the earth and to the lowest depths of death. But as Master and compassionate, call me back again...

Complete article here.

Monastery consecrated in Thailand

(mospat.ru) - On February 9, 2012, Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, director of the Moscow Patriarchate’s office for institutions abroad, who is on a visit to Thailand, consecrated the church dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God at the Monastery of the Dormition in Ratchaburi.

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Fr. Seraphim Raicha of St. Nicholas’s in Bangkok was ordained in the newly-consecrated church as hieromonk to continue his service in Thailand. Present at the service were pilgrims from various parishes in the country, officials of the Russian Embassy in Thailand and the head of the local administration.

His Eminence Mark presented Rev. Danai (Daniel) Vann with a patriarchal award, a golden pectoral cross. The right to wear it was granted to the first Thai Orthodox priest for his zealous work for the good of the Church and the Thai translation of Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy’s Bible chairs.

Archbishop Mark also presented Archimandrite Oleg Cherepanin, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand, with the Order of St. Innocent of Moscow in acknowledgement of his work for many years for the good of the Church and on the occasion of his 50th birthday.

The previous day, Archbishop Mark held at the monastery an assembly of the clergy, members of the parish councils of Orthodox churches in Thailand and Cambodia, representatives of the Orthodox parish in Laos and the committee of the Orthodox Church Foundation in Thailand. Archimandrite Oleg Cherepanin made a report stating the progress made and existing problems, the main ones being an acute need for purchasing some land for building a church in Bangkok and a shortage of clergy at the acting parishes.

Members of parish councils reported on the life of their communities, describing the special features of each of them. Rev. Danai (Daniel), chairman of the committee of the Orthodox Church Foundation in Thailand, introduced the assembly to the work of the Foundation.

In conclusion, Archbishop Mark addressed the assembly thanking all the participants and stating that some problems will be settled in the course of his visit, while others will be submitted to the consideration of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

He also received each of the monastery brethren in individual audience for a private talk, after which he identified candidates for taking monastic vows and instructed the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand to submit an appropriate report to Patriarch Kirill.

In the evening, Archbishop Mark officiated at All-Night Vigil at the monastery’s church of the Dormition. During the service he presented Vladimir Buntilov, assistant to the ROC representative in Thailand and lecturer at the Mahidol University in Bangkok, with a patriarchal award, the Medal of St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, in recognition of his church work, the website of the Orthodox Church in Thailand has reported.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is what we have gotten to.


(NBC-DFW) - Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker says she won't perform marriage ceremonies until homosexuals can be wed.

During a Feb. 21 meeting, Parker told the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas that while she has the power to perform legal marriage ceremonies in her court, she will not.

“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away,” Parker said. “So I usually will offer them something along the lines of, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn’t apply to another group of people.’ And it’s kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can’t be performed for me, so I’m not going to do it."

"I do not perform [marriages] because it is not an equal application of the law. Period," Parker told the Dallas Voice.

Though she chooses not to perform the ceremonies, Parker said she passes marriage ceremonies on to other judges so they can be completed.

During the meeting, Parker also mentioned other steps she takes to promote equality for gay, lesbian, and transgendered issues, including adding the word "partner" to the list of people the jury is not supposed to communicate about the ongoing case with, and admonishing an attorney who used the terms "child molester" and "homosexual" interchangeably.

Parker was elected in 2010 and is the first lesbian to be elected as a county judge in Dallas.

A prayer for peace in Syria

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In procession


"Ashes to Go" in Boston

(boston.com) - Walking down the platform at the Beverly Depot train station around 8 this morning, Lyndsy Stopa paused with a puzzled look on her face in front of a folding table with an A-frame sign that read “Ashes to Go.”

“Sure, what the heck,” Stopa said after being offered the traditional Ash Wednesday blessing by a lay Eucharistic minister from Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church. She told the minister: "It’s a great thing you’re doing.”

The Beverly church, for the first time, joined Episcopal parishes in a dozen states today — which marks the beginning of the holy season of Lent — in bringing ashes to the masses.

Priests and lay people from Beverly, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Newark and other cities and suburbs around the country marked foreheads with the sign of the cross at train stations, subway stops, coffee shops and street corners.

About 35 people stopped for the brief prayer between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. this morning, according to Godfrey Perrott, St. Peter’s treasurer and one of eight lay Eucharistic ministers at the church.

“We think there is an unmet desire for people to get ashes on Ash Wednesday that cannot make it to a regular service because it’s a workday,” Perrott said in an interview yesterday. “We thought going to a train station and offering ‘Ashes to Go’ will meet that need.”

Parishioners said they did not proselytize from the platform but merely offered a smile without pushing the prayer on anyone. Some commuters, however, were offended by their public presence.

“I think it’s a little strange to tell you the truth,” Andy Kirch, 31, of Beverly said in an interview after declining the prayer. “It kind of ... takes the ritual out of it. It’s a little strange, doing fast food religion. But if people want to do it, that’s great.”

The program was started by a church in Missouri in 2007 and picked up by a congregation in Chicago two years go. Even the St. Peter’s Rector, The Rev. Manuel P. Faria, III, said he wasn’t completely sold on the idea initially.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

EP Bartholomew asks for more rights for minorities

(GOARCH-Chicago) - Yesterday, February 20, 2012, His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, delivered a monumental presentation to a sub-commission of the inter-party Constitutional Reconciliation Commission in Istanbul, Turkey, demanding equal rights for minorities within the Republic. Following Christ’s words, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you,” His All Holiness came to the table as an advocate for reconciliation, not incrimination for past deficiencies.

Setting the tone in a positive light, the Patriarch said “There have been unjust practices against minorities. Those unjust practices have been slowly corrected. A new Turkey is being born, and we don’t want to be second class citizens anymore…” His All Holiness understood the historic nature of the invitation to speak before the commission, noting that it was the first time that religio-ethnic minorities had been invited to the table to discuss a way forward for the Turkish state, which is seeking to amend its current constitution, which was instituted following a military coup in 1980. To that end, the Patriarch submitted an 18 page document, expressing the needs of the minorities, and especially the Orthodox people who have been denied their liberty as guaranteed to them and other minorities in the 1924 Treaty of Lausanne.

Among his requests was for material support from public funds for the religious and educational institutions of minorities. “The state has never extended financial assistance to any church or minority school…” he said, but also noted that as tax-payers and patriotic citizens of the Republic, such institutions have a right to receive equal funding.
The perennial issue of the Greek Orthodox Seminary on Halki was also included in His All Holinesses address. The Patriarch insisted that the seminary must be reopened, noting that the seminary, which was protected and operated freely during the Ottoman period and in Ataturk’s time, remains inexplicably closed. If the new constitution will in fact grant the religious freedom, freedom of expression and the right to assembly, such situations must end immediately.

It has already been agreed, on behalf of His All Holiness, that the seminary will be operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Education of the Republic. “We told the sub-commission that equality of citizenship should not be confined to documents; it should be practiced,” said the Patriarch, also noting that religio-ethnic minorities were not able to participate fully in the public square as judges and prosecutors through silent exclusion. “We are hopeful that our demands will be addressed” the Patriarch said, looking forward to a future where exclusion and denied opportunities will be a thing of the past, and all Turkish citizens will enjoy equal liberty under the law.

St. Vlad's offering Spring Break "come and see"


Athonite monk to speak at Western PA Lenten Retreat


Bp. Michael of New York on Fasting

(Vimeo) - This video is produced by the Diocese of New York and New Jersey (Orthodox Church in America) as part of an educational series: "Lessons in Our Faith." In this installment, Bishop Michael discusses "Fasting" by offering seven common questions and seven concise answers based on the life of the Church and the Bible.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A popular meme in an Orthodox context



Reminder: "Come and See" at Christ the Saviour Seminary

(ACROD) - Are you looking for something different to do with your Spring Break? Come and experience the life of Christ the Saviour Seminary in Johnstown, Pennsylvania!

As you stay at the Seminary, you will fully participate in the daily life of the students, both spiritual and academic. You will attend daily services, sit-in on classes, have fellowship with the seminarians and faculty, and have personal “down time” for prayer, reflection, reading, etc. Worship will also take place at our celebrated Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Since Western Pennsylvania has several well-known Orthodox sites such as Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ellwood City and Antiochian Village in nearby Ligonier, other visits and excursions may be planned as well.

The Seminary is open for any Spring Break schedule (February 12 - March 31), and men aged 18 and over are invited. There is no cost; meals and activities are fully provided. Guests are limited to stay for one week, and are responsible for transportation to the Seminary. Contact Seminarian Bill George at wgeorge@acrod.org or (814) 539-0116. Accommodations are limited so make reservations early.

Like a fish needs a bicycle...

Moscow, February 17 (Interfax) - The Moscow Patriarchate official one more time assuaged rumors that the Church sold tobacco and vodka in 1990s.

"No vodka was sold. There was a humanitarian help, sometimes it came in form of wine and cigarettes. It was transferred to secular organizations. Secular organizations did with it whatever they wanted - perhaps, someone sold it, someone threw it out, I don't know," head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said in his interview with the Svobodnaya Pressa Publishing House.

According to him, there were even "stranger things then."

"I remember that students of the Moscow Theological Schools received humanitarian help where they found cigarettes and condoms," the priest said.

Once, he further said, the Church got several thousands fridge engines, "unnecessary things were often sent."

Circumcision of the Copts

There is quite an interesting set of articles (two parts published so far) on the Coptic Church and the history of circumcision. If you're interest in their practices and how they were affected by contact with crusaders, Christian groups, and Islam, I recommend a read. The first post is here and the second here.

48th Annual Melkite Convention to be held in Warren, IN



Enthronement of Met. Konstantinos of Singapore & S. Asia

(OMHKSEA) - A new page opened in the history of the Orthodox Church in South Asia. The Enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Konstantinos of Singapore and South Asia was held at Chijmes Hall in Singapore on Sunday, February 12th, 2012.

In memory of St. Nicholas of Japan

(ROCOR) - The first person to preach the Gospel in Japan was a Spaniard, Francis Xavier, a Catholic monk of the Jesuit order. The first missionary labors of the Catholic monk and his fellow Jesuit strugglers were crowned with success, and many people accepted Christianity, including the Japanese princes Onugo, Arima and Omura (in the year 1582). However, as the Jesuits focused more on the external, ritualistic aspects of the Faith, on violence and threats, and didn’t focus on the spirit of love and humility in their apostolic preaching, they were not able to strengthen the Japanese Christians in the Catholic faith, so that many of them, deep down, remained pagans. Unfortunately, the Jesuit missionary movement was accompanied by politics and intrigue, that is, by a clear and ardent desire to make Japan submit to the Vatican. This caused a negative influence in the hearts of the Japanese, and also led to the harsh persecution of those newly-converted men and women, who had sincerely accepted Catholicism, a fact which is witnessed by a Christian historian in Japan:

“Despite its widespread preaching in the XVI century, Christianity had little to no effect in the national character and ethics system of the Japanese. If in the first centuries of Christianity the persecution was not only unable to destroy it, but strengthened it, this was not the case in Japan. The reason for such a difference lies in the methods of spreading the Christian faith. The brutal force of the Jesuits was not able, of course, to instill in the hearts of the newly-converted the same love and peace that was preached by the closest Disciples of Christ.” (Russkii palomnik [Russian Pilgrim], 1912, page 492).

The Japanese religions of Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism, as well as the Jesuits and several other missionary sects, created an indifferent Japanese man, who related with indifference towards religion and the life of the age to come. In his book Things Japanese, Basil Chamberlain, a professor at the Tokyo University, quoted a prominent public figure of that time, a Mr. Fukuzawa:

“For me, there is as much difference between religions, be they Buddhism, Christianity, or any other, as there is between green or black tea. It doesn’t matter if you drink one tea or the other. More importantly, it gives one the opportunity to evaluate those who never drank tea. The same happens in regards to religion. After all, priests are somewhat like tea merchants; however, I don’t think they would have reason to disparage someone else’s product for the sake of greater profits for themselves. All they have to do is to have good quality material and to sell it as cheaply as possible.”

The Shinto religion does not contain a doctrine on eternal life after death, a fact which contributed to the indifference of the Japanese, who expected neither rewards for virtue, nor condemnation for sin.

The first mention of Russians, or as they were then called, “aka-hito” (red people), in Japanese historical literature dates back to the XVII century, with the appearance of the Cossacks in the Far East...
Complete article here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A new Cathedral for Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia

Fund For Assistance is matching donations this month towards construction of this new temple. Pitch in if you can - more information available here.



You will light my lamp... my God will enlighten my darkness.



Lit candles and Icon lamps (lampadas) have a special symbolic meaning in the Christian Church, and no Christian service can be held without them. In the Old Testament, when the first temple of God was built on earth the Tabernacle services were held in it with lamps as the Lord Himself had ordained (Ex. 40:5, 25). Following the example of the Old Testament Church, the lighting of candles and of lampadas was without fail included in the New Testament Church's services.

The Acts of the Apostles mentions the lighting of lamps during the services in the time of the Apostles. Thus, in Troas, where Christ's followers used to gather on the first day of the week (Sunday) to break bread, that is, to celebrate the Eucharist, there were many lights in the upper chamber (Acts 20:8). This reference to the large number of lamps signifies that they were not used simply for lighting, but for their spiritual significance.

The early Christian ritual of carrying a lamp into the evening service led to the present-day order of Vespers with its entry and the singing of the ancient hymn, O Jesus Christ, the Joyful Light..., which expresses the Christian teaching of spiritual light that illumines man of Christ the Source of the grace-bestowing light. The order of the morning service of Matins is also linked to the idea of the Uncreated Light of Christ, manifested in His Incarnation and Resurrection.

One Magazine covers the Orthodox Church in America

I'm quite a fan of One Magazine. In this article they outlined the history and makeup of the OCA. Many of the photos are sampled from the OCA photo section itself. I've even used many of them here myself (the one below for example).


(One Magazine) - North America is a mosaic of ethnic groups and religions. Orthodox Christians are a tiny minority — about 0.65 percent — and include no more than three million of an estimated 459 million people living in Canada, Mexico and the United States. What they may lack in volume, however, North American Orthodox Christians make up in variety. They comprise immigrants and their descendants from Asia Minor, the Balkans, Europe and the Middle East, as well as Alaska Natives and recent converts, especially from the reformed churches.

The ancient rites of the church of Byzantium unite these Orthodox Christians. Rooted in the New World for more than a century, these North American churches retain strong bonds with the Old World, are divided into a number of ethnic jurisdictions — Albanian, Arab, Belarussian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Rusyn, Serbian and Ukrainian — and typically celebrate the divine mysteries in their respective liturgical languages.

One body has attempted to transcend these cultural differences. Originally a jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church in America was established in 1970 and is led by a primate with the title of archbishop of Washington, metropolitan of all America and Canada.

Supreme canonical authority in the Orthodox Church in America rests with a synod of bishops from the 14 jurisdictions that compose this autocephalous, or independent, church. In addition, the Orthodox Church in America includes ethnic Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian eparchies and jurisdictions in Canada and Mexico.

In English-speaking Canada and the United States, English is the norm in most liturgical services. Yet other languages may be used depending on the pastoral needs of the parish...
Complete article here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Religious study to be mandatory in Russian schools

Moscow (AsiaNews) - After two years of experimentation, from next September, the fundamentals of religion will become a compulsory subject in all Russian schools. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin approved the decree that introduced the teaching of religion throughout the country following a trial that took place only in some regions.

The elementary and middle school students may choose to study either the history of one of the four religions termed 'traditional' - Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism - or more general courses on "foundations of religious culture" or "Fundamentals of public ethics ". So far the lessons have been concentrated in only a quarter of the school year, but the Orthodox Church has asked it be extended over the whole year in 2012. Banned during the Soviet period, religion returned to schools in April 2010 but only in 19 regions, with an initiative strongly supported by the Patriarch of Moscow and blessed by the Kremlin, interested in cementing common values of national identity .

From the beginning, the idea has raised strong criticism in Russia, a country that has experienced 70 years of state atheism, and where different ethnicities and religions live. "I think it is wrong to divide the children into groups according to religion - said Ivar Maskurov, an expert on religions – it could cause many problems."

Another objection raised by critics of religion in the school is the lack of qualified teachers and good textbooks, as was admitted by the Elena Romanova, Head of the Ministry of Education for the teaching of religion.

The skepticism of the secular world is not shared by the religious themselves. Not only does the Patriarchate of Moscow support the initiatibe, but also the Muslim community. The mufti Krganov Albir, Chairman of the Committee of Muslim spiritual in Chuvashia (Russian autonomous republic) said that "the new subject has become very popular with both pupils and parents in Chivashia schools. Parents say they have learned a lot about religion when their children attend these courses."

In February, at Putin's order, the Ministry of Education launched training courses for teachers of religion, while in March the families will have to decide which course in which to enroll their children.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Myrrh-streaming icon attracts attention in Taylor, PA

(The Times Tribune) - The mood was appropriately solemn, the faithful quiet and orderly in their movements.

Fragrant myrrh filled the air. The encounters with the centers of attraction were quick, but the reactions were indelible. Some came away shaken and streaming tears. A few talked of a wave of peace and calm coming over them. Others described a sense of divine providence.

In uncertain times, people want something, anything, to believe in. The spiritually inclined often look to the heavens for answers, and when they get what they think is a sign, they embrace it wholeheartedly.

For the past 17 weeks, St. George's Orthodox Church in Taylor has been hosting services centered on two icons of the Blessed Mother of the Theotokos. The faithful believe the icons seep myrrh, a heavily perfumed oil, for reasons St. George's officials are leaving unexplained.

The church has sought no publicity for the services, but each week, entirely through word of mouth, standing-room-only crowds are turning up to venerate the icons.

The icons reportedly came into contact with the myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God from Hawaii, which traveled to local Orthodox churches, including St. George's, back in the fall. Many in the Orthodox faith believe the Iveron Icon possesses healing powers for those who pray to it.

"Miraculous icons are a normal part of orthodoxy," said Father Sergius, the abbot at the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk in South Canaan Twp., where the Iveron Icon also made an appearance. "We have one here that weeps on and off, but it's not a constant thing."

Approached at this week's service, St. George's pastor, the Very Rev. Mark Leasure, declined to comment on the icons' background, and church officials would not allow photographs to be taken. Attempts to reach officials at the Johnstown-based American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., which oversees St. George's, were unsuccessful.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Faith & Humor: Notes From Muscovy


(Russian Life) - A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.

Faith & Humor caused a sensation when it was published in Russia. As Kucherskaya writes in her introduction, “At one convent, the book was burned at the stake. Meanwhile, at a Seminary in another small town, it was added to the curriculum that helps future priests understand problems within the Church.”

Author Maya Kucherskaya artfully mixes fact and fiction, myth and history to offer a compelling, loving picture of a world of faith that is often impenetrable to outsiders. Yet Faith & Humor is not simply a book about the Orthodox Church, or about Russia rediscovering its faith after 70 years of state-sponsored atheism. Certainly there are elements of that here, and certainly Faith & Humor is an enlightening window into the “mysterious Russian soul.” But at its core, Kucherskaya’s book is a light, funny, insightful work of fiction about people who ardently believe something and who carry this belief out into the real world.

Maya Kucherskaya is a literary critic, novelist, biographer and teacher. A graduate of Moscow State University, she received a PhD from UCLA and is the author of more than 100 articles on literature and culture. She has served several times as a judge on Russia’s most prestigious literary award, the Booker, and her first novel (recently rewritten and published as The Rain God) received the Student Booker prize. Faith & Humor won the 2006 Bunin Prize.

Translator Alexei Bayer lives in New York, where he writes in English and in Russian, his native tongue, and translates into both languages. His translations have appeared in Chtenia and Words Without Borders, as well as in such collections as The Wall in My Head, a book dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Life Stories, a bilingual literary anthology to benefit hospice care in Russia. His writing has appeared in Chtenia, New England Review and KR Online.

Chicago area celebrates "These Things We Believe In"

WESTCHESTER, IL (OCA-DOMW) - Over the years, the annual "Celebration of Books" sponsored by the Metropolis of Chicago at Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church here has become a much anticipated lenten event for Chicago-area faithful.

This year’s celebration will be held March 11-18 at the church, located at 2501 South Wolf Road, Westchester, IL.

Thousands of Orthodox Christian books and resources will be available for purchase daily between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Three evening lectures on this year’s theme -- "These Things We Believe In" -- will be offered in conjunction with this year’s Celebration. The speakers represent Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, PA and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA.

*** Sunday, March 11. 6:30 p.m. Vespers, 8:00 p.m. presentation by Dr. Christopher Veniamin.

A graduate of the School of Theology in the University of Thessalonica, Dr. Christopher Veniamin undertook doctoral studies at Pembroke College, Oxford, under the aegis of the Most Rev. Dr. Kallistos T. Ware, Metropolitan of Diokleia. He has been a resident faculty member of Saint Tikhon's Seminary since the Fall of 1994, teaching courses in Patristic Theology. In October 2005, he was promoted to the rank of full Professor of Patristics. Most recently, he edited and translated the homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas, for which he also wrote the introduction and detailed notes. Forthcoming publications include a reworked version of his doctoral dissertation and a study on Saint Augustine and the Patristic Tradition.

*** Tuesday, March 13. 6:30 p.m. Compline, 8:00 p.m. presentation by Dr. Demetrios Katos.

Dr. Demetrios Katos holds a Bachelors Degree from New York University, a Master of Divinity Degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and a Masters of Arts degree and Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America. He serves as Dean of Hellenic College, Brookline, MA, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies. He is a lecturer in the Department of Theology at Boston College, where he teaches courses in Eastern Orthodox theology. He is a board member of the Stephen and Catherine Pappas Patristics Institute of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and has served as Vice-President of the Orthodox Theological Society in America. His book, "Palladius of Helenopolis: The Origenist Advocate" (Oxford University Press) is the first monograph devoted to the life, work, and thought of a little-known Christian bishop and author, Palladius of Helenopolis.

*** Thursday, March 15. 6:30 p.m. Compline, 8:00 p.m. presentation by Dr. Harry Boosalis.

A native of Minneapolis, MN, Dr. Harry received his doctoral degree in Greece under the direction of Prof. Georgios Mantzaridis. His dissertation provides a systematic presentation of the teaching of Saint Silouan of Mount Athos on Orthodox spiritual life, highlighting its relevance for today. A member of the faculty of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary since 1992, he is responsible for organizing, developing, and imlementing a new curriculum for the entire sequence of dogmatic courses in the Master of Divinity degree program. He serves the Seminary as the Chairman of the Department of Theology and Spirituality and is a member of the Academic Affairs Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Development Committee. Author of four books published by Saint Tikhon’s Seminary Press, he most recent work is titled "Holy Tradition: The Ecclesial Experience of the Life in Christ."

For additional information please call 708-562-2744.

University of Pennsylvania sign up to experience monasticism

PHILADELPHIA (Times Union) — Looking for a wild-and-crazy time at college? Don't sign up for Justin McDaniel's religious studies class.

The associate professor's course on monastic life and asceticism gives students at the University of Pennsylvania a firsthand experience of what it's like to be a monk.

At various periods during the semester, students must forego technology, coffee, physical human contact and certain foods. They'll also have to wake up at 5 a.m. — without an alarm clock.

That's just a sample of the restrictions McDaniel imposes in an effort to help students become more observant, aware and disciplined. Each constraint represents an actual taboo observed by a monastic religious order.

"I've found in the past that students take this extremely seriously," said McDaniel, who has taught the class twice before. "I've had very few people who try to get away with things, and you can always tell when they are."

The discipline starts with a dress code for class: White shirts for the men, black shirts for women, and they must sit on opposite sides of the class. No makeup, jewelry or hair products. Laptops are prohibited; notes can be taken only with paper and pen. And don't even think of checking your cellphone for texts or email.

The course, which focuses primarily on Catholic and Buddhist monastic traditions, stems in part from McDaniel's own history. An expert on Asian religions, he spent a portion of his post-undergraduate life nearly 20 years ago as a Buddhist monk in Thailand and Laos and says he's both a practicing Buddhist and a practicing Catholic.

Restrictions outside class are introduced gradually: Students sacrifice caffeine and alcohol during one week, then swear off vegetables that grow underground in another. The latter rule stems from an extremely non-violent sect that eschews such produce because uprooting the food could kill insects, McDaniel said.

The real test is a full month of restrictions that begins in mid-March. Students can only eat food in its natural form; nothing processed. They can't eat when it's dark, nor speak to anyone while they eat. They must be celibate, foregoing even hugs, handshakes and extended eye contact. No technology except for electric light. They can read for other classes, but news from the outside world is forbidden.

Diocese of the Midwest to start Diaconal Vocations Program

CHICAGO, IL (OCA-DOMW) - "Spirituality" will be the focus of the first in a new cycle of courses in Chicago in the Diocese of the Midwest's Catechist and Diaconal Vocations Program.

Taught by Priest Elijah Mueller, Director of Catechist and Diaconal Vocations for the diocese, the first class session will be held on Saturday, February 25, at Saint Makarios Mission, Hyde Park. Classes will meet on the second Saturday or Sunday of every month, while locations may vary.

According to Father Elijah, the course will survey five major aspects of Orthodox Christian spirituality, including
  • prayer and the inner life in Orthodox Christian Tradition,
  • the understanding of the human being from a theological perspective,
  • the use of Scripture and Liturgy in understanding the human person's approach to God,
  • traditional images and ideas used to understand progress and regress in spiritual life, and
  • the manner in which one engages in ascesis.
Individuals who complete the full cycle of courses will receive a Diocesan Catechist Certificate. Completion of the program also fulfills a requirement for eligible persons to petition for ordination to the diaconate.

The all-inclusive fee for the course is $400.00. Payable to the Diocese of the Midwest, the fee may be paid at any point in the semester or in "installments."

For further information and/or to register for the class, contact Father Elijah directly at 312-714-9775 or frelijah@uchicago.edu.

Frederica Mathewes-Green: The Real Meaning of Sex

H/T: Orthocath

(Vimeo) - What's the real meaning of sex? Is it about power? Is it about love? Frederica Mathewes-Green, Eastern Orthodox author and speaker, discusses the real meaning of sex, a conversation that has become more and more important in modern society.

Theological Presuppositions of the Orthodox Iconographer

From the blog Lessons from a Monastery, a worthwhile read.


The Theological Presuppositions of the Orthodox Iconographer: With a Foundation in the Canons of the Stoglav Council (Moscow, 1551)

Why I chose this topic:

For years I have been interested in the theology of icons, and in particular the role the iconographer has in conveying the Orthodox faith and life in Christ through holy icons. Learning of professor Demetrios Tselingidis doctoral work on the theology of icons, Εικονολογικές Μελέτες (Studies in Iconology) Ι was eager to study with him. Thankfully he was willing to take me on as yet one more Master’s student.

When compared to the “old countries” the art of iconography is still relatively new in North America. Thus, I was inspired to work on a theme that has particular significance for the new generation of North American iconographers in the Church today. With the help of my advisor, and with a basis in the local Russian council the Stoglav Sobor (Moscow, 1551), I have compiled a basic manual for contemporary iconographers, though by no means limited to our times only. The presuppositions of the iconographer outlined in this work will be applicable for as long as someone wishes to paint theology, the faith of our Church, which has and will remain unchanged...

Complete post here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

ROCOR Eastern American Diocese gets web facelift


The new website is quite good looking. Still no RSS, but it's certainly a welcome improvement.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Romanians process to site of future cathedral

(Holy Cross Monastery) - The Romanian Orthodox Church demonstrated their faith with a "tour de force" procession to the site of their future Cathedral of the Nation's Salvation with the relics of their national patron saint, St. Andrew the Apostle. More photos available here.



Florovsky Society Patristic Series Symposium streaming

Watch the second annual symposium online here.

(Florovsky Society) - Princeton University & Princeton Theological Seminary
Friday, February 10, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. to Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 4:00 p.m.

Inspired by Fr. Georges Florovsky's well known essay, "Le corps du Christ vivant: Une interprétation orthodoxe de l’Église," as well as Florovsky's many other writings on this topic, we will examine the doctrine of the Church in some of the same authorities upon which Florovsky relied: St. Irenaeus of Lyon, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St. Maximus the Confessor, and others. We will also look at Fr. Florovsky's own writings on the Church, as well as those of the great Romanian theologian, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae. This symposium is organized by the Fr. Georges Florovsky Orthodox Christian Theological Society at Princeton University and the School of Christian Vocation and Mission at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So you think you want to be a priest’s wife…..

From the blog The Orthodox Clergy Wife by Presbytera Anonyma, a solid list for the priest-wife-to-be. I wish I had this before we started seminary (I say "we" as this whole enterprise is a joint venture). A brave woman, my wife, as this list illustrates.


Before you head off on your husband-search to seminary or to a choir concert featuring eager young men in black singing liturgical music, make your way through the following checklist:

v Do you love being at church? A lot? Not just on Sundays?

v Have you established a prayer rule and regular confession? Now is the time to do this, before husband and children come along to complicate your routine. Also, you will likely have to find a new confessor once you move to a new parish, and make it a priority to go regularly, possibly traveling some distance. Be ready for your prayer rule to change, too. Every seminary does things a little differently. Don't be surprised when your husband starts  changing things around so what is done at home matches what he does in chapel.

v Can you wait patiently for services to start, or for your husband to finish chatting with parishioners after the service? Are you ready to train your children with the same patience? PK’s (priests’ kids) say that the thing they rememember more than anything else about growing up is always –waiting- at church!

v Can you handle living in somebody else’s house indefinitely? While many churches now offer a housing allowance, a lot still own a parish house where the priest and his family will be expected to reside, often right next door to the church where parishioners can observe your gardening skills or lack thereof, or drop in when you least expect it. I've heard from some people this was a painless process and for others a very stressful one.

v Do you find yourself content to be second banana? Can you stand happily beside someone else who is in the spotlight, whether it is your husband or whether it is already-established lay leaders in the parish you move to?

v Are you ready to deal with expectations about the way you and your children dress, the amount of money you spend on your pets, or the kind of recreational activities your family chooses? I know parishes that have tried to dictate the number of children a priest could have.

v Are you prepared to work part- or even full-time, at least temporarily, to make ends meet in a parish that can’t or won’t provide their priest a living wage? Do you have a marketable skill that will help you find work that you will enjoy? I have some rather strong feelings about this that I will avoid commenting on right now (the word of the day today is screed). It is enough to say that one parish decided to pay their priest just enough so he didn't qualify for food stamps any longer. He couldn't feed his family any longer, but the parish wasn't "embarrassed" now that their priest wasn't on the government dole.

v Do you have interests to pursue outside the church? These can give you a much-needed break and change of perspective.

v Have you thought about the ways in which you will contribute to the life of the parish—and the ways you won’t? Can you be firm but polite about your decisions? Do you know what your gifts are and aren’t? If you aren’t sure, are you willing to give something a try when asked, but turn it over to someone else if you find you are not the right woman for the job?

v Will you remind your husband that you and the children are also parishioners, and ensure that he gets a weekly day off; that the phone will not be answered during family dinner; and that barring emergencies, milestones in your children’s lives will take precedence? My last pastor was a saint in this regard. Matins, Vespers, Vigils, or Liturgies every day but Monday. As a result I didn't call him on Monday unless my arm had just been chopped off or my children were in a Dickensian moribund way.

v Can you gather your strength to move your household away from your familiar surroundings at short notice if the bishop decides to reassign your husband to a new parish? We're a big family with lots of children in school. This is a concern the wife and I talk about often.

v Do you have a network of family and friends to whom you can turn, even if only long distance, to confide in? Can you keep a balance of friendliness to parishioners without favoritism or making any of them ‘special’ above others?

v Are you any good at all at holding your tongue? You will be offered opportunities to do so almost daily. It is not only what you say, but what parishioners THINK you said.

If these all sound a little daunting, they are. Clergy wives face challenges that their parishioners scarcely ever think about.

The good news is, a lot can be learned as you go along—in fact can hardly be learned any other way. What is mainly needed is open eyes and a good attitude. Seminaries are now making a point of helping seminarians’ wives to look ahead and prepare for life in the parish. Seminary is also where you will meet other women who will be undergoing similar experiences, and with them you can help build supportive relationships for the future.

Still think you might want to be a priest’s wife? One thing left to do: start praying. And never stop.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Help get an Orthodox radio call-in show off the ground!

You might also enjoy an interview with Mr. Allen on the Antiochian archdiocesan website (see here).


(AFR) - Introducing Ancient Faith Radio’s new flagship national program—Ancient Faith Today with Kevin Allen.

What is Ancient Faith Today?

Ancient Faith Today is what Ancient Faith Radio and Orthodox Internet radio have been missing—a live interactive conversation program. Now that void has been filled! Ancient Faith Today will stream live, with call-ins from around the world, twice a month on Sunday nights at 8:00 pm Eastern/5:00 pm Pacific on Ancient Faith Radio’s Talk Station.

Topics cover all of life through the lens of Scripture and the teaching and canonical tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church. Ancient Faith Today’s host Kevin Allen talks with knowledgeable guests about social issues, global events, politics as they affect matters of faith (from a non-partisan perspective), war and peace, aging, death and life, church affairs, interfaith affairs, current events, journeys to faith and Orthodoxy, theology and apologetics, cults, atheism, the paranormal, the New Age movement, and Eastern religion. More than just talk radio, Ancient Faith Today is Orthodox Christianity’s platform for illumining and informative conversation about subjects that matter, with people who care. There is no other live (streaming) call-in show with an Orthodox Christian perspective on television, radio, or Internet radio!

Kevin Allen was the host of Ancient Faith Radio’s popular award-winning program, “The Illumined Heart.” Kevin draws upon his unique faith background and inquisitive nature to host this fascinating, engaging, and spiritually constructive program with guests you should know!

When will it start?

The plan is to begin on Sunday, April 22, 2012. Kevin’s first topic will be “An Orthodox Perspective on Same-Sex Attraction” and his guest will be Dr. Philip Mamalakis (and an associate). Each program will be recorded and archived for free download at your convenience.

Orthodox & Catholics in Lithuania discuss religion in schools

(mospat.ru) - On February 7, 2012, the 2nd talks between representatives the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Lithuania were held at the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations in Moscow. The first meeting for such talks took place in January 2011 in Kaunas and was devoted to the theme ‘Christians in face of the challenge to the institution of family’.

The theme of the 2nd talks was ‘Current problems in teaching religion in the secular school’.

From the Russian Orthodox Church, key reports were made by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the department for external church relations, and G. Demidov, head of the Basic Orthodox Culture section of the department for religious education and catechism. The Roman Catholic Church in Lithuania was represented by Archbishop Sigitas Tamkjavichus of Kaunas, president of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Jonas Ivanauskas, Vicar General of Kaunas.

In his report, Metropolitan Hilarion underscored the importance of joint discussions on the pressing problems of the society today and possible ways of inter-church cooperation in this area. Thus, the theme of teaching religion in the secular school is one of the most pressing for both Churches as it directly concerns the problem of preservation of Christian identity in Europe today. The Orthodox hierarch was convinced that in a few years’ time when passions raised by the debate on this issue subsided in Russia, the society would come to appreciate the positive pedagogic effect of religious education in the task of preserving national identity and improving the moral climate in Russian society.

Mr. Demidov, in his report, spoke about the cooperation maintained by church and state educational structures in teaching the Basic Orthodox Culture in school.

Archbishop Sigitas Tamkjavichus spoke about the practice of teaching religious disciplines in Lithuanian secular schools. He stressed that the religious and moral education of children is an inalienable constitutional right of Lithuanian citizens. Therefore, the traditional religious organizations are given the right to teach religion in general education schools and this teaching is financed by the state.

The participants in the talks stated that the implementation of the rights of schoolchildren in general education public schools to receive knowledge about religion does not contradict the principle of the secular nature of education. A study of both children’s own religious tradition and basics of other religions constitutes a necessary element of moral and spiritual education of the personality and helps to consolidate inter-confessional peace and accord in society.

The participants pointed out the importance of continued bilateral dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Lithuania and regular meetings on specific issues.
The meeting summed up their discussion in a communique.
A more complete treatment here.

Upcoming performance by St. Vlad's Chorale

(SVOTS) - Join us for an exquisite evening of liturgical music sung in the traditional styles of Orthodox Christian churches worldwide. In a multi-media program that interweaves luminous icons, sacred texts, and a rich a cappella sound, the St. Vladimir's Seminary Chorale will perform ORIENT: Sacred Song and Image at the famous St. Malachy's,"The Actors' Chapel," in the heart of Manhattan, at 239 West 49th Street, New York City. This stirring concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.

The concert program will include pieces from the broader Orthodox tradition sung in their original languages— Greek, Georgian, Estonian, Slavonic—as well as choral music by Orthodox composers written for the concert hall. Two visual projections—one of images of Orthodox icons and the other of translations of musical texts—will run simultaneously as the chorale sings. Icons, music, and text will expound one another, just as they do within the Orthodox liturgy. The concert will combine the best elements of a professional choral performance with the depth and authenticity of the Orthodox liturgical experience, resulting in a truly beautiful multimedia artistic performance, and a full, authentic vision of the Orthodox Christian faith.

The chorale will be directed by Hierodeacon Herman, Lecturer in Liturgical Music and Chapel Choir Director at the seminary, and Matushka Robin Freeman, who created the concert format and conducted in its premiere at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in 2010.

Spread the word to your friends, family, and church family! Download a PDF or a JPEG of the concert flier.

Tickets are $25, and may be purchased online here. Your printed registration form will serve as your admission ticket.

Limited seating will be available at the door (cash only) the evening of the concert.

Surprise! "Plan B" vending machine might be a bad idea

(YDR) - Students at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania can get the "morning-after" pill by sliding $25 into a vending machine, an idea that has drawn the attention of federal authorities and raised questions about how accessible emergency contraception should be.

The student health center at Shippensburg, a secluded public institution of 8,300 students tucked between mountain ridges in the Cumberland Valley, provides the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive in the vending machine along with condoms, decongestants and pregnancy tests. Stay classy, people.

"I think it's great that the school is giving us this option," junior Chelsea Wehking said Tuesday. "I've heard some kids say they'd be too embarrassed" to go into town - Shippensburg, permanent population about 6,000 - and buy Plan B. Federal law makes the pill available without a prescription to anyone 17 or older, and the school checked records and found that all current students are that age or older, a spokesman said.

It doesn't appear that any other vending machine in the U.S. dispenses the contraceptive, which can prevent pregnancy if taken soon after sexual intercourse. The machine has been in place for about two years, and its existence wasn't widely known until recent news reports.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is contacting state authorities and the university to gather facts, agency spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said Tuesday. Consumers have long been able to insert a few coins for the likes of aspirin, ibuprofen, antacids and other common over-the-counter remedies. But some experts see a worrisome trend in making drugs like Plan B, which is kept behind the pharmacy counter, available in a vending machine. Alexandra Stern, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, said she wasn't questioning a woman's right to have access to Plan B, but whether making it so easily available is a good idea. Not a risk-free option (see here).

"Perhaps it is personalized medicine taken too far," she said. "It's part of the general trend that drugs are available for consumers without interface with a pharmacist or doctors. This trend has serious pitfalls."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From Mary to Asher...

Hat Tip to the blog Standing on my Head. A Lutheran-Episcopalian "Liturgical Naming Rite for a Transgender Church Member" (original post available here).


Here is the rite we used at Baptism of our Lord Sunday when a transgender member of House for All Sinners and Saints was undergoing a name change. This is largely taken from a rite shared with me by Episcopal priest, Michele Morgan.

One really lovely thing about this day was that Asher made a little shrine to his previously female self, Mary. It included the whole name lovingly written out, several photos and a candle.

(Prayers of the People)

Presider: Holy One of Blessing, in baptism you bring us to new life in Jesus Christ and you name us Beloved. We give you thanks for the renewal of that life and love in Mary Christine Callahan, who now takes on a new name. Strengthen and uphold him as he grows in power, and authority, and meaning of this name: we pray in the Name above names, Jesus, your Son, whom with you and the Holy Spirit, the Triune God, we adore. Amen


Lindsey: A reading from the letter of Paul to the Galatians.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus. This tendentious reading of the text of course has no basis in what Paul is stating.

The word of the Lord

Thanks be to God


(Laying on of hands)

Let us pray:

We pray for your servant Asher, with thanks for the journey and awakening that have brought him to this moment, for his place amongst your people, and for his gifts and calling to serve you.

O God, in renaming your servants Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter,and Paul, you gave them new lives and new tasks, new love and new hope. We now hold before you our companion. Bless him with a new measure of grace as he takes this new name. Write him again in your heart and on your palm. And grant that we all be worthy to call ourselves Christians, for the sake of your Christ whose name is Love, and in whom, with you and the Spirit, we pray. Amen


The Giving of the name


Pr. Nadia: By what name shall you be known?

Kate: The name shall be Asher

Asher: My name is Asher


The community may respond by repeating

Your name shall be Asher


Pr. Nadia: Bear this name in the Name of Christ. Share it in the name of Mercy. Offer it in the name of Justice. Note the use of the word "Justice" here. A pointed political statement.

Christ is among us making peace right here right now. The peace of Christ be with you all. And also with you.