Saturday, May 21, 2022

The imperial entrance into paradise

Many people aren't aware of how intertwined the imperial presence was into the fabric of our services. Even the terminology and architecture of our churches harken back to this connection.

Friday, May 20, 2022

How the early Church differs from the 21st century Church

Thursday, May 19, 2022

New primate for Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church

(Armenian-NED) - Metropolitan Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, conveyed the prayers, love and best wishes of the Northeast American Diocese to the new Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, the Very Reverend Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan.

Father Mesrop was elected as 13th Primate on May 6th by the 120th Assembly of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church. On May 17th, His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II of Armenia, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, confirmed the election of Father Mesrop as the new Primate.

The new Primate, Father Mesrop, received his Bachelor’s degree in Theology from Gevorgian Theological Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin. He was ordained into the holy priesthood in 2003, and thereafter served until 2004 as the staff-bearer for His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians.

He earned a Master’s degree in Theology and Religious Sciences from the University of Strasbourg, France, and studied in Dublin, Ireland, at the International Study Centre. In 2011 he received the rank of Archimandrite: the Doctoral degree of the Armenian Church.

As a professor at Gevorgian Theological Seminary from 2007 to 2011, Fr. Mesrop taught Christian Ethics, and simultaneously served as deputy-chancellor of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan came to the United States in 2015, and took up the pastorship of Holy Shoghagat Church in Belleville, IL, for a period of two years. In 2017 he took up a position at the Diocesan Center in New York City as its director of Ministries. He was appointed as Vicar of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in 2018.

In 2019, Fr. Parsamyan answered the call of His Holiness Karekin II, to return to the Mother See and take up a new role as Dean of Gevorgian Seminary and later returned to the United States in 2021.

The prayers, and best wishes of the clergy and faithful of the Northeast American Diocese were conveyed to theVery Reverend Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, by our Diocesan Metropolitan.

Serbian / Macedonian Liturgy of Reconciliation

 H/T: Orthodox Christianity

Rare word #23: chartophylax

In reading the new SVS Press Popular Patristics series version of On the Orthodox Faith: Volume 3 of the Fount of Knowledge by St John of Damascus (translated by Norman Russell), I came upon a word "chartophylax," which made immediate sense from a translational perspective, but needed some historical background. As to the title itself, I plan to use it for the parish book club and shall report back on it after I've pre-read it in advance of the first club event.
ChartophylaxA chartophylax, Greek: χαρτοφύλαξ - from χάρτα, "document" + φύλαξ, "guard, keeper"), also chartoularios, was the title of ecclesiastical officers of the Church of Constantinople in charge of official documents and records in the church during the time of the Eastern Roman empire. The position among the offices of the Patriarch was particularly influential.

The position of chartophylax existed in the provincial dioceses as well as in Constantinople. The incumbents of the position were responsible for the archives and chancery of their respective institutions. The records at some monasteries were also maintained by a chartophylax who at women's monasteries was called a chartophylakissa.

As the office of chartophylax of the Patriarchate of Constantinople gained in importance, the Chartophylax rose to become one of the most important officials in the patriarchal clergy, despite his nominally low rank. As the Grand Chartophylax, he came to be the judge of all causes and the patriarch's right arm, as noted by George Kodinus, a fourteenth century author. He further noted that the patriarchal chartophylax was the keeper of all the charters relating to the ecclesiastical rights that were stored in the chartophylakeion (archives).

Additionally, the Chartophylax presided over matrimonial causes, and was the principal intermediary between the clergy and the patriarch, controlling his correspondence and access to him. He drew up all sentences and decisions for the patriarch, who then signed and sealed them. During absences of the patriarch, he presided in meetings of the synods and took cognizance of all ecclesiastical and civil matters and causes, whether among the clergy, the monks, or the people. The patriarchal Chartophylax took precedence over all the bishops, although he was only a deacon. On occasion, he even discharged the functions of the priests. The Chartophylax had twelve notaries reporting to him. The patriarchal Chartophylax was analogous to the papal chartularius, anglicized chartulary, of Rome, but far more powerful.

With the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, the position of the Chartophylax fell in importance as the administration of the patriarchate changed greatly. Thus, while the title chartophylax has survived into the modern times it has become purely honorific.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Divinization as the Christian Project & Model of True Transhumanism

(HTS) - On Tuesday, May 3rd, at 5 p.m., Dr. Larchet delivered a lecture in Holy Trinity Seminary's Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov Hall entitled, "Divinization as the Christian Project and Model of True Transhumanism." After first examining the dead ends and illusions of the current philosophical fashion of transhumanism, Dr. Larchet proposes the Orthodox Christian conception of divinization, or Theosis, as a true fulfillment of the flawed transhumanist ideology.
Dr Jean-Claude Larchet is one of the most notable living authors on Orthodox Christian Patristics. He holds a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Nancy and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Strasbourg. A teacher of philosophy for nearly thirty-five years, he is an author of over thirty books and countless articles whose work has been translated into over a dozen languages. His magnum opus, Therapy of Spiritual Illness, and several other works have been translated into English to wide acclaim, three of them by Holy Trinity Publications.

Doing Liturgy the ROCOR way


Serbian Church recognizes new Archdiocese of Ohrid

(Orthodox Times) - Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia and Archbishop Stephen of Ohrid will officiate the Divine Liturgy at St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade on Thursday, May 19.

The above is mentioned in an announcement on the website of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The concelebration will be attended by all the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Serbia and the “Macedonian Orthodox Church-Archdiocese of Ohrid”, as the Serbian Church of Northern Macedonia states in its announcement.

It is stressed that with the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral in Belgrade, “the canonical communion of the two sister Churches will be established, by decision of the Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church.”

ROCOR Primate Metropolitan Hilarion reposes

His Eminence guided ROCOR for so many years that it will be interesting to see how things proceed moving forward. Blessedly, they have no shortage of good hierarchs in ROCOR. 

(ROCOR) - Today, May 16, 2022, the feast day of St Theodosius of the Kievan Caves, at two o’clock New York time, following a lengthy illness, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, reposed in the Lord, in a NYC hospital.

His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese, performed the “Canon of Supplication at the Parting of the Soul.” His Grace was joined by Archpriest Serafim Gan and Hierodeacon Panteleimon (Jigalin). A pannikhida will be performed at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” in New York at 7:30 pm tonight.

Further information will be provided shortly.

May God grant the Kingdom of Heaven to our Master and Father, the Eminent Metropolitan Hilarion!

Friday, May 13, 2022

The politics of being innocuous

This topic could easily be a longer piece or even a book, but let's let this single idea suffice for now.

One thing you are sure to read or be counseled is that it is best to avoid politics. It detracts from your proper emphasis on the Christian journey, it is rife with anger and outrage, and you are likely to be coopted by forces larger than yourself who will include you in their number even when you have no opinion on this or that topic (or even disagree completely with some of their positions).

At the same time you are also sure to read or be counseled that you are called to participate in the Great Commission and evangelize. You are supposed to live a life of faith unashamed of Christ, His Church, your place in it, or your hope for salvation in Heaven. Candles, bushels, so let your light shine... you get the picture. 

If you are wise enough to avoid politics that speak in terms of Left versus Right, but ALSO avoid being actively Christian so as to be inoffensive or simply comfortable, you do no better than the person who allows partisanship to subsume the Way. Fig trees, fruit, withering... again, you get the picture.

In short, I'm saying you can turn your nose up at politics and be in good company, but you cannot abandon the requirements of your faith to be a person of action. It just so happens that some political matters rest on the same topics that a Christian need concern himself with.

"I don't read the paper" is a perfectly fine thing to say inasmuch as it eschews the petty partisanship and thinly veiled editorializing in the journalism of contemporary news media. "I don't live out the Gospel" is not a perfectly fine thing to say, however, and swings the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.

It is not uncommon for me to speak with a parishioner and realize that he has equated being thoroughly inoffensive and almost invisible at work, at church, or out and about on weekends with being a good person. If he finished the week and didn't make his wife mad, didn't chime in with a contrary opinion to his coworkers, and didn't cut anyone off in the grocery store parking lot, then he had a good week. And yet there is little merit in living a life wherein the only person who notes you are still alive in any meaningful way is you. He, you, and I are called to more.

Let me finish with this first bit of the Didache. Note that it is actively voiced. There are things for you to do, things to declare, things to defend. The Christian life is one of struggle and not innocuous comfort so there should be no confusion between laudably avoiding the fray of point-scoring politics and avoiding participating in the exacting standards set forth by the commandments of Christ. Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven expects more out of you in this life than one might see adumbrated under civic duty, not less.

There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways. 

The way of life is this. First of all, thou shalt love the God that made thee; secondly, thy neighbour as thyself. And all things whatsoever thou wouldest not have befal thyself neither do thou unto another. Now of these words the doctrine is this. Bless them that curse you, and pray for your enemies and fast for them that persecute you ; for what thank is it, if ye love them that love you? Do not even the Gentiles the same? But do ye love them that hate you, and ye shall not have an enemy. Abstain thou from fleshly and bodily lusts. If any man give thee a blow on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also, and thou shalt be perfect; if a man impress thee to go with him one mile, go with him twain ; if a man take away thy cloak, give him thy coat also ; if a man take away from thee that which is thine own, ask it not back, for neither art thou able. To every man that asketh of thee give, and ask not back ; for the Father desireth that gifts be given to all from His own bounties. Blessed is he that giveth according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receiveth; for, if a man receiveth having need, he is guiltless; but he that hath no need shall give satisfaction why and wherefore he received; and being put in confinement he shall be examined concerning the deeds that he hath done, and he shall not come out thence until he hath given back the last farthing. Yea, as touching this also it is said; Let thine alms sweat into thine hands, until thou shalt have learnt to whom to give.

And this is the second commandment of the teaching. Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not corrupt boys, thou shalt not commit fornication, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not deal in magic, thou shalt do no sorcery, thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods, thou shalt not perjure thyself, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not speak evil, thou shalt not cherish a grudge, thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for the double tongue is a snare of death. Thy word shall not be false or empty, but fulfilled by action. Thou shalt not be avaricious nor a plunderer nor a hypocrite nor ill-tempered nor proud. Thou shalt not entertain an evil design against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not hate any man, but some thou shalt reprove, and for others thou shalt pray, and others thou shalt love more than thy life. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

AHOS to Host Online Academic Symposium

(Antiochian) - With the blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, and the overall purpose to foster vibrant academic theological interactions within the Antiochian House of Studies academic community, Fr. Michel Najim and Fr. Fadi Rabbat invite you to the first Academic Symposium of The Orthodox Academic Society on Saturday May 28th, 2022.

Six Master and Doctorate graduate students will make short presentations of their research with time for questions and answers. Papers presented at the Spring and Fall symposia will be published in a special volume of the OAS Academic Journal.

Join us on Zoom, Saturday, May 28, 12 PM - 4:30 ET / 9 AM - 1:30 PT

  • Laura Schoepf - Patristic Understanding of Contemporary Moral Problems: The Moral Fragmentation of Post-Modern Bioethics in the Medical Practice 

  • Fr. Elias Ayoub - The Temple of Jerusalem: The Search for the Place 

  • John Coffman - Orthodox Catechist in a Neo-Pagan World: Catechizing Today's Idolatrous World Following the Example of the Holy Fathers 

  • Chungsoo Peter Lee - Symbol and Image: A Comparison and Contrast between Plato and Dionysius 

  • John Leeland - Synod of Florence: The Rivalry of Pope Eugenius IV and the Council of Basel to Achieve Union with the Eastern Church 

  • Laura Wilson - Learn Well How to Be Ruled: Subjection in the Creation Narrative According to Chrysostom 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A heartless calculus

NPR ham-handedly attempts to grasp Orthodoxy

This article starts with an idea. It takes in every fact or opinion or person who shares that idea, and tries to create a connect-the-dots image of a shirtless Putin riding a horse. It also seeks to overlay every progressive position onto the page to show how fundamentalist Orthodoxy is taking over the Church. Does that sound familiar? It does. As will the names of those who concur with this view in the article. 

Let me be clear. Racism is silly. Nationalism over citizenship in heaven is misguided. The Church is a body built on love and a belief that this love is more powerful than any hate. Part of the beauty of Orthodoxy is that the host of saints is peopled with holy individuals from all over the world. All races, all nations, all united in love for God.

At the same time some people are drawn to the light of Orthodoxy and bring their heterodox opinions with them. In an attempt to join their desire for belonging with their desire to gain recognition for these preexisting beliefs, sometimes they find that the two pieces are incompatible. They find that those beliefs cannot be sanctified or even tolerated. As such, either the person throws off his former delusion or he moves on. Or, in the case of the person described below, he is excommunicated almost immediately.

You can't love God and hate your fellow man. You can't fly a flag any higher in the sky than the Divine One hung the stars in the sky. 

The below article attempts to connect ROCOR with hate, but it does this so poorly that the argument comes out weaker than had it not been posted at all. Worse, it pits cradle Orthodox against converts and jurisdiction against jurisdiction. People who feel that Orthodoxy and hate have no common cause in this country will feel maligned. People who feel that something about Orthodoxy gives succor to hate will become even more entrenched in that misapprehension. The needle didn't move here. If anything mutual mistrust of the "other" did. Somehow, I think this is not what the author intended.

(NPR) - When Sarah Riccardi-Swartz moved from New York City to a small Appalachian town in West Virginia in the fall of 2017, she was searching for an answer to a puzzling question. Why had a group of conservative American Christians converted to Russian Orthodoxy?

"It's typically an immigrant faith, so I was really interested in that experience and why it spoke to converts," said Riccardi-Swartz, a postdoctoral fellow in the Recovering Truth project at Arizona State University. She happened to miss the entire history of Orthodoxy's tremendous growth in the South (of which much information is available online) and somehow turn it into a racial isolationist movement with ties to, you guessed it... Russia Russia Russia.

Riccardi-Swartz's study focused on a community of mostly former evangelical Christians and Catholics who had joined the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). The West Virginia location, in addition to having a church parish, was also home to the largest English-speaking Russian Orthodox monastery in the world.

Over a year of doing research, Riccardi-Swartz learned that many of these converts had grown disillusioned with social and demographic change in the United States. In ROCOR, they felt they had found a church that has remained the same, regardless of place, time and politics. But Riccardi-Swartz also found strong strains of nativism, white nationalism and pro-authoritarianism, evidenced by strong admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Have you ever visited a community and said "This parish is certainly representative of the three thousand Orthodox churches in the US?" Neither have I. A sample size of 0.0003 is quite a broad brush with which to paint a million people.

Putin as "king-like figure"

"For many of them, Putin becomes this sort of king-like figure in their narratives," she said. "They see themselves as oppressed by democracy because democracy is really diversity. And they look to Putin because democracy isn't really, as we see right now, an option [in Russia]." West Virginia being a bastion of diversity and integration. I'm sure the 94% Caucasian demographic feels besieged upon. Is it diversity or the almost seasonal innovationist thinking on every topic under the sun pushed for in the name of DEI that grates? Having been to WV numerous times I can well see how the social topics getting attention in the news bear little resemblance to the lives West Virginians are experiencing. Poverty, lack of medical care, alcoholism, the death of their forms of employment  etc. loom much larger for them than [insert pet topic].

She recently published a book based on her research that's titled Between Heaven and Russia: Religious Conversion and Political Apostasy in Appalachia.

How Skopje sees the creation of a "Church of Ohrid"

(Greek Times) - The decision by the Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarchate on Monday to recognise North Macedonia’s church as the “Church of Ohrid” was discussed in a meeting between the country’s Prime Minister and its Archbishop Stefan in Skopje on Tuesday.

A meeting of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, chaired by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, said that North Macedonia’s church, led by Archbishop Stefan, is recognised as canonical and valid in the entire Orthodox world.

The Patriarch added that canonical and liturgical unity is established with it and the faithful.

Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski called this decision historic and he added that it was expected.

He also congratulated Stefan on the fact that, as Phanar said, it accepts the hierarchy, the clergy and the people of the Church under Archbishop Stefan in Eucharistic communion, and that they are no longer at odds with the Orthodox world. That's an overstatement of historic size.

In its statement, the Ecumenical Patriarchate noted that the name “Macedonia” and all its derivatives were excluded, and that the country’s church is now recognised only by the name “Ohrid”.

Of Macedonia and Serbia

As was posted about earlier, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to accept the Macedonian organization (the so-called "Ohrid Archdiocese") and normalize it. It should not surprise you that the Serbian synod is meeting right now in order to respond to this. If the Ukrainian project by Constantinople angered Russia (and much of the Orthodox world), expect no less outrage from Serbia et mundus over this abrupt action. Several people have emailed me asking if the EP is simply trying to divide the Orthodox world one action at a time. To that I have no answer. I do know, however, that this "healing" initiative is upsetting primates, enraging the laity, and serving as fodder for those who scream "popery!" every time His All-Holiness sneezes.

(Orthodox Times) - The recognition of the Ohrid Archdiocese took place today by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, during the meeting of the Holy Synod, and after an in-depth discussion.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it welcomes in Eucharistic communion “the hierarchy, clergy, and people of this Church under Archbishop Stefan .”

In this way, as argued in the communiqué, it heals the wound of the schism and pours “oil and wine” into the wound of the Orthodox brothers and sisters there.

He clarified that it was up to the Church of Serbia to settle the administrative issues between it and the Church in North Macedonia.

It makes clear that it excludes the term “Macedonian” and any other derivative of the word “Macedonia”, and recognizes the name of the Church as “Ohrid”.

He promises to continue to be interested in the progress and stability of the Ohrid ecclesiastical entity.

And also...

(Orthodox Times) - We were expecting this reaction from Belgrade, but it came from Moscow. This is about the first reaction to yesterday’s announcement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, by which it received the Archdiocese of Ohrid in Eucharistic Communion under Archbishop Stefanos.

And whereas, after the initial surprise and the discussion concerning the decision of the Phanar, the focus was on Belgrade and how the Patriarchate of Serbia would respond (especially after the meeting of Patriarch Porphyry of Serbia a few days ago with a representative of the Church of North Macedonia, which indicated developments on the part of the Serbian Church), the -first- reaction came from Moscow.

In particular, the secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for Foreign Church Affairs, Igor Yakimchuk, said that the Russian Orthodox Church recognized the exclusive canonical rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North Macedonia.

“The Russian Orthodox Church will primarily take into account the approach to the problem from the side of the Serbian Church, to which we continue to recognize exclusive canonical rights in North Macedonia,” the archpriest stressed.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate announced yesterday that it was receiving in Eucharistic Communion “the hierarchy, clergy, and people of this Church under Archbishop Stefanos”.

In this way, according to the communiqué, it is healing the wound of the schism and pouring “oil and wine” into the wound of the Orthodox brothers and sisters there.

It clarifies that it is up to the Church of Serbia to settle the administrative issues between itself and the Church in North Macedonia.

It makes it clear that it excludes the term “Macedonian” and any other derivative of the word “Macedonia”, and recognizes the name of the Church as “Ohrid”.

It promises that it will continue to be interested in the progress and stability of the ecclesiastical entity of Ohrid.