Monday, July 24, 2017

The sudarium and the priestly funeral

(St. Elizabeth Convent) - Why do we cover the faces of clerics after their death – several similar questions were addressed to the editor after the death of Alexii II the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, when the whole world could see the mourning ceremony where thousands of Russians came to pay last respects to their Patriarch. Fr. Deacon Alexii (Florov) responded to the question, the graduate of the historian faculty of the State university of Samara, the cleric of the church in honor of the holy New Martyrs of Russia in the village Pribrezhny of Samara region, the technical editor of “Spiritual interlocutor” magazine in Samara.

“The tradition of covering the face of a reposed Christian go back to the burial of the Lord Jesus Christ. Along with His body which was covered with a shroud, his face was also covered with a sudarium: “And the napkin, that was about his head…” (John 20:7). Sudarium (from latin “sudor” – swet) is a special cloth with which you can wipe the sweat.

This practice turned into a tradition applied to the burial of monks and priests with the exception that the face of a monk is wrapped with a special cloth as a sign that the monastic has voluntarily chosen to leave the world. At the same time the face of a priest is covered with a veil, with which is the same veil that covers the chalice and diskos with the Holy Sacraments and shows that he celebrated the sacred mysteries. What is more, the Lord’s face on the Holy Shroud, which is placed in the church on Great Friday, is also covered with a veil.

These traditions are also mentioned in the great church book of Metropolitan Peter Mogila republished in 1999.” Hardly a ringing endorsement for the practice, but worth noting nonetheless.

There is also another opinion that says that at this very time, a priest stands before God and he looks towards the Lord. This is why it is covered away from from people.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The calling of men to the diaconate in the Armenian Church

More on vacant see in Metropolis of Chicago

BOSTON (National Herald) – The Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America defied the Synodical decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to revise the List of Candidates for the elevation to Episcopacy.

Instead in a unprecedented move they decided that the Archbishop with a representation of hierarchs travel to Constantinople to try to convince Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to reverse the initial Synodical decision that canceled the election of Bishop Sevastianos of Zela as Metropolitan of Chicago.

The decision was taken on Thursday July 20 in a special session of the Eparchial Synod convened by its president His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America. All the Synodical hierarchs were present except Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver.

Archbishop Demetrios will send a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew requesting an audience at the Phanar.

The above decision could ignite ecclesiastical developments of historic magnitude.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ROCOR Synod of Bishops responds to Sr. Vassa's letter

(ROCOR) - The Holy Synod, having received the recent text of a publicly-posted e-mail exchange, dated 2nd July 2017, between the Nun Vassa (Larin) and a correspondent, entitled “EMAIL OF THE WEEK: (from a mother, on MY SON IS HOMOSEXUAL),” together with follow-up correspondence, also posted publicly on 8th July 2017, is compelled to confirm to its flock and to all Orthodox Christians that the counsel contained therein is in contradiction to the Church’s teaching on sexuality, repentance and family life. It does not represent an Orthodox understanding of anthropology or theology, and in the counsel it purports to offer presents a grave spiritual danger to those who might follow it, in terms of their own understanding of sexuality, as well as in the rearing of children.

While it is not the norm to reply from the Office of the Holy Synod to materials posted on the internet, in this instance the wide readership of the various resources published by this author, who is an Orthodox monastic, has the potential to lead readers astray and we therefore feel compelled to issue a brief word to the faithful. It should be clear to men and women of faith that mere verbal acknowledgement, with regards to homosexuality, that “actively living it out is a sin,” is not sufficient to establish a text’s keeping with Orthodox teaching in the light of the Gospel, when the same text nevertheless equates homosexuality in numerous places to a “God-given gift, and cross,” or “one’s gift-and-cross of (homo)sexuality” — suggesting, in utter departure from all Christian teaching, that this or any means of behaviour which God identifies as sinful may be His deliberate bestowal upon some (thereby falling into the social trap of suggesting that “God made me that way”); further, that such an entrance into sin is “not a ‘choice’”; and moreover, rather than encouraging that a parent of a child identifying as homosexual should help him, with the Church’s loving care, to repent and seek healing unto redemption of soul and body and the fulness of life, instead suggest either that the child be encouraged to remain in his sin as a “humble presence in [his] parish,” falsely equating a consequent withdrawal of approach to the Holy Mysteries to the example St. Mary of Egypt, whose long struggle without Holy Communion was not due to her steadfastness in sin but to the extreme conviction of her utter repentance; or yet worse, that the parents of a child should seek out a parish that deliberately and knowingly “is acceptive of your son’s particular gift-and-cross,” once more ascribing homosexuality as a bestowal of God, encouraging at the same time the departure from ascetic transformation and the seeking out of a community that might wilfully abandon the Gospel teaching towards repentance, knowingly permitting the faithful to languish in their sin rather than be healed.

In these spiritually confused times, when many are being led astray by social norms that employ the pretensions of compassion to abandon the creation order and the teachings of Christ, which are the only true source of authentic compassion and genuine spiritual healing, there can be no room for ambiguity or false witness on such critical matters. Only the Gospel, which Christ proclaims in His Church, provides true spiritual medicine; all deviations from its life-creating message only contribute to the wounds and illness of an already-beleaguered society.

We instruct therefore that the contents of these publicly-posted materials be disregarded by the faithful as contrary to the teachings of the Gospel and pastorally harmful; that they be withdrawn and removed from any web sites or publications that seek authentically to represent Orthodox theological and pastoral teaching; and that in the future such materials be treated with most extreme reticence and caution.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Russians discuss secular jobs incompatible with priesthood

If you've read the canons, much of this is already covered, but it's a worthwhile endeavor to clarify and update/expand to match current employment options. I wish this could get application at a pan-Orthodox level. Anecdotally, our bishops in the US often take each secular form of employment on a case-by-case basis with the priest. One bishop may be absolutely fine with his priest delivering pizzas while another might consider it "below the dignity of the presbyterate." It's also worth noting that much of this also applies to the wives of the clergy as well.

( - The meeting of the Presidium of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is gathering in particular to determine which professions and types of activities are incompatible with the priesthood, has begun today. In particular, sports, medical professions, and civil service are under discussion, reports RIA-Novosti.

The patriarch’s press secretary Fr. Alexander Volkov earlier stated that the final decision on the issue of priestly professions will be made by the Council of Bishops, although the relevant document must first be confirmed by the participants of the Inter-Council Presence.

As previously reported, the draft document was created by order of an Inter-Council commission from January 28, 2015. Comments on the document were received online up through May 2, 2017.

The draft document notes that “conditions of modern life sometimes raise the question of reconciling the priesthood and secular professions.” The following professions were suggested as incompatible:
  • Military service and “generally any service, even in private corporations, involving the carrying and use of weapons”;
  • Civil service in executive or judicial bodies;
  • Medical activities connected with the shedding of human blood, especially of surgeons (the example of St. Luke of Crimea being an exception “connected with the circumstances of the time” according to the document) and other medical positions.
  • Here it is noted that “the ruling bishop may sanction the medical or paramedical activity of a cleric if it is able to bear good fruits”;
  • Personal businesses, especially in banking, credit, and insurance;
  • Work in establishments of dubious reputation, such as gambling houses, casinos, etc.;
  • Professional sports;
  • Acting, dancing, stage singing.
“We’re not talking about any kind of innovation, but about systematizing the relationship of the Church to such kinds of activities,” Fr. Volkov added. According to him, everything formulated in the draft document is already contained in the holy canons of the Church, “It’s just that here it’s all recorded in one document.”

“The topics that will be adopted today will help in the final stage to determine whether some conciliar document about them is necessary or not, and with who should decide on this or that document—the Holy Synod of the Council of Bishops,” said Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at the opening of the meeting.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Glorification of Saint Mardarije of Libertyville

Troparion of Sts. Mardarije and Sebastian:

O God of our Fathers,
Always act with kindness towards us;
Take not Your mercy from us,
But through the prayers of Saints Mardarije
and Sebastian
Guide our lives in peace.

Kontakion to St. Mardarije of Libertyville, Tone 8:

Tireless preacher of Christ the Lord,
Leader on the path of St. Sava for your people in diaspora,
Labor-loving practitioner and teacher of repentance,
Holy Mardarije of Libertyville and America,
Together with all the Enlighteners of the
American lands,
Entreat the only Lover of Mankind,
To grant all Orthodox Christians peace and unity!

Born in village of Kornet, Ljesani County, in Montenegro, on November 2, 1889, to pious parents Petar and Jela Uskokovic, he was baptized in his village church dedicated to St. George and received his baptismal name Ivan.

His mother was from the well-known Bozovic family. Both of his parents were well respected in their community holding the office of leadership and particularly his father was a captain of their clan.

Considering his parents’ status, young Ivan was sent to further his education, first in Rijeka Crnojevic, Cetinje, and then in Belgrade, Serbia. While in Belgrade, young Ivan advanced his childhood desire to serve God and the Church, and so from there he headed to monastery Studenica where after a short period of novice life he gets tonsured to monasticism having received the name Mardarije. With the decision of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, now young hierodeacon Mardarije is sent to Russia where he spent twelve years (1905-1917) furthering his theological education and growing in wisdom. From there, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church sent him to the United States of America to organize the Serbian Orthodox Church. On December 1, 1923, now archimandrite Mardarije is appointed as administrator of the Serbian American-Canadian diocese with the see in Chicago and that same year he purchased around ten acres of land in Libertyville, Illinois, where later St. Sava monastery was built. He was elected by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church as the first bishop for the newly established diocese in America on December 7, 1925, and his consecration took place on Palm Sunday, the Feast of the Entrance of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, on April 25, 1926.

From then on His Grace Bishop Mardarije, the first bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, labored tirelessly in building churches, St. Sava monastery in Libertyville, sowing Christian love, spread peace, preached and witnessed the Gospel of Christ throughout his diocese. In spite of inescapable wordly trends, he lived spontaneity of truth and a provision of grace, just because Life has dawned from the Tomb, and is dawning still. Having labored as bishop for a little over nine years he died peacefully on December 12, 1935, hospitalized in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while writing his last Nativity Encyclical to his beloved flock. His earthly remains were laid to rest at St. Sava monastery in Libertyville. The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church during its regular session held from May 14-29, 2015 brought forth a decision that his name be added to the Diptych of saints of the Holy Orthodox Church.

From the Holy Hierarch Mardarije, we see how the grace of God reaches the heart of our cities, bringing to the confusion of the world the breeze of the Spirit and the serenity of the Age to come.

An episcopal consecration in the Assyrian Church of the East

Broadcast of the Consecration of The Rev’d Fr Ninos Elya, Bishop-Elect to Diocese of Victoria and New Zealand by His Holiness Mar Gewargis III Sliwa, Catholicos-Patriarch Of the Assyrian Church of the East.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

More on the EP's rejection of the candidate list for Chicago

(Pappas Post) - The synod of bishops at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, meeting currently at the Phanar in Istanbul, Turkey, has rejected the list of three candidates for the position of Metropolitan of Chicago.

An official statement has not yet been made as information received by The Pappas Post came from within the meeting quarters, which is still in session.

The seat was vacated following the death of Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, who held the seat for more than 40 years.

The synod of American Metropolitans, comprising the hierarchs from the Metropolises of Boston, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Atlanta, Detroit, Denver and San Francisco and presided over by Archbishop Demetrios of America, met in New York City on July 6 to deliberate and create what the Church calls a “triprosopon,” or list of three names.

These three names are then submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for review by thy Synod and ultimate election of the new Metropolitan.

Traditionally, the Patriarchate’s synod selects the first name on the list, which in this case was Bishop Sebastian of Zela, who held the position of Secretary of the Holy Synod and Spiritual Advisor to the National Philoptochos Society at the Archdiocese in New York City.

In addition to Bishop Sebastian, the other two individuals on the list were Archimandrites Gerasimos Makris from Brooklyn, NY and George Nikas from Salt Lake City, UT.

But the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the right, according to church rules, to reject the three-person list and return it, without cause, explanation or reason.

A source at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of his position told The Pappas Post that there were “serious reservations” about the selection of Bishop Sebastian to the number one position on the list and ultimately as the new Metropolitan of Chicago.

“Chicago is the crown jewel of the American Church. What many people don’t understand is that the position of Metropolitan isn’t only ceremonial. There is so much more involved. You’re dealing with dozens of parishes, extensive travel, administrative and human resources challenges, not to mention tremendous pressure from various circles and camps both within and outside the church,” said the anonymous administrator at the Archdiocese in a confidential email.

He went on to say that many people throughout the country and in and around Chicago “had serious reservations about Bishop Sebastian’s stamina, capabilities and experience to handle such a prodigious and complex position like head of the Chicago Metropolis, given his limited administrative experience and his limited English language skills.”

There has been no official response from Archdiocesan headquarters in New York City but this will certainly create a rift between New York City and Istanbul, as it was widely regarded that Bishop Sebastian was the Archbishop’s personal choice and he lobbied heavily for his position on top of the list.

EP rejects list of candidates to head Chicago Metropolis

Many times people downplay the importance of the shortlist candidate being accepted by a patriarchate. The common belief is that there is an obvious choice and that the other two names for the triprospon are thrown in for show. In some circles people defend autonomy by saying this "formality" is not a sign of power, but of good order. For example, I always get comments when Eastern Catholics follow this process even when they have their own synods. "Why is the pope involved at all? If they're really sui iuris this shouldn't happen," they say. The ready answer is "Oh, that's just a part of the process. They always take the candidate." It seems, in Phanariot circles, this isn't just kabuki theatre. Constantinople will push back on the choice (especially, when as I am told, there are others more favored like Demetrios of Mokissos).

NEW YORK (National Herald) – The election of Bishop Sevastianos of Zela as the new Metropolitan of Chicago was canceled by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The election was scheduled to take place on Thursday, July 13 at the Phanar.

The National Herald has learned that the unexpected turn of events is due to the List of Candidates which was considered problematic and incomplete.

The List, however, had been approved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate last March. Bishop Sevastianos of Zela had gathered 7 votes out of 8 who voted for the triprosopon during the selection on July 6 by the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate has the right and privilege to cancel the selection of the three person ballot that is instituted by the Holy Eparchial Synod of America. The practice thus far was that the Synod of the Patriarchate presided by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was to elect the candidates who receives the majority of the votes during the selection process of the triprosopon (three person ballot).

This development may create a crisis between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Archbishop Demetrios of America because this is a direct rejection of such an important recommendation of the Church of America expressed by its Holy Eparchial Synod.

TNH was unable to contact His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios at press time despite multiple calls to the Archdiocese.

TNH has learned that Bishop Sevastianos is in Cyprus visiting family members.

His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela came first during the process of the selection of the three person ballot (trirprosopon) on July 6 by the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, presided by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios.

The triprosopon was composed of Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, who received votes from seven of the Synod hierarchs (voters); Archimandrite George Nikas presiding priest at the Holy Trinity parish of Salt Lake City, UT, who received three votes; and Archimandrite Gerasimos Makris presiding priest of the Holy Cross parish in Brooklyn, who also received three votes.

The Synod was comprised of Archbishop Demetrios of America, presiding, and Metropolitans Methodios of Boston, Isaiah of Denver, Alexios of Atlanta, Nicholas of Detroit, Savas of Pittsburgh, Gerasimos of San Francisco, and Evangelos of New Jersey.

All voted for Sevastianos except for Gerasimos, who made clear to Demetrios and the other Synod members his preference for a candidacy of Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardaneles.

Sevastianos is the Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod and the Spiritual Advisor to the National Philoptochos Society. He was ordained a bishop and given the honorary title of the city of Zela on December 17, 2011.

The result of the selection process was sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the official election by its Holy Synod,

Sevastianos was Demetrios’ choice. Metropolitan Nicholas will preside in the interim until a new metropolitan of Chicago is officially elected.

The Synod decided that the List of Candidates was incomplete because not all the names of those eligible for election were included. The Patriarchate is going to ask from Archbishop Demetrios to add to the List all those eligible candidates including those hierarchs who have served at the Archdiocese of America and now serving in Metropolises abroad such as Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico, Cleopas of Sweden, Tarasios of Buenos Aires, Nikitas of Dardanelles. Also, the current Metropolitans of the Archdiocese could be place on the List if they desire to be transferred to the Metropolis of Chicago.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fr. Lawrence Farley answers "What to tell the family?"

Several clergy responded to Sr. Vassa's letter to the mother of a teen boy (see here if you have not yet read the exchange). Fr. Whiteford, others, and I have responded to what the monastic had to say, but Fr. Lawrence Farley has responded with what he would say if the letter were directed to him. I commend him on this and link a bit of it below.

Recently Sr. Vassa Larin (famous for her “Coffee with Sr. Vassa” podcast) has attracted much and varied attention from a correspondence she published in which she replied to a question from a woman of a fourteen year old boy about how to handle her son’s “coming out”. (The mother’s question and Sr. Vassa’s response may be accessed here.) Her advice, prefaced by a disclaimer of sorts that it was but her “personal opinion…not in line with some official pronouncements of my Church” (i.e. ROCOR) has drawn lots of admiration and praise from the gay community and lots of criticism from Orthodox clergy.

I have always been and will I trust continue to be a fan of Sr. Vassa’s work, though I think this current episode represents a serious mis-step for her. Clergy such as Fr. John Whiteford have replied at length to her piece with his customary candour, scholarship, and common sense, and there is no reason for me to weigh in as well and respond to her advice directly. I have nothing to add by way of critique, and am happy to simply say “Amen” to what Fr. John has written. But I would like to respond directly to what the mother asked Sr. Vassa, since Sr. Vassa has kindly given me the opportunity to read her mail. What follows would be my own response to the mother’s query if she had asked me. Though it is of course my own opinion, I will not offer much by way of disclaimer, since I hope that it also represents the teaching of the Church. I say this not because I am trying to play it safe, but because I genuinely believe what my Church teaches about this, and because I feel that no one wearing their church’s cassock with integrity has any business publicly dissenting from that teaching...
Complete article here.

Arguing over the Internet, a primer

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Building an Orthodox Marriage" book being published

(OCA) - Orthodox Christian couples are often seeking sage advice on how to strengthen their marital bond, and Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press has just released a book to help them do so. Titled Building an Orthodox Marriage: A Practical Commentary on the Eastern Orthodox Marriage Rite, the volume was written by a long-time married but now widowed bishop and a newly married layman. The book prepares couples to understand marriage as “a great mystery” akin to the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church [Ephesians 5.32] while coaching them in practical ways to strengthen their union.

His Grace, Bishop John [Abdalah] of the Diocese of Worcester and New England of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America and Nicholas G. Mamey, a recently married seminary graduate, are coauthors of the volume. In their work, they first establish a grounding for marriage, using Scripture and texts from the Orthodox Christian wedding ceremony, and then go on to offer practical guidance to couples.

The volume will be formally launched at the 53rd Biennial Antiochian Archdiocese Convention, slated to convene in Miami, FL July 23–30, 2017. Bishop John will be available at select times during the convention for book signings at the SVS Press and Bookstore booth, located in the Great Hall Foyer of the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, Hollywood, FL, and also during the Saint Vladimir’s Seminary alumni event at that hotel on Wednesday evening, July 26.

The book received a positive review from Dr. Albert S. Rossi, Clinical Psychologist, retired Associate Professor of Psychology from Pace University, and current Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, who wrote, “As I read the book many sentences jumped off the page — off the page and into my heart. If an engaged couple, or married couple of many years, were to read only one book on Orthodox marriage, I would recommend this book.”

Bishop John holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Care from Pittsburgh Theological School, a Master of Divinity degree from Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, and a Master’s equivalency certificate in Pastoral Counseling from Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute. He also is a clinical member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He taught Pastoral Counseling in the graduate program at the Saint John of Damascus Institute at the Balamand in Lebanon. He was married to the former Joanne Josephs for nearly 30 years, until her repose May 27, 2008.

Nicholas Mamey holds Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Study degrees from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA. He married Christina Randol in 2016.

Publication of the book was generously funded by Louis and George Kilsey.

The book may be ordered on-line here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Aikido master and Russian Orthodox priest

A Russian Orthodox priest, Valerii Kolesnikov, demonstrated his mastery in aikido and swordplay on Saturday, in the town of Gubkinski.

Oriental Orthodox Churches Youth Conference 2017

Holmdel, NJ (SCOOCH) - On June 24, 2017, noted theologian Fr. Peter Farrington (Abouna Peter Farrington) of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK spoke to an audience of youth and clergy on the subject of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy at the Sixth Annual SCOOYA Youth Conference. SCOOCH invites you to view the video of his two-part presentation, followed by a Q&A session in which Fr. Peter and a panel of Oriental Orthodox clergy tackle a variety of off-the-cuff questions from the youth, here:
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 - Q&A

For some reason we're still talking to Anglicans

(EP) - On Tuesday, June 27, 2017 informal talks between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Anglican Communion took place in London at Westminster Abbey, to exchange views on issues of common interest and specific positions of the two Churches.

The Orthodox delegation headed by His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyatira and Great Britain and consisted of Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium, new co-chairman of the International Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia and Protopresbyter Christos Christakis, secretary of the Official Dialogue.

The delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate informed the Anglicans of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church held in Crete in June last year, and many other events of interorthodox and ecumenical interest.

On Wednesday, June 28, 2017 a preparatory meeting took place between the two co-chairs of the official dialogue, namely Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium and Archbishop Richard Clarke, head of the Anglican Church of Ireland, together with the secretaries Protopresbyter Christakis Christos (Orthodox ) and the Reverend John Gibault (Anglican).

The next meeting of the Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue will take place on the island of Malta in October this year and will discuss the issues of environment and euthanasia.