Friday, November 17, 2017

Be transformed

"He came in shorts."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Luna Lovegood and the Quibbler couldn't have done better

(TNH via OCL) - The issue of the salaries and benefits of the clergy comes up very often for discussion in many if not all parishes, and certainly at various gatherings of Greek-Americans through the country.

Something has to be done to review this issue, because the way we are going, fewer and fewer parishes will be able to afford the high salaries and the demands of many of our priests.

Let me say that I have great respect and honor for those faithful, humble, and ethical priests and bishops, no matter in what corner of the world, who serve because they are heavenly men or earthly angels, if you wish. Be assured that there are such priests and bishops, but they are invisible amid the showy lightweight noisemakers.

I do believe that the priests should get decent salaries in order to enjoy a decent quality of life with their families. Like everyone else, they have necessities and obligations. They have children to raise and educate, and of course, those of us with college-age children know first hand the high cost of tuition.

Certainly, the issue here is not about them, but rather about those who make more than CEOs of large corporations. I take issue with those who use “the piety to make money” and exhibit scandalous mercenary-like behavior. If you are going to say something like this, you had better back it up. Otherwise, it's just petty slander.

The Archdiocese of America is the Orthodox Church’s golden fish. That is primarily why priests from other jurisdictions such as the Orthodox Church in America, including Russian, Antiochian, and Romanian clerics, go to the Greek Archdiocese, because the Greek communities pay well. Those priests earn $30,000 per year on average and are forced to take on second jobs in order to survive. I don’t think the day is far off that our Greek Orthodox priests will have to do the same, because our communities become smaller and smaller and cannot endure the huge financial demands many priests have and that the bishops impose on the parishes. The generations who used to put their hand into their pocket and gave generously or burned themselves cooking at the grills at Greek festivals, or went around selling lottery tickets to collect money to pay the priests’ and the bishops’ salaries are gone. The new generations have woken up, and they are not willing to continue the pathetic system to finance the lavish lives of the clergy of every rank. The average Greek parish, were it to shrink by two thirds, would still be larger than many other jurisdictions' parishes. The new generation has "woken up?"! The new generation is not coming to church and not participating in the life of the church as good stewards. You're trying to draw a line between priestly pay and the health of the parish. Actually look at the line items on a Greek parish budget and you'll come to a much different perspective on where funds are going.

Here are some suggestions:
  1. It is time the so-called “tihera” (tips) given to priests and bishops when they do sacraments or Vesper Services to stop, because it is a kind of unprejudiced simony. It is unacceptable the moment they have good salaries and benefits. Basically, they are paid to pray, to condescend to accept “tips,” like waiters in restaurants. We laypersons should acknowledge that we are at fault as well for tipping the priests and bishops. Just think for a moment that all those who enter the churches on Sunday morning are volunteers, except the priests and the bishops who actually get paid by the parishioners. They are the “employees” of the Church, meaning the Body of the Laity, as simple as that. So you want to pay priests less and then remove their ability to supplement what pay gaps there may be by forbidding acts of appreciation by the faithful? I know many priest who rely on this money to put food on the table because they are willing to accept less pay to help grow a church that can't afford the full parish-status rate. Also, calling priests employees shows as distinct lack of understanding about the sacrificial role of the clergy.
  2. Celibate priests wrongly serve in parishes, because as monks, they belong in the monasteries. But they have created a separate sect of a careerist Archimandritism. They should receive the smallest possible salary, because they don’t have wives and children to support. You want to pay men who have chosen the difficult path of celibacy to receive a celibacy tax of lesser pay? Where else in any industry does the employer get to look at your family situation and dock your pay for not having a wife or children? Also, where do the future bishops get parish pastoral experience from these monasteries (that both the OCL and TNH have lashed out against as dangerous)?
  3. Priests and bishops shouldn’t scandalize the faithful with their lavish lifestyles: dining at expensive restaurants, driving expensive luxurious cars, and living in multimillion-dollar homes, when there are members of their parishes and metropolises who don’t even have a plate of hot food to eat. Again, such blanket statements without evidence are scurrilous slander. Also, as there is always someone more blessed than you, there is always someone who is struggling more than you. You should neither be jealous of one nor look with disdain on the other. That said, what are your metrics for deciding on how someone else should live? Did your parish council spot make you the feudal lord of your parish priest?
  4. The chancellors of the metropolises should be abolished. The bishops can do the job by themselves if they manage their time correctly and care only for the Church and no other activities. Two or more million dollars will be saved from salaries, benefits, car expenses, insurances, travel expenses for meetings, and other costs. I don't think you understands the immense responsibilities of the chancellor. My own chancellor runs himself ragged keeping diocesan affairs in order. I don't think you want your bishop sitting in his office doing paperwork when he should be with his flock. The arch-pastoral role and the administrative role are separated (and have been for quite a long time) for a reason.
  5. It is time put an end to the out-of-control spending. Our people in the parishes are sick and tired of the continuous begging one day from the Archdiocese, the next from the metropolis, the third from the camp, the fourth day from the Theological School, and the fifth from the Academy of St. Basil. The milk of the big cow called the Greek-American Community is drying up. Luckily, there are those Greek Festivals with the roasted pigs and lambs that keep the doors of many churches open; otherwise God knows how many parishes would be closed by now. It is true that 400 or 500 families are contributing and working at the festivals basically for two things: to pay the priest’s salary, and to pay the Archdiocese. Does the economic model need some adjustment? Of course. Is the answer to not give money to the orphans at St. Basil's? How about not investing in the future by ignoring the seminary? Where do you want your children to go in the summer? If they don't go to an Orthodox camp, do you wonder which protestant group is going to host them? You seem to not like being asked for money. My pastoral experience is that the person who complains most about money is the least likely to be seen pitching in when it's time to paint something or move something or set up for an upcoming feast. Those people give what they can in time, effort, and money as they can and don't fret - knowing that God sees them building up treasure in Heaven.

"I love the beauty of Thy house..."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Russian Church mulls new catechism and Crete documents

Quite a small update for two issues with so much import.

( - On 13 November 2017, a plenary session of the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church took place at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Theological Institute of Postgraduate Studies under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.

The Commission members discussed the results of the analysis of the documents adopted at the Council of the ten Local Orthodox Churches held on the Island of Crete on 18-27 June 2016. The Commission’s conclusion will be submitted to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

During the meeting, Mr. Andrei Shishkov, secretary of the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission, informed the Commission members of the comments on the draft Catechesis published for Church-wide discussion. The Secretariat of the Biblical and Theological Commission received 136 comments from hierarchs, clergymen and lay people of the Russian Orthodox Church and set about examining them.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Tragedy strikes North Royalton

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio (Fox8) — Fire officials are investigating the cause of a blaze that ripped through Saint Matthew the Evangelist Antiochian Orthodox Church in North Royalton Saturday morning.

It happened at around 9 a.m. at the church on Albion Road, when someone inside called to report the fire.

North Royalton Fire Chief Robert Chegan says firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the church. The blaze was knocked down quickly and under control within 30 min, Chegan said.

Crews from Strongsville, Parma, Broadview Heights, and Seven Hills came to assist North Royalton fire.

No one was hurt, but the building sustained significant damage.

Officials are still investigating the cause.

Do people still sell millstones? Because an order needs filling.

(Life News) - Texas religious leaders gathered Thursday to bless an abortion clinic and its staff as a judge considers whether to allow the state to ban brutal dismemberment abortions on live unborn babies.

The pro-abortion clergy prayed at the Whole Woman’s Health abortion facility in Fort Worth, Texas, blessing its staff and patients, saying prayers and singing “Hallelujah,” according to the Daily Caller.

The Texas abortion chain is one of the groups challenging the state dismemberment abortion ban. It also has a poor reputation for patient health and safety, racking up dozens of health and safety violations in the past decade. They include things like failures to properly sterilize equipment, rusty spots on medical equipment that had the “likelihood of causing infection,” rips in exam tables and more.

Kentina Washington-Leapheart, the director of reproductive justice and sexuality education at the Religious Institute, said they chose to bless this particular abortion clinic because it sees a lot of minority women and women in poverty.

“Women seeking an abortion are largely women of faith. They’re not having an abortion in spite of their faith, it’s in many ways informing the decision they make,” Washington-Leapheart told the Texas Observer. “They have a God-given right to make decisions about their life.”

“There are progressive people of faith, even in Texas,” Washington-Leapheart continued. “We’re trying to say [the extreme right’s] narrative isn’t the only narrative related to faith.”

“When thinking about access, we have to think about how race and class impact access,” she said.

Whole Woman’s Health runs four abortion facilities in Texas and several others in Maryland, Minnesota and Illinois. It also recently applied to open a new abortion facility in Indiana. State inspection reports obtained by Texas Alliance for Life in 2013 and new inspection reports released this fall showed dozens of violations that threatened the health and safety of its patients, including lack of sterilization of abortion instruments, lack of an RN or LVN on staff, rusty suction machines and expired and unlabeled medications.

Earlier this week in court, its the abortion chain’s lawyers argued that abortionists should be allowed to dismember second-trimester, nearly fully formed living unborn babies, tearing them limb from limb while their hearts are beating.

Despite the brutality and life-destroying nature of abortion, some abortion activists have been trying to take over the moral high ground by linking religion to support for abortion. One abortionist even claims his abortion business is a “ministry.”

First Liturgy in Sign Language to be held Cyprus

I try to post about sign and Orthodoxy whenever they intersect because it's an important effort for the Church. For those interested, there are a few groups on Facebook specifically dedicated to this discussion.

(Cyprus Mail) - A liturgy is to be performed next week in sign language for the first time ever in Cyprus, aiming to include the deaf in the holy mysteries of the Greek Orthodox Church.

A theologian will travel from Greece at the invitation of the Bishopric of Tamasos and Orinis to simultaneously interpret the liturgy into sign language for the deaf people who will attend. The service will take place on Sunday, November 19 at the church of Ayios Ioannis Chrysostomos in Lakatamia, in the Nicosia district.

According to the church’s priest Father Kyriacos Kasparis, initially the bishopric will bring the theologian over once per month, increase to once per fortnight and on major religious holidays depending on his schedule.

“This arrangement is aimed at satisfying the needs of the deaf faithful who have never had the opportunity to follow a liturgy and have someone explain to them the deeper meanings in their own language,” Father Kyriacos told the Cyprus Mail.

This will be the first time, he said, that deaf people will have the opportunity to participate more actively in divine liturgies.

He added that the theologian will stand on a podium to be visible to as many people as possible, and will simultaneously interpret in sign language.

“He will not translate but interpret in sign language the theological meaning of the liturgy and sermon,” Father Kyriacos said. After the liturgy, the deaf will be offered breakfast in the church hall and have the opportunity to ask questions through the theologian about everything they would like to know about faith.

“All that we are supposed to know about our faith, they will learn for the first time,” Father Kyriacos said.
He added that around 17 people have expressed interest in attending so far, but that he expects that the number will increase. “We have already invited several people and informed deaf organisations and we have also made announcements in the media,” he said.

At the same time, the bishopric has invited a Cypriot woman who is an expert in sign language to learn the sermon and liturgy interpretations of the Greek theologian so that she can eventually take in his place when he is not able to travel to Cyprus.

If all goes well, the next step, he said, will be a Sunday school for deaf children.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Oriental Orthodox hierarchs meet in NJ

Paramus, NJ (SCOOCH) – His Eminence Mor Dionysios Jean Kawak – Patriarchal Exarch of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Eastern United States – hosted the fall meeting of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches at the Mor Aphrem Center on Thursday, November 2, 2017. In attendance were H.G. Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of NY & NE, H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America, and a number of priests and deacons representing each of the respective Oriental Orthodox jurisdictions.

The assembled clergy discussed several important initiatives at the conference, including fellowship and unity at the parish level, concelebrations of the Divine Liturgy, youth events, campus ministry, dialogue with other Christian jurisdictions, and the upcoming UN Prayer Service convened jointly with the Eastern Orthodox Church. The fathers were also updated on the current situation in the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church by Fr. Athanasius Ghebre-Ab, at which time they reaffirmed their support for His Holiness Abune Antonios I – the lawful Patriarch of Eritrea – whom they pray will soon be returned to his Throne in peace.

Quit encouraging them...

Let me say that I really enjoyed my time in California as a child. An easy stroll over to the beach, walking through fog in the morning, and all of those quintessentially Sunshine State activities. And yet, I'd never move back there. Their legal and societal choices border on the suicidal and their attack dog-like approach to Christianity and living a Christian life would prove suffocating to me. I've served the homeless all over North America and never felt like I was enabling people to be homeless by giving them healthy food to eat. They are more likely to die from poor nutrition and medical complications than they are to feel strong borborygmi and think "You know what? I need a job! Jeeves, find me my interview suit and have someone prep the car! Let's motor!" Feeding the homeless is not optional. It's a commandment of Christ to be taken literally. Boo, Malibu. Boo.

If you want to help a throughly Orthodox ministry helping the homeless (body and soul), please consider a donation to the St. John the Compassionate Mission.

MALIBU, CA (CBS) - A Malibu church that has helped the homeless for years has been asked to stop feeding people who are down on their luck.

CBS Los Angeles spoke to the people at the United Methodist Church about the request.

Workers at the church say they are able to serve as many as 100 people. They've been serving meals on Wednesdays since 2014.

But now, the food service will come to an end after Thanksgiving at the city's request.

"It's a safe place," said Michah Johnson, who is homeless. "And everyone is welcome. And the food is really good. It's home-cooked. And there's TLC involved."

"The church is very helpful," he added. "They keep my spirits up. They keep me accountable. When you're homeless, it's very easy to slip off and become jaded."

The church says the city sent an email asking members to attend a meeting on Monday, where they were asked to stop feeding the homeless.

"Very succinctly," said Dawn Randall, who works with the United Methodist Church. "They claimed we are increasing homelessness."

"I think many of them eat out of dumpsters and trash cans when they aren't eating with us," said Kay Gabbard, who also works with the United Methodist Church. "We can't pretend like (homelessness) doesn't exist in our backyard. We can't pretend that it only exists outside Malibu."

CBS Los Angeles reached out to Malibu's mayor for a comment. They have yet to hear back.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Liturgy of St. James at Jordanville

(HTS) - Today, when the Holy Church commemorates the memory of the Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord in the flesh, as has been customary in the monastery, the Liturgy of the Apostle James was concelebrated by the monastery and seminary clergy. This ancient liturgy, which was the basis of the liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great, impresses one with its great prayerfulness and a connection with the Old Testament.

Being a Sunday, our pilgrims were able to take advantage of participating in this liturgy and to be impressed with the richness of the Orthodox liturgical tradition. The Liturgy of the Apostle James has only been served in the Russian Church since the 1930’s, and more specifically in the Russian Church Abroad, after the church musicologist, Philip Gardiner, translated the service into Church Slavonic. It is interesting to note that the service book was printed in the mother house of our monastery in Ladomirovo, Slovakia. It also might be pointed out that the last few years, the monastery also serves during Great Lent the Presanctified Liturgy of St. James as well as the Liturgy of the Apostle and Evangelist Mark.


We hit four million views today for the blog. I appreciate all who have visited and those who continue to do so. I have some upcoming book reviews and interviews to post shortly that have been delayed by the vagaries of life, so check back soon!

A criticism of the Ukrainian Catholic charismatic movement

Faithful remember Holodomor in Washington, DC

On Tuesday afternoon, a Memorial service was prayerfully served by Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church as well as by the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox clergy at the Holodomor Memorial in Washington, DC. Poignant words spoken by a myriad of dignitaries including Ambassador Valeriy Chaly. Later in the day, a solemn commemorative program was held at the US Congress building.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Divine Liturgy of Saint James: Questions & Answers

You may need to unmute this video at playback.

(Orthodox Life) - This Sunday marked the commemoration of the Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord and first Bishop in Jerusalem. In keeping with annual tradition, the Liturgy of St James was served on this day at Holy Trinity Monastery.

This ancient rite is often misunderstood so Dr Vitaly Permiakov, an expert in the Jerusalem rite and associate professor at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, fielded questions in a live online event. The discussion was moderated by Nicholas Kotar.

About the Participants

Dr Vitaly Permiakov is Assistant Professor of Dogmatic and Liturgical Theology at Holy Trinity Seminary and managing editor of the Holy Trinity Seminary Press. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame.

Nicholas Kotar is an author of epic fantasy inspired by Russian fairy tales, translator from Russian into English, and conductor of Russian sacred choral music. He numbers several Holy Trinity Publications titles among his translations. Make sure to check out his blog, where he posts regularly on Russian religious traditions, culture, and history. His novel The Song of The Sirin is available now.