See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
- The liturgical service for the Forefeast (celebrated yesterday) can be read here.
- A sermon on the Transfiguration by St Gregory Palamas is here.
- A homily by St Leo the Great on Matthew 17:1-3 is here.
- A homily of St Ephraim the Syrian can be found here.
- A sermon by St Cyril of Alexandria on Luke 9:27-36 is here.
- A sermon by St Anastasius of Sinai is here.
- Sermons by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh for today's Feast can be found here (1973), here (1989), and here (1990).
- Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), The Significance of the Lord's Transfiguration.
- Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South (OCA), The Transfiguration of Christ.
- Bishop Joseph of Arianzos, The Transfiguration (Metamorphoses) of our Saviour.
- Fr Andrew Phillips, On the Transfiguration.
- Fr Patrick Reardon, The Transfiguration of Christ.
- Fr Matthew Jackson, Homily on the Feast of the Transfiguration.
- A number of useful articles on the Transfiguration is here.
- A collection of sources in Russian is here.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.This is, of course, Joshua 5:13-15 (NIV).
Among recent creative literature there has been a successful attempt at retelling the story of Moses, the exodus and the wandering in the desert of the Jewish people, by Sholom Ashe, a twentieth century Jewish writer. The name of this writer is well known because of the part he took in several Russian periodicals of the pre-revolutionary period, and now, from a whole series of novels dealing with American life, written in English. The long work Moses (comprising some 500 pages) merits our attention because it shows the naturalness and the quite viable possibility of the entire course of events which are set forth in the books of Moses. The value of this work lies in that the author does not depart from the text of the Bible but fully preserves the idea of God leading the people of Israel in those days, concerning himself only with enlivening the narrative with a picturesque rendering of events which are given in compressed form in the sacred account in the Bible. In particular the author sets before the reader a method for the technical organization of notes for the future Pentateuch which was feasible at that time: the preparation of solid material for writing, the obtaining of inks from seaweed or shells; further — the collection of sacred traditions from the lips of the elders of Israel, the selection of scribes. In like manner, described on a large scale, is the possible picture of the preparations for equipping the tabernacle during the people’s annual sojourn at the foot of Sinai, and the works of the equipping itself: how Moses, ascending Sinai, amid the outcroppings of copper ore, discovers an area covered by thick vegetation which has a wonderful aroma and a thicket of huge acacias; how later this costly wooden material is fashioned into parts of the tabernacle, and the aromatic plants into fragrant incense for the services; how the collection of gold and silver objects is conducted so that they may be worked into utensils for the services of the tabernacle; the temple — a free labor, not carried out under the whips of overseers, a labor for their own people, not for their oppressors; with what diligence master craftsmen took to their specialities which they had acquired in Egypt — some men took to the dry reworking of metal, beating gold into sheets with stone hammers, others to smelting silver, having obtained it locally on Sinai, and to smelting copper; others were masters of woodworking and of the tooling and cleaning of leather; women, according to their skill, labored in preparing and dying wool, in spinning thread, and those skilled in fine work were found as well, for embroidering designs after the spinning, for preparing vestments and objects for the services. Everything took place under the observation of directors of labor who were chosen by Moses and the council of elders. Later comes the description of the sanctification of the tabernacle and the organization and consecration of the Aaronic priesthood, etc. In a word, all that which has been considered unfeasible in those far-away times and under those conditions by some critics of the Bible is not disregarded. The testament and vows of Moses, and his death, as they are set forth in the book of Deuteronomy, end the account.I searched for this book years ago, to no avail. Now, through the magic of the Internet, I've located it. The author's name is not Sholom Ashe, but Sholem Asch, and the novel, which is indeed entitled Moses (not to be confused with the same author's Uncle Moses), can be purchased on Amazon for pennies. I've just ordered my copy, and hope to post about it, should I be up to it.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Dear Natalia Dmitrievna, beloved in the Lord!Photograph: Solzhenitsyn being bid farewell by his son and grandson.
It is with a sense of profound pain that I received the news of the repose of Aleksandr Isaievich Solzhenitsyn, who during the horrific years of the godless regime bore incredibly courageous witness to the truth, speaking out about the sufferings of our fellow Russians. Thanks to Aleksandr Isaievich, we who found ourselves in foreign lands we able to learn and understand those in lonely confinement, and with them all who were undergoing tribulation in our homeland, especially those imprisoned behind the icy walls of the all-embracing Soviet prison cell, persecuted for their faith and conscience.
Glory to God! Through the prayers of the Holy New-Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, Christ has risen in the hearts of many Russian people, the builders of that prison cell have been dispersed as enemies of God, and its icy walls have vanished "as wax melts in the presence of fire." Even there, the suffering confessors sensed our prayers, our participation. It fills our soul with joy that Aleksandr Isaievich, who always zealously testified to the sufferings of Russia, was able to witness the gradual spiritual rebirth of our nation, which began twenty years ago, in the year marking the millennial anniversary of the conversion of Russia to Christianity.
For his testimony, for his active love for our traditions and the ideals of Old Russia, for his priceless contribution toward the preservation and increase of our rich Russian culture, which was nurtured by the spirituality of our God-bearing nation, for his service to God and neighbor, we believe that the Lord will bless Aleksandr Isaievich with everlasting rest and peace, and you, dear Natalia Dmitrievna, and your whole family, with help from above, good health and length of days.
May his memory be eternal, and his rest with the saints!
With love in the Lord,
+Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
4 August 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Your Excellency, Deeply-Respected Dimitrii Anatolevich, Much-Respected Natalia Dimitrievna, Honorable fathers, Dear Brothers and Sisters!Just today I received notification of a new book about Solzhenitsyn, providentially released just a few days ago by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute: The Soul and Barbed Wire: An Introduction to Solzhenitsyn, by Edward E. Ericson, Jr., and Alexis Klimoff. I have not yet seen this book, but I have long admired the word of Professor Klimoff – whom I've also had the great pleasure of meeting – and ISI publications are, as a rule, excellent. I therefore have no qualms in recommending it as an essential purchase, sight unseen.
Today Russia accompanies Alexander Isaevich Solzhenitsyn on “the way of all the earth.” As the departed had desired, his funeral and burial are taking place, with Our blessing, at the Donskoy Monastery – the place of repose of many worthy sons of the Church and Fatherland. Five years ago he appealed to Us in writing, witnessing: “Dear to my heart – spiritual, devout – and so inextricably bound up with Patriarch Tikhon – is the atmosphere of the Donskoy Monastery.” Now his request is fulfilled.
The Lord gave Alexander Isaevich a strong and original talent, and longevity of life and creativity. His fate and literary output reflect the entire difficult history of our country in the past twentieth century.
An outstanding writer and public figure, he will always remain in our memory not only as a righteous and uncompromising servant of the word, but as an honest and courageous citizen of his Fatherland, winning the deep respect and sincere love of the people. All the troubles and misfortunes of Russia, and the difficulties and spiritual quests of the people, found a devoted response in his heart.
The Lord gave him the strength and courage to bear on his shoulders the difficult cross of standing up for the truth, of tirelessly working in the world of letters for the memory of those who in the past evil century, suffering for faith and truth, did not lose the ability to live honestly and according to conscience. Today, for his solace and hope, are heard the words of the Gospel: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:10).
The entire life of the departed serves as a worthy example of service to truth, of fidelity to his vocation and his Divinely-foreordained mission. He strove to do everything possible so that people would know the truth about the tragic yet heroic past of our country. Witnessing to the truth, and suffering for it, he steadfastly followed the life principle he had adopted for himself: one word of truth will win over the entire world. His spiritual testimony for the present and coming generations rests on this conviction and commitment to truth.
Alexander Isaevich raised his voice in defense of the freedom of the word, for the preservation of the Russian language and culture, for spiritual and moral rebirth, and for the strengthening of the family and the preservation of the nation. He also did much in order that religious freedom become not simply a proclamation, but a real property of the spiritual life of the Russian people.
On this day of grief and sorrow, the Lord has providentially appointed us to raise our heartfelt and fervent prayer for the repose of his soul and the forgiveness of the and transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, of His newly-departed servant.
I express my sincere condolences to You, Natalia Dimitrievna, and the children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends of the departed. I recognize how difficult it is for you now, and what an irreplaceable loss we all bear. The mystery of death is great and unapproachable. But Alexander Isaevich contemplated this with Christian dignity and calm, believing that death is a passing from temporal being to eternal life, to God, Who is the source of all good: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him”(I Thess 4:14).
I give my last kiss to the departed in thought and pray to the Master of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, for the repose in the eternal dwelling-places of the newly-departed servant of God, Alexander.
May his soul dwell amid good things, and his memory be from generation to generation!
+ALEXY, PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA.
I encourage you also to revisit an interview entitled "I Am Not Afraid of Death" given by Solzhenitsyn to the German magazine Spiegel one year ago. This was his last major interview. It is as lucid as any of his writings, and an important antidote to the anti-Russian bias that dominates the Western press. (When, for instance, was the last time anyone saw a pro-Russian statement in the Wall Street Journal?)
Here is an exchange about the "moral qualification" of the Orthodox Church in Russia:
SPIEGEL: The idea of the influence of Orthodox Christianity on the Russian world can be traced throughout your works. What is the moral qualification of the Russian church? We think it is turning into a state church today, just like it was centuries ago -- an institution that in practice legitimizes the head of Kremlin as the representative of God.And here, finally, are his thoughts on faith and mortality, which demonstrate that the late writer did indeed contemplate his coming death with what the Patriarch called "Christian dignity and calm":
Solzhenitsyn: On the contrary, we should be surprised that our church has gained a somewhat independent position during the very few years since it was freed from total subjugation to the communist government. Do not forget what a horrible human toll the Russian Orthodox Church suffered throughout almost the entire 20th century. The Church is just rising from its knees. Our young post-Soviet state is just learning to respect the Church as an independent institution. The “Social Doctrine” of the Russian Orthodox Church, for example, goes much further than do government programs. Recently Metropolitan Kirill, a prominent expounder of the Church’s position, has made repeated calls for reforming the taxation system. His views are quite different from those of government, yet he airs them in public, on national television. As for "legitimizing the head of Kremlin," do you mean the funeral service for Yeltsin in the main cathedral and the decision not to hold a civil funeral ceremony?
SPIEGEL: That too.
Solzhenitsyn: Well, it was probably the only way to keep in check public anger, which has not fully subsided, and avoid possible manifestations of anger during the burial. But I see no reason to treat the ceremony as the new protocol for the funerals of all Russian presidents in the future. As far as the past is concerned, our Church holds round-the-clock prayers for the repose of the victims of communist massacres in Butovo near Moscow, on the Solovetsky Islands and other places of mass burials.
SPIEGEL: In 1987 in your interview with SPIEGEL founder Rudolf Augstein you said it was really hard for you to speak about religion in public. What does faith mean for you?Also worth reading are the posts "Trying to Trim Solzhenitsyn Down to Size" by Terry Mattingly and "Solzhenitsyn and Where the Battle Begins," by Fr Stephen Freeman. (Both writers are Orthodox; hat tip to Orrologion.)
Solzhenitsyn: For me faith is the foundation and support of one’s life.
SPIEGEL: Are you afraid of death?
Solzhenitsyn: No, I am not afraid of death any more. When I was young the early death of my father cast a shadow over me -- he died at the age of 27 -- and I was afraid to die before all my literary plans came true. But between 30 and 40 years of age my attitude to death became quite calm and balanced. I feel it is a natural, but no means the final, milestone of one’s existence.
SPIEGEL: Anyhow, we wish you many years of creative life.
Solzhenitsyn: No, no. Don’t. It’s enough.
May his memory be eternal!
Monday, August 4, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
According to Church tradition, Saints Peter and Paul, the first among the Apostles, accepted holy martyrdom on the same day: June 29 (July 12 [on the civil calendar]). This date is indicated in ancient calendars (fourth-century Roman and fifth-century Carthaginian), in the martyriology of the Blessed Jerome (fourth century), and in the Sacramentarium of Pope Gregory the Great (sixth century).
Scholars believe that the Holy Apostle Peter arrived in Rome in the year 67. Here he converted many people to Christ. In Rome he wrote the Second Catholic Epistle to Christians who had converted from Judaism and Paganism and found themselves in Asia Minor. The Lord forewarned him of his imminent departure from this earthly life: shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance (2 Peter 1:14-15). The Apostle Peter's disciples convinced him to flee at the beginning of the persecution of the Church by the Emperor Nero, so as not to be deprived of their pastor. Peter agreed out of love for Christ. Leaving the city, the Apostle encountered Christ on the ancient Appian Way. To his question, "Where are you going, Lord?", the Saviour answered, "I go to Rome, to be crucified anew." On this place there is now a church (Domine Quo Vaids) in which there is a copy of the stone on which the Lord's footprints are impressed. The original stone with the Lord's footprint is in the Church of St Sebastian in Rome. After his return to Rome, the Holy Apostle Peter was imprisoned in the Mamertino Prison (Carcere Mamertino), which is on the slope of the Capitoline Hill below the Church of St Joseph the Betrothed (San Giuseppe). From the Mamertino Prison the Apostle Peter was brought to Vatican Hill, on the right bank of the Tiber. The Circus of Nero was located on that hill. Here the Apostle received his martyric death. Here were fulfilled the Lord's words: When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he Had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow Me (Jn 21: 18-19). Like his Teacher, the Apostle was raised onto a cross, but out of humility asked to be crucified upside down. He was buried on this very Vatican Hill by the Holy Hieromartyr Clement of Rome and other disciples. The Roman Christians piously preserved the memory of this place. When in 1941 excavations were undertaken under the foundations of St Peter's Basillica a plate was found in this very place with the brief but expressive inscription in Greek: "Peter is here."
We do not know when the Apostle Paul was in Rome. As with the Apostle Peter, the Lord revealed the time of death to his chosen vessel (Acts 9:15): I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing (2 Tim 4: 6-8). Christians preserved the pious memory of the place where the Apostles parted ways; a church dedicated to both Apostles stands in this place on the Via Ostiense. The Apostle Paul was brought to the outskirts of the city known as the Aquae Salviae. As a Roman citizen, he could not be crucified. Here he was beheaded. The majority of scholars date the Holy Apostles' martyrdom to 67 AD.
Saint Constantine, the Equal-to-the-Apostles, built a church over the grave of the Apostle Paul in 324.
The Blessed Augustine of Hippo, in a homily for today's feast, says:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the final days of His earthly life, in the days of His mission to the race of man, chose from among the disciples His twelve Apostles to preach the Word of God. Among them, the Apostle Peter for his fiery ardor was vouchsafed to occupy the first place (Mt.10:2) and to be as it were the representative person for all the Church. Therefore it is said to him, preferentially, after the confession: "I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in the heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth: shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt.16: 19). Therefore it was not one man, but rather the One Universal Church, that received these "keys" and the right "to bind and loosen." And that it was actually the Church that received this right, and not exclusively a single person, turn your attention to another place of the Scriptures, where the same Lord says to all His Apostles, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" and further after this, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, are retained" (John 20: 22-23); or: "whatsoever ye bind upon the earth, shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosened in heaven" (Mt.18:18). Thus, it is the Church that binds, the Church that loosens; the Church, built upon the foundational cornerstone, Jesus Christ Himself (Eph 2:20), doth bind and loosen. Let both the binding and the loosening be feared: the loosening, in order not to fall under this again; the binding, in order not to remain forever in this condition. Therefore "Iniquities ensnare a man, and everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins," says Wisdom (Prov 5:22); and except for Holy Church nowhere is it possible to receive the loosening.Today's feast, then, is a celebration of the Church's unity. Anyone who has read Acts or Galatians, however, will recall that Saints Peter and Paul did not always think or act in perfect harmony. Concerning their dispute about the application of the Law to Gentiles, for instance, Saint Paul writes: when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed (Gal 2:11). Nor did the Apostles always see eye-to-eye on monetary questions. At times I am tempted to think that the disunity of the Church militant is just as much a fundamental attribute of the Church as is the unity of the Church triumphant. This thought in fact serves as something of a comfort when faced with the scandals we manage to create in the Church day in and day out.
The liturgical service in honor of Saints Peter and Paul can be read here.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Bless my soul, I'd nearly forgotten. Of course I can't come with you. I have to be back next Friday to read a paper. We have a little Theological Society down there. Oh yes! there is plenty of intellectual life. Not of a very high quality, perhaps. One notices a certain lack of grip – a certain confusion of mind. That is where I can be of some use to them. There are even regrettable jealousies... I don't know why, but tempers seem less controlled than they used to be. Still, one mustn't expect too much of human nature. I feel I can do a great work among them. But you've never asked me what my paper is about! I'm taking the text about growing up to the measure of the stature of Christ and working out an idea I feel sure you'll be interested in. I'm going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he'd lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience. I am going to to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste... so much promise cut short. Oh, must you be going? Well, so must I. Goodbye, my dear boy. It has been a great pleasure. Most stimulating and provocative. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.C. S. Lewis' literary virtues are well established. Not remembered often enough, though, is his absolutely acid wit.
Saint Pirminius, abbot and bishop, is led by the princes Berthold and Nebi to Charles, who entrusts Reichenau to him. He drove out the snakes and during his three-year stay organized monastic life.The inscription, ora et labora, is a Benedictine exhortation (in Latin) to "pray and work." This points to the abbey's monastic roots. Abbot Walahfrid Strabo (842-849), in a letter to Pope Gregory IV (827-844), praises the abbey in these words:
That earlier-named site of our endeavors indeed occupies first place in these regions. It is dedicated to the Most Pure, Blessed Virgin Mary and the Prince of the Apostles Peter. A not insignificant group of men who conduct their lives after the Rule of Saint Benedict is united there. The fullness of their spiritual wisdom nourishes the adjacent land with ample instruction.Saint Pirminius left Reichenau in 727, and reposed on November 3, 753, as Abbot of Hornbach in the Palatinate, the last monastery that he founded. His holy relics are preserved in the Jesuit Church of Innsbruck.
Visitors to Reichenau should by all means visit the treasure room – and do confirm ahead of time that it will be open – in order to venerate a large relic of the the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, as well as a number of other ancient relics, most of which were likely brought from Constantinople during the Crusades.
Holy Saint Priminius, pray to God for us!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
About the scandals which occur, we know one who said, Judge not, and you will not be judged; by the judgement with which you judge, you will be judged; and by the measure with which you measure, it will be measured out to you in turn. That you may have help in this thought, consider that the just Lot dwelt in Sodom, but was not led away with their pride and licentiousness; and so he was saved, as it is written, For that just man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his just soul by their lawless deeds. But he adds something when he says, The Lord knows how to deliver the godly from trials, and to keep the unjust under punishment until the day of judgement and so forth. So it is not a question of self-mastery and meekness to-day, and dissoluteness and pride to-morrow. Of stillness, vigil and humility to-day, and temptations, immoderate sleep and disobedience and suchlike things to-morrow. Of renunciation of the world, renunciation of earthly affairs, renunciation of fatherland and friends and parents according to the flesh to-day because of hope in the Lord, and tomorrow let us seek country and fatherland and inheritance, to sink ourselves in many evils. For Lot’s wife turned back and became a pillar of salt. And so the Lord also teaches when he says, No one who puts his hand to the plough and turns back is fit for the kingdom of heaven. So always keep in mind that day on which, when you had put everything aside, you left the world for the Lord’s sake, and when you were fired by the fear of God, and fervent in spirit for the Lord. And keep the goal until the end, for the one who endures to the end will be saved, that you may receive the reward of your work with eternal life; because you have approached the true God and despised all things that you may gain Christ, to whom be glory to the ages. Amen.Translated by Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash)
- Communion is not a magical act; its action is related to a certain preparation and to a certain interior disposition.
- Communion is communion with Christ and with the other faithful in Christ; it must therefore take place within the context of communal Liturgy.
- The entire Liturgy is a preparation for Communion; all people who commune must therefore be present at least from the beginning of the Liturgy of the faithful.
- It is important to teach children from their youngest age to behave themselves in church; even if they do not understand the words and action of the Liturgy, they are impregnated with the spiritual atmosphere and benefit from the prayers of the priest and of the community, and recieve the grace of the Holy Liturgy.
On May 6/19, the Feast Day of St. Job of Pochaev, a new abbot for Holy Trinity Monastery was elected. Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, and Bishop Peter of Cleveland traveled from New York City to take part in the election. They were met with the ringing of bells, as Archimandrite Luke and the brotherhood waited in church to greet their new First Hierarch and Metropolitan.Archimandrite Luke was officially installed as Abbot by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion – himself a member of the Jordanville brotherhood – on the Feast of Pentecost, the monastery's feastday.
After a short litya for the health and welfare of our new Metropolitan, Fr. Luke spoke a few words of welcome, and Metropolitan Hilarion then greeted everyone present, thanking them and asking for their prayerful support.
The bishops and the monastic brotherhood then proceeded to the lower chapel dedicated to St. Job of Pochaev,for the election of the new abbot. A molieben was served, invoking the help of the Holy Spirit before the beginning of every good work, followed by the singing of “Eternal Memory” for our reposed abbot, Metropolitan Laurus. Then the election took place. One monk was selected to be the secretary and record the proceedings, and two other monks to count the votes. Ballots were then handed out and each one cast his vote. There were also votes of four members of the brotherhood who were unable to attend.
After the counting of the votes it was determined that Archimandrite Luke had received the majority of the votes, and Metropolitan Hilarion congratulated him on being elected the new abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, the fifth in the history of the monastery. Metropolitan Hilarion then gave a brief talk, exhorting the brotherhood to beobedient in all things to the new abbot, and encouraging them to be zealous in the monastic life. Archimandrite Luke then thanked Metropolitan Hilarion and the brotherhood for their support, also asking everyone for their help in fulfilling this difficult obedience which has been laid upon his shoulders.
The proceedings then concluded with the singing of “Many Years” to our new abbot, Archimandrite Luke, and the hymn, “Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem.”
Archimandrite Luke is the sixth abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery: he succeeds, in order, Archimandrite Panteleimon (who founded the monastery in 1930), Bishop Seraphim (Ivanov), Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), Archbishop Averky, and the late Metropolitan Laurus. Fr Luke will also succeed the late Metropolitan Laurus as Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary, a duty held by all former abbots beginning with Bishop Seraphim.
The above photographs shows His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, presenting Archimandrite Luke with the abbatial staff at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Pentecost, 2008.
This photograph shows a portion of the monastic brotherhood and seminarians of Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary following Fr Luke's election as abbot. The monks in the front row are, from left to right: Archimandrite (and soon-to-be Bishop) George, Archimandrite Luke, Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop Peter of Cleveland, and Archimandrite Flor. The Kursk-Root Icon is held by Hieromonk Theophylact.
May God grant Archimandrite Luke many years!
Fr Gabriel possessed a buoyant, cheerful personality that found its most ready expression in preaching. His sermons were always lively and heartfelt, simple and straightforward in tone, and often accompanied by expressive gestures. He especially loved to preach on feastdays of the Mother of God, for whom he always showed special love and reverence. He was the man to go to if one needed a replacement in one's preaching slot (in Jordanville sermons are given by rotation); I very much doubt that he ever refused an opportunity to give a sermon. Although a man of learning and scientific achievement (if I recall correctly he, like the late Bishop Alexander, spent some time working for NASA), he was a man of great simplicity and directness, always smiling, always friendly. He was always very missionary-minded and took great pleasure in serving and preaching in English when he had the opportunity.
May the Lord grant rest to the soul of His newly-departed servant, Archpriest Gabriel!
Bishop John has one of the most colorful and eccentric personalities I've ever encountered – and I mean that as a hearty compliment. I'm glad to see from the above photograph, for instance, that on his very first day as bishop he managed to get his mitre crooked and his hair all messed up. He's also a man of both real erudition and monastic experience, as can be seen from this brief curriculum vitae compiled before his consecration:
Born Peteris Berzins on March 3/16, 1957 in Cooma, Australia, of Latvian Orthodox refugees, Leonid (1921-1996) and Margarita (1924- ) Berzins. Grew up in that city. Graduated with a philological degree from Australian National University. Fluent in Ancient Greek and Latin. Entered Holy Trinity Monastery and enrolled in Holy Trinity Seminary in 1982. Graduated HTS in 1985. Tonsured to the mantle on March 16/29, 1985 by Archbishop Laurus of Syracuse and Holy Trinity. Ordained hierodeacon on March 30/April 12, 1987, by Archbishop Laurus. Ordained to the priesthood on October 22/November 4, 1987, also by Archbishop Laurus. From 1992-1996, served as father-confessor at Gethsemane Convent in the Holy Land. In 1994, awarded the gold pectoral cross by Archbishop Laurus of Syracuse and Holy Trinity. From 2001-2005, served as father-confessor at Gethsemane Convent in the Holy Land. In September 2005, elevated to the rank of hegumen by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. Since 2005, ministers to SS Sergius and German of Valaam Community of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America. In May, 2008, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia designated him as candidate of Bishop of Caracas. Hegumen John is a member of the brotherhood of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.Not mentioned here is that he spent a couple of years on Mount Athos, where he was tonsured to the Great Schema. Vladyka John's consecration took place at the conclusion at the 2008 Orthodox Conference in Erie, PA, held from June 17-22. Fr John Whiteford, who was in attendance for most of it, has written a three posts with his impressions, with more to come (part 1, part 2, part 3). I was also very interested to read about another recent conference entitled The Place of Women in the Orthodox Church, held simultaneously (June 20-21) at the Holy Protection Church in Glen Cove, NY.
To the newly-consecrated Bishop John of Caracas and his new flock: Many Years!
Those interested in his life are encouraged to read the book Elder Ambrose of Optina by Fr Sergius Chetverikov. John B. Dunlop's Startez Amvrosy: Model for Dostoevsky's Startez Zosima is also very good, especially as an introduction for those whose knowledge of the Orthodox spiritual tradition is limited. A good short online life can be read here.
I am a great admirer of Dostoevsky. Yet I can't help but feel that the holiness of the Elder Ambrose is better evoked by the single photograph above than by hundreds of the great writer's pages. True holiness is best seen on a man's face.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Not to sin is truly blessed; but those who sin should not despair, but grieve over the sins they have committed, so that, through grief they may again attain blessedness. It is good, then, to pray always and not to lose heart, as the Lord says, And again the Apostle says, ‘Pray without ceasing’, that is by night and by day and at every hour, and not only when coming into the church, and not bothering at other times. But whether you are working, lying down to sleep, travelling, eating, drinking, sitting at table, do not interrupt your prayer, for you do not know when he who demands your soul is coming. Don’t wait for Sunday or a feast day, or a different place, but, as the Prophet David says, ‘in every place of his dominion’.Translated by Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash).
Whether you are in church, or in your house, or in the country; whether you are guarding sheep, or constructing buildings, or present at drinking parties, do not stop praying. When you are able, bend your knees, when you cannot, make intercession in your mind, ‘at evening and at morning and at midday’. If prayer precedes your work and if, when you rise from your bed, your first movements are accompanied by prayer, sin can find no entrance to attack your soul.
Prayer is a guard of prudence, control of wrath, restraint of pride, cleansing of malice, destruction of envy, righting of impiety. Prayer is strength of bodies, prosperity of a household, good order of a city, might of a kingdom, trophy of war, assurance of peace. Prayer is a seal of virginity, fidelity in marriage, weapon of travellers, guardian of sleepers, courage of the wakeful, abundance for farmers, safety of those who sail. Prayer is an advocate for those being judged, remission for the bound, consolation for the grieving, gladness for the joyful, comfort for mourners, a feast on birthdays, a crown for the married, a shroud for the dying. Prayer is converse with God, equal honour with the Angels, progress in good things, averting of evils, righting of sinners. Prayer made the whale a house for Jonas, brought Ezechias back to life from the gates of death, turned the flame to wind of moisture for the Youths in Babylon. Through prayer Elias bound the heaven not to rain for three years and six months.
See, brethren, what strength prayer has. There is no possession more precious than prayer in the whole of human life. Never be parted from it; never abandon it. But, as our Lord said, let us pray that out toil may not be for nothing, ‘When you stand in prayer, forgive if you have anything against anyone, that your heavenly Father may forgive you your faults’.
Do you not see, brethren, that we toil for nothing when we pray, if we have enmity against someone? And again the Lord says, ‘If you offer your gift at the altar, and there you remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go first and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’. Therefore, it is clear that if you do not do this first, all that you offer will be unacceptable, but if you do the Master’s bidding, then implore the Lord with boldness, saying, ‘Forgive me my debts, Master, as I have forgiven my brother, so fulfilling your commandment. I, weak though I am, have forgiven’. For the Lover of mankind will answer, ‘If you have forgiven, I too will forgive. If you have pardoned, I too will pardon your sins. For I have authority on earth to forgive sins. Forgive and you will be forgiven’.
See God’s unfathomable love for humankind. See God’s unbounded goodness. Hear instant salvation of your souls.
Taken from the LiveJournal of Evgeny Pozniak, a seminarian at the Moscow Theological Seminary. The Seminary – along with the Moscow Theological Academy and excellent icon-painting and church singing schools – is located on the grounds of the Lavra.
Those who can read Russian may also be interested in reading the LiveJournal of another seminarian, Monk Sergey (Viktor) of the Voronezh Theological Seminary. Those who read French should enjoy the following blogs: the anonymous but excellent Moinillion au Quotidien; Claude Lopez-Ginisty's Orthodoxologie, which features the author's translations of various Orthodox texts into French; Maxime's Lexique Personnel d'un Chrétien Orthodoxe Ordinaire; Saint Materne from Belgium; Albocicade's Cigales éloquentes; and, finally, TROPINKA, la petite voie. I'll recommend once again Orthodoxie: L'information orthodoxe sur Internet as the very best source for worldwide Orthodox news in a Western language.
I'm also gratified to note that Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, finally has a proper website; and don't neglect the website of Holy Trinity Seminary.
- The Orthodox Study Bible. Most of it, that is. I may begin posting about it again – which will likely delight some, and irritate more. (My previous comments on the OSB can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
- The Orthodox New Testament, produced by Holy Apostles Convent, both volume one (The Holy Gospels) and volume two (Acts, Epistles, and Revelation). The verbal syntax is unusual (although explained at length in an appendix) and takes some getting used to, but the abundant Patristic commentary in the endnotes is absolutely extraordinary, and can, in any case, easily be used with any translation. These volumes are everything the OSB is not: beautifully bound, tastefully illustrated, theologically sound, with good paper and even a ribbon (which always makes my heart flutter.) I also have the convenient pocket edition, which has the full text of the New Testament without commentary. I will comment more about these in the future. Suffice it to say for the moment that I can't understand how I could have lived so long without these. Buy now.
- The Prologue from Ochrid, by St Nikolai Velimirovic. The daily readings, that is. This really is an excellent way to begin the day. The old 4-volume edition (translated by Mother Maria and edited by Metropolitan Kallistos, published by Lazarica Press in Birmingham in 1986) is much to be preferred to the new two-volume translation from Sebastian Press, even if the latter does contain the daily poems left out of the former. Mother Maria's translation – likely in large part to Vladyka Kallistos' editing – is stylistically greatly superior in quality. (Note that the 4-volume edition is called The Prologue from Ochrid whereas the 2-volume edition is entitled The Prologue from Ohrid.)
- Made Perfect in Faith: Sermons on the Lives and Works of Fifty Holy Church Fathers, by Fr James Thornton. Very highly recommended, especially read in conjunction with The Prologue. This could almost be used as a layman's Patrology handbook.
- Discerning the Mystery, by Fr Andrew Louth. Quite simply, required reading for anyone who is concerned with the study of theology as an academic field. Bears continual rereading. Sr Macrina Walker, OCSO, at A Vow of Conversation, has been reading and commenting on it for months.
- Reflections on the Psalms, by C. S. Lewis. Highly recommended for anyone who has puzzled over the Psalms. I hope to comment on this book in the near future.
- David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. If you haven't read this, you must. Perhaps the most good-heartedly hilarious book I've ever read. (Dark humor is always much easier to comeby, but less satisfying.)
- The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann. Perfect prolonged-hospital-stay reading.
- Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. One of those books that everyone is supposed to have read, but that almost no one actually has. (Think of Zelig.) I was tempted any number of times to give up on this one, but I'm very glad I made it through. I can't help but think, however, that it would have made a great short story if all the whale stuff had been cut. Just imagine this: you reach chapter 75 (of 135), and the first sentence reads: "Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right Whale's head." And that's exactly what you get. A very dark, skeptical book – a sort of King Lear at sea. Nonetheless certainly worth the effort.
- Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. A very good illustration of the development of the passions, if nothing else. I must admit, though, that I found it much flatter than I did upon my first reading a very long time ago.
Please do not be put off by the book's rather intimidating title. This really is the best place to start if you have any interest at all in the thought of Fr John Romanides or, more generally, in contemporary Greek Orthodox theology. The lectures are almost conversational in tone, unlike some of Fr John's more difficult works, which tend to be dense or even cryptic. (It is much more accessible, for instance, than his Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics, which exists in a dual Greek-English version prepared by Fr George Dragas.)
Fr George Metallinos, Dean of the Theological School at the University of Athens, writes in his introduction to the present work that "we can refer to a 'pre-Romanides' period and a 'post-Romanides' period in our universities." This is not an overstatement. Indeed, my only quarrel with Fr George's words is that it's in fact too early to speak of a "post-Romanides" period: his influence in Greece simply hasn't waned. The only comparable figure in terms of influence on contemporary Greek Orthodox theology is Metropolitan John (Zizoulas) of Pergamon, who takes a radically different approach from that of Fr Romanides, and is indeed criticized (although not by name) in these lectures. Fr John's influence is not limited to the Greek-speaking world. Those who have read Kyriacos C. Markides' The Mountain of Silence might recall that Fr Romanides is named as the primary theological influence of the book's "Fr Athanasius," the pseudonym given by the author to Metropolitan Athanasios of Lismassol (Church of Cyprus). Many more of you are likely familiar with the themes of Fr John's work through the writings of his prolific student Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos. Readers of this blog might also recall Fr Romanides' name from my series of posts on St Dionysius the Areopagite in twentieth-century Orthodox theology, especially part three.
My reading of Fr Romanides' lectures will not be uncritical – which, I hope, should make the exercise more interesting and, hopefully, more encouraging of discussion. So, order your copy now, and we'll get started very soon. (As the cynical among you may have guessed, I hope to get more free books from Uncut Mountain in the future!)
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I'm just now checking my email for the first time in roughly two months, so please be patient if you're expecting a reply. Those who have written to my personal email address in the past two months should have received an automated message stating that I was away from my computer. I've now turned off the automatic messaging, but it will likely be some time before I'm able to catch up with correspondence. My cell phone doesn't work in the hospital, and I rarely bother to answer the room phone (I have – alas! – two roommates, and nearly all calls are for them), but I have received (and continue to receive) snail mail.
I hope to begin posting here again soon, depending on the state of my health and my access to the Internet. Thank you again for your prayers, and please continue offering them!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Translation from this edition.One would hqve liked to see this restlessness and sleeplessness in all of nature, beginning with the night's darkness and ending with the slabs; the graveyard crosses, and the trees, under which people bustled about. But nowhere did the excitement and restlessness tell so strongly as in the church. At the entance an irressible struggle went on between eeb and flow. Some went in, others came out and soon went back again. People shuttle from place to place, loiter, and seem to be looking for something. The wave starts at the entrance and passes through the whole church, even disturbing the front rows where the solid and weighty people stand. To concentrate on prqyer is out of the question. There are no prqyers, but there is a sort of massive, chilishly instinctive joy that is only seeking an excuse to burst and pour itself out in some sort of movement, be it only an unabashed swaying and jostling.The same extrordinary mobility strikes one's eyes in the paschal service itself. The royql doors in all the chapels are wide open; dense clouds of inscense smoke float in the air around the big candle stand; everywhere one looks there are lights, brilliance, the sputterding of candles... There are no readings in this service; the busy and joyful singing goes on till the very end; and after every ode of the canon the clergy chqnge vestments and come out to cense the church, and this is repeated every ten minutes.
I had managed to take my place when a wave surged from the front and threw me back. Before me passed a tall, sturdy deacon with a long red candle; behind him the gray-haired archimandrite in a golden mitre hurried with a censer. When they dissqppeared from view, the crowd pushed me back to my former place. But ten minutes had not gone by eore a new wave surged and the deacon appeared again.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Here is the Paschal Oration of St Gregory the Theologian, upon which much of the Paschal Canon is based:
I. It is the Day of the Resurrection, and my Beginning has good auspices. Let us then keep the Festival with splendour, Isaiah 66:5 and let us embrace one another. Let us say Brethren, even to those who hate us; much more to those who have done or suffered anything out of love for us. Let us forgive all offences for the Resurrection's sake: let us give one another pardon, I for the noble tyranny which I have suffered (for I can now call it noble); and you who exercised it, if you had cause to blame my tardiness; for perhaps this tardiness may be more precious in God's sight than the haste of others. For it is a good thing even to hold back from God for a little while, as did the great Moses of old, Exodus 4:10 and Jeremiah Jeremiah 1:6 later on; and then to run readily to Him when He calls, as did Aaron Exodus 4:27 and Isaiah, Isaiah 1:6 so only both be done in a dutiful spirit;— the former because of his own want of strength; the latter because of the Might of Him That calls.
II. A Mystery anointed me; I withdrew a little while at a Mystery, as much as was needful to examine myself; now I come in with a Mystery, bringing with me the Day as a good defender of my cowardice and weakness; that He Who today rose again from the dead may renew me also by His Spirit; and, clothing me with the new Man, may give me to His New Creation, to those who are begotten after God, as a good modeller and teacher for Christ, willingly both dying with Him and rising again with Him.
III. Yesterday the Lamb was slain and the door-posts were anointed, and Egypt bewailed her Firstborn, and the Destroyer passed us over, and the Seal was dreadful and reverend, and we were walled in with the Precious Blood. Today we have clean escaped from Egypt and from Pharaoh; and there is none to hinder us from keeping a Feast to the Lord our God— the Feast of our Departure; or from celebrating that Feast, not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, 1 Corinthians 5:8 carrying with us nothing of ungodly and Egyptian leaven.
IV. Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us— you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by badmen, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.
V. Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God's for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; 2 Corinthians 8:9 He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.
VI. As you see, He offers you a Shepherd; for this is what your Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep, is hoping and praying for, and he asks from you his subjects; and he gives you himself double instead of single, and makes the staff of his old age a staff for yourspirit. And he adds to the inanimate temple a living one; to that exceedingly beautiful and heavenly shrine, this poor and small one, yet to him of great value, and built too with much sweat and many labours. Would that I could say it is worthy of his labours. And he places at your disposal all that belongs to him (O great generosity!— or it would be truer to say, O fatherly love!) his hoar hairs, his youth, the temple, the high priest, the testator, the heir, the discourses which you were longing for; and of these not such as are vain and poured out into the air, and which reach no further than the outward ear; but those which theSpirit writes and engraves on tables of stone, or of flesh, not merely superficially graven, nor easily to be rubbed off, but marked very deep, not with ink, but with grace.
VII. These are the gifts given you by this august Abraham, this honourable and reverend Head, this Patriarch, this Restingplace of all good, this Standard of virtue, this Perfection of the Priesthood, who today is bringing to the Lord his willing Sacrifice, his only Son, him of the promise. Do you on your side offer to God and to us obedience to your Pastors, dwelling in a place of herbage, and being fed by water of refreshment; knowing your Shepherd well, and being known by him; John 10:14 and following when he calls you as a Shepherd frankly through the door; but not following a stranger climbing up into the fold like a robber and a traitor; nor listening to a strange voice when such would take you away by stealth and scatter you from the truth on mountains, Ezekiel 34:6 and in deserts, and pitfalls, and places which the Lord does not visit; and would lead you away from the sound Faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the One Power and Godhead, Whose Voice my sheep always heard (and may they always hear it), but with deceitful and corrupt words would tear them from their true Shepherd. From which may we all be kept, Shepherd and flock, as from a poisoned and deadly pasture; guiding and being guided far away from it, that we may all be one in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and unto the heavenly rest. To Whom be the glory and the might for ever and ever. Amen.