Friday, April 30, 2010

Icon Corner, 2.0


Living Icons, Chapter 3

The third chapter of Fr Michael Plekon’s book is dedicated to the memory of a man of no small controversy, Fr Sergius Bulgakov, “Political Economist and Priest, Marxist and Mystic.” I went into this chapter wanting to have my mind changed about Fr Bulgakov. I’d always taken the side of those who judged him a heretic, and I was prepared for a solid defense. Indeed, there is much to admire about Bulgakov as a man, a priest, a spiritual father, and a teacher. But my mind was not changed about his doctrinal errors, largely because any such accusations are simply dismissed by the author. We read, for instance, that his life of prayer and holiness have “long since been overshadowed by condemnations, most of them without ground, of his theological work.” Quite frankly, I find such a characterization mind-boggling. All three Russian jurisdictions at his time condemned his Sopholology – Bulgakov’s own Paris Jurisdiction, ROCOR, and the Moscow Patriarchate – and one would be extremely hard pressed to find anyone today who would endorse this doctrine. It is not, as Fr Plekon writes, “hard to understand how a theologian who had written so much, who had been so active in ecumenical work and in the students’ movement and more broadly in both emigre and French intellectual life, was forgotten so quickly and so totally ignored in the half century or more since his death.” It is likewise ingenious to write that one “cannot simply attack Father Bulgakov for what was already in the Old Covenant, a rich, complex, and mysterious figure, that of Wisdom” – as if Bulgakov went no further in his Sophiology than what is found in Scripture.

Fr Plekon by choice largely sidesteps the issue of Sophiology, but presents a subchapter on Bulgakov’s ecumenism. Bulgakov wrote that “heresies and schisms are manifestations taking place only within the life of the Church,” and that, consequently, “eucharistic communion could be a means toward the restoration of unity, not just its final goal.” In fact, Bulgakov “went so far as claiming that in our time there were no longer heretics in the general use of the term.”

In a subsection called “Father Bulgakov and the Deans,” Fr Plekon reflects on the tributes and criticisms from three Deans: Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr Boris Bobrinskoi, and Fr Thomas Hopko. Plekon writes that Schmeann, in a tribute in 1971 presented his estimation in “three images”: as priest, as man of prayer, and as celebrant of the Liturgy. It’s my estimation that if we are to have a positive appreciation of Bulgakov we should follow the lines mentioned by Schmemann, ignoring largely Bulgakov’s theological legacy, the hubris of which is considerable: “His was a theological mind bold enough to try to formulate in positive terms the Incarnation, which the Council of Chalcedon over a millenium and a half earlier could only describe as ‘without separation, division, confusion.’” I generally distrust those who try to go beyond the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.

Let us accept Bulgakov the man, and leave aside Bulgakov the theologian.

For more on Bulgakov, see my posts here and here.

Can Jews Be Saved?

Q & A with Fr Job:
Question: Can Jews, who believe in God the Father, be saved?

Answer: Let us turn to the word of God: The one who believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but the one who believeth not shall be condemned (Mk 16:16). Faith in God the Father can be true and undistorted only when one believes in Jesus Christ as God, because the Son of God is the second Person of the Divine Trinity, and all three Hypostases (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) make up the One Godhead -- the Holy Trinity. All things were delivered to Me by My Father. And no one doth fully know the Son, except the Father; nor doth anyone fully know the Father, except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son is willing to reveal Him (Mt. 11:27). Therefore the Savior said: The one that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and the one who is disobedient to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him (Jn. 3:36).

Bishop Daniel’s Fables, III

The Man and the Tiger (A tale from India)

A tiger, trapped inside a cage
Was in a wild and futile rage:
He could not think of any plan
To free himself. But then a man
Came by, The beast began to shout:
“Oh, please, dear brother, let me out!”
The tiger’s voice, it was so sad,
That our good man, who never had
Seen tigers in a cage before,
Was moved and did unlock the door.
“Now – said the tiger – I must eat,
And for my meal I’ll use your meat”.
The man exclaimed: “Oh, don’t you dare!
It would be utterly unfair:
WIll you repay this my good deed
To you with such an act of greed?” –
“Of course I will – the best did say –
Evil for good – this is the way
It’s always done”, –
“I don’t agree!” – “Ask anyone!”
Then in a field they saw a cow.
They both approached and asked her:
Are the good deeds to be repaid?” –
“Of course with evil ones!” she made
“But tell us, why?” –
“I will.
The human beings treat me ill:
They drink my milk and, if you please,
They use my milk to make their cheese:
Besides, they use me for to plough
Their fields of rice: and this is how
They do replay all the good deeds
I do for them to fill their needs:
They kill my calves and use their veal
To make themselves a tasty meal,
This being cause enough for grief;
And they will kill me for my beef.
From this it may be understood
That evil deeds repay the good.” –
“You see? So you will be my fare.”
The man replied: “Oh, don’t you dare
To eat someone who set you free!
Let’s ask someone.” They saw a tree
And asked: “IF one has done some good
To someone else, we ask: ‘how should
He be repaid?’” The tree replies:
“WIth evil deeds. This rule replies:
To all, and always will apply”, –
“But tell us, why?” –
“I will.
The human beings treat me ill,
For they are worse than any brute.
Imagine this: they eat my fruit
And rest themselves in my cool shade,
But how are my good deeds repaid?
They break my boughs, and any wretch
Thinks himself wise enough to scratch
All kinds of letters in my bark:
And from this dark
Ingratitude it may be understood
That evil deeds repay the good.” –
“You see? So you will be my fare.” –
The man replied: “Oh, don’t you dare
To eat someone who set you free!
To this I still cannot agree.
Let’s ask someone to find out why”.
They saw a jackal trotting by
And asked him: “Jackal, can you tell,
How good deeds are rewarded?” – “Well,
WHat do you need this answer for?” –
“You see, this tiger was before
Caught in a cage...” the man replies.
The jackal says: “Don’t tell me lies!
The king of beasts caught in a trap?
I don’t believe such things, old chap!
And I’ll consider them damn lies
Unless I see it with my eyes”.
The tiger says: “I must confess,
It happened to me, nonetheless”.
They lead the jackal to the cage. –
“Suppose, we’re actors on a stage.
We’ll act it out, as it had been.
You say, the tiger was within?
So let him go inside. All right!
The door was shut, the bold made tight?”
WHen all was done to jackal’s satisfaction,
The simple man tried to repeat his action
And started to unlock the bolt.
To this the jackal shouted: “HALT!
Haven’t you learned, you fool, at least
Not to do good to such a beast?
He is inside? So let him stay,
And keep your helping hand away,
And keep in mind the saying of the sages:
‘Don’t ever liberate tigers from no cages’”.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

SAINT Justin Popovic

Fr Milovan Katanic just left this amazing piece of news as a comment:
Just wanted to share the great news that today at our SPC Synod Meeting in Belgrade, the name of Father Justin Popovic, confessor of the monastery cells near Valjevo (1894-1979) has been added to the Diptychs of the Church as an official saint, along with the new St. Simeon Popovic, Abbot of the monastery Dajbabe near Podgorica (1854-1941), now Saint Simeon Dajbabskog. They will be officially canonized on May 2 at the St. Sava Temple on Vracar.

Haven't blogged about it myself but wanted to share with you since this blog is dedicated to Fr. Justin.

Announcing a New Reading Group

I've decided to try out an experiment: an online reading group. Encouraged by my friend Deacon Nicholas Belcher, Dean of Students at Hellenic College / Holy Cross, I've chosen The Moral Idea of the Main Dogmas of the Faith by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia. Each week I'll post a summary of the week's reading, then discussion will (hopefully) take place both within the comments section and in separate posts. Here's my proposed schedule (which has been updated):
May 16: The Dogma of the Holy Trinity
May 23: The Dogma of the Incarnation
May 30: The Dogma of the Holy Spirit
June 6: The Dogma of the Church
June 13: The Dogma of the Redemption
Copies of the book can be purchased for $15 from the publisher, Synaxis Press, or elsewhere online. Please use the comments section of this post to let me know if you're potentially interested in participating.

UPDATE: Please note that I have pushed the dates back one week so that people will have plenty of time to acquire copies of the book.

Living Icons, Chapter 2

The brief survey of the life of St Seraphim of Sarov that makes up chapter two of Living Icons bears with it no real surprises, although we are told that "St Seraphim is a key to the more open and creative understanding of the path of the gospel, the life of communion in God. We are also told that he was one who was "breaking the molds, transcending the boundaries." I am not, however, convinced that this is indeed the case. Certainly he had his own unique characteristics as monk, priest, and saint – but none of this, I'm fairly sure, was meant in any way to be a challenge to the institutional Church. His presence in this book still baffles me. I'd also have to object to the statement that St Seraphim "lived in one of the worst periods of church life in Russia." Certainly the Synodal period was bleak in certain canonical and political regards, but every commentator on the period is quick to note that it was also full of saints. Altogether, a rather odd beginning to the book.

Bishop Daniel's Fables, II

The second of the late Bishop Daniel's translations of Eastern fables is "The Wolf and the Lamb" (I. A. Krylov, Volk i janionok):
The mighty ones find fault with the more weak.
From history we could enough examples cite
How they do take advantage of the meek –
But history we do not write.
For this is just a fable book.

On a hot day a lamb came to a brook
To have a drink, but there, as it turned out,
A hungry wolf was roaming round about.
He sees the lamb. What does he next?
He wants to use some good pretext,
That, while appearing to be just,
He may indulge his greed and lust.
He shouts: "How do you dare to guzzle
My water with your unclean muzzle?
To stir it up, pollute it and...
To mix my drink with mud and sand?" –
"May I report, with your most gracious leave:
I drink some hundred paces, I believe,
Below the place
At which your grace
Enjoy your drink – the lamb replied –
Your anger is not justified,
I cannot spoil your grace's drink." –
"Then I'm a liar? Do you think
To get away with this? Last year
You did insult me here!
You think that I forgot and you are getting bold!" –
"I beg your pardon, sir, I'm less than one year old",
The lamb replied. – "It must have been your brother." –
"I have no brothers, sir." – "Oh, then it must have been
Your uncle or your friend, or someone of your kin.
You all, your shepherds and your dogs, you have no other
Desire, but to destroy me and see me dead.
For all their sins you'll pay me with your head." –
"But I am innocent!" – "You keep your big mouth shut!
I'm tired of your talk, you cub, for I do not
Have time to see, who's guilty and who's right!
'Tis guilt enough that I have appetite!"
He said and dragged the lamb into the wood –
Apparently, for good.

Those who show mercy to the wolves do not
Care about the lambs, or, maybe, they forgot
That sparing just one killer they
Are killing hundreds of his prey.

Prayer and Non-Orthodox Names

Q & A with Fr Job, installment XII:
Question: May one remember in prayer “for the living” non-Orthodox names?

Answer: There are cases in which, at a Baptism in an Orthodox church, someone keeps the non-Orthodox name given him at birth. Such a person must be commemorated in church, because he is a member of the Church. Handing in a commemoration slip, one must indicate next to his name that he is Baptized into Orthodoxy. If a person is not Baptized Orthodox, then one may pray for him privately.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bishop Daniel's Fables, I

Among the late Bishop Daniel of Erie's lesser known accomplishments was as a translator of Russian fairy tales. In 2001 he issued one anonymous little booklet entitled Selected Fables from the East, "translated by a Russian priest." Here is how he introduces this volume:
The fables in this booklet are a free translation in verse of fables from various sources, mostly Russian. The majority of Russian fables are by I. A. Krylov (1768-1844); There are other translations of Krylov's fables into English, but they have not been consulted by the translator of these fables. If there is any familiarity in the text, it is not intentional.

Other Russian fables are anonymous: Fable No. 10, "The Three Deaf Old Men" is cited by A. S. Pushkin as "old" – it must belong to the 18th century. Fable No. 4, "The Lion and the Sow" was in the papers of the translator's aunt, who died in 1931. He remembers only a few lines and the general sense. It appears to be a commentary on the success of the revolution against monarchy, and for this reason it lacks a moral – the reader is supposed to draw his own conclusions. It was obviously written in the 1920's, when open criticism of the existing regime was unthinkable. No 14, "Gromoglas," was originally not a fable at all, but a story the translator has heard in Russian. Putting it in verse and adding a moral makes it a fable.

Two fables are taken from Persian, from Saadi's Gulistan – No. 13, "The Offended Prince and No 19, "The King and the Ghulam." One is from Chinese sources, No. 9, "Juridical Reform," and two from Indian sources: No. 3, "The Man and the Tiger" and No. 11, "The Dog, the Cat and the Monkey." All these have been translated from prose translations.
God willing, I will reproduce one fable a day for the next twenty-two days (that being the number of fables) in prayerful memory of Bishop Daniel. May his memory be eternal.

Now here is the very first fable, "The Crow and the Fox" (I. A. Krylov, Vorona i lisitsa):
For many years we have been taught
That flattery is bad and that it ought
To be despised, being a vile deception,
But all in vain: the flatterers are smart
And in the human heart
Will always find a welcoming reception.

A crow who found a slice of cheese
Looked for a perch among the trees
And, mounting on a spruce at last,
She was about to break her fast,
But for some reason she did pause
And held her breakfast in her jaws.
A fox comes by (the fragrance drew him near)
And he begins to flatter to to speak:
"You are so beautiful, my dear!
What pretty eyes and what a well-formed beak!
What pretty feathers, what a lovely tail!
You are a fairy-beard out of a fairy-tale!
Being so beautiful, if you know how to sing,
Among the birds you ought to be a king!
Sing to me, please, with your angelic voice,
Oh, let me hear it and rejoice!"
The bird of omen, who was otherwise
As wise
As any wizard
Was overjoyed
Hearing the praise the fox employed,
Her breath stopped in her gizzard,
And, being dizzy with delight,
She loudly crowed with all her might.
The cheese fell out, of course,
The fox was quick in taking it
And quit
Without remorse.

Living Icons, Introduction

I’d like to think that my credentials as a “traditionalist” or “conservative” Orthodox are impeccable: I was raised in a ROCOR mission parish, then spent five years in the HOCNA schism before returning to ROCOR in 1992. I have spent exactly half my life, and my entire adult life, in ROCOR monasteries. My father is a priest in an Old Calendarist Greek jurisdiction in the US, and one of my sisters is a Schema-nun in a convent in Greece under that same jurisdiction (not HOCNA). I taught for four years at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville. I dress, act, think (mostly) like a traditional monastic and clergyman. I’m never one to let myself grow overly complacent, however, and enjoy being challenged by those who take a different approach to Church life. I’ve just read, and very much enjoyed, a biography of Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), a moderately liberal figure, at least by Orthodox standards.

What I intend to do now -- perhaps foolheartedly -- is further to challenge myself by reading and commenting on a book entitled Living Icons: Persons of Faith in the Eastern Church, a copy of which was kindly sent to me by the author, Fr Michael Plekon. The book is made up of biographical essays on ten modern figures within the Orthodox Church: St Seraphim of Sarov, Fr Sergius Bulgakov, Mother Maria Skobtsova, Fr Lev Gillet, Paul Evdokimov, Fr Gregory Krug, Fr Nicholas Afanasiev, Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr John Meyendorff, and Fr Alexander Men. Each of these figures, with the notable exception of St Seraphim, might well be considered a “liberal” figure within Orthodoxy. All but St Seraphim and Fr Men were part of the Paris emigration, and nearly all were connected in one way or another with the St Sergius Institute. Notable in their absence are other, more conservative figures who were part of the same Paris scene: Fr Georges Florovksy, Vladimir Lossky, Leonid Ouspensky, and Fr Sophrony Sakharov. The author is clearly intent on presenting a certain “type” of personality.

What I hope to do in the coming days, God willing, is daily to post a reflection on one chapter, thereby getting through the book in about a week and a half. I intend to go in with a genuinely open mind; I’m prepared to be surprised.

For today I’ll post on the Introduction, entitled “Finding ‘Living Icons.’” Fr Michael writes that this book is an invitation to encounters with Christians of our time. We are all part of a community of saints by whom we are surrounded. Here, when Fr Plekon lists such saints, I admit that I had my first moments of difficulty. He writes:
On stained-glass windows, on frescoes, and in statutes and icons we encountered Francis of Assisi, Nicholas of Myra and Joseph.
Well, not if we were in an Orthodox church we wouldn’t have. Nor we would count Francis Xavier among the missionaries, or Anthony of Padua among the saints with special ministries. Nor would we count Elisabeth Seton or Katherine Drexel as missionaries alongside St Herman of Alaska. The same goes for Dorothy Day, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, Paul Schneider, Dag Hammarskjold, Albert Schweitzer, Pope John XXIII, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Charles de Foucauld, Karl Barth, Simone Weil, and Flannery O’Connor. While I have the utmost respect for each of these figures, I can not see how they could be spoken of as saints in the same breath as St Seraphim and others.

More interestingly, though, how does Fr Plekon view me and those like me (which probably would include the bulk of the readers of this blog)? He writes:
Among the Orthodox there is also a reactionary movement, one that sees the West as corrupt and in particular the Western churches as “heretical” bodies, in which there is no grace, no real sacramental life, no authentic Christianity. This exclusivist tendency has been present among the Orthodox in one form or another for a long time. In the past ethnic hatreds and political tensions were strong factors. Today, they are manifest in outright condemnation of all exchange and interaction passing under the rubric of ecumenical dialogue. While there is deep self-scrutiny under way in ecumenical organizations, the WCC in particular, and while there is much to be challenged or criticized about the content and drift of ecumenical activity, it is quite another matter for all that is ‘ecumenical‘ to be defined as ‘heresy.‘ All contact with the non-Orthodox and in particular any sharing of prayer has been condemned, on the basis of third- and fourth- century canons that forbid prayer with those who explicitly deny the basic dogmas. The use of the Julian calendar as opposed to the ‘new,‘ or worse, ‘Papist‘ and ‘heretical,‘ Gregorian calendar has become a defining mark of authentic Orthodox Christianity, along with the baptizing again of all non-Orthodox Christians who seek to enter the Orthodox Church.

Further badges of difference or means of isolation include the length of services, terminology, clothing styles, and observance of rules regarding fasting, liturgical posture, and prayer. In short, it is impossible to avoid seeing the creation of a total lifestyle and consciousness that sets the Orthodox apart from the rest of society, like Hasidic Jews and the Amish. While many of these specific lifestyle elements may not be crucial for the faith, their elevation to necessity status for ‘true‘ Orthodox is another matter entirely. The mind-set behind them contains positions that are not just dubious and debatable but erroneous.
Now, am I missing something or does one either recognize Dorothy Day as a saint or become an Orthodox Hasidic Amish fundamentalist?

All irony aside, I do look forward to reading Fr Michael’s portraits of his ten “living icons,” with the hope that his ideal of the renewal of tradition become clear.

Why Candles?

Q & A with Fr Job, installment XI:
Question: Why are candles sold in church? After all, it’s altogether clear what the Gospel says about buying and selling in church -- specifically, that buying and selling are forbidden.

Answer: The sale of candles in church creates bustle and distracts from prayer. It is good when this can be done in another place. Unfortunately, this is not possible in most parishes.

One must make the distinction that the place in the Gospel which is normally cited need not apply to this. The moral meaning of the Gospel event is related to the condemnation of individual sellers who were earning money on a holy site (Jn 2:13-16). This also relates to the money-changers, who were also earning money, when the Lord altogether forbad taking a percentage (c.f., Ex. 22:25, Lev. 25:36-37; Deut. 15:8; Deut. 23:19-20). One should also note that the buying and selling was not in the temple, and in the forecourt of the temple galleries (no one but the high priest and priest could enter the Jerusalem temple!). In Holy Scripture sometimes the entire complex is called the temple, including the yard and the forecourts.

The acquisition of candles at the candle stall is a form of donation to the needs of the church. At the Jerusalem temple there were special receptacles for the donation of money to the temple (Jn 8:20). Our Lord Jesus Christ not only did not judge this custom, but even praised the widow who gave her two mites (Mk 12:41).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Tomorrow is the Wednesday of Mid-Pentecost. We read the following entry in The Great Horologion:
After the Saviour had miraculously healed the paralytic, the Jews, especially the Pharisees and Scribes, were moved to envy and persecuted Him, and sought to slay Him, using the excuse that He did not keep the Sabbath, since He worked miracles on that day. Jesus then departed to Galilee. About the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, He went up again to the Temple and taught. The Jews, marveling at the wisdom of His words, said, “how knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” But Christ first reproached their unbelief and lawlessness, then proved to them by the Law that they sought to slay Him unjustly, supposedly as a despiser of the Law, since He had healed the paralytic on the Sabbath.

Therefore, since the things spoken of by Christ in the middle of the Feast of the Tabernacles are related to the Sunday of the Paralytic that is just passed, and since we have already reached the midpoint of the fifty days between Pascha and Pentecost, the Church has appointed this present feast as a bond between the two great Feasts, thereby uniting, as it were, the two into one, and partaking of the grace of them both. Therefore today’s feast is called Mid‐Pentecost, and the Gospel Reading, “At Mid‐feast”—though it refers to the Feast of the Tabernacles—is used.

It should be noted that there were three great Jewish feasts: the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Passover was celebrated on the 15th of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, which roughly coincides with our March. This feast commemorated that day on which the Hebrews were commanded to eat the lamb in the evening and anoint the doors of its houses. The Wednesday of Mid‐Pentecost with its blood. Then, having escaped bondage and death at the hands of the Egyptians, they passed through the Red Sea to come to the Promised Land. It is called “the feast of Unleavened Bread,” because they ate unleavened bread for seven days. Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after Passover, first of all, because the Hebrew tribes had reached Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt, and there received the Law from God; secondly, it was celebrated to commemorate their entry into the Promised Land, where also they ate bread, after having been fed with manna forty years in the desert. Therefore, on this day they offered to God a sacrifice of bread prepared with new wheat. Finally, they also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles from the 15th to the 22nd of “the seventh month,” which corresponds roughly to our September. During this time, they lived in booths made of branches in commemoration of the forty years they spent in the desert, living in tabernacles, that is, in tents (Ex. 12:10‐20; Lev. 23 LXX).
Online resources:
N.B., The Small Blessing of Waters is normally performed on Mid-Pentecost.

'This Holy Man': Impressions of Meteropolitan Anthony

This is a complicated and conflicted book, just as its subject, Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh, was a complicated and conflicted man. In her introduction the author, Gillian Crow, writes:
Incipiently holy he may have been. He most certainly was not a pious man. Unlike some, he was not hung up on attending every service. By choice he did not say grace before meals. He did not affect a pious voice or vocabulary, or give anything other than totally practical spiritual advice.
Despite this acknowledgment, however, Crow, vows to overlook the Metropolitan’s failings:
As for his sins and shortcomings -- the smallness he never conquered, in common with most people -- they were his own concerns, and should largely remain so.
Largely, but not entirely, for ‘This Holy Man’ -- note the quotation marks around the title – rarely misses an opportunity to point out Metropolitan Anthony’s sins and shortcomings, most often following a recitation of his nobler and holier characteristics. The crescendo account of his reposes and funeral, for instance, is followed by an epilogue beginning with the words “‘You could have called me a pig, which is also true.’” Throughout we are told of the Metropolitan’s occasional obstinacy, thoughtlessness, heavy-handedness, and depression.Suffice it to say, this is not a white-washed portrait. One is left wondering what to make of this approach. On the one hand, it's satisfying to get something like a true portrait, and not a one sided-one (I recently read a mammoth biography of Hiermonk Seraphim (Rose) which was so one-sidedly positive that it twice noted that he had a wonderful set of cavity-free teeth); but on the other, one doesn't want to be accused of the sin of Ham in revealing his father Noah's nakedness. But this is a biography, and follows the rules of that genre; the book on Fr Seraphim is largely hagiography disguised as modern biography.

The overall portrait of Metropolitan Anthony that emerges is, however, a genuinely inspiring one. From his youth spent in Persia and Russia, to his Dickensian schooldays in Paris, to his dramatic conversion and work as a doctor, soldier, and Resistance worker, to his monasticism and priesthood, and finally to his long years in the episcopacy, we witness a man indeed aflame with love for God and neighbor. One does sometimes wonder what sources Crow is working with; one gets the impression that she's working largely from the Metropolitan's own anecdotes, which, as she remarks, were not always not for their strict adherence to fact.

His conversion experience is especially striking. Disgusted by a saccharine talk for youth given by Fr Sergius Bulgakov (of all people!), he rushed home to verify for himself what the priest had been saying. He asked for a Gospel, turned to the Gospel of St Mark, and began to read. What happened next was something he was to relate again and again throughout his life:
The feeling I had occurs sometimes when you are walking along in the street, and suddenly you turn around because you feel someone is looking at you. While I was reading, before I reached the beginning of the third chapter, I suddenly became aware that on the other side of my desk there was a Presence.

This was so striking that I had to stop reading and look up. I looked for a long time. I saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing with the senses. But even when I looked straight in front of me a the place where there was no one visible, I had the same intense knowledge: Christ is standing here, without doubt.

I realized immediately: if Christ is standing her alive, that means he is the risen Christ. I know from my own personal experience that Christ is risen and that therefore everything that is said about him in the Gospel is true.
This certitude in the reality of God and of His love for us will go on to permeate Metropolitan Anthony’s life, making him a much sought after speaker, spiritual father, and confessor. It is this quality which outshines by far the small pettiness we are shown.

Yet Metropolitan Anthony, even at his most pious and holy, remained something of a controversialist. Asked in one interview to discuss the importance of the ordination of women as an issue dividing Anglicanism and Orthodoxy, he had this to say:
For one thing, I do not believe that the Orthodox are right when they simply, without giving a moment’s though and doing any research about it, affirm that the ordination of women is impossible – I’m speaking of the hierarchy and the conferences. A great deal of thought should be put into it, and I personally see no reason why women should not be ordained. And I’m not the only one in the Orthodox Church who thinks that, but I seem to be the only one who is prepared to say so and to put it in writing.
Gillian Crow is not one to brush this comment under the rug. She writes:
When the article was published a number of people suggested that Metropolitan Anthony could never have said quite what was printed. He must sure have said, ‘I see no theological reason why women should not be ordained.’ They were wrong.
All in all, a fascinating and very well-written biography. Recommended for anyone with an interest in Metropolitan Anthony or in the Russian ecclesiastical emigration more generally.

Bell-Ringing in the Church

Q & A with Fr Job, installment XI:
Question: Here in Brazil we ring the bell at the beginning of the Liturgy, during “It is truly meet,” and at the end of the Liturgy. Please explain.

Answer: According to the Church Rules (Typikon) there are festal and daily bell ringing. The latter in our times is rarely performed. The festal ring calls to the Vigil and Liturgy. It reminds the faithful of the Divine service and invites them to church and prayer. Proclaim from day to day the good tidings of His salvation, of our God (Ps. 95:2). First there are two rings from the largest bell -- the blagovestnik. After that, when the sound of the second ring has quieted, the bell-ringer begins to perform measured rings. During the blagovest he must read Psalm 50 twelve times or read Psalm 118 once (Blessed are the blameless). Then begins the trezvon -- the ringing of all the bells. At the Vigil the trezvon is done in two parts, and at the Liturgy in three parts, that is, three times with three breaks.

There is again bell ringing during the Liturgy at the beginning of the Eucharistic canon – the most solemn part of the service. In the altar at this time the Bloodless Sacrifice is being offered; the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ is being performed. “Let us lift up our hearts” is pronounced by either the priest or bishop. “We lift them up unto the Lord,” answers the choir. After the exclamation “Let us give thanks unto the Lord,” the choir sings “It is meet and right to worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided.” The bell begins to ring the blagovestnik. The bell-ringer rings twelve times on the festal bell, the number of Apostles at the Lord’s Mystical Supper. It is necessary to finish the ring before the end of the reading of the Eucharistic canon, before the exclamation “Especially our all-holy, immaculate, most blessed, and glorious Lady, Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary...”

In Church practice there is also ringing after the end of the Vigil and festal Liturgy, although the Typikon does not prescribe this. The festal trezvon at the end of the service reflects that joy which fills the hearts of the faithful on the festal day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Eternal Memory: Bishop Daniel of Erie

Bishop Daniel of Erie, Vicar Bishop of the President of the Synod of Bishops for Old Believers (ROCOR), reposed today in the Lord. His funeral will most likely be on Wednesday (Midpentecost).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another Russian Orthodox Priest Murdered

Article via Orthodoxy and the World (with some minor editing):
A Russian Orthodox priest was shot in Chuvashia before the evening service in Chuvashia, Russia, on Saturday, April 24.

Archpriest Anatoly Sorokin from Chuvashia was shot before the evening service, says Bishop Savvaty of Buratia in his blog.

The Rector of the St. Nicholas Church in Yantikovo and father of five children, he came from a very religious family and was always very cheerful, says Bishop Savvaty.

His wife said to Bishop Savvaty that Fr. Anatoly was shot in the back and that the bullet went directly in to the heart. The murderer shot from a short distance.

A criminal case has been initiated. A 47-old villager suspected of the murder has been taken in custody.

With the saints grant rest,
O Christ,
to the soul of Thy servant,
Archpriest Anatoly,
where there is neither sickness,
nor sorrow,
nor sighing,
but life everlasting.

Fr Tikhon on the Sunday of the Paralytic

Here is my translation, with the help of the indefatigable Natalia Mikhaylova of Orthodoxy and the World, of a sermon by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), deputy abbot (namestnik) of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, on the Sunday of the Paralytic:
Today is a feast day for all of us paralytics. Today, brothers and sisters, we to a certain degree are meeting our name-day, our feast day. Who among us can boast that he is strong, courageous, bearing all the misfortunes of this age, fulfilling all of Christ’s commandments? Deliver us, O Lord, if such a person stands in our midst -- one cannot imagine a worse righteous or strong man! The Apostle Paul says: Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor 12:10). But the Apostle did not deprive himself of one thing: strong faith and undoubting hope in the Savior. “The power of God is made perfect in weakness!”

How can the world, which does not believe in God and preaches the illusory omnipotence of mankind, understand this?

Paralytic bothers and sisters! Let us rejoice that we at least understand ourselves as we are! The Lord came into the world to save paralytic sinners, and us among them. The strong crucified Jesus Christ, and the Lord allowed them this terrible, mindless power to crucify God. When we become proud and sure of ourselves, then we repeat this terrible crime of the God-killers: the crucifixion of the Savior.

Let us recognize ourselves for who we are in fact. The Apostle James writes: For what is your life? It is a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (James 4:14). No matter how strongly our pride rebels agains this, let us look dispassionately at the universe: the myriads of planets, the thousands of generations, endlessly following one another, the billions of people who are erased from the memory of their descendants and their neighbors.

I had a friend to whom I owe very much, and my faith in the first place. He died twelve years ago, and I thought that I would never forget him, that I would always remember him, and certainly at the Liturgy. And I suddenly realized with horror that one Liturgy had gone by, and another, and I did not remember him, one of the dearest people to me. And my spiritual paralysis, my ingratitude to a man who did so much for me, became terrible to me. Do we every day remember with the necessary zeal our parents -- both alive and departed? Do we every day remember our own salvation -- the most important thing for which we live?

Yet something within us tells us unmistakably that man is something more than vapor. Our life, yes, is transient and withering, like the grass under the hot summer sun. Recall in the Psalter: as the flower of the field, so hath he blossomed forth (Ps. 103:15). But the soul – a unique human personality created by God – its story in time and eternity is altogether different. If the soul is united with its Creator and God, then it becomes the most beautiful, the most precious of everything that is on earth. In the memory of God, in God such a soul receives not simply life, but life “more abundantly,” as the Apostle Paul writes. He can not with human words express in any other way the mystery revealed to him of the future age. And the same Apostle writes: Eye hath no seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Cor 2:9).

In the lives of each one of us there will still be moments of weakness and failures, of what we call paralysis. They can last for many years, just as with the paralytic at the Sheep pool, of which the Gospel speaks. This paralytic lay for many years awaiting healing. But he believed that a messenger of God would come and heal him.

Let us not recognize ourselves as strong, because out strength is Christ alone. Let us never recognize ourselves as indestructible and not prone to sin, because we are fallen people. And let us strive not to lose faith in Christ, because the Lord Jesus Christ is eternally powerful and has the power to save us not only from temporal passions and misfortunes. The Lord, “trampling down death by death,” can give eternal life to us, who one day will be in the grave, and will free us from this eternal and final paralysis.

Let us not think highly of ourselves, let us not be surprised by our infirmities, let us not, because of them, fall into despair and despondency. Let us sincerely, with all our strength, strive towards correction, struggling against the evil and sin living within us. Let us firmly believe that our Lord Jesus Christ will help us in this. He loves us, because we are His children. We, who recognize ourselves as paralytics and asking help from our Heavenly Father, will not be left behind, for He gives us His invincible power. Only by this are we strong – just as only by this were the Apostles, Confessors, Venerable Ones, and Martyrs strong.

Sunday of the Paralytic

Tomorrow, the fourth Sunday of Pascha, is dedicated to the healing of the paralytic. S. V. Bulgakov writes:
On this Sunday the most wonderful healing of the paralytic by the Sheep's Pool, who for 38 years languished in severe illness is glorified. According to the explanation of the Synaxarion, this miracle is celebrated on this Sunday because Christ did it during the Jewish Pentecost. In the healing of the paralytic the Holy Church sees the paradigm of the renewal of life of all humanity through the resurrection of Christ. "Christ", she sings in the hymns of this day, "the first-born of creation, and the Creator of all things that have come into being, is risen from the dead as the first-fruits of them that slept. He renewed in Himself the corrupted nature of our race." "On this day is death despoiled and Hades brought to naught. And the race of men is vested in incorruption. We therefore cry to Thee with thanksgiving: glory, O Christ, to Thy arising". Together with this the Holy Church, reminding us about the paralysis of our souls through sin, calls each of us to appeal: "O Most Gracious One, heal my soul which has been ailing for many years, as Thou healed the paralytic before, that I may follow Thy way, which Thou hast shown to those who love Thee"; "As Thou raised up the paralytic, O Christ, so also make whole my soul which is paralyzed by transgressions, and help me to walk in Thine upright ways". As the miracle remembered now was accomplished by the Savior at the Sheep's Pool, in which for the healing of sufferings, "an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons and troubled the water" in some troparia of the canon he is glorified as the Holy Archistrategus Michael. Praising him as the "chief of angels", "leader" of the "highest ministers", the Holy Church hymns him as the "guide for the erring" and, in view of our spiritual paralysis, prayerfully appeals to him: "pray for our enlightenment", "pacify our life, which is ever troubled by the assaults of the serpent and by the circumstances of an ever unstable life", "with us pray for the deliverance of our sins and correction of our way of life", and "the enjoyment of eternal blessings".
Online resources:

Confidentiality in Confession

Q & A with Fr Job, installment x:
Question: May one tell people about what’s said at Confession (that is, what the priest says)?

Answer: If what is said by a priest concerns your spiritual life, then one ought not tell it to another. But if he gave advice of a general character, then one may share it with people with whom one is close, not touching on the content of your confession.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Receiving an Orthodox Name

Q & A with Fr Job, installment IX:
Question: My name is Lily. I was Baptized with my name, and only recently learned that there is no such name and that there is some rite that can give me a Church name. Or have I gotten something wrong?

Answer: Inasmuch as in Baptism you did not receive an Orthodox name, you must be given one in other Mysteries: Confession and Communion. For this you must chose any name of an Orthodox saint. The priest, pronouncing the mysteriological words “Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, by the grace and mercy of His love-of-man...” pronounces this Orthodox name. Approaching the holy chalice, one should again be named by this name. The priest, giving you the Holy Mysteries, names you by this Orthodox name, which fastens this name to you.

In the life of St Philaret of Moscow there was an occurrence when a priest at a Baptism did not pay attention to the gender of the child and therefore pronounced a name which, however harmonious and etymologically close, was still wrong, inasmuch as through one’s name an Orthodox person is united with the saint whose name he bears. The saint [i.e., St Philaret] indicated that mistakes be corrected at the time of Communion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Q & A with Fr Job, installment VIII:
Question: What does the word “deaconess” mean?

Answer: Deaconesses (Greek diakonissa, servants) in the first centuries were women who dedicated themselves to service in church. The origin of this service goes back to apostolic times. The holy Apostle Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, mentions the deaconess Phoebe. According to apostolic directions, deaconesses were chosen from among chaste virgins or widows who had been once married, faithful and God-fearing. According to the directions of the Council of Chalcedon, deaconesses were to be at least forty years old and to be accepted after intense examination. There were forty deaconesses at the Great Church of Constantinople under the Emperor Justinian. They prepared women for Baptism, helped the bishop at the Baptism of women, and in his place anointed parts of the body with the exception of the forehead, and cared for charity directed towards women. The service of deaconess ended in the East towards the thirteenth century, and in the West in the ninth century.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Thirty-Eight Sayings of St Anthony the Great

In his 2007 Commencement Address at St Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary, Fr Thomas Hopko had this to say:
I urge you, and, if I could, I would command you, to read St. Anthony’s thirty-eight sayings in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Everything we need to know in order to live is there for us in its simplest and clearest form.
Heeding his command, I reproduce below these thirty-eight sayings, as translated by the late Sr Benedicta Ward SLG in her collection The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:
1. When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by accidie, and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, "Lord, I wand to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?" A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony say a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down again and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, "Do this and you will be saved." At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

2. When the same Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, "Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men proper and why are the just in need? He heard a voice answering him, "Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to known anything about them."

3. Someone asked Abba Anthony, "What must one do in order to please God?" The old man replied, "Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved."

4. Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, "This is the great work of man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.

5. He also said, "Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." He even added, "Without temptations no-one can be saved."

6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, "What ought I to do?" and the old man said to him, "Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach."

7. Abba Anthony said, "I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, 'Humility.'"

8. He also said, "Some have afflicted their bodies by asceticism, but they lack discernment, and so they are far from God."

9. He said also, "Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ."

10. He also said, "Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. SO like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lost our interior watchfulness."

11. He said also, "He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with fornication."

12. Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons. They had a donkey which died on the way. When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, "How was is that the little donkey died on the way here?" They said, "How do you know about that, Father?" And he told them, "The demons shewed me what happened." So they said, "That was what we came to question you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true." Thus the old man convinced them, by the example of the donkey, that their visions came from the demons.

13. A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, "Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it." So he did. The old man then said, "Shoot another," and he did so. Then the old man said, 'Shoot yet again," and the hunter replied "If I bend my bow so much I will break it." Then the old man said to him, "It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs." When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

14. Abba Anthony heard of a very young monk who had performed a miracle on the road. Seeing the old man walking with difficulty along the road, he ordered the wild asses to come and carry them until they reached Abba Anthony. He said to them, "This monk seems to me to a ship loaded with goods but I do not know if he will reach harbor." After a while, Anthony suddenly began to weep, to tear his hair and lament. His disciples said to him, "Why are you weeping, Father?" and the old man replied, "A great pillar of the Church has just fallen (he meant the young monk) but go to him and see what has happened." So the disciples went and found the monk sitting on a mat and weeping for the sin he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the old man he said, "Tell the old man to pray that God will give me just ten days and I hope I will have made satisfaction." But in the space of five days he died.

15. The brothers praised a monk before Abba Anthony. When the monk came to see him, Anthony wanted to know how he would bear insults; and seeing that he could not bear them at all, he said to him, "You are like a village magnificently decorated on the outside, but destroyed from within by robbers."

16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, "Pray for me." The old man said to him, " I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.

17. One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, "You have not understood it." Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, "How would you explain this saying?" and he replied, "I do not know." Then Abba Anthony said, "Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: 'I do not know.'"

18. Some brothers were coming from Scetis to see Abba Anthony. When they were getting into a boat to go there, they found an old man who also wanted to go there. The brothers did not know him. They sat in the boat, occupied by turns with the words of the Fathers, Scripture and their manual work. As for the old man, he remained silent. When they arrived on shore they found that the old man was going to the cell of Abba Anthony too. When they reached the place, Anthony said to them, "You found this old man a good companion for the journey?" Then he said to the old man, " You have brought many good brethren with you, father." The old man said, "No doubt they are good, but they do not have a door to their house and anyone who wishes can enter the stable and loose the ass." He meant that the brethren said whatever came into their mouths.

19. The brethren came to the Abba Anthony and said to him, "Speak a word; how are we to be saved?" The old man said to them, "You have heard the Scriptures. That should teach you how." But they said, "We want to hear from you too, Father." Then the old man said to them, "The Gospel says, 'if anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.'" (Matt. 5.39) They said, "We cannot do that." The old man said, "If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least allow one cheek to be struck." "We cannot do that either," they said. So he said, "If you are not able to do that, do not return evil for evil," and they said, "We cannot do that either." Then the old man said to his disciples, "Prepare a little brew of corn for these invalids. If you cannot do this, or that, what can I do for you? What you need is prayers."

20. A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, "If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that." The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, "Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them."

21. It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived hear him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, "My Father, they will not receive me." Then the old man sent them a message saying, "A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore." When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.

22. Abba Anthony said, "I believe that the body possesses a natural movement, to which it is adapted, but which it cannot follow without the consent of the soul; it only signifies in the body a movement without passion. There is another movement, which comes from the nourishment and warming of the body by eating and drinking, and this causes the heat of the blood to stir up the body to work. That is why the apostle said, 'Do not get drunk with win for that is debauchery.' (Ephes. 5.18) And in the Gospel the Lord also recommends this to his disciples: 'Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness.' (Luke 21.34) But there is yet another movement which afflicts those who fight, and that comes from the wiles and jealousy of the demons. You must understand what these three bodily movements are: one is natural, one comes from too much to eat, the third is caused by the demons."

23. He also said, "God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much."

24. It was revealed to Abba Anthony in his desert that there was one who was his equal in the city. He was a doctor by profession and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor, and every day he sang the Sanctus with the angels.

25. Abba Anthony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"

26. The brethren came to Abba Anthony and laid before him a passage from Leviticus. The old man went out into the desert, secretly followed by Abba Ammonas, who knew that this was his custom. Abba Anthony went a long way off and stood there praying, crying in a loud voice, "God, send Moses, to make me understand this saying," Then there came a voice speaking with him. Abba Ammonas said that although he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not understand what it said.

27. Three Fathers used to go and visit blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but the third always remained silent and did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, "You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything," and the other replied, "It is enough fo rme to see you, Father."

28. They said that a certain old man asked God to let him see the Fathers and he saw them all except Abba Anthony. So he asked his guide, "Where is Abba Anthony?" He told him in reply that in the place where God is, there Anthony would be.

29. A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication and he arose and went to Abba Anthony. The brethren also came from the monastery to correct him and bring him back. They set about proving that he had done this thing, but he defended himself and denied that he had done anything of the kind. Now Abba Paphnutius, who is called Cephalus, happened to be there, and he told them this parable: "I have seen a man on the bank of the river buried up to his knees in mud and some men came to give him a hand to help him out, but they pushed him further in up to his neck." Then Abba Anthony said this about Abba Paphnutius: "Here is a real man, who can care for souls and save them." All those present were pierced to the heart by the words of the old man and they asked forgiveness of the brother. So, admonished by the Fathers, they took the brother back to the monastery.

30. Some say of Saint Anthony that he was "Spirit-borne," that is, carried along by the Holy Spirit, but he would never speak of this to men. Such men see what is happening in the world, as well as knowing what is going to happen.

31. One day Abba Anthony received a letter from the Emperor Constantius, asking him to come to Constantinople and he wondered whether he ought to go. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, "Ought I to go?" He replied, "If you go, you will be called Anthony; but if you stay here, you will be called Abba Anthony."

32. Abba Anthony said, "I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear." (John 4.18)

33. He also said, "Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember him who gives death and life. Hate the world and all that is in it. Hate all peace that comes from the flesh. Renounce this life, so that you may be alive to God. Remember what you have promised God, for it will be required of you on the day of judgment. Suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, be watchful and sorrowful; weep, and groan in your heart; test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God; despise the flesh, so that you may preserve your souls.

34. Abba Anthony once went to visit Abba Amoun in Mount Nitria and when they met, Abba Amoun said, "By your prayers, the number of the brethren increases, and some of them want to build more cells where they may live in peace. How far away from here do you think we should build the cells?" Abba Anthony said, "Let us eat at the ninth hour and then let us go out for a walk in the desert and explore the country." So they went out into the desert and they walked until sunset and then Abba Anthony said, "Let us pray and plant the cross here, so that those who wish to do so may build here. Then when those who remain there want to visit those who have come here, they can take a little food at the ninth hour and then come. If they do this, they will be able to keep in touch with each other without distraction of mind." The distance is twelve miles.

35. Abba Anthony said, "Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virute we want to forge or we labor in vain."

36. He also said, "Obedience with abstinence gives men power over wild beasts."

37. He also said, "Nine monks fell away after many labors and were obsessed with spiritual pride, for they put their trust in their own works and being deceived they did not give due heed to the commandment that says, 'Ask your father and he will tell you.'" (Deut. 32.7)

38. And he said this, "If he is able to, a monk ought to tell his elders confidently how many steps he takes and how many drops of water he drinks in his cell, in case he is in error about it."

Why Beards?

Q & A with Fr Job, installment VII:
Question: Why are Orthodox priests required to wear beards? Is there something about this in the Bible?

Answer: The practice of Orthodox priests to wear a beard goes back to Old Testament tradition. In the Bible there is this definition: And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them... They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard (Lev. 21:1,5). It was forbidden not only to shave, but even to cut the beard, inasmuch as was this was the custom in pagan mourning rides.
The above photograph is of the Elder Joachim of St. Anna's Skete. Here is an account concerning the length of his beard, taken from the book Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos by Archimandrite Cherubim:
We must not omit saying a few words about Fr. Joachim’s rare and exceptional beard.

When he lived in America, he observed with sorrow the modernist spirit which had begun to affect even ecclesiastical matters. He saw [Orthodox] priests who thought they could function better in society if they departed from Orthodox tradition. In that worldly atmosphere, Fr. Joachim behaved courageously. He couldn’t stand to see Orthodox priests taking off their precious rason or cutting their hair and beard. It is worth noting that before being tonsured, he made the following prayer to the Mother of God:

“Most Holy Theotokos, when I become a priest, please give me long hair and beard, so that I will look like the priests in my country.“

The Mother of God did not deny him his supplication, but fulfilled his desire abundantly. As we stated earlier, the Americans wondered at his imposing appearance and his long, full beard. When he finally journeyed to Mount Athos, an astonishing thing happened. His beard grew and lengthened all the way down to his legs – a phenomenon very rare even in his fatherland. We attributed this to the prayer he made (to look like a priest) to the Mother of God. In order to move freely and restrain the remarks of others, he was forced to carry his beard in a sack tied around his neck.

In his latter years, the fathers asked him to be photographed with his priestly vestments and beard. At first he wouldn’t do it, but after being asked a second time by the fathers, he gave in. The photograph was saved, and can be seen at the end of the text.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Humanistic and Theanthropic Educaton

Archimandrite Justin (Popovic) begins his essay on education in the book The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism with these words:
Education represents a fact, tried and constantly tested by sundry of mankind’s experiences: man is an imperfect and unfinished being. All philosophies, religions, sciences and cultures testify to this. Man is something that has to be perfected and completed. The main goal of education is, therefore, to perfect and complete man. But an irresistible question mercilessly obtrudes: through what can man become perfect and complete?
Fr Justin then surveys a number of great men, asking if they attained perfection and completion: Plato, Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, Kant, Shakespeare, Goethe, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche. Each he finds imperfect and incomplete. Only the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is divinely perfected and divinely complete: “Just try and imagine either a more perfect God than Christ or a more perfect man.” In a truly theanthropic education,
Education (enlightenment) is simply the projection of sanctity, the radiation of light; the saint shines and, thereby, enlightens and sanctifies. Education is entirely conditioned by sanctity; only a saint can be a true educator and enlightener.
Conversely, education without sanctity, without the perfecting and completing of man by the God-Man, was invented by humanistic Europe, having as its chief aim a world without God, without Christ. The Renaissance led to Rousseau’s emphasis on nature, which ceded to the rationalism of Descartes and Kant, who were in turn overtaken by Schopenhauer and Stirner, who finally gave way to Nietzsche: “From Rousseau’s embryo, humanistic man has developed into a superman,” albeit one who thrives on instinct alone.
After killing God and the soul within himself, European man has been gradually committing suicide over the last several decades, for suicide inescapably accompanies deicide. Education without God has drawn Europe into such darkness as no other continent has ever experienced. No one can recognize anyone in that darkness; no one recognizes anyone else as a brother.
Fr Justin concludes his essay with the following summary of the main characteristics of theanthropic education:
  1. Man is a being that can be perfected and completed in the most ideal and realistic way by the God-Man;
  2. The perfection of man by the God-Man is achieved by means of the evangelical virtues;
  3. An enlightened man sees in every other man his immortal and eternal brother;
  4. Every human activity: philosophy, science, trade, agriculture, art, education and culture receive their everlasting value when they are sanctified and given significance by the God-Man;
  5. True enlightenment is achieved by a holy life according to Christ’s Gospel;
  6. The saints are the most perfect educators; the more holy a man’s life, the better an educator and enlightener he is;
  7. Education is the second half of the God-Man’s heart, the Church is the first;
  8. In the center of all centers, of all ideas and activities, there stands the God-Man and His theanthropic collective: the Church.
Thus writes the Blessed Father Justin. I’ve had many occasions of late to reflect on the meaning of education, on what its purpose and meaning are. I come from a family that places a very high value on education: nearly all my relatives are professors, and I myself hold two graduate degrees (including one in Orthodox theology) and have taught undergraduates. I’ve long taken pride (in the sinful sense of that expression) in being highly educated.

But I’ve been sick for the past two years, and have spent a good bit of time in hospitals. These were times of depression and loneliness, of a search for meaning. And I found that my education, at such an impasse, did me no good whatsoever. What finally broke me out of my despondency was reading the Gospels with a simple and broken heart.

I see now that I’m in dire need of a reeducation, not an academic one, but a spiritual one, of the sort that Fr Justin speaks. I need to be formed, shaped, perfected into the image and likeness of the God-Man, Christ. And this will come about only through humility and obedience, not through the sense of superiority that comes with practicing criticism. I need to become a new man, or better, I need better to become who I am.

How does this apply more generally? In my reading of things, modern thought begins with Descartes locked up in his little oven, systematically doubting all things, beginning with his own existence. So, too, does today’s intellectual sit in judgment over everything, accepting only what filters through his critical skepticism. Such a method works well with the hard sciences, but it’s a disaster when applied to theology. A true education is a formation of the soul, and must be centered on the person of Christ. I agree fully with these words of Fr Alexander Schmemann:
It is a common mistake to think that education is on the level of ideas. No! It is always a transmission of experience. How much sadness, emptiness and banality there is in the game of academia and footnotes. People are not convinced by reasoning: either they catch fire or they do not.
Our sinful nature demonstrates that we need education. But this education should be an experience of God, even when the subject matter is something wholly this-worldly. Consider the words of St Anthony the Great, who speaks for all the Fathers:
Men are often called intelligent wrongly. Intelligent men are not those who are erudite in the sayings and books of the wise men of old, but those who have an intelligent soul and can discriminate between good and evil. They avoid what is sinful and harms the soul; and with deep gratitude to God they resolutely adhere by dint of practice to what is good and benefits the soul. These men alone should truly be called intelligent.
May God grant us such intelligence, and such an education!

(For some similar thoughts I wrote a year ago, see here.)

Bearing Weapons in Church

Q & A with Fr Job, installment VI:
Question: Is it canonically forbidden to bear weapons in church?

Answer: There is no canonical rule, but there is a tradition that was born back in the early Byzantine period. Not only soldiers, but even the Emperor, would remove any weapons before entering a church.