Friday, April 20, 2018

Archbishop Peter serves the Rite of Washing of the Feet

Eastern Orthodox - Oriental Orthodox dialogue members met

(EP) - On 12 April 2018, at the initiative of the co-presidents of the International Theological Commission for the Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta, and in their presence, a working group, consisting of bishops from both families of Churches, met in Antelias (near Beirut, Lebanon). They were hosted by His Holiness Aram, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the evolution of the bilateral theological dialogue and to prepare the next meeting of the joint commission. This bilateral theological dialogue began in 1985 and produced, on the basis of a common understanding of the apostolic faith, a number of convergent documents on Christology. (See first and second agreed statements). The purpose of this meeting was to explore together the possibilities of reactivating this important process in the lives of the two families of churches. The next meeting of the plenary of the Commission will take place at the end of October 2018.

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Apologies for slow posting of late. Holy Week, Bright Week, new baby, and diocesan convocation have put me on my heels. God willing, I'll be back to regular posting shortly. Christ is Risen!

Jordanville opens Master of Divinity program in Fall of 2018

(HTS) - Dear Alumni, Friends, and Supporters:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us greatly rejoice and be glad therein.” (Psalms 117:24, LXX)

On this glorious day, I am delighted to announce that Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, New York, will, by the grace of God the Holy Trinity and the approval of the New York State Board of Regents, begin a new Master of Divinity degree in Fall 2018.

On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, the Board’s approval culminated a long, sometimes arduous application process that began in 2015. Although others have also contributed their time and efforts, I wish to thank, in particular, the prime movers of our campaign from the beginning: Archimandrite Luke, our Rector; Priest Ephraim Willmarth, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions; Dr. Vitaly Permiakov, Assistant Professor of Dogmatic and Liturgical Theology.

The Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.) is the standard graduate professional degree for clergy in North America. It entails a rigorous, advanced, comprehensive, full-time three-year course of study in the various theological and pastoral fields for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree. Our M.Div. degree curriculum will also include four 1-credit “field education” practica where seminarians can learn how to apply their theological knowledge and newly acquired pastoral skills in practical ministry settings including parishes, college campus ministry, prison ministry, humanitarian service, evangelism, and public moral witness.

With profound gratitude to one of our most generous benefactors, I am humbled also to announce that Holy Trinity Seminary expects to offer full scholarships for tuition and books to as many as ten entering M.Div. students in Fall 2018!

We shall accept applications for the new M.Div. degree immediately. If you are interested in applying, or know an Orthodox man who may be called to the Holy Priesthood, please send your inquiry to Priest Ephraim Willmarth, Director of Admissions: (telephone: 315-858-0945). You may find additional information on the Admissions page and Academics page of the Seminary website:

I hope you will join us on this new journey on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Holy Trinity Seminary or make a generous financial contribution to support our new degree program.

Yours in Christ,

Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD
Dean and Professor of Moral Theology

Patriarchs of Syrian churches speak on increasing violence

(ROC) - His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi, and Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate issued a statement concerning the escalation of the situation in Syria.

The Christian leaders call the air strikes, carried out on 14 April 2018 against a number of facilities in the Syrian territory, a brutal assault by the USA, France and the UK on Syria.

“This brutal aggression is a clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter, because it is an unjustified assault on a sovereign country, member of the UN,” the Patriarchs of the Christian Churches in Syria state and add with great sadness that “this assault comes from powerful countries to which Syria did not cause any harm in any way.”

“The allegations of the USA and other countries that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons and that Syria is a country that owns and uses this kind of weapon, is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence,” the authors of the statement emphasize and note that the air strike against Syria carried out on April 14, undermines the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry.

According to the Christian leaders of Syria, the aggression “destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications,” as well as “encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.”

Patriarch John X of Antioch, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II call upon the United Nations Security Council to play its role in bringing peace rather than contribute to escalation of wars.

“We call upon all churches in the countries that participated in the aggression, to fulfill their Christian duties, according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call their governments to commit to the protection of international peace,” the statement reads.

The Patriarchs note that they “salute the courage, heroism and sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army which courageously protects Syria and provides security for its people.” “We pray for the souls of the martyrs and the recovery of the wounded,” the authors emphasize, “We are confident that the army will not bow before the external or internal terrorist aggressions; they will continue to fight courageously against terrorism until every inch of the Syrian land is cleansed from terrorism. We, likewise, commend the brave stand of countries which are friendly to the Syria and its people. We offer our prayers for the safety, victory, and deliverance of Syria from all kinds of wars and terrorism.” As the document states, the Christian leaders “pray for peace in Syria and throughout the world, and call for strengthening the efforts of the national reconciliation for the sake of protecting the country and preserving the dignity of all Syrians.”

Ukrainian envoy in Constantinople seeking autocephaly

Kyiv, April 20 (Interfax) - Deputy Ukrainian Presidential Chief of Staff has left for Istanbul to deliver a request to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on issuing a tomos (ordinance) to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko said.

"Deputy presidential chief of staff Rostislav Pavlenko is currently in Istanbul. I won't waste a single day, we will deliver [the request]," Poroshenko told journalists while on a working trip to Lvov on Friday.

Asked how likely it is that a tomos will be issued, Poroshenko said, "Anything can happen, but I am absolutely convinced that everything is God's will."

Ukrainian lawmakers back independent Church

Kyiv (RFERL) - Ukrainian lawmakers have backed President Petro Poroshenko's appeal to the worldwide head of the Orthodox Church to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's independence from Moscow.

The vote in the Verkhovna Rada came days after Poroshenko met with the archbishop of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, during a trip to Istanbul.

The resolution was supported by 268 lawmakers, more than the minimum 226 votes needed.

Poroshenko in a speech to parliament on April 19 called the move an act of "restoring historical justice" and “unity.”

"Unity is our main weapon in the fight against the Russian aggressor," Poroshenko said. "This question… is about our finally acquiring independence from Moscow."

Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and continues to back separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

Poroshenko compared having an autocephalous church to Ukraine’s aspirations to join the European Union and NATO, "because the Kremlin regards the Russian [Orthodox] Church as one of the key tools of influence over Ukraine."

Poroshenko said on April 17 that the issue of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church getting autocephalous status may be considered by Orthodox Church leaders by July 28.

The parliamentary motion was opposed by the Opposition Bloc, a successor to the Russia-friendly former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions that reformed after he was driven from power in February 2014 following months of mass street protests by pro-EU protesters.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Banjos and ─ćevapi: New Serbian monastery coming to TN!

( - We faithful Orthodox Christians in Tennessee are pleased to announce the formation of a New Serbian Orthodox Monastery!

It will be called: “Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow”

Hieromonk Serafim (Baltic), the Abbot of New Gracanica Monastery, has been hard at work organizing this Monastic Brotherhood with an anonymous donor and volunteer Monastery workers in Tennessee for the last several months.

They have come together and chosen a beautiful historic property of 15 acres on a scenic mountain in Monteagle, Tennessee. This beautiful property was once owned by famous American The Highlander Folk School which entertained visits from notables in American history such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

A group of Orthodox Christians from the South are coming together in this beautiful state of Mountains and rollings hills to enthusiastically support this budding Monastic Brotherhood. The first Monk chosen by Bishop Longin to come to Tennesse will be Hieromonk Mark (Kerr).

A local Serbian – American woman from the Nashville area, Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro points out that, “Several of us have been praying for a Serbian Orthodox Monastery for years and I personally am happy and honored to volunteer and work for this Monastery to grow. I want to to honor God, Bogarodica and finally my Serbian born parents Aleksandar and Danica who were proud to be Orthodox (Pravoslav) and never forgot their Slava!”

Monday, April 9, 2018

Federal government launches probe on Ground Zero church

Archdiocese when I heard the first rumblings of money troubles on this project as there were a lot of public funds and donations involved. You don't just lose this kind of money and then figure out how to re-fund it later. This story could go on for years.

(NY Post) - The resurrection of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed on 9/11, has turned into an $80 million boondoggle — and now the feds want to know where the money went. I called this out as a nightmare for the 

The US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is probing the project’s finances and those of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, according to The National Herald, a newspaper covering the Greek community.

The state Attorney General’s Office is also investigating, reported the paper, which said as much as $15 million has gone missing from the construction accounts for the half-built church, to be called the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.

The project is funded by tens of millions in private donations.

Meanwhile, the project’s price tag has soared from $30 million to $80 million. And work came to a standstill in December when the archdiocese was unable to pay the contractor. The shrine was supposed to be completed in 2016.

The domed structure — made of the same Greek marble mined to build the Parthenon — is to replace St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which stood on Cedar Street until the 2001 terror attacks.

After years of negotiations, the church struck a land-swap deal with the Port Authority to rebuild on Liberty Street.

The new shrine was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. His Web site says the house of worship, which will emit a glow at night, will be the only religious structure at Ground Zero and “a spiritual beacon of hope and rebirth.”

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Christ is risen, and the lemon reigns!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Holodomor Memorial Project underway in Toronto

(RISU) - Toronto is set to become the latest addition to the long list of global cities which host major Holodomor memorials. The construction of the Holodomor Memorial at the Exhibition Place in Toronto’s city core will begin on April 10th or 11th, depending on the weather. Out of five bidders, the Toronto Ukrainian Foundation selected Aldershot Landscape Contractors Limited as the contractor to build the Memorial, the New Path informs.

The budget for the whole project is $1.5 million. Of that amount, construction will take $1.2 million and the rest will be spent on the Memorial’s maintenance (in perpetuity, through the Exhibition Place and the City of Toronto), on the unveiling ceremony and on the educational component that will include field trips and other programs to enlighten students and the general public about the Holodomor, a genocidal famine organized by the Stalin’s regime in Ukraine in the 1930-s.

According to the chair of the Holodomor Memorial Project – Toronto, Oksana Rewa, the project has already collected over $1.0 million and the donations continue coming from members of the Ukrainian Canadian community. The main contributors are: Temerty Family Foundation ($500,000), Ukrainian Credit Union and Buduchnist Credit Union ($100,000 each), Shevchenko Foundation and Ihnatowycz Family Foundation ($50,000 each) and George and Jean Ochrym ($25,000 – the cost of sponsoring and importing of the statue “Bitter Memory of Childhood” by Petro Drozdowsky, which is now the internationally recognized symbol of Holodomor). There are about 150 donors who have contributed from $1,000-$25,000.

Everybody, who contributed over $1,000, will have their name on a plaque at the Memorial and those, who gave under $1,000, will be named in the Memorial’s program. The total number of contributors has so far exceeded 300.

The Memorial’s major donor, the Temerty family, descends from the Holodomor survivors. The parents of James Temerty and Ludmilla Temertey, Raissa and Illya, who come from the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, lived through the Holodomor. Ludmilla Temertey created the Holodomor monument in Edmonton, which was opened in 1983 and became the first Holodomor monument in Canada.

The Holodomor Memorial project is still collecting funds. If the funds surpass the budget of $1.5 million, the money will be put forward to education purposes about the Holodomor.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"My Father’s Calling" By Sarah K. Stephens

(Hazlitt) - I don’t remember the eulogy spoken for my father at his funeral.

On that day almost six years ago, I sat in my childhood church’s well-worn pews of pale wood unable to comprehend the words offered as both a supposed comfort and a celebration. Although my body ached with loss, it wasn’t the fogginess of grief that created this disconnect for me. I couldn’t grasp a single word because the eulogizer spoke in Russian, a language my father did not speak and a language none of his family, including myself, understood. The man who took this honor of remembrance was the Bishop assigned to our Russian Orthodox parish, and he barely knew my father.

I grew up as a PK—priest’s kid, as we say in the Orthodox Christian community, a moniker that often requires our own practiced explanation of this label, as most people associate priesthood with celibacy. In Orthodoxy, though, a man’s calling to the priesthood is expected to be embodied by his wife and children. As a result, the requirements of life in the Church molded my childhood: No sleepovers on Saturdays because of Sunday Liturgies. A full week of services heading into Holy Pascha and the following Bright Week. And a striving pride to show the Russian roots of my family.

The senior priest, my father’s mentor at my church in Youngstown, Ohio, was a first-generation American born to Russian immigrants. Most of our parishioners were first- or second-generation Americans whose parents or grandparents had emigrated from Russia.

This elder priest’s preferences for certain parish members over others seemed to hinge on their level of engagement in Russian culture. Over the years, a string of immigrant families directly from Russia also passed through our church’s doors and into our elder priest’s back office. They would leave with as much help as he could provide for them, often offering up apartments owned by our church for nominal rent or jobs as janitors or landscapers.

However forgiving he was of his new immigrant families for failing to attend church, prepare for Communion, or participate in Confession, he was equally critical of his more acculturated flock. He was a priest who could love as well as he could hurt, and the dwindling parish attendance over the years spoke to his tendency to put a church member’s culture over their commitment.

My father was the rare second-generation American whose grandparents believed there was no value in teaching their future generations Russian, as they were in America now. It was a conviction that later created a constant tension for my father in his calling to the priesthood.

My father spent his entire religious life in some form of service behind the altar of our church. He began in his boyhood as an altar server, moved up in his young adulthood to be ordained as a deacon, and finally was elevated to the priesthood when I was a teenager. Afterwards, he shared a place as parish priest beside his long-time mentor in the same church he’d attended since he was a boy. Despite his advancement in the church, though, my father’s performance as a Russian Orthodox clergy member remained under close scrutiny.

Other clergy members, both above and beneath him in the Church’s hierarchy, would regularly chastise my father for his failings. He didn’t grow the full beard and long hair adopted by the traditional Russian clergy, because his facial hair came in so sparsely. When he did try to meet this requirement, his beard would grow in scattered patches across his chin and cheeks, and he would be further remonstrated for looking so unkempt. Instead of marrying a Russian Orthodox girl, he’d married my mother, a Slovak Catholic. Although she converted to Orthodoxy, my mother’s presence as an outsider in the church persists to this day and she is still refused the proper address for a priest’s wife, Matushka, by select parishioners and clergy alike. My father never set foot in Russia himself. His linguistic limitations meant he couldn’t hear the confessions of the Russian immigrants who attended our parish.

And the list goes on and on.

Never seen this technique before

(Stephanos & Alexandria Missionaries to Albania ) - Have you ever wondered how a can priest bring Holy Communion to the sick throughout the year without celebrating Liturgy?

Every Holy Thursday, an extra Amnos is consecrated during the Liturgy of St. Basil that is celebrated in the morning. This second Amnos is carefully dried by one of the priests of the parish and placed in an Artoforion which is kept in the Tabernacle. When a parishioner is unable to attend liturgy due to extenuating circumstances, the priest will take a small crumb of the consecrated Amnos, in a special container, together with a small spoon and wine and will travel to the parishioner so that they may receive the Holy Gifts.

Here, At Jovan is drying the Amnos that will be kept in the Tabernacle of the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral until next year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

On the innovation of Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday

From Fr. John Whiteford's always useful "Stump the Priest" series (available here), a post entitled Stump the Priest: General Unction and Holy Week.

Question: Why do we not do the Unction Service on Holy Wednesday?

Answer: The common practice among Greeks, Antiochians, and in some other parishes, of doing General Unction on the evening of Holy Wednesday is not an ancient practice. There is no mention of doing this service on that day in the Typikon, or in the Triodion. The Unction service makes no mention of Holy Week, and so stands completely outside of the liturgical cycle of Holy Week.

There is a service that is appointed to be done on Holy Wednesday evening and that is the Matins of Holy Thursday, which is what we do in our parish. This service commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the Mystical Supper, the washing of the feet of the disciples, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas. So this service is not an inconsequential part of Holy Week, but unfortunately, those parishes that do General Unction on Holy Wednesday, rarely do this service.

So why is it that this practice originated? There is evidence of doing General Unction in conjunction with Holy Week that is ancient -- though it was never the universal practice. At various times, it has been done on Lazarus Saturday, Holy Saturday, or Holy Thursday. Unction is the sacrament of healing, both of soul and body. If you are seriously ill, you can ask the priest to do an Unction service, so that the parish can pray that you will be healed. Also, if you have a serious spiritual illness, you can do the same. If you read the letters of the saintly Fr. John (Krestiankin), for example, you will find that he often counselled people to do so, and to take the unction oil home, and anoint themselves with it daily. The purpose of doing General Unction in conjunction with Holy Week was to prepare the faithful spiritually for Holy Week.

During the period of Turkish occupation, there was a more practical reason for the spread of this practice, and also why it was done on the day prior to the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Thursday. The Turks made it very difficult for the Church to properly educate its clergy. Consequently, the only educated priests were generally monks, and so only they were usually given a blessing to hear confessions. This led to the unfortunate practice of infrequent communion, because it was not possible for the average laymen to confess to such priests, and during Holy Week, the need for confession was greater than the supply of those priests who could hear them. And so on Holy Wednesday, General Unction was served as a substitute for confession, so that the faithful could receive communion at the Holy Week Liturgies that were to follow. The original practice was not to displace the Matins of Holy Thursday, but rather to precede it. However, if you do the General Unction service fully, it takes about 3 hours, not counting however long it takes to actually anoint the faithful, and so over time the Holy Thursday Matins was general displaced. The reason why the practice developed is understandable, but it is problematic for a couple of reasons.
  1. Unction should not be used as a substitute for Confession, under normal circumstances. In fact, in Russian practice, one must have gone to Confession recently in order to receive Unction. The problems created by Turkish occupation were not normal, but there is no reason why the exceptional should become the norm, when the exception is no longer necessary.
  2. This has generally encouraged an indifference to the need for regular Confession.
  3. Doing this service on this day, as noted already, obscures some of the most important commemorations in Holy Week,
For those who have grown up with the practice of doing General Unction on Holy Wednesday, the service is one of the best attended services, and I can understand their reluctance to change it. But be that as it may, this has not been the Russian practice, and we have never done it in our parish.

Furthermore, even if I wanted to adopt this practice (which I don't), our bishop would not allow it. In the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, different bishops have different practices, but generally they do not allow a single priest to serve General Unction by himself. Some bishops only allow General Unction to be served when they are presiding, and they generally require that 6 priest concelebrate the service with them -- the service ideally should have 7 concelebrating priests or bishops (there being 7 Epistle and Gospel readings, and 7 anointings). Our own bishop serves this service once each Lent, when we have our Lenten Clergy retreat, which allows for there to be enough priests to serve it. Archbishop Peter allows priests to serve this service elsewhere in the diocese, without the need for him to preside, but there must be a bare minimum of two priests, and preferably, at least 3. But doing this service instead of Holy Thursday Matins is not the normal practice anywhere in ROCOR that I am aware of.

I do think the practice of doing General Unction during Lent as an aid to preparation for Holy Week has value, and we may, in the future, serve it, if at least one other priest is willing to concelebrate it with me. If so, we will probably try to do it during the sixth week of Lent (depending on when Annunciation falls). But I cannot imagine failing to serve the Matins of Holy Thursday, and it is unfortunate that so many Orthodox Christians have never seen this service actually served.

I would also encourage more of our parishioners to ask for the Unction service when they have a serious physical or spiritual illness (such as an addiction, depression, etc).

For More Information:

"The Anointing of the Sick," by Paul Meyendorf

"A Liturgical Explanation of Holy Week," by Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Holy Wednesday, Holy Unction

The below is a good review of holy unction. I've added a few comments. There will also be a follow-up post on why some Churches do not do this service at all on Holy Wednesday. Good strength to all as we near Pascha!

(GOA-Toronto) - “Is any among you sick? Let them call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-5). These are the words of St. James and he leaves no doubt that the sacrament of Unction is established by God. Historically, it is proven that the sacrament of Unction was celebrated in conjunction with Repentance and Confession.

From these words of St. James the purpose of the sacrament is vividly clear. It is bodily healing and forgiveness of sins. And as the priest anoints with Holy Unction, he says that this sacrament is for the “healing of the soul and the body.”

The sacrament of Holy Unction is celebrated every time a Christian needs it. As we noted in a previous lesson, the sacrament is not an obligatory, but a voluntary sacrament. It is good, though, for all Christians to draw near to this sacrament. This is why our Church has laid down that the sacrament be celebrated in Church every Holy Wednesday. Some Churches allow for only a single sacrament of unction for a single illness. So in some places you can't "double dip" unction. Some jurisdictions also have restrictions on children and unction.

Just as with all sacraments, so too here, if we expect to have the proper results we must accept the sacrament with faith. Of course, an ill person is not always healed, because God may have another plan for him.

Holy Unction does not replace Repentance and Confession. In essence, the forgiveness of sins comes through faith in God, sincere repentance, and confession of sins. In fact, you should not be coming to unction unless you have made a recent confession. Some jurisdictions are sticklers on this while others aren't, but the discipline remains: Unction is not a shortcut to healing that obviates the need for repentance.

The sacrament is celebrated with olive oil, reading of Holy Scripture, blessings, prayers, and anointing in the form of the cross. As it's a sacrament, there is no taking any oil home (on a q-tip, in a baggie, etc.). That said, people will try every year to get clergy to do this for them.

Holy and Heavenly Father, Who are the perfect physician doctor of our souls and bodies, Who sent Your only begotten Son–our Lord Jesus Christ–to heal every illness and redeem us from death, hear our prayers. Touch us with Your fatherly hand and with Your divine grace. Heal us from every bodily and spiritual illness. Give us life. Give our bodies life, freeing them from every illness. Give our souls life, cleansing them from every sin. Guide our steps to the sacrament of Holy Unction. Make us receive it with true faith, repentance, and be filled with life, physically and spiritually. O, Lord, how greatly we thank You for the sacraments of our Church, through which our salvation is accomplished.