DO WE SPEAK OUT ENOUGH?

The Protection of the Theotokos

Earlier in the week the “March for Life” rally as held in Washington, D.C. It is held to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.  This year marked the 38th. anniversary of that court ruling. The question I would like to pose does not have direct bearing on the issue of abortion, as disturbing as it is; but the general topic of the Church and social consciousness.  Do we, as an Orthodox community, speak out as often as we should or with a loud enough voice on pressing social issues and moral concerns in this country?

Looking below the surface of this question, what the real question that underlies this concern is; are we comfortable in this country, yet? Have we grown comfortable and confident enough to freely comment on the pressing issues of our society or that confront our nation?  This question has bearing on the degree, which we now view ourselves as fully American. Is this country home; or do we still feel like the Diaspora? If we answer by declaring this home, then we absolutely have an obligation to speak with a loud voice of moral guidance based on an Orthodox ethos and ethics.

There is part of me that looks at our reticence to speak with a loud voice as a consequence of our immigrant background.  As an immigrant Church, we did not speak out due to our own sense of isolation and insecurity. Our community and even our leadership, both clergy and laity, felt isolated, inferior and was focused introspectively.  We looked inward. Fortunately, these days are behind us; or are they?   It is fitting to raise our voices in the event of a catastrophe or a difficulty befalling a sister Orthodox community anywhere in the world.  This is our duty and our responsibility, to focus the American society and leadership on the difficulties our fellow Orthodox face.  But, do we not also have a responsibility to speak to issues that our country faces.  Please, encourage our leadership to speak out. Hierarch, clergy and knowledgable lay leadership need to speak out and to attempt to positively influence the course of our nation.  The Orthodox social conscious can be that new perspective that the American society needs to make better choices in these crucial times. May Our Lord Guide us all and may the Theotokos ever protect this great country.

Silent Voices (04 January 2011)

images

The pain on Pope Shenouda III’s face.

One of the sad consequences of our Orthodox disunity on this continent became so evident this week.   Unless you have been totally disconnected from current events, you could not help but noticing the tragic events in traditional Orthodox lands.  In Egypt, we witnessed the bloody martyrdom of Coptic Christians.  In Alexandria, the city of Sts. Athanasius, Cyril and many more luminaries of Orthodoxy, our sister Coptic Orthodox Christians were massacred by fanatics. In “Northern” Cyprus, Orthodox were murdered and Churches desecrated.  In Lebanon, a leader of the Christian community has correctly labeled the systematic elimination of Christians in the Middle East as genocide. In Palestine, we continue to here terrible reports from Fr. and Pres. Khoury about the misery the Palestinian Christians endure each day.  Even in New York, we continue to await the resolution of  issue of St. Nicholas Church at ground zero.  What do all these issues have in common?  The small voices of divided Orthodox leaders are barley heard above background noise!  Archbishop Demetrios issues a statement, Metropolitan Jonas prays for Egypt and unfortunately Constantinople must remain silent!  Since our voices are not united they can barely be heard.  Who cares what we say since, we have succeeded in marginalizing ourselves!

Our own disunity and divisions assure that no one pays attention to us.  We are small ethnic enclaves who are quoted in our own jurisdictional press and by a few niche publications.  We don’t make an impact; consequently we don’t make a difference. Critical events and essential issues present themselves and we provide little cogent Orthodox witness.  We live not only in a time when national and international events occur at break neck speed, but when moral and ethical judgments need an Orthodox compass.

If we insist on staying apart, how can we begin to have a louder voice?  What about a joint press office that would issue simultaneous press releases in New York and Washington, perhaps under the auspices of the Assembly of Bishops of the Orthodox Church.  What about a joint commission of Orthodox Theologians who could speak to moral and ethical concerns. Little voices are whispers and are not heard.  We must begin to act united and who knows it might get to be a habit!!

Note to My Readers in Russia

Sts. Boris and Gleb - Beloved Saints of the Russian Peoples

Sts. Boris and Gleb
Beloved Saints of the Russian Peoples

Greetings in the Lord !

I wish to thank my readers in the Orthodox Lands of Russia and all Orthodox Slavic Countries. You are appreciated, loved and I continue to pray for you.  I read all your comments, but I must depend on a translating software by Apple to translate them. Regrettably, I do not speak Russian.  All comments are screened. I approve those which can be translated.  I will spam all improper  or lewd comments, but will try my best to translate, read and approve all of them; even the critical ones. I will answer all questions that are proper.

May God strengthen Orthodoxy and your faith journey. Thank you for visiting my site. вы и Бог благословляет!

Dn. George

The Church of the Home

...with Faith and Love

…with Faith and Love

Teach Your Children Well

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.

I saw this beautiful photograph and immediately thought of this song from my youth by Crosby Stills and Nash. Now that I am a grandfather, the sentiment means so much more to me than it did in the sixties. The lesson you learn as a clergy man who is privileged to offer the Body and Blood of Our Lord to the faithful is that children show if they have been taught well. How children approach the Holy Chalice says worlds about their first Church, the Church of the Home. I have heard many opinions and arguments concerning frequent communion, but none are as powerful as a child approaching the Holy Cup with love and joy. Please, don’t misunderstand me all of us, even children, will have an off day. Perhaps, they’re tired or restless or it’s just one of those days. But, you can always tell a little one who comes to Church often and receives Christ in their life often. They show the love in their hearts with their eyes.

Teach your children well…All of us parents, grandparents and Godparents should teach well. There are many of us who teach, even if we don’t have children. Yes, we are all on a road and for a short time we carry little ones, until they walk on their own. Instilling a code they can live by is our responsibility. The community of faith is all of us; and we all have a duty to pass on this faith. We live in a world that at best ignores faith. Even worse, it can ridicule and denigrate faith. We cannot teach faith only on a Sunday morning. We must live our faith each day and reflect the love of Christ in our hearts with joy. Carefully answer questions of the young putting Christ first. We have all heard the expression, “We teach by example.” The lyric says: “so become yourself,” becoming your genuine self is living in Christ each day. Do this and with God’s help, you will teach your children well!

The Face of an Angel

The Angel of Ayia Sophia

The Angel of Ayia Sophia

Last week, I brought to your attention the news out of Istanbul that a mosaic of an angel’s face was uncovered in Agia Sophia Cathedral (Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας).  The latest news is that this mosaic was above what was the Holy Altar.  It appears the face was part of the Platytera Mosaic in the main apse. So from the six century until the end of the fifteen century, this angelic face gazed at the Theotokos and the Christ Child.  The faithful looked up for 916 years, that is from 537 AD when Justinian the Emperor finished the Cathedral to 1453 AD when the mosaics were plastered over. All those years the clergy, the laity and the imperial household chanted this hymn:

“All creation rejoices in thee, O Thou that art full of grace, both in the hierarchy of the Angels and the generations of men.  Thou art a hallowed temple, and a spiritual paradise, the glory of virgins, whence God was made flesh and became a little Child, He Who is from Eternity our God. For He made thy womb His throne, and formed Thy body to be broader than the Heavens.  All creation rejoices in Thee, O thou that art full of grace, glory to Thee. “

Now once again, the angelic face is visible. Waiting there to join with the heavenly host to sing praises to the Incarnate One and the Theotokos, who is “more honourable than the Cherubim; and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” This is a manifestation of the true purpose not only of the angel, but also of the temple.  The way the angel was covered suggests that it may be the first to be uncovered and that more may be awaiting under the surface to be revealed.  From iconographic schemes, angels are usually not placed singularly, except for the Archangels. Our prayer is that this is the first, of many, we will see.  Just as we know that each of us is accompanied by our guardian angel, this uncovered angel has been as a silent guardian to the image of the Platytera and the Incarnate Christ.  Axios!

Platytera


The Hidden Angel

The Great Church in Captivity

The Great Church in Captivity

“A Turkish official says restoration workers have uncovered the never-before-seen mosaic face of an angel at Istanbul’s Haghia Sophia – a former Byzantine cathedral.”

This was a headline on the Fox News website. This really disturbed me, as it should all Orthodox Christians. “Never before seen,” what about those countless Christians who worshipped in the Church of the Holy Wisdom from the time of Justinian, until the fall of Constantinople. Don’t they count? This is revisionist history at it finest! The angel was not seen since the Ottomans plastered them over to hide the Truth. So, those Orthodox Christians who prayed in the Cathedral, who placed the mosaic are not to be heard. How sad! Where are the voices telling the world how false these assertions are? Who speaks for the Church in captivity, forced to keep it mouth shut to endure? Where is St. Maximos, St. Mark of Ephesus, the voice of the Church? We are a Church in captivity, a Church muzzled for the sake of political expediency. But, where are the voices in the West? Cannot we speak with a loud voice? The sad thing is the only time we scream with our voices is to criticise the Church and her leaders. The Patriarch did this, the Archbishop didn’t do this, our Metropolitan said the wrong thing. How very sad. Why can’t we speak with a loud voice to decry injustice and to say, this is not a dead Church. It was, is and always will be, at its heart a Church built to the Glory of God. That angel’s image should reminds us of the Seraphim that surrounds the throne God. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of Your Glory!”

Can We Rejoice?

The Holy Theological School of Halki

The Holy Theological School of Halki

In the last few weeks, we have heard from various sources that the secular government in Turkey is planning to allow the historic Holy Theological School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, located on the island of Halki, to open, again.   The Monastery of the Holy Trinity on Halki was founded during Byzantine period. The establishment of the monastery can be traced back to St. Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople, (858–861 and 878–886). The Halki seminary was founded by Patriarch Germanos IV in 1844 at the monastery. It was intended to supply priests for the Ottoman Empire’s Greek minority, it expanded and grew in size and facilities. Set amid cool pines and palm trees, the seminary has the high ceilings, wide halls and well-worn wooden desks of schools built before computers and air conditioning; but this celebrated school has trained generations of scholars, priests and its graduates became bishops and future patriarchs. As a reaction to the Cypriot/Turkish/Greek crisis, the School was closed by the Turkish officials in 1971. For over thirty-five years, this violation of international law has caused great distress and generated calls for the reopening of the School by government, religious, academic and civic   leaders across the world.  In a past Reuters’ article, this comment was made on the closure: “We have not lost hope, despite the broken promises, because a person only lives as long as he has hope. Even on his deathbed, he resists the end,” His Eminence Metropolitan Apostolos (Daniilidis) of Moschonissia, Halki’s abbot, said from his office atop the “Hill of Hope” on Heybeliada (Halki). Perhaps, the moment we have hoped for has arrived!  Hope for the historic step was generated by statements from Turkish officials. “The Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada is to be reopened,” Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay said, and adding that they are searching for a formula to integrate the Orthodox theological school into Turkey’s university system. “Although we have not finalized a decision in the Cabinet, my personal impression is that we are going to open the seminary,” said Günay, speaking on Kanal 24 television over [last] the weekend.  This was not the first time a statement with the same tenor has been made by Turkish officials in the last few weeks.

The Holy Trinity Chapel and the School

The Holy Trinity Chapel and the School

The need for Halki is beyond question. Yes, there are good Orthodox Theological schools elsewhere in the world.  Students will attend these schools and get a good education to serve their local churches.  In my opinion, the need for Halki centres on two loci. One, the Patriarchate needs trained clergy and scholars.  These men and women, (yes, I believe Halki should train women theologians) should be prepared and educated, at the very highest level, with an international vision, which focuses on the needs of an international Orthodoxy for the future. In this world of mass media, global communications, and instantaneous change; the Phanar needs to train its own “specialists” in an academic environment that it designs and controls. This prerequisite makes the design of the curriculum critical.  Yes, students should receive the treasury (parakatatheki) of Tradition, but this must be transmitted with the tools of the twenty-first century. Additionally, the perspective of the “needs” of the Patriarchate are not the focus of any institution; Halki would provide this frame of reference. The School would also be a fount of post graduate and exchange student training. These students would come to Turkey from all over the world. Furthermore, the requirements of Turkish law make the training of clergy in Turkey imperative.  Without this source of clergy and future hierarchy, the Patriarchate is slowly strangled, it withers and dies.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Redone needs to be encouraged and thanked for his courageous stance.  We pray that this step occurs quickly.  The world community would, no doubt, look favourably on a government which corrects the errors of the past and looks to the future.

IV Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference

Representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches were called to meet by his All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. They met the 6th – 12th June 2009 at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, Switzerland to discuss one topic, the Orthodox Churches of the Diaspora. We are the Diaspora.  The definition of what the “Diaspora” can be found below (see the underlined text) in the portions of the communiqué that was issued at the conference. The reason that this whole process has started is because our Church structure is, quite frankly, uncanonical.  Why you ask?  Well, the canons of the Church state: that there is One Orthodox Bishop in a city for all Orthodox in that geographical area.  Here in the States, for example, you can have a Greek Orthodox bishop, an Antiochian Orthodox bishop, an OCA bishop, a Serbian bishop and more in the same city. THIS IS NOT THE WAY THE SYSTEM WAS DESIGNED.  Our history is quite complex and the reality is that the Orthodox in America, Western Europe and Australia are organised ethnically.  This is not an acceptable situation.  His All Holiness and the other Church leaders realise this and are starting to begin a process that will remedy this situation. The representatives met under the president-ship of Metropolitan John of Pergamon,

Metropolitan John

Metropolitan John of Pergamon

who was appointed by the Patriarch. This is part of their statement.

“The Conference expressed the willingness of Orthodox Churches to solve the problem of the canonical organisation of the Orthodox Diaspora, conforming to ecclesiology, tradition and canonical practice of the Orthodox Church. The Conference decided to create new episcopal assemblies in some regions of the world to order the question of the Diaspora, i.e. the Orthodox faithful installed in areas beyond The traditional boundaries of the local Orthodox Churches. The presidents of the Assemblies are bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the given region, and in their absence, the bishops in accordance with the order of the Diptichs of the Churches. All the bishops of the Orthodox Churches who exercise their pastoral ministry in the communities existing in each of these regions are members of these Assemblies. The Episcopal Assemblies are for the mission to manifest and promote the unity of the Orthodox Church, to exercise pastoral diakonia to the faithful of the region and to render to the world their common witness. The decisions of the Episcopal Assemblies are taken in accordance with the principle of unanimity of the Churches represented within these Assemblies by bishops.

…The remaining topics of the holy and great Council, i.e. the method of proclaiming of autocephaly and autonomy, and the order of Diptichs, will be discussed in future meetings of the preparatory inter-orthodox commission and will be submitted for approval to the following Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences.”

These representative will meet again, in the mean time we PRAY!