A Prophetic Word

Most definitely a call to repentance, from America’s greatest Preacher.

These are sobering words. Billy Graham prophecies judgment upon America, saying that we are “worse than Sodom and Gomorrha.” http://www.cnsnews.com/mrctv-blog/michael-w-chapman/rev-billy-graham-america-just-wicked-sodom-and-gomorrah-ever-were11

It’s gotten so bad in Graham’s estimation that judgment is inevitable. Prayer and repentance will only mitigate the severity of the bowls of wrath that will be overturned upon us because of our sins. But that’s only if we return to prayer. Unfortunately many of us are caught in Catch-22; we don’t see the need for repentance at all. We continue to think that we are a good people and that Some Other Nation is the font of evil. Or something. Anybody but us. That is why we continue to pursue policies that will export our pathologies to other lands.

Oh well, if we are so willfully blinded then those of us who are repentant can hope that perhaps we’ll escape the worst of it. Possibly. Regardless, God’s will be done.

About GShep


  1. Virginia Dean says

    So why aren’t the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox church leaders in the front ranks for the call to repent? The answer is self-evident-they are part of the problem and special and harsh judgment is reserved for them. Stop blaming America. Blame the so-called Successors to the Holy Apostles.

    • Graham has been saying these things since the 1960s and 70s, and he said it in measured, non-inflammatory terms — but very clearly: America must repent, or it will face judgment and consequences. At that time, he was speaking to the last America of which the majority was at least nominally Protestant. In addition, while he was unmistakably evangelical, he made remarkable (for the time) efforts to preach in such a way that non-Protestants could heed his warnings without feeling that they needed to abandon their Christian traditions to do so. (I remember one particular television special about a visit to Russia in which Russian Orthodoxy was portrayed in a surprisingly positive light.)

      Blame Orthodox hierarchs for failing to preach repentance and soul-saving traditional morality to their flocks. Blame Orthodox hierarchs for failing to evangelize and bring people into the one true church. Fine.

      But it is absolutely nonsensical to blame Orthodox hierarchs for not calling an entire nation to repentance — a nation that today knows little or nothing of Christianity — let alone Christianity in its apostolic fullness in Orthodoxy. Bishops in Russia could do that 100 years ago — but they do not have the standing to do that today to America as a whole. The Patriarch of Constantinople could preach repentance to the dioceses for which he is primarily responsible (largely in Turkey). How’s that evangelistic effort of his to reconvert Turkey going?… Either he or the Archbishop of Athens could preach repentance to an increasingly secularized nation of Greece. Is that happening in a way that the Apostles would recognize?

      Graham, like other Prostestants, is misguided. But he tapped into some sort of apostolic imperative that he learned about from Holy Scripture. That generation to whom Graham preached 40-50 years ago was the last generation of Americans that could have responded to such a call, by Graham and others. The only hope that this nation had of preserving a semblance of a Christian ethos was in its Protestant form, and it was 40-50 years ago. America didn’t heed (to say the least), and we are on an irrevocable path to a post-Christian America. Protestantism reached its limits, and Roman Catholicism chose that moment in time to self-implode in a cloud of clown masses and liturgical blasphemies, rendering it useless as an alternative.

      Orthodoxy has two choices: it can follow the Syosset path into “Eastern Rite Anglicanism,” (and extinction as anything but a historical curiosity trotted out for show at ecumenical gatherings) or it can return to its roots. After all, long before Christianity was the state religion of the Roman Empire (or of any state), it was like a cancer in the body politic of the Empire — a subversive force that was treated as such by the powers that be.

      And so it continued, until spiritually enlightened rulers realized (cf. Fr. John Romanides on this point) that Christianity, far from being a poison, was a medicine and a cure for the ailments of their societies, leading them to adopt it.

      Orthodoxy in any meaningful form (and this cuts across jurisdictional lines — I have seen the meaningful and the irrelevant in every jurisdiction) will by definition be drastically out of step with current and future American life. There will be no acceptance unless there is accommodation that guts us of our faith. And there will be parishes, priests, and bishops (usually insecure ones) who will gladly gut their own faith for the sake of acceptance.

      • Well, Well, Well says

        Orthodox Hierarchs continue to “preach” about repentance but when those who are preaching are morally compromised, like all too many in the ranks of a certain small Orthodox jurisdiction in America, such preaching is empty and deceptive.

        Now, the OCA has elevated a man to the rank of the episcopate who is morally compromised and once again the validity of their Synod has to be called into question. Birds of a feather and all that!

        And the ones who suffer? Not the bishops who replicate themselves based on their own compromised personal lives, no, not them, but the faithful clergy and faithful. This is the great sin that goes unanswered for now but it will be answered when the Lord judges them.

        And why don’t more morally straight clergy speak up? For fear that they will be hounded and punished. If a prophetic voice would raise his or her voice to these men, they would lash out to protect themselves and not the Church of Christ.

        It is enough to make one run from such a toxic leadership brew. And people are, for the sake of their salvation, to safe havens. May God shelter them in His love and mercy.

        Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          Shame on you for bringing gossip into this and advocating schism. Shame on George for not vetting this grotesque accusation without any proof. Finally, shame on all those who gave a thumbs up this drive-by slander and appeal to schism. May I suggest to the coward, “well well well” who is hiding behind a pen-name, that quoting Scripture is sometimes a matter of projection, in the psychological sense (Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others). So when you are quoting Matthew Chapter 23, Verse 27, know that I look at you as one of the “whited sepulchres” who is full of “all uncleanliness.” You stink and have polluted this discussion. Those who gave a thumbs up are also hypocrites and cowards, and stink to high heaven.

        • Isa Almisry says

          “in the ranks of a certain small Orthodox jurisdiction in America…Now, the OCA…”
          Since the OCA is the second largest Orthodox jurisdiction in America, what does that say about the rest except the Greeks (who have had their own problems in this matter)?

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          I guess “well well well” is one of those “always a bridesmaid; never a bride” ypes?

  2. Sean Richardson says

    One of the great ironies of America is while we proclaim that we are the model of democracy, the “City on a Hill”, we also proclaim that we are worse than every other country: Our racism in America is worse than it is anyplace else in the world (obviously people who say this have never traveled anywhere else in the world); we were the root of the evils of the slave trade (in fact, only 4-5% of all slaves from Africa ended up in what is today the USA … 95-96% ended up elsewhere); we treat our poor worse than any other country treats their poor; and on and on. If we are to turn-America-around, the first thing we need to do is to establish a reasonable view of ourselves. We can only love our neighbors AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. Unfortunately in our bipolar political environment, it is very difficult to see ourselves as we are, without either the glowing terms of triumphalism or the pessimistic terms of self-deprecation.

  3. Amen! That is one problem.

    The second is that we know that God is a gentleman and does not enter unless asked. For quite some time now we have been asking him to butt out of our affairs. The absence of God is a terrible thing.

  4. God is invited into, or is shut out of, the hearts of individuals, not of countries or any other collective noun. America is not godly or godless, its individual citizens are godly or godless. Everybody wants to look for monsters elsewhere. As a corollary to St. Seraphim I propose: if there are thousands around you unsaved, maybe you have not done enough yourself to acquire the Spirit of Peace.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Though true as far as it goes, it’s also a tedious argument in some ways. If our nation (or other nations for that matter) aren’t called to be godly, then what’s to stop us from doing the unthinkable? Why not the death penalty for burglary? Why not conscript welfare-recipients into chain gangs? Better yet, why not have our prisoners engage in gladiatorial combat in the arena for our amusement? Would it salve your conscience any to say to yourself “well, my countrymen may partake of those pursuits but I am a Christian and I go to church and mind my own business”?

      My point is this: Christians didn’t disengage from Rome, they challenged it and made it better.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        I think you’re right, George. Collectively, we either live up to the Judeo-Christian principles upon which this country was founded, or we don’t. I think (saying this with great trepidation) that for the most part, we do. God honors that. We have been humbled, to be sure, but that is just further evidence that God is invested in our well being.

        Look at Kent State. In the Kent State shootings, the Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. As a county, we were horrified!!! That happened in 1970 and hasn’t happened since. In contrast, look at the deaths at the hands of the governing powers in other countries. Tens of thousands are killed. THAT does not happen here; not since 1865 and even then, President Lincoln entered into the Civil War, reluctantly, not to maintain power. His family didn’t own the economy. By all accounts, he was pragmatic and had great integrity. Our civil war was over a principle concerning a way of life; it was never about keeping a president in power or ousting him. Accusations of brutality, akin to suicide bombings and terrorism, were unheard of. Women and children weren’t kidnapped or raped. We just don’t operate like that. (Certainly, there are true psychopaths who get off on that kind of thing, but they do not define our county.)

        I believe God honors our differences and blesses us in spite of our obvious failings.

        May God continue to bless America.

      • If our nation (or other nations for that matter) aren’t called to be godly, then what’s to stop us from doing the unthinkable? Why not the death penalty for burglary? Why not conscript welfare-recipients into chain gangs? Better yet, why not have our prisoners engage in gladiatorial combat in the arena for our amusement? Would it salve your conscience any to say to yourself “well, my countrymen may partake of those pursuits but I am a Christian and I go to church and mind my own business”?

        My point is this: Christians didn’t disengage from Rome, they challenged it and made it better.

        Many punishments inflicted by “Christian” governments like the (Byzantine) Romans and Holy Russia were far more unjust, gruesome, and inhumane than those described here.

        • George Michalopulos says

          The punishments inflicted by Christian governments were meted out because of due process, not because of fun and games. Using your example of moral equivalence, we should open up all our prisons and emancipate all prisoners –murderers even–since prison = slavery. (BTW, the 13th Amendment did not end slavery per se, only chattel slavery based on race.)

          • The punishments inflicted by Christian governments were meted out because of due process, not because of fun and games.

            Just to scratch the surface: The various ordeals which were used to assign guilt in the medieval West, Byzantium, and Holy Russia were neither fun and games nor due process. Surely you’ve also heard of the (ordinary and eunuch slaves) of Byzantium, and the serfdom of Russia, which persisted until the 19th century? There’s Christian justice for you…

            • George Michalopulos says

              I’m sorry, I had to dust off my Runciman and Bruce Lincoln and Norwich and I couldn’t find references to the Byzantines, the first or second Bulgarian empires or Russia for that matter in which the laws and customs of Rome were in place. Specifically I couldn’t find any law in these empires which mandated that a family was required to kill deformed children. I also found no instances of prisoners being put in gladiatorial contests. On the other hand, I did find numerous references in these and other historical books about Christians creating the first hospitals, universities and orphanages, with Byzantium leading the way. Could you please elaborate on your baseless assertions as to how exactly the above-named Christian polities were pagan?

              • Could you please elaborate on your baseless assertions as to how exactly the above-named Christian polities were pagan?

                No one claimed the polities were “pagan.” No one denied that Byzantium created hospitals. The point was that by the standard that was referenced – “due process” – many of the practices and legal institutions of the so-called Christian states of Byzantium and Russia would be judged very, very poorly. Instances of those practices were trials by ordeal. Slavery and serfdom were legally sanctioned. What serious person would claim that Byzantine slavery and Russian serfdom afforded “due process”? Whether your sources mention these widely acknowledged and understood facts of history is not relevant.

                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  OOM I would seriously suggest that you read Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell’s response below as he states this matter very succinctly. I think you have a lot more history to read as you seem to have an unrealistic and skewed perspective on things. Further, I am not here to make apologies for The Eastern Roman Empire or Holy Russia, as sinners and saints abounded in both entities, but was the totality of these entities a more merciful outlook based on Christian ethics? The answer would be yes.

                  Remember these are NOT angelic institutions, but human constructs trying the best they can to navigate through human events and the course of human living based upon Christian ethics the best they can implement them. Did they fail? Yes. However, its in their attempts to bring about a truly Christian society that their virtue rests.

                  I bid you peace.


                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    That is also the thesis of Jaroslav Pelikan’s Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture , where he makes the point that in Christian nations the lot of slaves, women and children got better over time. As you point out, they were not perfect.

                • I am shocked and horrified to learn that Russia in the 17th c. and Byzantium in the 4th c. would be unable to live up to the standards of 21st c. American liberalism. I feel certain that, could they have had a way to look into the future and see San Fancisco, Chicago, or NYC circa 2014, they would also be horrified and ashamed to learn they would someday fail to meet the moral standards upheld by the denizens and elected officials of those cities. Thankfully, we can be assured that early 21st century American liberals will never fail to live up to the standards of any civilized peoples of the future — no matter how many centuries may pass…

                  • Gail Sheppard says

                    I think the point is that God honors those who *try.* If He didn’t, there would be no point to the effort. We would all just go straight to hell.

                    My heart and resolve have yet to be broken, no doubt to many of your prayers. I KNOW I am not in hell and neither is this country.

                    May God continue to bless America.

            • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              The softening of the Roman penal code under Christian emperors is well attested. Only someone who hasn’t done any reading of Byzantine history would deny it.

              For example, pagan Roman law required that if a nobleman was murdered by one of his slaves, all of his slaves must be put to death, as actually happened in AD 61 when the nearly 400 slaves of Pedanius Secundus were slaughtered to avenge his murder. Such inhumanity was unthinkable among the Byzantines, who gradually reduced punishments for many crimes.

              The death penalty was limited to three crimes (treason, murder, and sodomy) and was seldom imposed. The Byzantines increasingly preferred banishment, confinement to a monastery, or mutilation to the death penalty. Runciman writes that mutilation might sound cruel and inhuman to us today, but given the choice of death or mutilation, most people then and now would choose mutilation.

              Christian emperors were slow to ban many things the Church preached against such as slavery, divorce, prostitution, pornography, and even public nudity. (In the late fourth century, after seventy years of Christian rule, St. John Chrysostom could still be heard upbraiding men in Antioch for flocking to a public water show featuring naked women in the role of nymphs.) But the empire’s new rulers did gradually bring Roman law more in line with Christian ethics.

              Constantine himself dealt the first blow to the gladiatorial games by ending the sentencing of convicts ad bestias (“to the beasts”), nearly drying up the supply of gladiators. Later emperors imposed additional restrictions and funding cuts before banning the games altogether in early fifth century.

              Another great evil Christians ended was sexual slavery, which was widespread in the Roman Empire and infrequently involved the sexual abuse of children, male and female. In his recent book From Shame to Sin (Harvard University Press, 2013), Kyle Harper at the University of Oklahoma writes that the pre-Christian empire’s sex industry drove its slave industry, although it should be said that slavery was a more humane alternative to slaughter for prisoners-of-war.

              As for Russia, serfdom was unknown in most of Russia until the 17th century. It was actually on the wane in Russia until Peter the Great Westernizer revived and extended it, but Russia was able to abolish it quickly and peacefully in 1861, without a civil war like the one that began that year here, which killed 750,000 people.

              • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                Pardon me, I meant “frequently involved the sexual abuse of children,” not “infrequently.”

  5. I liked the inter-jurisdictional nature of the folllowing open air prayer service blessing the ground for a new Greek Orthodox Churchof Saint Nicholas.


    NEW YORK – More than 2,000 people gathered yesterday Oct. 18, 2014 at 130 Liberty Street, the new site for Saint Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center, for the historic event of the Blessing of the Ground and the symbolic “laying of the corner stone.”

    The small and humble church of Saint Nicholas was the only house of worship destroyed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The new Greek Orthodox Saint Nicholas National Shrine Church, designed by world-renowned Architect Santiago Calatrava, is expected to begin construction this year and to be completed within 24 months.

    His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America presided at the agiasmos service, the sanctification of water and the blessing of the foundation for the new church.

    Family members of victims of 9/11 carried vessels of water from the two memorial pools, which now occupy the footprints of the fallen twin towers. The Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod, concelebrating the service, received the water and poured it into the crystal fount used for the sanctification of the water.

    Following the Agiasmos and as a symbolic act of “laying of the corner stone” for the new church, two Cairns (a memorial collection of stones) were built, with a total of 12 white marble stones each, layed down by donors and benefactors, community and institutional representatives and public officials. Archbishop Demetrios blessed with sanctified water the two Cairns, which will eventually be incorporated into the new church.

    “What we establish today will be a house of prayer and a place of peace, a place of hope and a place of love,” said Archbishop Demetrios in his remarks following the service. His Eminence recounted in brief the long road traveled in the last 13 years, he recognized the contributions and efforts of many individuals and in particular the “decisive action of Governor Andrew Cuomo.”

    Several officials delivered remarks. Former Governor of New York George Pataki spoke of his resolute commitment from the start to the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas. Architect Santiago Calatrava said that in his design for the new church edifice, his inspiration came from Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople. Senator Charles Schumer said that this day “is a testament to the courage of our spirit.” Patrick Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, spoke of the resolve of two men, the Archbishop and the Governor that led to this day of celebration. Metropolitan Methodios of Boston read a letter from His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Concelebrating the ground blessing service with Archbishop Demetrios were Metropolitans Iakovos of Chicago, Methodios of Boston, Alexios of Atlanta, Nicholas of Detroit, Savas of Pittsburgh, Gerasimos of San Francisco and Evangelos of New Jersey. Assisting the Hierarchs were Frs John Touloumes and John Romas, Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos and Deacon Eleftherios Constantine. Also present at the ceremony were the Chancellor of the Archdiocese Bishop Andonios of Phasiane and the Chief Secretary of the Synod Bishop Sevastianos of Zela.

    Religious leaders included Metropolitan Joseph (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America), Metropolitan Tikhon (Orthodox Church in America), Bishop Nicholas (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), Bishop Daniil (Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia), Bishop Daniel (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA) and Roman Catholic Bishop Gerald Walsh, representing Cardinal Dolan.

    Other officials present included former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Congressman Jerry Nadler, former Mayor of New York David Dinkins, New York State Senators Dean Skelos and Michael Giannaris; and Assemblywomen Aravella Simotas and Nicole Malliotakis, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and NY Councilman Costa Constantinides. Greece was represented by Ambassador to the United Nations Michael Spinellis and Counsul General in New York Goerge Iliopoulos. Cyprus was represented by Minister of Health Philippos Patsalis and Consul General Ambassador Vasileios Philippou.

    The service concluded with a moment of silence remembering the victims who perished in the tragic attacks on September 11. The program and the speakers were presented by Anthoula Katsimatides. The Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir chanted the service hymns. Georgia Linaris sang the concluding patriotic song “God Bless America.”

    Once rebuilt, the National Shrine will include a 2nd floor non-denominational bereavement center welcoming all those seeking comfort and prayer and a place of solace. For more information about Saint Nicholas National Shrine, or to make a donation, please visit: http://www.stnicholaswtc.org/

    Photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/stnicholaswtc/with/15380870609

    • NEW YORK – More than 2,000 people gathered yesterday Oct. 18, 2014 at 130 Liberty Street, the new site for Saint Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center, for the historic event of the Blessing of the Ground and the symbolic “laying of the corner stone.”

      Even the Orthodox can’t pass up an opportunity to milk the 9/11 victimhood bandwagon/industry for all it’s worth.

      • You do realize that (1) there is always a groundbreaking service when an Orthodox parish is built, and local dignitaries are frequently invited to such events, and (2) the parish was destroyed on 9/11 and rightly is being rebuilt near its original location?

        I fail to see how this is “milking” anything. Having non-Orthodox participate in the service (a Jew reading the Old Testament) was a bit much, but I didn’t see anything amiss.

      • Arthur Wallace says

        “Even the Orthodox can’t pass up an opportunity to milk the 9/11 victimhood bandwagon/industry for all it’s worth.”

        Not all Orthodox, but the Greeks. This “Hellenic Shrine” will be a far cry from the simple original St. Nick’s. The Greeks are taking every opportunity possible to blow their own horn; hubris, hubris and more hubris.

        • Arthur Wallace,

          What a cynical post. You write as if you are really envious of the Greek Orthodox, a double sin on your part.

          Let’s face it, only the Greeks in the USA would be able to pull off such a monumental acheivement to replace the destroyed St. Nicholas church. The historic consequences of 9/11, dare one say, require that a Shrine and not just the simple and humble St. Nicholas church be built. The events of 9/11 catuputed St Nicholas from a small lower Manhattan parish into a national/international point of focus.

          Greeks are not ashamed to be Greek. God can judge this as He sees fit, but for you to call what will become the single-most visible Orthodox witness in New York, visited by millions of people annually, hubris and opportunism is shameful. Why shameful? Because many will convert to the Orthodox faith because of the St. Nicholas Shrine at Ground Zero and that makes the sacrifice, not only of the thousands who perished even more heroic but the loss of little and holy old St. Nicholas Church a worthy sacrifice for the Glory of God.

          • George Michalopulos says

            James, you are right –as far as it goes. Only the Greeks could have pulled this off. But at what cost? The “shrine” itself is a modernist contraption that has no overt Christian trappings. At the most, they are subdued. My fear is that in time it’s going to be a “house of ecumenical worship” with only a tangential relationship to the GOA. The word “shrine” is troublesome. Why not “church” or better yet “parish”?

            Now please understand, I have no problem with it rebirth being recognized as part and parcel of the rebirth of Lower Manhattan following the atrocity of Sept 11. None at all. If anything, it would be better if the GOA found an evangelical voice to preach the Gospel from this edifice, both now and when it’s completed. My fear is that it will devolve into a museum.

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              That is my fear as well. We successfully fought off a mosque being built nearby, but St. Nicholas had roots and history there. The GOAA, I feel, missed a golden opportunity not only to tell the world about Orthodoxy, which American have no idea who or what we are, but blew a wonderful opportunity to evangelize with the proclamation of the Gospel during this whole process of erecting St. Nicholas.

              If this “Shrine” will be a fully active church with the full cycle of services standing strong against Islamic Terrorism on one side and secular humanism/atheism/nihilism on the other then good for the GOAA, for all American Orthodox and most of all for The Gospel. BUT, as George said, if it devolves into a museum, which it might, then really why did we rebuild it? As a monument to Hellenism? Greek Orthodoxy that people know nothing about, and what they will learn may not be correct or the fullness of the faith?

              Everything we do MUST be for the proclamation of the Gospel. In any event. Lets wait and see. I will reserve judgment until this “shrine” is up and running. We Greeks have been a good surprise lately. As Bishop Kallistos Ware said in his book “The Orthodox Church” about the Greek Orthodox – “There is still life in the old tree” (paraphrase).


    • James Denney says

      Calatrava’s design looks to me like one of those Igloo dog houses, only on a larger scale. I will donate $1,000 to the project for each time my opinion was asked as a member of the Church regarding what the design should look like. Oh wait, the hierarchy didn’t ask anyone, did they?

      • James Denney,

        A barn can be converted into holy space by the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Right? I think you are missing the more important point. But I am sorry if you are a licensed architect and they didn’t consult you, or maybe they did and they rejected your design.

        • James Denney says

          I have attended liturgy in a cave, buddy. My point is that the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church NEVER asks for input on such things, and as a result of their rising clericalism in America, they are losing support. Empty Churches are the result. I have visited and attended many beautiful Churches in Crete, and there are beautiful churches all throughout the Orthodox world. The sterile appearing design of the Spaniard can’t come close to any of them.

          • George Michalopulos says

            I must agree with you Mr Denney. The edifice is very sterile.

            • Arthur Wallace says

              Just wait, they are presenting this edifice as a shrine for EVERYONE. The Lesbian/Gay community will be present and demand use and to be married there. Or maybe, the Muslims will demand use!

            • The spiritual sterility of the shrine will depend not on the building, but rather on what happens within it.

              Yet it is not as simple as that, either. Everything we do can either create a microclimate that draws prayer out of us, almost unbidden, or can create a microclimate that is an impediment to prayer. This can be as simple as an icon corner in one’s home where one stands to pray.

              All impediments can be overcome (after all the ultimate goal and the ideal prayer rule is unceasing prayer whether in church or while out in the world), but the Orthodox tradition has been one of having our places of worship contain as few such impediments as possible — to be places that shore us up before diving back into “the sea of life, surging with the storm of temptations.”

              When I took the virtual tour, I had ambivalence. There was the scent of sterile modernism, and the stark emptiness of post Vatican II churches.

              And yet there was a soaring majesty, reminiscent of the great Western cathedrals. I’m not sure we will be able to tell until we walk into it.

              What I think is unquestionably missing (and this simply continues a trend in some more recent temples) is what many have viewed as the unique genius of Orthodox temples — the combination of the intimate and the awe-inspiring into the same place of worship. I see much here of the latter, but little of the former. One must hasten to add that an architectural conception doesn’t necessarily reflect the final product.

              • George Michalopulos says

                True, but one of the many things I cherish about Orthodoxy is the explosion of creativity that is our Church. By this I mean hymnody, worship, iconography and even architecture. The GOA is not wanting for money (at least not in NYC), why not build a traditionalist masterpiece that inspires awe and screams “Orthodoxy!” A model of Hagia Sophia perhaps?

                • I suppose that the designers of this shrine would think that this was part of an “explosion of creativity,” too. While my intent in my comment was to be open-minded and hopeful (and I still have those attitudes), I am in complete agreement that this is most likely a missed opportunity to show Orthodoxy in its fullness and richness. I have a hard time seeing this edifice as a reflection of an explosion of creativity that flows out of a deep and thriving Orthodox faith — which is the kind of explosion I think you are talking about.

                  Were they to have built a “traditionalist masterpiece,” as you suggest (too bad they didn’t have our numbers on speed dial to get our opinion!), it could have incorporated the genius of which I wrote — a powerful combination of the intimate and the awe-inspiring. You mention hymnody and iconography as well. These, too, at their best, capture that combination of the intimate and the awe-inspiring. One can encounter it in a tiny chapel or in a huge cathedral, as long as everything is done in a traditional manner.

                  What I was trying to say in my post is that it is possible that this will still be a magnificent witness to the Christian faith. But I fear that in order to have this witness, it will mean having to overcome the impediments that come with what appears to be a stark and sterile edifice. (I do aesthetically appreciate much modernist architecture, just not in churches.)

                  I have been in many majestic Gothic cathedrals in Europe. They convey the majesty of God, but without conveying the sense that he is right here with us. The post-Vatican II modifications made God feel, if anything, more distant.

                  I am most familiar with the Russian tradition. When I am in, say, the ROCOR cathedral in SF, the ROCOR cathedral in Washington, DC — or for that matter, in my home parish, which is constructed like a smaller version of those churches, I experience both. I experience the shiver that comes when I look up into the soaring dome with its monumental iconographic depictions of the life of Christ, the life of the Theotokos, and the saints, and yet no matter where I am standing, there is, near me, tucked in a nook, some small, intimate icon with candles flickering in front of it, reminding me that being with God is as easy and as natural as reaching out to hold my wife’s hand. Easier, in fact.

                  So don’t get me wrong — I do see this as a missed opportunity — there is enough money and talent in the GOA where they could have built a temple that synthesized everything good about Orthodox temples all over the world — but they didn’t.

                  • “I was purposely attempting to not focus on the bishop in question, rather on the issue”

                    Given how common the translational wars have been on the internet over the years, it seems odd that you would mention that bishop at all (let alone make him easily identifiable) if you didn’t want to focus at least somewhat on him (and the “ill-will” that his translational instructions supposedly generated). Such wars would have raged with or without him, and you could have made a point about your personal opinions on what constitutes “tradition” and “Tradition” with or without mentioning him.

                    I am, in any event, unaware that any Orthodox saint or father distinguished between “tradition” and Tradition” with the pseudo-Protestant gusto that has become common in recent decades in parts of the Orthodox Church here in America. Part of what distinguishes Orthodoxy from heterodox Christian bodies is the very fact that the inner spiritual reality of our faith is, if anything, far simpler than even the most stripped down Protestantism. It can be, in the setting of genuine sanctity, be reduced to the unceasing wordless prayer of an ascetic sitting alone in a room without books, icons, or any other accoutrements of what is usually associated with Orthodox worship. But in ordinary circumstances, the medium in which our living relationship with Christ grows and develops is anything but minimalist and stripped down.

                    I think a strong case can be made that there are few things more important than having translations that are worthy of being “verbal icons” of our faith, since even in a cow barn or a bank, the words of the texts are part of the “irreducible minimum.” As such, said bishop was acting quite rationally when making an emphasis on translations and texts. I find it interesting that the OCA dioceses that are most filled with missions and converts (authentically American ones, even!) have been those dioceses where such “non-essentials” (“traditions,” if you will) are most nurtured. When you are a small mission meeting in a store-front in a bad part of town (I attended such a mission for 5 years, perhaps 20 years ago), the beauties of traditional liturgical language, traditional iconography, and traditional liturgics are probably even more important than they are in a large cathedral.

                    And I would make a final observation that while it certainly can’t hurt for translators to be “poets and/or musicians,” a far simpler and more direct qualification overshadows all of that — are they immersed in prayer? Do they love to pray, and do they love the services? Or do they just love to be “right” about how a particular word or phrase should be translated? No matter how accurate a translation is, if the translator doesn’t love to pray, it won’t be quite right, and something vital (in the full sense of the word) will be lost in translation, as the phrase goes. And if the translator does love to pray and loves the services, minor “inaccuracies” are lost in the ocean of prayer that produced those translations. I would hope that by the way I write, it is clear that I am not a mere pious nihilist who finds precision and learnedness to be unimportant. I am merely positing a “hierarchy of needs,” to steal a phrase from modern psycho-jumble.

                    Since Fr. Florovsky (one of my favorites) has been quoted, I will close with some snippets of my own from one of his articles — he talks mostly about Scriptural content in the article (“The Lost Scriptural Mind”), and he is not addressing translations per se, but it is clear that for Florovsky, content cannot be falsely separated from the verbal forms that carry it:

                    Most of us have lost the integrity of the scriptural mind, even if some bits of biblical phraseology are retained. The modern man often complains that the truth of God is offered to him in an “archaic idiom” — i.e., in the language of the Bible — which is no more his own and cannot be used spontaneously.

                    We are in danger of losing the uniqueness of the Word of God in the process of continuous “reinterpretation.” But how can we interpret at all if we have forgotten the original language? Would it not be safer to bend our thought to the mental habits of the biblical language and to relearn the idiom of the Bible? No man can receive the gospel unless he repents — “changes his mind.”

                    What can we offer instead of Holy Scripture? I would prefer the language of the Tradition, not because of a lazy and credulous “conservatism” or a blind “obedience” to some external “authorities,” but simply because I cannot find any better phraseology. I am prepared to expose myself to the inevitable charge of being “antiquarian” and “fundamentalist.” And I would protest that such a charge is gratuitous and wrong.

                    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                      Have you noticed, Edward, how many repeat Dr. Luher’s construction “essential vs adiaphora” as “Tradition vs tradition?”

                    • Nicely said, Edward.

                    • M. Stankovich says


                      It is somehow ironic that one of the first occasions I ever heard “the pseudo-Protestant gusto” of confusing traditions with Tradition was in a talk delivered by Fr. Georges Florovsky. I was, at best, 20 years old at the time, and while age and TBI may have dulled my memory, the principle certainly seemed significant for him at the time. He seemed quite annoyed with the use of the term “traditionalist,” and used among his many examples those who were “outraged” that the Canon verses were not being sung between the Beatitudes at the liturgy. He observed that relatively modern “innovations” – albeit kerygmatic and pious – were now, for some, “rigor,” and a bellwether for what is “traditionalism” (and this reminds me of a priest friend who conducted an adult education regarding the liturgy shortly after arriving at his new assignment, and upon its conclusion all the written “evaluations” were angry statements that he had stopped the Orthodox “tradition” of ringing the bell after each person took Communion). I would note that this entire construct is marvelously detailed in Florovsky’s article, “The Function of Tradition in the Ancient Church,” which is in Volume One of his Collected Works, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View. If you are “unaware that any Orthodox saint or father distinguished between “tradition” and Tradition,” you need to pursue this article as it is a stellar presentation of Patristic distinction.

                      As I have insisted for the number of years I have participated in these discussions, God has not blessed me with the gift of “original scholarship.” It seems we have reached a point of tedium here in that you are, in effect, preaching to the choir. I have no dispute with anything in your response, other than to say I certainly could have avoided the contemporaneous example of the bishop – and for the second time, I ask you to forgive my unintentional offence. Secondly, I make certain, seemingly obvious assumptions, such that translators are necessarily “immersed in prayer, ” and love the services. If this form of assumption is unfair or offensive, again, forgive me.

                      What can I say, other than in my observation, we seem to be on the same page.

                    • M. Stankovich says

                      A related side-note from the OCA Chancellor’s Diary.

                    • Have you noticed, Edward, how many repeat Dr. Luther’s construction “essential vs adiaphora” as “Tradition vs tradition?”

                      Vladyka, that is a more elegant and concise way of stating the point I was making. What I object to in the “pseudo-Protestant gusto” to which I refer is that it only allows for a binary choice: ‘Tradition” — which is sacrosanct (but conveniently vague), vs. “tradition” — which is fair game for being changed or ignored. I may not be able to define that “gusto” — but like the old wag about pornography, I do know it when I see it.

                      Dr. Stankovich, at the risk of prolonging the tedium, I will say that it could very well be that we are on the same page — I dare say that much of the time we are. I can’t vouch for what you heard from Fr. Florovsky in the setting of a lecture during your younger days (that had to be a privilege, by the way), but I am very familiar with “The Function of Tradition in the Ancient Church.” It had been some years since I read it, but I had to admit that my memory of it was quite different from how you portray it. For someone who is interested in reading it, I discovered that it is now readily available on the internet.

                      I was only able to give it a quick skim to refresh my memory, but as I recalled, nowhere in this particular lengthy piece does Florovsky distinguish between “Tradition” and “tradition.” Quite the contrary — he uses the two interchangeably, especially in the setting of quotations, without ever making a distinction. You might want to re-read it — I believe that perhaps you may be thinking of something else he wrote.

                      Florovsky seems most concerned with contrasting the Orthodox understanding of tradition (or Tradition) with that of non-Orthodox. For Florovsky, there is no “Scripture and Tradition” as separate and complementary sources of Christian belief and practice (as with Roman Catholic and classical Anglican thought) or as separate and oppositional (as in classical Protestant thought). For him there is merely Tradition alone — something which is the ultimate, living, source of authority, and which includes, but is hardly limited to, Holy Scripture and its proper interpretation.

                      Now, a concept of “Tradition” can be as monolithic or as malleable as one wants to make it. It comes down to the specifics of how that sense of Tradition is actually passed down. And as Florovsky puts it in a lengthy, eloquent passage, for him it is anything but malleable and vague — it is in no small part tied up inextricably with quite specific liturgical matters that I fear many Orthodox who love to make such distinctions would place in the realm of “tradition.” Here is one particularly appropriate passage:

                      Indeed, all instances quoted by St. Basil in this connection are of ritual or liturgical nature: the use of the sign of the Cross in the rite of admission of Catechumens; the orientation toward East at prayer; the habit to keep standing at worship on Sundays; the epiclesis in the Eucharistic rite; the blessing of water and oil, the renunciation of Satan and his pomp, the triple immersion, in the rite of Baptism. There are many other “unwritten mysteries of the Church,” says St. Basil.. They are not mentioned in the Scripture. But they are of great authority and significance. They are indispensable for the preservation of right faith.

                • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                  George, George, George, have you done your homework? As in going to the website and actually reading about the process that went into coming up with the design? It IS based on the Hagia Sophia, but in a more abstract manner. And, you did see how the new buildings in that area look like? A traditional-looking building will stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of glass-walled skyscrapers. The trees and the reflective pool will soften the appearance of this shrine.

                  I will admit that when I first saw the winning model last year, I was like, wow, it is so fugly – why did they pick him to design the building? But my mind has been changed after reading about the design process and the architect’s background, which includes actually designing buildings in Greece.

                  And, such virtual renderings will always, by its nature, look “cold”. With the right selection of building materials, and good lighting choices, with addition of iconostasis it will look more real. We’ll just have to wait till they actually start building.

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    Lola, you’re correct. The bare outlines of Hagia Sophia are there to be sure (and I did notice them) but I’ve seen Mormon temples that are absolutely stunning on the outside. (Not that they aren’t incapable of modernist effusions as well –google the Dallas Temple.) I’m sure we could have done something like that.

                    Your other point –that it would stick out like a sore thumb–is well-taken. But wouldn’t it be possible that the recreated WTC would stand out negatively in the background of a traditionalist edifice? Just a thought. Anyway, what’s done is done. Let’s see how the GOA does with it once it’s done. My hope is that by then the GOA will stop viewing itself as a Greek colony on the Hudson. Sigh.

                    • M. Stankovich says

                      When Edward speaks desiring something “to show Orthodoxy in its fullness and richness,” it seems a shame that we have not developed any significant forms of architecture that are distinctly American and recognizable in this culture as “Orthodox.” Exactly how many hideous derivations of Eastern architecture must we endure – e.g. the once rage of fiberglass “cupolas” fixed atop former Protestant churchs – before we actually stop viewing ourselves, as Mr. Michalopulos notes, a “Greek/Russian colony on the Hudson.”

                      This, then, lead me to a bit of surprise with Mr. Michalopulos’ comment at cherishing “the explosion of creativity that is our Church” – voiced in the present tense – that includes, “hymnody, worship, iconography and even architecture.” I personally do not see it occurring – in the present tense – where even the most subtle “variation” on the themes cause a considerable amount of consternation. As you will recall, a bishop no longer in the ranks made an issue over liturgical & Scriptural translations used in his diocese – though it was not the cause for his retirement – but it certainly contributed to the “ill-will” surrounding him. Even the discussion here of “debts” vs “transgressions,” and my all-time favorite, the discussion of the “gay icon” of the Good Samaritan, certainly brings into question the “handcuffing” of tradition as if it were Tradition (and I would refer anyone to the clarifying article by Fr. Florovsky I have posted here on several occasions) and consistent with the theology of the Church.

                      So, what to do? Appoint an inter-Orthodox commission with the requisite committees – iconographers, musicians, translators & poets, architects – headed by bishops, which undoubtedly exist or have historically existed, or allow people like Lola to be convinced by taking the time necessary to investigate the creative & design process of what, at least initially, strikes as “fugly?” My position is to agree with Lola and support American design, albeit derivative, that wisely doesn’t put Hagia Sophia or a church modeled on Tikhvin next to the Freedom Tower. Met. Phillip (Saliba), of blessed memory, told the newly-received former Evangelical clergy to “bring America to Orthodoxy,” and we need some additional strategies.

                    • “…a bishop no longer in the ranks made an issue over liturgical & Scriptural translations used in his diocese – though it was not the cause for his retirement – but it certainly contributed to the “ill-will” surrounding him.”

                      Dr. Stankovich, the list of bishops about which you could make that statement is rather short — probably as short as one name, so you might as well have been straight-forward enough to use it.

                      If it is the bishop I think you are talking about, I assure you that for every person who felt that his style was cramped by not being able to create his own local Typikon, there were many, many more of us who were profoundly grateful for the liturgical order that said bishop brought to his diocese. There were many, many of us who were profoundly grateful for the standards that he set for excellence, including the standards he set for the English translations he wanted used in his diocese. Besides, from what I could tell, most of the people who had “ill will” on this point tended simply to disobey that particular bishop and do what they wanted anyway, only using the preferred translations on the rare occasions when His Grace was visiting their parishes — so what did they really have to complain about? I won’t go into the question of where those priests learned those attitudes.

                      While I don’t agree with every jot and tittle of that bishop’s liturgical instructions (who agrees with anyone 100%?), I consider him to be a bit of a hero for doing what he could to turn the tide of translational banality that increasingly dominates with the central administration types (just check out the OCA website for examples).

                      Moving on to the question of “inter-Orthodox” commissions and the like, I have a somewhat dim view of what they would produce, since such things presuppose a mature Orthodoxy in America. It presupposes an Orthodox Christianity that is deep and broad enough that it will be guided from an internal sense of Orthodoxy, and that it will not be guided or influenced by trends in what the cool kids at school (i.e. the progressive RC’s and mainline Protestants) are doing. I have seen little evidence that this yet exists in what is still an American Church that is on the frontiers of Orthodoxy. This is not an indictment — I doubt that Kiev could have fielded a commission of natives a mere 100 years after the baptism of Rus that could create a full-scale Slavic church free of “hideous derivations” from the old country.

                      From what I understand, back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, there was an OCA liturgical commission of which one of our regular posters (His Grace, Bp. Tikhon) was a member. He can correct me if I am wrong, but I recall that a quite brilliant proposal was floated that would, in one fell swoop, have ended the translational wars within the OCA and that would have moved Orthodoxy in America toward unity in English liturgical texts.

                      The proposed solution? Have the OCA adopt the fine translations done by Bp. Basil of the Antiochian Archdiocese. As I heard the story, the idea was torpedoed by the modern language people in the OCA, since Bp. Basil’s translations are done in traditional liturgical English (similar to that used in Bp. Kallistos Ware’s Lenten Triodion and Festal Menaion) — and their own language agenda was more important to them than was finding a good solution and moving towards unity. I suspect they were confident of their ability to wear down the opposition within the OCA (i.e. wait for +Dimitri and +Tikhon to retire or die, marginalize the influence of their dioceses, and hope to prevent like-minded men from becoming bishops in the future).

                      I think that for now, it is better for dioceses and jurisdictions to continue on their own paths — and let’s see what works well. Which dioceses in the OCA (and what jurisdictions) are spiritually and numerically thriving, for instance, and how do those dioceses generally do things when it comes to architecture, iconography, liturgics, liturgical translations, etc.? It will take time for these things to sort themselves out. What I emphatically reject is the idea that those of us who believe that doing things in “old-fashioned” (even “old country”) ways are creating and participating in an Orthodoxy that somehow is not “authentically American,” especially when we ourselves are often, whether Southern good old boys or Western cowboys, about as “authentically American” as you can get.

                    • Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

                      My mother’s extended family included a number of Christian Scientists. That group developed a distinctively American style for their churches during their boom period in the 1920s, generally in Classical style, looking often like a cross between a bank and a Greek temple, although sometimes very ornate in their simplicity, a paradox. Now many have closed or been converted to other uses. Finding a balance between being “of the moment” enough to engage American culture and being true to Orthodox Tradition may be impossible, but one thing is for sure, namely that the “of the moment” will pass. I’m hopeful, though, that this Orthodox shrine will shine. Thank God it has been rebuilt and that there is an opportunity for Orthodox witness at that site.

                      Please pray for me the sinner,

                    • Kentigern,

                      Funny that you should mention the architecture of Christian Scientist buildings. I know of one that has been converted into an Orthodox Christian temple. It can be seen here, here, and here.

                    • M. Stankovich says


                      I was purposely attempting to not focus on the bishop in question, rather on the issue, because like all “tempests” of the internet, it was a rich source of chum in the water at the time. On the whole, I rather support attempts to unify translations and liturgical texts with the simple criteria of accuracy and hymnographic sense (i.e. I believe the best translations have been produced by poets and/or musicians who had a sense of how hymnography might actually sound). I was enrolled in a course entitled, The Translation of Poetry which, sadly was so boring I dropped it. The text, however, was worth the purchase. And so it goes…

                      Fr. Schmemann had on his required reading list a book by the Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade called The Sacred & the Profane which is an exploration of sacred space and time. I suspect fewer students read Eliade than read the Introduction to Liturgical Theology – and characteristic of our age, no one reads philosophy. While it was not imperative, Fr. Alexander (like Fr. Florovsky) spoke of the “innate memory of the sacred” in the eschatological sense of the Liturgy: “The banquet at the Master’s table is always celebrated in the Kingdom which is to come.” The Church, in fact, literally “consecrates” sacred space – and it pays to read the text of the Service of the Consecration of a New Church – for this purpose.

                      Nevertheless, can we conduct the Liturgy in the community room of a funeral home; an exercise room of the YMCA; the “transformed” garage of a suburban home; or in a corner of a massive warehouse? Many mission parishes begin is such a fashion. How about a filthy horse barn in Dachau (Blessed Nicholai of Žica) or Pascha in a semi-destroyed Serbian chapel during a Nazi air-raid (a trembling Blessed Basil (Rodzianko))? Certainly. In a modern Parabola House of designer Mako Toyoshida? And surely, someone, somewhere, has served the Liturgy in a bank. My point was simply to say that we frequently confuse tradition with Tradition:

                      The Church, which establishes herself in the world, is always exposed to the temptation of an excessive adjustment to the environment, to what is usually described as “worldliness.” The Church which separates herself from the world, in feeling her own radical “otherworldliness,” is exposed to an opposite danger, to the danger of excessive detachment.

                      Fr. George Florovsky,”Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert.” in Christianity and Culture

                      In modern Church thinking, the past frequently oppresses and enchains rather than being creatively transformed into faithfulness to genuine tradition. This reveals an inability to evaluate the past, to distinguish the truth in it from mere bygone history and custom. Unless a distinction is made, true tradition becomes confused with all sorts of traditions that should themselves be judged in the light of the eternal truth of the Church. What is partial, one-sided, and even distorted is frequently proclaimed as the essence of Orthodoxy. And there is a sin of absolutizing the past which inevitably leads to the reverse extreme — to “modernism,” meaning essentially rejection of the past and acceptance of “modernity,” “science,” or “needs of the current moment” as the sole criterion.

                      Fr. Alexander Schmemann, The Historic Road of Eastern Orthodoxy

                      I would suggest that it seems considerably more accurate that the “consternation” and outrage over architecture and translations (with the caveat of accuracy) is driven, not by any realistic “threat” to the Tradition of the Church, but confusion and the handcuffing of creativity by misunderstanding tradition.

                    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                      M. Stankovich has obviously not noticed the log-cabin/condominium spinoff contributions of Fr Vinogradov!! Prime examples would be the SVS chapel and churches in Southern California and Oregon. What could be more American? I agree that putting onion domes on semi Gothic structures is distressing to the Orthodox CONNOISSEUR, More distressing is that so many ordinary folk loved those structures at LEAST as much as the Constantinopolitan folk had affection for the spectacular Agia Sophia.

                      Of course the Trade Center structure is meant to be more of a most prideful “waving of the flag” of Greek Orthodoxy than a”vibrant” parish., no? How many registered Parishioners belong to that parish? Where do they LIVE? Does it have an active Philoptochos? Who is the President of the Parish Council?

                • Ok, why did this not get plus 5 votes? It is one of George’s finest posts ever.

                  Tip o the hat George .

          • James,

            Hey, buddy, I understood your point. It’s not a design that sends shivers down my spine either, but I am glad that it is being built and pray that it will be filled with worship that transfigures the space and gives Glory to God and helps convert the hearts of those who inhabit it.

            I guess I am a glass half-full guy.

  6. pegleggreg says

    I pray for mercy not justice

    • George Michalopulos says

      Why do we deserve mercy? Have we shown it to the most innocent of all? I’m talking about the unborn here.

      • “Why do we deserve mercy?”

        We don’t — that’s why we ask, repeatedly, in every service of the liturgical cycle every day, for mercy.

        I can’t think of a single petition or prayer in any Orthodox service that mentions the word “justice,” although I am happy to be corrected on that point. I suspect that any mention will be an acknowledgement that we fervently pray never to receive justice.

        • George Michalopulos says

          I too invoke the Lord’s mercy and fear His justice. The problem is that our nation in its Gomorrhan state deserves justice. Worse, we don’t crave His mercy because we don’t think we’re doing anything wrong.

          • No disagreement on any of those points. I was just agreeing with pegleggreg that the appropriate prayers for our nation are for mercy, not justice. I’m not saying that we have any reason to expect that we should receive mercy and avoid justice.

        • M. Stankovich says

          This is a fascinating concept, mercy bestowed or withheld because of desire, reciprocity, or simply because of an “intrinsic” relationship with our God.

          If you are concrete and emphatic, it would seem to me that the words of the Lord, announced before He passed by Moses on Mt. Sinai should be definitive: “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Ex. 33:9) Apparently, St. Paul was not convinced that the Romans were capable of even this succinct statement and elaborated:

          For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For the scripture said to Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore has he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens. (Rom. 9:15-18)

          The Apostle James, on the other hand, made a special point to further note that, “Mercy rejoices against judgment.” (Jm. 2:13) It would seem that all of these most ancient statements as to the mercy of God are unconditional, or at least at this point without elucidation. Now, lest you make the jump to the exceedingly numerous places in the Scripture where conditions are elucidated, I would first skip a bit forward.

          Fr. Alexander Schmemann quoted George Bernard Shaw’s comment that “in the presence of great art, an intelligent man simply removes his hat, shuts up, and lets the art speak to him.” This was his introduction to the lecture on the Vesperal Liturgy of Great and Holy Saturday – as he lamented, the “most neglected service in our entire liturgical cycle.” It is on this day that there is a call, “Let all mortal flesh keep silent,” and in effect the Liturgy speaks for itself without commentary. Following the entrance of Vespers, there is a series of 15 readings from the Old Testament, a “salvation history” of God and His people. Most fascinating is the seventh reading, which is from the Book of the Prophecy of Zepheniah, a book generally comprised of three and one-half chapters of total and complete devastation, introduced as: “The great day of the Lord is near, it is very near, and very speedy; the sound of the day of the Lord is made bitter and harsh [῞Οτι ἐγγὺς ἡμέρα Κυρίου ἡ μεγάλη, ἐγγὺς καὶ ταχεῖα σφόδρα· φωνὴ ἡμέρας Κυρίου πικρὰ καὶ σκληρὰ τέτακται.]” (Zeph. 1:14) But none of this is read in the Liturgy, but rather something that would be familiar to the readers of Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak of comfort to Jerusalem, and cry to her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:1-2):

          In that day shall you not be ashamed for all your doings, wherein you have transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the middle of you them that rejoice in your pride, and you shall no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. I will also leave in the middle of you an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. (Zeph. 3:9-13)

          And lamenting and in sorrow at the tomb of the Lord, the message of the Church at this final service of the Holy Week – and the rubric actually calls for this liturgy to be served as late in the day as possible, not in the morning – is “You have sinned against me, yet I show you mercy.”

          Finally, I believe we are all familiar with the Lord’s comments regarding John the Baptist, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:12-15) It has been a rich source for “militant language,” foot stomping, and generalized marching around for those who enjoy that sort of thing. But we overlook the powerful parable Jesus shares with his disciples regarding the woman and the unjust judge:

          And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:1-7)

          In my mind, do we deserve mercy in the sense that we have earned it? No. But do we deserve it by virtue of the Resurrection, the analogy being the Eucharist? Certainly. “Avenge me!” she cried persistently in faith and the Lord came speedily. “Avenge me of my adversary!” she continuously troubled him. He could not deny her and she was rewarded. That “our society” or “our nation” doesn’t crave justice or mercy is insignificant. “Shall he find faith on the earth?” If we persist, if we demand, if we deserve, He cannot deny us.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Mercy trumps all evil.

            • Michael Kinsey says

              Mercy trumps all evil. Certainly not yours, who do you think you are?Mercy extended t o the most villainous and vile, while the innocent are show none, trumps nothing. Divine Justice trumps the human employment of mercy. Both the guilty and the innocent plead for mercy from men, the innocent rarely receive it. mostly it’s the guilty who get over with their claim of mercy as their due. This was certainly my experience of the HOOM for 30 years.I’ ll use playing a shell game with the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, for a starter. Shall I go on.?? I could write for days. Bowing the knee to the homosexual agenda as the HOOM and continuing it with Met. Pangratious and Abbot Herman. It appears the HOOM cleric’s got all the mercy, not their congregations.

              • Michael Bauman says

                God Bless you Michael and may our Lord heal your wounds by His mercy.

                I left HOOM long before any of the dealings with Abbot Herman and Pangratious. I was already a member of the canonical Orthodox Church at the time.

                His mercy has and is still healing my own wounds and sinfulness if I allow Him to.

                If mercy does not trump evil, we are all doomed to hell. “In the course of justice, none of us should see salvation.”

                • Michael Kinsey says

                  A contrite and humble heart ,God will not despise. Do you know any.one like that? There’s the rub!

  7. M. Stankovich’s sharp-elbowed defense of Fr. Schmemann in another thread is, it seems, unanswerable — but only because it seems that the window for giving comments on that thread has expired.

    I was indifferent to Schmemann until I ran across this: http://www.jacwell.org/Supplements/liturgical_practices.htm

    Dr. Stankovich is welcome to defend Schemann all he wants, but I have little respect for any priest who would attempt to publicly shame and demean his bishop in such a manner — all while giving snarky comments about the “respect” and “full and unconditional obedience” that supposedly were anterior to the thoughts expressed in his paper.

    I had disregarded as “sour grapes” the claims of OCA-DOS partisans that Fr. Schmemann, as the real decision-maker in the OCA, was a key back-room player in the election of Theodosius (rather than Dimitri) to the metropolitinate. But not after I read that paper, in which I realized that he put himself above any bishop, or even metropolitan. (George has written eloquently on this site regarding the power structure of the OCA, which is designed to allow select priests, through the power of the purse and of the bureaucracy, to rule over the Holy Synod.)

    Particularly striking to me was this paragraph:

    It seems to me that, on the contrary, if Matins is to be shortened for any valid reason, the shortening of the Hexapsalmos is, liturgically speaking, the reasonable way to do it. The Hexapsalmos is clearly composed of two triads of Psalms: 3, 37, 52, and 87, 102, 142. The first triad, or at least Psalms 3 and 62, is very ancient and belongs to the early core of the Church’s morning services, whatever the complexity of their development. As for the second triad, Psalms 87′, 102, and 142 “have no special connection with either midnight or morning. Besides, the fact that the priest recites the matutinal prayers while these Psalms are read shows that they are an addition. These prayers, or at least one of them, recited in this place, formerly had to be said aloud” (I. Mateos, “Some Problems of Byzantine Orthros,” in French, in Proche-Orient Chritien, 11 [1961], p. 7; see also M. Skaballanovich, Tolkovyi Typikon, Vol. II [Kiev: 1913], pp. 199-201, and I. M. Hanssens, Nature and Genesis of Matins in French [Rome: 1952]).

    Really? I did not have an advanced degree in Theology when I read this. I had been Orthodox for perhaps 10 years at most. but I had read and heard the 6 Psalms enough to know that Fr. Schmemann is here attempting to blow smoke up the nether regions of those he considers to be his intellectual inferiors.

    For as Fr. Schmemann well knew (unless he was too busy being presiding bishop of the OCA to pay attention during the Matins that he served year after year), the first three Psalms have two Psalms with explicit mentions of morning, and one that doesn’t. The second three Psalms… also have two Psalms with mentions of morning and the middle of the night, and one that doesn’t. Furthermore, the more years that one reads and hears the 6 Psalms, the more they seamlessly they hang together — both in terms of thematic unity and even more importantly, as a sequence of prayers and thoughts that create a certain attitude as one begins the labors of praying Matins. (The fact that they are often read through at a blazing and incomprehensible rate in the pursuit of saving perhaps a minute or two of time cannot be blamed on the Psalms themselves or the Holy Fathers that wrote and compiled our services over the centuries.)

    If you don’t want to spend 5 minutes (yes, I time these things — an annoying habit of mine when talking to liturgical revisionists) reading the second half of the 6 Psalms, then just say so…

    For the most part, I am philosophical and resigned about Schmemmanology. Hearing about its tenets is an occupational hazard when one is in the OCA, as I was for many years. (And in other jurisdictions, one can happily go for years without ever thinking about him.) But neither am I inclined to stand by while partisans of Fr. Schmemman condemn those who don’t particularly care for his legacy.

    I always had trouble relating to anything coming out of the “Paris School,” whether it be Schmemann, Meyendorff, or Anthony Bloom. Just didn’t connect with their way of thinking and of expressing their ideas about Orthodoxy. I read enough of them to give them a fair shot, and indeed I encountered someone who for me was an exception — Vladimir Lossky. I also read some sermons of Schmemann that he had given as radio addresses on Voice of America that I thought were quite good. Some other people think the Paris School works are somehow uniquely profound. Good for them — different strokes…

    Schmemann’s spent a lifetime drawing attention to himself and his ideas, and seemed to live to provoke those he disagreed with (or just to provoke thought in anyone). His acolytes should remember that the fruit of such a life will produce both fawning admiration and trenchant criticism, and that for us as Orthodox, death is (and should be) no barrier — either to praise or condemnation of someone’s ideas.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Edward (and to to James),

      Let me clarify here that I am no sappy pudit or blind “apologist” for Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann; and anyone who imagines this to be the case is an idiot. For the most part, I found him to be abrasive, distant, cold, occasionally cringingly offensive, and undoubtedly plagued by a life-long dysthymic affect. If you were not among his “select” – and I would note that, in my estimation, he could be a notoriously poor judge of character – it was virtually impossible to move beyond the point of simple human “pleasantries” with him. Yet, God had gifted him with an intellect – certainly theological – but philosophical, for literature (especially poetry & prose), music & fine arts, and sociology and the human condition. Rarely have I ever stood in the presence of an individual with such a phenomenal mind. In any given class, he quoted from the Fathers in Greek and Latin, he quoted in French from a 16th century poet, he quoted extensively from a current NY Times Bestseller on the economy, and he quoted from a story on P.2 of the Metropolitan section of that day’s NY Times I had read after breakfast before class, all in 55 minutes, and it all made sense. And at the end of the day, following a Vigil of a Great Feast, in what many soil themselves in hysterics referring to his “Parisian Inovationism” of General Confession, Alexander Schmemann stood on the amvon of the darkened chapel and freely & openly examined his own conscience before his students in a series of meditative statements, “Let us confess to God…” And then there was silence as he brought the Cross to be venerated. Nothing more, nothing less. And somehow, there was nothing to do but identify.

      If anything, my primary feeling for Alexander Schmemann the person is ambivalence. He was an extraordinarily complex man. I do not, however, doubt that he is a father and teacher of our generation, gifted and chosen by our God as an architect of what will be an independent Church in America. If there is exists a more articulate and God-inspired insight, and more God-inspired solutions provided than what is contained in his Problems of Orthodoxy in America, I would like to see it. I personally do not believe it exists.

      Finally, my point was not to “sharp-elbowed defend” Alexander Schmemann in any shape or form. I take great exception to “mis- and disinformation” in regard to Frs. Alexander & John Meyendorff, Met. Anthony (Bloom), Archiamandrite Kyrian (Kern), etc. and the pejorative bantering about of the terms “Parisian” and “renovationist.” I suspect you – and many others – are entirely ignorant of the original argument that began in the 1970’s, which is why I asked for written documentation that Fr. Alexander, “loathed monasticism and ROCOR.” Myth has become fact and it is ridiculous.

      • While I am not completely ignorant of the arguments that went on the 1970’s that surrounded Fr. Schmemann, I plead guilty to not having adequate knowledge to engage in a debate concerning them, and I really did not mean to try to do so.

        I am from a later generation that knows Fr. Schmemann only from his writings and from the arguments that have surrounded him. I generally remain silent in most of those discussions, precisely because I have not read enough of him to be able to critique the corpus of his work. While I have read and profited from many hundreds of dense (and one might even say, dry) books in my lifetime, I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to make it all the way through anything that Schemann wrote, except for “Great Lent.” As I said before, I just don’t connect and don’t find his works particularly interesting — even from a “I can’t believe he wrote something like that!” point of view — well, except for one obnoxious comment in a book he wrote on liturgics that I tried to read a few years ago. I now blessedly can’t even remember what that comment even was.

        I was indifferent to the Schmemann wars (the arguments already had the air of staleness about them in the 1980s) until I ran across, quite by accident, the article to which I put a link. That still mostly just cemented my feeling that my time was really better spent reading other things, and that my decision, some years before, to give up on trying to “get” him was not a bad one for me. Granted, even that may not have been fair, since I do not know the whole story that surrounded that article — perhaps he was sorely publicly provoked by that particular Metropolitan, and I may just lack sufficient knowledge about the “inside baseball” involved.

        I think that we may both be reacting to mirror image phenomenon — you, justifiably, react to those who presume to make pronouncements about Fr. Schmemann without having an adequate grasp of his thought and writing, and I tend to react to defenders of Schmemann for whom the man can do no wrong (and I now understand you are not one of those).

        Of the former students of Schmemann that I have known, I only got to know two of them really well.

        The first thought that Schmemann’s thinking (or more precisely, what his would-be successors chose to emphasize in his thinking) was a major source of what he saw as the theological rot in the OCA. The second was a big fan of Fr. Schmemann and thought, like you, that he had uniquely put his finger on the pulse of what needed to happen with Orthodoxy in America. (Although he, too, volunteered that it seemed that a surprising number of Fr. Schmemann seemed to leave St. Vlad’s with a mere M.Div, yet imagined themselves qualified to revise and improve Orthodox liturgics in their own personal versions of a “local Typikon.”)

        And there was further ambiguity. The first (the detractor) agreed with Schmemann’s dim view of contemporary monasticism (and it was from him that I first learned about those attitudes). The second (the fan) was (paradoxically, to my mind’s eye) a big supporter of Ephremite monasteries.

        Both held a dim view of ROCOR, and both cited things from Schmemann in supporting that view, although I don’t remember details. On the other hand, I once had a conversation with one of the Ledkovsky clan who talked about the close friendship between Schmemann and Ledkovsky back in New York despite the fact that one was a pillar of the OCA establishment and the other was a pillar at the ROCOR cathedral.

        And both former students spoke eloquently about the charisma and erudition in the classroom to which you refer. The first student I mentioned had one of the most brilliant minds (if not the most brilliant mind) I have ever encountered, and in spite of his strong disagreement with Fr. Schmemann’s theological legacy, spoke of Schmemann as having one of the most brilliant minds he had ever encountered. That charisma seems, however, to get lost in translation on its way to the printed page — at least for me.

        In any event, I apologize for my own sharp elbows in what I wrote. You responded to me more graciously than I perhaps deserved. And I think that we both agree that it is important to restrict what we say to what we can back up. I think that Misha’s links do show that there is some reality behind what you term as the mythology, and I also agree with him that yet another debate over Schmemann is not the most profitable, or even interesting, way to spend one’s time.

        On a final note of interest, while in America, there are a number of these “Rorschach tests,” the Russians don’t seem to see it that way quite so much. I spend a lot of time on both the Russian and English portals of the Pravoslavie.ru website of Sretensky Monastery. I watched a video recently where they were unveiling the monastery’s calendars for the upcoming year — the two featured figures this year were Fr. Seraphim (Rose) and Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom). Go figure.

        • Yes, I’ve noted the Met. Anthony (Bloom) thing myself. it seems odd to me but I’m not sure anyone over there is concerned with anything other than choosing edifying quotes from Orthodox writers, not questions of liturgics or church polity.

          I’d rather not make it about Fr. Schmemann. Neither he nor the entire neo-patristic cadre are that important other than to a tiny slice of the Church at a particular moment in history. “Much ado”, as they say. I simply reacted to someone using him as a critical weapon against me.

    • Edward,

      I posted an abridged response to Stankovich under “The Inversion Continues”. I’d rather not argue about Schmemann. I see both positives and negatives in him and the other Parisians. I consider them “period pieces”. By “period piece” I mean the following:

      In the 1960’s and 1970’s there was an emerging tendency in Roman Catholicism and Protestantism to engage in radical reform of liturgy and understanding of the substance of the religion itself. Essentially, religion had worn off to the point that it was considered liturgical psychotherapy and priests, etc., were more like social workers – always better to get down to the unadorned nitty gritty, all glory being a proud fraud.

      Thus one is tempted to look at the “early Church” and discover all sorts of things to reform in the present Church based on the “early Church’s” reality or on the reality one wishes to project upon the period. Constantine gets the short end of the stick, as does the Holy Spirit as a guide to the Church over the ages.

      Voila, something new and shiny!!! Just what Americans are looking for!

      Ok, so fine. Schmemann and Meyendorff are big names in the OCA and among those who went to SVS.

      And all glory is fleeting.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        Misha–You continue to amaze me with your arrogance. It must feel downright Olympian when you look down on two of the 20th Centuries greatest Orthodox theologians and pronounce them “period pieces.”

        • Carl,

          I am by a longshot not the first to criticize Fr. Schmemann, as I demonstrated in earlier posts. Neither was he the twentieth century’s greatest theologian, (at least of the Orthodox Church). Schmemann et al. were caught up in the spirit of their times, “innovative liturgical renewal” and all. In fact, in his strident condemnations of traditional Orthodoxy, it is only natural that he would provoke criticism. Yet for all that, he also did some good work and had some good things to say from time to time.

          As far as “Olympian”, I am neither Greek nor pagan nor a star athlete so I’ll have to pass on the designation. “Arrogant” on the other hand, is often in the eye of the beer-holder.

    • Arthur Wallace says


      …You didn’t know Fr. Alexander like I did or Mr. Stankovich, yet you are quick to judge the man…Fr. Schmemann didn’t stand on self-promoting himself, but stood on the “TRUTH” of the Orthodox faith. The bishops were the ones who were not teaching Orthodoxy. For example, the idea that every layman had to go to confession EVERY TIME before receiving the Eucharist (as the Russians are NOW teaching) is an aberration of Orthodox practice. Does every priest, deacon or bishop go to confession before receiving at every Divine Liturgy? Are lay people less “holy” than clerics that they must? So you see, Edward, you have no clue of what you are talking about. Typical for the uneducated and probable for ROCOR types!

      • Mr. Wallace, the only “judgments” that I made about Fr. Schmemann in what I wrote were:

        1. I perceived Fr. Schmemann’s “open letter” that I linked to as an inappropriate public intellectual humiliation of his bishop — who, from what I could tell in the article, was simply giving directives that the liturgical tradition of his local church should be observed. You might term that as not teaching the faith, but I don’t.

        2. I pointed out a glaring error of fact in that article, one that was inconsistent with Fr. Schmemann’s vaunted intellect.

        3. I pointed out that he drew attention to himself and his ideas, and that he did so in a provocative way (a point that Dr. Stankovich acknowledges in his response to me, and that was generally agreed on by those presenting and attending the interesting symposium on Fr. Schmemann that Misha linked to).

        I don’t need to have sat in Fr. Schmemann’s classroom to have the capability of making those eminently reasonable observations. If you genuinely view personal contact as a prerequisite for assessing a public intellectual, then you are not in much of a position to label someone else as being “uneducated.”

        As to confession before every communion, I view it as a healthy practice, and I prefer it and have done better spiritually when in parishes where that was the norm. There are people who perhaps keep themselves in such a state of mind that they can in good conscience go much longer between confessions while communing regularly — I sometimes have had the experience, after a frenetic Sunday morning of getting the whole family off to Liturgy, that I perhaps needed to go to confession again before communing even though I had just done so the evening before. But then I’m not particularly holy.

        In any event, such matters are for priests and bishops to set guidelines — it is a grave responsibility, and I wouldn’t presume to second-guess them, regardless of what end of the spectrum they are on.

        • Arthur Wallace says


          1) At that particular time, of which you know nothing about, Fr. Alexander’s bishop was + Theodosius who probably asked him to write that article. WHY? Because the entire OCA/Metropolia Synod was backward and needed awakening.

          2) Your post was clear as a direct attack on the man who you never knew, probably never read his works, but only tried to elevate yourself in your own stupidity.

          3) Fr. Alexander never looked to elevate himself, but his vision was to get the Orthodox in North America to “return” to the original Orthodox praxis; not Uniate nor the RC corruption that creeped into the ROC under Peter Moghila.

          4) Insisting that ALL lay people go to Confession before EVERY Eucharistic reception is an aberration from the RC’s. IT IS NOT ORTHODOX PRAXIS! The same with insisting that lay people ONLY receive the Eucharist at Christmas & Pascha – aberrations!

          Fr. Alexander’s ONLY vision was to get the Orthodox in North America to return to true Orthodox praxis. The bishops, in ALL jurisdictions, were the biggest obstacles.

          Furthermore, regarding MONASTICS. ALL monastics belong in monasteries; not in parishes as priests, not in seminaries, not at-large, but in a MONASTERY. Fr. Alexander had to contend with uneducated monastics who thought only THEY knew real Orthodoxy. Most had no clue. Some of these types wanted to propel themselves in teaching at seminaries and running the church. Of course Fr. Alexander opposed them.

          • Arthur,

            You are mistaken. Fr. Alexander’s bishop was Met. Ireney when he wrote his letter to his bishop. +Theodosius did not become Primate of the Orthodox Church in America until 1978. At the time of the letter to his bishop, +Theodosius was the Bishop of Sitka.

            I would also note that the OCA/Metropolia was not backward. It was what it was at the time but you are correct, Fr. Alexander was trying mightily to inject another liturgical point of view into their discussions. “Backwards” is a subjective assumption on your part.

            One could argue that the Synod of Bishops at that time felt they needed to slow down what they saw as Fr. Alexander’s zealous attempts at “liturgical innovation,” a criticism of him that lingers to this day and they were in their right to do so. The push and pull between Fr Alexander and the Synod is well documented and it was in this tension that the OCA gave, at the time, a new hope for Orthodoxy in North America.

            What is of the Holy Spirit in Fr. Alexander’s teachings will remain and what was truly “innovation” will fade away. But there is no doubt that possibly his greatest achievement was to promote and to insist that those who would be the future leaders of the Church be seminary educated. Of course a seminary education is no guarantee of a leader having common sense or loving his flock, which sadly no seminary education can offer, but he did raise the bar in this area.

            So here we are some 30 years after his repose and the man is still shaking things up.

            And Michael Stankovich,

            Thank you for your further clarification of the man, Fr Alexander. He was and continues to be a complex man in Orthodox history.

          • Mr Wallace, first you say that I am uneducated, and embarrass yourself in the process. Now you accuse me of ignorance (which is what saying that I know nothing about something means). And yet in the process your show your own ignorance of the time you claim to know more of than me. Allow me to help you.

            1. Fr.Schmemann’s 1973 article was entitled a “letter to my bishop.” You are saying that Theodosius gave these liturgical instructions to his clergy, then asked Schmemann to write him an insulting public letter refuting his own instructions?

            2. No worries. It never happened. You will first note that he addresses his bishop as “Your Beatitude,” a title given only to a Metropolitan. Theodosius wasn’t Metropolitan until 1977.

            3. He refers to his bishop speaking to the clergy of the NY/NJ Diocese. Theodosius was not bishop of NY/NJ.

            A little internet search reveals that Schmemann’s bishop in 1973, the bishop of NY/NJ, and the OCA Metropolitan, was not Theodosius, who was Bp. of western PA at that time. It was rather Metropolitan Ireney. If Theodosius did ask Schmemann to write that article, it would have been an interference in another bishop’s diocese and attempt to undermine the Metropolitan.

            Perhaps that is exactly what he did, but given your shaky grasp on events you claim to know so much of compared to us youngsters, I am not inclined to trust your account. Nor am I inclined to trust the other claims you make, not least your assessment of my alleged stupidity.

            If your post is an example of the erudition and civility of Fr. Schmemann’s OCA in the 1970s, I for one am not sorry to have been born too late to experience it.

            • Arthur Wallace says

              Ah, so you took the bait. So, you are + Tikhon (retired). Of course.

              + Ireney was totally inept, couldn’t walk nor hardly serve during the time period mentioned, but would not retire. Only when he totally lost his continence while serving was he ushered into retirement. Please note, in 1970, it was + Theodosius who personally received the Tome of Autocephaly from Moscow for the OCA, no other bishop.

              • ??? Bait? +Tikhon? George, do you even read these?

                I am even more glad than ever to have been born too late to have missed a “golden age” that would produce a post like that.

              • Arthur,

                You appear to be a bit wound too tightly on this subject. Your disrespectful portrayal of +Met. Ireney is prepubescent. Why don’t you just admit you got it wrong in thinking that +Theodosius was the person involved and not +Ireney and leave it at that.

                Also, no need to try and “out” Bishop Tikhon. He signs all his posts and hides from no one.

                As for your attempt to put lipstick on your mistake, everyone knows that +Theodosius was the bishop that accepted the Tomos (not Tome) from Moscow. So, what’s your point?

                I hope it is a nice day where you live. Take a walk, relax and respect your elders, even those who are reposed.

              • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                Mr. Wallace, your accusing Edward of being me is beyond stupid and malevolent.
                As for Fr. Alexander’s letter “to my Bishop,” that was written and published in the 1960s in response to a directive relative to a new church edifice in New Jersey which did not include an altar curtain. Metropolitan Ireney of blessed memory DIRECTED his then vicar Bishop, Bishop Dmitri (Royster) of blessed memory, to put out a directive addressing that problem and some others and demanding obedience. Bishop Dmitri followed Metropolitan Ireney’s instructions to the letter, and Fr Alexander expressed his indignation that the directive contradicted what he and some other scholars were teaching. Father Alexander CLEARLY referred to Metropolitan Ireney as his Bishop. I don’t think he would ever refer to any vicar Bishop as “MY Bishop.” The letter actually appeared in the SVS Quarterly at that time…around 1966.

                • M. Stankovich says

                  Vladyka Tikhon,

                  I quoted from this Letter here quite recently. It actually was published in the SVS Quarterly in 1973.

                  Your recollection of the reason for his writing & publishing this letter is very similar to how it was described to me (yet a naive young “welp” at the time) in the “insular hotbed” of SVS when it was published. The notable addition was that it was the conclusion of many that Met. Ireney was easily intimidated by an “element” that opposed change, converts, English, frequent Confession & Communion, and Alexander Schmemann personally. Fr. Alexander’s letter simply verbalized the frustration of many. A few years later, when accompanying then Bishop Dmitri to serve the first ever Presanctified Liturgy in one one of the oldest parishes in his Diocese of New England – where the parish council refused to turn on the heat and limited the lighting for this “innovation” – he did say that Fr. Schmemann paved the way for longsuffering priests, like the one that he had come to assist that evening, restore the Liturgical life and Ordo.

                  • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                    You’re quite right, Michael. 1973 it was. I think the parish that set off Metr0politan Ireney was Fr Paul Kucynda”s. I believe that Metropolitan Ireney was rarely INTIMIDATED by anyone.

                    • “I think the parish that set off Metr0politan Ireney was Fr Paul Kucynda”s”

                      If this is the parish, it doesn’t look like those curtains ever did get installed… Perhaps Fr. Schmemann overruled Metr. Ireney? Or maybe they were installed, and then later removed when a new sheriff arrived in town…

                      I do realize that most Greeks in America survive just fine without curtains…

                    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                      Incidentally, is it true that Archimandrite Zacchaeus was finally deposed?

  8. Michael Kinsey says

    Will the government allow a church that is a national shrine, dedicated as sacred ground, to honor those murdered on 911, to refuse to perform gay marriages?. I do not trust the government, and I cannot honestly reason that it does not have a compromise, which betrays authentic Christianity required of the GOA in exchange for the government approval. The politicians mentioned by the post above are all pro-choice, and Billy Graham is a Freemason. Teach and do, those that teach rightly and do it are the greatest preachers, and I do not consider Mr. Graham one of these. Graham prophesies judgement, on America, but I quote another, ( You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.)

    • It’s still an Orthodox parish, and all Orthodox marriages are subject to the priest’s discretion, as is the use of the premises. As of now, religious non-profits are not subject to discrimination laws.

      “I do not trust the government, and I cannot honestly reason that it does not have a compromise”

      I don’t either, but a compromise for what? The Port Authority wanted to steal their original property, and the GOA demanded another piece of property in exchange. They actually got a better location than they had previously, but that has nothing to do with some kind of ideological horse trade. And the designation of “national shrine” is not subject to government approval; I can designate my tool shed a “national shrine” if I want.

      I know a lot of these characters are wildly liberal, but have a bit of faith. Not in these men, but in Christ, who is steering this ship.

    • Sobering thoughts. Let’s hope you are wrong about a compromise. Maybe we look exotic enough that we can scoot in under the free pass that Islam gets here in this country — like the New York schools that provide time and space for Muslim prayers that I’ve heard about.

    • “…and Billy Graham is a Freemason.”

      Respectfully. Mr. Kinsey, this is pure calumny.

      And whatever else can rightfully be said of the flaws of his Evangelical/Protestantism, he “prophesies” nothing in terms of predicting the future. Clearly America does need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, being largely oblivious to the judgement that is even now upon us. From all that you have written here I think you would agree.

  9. Billy Graham prophecies judgment upon America, saying that we are “worse than Sodom and Gomorrha.”

    So, Billy Graham is a prophet, according to Monomakhos-style Orthodox Christians? How does Rev. Graham know how wicked Sodom and Gomorrah were? Did he visit those places?

    • George Michalopulos says

      OOM, if you can’t trust the Bible who can you trust?

      • OOM, if you can’t trust the Bible who can you trust?

        It’s not a question of not “trusting” the Bible… One expects that kind of question from a Protestant, not Orthodox, Christian.

        • Wow, so we Orthodox can’t cite the Bible because that’s “Protestant”?

          Pretty diabolical, mate. The Bible is ours and it’s the cornerstone of holy tradition.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Well, George you can’t normally trust the Protestant interpretation of the Bible.

        • There’s a difference between Protestant distortions of high theology in the Bible and understanding the basic plot of a Bible story. It’s pretty obvious that Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked in God’s sight.

          • Many of the Orthodox I have met have no idea what is in their Bible, All one has to do is go to liturgy and confession once in a while.

            • Fr. Peter M. Dubinin says

              Lina – and yet there are many protestants (yes, even evangelicals) who don’t know what is in their Bible; what is your point? Puts me in mind of a Bible study I did in Iraq early 2005 on the Acts of the Apostles. Though I never hide the truth I am a priest in the Orthodox Christian Church, one of the attendees must have thought I was something other than an Orthodox Christian and asked the question, how do those who practice infant baptism defend infant baptism from the Scriptures; and so this Orthodox Christian priest took the opportunity to walk this individual through the Scriptures to understand…. The response after the “walk through the Bible” – O.

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                There are tens of millions of Protestants in this country, of innumerable denominations; perhaps a majority of the 300 million people here, I don’t know. Generalizations about them aren’t very useful.

                Bible illiteracy I think is largely an individual matter. Churches with good formal bible study programs (my Orthodox chuch has one) still will only have a fraction of the congregation involved. As a Protestant for 65 years, I have known many regular churchgoers who virtually never read anything from the Bible, along with many who are well-versed in it and study it often.

                In my own case, I read through the New Testament with some frequency; most of it several times a year. On the other hand, my reading of the OT, beyond the Psalms, Isaiah, Proverbs and two or three other books, is nothing to brag about…..

        • Give us the reading of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church on Sodom and Gomorrah, and detail for us how it substantively differs from Protestant conceptions of those cities.

          It isn’t at all hard to demonstrate that America, like any number of countries today, is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. We have had an opportunity to see and hear of the works of Christ — both those done in his lifetime and those done by his saints throughout the centuries (including our own).

          If you don’t believe me, believe Christ.

          “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Speaking of those who refused to hear and accept the teachings of the Apostles.)

          “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”

          And multiple other similar references.

          • assumptive, totally assumptive

            • Vote me negative all you want. The claim has no base. It is all confirmation basis. You say it and because you say it; it must be so…

              A simple statistic is divorce rates are down since the 90s.

              Where is chicken little?

              • George Michalopulos says

                Marriage rates are down as well. Illegitimacy? 38$ of all live births.

                Whites: 32%;
                Hispanic; 54%;
                Blacks: 78%.

              • Christopher says

                Silly Mr. Fall, just silly. To look at our Godless, materialistic, narcissistic, voluntarist morality and self, homosexualist, etc.etc. etc. “culture” and say “assumptive” to the prophetic words of Christ (and their relevance to the modern situation), It’s almost as if you are not a classical Christian (let alone Orthodox) and are thoroughly modern in outlook and spirituality. Do you attend a modern “mainline” protestant denomination, one perhaps with a “priestess” or even a homosexualist “priestess”? I ask because you do not seem Orthodox at all. Do you live in America or any other “western” country? I ask because you seem quite ignorant (and here I am not using the term in a pejorative sense – but in it’s intended meaning) of the modern mind, the current culture in our countries, etc….

    • Thomas Barker says

      To OOM:

      So, Billy Graham is a prophet …?

      Let’s leave out your “Monomakhos-style” sarcasm for a moment. Answer: No, not a prophet. Clearly Billy Graham is an entrepreneur who made a profitable transition from revival tent hustler to network television evangelist. What kind of man ends his solicitations by tilting his nose high in the air and saying arrogantly to thousands, “THE LORD HAS SPOKEN TO YOU TONIGHT!” I saw him do it on one of his later crusade broadcasts. Pretty shocking really.

    • Tim R Mortiss says

      Well, OOM, as St. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians: “What then? [as to the identity or motives of those who preach Christ] Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.”

      So perhaps Orthodox (“monomakhos-style” or not), too, can rejoice that Billy Graham preaches Christ– and not in pretense, either. And that many others do, as well.

  10. Francis Frost says

    Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. Matthew 5:17

    By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other. John 13:35

    Learn to be at peace and thousands round you will be saved. St. Serpahim of Sarov

    It far better for people to SEE a sermon than to hear one. Papa-Theohari

    Learn from those admonitions and then you might actually have chance to make a difference in you own lives and the lives of your countrymen.

    Of course its so much easier to blame every one (and the culture) around you. Look in the mirror. Repentance, like charity begins at home

  11. http://buchanan.org/blog/price-papal-popularity-7042

    This is a touch off topic, but I’ve occasionally observed developments in the RCC over the past year or so with some curiosity. Holding off on calling attention to the emerging tensions, I’ve assumed that it would all pass, subsumed in the Vatican bureaucracy.

    However, I’m beginning to wonder if this pope is not the one I’ve been waiting for – i.e., the one who will bring home the saying I’ve repeated many times in the past: “The RCC is just one bad pope away from becoming the Episcopal Church.”

    He seems to want to move in that direction but may be restrained by practicalities from doing everything he wants at once.

  12. One thing about such predictions, prophecies, etc.: There is a sense that the wrath is already being meted out as a direct consequence of the sins in question. The birth rates of the Western world have plummeted as a result of feminism – abortion and women competing with men for jobs in the workplace. Patriarchal cultures that have avoided this ideology do not share the problem. In Western Europe, Islam is on the rise and the native populations are on the decline.

    Setting aside for a moment the issue of diseases, the normalization of homosexuality has done nothing but make an already coarse culture even moreso. Now even prime time television and daytime radio are not safe for children. Our warmongering and budgetary excesses are causing us to recede as a great power.

    Are not these consequences the just deserts of our moral failings? Is not the rise of the East a fitting rebuke from God? I happen to think that all things are actually on track, given Western attitudes. God will not be mocked.


  13. Woah! I

  14. James Denney says

    One wonders why the hierarchy of our Church would not have proposed a contest for designs, and ask members of parishes, professionals and lay, to submit photos or designs of what they thought the new Church should look like? They could have published the top 50 or so in the Observer (selected by a council of Bishops, perhaps?), and then asked for a vote of parishioners nationally to pick one of the fifty. Of course, this would never occur to the leaders of our Church, and that it would give our members the reality of actually taking part in a major decision. And they wonder why they lose support and commitment. The way this design was picked smacks of elitism and arrogance, is a total disrespect on the part of the hierarchy of the members of the parishes who feed them.

    • James Denney says

      You can take this down; I apparently posted it on the wrong thread, what happened to the one in which the Saint Nicholas Church at ground zero was being discussed?

  15. Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

    Fr. Robert Arida’s latest OCA-sponsored agitprop: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and then —

    If the never changing Gospel who is Jesus Christ is to have a credible presence and role in our culture then the Church can no longer ignore or condemn questions and issues that are presumed to contradict or challenge its living Tradition. Among the most controversial of these issues are those related to human sexuality, the configuration of the family, the beginning and ending of human life, the economy and the care and utilization of the environment including the care, dignity and quality of all human life. If the unchanging Gospel is to be offered to the culture then the Church, in and through the Holy Spirit will have to expand the understanding of itself and the world it is called to save. That there are Orthodox Christians who misuse the never changing Christ to promote a particular political agenda and ideology or as license to verbally and physically assault those they perceive as immoral along with those who would question the status quo of the Church impose on the Church a “new and alien spirit.”

    And even that doesn’t honestly say want he really means.