Festivals Uber Alles

ocl-logo-thumbAn editorial by a member of the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) was published recently. It’s a very well-crafted, thoughtful essay by George Matsoukos, the long-time Executive Director of that fine organization. (Full disclosure: I have been a member of the OCL for many years and they have published several of my articles.) You can read it for yourself on the OCL website.

It offers much food for thought on the current state of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). I don’t agree with all its particulars –specifically the spread of Athonite monasticism and the danger of “fundamentalism” for example–but Matsoukas does hit the nail on the head in many of his other critiques.

There’s plenty to chew on here. Today, I’d like to concentrate on just one: festivals in the life of individual GOA parishes. Matsoukas implies that the metropolitans of the GOA have made a conscious effort to promote festivals and Greek ethnicity, pretty much at the expense of everything else. In his own words:

The Archdiocese has also taken a policy of ‘Hellenizing’ the Church. There is no definition of this concept. One characteristic is to institutionalize the Greek festival as a fundraiser for parish operating costs because the concept of tithing is not taught and encouraged. Ethnic youth dancing is now a ministry. Indigenous Americans of Greek descent…have been marginalized. It is interesting to note that the development of the St Nicholas Shrine within the 9/11 lower Manhattan site of the American Memorial is being morphed into creating an Acropolis in New York City and…”a perpetual sacred shrine to Orthodoxy and Hellenism.”

Though I agreed with his assertion in general terms, I thought that maybe he was being a little too audacious in his critique. Since then however I’ve come to hear from several sources in the GOA that he is very much correct. To put not too fine a point on it, I’ve recently seen with my own eyes an example of the slavish dependence on the local festival by diocesan authorities.

Recently, a dedicated group of congregants who had concerns about their annual festival and other facets of their parish have come to Monomakhos. They wrote a petition to the local (sic) bishop asking that they be allowed to call for a general assembly regarding whether to have their annual festival. One of their number has long suggested that it would be possible to maintain that parish’s economic viability without a festival if only every Steward simply gave a small amount –a pittance actually–$3.00 per day. This is hardly a tithe. Regardless, in petitioning the bishop, they followed the strictures as laid out in the Uniform Parish Regulations to the letter.

The bishop responded to their request by dodging their concerns and stating that the festival must go on in the “interests of promoting our culture and faith” (in that order). This was a classic example of two parties in a dispute talking past each other. (It’s also an example of clergymen overriding the strictures of the UPR when it suits them.)

Now, I won’t go into the particulars of this kerfuffle. I am merely interested in the fact that the diocesan authorities thought that the concerns of a significant minority could be dismissed out of hand and chose to insinuate themselves in a local decision. The only reason I can come up with is that Matsoukos is right on the money. The GOA, for whatever reason, has made a conscious effort that every parish must conduct an annual festival, regardless of whether they are able to maintain their parish by increased giving.

Some may interject at this point that this is due to maintaining the steady flow of money upwards from every one of the 549 parishes in the GOA to 79th Street on an annual basis. Matsoukos writes eloquently about the explosion of the GOA’s budget from $12 million ten years ago to $27 million today. This must be taken into account. But what if, say, St Joe of Kokomo GOA, can continue its present state of giving to 79th St without a festival? What if each Steward voluntarily gave three to five dollars a day in lieu of the festival? Wouldn’t that be a wash?

Matsoukas alludes to the answer. The stress is on Hellenism (however defined). And this was proven to Your’s Truly in the letter that the bishop sent to the parish.

This of course is just one instance. It is dangerous to extrapolate from this lone instance that this applies to the GOA overall. Fair enough. Let us then pull back from this position and state that we have a working hypothesis that this is so.

Like the author, we should all be concerned about the stranglehold of the festival on the lives of the GOA parishes. This is even for those us who are not in the GOA (such as myself). As to why this is so, I would like to propose an additional consideration; one which is more subtle and insidious in its implications for American Orthodoxy. And that is the conscious, determined effort to have every GOA parish maintain a festival at all costs shores up the “Greek” brand of Orthodoxy in America. No other Orthodox jurisdiction comes close to rivaling the GOA when it comes to annual festivals. Every festival, no matter how elegant (or tacky for that matter), cements in the non-Orthodox mind that Greek ethnicity = Orthodoxy. “OPA!” is what it’s all about.

As the Episcopal Assembly struggles to maintain its viability, and as various jurisdictions within it are always looking for an exit, the GOA has to increase its cachet in some way. The paltriness of Orthodox numbers in America have essentially excised us out of the equation regarding large-scale philanthropy (i.e. hospitals, soup kitchens, orphanages, etc.). The strengths of Orthodoxy in America –such as they are–invariably revolve around cultural vibrancy. In this respect, the GOA is clearly the most vibrant of the jurisdictions. The annual festivals, which take place from coast-to-coast, are the most obvious examples of this. The sad thing is, they are also the most obvious example of Orthodoxy in America.


  1. What’s wrong with the ‘spread of Athonite monasticism’?

    Should there be monks only on the Holy Mountain Athos?

    Maybe misunderstood something?

    • You have to know that there are problems with the Athonite (actually Ephremite) monasteries here. One can go to St. Tikhon’s and receive advice as to how to make family life better. In half of the Ephremite monasteries one can go and they will tell you to stop having sex with one’s wife, and then people like me have to figure out what to do about the divorce.

      • What’s wrong about married couples’ having sex? Why would monks say such a thing?!

        Maybe Fr Ephraim and his monks don’t so counsel people, and this is misreported?

      • Indeed. When living on the East Coast for a couple of years, I attended a Greek parish that had a good relationship with an Ephremite monastery. I assumed it would be like the Slavic tradition monasteries I had visited, except for a Greek “flavor.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. My wife and I were no longer able to have children for medical reasons, so the priest-monk I went to confession with told me — on a first meeting — that my we (in our mid-thirties) had to stop having marital relations, post-haste. There was a level of intense curiosity about my sexual life and history that was downright creepy — and a more or less bored lack of interest in things like anger, lack of forgiveness, resentment, spiritual despondency, and other normal soul-destroying things that plague us. I never went back for confession, needless to say.

        I was confused, because the Greeks in the parish were very normal, loving people who were clearly not worked up about fasting (both of their big food fundraisers took place during fasting seasons) and who showed no evidence that anything but regular hanky-panky was going on in the marriage beds. But then I realized that they had a sort of acquired Greek immunity to that sort of stuff. They didn’t go to confession at the monastery or anywhere else, and with their consciences clean, they brushed off the other stuff as “monastic.” They enjoyed visiting the monastery and its pleasant setting in the mountains, and felt good about contributing their considerable wealth to a monastery. It was the poor converts who seemed to get sucked in and turned into cult-like zombies. I knew some of them well, and know of at least two marriages that sustained long-term damage. Stories I heard from around the country let me know that this was not an isolated thing with Ephremite monasteries.

        My formation has primarily been in the ROCOR with a bit of Serbian influence and some time spent in the more traditional OCA dioceses, but I loved those couple of years at a Greek church. There is a tremendous amount of deep piety in the GOA — far more than the stereotypes about Greek festivals and obsession with secular Hellenism would indicate on the surface. As far as I could tell, there were a lot of great, devout priests coming out of Holy Cross and a lot of good things happening in the GOA. But it is happening in spite of the Ephremites and not because of it, IMHO.

        • George Michalopulos says

          For what it’s worth, this hasn’t been my experience. It’s possible that in the start-up phase of many of these monasteries they had some seriously addled goofballs giving out advice. But in the two monasteries I visited, I heard no such thing.

          I have a different take however: given the extreme worldliness of the GOA, its parishes and its people (clergy, episcopate and people), it may be inevitable that the Athonite monasteries have had to preach a more severe message of repentance than you would find in the Slavic monasteries. After all, think about the point of my latest editorial (and Matsoukas’ lament). Namely that festival must happen regardless whether the parish needs it or not. (And let’s be honest, the fact that the average parish does need it bespeaks a great dearth of spirituality).

          Just a consideration.

          • There is no argument from me that there is enough genuine perversion in American life today that stern teaching is needed. Please don’t single out the GOA for worldliness, BTW — their have been sexual scandals amongst clergy — including hierarchs — of a enough jurisdictions in the US to indicate that no-one is remaining untouched by the fetid sea we all swim in. In fact, given the GOA’s large size, my impression is that sexual scandals and homosexual bishops are, if anything, more rare in the GOA than in the OCA. As far as the worldliness of the laity — that is a hard thing to generalize about, but I have been around enough to acknowledge your point.

            I appreciate your experience, and don’t doubt that for you and many others, these monasteries have been positive. I remember talking to a pro-Ephremite priest a little about our experience at this particular monastery, and he said something like, “O that may just be something that just happened at one of the satellite monasteries.” Not long after that, people we knew who were then into the Ephremite thing took part in a big pilgrimage to the mother ship in Arizona, and among the people who were there, couples from various places around the country who attended different monasteries were openly talking to them about how “freeing” and wonderfully spiritual it had been to give up marital relations and live as brother and sister. It wasn’t just being discussed at the satellite monasteries. I know that some couples are called to live as brother and sister for the sake of seeking higher spiritual goals, but I can tell you that any spiritual father worth his salt would, in counseling the couple, tell them to keep it to themselves — both for reasons of pride and because this path is not universally applicable.

            No, my friend, it is (or at least was) real, it is (was) not isolated, and this was only a few years ago. I have heard of one Metropolitan in the GOA who won’t let them set up shop in his diocese (look at a list of their monasteries and you can figure it out), not because they are too pious and devout, but specifically because of this stuff and because of their reputation for creating two classes of people within parishes — monastery people and parish people. I know another priest (OCA) who encourages his people to visit the nearby Ephremite monastery, but with two firm instructions — don’t go to confession there, and avoid conversations with the monastics that involve sexual issues.

            Another priest I know remarked to me, “well, if you’re foolish enough to go to a monastic for marital advice, don’t be surprised if you get monastic rules.” I disagreed strongly, for two reasons. I knew from my own experience and from that of others who confided in me that it was the Ephremite monastics who brought these things up in confession — it wasn’t us who started confessing that we were feeling guilt about having sex with our spouses. Secondly, I have been to confession at several Slavic monasteries where the priest-monk giving confession met me where I was and didn’t assume that I was there to take on a spiritual son relationship for life. I was just going to confession so I could commune with as clean a heart as possible. There certainly are no warning labels on the doors of these monasteries saying, “don’t come to confession unless you are ready to discuss not having sex with your spouse.”

            When this was going on with people we knew, my wife and I called a priest-monk in the ROCOR who in his younger years had been a monastic on Mt. Athos but came back for health reasons and was serving in a parish we had formerly attended. He sighed and explained that there are a number of Athonite traditions, and that this was one of them — he didn’t think it was a healthy one to try to implement in the general laity. Not just in the specific content of the advice but the rigidity and universality with which it is often applied.

            I will absolutely accept that there may be Ephremite monasteries where this doesn’t go on. I will also accept that perhaps there has been a sea change in the last few years and these monasteries are no longer doing this stuff (although Protopappas may be able to enlighten us more on that). I pray it is so, because good, traditional monasteries can be a help to us all in this struggle of living life in America today. But just as sexual scandals have gutted the “traditional witness” of any number of monasteries in this country, this different kind of sexual obsession can hurt the cause of upholding traditional beliefs. How, for instance, is anyone to take seriously a monastic’s instructions not to engage in same sex relations or pre-marital sex when they learn that said monastic doesn’t even think it is appropriate to have opposite sex marital relations, except on certain days of the week and only when procreation is the intent?

            • Two principles of orthodox operations:

              1. The parish priest is, by definition, the spiritual father of the people entrusted to his pastoral care. It’s the parish priest who baptizes, confesses, marries, catechizes, buries his people. If some people feel the need to seek confession and spiritual guidance elsewhere, they must do it with the knowledge and blessing of their own parish priest. Wandering (planE) is just as much a spiritual liability for the laity as it is for monastics and is an unmistakable sign of confusion and self-deception in the soul.

              2. It’s not for nothing that (except in the most unusual circumstances) baptisms, weddings and funerals of the laity — ‘family sacraments’, if you will — are not conducted in monasteries.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Ah, but Monk James the term “spiritual father’ is often misused and abused. Personally, I am quite leery of anyone who holds himself out as a ‘spiritual father’. I’ve seen the horrific damage that fake ones do to people: destroying souls and leading people to death. (BTW I have no knowledge of the Ephramite practices–I am not commenting on them)

                When I was young in the Church I approached my parish priest about being a spiritual father and he flat out told me he was not qualified because of the depth of relationship that it required and the time–he had too many other duties. So, he is my confessor, guide and priest. He is the first person to whom I turn regarding any spiritual dilemma, I ask for his prayers and guidance and submit some things to him for blessing.

                All too often people think ‘spiritual fathers’ are magic men. All too often unseemly power over others is arrogated by narcissistic cowards that are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

              • The parish I was attending was one where the older GOA priest didn’t hear confessions. Period. Had never done so in his many decades as priest. So we were on our own to find a place to go to confession, since we had never been without regular confession. The church had an friendly relationship with this nearby Ephremite monastery, so I figured, why not go there? Since my fellow parishioners hadn’t been to confession in 30 years, I doubt they went to confession at the monastery, either, so there would have been no one to warn me off. After the Ephremite experience, we found an OCA parish several hours away where we could drive to for Vespers and confession every 2-3 months.

                The other two couples I referenced earlier were at a different GOA parish, where the priest did hear confessions but only from his “spiritual children,” of whom he would only take on so many. So they, too, were on their own to find someplace to go to confession, and also went to a nearby Ephremite monastery to find it. None of us were wandering around randomly. Not saying that there aren’t those who do it, but we weren’t. How common is it for GOA priests to not do confession? — probably pretty common in the generation that is now retiring, but probably less so among the younger generation. The second year in our parish we got a new priest fresh out of Holy Cross, and he started the hard task of teaching a parish about confession when they hadn’t done it — probably in the living memory of anyone in the parish.

                In more than two decades in the Slavic world, I never had a priest be anything but encouraging about pilgrimages to monasteries, and it is no big deal in the Russian world to go to confession to someone else when you are traveling or on a pilgrimage, or whatever, as long as you aren’t doing it as a way to hide something serious from your usual confessor, I suppose. The monks usually preferred that you go to confession there if you wanted to commune — mainly as a way of making sure that the people they communed actually had been to confession before communion. Very unremarkable, if you ask me.

                My confessions at ROCOR and Serbian monasteries were short, “down and dirty” (but genuine) confessions as is common in the Russian tradition. Other than some general helpful and encouraging words, I don’t recall a ROCOR or Serbian priest-monk ever offer me spiritual direction in confession. That was what I was expecting when I went to the Ephremite monastery, not knowing any better.

                It is just a different culture, I guess.

          • Meant Up for yours George but went down

          • George, I have personally visited six of Elder Ephriam’s monasteries and I have a network of Orthodox friends who have visited others. At one of my first visits to the Ephraimite monsatery nearest to my home, I asked a certain monk whom I had gotten to know if I could speak with him about the Jesus Prayer. Somehow he took this to mean I wanted confession, so he took me aside and began asking very intrusive questions about specific sexual practices in my marriage, told me I could not use birth control with my wife, even though she was well beyond the age of safe maternity, and added that we could not have sex anyway, since we were not married in an Orthodox Church (neither of us were Orthodox at the time) and hence that we were fornicators. Happily, this did not transpire within the sacrament of holy confession, so I was free to ignore all this, but I felt like I had just had a close call. Since that time, about fifteen years ago, I have heard dozens of horror stories about similar abuses in the Elder’s monasteries. I am far from being anti-monastic, and in fact my greatest hope for Orthodoxy in North America is that we will be blessed with many more monasteries and that they assume their traditional role in Orthodox life here. But I would strongly urge any married pilgrims to NOT CONFESS with ANY Eprhaimite monk before making careful inquiries. Or else, enter into confession only after stating that your own spiritual father has not given you a blessing to discuss sexual matters with anyone but himself.

            • Thank you for sharing this. Folks, we really aren’t making this stuff up.

              • Voice of the Lone Ranger here. The one time that I confessed to Fr. Ephraim himself (not the younger Fr. Ephraim, but the one whom people love to malign), I received excellent counsel for my full confession, and not one whiff of the stuff reported here and elsewhere. Yes, I was (and still am) married.

            • Is it ever possible for laymen to use their brains? If a cleric/monk/nun/whatever starts asking improper questions, first, you need to be grown up enough to KNOW what improper means. Second, you need to say to that improperly questioning person “Who do you think you are? How dare you ask such a perverse question? Who, exactly, is in charge of you? Get him here immediately.” Like you would if some young punk in a Target store wearing a name tag did the same thing. You are *not* addressing a six winged cherub. If a person in black is acting like a predator or just a damn idiot, act like you would or should. GROW UP. If you act like a doormat don’t be surprised if you find footprints on your back. How embarrassing to read about this nonsense. Not because of the “monastics”, but because of the fools who enable them. As long as spineless laymen are allowed into half baked monastic buildings this will go on I guess. How happy I am to have never had this particular experience. I hope this will not make some faint hearted person person gasp, that I would suggest scolding a confessor. Too bad. If someone doesn’t the stupidity will go on. Show some actual reverence for Confession. Don’t allow it to be abused in your own case or anyone else’s.

      • Well, a couple of things:

        1) there are ignorant monks and bad monks in every jurisdiction
        2) I cannot fathom why a married person visiting a monastery would ask (or take) advice about sex from a celibate. A married parish priest would be a better consult on that.
        3) There are, in fact, periods of time when a husband and wife are called on to “fast from the flesh”. I doubt these requirements were originally quite as flexible as I’ve heard them explained by OCA clergy (“only if both spouses agree”) and I’ve never even heard them mentioned by GOARCH clergy – ever.

        • Oh.

          1. It is rare these days to come across monastics (in America, at least) who are completely without a theological education. The OCA seminaries, e.g., never charge monastics for tuition. The Church of Russia now requires that all monastics study in theological schools.

          2. It is not a logical necessity that counselors and healers share the characteristics of the people with whom they work: a physician need not suffer the diseases he treats. Marriage counseling, in particular, is one of the responsibilities of the clergy, who should know when they’re out of their depth and when it’s time to refer their parishioners to medical doctors and psychologists; this is how the characteristically unmarried RC clergy work. I’m aware of one married orthodox priest who actually had a degree in marriage counseling but was a disaster in the field. He couldn’t apply his training in his own life and went on to ruin other marriages.

          3. Regardless of the days of the week and the seasons of the year, the ‘mutual consent’ aspect of sexual abstinence among married people was established by St Paul (1 COR 7) so priests who point out that fact are quoting some seriously good authority.

          • Hmmm,

            Interesting. Corinthians says the focus is on devoting time to prayer with nothing about fasting in and of itself or periods of fasting. Fascinating precedent. So if you were not going to pray more frequently, yet were intending to fast in other ways, abstinence from sex would seemingly be prohibited.

            I mean, one of the purposes of the fast has to do with redirecting the time taken up by food preparation toward prayer (an archaic concern today since 1. food does not take a significant time to prepare and 2. lenten food often takes more time than non-lenten.).

            Yet another purpose is to avoid things that excite the passions. Seems like carte blanche. Is there another fasting rule that one spouse is permitted to ignore if the other agrees? “I want meat for dinner!”

            I’m not dismissing you, I’d just like to see more from the Fathers on it.

            Nonetheless, if the Church Fathers agree, must be the rule.

            • George,

              Please delete the above post for 9/9/14 at 12:32pm. I had intended to stop it before it posted, then to edit it, but it went directly to post without any period allowed for editing. Corinthians does mention fasting as a reason to abstain with consent. It seems a strange interpretation to me for the reasons above, but not something with which I am prepared to argue.

          • Melanie Jula Sakoda says

            I would add to Monk James reply (Part 3) that the epistle is read at every Orthodox wedding, hopefully in a language that both bride and groom understand. It was read in English at my wedding 39 years ago.

            • That’s actually funny. I was at a wedding of an older Greek man whose first wife had passed away several years earlier. His new bride was American. He wanted the epistle read in Greek to mask the content.

              In any case, I’m not sure George reads these before he posts them because I asked him to delete a draft that accidentally got posted by mistake.

              My point on the “consent” issue was essentially this:

              Saying to a couple: You have a duty to abstain from sexual relations during X, Y and Z period. However, if one of you does not feel that they can obey this discipline, the other one does not sin by indulging the other spouse’s desire for sex. In fact, there is an obligation to give in. Yet the disobedient spouse is still responsible for their disobedience.

              Is different than saying: Abstain from sex during these periods, but only by mutual agreement.

              The result may be the same or similar, but the moral responsibility is emphasized in the first counsel, the freedom to not abstain emphasized in the second.

              But, that should be apparent anyway. Either it’s a rule or it’s not.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Sorry Misha. I try to read everyone but I was very tired last night. Would you still like me to remove it?

                • No problem, George! Sure, if you don’t mind. Thanks!

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    Remind me, which one again? (Things are kinda chaotic in my life right now with a change in residence and employment.)

                    • You got it, George. Thanks!

                    • Mr. Michalopulos,

                      I have two questions for you?

                      Tomorrow night in Dallas TX, several of the Orthodox Bishops ( I would presume one or more of the Greek Metropolitans will be there) will be at an open forum (with 400 laity expected to attend) to discuss their further progress in developing an American Orthodox Church, which, is suppose to comply with the ancient church cannons and be acceptable to the Mother Churches. Can you give us some idea of what to expect out of this forum and discussion?

                      Second, OCL has announced their next conference is to be this October at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. They plan to familiarize the St. Vlad’s management with OCL’s work as well as also familiarize Metropolitan Tikhon. What can we expect from this event in terms of Orthodox Unity?

                    • The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America commenced its fifth annual meeting Monday, September 15, with a Pan-Orthodox Clergy-Laity Gathering in Dallas, Texas. Some two hundred people attended, including more than 30 bishops representing the member jurisdictions of the Assembly.

                      The evening was presided over by the Chairman of the Assembly, Archbishop Demetrios of America. His Eminence welcomed those in attendance, remarking that the Doxology was an opportunity to thank God for all His gifts and for bringing the Assembly together once again. His Eminence expressed his wish that the evening would make the faithful more aware of the sacred and great work that the Lord is doing through the Assembly.

                      Following the Doxology, a panel of bishops answered questions submitted by those in attendance. Questions pertained to the work of the Assembly, including youth ministry, inter-church relations, and evangelism and outreach, and challenges facing the Orthodox Church today, including questions of language, administrative reorganization, and persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

                      Five bishops were on the panel: Archbishop Demetrios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America), Bishop Basil (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese), Bishop John (Russian Orthodox Church in the USA), Archbishop Nicolae (Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese), and Bishop Gregory (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese). The panel was moderated by Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides, a member of the Assembly’s Secretariat.

    • You didn’t. Some Greeks are so secular minded that monasticism is a real threat to their worldly view of the Church. I’ve read about the practices of the Athonite monasteries here. They’re not any more rigid than the practices of Russian monastics, if that.

      It’s just that it shocks the Portocalos’s. That’s what “fundamentalist” really means: Someone who actually, seriously believes in his religion, not just “therapeutic deism”, even of the conservative variety.

      As to the cultural stuff, Germans have their Oktoberfest, Russians have their festivals, I’m sure other groups do as well. Much ado. However, it is unfortunate that GOARCH would mandate that a parish have a Greek festival. That sounds quite odd.

      • Protopappas says

        “I’ve read about the practices of the Athonite monasteries here. They’re not any more rigid than the practices of Russian monastics, if that.”

        Misha, with all due respect, you have read about it, but some of us have been there and are the janitors who have to clean up the spiritual vomit at the end of the night.

      • You are right — Slavic monastics are at least as strict and traditional in their personal and communal monastic lives are are the Ephremites.

        The big difference is in how Ephremites view their role in dealing with pilgrims. I’ve read all 7 volumes of the Optina Elder series, and have spent time in both ROCOR and Serbian monasteries, and I can tell you that there is a level of love and compassion and gentleness in dealing with broken people coming to monasteries, looking for a little help and a shot in the arm to help them keep going in their spiritual life.

        That Optina spirit is foreign to what I have seen personally and heard about from first-hand witnesses in the Ephremite monasteries.

        Are secular-minded Greeks (or any other nationality) threatened by more traditional teachings, and hence monasticism in general? Maybe, but I know at least one very devout and well-connected Greek Orthodox Christian who thinks that the Ephremites are doing more harm than good in the GOA. This is a guy who loves the local monastery back near his family’s home town in Greece, and who goes there every year.

        • Could you be more specific? The two things I’ve heard, and really I don’t put a lot of credence in them because I wasn’t there, are that there is a cult of personality close to veneration and that there is some questionable advice regarding sexual relations.

          As to sexual relations between couples, monks are no experts. As to veneration, I’ve heard Fr. Efrem and those close to them discourage such activity as inappropriate.

          • I’ve heard some strange veneration things, but since I am sticking to my own personal experience and what I have been told by reliable people about their own direct experiences, I won’t repeat them — I hope they aren’t true, and work from the assumption that they aren’t. If the person telling you didn’t actually see it, then I wouldn’t give it any credence.

            As to the questionable advice regarding sexual relations, I already stated it above, but will restate it:

            If the sexual act isn’t intended for procreation, you don’t do it. So for someone like my wife and I who could no longer have children, even though we had hoped to, we were to stop all marital relations. Period. Never mind that we were in our mid-thirties.

            For another couple that was older than us and the wife was post-menopausal — same thing. Stop having sex.

            For another couple younger than us who could have children still, there was a complex set of rules of when you could and couldn’t have sex. Suffice it to say that most of the time was off limits if you wanted to commune frequently. If you communed weekly, there was one day a week (Tuesday, I think) when you could — as long as it wasn’t a fasting season (when it was always off limits 7 days a week, whether you were communing or not). If you “fell” by having sex on a day when you weren’t supposed to, then there were consequences (daily prostrations, a period of time before you were allowed to commune again, etc.) I may be off in a detail or two, but that is the basic gist of it.

            As I said above, if it works for someone — great. But for most people living in the world, swirling with illicit sexual temptation, taking away the one licit (and God-blessed) outlet for those basic needs doesn’t seem wise to me, especially when you are dealing with people who haven’t built themselves up to the kind of spiritual state that can handle that in a healthy way. Maybe I’m just not holy enough for the Ephremites. But I can live with that.

            And maybe the mother ship in Arizona has sent down a directive for their priest-monks to stop giving such advice. That would be a good thing.

            • Engaged observer says

              Maybe this is simply an example of how fallen I am, but as an Orthodox Christian, and given our culture’s obsession with sex, its pervasiveness everywhere, the availablity of internet pornography, etc., if my son eventually gets married to a good woman and avoids internet pornography and has a good family for himself, and the worst thing that he does is that he and his wife happen to have sex during one of our fasting days or during a fasting period — well, that would make a happy papa.

              Remember, fasting is an invitation to grow closer to God, and different people are at different places on that path. God doesn’t love you less if you eat meat on a Wednesday or if you happen to have sex with your spouse during Great Lent. The strict fast is meant for monastics, and I wonder how many of them are successful at it 100% of the time.

              Frederica Mathewes-Green made a good analogy between a married couple having sex and birthday cake. Yes, birthdays are special occasions that call for yummy birthday cake. But sometimes, even when it’s no one’s birthday in particular, it’s nice to have a good piece of cake. Same is true for sex between a married couple — sometimes you do it because you want to conceive a child. But at other times it’s there to simply strengthen the marital bond and to allow for deep closeness between husband and wife, even if conceiving a child isn’t the primary goal.

            • Abbouna Michel says

              What all of these narratives have in common is the propagation of a theology by the monastics mentioned that is utterly perverse, un-Orthodox, and, ultimately, un-Christian. It presumes two things that simply cannot be sustained in Orthodox sacramental theology:

              1. That sexual activity within marriage comes close to, if not crossing over, the line into sinfulness. Unless it’s a means of exploitation of the other person, this theology is untenable. One of the reasons that Orthodoxy has “issues” with some of St. Augustine’s theology is that it tends a bit in this direction.

              2. Implicit in this theology is that the sole purpose of sexual activity within marriage is procreation. That has NEVER been the position taken by orthodox Orthodoxy! Rather, sexual activity is for procreation AND the sanctification of the couple. This perverse theology, if taken to its logical conclusion, sees human sexual activity as no different than that of animals.

              John Calvin and John Knox would have been very sympathetic to these monks. As an Orthodox theologian, I am somewhat less impressed.

  2. I like ‘ethnic’ food as much as anybody, but it’s a great disappointment to learn that some of our bishops would make ANYTHING more important than preaching the gospel.

    Maybe the bishop who wrote that letter didn’t mean that….

    Or is he a phyletist? A money grubber? A shill for 79th street?

  3. Christopher says


    I have to respectfully disagree with you. Despite your arguments (well, perhaps because of them!) I am not concerned about this silly emphasis on “Hellenism” by GOA and it’s implications for American Orthodoxy. It’s obviously a misread of the American situation, has no staying potential, and is thus a fools errand. Most importantly it is a side show to the Church and it’s mission. The fact that ill informed non-Orthodox do equate Orthodoxy to some sort of “Greek” ethnic identity does not bother me either. I have found when I tell people I am Orthodox that even more think I am “Jewish” than Greek!

    The other day I had another encounter with my daughter’s kindergarten teachers. We send her to the local catholic school and on the first day I was explaining to them why she will make the sign of the cross “backwards”. They said “oh, your Byzantine catholic”. I explained we are not unia and politely suggested they google Eastern Orthodoxy.

    The strengths of Orthodoxy in America will never revolve around any alleged “cultural vibrancy”. It happens in small ways, whenever you or I witness nothing less than the Spirit and Christ’s Holy Church.

    Finally I would add that the OCL concern for administrative unity is misplaced. Surely the OCA’s internal history, or GOA’s, or fill_in_the_blank’s reveal we are not quite there yet. In fact, I think a return to a mission church under Moscow is probably the most “canonical” thing to do. I certainly would not want a situation where Istanbul has more influence than it does now…

    • Johann Sebastian says

      Christopher said:

      “They said “oh, your Byzantine catholic”. I explained we are not unia and politely suggested they google Eastern Orthodoxy.”

      In a way, they were correct. We’re “Orthodox Byzantine Catholics” but not “Uniate Byzantine Catholics.”

      • Christopher McAvoy says

        Stop letting Unia be so offense to you – the point is that you’re with Old Rome, right?
        If that’s how they identify you so be it…old terms die hard… but the one thing they will never EVER accept is that you are Orthodox… that’s really not going to work out…that’s just offensive…

        Use common sense please..not political correctness.

      • Yep, we are indeed the Catholic Church. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the “Roman Catholics” aren’t (obviously siding with those who say the “schism” is more than a schism and that we are not “two lungs” of the same Church ;).

        Still, in my 20+ years of experience around and in Orthodoxy I have never ran across any clergy or laymen that uses the technically correct term of “catholic” regularly in naming the Eastern Orthodox Church. I would never do so, simply because (in America at least) the term is exclusively the domain of the RC’s…

  4. Gail Sheppard says

    Festivals are cultural events. They were never intended to serve as the backbone of the Church. Just another aberration of the Americas.

    • On the other hand, I have seen a significant shift over the last 30 years in Greek festivals. The first Greek festival my wife and I attended as students, some years before becoming Orthodox, the doors to the church nave were locked up tight and the spiritual witness at the festival amounted to the priest (in his Roman dog collar and black suit) sitting at an out of the way table in a dark corner with 3 or 4 books for sale. We bought one — Timothy Ware’s “The Orthoodox Church,” and when my wife finished reading it, she announced to me that she had decided she was Orthodox, end of discussion. I had been trying to move us from the Anglican world into Roman Catholicism — something that would have been a spiritual disaster for us. My wife had leapfrogged over me and was ready to take an even more radical step. So even that out of the way corner table bore witness to Orthodoxy that bore fruit.

      We always attended Serbian or ROCOR churches, but always went to the local Greek festivals, but saw a steady shift, with church tours and presentations of Orthodox belief becoming increasingly central, and the quality became increasingly traditional and deep. By the time I went to my last Greek festival 13 or 14 years ago at our then Greek parish, we had a young priest, at an organizational meeting prior to the Greek festival, telling the parishioners that the primary purpose of the festival was to bear witness to the Orthodox faith — everything else was to take a back seat. If we made money, that would be a bonus (and of course we made a boat-load of money — Greeks know how to do that, and shouldn’t be faulted for being good businessmen).

      The church tours and teaching about Orthodoxy were the main activity, and nothing was allowed to detract from them. Rather than books for sale, there was lots of free literature about the Orthodox faith available to all who visited. The priest was in full riassa, not a dog collar, and was conspicuous from morning to night — talking about Orthodoxy to visitors and enquirers from morning until night. I’m not claiming that my experience was typical — I really don’t know.

      But just as importantly, my experience of two years in a Greek parish as a xenos were that once the parishioners learned that our family had come to the parish with respect and humility, we were very quickly embraced and fully included in everything. As far as they were concerned, we were Orthodox — we were ontologically Greek, out backgrounds in Scandanavia and the British Isles notwithstanding. We were immersed in love — my wife remarked that after years of having no spiritual mothers, she had dozens of older Greek women who embraced her as a spiritual daughter and mothered her in some ways more than her real mother ever had. It still brings tears to her eyes. I and my kids learned how to say the Pater Imon and I learned to read the Trisagion Prayers and the Creed and do some ison at Orthros, but we never learned more than a few pleasantries in conversational Greek. After my being there for a year, the church council chose me to teach the Orthodox faith to their teenagers, over my protestations.

      I found the food events (we had 2 major events and one minor event a year) to be memorable experiences. It was a time of bonding with one’s fellow parishioners like nothing I had experienced in any parish before or since in my other traditions. My kids connected with their kids as they did the work that teenagers were assigned to do, preparing things in a back room, listening to country music and laughing together. We are so atomized in our society, that we just don’t have opportunities to connect with each other as friends and as human beings, and not just as people who stand next to each other in church on Sunday. Working shoulder to shoulder, doing hard work with other men of the church, was a formative experience for me and for my sons. It reminded me of all of the years I had spent with my own father working at the family business enterprise growing up. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. And I watched as these “cultural” events gently drew some of the more peripheral members of the parish back into engagement with the church — we’d see them at church more often thereafter, at least for a time, and often for a long time.

      Like so many Greek parishes, there were so many wealthy men in the parish that the church didn’t “need” do do these events. I honestly think that they saw it as something intrinsic to being a genuine community — a non-geographical village, as it were. I think they would have done it had they raised no money at all. Much of the money went to funding youth retreats and activities, and the youth were expected to work side by side with their fathers and uncles and cousins in raising that money — an intergenerational experience that bonded young to old.

      For a couple of years I was thus a member of the Greek tribe, and I have no doubt i I were to return to that same parish 15 or 20 years later, I would be greeted with open arms as one of them — not as a xenos that they had tolerated for a time. I am proud to have been a member of the Greek tribe, and grateful to them for having embraced us and shared their life and faith with us. Some use tribalism as a dirty word — it probably can be, but those visceral bonds can also be what keeps a church going through tough times.

      Just something to counterbalance some of the more negative views I’ve seen expressed on this thread — your mileage may vary, depending on your own personal experiences.

      • That is a wonderful account regarding the best in the Greek Orthodox experience. I see movement in this direction in the Greek festivals I’ve attended over the past few years.

        • Fr. Peter Dubinin says

          Really, wonderful account you say?

          “But just as importantly, my experience of two years in a Greek parish as a xenos were that once the parishioners learned that our family had come to the parish with respect and humility, we were very quickly embraced and fully included in everything.”

          “…two years in a Greek parish as a xenos…” And this reflects Jesus Christ how?

          • Father, with due respect, I would encourage you to re-read what I wrote. I meant it to be obvious from the warmth of what I wrote that I used the term “xenos” tongue in cheek. I was never called a xenos, nor treated like one. But then, subtle attempts at humor tend to get lost in this kind of format, so I probably brought that on myself.

            As to how it reflects Jesus Christ? Having a respectful attitude toward how a particular community has preserved and lived out its faith (often under conditions that I’m not sure I would made it through) ensures that one doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to learn what they might actually have to teach us. I was blessed, during my time as a catechumen, to have become close friends with an elderly Greek couple who were kind enough to gently and tactfully point that out to me.

            I learned more about being a Christian from my Greek “family” than they could ever have learned from me, in spite of my rather traditional formation (both in my pre-Orthodox life and in my Orthodox life) and the extensive study of Orthodox theology and the writings of the Fathers that so often comes with the territory of being a convert who had a bookish path to the faith. And the door that opens up this “hidden Greek world” is an honest effort at humility — about as Christ-like a virtue as one can ever attempt to cultivate.

            • Christopher Jones says

              Really well said, throughout all your posts, Edward. My experience is EXACTLY the same as yours, both in the Greek parishes I have been a member of and in the Ephraimite monasteries I frequented for a time. Many people focus on the externals, but the internal reality is sometimes very different.

            • Fr. Peter Dubinin says

              Edward – You are ‘xenos’ whether you acknowledge it or not. The same inhumane experiences which put the Church in its place among the Greek as the refuge and deliverance from such, are the same experiences which will always maintain the distinction of the non-Greek as ‘xenos’. And this very ehtnic reality is what the festival continues to emphasize, reinforce and perpetuate – to the next generation. Are there wonderful aspects of the Greek (fill in the blank for your choice of ethnos) culture? Yes, to be sure. However, if we start speaking of the ‘virtue’ of a particular culture, then we must be honest to reflect as well the failure and shortcomings of that culture; as so many are quick to point out about America and Americans, for example. What is it that commends the virtue of a culture for our consideration? Nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it is the Light of Christ which exposes the darkness and transforms, regenerates… Full disclosure – I am the son of a Ukrainian mother and Belarus father; both WWII immigrants. I grew up in the immigrant community. Was there beauty in that community? Absolutely! Was there darkness and sin? You know it; and of a kind which brought destruction to the inner life of many people – and so much of this was masked under the guise of ‘ethnic’ festival and pride; perpetuated on the grounds of the Church property. My maternal grandmother of blessed memory and my mother are without rival the two most important people in my life. I too learned lessons of faith and perseverance through circumstances they endured; which I know I could not have survived. When I asked grandmother how she endured these circumstances – WWI, Bolshevik revolution, famine, holodomor, WWII, escape from the Ukraine to Germany, arrival to US…. She said, ‘z bogom, sinok; z bogom’; with God my son, with God. I am a priest in the Orthodox today, not because it somehow puts me touch with my ethnicity – of which I am proud; but because of the spiritual treasure that is the true Church of Jesus Christ in which is salvation, the forgiveness of sin. When a student in seminary, after Divine Liturgy one Saturday morning, I went to the bookstore. There I met a visitor to the monastery/seminary and he engaged me in conversation. He asked me the origin of my name – Dubinin – and I explained my father is Belarus. He proceeded to think out loud that perhaps after seminary and ordination I might come and be priest in Cleveland, OH where there was a population of Belarus. I responded with – my father is Belarus; I am American.

              • Estonian Slovak says

                Fr., the PC noun is Belarusian; the country being Belarus’. If you’re an old reactionary like me, you say “Belorussian”.

      • It’s not so surprising to learn of adult converts serving as teachers in the parish school.

        After all, they (usually) have made life-changing decisions based on study, meeting Christ with all their minds and hearts and souls and strength as He offered them the grace of faith.

        This is not to say that people born into orthodox families are at all lacking in faith, merely that adult converts generally have a better intellectual formation in the faith than those who got orthodoxy with their mothers’ milk.

        As an example, there’s a local woman, born and bred orthodox, who recently told me that she knew virtually nothing until she was drafted as a church-school teacher. Keeping one chapter ahead of her class for the first couple of years (good curriculum helps), she learned as she taught and was grateful for the experience.

        Besides, by God’s love, all of us are converts, converted by turning away from our sins every day, every hour, always coming back to Christ in repentance, to our Lord Who loves us and always forgives us as we forgive each other.

        Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

      • Fr. Peter Dubinin says

        I gave you a ‘thumbs up.’ Only because I am grateful to God that He is able to use so many means, inspite of ourselves, to bring people to the Orthodox Church. I will however continue to spend my days speaking against the employment of ethnic anything to be the bait and hook by which folks are brought into proximity to the Orthodox Faith. For the immediate and long term good of the Church in the US the sooner we focus on that which is truly needful – a consistent Orthodox outreach to the sick, naked, homeless, hungry… in short, the least of these my brethren in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, the better. As a priest I would cringe to hear people speak of my parish as the place to go for perogies and baklava – ‘the Orthodox who….?’ ‘O, you know; the place where they have that ethnic festival and you can get that great spinokopita….’ Perhaps this is why I’m not a parish priest, but rather an Orthodox priest serving as an Army chaplain presently deployed, by the grace of God, to Afghanistan striving to bring the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ to these who are in harms way. Be warmed and be filled. Peace.

        • Abbouna Michel says

          Father Peter, thank you for your service. We aren’t nearly as appreciative as we ought to be of our priests who serve in the military chaplaincy, providing spiritual comfort and sacramental ministry to our Orthodox service women and men, and to many others as well. As I and my parish celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Live-Giving Cross, you especially will be in our prayers.

  5. The church should not be in the restaurant business. Remember Jesus reaction to the money changers.Surprisingly, no prophetic leader has taken on the challenge. Even the ever pious Athonite monks remain silent.

  6. It is good that laypersons be involved in the life of the Church. Though with the American OCL it has seemed in the past that one of their several reasons to exist was to try to “decommission” Greek Orthodox monasteries in America. Yes, the “fundamentalist” ones if you wish. And this campaign has a history of having been an “inter-jurisdictional” campaign if you care to uncover the various Orthodox persons involved. For this reason, in spite of the other positive things the OCL members may have done, in general this anti-monastic vein in the OCL body politick has been an unsavory fly in their ointment.

  7. The Greek Archdiocese is little more than, as one person recently put it, “the tribe at prayer.” In many parishes (mine included), there are doxologies (te deums) or memorial services for Greek Independence Day, “Oxi” day (October 28), the anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, and the like, but never for any American holiday, such as Thanksgiving Day, Memorial Day, or Independence Day. The Church doesn’t exist to teach Greek dancing, “promote Hellenism,” and similar nonsense. With this misguided ethno-centric mindset, in a generation or two most GOA parishes will wither. And the GOA isn’t alone in this. Most other Orthodox jurisdictions have the same mindset of using parishes as combination cultural centers/social clubs.

  8. Sean Richardson says

    I belonged to an Antiochian parish for a number of years and they started a small festival while I was a member. The one twist they added to their festival, however, was they opened the church and gave tours of the church and explanations as to what the Orthodox Faith was all about. Not surprisingly, the church not only made a great deal of money off of their festival, but they also brought in a number of lapsed Orthodox and converts as a direct result of the festival and church tours (perhaps tour is the wrong word, it was more like a guided explanation of the church and faith). If this were the case in more parishes, then perhaps the doors of Orthodoxy would swing open for more people.
    P.S. Yes, I have been to a number of ethnic festivals where there was no program to present Orthodoxy, just an effort to sell food and entertainment. I’m not a fan of these.

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      I and other have led Church tours and explained Orthodoxy to people during our festivals and growing up I have always seen that in all the Greek Festivals I have attended. This wasn’t a twist for the GOAA it was actually commonplace.

      Further, at our Greek Festival this year we had a wonderful Ukranian Dance Troop come and perform at our festival and their presit can along along with many of the local Ukranian Orthodox parishioners that enjoyed our Church tours.

      This year we also had a good amount of Catholics, Lutherans and Episcopalians that attended our church tours and asked alot of good and intelligent questions.


      • Fr. Peter Dubinin says

        What do you think about having a regular outreach to the community to “come and see” the Orthodox Church as a stand alone event? Almost seems we are looking for reasons to justify holding our festivals by linking them to the “spiritual” fruit of people walking into our Orthodox temples. As for the cultural event that is the festival, why not conduct them in a location other than the Church property and perhaps use the Church property to serve up meals to the hungry and homeless; O and by the way, perhaps while they are on our Church property we give them a tour of the temple?

        • George Michalopulos says

          Fr, if I may add to your well-considered opinion: even if the average Greek/Serb/Lebanese/whatever food-fest does become a way of “showcasing the faith” (as it were), the pitfalls of it degenerating again into a mere fundraising extravaganza are all too real. Indeed, they are inevitable.

          Wouldn’t it be a better witness to our Faith if the retirees got together and ran a soup-kitchen out of their parish hall? In any given parish, there are dozens of older men and women who have nothing but time on their hands. Often you will find them hanging about the church anyway on any given weekday. Some drink coffee, others play pinochle, you name it. The loneliness can be profound.

          As for the cost of running a soup kitchen, it can be negligible. Arrangements can be made with the USDA for left-over commodities. Grocery stores would donate day-old bread or near-expiration date foodstuffs.

          Other churches which have medical professionals could set up a PM walk-in clinic. None of this has to happen day-in/day-out. It can be a couple of days a week at first. Anyway, what a better witness to our Faith than dancing on tables and shouting OPA! and the priest doing his gig over at the Church.

  9. So the choice is Moscow/Russia or Istanbul/Turkey? If only there were an Orthodox Church in America

    • If only.

      Of course, you would lose the festival revenue and the ready made opportunity for witness inherent in festivals (unless it is a Russian or Ukrainian-Carpathorus festival).

      Now what would be really interesting would be an American Orthodox festival with lots food, religious items (bonnets instead of headscarves?, I recently ran into some Mennonites. Nothing more American than the Dolly Madison bonnet).

      It would contrast the different habits and customs of the American Orthodox and the way they differ from the general population outside the Church . . . as if, we were somehow called out . . .

      But I’m just dreaming, I suppose.

      • Johann Sebastian says

        Here’s an idea: Let’s stop putting so much emphasis on having an American Orthodox Church. The focus should be on making an Orthodox America.

        • Michael Bauman says

          The focus should be on becoming deeply and authentically Orthodox CHRISTIAN in Union with our Lord. The rest will follow. Typically we try to do it backwards.

          • Johann Sebastian says


            • Sean Richardson says

              While I agree that it is the will of God that all should turn to Him, and not perish, and while it is the ideal to bring America to Orthodoxy, I also sense that these hyperbolic statements only cloud the issue and neutralize any real thinking or action. If I might borrow the phrase, we need to “Think globally; act locally”. As a convert of many decades ago, and having attended all of the major jurisdictions, I feel that while a foreign ethnicism draws some to the Church, it repels far more. I would love to attend a truly American Orthodox Church that reflects the traditions that I grew up in; I’d love to hear the types of music that I became familiar with. Too many of the churches I’ve attended that are “pan-Orthodox” are really foreign churches that celebrate the Liturgy in English. That’s it. The closest I’ve seen to an American tradition in Orthodoxy was in the early days of the Evangelical Orthodox Church. Sadly, the last time I attended one of their liturgies, they’d given up their American spirit and grafted in Middle Eastern music and practices; and they’d stopped growing and evangelizing. At the very least, and perhaps I speak only for myself, as one weak voice crying in the wilderness, I’d like to see a serious discussion as to what an American Orthodox Church would look like, and sound like, and how would it celebrate Orthodoxy? I’ve never heard of (perhaps the readers have) a serious, far-reaching discussion of what is American Orthodoxy, with a goal of actually establishing it.

              • Johann Sebastian says

                What should an “American” Orthodox Church look like?

                Like this

                Maybe something like this



                Or this

                What should an American Orthodox Church sound like?

                This, probably without the instrumental accompaniment

                Or this, with different words

                While I can’t comment on the canonical acceptability of anything resembling these “aesthetics” I do think they are dignified representations of the heritage of traditional American culture (even though their sources are ultimately Western European) that even many of us “ethnic” Orthodox whose families have been present in America for a few generations can nevertheless appreciate and identify with.

                Of course, contemporary mainstream American “culture” shuns even these bits of tradition.

                • Sean Richardson says

                  Johann, thank you for your post. I’m always happy to see and hear ideas, and you obviously put some time and effort into them. I appreciate this very much. As I mentioned above, the one example I have seen, and experienced on a few occasions, was in the early days of the Evangelical Orthodox Church. There was something there that reached me and I could hold onto. It was both traditional and refreshing, and it worked.

                  • Johann Sebastian says

                    It’s something I’ve occasionally thought of: What would a Western expression of the Byzantine rite look and sound like?

                    This is, of course, coming from someone who is of a Slavic Byzantine-rite background and has no substantial experience with Western Christianity, save for having attended a (low-church) Protestant primary school.

                • What complete nonsense.

                  Your examples of what a so-called American Orthodox Church should look like would engraft a foreign aesthetic and theological emptiness onto the received tradition.

                  Your examples all reflect a Protestant view of sacred space, art, and prayer (song). As an Orthodox Christian born in the US, all of those things are completely foreign to me and not in any way “American.” If someone relates to those examples, it is because they are American Protestants, not American Orthodox. Our goal should be to bring the light of traditional Orthodoxy to America, not obscuring traditional Orthodoxy with the distortions of American Protestantism

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    Our goal should be to bring the light of traditional Orthodoxy to America, not obscuring traditional Orthodoxy with the distortions of American Protestantism

                    ….and there is the problem: we are caught between an (at best) heterodox culture from our past and the secular blasphemy of the present. Both are empty and often filled with darkness.

                    The fact is that what culture the U.S. has is so fractured that any pulling anything from it and allowing the Church to sanctify it is quite difficult. Human effort to do so will fail drastically.

                    If we do our best to live the tradition as it has been delivered to us, God will give the increase. Self-consciously trying to either “make and American Orthodox Church” or “make America Orthodox” are equally narcissistic delusions.

                    The traditional icons need not be changed at all–adapted perhaps is subtle ways, but that is already happening. Same with architecture.

                    The most fertile ground lies in the music. To me the a cappella gospel tradition such as the early work of Sweet Honey in the Rock could offer much as well as the a cappella vocal tradition of the poor white south.

                  • Aaron Little says

                    “Our goal should be to bring the light of traditional Orthodoxy to America…”

                    How about we simply bring the light of the gospel to America and the rest will follow?

                    No… better not do that, it would mean leaving the eastern European and eastern Mediterranean ethnic baggage gussied up as “traditional Orthodoxy” at the curb (where it belongs).

                    • Michael Bauman says

                      Yes Mr. Little it would. But what is baggage and what is not? It is not always easy to tell.

                      Sometimes, but not always. Bishops die, the yayas, sittis and babuskas live forever. Or so the saying goes.

                  • We need to get off this overly narrow definition of orthodox = byzantine. It’s certainly true that byzantine == orthodox, considering all the greek, arabic, and slavic uniats, not to mention our so-called ‘orthodox’ schismatic sects such as the ‘Kiev Patriarchate’ — no matter how many people they snooker. Let’s remember that the last byzantine emperor died a uniat, and that the Church of Russia declared itself autocephalous after the byzantines apostasized, and that the Russians also deposed the apostate Isidor, metropolitan of Kiev after the Council of Firenze/Ferrara.

                    Bearing all that history in mind, we must also acknowledge that the non-chalcedonian churches were orthodox until the fourth century, and that the churches of western Europe and northern Africa were orthodox until at least the eleventh century. It’s been said that the Irish were orthodox before the Russians knew how to use a knife and fork.

                    Surely there’s something worth reclaiming there, if only we swallow our pride and meet non- byzantine Christians at least if not more than half-way as they seek to return to orthodoxy.

                    At the moment, though, I have to say that I think that ‘western-rite orthodoxy’ is a failed experiment. Individuals and individual parishes coming from heterodoxy will have to content themselves with being orthodox as the rest of us practice it now, which is byzantine by definition. But there’s more.

                    When the Church of England or the Church of Armenia would return to orthodoxy as a whole, then I think we could arrange for them to keep their own traditions, mutatis mutandis.

                    In the meantime, though, let’s not be too triumphalist about this treasure we bear in such weak vessels as ourselves.

                    • Johann Sebastian says

                      Monk James says:

                      “At the moment, though, I have to say that I think that ‘western-rite orthodoxy’ is a failed experiment. Individuals and individual parishes coming from heterodoxy will have to content themselves with being orthodox as the rest of us practice it now, which is byzantine by definition. But there’s more.”

                      Indeed. The Western Rite as it is practiced represents not a continuation of a living tradition, but rather an example of liturgical archaeology that uses Byzantine elements to “fill in the blanks.” The attempt is more honest and “grass-roots” then the Uniate contrivance, but I’m afraid Western Rite Orthodoxy comes off as being a bit of an improvised hodgepodge while Uniatism manages to reproduce the trappings of Byzantine Orthodoxy with uncanny accuracy.

                      I don’t believe my earlier suggestions are, as GOAPriest suggests, complete nonsense. While the Russian Church, for example, grew out of the Greek Church and uses the same rite, the aesthetic trappings are very different, uniquely Russian, and at the same time, fully Orthodox.

                      Besides, these Russian ears prefer polyphony to Byzantine chant. Organs, though, are another matter entirely. I like them too, but not in church.

                    • Michael Bauman says

                      Monk James, I have no idea what you are saying. I think I’d like to though.

                    • Johann Sebastian says

                      This isn’t to say that a reconstituted Western Rite couldn’t have any Byzantine influence whatsoever, but as it stands now, the effect is one of multiple “cut-and-paste” operations.

                      A Western usage of the Byzantine rite, after a thorough examination of the iconographic, architectural, and musical styles as they relate to liturgical use and canonical acceptability, would yield a much more seamless result than an attempt to reconstruct something that hasn’t existed in an Orthodox form for a thousand years.

                      As in the Latin Catholic churches, where the old Gregorian chants provided thematic material (the cantus firmus) for the polyphonic sacred works of the Renaissance and Baroque, why couldn’t the same techniques be applied to Byzantine chant?

                    • Michael Bauman (September 13, 2014 at 5:19 am) says:

                      ‘Monk James, I have no idea what you are saying. I think I’d like to though.’

                      I’m grateful for Michael Bauman’s benevolence here.

                      Perhaps it would help if I clarified the first paragraph of my last post:

                      ‘We need to get off this overly narrow definition of orthodox = byzantine. It’s certainly true that byzantine == orthodox, considering all the greek, arabic, and slavic uniats, not to mention our so-called ‘orthodox’ schismatic sects such as the ‘Kiev Patriarchate’ — no matter how many people they snooker. Let’s remember that the last byzantine emperor died a uniat, and that the Church of Russia declared itself autocephalous after the byzantines apostasized, and that the Russians also deposed the apostate Isidor, metropolitan of Kiev after the Council of Firenze/Ferrara.’

                      The two ‘equals signs’ on the second line were originally separated by a slash, meaning ‘does NOT equal’, but the slash failed to appear in the published version.

                      The first sentence, then, should read: ‘We need to get off this overly narrow definition of orthodox equals byzantine. It’s certainly true that byzantine does NOT equal orthodox….’

                      I hope this alleviates any confusion.

                  • Tim R. Mortiss says

                    “Foreign aesthetic”? “Aesthetic”? What does that have to do with Christ?

                    • Johann Sebastian says

                      Organs combined with Byzantine chant (I presume GOA parishes use Byzantine chant) are foreign to Byzantine tradition. The combination is also bizarre when one considers the polyphonic music organs are typically used to accompany. To that end, the combination is foreign to both West and East.

                    • Tim R. Mortiss says

                      My GOA parish pulled the organ about 25 years ago….

                  • Abbouna Michel says

                    Traditional Orthodoxy being synonymous with Greek phyletism? Sheesh!

                  • Estonian Slovak says

                    Hear, Hear, Father! BTW, I’m responding to the GOA priest.

        • Michael Bauman says

          In addition to putting the cart before the horse Mr. Sebastian, there is a critical element from missing from your desire: the nature of America. The American political and cultural system, even where it has been nominally Christian is formed by an ethos and a theology that is not compatible with Orthodox understanding. An “Orthodox America” would be vastly different and virtually unrecognizable with little continuity from previous tradition.

          The Orthodox faith is not an easy fit at all, in fact it is, IMO, the most radical challenge to the political and cultural assumptions that have been “American” that there is. To attempt to fit Orthodox practice and belief into any extant political or cultural ideology is to do violence to our belief.

          There are some things which the Church needs to adapt to, like our lack of homogeneity and our greater participation in decisions that effect us and our almost sycophantic trust of government.

          At bottom, we must change allowing ourselves to be transformed in ways that are counter to the culture as it is and as it has been; not attempting to force our will onto the culture or onto the Church so we don’t have to change.

          I don’t ever expect the Orthodox Church to be dominate in the west as it once was elsewhere. I do not ever expect an “Orthodox America”. We need to learn to live fully in spite of that, neither retreating into fake cultural ghettos nor acquiescing to the larger secular culture. Rather, I think we become, in a sense, as a monastic-like sub-culture, a mustard seed within the larger culture: constantly praying, raising a prophetic voice when necessary, evangelizing while offering everything up to God in thanksgiving as we go about our tasks in the world.

          • While I don’t disagree with the substance of what Michael and others are saying here, I wonder if there are not some small things we can “borrow” from the west to help us. Music for example. Why not regularly incorporate some of the ancient and completely “orthodox” western hymns that simply sound more familiar to the western ear? Western styles of “outreach” might be another example (e.g. “Bible studies” that are designed as evangelical outreach for the community). Thoughts?

            • Johann Sebastian says

              I agree. A lot of others don’t seem to.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Yes we need to find those things we can incorporate and sanctify to do that though requires a commitment to love the English/Germanic peoples. Not yet made IMO.

              • Johann Sebastian says

                Ah, yes, Anglo-Germans!

                Despite my thoughts about them in a historical/geopolitical context, I do have great respect for their cultural achievements.

                Who can dispute the beautiful profundity of this?

                or this?

                Certainly both were meant to glorify God, not satisfy personal ambition. On the other hand, when our hierarchs hobnob with heresiarchs and make (at worst) deferential or (at best) nebulous statements as to where we stand relative to them, does that really glorify anyone?

                Soli Deo Gloria.

          • Ah, if only Michael Dukakis had been elected president!
            Then we might have had a chance to ‘influence’ the culture.
            Oh yes,

            • Johann Sebastian says

              We’re in trouble if Mike Dukakis is our most prominent representative.

            • Estonian Slovak says

              Dukakis? Surely you jest, my man! As someone who is married to a non-Christian, he may not even commune in an Orthodox Church!

  10. Tim R. Mortiss says

    Festivals will with the GOA churches for a long time yet to come. What would be good would be some fresh ideas to better use them for evangelism.

    Our parish is doing a very good job of getting a strong stewardship program underway, with the result that if we stay on budget, the operating budget this year should be largely free of festival funding, relying solely on pledge giving. Thus the festival dollars can go toward the building and maintenance fund.

    The point is that it is in fact possible to disconnect the festival from strong stewardship giving and fund the operating budget through giving only.

    The festival should be Greek, but the church should be Orthodox. It should be possible to have the festival but to not tie the identification of the Church itself so closely to the Greek ethnicity of the festival.

    In a medium-sized city like mine, a well-run festival can become a big social occasion for the community, that draws many thousands. This is the case here. The festival becomes over the decades a sort of obligation to the community itself. At least, the city knows the Church exists! Unfortunately, it doesn’t really know it exists apart from the ethnic angle. Have some GOA parishes done a better job on that score?

    • Festivals allow the broader community to know the”Greek Church” exists but the Greek Church is very different from the Body of Christ. If festivals are the GOA,s form of evangelism they are in trouble. I would be willing to bet that few if any have converted to Christ/Orthodoxy through festivals.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        I agree. My thought was, since they aren’t going away, are there better ways to get some real evangelism out of them?

  11. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    I have attended one—exactly one—parish ethnic festival in my life.

    We were just beginning to explore the Orthodox Church, about 28 years ago. At the time, our family was Episcopalian.

    It was a Friday night, and we Episcopalians, strict adherents to the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, would have suffered a thousand deaths rather than eat meat on Friday.

    We attended the festival of a Greek parish, where I presumed we could find something to eat compatible with that simple Friday observance.

    We couldn’t. Absolutely every entree on the menu was made with meat.

    At the time our family would be described as “the weaker brethren.” We were trying to find the true faith and the true Church. Suffering the desperation common among questing Episcopalians, we undoubtedly placed too much emphasis on lesser points of the law.

    Still, that experience at the Greek parish took the wind out of our sails for a while. It was another two years or so before we joined the Orthodox Church.

    I can never forget that Greek festival. Sadly, that night, we left the place and went down the street to a Long John Silver’s, where we could eat with a safe conscience.

    • Christopher McAvoy says

      That’s a very interesting lesson you teach in your story Fr. Patrick. Yes, I relate to that story very well myself. Especially as I am a cook who sometimes has had to cook something I didn’t think was entirely appropriate.

      In your shoes I’d have done and felt the exact same things. These days I think they have less meat on Fridays at those festivals..hehehe. Words of wisdom there.

      • Fr. Patrick and Christopher make me wonder if Greeks ever eat fish! Well, I know they eat octopus but I doubt that it is the star entre at a festival.

    • Abbouna Michel says

      He who has ears, let him hear!

  12. I hope no one takes to heart the slander that is being dished out on this site against Geronda Ephrem’s Monasteries in the United States. I can assure you that these beautiful and holy athonite-style monasteries are like an oasis for the arid souls who are thirsting for spiritual nourishment and refreshment. There has been an ongoing campaign to slander these monasteries for many years. The Devil always attacks the most holy places. I pray that those on this site who have propagated this gossip and slander will beg for mercy from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The monks and nuns at these monasteries are ceaselessly praying for all of us….and I am very thankful for their prayers and guidance. I have been to Russian monasteries…..Romanian Monasteries……and have confessed at Geronda Ephrem’s monasteries……and each experience was beautiful and edifying. It is sad that monasticism is so misunderstood in the United States.

    • I am glad for your good experiences, and I believe that they are true.

      I would hope you would respect the honesty of those of us who have had first-hand experience that is otherwise. It is not slander to tell the truth of what has happened to us or those close to us. And I am part of no campaign. I responded to a commenter who was asking a question about something in the original post. I stuck to my first hand experiences and to the experiences reported to me by people close to me whose integrity I trust (and people who, at the time they told me these things, still had a positive view of the monasteries and were visiting them regularly).

      There are other problems that I have with Ephremite monasteries as I have experienced them, but I refrained from discussing them since they are not as easily described as the specific things I discussed in my comments.

      I specifically refrained from repeating anything I’ve heard (and I’ve heard a lot) that I have no way of verifying, and I specifically said that unless someone has had first hand knowledge or knowledge of some else’s first-hand experiences, such rumors should be assumed to be untrue until proven otherwise.

      You can call me a liar, but please treat me with enough dignity to respond directly to me and tell me that I am lying, and tell me what exactly that I have said is a lie and how you know that it is a lie (which is what slander, by definition, is). And you should do the same with Protopappas — respond to him and call him a liar and tell him that you believe he is fabricating his experiences of having to pastorally pick up the pieces from what has happened to people at Ephremite monasteries, and tell him how you know that he is lying. Perhaps you can also, while you are at it, explain why people who love the Church and who love monasticism would lie about such things.

      I love true monasticism and monasteries. And while the Greek style of the Ephremite monasteries is not exactly what I respond to the most warmly (we are all human beings, and naturally will respond differently), there were many nice things about my experiences there. Had I not gone to confession, I can’t say that I would have raved about the experience, but I certainly would have described it in positive terms. Furthermore, most of the things that worldly people might complain about the Ephremite monasteries are things that I would probably almost always tend to agree with the beliefs of the Ephremite monks.

      I pointed out that a priest I greatly respect encourages his people to try a visit, as long as they don’t go to confession and as long as they avoid conversations about sexual issues, and ignore any sexual advice offered (other than advice regarding chastity that any Orthodox Christian would and should agree with). He views the monasteries as being places that can provide spiritual benefit, as long as those things are kept in mind. I won’t myself be going back to an Ephremite monastery, nor would I personally encourage anyone to go, but I think his viewpoint is a very valid one. When someone tells me about a positive visits to one of these monasteries, I keep my thoughts to myself and express happiness that they had a good experience.

      This, again, is hardly slander — quite the opposite — it is simply letting people know, when they ask about it, that there are some specific things about Ephremite monasteries that one might encounter, and that you wouldn’t encounter at any other monasteries in the U.S., as far as I know. And that those peculiarities can have very negative effects on people, as I have witnessed first-hand in devout Orthodox Christians who are close to me.

      • Dear Edward,

        I am sorry that you were offended by my post. There is no need to spout your perceived negative connotations regarding the Holy Orthodox Monasteries founded by Geronta Ephraim (whether it is someone else’s experience or your own opinions). I pray that you will repent of the unkind comments that you have directed toward them.

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          I don’t think the gentleman “spouted” his opinions; he stated them in a straightforward and factual manner.

        • Mikail,

          I was not offended by your post. I was merely asking for clarification, and you gave none whatsoever. I ask you again — what did I say that was a lie, and how do you know that it is a lie? If you are going to accuse me of slander (as in your first post) or of “negative connotations” (which it was downgraded to in the second post), I think you can at the very least have the respect to tell me what it was that I said that was a lie, and how you know it is a lie.

          I think that what I asked you to do was reasonable and very straightforward, and you dodged it, again exhorting me to repent — of what? Telling the truth?

          No opinions or “connotations” are involved. I reported facts, and specifically did not attempt to speculate about why Ephremites are so fixated on what goes on between husbands and wives in their bedrooms that they will initiate these discussions with people they have just met, and about whom they know little or nothing. Now THAT would be opinion and connotation.

        • You still didn’t answer my questions. Are you telling me to repent for telling the truth? Or are you prepared to offer evidence that the things I and others have reported are contrary to the teachings of Ephremite monasteries on sexual relations within marriage?

          • You have no way to offer evidence that what you say is the truth. Thousands of pilgrims offer experiences that are diametrically opposed to your vitriolic words. I only say that it is in your best interest to repent of your attacks on these holy monasteries.

            But alas, you have free will to say what you may.

            • Tim R. Mortiss says

              The man speaks of his personal experience, does he not?

            • It is true that I have no way to offer evidence that what I and others close to me experienced happened, since they were not tape-recorded (I am dating myself). You, on the other hand, are free to obtain a statement from the abbot of one of the monasteries stating unequivocally that they reject the things I have detailed. I have stated clearly what I and others have experienced in terms of what is being taught regarding non-procreative sexual relations within an Orthodox marriage.

              If you don’t want to obtain such a statement, then you personally can state unequivocally, right here and now, that through your own extensive personal knowledge of these monasteries, you know that the priest-monks are not teaching that celibacy should be practiced by all couples who, for whatever reason, are done having children.

              I will furthermore stipulate that I do not object in any way to Orthodox priests discouraging artificial birth control in young married couples — as long as it is approached with a spirit of love and compassion, and in the setting of a spiritual father who knows his spiritual children very well.

              I will also stipulate that for a married couple to live as brother and sister for the sake of higher spiritual pursuits is an honorable tradition in the Orthodox Church — but that tradition emphasizes mutual agreement, always is recorded as happening at the initiation of the couple themselves, and is always in a setting where great spiritual attainments had already been reached by the couple. Like so many things in the Orthodox life, it is a high ideal that few can obtain, and that most will be damaged by if they attempt it, just as most would be damaged by heading off into the desert to try to live the life of St. Mary of Egypt.

              It is an Orthodox ideal, for instance, that someone who loses a spouse never remarries. Not all are able to do that, and the Church thus allows for remarriage in spite of the fact that it is not the ideal.

              Following the Typikon to its fullness is liturgically virtually unattainable. it was done in Russia once, just before the Revolution — Google “Real All Night Vigil in Russia” if you want to learn the ways in which even the strictest monasteries don’t follow it. Even traditional and pious parishes fail even to begin to approach following the Typikon (our Saturday night Vigil is 2 1/2 hours long — without abridgments, it would be at least twice that long).

              Such seemingly unattainable goals should not be discouraging — they should be inspiring. They are why God-bearing saints on their deathbeds lamented, genuinely, that they had not yet begun truly to repent of their sins. Wise priests treat the canons and traditions of the Church in that manner, take each broken and weak person as an individual, and do not use a “one size fits all” approach.

              • You can stipulate all you want. Each of your posts is a mini dissertation. What I have seen and heard is diametrically opposed to what you are stating on this blog. The smear campaign that you have waged against these holy monasteries is very unfortunate and I will continue to pray that you repent.

                • Please answer the single central question I keep asking you, and that you and others keep evading in each and every post.

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    Mikail can certainly speak for himself but I’ll go ahead and answer the “central question” for myself: I spent three wonderful days at St Antony’s over the Memorial Day weekend. I was surrounded by dozens of families. At Vespers I counted around 50 people. At Liturgy (which is at 2:00am (yes, you read that right), there were over a hundred. Families were there from all over America. There were children everywhere. At services, on the grounds, at Trapeza. Obviously, the parents of these children didn’t get the memo from Elder Ephraim that they were to abstain from sex after marriage.

                    • No one has said they ban procreative sex. The question is whether they are being taught that it is impermissible or sinful for a married couple to continue with relations when they, for whatever reason, are done having children.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Edward, you seem to be backpedaling a little. If memory serves a lot of the anti-Athonite commentary on this blog has been that they demand no sex at all during marriage. If I misquoted you then I’m sorry. Regardless, monks aren’t idiots. They know that even if there is a rule that says a couple can have sex only for procreation that that doesn’t stop them from copulating like rabbits (if you will forgive the analogy).

                    • I am not familiar with the “single central question”…….but my experience is the same as yours, George. I am a frequent attendee and confessor at Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries. : )

                    • George, no I am not backpedalling. But I can see that a couple of my posts didn’t repeat the non-procreative aspect again, although in other posts I did make that very clear that I did not at all claim that the monks teach that procreative sex is wrong.

                      Elias, my central question was stated quite clearly a number of times: do or do not the monks teach that non-procreative sex within an Orthodox marriage is a sin, and treat it as such in confession? In other words, for a couple who, for whatever reason, are done having children, do the monks teach that continued sexual relations within an Orthodox marriage are a good and blessed thing?

                      In my experience and that of others I have known, the answer to the first question is, yes, they do teach that it is a sin. And the answer to the second question is that no, it is not a good and blessed thing.

                      I think these are things that should be widely known by people before they consider going to confession at an Ephremite monastery.

                      Finally, it is not accurate to say that having criticisms of Ephremite monasteries mean that one is anti-Athonite. Ephremite monasteries represent only one strain of Athonite thought and praxis, and many of the things that have made the Ephremite monasteries controversial are distinctly un-Athonite — especially the way in which monasteries actively seek out of engagement with laity living in the world, becoming, for many, not places of occasional pilgrimage but rather places that essentially function as their parish churches, with the priest-monk in charge being for all practical purposes their parish priest.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      I’m sorry Edward, but we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. I’ve heard rumors about what they teach for a long time now and even believed a few of them. What I’ve seen with my own eyes however is different. And even if they teach that post-menopausal couples should abstain from sex, so what? Is that a sin? Is this teaching non-canonical and/or heretical? I’d put it down as a non-authoritative teaching. If so, that’s unfortunate but I repeat: so what? Hasn’t what we’ve done as Orthodox Christians here in America been abysmally uncanonical? I’ll forgo mention of secondary issues like organs and pews and ordination of would-be altar girls; how about how many heretical prayers have our bishops attended and engaged in? Remember post-9/11 when Archbishop Demetrios did not invoke the Holy Trinity at an ecumenical prayer service (I guess not to “offend” any Muslims or Jews?

                      To strain on the gnat of post-procreative sexuality while swallowing the camel of our present uncanonical dioceses (to start with) seems picayune to me.

    • Mikail:

      What arrogance for you to say that individuals on this site, speaking with sincerity from first-hand experience, are liars! And based upon what?

      Yes, there are slanders and inaccurate gossip circulating about the Elder’s monasteries. But this does not mean that every criticism is therefore gossip and slander. What kind of reasoning is this?

      You have been to monasteries in Romania and Russia, as well as the U.S., and had positive experiences. Wonderful. I have been to Orthodox monasteries in Greece (including many on Mt Athos), Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Palestine, and Egypt, as well as the U.S., and had consistently positive experiences. That’s why I keep going back.

      But I would always caution any married person not to confess at any of these monasteries without some inquiry. This is not slander, but sensible advice. The Church needs to face the fact that monastics often embrace certain teachings regarding marriage and sexuality that few of us would regard as sensible, such as the belief that sex is meant only for procreation. This is simply not mainstream Orthodox teaching, as is evidenced by St John Chrysostom’s repeated staements that marital union is not primarily for the sake of procreation.

      Individuals on this site have emphasized that they place a high value on the Elder’s monasteries, and that they are far from being enemies of them. Why would they want to slander these holy places?

      And if they are liars, so are the dozens of priests and bishops who have personally reported these same experiences to me. So many liars, Mikail, and so little time for you to puff yourself up into a self-righteous snit and excoriate them!

      In fact, the teachings that form the basis of the bad marital advice are no secret. If you really frequent these monasteries, why not get a blessing to ask one of the monks about some of these things?

      Forget Christian love. Mere garden variety human decency would suggest an apology to those you have yourself slandered, not their our sake but for yours.

  13. OCL just sent out their latest appeal for membership. Somehow, I found it difficult to renew my membership in an organization that fired Metropolitan Jonah as the keynote speaker for their 25th anniversary conference in order to cater to clergy and took Joel Kalvesmaki’s excellent critical essays off their website supposedly dedicated to laity points of view.

    As for festivals, I like them, I volunteer for them and I appreciate them because they are sometimes the only way to get people of other religions into an Orthodox church, whether a little Vespers service or just a tour of the iconography with a little chant on CD. Helps bring people of the parish together socially, gives impetus to practice a little ethnic dancing in advance, brings the vendors to one location. Gives an additional reason for volunteers to supershine the church, hall and grounds. Saves the drive to the ethnic store far away for the planinski chai / mountain tea. People from other parishes show up. We go to theirs, they go to ours. Make a few bucks, spend a few bucks.

    • The church should not be in the restaurant business…

      • George Michalopulos says


      • johnkal (September 11, 2014 at 12:41 am) says:

        The church should not be in the restaurant business…


        The Church MUST be in the business of spreading the Good News, as our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us: That God loves us, and came to save us, and that death isn’t permanent if only we return God’s love by following Christ’s teaching.

        But that doesn’t mean that The Church can’t do anything else — it’s just that preaching the Gospel and encouraging each other to actuate it in our lives must come first, and we have to make that possible not only for ourselves but for others as well. Like the Ethiopian to whom Philip explained the prophecy of Isaiah, we must ‘have an answer ready’ as apostle Peter teaches us.

        Supporting this primary mission of The Church must take priority in our lives as Christians and in our budgets as parishes, and that support MUST — by its nature — be sacrificial, a major concern of our own personal and family budgets.

        Some few years ago, the Baptists in the USA developed statistics which showed that ten tithing families can support a full-time pastor; that twenty tithing families can build a church; that thirty tithing families can do missionary work.

        Now let’s remember that tithing is an Old Law concept and is not REQUIRED of us Christians, as we have replaced circumcision of male children with baptism for all, while some of us Christians — while not required to do so by divine law — still circumcise our sons for other odd and indefensible reasons not related to our christian faith. So, also, it would be no sin on our part if we adopted the precept of tithing as a good way of life even at the same time as we ate shrimp and pork chops.

        We have to be perceptive and practical in our appreciation of the freedom which Christ gives us in His New Law, and make sense of the Old Law’ in resonance to the one, single new commandment He gave us, replacing not only the ten great ones, but also the 513 others: ‘Love each other as I love you.’

        Our generosity (tithing is now a model for us Christians — not a commandment) toward The Church as an institution is an example of the mutual love to which our Savior urges us.

        ‘Let us love each other, that with the same understanding we might profess the Trinity, same in being and indivisible.’

      • Christopher Jones says

        It’s not a restaurant. It’s a community event — exactly the kind of thing frequented by our Lord.

  14. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

    September 10, 2014

    Protocol 158/14

    September 14, 2014

    The Universal Exaltation of

    The Precious and Life-Giving Cross

    To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

    Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    On this Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, we commemorate the finding of the holy Cross of our Lord by Saint Helen when she visited Jerusalem in the year 326 to venerate holy places related to the life, ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. Confirmed as the Precious Cross by healing a dying woman who touched it, the Cross was venerated by Saint Helen and by all present, proclaiming “Lord have mercy” as Patriarch Makarios lifted it up for all to see. This glorious and blessed event led to the institution of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and our annual celebration of its power of redemption and as a symbol of reconciliation through Christ.

    The response of the faithful to the finding of the Cross and its elevation by the Patriarch was filled with joy and thanksgiving to God; and while we fast on this day in recognition of the sacrifice made by our Lord on the Cross, it is a day and a celebration that offers a witness to the world of the power of God’s love for us. We lift up the Cross because while it was used as an instrument of torture and indignity, it brought honor and glory to God. It was used as a means of ending life, but it became entrance to eternity. It was used as a violent weapon, but for believers it became a weapon of true peace. The Cross, a symbol of suffering and defeat, through Christ it became a symbol of hope and victory. Instead of death, our Lord through the Cross brought us life and abundance of life.

    On this feast, the elevation of the Cross is a beautiful and mighty witness of the Gospel of truth and love. It is a testimony of the power of God’s grace and of the salvation that is offered to all through faith in Christ. This feast is also a call to each of us to look to the Cross and to turn the eyes of our soul towards the Cross and to lift it up for others to see. We lift up the Cross of Christ when we are not hesitant or afraid to identify ourselves as Orthodox Christians in any context or environment. We lift up the Cross when our homes and families become a dwelling of Christ. We lift up the Cross for all to see the power of faith and grace when we live in the way of the Cross, that is when we sacrifice for the will of God and the needs of others, when we live in love and humility, and our lives constantly show the way to Christ.

    As we commemorate this Feast and reflect on the witness of the Cross, it is also our annual tradition to offer our prayers and support for our beloved Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. In lifting the Cross and offering a witness of the Gospel, our Schole of the Holy Cross has a vital role in the life of the Church and our Holy Archdiocese. At this sacred institution those who have taken up the Cross of our Lord and followed His call to the Holy Priesthood and ministry receive the guidance and training they need to be bearers of the Cross. Within an environment of worship and prayer, of academic excellence, and of fellowship in Christ, students are able to look to the Cross, nurture their faith and commitment, and experience the hope, power and victory that is essential to a life of service. May we offer special prayers on this day for the students, faculty, staff, trustees and benefactors of our beloved School of Holy Cross, and please consider prayerfully your support for our Schole and for current and potential seminarians from your parish.

    Today, the Precious and Life-giving Cross will be raised before us in Churches throughout the world. As we look upon it, venerate it, and give glory to God for what has been accomplished through Christ for our salvation, may we renew our commitment to lift up the Cross each day of our lives. Through the gift of the power of the Cross and the grace of God, may we show others the way to Christ and to eternal life.

    With paternal love in Him,


    Archbishop of America

  15. Christopher McAvoy says

    I enjoyed this discussion very much everyone. So many fine diverse points made about the festivals and also monasticism. How their strengthes can become weaknesses and vice versa.

    I want to only make one comment about the sexual abstinence question. I have always held to the teaching that birth control is a heresy. Every evidence and example in Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches have always held to this consistenly for centuries. If recently particular bishops are sympathetic to “family planning” , natural, artificial whatever..it’s an innovative idea without precedent, well intended as it may be, it can not be accepted by the Church officially as a teaching.

    That monasteries are the source of the rebuke of such an innovative opinion is evidence that monasticism truly is the backbone of the church. It is why without monasticism ..you can not much have a Church that is true. Protestants, even the best anglo-catholic anglicans had limited success (admirable as it was) reviving monasticism, something the reformation had killed.

    I understand that the idea of avoiding marital relations during Fridays, Wednesdays and length Fasting seasons is onerous and impossible for many to do very easily or as often is ideal…. I think that it is alright to admit we are human and weak.

    But there is something beautiful about the idea of a husband and wife living with purity and not overly focused on the sexual side of things, even for a while, this is very holy. That basic idea does not intimidate me.

    While the essence of marriage is not chastity, chastity is something we are all called to for at least a period of time in our lives, married or unmarried. We can’t entirely avoid it. When married most people shouldn’t avoid marital relations forever either. Someone must be a witness to acknowledge purity. I don’t think people should be threatened by this.

    For me, I adhere to the traditional teachings for the most part BUT I expect that many people cannot live up to them. Sometimes I fail to live up to them myself. I fall, I am human and weak, I do not let it bother me. I accept it, confess it, move on and press forward.

    I am not personally mad at people if they use some birth control or can’t avoid having marital relations. I’m always going to view birth control as sinful and stand by that as true, but I’m not going to scold people about this as individuals over and over. I might say it once, but that’s all.

    Even for something to be sinful, one must do it willfully. So at the very least, the degree of culpability must exist…an intent to offend God must exist for it to be a serious sin I think. Perhaps I’m not explaining it properly..but I know I’m not far off.

    So to put it bluntly, I like strict ascetic practices, they are one of the things that makes the Orthodox Church most unique and certainly is one of the “most true” things about it. However I do understand that these intense ascetic penitential practices are difficult. I expect the average person to fail to some extent.

    So we have confession. Let the ideal remain high despite what occurs in practice to be quite different.

    Let us not expect to the Church to change. Let us acknowledge that we are always seeking to live according to the Church but certain things are too hard. Let our clergy be merciful and forgiving, but not condoning as good and holy something which is not.

    Let us understand that God really loves mankind, loves us, wants us to succeed and has mercy on our weakness…

    That’s the thing I know how to say on this subject. I know that I am not stating this as well as a true monk or saint would, but maybe someone else understands what I mean and can say what I am trying to say more properly than I have.

    Vaya con Dios!

    Merry festival of the precious and Life giving Holy True Cross!

    • I don’t think the discussion (i.e. the advise given by the monks) was about artificial birth control per se or appropriate fasting and abstinence, but other recommendations…

    • Without commenting on what some misguided Ephremite monks may or may not understand about the fact that marriage must be honored by all and the marriage bed undefiled, I must say that this is a very unpopular statement, Christopher. Thus, I suspect, the many thumbs down votes.

      “Every evidence and example in Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches have always held to this consistenly for centuries. If recently particular bishops are sympathetic to “family planning” , natural, artificial whatever..it’s an innovative idea without precedent, well intended as it may be, it can not be accepted by the Church officially as a teaching.”

      The freedom to use birth control has almost become a part of Orthodox tradition in the minds of many. What most do not realize is that this ‘tradition’ is hallowed only by many decades of neglect, equivocation, and a general disdain for all things that appear to smack of Rome.

      Unlike many Roman Catholics who know the clear teaching of their church and choose to disobey, no faithful Orthodox Christian has willfully chosen disobedience in this regard. But ‘culpability’ notwithstanding, all have become blind to the consequences of contraception. They can neither see nor understand (as evidenced by the comments that will doubtless follow) how it affects the fullness of the salvation to be found in the Mystery of marriage – both within in their own marriages and in the communities around them. I was once among them myself.

      If – and only if – this is what some Ephremite Monks are attempting to communicate to those who seek them out, they are merely being faithful to their calling and attempting to deliver us from the ignorance the enemy has sown that robs us of the fullness of our salvation in marriage, unpopular and intimate though it may be. We Westerners are notorious for viewing sex as a completely private matter, but it has never been a private matter to God.

      It is true, however, that our understanding of these matters differs sharply from that of Rome. We have little interest in dogmatizing intimacy lest we reduce our life in Christ to a list of rules. We have little interest in defining the specifics of precisely what is and is not ‘sinful’ or in what rules, if broken, will place us in a state of ‘mortal sin.’ But we do have every interest in the fullness of salvation, a salvation that is not limited to some future reward (or punishment). Our attitude toward repentance is positive. It is not, “Avoid these things lest you be punished.” Rather, it is “Turn to God in repentance, and He will give you the fullness of His life.”

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        It is starting to sink in here and there that Rome was right about artificial contraception; a very unpopular view in most quarters.

        It was about 12-15 years from the Pill to social acceptance of non-marital cohabitation, and thence to acceptance of all sexual deviation, and most recently, of course, to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

        In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Not to mention the physical and emotional side-effects on the women that take the pill including breast cancer and other cancers, difficulty in conception, etc.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mr. McAvoy; it is not the asceticism that is the problem. It is the unbalanced and intrusive way it is applied.

      Chastity is much note than sexual abstinence. We are called to be chaste :in all that we do.

      For the type of sexual asceticism to actually best Godly fruit in marriage much else has to be done first in terms of the couple’s activity and Orthopraxis. To hone in immediately on sexual abstinence without knowledge of the full spiritual life of the couple and the community in which they live is laying heavy burdens that the monks themselves don’t bear.

      Marriage is not just about the couple–it is integrated with the whole community, just as monastic celibacy is.

  16. “Fools walk in where angels fear to tread.” is an old saying which perhaps applies to what I will be saying. I am new to Orthodoxy and still trying to understand ‘stuff”. I will only take two concepts here.

    1. In the course of the liturgy in my parish we sing a hymn to the Theotokos, which contains the words
    “Without defilement you gave birth” which strongly suggests that all the mothers who gave birth through the natural process of procreation are defiled and by extension the fathers who took part in the defilement. So basically most of the congregation is defiled. Is this the proper way to look upon motherhood and fatherhood?

    On the other hand, the Church proclaims that marriage is a sacrament, is holy. However the usual definition of a marriage is that it is not a true marriage until it is physically consummated. However if a couple consummates their relationship physically they are defiling themselves and each other. How can something be both holy and defiling at the same time?

    The Church teaches that its members should abstain from sexual relationships until duly married but then it seems to say that sex after marriage is defiling and places limits on when one can and cannot do it.

    2. As a former missionary working in a non-English speaking country, I was expected to learn the local language so that I could communicate, teach and work and live with the people who lived where God sent me. A few years back I visited a monastery for women in central Pennsylvania, and heard all the services conducted in Greek. I was totally surprised by this as I hadn’t realized that there were so many Greeks in central Pennsylvania that they needed to have a Greek monastery handy. The Church celebrates the work of Cyril and Methodius who when sent as missionaries wrote down the previously unwritten Slavic language in order to preach the Gospel and celebrate the Eucharist in the tongue familiar to the local residents. However the aforementioned monastery does not see fit to adhere to this tradition. Nor do the Greek, or whatever nationality, churches seem to think that this is important. For some reason the missionary spirit of sharing the Gospel in the tongue of local people has been lost.

    It seems to me that for the most part the Orthodox Church does not see itself as a missionary church. Rather it is a group of people who have arrived, so to speak, and are more interested in looking to the past than putting their hand to the plow and going forward in the land where God has placed them. Luke 9:62

    • Michael Bauman says

      Lina: some not all. Get off the east coast and the attitude is less prevalent.

      The defilement in the hymn is not about sex but the fall. In that sense we are all defiled. Sex and everything else is messed up because of our falleness. Sex didn’t cause it.
      It is the crazy monks who are obsessed with it.

    • Lina,

      In this context the word translated “defilement,” does not carry the connotation we might normally ascribe to it. Other translations into English read, “…thou who without change bearest God the WORD.” It simply means that the Mother of God was, and remains, virgin.

    • We’re always at the mercy of the translator. To paraphrase St James, not many of us should presume to be translators. It takes not only the obvious training in languages and linguistics to understand the mechanical aspects of the work of translation, but rendering our sacred texts into modern languages requires the involvement of people thoroughly familiar with the length, breadth, and depth of the authentically orthodox catholic christian Tradition. I developed a schematic for this, a sort of ‘flow chart’ of the process about thirty years ago. I still think that it’s a good model, but it languishes in a file folder somewhere at the Syosset chancery, never having been considered by the Liturgical Music and Translations Commission.

      So, let’s admit that the problem is endemic, at least in English, and is not any sort of priority for the Powers That Be in the OCA, at least, although the other jurisdictions have produced their own fair share of monstrous mistranslations.

      In the present case, the Hymn to the Theotokos (‘Axion estin’/’Dostoyno yest’/’It is truly meet’/) which we sing at most Divine Liturgies, the word ‘defilement’ is indeed a mistranslation of ‘aphthartOs’, which literally means ‘incorruptibly’.

      It’s clear that ‘defilement’ has resonances of at least rape, if not also an insinuation that all sexual intercourse is somehow ‘dirty’. But the Tradition tells us explicitly in the scriptures and elsewhere that the sexual relationship between husband and wife in marriage is not only chaste, but sacred and sanctifying. this is not true of any sexual relationship apart from that which exists between one man and one woman in marriage. It’s a shame that we have to be so explicit about the parameters these days.

      In any case, the word ‘aphthartOs’ means that the most holy Theotokos experienced no damage, no physical change in giving birth: she was a virgin before, during, and after she gave birth to our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the significance of the three stars on her shawl. I think it might be the romanian jurisdiction of the OCA which translates the word something like ‘without loss of your virginity’, which is accurate but it’s a mouthful. (You ought to see the romanian word for ‘Theotokos’!)

      As long as the hymn is properly explained, it’s probably OK to use ‘incorruptibly’ as a replacement for ‘without corruption’.

      But people have their comfort zones, and pastors and bishops are almost irrationally fearful about trying to adjust translations, preferring to keep the laity ignorant rather than share the truth with them. For me, personally, this has been a lifelong frustration. There are ways to let people down gently, to relieve them of their false suppositions kindly and introduce what’s true and real without emotional or even physical violence. But the clergy are unequal to the task, at least thus far.

      Consider our most central prayer, taught us by our Lord Himself, ‘Our Father’. There’s nothing in there about ‘daily’ or ‘trespasses’ or asking Him not to ‘lead us into temptation’. Nothing. Why must we continue with these inadequacies, these errors and deceptions?

      Helpful suggestions, anyone?

      • In re, “thee who without corruption barest God the Word…” Monk James is on the way to being correct about the meaning; i.e., that the Mother of God did not suffer the loss of her virginity in conceiving the Logos of God in her womb, with the Holy Spirit. Precisely, the Greek word, adiaphthorOs (he had it misspelled), indicates that she gave birth to the Theanthropos, our Lord Jesus Christ, without passing on “diaphthora,” corruption. (St John of Damascus says that Jesus underwent corruption in death (phthora), but not “dissolution” (diaphthora).
        All this is to say that the church hymns are very precise… And that our translations are often very bad!

        • Abbouna Michel says

          Nicely done, Father Patrick (and others). The problem extends beyond liturgical texts to biblical ones as well. How do you take a pun or play on words in Hebrew or Greek, and make of it something that simultaneously is theologically accurate and not pidgin English? Language always is inadequate in trying to express the Unexpressible, but, alas, we poor mortals sometimes muck it up more than we ought!

        • My thanks to Fr Patrick Reardon for his correction — I shouldn’t work from memory alone!

          I’m a little skeptical, though, about adiaphthorOs (‘incorruptibly’) having resonances of the Mother of God’s possibly passing on the her own putative fallen human trait of physical corruption to her divine/human Son.

          In a reference to PS 15, St Luke (ACTS 2:31) reminds us that in death, our Lord Jesus Christ ‘was not abandoned to Haides, nor did His flesh experience corruption’, so perhaps St John of Damascus was having a bad day when he wrote the words which Fr Patrick mentions here, or he is at least being misunderstood.

          The same saint, in a homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos, writes that Jesus ‘was incorruptibly (adiaphthorOs) incarnate of a virgin’. To my mind, this tells us only that the virginity of the Theotokos remained physically intact as she conceived, carried, and gave birth to Jesus, that — by the will of God — her motherhood, as we frequently sing, broke every aspect of the laws of nature.

          • The hymn definetly associates sex with sin. Often it is forgotten that one of the first commandments is “go forth and multiply.” Multiplication happens through sex which is a gift from God.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          You know how much of a discuss we can have on just the word επιούσιος.

          Enough to make your hear spin! Is it “Daily Bread”, “Super-essential” or “Super-substantial”
          OR something else?

          I’ll let all of you hash that one out.

          Peter A. Papoutsis

      • Michael Bauman says

        Changing the translation of the Our Father would be quite difficult. It has been that way in English always.

        However for the other hymns and prayers we need to pray for inspired translators and the wisdom of the bishops to use them. I see no other way.

        • Over the centuries, ‘Our Father’ has been represented in english-language prayer books in a dozen different ways. Even now, ‘which art in heaven’ can be heard; ‘debts’ and ‘trespasses’ are exchanged haphazardly, and ‘evil one’ replaces ‘evil’ in some orthodox circles.

          Bottom line: There is no such thing as a uniform standard translation of the ‘Our Father’ in English. We Orthodox should take advantage of that chaos and present an accurate version to the poets and musicians among us for tweaking and fine tuning. The heterodox/WCC can then adopt our best efforts — or not.

          • Michael Bauman says

            From an experiential stand point the differences you point to trespass/debts; evil/evil one are not really differences. I understand that as a translator those differences may be great. English is, compared to Greek, a rather flat language in terms of nuance one of the things that makes proper translation quite difficult. We are not as particular in the specifics of language. Our nuance comes more in social understanding. Thus to be a debtor or to trespass are essentially the same thing.

            Now that probably drives translators of Greek quite mad at times. Personally, I don’t think it is all that important to get the specifics of the Greek shoe-horned into the English language in most cases.

            I will repeat my observation is that most translators love the Greek more than they love the English. As long as that is the case we will continue to have bad and inadequate translations. We have to have people who are deeply in love with the English language who also know Greek quite well or Arabic or Russian.

            Monk James, do you know if there are any attempts to translate Shakespeare into Greek? If there are, that would seem to me to be a good template to use for rendering Greek into poetic and layered English. It need not be in the archaic forms BTW but it could be. I love Shakespearean language and do not find it a barrier at all.

            You also have the problem of translating an unused archaic language into a constantly changing used language. It will never be precise unless you use a archaic model such as Shakespeare.

            Shakespearean dialog in a Scottish accent is so soaringly beautiful.

            I’ll give anyone who has the skill and the desire a task: Translate the following into liturgical Greek and see what you come up with:

            The quality of mercy is not strained.
            It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
            Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
            It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
            Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
            The throned monarch better than his crown.
            His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
            The attribute to awe and majesty,
            Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
            But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
            It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
            It is an attribute of God himself;
            And earthly power doth then show like God’s
            When mercy seasons justice.

            • Tim R. Mortiss says

              Beautiful, as is all of Shakespeare! Neither empty nor dark! 😉

            • Okay, gauntlet picked up.

              I’ll translate this soliloquy into Greek just as soon as Michael Bauman explains why Shakespeare is unable/unwilling/unaware to express the difference which would keep his styles straight in the third person here: ‘It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.’

              To write the third person singular in both -eth and -es forms in the same sentence is a bit crazy, don’t you think? It seems that our english language must have been changing rapidly in Shakespeare’s time.

              It also needs to be said that ‘that’ hasn’t been a relative pronoun for centuries, long since replaced by which/who. In our contemporary English, ‘that’ is only a demonstrative pronoun.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Monk James: First–great may God guide your heart!

                But as to your questions:
                So? The jots and tittles are not the point. Jot and tittle translation is always pedantic and void of life. Take a look here: http://saliu.com/bbs/messages/839.html

                Since when did poetry ever require “correct” grammar?

                My central point is that unless one loves the language and is deeply immersed in the language one is translating into, the translation will fail. So, do you love English enough? Your comments in this post and in previous posts suggest not, at least to me. I hope I am wrong.

                Think 1 Corinthians 13

                Of course, I have no way of judging your final product as I have little facility of language other than English and precious little even in English. I am just weary of the constant lament that English translations are so inadequate because the English language is inadequate. That’s merely and excuse to cover the inability of the translators to penetrate the beauty, grace and depth of the English.

                • It’s not the fault of the language that our orthodox scriptural and liturgical translations into English are so consistently disappointing — it’s the fault of inadequate translators, people who pridefully consider their own attempts as benchmarks of the work, people who take criticism badly and correction not at all, who are unable to work in a collaborative context.

                  This is not to say that individual translators might not successfully bring over precise meanings into English, but that they often fail to achieve the heights of art of which diction is capable and which sonority assists even in speech, but which is even more important when a text is intended to be sung.

                  And precision in meaning is essential, lest a translation distort the intentions of the original text. Someone sees no practical difference between ‘trespasses’ and ‘debts’, but he is mistaken. A debt is an obligation characterized by the concept of expected repayment, which might be kindly canceled by the lender but not by the debtor. On the other hand, a ‘No Trespassing’ sign( which might also mention that if ‘trespassers’ poach the king’s deer, they will be shot) gives its readers a ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ warning, leaving the decision entirely up to them.

                  These two concepts are not in the same moral universe, and our Lord Jesus Christ chose the word ‘debts’ deliberately, as He illustrated in the parable of the generous wealthy man and his unkind servant.

                  So, please, let’s not defend the indefensibly bad translations (there are many) of ‘Our Father’ with which we have become familiar.

                  Then, people whose native language is apparently not English come up with monstrosities such as the GOA’s recently published ‘official’ translation of khristos anestE, contrived to conform to their most commonly used chant. This particular failure is a good example of collaboration gone awry. They were capable of better, but someone with more clout than common sense seems to have had his way.

                  As far as my love of the language’s being evident or not, I’ll say only that, in order to do the work of translation, I took degrees in the languages relevant to our orthodox concerns with minors in English and linguistics, and that I’ve been chipping away at the problem for forty years.

                  Over time, I’ve discovered that the greatest obstacle to making progress in english-language orthodox publications is INERTIA, which is sometimes stronger than truth. I mean to say that whichever translations get printed first and to which the people become inured are at least in English — no matter how inadequate they are. People internalize these renderings, often with catchy melodies, and they won’t give them up.

                  Consider Balakirev’s (I think) arrangement of the Valaam monastery’s chant for the paschal hymn ‘The Angel Cried’. The OCA’s translation is dreadful, but people like the snappy tune and they don’t want to learn better words for it. They just don’t, and they need some sensitive pastoring to get them out of their comfort zone.

                  And there are people even here who pooh-pooh efforts to correct our texts, suggesting that there are more important tasks at hand than these ‘pedantic’ concerns. Fair enough. Then let the people who are good at addressing those more important tasks go and do their best in that work with my full support and encouragement. And, as St Paul and St James vigorously remind us, we all have different gifts. So let those who are doing those things which they deem more important also encourage and support those of us who labor at translating and editing, usually anonymously, working with our God-given graces for His glory, not our own.

                  • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                    I’m trying buddy, I’m trying but you know how many people care about this stuff? You, Me and about two more people and that’s it! I don’t even think my translation is that good, but compared to the stuff that’s out there I’m not so bad.

                    However, you will not move people off their comfort zone, even if you are more correct in your rendering. So I agree with you, but what are we going to do? I have asked that question since 1996 till today.

                    I have offered to give my translations away just to start the process, JUST TO START THE PROCESS! you know what the answers has been? Silence. No one cares. I wish they did, but they just don’t. That’s the frustrating part.

                    It was said the Orthodox Study Bible “it could have been better, but was not better. Why was it not better?” Trying the explain the theological difference between “Propitiation” and “Expatiation” in the New Testament and why it matters which one we use gets me glazed over looks and rolling eyes. How about between “Saved” and “Being Saved”? How about “Justification” and “Being Made Righteous”?

                    So I hear you Monk James, but honestly our people just don’t care, but I wished they did because they need to. Why because most of our people think that Orthodoxy teaches and believes basically the same things as Western Christianity does and it does NOT.

                    So this stuff matters, but apparently just not to English-Speaking Orthodox.


                    • Tim R. Mortiss says

                      With some trepidation I venture to say….. we should worry much less about this “Western Christianity” business. I sometimes think that it is a mark of a chip on the shoulder, or, dare I say, an inferiority complex.

                      Here’s a question for discussion: is “Western Christianity” all bad? Does it have anything to offer of value since the 11th century?

                      How effective has Orthodoxy been in its “confrontation” with Western Christianity? Not very, I don’t think.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      With some trepidation I venture to say….. we should worry much less about this “Western Christianity” business. I sometimes think that it is a mark of a chip on the shoulder, or, dare I say, an inferiority complex.

                      Here’s a question for discussion: is “Western Christianity” all bad? Does it have anything to offer of value since the 11th century?

                      How effective has Orthodoxy been in its “confrontation” with Western Christianity? Not very, I don’t think.

                      Hi Tim:

                      I think this point is very important, especially as it concerns the underlying Greek of the New Testament. With such writers as NT Wrght who went back to not only the Greek of the New Testament but to the culture of the 1st Century and Second Temple Judaism to begin to discover what the Orthodox Church always knew about Covenant and Salvation. http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Perspective-N-T-Wright/dp/0800663578/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1411225131&sr=8-11&keywords=nt+wright


                      NT Wright’s insights just into this area which is called “The New Perspective” has so worried the Reformed Protestant establishment that John Piper and other have rightly stated that what NT Wright is doing and saying is the complete destruction of the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone.http://www.amazon.com/The-Future-Justification-Response-Wright/dp/1581349645/ref=pd_sim_b_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=18RNPKR70T5HXCRVJRQ8

                      Further, in the writings of Fr. John Romanidies you get to see very clearly the heresy that took hold in Western Christianity that was led by the Franks and actually fought against by the various Popes of Rome until Rome was taken over by the Franks and the divisions that were brewing prior to the 11th century, again instituted by the Franks, were brought to the forefront. http://www.amazon.com/Theology-John-Romanides-Andrew-Sopko-ebook/dp/B005ESI910/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411225095&sr=1-3&keywords=john+romanides

                      Western Christianity is slowly coming out of its heresy in the wake of Vatican II and the writings of some protestant theologians on the New Perspective and on other areas of theology, especially as they dive into the writings of the Early Church Fathers. However, when they come out of it they either realize their error and become Orthodox or they reject Orthodoxy as error and go deeper into their Calvinism and their errors on the Trinity via the teaching of Blessed Augustine (i.e. Rome).

                      This is why learning and understanding the Greek of the New testament AND the Hebrew and Greek of the Old Testament is so vitally important that we produce as accurate as we can translations of the underlying biblical and liturgical texts into English and even then we should still learn the original languages and to understand them within the mind of the Church.


                    • Michael Bauman says

                      Peter, it matters to me. I want both beautiful and carefully rendered translations because without them we lack some basics of the celebration of the faith and the ability to communicate it properly.

                      That being said, grace is also working and the participatory experience of communion and repentance is always available and the English language will never deliver the same type of precision that Greek does. I’m sure it makes for difficult work in translating.

                      I know we don’t believe a lot of what so-called western Christianity has taught over the last 500 years or so (especially Protestants) but so far as I know only one variant of Protestantism has been declare heretical and that is Calvinism. Unfortunately, that is in most variants to one degree or another at least to some degree.

                      Four major hurdles: 1. insufficient missionary zeal in general and toward the English speaking peoples in particular. 2. Not enough grounding in both the ancient languages and English; 3. the incredible fluidity of English; 4. the apathy you point to.

                      Part of the apathy rests with mono-linguistic morons (that’s me and folks like me BTW). We have no way of evaluating the accuracy of the translations. Unless it is blatantly ugly, or blatantly at odds with the overall teaching of the Church, we tend to think it is OK.

                      I will say that as important as the accuracy of the translations is, continually emphasizing the details of what is involved in making translations accurate does not promote enthusiasm.

                    • Calvinism may still exist here and there, but certainly not among the “mainline” Presbyterians (who once, long ago, exemplified it). Too bad, “heresy” or not, because it was at least a strong form of the Christian religion. Little enough left of that amongst the Presbys any more.

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                I think we could apply Emerson’s maxim to this supposed inconsistency of Shakespeare’s:

                “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

                • Michael Bauman (September 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm)says:

                  ‘…the English language will never deliver the same type of precision that Greek does.’


                  Really? NOW who doesn’t love the english language?!

                  EVERYTHING which can be said in one language can be said in another, even with accuracy and feeling, subjective implication and — in our case — with the proper theological resonance. It all depends on the skill of the translator.

                  Having a really deep, almost intuitive grasp of both the source language and the receptor language would be ideal, but most translators don’t have that great a facility. That’s why God made editors.

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    The precision is of a different type expressed in a different way.

                    • Michael Bauman (September 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm) says:

                      ‘The precision is of a different type expressed in a different way.’


                      I wonder if Michael Bauman could be a little more vague.

                      I, for one, would be grateful for a bit more precision regarding his statement here.

                    • Michael Bauman says

                      Monk James: I don’t know Greek so the best I can be is vague, but obviously critical Greek words such as the multiples for love or the single Greek word nous which, it seems often takes a paragraph to translate adequately into English. IMO, a great deal of damage has been done by translating nous as mind given our cultural concept of ‘mind’ as simply rational thought limited to the brain. Greek uses multiple words to express precision when talking about love. To be precise in English requires a modifier of some sort or a clear context.

                      With nous there are multiple choices and the use of the English ‘mind’ seems to be gradually changing to express the depth of the word. The addition of context and the use of different words of combination of words makes the English more precise that the simple ‘mind’. Shoot even W.E. Vine has about half a page of English words and phrases to choose from in the translation of the word nous.

                      As I said before, precision in English is arrived at by contextual and relational means.

                      That may be the same in general in Greek, but the assumptions built into the Greek to determine the context and to make the relational connections are different. Translating those seems to be the biggest challenge, not the specific meaning of words.

                      In a phrase, the idioms are different.

                      Plus the idioms in English are in a constant state of flux unlike the liturgical Greek.

                      It is a mammoth task for any one person to have the requisite understanding and skill in both worlds to achieve proper translations even of mundane things. How much more difficult it must be for theological and liturgical writings. I am, frankly, in awe of anyone who would even approach the task with sobriety and humility. My hat is off to you.

                      My beef is with those who do not approach it that way. I have heard in one form or another, however, the theme that English is simply not adequate to hold all of the revealed truth of the Church. That often translates into the belief that we are barbarians who can never really be Orthodox. That does not come from the Greeks alone, but most frequently in my experience. From this mind set comes translations that are of the “might as well throw them a bone” type: sloppy, ugly, inaccurate, pedantic.

                      BTW, I have long pondered the phrase in the common English translation of the Lord’s Prayer: “…lead us not into temptation”. On the face it is quite illogical. I understood that even before I was a Christian. Over time, I came to the understanding within the context of the Church that the petition was really this: Lead us, keep us from temptation and evil.

                      Is that close to your understanding of the Greek?

                    • Michael Bauman (September 23, 2014 at 9:10 am) says:

                      BTW, I have long pondered the phrase in the common English translation of the Lord’s Prayer: “…lead us not into temptation”. On the face it is quite illogical. I understood that even before I was a Christian. Over time, I came to the understanding within the context of the Church that the petition was really this: Lead us, keep us from temptation and evil.

                      Is that close to your understanding of the Greek?


                      There are several scriptural locations, especially in the New Testament, where it’s made clear that God will NEVER lead us into temptation. Suggesting that He might is nothing less than blasphemy.

                      Those lines of ‘Our Father’ could be rendered literally as ‘and — lest You put us to the test — rescue us from the Evil One.’

                      Altogether, I suggest this:

                      Our Father in Heaven,
                      may Your Name be kept holy.
                      May Your reign begin.
                      May Your will be done,
                      as in the heavens, so also on Earth.
                      Give us today the Bread we need,
                      and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
                      And, rather than let us be put to the test,
                      rescue us from the Evil One.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      By Jove! I believe you’ve got it correct. I was reading (in what biblical archeological book I don’t remember) that a fragment of a papyrus from Alexandria (ca 50 BC) contained the word epirousion. It was a list of grocery items and some Classicists reckoned that it meant “items which are ‘necessary’.” Therefore when you write “…the brad we need” you are correct.

                      How about translating the last clause thusly: “…And save us from being tempted but deliver us from the Evil One.”

                    • Michael,

                      While I agree that far too many of our translations are impoverished, I believe that the words contained within your last sentence,

                      “…I came to the understanding within the context of the Church…”

                      …speak volumes. Language can be very rich or very poor, but by its nature (whether Greek, Russian, English…) it will always be iconic. It can never adequately define. It can only be an image pointing to the greater reality. Even the Creed, far from being the definition of our faith, has been understood from the beginning as the Symbol of Faith.

                      Apart from living the life of the Church the richest of languages will always be inadequate to image her life while the most impoverished of languages is adequate when spoken and understood from within the life of the Church. I am so grateful (as I know you also are) to be privileged to share in her life, our Barbarian tongues and our general ignorance of Greek notwithstanding.

                    • Tim R Mortiss says

                      Exactly. The Bible is not the Koran. It does not have some “eternal existence” in Hebrew and Greek.

                      A good deal of the Gospels are “translations” from Aramaic.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      Just in case anyone is interested:


                      This is NOT up to Monk James’ standard, I will admit that up front, but for those that want an easily accessible English translation of the Septuagint with an RSV flavor, you may want to check this out. Also, like it says its a work in progress.

                      II Kingdoms is done and III Kingdoms is almost done. I’m bogged down by all the major textual notes and textual additions found in the LXX that makes translating a rough road to travel sometimes. However, definitely worth it in the end.

                      I hope you enjoy.

                      Peter A. Papoutsis

              • Brian McDonald says

                Monk James wrote: I’ll translate this soliloquy into Greek just as soon as Michael Bauman explains why Shakespeare is unable/unwilling/unaware to express the difference which would keep his styles straight in the third person here: ‘It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.’

                Let me inject a bit of lit. prof. pedantry here to clear up this small point point of contention at least. Since both the “eth” and “es” forms were currently available to him (though “eth” endings were already starting to be archaic), Shakespeare used “gives” and “takes’ because the “eth” would have destroyed the meter of his blank verse (iambic pentameter).

                As to the rest of the debate. In my opinion almost all current biblical or liturgical translations, regardless of where they are “coming from” reveal a tin ear for the English language as they render the Greek into the most pedestrian language they can find. The difference among these various tone deaf renditions lies simply between those translators whose love of Greek is obviously stronger than their appreciation of good English and those whose political ideology is much more important than either.

                For a wonderful exception to this rule, I’d recommend The Psalms of David: Translated from the Septuagint Greek by the late Dartmouth poetry professor and lover of both Greek and English, Donald Sheehan.

                P.S. “That,” contrary to your assertion in that same post, still holds its honorable rank as one of the relative pronouns as its position as lead off example in the Purdue Owl’s exposition of relative pronouns will demonstrate: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/645/01/

                • Brian McDonald (September 20, 2014 at 5:20 pm says:

                  (regarding my dissatisfaction with Wm Shakespeare’s anachronistic use of two different third-person-singular present-tense markers in the same sentence)

                  ‘Since both the “eth” and “es” forms were currently available to him (though “eth” endings were already starting to be archaic), Wm Shakespeare used “gives” and “takes’ because the “eth” would have destroyed the meter of his blank verse (iambic pentameter).’

                  Mr McDonald makes some very interesting points in his post, with most of which I agree, especially his observation about translators’ (and others’) having a ‘tin ear’. Our liturgical and scriptural English must be ‘high’ speech, literate, sonorous, beautiful and suitable for singing — all without sacrificing accuracy.

                  I’m reminded of a couple of dour italian proverbs: ‘Traduttore traditore’ (The translator is a traitor) and ‘A translation is like a woman. If she is beautiful she can’t be faithful; if she’s faithful, she can’t be beautiful.’ (I do NOT support these sentiments)

                  Anyway, the two notions with which I disagree are:

                  1. I don’t at all accept BMcD;s explanation that WS’s use of the more modern -es ending was necessitated by conventions of scansion. It’s obvious that — if this were the case — WS could handily have used the equally unstressed -es ending for ‘blesseth’, thus preserving the iambic foot and keeping the markers contemporary and consistent. So, then, WS’s rationale for his choice of forms remains unknown, at least to me.

                  2. The Purdue Owl’s article on relative pronouns is mistaken in its representation that ‘that’ is a relative pronoun interchangeable with ‘who/which’. I remain convinced that the use of ‘that’ as a relative pronoun is an archaism on the order of ‘Our Father, which art in heaven’.

                  It was gratifying, though, to note that the Owl points out that this usage is an example of informal, colloquial or — as I call it — ‘low’ speech and not suitable for the written language.

                  It might help if we realized that ‘that’ has no possessive or objective forms. Recasting any sentence first constructed with ‘that’ as a relative pronoun requires us to rely on declined forms of ‘who/which’.

                  I wonder why Purdue’s paper isn’t called The Chicken. [[;-D33

                  • Tim R. Mortiss says

                    There are several very good English translations of the Bible, including the KJV (old and “new”) and the RSV, the latter being my favorite, and one which I certainly often hear quoted in both GOC and OCA services.

                    The old ASV never caught on all that much precisely because of its “translationese”.

                    Perhaps the reference is to new efforts at translation specifically by Orthodox?

                    There are also of course several good translations which were never intended for liturgical use, but which could serve nicely for the most part. My favorite of these is Richmond Lattimore’s translation of the NT.

                  • Peter A. Papoutsis (September 25, 2014 at 5:40 pm) says:

                    Just in case anyone is interested:


                    This is NOT up to Monk James’ standard, I will admit that up front, but for those that want an easily accessible English translation of the Septuagint with an RSV flavor, you may want to check this out. Also, like it says its a work in progress.

                    Well, Peter Papoutsis was certainly right about me and my standards! [[;-)33

                    Now, PP is an affable guy and his comments here are always well considered, so I hate to rain on his parade. BUT….

                    When I went to the site mentioned above, I at once took a look at the psalms, since they’re my special area of study. As only seven pages of psalms were available for inspection, I was unable to spot-check my usual list of _shibboleth_ misrenderings.

                    So, while I did not at all proof his translation for accuracy to the Greek, I was astonished — and embarrassed for PP — that his english grammar and syntax is terrible in general, and made worse by his inability to use ‘thou, thy/thine, thee’ correctly and with appropriately conjugated verbs.

                    That particular revelation struck me as very odd, indeed, since PP seems quite well able to express himself in writing here, as I’m sure he is professionally — not that he uses ‘thou’ much in those contexts. So, what happened? Did our correspondent come down with a bad case of translationese flu?

                    And what exactly is ‘Logos’? Why was this project allowed to go into print? Don’t the ‘Logos’ people have any editors competent in English?!

                    Our dear Peter has been badly misled. My sincere condolences to him and a big moan and groan at his publisher.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      Actually the Psalms are not mine. They are a light revision of the HTM Psalms According to the Seventy used under permission. HTM said I could not use the Kathismata and I could not use their odes. The rest I just used and only very lightly revised. The thees and thous are all HTM not mine. Just wanted to clarify that point.


                    • Well, then I went back and looked at some other material in Peter Papoutsis’s translations.

                      I regret to inform you that it’s just as bad as what I found in the psalms. And it’s painful for me to imagine all the ignorant people seeking for orthodox Christianity who might be snookered into this tripe.

                      Worse yet, it appeared to me that Peter Papoutsis is publishing his own substandard, unedited work, God help him and all of us. Lord, save us from our pride and give us good editors!

                      Were I to feel that my poor offerings were worthy of self-publication, I’d be out there all over — but that’s a really tacky way to publish. As I learned when I entered my PhD program, such self-publication is considered a very bad thing, and likely to disqualify people from pursuing advanced degrees.

                      So I don’t do that because I need peer input on my work. The fact that no one has yet offered to edit me notwithstanding, I plod along. But I wouldn’t DARE go into print without peer review and the blessings of my superiors.

                      It’s my most sincere hope that I can bequeath a good and workable, beautiful and singable rendering of the psalms to the English-speaking orthodox Church. I’ll have to choose my beneficiaries wisely, since I just know that some idiot will come in and destroy everything in my files in languages which he can’t read.

                • George Michalopulos (September 24, 2014 at 6:30 am) says:

                  (regarding my suggested rendering of ‘Our Father’)

                  ‘By Jove! I believe you’ve got it correct. I was reading (in what biblical archeological book I don’t remember) that a fragment of a papyrus from Alexandria (ca 50 BC) contained the word epiousion. It was a list of grocery items and some Classicists reckoned that it meant “items which are ‘necessary’.” Therefore when you write “…the brad we need” you are correct.

                  ‘How about translating the last clause thusly: “…And save us from being tempted but deliver us from the Evil One.”’

                  Just being a bit lazy, I suppose, but here’s a slightly edited version of a post I made to another group some time ago.

                  As X observed, it’s parlous indeed to present any sort of corrections to commonly encountered translations of ‘Our Father’. People break out in hives! Or they burn down churches and kill their bishops! Or at least they shoot the scholars and translators.

                  So, at the outset, I’d ask you to remain open-minded and flexible in your thinking, and not unreasonably insist on remaining in your ‘comfort zone’, nor allow inertia to trump truth.

                  First, here’s the text as found in the Authorised Version (KJB) at MT 6:9b-13a:

                  ‘Our Father which art in heaven,
                  Hallowed be thy name.
                  Thy kingdom come.
                  Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
                  Give us this day our daily bread.
                  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
                  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:’

                  Then there’s the text as found in the classic american episcopalian 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

                  ‘Our Father, who art in heaven,
                  Hallowed be thy Name.
                  Thy kingdom come.
                  Thy will be done,
                  On earth as it is in heaven.
                  Give us this day our daily bread.
                  And forgive us our trespasses,
                  As we forgive those who trespass against us.
                  And lead us not into temptation,
                  But deliver us from evil.’

                  This is also the version we find in most english-language orthodox service books.

                  Do you see that there is NO ‘standard’ translation, and never has been?

                  But clearly, the ‘gold standard’ of the KJV wasn’t golden enough for the BCP even in its most conservative modern american edition. BTW: It’s also true that the psalms of the BCP are not taken from the KJV, but from Coverdale, even with latin titles. How odd….

                  In any event, it’s obvious that even the Anglicans found it necessary to take some exception to the english-language renderings of the jacobean bible. Whatever we think about the style and diction of the KJV, it is NOT the standard for liturgical prayer in these instances, nor in any others. It’s a monument of english prose, to be sure, but it’s just a monument – not a living text which can stand on its own, no more than Shakespeare can without copious annotation of shifts in meaning and diction. The KJV is a fossil of the english language. Stately, but still a fossil.

                  It should also be noted that the phrase ‘daily bread’ is not found in Matthew. In fact, St Jerome cut and pasted ‘daily’ from the Luke text, with the full version of the prayer’s latin liturgical usage imported into both the KJV and the BCP. It seems that 16th-century scholars were unable to make sense of epiousion, and so surrendered to the latin version to which they were accustomed before the destruction caused by Henry viii.

                  We Orthodox, though, use the MT text just as it appears in the Gospel, and we cannot get ‘daily’ out of epiousion. This word is not encountered elsewhere in ancient Greek. In fact, it’s a hapax legomenon (‘said once’), apart from a now unattestable 1st-century or so alexandrian shopping list. But it’s an easily parsed compound of epi (‘on, upon, over, much’) and ousia (‘essence, substance, necessary characteristic’) from eimi(‘be, exist”).

                  I’ve already written you that Church Slavonic’s nasushchn61y, rendering epiousios,also yields the meaning of ‘necessary’. But, like St Jerome’s ‘supersubstantialem’, the CS word is less a translation than a calque — a frustrated translator’s decision to reflect intelligible particles of a word and then stringing them together as an unintelligible whole: looks good, feels right, but is of doubtful value.

                  We also know from several scriptural assertions to the contrary that the Lord our God will NEVER lead us into temptation. So, whatever kai mE eisenegkHIs hEmas eis peirasmon means, it does NOT mean ‘lead us not into temptation’. It’s blasphemous to ask the Lord not to do what He already promised us He wouldn’t do.

                  Alright. I’ll first present a minimally adjusted text reflecting accurate meanings in an archaic style:

                  Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name.
                  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done: as in the heavens so also on Earth.
                  Give us this day our essential Bread.
                  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
                  And lest You bring us into a trial, deliver us from the Evil One.

                  Now, rendering the text into a more fluid form in our contemporary English, it comes out something like this:

                  Our Father in Heaven, may Your Name be kept holy.
                  May Your reign begin.
                  May Your will be done: as in the heavens so also on Earth.
                  Give us today the Bread we need.
                  And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
                  And, rather than let us be put to the test, rescue us from the Evil One.

                  (I appreciate the suggestions which George Michalopulos and Michael Bauman offered for the last two lines, but I can’t agree with either of them.)

                  Please notice that there’s an important difference between singular and plural ‘heaven’, just exactly as in the Symbol of Faith, for the same reason and with the same effect.

                  The greek originals of these two texts use singular and plural forms of ouranos with meanings exactly opposite the norms of English, and this curiosity must be acknowledged in order to produce an accurate translation. The ‘heavens’ are the sky, while ‘Heaven’ is the eternal condition of God which He promises to share with us if only we follow the instructions of His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

                  Yes, just ‘only’. The form ‘only begotten’ is almost always wrong, too. But let’s wrestle with just this prayer for now.

                  • Monk James,

                    You wrote, as a possible translation:

                    “Our Father in Heaven, may Your Name be kept holy.
                    May Your reign begin.
                    May Your will be done: as in the heavens so also on Earth.
                    Give us today the Bread we need.
                    And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
                    And, rather than let us be put to the test, rescue us from the Evil One.”

                    While I agree with parts of it, others I cannot. Several theologians have pointed out the problems with adding “may” to the clauses when it is neither their nor implied in the Greek.

                    It is not “may Your Name be kept holy” but “Holy is Your Name.” St. Maximus pointed out that it is an affirmation of the inherent holiness of God’s name, not a hope that it will be kept holy by others. Likewise, it is not “may your Kingdom come,” but an affirmation “Your Kingdom is coming” (“coming is Your Kingdom”). St. Gregory Palamas like St. Maximus, saw this as an affirmation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

                    Many Church Fathers indisputably saw the “essential Bread” as referring first and foremost to Eucharist (scholars have shown that it was the first “prayer before Communion”). I agree that “essential Bread” is one of several acceptable translations, as “daily” detracts from its meaning.

                    As for the last two lines, I basically agree. On the last line, I think we can go a little more direct in translation with the same accomplishment, however:
                    “And not bringing us to trial, deliver us from the evil one”

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Protopappas, I agree with you: I don’t think the word “may” is appropriate. Our’s is a decisive faith, one which requires decisive language.

                    • Protopappas (September 28, 2014 at 5:32 pm) says:

                      While I agree with parts of it, others I cannot. Several theologians have pointed out the problems with adding “may” to the clauses when it is neither their nor implied in the Greek.

                      It is not “may Your Name be kept holy” but “Holy is Your Name.” St. Maximus pointed out that it is an affirmation of the inherent holiness of God’s name, not a hope that it will be kept holy by others. Likewise, it is not “may your Kingdom come,” but an affirmation “Your Kingdom is coming” (“coming is Your Kingdom”). St. Gregory Palamas like St. Maximus, saw this as an affirmation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

                      Many Church Fathers indisputably saw the “essential Bread” as referring first and foremost to Eucharist (scholars have shown that it was the first “prayer before Communion”). I agree that “essential Bread” is one of several acceptable translations, as “daily” detracts from its meaning.

                      As for the last two lines, I basically agree. On the last line, I think we can go a little more direct in translation with the same accomplishment, however:
                      “And not bringing us to trial, deliver us from the evil one”
                      The ‘sanctification of the Name’ by us human beings is an important aspect of jewish liturgy, which is probably why Jesus opens this prayer to ‘Our Father’ with this sentiment. St Maximus was probably unaware of this when he wrote his meditation on these words. I’ll describe another of his misapprehensions here just a few lines down.

                      In examples adduced here,’Protopappas’ seems to be unaware that each greek verb introduced by ‘may’ in contemporary English is in the subjunctive mood in the original. So ‘hallowed be thy name’ is a subjunctive form, a rearrangement of which in contemporary English yields something like ‘may Your Name be kept holy’.

                      The last petition of ‘Our Father’ is preceded by a conditional clause: kai mE + subjunctive, meaning ‘and, lest You bring us into’ — the burden of which is to say that we want God to remember that He promised He would not tempt us. So, expressing our hope that we won’t be tempted, we then ask Him: ‘And, rather than let us be put to the test, rescue us from the Evil One.’

                      Apart from St John Chrysostom and St Maximus the Confessor (the latter a bit less so than the former) who are content to think of arton epiousion as ‘daily bread’ — probably influenced by the gospel of Luke — most of the Fathers of the Church agree that the ‘most essential’ bread is the Bread of Holy Communion.

                      As an aside, the notion of ‘daily bread’ is incompatible with the Eucharist since the earliest Christians did not serve the Divine Liturgy except on Sunday. In the fourth century, St Basil the Great recommended his own practice of serving four liturgies a week, and that seems like a lot.

                      However, when the RCC (relatively recently, as these things go) began to encourage even the laity to receive Holy Communion daily, their cut-and-pasted distortion of that important line became significant for their eucharistic theology.

                      We can file that along with the roman pope’s being the ‘successor of St Peter’ and several other false foundations of their doctrines.

                    • Protopappas says

                      Monk James wrote: “In examples adduced here,’Protopappas’ seems to be unaware that each greek verb introduced by ‘may’ in contemporary English is in the subjunctive mood in the original. So ‘hallowed be thy name’ is a subjunctive form, a rearrangement of which in contemporary English yields something like ‘may Your Name be kept holy.’”

                      Monk James, you sound very sure of yourself. However, have you considered that perhaps the reason why it seemed to you that I was unaware that ἁγιασθήτω in the Lord’s prayer is subjunctive is because it is not subjunctive, it is imperative. Specifically, the word is an imperative verb, aorist, third person singular with passive voice, and that goes for the other terms in question as well. Therefore, the word “may” in inappropriate, as I have already said.

                      Let us take another phrase in question: “Thy will be done.” In other instances, γενηθήτω is translated as “shall be done” or “be done” or “be it,” not “may it be” (as the latter is subjunctive, but we are dealing with the imperative). Here are the examples:

                      Matthew 8:13
                      GRK: ὡς ἐπίστευσας γενηθήτω σοι καὶ
                      NAS: Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.
                      KJV: thou hast believed, [so] be it done unto thee.
                      INT: as you have believed be it to you And

                      Matthew 9:29
                      GRK: πίστιν ὑμῶν γενηθήτω ὑμῖν
                      NAS: saying, It shall be done to you according
                      KJV: to your faith be it unto you.
                      INT: faith of you be it to you

                      Matthew 15:28
                      GRK: ἡ πίστις γενηθήτω σοι ὡς
                      NAS: is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.
                      KJV: faith: be it unto thee
                      INT: the faith be it to you as

                      Matthew 26:42
                      GRK: αὐτὸ πίω γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά
                      NAS: I drink it, Your will be done.
                      KJV: thy will be done.
                      INT: it I drink be done the will

                      Same in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven,” not “may Your will be done…” “May” leaves open the possibility of it not happening, which is not at all implied in the Greek, and therefore should not be in the English either. We should not, therefore, change a Greek imperative to an English subjunctive. It is wrong.

                    • Monk James says

                      Protopappas (October 3, 2014 at 4:32 pm) says:

                      Monk James wrote: “In examples adduced here,’Protopappas’ seems to be unaware that each greek verb introduced by ‘may’ in contemporary English is in the subjunctive mood in the original. So ‘hallowed be thy name’ is a subjunctive form, a rearrangement of which in contemporary English yields something like ‘may Your Name be kept holy.’”

                      Monk James, you sound very sure of yourself. However, have you considered that perhaps the reason why it seemed to you that I was unaware that ἁγιασθήτω in the Lord’s prayer is subjunctive is because it is not subjunctive, it is imperative. Specifically, the word is an imperative verb, aorist, third person singular with passive voice, and that goes for the other terms in question as well. Therefore, the word “may” in inappropriate, as I have already said.

                      Let us take another phrase in question: “Thy will be done.” In other instances, γενηθήτω is translated as “shall be done” or “be done” or “be it,” not “may it be” (as the latter is subjunctive, but we are dealing with the imperative). Here are the examples:


                      (Please forgive me for quoting so much of the post to which I’m responding — I haven’t any idea where this note will appear in the chain.)

                      My thanks to ‘Protopappas’ for his close parsing of the greek grammar and for his citations, which I’m not including here.

                      It’s not that I’m unaware of the third-person passive imperative form in Greek; it’s just that it’s very difficult, if not impossible to express this structure in English in any way which doesn’t sound so awkwardly contrived as to be rejected as risible and almost certainly perceived as produced by someone whose native language is not English.

                      Consider hagiasthEtO. There’s no question that ‘Protopappas’ identifies the greek form correctly, but rendering it as ‘be Your Name sanctified’ sounds a little Yoda-esque, don’t you think?

                      At GEN 1:3b (Greek), God says genEthEtO phOs (‘Be [there] light!’). This is as exactly literal a rendering into English as there’s likely to be, and this is the same grammatical form as hagiasthEtO. Yet English prefers to say ‘Let there be light!’ As God Himself is speaking here, there’s no question that the verb ‘let be’ is abstract, not addressed to anyone; it doesn’t feel like a third-person imperative in English.

                      In latinate terms, this english rendering would be called a ‘hortatory subjunctive’, which is equivalent in our contemporary idiom to ‘May there be light!’ Were there to be any sense of a conditional aspect, we’d have something like ‘There may be light!’ Ancient latin translations of greek usually employ this hortatory form to represent the third-person aorist passive imperative since — like English — that’s how the force of the form is perceived and treated by the receptor language’s own genius.

                      So, while there’s a difference between ‘May Your Name be kept holy’ and ‘Your Name may be kept holy’ — a difference which is NOT felt between ‘Let Your Name be kept holy’ and ‘May Your Name be kept holy’, I am indeed confident that the ‘may’ form adequately expresses the subjunctive force of the Greek, even though greek grammar FORMALLY designates this as an imperative — a concept which many other languages find largely indigestible.

                      Our correspondent ‘Protopappas’ would do well to consider the syntactic positions of ‘may’ before assigning conditional force to it in all circumstances.

                      In contemporary English, either ‘let’ or ‘may’ will work here, but I (at least) feel that ‘may’ has a more than just a slight edge for us, since ‘let’ sounds almost like we’re telling God to keep His Name holy.

                  • Tim R. Mortiss says

                    I know no Greek, beyond the ability to read some of it phonetically, and to understand a few phrases. I am utterly without a single credential in this area. But I do understand something of the English language, I think.

                    To me, “daily bread” has always meant ‘the bread we need today’. I think it is generally understood in this way. “Daily” may not be in the Greek, but “essential” is never going to replace it in English, because “essential” is only, you might say, a quasi-English word. So, ‘daily’ ain’t so bad.

                    ‘Lead us not into temptation’ means ‘protect us [or guard us] from temptation’. This is Sunday School 101 in the Protestant world, and I suppose elsewhere as well.

                    • Besides, the word “essence” has some very specific connotations in Orthodox theology. Thus “essential” would introduce as much confusion as it would remove. I think most people of prayer come to understand quite well what “daily bread” means, in all of its multi-faceted profundity.

                      What is often forgotten in these discussions is that years of prayer prayed in the context of Orthodox mystical and dogmatic theology transforms the words used. All of those Greek words used in the Holy Scripture and in our liturgical texts had very specific meanings to pagan Greeks — and they weren’t really what the Apostles and Evangelists and hymnographers meant by them. But we in the Church know what the latter meant…

            • The version that the Church has preserved for the Liturgy in Greek and Slavonic has “debts” and “evil one”. I have nothing against “trespasses” per se, however, I’d rather simply have a straightforward translation of the Greek or Slavonic so we’re all on the same page.

              As to “deliver us from evil”, that is a scandal. It should be “from the evil one”. There is a substantial difference in meaning between these two phrases. Both the Greek and Slavonic make it clear that there is an “evil one”. In Slavonic, the word for “evil one” is a nominalized adjective, not an abstract noun. The greatest achievement of the devil is convincing the world he does not exist, or that he is only an abstract concept.

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                As one who was a Presbyterian for 65 years, I will point out that the Presbys have always used “debts” and have always rather disapproved of the “trespasses” business. In any big group of Protestants at a funeral or such (or at a Catholic one), you can always tell the Presbyterians during the Lord’s Prayer when that point arrives…..we prided ourselves (yes, a sin) that our parsons were required to learn Greek and Hebrew at seminary!

                • George Michalopulos says

                  For what it’s worth, in the DOS, we say “debts/debtors” and “evil one” as well. Despite the Calvinism, I’ve always admired the Presbys.

    • I agree the GOA is not interested in evangelizing. They give lip service to the great commission but their practices promote a Greek club mentality.

  17. steve knowlton says

    the idea that a “church tour” could be viewed as some kind of evangelism is so impoverished and lazy as to be beyond belief. Note that church tours are only advanced to justify the ethnic festival. Outside the festival no one ever, — ever — says, “we ought to evangelize people by opening wide the church and holding a tour or explanation of faith based on the icons and so forth.”

  18. Let’s face it. Our American society is not only highly sexualized, it’s highly over-sexualized. Thank God there are those (even if they abide in monastic settings) who will risk their reputation(s) and splash a little cool or cold water on Americans of all stripes who are constantly in heat. Sex is in the water we drink, the food we eat, the cars we drive, in the work place, in shopping centers, when we go on vacation, in the grocery store, it’s channeled through all our media devices, it’s even in our churches. Rather than being lead by the Holy Spirit we are being led by the warmth of our eros. No wonder it was a god in ancient times. We have become so accustomed to the flow of erotic energies around us that to be told to fast from sexual contact is like being asked to stop eating or drinking. And it can even sound like an invitation to die. God forbid.

    When one goes to the doctor and he/she begins to question, poke & prod as to which part of our organism hurts… it is often the case that when the doctor touches on an area where there is a sickness, at that point the patient winces, protests, calls out, pulls away. I think some on this forum are protesting too much. Such protest and righteous indignation says more about their issues than those “issues” which the spitual physicians may have. The erotics have become the physicians and the physicians are now the neurotics. The world is turned upside down.

    Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way that men think is right, and its ways are the ways of death.

    Are you doing what is right in your own eyes? Is this where we have ended up at in America? Where has your “clear-sightedness” led you? Where will your sight lead you? Which direction? Which place? On which path do you now walk? Your’s? Or God’s?

    “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” – Judges 17:6

    “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” – Proverbs 21:2

    “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” – Proverbs 16:2

    “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he who heeds counsel is wise” – Proverbs 12:15

  19. For those who think.feel, and/or are profoundly convinced that our Ephraimite monks are prudish, sterile, squeamish in regards to the Eros which God placed in us for His own reasons, what follows is an account which someone communicated one evening in a kitchen of one of the men’s guest houses. Indeed these monks are sinners and pretenders!

    As far as I can recall, this is how it was told to me by someone who knew them:

    Sometime near end of 1997 or early ’98 a young Greek man & his beautiful wife (both professional people in their late 20’s) came down to one of the desert monasteries from Canada. Their dilemma was something like this: In an attempt to have children, over the course of a few years, the wife had apparently entrusted herself to a morally challenged gynecologist. He had performed a number of procedures & operations on this poor girl with the result that she had come to a worse condition than she had when she first came to him. (Matt. 12:45) Finally, at last they sought another opinion which indicated that not only was she internally scarred beyond all hope of ever having children, she was now faced with a lifetime of physical dysfunction, chronic illness, and acute pain.

    And so they came. They met with one of the Athonite desert elders of poor reputation, considered by many to be a charlatan and spiritual con artist. The couple spent time introducing themselves, then poured out the pitiable account of the years they had spent earnestly seeking ways to have a child, to have children. At the end of their time together, this “elder” prayed for them. Then as they were leaving he suddenly asked them to stop. They turned around and this pretender did something quite odd. He formed his hand in a shape as if he were to make the Orthodox sign of the Cross. With his three fingers he tapped the woman on her forehead three times. Then he spoke to her gently, “It will be alright.” And this beautiful, intelligent, trusting young couple quietly left and went on their way back to Canada. Ahh! The foolish old man, this pretender monk! How could he? Giving false hope to the vulnerable and desperate!! There should be a law! And consequences!

    Well, the story does have a conclusion. Perhaps in the Fall of 1998 the young man returned to that disreputable place (Lord, have mercy. Is there no justice?). But this time he was full of life and rejoicing that his wife was soon to have their first child! There should be a law.

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” – St. Paul

    • Glory to Jesus Christ!

    • I am happy for that couple. But your story is irrelevant. No one has ever alleged that Ephremites are saying that married sexual relations for the purpose if procreation is sinful (unless it takes place on the wrong day).

      And no one ever accused Ephremites of being squeamish about sex. By the time the priest gets far enough down the list of perversions to ask you if you have ever had sex with animals, you will be disabused of that notion. The list is in the Slavonic Trebnik, so I do not view the questions as invalid — merely that they are out of the ordinary, especially when questioning people who have been going to confession for many years, and whom the priest monk has just met.

      It is laudable to speak the truth about out sex-saturated society. A good confessor might at some point discuss the ideals of fasting from the flesh with couples who are spiritually ready to take steps in those directions. I and others have seen the damage caused by aggressive Ephremites pushing couples into married celibacy who weren’t ready for it and who may never have been.

      You are welcome to state that our reactions reflect our “issues.” You will note that I refrained from any similar speculations about the sexual “issues” of Ephremite leaders. The fact is that you don’t know us, you don’t know what our personal spiritual disciplines are, and you certainly are in no position to speculate about anyone’s “issues” — since such speculation either presumes knowledge of the state of another’s soul — or it presumes that you have bought into the modern psychological theory that anyone who criticizes a something (say, homosexuality) secretly is obsessed with desire to commit that sin.

      If you really believe the latter (which you shouldn’t), then I would be very, very worried about certain monasteries.

  20. Glory now and ever.

  21. Methinks Edward doth protest too much…

    • Indeed.

      Thus far we have seen references toward these holy monasteries as being “creepy.” He also implies that the “poor converts” were prone to getting “sucked in and turned into cult-like zombies.” And then he makes a generalization about “stories he heard.” Usage of derogatory terms such as “aggressive Ephremites” and “Ephremite leaders” is evidence to the agenda of his smear campaign. He claims there are a lot of good things happening in the GOA……. “in spite of the Ephremites.” And then has the nerve to say that this is “his humble opinion!” Another contributor makes a claim of needing to clean up the “spiritual vomit.” For shame!!! This is uncharitable libel! May God forgive those who attack these holy places.

      This man also claims that he was formed in ROCOR. Well…..I also have a great love and close relationship with the ROCOR and I can tell you that they have a great respect and love for Geronta Ephraim’s monasteries.

      I have met hundreds of pilgrims and regulars who frequent Elder Ephraim’s monasteries and I have never heard anything that causes concern…..or that they teach anything different than inner life, metanoia, theosis, and authentic Orthodoxy.

      In confession, is it possible for a priestmonk to apply the strict rule of a canon to someone who may not be ready to receive it in all it’s strictness? Yes. Priestmonks are human. If someone is upset by such advice, should they start attacking monasteries and clergy….and then allowing the internet rumor mill to run rampant with slander, half-truths, gossip, and libel? I think we all know the answer to that one. If you do not like the Athonite–style monasticism…..then don’t visit. If you are offended by the advice you receive during a particular confession……confess only to your spiritual father.

      Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Mikail, thank you for your reasoned response to Elias.

        Elias: can you name me some of the “good things happening in the GOA”? Certainly the most recent Episcopal Assembly wasn’t one of them.

      • George, it was me that made that reference, not Elias. All I can speak to is my own experience and impressions, in which the younger priests I had met over the years in the GOA seemed to trend increasingly pious, traditional, and not shy about catechizing their own congregations, which as we all know, can harbor a fair number of members who are primarily members of a social Greek club. They also drew increasingly sharp distinctions between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and other religions. Furthermore, the parishioners struck me as being receptive to a depended spiritual life, and not hostile to it.

        This was quite different from the older generation of priests I had met, who were good men and almost certainly personally pious, but who seemed to me to take a more passive approach to their job as spiritual leaders, and who tended to be enthusiastically ecumenical. Part of the latter, no doubt, is that they had experienced a very different and less accepting America in their youths.

        I have not been in much contact with the GOA over the last decade — so things may have changed for the worse.

      • Mikail, you are right that some of the phrases you cited were needlessly inflammatory, and for that I apologize. I can defend the substance of each of those statements (and indeed, I believe I have done so already in my numerous posts), but I could and should have stated them more dispassionately.

        I will only address one of your points, because it is an important one. I emphatically did not say that the monasteries are creepy — that was your generalization. What I said was that the immediate intense and almost exclusive focus on sexual issues in my first encounter to be a little creepy. I also stated, as you will note, that I do not view such questions as being invalid or out-of bounds, since I know, and knew then, that a similar list is in the Slavonic Trebnik, although I had never heard of it actually being used, even in a first confession. Knowing that they were a valid part of church tradition, I therefore answered every single one of them honestly and unhesitatingly. But it still struck me as odd to be asked nothing else and to be asked it by someone I had met minutes ago. I don’t think I would be alone having it feel a little creepy.

        I am glad it works for you, and wish you the best in your spiritual labors. While I would not go to an Ephremite monastery again, I would not discourage others from going. You just need to know what not to do and what not to talk about with the monastics when going there. For anyone who has read this thread, they will be going in to such a visit fully prepared, and will likely have a spiritually profitable experience. I wish you the best.

        • Brian McDonald says


          I would have to disagree with your characterization of some of your remarks as “inflammatory.” You are an entirely reasonable and extraordinarily patient man. This may not be the best venue to practice those qualities though as neither reason or patience seem to garner much appreciation. While there are enough sound and thoughtful postings to keep me coming back from time to time, this is all too often battleground for people who like to hurl verbal grenades and nasty insults at each other and George is so fearful of suppressing anyone’s viewpoint that he will not generally moderate out even the most insulting and attack-oriented postings. Thus this is normally the place to go for people who want to throw punches, not maturely debate what the ancient faith might have to say about our current culture wars. It’s really too bad since it has so much potential, but the motto of Monomakhos will never be, “Come let us reason together.”

          • Thank you, Brian. I have persisted in the exchanges in hopes of hearing a follower of Fr. Ephrem give a straight answer on one question and one question only: do the monasteries teach celibacy in marriage as a rule for all after being done with childbearing or do they not? It would seem that if it isn’t true, they would hasten to correct the record. And if it were true, that they would joyfully own up to it and defend it.

            It is clear that I will only get obfuscation and evasion (something that is not George’s fault). Which lets me know that:

            1. They do teach it.
            2. They are told to avoid owning up to it explicitly in public, even in an anonymous forum such as this one. Why? I have my theories, but they are just that, so will keep them to myself.

            I have done my best and probably will have little else to say. If even one person reads this and goes into a visit to an Ephremite monastery forewarned, it will have been worth it.

            Thanks again for the kind words.

        • Dear Edward,

          You do not need to apologize to me for your inflammatory and derogatory language in reference to the holy monasteries of Geronda Ephraim. And I certainly do not think that you have defended….or are able to defend such language. But you certainly have been given the free will to say these things.

          I do not have much more to say except that I pray that every Orthodox Christian may be blessed to attend one of these glorious monasteries. I attended again this morning. It is a great miracle that Geronda was able to build so many monasteries in America in such a short period of time…..a true act of God.

          My wife and I have never been given advice, nor have I ever heard of any couples that were given advice that they should be celibate once they are past the child bearing age. However, I do know that many devout and pious Orthodox married couples choose to live as brother and sister in their older years as they strive to live the inner life.

          It is my prayer that anyone who may be reading this blog who may be thinking of visiting one of these Athonite-style monasteries, may not be negatively influenced by any of the hostile words and perceptions that are written here. These monasteries are a great blessing and you will be thankful to God that you visited.

          ……And please forgive me Edward if I have offended you in any way.


  22. Methinks you didn’t read my last posts with any degree of attentiveness and understanding if you think that I am going to buy into that kind of argument. Exactly how am I protesting too much and with what implications, when I object to the Ephremite push for celibacy or near-celibacy within Orthodox marriages? You will note that I refrained from making similar wild speculations about your monks. This all started out with posts early in this thread that implied that only worldly people have trouble with these Monasteries. I wasn’t going to let that stand unchallenged.

    So far there has been a deafening silence with regard to any real responses to what I have said. As I see it, you could give two substantive responses:

    1. You could say that Ephremites aren’t pushing celibacy within marriage, and that what I and others encountered was a bizarre aberration . Again, a deafening silence.
    2. You could say that the Ephremites DO push celibacy within marriage, and that you agree with this teaching — and then you could explain why this is recommended as a goal for basically everyone.

    Inistead, you and others sidestep the issues I raised. Me protesting too much when I say that? Maybe I harbor deep and silent desires for my wife of 30 years in spite of the fact that we cannot have children? Guilty as charged, my friend. Guilty as charged.

  23. Timothy Wearing says

    September 18, 2014

    OCA Holy Synod issues Preliminary Response to canonical restructuring proposals
    Holy Synod

    A Preliminary Response of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to proposals with regard to canonical restructuring, a topic of discussion at the fifth meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America in Dallas, TX September 15-19, 2014, was issued and distributed to all bishops on September 17.

    The text of the Preliminary Response reads as follows.


    September 17, 2014
    “The light of Orthodoxy was not lit to shine only on a small number of men. The Orthodox Church is universal; it remembers the words of its Founder: ‘Go ye unto all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature’ [Mark 16:15]…. We ought to share our spiritual wealth, our truth, light, and joy with others who are deprived of these blessings, but often are seeking them and thirsting for them….” [St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Enlightener of North America Homily for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1903, San Francisco].

    The fourth gathering of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North America (ACOB) took place on September 17-19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. At that meeting, the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning presented a Proposal for Canonical Administrative Restructuring, which was discussed in detail at several sessions by the assembled bishops.

    According to the minutes of Assembly IV, “[t]here was a general sense that there was no agreement on the proposed model at this time, but that the model was a good starting point for further discussion and development.” In addition, the suggestion was made that, “following the conclusion of Assembly IV, there should be discussion within each jurisdiction about the proposals.”

    More recently, the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning has forwarded to all the bishops of the Assembly an updated proposal for canonical restructuring in our region along with a second unsolicited proposal from an interested group outside of the Committee. These are being discussed at our Assembly gathered here in Dallas. Several jurisdictions have already offered responses to the most recent proposals or expanded on the comments they have made about last year’s Proposal.

    The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America is presently considering its own fuller and more comprehensive contribution to the present discussion but offers the following points as an outline of some principles which we feel should be considered by the brothers of the Assembly:

    The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America remains committed to the work of the Assembly of Bishops and is grateful to the Most Holy Patriarchs and Primates for initiating the process that has taken us from the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan Orthodox Conference in Chambésy, Switzerland in June of 2009 to our present expectation of a Great and Holy Council in 2016.

    We likewise remain supportive of the efforts of the Assembly of Bishops within our region, which has met now for five years in a row, in a spirit of mutual love and respect, with a view to fulfill the mandate of the “swift healing of every canonical anomaly” in our region and to propose, by consensus, a plan for canonical reorganization to be submitted in time for the Great and Holy Council [Message of the Patriarchs 3.12].

    In particular, we offer sincere thanks to Archbishop Nicolae, the Chairman of the Canonical Regional Planning Committee, along with all its members and consultants, for their excellent initiative and work to date. We recognize the exhaustive research and complex reflection that were required to address the issue of canonical organization in our region. We also acknowledge the many hours of discussion and review that have gone into the drafting of the initial 2013 proposal and the subsequent proposals presented to this Assembly.

    We also would like to acknowledge the concerns expressed on the two proposals that we are considering here in Dallas, including those referring specifically to the canonical implications of the proposals, the duty of the Mother Churches to pastorally care for the flock of their particular ethnic and cultural heritage and the need address current variations in pastoral and ecclesiastical practice. These are legitimate concerns that must be carefully addressed in any plan that is put forward. We also emphasize that the principle of consensus, which has been operative on the global level through the Synaxes of the Holy Patriarchs and the Chambésy process, as well as within our own Assembly, must be preserved as we look to finalize our Assembly’s proposal to the Great and Holy Council.

    We note that the two proposals most recently distributed to the bishops articulate two different approaches to the question of canonical restructuring. The first (from the Committee) proposed a 10-year path towards a potential autocephaly via an interim status of autonomy to be overseen by all the Primates of the Orthodox Churches. The second (from an unsolicited source) proposes a similar 10-year plan but with the emphasis on common and concerted joint local effort of the members of the Assembly in addressing a number of specific areas (pension, theological education, missions, etc.).

    Although both plans present concrete solutions, the Holy Synod of the OCA feels that both options require further discussion and analysis both within the Assembly and within each of our respective jurisdictions. Nevertheless, in terms of a principle of approach, we remain committed to the vision of a fully functioning and canonical local Church in our region. Therefore, we continue to maintain the principle that the best solution for this region is a canonically and administratively united local Church with a properly functioning Holy Synod.

    We acknowledge that the status of the Orthodox Church in America as an autocephalous Church is not universally recognized within the Orthodox world. We likewise re-affirm that we do not consider our autocephaly as an obstacle to a broader autocephaly, which is, in fact, envisioned within the Tomos of Autocephaly, granted to us by the Russian Orthodox Church. In the words of His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri, of blessed memory, who was bishop here in Dallas: The Orthodox Church in America is autocephalous not in order to be self-sufficient and isolated, but in order to be in living communion and close contact with all Orthodox Churches… The Orthodox Church in America received autocephaly not in order to be master of Orthodox unity in America but in order to be a servant of this unity.

    At the same time, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America fully acknowledges that attention needs to be legitimately directed to the question of the pastoral and administrative care of particular ethnic/cultural groups. The cooperative work that has been undertaken by all the brothers gathered here, not only through the work of the Assembly, its Committees and Agencies, but for many decades before. We are confident that the universal dimension of the Orthodox Church, reflected in the beautiful diversity of the Orthodox presence in the United States, should remain a hallmark of our Church here. Is it not possible that an administratively united Church might offer a more effective means to collectively and in brotherly fashion assist the bishops of the Assembly in the care of the diversity of our faithful?

    As such, we ask our brothers of the Assembly to consider a broader question: For what purpose has God, in His infinite Wisdom and Providence, brought us together in this country? Is our answer a positive response to the Lord’s commandment to “preach the Gospel to every creature”? Is our answer to look to the model provided St. Tikhon at the turn of the last century, and to “share our spiritual wealth … with others who are deprived of these blessings”? In His High Priestly Prayer in St. John’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ prays to the Father and asks that “they may be one, as we are”. How is this to be realized if we place limits on our responsibility to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? St. Paul tells the Galatians that “There is neither Jew nor Greek … for you are all one in Christ Jesus” [Gal. 3:28] Does this not direct us to see no difference between the immigrant from Russia and the one from Indonesia, between the one from Africa and the one from Central America? Does this not direct us to see the Agnostic, the Protestant, the Buddhist or Taoist in the same way we see the marginal Orthodox Christian?

    For these reasons, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America strongly urges that all efforts continue to be made by the Assembly to fulfill the expectation of the Most Holy Primates, as re-iterated by His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew, in his inspiring address to us this morning, that we offer a proposal which “moves beyond words to actions” and which “puts our theology into practice.” We submit that the most clear and direct path to this goal is the establishment of a local autocephalous Orthodox Church here in our region and recommend this to the Assembly for their consideration as the most effective way to fulfill the exhortation of His All Holiness: “To move beyond what is mine and yours, to what is ours.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      So what do you think? Is this not a type of careful divestment from the EAUSA? BTW, does anybody know how many bishops were there and their jurisdictional breakdown?

      • Michael Bauman says

        The EA website says there were 35 in attendance but does not list them or their jurisdictions. Perhaps the minutes when published will.

  24. In re: to Edward’s seeming obsession with the SEX-Obsessed Atmosphere of our American “Ephramite” monasteries, he appears to have an agenda. If I didn’t know better (and I may not) he could be a parent of one of the young unfortunates who had fallen prey to the wily, inappropriate, and radical non-sexual agenda of our sex-obsessed monastics. If not a parent of such an unfortunate, Ed’s obsession belies the fact that he may have another dog in this fight. Could it be the case that he may know – or knows of – some aspiring American monk who didn’t quite make the grade in our modern “culture”, then perhaps couldn’t make the grade in one of our Greek American Orthodox “spas”? Stranger things have happened.

    It is better to marry than to burn, said St. Paul. Perhaps the radical dichotomy began with him. As a physician of souls, that was St. Paul’s advice. But he also wished that all men were as himself. It is believed that St. Paul himself was married. And yet he called all men (& women) to perfection saying “I wish that all were as myself.” As did Christ: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    Freud gave our modern world permission to let the id run wild. Thanks to God that He gave the Church the cold water to throw on those persons & cultures who have become accustomed to the running.

    • Elias, who are you to question to the motives of Edward in his comments? He has been savagely attacked for relating his own experiences, and in a more civil and respectful manner than I could have managed, he has patiently defended his views. And for this you call him “sex obsessed,” and go on to psychoanalyze him? I have spoken to at least a dozen priests, and to several bishops about these matters, and all of them have horror stories about married couples getting interrogated concerning their sexual practices and bizarre demands being made upon them. This is not hearsay, but concerned pastors relating messes they have had to clean up after monks interfered (often unasked) in people’s married lives. And those who doubt this simply need to ask around a bit. It is not a small problem, but a big one, and not only is it injuring married couples, it is hurting the cause of monasticism in America.

      And lest the usual ad hominem response be automatic, I have visited seven of the Elder’s monasteries at least forty times over a period of two decades. I value them very highly, they have benefitted me beyond estimation, and I believe they are a great blessing to Orthodoxy in America. But does this mean I cannot say anything critical about them? Must we divide our brothers and sisters into either saints or devils? Aren’t all of us, to varying degrees, somewhere in between?

      The crudity of discourse on this blog is often disappointing. People rant back and forth as if they were rooting for sports teams: “Boo” Yankees, and “Yea” Red Sox. Or worse, some talk as if they were party apparatchiks in the Soviet Union, ever alert for some minor deviancy from the party line so they can have the pleasure of consigning some hapless miscreant to the gulag. But things are not black and white in the real world. The Holy Church of Christ is spotless, but its actual adherents certainly are not, and this includes holy monks as well. I have heard monks on Mt Athos engaging in egregious Holocaust denial and spouting preposterous conspiratorial theories. And some (by no means all) monks (and not only at Elder Ephraim’s monasteries) have false and misguided views on sex and marriage.

      This is what bishops are supposed to be for: to reign in errant teachings. But with our divided ecclesiology in this country, this is easier said than done.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Observer, of course you can say anything critical about them. I myself have in the past. The problem it to seems to me is that the “at least a dozen priests and several bishops” who have “horror stories about married couples getting interrogated” falls into the same category of “really?” for me. Unless one (or better yet, more of them) puts his (or their) name to a formal, written complaint, what we’re talking about hear is hearsay, pure and simple.

        If these issues are real, they should openly address them in a tactful and deliberate manner. Is that too much to ask?

        • Spot on George! Hearsay seems to be the bulk of the criticism against these holy monasteries. But you see, that is the type of sensationalism we are seeing on this blog from contributors such as Observer as he talks about” horror stories,” and “interrogations,” and “bizarre demands,” and “messes to be cleaned up.” Observer goes on with his calumny by stating that it is a big problem and is hurting monasticism in America!!! And yet he has visited the monasteries many times and has received great benefit!!! And so we have a statement here that Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries provide great benefit while hurting monasticism in America. For shame!

          Observer is right about one thing. It is the responsibility of the bishop to stand up and come forward if he has accusations against these monasteries. It is not Observer’s job to dish out criticism based on hearsay. No, we are not talking about sports teams here….we are talking about accusations against priestmonks and monasteries. And then he throws in the old canard about communism and gulags!!! Last but not least, there is an attack against some of the monks on Mt Athos. Lord have mercy!

          Observer’s comments are the most disturbing ones to date on this topic and I hope you (George) will close down the comments on this section.

        • George, I think you are misusing the notion of “hearsay”. Hearsay is the repetition of some vaguely remembered rumor based on some unknown source. However, when specific priests p1, p2 through p12 all report first hand encounters to me, and likewise with bishops b1 through b3 all reporting the same kinds of encounters, it is not hearsay at all, but first hand testimony that is compelling for me because I know and trust the informants. For you, it is second hand testimony, and obviously less compelling, since you know neither me nor the clergy and hierarchs I cite. But even here, it is not hearsay. If you’re driving down a country road and a passing driver you don’t know says a dozen people have reported a bridge being washed out up ahead, presumably you wouldn’t dismiss it as “hearsay” and keep going without at least a bit more caution.

          Why don’t these people speak out publicly, say on “Monomakhos”? I think you are more than savvy enough about Church politics to know at least one answer to the question. Pastoral confidentiality is another. Not do I think raging debate with fanatical partisans excoriating the unwashed is helpful. It is something the bishops are already quietly addressing. But for goodness sake, don’t cast aspersions on people just for raising the issue.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Observer, I’m not a lawyer but I believe it is hearsay unless Priests 1-12 and Bishops 1-3 are willing to come forward and in a public fashion, state what exactly are their concerns. I would say the same goes for those married couples who have likewise (allegedly) been asked probing questions about their sex lives.

            Now, there’s one fly in the ointment: I don’t know whether what they allegedly teach is doctrinal or not. If I were you, I would ask these bishops and/or priests what is the correct teaching on post-procreative marital sex. Is this correct, is it heretical or is it speculative? If these priests and bishops are so exercised that they are truly horrified then they have a duty and an obligation to put pen to paper, sign their names to it, and then send it to the appropriate authorities (in this case the GOA in whose jurisdiction the Athonite monasteries reside). Anything short of this is scurrilous backyard-fence gossiping.

            Bottom line: I would be glad to offer the services of this blog to any number of individuals whether they be laymen, clerics or hierarchs who would willingly come forward and publicly state what it is they personally experienced.

            Rhetorical question: why don’t they? Why won’t anyone step forward?

            • Tim R Mortiss says

              Keep in mind that calling information “hearsay” does not automatically make it unreliable. And as Observer says, to him it is not hearsay at all.

              “Hearsay” can be discounted, depending on the circumstances, or it can be considered reliable, also depending on the circumstances. The fact that it may be inadmissible in court is certainly not the whole answer.

              • One day a woman came to a monastery and asked the abbot to give her a blessing to fast from marital relations on Saturdays before receiving communion, Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and during the four fasting periods. The abbot gave the blessing. The woman went home and told her husband that she received a blessing from the abbot to refrain from relations during these days. The husband went crazy. He began telling everyone (including his parish priest and the local bishop) that the abbot of the monastery was forcing him into a celibate marriage. Other people began twisting the story further….spreading rumors that this monastery was against marital relations between a husband and wife.

                Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.

                • Tim R Mortiss says

                  My wife and I will concern ourselves with our own marital relations after 47 years of marriage without consulting monks. But then, I was a Presbyterian for 65 years and will doubtless always be influenced by that background, notwithstanding that I’m now Orthodox. It could hardly be otherwise, really…..

                  Why not talk to one’s priest, a married man, about such matters?

                  I have ears, and can hear.

                  • “I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5)

            • Look, bishops and priests also have a duty and an obligation to shine the light on homosexual clergy in their ranks, and how often do they do it? Why not? You know the reasons. The fact that they don’t put pen to paper and go all out in public denunciations isn’t evidence that there are no homosexual bishops, priests or deacons in the Orthodox Church here in America.

              Does the fact that there are very few publicized cases of pederasty or adultery among clergy in the Orthodox Church mean that it basically never happens? Did the OCA really have no idea that Seraphim up in Canada — very nearly elected Metropolitan — was a pederast until he was convicted in a court of law?

              And just look at the story above — if we take it at face value (knowing that it is, by your definition, complete hearsay), a woman asks to deny sexual relations for about 45% of the year if she doesn’t commune at all and 75% of the year if she communes weekly. And a blessing is given with no discussion of whether the husband is in agreement with this — and there is a surprise that he reacts negatively? It may not be complete celibacy, but I feel certain that it wasn’t close to what he signed up for… Reading that didn’t raise your eyebrows at all? Really? If you were to read that post in public to the adults of your parish who don’t frequent Ephremite monasteries, what would be the reaction, even from those who are basically pious and faithful? Would your priest give such a blessing without checking whether the husband was on board?

              I have no problems with agreeing to disagree on these things. If you are confessing at an Ephremite monastery and it works for you, that’s wonderful. But an absence of formal complaints and public denunciations is not evidence that what I and others are reporting isn’t true. There are a lot of downsides to lodging formal complaints, and very few upsides. Most people are going to lick their wounds and move on.

              The only reason, as I have stated before, that I have patiently (and I think reasonably) persisted in this thread is that people deserve to know what they are getting into if they are thinking of going to confession at one of these monasteries. Many of the critiques of the Ephremite monasteries have come from people who are hostile to everything traditional Orthodoxy teaches. I think there is some value to having a narrowly defined and carefully stated critique from someone who agrees with a great deal of what the monasteries reportedly teach — even if I tend to disagree with the sometimes harsh and legalistic fashion in which it is taught.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Edward, I mostly agree with you but you muddle things beginning in the third graph. Assuming everything you write about this couple is true, several things stand out: there is no celibacy at all for the married couple but perhaps a diminution of relations at most. Now, I agree with you that this advice should never have been given without the husband present as it violates Peter’s injunction that a restraint in sexual relations should only be made concensually, not unilaterally. If this was indeed the case then your critique of the Athonite monasteries has some validity.

                As for bringing in the argument that the parish priests be involved in the spiritual lives of their parishioners, you will get no argument from me. However the spiritual vacuum that exists in many GOA parishes is profound. (To all, please read this next sentence carefully:) I dare say that the majority of the priests in those moribund parishes that are afflicted with spiritual ennui place spirituality near the bottom of the list. Festivals, bake sales, local ecumenical gatherings, getting free air travel to diocesan meetings and/or clergy-laity congresses are pretty much at the top of the list. The reason the Athonite monasteries are chock-full of people –many of whom drive hours to get there–is because their needs are not being met at the parish level.

                This is really a case of “physician heal thyself.” Think of the unfortunate case of Isidore Brittain and now a Ari Metropoulos, both of whom have been arrested on charges of perversion. Then there’s the case of James Dokos, who was always looking to the bottom line and enhancing his resume. What kind of spiritual direction could one receive from men of this ilk?

                • “The reason the Athonite monasteries are chock-full of people –many of whom drive hours to get there–is because their needs are not being met at the parish level.”


                • George, first, I already stated that the reason that I and others I know went to Ephremite monasteries in the first place is because we found ourselves in GOA parishes with priests who wouldn’t hear confessions. No argument from me on your general commentary on that point.

                  Next, it is not what I write about the couple and whether it is “indeed the case.” This was reported by a zealous defender of the monasteries, and as such it is reasonable to presume that the story is being told in a way that portrays the abbot in the best light. I am thus merely taking what is said in that story at face value, in spite of the fact that it is a story that is at least third hand, as indicated in the follow up comment. I personally raise my eyebrows at the idea that this woman came up with this idea all on her lonesome and that the monastery was an uninvolved and innocent bystander, but for the sake of this discussion I will take the story as true in all respects. And no, it is not complete celibacy, but look back at the carefully calculated numbers I cited in my last post – the strictures would have been quite significant to lay on a spouse all at once.

                  Mike rightly points out that we don’t know what the abbot asked or what the woman said (that is the nature of anything that isn’t first-hand). Did the woman lie to the abbot saying that she had her husband’s agreement? If so, this would be a very strange sort of zealous piety that makes it more holy to deceive one’s confessor and defraud one’s husband than it is to have marital relations on “forbidden days.” No, I will assume that a pious woman would not have lied.

                  And no, Mike, I am not missing the point, you are. You are worried about things said by an upset husband who perhaps is minimally involved in pursuing spiritual life. It is far more serious that the abbot of a monastery, someone who is supposed to have Athonite wisdom and insight and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, gave a blessing for something that is forbidden in Holy Scripture — either knowingly or out of incompetence or out of a belief that having sex on the wrong days is more dangerous than what the Holy Apostle Paul warns about. And regardless of whether it was in knowledge or in ignorance, he caused trouble in a marriage, a parish, and a diocese. A couple of very direct questions would have ascertained whether the husband was in full agreement, and whether he, too, wanted to do this for purposes of concentrating more fervently on prayer. The ending of the story makes plain what the answers to those questions would have been.

                  You are absolutely correct that many Orthodox couples fast from relations on those days. My wife and I have tried to follow a version of this pious custom (I had never encountered the Ephremite stricture of not having relations on Sundays – indeed, most Orthodox weddings take place on Sundays) to the best of our abilities during our decades as Orthodox Christians, always with mutual agreement that is fully revocable at any time. Doing it in a healthy way takes many years of shared labor – or at least that is what we were taught. But that isn’t the point of this story or the lesson to be drawn from it – the lesson to be drawn is what happens when a pious custom becomes a hard rule that trumps common sense and ignores the strongly worded cautions of Holy Scripture. We had the blessing of being taught sensible principles about these things early in our lives as Orthodox Christians by a priest-monk who had lived for years on Mt. Athos – and the conversations happened with both of us present, incidentally.

                  I am not making judgments or offering opinions or gossip. This is your story, Mike, not mine, and I have added no information to it — quite the contrary, I have taken it at face value at every point. What is remarkable is that you presented the story in a way that shows you are oblivious to the implications of your own account.

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    Edward, now we’re getting somewhere. I must quibble somewhat with your first sentence, wherein you state that there are “GOA parishes with priests who wouldn’t hear confessions.” I think that’s true in some instances but view this as a careful elision nonetheless. In my experience in the GOA the problem is not priests who won’t hear confessions but a lack of Orthodox piety in general. All of which have been sacrificed to offend the least amount of people necessary to keep the membership figures up as high as possible in order to keep the priest’s salary intact. Confession is just one of the many practices that have fallen by the wayside.

                    From my own perspective from Greek immigrants and Greek-Americans who have gone to these monasteries, they aren’t going for their priest refused them confession. Most have never gone to confession in the first place and they certainly won’t go to their parish priest for various and sundry reasons. Confession has never been a priority in these peoples’ lives for whatever reason. But, getting back to my point, they seek out these monasteries for reasons unknown and then after some time some of these ask to go to confession.

                    Please read my words well: the spiritual vacuums that exist in many Orthodox parishes (not just GOA) is profound.

                    • In our cases, the parishes were reasonably pious places with pious priests and there was for us no impedinent to worship and spiritual growth other than the lack of confession.

                      Are we all now happily back in Russian tradition parishes with the kind of spiritual praxis and atmophere we were used to? Yes.

                      But, as I have noted before, most of the Greek priests I have known over the years have been pious and right believing and attempted to move their congregations in that direction. That they do so slowly and at a rate the parish can handle without disruption is no vice in my book.

                      I make no claims to generalize my experience, and I believe you that there are priests who won’t try to spiritually rejuvenate their parishes, and parishes that wouldn’t let it happen if they did try.

                      If there are deficiencues in spiritual life in one’s parish, visits to monasteries can help. I have drawn from that well myself when I needed to. I just believe that Ephremite monasteries must be approached with care and foreknowledge, especially for anyone who is married. I know priests who expicitly tell this to their parishioners: by all means, go — just don’t go to confession and don’t talk about certain subjects.

                    • Ashley Nevins says

                      What fills the void of the spiritual vacuum in those parishes?

                      Is not such a spiritual vacuum a reflection on the bishops and/or metropolitians of such a jurisdiction with parishes like this in it?

                      How can a jurisdiction find spiritual relevancy to our society and generation if has a spiritual vacuum within it?

                      How do you solve a spiritual vacuum issue in the church?

                      You state that there is a profound spiritual vacuum but you give no solution to it. Talking about the problem without talking about its solution will never bring about restored spiritual relevancy. The problem is deeper than confession of the laity.

                      Is transparent and accountable confession of sin by the church rulers an important role model to the laity to confess their own sins? Are they in denial of any sin? Is the church itself corporately and systemically involved in sin it will not confess? If so, can a unrepentant corrupt rule of leadership lead that church through a process of spiritual bondage breaking that restores spiritual relevancy to the parishes and jurisdiction itself?

                      Does how a church leadership by spiritual maturity leads determines its real world spiritual relevancy outcome?

                      My concern is that spiritual irrelevancy is spiritual immaturity and that points directly at the senior laity leadership and the hierarchy being spiritually immature themselves. You reproduce what you are. A church culture of spiritual immaturity indoctrinates spiritual immaturity in unseen ways, but the practical real world outcome of that indoctrination is clearly seen.

                      How a church spiritually thinks determines its real world spiritual outcome.

                      There is also another issue, the institutionalized top down authoritarian church rule structure and system. It will place itself over the Christian. That pushes the church down and holds it back. It molds it into what it is in spiritual immaturity. It does not come under you and raise you up by Christ transformation to spiritual maturity to spiritual relevancy.

                      One of the key signs of a dead and/or dying church is its loss of spiritual relevancy in spiritual maturity. The most important relevancy a church can have is spiritual relevancy that reaches into the society with spiritually mature relevant ministry that reaches people where they really live in a lost, wounded and broken world. It is a church based upon spiritually mature healing, recovery and support of those who need the love, grace, truth and MERCY of the spiritually mature God. The cutting edge church is the spiritually mature church of spiritual relevancy. It designs itself not as one size fits all. It designs itself to be a multiplicity of ministry in the local church design that reaches different people who are experiencing different needs. No it can’t be all things to all people, but being only one thing to all people is irrelevancy.

                      If you have not noticed our society is dysfunctional on many levels and in many ways and that means that the church must address that dysfunction with safe, healthy and spiritually mature relevant ministries that functionally raise people up by Christs functional making transformation. The spiritually immature church is inward self centered and the spiritually mature church is outward other centered. It is easy to tell the difference between the two kinds of churches.

                      Spiritual transformation is what these parishes need. They need spiritually transformed clergy and laity leadership. I would say this is a spiritually mature leadership development problem that is not developing spiritually mature leadership.

                      This for you and not against you. It is for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Bride, your church.

                      Orthodox, you need to clearly understand something. A church can reach a point of no spiritual relevancy return to the spiritually relevant God. No church is immune no matter who it exclusively claims to be. Some of you are waking up to that fact by the true spiritual state of your jurisdiction. You are experiencing a profound spiritual failure and that failure is translating to your dying state in America.

                      I would encourage you to Google: church congregation growth diagram. You will objectively see what can happen to an institutionalized church. Understand that a church can continue to exist and be a dead church. It is the church of the living dead. Alive bodies in it that are spiritually dead. What is spiritually dead has a profound spiritual void.

                      It is good that you recognize the spiritual problem, but what is the spiritual solution?

                      The questions I ask are relevant and fair.

                  • “…in spite of the fact that it is a story that is at least third hand, as indicated in the follow up comment.”

                    Yes. A third hand story.

                    “No, I will assume that a pious woman would not have lied.”

                    Did she lie? The whole issue was the reaction of the husband with his rush to calumny and gossip…..much like what is happening here from you, Ed.

                    “…gave a blessing for something that is forbidden in Holy Scripture”

                    Nonsense, Ed. It is not against Sacred Scripture to pray and fast from relations on those days….and then the couple comes together again. Many Orthodox couples practice those fasting rules.

                    “I had never encountered the Ephremite stricture of not having relations on Sundays.”

                    Ephremite stricture? It is sad that you are still using derogatory phrases. Anyway, I have never heard of one single Orthodox parish priest, monk, abbot, or spiritual father give a green light for relations on Sunday.

                    “the lesson to be drawn is what happens when a pious custom becomes a hard rule that trumps common sense and ignores the strongly worded cautions of Holy Scripture.”

                    You seem to be one of the very few (based on third hand stories) who are claiming that the Athonite Monasteries have turned “a pious custom into a hard rule that trumps common sense and ignores the strongly worded cautions of Holy Scripture.”

                    “We had the blessing of being taught sensible principles about these things early in our lives as Orthodox Christians by a priest-monk who had lived for years on Mt. Athos – and the conversations happened with both of us present, incidentally.”

                    Incidentally, I was also taught (and my wife) by pious priests who spent much time on Mt Athos…..and they are very much in line with Elder Ephraim and his monasteries.

                    “I am not making judgments or offering opinions or gossip.”

                    I think that you are. Your agenda is very clear.

                    “What is remarkable is that you presented the story in a way that shows you are oblivious to the implications of your own account.”

                    Wrong again Ed. You have offered nothing but calumny and gossip from third hand hearsay in an effort to diminish the reputation of these holy monasteries…..and I think it is important that you cease your diatribe and consider repenting for your words.

                    • Ah, Mike. I appreciate your attempt at constructing something that looks like a point-by-point refutation of my last post. But I’m afraid that we aren’t going to get anywhere, for a number of reasons.

                      You have repeatedly misrepresented what I have written. A simple rule of debate that even someone in a junior-high debate club knows is that you have to be able to state the other person’s position in a way that they can recognize as being their own. Then, and only then, do you begin to try to show why they are wrong. You have failed in this repeatedly, instead preferring to respond to me by misrepresenting what I said, and then attacking that misrepresentation. (This is called a “straw-man” argument — look it up.)

                      Your most egregious misrepresentation of what I said was in your paragraph that begins with “Nonsense…” — read your paragraph, go back and read what I wrote, go read the passage from the Holy Apostle Paul for context, and you will see how badly you misrepresented what I wrote. If you can’t see it, then further rational discussion is impossible.

                      I would also recommend that you learn what “third-hand,” “hearsay,” and “calumny” mean before presuming to use them in writing, if you want to be taken seriously. It is better to use simple words that you do understand and use them clearly than it is to parrot words you have heard someone else use without understanding their clear meaning and full implications.

              • You miss the point, Ed. Perhaps the wife didn’t discuss the matter with her husband first. Perhaps the abbot was told that the husband was in agreement (which by the way, many Orthodox couples fast from relations on those days). We don’t know if the abbot asked her how her husband felt….or what she said about the husband. Perhaps she was is very zealous.

                The result was: The husband began spreading calumny based on total miscommunication.

                No one really knows had it all transpired….and no one is supposed to make judgments or start offering their own opinions or gossip.

                • Ah Eddie,

                  I have responded succinctly and adequately to all of your attacks and calumny regarding the holy monasteries of Elder Ephraim. Anyone who reads this will be able to ascertain your agenda….it is quite obvious. You can accuse me all day long of attacking straw men…..but the only straw man that was set up…..was the straw man that you constructed regarding our holy Athonite-style monasteries here in America….and then you tried to attack that construction.

                  I’m not buying it Ed……and neither are most of the other Orthodox believers. You have attempted to twist and spin everything you write to further your impious agenda. That is all I have to say to you…..except….I pray that you will repent of your relentless attack against these soul saving monasteries.

                  • Yes, my agenda is obvious, because I have stated it forthrightly time and again. I am an Orthodox Christian who is traditional in belief and praxis, and I intend to point out that those who go to confession at Ephremite monasteries should be prepared for what they may well be told, especially since nothing they have experienced in their previous lives in Orthodoxy would give them any reason to dream that confession might take those kinds of turns. People deserve to go forewarned — they can decide for themselves what to do with that quite accurate information that I am providing.

                    Readers can decide for themselves how adequately you have responded to my posts, and whether you have done so with intellectual honesty. They can decide whether I have an “impious agenda,” whether I “twist and spin everything,” whether I am engaging in attacks and calumny (I’ve heard that word more time in this thread than I’ve heard it in years of reading and conversation — must be a favorite word amongst you guys,) whether I have some agenda other than the one I have plainly stated repeatedly, whether I have created a straw man, and whether what I am doing can fairly described as “a relentless attack against… soul saving monasteries.” I am content to let what I have written stand for itself, with a clean conscience and the knowledge that I have tried to be reasonable, dispassionate, careful in my statements, and fair in describing your statements. I am happy to rest my case with “most of the other Orthodox believers” on this site.

                    I have not set up a straw man. In fact, with regard to the very specific things that I have said that people need to be aware of about confession at Ephremite monasteries, your responses have at every point confirmed that what I am saying is being taught, actually is being taught, since you defend it and volunteer even more examples. And at no point have you ever explicitly, specifically, and categorically denied that these teachings are being taught, . Again, you really need to understand what words and terms like “straw man” mean before you presume to use them. It doesn’t mean that you don’t like what I say and are irked at the fact that I say it.

                    I genuinely wish you the best in your spiritual pursuits, since I wish nothing but that all be saved. You have made bold to repeatedly admonish me to repent, taking on the role of an on-line spiritual father of sorts. I will not make bold to do the same, but I will, however, say that in my experience, young zealots like you (I feel confident in ascertaining that you are young) often eventually burn out on their zealotry, and at that point are in danger of abandoning the Church in despair. I urge you, if that happens, not to despair, but rather to seek out help from a good parish priest who has no connection with the Ephremite monasteries. Let him help you to stay in the soul-saving bosom of the Church. I know I have been hard on you at times, but I truly want this for you, Mikhail.

                    • “I intend to point out that those who go to confession at Ephremite monasteries should be prepared for what they may well be told…”

                      And this is everything in a nutshell. It is not your duty to warn people about going to confession at these holy places. Orthodox Christians should have a spiritual father…whether in the monastery or the parish.

                      I have gone to confession at these monasteries many times….and know many others that have….to great spiritual benefit. I have said many times, and will say it again, that I have not heard even one time, the accusations that you rail against these monasteries (although I know that you have experienced third hand hearsay). I will continue to pray that you will repent of your attacks against these holy places.

                      No Edward, I have not felt that you have been hard on me. I am but a wretched sinner. But you have relentlessly attacked these monasteries, and I will always defend an Orthodox monastery.

                      And although you feel confident to ascertain that I am a young zealot, you are mistaken on this front also. I am neither young, nor a zealot……but an old married man trying to work out his salvation with fear and trembling.

      • Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me. And when the messengers of John were departed, He began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. – St. Luke 7

        These are the words of Christ concerning John the Baptist. Without much of a stretch, I think these words could also be applied to men (and women) who have responded in our days to an inner prompting which compels them to try and live a stricter kind of life. Face it. In America many commoners have the sort of life that royal hangers-on (if not kngs & queens themselves) might have had in the 1st Century as alluded to by Christ Himself in the verse above.

        Indeed, what did you “social critics” expect to see from those who left everything and moved to the desert in their seeking after God? Orgies? Feasting? Parties? Carousing? You expected these earnest men (& women) to have the same values as many in our modern world? The same or similar values that you hold, which values might have brought you to the desert for some relief, for some healing, some respite from the constant gnawing of the passions on the human heart & soul, that worm which never dies?

        Indeed, those who criticize monistics for attempting to address the profound damage which has resulted from the hyper-sexualization of our modern world… well, what can be said of these critics? Without over-stating one’s case, one would would be tempted to say they are more Freudian than Christian.

  25. Michael Bauman says

    Monk James, forgive me but I find my rendering and yours quite similar. Look at mine again slightly rephrased:

    Lead us..protect us, keep temptation and the evil one away from us. A bit like George’s

    Real blasphemy takes intent, IMO

    I would venture to say that the vast majority of English speaking people who have prayed the Lord’s prayer over the centuries, no matter how inadequate and even wrong did not do so from a blasphemous heart.

    • Tim R Mortiss says

      Sure, it’s “blasphemy”! A good reason to write off most of Christendom…..

      Ridiculous, sorry. Really, give believers credit for some intelligence.

  26. Does anyone know why Constantine Mersinas was deposed to the level of layman? he was the Chancellor of the Metropolis of New Jersey..
    Father James Dokos has been transferred to St.Mary in Minneapolis, Mn..

  27. Fr. George Washburn says

    Does anyone, even Stephen himself, know why the answer to this question should be Stephen D’s business?

    • Ashley Nevins says

      Other resources on the issue of Elder Ephraim:



      Word Press also has other contrary to the support of the elder facts on News Fraud Alert.

      Michael Jaharis, the co-chairman of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocene Council, has addressed the issue of the elder and the monasteries in his 2012 and 2014 state of the church speeches. He makes reference of a death that took place in close proximity to the monastery and yet he will not state that persons name. I find it interesting that something that is important as a death that he would address will not state the name of the person who died.

      What is the name of that person? The GOA would not be trying to erase this persons name so it can erase what happened to him, would it? Is that name threatening to the hierarchy and elder? Does stating that name point to an issue in the GOA that it is not addressing and so its just better not to face the issue transparently?

      I know the name of the person who died, but in accordance to the powerless religious political game men like Jaharis play I will not state that persons name. I wouldn’t want to break that rule and get into trouble. I might have to face consequences if I don’t play the corrupt and powerless making game that can’t state a name. It wouldn’t be sick religious codependency enabling of secrets, hiding, cover up, spin and lies that is afraid to state the dead mans name if I stated the persons name. It would not be conformity to the authority of the not transparent and accountable hierarchy of Gods only true truth in Gods only true church that tells the truth by not allowing the name to be spoken before the church. That would be divisive and not in unity with the hierarchy authority that represents the Holiness of the Holy Greek Orthodox Church by its transparency.

      Gods only true Christians in Gods only true church tell the truth of the dead mans name?

      If you want to learn what that persons name is go to the listed resources.

      What is the name of the man who called +Gerasimos in the S.F. diocese and reported this mans death 12 or so hours after his death? Why didn’t the holy set apart living saint elder make the call to the metropolitan? This metropolitan after this persons death formed a committee to investigate and bring about changes. What did their investigation find and what changes were made? It is my understanding that this metropolitan was told in person by the parents of this dead man what the monastery was really doing to him and it was rejected.

      Telling the truth of why the GOA is in a corrupt and dying state is understanding why the GOA hierarchy will not allow this dead mans name to be stated.

      Michael Jaharis, why will you not speak this persons name? Is not stating his name shaming this person? Did shame play any role in his death? Is the GOA a shame based church and that is why you can’t state this persons name? Is shame trying to erase this persons name and what happened to him? Is the hierarchy self protecting itself or the elder by not stating this persons name?

      Gods only true Christians in the GOA what ever happened to that monastery report that the Archdiocene Council committee produced on the elder and his monasteries? Is there something in it you don’t want found out? Gods only true church does tell the truth of itself to itself, right? No church outside of Orthodoxy has your Gods only true truth that tells the whole truth, right?

      All fair questions.

  28. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Mon James wrote:

    Well, then I went back and looked at some other material in Peter Papoutsis’s translations.

    I regret to inform you that it’s just as bad as what I found in the psalms. And it’s painful for me to imagine all the ignorant people seeking for orthodox Christianity who might be snookered into this tripe.

    Worse yet, it appeared to me that Peter Papoutsis is publishing his own substandard, unedited work, God help him and all of us. Lord, save us from our pride and give us good editors!

    Were I to feel that my poor offerings were worthy of self-publication, I’d be out there all over — but that’s a really tacky way to publish. As I learned when I entered my PhD program, such self-publication is considered a very bad thing, and likely to disqualify people from pursuing advanced degrees.

    So I don’t do that because I need peer input on my work. The fact that no one has yet offered to edit me notwithstanding, I plod along. But I wouldn’t DARE go into print without peer review and the blessings of my superiors.

    It’s my most sincere hope that I can bequeath a good and workable, beautiful and singable rendering of the psalms to the English-speaking orthodox Church. I’ll have to choose my beneficiaries wisely, since I just know that some idiot will come in and destroy everything in my files in languages which he can’t read.
    Monk James:

    Yes, the rest is my English translation of the Septuagint. Believe it or not I have no problem whatsoever with your criticisms as I have come to know this type of criticism over the years in connection with my translation. To my utter shame early on I reacted very negatively to such criticism and went on rampages showing why I did what I did, and would trot out the Greek and various lexicon, etc., to prove these criticisms wrong.

    However, I have since stopped doing that after my many conversations with my friend Michael Asser who is also doing an English Translation of the whole Septuagint that will be published by The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies. CTOS was also the organization that put out his English Psalms translation.

    Anyway we traded stories back and forth about what people said to us about our translations that were critical, and some just down right rude. In fact Monk Jame’s critic compared to them seems like a positive endorsement. Then it dawned on me that its NOT about me and its NOT about Michael, its about GOD. He put this desire in my heart. Why? I have no idea. Whatever the reason is I have greatly enjoyed it and still do, and I most definitely know that I am walking on Holy Ground so I take the work seriously.

    I have stuck to somewhat Archaic English which annoys many people, but its a decision I made after several conversations with Orthodox Monastics early on in my efforts. I have also have had the great privilege of consulting the NETS translation and corresponding with Prof. Albert Pietersma over the years although not as extensively as I have wanted.

    Now here is the flip side of the coin. The many Orthodox who have emailed me and called me that have liked and even loved my translation. I have told them to make those feelings known publicly, but alas I cannot force people to write good and positive reviews of the HOB.

    In the end I have to take as well as I give. I and others have been highly critical of the OSB should I not be able to take criticism as well? Should I not give praise where praise is due? Yes and yes. This is why I eventually recommended the OSB for English Speaking Orthodox Christians because despite the imperfections it does a lot of good for English Speaking Orthodox.

    In the end, if my lowly attempt at an English Translation of the Septuagint spurs an Official muti-jurisdictional English Translations that all of us can get behind then I won’t be disappointed in my efforts.

    For now I still have a lot of translating in front of me and when I am done I will be done and I will let everybody comment on it good and bad and leave it all in the hands of God. As for Monk James’ comments I thank him and appreciate his words. If only more English Speaking Orthodox cared like him I honestly would not be doing this. Thanks MJ keep doing what’s your doing.

    Finally as for publishing on my own, well that was never my intention. In fact, it was my intention to turn this over to any jurisdiction that wanted it that could take it, edit it and do whatever they wanted with it. I even stated that I would let go of my copyright. No one bit. So I just hunkered down and published it myself. Good or bad that’s what I did. Like I said its in God’s hand’s now.


  29. M. Stankovich says

    You will pardon my late entry into this discussion considering the translation of the “Lord’s Prayer.” I had major surgery & am recovering. Before I offer my first comment, let me offer the caveat that I consider Peter Papoutsis a dear friend.

    As to the matter of Monk James comment:

    We cannot get ‘daily’ out of epiousion. This word is not encountered elsewhere in ancient Greek. In fact, it’s a hapax legomenon (‘said once’), apart from a now unattestable 1st-century or so alexandrian shopping list. But it’s an easily parsed compound of epi (‘on, upon, over, much’) and ousia (‘essence, substance, necessary characteristic’) from eimi(‘be, exist”).

    While it most certainly is easily parsed, the word the Monk James seeks is ἔπειμι, in its second meaning: of Time, to come on or after: mostly in part ἐπιών, οῦσα, όν, following, succeeding, instant, ἡ ἐπιοῦσα ἡμέρα the coming day. Daily.

    Now, if you are still not satisfied with my argument, I would note that according to the Persus Catalolog, a search of the phrase ἄρτος τῆς ἐπιουσης ἡμέρας, “our daily bread” occurs thirty-two separate times, beginning with ancient Greek medical texts, the writings of Pericles, Libanius, Aristedes, and even the Funeral Oration by Julian, Emperor of Rome, for his wife, Empress Eusebia.

    As near as I can tell, Monk James, you may withdraw this absolutism, pronto.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Dr Stankovich, I’m glad you’re better. I didn’t know, hope all is well. I thank you, Monk James, Peter Papoutsis, et al who have contributed to this fascinating discussion. I learn something new every day.