Happy RamaHanuKwanzMas!

Happy RamaHanuKwanzMas to all of our PC friends!

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  1. In line with this topic, please note the example set by this notice from one of our monasteries, the one on such a firm foundation:
    Newsletter from St. John Monastery at Manton (Metropolitan Jonah’ old haunts):
    We’ve finally gotten our Fall/Winter newsletter put together and dropped into the snail mail today. (It was originally a Fall newsletter, but we had to change it to a Fall/Winter newsletter!)

    The newsletter is posted electronically on our website as well: http://www.monasteryofstjohn.org/html/newsletter.html

    We wish everyone a very blessed holiday season.

    The Brotherhood of St. John’s Monastery

    • As We Await the Nativity of Christ says
    • Johann Sebastian says

      By the time January 7 rolls around, all that remains of the “holiday season” are desiccated Christmas trees and everyone else’s leftovers.

      • Jim of Olym says

        And Old Calendrists get to scoff up the candies left over!

        • Now, James! The word is “scarf”, not scoff.

        • Alexey Karlgut says

          His Holiness Patriarch Aleksey and His Holiness Patriarch Kyril, have made a point of supporting OCA as an Autocephalous Church in America to a great extent, but at the same time they have asked, why we are not doing any work with Russians in our parishes, including services in church slavonic and on the old calendar, that “their people” on our territories desire! We should look beyond our OCA dislike of Russians and old calendar, to missionary outreach and church growth, where possible! Why not provide what is needed? And bring more people to our parishes? Why is it when we talk about outreach and evangelization, we think it’s about reaching out to blacks and Hispanics, and not to Orthodox Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Slovaks, etc, that are here by 100,000’s and need to be ministered to? Why not? You want to grow OCA? Look under your nose!
          Fr. Alexey   

          • Johann Sebastian says

            Fr. Alexey,

            What was the motivation for switching to the new calendar in the first place?

            I’m an inconsistent churchgoer and am mostly oblivious to the problems going on in the OCA, although they are certainly palpable–less than a dozen parishioners at an English Liturgy on the multiple, random occasions I’ve attended. I’ve even attended a schismatic Russian parish that has better attendance.

            These rifts are painful to see–as far as I can tell, all these factions witness the same Faith, and the discrepancies of praxis appear to be trifling. Even the calendar issue–while I believe the old is “better” and that the adoption of the new may be an indication of misdirected effort, I ask, “are these matters worth separating oneself from the canonical Church?”

            There are also the administrative issues that I’m only tangentially aware of–and frankly, they’re a bit difficult to follow. Problems need to be acknowledged, investigated, and dealt with in a canonical manner. But for people to throw up their hands and abandon Orthodoxy? Unconscionable. Our Faith is yesterday, today, tomorrow, и во вѣки вѣковъ. We have Truth, but what do we do with it? Trust not in princes nor sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.

            • “Johann Sebastian” asks, “We have Truth, but what do we do with it?”
              Answer: On Monomakhos we adopt pseudonyms to hide behind; that’s what we do with “Truth!”

              • Johann Sebastian says


                Were this a forum closed to outside access or a private correspondence, I’d be happy to use my real name.

                Intra and interjurisdictional conflicts are bothersome. Our relations with the heterodox seem often to be better than our relationship with our own. I ask, humbly, what can I (and, by extension, the rest of the laity) do to help remedy the situation?

          • Gregg Gerasimon says

            Christ is born!

            With a few exceptions, can one say that we are even trying to reach out to African Americans and Latinos in America?

            Look at the older Orthodox churches in the northeast: many are now in what are all- or mostly-black sections of our cities, from Baltimore up to Boston. Yet how many African American parishioners do these churches have? How much are we trying to reach out to our neighbors and local communities? In Philadelphia, so many of the older Orthodox churches are in mostly black neighborhoods. Is there much evangelization to the black community? Many of these African Americans are nominal Christians, too, just not yet Orthodox. But there are still ethnic church festivals in the fall.

            • Dear Gregg,

              What a great question / statement! I have actually given this one some thought. Not being a genius, you are unlikely to get wowed by what I considered might be useful.

              1. Have some odd jobs? Hire people from the neighborhood. The so-called primatial cathedral in Washington, D.C. has long had Buddhist starosta. We call him Sasha. His daughter helps him sometimes these days and he and his family live in the basement of the St. Nicholas office building next door to the cathedral.

              2. Have a Soul Food Festival – cook soul food, which is not too hard and have Psalm chanting inside the church going on for hours. Make a couple good large print readable copy of the Psalms, prepare a small choir or two or three to sing all the parts at each kathismata and invite lots of folks to take turns.

              3. Have a Spanish festival. See above for Psalms, only in Spanish. Ask neighbors to help

              4. Start inserting local languages into the litanies. Teach especially children to sing them.

              5. Have more communal liturgies where more of the Orthodox laity take part. Save the concerts for major feasts and fundraisers. Have some ordinary Orthodoxy going on at the fundraisers, too.

              6. Ask parishioners to go door to door with fliers for special events in nearby neighborhoods and in their own neighborhoods

              7. Actively recruit drivers to pick up folks on their way to church. We all know people who don’t make it to church because they seldom drive, don’t know if they can find a parking space, and after a while, no longer feel they belong.

              8. Make a survey of clergy for special skills like languages and actually pay for translations. Recruit Orthodox Christians with language skills at the translation sites online. See what resources are out there. ROCOR has enquiry material and some liturgical materials in Spanish, for example.

              9. Stop wasting energy on duplicate initiatives in various jurisdictions. We can all have interim translations.

              10. Invite the public with advertizing campaigns, especially online, to all our pan-Orthodox celebrations and especially to Orthodox Chirstian Fellowship meetings.

              11. VIsit each other’s parishes, nearby monasteries, and jurisdictions. Make all these visits inclusive, not exclusionary. For example, open up Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox and other American Orthodox jurisdictions activities not only to each other, but to enquirers.

              12. Set up conversion classes specially oriented to accept, say, Roman Catholics, Pentacostals, Primitive Baptists or whoever is nearby. Obviously include members of the community in their planning. It could be as small an inclusion as a translator. Better if the translator be a parishioners.

              • Gregg Gerasimon says


                These are all fantastic ideas. If only we would adopt even one or two of them, how much outreach could we have to the local communities.

                One of the chief problems, I think, is that in these older, inner-city parishes that are in mostly African-American or Latino neighborhoods, hardly any (if any) of the parishioners live near the church anymore. I’ve been to liturgy at these churches a few times and it is pretty much the same: mostly older, nearly all white, parishioners who drive in from the suburbs to go to liturgy. The few parishioners there in the massive, stately churches make it seem so empty and sad.

                These parishes often don’t serve vespers on Saturday evenings (because few if any would come), and they are closed during the week except for the occasional feast day liturgy. You simply cannot have parish growth with this model. Forty or 50 years ago, there would have been hundreds of parishioners at these parishes at a liturgy, many of whom lived within walking distance of the church (after all, that is why the church was established there!). Now, the parishes are lucky to get 40 people at liturgy on a Sunday.

                Your ideas are fantastic, but in order to be implemented, the parish must be open on more than Sunday mornings and must have a core dedicated to parish growth, who understand that, given the demographic of where the parish is located in the city, this might mean that the parish might be mostly black or brown in 20 or 30 years, if it does grow. A dedicated, evangelistic, energetic priest is essential as well.

                The thing is, if there is no growth to the local community, these parishes will fold in 10 years or so. Already, I don’t understand how some of them stay financially afoot.

                Christ is born!

                • Michael Bauman says

                  If the current parishioner’s don’t live near the parish the suggestions won’t work. Besides we have yet to reach out to America in our native language. Seems like we ought to do that first.

                  • Johann Sebastian says

                    These are all very good suggestions, but I’d like to share my own perspective from a different angle.

                    Evangelism is a Christian obligation, but rather than engaging in outright proselytism or “strategic” endeavors that could very well backfire, perhaps there are some among us who can offer their talents, their professional skills, and above all, their time, to reach out to established Orthodox of all ethnicities, as well as the heterodox, heathen, and Godless regardless of their ethnicity or historical religious background.

                    I’m bringing this up because I work for a Protestant organization that operates, among other things, a full-service primary care health clinic (not free, but low-cost) and community center offering an assortment of workshops, classes, and counseling services. It all started with volunteers but within a few years gained enough momentum to support a full-time paid staff (and hence my employment with them). Revenue is generated primarily from cash receipts, followed closely by grants obtained for providing specific medical services, with donations accounting for a relatively small portion of revenue. It just so happens that the organization is highly ethnocentric, but it is open to all, and patients of all colors and religions are treated.

                    I’ve often thought that we should be doing something like this. Whether or not there are other professionals in the Church who would be willing to offer their skills–just to jumpstart such an operation–is one question. The matter of facilities and equipment is another. This is something that deserves thoughtful consideration. We may not fill our parishes with catechumens, but I believe it can be an effective and meaningful way of planting the seed of Orthodoxy.

                    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                      There is an Orthodox group doing basically the same thing – FOCUS. They’re doing a lot of wonderful work, including reaching out to the surrounding community.


                      I also belong to a Facebook group, Black Orthodox Christian and this comes up from time to time. There is a feeling that it’s time to actually do something than rather than talking about it. What, I don’t know yet. But there are a couple people in the group who are not Orthodox yet but seriously seeking. I’m not going to name names, but I’ll just say that there are people, were they to become Orthodox, would really be a great asset.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Lola, I fervently believe that we ethnic Orthodox dropped the ball when the neighborhoods our churches were situated transitioned because of white flight. If we’d had evangelical leadership, we would have made outreach to black people 50 years ago.

                    • Johann Sebastian says

                      @ Lola: Thank you for sharing that link. My ignorance of the existence of such an initiative is what happens when one attends church infrequently and leaves right after the homily is delivered. I note that no medical services are part of the FOCUS program. Are there any plans that you are aware of to include them?

                      @ George: If we try to “target” particular ethnic groups by making ourselves more “appealing” to them, we may be perceived as patronizing or pushing gimmicks. I say this as someone whose background is partly white “ethnic Orthodox” and partly nonwhite heterodox. Let’s focus on outreach by offering services of practical utility. Make the involvement of the Church very visible in that process. People, regardless of their ethnicity, will begin to make the association, and they will seek us themselves.

                      We needn’t abandon our ethnic heritage to do this. Heck, Americans of all backgrounds have a lot of hangups about various Orthodox ethnicities as it is–Russians, Serbs, Arabs, you get the picture. Maybe we can break some of those stereotypes in the process.

                    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                      I don’t know of any medical services included at FOCUS. Why don’t you get in touch with them?

                  • Dear Michael,

                    If the Protestants can have a bus route to transport people for miles to church, why not us? We need this for inner city churches even for ourselves. Gregg Gerasimon’s answer above is good when he talks about Vespers. I actually have a hard time making it through a week without Vespers and Matins or VIgil or Compline, depending on what we’re celebrating and how. And yet, for years I go to Vigil and see the same choir members, that choir often being as large as the rest of the laity in the nave. For that matter, vigil is important for children, especially the matins, because much can be learned by listening to or reading the words and the matins forms a kind of holy preface to the liturgy with the canons. Likewise, I like to hear the hours

                    But, you’re right in that you can’t come to love what you never hear or read when you don’t participate.

                    But we’re too busy making hurdles for people to jump through when they show the slightest interest in Orthodoxy like lack of uniformity in our liturgical translations, or, face it, lack of translations themselves. I think the more Orthodoxy we offer online – services, translations, sermons of parish priests and bishops both, music, the better. We have a wonder in our age- the internet. How wonderful it is to go the the eMatins website and click on the daily matins service or its music


                    Ante and Post Nicene Fathers are online, and more and more.

                    Have we mentioned YouTube?

                    Have we mentioned live streaming of church services? And then putting them on the YouTube

                    Have we mentioned free digitized church materials?

                    Much is happening and much can happen. And yet, some parishes don’t have photo archives so folks can see what happens in an Orthodox church. Some of our priests and bishops don’t post their sermons and articles on our Orthodox website.

                    And, we could do more social services for others and ourselves. We need more elder homes

                    We can also make family events more visible. There were two babies presented before the altar today where I went, and this was not a private ceremony as they often are, but in front of a couple hundred parishioners

                    • Michael Bauman says

                      loh says:

                      But we’re too busy making hurdles for people to jump through when they show the slightest interest in Orthodoxy like lack of uniformity in our liturgical translations, or, face it, lack of translations themselves. I think the more Orthodoxy we offer online – services, translations, sermons of parish priests and bishops both, music, the better. We have a wonder in our age- the internet. How wonderful it is to go the the eMatins website and click on the daily matins service or its music

                      While there is some value to on-line material for addressing rational questions and piquing interest, on-line services is a really bad idea. To participate in any Orthodox service, one has to be there physically present. Otherwise much of the meaning and depth of what is actually happening is missed. There is no possible way that any digital representation of an Orthodox service is an Orthodox service.

                      What we need is a desire to share what we’ve been given person to person.

                      While it is nice to have many of the things you and others have mentioned: translations, recruitment programs, etc. They really don’t matter at all if we miss the point of participating in the life of the Holy Trinity in each service.

      • Sean Richardson says

        I wish I could be around in the year 2100 when the Old Calendarists would begin celebrating on January 8th. My suspicion is, this will cause another split … those who insist on January 7th, because that’s the date of Christmas, and those who insist on following the Julian calendar which will change the date, re: the Gregorian calendar, to January 8th.

        • Johann Sebastian says

          As much as I favor the old-style calendar, I have to ask, is this really an issue worth causing a split over? He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord.

          Хрістос раждаєтъ ся! Славіте єго!

      • Basil Larsen says

        I’m certain the Athonite Monks don’t mind that “all that remains of the “holiday season” are desiccated Christmas trees and everyone else’s leftovers.” Someone should inform them.

        • Johann Sebastian says

          This is precisely what I was attempting to convey by my comment. Sure, we’re neither acknowledged nor included, but it’s also a convenient way to avoid getting caught up in all the secular garbage associated with the “season.”

    • Basil Larsen says

      This is the first I heard Archimandrite Meletios resigned. Does anyone know what his current status is?

  2. cynthia curran says

    I heard the real St Nick boxed someone at the council of Nicea. This one is more PC.

    • Archpriest John Morris says

      During the First Council of Nicea, St. Nicholas slapped Arius and was suspended and thrown in prison as punishment. During the night Christ and the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary appeared in the dreams of the Bishops pleading for his reinstatement. He was reinstated the next day. That is why there is often two circles on his icon, one with Christ, and another with the Theotokos holding a Bishop’s omophorion. There is another variation of the story in which Christ and the Theotokos appear to St. Nicholas in his cell and vest him as a Bishop. When the jailer arrived and saw him vested as a Bishop he reported it to Constantine and St. Nicholas was reinstated.

    • Yes, that is a sin for which he was punished and then forgiven. It is, of course, not exemplary conduct for any
      Christian, no matter how battle-ready, to emulate.

  3. cynthia curran says

    JERUSALEM (JTA) — The first and oldest ancient artifact providing tangible evidence of the existence of the city of Bethlehem was discovered during archaeological excavations in Jerusalem.

    A clay seal, called a bulla, was discovered in soil near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem inside the City of David archaeological park. The bulla, measuring about 1.5 cm, included three lines of ancient Hebrew words including the words Beit Lechem, which is Bethlehem.

    “This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods,” according to Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

    The bulla was likely affixed to a tax shipment of silver or agricultural produce sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah in the eighth or seventh century B.C., according to Shukron.

    Bethlehem is mentioned in the Bible as the place where the foremother Rachel was buried. It was also the site of King David’s anointing.