Is ROCOR Leaving the Episcopal Assembly?

Source: The Orthodox Church Info

Letter from the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops to the Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America

Archbishop KYRILL, San Francisco and Western American Diocese. Second Deputy of the President of the Synod of Bishops. Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

Archbishop KYRILL, San Francisco and Western American Diocese. Second Deputy of the President of the Synod of Bishops. Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia – Moscow Patriarcate 

From the Editors: On Tuesday, December 9, 2013, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, during a regular meeting, deliberated on the results of the previous September’s Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. During the discussion regarding the proposal to reorganize the Orthodox dioceses in North and Central America, the President of the Synod of Bishops stressed that the Russian Church Abroad is under the canonical authority of its dear and great Mother, the Russian Orthodox Church, and is obligated to minister to its multitude of devoted flock finding itself abroad and wishing to remain in her bosom. The members of the Synod of Bishops, agreeing with the opinion of their President, noted that Orthodoxy in America is not prepared for reorganization of Orthodox dioceses in America. In connection with this, the Synod of Bishops instructed its Secretary, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, to send the following letter to the President of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America explaining the position held by the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in this matter.

To: The Most Reverend Archbishop Demetrios
Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America

Your Eminence!

During our recent Fourth Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, a “Proposal for Canonical Restructuring of the Orthodox Church in the USA” was presented by the Committee for Regional Canonical Planning, chaired by Your Eminence, in which four possible approaches to future restructuring were offered, the fourth being the main recommendation of the Committee. We were grateful to God that the fraternal bonds between us as hierarchs of North and Central America have grown to such a level, over these past years of increased cooperation and dialogue, that we were able to share openly, directly and in mutual humility the thoughts and concerns of all the churches’ archpastors in relation to these concepts; and we desired to follow up the plenary and small-group discussions of the Fourth Assembly with a letter clarifying the position of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on these matters, which we recognize the committee will continue to consider over the coming year.

Our primary concern and consideration, as unworthy inheritors of the Lord’s Apostolic charge, is for the salvation of our flock, considered not in terms of potentiality but actuality. Those whom the Lord in His mercy has delivered unto us are diverse in age, background, race and heritage — and, indeed, ethnicity — and for each soul we rejoice as a shepherd who finds the one sheep that has gone astray (Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 18:12-13). Yet we can never deny, and indeed we heartily rejoice, in the fact that God has delivered unto this Synod a sacred charge to look after and care for, with special intensity, those of Russian heritage and descent, who find themselves “scattered abroad” to all the ends of the earth. The godless revolution through which the thief of souls tried in vain to rob a long-believing people of their true foundation, created a situation that persists even in our present day, though by God’s mercy the tyranny of militant Communist atheism has been broken and cast off the shoulders of the Russian homeland. Yet all throughout the world, including here in the North and Central American lands of our Assembly’s responsibility, Russians and their kin were led by the Lord, as by an invisible hand, to places where the machinations of men could not rob them of the free exercise of their piety and deeply rooted love of God. And perhaps nowhere have their numbers been greater than in North America, where enormous populations arrived on both coasts and made their way into the heartland of a new nation, finding here the freedom and stability to preserve abroad that which had been made impossible at home. Thus, as men for whom “every foreign land is a fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign” (Epistle to Diogentus , 5:5), they established roots in this place, preserving their heritage and culture even as they adapted and made new lands and cultures their own.

Our Russian Church has known her share of the pains of division and separation, which ultimately are always the signs of our own sinfulness and weak piety. However, by the mercy of God, we have also seen how, through repentance and mutual humility, the Holy Spirit works reconciliation and unity in the midst of the earth, taking what human sin had fractured into division and transforming it into a sacred unity that persists in diversity. Our hearts rejoiced “with an exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:10 ) on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in May, 2007, when after long years of division, the fracture within our Russian Orthodox Church was healed. Through the divinely guided wisdom of our archpastors, in particular His Holiness Patriarch Alexy and His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, both of blessed memory, our long-desired unity was restored — not through the conglomeration of administrative entities or the restructuring of canonical territories, but by an act of reconciliation which allows the Church abroad and the Church in the motherland to exist side by side, in mutual love and work, each free and operating within that freedom, yet bonded inseparably like a mother to her daughter. And within our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, this renewed bond with our Mother Church came to us as a longed-for prize, a pearl of great price, and a bond of spiritual strength that shall not be broken.

Our mission to our flock in North and Central America is a source of profound joy, as it has been for the Russian Orthodox Church since the days that the first Orthodox missionaries departed the soil of Holy Russia and set foot on this new land, bringing with them the Apostolic Faith. Since that time, the Russian Orthodox Church has ministered to the faithful in North America as mother to daughter, taking special care of her children, whatever their background. Yet the history of Orthodoxy in North America has been unique, at once plagued by the many troubles of the twentieth century in particular, and at the same time blessed with the unique diversity of peoples this land represents. In this land we find Russians and Greeks, Arabs and Romanians, Bulgarians, French and Germans, Italians and English as well as native peoples; and we find, also, many differing degrees of ethnic life. For many, particularly of later generations of emigration, those past origins may have subsumed into a singularly American identity, whereas for others, there remains a strong, abiding sense of connection to their national or ethnic origins, united to their new cultural life in these lands. For all these things we rejoice, for this is in some sense the true uniqueness of the American lands: that from many, there is one (‘e pluribus, unum’), not by a collapse of those differing identities, but by their peaceful co-existence and united life. This unity-in-diversity is made more perfect in the Church where, as the Holy Apostle says, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 ). We remain richly diverse, the manifold creation of God who orders all things; yet we are one in faith, in mission, in communion, in calling and in sacred hope.

This, we firmly believe, is also the means of forging a stronger unity amongst the Orthodox churches of North and Central America — not by the collapsing of the identities and structures of the nine jurisdictions currently represented in this territory, however well-intentioned a “restructuring” may be, or however attentive intentions may be towards questions of ethnicity — but through an increased bond of mutual love that permits us to live together in our diversity, yet in the more perfect unity of the Spirit.

We find ourselves in strong agreement with a multitude of the sentiments expressed by His Grace, Bishop Daniil of the Bulgarian Diocese in the USA and Canada, in his letter presented to Your Eminence’s Committee and distributed at the recent Assembly. In particular, we affirm His Grace’s statements on the paradigms that exist within the Sacred Canons of the Church (which are our blessed guiding hand in determining every course of ecclesial action) for acceptable means of organizing Church unity in a region which for various reasons cannot follow the otherwise standard paradigm of a purely local structure. These include, for example, the 39th Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which allowed for an independent ecclesiastical province of the Church of Cyprus in the region of another local Church’s territory (demonstrating that the canons permit, in cases of pastoral need, a departure from the normal localization of episcopal oversight even within the territory of the established Churches); as well as the 2nd Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council, which states “the churches of God that are situated in territories belonging to barbarian nations (i.e. where there is no established local Orthodox Church) must be administered in accordance with the customary practice of the Fathers,” which, according to the ancient explanations of the canons, means the sending forth of bishops from established eparchies to care for them (thus demonstrating that the situation of Sister Churches mutually caring for their flocks in the diaspora and thereby “supplying what is missing for a local synod” is what the canons themselves consider, not an aberration, but the ancient practice of the Fathers). We affirm, as well, other existing practices within the local Churches of our own day, such as the foundation of stavropegial monasteries or communities, which likewise demonstrate acceptable means by which the historically normative principle of local organization with a singular ruling bishop in a singular physical territory have been accommodated by the Holy Fathers, Councils and hierarchs of the past in ways that befit the pastoral needs of a region. To be clear, we cannot and do not consider that these contexts of the past are “un-canonical,” and neither do we consider that the present situation of multiple Sister Churches tending to the diverse needs of the flock in the unique cultural situation of North America is, of itself, a violation of canonical order.

We consider the charge of those gathered at Chambesy to be important, and that we must strive towards better canonical order within our ministries in these lands. While we cannot accept that the Orthodox community in North and Central America requires or is under canonical mandate to restructure its organization in a manner that severs active ties with its various Mother Churches (and indeed we would consider any such restructuring to be a matter of gravest spiritual peril to the souls of all our flocks in these lands, whether ethnically of Russian heritage or not — for we consider these bonds to be of essential spiritual value in providing a sure spiritual foundation for the lives of all Orthodox in North America), never the less we affirm the need to strive towards increased cooperation between all our jurisdictions, so that the bond of love may grow between us and our diversity increasingly show itself in the true unity of the Holy Spirit. In this light, we recognize that there are situations of genuine canonical anomaly which a body such as our Assembly ought properly to consider, approaching contexts where variation is not the result of necessity but of human multiplicity or a laxity towards the Holy Canons. Such are the anomalies that are displeasing to the Holy Spirit, and which ought to be corrected (such as important questions regarding divergent practices on the conducting of inter-faith marriages; the practices of reception into the Church; divergent approaches to fasting; issues of confession and preparation for Holy Communion; the release and reception of clergy; etc.). Here there is the need for increased cooperation and dialogue amongst all the hierarchs of North America, in humble obedience to the tradition of the Church, so that the faithful might come readily to see that truest unity, which exists in diversity, and which overcomes deficiency through obedience and love. We reaffirm our commitment to the work of the Assembly of Bishops for such tasks, and for the increase of common work that may come about through its labors, in which we shall take active part so long as the Lord gives us strength.

In light of all that has been said, both here and in the discussions of our recent Fourth Assembly, we conclude with a quotation of Bishop Daniil’s words. His Grace wrote:

“We strongly believe that a plan, which is entirely in the spirit of the Orthodox ecclesiology and the canonical tradition and practice of the Orthodox Church, and which preserves the rights of the Sister Churches to administer their flocks in the Diaspora, is feasible and applicable, and this in fact is our understanding of the Decision of the Sister Churches at the 4th Pre – Conciliar Pan – Orthodox Conference in Chambesy.”

This, too, represents our view as the assembled hierarchs of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and we call upon the One Lord, worshipped in Trinity, to bestow upon our common Assembly the grace to strengthen the unity of our witness in these lands upon this model.

With fraternal love and respect in Christ,

Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America,
Secretary of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

January 3, 2014

About GShep


  1. The answer is clearly no to your question:

    We reaffirm our commitment to the work of the Assembly of Bishops for such tasks [e.g., divergent practices on the conducting of inter-faith marriages; the practices of reception into the Church; divergent approaches to fasting; issues of confession and preparation for Holy Communion; the release and reception of clergy; etc.], and for the increase of common work that may come about through its labors, in which we shall take active part so long as the Lord gives us strength.

    • I consult to a committee of the Assembly and I have been very impressed by how all of the Hierarchs on that committee work together.This includes Bishops from all jurisdictions including ROCOR . I am under the impression that the Assembly is working. It is sad , however, that Antioch has pulled out.

      • Archpriest John Morris says

        I may be wrong, but as I understand it, the Self Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has not pulled out of the Bishop’s Assembly. Because of our self-rule (autonomous) status, the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch to pull out of the regional Bishop’s Assemblies does not apply to our Archdiocese.

        • Kevin Allen says

          Father, I have it on good authority Met Philip on 1/17 directed all Antiochian bishops to resign from the Assembly.

          • Archpriest John Morris says

            I only relayed the information that I had at the time. If since I wrote my post, Metropolitan Philip has decided that the Antiochian Archdiocese should withdraw from the Bishop’s Assembly, then we have withdrawn from the Bishop’s Assembly. That means that it is finished as a means for Orthodox unity in North America.

    • George Osborne says

      The actual import of Archbishop Tikhon’s statement on behalf of the Synod is that the Russia Church is not going to be lead into a Constantinopolitan merger in the diaspora. This letter was not just a Synodal letter. You can bet your bottom ruble that its content was studied and approved by the Mother Church and is more of a statement from Moscow about the fate of the entire diapora rather than just Noth and Central America. In essence, the Russian Church just said “Yes” to cooperation and fraternal conversation but “Nyet” to a worldwide merger of dioceses under the Greeks. Sorry, Pat. Bartholomew, you just got a polite indication that the idea of an eastern papacy is dead. Finito!

  2. New Pew Study says
  3. I think the operative paragraph in this Statement is:

    This, we firmly believe, is also the means of forging a stronger unity amongst the Orthodox churches of North and Central America — not by the collapsing of the identities and structures of the nine jurisdictions currently represented in this territory, however well-intentioned a “restructuring” may be, or however attentive intentions may be towards questions of ethnicity — but through an increased bond of mutual love that permits us to live together in our diversity, yet in the more perfect unity of the Spirit.

    In other words, if the E.A. is going to survive and “the more perfect unity of the Spirit” will prevail, it will be a local church that is a reflection of the diversity of Orthodox expression here and not one superimposed by a Greek overlord.

    We Orthodox here in the USA and Central America are the collateral damage of the most recent pissing match between Constantinople and Moscow. Sadly, the so-called OCA has lost all of its legitimacy to even be considered part of the solution.

    • Pere LaChaise says

      “Sadly, the so-called OCA has lost all of its legitimacy to even be considered part of the solution” – how so? Because Metr. Jonah resigned before he could hand over autocephaly to Moscow? I know and love the man as much, and more than 9 out of 10 of you people who write so scathingly here. I am sure he would be hurt to hear that you think the OCA has been illegitimized. But this is a distraction – the single ecclesial power that seeks to undermine the OCA is the Phanar. Patr. Kyril has been public about his desire to reabsorb the OCA since he was in charge of the MP’s foreign affairs. Metr. Jonah was caving to that pressure from Moscow. Now you are helping Phanariots kick the legs out from under America’s only nativizing Orthodox Church. Bravo! Metr. Jonah would be quick to agree that the OCA can get along with or without him at the helm – he is not a sore loser but a man of profound prayer and repentance.
      The Moscow-Phanar stichomyphia is indeed exacting a toll on churches of all jurisdictions here in America, but we don’t have to exaggerate the damage with feckless negativity. Don’t be a hater.

  4. Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

    I don’t see the faintest INKLING or HINT that ROCOR is contemplating leaving that Assembly. Just because Archbishop Kyrill, an SVS graduate, reinforces the expressed philosophy of the Moscow Patriarchate means only that ROCOR does not fully conform to the wisdom of the day. It’s a kind of mild jab at the ideas of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate relative to territory.
    I agree with “123.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      Interesting. Thank you very much Your Grace.

      That’s why I put this story up as soon as I got it. And with a question mark. I’m not sure what this means and I want as much guidance as possible.

      Regardless, my gut tells me that the whole EA process got a whole bunch of cold water thrown on it. This only begs the question: why? IMHO it’s because it increasingly became obvious that it was a Trojan Horse for GOA domination.

      Does it also mean that ROCOR looked at the overall sloppiness of Orthopraxy among the other jurisdictions and said “Not me, Pal”?

      Another other suggestions>

      • George,

        I think you pretty well summed it up. Let us recap a bit:

        Once upon a time there was an entity named SCOBA. It was the Standing Committee of (Canonical) Orthodox Bishops in America. While not irrelevant, it did little more than provide a framework for certain charity endeavors and the periodic meeting of American bishops, not that that is any small achievement.

        Then, seemingly in response to calls for American Orthodox unity, a gathering of primates formed SCOBA II, aka the (American) Episcopal Assembly (I gloss over some detail here), as well as EA’s in certain other lands. This, we were told, was different because it was an initiative of the mother churches to organize and regularize the situation in America. It was to meet, confer, organize and offer plans to formalize unity in the American Church to the upcoming Ecumenical Council in 20__ [you fill in the date]. Many of us were skeptical, including Met. Phillip. We recalled events in the mid 1990’s and assumed that the “mother churches” have not significantly modified their attitudes.

        Now, some felt that the whisper of autocephaly was in the air, an electric feeling running up their legs I suppose, ever so exciting. Alas, ’twas not to be. Repeatedly we have been faced with the reality that the ever so close, always soon to be Ecumenical Council is not yet visible on the horizon (thank Christ), and that the EA is simply moving sideways.

        It also became apparent that Constantinople had no other intention than bringing all the Orthodox churches in America under its omophorion. That was the unity they sought. Not autocephaly, not under any circumstances. This was confirmed recently by a senior Greek hierarch whose remarks appear on this very site.

        What’s a Russian to do? Proposals have been made. Well, ROCOR has never had the slightest desire or appetite for coming under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. There was never any remote question that this was even a possibility. The very Act of Canonical Unity that reunited the ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate guaranteed the ROCOR synod a veto over any reorganization of eparchial boundaries. Moscow would not want them to unite under Constantinople and even if it did ROCOR would never do it regardless of what Moscow wanted.

        So, the message seems to be:

        “Sure, we like meeting with the other bishops. If you want to hammer out some common rules regarding the release and reception of clergy, inter-Orthodox marriages, etc. then, if we can come to agreement on this or that item, that is a good subject for our meetings and dialogue. However, administrative unity is a non-starter.”

        Full stop. End of telegram.

        Now, I could have told you this before reading this little gem. It is interesting though that they give a canonical justification for the jurisdictional disunity here in America. I’ve never heard anyone do that before and I for one will be interested in examining the examples they provided. The uncanonical nature of the Church in America has become sort of a truism and they take aim at this proposition point blank.

        However, there is another interesting facet to this. It is the relationship between ROCOR and the OCA:

        ” . . . the 2nd Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council, which states ‘the churches of God that are situated in territories belonging to barbarian nations (i.e. where there is no established local Orthodox Church) must be administered in accordance with the customary practice of the Fathers.’”

        They skirt a fine line here. The Church of Cyprus is mentioned earlier and may or may not be intended to alleviate the magnitude of the above quote. Frankly, at best they are leaving the alleged autocephaly of the OCA as an open proposition on which they take no position. At worst, they are rejecting it outright. Regardless, they are stating that they are not interested in merging with anyone for the foreseeable future. There was a committee in the ROCOR charged with examining what obstacles if any existed to closer relations with the OCA. That portfolio seems to have been misplaced.

        ROCOR seems to be saying that it sees its mission not as pursuing American autocephaly (a church of the future) but tending its present flock.

        • Pere LaChaise says

          “Tending [the] present flock” is the one thing that all the jurisdictions have in common. And by it, we have received a balkanized, self-alienated pseudo-community of proudly ethnic rivals. The narrow definition of hypenated Orthodoxy (Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, etc.) has and will continue to make Orthodoxy irrelevant to most Americans who do not identify Eastern European – or Middle Eastern–American.
          The OCA has been to date the only cogent effort on the part of the Church to come toward non-ethnic Americans as a way into the Historical Apostolic Christian Church. The EOC/AEOM experiment did not establish an alternative to foreign exotic-sounding orientalist and anachronistic church affiliation and the initial moment among Evangelicals was lost.
          Even the OCA has too narrowly defined its mission, in the absence of strong leadership continues to construe parish life in ‘maintenance mode’ with little creative drive to go beyond itself into new communities. Paralysis has set in where a shrinking pool of actors with shrinking resources run out of apt responses to challenges. If anything illegitimizes the OCA, it is this paralysis. When parishes left and right are aging out of existence and hierarchs look abroad to find priests with Gerontology degrees from Moscow University to man them, we are in deep trouble. And that is where we stand, because each jurisdiction is so fully engaged in “tending its present flock”.

          • Christ did not say, “Go forth and baptize all nations in the name of the American Orthodox Church (or the Russian Orthodox Church, or the Antiochian Orthodox Church). Tending (and increasing) the present flock is precisely what we are tasked to do, not play nativism. As long as it has “Orthodox” in it, the name on the door is just not that important. Nor is the hierarch, foreign or domestic, under which we operate.

            What is important is what the faithful believe and do. Do they have prolific families? Are their marriages stable? Is there evangelism going on? Do they live the Way through right belief and right practice?

            This obsession with the autocephaly of an “American” Church is misplaced. Does “ethnicity” turn off Americans? That’s a shame. Better change the vestiments and the music (and the laity, and the clergy). I mean, all those melodies are either Byzantine or Slavic, the vestiments Byzantine, and what are we to do with all these pious/impious foreigners? Don’t they give you the willies talking that funny language? And the churches look funny. Like mosques or Moscow.

            You know, they prostrate like the Muslims. And the women cover their heads too. Their churches don’t even have pews.


            Hmmm . . . yes, we need American Orthodoxy. So, um, remind me again, what does that look like? What do you want it to look like?

            Looks fine to me, just spread the Gospel, part of which says there is neither Jew nor Greek . . . nor American?

            • Isa Almisry says

              “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law–though not being myself under the law–that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law–not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ–that I might win those outside the law. “-St. Paul (I Cor. 9:19-21).

              that part not in your Gospel?

              If “the hierarch, foreign or domestic, under which we operate…is just not that important” then let Filaret have Kiev, if not Shevchuk.

              • Isa,

                I let them sort out the Ukraine themselves. The real answer over there is to divide the country. It was never really an independent entity before the early nineties. Sections of it were part of the Russian Empire, or part Western Catholic states. Everybody there speaks Russian but some in the central and western parts also speak Ukrainian, some as a first language. Ukrainian, though technically an Eastern Slavic language, has been heavily influenced by Polish so much so that it is more intelligible to Poles and Belarusians than Russians. Russians considered it a dialect before the Bolshevik Revolution. Now, the Ukrainians suppress the recognition of Rusyn as a separate language and the Russians support it, just out of poetic justice I suppose.

                St. Paul contrasts Jews and Gentiles, those under the Torah with those not under the Torah. There are lots of nations among the Gentiles. I suppose each and every one is entitled to their own autocephalous Church as soon as one percent of the population identifies as Orthodox. Good luck with that.

          • Father Philosoph says

            I hardly ever respond to these threads – but I would like to say the following in response to the statement above about parish life being in “maintenance mode” and parishes dying off and becoming paralysed by ethnicity, and being irrelevant because of hyphenated names.
            So I don’t know who you are and what you are – you have a name with Pere in it so maybe you are a Priest or maybe not – I don’t know. But I would surmise from your response that you are not a missionary Orthodox Priest. As a missionary priest whose start up parish runs in the red every month – I really understand the motivation behind being in maintenance mode. Everyone is looking to the hierarchy or the administrative structure or whatever else. No! This is not the source of the problem it is the laity. A priest need to be encouraged and support by the laity to take up this direction.
            You can have an English language Russian or Greek Church in a city – and it will not be taken seriously by the Russians or Greeks – they will not attend because it isn’t in the language – so it isn’t real. They will even try and start a second Church, and complain to the Bishop about their not being an ethnic priest. The problem is at the level of the laity and is reflected in terms of financial support in very real ways. The ROCOR parishes on our island are convert churches and are identified as Orthodox Churches without hyphens and this means that we are alienated, and even if we intentionally name ourselves as simply Orthodox – the ethnics name us as Russians anyway – I am a Canadian but the Greeks call me a Russian and the Russians call me an American. So I lose out in both directions, and the Church suffers from it. So it is a very tenuous place to occupy and I can very much sympathize and understand those who go into a maintenance mode – it allows them to minister to a flock – and even within that there are encounters with converts.

            A missionary minded priest is rare to begin with, but one who can survive and make it work is even more rare. And it is not him alone it is what the people need and what he is able to do from his base level of support. So do I understand maintenance mode – yes – the position of many priest is tenuous – regardless of whether they are paid or paid well.

            Parishes need to be supported to be allowed to minister to the Americans, Canadians or whatever other context we might be talking about.

            I think that what is absent from view in contrasting the OCA here with other Jurisdictional lines is that the self-promotion doesn’t negate the different demographics that are being ministered to. The immigration waves and the level of settledness differs between jurisdictions – OCA has more English which reflects the immigration waves that started it, Rocor has increasingly shifted towards English but this occurred a bit later than in the OCA and had some reversals with the new wave Russians, in contrast looking at something like the Romanian Patriarchal Parishes they are ministering to a very recent set of immigrants and consequently have a extremely low amount of English presence in any of their parishes.

            • We prefer multiplying parishes and bishops in the same city to multiplying Liturgies and members in a single building or diocese.

              Which divides the Body of Christ more: two Liturgies on an altar by the same priest or two bishops with two dioceses and parishes on the same street?

              We all want control. We don’t trust each other because we know what we’d do if we were in charge: we wouldn’t love and we wouldn’t sacrifice. Unfortunately, this is the greatest witness to our not being the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but merely a sickly piece of Her.

        • Isa Almisry says

          Btw, on the Church of Cyprus reference: when the danger passed, the Church on the Hellespont packed up and went back to Cyrpus.

          ROCOR has been free to do the same for over 20 years now.

          • This is true. But “free” does not mean compelled. Moreover, all that ROCOR was doing, the longer I mull it over, was to cover all their basis. The Cyprus analogy would apply in the case where we assume there is an autocephalous church in America. The second canon of the II EC would apply if we assume there is no autocephalous local church here.

            They thought this through. The OCA, if it is a local church here, is not in the habit anymore of protesting the presence of the ROCOR on “its territory”. In fact, this is highly unlikely given that the sole source of support for the OCA’s claim to autocephaly is the MP (and churches formerly under Soviet domination).

            Moreover, if any other church wants to use the Cyprus analogy, they have to first admit the OCA’s autocephaly.

            If there is no one local church with jurisdiction here, then canon II/IIEC applies. It is actually on all fours except to the extent one tries to use it to justify overlapping jurisdictions. It does not mention overlap, only missions to “heathen” lands outside canonical boundaries. But the canon clearly makes an exception to the normal rules of jurisdictional limitation. As a practical matter, how would we then resolve overlap? Perhaps that is another subject for the AB. Bear in mind, any solution would have to address the OCA’s and EP’s non-geographical ethnic jurisdictions (the OCA’s Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian dioceses and ACROD in the EP).

            Seen in this light, the letter is actually a quite beautiful little piece of work.

            • Isa Almisry says

              “the sole source of support for the OCA’s claim to autocephaly is the MP (and churches formerly under Soviet domination).”
              As opposed to those Churches formerly-or presently-under Phanariot domination?

              “any solution would have to address the OCA’s and EP’s non-geographical ethnic jurisdictions (the OCA’s Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian dioceses and ACROD in the EP”
              actually, that is the situation that canon 28 addresses: not diaspora, but communities within the state borders (or on them) but not integrated into it.

              Canon 8 of Ephesus applies as the natural continuation of canon 2/EC II. Has since 1904 at the latest.

  5. Tim R. Mortiss says

    As an “Englishman”, I reject the category of “barbarian”! Especially coming from a “Russian”. As Gilbert and Sullivan wrote, “In spite of all temptations to belong to other nations, he remains an Englishman!”

    I’m going to spend the rest of my life having people ask me if I’m Greek, or if I’m Russian. Oh well, a small price to pay, I reckon. An interesting situation for a lifelong Anglo-American Presbyterian, I must say!

    • Pere LaChaise says

      But if you belong to the OCA, you will always be “Russian” to the Greeks. We’re really coming along smartly, aren’t we?

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        But I’m joining the Greeks, and one now and then has asked if I’m Russian…..

        • Do you tell them you are an English man?

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            I tell them that I’m just a Presbyterian from up the street.

            I can’t really be accused of church-shopping! I was baptised at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in 1948, went to Sunday school there, all 5 of our children were baptised there, all three of our daughters were married there, my grandparents’ memorial services were preached there (17 years apart), as were those of my parents (2 1/2 years apart). I was ordained a deacon there, and later an elder as well.

            It is true we were married at 19 at the Catholic church, but then it was only two blocks away from my church.

            For 65 years (i.e., my whole life) it is the only church I ever belonged too, until now.

            • Wow. That’s kind of respectable and so different fom my own story. I was being silly when I asked my question though.

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                As I said when I first stumbled upon George’s site, I’m seeking refugee status!

                And I knew you were, Colette! I have bemused more than one person I’ve known a long time….

                On the other hand, one can get a glimmer of the reasons it’s taken me 30 years to make the jump!

            • Jim of Olym says

              Tim, was that the Immanual Pres on Wilshire Blvd in El Ay?

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      “For he might have been a Roossian, a French or Turk or Proossian. Or perhaps Eye-tal-ly-anne!”

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        For he himself has said it, and it’s greatly to his credit!

      • Nice seeing and hearing you tonight, Deacon Patrick, never mind the Anglicano light opera.

        All these ruminations on ethnicity are kind of silly since we are all Uh-Mare-i-Kanz

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          I for one think you could have a great Anglo-fest at the Orthodox church: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatos and gravy. Treacle trifle for dessert. Expand it to include all of Britain, and the Scotch booth would rake it in, as would the casked ales.

          Or we could try a “fusion” approach: sliced roast beef and gravy on pita, to begin with…..

          I have a confession to make…. I like gyros, baked chicken, baked fish, etc. But not a lot more than other foods. I’m a food heterodox, then?

  6. 2 Calendars says

    Christmas and Theophany, or is it just your basic English liturgy followed by a blessing of the waters on another date or or or?

  7. Ilya Zhitomirskiy says

    Tim, what I really think that the canon on “barbarian lands” really means is those without an established ecclesiastical structure. In fact, proper Orthodox accept all nations as brothers and sisters, as long as said nations share the Orthodox faith, or at least are not hostile to it. It would be very terrible for ROCOR to leave the assembly, because they are a fine witness to traditional Orthodoxy. There exist traditional-minded clergy and bishops in other jurisdictions, but without ROCOR, I don’t know who would pick up the slack.

  8. Fr. Peter Dubinin says

    Won’t see an administratively united, local Orthodox Church in the US in what remains of my lifetime. However, if the Assembly of Bishops gives itself to

    “Such are the anomalies that are displeasing to the Holy Spirit, and which ought to be corrected (such as important questions regarding divergent practices on the conducting of inter-faith marriages; the practices of reception into the Church; divergent approaches to fasting; issues of confession and preparation for Holy Communion; the release and reception of clergy; etc.). Here there is the need for increased cooperation and dialogue amongst all the hierarchs of North America, in humble obedience to the tradition of the Church, so that the faithful might come readily to see that truest unity, which exists in diversity, and which overcomes deficiency through obedience and love.”

    then I’m good with it all; so be it. For we Americans, perhaps the Assembly could periodically affirm traditional Orthodox morality from time to time; better that those still tied to their Mother Churches not assume their Orthodox children in America will travel the traditional path of God pleasing morality.

  9. Isa Almisry says

    I suspect this was OKed by Moscow, but it won’t be publicly backed. If it did, the Phanar would start unleashing its UOC on Ukraine like was done in Estonia, and the meltdown won’t be pretty.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Isa Almisry,

      You make a very interesting point. I have been told that the Russians take seriously a threat by the Ecumenical Patriarch to declare the UOC an autocephalous church and are quietly “drawing everyone home to roost,” primarily in Western Europe and the US. But enough angst…

      I was a bit surprised that no one brought up this stunning production of ROCOR’s Eastern American Diocese: RUSSIAN AMERICA: Hidden Sanctuary of the Orthodox World. If I’m not mistaken, it was Pere LaChaise who scrutinized our collective “identity,” only in this video to be humbled as I was at the cathedral in Nice: “Si vous êtes Orthodoxe, vous êtes aussi le Russe!” Come on, Pere LaChaise, any mumbley-peg can crank out one litany in Slavonic; check out the poor monastic deacon serving toward the end of the video. I will grant you, however, the difficulty in explaining why you would be doing so in a room full of people whose first language is English. Oh, wait; keep watching, Father will explain it… Orthodox America, 1973.

      Is this yet another in the long line of “headline-suggests-story-that-is-no-story-at-all?” Holy Cow, Mr. Michalopulos, have you actually run out of positive, edifying, strengthening stories of Orthodox Faith? Have you already run out the accounts of Orthodox Christians actually “weary in well-doing” and it’s only 17 days into the new year? Release the hounds already.

      • “Holy Cow, Mr. Michalopulos, have you actually run out of positive, edifying, strengthening stories of Orthodox Faith?”

        Well you could give it a try.

        • M. Stankovich says


          I would offer you the result of my attempts to share my experiences and memories of Blessed Bishop Basil (Rodzianko): they always quickly morph into comparisons of a “technique” used to get rid of bishops, or how homosexual “cabals” influence the church into doing their wishes.

          In response to Mr. Michalopolus’ story of the priest who did not want to celebrate the liturgy, I had considered sharing the story Vladyka told of “пасха под бомба” – Pascha under the bombs – where he was so terrified of the Nazi bombing that night, he was immobalized. Basically, it took his wife nearly humiliating him to finally get him before the altar, serving with a handful of fearless faithful in attendance. When he brought the Epitaphion into the altar, everyone said the bombing ceased, only to begin again when the the liturgy had finally concluded.

          I learned my lesson, colette.

          • Those stories are much welcomed.

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            I too greatly welcome these stories. As I said in the past, I was in attendance at Holy Trinity in Wilkeson in 1982 when Bp. Basil was present. His homily on the Transfiguration then had a powerful impact on me.

  10. The church fathers, by cannon law, set up a system, by which no one has an iron fist, but with a firm guiding hand to give the Faithful a sense of security, where trust can thrive amonf the brethern. How pleasant it is for the brethern to dwell in unity. Excepting gay cleric’s of course,

  11. Francis Frost says

    HEADLINE: NEWSFLASH: Tail wags Dog !!!

    The ROCOR-MP has 4 bishops out of the 60 registered members of the ACOG (5 if Bishop Jerome is ever released from his house arrest). Not exactly a ‘moral majority’.

    The Orthodox community in North America survived for the 80 + years that ROCOR remained in schism. The ACOG will continue its work with or without ROCOR’s imprimatur.

    This is just another move in what my teacher used to call “Church Chess”. It is no secret that that the MP is jealous of the EP’s position. No doubt, the residents of the Donskoi would like to have the kind of influence that the MP had during the heyday of the Tsarist Empire. Never mind how all that turned out!

    The real problem is that the MP-ROCOR reconciliation was effected without any accounting or repentance for the canonical outrages committed by the ROCOR during its exile: The creation of rival traditionalist “Synods in Resistance”, “True Orthodox Church” etc: entities on the canonical territories of the other Patriarchates and autocephalous churches. (Greece, Bulgaria and even Georgia – although that last effort was stillborn). Even though the ROCOR has now renounced these its “daughter” jurisdictions, the question remains: If the child is illegitimate, what is the mother ?

    What is more, by uniting the MP in Russia with the ROCOR outside of Russia, they have created a universal, phyletist jurisdiction that claims the entire globe as its assigned territory.

    “I say it without the least hesitation, whoever calls himself the universal bishop, or desires this title, is, by his pride, the precursor of Antichrist, because he thus attempts to raise himself above the others. The error into which he falls springs from pride equal to that of Antichrist…” St Gregory Dialogos of Rome

    If the rancor between the EP and MP crescendos, who knows? Perhaps Patriarch Bartholomew will finally keep his promise to prosecute the MP’s uncanonical behavior within occupied Georgia.

    May God hasten that day!

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      That’s why the Pope is the anti-Christ, although I hasten to say that I use the term in its non-pejorative sense!

      I have been a life-long Protestant, after all, and I haven’t forgotten that a Pope put a hit contract out on Elizabeth the First……

      On the other hand, I don’t resent it or have any grievances concerning it. After all, his minions were scattered and destroyed by mighty winds!

      • Thomas Barker says

        Have you noticed that Pope Francis bears a striking resemblance to the late actor Peter Sellers? The similarity is more than visual; Sellers, like Bergoglio, excelled in the parody of authority figures, although to his credit, he was never a liberation theology neo-Marxist masquerading as a champion of the poor.

        • Peter Sellers was a comedic genius but also a very “complex” man – as most “geniuses” are, I suspect – suffering from depression and insecurity, perhaps as the result of being a working class lad made good in a still very class conscious England in the 1950s. But it was his colleague in The Goons, Spike Milligan, who is far and away the funniest man I have ever met. I was once at a party where he had the hundred or so people present in stitches. And it was all improvised, based on his dialogue with those present; his mind was very sharp and quite extraordinary in the connections it made. Interestingly, Milligan suffered from bi-polar disorder and his comedy always had an aura of mania about it. But I digress. I’d never noticed any resemblance between Pope Francis and Peter Sellers, but now that you mention it…

      • Elizabeth was the daughter of the whore Ann Boleyn
        for whom the apostate and adulterous King Henry viii left his
        lawful wife( and beloved by the people)Queen Katherine.
        Good Queen Mary Tudor should have had Elizabeth shortened by a foot from the top.(lol)
        Although the roman-catholics have done great harm to us Orthodox, (croatians during ww2, for example)
        they are still closer to us in faith the any protestant sect. Protestantism is far removed from true Christianity.
        Protestant so called “evangelical” american sects pose a great danger to our Orthodox Church in the former communist countries. They spread their heresies among our gullible people. ( In seventeenth century Russia, several
        protestant german preachers were burnt alive for trying to lure Orthodox Russians away from the Church.)
        In our days the Orthodox Churches have a fairly polite and friendly relationship with the ” traditional protestant” denominations such as anglicans, lutherans, reformed etc., but essentially and spiritually
        we have nothing in common. I am from Europe, and noticed, that in protestant countries people are generally inhospitable, stand-offish and cold. The difference between catholic Bavarians and protestant
        Prussians is like day and night. Well, and the English and Scandinavians have about as much personality as fish………..while catholic southern Europeans, like Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese are warm,
        welcoming and friendly. Even here in the USA, I feel closer to Latinos… I really have nothing against
        the english, as long as I don’t have to eat their food .lol. (although, I do like Stilton cheese and good scotch)

        • Johann Sebastian says

          taso says:

          “Although the roman-catholics have done great harm to us Orthodox, (croatians during ww2, for example) they are still closer to us in faith the any protestant sect.”

          They’re about as far removed from us as any Protestant sect is from them or us.

          Ecumenical interaction with Catholics and Protestants should take a back seat to repairing the divisions that have taken place within Orthodoxy over the past century. Beyond our fellow Orthodox, dialogue with the Oriental and Uniate churches could potentially be fruitful, but I don’t see much good coming out of building rapport with Rome when our own house is divided.

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            Has anyone written a good book about the encounter by the Orthodox with the Western Christian world in the 19th and 20th centuries? I mean a serious one, not one full of polemics?

            One often hears some strange remarks here at Monomahkos that give one pause- sometimes one thinks that some Orthodox would be more comfortable if the Moslems had settled America– at least this would be familiar, rather than the strangeness of Protestants and Catholics, “with whom we have nothing spiritually in common”!

            When they entered these mysterious lands, what did the Orthodox think of Catholic hospitals (hundreds of them in this country, in every city large and small), Catholic colleges and universities (three of them in my small state, two with law schools, and said to be nearly 300 in the US alone)? Not to mention Catholic charities, much less the hundreds of Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and other denominational universities……

            Actions are so much louder than words. I believe our Lord said this on several occasions!

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          Elizabeth I was one of the greatest English monarchs, and the break of the English church with the Papacy one of the foundations of English and American political liberty. Mary of Scotland was beheaded at the reluctant orders of Bess when she was caught in actual documented conspiracy to have Bess killed.

          The Pope himself put out a hit contract on Elizabeth. Had Philip I and the Armada taken England, then it would have been treated to all of the Continental (and Balkan) religious horrors.

          I married a Catholic in the Catholic church (nigh on to 47 years ago), I know hundreds of Catholics, and not a one has done any harm to the Orthodox church.

          Keep these ancient hatreds and resentments where they belong: far away and across the seas.

          As for Russians converting to Protestantism: should they be burned, or merely jailed? My advice to the Russian Orthodox (I know they don’t ask it), is to get out and reconvert. Preaching, evangelism, and outreach, for starters.

          Might be a good idea in this country for the Orthodox, too!

    • Mr. Frost, your misunderstanding of the splinter groups is very great. ROCOR is not a “mother church” to the schismatic groups which, entirely of their own volition, broke off to follow their own respective inclinations. Each splinter group had its own agendum. Some broke away from each other, in fact. Some of the schismatic Old Calendar Greek groups also can be traced back to legitimate Old Calendar Greeks. It does not at all follow that they are “daughter” jurisdictions to what they willfully abandoned.

  12. Isa Almisry says
    • Isa,

      This is an odd little situation and I’m not sure what to think. I had noticed the announcement on Pravoslavie about the CS Church electing a new primate:

      but I didn’t think much about it. It appears that the former locum tenens is upset about the election process, as is the Phanar. C’ple and Moscow each apparently had 2 representatives there (sounds like a proxy war to me too). C’ple refers to the Russians as uninvited party crashers. The CS synod’s minutes refer to them all as honored guests.

      I’m not sure what business it is of C’ple how the Church of CS elects their primate. Are they asserting a right of appeal? I realize that “responsibility” when the Phanar uses it about itself = “authority”.

      Ah, the day will come, the only question is the particular situation (I almost wrote “pretext”) that will cause the division. I see the MP as confidently asserting whatever it thinks is appropriate and ignoring (with polite explanations on occasion) any protests of the Phanar. The MP does not want to be the one to initiate a break in communion. Better to be the recipient of someone elses anathema given the current political climate.

      What a spectacle it would make though!. The “ancient” patriarchates excommunicating the Eastern Europeans. 10% excommunicating the other 90%. Actually, it’s hard to say how the sides would line up. Antioch and Romania are wild cards.

      Tail wagging the dog, sound and fury, Sturm und Drang.

      Wake me when it’s over.

      But seriously, it’s hard to say from the news accounts exactly what the alleged procedural anomalies are. Maybe there were some? Is that a cause for outside interference in an autocephalous Church?

      After reading a bit further, a pattern seems to be appearing. I will venture a wild guess, and that is all it is at this point:

      Constantinople granted autocephaly to the CS Church decades after Moscow purportedly did the same. Constantinople has a friend there in the person of Abp Simeon, the first locum tenens after the resignation of Met. Krystof. However, he was doing someone elses bidding (C’ple’s?), not that of his synod. Not a stretch insofar as the new Metropolitan was elected with 87% of the synodal vote. The synod’s statement also lists a bill of particulars against Abp Simeon. They had had a couple of failed attempts at electing a new primate already.

      So the synod replaced Abp Simeon as locum tenens with Abp Rastislav (a Rusyn, btw) for a number of reasons. Simeon appealed to the Phanar. He appears to have broken communion with his synod. Now the Phanar is essentially telling the synod that somehow they violated canon law in this process (pursuant to the election of an “ineligible candidate” to the see of Prague earlier [Rastislav] and to the replacement of Simeon as locum tenens). And – this is where the lightbulb went off – the Phanar states that there will be consequences if they do not repent.

      What consequences, you might ask?

      Do you recall our friend Met. Elpidophoros recently asserting that Constantinople has the prerogative to revoke autocephaly?

  13. Delving a bit further into the canons and commentary cited, ROCOR may be saying that they see two possible avenues ahead. One is if there is not going to be an universally recognized autocephalous church in America. In that case, the situation falls under the exceptions present in the 2nd canon of the 2nd council and they will continue with the status quo. If there is going to be an autocephalous church here, then the analogy is to the Church of Cyprus situation mentioned, i.e., a temporary pastoral arrangement that will necessarily expire in time.

  14. Trot on over to Fr. John Whiteford’s blog and read his most excellent piece on this letter. It truly is very good and I think I may print it out and mail to some people I know.


      He mentions a number of things I’ve brought up over the recent past. I have tremendous respect for his intellect and piety. It might be interesting to get a (well-known) ROCOR priest’s take on the whole thing inasmuch as it’s a document coming out of ROCOR.

    • M. Stankovich says


      Did you have the chance to watch the video I noted above RUSSIAN AMERICA: Hidden Sanctuary of the Orthodox World because if you did, I can’t imagine you would not have some hesitance in your endorsement of Fr. John’s statement.

      As I read Fr. John, he makes the effort to initially stress that what is presented is his opinion, and his opinion alone, yet the remainder of the statement is written in the voice of “we” and “our.” Further, while he makes an effort to describe the “cosmopolitan” character of his own parish – it’s Texas, after all, and he’s no Russian – how in the world do I reconcile anything I have read in his statement with the video of “Russian America?”

      I basically walked out of an inner-city neighborhood where the services of the church were minimal – though everyone was faithful and persistent – into SVS where fully 40% of the services were in Church Slavonic on the Feasts, 50% during Lent, and easily 65% during Holy Week and Pascha. Beautiful, moving, inspiring, like noting on earth! We rehearsed for hours. I understood nothing. I was told to take Russian language. “I am not Russian.” “All students of the ROC study Russian.” “I studied French. Frs. Alexander & John speak French…” Blah, blah,blah. On and on it went. I have written before of being scolded by Met. Ireney (Bekish) at Fr, Florovsky’s 50th Anniversary of Ordination, “The people complain to me the seminarians cannot speak Russian.” We whispered, “The young people are leaving because the bishops can’t speak English.”

      With all due respect, I went to school with Boris Dimitrieff – Archbishop Kyrill pictured above – who ironically enough roomed next door to Vincent Peterson, now Archbishop Benjamin and they both are the Bishop of San Francisco. Kyrill is an American who sat in the Music Room in silk pajamas, a silk robe, slippers, and wearing a hair net to read the NY Times before retiring. And the video above concludes with a visitation to a monastery – Tenessee, I believe – where 45 monks who are all American-born struggle to serve in Church Slavonic, and for what? The video presents the ordination of an American man who studied theology in Russia and now will have such wonderful insight into the needs of the American “diaspora.” This is Orthodox America? Flip a coin, kids. Unity appears to be with the world’s most ancient trailer-park – the four grungy blocks referred to as “Constantinople” – or “The Third Rome – the Putriarchate of Indian Givers.”

      And Philippa, you might as well sign it, “I tried to sell you. Love, Jonah.”

      • Only a troubled soul could find darkness in such a beautiful and delightful video. I have been to the Holy Cross monastery several times. The only time I have heard anything there other than English were when a bishop presided and said a few words to the left in Greek and the right in Slavonic. Hardly anyone there speaks Russian. It has been my experience that in mixed Russian/American parishes there is a half and half of Church Slavonic and English. In convert parishes, only token amounts of Slavonic, if that.

        Haters gonna hate.

      • Fr. John Whiteford says

        You can judge how accurate my assessment is by listening to what other people ROCOR have said in response. So far, I don’t think I have had a single person in ROCOR who has taken issue with it, but I have seen many who have indicated that they agree with it. And since about half of ROCOR clergy are not Russian, when you hear from ROCOR clergy, you are fairly likely to be hearing from a non-Russian.

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          This is true. I have heard nothing but praise of Fr. John’s excellent assessment.

      • Michael Stankovich,

        You are very mistaken when you write

        And the video above concludes with a visitation to a monastery – Tenessee, I believe – where 45 monks who are all American-born struggle to serve in Church Slavonic, and for what? The video presents the ordination of an American man who studied theology in Russia and now will have such wonderful insight into the needs of the American “diaspora.” This is Orthodox America? Flip a coin, kids. Unity appears to be with the world’s most ancient trailer-park – the four grungy blocks referred to as “Constantinople” – or “The Third Rome – the Putriarchate of Indian Givers.”

        The Hermitage of the Holy Cross (featured in the ROCOR video) is in West Virginia not Tennessee and if you would have bothered to just look at their website you would read very clearly the following

        The Hermitage of the Holy Cross is an English speaking monastery under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in the Diocese of Eastern America and New York. The abbot of the monastery is Bishop George of Mayfield.

        But thanks for bashing ROCOR and comparing it to your beloved OCA. Isn’t it amazing that a small ROCOR diocese can produce such high quality media and the OCA can’t ever publish a newspaper even online? But we all can remember the last attempt by the OCA to venture into the media realm, that amazing Nativity message of Met. Tikhon using Theophany music by mistake.

        • M. Stankovich says


          I am neither “bashing” ROCOR nor promoting my “beloved” OCA, and it is quite obvious that you have not read Fr. Schmemann’s The Problems of Orthodoxy in America The Canonical Problem. You would have done well to prepare yourself before whining to me when, for the fourth time, I note that language is irrelevant to the point I have been trying to make! I simply used it as an example of what Fr. Schmemann quoted from Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov & later repeated by Fr. Florovsky: “[people] wholly ignore the history of Church life and, obsessed with themselves, cherish only that which they know.” If you are unable to rise above the usual pettiness, why not consider keeping it to yourself?

          • Michael,

            Your obvious attempt to belittle a thriving Orthodox monastery, one that surpasses in only 24 years anything your beloved OCA has for 220 years was my point. And yes, I have read the document you so revere. So an apology for your misinformation is in order.

  15. Thomas Barker says

    M. Stankovich,

    Your attempt to paint His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill as a fop brings shame upon you. Anyone who has met him (yes, I have) knows there’s nothing effeminate, nothing of the dandy about him. His life’s work is the salvation of souls. The standard he bears is the glorious and life-giving Cross. What is your life’s work? Offering psychobabble to the possessed and bragging about it the rest of the day? What standard do you bear? The DSM-5?

    Perhaps you should have read more of the NY Times and less of William S. Burroughs.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Mr. Barker,

      “Thumbs-up,” Pal!. A “fop,” you say! Any chance you meant this? ‘Prolly not…

      You will pardon me, but you seem a bit obsessive with this whole “sodomy,” questioning my sexual orientation & challenging my masculinity, and now my “life’s work.” While you, personally, are certainly not worth the effort, it does speak to the issue of referring to you as a “rodent.” Some may presume this to be a cheap “schoolyardism,” perhaps a witless insult, but I assure you, Mr. Barker, I choose my words carefully. A “rodent” operates at a very base, very dark and divisive level, spreading disease in its path. Voilà

      My description of Archbishop Kyrill was to say nothing more than what I wrote below, “The issue as I see it is this: reality.” There are better judges of the reality of Orthodoxy in America than Archbishop Kyrill, and for my money, it has still never been said better than Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s The Problems of Orthodoxy in America.

      And it’s DSM-V, Mr. Barker. Now scurry off.

  16. M. Stankovich says


    Digging for “thumbs-up?” Got you covered! Enjoy

    The issue as I see it is this: reality.

    We are presented the story of Vladimir, who was “born in America & spent his childhood [here], but received his [theological] education in St. Petersburg.” We are then told he “entered into a lawful marriage” – the significance of which I am uncertain – and returned to “continue his education at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University (sic).” As we witness his ordination to the priesthood, we are told that, “I am certain that Vladimir, combining within himself the mindset both of a Russian man and one who knows first-hand about life on the North American continent, will be a particularly valuable laborer in the vineyard of Orthodox evangelism.” Sincerely without sarcasm or pejorative intent, but it seems reasonable to ask why? And valuable in which vineyard? With actual church attendance at less than 30% in Russia, he would do just as well to evangelize at “home.”

    This is how the priest describes the “hidden treasure” exemplified in the monastery:

    In this sense are plainly evident the fruits of Orthodoxy in America. Which in the bosom of the Russian Church Abroad is most closely tied to Orthodoxy in Russia not only connected, but its organic member. I am surprised, overjoyed, and grateful to God when I see 25-year old young men, born in America, who have never encountered the phenomenon that is historic Russia, and yet nevertheless, singing the service to the Optina Elders, partly in English, with some elements, for instance the Magnification, in Church Slavonic. I can see the tender and touching love with which the brethren approach the millennial heritage of the Russian Church as they familiarize themselves with the linguistic fabric of Church Slavonic, which is new and unfamiliar to them, and how organically this takes place.

    Tender, indeed. Did he mention that Russians have yet to grasp “the linguistic fabric of Church Slavonic,” – a euphemism for “they don’t understand a damn thing” – and one of the primary tasks of the Russian Church immediately prior to the revolution was to translate the liturgical texts into colloquial Russian? No. Do the Serbians continue to serve in Church Slavonic? No. How about the Bulgarians? Um, no. So we are serving separate liturgies for recent immigrants because they do not understand English and serving half in Slavonic and utilizing, as Misha notes “token amounts of Slavonic” in consideration of what? Nostalgia? They don’t understand Slavonic! Imagine walking into the Post Office and being told, “Out of respect to our clerk, he will be speaking to you half in Somali, but here is a book to follow along.”

    Trouble my soul, Misha? No it doesn’t trouble my soul in the least. It troubles me that you take all this bs seriously. Whack to the izzo.

    • Close the Curtain says

      George, lately all your stuff has been so heavy. With football almost over, and Duck Dynasty censored, may I suggest something new? How about Beard Wars! Contestants will have 6 months to grow and go for the gold. Contestants to include Archbishop KYRILL of San Francisco and Metropolitan Tikhon, among others. We will follow the reality series with weekly updates on Monomakhos. Could be pretty cool. Maybe we even get to create our own Fantasy Beard teams! (can your webhost handle that?)

    • How much Slavonic do Russians actually understand.
      Well “churched” Russians who are familiar with the texts,
      practically almost everything. (there are some difficult texts)
      Those who are not familiar with the text still understand most of the Liturgy,
      especially the litanies, because translated into Russian, they are practically the same.
      However the troparia and kontakia and the scriptural readings are more difficult to understand.
      They understand most of the individual words, but, not the whole text, because of the syntaxis and
      grammatical forms, different from Russian. The Resurrection Troparion in Tone iv would be a good example.
      To a Russian, all the words in this sentence are understandable, as they are the same, with the exception of
      УВЕДЕВШЯ. Although the word “ведать” to have knowledge of” exists in Russian, in this sentence, it is
      difficult to immediately grasp the meaning of the whole sentence, mainly, because of the awkward positioning
      of the words. However, if you “think” the sentence over, you’ll understand it. The same holds true for most
      other texts. Thus, you can’t say that Russians don’t understand Slavonic at all. Because of that very reason,
      the Russian Church continues to serve in Slavonic. Serbs, however, understand very little Slavonic, that’s
      why even Patriarch Pavle served in Serbian. In the book of needs”требник” there is the blessing of the cross over the grave”чин благословения и освящения надгробнаго креста”. How can a priest not know that…..

      • Lola J. Lee Beno says

        Okay . . . why is it that Serbians and Bulgarians don’t understand Slavonic at all? Is it because the meanings of key words have changed so much as opposed to Russian?

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          Lola J. Lee Bono, where did you hear such nonsense/ Church Slavonic is BASICALLY Old Bulgarian. WHAT Serbs and Bulgarians do not understand Slavonic at all?

          • From the peanut gallery:

            Continued use of Old Church Slavonic in the Serbian Church in the USA and Canada is largely a bad expression of misplaced nostalgia. That, or when vernacular Serbian is used, some people — especially to those who are multigenerationally removed from Serbia — cringe because it starts to parallel what Croatian Catholics use in their masses, and therefore, it is ipso facto bad and “unacceptable.” Slavonic’s overall use is diminishing as the older clergy retires or reposes and is replaced by younger men who attended seminary in Serbia.

            Most of the Slavonic “hangover” remains fixed with the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, and often used hymns/responses such as “It is Truly Meet and Right.” But Gospel readings in Slavonic might as well be read in Chinese. Utterly unintelligible to 99.99% of the listeners, recent Serbian immigrants or 6th generation Americans of Serbian descent alike.

            One older Serbian parish priest once said that until the SOC settles upon a clean vernacular standard for use in services that he would stick with the Slavonic.

            The slightly more nuanced issue is whether there are theologically accurate translations for important concepts. For example, some contend that the English “Birthgiver of God” or rough Serbian “Majka Bozija” does not fully capture the meaning of “Bogorodica” or “Theotokos.” One would think that for “key” words/concepts such as “Bogorodica” can be simply incorporated into the vernacular Serbian just as they are and as is done in many English translations that use “Theotokos.”

            After a half centruy of attending thousands of services in Serbian churches, “understanding” the liturgical Slavonic happened by osmosis. It is paradoxical: you know it, feel it, believe it, and pray it, without necessarily “understanding” each word.

            ALL of that said, for my children, English is imperative to their understanding. They get really disoriented with the Slavonic and Serbian.

        • M. Stankovich says


          I am sorry I did not see your question previously to provide you a “polite” and respectful answer. The best analogy to appreciating the difference between Church Slavonic and Russian, Serbia, or Bulgarian would be to compare modern Greek to the Greek of the New Testament, or even to Latin. Church Slavonic is syntactically – and amazingly – nearly identical to the Greek of the New Testament, archaic and very dissimilar to the modern spoken form. Perhaps Peter Papoutsis could speak to the significant difference and why he devotes such effort to translation when he is a native speaker of Modern Greek. The point is this: while modern Slavic languages are derivative, Russians attending the Matins for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple sung in Church Slavonic would, literally, have no more comprehension of the Festal Canon than you or me. And that is a fact.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            LXX Greek and NT Greek are a challenge. I have been studying them since 1996. I have gotten to the point where I can read LXX Greek and NT Greek, but my modern Greek provided my basic grounding. After that it was literally learning a new language.

            Ideally, that is what all of use should be doing with our canonical Greek and Slavonic Biblical and Liturgical texts. Studying and learning the actual texts, but the reality is most people do not have the time nor interest so we rely on translations, which here in America would be English.

            I have said it before and will say it again, the RSV with Expanded Apocrypha IMHO is the best English translation of the Bible. The RSV Psalms are very good, but need revision according to the Septuagint. The best English translation of the Psalms, IMHO, are the RSV Psalms revised according to the Septuagint as published by Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in Otego, New York.

            There are some very good English translations of the Liturgy that we should use and need to use, but we need to demand that they be used. In the end it’s up to us to demand the use of English as much as possible. We will collectively as American Orthodox get to an all English liturgy gradually over time. We just need to be patient.


            • Tim R. Mortiss says

              I concur 100% about the RSV. I hadn’t heard of the Psalm revisions you speak of; where is this available?

            • Michael Bauman says

              Peter, I used to be quite put out by the use of Arabic in the services at my parish, especially when the priests used it. I still want a lot of English but I’ve also come to see that judicious use of Arabic, Greek and Salvonic can tie us in to the rootedness of several thousand years of being Orthodox and the strength of the marytrs.

              My brother and I are first generation Orthodox and he has a grandchild. The transience of much American life needs a counterweight sometimes.

              • sub-deacon gregory varney says

                Believe me Pete up here in Alaska by the Tanana River its warmer than down in the lower 48.

      • taso,

        I was going to say, speaking Russian but not having been born in Russia, I understand quite a bit of the Slavonic when I hear it or read it. Just thinking of the 50th Psalm or the Creed and going word by word, I understand all but a few words here and there. The grammar and the endings are a bit awkward as you suggest, but it’s probably as close to Russian as Shakespeare to contemporary English, if not closer. You get used to the pronunciation.

        In my experience, it’s black and white with Russians I’ve met, wherever they were born. Some are churched, know and understand the prayers fairly well. Some are marginally churched, if at all, and really do not. Not much in between.

        It’s probably a terrible idea to gravitate toward the lowest common denominator. Orthodox in the West have been doing that far, far too long to our utter detriment. In the middle of the twentieth century there was a genuine belief among what passed for religious people that religion was disappearing because it was too superstitious and irrelevant. Salvage the most liberal elements. Hence the liturgical renewal movement, Vatican II, and the whole back to basics and simplification trends. Terrible result. Essentially, it is the liturgical equivalent of demythologizing the Scriptures. Dumb it down to a streamilined progressive (pseudo-)version of the faith rationalized by wishful scholarship and hubris.

        In the Russian version of The Law of God, Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy includes quite a bit of material giving a basic introduction to Slavonic, the abbreviations and includes the tropari in both Slavonic and Russian. Think of it as basic church literacy for Russians. Of course, English speakers need not learn Russian to be Orthodox. There’s an English version of Law of God without all the Slavonic.

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          Of course you can understand Psalm 50 and the Creed; you hear those all the time. But how about festal verses you hear once a year? A few years back, I asked a Russian reader, a big believer in Slavonic, what the alleluia verses of the Pascal Divine Liturgy meant: The first was only six or seven words, and he could make them out; the second was more than a dozen words, and he recognized only one — a word for “resurrection.”

          Any literate English-speaker can read any line of Shakespeare for the first time and understand much more than that. After all, Shakespeare is Modern English, albeit Early Modern English. Slavonic to Russians is more like Middle English to Americans: Reading it is difficult, and understanding it when spoken or sung is almost impossible without great familiarity. “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote…” (Chaucer) If I read that aloud, you’d have no idea what I was saying unless you had studied it.

          I understand the fear of reform, but there’s a lot to learn about Orthodox worship without having to learn another language, and people are actually supposed to understand what they hear, or it does them little good. I know an American woman, married to a Russian, who prefers Slavonic services precisely because she can’t understand the words and can imagine anything she pleases; she says the Divine Liturgy in English sounds like a Broadway musical — mundane instead of mysterious. As you might expect, she is not a very pious person. It’s hard to be pious when you never actually hear the Word of God.

          I suspect many Russians prefer the incomprehensibility of Slavonic for the same reasons. One I know sincerely believes that Slavonic is simply holier than Russian and that the language of Pushkin is not fit for the worship of God.

          I also suspect that many Russian and American readers and singers are simply proud of having mastered Slavonic and prefer it because it lets them show off their superior ability. I’ve felt that temptation myself. Whenever I learn a new line or litany in Slavonic, I want to throw it in whenever I can, partly to please the Russians but also partly to show off. God help me!

          • Yes, God help you. I sing and read Greek all the time and mostly have no idea what it means. So much for that argument.

            It’s not a fear of reform. Silly progressives ascribe all resistance to fear. It’s because the thought that there might be a principled argument against remaking the world in their image and for their convenience is scary and better dismissed as small minded and xenophobic.

            And ascribing such base motives to Russians will win you lotsa friends. Better just to ascribe them to yourself.

          • Johann Sebastian says

            Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says:
            January 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

            “Any literate English-speaker can read any line of Shakespeare for the first time and understand much more than that.”

            Literate English-speakers are becoming increasingly difficult to find, at least in my neck of the woods. Give it another generation or so, and Early Modern English will have gone the way of Linear A.

            Gravitate toward the lowest common denominator, indeed.

            On the issue of Slavonic vs. Russian, however, to this illiterate Russian non-speaker, it seems that the similarities between the two (and any other Slavic language) are quite evident. Root words are obvious–the difference lay in syntax and word-endings. Orthography and abbreviations can be confusing as well. There may be a bit of mind-exercising involved to understand what is being said, but I don’t see why a truly literate Russian shouldn’t be able at least to extract the most salient points of what is being conveyed.

        • M. Stankovich says

          This is indeed heroic! The first Council of the Russian Orthodox Church since the restoration of the patriarchate inhibited by Tsar Peter the Great declared it imperative to translate the liturgical texts from Church Slavonic into colloquial Russian because no one understood Church Slavonic! Now, ROCOR produces a film suggesting Church Slavonic is the “millennial heritage of the Russian Church,” and so “organic” a process, that even George Michalopulos, Greek American, in Oklahoma, USA, will weave himself into the “linguistic fabric.” This as is astonishing as when I heard Fr. Harakas once say “The old ladies demand Holy Unction for their aches & pains. Give it to them! How can it hurt?” I said “Give them 200mg Ibuprofen bid and encourage them to walk. You are scandalous” before I walked out of his lecture.

          What you promote is tokenism and American “idolatry” of ethnicity. There is a difference between fidelity to and honouring those who delivered the faith to us – as Fr. Florovsky has written, drawing upon the “authority of those Holy Fathers before us” is not in custom or practice, but unity of faith and oneness of mind. I say again, this not about liturgical language. For heaven’s sake take the time to read part one of Schmemann’s writing and perhaps you will drop these foolish discussions.

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            Who exactly stated that it was imperative to translate the liturgical texts from Church Slavonic into COLLOQUIAL RUSSIAN, Mr. Stankovich? And what in the world do you mean by th first Council of the Russian Orthodox SINCE the restoration of the patriarchate? St. Tikhon of Moscow, by the way, was chairman of the Liturgical Commission of that Council called years before the restoration of the patriarchate, and of ALL the recommendations received by that Commission, Tikhon approved ONLY the new calendar. On what topics did the Russian Church of St. Tikhon disagree with the Renovationists and the Living Church, Mr. Stankovich?

            • Jim of Olym says

              Dear Peter:
              I recommend a prayer book published by All Saints OCA parish in Victoria, BC Canada.

              The book is featured on the home page there.

            • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

              Peter Papoutsis, I’ve always recommended and often personally used the St. Tikhon’s Seminary edition of the prayerbook. it’s especially good for preparing for Holy Communion, since it has sorted out the canons properly so one may read them straight through…In Slavonic I prefer the Jordanville edition.

          • “This as is astonishing as when I heard Fr. Harakas once say ‘The old ladies demand Holy Unction for their aches & pains. Give it to them! How can it hurt?’ I said ‘Give them 200mg Ibuprofen bid and encourage them to walk. You are scandalous’ before I walked out of his lecture.”

            That, dear Stankovich, is the perfect picture of modernist Orthodoxy. Two men, neither of whom believe in the mysteries of the Church, differing on whether to keep them around for nostalgia’s sake or discard them entirely. You can have that dead, hollow version of Orthodoxy if you want it. It’s not Orthodoxy at all.

          • Johann Sebastian says

            M. Stankovich says:
            January 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm

            “This as is astonishing as when I heard Fr. Harakas once say ‘The old ladies demand Holy Unction for their aches & pains. Give it to them! How can it hurt?’ I said Give them 200mg Ibuprofen bid and encourage them to walk.'”


            200mg Motrin BID isn’t going to do much in the way of analgesia, nor will it have much of an antiïnflammatory effect. In the case of old ladies, many of whom are on some sort of cardioprotective aspirin regime, the administration of ibuprofen may interfere with the efficacy of the former.

            Prune juice, however, may help with aches and pains of a different sort, in people of all ages. Its only adverse effect is being effective at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

            • M. Stankovich says

              Johann Sebastian,

              At the time of the comment, the effect of COX-1 inhibitors was largely unknown. When they became know, it was a matter of “benefits v risks” (one could argue they provide no significant analgesic effect than plain aspirin alone), Since then, we have learned more:

              Yokoyama H, Ito N, Soeda S, Ozaki M, Suzuki Y, Watanabe M, Kashiwakura E, Kawada T, Ikeda N, Tokuoka K, Kitagawa Y, Yamada Y. J Clin Pharm Ther. “Influence of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on antiplatelet effect of aspirin.” 2013 Feb;38(1):12-5.



              It has been reported that ibuprofen interferes with the antiplatelet effect of low-dose aspirin. This interaction is ascribed to steric hindrance at the active site of cyclooxygenase-1 by ibuprofen, when aspirin is administered after ibuprofen. However, whether other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) interact with aspirin similarly is not well defined. The aim of this study was to assess the influence of nine NSAIDs on the antiplatelet effect of aspirin.


              We investigated the antiplatelet effect of NSAIDs using steady-state plasma concentration reported after usual doses. We studied the in vitro antiplatelet effect of NSAID alone, aspirin alone, aspirin before NSAID addition and aspirin after NSAID addition to platelet-rich plasma. The rates of platelet aggregation induced by collagen were determined. The final concentration of aspirin used was the 50% effective concentration (EC(50)) previously estimated in vitro.


              Ibuprofen and mefenamic acid interfere with the antiplatelet effect of aspirin when added before the latter. The rate of platelet aggregation was reduced by 48·1% and 22·7%, respectively. The other NSAIDs tested did not significantly affect the aspirin antiplatelet effect when exposure was prior to aspirin. None of the nine NSAIDs altered the aspirin effect if administration followed that of aspirin.


              Naproxen and flurbiprofen have significant antiplatelet effects at plasma concentrations seen with usual doses. Our in vitro model suggests that the antiplatelet effect of aspirin is significantly diminished when taken after, but not before, ibuprofen or mefenamic acid. None of the other NSAIDs tested had any effect irrespective of the timing of dosing.

              Asleep at the wheel, Mr. Michalopulos? (Kidding!)

        • The language has not much to do with liturgical reform. Some Oldbelievers, for example in the parish
          in Eerie, Pa. serve a lot of the service in English, yet hold on to the pre-nikonian old Russian rite.
          I myself prefer Slavonic, because English is not my native tongue and I am far more familiar with the
          Slavonic text, however the services must be conducted in the language that most Parishioners understand;
          Serbian, French, Chinese, whatever is necessary. There is no such thing as an Orthodox language.
          The Church is for everybody. However, I do hate modern looking Churches with no Royal Doors and
          real Iconostases, I don’t say that they are necessary for salvation,( you can serve the Liturgy anywhere,
          if necessary, )but I simply don’t like modern “stuff”. Thanks God, when you live in a Metropolitan Area
          you can choose a Church to your liking. To each his own…..

          • taso,

            Agreed. No one need learn any foreign language to be Orthodox. And it is nice to be able to choose traditional worship. That is one reason I’m not a cheerleader for Orthodox unity in America.

    • Mr. Stankovich,

      With all due respect, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church continues to celebrate all of its services in Church Slavonic. Only certain readings (the psalms at Vespers and Matins, the Gospel and the Epistle) are read in the Bulgarian language.

  17. “No it doesn’t trouble my soul in the least.”

    Could have fooled me with all the emotional verbiage.

    If you want to criticize Orthodox in America for serving in languages they don’t understand, you will want to start with GOARCH. They actually had books back in Greece with the liturgy and services in old Greek and in modern Greek for the kids to study to know what was happening in the liturgy. They don’t have them here. You know why? Because in all of the pews they have liturgy books with the Greek on one side and English on the other.

    But I’m puzzled as to why this matters to anyone other than crude nativists, xenophobes and those with a cultural inferiority complex. The problem, if there is one, would be in Greece or in Russia. Yet many Russians and Greeks here in America love to hear that part of the service, however little, done in Greek or Slavonic. Sometimes it even brings tears to their eyes depending on how long it has been since they’ve heard it.

    I mean, here there are English translations of the services available in most parishes. No parish to which I’ve been here in America, Russian or Greek, holds the service only in Greek or only in Slavonic. At most, I’ve experienced half and half. Truthfully, I’d rather hear it in old Greek or Slavonic than in a few of the awkward English translations I’ve heard. And since the translations are usually available for those not familiar with it, the people who are actually interested and paying attention to what is being said have access to it in written form. To those who are not interested, it’s background noise anyway. Even if no English were used (which I’ve never experienced here in America), if they’re familiar with the service at all they can figure out where they are in it by the movement.

    It really should be a non-issue except for that little cross-section of people who are either turned off by the “foreign” aura of the services or who are embarrassed by their own heritage.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Madonna mia, the sighing you hear is me leaving the discussion. It is a fact that language, per se, is not the issue but symptomatic of the regression! It is symptomatic of the objectification of the canons, or as noted above, the beards, the curtains, the clericalism, the jurisdictionalism, the love of secrets, the love of pathos and scandal, the anonymity, and everything, in toto that drove Alexander Schmemann to the point of rage. Chant half the liturgy in a language no one understands; what difference does it make? I was with a priest blessing a new headstone for an immigrant family six months after the father had died. He couldn’t find an appropriate blessing – wildly search through the book – so he settled on the Blessing of Salt; every time it said “salt,” he substituted “monument.” They were Russian & did not understand Slavonic! What difference did it make? Do you get it? ROCOR would promote the accoutrements, the paraphernalia, as “the millennial heritage of the Russian Church.”

      Fr. Alexander’s insight is as accurate today as when he wrote it so many years ago. And no one has provided a more viable solution, but have only sustained the reasons he identified for our lack of unity.

      • Let me make this frank and concise: for the last thirty years, people have had the colloquial, “reform minded” olympics that you seem to think is more “relevant”, and in that interim we have lost 2/3 of our presence in North America. That is the sorry rebuttal to the fads and follies your orientation exacted upon Orthodoxy in America. So, I don’t perceive ANY competence on your part here to either indict the past or project your model as success when it has so clearly FAILED. We most certainly need a more mature, balanced and traditional mode of witness. The specter haunting you and your orientation is lack of authenticity.

        It seems that Vatican II Least Common Dominator nominal Orthodoxy got its chance, ran the tables and here we are today left with the bill. Mind you, what you deride as the “bad old days” saw the growth of Orthodoxy as an institution and a way to assemble the people and have them build churches, seminaries, monasteries, etc. People were not ashamed to be who they were then and the mission had more cohesion (and more support).

        But we can’t relive the past. We have the here and now and its circumstances. We have to write our book on page 230, not go back to write page 35.

        I have found that, honestly, “vernacularization” found people not understanding the services almost as much as before when services “were in foreign languages in ghetto parishes”: the reason for that being is that people were still not provided with the religious education and formation to fully appreciate them (or inculation of a holistic Eucharist centered Orthodox way of life and spirituality). Because all that occurred was that Christmas and Easter Orthodoxy became “American” and became even more nominal with no or dwindling roots. The “schizophrenia” Fr. Schmemann condemned intensified in almost pathological degrees. Orthodoxy by osmosis does not create a Eucharistic ontology. It creates nominalism and confusion where people have no understanding of what’s going on or why. It does this in Church Slavonic, English, Greek or Klingon. People were more atomized as individuals and driven further away from personhood in CHRIST because the foreigness of what they were presented was not made native to them in anything but a very gimmicky, superficial and denatured format which more often than not denigrated the weight of Orthodoxy as “inessential” or “arcana” instead of integrating them into the LIFE IN CHRIST. That’s what they came to more acutely understand when things were presented them in English.

        I have no problem with use of the vernacular and see it as a necessity. But by the same token it never became a panacea. While under the mask of “Americanization”, it became a reason for people to loathe and become ignorant of their heritage, AND THAT IS UNHEALTHY, unworthy of the people who built the churches we pray in. Yes, I unapologetically pray in Slavonic from time to time and find its occasional use refreshing and nostalgic and a tribute to the sacrifice of our forebears who built the churches we pray in, not to mention the Mother Church.

        Moreover, it seems that in the OCA, our precipitous decline was because some people decided to impose a calendar change (among other things) which alienated a significant number of our core believers with something which was unnecessary at the time. If you celebrate Christmas on the New Calendar, that is fine, but you don’t have the right to force other people to adopt your sensibilities. The moment your “renewal” begins alienating your core, it means that you are effectually pushing people out of church. They take their children and families with them.

        Yes, we heard that we were doing it “for the young generation” to “keep them in church”, but all the nominalism and fads and follies did were to give that “young generation” the perception that “babushka’s church” was irrelevant, un-American, “old fashioned” and “weird”. That happened because they were presented with a fragment of Orthodoxy without any real formation in most instances. Thus, you promoted further nominalism and made the fires of secularization an inferno which we have as yet to even begin to put out today. Whereas, prior to all this, the fire was contained. Your proposed method became nothing more than trying to put out a blaze with gasoline.

        Could a more workable compromise have been achieved? Well, yes, it would have meant allowing parishes to offer Nativity services also on the 7, January for faithful Orthodox Christians to be able to celebrate Christmas with the MAJORITY of Orthodox Christians around the world. (That’s what still should be done). There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this: it is pastorally appropriate to meet the needs of all parishoners and respect their sensibilities. The moment you allow thirteen days to push people away from the church is the moment you start closing the church’s doors: that goes both ways.

        And another thing, I have as yet to have any of the “New Calendar” commandos explain to me how they celebrate Pascha according to the Julian Paschalion without having a problem with the “dual celebrations” which go on in some quarters, and ESPECIALLY in New Calendar circles, but somehow people celebrating the CIVIL HOLIDAY of Christmas along with the Orthodox holiday of Nativity on two different dates is “hypocritical”?! We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can be Americans and Orthodox Christians without compromise.

        Be that as it may, although people like myself have had to come to terms with the New Calendar (and it still is divisive and can easily be addressed in a satisfactory manner for all), I understand that at a late date such as this that considerations of calendar where we are struggling to witness to prospective converts and reverts is a distraction. Although I am resentful that I have to travel to a parish other than my own to celebrate Nativity with the majority of Orthodox Christians and the historical Church. That is a disgrace. That is a disgrace which did not have to be, does not have to be, and is so contemptuous it has spawned more jurisdictionalism, more disaffection and even schism. The calendar change as implemented became an engine of nominalism and secularization. That is not at all healthy church governance. It was a mistake.

        So, frankly, your own legacy speaks to you before I type a word, and it is a legacy of failure, of a model of infidelity and distraction of presenting a fragmented Orthodoxy whose missionary work is stillborn and causes lapses and disaffection because it neither reaches Orthodox maturity nor spiritually nurtures the faithful in an Orthodox local church model congruent to one pursued by every other Orthodox local church in the Orthodox world which has Orthodoxy as a or the major Faith. It is unserious. It is divisive and it lacks a balance and a treatment considerate of all orientations and points of view while being totally unconcerned with piety and orthopraxia. You as much as admit that yet expect people to say that your model is one of “relevance, maturity, and proper Americanization”. While all you offer is an obliquely Renovationist method which scoffs at people who don’t share your sensibilities and want more substance than you deem appropriate or necessary, people who seek an Orthodoxy which is maturing and traditional. You don’t grow a mission by pushing people away or keeping believers stagnant with an uncatechized faith tradition. It is about time people of your orientation, that of the FAILURES OF THE PAST, get that.

  18. Though written in 2010, it is as applicable now as then. Enjoy the read:

  19. Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

    M. Stankovich, you wrote, “Chant half the liturgy in a language no one understands; what difference does it make?” I agree with you. Anyone who worships at Liturgy in English every Sunday and feast day for a year should be able to understand 98+ per cent of the Divine Liturgy in Chinese, Tokarian, Pashtu, Quechua, Greek or Church Slavonic. After all, most Americans like you attend a liturgy where the only part that ever changes is Entrance Troparion or Kontakion, as few as ;possible. More than one or two would be what you would call ROCOR promoting accoutrements, right?
    I’m not sure what you mean to imply about Father Alexander Schmeman when you (a behavioral scientist or technician, I believe) refer to his rages…?

  20. M. Stankovich says

    The Russian Church herself, through the voice of her own Episcopate, found the liturgical situation in pre-revolutionary Russia extremely unsatisfactory and requiring substantial corrections and changes. To realize the scope of that dissatisfaction and the truly pastoral concern of the Russian Bishops, it suffices to read the Reports of the Diocesan Bishops Concerning the Question of Church Reform written in preparation for the Great Council of the Russian Church and published in 1906 by the Russian Holy Synod (Vol. I, 548 pp., Vol. II, 562 pp.). May I stress that these reports were written not by representatives of some academic group or tendency, but by conservative and pastorally oriented Bishops who clearly realized the growing nominalism and confusion stemming precisely from the “standard books” and a Typikon not revised since 1682.

    “Worship,” writes, for example, Bishop Seraphim of Polotsk, “is performed by clergy, and as to the people-even if they pray during services, their prayer remains private and not corporate for it usually has no link, external or internal, to what is going on in the church” (I, 176). Almost unanimously the Bishops who write on liturgical matters ask for a parish typikon distinct from the monastic one, since the obvious impossibility to comply with the latter results, according to Bishop Michael of Minsk, in “49,000 parishes celebrating irregular worship.” They ask for the shortening of services, “which have become incomprehensible and therefore boring,” for the revision of rubrics, and for new translations-from Church Slavonic into Russian. They see the need for certain changes in the Divine Liturgy itself. It is indeed the apostle of American Orthodoxy, the future Patriarch Tikhon then Bishop of North America, who suggests “abolishing certain litanies which are repeated much too often” and “the reading aloud of secret prayers” (I, 537), and he is seconded by several others: Evlogy of Warsaw (“one should without any question abolish litanies for catechumens,” II, 287), Constantine of Samara (I, 441) etc. “It is imperative,” writes Gregory of Astrach, “to revise the Typikon. This book. . not revised since 1682, has acquired in the eyes of the zealots the character of something eternal, dogmatic and unchangeable. . . . And precisely because of this it ceased to regulate worship. . . . It is essential to revise it in the light of the perfectly legitimate needs of the faithful so that it may again become operative and understandable. Such a revision is perfectly in continuity with the past practice of the Church in this area” (I, 324). Clearly the Russian Bishops see in the nominal, incomprehensible, and often defective worship the source of the people’s alienation from the Church, of the growing success of the sects, and of the progressive dechristianization of Russian society.

    The Russian Sobor of 1917-18, in preparation for which these reports were written was interrupted before it could deal with liturgical questions. It is permissible to think, however, that one of the reasons for the massive apostasy of the Russian people from the Church is to be found precisely in the state of worship so lucidly and pastorally diagnosed by the Russian Bishops long before the Revolution, And if today among certain Russians deeply wounded by the revolutionary collapse there exists the tendency to idealize-almost fanatically-the pre-revolutionary state of the Russian Church, including her liturgical life, there is no reason for us to make ours their emotional rejection of historical evidence, their blind pseudo-conservatism, and their plain ignorance. Applicable to them are the words written as early as 1864 by one of the pioneers of Russian liturgical scholarship, Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov:

    For such people the order of worship with which they are familiar is the original and unchanging order. Why? Because they wholly ignore the history of Church life and, obsessed with themselves, cherish only that which they know. History clearly shows that in liturgical matters the Church dealt with reasonable freedom: she adopted new forms when she saw that the old arrangements were not altogether useful and there was need for a change… Here, as in other matters, she neither accepted the rule of those who, according to apostolic institutions, are to be disciples and not teachers, nor did she allow herself to go into deep sleeping but paid great attention to the needs of the time and the demands of souls…

    We should rather remember and meditate upon the stormy history of the Russian Church which, for all her wonderful spiritual achievements and examples of unsurpassed holiness, seems to have been periodically plagued precisely with acute liturgical problems, or rather with the inability to solve them due to the absence of theological knowledge and historical perspective. This resulted only too often in the inability to discern between genuine Tradition and all kinds of customs and even deviations, between the essential and the historically contingent, the important and the accidental. We should remember, for example, the tragic case of St. Maximus the Greek who, invited in the sixteenth century to correct “abuses,” spent almost all his life in jail because he dared to question errors and defects in the “standard” texts of that time. Also there is the no less revealing case of the Archimandrite Dionisius who in 1618 was condemned by a council, beaten, tortured, and imprisoned for correcting the most obvious errors in the worship of his time. Finally there is the case of the Raskol itself, in which an amazing ignorance, an almost total lack of criteria on both sides, played such a truly fateful part.

    Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “A Letter to My Bishop,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 17, 3, 1973, pp. 239-243.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Lot’s here to chew on, Dr S. However the Litany of Catechumens should be preserved at all costs.

      • Isa Almisry says

        Our priest (Antiochian) has the catechumens come up to the front of the Church for the Litany of the Catechumens, to underline what it is about.

        • More friom the peanut gallery and from this layman’s perspective: The presence of actual catechumens during the Liturgy is the only time the Litany of the Catechumens makes any sense.

          Yeah, I know, after the Litany, the deacon or priest petitions to chase them out. And doing so seems — again to this layman — odd. In any event, the blind preservation of the Litany when there is no catechumen present is hard to grasp.

          I heard a SOC bishop once “argue” that the Litany should be preserved because the Serbian nation is itself a catechumen. Hard to follow the argument, but that was his response to the question of why have it when there are no catechumens present. He, unsurprisingly, was a died in the wool Serbian nationalist.

          This Litany is “preserved” in most SOC parishes in its Canadian, Eastern and Midwestern dioceses. In the West, Bishop Maximus seems to have ordered his priests to omit them. Part of his decision seems to be a function of his overall persepctive on liturgical reform and a raging controversy over the prayers recited during the epiklesis. Maximus appears to be aligned with those who argue for the “truncated” version.

          And that my friends, is one heck of an issue as the truncated epiklesis looks like an effort to smoothe out real differences with the Romans.

          • Alec Haapala says

            “The presence of actual catechumens during the Liturgy is the only time the Litany of the Catechumens makes any sense.”

            There is always a catechumen somewhere. We pray for them, even if they are not present in our parish at the moment.

          • Fr. Alexander’s point is to make aspects of the Church’s observance and teaching ones own and not to hallow them as relics of the past. Which does not mean necessarily throwing out things willy nilly but placing them in our context as our own, as part of our life in the Church. So many who have read Fr. Schmemman make this mistake of advocating renovationism, because it is the easy path of reduction and nominalization, what Fr. Schmemmann warred against. His point was making a return to the Fathers not a hallowing of the past, but the living of their Faith, piety and discipline in our present and future. This was his rejoinder to Fr. Florovsky’s “neo patristic synthesis.”

            To paraphrase Fr. Alexander: we assemble in synaxis as the Church to constitute the Eucharist becoming the BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST every Liturgy.

            The presence of catechumens in the Liturgy is one of anticipation where they are instructed in the WORD which they will come to receive and as yet are not prepared, making their participation in the fullness of the Church, the Eucharist, impossible. That is why they are dismissed so that they can be prepared to receive and live the fullness of the Church in CHRIST. There is nothing out of order then in dismissing the Catechumens to instruct them in the Faith in CHRIST which they are to receive to “put on CHRIST” in the Mysteries becoming the BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST in the Eucharist. It is good and proper… and patristic.

            Here, you are talking about omitting the Dismissal of the Catechumens, violating the order of the Eucharist, in which they clearly cannot participate, the entire point of the Liturgy according to Fr. Alexander, while not instructing them in the Faith so that they can eventually constitute the Church in the Eucharist. Yeah, that is simply more hyper nominalism run amuck using Fr. Alexander Schmemman as an excuse for your particular obscurantism.

            And as a matter of fact, when Fr. Alexander was challenged by Vatican II reformers to “recommend” how the Orthodox liturgy could be “reformed,” his response was that “it did not need to be reformed(edited and cut),” for in his mind “it constituted the epitome of liturgy,” and that included retention of the dismissal of the Catechumens.

            • M. Stankovich says

              For all the accusations of Alexander Schmemann being a “Parisian renovationist reformer,” this list constitutes, in total the recommendations he made to “his Bishop”

              If we now briefly analyze the prescriptions themselves we cannot fail to see that virtually all of them deal not with “abuses,” i.e., arbitrary and anarchic innovations or alterations, but precisely with those aspects of worship where real problems do exist- and where mere references to “standard books” or existing practices solve nothing.

              I. In the Divine Liturgy:

              A. The two little litanies between the antiphons are not to be omitted. Obviously the omission of these two litanies merely for the sake of shortening the service cannot be justified. If, however, is to allow the celebrant to read the beautiful and deeply corporate prayers of the antiphons, now read secretly, this may be a step in the right direction. It is clear that the original form was: an invitation to pray (“Let us pray”), the reading of the prayer, and the ekphonesis. Incidentally, it may be surprising to learn how many priests while saying all the litanies, quietly omit the reading of the “secret prayers”-including the Eucharistic Canon. This I consider to be a much greater “abuse” than the attempt to return to the real meaning of the pre-entrance portion of the Liturgy.

              B. The litanies between the Gospel and Hymn of the Cherubim, i.e., the augmented litany, the litany of the catechumens, the first and second litanies of the faithful, are not to be omitted.

              As long as the “augmented” litany remains de facto a repetition of the great litany, the temptation to drop it will also remain. In the liturgical manuscripts (see the Euchologia published by A. Dmitrievsky [Kiev: 1901]) there are no greater variations than those between “augmented” litanies; the reason is clear- the augmented litany, in contrast to the “great” one, is to reflect the needs and the particular petitions of a given Church or congregation. The problem here then is to rediscover its real meaning and function within the Liturgy.

              The omission of the litany for catechumens was advocated, as we have seen, by several Russian Bishops. The Greeks omit it. Personally I would be in favor of omitting it only during certain seasons-Pascha, Nativity, Epiphany-or for great feasts. Once again the problem here is that of communicating its meaning to the people. [Note: He reasoned in class that these were Feats when the Church traditionally conducted Baptisms & received catechumens].

              The two litanies of the faithful present problems similar to those posed by the little litanies between the antiphons. As long as they simply “cover” the reading of the two prayers of the faithful, they really add nothing to the Liturgy and make this whole part of it, especially in the absence of a deacon, incomprehensible. If, however, the practice of reading aloud the prayers, which in both orders-Chrysostom and Basil-are extremely meaningful and beautiful, were to be reintroduced, the corporate preparation of the Church for the Offertory would acquire its full significance.

              C. The litany after the Great Entrance and that before the Lord’s Prayer are not to be omitted. The repetition – within some fifteen minutes – of two identical litanies is a problem. Based on the oldest manuscript containing the full orders of St. Basil and of St. John Chrysostom, the famous Codex Barberini, I would suggest that the first one be omitted for it is absent from this early text, while the second one- after the Anaphora- is present (see Sobranie Drevnikh Liturgii, Vol. II [St. Petersburg; 1875]: pp. 64 and 76 for St. Basil; pp. 124 and 129 for St. John Chrysostom). While the first one only obscures the organic transition of the Liturgy from the Offertory to the Anaphora (cf. Codex Barberini: Prayer of the Offertory [proskomidis] is read after the placing of the Holy Gifts on the Holy Table upon completion of the mystical hymn of the Cherubim; People: Amen; Priest: Peace to all; People: And with thy spirit; and after the kiss of peace, the Deacon: The doors, the doors; People: I believe; Deacon: Let us stand aright. ..; and the rest of the Anaphora), the second one is in continuity with the prayers of intercession and leads to the prayer before the Our Father.

              D. The First Antiphon (Ps. 102/3) must consist, at least, of verses 1, 2, 3, 9, 1, ending with the words, “Bless the Lord, O my Soul.”

              E. The Second Antiphon (Ps. 145/6) must consist, at least, of verses 1, 2, 3, 10.

              What “standard” book, what Typikon prescribes this? The origin and development of the antiphons – in fact, of the entire pre-entrance portion of the Liturgy – are extremely complex (see, for example, P. N. Trembelas, Three Liturgies, in Greek [Athens: 1935, p. 27f., and especially J. Mateos, “Evolution historique de la liturgie de St. Jean Chrysostome, I. From the initial blessing to the Trisagion,” in Proche-Orient Chretien, 15, [1965], pp. 333-351), but even if one takes the contemporary Russian practice, it prescribes psalms and not verses(see Archimnandrite Kiprian, Evkharistija [Paris: 1947], pp. 163-164) as well as different antiphons for Sundays, certain feasts, and weekdays – prescriptions not even mentioned in the instruction. Are these to be explained by the fact that Bakhmetev put to music a few verses and not the entire psalm?

              F. “The troparia and kontakia are to be sung according to the rule.” I would like to find one parish in our Church where the troparia and kontakia are sung “according to the rule.” Therefore either this rule should have been spelled out, or its application left to local possibilities. The rules in this matter vary greatly from Church to Church and from one period to another. The Typikon of Stoudion knows nothing of such singing. The present Greek practice is different from the Russian Church (cf. Kiprian, p. 172, Trembelas, pp. 39-40). There is no reason why our Church could not promulgate simple and practical guidelines.

              • Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his journals saw himself as a traditional Priest dealing with a sleeping, out of touch Right where he was fighting back the fires of the destructive and revolutionary Left. His spiritual father at the Institute of St. Sergius was Fr. Kiprian (Kern), a patrologist who had been trained by the ROCOR in Serbia, who himself was a Traditionalist. He was never under the influence of the Bulgakovites and was actually very much an admirer of Fr. Florovsky in his early years. His work on the Eucharist is a practical offering on how to make the neo Patristic synthesis happen. The parting of the ways between himself and the old Right occurred precisely because they refused to fully even read what he was getting at and preferred the old Western captivity ensconced in obscurantism.

                The essential point of Fr. Schmemann is living our lives in the Tradition, not tearing it down and putting a radical, reformed, revolutionary alternative in its place while also certainly not hallowing the past as a monument in the place of dynamic life in the Tradition, where the past is revered without an active role on our parts in spirituality, theology, worship, etc.


                  Fr. Schmemann was quite human and fallible. His views and those of like-minded clergy are increasingly scrutinized and rejected in Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, his legacy is not black and white as the above link demonstrates. If you jettison his views on liturgical development and the drift in his ecclesiology, he can be relatively safely appreciated . . . apart from his childish polemics against traditionalism and the ROCOR.

                  Below is a link to the best treatment of Fr Alexander I have seen expressed as commentary on his Diaries. It reveals the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. You get the impression he was a type of nonconformist who sought to do the good as he saw it but who also can be viewed as a sort of semi-tragic figure because of the myopia of some of his views.


                  • I have found much of what has been written about Fr. Schmemann on the Right to not be fully accurate, most of the time they haven’t even read him to any comprehensive degree. For instance, Fr. Pomazansky’s critique of his liturgical theology doesn’t seem to get past the first chapter (perhaps even the introduction) of his INTRODUCTION TO LITURGICAL THEOLOGY. Fr. Luke’s (Murianka) critique of the “Parisians,” of “theology with a cigarette” never deals with the substance of what Fr. Alexander has written, and when Fr. Luke does talk about the patristic nature of frequent Communion, he falls on the sword of “we can never live up to the standards of the Holy Fathers in our days.” (The Church is not dead. The HOLY SPIRIT abides with us even today. Such thought is a declaration that antichrist has triumphed, and perhaps in hearts prisoner to this despair, he may be triumphing). Fr. Seraphim’s (Rose) critiques of Fr. Alexander’s “modernism” deal mostly with how Fr. Alexander’s pupils like Mr. Stankovich interpreted him and their miscarriage of his thought and intent. He, however, had other pupils like your own +Bishop Kirill (I assume you are in ROCOR) and I believe Hieromonk Amvrossy (Pogodin) who took a different route in their appreciation of Fr. Alexander’s thought and instruction.

                    No, Fr. Alexander was neither a sophiologist nor a renovationist.

                    In the MP today, there are some who are troubled with Fr. Alexander’s dismissal of “Byzantinism,” his estrangement from many trends of Orthodox spirituality, his liturgical criticism, even his openness to reading certain authors of the Leftist Russian religious intelligentsia. In some of their concerns, there is merit, but most of the time they fail to appreciate the traditional side of Fr. Schmemann, and often they don’t see his Eucharistic renewal as part of the larger picture of the Neo Patristic Synthesis, and they fail to even understand that a century and a half before Fr. Alexander advocated Eucharistic Renewal, the Kollyvades Fathers in Greece (and today on Mt. Athos where it has been carried out) and their Russian counterparts (St. Ignatius [Brianchaninov] and St. Theophan the Recluse) called for precisely the same thing.

                    I thank you for your consideration, but I am quite aware of Fr. Alexander’s traditional as well as “non conventional” sides, and in the final analysis, I will share what he has to say about himself:

                    “This morning I stayed in bed in a state of bliss – although with a nasty cold. I had time to think. I realized how difficult it is for me ever to be wholly in one camp. In all that I love and consider mine – the Church, religion, the world where I grew up and to which I belong, I often see deficiencies and lack of truth. In all that I do not like – radical ideas and convictions – I see what is right, even if relatively right. Within religion I feel stifled, and I feel myself a traditionalist. I cannot identify with any complete system with an integral view of the world or ideology. It seems to me that anything finished, complete and not open to another dimension is heavy and self – destructive. I see the error of any dialectics that proceed from thesis, antithesis and synthesis, removing possible contradictions. I think that openness must always remain; it is faith, in it God is found, who is not a ‘synthesis,’ but life and fullness.” (46)

                    “…While listening yesterday to the prefeast hymns – ‘Christ is born to recreate the fallen image,’ ‘the Mysterious garden,’ this whole collection of wonderful images and symbols – I thought again and again: the heart, the essence of everything in the Church is here, in the continuous surge towards the ‘ultimate’ as already given, seen, sensed. The Church is the mystery of the Kingdom. The question is why Christians are forgetting it, and how can one come back to it? The essence of Orthodox revival and universal mission should be to bear witness to the Kingdom, to call people to the Kingdom. Everything is there: overcoming secularism, answers to the contemporary problems of culture, history, religion, etc. Few people hear it, least of all theologians who are quite surprised that the world and the Church are so indifferent to their scientific research. Why do people prefer either to reduce the Church to Russian, Greek, or some other, or to throw themselves into (at times dubious) spiritual literature. We preach to people that Orthodox Christianity is not Russian, not Greek, not whatever. We tell them it enlightens the whole life. But people feel Russian, or whatever, and demand from the Church that it enlighten their lives, their reality. For the sake of what reality do we ask them to overcome their wish? “For the sake of the Church,” we answer. But where is the reality of the Church? That is the question. In fact, the Church lives in and by the Kingdom: this is its reality, truly its very own life. The mission of the Church is to carry to the world the experience of the Kingdom, not to reduce the Kingdom of God to anything in the world.” (59)


                    And the Eucharist is the assembly of the Church as the BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST: it is the Sacrament of the Kingdom.

                    I find in Fr. Alexander a traditionalist churchman who struggled with what living traditionalism is in eras and places where the concept was continually assaulted, leaving him to constantly reassess method and substance in a living dynamic which preserved the whole but in newer and fresher language in considering a fuller picture of what liturgy, theology, history really mean. Although I may not always agree with his answers (and certainly not with ecumenical involvements), his approach emphasizing a living Tradition and fighting the spirits of both the revolution on the Left and the obscurantisms, nominalisms of the Right to defeat secularization to be the endeavor of our time in implementing a patristic renewal in our Orthodox churches. A renewal which is not archaeology nor worshipping of ancestors’ graves but reemphasis of the LIFE in the HOLY SPIRIT in fidelity to the Church in our time and into the future.

                    • I don’t find him a traditionalist by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, I do not see him in black and white. It think his critics in ROCOR were mostly much more precise and fair in their criticisms of him than he was in his treatment of them.

                      Really, I see him as a period piece, much like the author of the comments on his Diaries sees him. In the middle of the twentieth century, there was an air in intellectual circles that Christianity was dying out and that the real challenge was to preserve whatever the individual considered the best of his brand of Christianity (judged by humanistic standards) while shrugging off the superfluous. Liturgical reform was one of the manifestations of this attitude. Anything that smacked of “dead” Old World piety was to be criticized and often rejected. “Early Christianity” was used as an Occam’s Razor to pare away at the Faith, an implement so malleable that it could be shaped practically at will.

                      It was wrongheaded and anti-tradition and this provided the context for Fr. Alexander. However, instead of succumbing wholeheartedly, he wrestled with this spirit of the age, sometimes successfully, other times not.

                    • Tim R. Mortiss says

                      Well, Ros, I must say I get more out of this fine statement that from your anathemas contra the heterodox!

                    • If you believe that secularization hasn’t advanced since the time of Fr. Alexander and caused even more harm to the religious landscape of North America, that it is somehow a concern that was a “fad,” I don’t believe you are being serious. If you are unaware of the masses of unchurched and apostasies going on, you simply are not showing any stewardship for the Orthodox mission in America.

                      If you don’t believe that patristic Orthodoxy and renewal in the HOLY SPIRIT is a standard for Orthodox Traditionalism and you in turn identify traditionalism with ritual or ethnicity or the past, your standard of “traditionalism” is one of a very nominal, ethnic play reliving the past, refusing to live Orthodoxy in the present, and never witnessing the Truth in fidelity to the future, never “putting on CHRIST.” You turn Orthodox liturgics into a method of only celebrating a funeral or a panikhida, not a means of saving souls and welcoming them into the Kingdom. You refuse them the LIFE in CHRIST while refusing to constitute HIS BODY the Church yourself. You stand in the way of the rebirth and theosis of humanity in the Eucharist and ridicule the very meaning of the Church and its promise of salvation. You deride CHRIST for saving humanity and becoming one with it by HIS BODY AND BLOOD. You deny faith in the Church itself. There is nothing “Traditionalist” about that. To so nonchalantly cast aside Eucharistic witness and the mission to North America in its native context is frankly such a callous lack of consideration and all the rebuttal that is necessary.

                      Eucharistic renewal is not the same as “liturgical reform,” nor was it Fr. Alexander’s endeavor to do anything more than to provide Orthodox Christians with a Eucharistic piety THEY LIVE AND EXPERIENCE as their way of life. That is fundamental Orthodoxy and the fact you call that “reform” (as if it is something “Protestant”) simply shows you really don’t understand what frequent Communion is all about and why the Holy Fathers mandated it. That type of statement in and of itself manifests estrangement from the Orthodox Tradition.

                      Apathy and nominalism are not Orthodoxy.

                      We are the local, American church, and just as the Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Greek, etc. churches developed their own native differences in liturgics, we too are undergoing that process. We are no longer a Russian/Ruthenian church, and it is about time that be respected.

                      If these are indeed your views, I can appreciate where you are coming from and why you malign Fr. Alexander as you do. But when the challenges he confronted come to your doorstep and begin emptying your church, secularizing your family, when you come to that moment of doubt and ask “why?” “what is Orthodoxy?” you would do well to be as much a “period piece.”

                    • On the contrary, you seem to be the one quite at home being intolerant of Orthodox points of view and offering your own types of facile “anathemas.”

                      Ah, the cafeteria and its personalities.

                    • Tim R. Mortiss says

                      Well, ok, but I still liked your essay about Fr. Schmemann!

                    • Rostislav,

                      Fr. Schmemann really is not my cup of tea but I thought that I made it clear that I’m not condemning him or maligning him by pointing to the opinions of some of his contemporaries and reviews of his books. Most everything I have referred to points to the gray, not black or white. If you wish to venerate him as a saint, no one is stopping you. I’ve seen icons of Fr. Seraphim (Rose) too (but have never venerated one). By and large, I agree with much of what you say on other subjects.

                    • I will let the Church decide if Fr. Alexander will be glorified as a Saint. His memory is revered regardless. I would venerate icons of Fr. Seraphim (Rose) if some canonical diocese locally glorified him. Everyone has their own different points of emphasis and ultimately there tends to be more than one Orthodox path at arriving at the common Truth of the Faith: there are many different local traditions and even variations of local traditions that all end up living the one Tradition. Fr. Sophrony, Fr. Joseph the Hesychast, St. Justin of Chelje, Fr. Cleopa, Fr. John (Krestiankin)… even Fr. Alexander or Fr. Seraphim (Rose): their Faith is one.

                      Much more unites faithful Orthodox Christians than divides them.

          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            A personal anecdote:

            As a seeker still attending a Protestant church before becoming a catechumen, I read about the dismissal of the catechumens, and, taking Holy Communion more seriously than most Protestants, I rather liked the idea of sending non-communicants out before the Eucharist. It made sense to me. Somehow I missed the part about catechumens and other non-communicants not actually leaving at the dismissal these days.

            So upon hearing “Catechumens depart” at my first Divine Liturgy, I got my family of four up (from the pews in the rented Protestant church) and led them out of the sanctuary and into the church hall, where we waited. How surprised the Orthodox were to find us still there after the service! How disappointed I was to find that the Orthodox didn’t do everything they said they did!

            After becoming Orthodox, it became my duty to run after visitors who left at the dismissal. It was a bit embarrassing explaining to them that we sometimes say things we don’t do. I don’t see how the actual dismissal could be revived today, but including the words at least reminds us that the Eucharist is in truth such a great mystery that it was once kept secret.

            • Well, you would take catechumens to religious instruction, much like children are taken off to sunday school while visitors probably would be treated differently these days as they aren’t really catechumens.

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          My 36-year-old son and I are catechumens in the local Orthodox church, which happens to be GOC. We are called up each liturgy after the Gospel reading for the litany of the catechumens, and prayed for by name, nor are we thereafter called upon to depart!

          It’s a good way to get everybody to remember your names!

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      Oh, NO! Not that again! (“Reports of the Diocesan Bishops Concerning the Question of Church Reform written in preparation for the Great Council of the Russian Church and published in 1906 by the Russian Holy Synod “)
      Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin), whlle here in America, MOCKED those who wanted to do away with the Litany of the Catechumens, mocked them! He said that some people are heard to say that the Litany of the Catechumens has no application today, “except possibly in places like far-off America.”
      Later at the All-Russian Council, which seems to have ignored almost ALL the beloved “Reports” recited like the Nicene Symbola or the Torah by certain spiritual descendants of the pre-revolutionary ‘Priests’ Unions,” Archbishop Tikhon was appointed head of the Liturgical Commission which considered all kinds of changes, suggested not only by the contents All Holy “Reports”, but by hierarchs like Antonin Granovsky and others who later ended up in the Living Church or other renovationist groups, approved NO CHANGES WHATSOEVER EXCEPT THE NEW CALENDAR. That’s Saint Tikhon, M. Stankovich!

      • M. Stankovich says

        Vladyka Tikhon,

        My point in posting this section of Fr. Alexander’s Letter was not to stimulate a discussion of the merits of the recommendations of the Reports in preparation, but to emphasize the fact that, as Fr. Alexander notes, “conservative and pastorally oriented Bishops who clearly realized the growing nominalism and confusion” made recommendations drawn upon data reflecting practices in 49,000 churches warned of the immediate need for examination and change. And the warning of Russian liturgical scholar, Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov is worth repeating:

        For such people the order of worship with which they are familiar is the original and unchanging order. Why? Because they wholly ignore the history of Church life and, obsessed with themselves, cherish only that which they know. History clearly shows that in liturgical matters the Church dealt with reasonable freedom: she adopted new forms when she saw that the old arrangements were not altogether useful and there was need for a change…

        Likewise, this was echoed by Fr. Florovsky in his meditations on the catholicity and tradition:

        Loyalty to tradition means not only concord with the past, but, in a certain sense, freedom from the past, as from some outward formal criterion. Tradition is not only a protective, conservative principle; it is, primarily the principle of growth and regeneration. Tradition is not a principle striving to restore the past, using the past as a criterion for the present. Such a conception of tradition is rejected by history itself and by the consciousness of the Church. Tradition is authority to teach, postestat magesterii, authority to bear witness to the truth. The Church bears witness to the truth not by reminiscense or from the words of others, but from its own living, unceasing experience, from its catholic fulness.

        “The Catholicity of the Church,” in Collected Works, Vol. 1, Bible, Church, Tradition, p.47

        And this was later again argued by Fr. Alexander:

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

        I stand by my conviction that there is no better assessment to this day than the words of Fr. Schmemann; no one has offered a wiser explanation nor a wiser path to lead us back. But from East to West is a collective taunting; a collective “forgetfulness” that the Church is one, the Church is catholic, we are only saved together as the one Church, and that “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mk. 3:25) Anyone of faith knows a an awakening is on the horizon. Five bishops of Chicago. Imagine! Fr. Florovsky:

        The Church is a visible historical society, and the same is the Body of Christ. It is both the Church of the redeemed, and the Church of the miserable sinners—both at once. On the historical level no final goal has yet been attained. But the ultimate reality has been disclosed and revealed. This ultimate reality is still at hand, is truly available, in spite of the historical imperfection, though but in provisional forms… Surely this is still only an anticipation, a “token” of the final consummation. Yet the Spirit abides in the Church. This constitutes the mystery of the Church: a visible “society” of frail men is an organism of the Divine Grace.

      • Peter Proboscis says

        People, common sense is necessary here! The Litany of the Catechumens existed because THERE WERE MANY CATECHUMENS! Today, if a parish has one or two a year, they’re lucky. Furthermore, at the end of the litany, the Catechumenate were told to “DEPART.” They were not allowed to remain in the church for the Liturgy of the Faithful. In fact, once they departed, the doors were locked! This doesn’t exist today. Catechumens remain, but don’t receive the Eucharist. What “legalists” in the Orthodox Church have to get beyond is doing things “BECAUSE THAT’S THE WAY IT WAS DONE” without good reason. Case in point, before Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s insistence on frequent communion, most Orthodox Churches in America and elsewhere would only offer the Eucharist to the faithful on Christmas and Easter. Only the clergy received the Eucharist at every Divine Liturgy. A total aberration of Orthodox practice and Tradition. Yet, bishops and priests fought Fr. Schmemann tooth & nail to “KEEP THINGS AS THEY WERE” believing this was the Orthodox tradition. Well, because something is wrong and practiced for a long time, doesn’t mean it’s Orthodox, nor part of tradition. The Litany of the Catachumens was specifically for them in their conversion and then they were asked to leave. How many catechumens do you have in your church?

        • j. phillips says

          After adding two more this past Sunday, I think the count is 34… give or take a couple. And we kick them out too for catechism.

        • Michael Bauman says

          At any given time there are six to ten catechumens in my parish. 6 were Christmated just after Christmas. For some reason, we don’t use the litany.

  21. Antiochian Friend says


    You risk getting your priest in trouble by posting this on the Internet. The Edict of the Metropolitan, republished annually in the Liturgical Guide, is that all litanies between the Gospel and the Cherubic Hymn are to be omitted. Just in the past few months, there seems to have arisen a renewed focus on precise liturgical conformity throughout the Archdiocese. Pastoral deviations are probably best not advertised.


    There was no really logical place to put this but I wondered if anyone else saw it. If this is accurate, the Phanar has invited the primates to Istanbul in March and the calendar is on the agenda. God only knows! Do we need this now?

    • Just to spell out some math for those who might read/comment, the troublesome thing is the remark about the calendar. Now, let’s examine the possibilities (without getting into the merits of the Julian/Revised Julian debate):

      1. The Phanar wants everyone to return to the Julian calendar. Odds: not likely.

      2. The Phanar wants to propose a new(er), different calendar for approval at the soon-to-be-but-never-materializing EC. One that avoids the pitfalls of the New Julian calendar (disappearance of Apostles fast, future conflicts with typikon, future departure from Gregorian, etc.) but tracks calendar dates with the Gregorian. Odds: possible but there seems to be no scuttlebutt about this – also not likely.

      3. The Phanar wants to make the New Julian calendar universal in Orthodoxy through the vehicle of the soon-to-be-but-never-materializing EC. Odds: more than likely.

      To me the odds of actually getting the Greeks and Russians to the table at a synod with teeth have always seemed long inasmuch as there are a number of these little “Venus and Mars” differences which can easily serve to torpedo the ship before it sets sail. While not believing we need to necessarily stir up a calendar war at this time in Orthodoxy, I can’t say it is a bad way of putting the rumor of an immanent EC to rest providing that one does not welcome that prospect. It will likely blow up anyway over ecumenism, canon 28 or some other disagreement if not the calendar.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        Give us back our eleven days!

      • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

        The problems of the “New” Calendar are caused by its originators cowardice.. if they had been consistent and serious, they would have directly addressed the problem of the Vernal EQUINOX, which once was decided by the observatory in Egypt, but has become a matter of consulting inaccurate tables called “Paschalia.’ If one claims to be serious about any decrees of Nicea, one would want to refer to a REAL Vernal Equinox, rather than faulty table of dates based on the idea of an unchanging universe.

  23. There are all sorts of “canonical anomalies.” Non-functioning Bishops-that is, Bishops who oversee no diocese, and have no pastoral duties (unless by some stretch of the imagination, the Phanar’s Ecumenical Center is a “diocese,” and WCC and “dialogue with Rome are now considered “pastoral duties.”) There exist several Canons that forbid praying with non-Orthodox, and concelebrating with non-Orthodox. There are Canons that forbid interfering in the affairs of other Autocephalous Churches. The new calendar was adopted in an uncanonical manner. That the situation in America is the end all and be all “canonical anomaly” is, simply, ridiculous. For those who wish an “Autocephalous American Church,” in more than name only-it is not going to happen. The Phanar now insists it has the sole right of granting -and revoking!- Autocephaly. The Phanar granted Poland Autocephaly-largely at the insistence of the Polish government. Finland, Estonia, and Latvia were granted “autonomy.” Which is what, as Bp Sava Zembilis stated, what the Phanar foresees for America once its jurisdiction here is asserted. Finland had one Orthodox bishop at that time; Estonia and Latvia, only a few. Really similar situations, aren’t they? The Phanar needs sole jurisdiction in “the diaspora,” basically, for two reasons. So that Rome, along with the Phanar, both recently touting the Phanar’s “Primacy,” has one entity to deal with for mutual plans for a new unia. The second? Ah … To put it bluntly, “mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money!” Many Orthodox in America want no part of jurisdiction from the Phanar. There were also the “canonical anomalies” under the Turks … The Patriarch acting as civil governor for his “nation,” as well as payoffs to elect Patriarchs. But, oh, gee, those were “dictated by the times.” The same can be said for the years of communist domination in Russia. One has to deal with historically and political anomalies too. “America” in many ways being such an anomaly. Unlike other situations, where there was no “freedom of religion.” Deal with that situation, too. If people do not desire to be subjected to the tender mercies of the Phanar … Too bad? I’m sorry that historical circumstance caused a decline of fortune, power, and prestige; I’m sorry Constantinople is no more, now reincarnated as a Muslim city called Istanbul. I’m more sorry this situation is trying to be “remedied” by chasing after a new unia, and dictatorial designs over the entire world. Which is the “main thrust” of the “Assembly of Bishops” on the part of its “organizer.”

  24. “Patriarch Bartholomew has invited the heads of all canonical Orthodox Churches to a meeting in Con
    (Istanbul) on March 9 2014, for the planning of the organization of Pan-Orthodox Council.
    As said by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the meeting should be a serious effort toward the unity of the Christian world and improve cooperation of the local Orthodox Churches.

    At the meeting will also be discussed the issue of uniformity of the calendar for all Orthodox Christians.”

    This from the above “inSerbia” link. We can see what this Council is intended to do quite clearly.

    • Yes! Get everybody on the new calendar to “aid Christian unity,” new Paschalion too! That way, that’s one less “tradition that will (have to) be respected” in the American Autonomous Church under Constantinople in its “ethnic dioceses. Oh-you also have to buy into the new unia! But don’t worry! All (wink wink) your other traditions will be respected!