I took the first two images on the evening of Monday, February 25, 2013. The latter two are from the morning of Saturday, February 16.
Fear evil like fire. Don’t let it touch your heart even if it seems just or righteous. No matter what the circumstances, don’t let it come into you. Evil is always evil. Sometimes evil presents itself as an endeavor to God’s glory, or as something with good intentions towards your neighbor. Even in these cases, don’t trust this feeling. It’s a wrong labor and is not filled with wisdom. Instead, work on chasing evil from yourself.
Evil, however innocent it looks, offends God’s long-suffering love, which is His foremost glory. Judas betrayed his Lord for 30 silver pieces under the guise of helping the poor. Keep in mind that the enemy continuously seeks your death and attacks more fiercely when you’re not alert. His evil is endless. Don’t let self-esteem and the love of material goods win you over. When you feel anger against someone, believe with your whole heart that it’s a result of the devil’s work in your heart. Try to hate the devil and his deeds and it will leave you. Don’t admit it as a part of yourself and don’t justify it. I know this from experience. The devil hides himself behind our souls and we blindly think we’re acting by ourselves. Then we defend the devil’s work as something that is a part of us.Sometimes we think that anger is a fair reaction to something bad. But the idea that a passion could ever be fair is a total and deadly lie. When someone is angry at you, remember that this evil feeling is him. He’s just fooled by the devil and is a suffering instrument in his hand. Pray that the enemy leaves him and that God opens his spiritual eyes, which have been darkened by the evil spirit. Pray to God for all people enslaved by passions because the enemy is acting in their hearts.
Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.
Perhaps you hate your neighbor, despise him, don’t want to talk to him peacefully and lovingly because he has been rude, arrogant, or disgusting in his speech or manners. You may despise him for being full of himself or proud or disrespectful. But you are to blame more than he is. “Physician, heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23). So, teacher, teach yourself. This kind of anger is worse than any other evil.How could evil be chased out by another evil? How can you take a needle from the eye of another person while having a log in your own? Evil defects must be fixed with love, kindness, resignation, and patience. Admit yourself as the worst of all sinners, and believe it. Consider yourself the worst one, chase away any boldness, anger, impatience and fury;you may start helping others. Be indulgent about the defects of others, because if you see their faults all the time, there will be continuous enmity. “The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.”(Psalm 129:3). “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”(Matthew 6:14).
We can feel from time to time the most perfect love for God without loving each other. This is a strange thing, and only few care about it. But love for our neighbor will never come without our own effort.A real Christian doesn’t have any reason to be angry about anybody. Anger is the devil’s deed. A Christian should have only love inside and since love doesn’t boast, he shouldn’t boast or have any bad thoughts towards others. For example, I must not think about another person that he is evil, proud etc; and I must not think that if I forgive his offense he would laugh at me or upset me again. We must not let evil hide in us under any pretense. Evil and anger usually have many different veils.Don’t yield to gloomy feelings in your heart but control and eradicate them with the power of faith and the light of the sane mind. These strengths will make you feel secure. ‘Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you’. (Psalm 25:20).
Gloomy feelings usually develop deep in the heart. Someone who didn’t learn how to control them will be gloomy, pensive most of the time and it will be hard for him to deal with himself and other people. When he comes close to you, sustain yourself with inner strength, happiness and innocent jokes: and they will leave you soon. This is from experience.
Lord, give me strength to love everyone like myself and never to get angry or work the for devil. Give me strength to crucify my self-esteem, my pride, my greed, my skepticism and other passions. Let us have a name: a mutual love. Let us not worry about anything. Be the only God of our hearts, and let us desire nothing except You. Let us live always in unifying love and let us hate anything that separates us from each other and from love. So be it! So be it! If God showed Himself to us and lives inside us as we in Him (according to His eternal Word), wouldn’t He give us everything? Would He ever trick us or leave us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32). Now be comforted, my dear, and know nothing but love. This is my command: Love each other (John 15:17).
Beginning on Sunday, August 12, 2012 and lasting through to the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, many special holy icons and relics were present at St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This myrrh-streaming double icon depicts two pillars of the Orthodox faith in Russia. Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), offering the Communion chalice and a benediction, is shown with Saint Matrona of Moscow (1885-1952) because when he saw her as a young, blind girl in a crowd, he predicted that she would be his spiritual successor. Blessed Matrona healed many people of their spiritual diseases and predicted numerous marriages, events and deaths- including her own.
When holy peace reigns in my soul, then surely the King of Peace dwells within me, the Lord Jesus Christ, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and then especially I ought to be full of feelings of gratitude to the Lord of Peace, and endeavor with all my strength to preserve this peace within me by means of fervent prayer and by abstaining from every sin, both inward and outward.
-St John of Kronstadt
Ancient Jewish synagogues were filled with icons. While Scripture required the inside of the Jerusalem Temple to display icons of angels, the icons in Jewish synagogues depicted numerous scenes from Scripture, including:
The Early Church emerged from Israel, and we inherited the Israelite’s ancient love for icons. Like the early Jewish synagogues, the catacombs and the most ancient Christian Churches were filled with holy icons.
Nearly 1800 years after these Jewish icons were originally painted, a number of people are…
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“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
“Again, we ask Thee, Lord, to remember all Orthodox bishops who rightly teach the word of Thy truth, all presbyters, all deacons in the service of Christ, and every one in holy orders.”
– from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, inspired from this verse of Holy Scripture.
Many friends across the U.S. and Canada have asked me to give an update on Metropolitan Jonah’s situation. People often ask me how he is doing, or if I have heard anything new. I hope that I am able to answer people’s questions here.
I am blessed to see him regularly, since he resides here in Washington and has been serving each week at the ROCOR Cathedral of St John the Baptist, a warm and bustling parish. Metropolitan Jonah has been welcomed very kindly by all, including both English-speaking parishioners and Russian and Ukrainian parishioners who usually attend the Slavonic Liturgy. His weekly Friday night Bible studies are always very well attended, and this is a growing ministry at St. John’s which Cathedral rector Fr. Victor Potapov has kindly encouraged with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. Friends from across the country have told me of how much this ministry enriches their faith and spiritual lives, and deepens their understanding of Orthodox teachings and beliefs, Church history, and contemporary moral issues in society.
When I think of his growing ministry, how so many people are asking me how they can access his YouTube videos (these can be found here at the St John’s Cathedral YouTube page), I am amazed and deeply moved that, despite everything he is going through, he has the focus and presence of mind to continue his teaching ministry. I see this as the Providence of God. By cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Metropolitan Jonah is able to continue to serve as a teacher, his true capacity as a bishop.
The true responsibility of an Orthodox bishop is a profoundly pastoral one: to communicate the transformative wholeness and living beauty of the Faith to people in the language and context of the times in which they live. Above all, a bishop’s writings, sermons, and talks should enable the faithful to better live and integrate the fullness of Orthodox teaching and spirituality into their daily lives. As Metropolitan Jonah often says, “what we do in church on Sundays counts for less than 5% of the week, so how are we spending our time while outside of church?” How are we understanding, and most of all, living, our faith day-to-day, hour by hour?
Thus, in communicating to the people the fullness of the Orthodox faith which is the way to salvation, the inner life and glory of the Church, a bishop’s role is primarily that of a teacher. He is charged with guiding the people, “rightly dividing”, or discerning and communicating, the word of Truth in all its catholicity.
This is how I see Metropolitan Jonah: above all, he is a teacher. From the numerous Bible studies, sermons, conference and retreat talks I have heard him give, it is clear to me that he is an exceptional one. Metropolitan Jonah has the charism of communicating profound spiritual truths, as well as deeply intellectual, and often philosophically worded, Orthodox spiritual concepts (theosis, koinonia, theoria, synergeia, hesychia, prayer of the heart, conciliarity/sobornost, etc) in language that people can understand and apply to their lives. Thus, as a teacher who can articulate Orthodoxy to people today living in a cultural context removed from that of a traditionally Orthodox cultural environment, he is invaluable. He is widely and rightfully recognized as an engaging speaker whose spiritual talks have served as an Orthodox bridge to the Roman Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant communities.
Even now, Metropolitan Jonah’s ministry is inspiring many faithful across the Orthodox jurisdictions on this continent. This is a great joy, and I am reminded of one of my favorite verses from Holy Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16):
It amazed me to discover that the verse following St. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to always rejoice is a verse with which I was already familiar, but whose exact context and placement in his epistles I did not remember until re-reading it: “Pray ceaselessly”. (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How fitting that, inseparably tied to rejoicing in the boundless grace of God, we should also always remember to thank and supplicate Him in prayer, our hopes, praises and deepest yearnings which rise like incense to heaven (Psalm 141:1-2).
There is so much for which I and many others close to Metropolitan Jonah are profoundly grateful. His constant kindness, easygoing warmth and sense of humor always put anyone meeting him for the first time at ease. When one has talked with him often, one comes to appreciate how he has not only a remarkable depth of theological knowledge and spiritual awareness, but a profound humility of spirit.
This humility and real sense of Christian love is at the heart of who Metropolitan Jonah is as a person. Anyone who has heard his spiritual talks or read his book Reflections on a Spiritual Journey knows that a constant theme is: “Do not resent. Do not react. Keep inner stillness.” It is this profound theological and spiritual principle which he has so often articulated, one which the early Desert Fathers and many of the Church’s foremost theologians taught, which he is trying to live now.
My wonderful godmother, who is a great blessing in my life, often tells me about the extraordinary life of Bishop Basil Rodzianko, her spiritual father, whom she assisted for many years. From my godmother I have heard many wonderful stories and anecdotes about his life, and in many ways I feel I have come to know this remarkable holy man, especially through prayer.
There are a number of parallels between the life and work of Bishop Basil, and Metropolitan Jonah. Just like Metropolitan Jonah today, Bishop Basil preached the true fullness of the Christian witness of two millennia, offering to all the full message of the Gospel and the Church’s revealed moral teachings.
In retirement, Bishop Basil often served at St. Nicholas Cathedral, and lived out the remaining years of his life in a cozy studio apartment-chapel. He often served liturgies there, and continued his remarkable radio ministry to the faithful living behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union. As you can see below, this intimate, holy place remains in use today.
Besides his acting teaching ministry at St. John’s ROCOR Cathedral here, where he also serves regularly at Liturgy and vigil, Metropolitan Jonah spoke at the February 8-10 DC-Baltimore Orthodox Christian Fellowship district winter retreat at the Mar-Lu-Ridge camp site near Jefferson, Maryland. For many years he has participated in similar conferences and retreats, recently speaking at the 2012 winter OCF College Conference in California.
The Holy Archangels Foundation, originally set up in 1986 to support Bishop Basil’s continued radio and teaching ministry, has been receiving hundreds of envelopes with checks and cash to go toward supporting Metropolitan Jonah’s continued teaching ministry here in Washington. Every day the Foundation receives many e-mails and letters from people across Orthodox jurisdictions, asking what they can do to support this kind hierarch whom so many of us love and support.
If you or anyone you know would like to help support Metropolitan Jonah’s continued ministry, please write any letters or send checks to this address:
Holy Archangels Orthodox Foundation
3027 Foxhall Road NW
Washington DC, 20016
Wherever you are, if you love and support Metropolitan Jonah as do so many people, please continue to pray for him. He deeply appreciates everyone’s prayers. Many of us here in Washington have begun praying the Akathist to St. John Maximovitch (the Wonder-worker) in the hope that this blessed saint will intercede with the Lord to bring about a clear resolution.
May God bless you and keep you, and give you joy in all things.
This is a video featuring snapshots of liturgical life and day-to-day living for the monks of Holy Cross Monastery, located in my hometown of East Setauket, New York. The monastic brotherhood, led by the Most Reverend Archimandrite Maximos (Weimar), is under the omophorion (canonical authority) of His Eminence +Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. The monks maintain a beautiful blog here, and using these two links, you can access their popular Facebook pages.
The opening to the video is hauntingly beautiful. The first chant which you hear (sung by the brothers of the Valaam island monastery in Russia’s Lake Ladoga) is Stasis 3 of the Bridegroom Lamentation chants for Good Friday. At 1:02 you see the Abbot of the monastery, the Most Reverend Archimandrite Maximos (Weimar), a very kind man and wise counselor and pastor. At 3:52 you see Fr. Hierodeacon Parthenios (Miller), a wonderfully kind, talented choralist and theologian.
Throughout this video, indicative of the incredible diversity and catholicity of Orthodoxy, you will hear Church hymns and prayers in multiple languages: English, Russian, Greek, and Georgian. These languages are often used in every Liturgy, along with Romanian and sometimes Spanish.
As of January 2012, I had attended Liturgy here only twice when I was home briefly for Winter Break before leaving to study on exchange at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. Since my return to the United States, I have been blessed to visit the kind monks whenever I am back at home in Setauket.
Here is a PDF file of that week’s newspaper edition in which my article features.
The Village Times Herald is owned by the Times Beacon Record newspapers which covers news on the North Shore of Long Island’s Suffolk County from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River. You can access their Facebook page here.
Below is my original article, unabridged. Given the spatial constraints, I am very grateful to editor Rachel Shapiro for publishing the article in almost its entire original form.
A Quiet, Prayerful Presence
By Ryan Hunter
December 22, 2012
There is a small religious community here in Setauket which remains a mystery to many residents. Many do not even know it exists. When you are driving through town and turn off Route 25A onto Main Street, pass the Setauket United Methodist Church on your left and head north toward Emma S. Clark public library, the village green with its historic Caroline Church of Brookhaven and Setauket Presbyterian Church, you will pass, on your left, another white church right before Setauket Elementary School. This small, peculiar-looking building stands out: it is topped with a golden, Russian style onion dome and the cross of St. Olga.
Nestled here behind the tall, green juniper hedges lives the Russian Orthodox Brotherhood of the Holy Cross. The men who live here are monks, part of an Eastern Orthodox monastery under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). You may have seen some of the monks around town, perhaps shopping in the supermarket, clad in their long black robes. The sight of these men might make some of you wonder: Why do they wear those funny robes? And what about those long beards and head coverings? It may seem strange that these men, living in the 21st century, would choose to live as they do, in a religious brotherhood. You might be asking: what do they do?
The very kind abbot, or superior, of the monastery is the Archimandrite Father Maximos Weimar. He and several of the hieromonks (priest-monks) who assist him spend considerable time traveling to diocesan and regional church conferences, and visiting Orthodox parishes in the local area and region. They give spiritual talks at the invitation of bishops and church pastors, visit and pray with those who are ill in hospitals or suffering from the loss of loved ones, and serve beautiful liturgies where they offer prayers to God on behalf of everyone in the local community, New York, the United States, and throughout the world.
At the monastery, the monks dedicate themselves to a life of ceaseless prayer. Even while they are busy looking after visitors, keeping up the beautiful grounds, or restoring and expanding the monastery’s old buildings, they are always praying. Like Roman Catholic monks and nuns, they have taken vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience. As Orthodox Christians, they fast every Wednesday and Friday, as well as observing several more rigorous fast periods during the year, including Great Lent and the pre-Nativity (Advent) period. The monks support each other in their efforts to, through lifelong repentance, spiritual growth, and renewal, become transformed in the image of God. This is a process called theosis, or divinization, about which the earliest Christian leaders and theologians wrote widely.
Worship is central to the monks’ daily lives. Every morning and evening they gather in the beautiful, recently renovated chapel dedicated to Saint Herman of Alaska (1756-1837), a peaceful Russian evangelist to the Yupik and Aleut native tribes. At every service, they pray to God and all the saints for those who have asked their prayers. They pray for the healing of the sick, peace for the grieving, and rest for the departed.
A vibrant, close-knit community of parishioners thrives here. Just like the monks, who come from a diverse array of ethnic and religious backgrounds and traditions, the parishioners are a diverse representation of Orthodoxy, which, though a small presence in North America, is the world’s second largest Christian faith. Greek, Russian and Georgian immigrants, and many Americans all worship here. Some were raised in the faith, but many, like myself, are converts. Every Sunday for the Eucharistic service (the Divine Liturgy), and on many major feast days of the Church, the chapel is filled with the monks, parishioners, and visitors all worshiping together.
Because the monks dedicate their life to serving in the Church, they offer the divine services even when only a few people show up to worship with them. The weeknight Vespers is a peaceful, beautiful candlelit service, sung in its entirety, as all Orthodox services are, and filled with the ethereal, ancient chants and hymns of Eastern Christianity. Always hospitable, the monks invite everyone to visit with them after service and enjoy some refreshments or a light meal. They are exceptionally kind.
This holiday season, when Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior and Jews recall with the Festival of Lights the miracle of the burning oil in the Temple, is a time of festive rejoicing for all. It is a time when, surrounded by loved ones, many of us rededicate ourselves to what—and who—matters most. In all the sorrows and challenges of life, we rely on the loving support, encouragement, and prayers of those dear to us. Wherever you are in your life, whatever your circumstances, whatever burdens you have weighing you down even now, know that there is, in this town, a warm-hearted community which remembers you every day in their prayers.
Ryan Hunter talked with the monks of the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross over many discussions and interviews. He is an active member of the Orthodox Church and a parishioner at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, D.C. A senior pursuing his BA in History at American University, he attends services at the monastery whenever he is home in Setauket and studies with the monks.
The Orthodox Faith is Nothing Without Transformation of Life
If your spiritual life is concentrated only on external practices and traditions, but does nothing to bring about real change, you have gained nothing. Too many people think as long as they keep the fasting rules, do their prayers, and attend the services, they are good Orthodox Christians. Yet if there is no love, no charity, and forgiveness of others, and your life is filled with gossip and judgement, your Orthodox Christian faith is worth nothing.
Christ condemned the Pharisees not because they kept the law and attended to the traditions of the Jewish faith, but because they did so while filled with pride and arrogance. Without sincere repentance and holiness of life, their encounter with God led to an emptiness of heart.
Because our Orthodox faith is one of tradition and liturgical structure, it is easy to fall into the trap of being nothing more than a Pharisee. Being strict in one’s observance of Orthodox practices can easily lead to pride and arrogance. If you find yourself feeling better than others and proud of your piety, you have gained absolutely nothing. The external practice of the Orthodox Christian faith without heartfelt humility and repentance leads down the road of spiritual ruin.
The Church is the hospital of the soul, but healing can only come if we put effort into it. If your doctor prescribes a medication for your condition but you fail to follow your doctor’s orders, you will not get well. The Church has all that you need for spiritual transformation, but healing only comes if you cooperate with the healing process.
The goal is holiness (wholeness) and is the direct result of our having submitted in all humility to a life of repentance. When you do this Christ changes you. If you simply go through the motions of your Orthodox faith, you are no better off than the Pharisees whom Christ condemned.
Love in Christ,
The Very Reverend Igumen Abbot Tryphon is the spiritual leader at All Merciful Saviour monastery located on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington State. The monastery is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The monastery’s widely acclaimed and popular Facebook page can be found here. Abbot Tryphon’s popular blog can be accessed here.
“We should view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better example!). There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common, and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocent’s attitude to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us. A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teaching.”
– Fr. Seraphim Rose (1934-82)
“God is love, and therefore the preaching of His word must always proceed from love. Then both preacher and listener will profit. But if you do nothing but condemn, the soul of the people will not heed you, and no good will come of it.”
– St Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938)
This evening, I received an update that someone had commented on one of my recent blog pieces. The person, using the name “Orthodoxy or Death”, commented the following:
“Another friend who attended the banquet described to me his shock to hear Fr. Leonid praise Metropolitan Tikhon in his introduction with these words, again a thinly veiled attack on Metropolitan Jonah: ‘This one is no Lone Ranger!’ I respect Father Leonid for his many years of engagement with various ecumenical bodies, such as the World Council of Churches, but I find it difficult to view him as a man of integrity given that he engaged in such derisive remarks about a former Primate of his whom he seems to delight in insulting, regarding as almost an enemy. This just doesn’t seem to me like a Christian way of thinking — or speaking — especially from someone with so many years of active service in the Church.”
Why would you respect anyone for “engagement with various ecumenical bodes, such as the World Council of Churches”? Has he upon every appearance and interaction with that body told it repeatedly that they are all in schism and heresy and that Orthodoxy alone is the Church, and no real Christianity exists outside of us, and that Orthodox shouldn’t even be members of such false “ecumenical” groups?
You misconstrued the meaning of my respect for Fr. Leonid– which, I must say, I’m afraid is not very deep since he took a leading role in the uncanonical conspiracy to force Metropolitan Jonah to resign. As the name you use is “Orthodoxy or Death”, it is clear that you are quite anti-ecumenical in your sentiments.
I don’t know why you ask a question to which you obviously know the answer. Fr. Leonid certainly does not do as you described, since none of these bodies would respect him if he did. No one embraces a faith if they are made to despise and feel ashamed of their own. Instead they become defensive and become less receptive to hearing about the other faith. Would anyone convert to Orthodoxy just because they are made to despise the faith of their childhood, rather than love Orthodoxy for its incomparable fullness? I have never met such a person.
Even the most prominent anti-ecumenists of our day, such as the late Fr. Seraphim Rose, wrote that non-Orthodox peoples must be treated not with polemics and derision, but as fellow icons of Christ, even if they do not worship the same God we do or recognize Christ or the Theotokos the way we do. If we do not treat them with basic kindness and respect as human beings, fellow children of God, we will not be in a position to communicate to them anything about Orthodoxy. False prophets who seek to convert people to their heretical faiths, such as the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon/LDS Church), The Episcopal Church, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, and most if not all evangelical pastors must be condemned as such, as heretics or even as non-Christians, but we much reach out to their ordinary members with love and kindness to begin to bring them away from these heterodox churches or religious groups. Here is a wonderful link which goes into more detail, quoting from Fr. Seraphim Rose and St Silouan the Athonite, my patron saint:
I wrote what you quoted above in the interest of basic Christian charity- I wanted to find something to respect in Fr. Leonid. I do not presume to know what exactly he talks about in these dialogues, but I imagine he, in a more polite way, communicates some of the points you mentioned above.
Engagement in these bodies, generally in the form of lengthy meetings and the writing of many statements of agreement and intent between different hierarchs and various non-Orthodox religious leaders, is often rather vapid in content but generally serves a purpose in that it makes various often extremely heterodox bodies aware of our existence. They become acquainted with our theology, many witness the incomparable beauty, richness, and theological fullness of our Liturgies and other divine services, and I imagine some have been moved to convert to Orthodoxy, inspired by their engagement with our Faith.
Think of all the tiny Protestant churches which have embraced completely heterodox [usually Calvinist] theology. I imagine sometimes, in areas dominated by more insular, communities of cradle Orthodox which do not reach out beyond their own parish, Orthodoxy has little to no witness or presence outside these small ethnic communities. This itself is an abdication of the Gospel mandate in Matthew 28:19.
I do not support the kind of involvement in these ecumenical groups which has led to some Orthodox abandoning their obligation to share the Gospel in an organic way.
Your comment raises an important point- how do we best spread the Gospel? I firmly believe that we should offer to bring our friends to church, and better educate ourselves about our theology and the lives of the saints and the details of the Liturgy, so that, if put in such a scenario, we may talk truthfully and accurately about our faith. This is an area where I have found many predominantly cradle Orthodox parishes to be impoverished, especially those which adapt a generally negative view toward converts, or who presuppose that all converts bring with them significant evangelical, Roman Catholic, or other theological ‘baggage’. These parishes often have almost no faith outreach and do not see the need for the laity to serve as Christian witnesses at all.
However, those converts who seek too overtly to change what they see as problems in their parishes, or who presume themselves somehow as being more knowledgeable and therefore “more Orthodox” than many of their fellow parishioners, only end up hurting and alienating the cradle Orthodox in their community rather than lovingly and carefully convincing them, for instance, to refrain from putting in pews, or the priceless wisdom found in not abbreviating the Liturgy. The root problem here is a profound failure in catechism and a lot of either overt or latent secularizing/modernizing influences which have crept into many parishes.
I am in support of ecumenism insofar as it involves engagement with those outside the Orthodox Church for the purposes of 1) teaching them about our beliefs and not simply pretending we all believe the same thing, which we obviously don’t or there would be no need to engage as separate bodies in these dialogues, 2) attempting to show to those in other Christian communions that our Church holds to the original, apostolic Christian Faith, and 3) working toward collaborative solutions to end problems afflicting all of humanity, from the horrific reality of abortion, to child mortality in developing nations, to cyclic poverty and endemic violence in many poorer communities.
This beautiful video is essentially a synopsis of parts of the Friday, February 1 festal Liturgy at Moscow’s restored Christ the Savior Cathedral commemorating Patriarch Kirill‘s enthronement four years ago.
The ethereal singing of the Meet is is/ Dostoino ‘yest to the Theotokos as His Holiness processed into the Cathedral and venerated the main icons and relics deeply moved me. Among the senior metropolitans con-celebrating at the cathedral with the Patriarch were His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
It was also a joy to behold the Patriarch’s profound reverence for the divine presence in the consecrated Eucharist following the epiklesis. I had never seen a bishop or priest fall completely prostrate before the altar as he did! In his prostration before the consecrated elements, his deep piety here shows his awareness and integration of his symbolic and liturgical role as the spiritual leader of the Russian Church, offering the prayers of all Russian Orthodox people before the altar.
It also struck me that the Church allowed cameras in the altar area itself, so what the viewer sees happening in the altar is truly remarkable- the intense emotions on the face of the Patriarch during the anamnesis and epiklesis itself. His deep reverence reminded me of how I imagine the most pious and devout of the High Priests at the Temple of Jerusalem would have been!
Following the Liturgy, His Holiness gave a sermon in which he outlined what he believed were the achievements of the past four years in the life of the Russian Church, and where he hoped additional developments would occur. Here is a YouTube recording of his sermon in Russian.
President Vladimir Putin, in his capacity as head of state of the Russian Federation, sent Patriarch Kirill a congratulatory telegram, while Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, as chairman of the Russian Government, met with the Patriarch along with his wife, Svetlana Medvedeva, who works closely with the Moscow Patriarchate coordinating joint Church-state efforts to ease the plight in orphanages, assist drug addicts, and advocate for traditional moral causes.
On Saturday, February 2, following a solemn Divine Liturgy, the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church under the presidency of Patriarch Kirill convened in Christ the Savior Cathedral.