The Abuse of “Takbir” from Ballot Boxes To Woolwich


For many non-Muslims, “Allahu Akbar,” or God is Great has become synonymous with radicalism, brutal murders, rape, and even cannibalism committed in the name of Islam. It is hardly surprising, as the Islamic slogan has been repeatedly used and abused by anyone who wants to justify his or her crimes by adding the wrap of Islamic religiosity. A recent example of such glaring abuse in the name of God was the appalling crime in Woolwich, in which two criminals brutally attacked a soldier, beheading him and mutilating his body. Eyewitnesses reported how the perpetrators chanted, “Allahu Akbar” while committing their sick murder.

The crime in Woolwich, like many previous terrorist acts, ignited debate about Islam and extremism. Of particular interest has been whether radicalism is linked to the exploitation of Muslims’ grievances or ideological and theological interpretations of Islam. In fact, it has nothing to…

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Positive resolution at last

Monday, May 27, at St Tikhon's Monastery: From left: Bishop Michael, Archbishop Benjamin, former OCA Metropolitan Jonah, current OCA Metropolitan Tikhon, ROCOR Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop Melchizedek, and Bishop Mark.

Monday, May 27, at St Tikhon’s Monastery: From left: Bishop Michael, Archbishop Benjamin, former OCA Metropolitan Jonah, current OCA Metropolitan Tikhon, ROCOR Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop Melchizedek, and Bishop Mark

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

-Psalm 133 KJV (132 LXX)

As many of you may have read via, e-mail, or the OCA Facebook page, Metropolitan Jonah’s ecclesiastical and financial situation with the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has finally been resolved. As reported on the OCA website here, Metropolitan Tikhon invited Metropolitan Jonah to meet with him and members of the OCA Holy Synod this past Monday at St Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania to reach a consensus on his situation.

It appears that all has at last been settled, and that the hierarchs and senior clergy in the OCA have agreed to honor Patriarch Kirill’s admonition in his November 2012 congratulatory letter to Metropolitan Tikhon that “through the efforts of Your Beatitude the American Church will restore full-fledged relations with other Local Orthodox Churches, restore peace and harmony within herself and make comfortable the further life of your predecessor at the Metropolitan See of Washington.” (Emphasis mine). Glory to God that after months of uncertainty, this at last has been accomplished!

Here is the text of the short article posted on Monday on

May 27, 2013

Metropolitan Tikhon, Holy Synod members meet with Metropolitan Jonah


A brief statement with regard to the retirement of His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah was issued by the Office of Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, on Monday, May 27, 2013.

The text of the statement reads as follows.
“At the invitation of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah met with a number of members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA and reached an understanding with the Holy Synod concerning his retirement. Following their meeting, Metropolitans Tikhon and Jonah, together with hierarchs of the Holy Synod and guest hierarchs, including His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy marking the 109th annual Pilgrimage to the monastery.”

On Monday, May 27, Memorial Day, Metropolitans Tikhon, Jonah and Hilarion concelebrate the Divine Liturgy in the belltower of St Tikhon's Monastery, South Canaan, PA.

On Monday, May 27, Memorial Day, Metropolitans Tikhon, Jonah and Hilarion concelebrate the Divine Liturgy in the belltower of St Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA.

Additionally, from this article on the pilgrimage to St Tikhon’s Monastery posted yesterday, May 28, on the OCA website, one may read the following excerpt:

“. . . In the revival of another custom that had faded in the 1980s, the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the monastery bell tower, rather than the pavilion, on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27.  Concelebrating with Metropolitan Tikhon were Metropolitan Jonah; Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; Archbishop Benjamin; Bishop Melchizedek of Pittsburgh; Bishop Michael; and Bishop Mark.”

In terms of the details of the agreement reached between the hierarchs, Metropolitan Jonah has been awarded a monthly stipend along with insurance coverage to support his continued ministry in the life of the Church, and he will not be expected to absent himself from both Dallas and Washington, D.C. as some senior OCA leaders had previously demanded, but will free to live where he likes. He be listed as the OCA’s most recently retired former Primate and Metropolitan, and he will keep the style of Metropolitan, since he was consecrated to this primatial honor by the grace of the Holy Spirit at his enthronement at St Nicholas Cathedral in November 2008. 

Joyfully, Metropolitan Jonah is also free to serve wherever he likes and will be at liberty to eventually start a monastery in the DC Metropolitan area, as he has wished to do for some time. Plans are currently underway to look into acquiring a rural Maryland site near Washington, D.C. which has a host of beautiful buildings. Evidently, the OCA hierarchs have agreed that they will no longer oppose his transfer to another Orthodox jurisdiction (as some had previously) in the event that another jurisdiction requests his reception.

Metropolitans Jonah and Tikhon exchange the kiss of peace during the Divine Liturgy on Monday, May 27, 2013 at St Tikhon's Monastery in South Canaan, PA.

Metropolitans Jonah and Tikhon exchange the kiss of peace during the Divine Liturgy on Monday, May 27, 2013 at St Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA.

In the meantime, two weeks ago Metropolitan Jonah launched a new seminar at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist in DC, “Orthodoxy 101”. Here are links to the YouTube video recordings of the first and second lectures, respectively. For this seminar series, Vladyka has encouraged us to do additional readings and out-of-class research, in the manner of an engaging university seminar.

It is my sincere hope, as it is the hope of so many Orthodox Christians who have either remained in their parishes or found their spiritual home in another jurisdiction, that the OCA senior hierarchs will offer a public apology for the deeply offensive letter they released on July 16, 2012 which contains many falsehoods about Metropolitan Jonah. In time, I hope that the OCA hierarchs will realize that this simple step – a public apology for issuing a letter containing so many false allegations about their primate – will do more than any continued silence to bring about a fullness of healing to the faithful within the OCA. This is my hope, but not my expectation.

Still, these are joyous developments, and I am very glad that things have at last been resolved in a dignified and fair way. Glory to God for His providence which brings good out of evil and causes us to rejoice after sorrows.

Joyfully in the Risen Lord,


Pascha, the Feast of Feasts!


Pascha, the Feast of Feasts!

“Enjoy ye all the feast of faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.”
(From the Paschal Sermon of St John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)

Orthodox Easter, called Pascha (The Greek term for the Hebrew ‘Pesach’, meaning Passover) is the Feast of Feasts, since it is by far the most liturgically and theologically important Orthodox celebration of the year. For all Christians, the Lord’s Resurrection is the most sacred of days, but among Eastern Christians the feast is observed with a special solemnity and then great rejoicing.

In part, our rejoicing is due to the fact that Pascha is also uniquely a culinary delight for us. While many Protestants and Roman Catholics may choose to fast, prolonged periods of fasting are no longer the norm in the praxis, or normative and guiding practice, in these Western Christian traditions. All Orthodox Christians in good medical health are expected to adhere to an ancient fasting discipline throughout the year, handed down for centuries in the inner discipline of the Church. This includes abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays in remembrance of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and His crucifixion, although following the Lord’s Resurrection we do not fast at all for a set period, and so the Paschal season for us is one of spiritual, and literal, feasting and rejoicing!

This is because Orthodox Christians keep an especially rigorous fast during the lengthy ascetic period of Great Lent, the 47 days preceding Pascha. During this time, we abstain from all meat, fish, olive oil and dairy products as a means to help us grow spiritually. We essentially go vegan for this time period. Not intended to serve as legalistic rules, the fasting guidelines for each person will differ slightly depending on the advice of one’s spiritual mentor, but among those Orthodox Christians who are not in grave or terminal illness or pregnancy (under these conditions any fasting is strictly forbidden) generally most observant Orthodox Christians will follow the fasting guidelines closely. Thus, Pascha is doubly joyous for us because our strict fasting gives way to a culinary feast without any restrictions in diet!

In the Russian tradition, decorated kulich – tall, cylindrical loaves of sweet bread baked with raisins and poppy seeds – are rich in taste and theological symbolism. Marked with ‘XB’, the Cyrillic initials for ‘Christ is Risen’, along with Orthodox crosses, their very decoration and height call to mind the Resurrection.

Made with the rich dairy from which we abstain during Great Lent, these are baked during Holy Week and blessed and consumed immediately after the midnight Paschal liturgy. They are cut horizontally, and paskha (a rich, sweet cream formed into a pyramid, made with cottage and ricotta cheese) spread on them.

I took the above image around 5am this morning in the parish hall after the Paschal Divine Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist, the parish I attend here in Washington.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!


Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

“Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”

“Хрїстосъ воскресе изъ мертвыхъ,
Смертїю смерть поправъ,
И сѹщымъ во гробѣхъ
животъ даровавъ!”

“Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν, θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας, καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι, ζωὴν χαρισάμενος!”

May these words resound in our ears today and throughout the blessed Paschal season!

Christ is Risen! Христосъ воскресе! Χριστός Ανέστη! Hristos a înviat! Христос васкрсе! ქრისტე აღსდგა! المسيح قام! ¡Cristo ha resucitado! Christus resurrexit!

On my apartment balcony after I returned home from the midnight Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy at St John's! Christ is Risen!

On my apartment balcony after I returned home from the midnight Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy at St John’s! Christ is Risen!

May all celebrating the Lord’s resurrection have a joyful and holy Pascha!

St Dimitri of Rostov on Prayer


St Dimitri of Rostov on Prayer

Our Father among the Saints Dimitri of Rostov (Димитрий Ростовский, also known as Dmitri, Dimitry or the Latinized ‘Demetrius’) was a great 17th century Orthodox hierarch, preacher, author and ascetic. He was born near Kiev in the year 1651, and reposed in the year 1709. Among his many luminous works of instruction, he was known especially for his translation and publication of The Lives of the Saints. He foresaw his own death three days in advance, and died while at prayer. Dimitri was a great light of the Russian Church and of Orthodoxy in general. The saint had heavenly visions during his life. He served the Lord zealously and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven. St. Dimitri also composed a service to the Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus, in which he wrote “through the intercession of these saints, abundant grace was given to dispel fevers and trembling sicknesses.” St. Dimitri’s life is celebrated on October 28, but on September 21 the Church commemorates the finding of his miracle-working relics in 1752.

Great and Holy Friday Matins


Great and Holy Friday

“Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree,
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.”

-15th Antiphon from Great and Holy Friday Matins

This hymn is chanted after the reading of the fifth Passion Gospel during the reading of the Twelve Gospels of the Lord’s Passion. Since our Lord’s Passion, death and resurrection turned time upside down and shook the very cosmos during Holy Week leading up to His glorious Resurrection, the Matins (morning service) for Great and Holy Friday, the day the Church recalls the Lord’s death by crucifixion, is offered on the night of Holy Thursday.

You may here the above hymn beautifully chanted at the following links:
1) Chanted here by Fr. Apostolos Hill (taken from his CD “The Gates of Repentance”).
2) Chanted here by the late Archbishop +Job of the OCA Diocese of the Midwest (+2009).
3) Traditional Byzantine tone, chanted here by Vassilis Hadjinicolaou.