Metropolitan Jonah leads Friends of Mount Athos trip to Cyprus

Accompanied by members of the Friends of Mount Athos society, of which he is a patron, His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, the former Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) from 2008-2012, is currently leading a nine-day pilgrimage to Cyprus with the blessing of the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II (r. 2006-). The Friends of Mount Athos invited Metropolitan Jonah to lead this year’s pilgrimage, hosted by the society, which bears the theme “Byzantine and Crusader Cyprus”, and lasts from 22-30 October. Approximately 40 people are participating in the pilgrimage, most of whom are British nationals.

On Sunday, 23 October 2016, at the invitation of His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus, His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the beautiful church of Agia Sofia (Holy Wisdom) in Strovolos, suburban Nicosia, along with His Beatitude the Archbishop and His Grace Bishop Gregorios of Mesaoria. Observing the Revised Julian calendar following the usage of the Church of Cyprus, the hierarchs with the other clergy and laity commemorated St Iakovos (James) the brother of the Lord and St. Patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople (d. 877) in the Archierarchical Liturgy on the occasion of their feast days.

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In Strovolos’ Holy Wisdom Cathedral, with His Beatitude the Archbishop of Cyprus speaking after the Divine Liturgy while Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Gregorios of Mesaoria are looking on. This, and all photos appearing in this article, are used with the courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

Following the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude the Archbishop consecrated a new school hall in Strovolos, with His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah attending the blessing along with many of the faithful members of Friends of Mount Athos and Nicosian Cypriot parishioners:

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Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

Following their con-celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, 23 October in suburban Strovolos, accompanied by several close friends, Metropolitan Jonah met privately with the Archbishop at his Archepiscopal Residence in Nicosia, the capital of the Republic of Cyprus. The Archbishop’s assistant, His Grace Bishop Gregorios of Mesaoria, was present at the meeting and warmly received His Eminence and several close friends in the Archepiscopal Throne Room. Following this, the Archbishop hosted lunch for the company in his stately residence.

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His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah (L) sitting with (R) His Grace Bishop Gregorios of Mesaoria of Cyprus. Standing behind the bishops are two members of the Friends of Mount Athos. Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

 

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Metropolitan Jonah sitting in the Archepiscopal Throne Room in the chair reserved for visiting Church dignitaries, to the immediate right of the primatial Throne of the Archbishop of Cyprus. Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah will remain in Cyprus with the Friends of Mount Athos until next Sunday. The group is enjoying an extended tour of the beautiful island and its magnificent ancient, Classical, and Hellenistic period Greek ruins, explore Byzantine and Crusader fortifications and sites, and visit historic village churches and monasteries. FoMA has already visited several ancient, holy monasteries and convents.

Mrs. Marilyn P. Swezey, one of the Friends of Mount Athos members who is on the pilgrimage, told me that “it is wonderful here. Cyprus is still a Christian country, dotted with little churches and monasteries everywhere, many very ancient. It’s truly a land of hidden spiritual treasures!”

I spoke with Mr. Simon Jennings, the Treasurer of the society, who had this to say about Metropolitan Jonah’s pilgrimage to Cyprus with FoMA:

Vladyka is here to lead a pilgrimage to Cyprus organised by the Friends of Mount Athos, of which I am Treasurer. Some of the group have been visiting the Byzantine monuments in the occupied part of Cyprus… [O]n Sunday, Vladyka served the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Agia Sophia in the district of Strovolos (a suburb of Nicosia) with the Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos – and his assistant Bishop Gregorios. After Liturgy, Archbishop Chrysostomos blessed a new School hall. Following that, and a reception, the Archbishop received us for lunch at his residence, and entertained us very well.

Today, we drove down to see some monasteries – Agia Thekla, which is a small and very pretty women’s monastery, where there was a Russian tour group. We went on to a 14th c. church dedicated to the Holy Archangel Michael, and from there to look at the famous monastery of Stavrovouni, at least to assess the chances of getting up to it, which we may try to do tomorrow. After lunch, we went on to a small monastery again dedicated to St Michael, and from there to a new women’s monastery dedicated to the Mother of God, where we were received by the Gerondissa. She sent us with one of her workmen to guide us to Deftera, where there is a diocesan ecclesiastical store… From there we went on to Tamassos, where there is a new Russian church being constructed with the blessing of the Bishop of that diocese, who has studied in Moscow.

Tomorrow, we will visit some more monasteries… On Wednesday, we will meet up with the rest of the group to tour Nicosia, and then on to the Troodos mountains to look at the painted churches there, which are amongst the most important treasures of the Island. We will travel back to London on Sunday. Vladyka Jonah is one of the patrons of the Friends of Mount Athos.

Here are some photos of the FoMA tour of several different historic Cypriot monasteries and village churches which they have visited so far in their pilgrimage:

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Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael, Analiontas, Cyprus. Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

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Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

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The high walls of the Holy Archangel Michael monastery reflect the frequent wars and invasions Cyprus endured as a key strategic island in the eastern Mediterranean — Persians and Alexander’s Macedonians, Ptolemies and Seleucids, Roman consuls and emperors, Byzantines/Christian Romans, Arab Muslims, Norman and English Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, Venetians, and the British all vied for control of the island. Photo courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

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The small, lavishly decorated church of St Thekla in the women’s monastery (convent) dedicated to her in Mosfiloti. Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

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The lovely courtyard and gardens of St Thekla Convent. Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

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Metropolitan Jonah at St Thekla’s, where the abbess/Gerondissa warmly received the group of members from Friends of Mount Athos. Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

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The warm and intimately quaint, ancient village church of St Marina (Αγία Μαρίνα). Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

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The exterior of the small, stone Byzantine-era church of St Marina. Courtesy of Mr Simon Jennings, Treasurer of the Friends of Mount Athos.

Here is the link to the Facebook page for Friends of Mount Athos, whose president is His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, best-selling Orthodox author and former Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at the University of Oxford (1966-2001). The Royal Patron of FoMA is His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.

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On repentance, forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation

You have already asked what love is. Forgiveness is just as difficult. Learn to pity, and find, if not justification, then an explanation for the actions of those who have hurt you, and always put yourself in the place of these people. Hatred only burns you. Do not seek justice from God, but seek mercy. If we are to be judged, we are all condemned. But through mercy and grace we are forgiven and loved.
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (1914-2003)

To forgive means to restore a bond of love and communion when there has been a rupture. Sin ruptures our relationship with God and others, as also do offenses taken and given among people. When the bond is broken with other people, we tend to objectify them and judge them, not seeing them as persons, but only as objects of our anger and hurt. This is our sinful reaction. We categorize people in terms of their transgression against us. The longer we nurture the anger and alienation, the more deeply the resentment takes hold in our heart, and the more it feeds on our soul.

Reconciliation presupposes forgiveness. If we forgive someone, we need to be open to reconciliation, if possible. Reconciliation is forgiveness in action—the actual restoration of the interpersonal bond between two people, in mutual acceptance of each other for who each one is. Forgiveness and reconciliation can lead to a stronger bond than previously existed. Each time an offense occurs, we can learn more about both the other and ourselves. This can lead to a deeper knowledge and understanding of each by the other, and thus can also lead to a more authentic bond of intimacy. Reconciliation should always be the goal.

– Metropolitan Jonah, then a hieromonk and Abbot of the monastery of St John near Manton, California, in an interview with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America on “Forgiveness and Reconciliation”.

As my spiritual mother and father have both said to mewhat is the Gospel without forgiveness? The very incarnation of the Lord Himself stems from it — it’s right there in John 3:16. Christ forgives all-comers again and again and again in all the Scripture accounts we have of His life — and married, inextricably, to that forgiveness, that absolution, is redemption and healing of soul, mind, spiritual core or consciousness (nous), and body. The entirety of the Church’s message — which always has been, and remains, Christ’s message — is of forgiveness for sins. But what is needed before forgiveness to occur is repentance — the Greek word is “metanoia” (μετάνοια), literally “to change one’s mind” or “to turn around”. So, true forgiveness is completely married to and inseparable from true repentance. For the wronged person to be able to forgive the offense(s) against him or her, the person who wronged them must sincerely regret what they have done, turn from such behaviour, and, literally, turn away from the sinful deed or thought or mentality, and to God. The wrongdoer must appeal to God for mercy and absolution, but also to the person he or she has wronged.

Only in a mutual, self-sacrificing love for God can true forgiveness occur between two people. When one party refuses to repent, no real forgiveness can occur, and without repentance and forgiveness, no real reconciliation can take place — and thus, no true healing. The entirety of Christ’s ministry was a mercy to the world — not just His voluntary death and harrowing of Hell, so that we might live eternally, but, indeed, His entire earthly effort was to preach repentance and forgiveness so that the whole world might know healing reconciliation, the overcoming of sinful passions, and true redemption and liberation from being in bondage to these passions to freedom in, through, and by Christ.

Think of one of Christ’s most well-known examples of forgiveness — He saved the life of the guilty woman about to be stoned to death for adultery, but after He saves her, He doesn’t just tell her “what you did is fine, keep on sinning”! No, instead, He says “Go and sin no more”. This is the kernel of this particular Gospel story. Christ gives her life, he allows her to physically live and carry on, so that she, in gaining earthly freedom, might undergo real repentance and transformation and flee from her sins. Thus, dying to our sins, so to speak, we have, in Christ, especially through His sacraments/Mysteries in the Church, the freedom and grace to rise anew and repent, and cleave instead to Him and all that is holy and saving.

Think of confession and the abundant, palpable grace we receive in our souls. Then the grace we receive in all the other sacraments — Baptism, Chrismation, and especially the Lord’s own Body and Blood. So, if we hope for the Lord to forgive us, how can we hold anger and hatred in our heart? We must forgive out of genuine Christlike love if we ourselves hope to be forgiven.

That being said, abuse of any kind is never justified or justifiable. Certain cases of abuse — physical, emotional, etc — are cases where we can choose to forgive and not allow ourselves to become consumed with hate for the person who has abused and hurt us, but that does not mean we can or should accept abusive treatment. Trust in any human relationship must be earned, and once lost, the person who was in the wrong needs to earn it back gradually if she or he wishes for any kind of reconciliation. Ultimately, the decision to forgive is not a right the abuser has, but a gift, an honor, and a grace only the wronged person can ever possibly bestow with their own healing and God’s grace and mercy. An abuser has no right for automatic forgiveness, especially when they repeatedly hurt the person.

An abuser must ask for forgiveness, and only with genuine repentance can they ever hope to earn it — above all by stopping any abuse, and letting the victim leave if she or he wishes. Any abusive treatment blasphemes God Himself, since He made every man and woman in His ineffable image. So, if a man hits his wife, for instance, he has committed a kind of blasphemy against God by spitting in the face of his marriage — he attacks the woman he has sworn to love, honor, and protect, and therefore attacks himself, since he and she have become one flesh. There are so many reasons the Church in her mercy sanctions and blesses divorce as a sad but sometimes necessary thing — she is not so barbarous as to try to preserve as a fiction what no longer exists. But likewise, she urges the abuser to repent and change, and prays that the wronged person will not hate, and will be able to ultimately forgive. She urges reconciliation where possible, and, where this is impossible, she blesses separation for the preservation of the dignity, spiritual life, and often the physical safety of the abused person in the marriage. This is the definition and very embodiment of therapeutic, salvific, and healing — of true and careful stewardship of human souls and bodies.

Forgiveness

Whether you, reader, are married and suffering in an abusive marriage, or, God forbid, you are reading this and realize you yourself are the abuser, run to the Church and in her mercy she can and will help you, above all else in the sacramental life. Whether you are an abusive parent, a wayward child, or a dishonest boyfriend or girlfriend, you are not beyond redemption. We all need the same redemption through Christ. Seek the Church’s timeless wisdom in the counsel of her priests in confession. Do violence to no one, and if you have done violence, repent of it with all your heart and soul. Value the other — whether the ‘other’ is your husband or wife, your child, your co-worker, your mother or father — and see above all else in them the ineffable image of the God who made us all. Learn to practice and live out, as far as you are able, Christ’s all-merciful co-suffering love. Tremble to inflict even the most minor of suffering on your fellow icon of God. Strive in all your relationships to follow in the footsteps of that “great cloud of witnesses”, the triumphant saints of the Church, in practicing the highest, ancient Christian virtues, whose purpose is to bring us to God in noetic ascent, to manifest His love for all people and all the world, and to heal all our relationships by our active cooperation with His saving grace. As one of the greatest modern Serbian saints and elders wrote on how to bring “divine love” — the love which radiates as the energy of the Holy Trinity — into all human relationships:

Patience, forgiveness and joy are the three greatest characteristics of divine love. They are characteristics of all real love – if there is such a thing as real love outside divine love. Without these three characteristics, love is not love. If you give the name ‘love’ to anything else, it is as though you were giving the name ‘sheep’ to a goat or a pig.

St. Nikolai Velimirovic (1881-1956)

2014 Nativity Reflection by Metropolitan Jonah

A 2014 Nativity Reflection by His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, ROCOR bishop and former Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) from 2008-2012:

In silence let us behold the Incarnate God
as an infant,
Radiant with glory,
Swathed in rough cloth and lain in a manger.
Let us stand struck with awe
At the Presence of the Infinite Eternal One,
Born of the Virgin,
And exalted by the Angels.

We look through the cave of His Tomb
To the cave of the Nativity, overflowing with grace.
Swaddled in grave clothes, wrapped in swaddling clothes,
The same Christ comes forth clothed in glory.
We see the radiance of the Godhead in His face,
As an infant lying in the manger, and as a man hanging on the cross,
Coming forth from the tomb, a man reveals Himself as God,
Coming forth from the manger, God reveals Himself as man.

He became an infant to take on our weakness,
He became a man to identify with us in our suffering.
He showed our flesh to be a vessel of His Divinity,
And that His Divinity might contain our humanity:
God became flesh that we might become Divine,
The fullness of His Divinity indwelling our humanity,
That we might behold with our spiritual sight
The radiance of His Presence in our hearts.

He is baptized into our human life,
And takes on our death;
He is baptized into our death,
And imparts to us His eternal life.
He transforms our death by His life,
And transfigures our life by His death.
He buries us in the waters,
And shares with us His own life, enlightening and sanctifying us.

Look into the Cave,
And behold the Infant God;
Look into the Tomb,
And behold the Resurrected Christ.
Plunge into the depths of the waters,
And partaking of His death, be raised with His life,
That we too may be born
In the Kingdom of Heaven.

On the Nativity of the Lord

When we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we celebrate not only His coming in the flesh 2000 years ago, we celebrate His coming to us – to be born in Him as He is born in us. Having taken on our humanity, we take on His Divinity. Having taken on our flesh, we take on His Godhead – by Grace. He came and became what we are, in order that He might make us what He is. He came in obscurity, in poverty, so that He might identify with our poverty. He became one of us, exactly as we are, so that He might make us as He is, and share His Glory, the Glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father Who is our Life, our Hope, the very reality of what we are and who we are. This is what it means to be a Christian – that our life is hidden with Christ in God. He is our true Life. He is the goal of our life. He is the substance of our life. “What an enormous Feast of Grace the Nativity is. It truly is the Winter Pascha. It is the very feast of our being reborn in God. It is the feast of our experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven here and now, and of our being born into Heaven.

-His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, then-reigning Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), January 1, 2012 at the Russian Orthodox (ROCOR) Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Washington, DC where he presided over the Divine Liturgy as the first OCA Primate to do so in a ROCOR church.

Metropolitan Jonah January 1 2012

His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah presiding over Divine Liturgy at the ROCOR cathedral of St John the Baptist in Washington DC on January 1, 2012. He was the first OCA hierarch to celebrate Liturgy at a ROCOR church with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad.

My interview with Dr Valerie Karras

On Saturday, June 27, 2015, I attended a fascinating Orthodox Women’s Conference held at the historic ROCOR Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin & St Sergius in Glen Cove, New York. Here are some pictures I took of the beautiful, small chapel.

Dedication plaque commemorating the founding of the parish in 1951.

Dedication plaque commemorating the founding of the parish in 1951.

Church exterior.

Church exterior.

These icons of the Lord and the Theotokos are originally from Tsarskoye Selo, the "Tsar's Village", the residence of the Russian Imperial Family.

These icons of the Lord and the Theotokos are originally from Tsarskoye Selo, the “Tsar’s Village”, the residence of the Russian Imperial Family.

The beautiful wooden iconostasis.

The beautiful wooden iconostasis.

The conference theme was “Living and Thinking Orthodoxy Yesterday and Today”. Dr. Nadieszda Kizenko, Associate Professor of History at SUNY Albany,  moderated the discussions. It was a great joy to see my spiritual father Metropolitan Jonah, who spoke on the theme of “Sharing Orthodoxy with Teenagers”, as well as my godmother, who both came up from Washington, DC along with a dear friend Sister Eisodia. Several wonderful parishioners from St John the Baptist ROCOR Cathedral in DC were also present for the event, which was attended by probably 70 people, mostly laity. The very kind Fr. Demetrius Nicoloudakis and his daughter Anastasia visited from Pennsylvania, and it was a great joy to meet them. Metropolitan Jonah spoke first, and then sat through the second presentation before returning to DC with my godmother so that they could attend Vigil at St John’s for his name’s day the following day.

Dr Valerie Karras, Adjunct Lecturer in New Testament at Eden Theological Seminary and board member at the St Phoebe Center for the History of the Deaconess, spoke on “The Liturgical Roles of Women in the Early and Byzantine Church”. This presentation was especially fascinating, as she covered a topic of great interest to me, the institution of the female diaconate which existed from the apostolic age up to the twelfth century in Constantinople. Following this second lecture, a delicious lunch was served by the volunteers. After lunch, Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin, whose sister Natasha Fekula organized the conference, spoke on the question of “Does Tradition Change?”. Sister Vassa, Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Studies at the University of Vienna, is the popular host of the YouTube channel “Coffee with Sister Vassa”. Following this fascinating lecture, Professor Kizenko moderated a series of question-and-answer with the audience. At the end of the conference, I asked Dr. Karras if she had time for a brief interview. She warmly responded ‘yes’, so below, please read for yourself the results of our interview.

June 27 Conference Poster for "Living and Thinking Orthodoxy: Yesterday and Today".

June 27 Conference Poster for “Living and Thinking Orthodoxy: Yesterday and Today”.

Ryan Hunter: I’m with Dr Valerie Karras who just presented at the Orthodox Women’s Conference here in Glen Cove, New York on June 27, 2015. Dr Karras, where did you pursue your Master’s and your PhD?

Valerie Karras: I received my Master’s in Theological Studies from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology which is the official seminary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. It’s located in Brookline, which is a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. I then went to The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and did all of my doctoral work there. I then went to Greece to start working on my dissertation, but I also enrolled in the doctoral program at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. I actually ended up finishing that doctorate, doing that dissertation, and completing that first. I then came back to the States and began teaching and finally finished my dissertation for Catholic University.

Ryan Hunter: What led you to become interested in the subject of the female diaconate in the early Church?

Valerie Karras: I had done some research on it and read about it during my Master’s, and some more during my doctoral work at Catholic University but actually it was really after I did my doctorate at Thessaloniki [that I became interested], because the topic of my doctoral dissertation at Thessaloniki was on patristic views of gender, the ontology of gender, looking at their exegeses, their interpretations of the creation accounts in Genesis. Initially I was planning on that to be the first chapter of a much larger work on Orthodox women, on women in the Orthodox Church, but there was so much there that that became my dissertation. So after I finished that and came back to the United States, I decided to just ditch all the research I had done before then for my initial topic, for my Catholic University dissertation, which was on monastic influence in the post-iconoclastic period, and instead I decided to look at what women were actually doing liturgically in the Byzantine Church.

Ryan Hunter: Who do you regard as some of your mentors, and how did they contribute to this field of study?

Valerie Karras: There are so many along the way. My parish priest actually, Father George Nikozises, who had been director of religious education before he came to our parish, suggested I go to the [Holy Cross Greek Orthodox] seminary. I had been planning on law school. Then I decided that I actually wanted to work with the Church, but what I was initially thinking of was doing administrative work dealing with our church choirs, I was very involved in the music of the Church. He said to me, “I think you need a stronger theological background”, so he suggested I go up there [to Brookline] to get my Master’s. I enrolled in the MTS [Master’s in Theological Studies] rather than the MA in Church Service because I was already doing the fieldwork so to speak, I was very involved with the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians and the Diocesan Choir Federation, so I thought “I’ll just take as many theological classes as I can”, and then I fell in love with it, I just wanted to do Church history and theology.

At the seminary I had several professors who were supportive, in particular Father Ted Stylianopoulos and Archbishop Demetrios (Trakatellis), who at the time was Bishop Demetrios. Father Ted is the one in fact who suggested that I apply to Catholic University, I had not even heard of it. It was a perfect program for me, for what I wanted to do, and also where it was located in DC, because Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Library and Research Center is right there. Bishop Demetrios (at that time)– because I was debating about whether to switch to the MDiv program, which was a three year program– said to me, “You’re going on for a doctorate, you don’t need to do that.” One of his classmates was Elaine Pagels, now a professor at Princeton, and he said “She came right out of her undergraduate work. Just go on and do the doctoral program.” So I did. The other women who were at the seminary when I was there were important. Koula Fitzgerald, who had already graduated when I started as a student there, kind of mentored us together, and shared some of this material with us. Then over in Greece my dissertation chairman was very supportive even when I was doing stuff that he didn’t necessarily agree with, coming to conclusions, but he actually found one for me. At one point I had found all of this material from almost every Church Father I was looking at on how they don’t think that there will still be male and female, that the distinction literally will not exist in humanity in the eschaton, and we will no longer exist as male and female, as men and women. I found that in everybody except for Chrysostom, and he [my dissertation chairman] said to me “Oh no, Chrysostom has it too,go and look at his homilies on Matthew” where he deals with the Sadducees asking Jesus about what I like to call ‘one bride for seven brothers’, a take off of the musical. Sure enough, Chrysostom doesn’t say it in so many words, but there’s no other way to understand it, he says “notice that Christ does not say that they shall be like the angels insofar as they do not marry, but rather that they shall not marry because they shall be like the angels”. Well, the angels are sexless, genderless beings.

Zizioulas was really the most important one [at Thessaloniki], Metropolitan John of Pergamon, particularly when I first got there [Thessaloniki] because he was the only one of the three on my committee who spoke English. I spoke French with Fondoulis, who was the Liturgics professor there, for about two years until my Greek got good enough that I could carry on a conversation.

Ryan Hunter: Metropolitan John Zizioulas, the same one who the Ecumenical Patriarch just sent to comment on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato Si, on the environment?

Valerie Karras: Yes, and he’s the one who’s also in charge of putting together the agenda for this Great and Holy Synod, the Council that’s going to be held. He’s probably the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate’s most important ecumenical officer. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) last night [at Fordham University] said that he [Zizioulas] is the most important and best Orthodox theologian in the world today. I was really excited that Zizioulas was willing to work with me, and it’s funny because when I first met with him about this topic, I said that what I was expecting to find was that the Fathers were products of their time, that there would be some sexism, but I thought that on the theological level, this was my own feeling on the theological level, that sexual differentiation is an intrinsic part of human nature and that is somehow a reflection of the divinity, that it’s part of being created in the image of God, and Zizioulas kind of gave me this small smile, he said “I don’t think that’s what you’re going to find, but you start doing the research.” I did, and once I started doing the research, it took awhile for the Fathers to convince me, but they did and my views changed 180 degrees, so then I was like “Oh no, nobody wants to hear what I have to say because it’s going to be the ‘kill the messenger’ syndrome'”, and I have gotten a fair amount of that, people who don’t want to accept that this is really what the Fathers are saying. I’m very big on intellectual honesty, and I just put it out there, that this is what they [the Fathers] have said. You don’t have to accept it, these are all theologoumena, they’re not essential for salvation, just as you don’t have to accept the idea of women being ordained today to the diaconate, so that’s an issue that the Church needs to determine today. But you have to recognize that this is what these people said and did. Those are historical facts, you don’t get to choose your facts. What you want to do with them and how you want to understand them today in our contemporary situation is a different issue.

Ryan Hunter: Your presentation earlier highlighted the variety of consecrated and liturgical roles filled by women in the early Church. These roles gradually fell into abeyance. Do you realistically see them being restored?

Valerie Karras: Some of them have been, and it’s weird how they’ve been restored in different ways. I’ve noticed that a number of parishes at least in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, I’m not sure about the other jurisdictions here, they now have these young girls serving as myrrh-bearers during Holy Week. Now I would actually like to see what the Church of Jerusalem did, because it’s interesting — those [myrrh-bearers] were women [grown women who anciently filled the role of myrrh-bearer] and I think that there is still this issue…we have to deal with this crazy issue that somehow menstruation makes you impure. I think that’s why we like to see these younger girls dressed all in white, it’s all this purity idea. My response to that is going all the way back to that Didascalia Apostolorum from around AD 250 and it says “What’s the matter with you, woman, do you think that you’re without the Holy Spirit during this period? If that’s the case, you really have lost the Holy Spirit”, and then it goes on to say none of these things, and it mentions things like nocturnal emissions– these are all basic bodily functions, God has made our bodies this way, none of this is impure. I think that just takes care of it.

Ryan Hunter: So you said some of the early roles held by women have been restored...

Valerie Karras: Yes, the female diaconate in different ways. I’ll first mention a couple of the non-Chalcedonian Churches, the Armenian Church and the Coptic Church have, in different ways [restored the female diaconate]. Inthe Armenian Church starting around the seventeenth century we start seeing occasional references to deaconesses. Then it really seems to ramp up in the nineteenth century, and these female deacons in the nineteenth and twentieth century–and I don’t know whether there are any left alive now, I’m not sure what’s happened now in this modern era why they’re not doing it, but they were at least up through the middle of the twentieth century…

Ryan Hunter: Even after the Genocide?

Valerie Karras: Right, yes there were many, in fact I gave a talk at the large Armenian church in Worcester, Massachusetts when I was a professor at Hellenic College/Holy Cross, and the priest there, who had grown up in Jerusalem, he remembered a female deacon at the church or the cathedral  there — I’m not sure where exactly it was, and I don’t know, now I can’t remember whether this was something that he saw regularly, or whether she just happened to be visiting — because all of their female deacons in the nineteenth and twentieth century were nuns. He remembered her serving liturgically and that she did everything that the male deacon did, served identically, and in fact in that photograph that I showed [earlier at the conference] she [the Armenian deaconess] is vested identically to the male deacon.

Ryan Hunter: Yes, she has the orarion and everything…

Valerie Karras: Yes. A friend of mine, a colleague from another institution who’s of Armenian background, her family found a photograph of a great aunt who was a nun who was apparently also an ordained deacon. It’s a photograph of her with several of the other nuns who were deacons in this monastery, they’re all wearing the orarion. They’re not vested completely, but they’re wearing the orarion. It’s just amazing. Now the Coptic Church, as far as we can tell, there’s maybe some evidence that there were female deacons in the early Church, in the Church of Egypt, but not a lot.

Ryan Hunter: After the Chalcedonian schism, or?

Valerie Karras: No, it would have been before. They [the Coptic Church] have deaconesses today, they have a lot of them. They’re not ordained as a major clerical order, they’re consecrated.

Ryan Hunter: They’re considered a minor clerical order?

Valerie Karras: I’m not even sure it’s considered clergy, I think it’s more of a tonsuring and consecration. They’re doing all the kind of typical work that you would see of deaconesses in terms of social service and religious education and that sort of thing.

Ryan Hunter: What’s astonishing about what you just pointed out, the fact that it’s the Coptic Church that has resurrected and restored this practice–arguably this is one of the Churches that has suffered more in recent years than many of the others, so in times of crisis, in times of such turmoil, they’ve restored this ancient practice. Do you think there’s anything to be said for the argument that the first world Orthodoxy, so to speak — the United States, Canada, Britain, parts of Europe–they haven’t restored this practice because they haven’t encountered the kind of persecution that makes them want to restore that aspect of what the early Church did?

Valerie Karras: Maybe, but I think that it’s in these areas where we are seeing some of the strongest push for it [the restoration of the female diaconate]. I think that it’s because the Church in general is a minority and it’s in a new place , everything is sort of being rethought. You don’t just take for granted everything, but look at Russia. On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution at the All-Russia Council, they were talking about it [instituting female deacons]. They didn’t really know a lot about it, but there were a number of prominent people, including among the royalty and the upper hierarchy [such as St Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanova] who were talking about the need for a female diaconate. Now this would not be a restoration because the Russian Church never had it, and yet they knew about it and they thought that it was something that would be good for the Church. Of course, we’ll never know what would have happened if not for the Bolshevik Revolution, but there was this openness overall, it was like this breath of fresh air, the Patriarchate had just been restored, it was “let’s enliven Orthodoxy, what are we doing here?”

Ryan Hunter: Your presentation earlier suggested that many of the ancient vocations open to women in the Church — consecrated widows and ordained deaconesses for instance — could and should be revived. How do you see this being accomplished?

Valerie Karras: One way would be to do what Saint Nektarios [of Aegina] did. I think people forget that it has only been about a century — it’s really been less than a century — since we had a few female deacons in the Church of Greece ordained to the diaconate according to those euchologia (εὐχολόγιa) [prayer books with the services in them from the priest’s point of view]. So we’ve got Saint Nektarios doing this, and I think that’s a really important precedent that nobody said [this was impossible] even though there was some disagreement about what we had done. Nobody said it’s not legitimate, how could you say that when we have this long history? Presumably, all he did was use the rite, the service [of ordination] that’s right there in the older εὐχολόγιa.

Ryan Hunter: Were there any efforts by other hierarchs at the time to discipline him in certain ways for ordaining the women as deacons?

Valerie Karras: I think he was getting some sort of flak, because I think that’s why he wrote the letter to the Archbishop of Athens saying “well they were really ordained more like subdeacons” [a clever defense of his having ordained them at all]. But again, what’s the function? We have different functions for subdeacons and deacons. Subdeacons do not do petitions [during the Liturgy, e.g. “In peace let us pray to the Lord”] and these women did. I think that’s amazing because they [female deacons] didn’t do petitions even during the Byzantine period. The whole reason that he [St Nektarios] had ordained these women was because this was a women’s monastery [at Aegina] on this little island and they didn’t always have a priest, and he wanted them to have a fuller prayer life, a fuller liturgical life and cycle of services, their Liturgy of the Hours which is so central to monastic life. So it made a lot of sense, and I think that’s exactly why when the Synod of the Church of Greece decided that they would look at restoring the female diaconate, they wanted to restore it starting with these women’s monasteries, [they believed] that there was a real liturgical need there. Now I think that our parishes equally need them, not so much for liturgical reasons, although that can certainly help there too, but for pastoral reasons.

Ryan Hunter: You kind of touched on this before regarding certain Russian royalty that were active in this regard, but has any of your research touched on the role of Emperor St. Nicholas II or his sister-in-law Grand Duchess Elizabeth in supporting the institution of female diaconate in pre-revolutionary Russia?

Valerie Karras: No, I’m sorry to say that I only know a couple of things that I’ve read [in this area] because my own time periods of specialization are the Early Church and the Byzantine Church, so I don’t really deal with modern Church at all.

Ryan Hunter: I asked you this earlier, but I didn’t get it recorded, so I wonder if you could perhaps touch on this again. You mentioned that most Byzantine women were not public figures, but then we have the imperial consorts, the Augustae, the Empresses, and then we have some instances such as Irene of Athens of women who actually declared themselves as βασιλεύς, they declared themselves as emperors in their own right. Is there any evidence that you’ve come across that deaconesses, who would have been serving in the Byzantine Church at the time, were present at the coronation rites of Byzantine emperors or the empresses?

Valerie Karras: I haven’t seen that. but then I also just haven’t seen the rites described in a detailed way that would say “this is all the clergy that do it”. Because of your question, I do want to kind of look back at Constantine Porphyrogenitus’ De Cerimoniis to see if he’s got anything. Now, I had mentioned about the Empress Helena — I’m sorry I can’t remember whether she was married to, I think it was Emanuel II [Manuel II Palaiologos], I’m not absolutely certain, but it was one of the Palaiologoses, but this is the Late Byzantine period. She took the Eucharist, she took communion, at the door to the altar. Now by that period we know that there were no longer ordained female deacons. There seem to have still been female deacons, women who were styled female deacons but had not actually been ordained, but this may have been used as a monastic title. We know about that coronation, that enthronement, very well because of this Russian pilgrim who writes about it in detail. But it’s unfortunately in this period after female deacons.

Ryan Hunter: It’s interesting, when you mentioned that earlier in your presentation, that this empress as late as the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century was communing at the Royal Doors, at the entrance to the sanctuary, the Beautiful Gate, because that is where empress consorts of Russia, as well empresses regnant and all male emperors before the Pauline Succession Laws changed, received communion at their coronation rites. I don’t believe this was done at any other time, but at their coronation rites, they did receive communion at the Royal Doors. The emperor and I believe the empresses as well, if they were reigning in their own right, were anointed with the holy myron or chrism at the same spot

Valerie Karras: Presumably they were following Byzantine custom.

Ryan Hunter: All of the Russian coronation rites were based off of the available Byzantine service rites and customs.

Valerie Karras: So even though we only know this about Eleni, about Empress Helena, it probably was occurring with many or even all of the other empresses as well. Pulcheria’s situation is unusual because she was essentially reigning, particularly after her brother Theodosius II died [in AD 450]. She does take Marcion as her consort, but she’s the one who’s still running the show, because when she convokes the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon [in 451]  — I remember this because of the work I was doing on monasticism — she sent out an imperial letter demanding that all the monks stay in their monasteries and not be wandering around and showing up at the Council [and disrupt the Council proceedings] because that had been an issue two years earlier with what was called the Robbers’ Council of Ephesus in 449.

Ryan Hunter: So the Empress Pulcheria herself, in her own name, wrote this letter, issuing an imperial edict?

Valerie Karras: Right.

Ryan Hunter: One other question. I personally am not afraid of this happening, I don’t see it as a threat of any kind, but as Sister Dr. Vassa Larin said earlier, the Church does not exist in a vacuum. Keeping that in mind, do you have any fear that people both within and without the Orthodox Church would mistake the restoration of the historic female diaconate as opening the door for advocates of women to the presbyterate [priesthood] and even to the episcopacy? How would you address those concerns?

Valerie Karras: Well obviously people do have that fear, and that’s why you get some really bad theology and a failure to be honest about the historical record from somebody like Father Lawrence Farley, who then admits that his concern is that if we were to restore the female diaconate then a female priesthood will be not far behind. No, I don’t accept that, because there are two major differences here. One is that where we have a long and solid history of the female diaconate, we do not have that with women ordained to either the priesthood or the episcopacy. So it’s a completely different issue on that level because it’s not a question of restoring something that historically existed, it would be a question of changing the eligibility for those two offices in our faith. So I think that’s one major difference.

The other issue is that these are two very different offices [the priesthood and the diaconate]. It really concerns me particularly when clergy don’t seem to understand the difference between the diaconate and the priesthood. Now there’s a relationship between the priesthood and the episcopacy, in fact of course one of the titles for bishop is ἀρχιερεύς, chief priest, head priest. So [in the Liturgy] the priest is acting on behalf of the bishop, that’s what the bishop signs the antimension that the priest has on the altar, so the priest is able to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharistic Liturgy, and the other sacraments on behalf of the bishop. The only sacrament that the bishop does that the priest cannot do is the ordination of higher clergy, or of clergy generally. In the case of the deacon, the deacon is kind of a liminal position. Even though the deacon is ranked as one of the three major orders of clergy — we see that from the early Church orders, there’s clearly a distinction in the ordination rite, and certainly that’s made explicit in some of Justinian’s legislation — even though the deacon is ranked with the priest and the bishop as part of the hierosyni or priesthood in the broader sense, one of the major orders of clergy, the diaconate is still kind of a liminal office. As I mentioned before, the priest doing all these sacraments, being able to celebrate the sacraments, the deacon cannot; the deacon cannot be the celebrant, the deacon cannot baptize, the deacon cannot celebrate the Eucharist; he assists in the celebration of the Eucharist but he is not himself the celebrant.

Deacons cannot marry; in the Roman Catholic Church where the theology is that it’s really the two people getting married who marry each other, the deacon can be the one overseeing this because he’s really just the witness, but in our Church we see the priest or bishop as actually the celebrant of the marriage, and therefore it cannot be a deacon doing it. So the deacon is very different from the priest and the bishop because the deacon does not celebrate the sacraments. The word ‘deacon’ comes from διάκονος (diakonos), diakonia, the Greek word that means ‘service’. We see from the New Testament on that their primary roles were to do what we would today call social service, and they also did administrative functions — archdeacons, that sort of thing, they did a lot of the administrative functions for the Church.

The second thing that shows this difference, I think, is, strangely, the funeral rite. A deacon is buried as a layman, it’s the same rite as we use for the laypeople. They do not have the rite that is done for priests.

Ryan Hunter: Is that uniform throughout Orthodoxy?

Valerie Karras: It should be.

Ryan Hunter: InterestingSo everything that you’re saying is underlining the fact that there is this clearly articulated distinction between the order of the presbyterate, the priesthood, and the diaconate?

Valerie Karras: Right.

Ryan Hunter: So you’re not concerned that there would be some sort of push — “well, women have the diaconate now, so let’s jump to the priesthood”?

Valerie Karras: No, I don’t think it works that way. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t think that women can or should be ordained to the priesthood or the episcopacy; I’m saying that it’s a completely different subject, it is not closely related to the diaconate for the reasons I just said.

Ryan Hunter: Thank you very much for your time, and it was a very interesting interview. Thank you as well for your earlier presentation.

Valerie Karras: You’re welcome!

Metropolitan Jonah’s Sermon on the Feast of All Saints of North America

Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist

Washington, DC

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen)

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine's, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate.

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine’s, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we celebrate the Sunday of All Saints of North America. We hear for a second time today, already in the service, the Beatitudes. Certainly the Beatitudes are an absolutely central part of the teaching of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ because they offer us a path to sanctity. Now we all know that we’re surrounded – just come into the church and we’re surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, of all of these Saints who have shone forth before us. Many who have shone forth in Russia, those who have shone forth in America. Their icons are on the walls and we have their icons in our homes and we venerate them, and we remember them. Not only that, but we establish relationships with them, and we know that they’re there for us and they will come to our aid and will help us if we ask. The Saints are our friends, the Saints are those who, having attained to the Kingdom of Heaven, live forever in Christ. But the Saints are not only those who have been canonised by the Church. The Church holds up the great examples of sanctity, of piety, of those who have fought the good fight and struggled with themselves, and overcome themselves, have overcome the world, have overcome the forces of evil.

Last week we talked about the Holy Martyrs and how it’s imperative for each of us to strive to maintain the full integrity of our lives, and not to give in to the pressures of this world—lust, the desire for power, the desire for gratification, etc. We see all of those Holy Martyrs as those who were willing to renounce their lives, their possessions, everything that they had, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the sake of maintaining their integrity in Christ. The Church gives us a whole discipline of life to live by, and that in itself is there to help sanctify our life. It’s a discipline of self-denial, it’s a discipline of prayer and fasting, of how we live. That discipline is there in order to strengthen us when we have to confront the world, and all of those powers, all of those forces, all of those temptations that constantly come at us from all directions.

The Martyrs were those who, no matter what the world offered them, believed—and knew— that their relationship with Christ was more important than anything else in this world, than family, than possessions, than position—anything. We are also called to that same confession, whether it is going to cost us our lives or it might cost us our jobs—whatever it is in this world. The Saints are those who, having renounced themselves, have found their true selves.

What we are called to do is to renounce ourselves, to get over ourselves, and to live with that life which is given to us by Christ in the Holy Spirit, which is the only place that we find our true identity. That true identity, that true person of the heart, that person that God has not only called us to be, but created us to be, is holy, is beautiful, and cannot be damaged by sin, it cannot be damaged by rejection; it cannot be damaged by anything of this world, because God made it true and pure and holy. This is who we are called to be and who we are called to rediscover, because the life in this world, the life of this world, draws us away from that and has us create this false identity by which we live, running around gratifying our passions and desires, living according to our anger and resentments and our lusts, our envy and our pride and vainglory, and our self-assertion over other people—and all of these things, which are not of God. Rather, that true person of the heart, whom God knows us to be, is what we are called to rediscover in our lives, and to know that that process – which on one hand looks like some pretty kind of difficult asceticism, some difficult self-denial, some cutting away of the things that we like and that we want to do – is ultimately the most important thing in our lives: to find that true person of the heart, and to live according to that true person that God created us to be. Let all the rest pass away.

The Saints are those who did that, who set that as first and foremost, to live according to Christ, to live according to His discipline, to live according to His Gospel, to live so that that true person that he has created might emerge and be manifest. We see this of course most clearly in the holy monastics, because that’s what monastic asceticism is all about. Indeed, anyone who strives according to the discipline and life of the Church to overcome themselves will, to one degree or another, find this kind of self-mastery.

We look at the Martyrs, we look at the Confessors, we look at all of those who gave up the things of this world for the sake of the Kingdom of God and have set themselves on that path to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, being strengthened by their discipline so that they might tread that path which is laid out in the Beatitudes, so that they might be poor in spirit, so that they might mourn and be comforted, so that they might be meek, so that they might be peacemakers, and so that they might be able to endure when men revile and persecute and say all manner of evil against them falsely for Christ’s sake. [Would] that we might rejoice.

On this day we celebrate all of those Saints who have shone forth in the American land; those that we know, those we do not know. There are a few that are not yet canonised that I know about, and what an incredible inspiration and what an incredible model they have been and they are to us who are still in this earthly battle.

I think of Mother Olga, who is being revealed as a Saint in Alaska; this very simple woman, the wife of a priest in a place that I do not think it’s possible to imagine a place or a life that’s more hidden – to be the wife of a priest in a Yupik village on the Kuskokwim River in south-western Alaska. And yet God has graced her to visit hundreds of people to bring them peace, to bring them consolation, to bring them joy. Just as she did during her lifetime in this world, so she does now after her death, visiting people who have never heard of Yupik Eskimos, who never imagined that they were Christians, and yet her sanctity shines forth.

I think of Elder Dimitri, who was in Santa Rosa. [He was] one of the most important figures for the establishment of monasticism in northern California. His patient endurance, his example. We all know of Metropolitan Philaret [of ROCOR], whose relics were found incorrupt. We all know of these others who have shone forth—some that are widely known and some that only maybe we know about, some people who lived in the most complete obscurity but pursued Christ with the totality of their life.

Each one of us is called to be a Saint in that same way. We are given all the tools by the Church to work out that sanctity, to work out that salvation. We are given the grace of the Holy Spirit in baptism and chrismation; that grace is renewed every time we receive communion. We are given the gift of confession to help us to overcome our sins and to keep striving for that life of the Kingdom which is to come. We are given the disciplines of piety in order that we might redirect our desires and our thoughts and ideas away from the things of this world and to the things of God. That is why all of this is here—that’s why we have the temples, the Liturgy, everything that’s here is to enable us to live that life of the Kingdom of God which is given to us freely by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So let us give thanks to God for all of those Saints that He has revealed, and those that He has not yet revealed, for all of those who love us, who pray for us, and who accompany us on our way to the Kingdom of God. Those we know, and those that we don’t.

There’s one final thought that I’d like to leave with you as to what real sanctity is about. This is from the thought of [Elder] Father Sophrony [of Essex], who was the one who revealed Saint Silouan [the Athonite]. Saint Silouan said that the task of the Christian is to expand our personal “I” so that “I” doesn’t just mean “me”. “I”—when we stand before God—not only includes me, but all of those whom I love, and all of those who love me, so that my “I”, as we grow spiritually, our personal identity expands so that when we stand before God we cannot think of ourselves alone, but with our wife, our husband, our children, our families, our friends, our parish, our people, our nation.

The Saints are those whose personal “I” expanded to embrace churches and peoples and nations. So let us expand that personal “I” by our love for one another, so that standing before God, we might give thanks to Him, truly, with one mind, with one heart, with one voice, as one mystical person in our Lord Jesus Christ, who has sanctified us and enabled us to be participants in His Kingdom.

[Singing and blessing the people with the Sign of the Cross] The blessing of the Lord be upon you through His grace and love for mankind, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Metropolitan Jonah Released From the OCA to ROCOR

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine's, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate.

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine’s, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate.

Dear friends in Christ,

It is with a glad heart full of rejoicing that I share with you that earlier today Metropolitan Jonah received a signed letter of official release from Metropolitan Tikhon and the Synod of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) releasing him to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of ROCOR, has been notified that the OCA Synod has, at long last, made good on their promise to release Metropolitan Jonah. Vladyka Jonah is thus received into ROCOR’s jurisdiction. His status–whether he will be received as a retired or an active Metropolitan– is still to be determined by the ROCOR Synod. The OCA publicly and officially acknowledged its release of Metropolitan Jonah here.

This means that, at long last, Metropolitan Jonah will be free to serve wherever he is blessed to do so by the Synod of the ROCOR and Metropolitan Hilarion. He will be free to serve unhindered at St John the Baptist ROCOR Cathedral (where he has been serving for most of the past three years) and wherever else he is invited to do so, with the blessing of the ROCOR Synod. He will continue his teaching ministry at St John’s (including regular sermons and lectures which may be found here), continue to speak at conferences and symposia and other academic events, and, above all else, continue to serve weekly Liturgies at the Holy Archangels Chapel in Washington, DC. He ultimately plans to begin a monastery, but in the meantime looks forward to living and teaching the Orthodox Faith and serving his spiritual children.

Now that he is no longer in the OCA, Metropolitan Jonah will lose his modest stipend which he has, until now, received from the OCA in his capacity as one of their several retired Metropolitans. ROCOR cannot afford to grant Metropolitan Jonah a stipend, so he will rely on the charitable support of the Holy Archangels Orthodox Foundation to meet his basic living needs. You may donate to the Holy Archangels Foundation and subscribe to receive e-mails here.

In terms of his recent activities, Metropolitan Jonah met this past weekend with His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, who is visiting for the upcoming Washington, DC Orientale Lumen conference this week. Time allowing, Metropolitan Kallistos will join Metropolitan Jonah in con-celebrating Liturgy at the Holy Archangels Chapel this coming Friday, June 19.

At the end of June, on Saturday, June 27, Metropolitan Jonah will present at a conference at the ROCOR Church of the Intercession in Glen Cove, NY, titled “Living and Thinking Orthodoxy: Yesterday and Today” along with Dr. Sister Vassa Larin and Dr. Valerie Karras. Dr. Nadieszda Kizenko, Professor of History at SUNY Albany, will moderate the discussion. Below is the event poster.

June 27 Conference Poster for

June 27 Conference Poster for “Living and Thinking Orthodoxy: Yesterday and Today”.

Metropolitan Jonah will then travel to South Carolina to commemorate the murder and martyrdom of the Russian Imperial Family, the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and Tsarina-Martyr Alexandra and their children, along with the Tsarina’s sister the nun Grand Duchess Elizabeth and her companion the nun Varvara. He will serve vigil at the ROCOR Church of St Elizabeth the New Martyr in West Columbia on Friday, July 17, followed by Liturgy the following morning, St Elizabeth’s feat day and the day of her martyrdom. On Sunday, July 19, he will again serve Liturgy, followed by giving a lecture on “Temple Worship and the Liturgy”.

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Glory to God for all things!

Belated message: Metropolitan Jonah’s Nativity Sermon

Here is Vladyka Jonah’s Sermon from the Great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, given at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on the 7th of January, 2015 (December 25, 2014 O.S.):
 
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
Christ is Born! Glorify Him! I greet you with the Nativity of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is not much that one can add to the Patriarch [Kirill]’s beautiful message, but this one thing I would like to emphasize: it is so important for us to really accept the Orthodox Faith as the very essence and the core of who we are, of what we believe, and how we live. How everything in our life has to do with Christ, because as Christ took on humanity and became a man, he has taken us on Himself. We are clothed in Christ, we have been adopted as Sons of God. We participate in Christ’s own relationship with the Father. He came to make us not only what He is, but to share in who He is, so that we might communicate Him to this world. 
 
Our world is a world that is lost in hopelessness and despair, shameless immorality and amorality: virtually undifferentiated darkness where the values have all collapsed. But we as the people whom Christ has called out, whom Christ has filled with His life, whom Christ has given part of the knowledge of God as our Father, can be a beacon of hope, can be a beacon of life. It’s so easy to want to fall into the trap of being Orthodox for two hours on Sunday morning, maybe a couple of hours on Saturday night, and live like we were in and of the world the rest of the time. 
 
This is that same trap that Herod fell into, that same trap that Herod in his pride and in his passions [fell into]; [he] tried to look holy, consulting the great scholars, asking “Where will the Christ be born”, appearing as the King of Israel, and yet he was of the world. Brothers and sisters: we cannot be of the world and of Christ. The Apostle tells us that friendship with the world is enmity to God. 
 
So let us take this great message of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ not only as a warning but as a goal of who we are, that we might put Him first in every aspect of our life, that we might let all that is in the world and all that is of the world fall away from us, so that we might be sojourners within the world, but know that our true kingdom is the Kingdom of God, that our true King is Jesus Christ, and that we live according to His Life, according to His laws, and according to His Kingdom, which is not of this world. That we too can share in that hope, that we can have meaning for our lives, that we can have joy and peace and the reality of that Kingdom in our lives even in the midst of this broken world, so that the love of Christ might shine forth from us and embrace all of those that are around us so that they too might be given a ray of hope. 
 
Our culture celebrates Christ so nicely in America — we have all these nice Christmas carols and everything is decorated, but there’s an ulterior motive. How much is motivated by faith in Christ and how much is motivated by materialism and consumerism? Let us be people who are people of the Gospel, and of that message that Christ has become like us in order that we might become like Him, so that He might share that likeness with us, to all eternity.
 
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
 
With love in Christ,
-Ryan
P.S. You may find the Metropolitan’s above sermon here at the St John the Baptist YouTube page.

Directory to Metropolitan Jonah’s writings and broadcasts

Dear all:

Several of you have asked for links to Metropolitan Jonah’s latest broadcasts and writings. Please find links below to his latest seminars, classes, and talks.

1) His recent lectures and talks given at St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC may be found here under “Orthodox Studies with Metropolitan Jonah”.

2) His sermons given during Sunday Liturgies at St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC may be found here under “Sermons”.

3) Other seminars and past classes may be found here on the Holy Archangels Orthodox Foundation’s website.

If you wish to support Metropolitan Jonah on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, please refer to the following links: 1) Metropolitan Jonah’s Facebook “fan page” (https://www.facebook.com/metropolitanjonah), 2) the “Free Metropolitan Jonah” Facebook community, which is circulating a petition for the OCA to grant his canonical release to ROCOR, or 3) the “Free Metropolitan Jonah” Twitter account here (@FreeMetJonah).

Wishing you all a blessed Nativity fast, and, for all on the Julian calendar, a blessed forefeast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple! The celebration of the feast tomorrow marks the third anniversary of my chrismation by Metropolitan Jonah.

Warmly in Christ,

-Ryan

Metropolitan Jonah to offer this year’s Bishop Basil Rodzianko Memorial Lenten Retreat

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His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, former Archbishop of Washington and Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will offer the annual Bishop Basil Rodzianko Memorial Lenten Retreat this coming Saturday, March 22 following memorial Matins and Liturgy at Washington, DC’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist. Matins will begin at 7:40am, with Liturgy following at approximately 9:00. A luncheon will follow the divine services, with two discussions led by His Beatitude afterward. The theme will be “Be transformed in the renewal of your mind” (the Greek word “nous” which is usually translated as “mind” has a far more complex meaning, which Met. Jonah will discuss). All are welcome to attend! The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist (ROCOR) was established in 1949 with the blessing of our venerable Father among the Saints, St. John Maximovitch (1896-1966), Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco.