Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Orthodoxy in China: Senior Orthodox Priest turns 110!

The following article is from the excellent Orthodoxy in China web site, run by Mitrophan Chin.

My wife, who is also from China got to meet Fr. Elias a few years ago, along with my daughters, -- you can see a picture of that by clicking here. You will notice an icon directly behind them. That icon depicts St. John of Shanghai, under whose authority Fr. Elias served for many years, and St. Jonah of Manchuria, the patron of our parish.

The Senior Priest of the Western American Diocese Turns 110!

On Sunday, November 19, the senior priest of the Western American Diocese, Protopresbyter Elias Wen, turned 110. Father Elias was born in the XIX century, in 1896, in Beijing, China. As a boy he received baptism at the Chinese Orthodox Mission. After studies at the Orthodox School run by the Mission, he entered into the seminary which he completed in 1918. The seminary was responsible for preparing missionaries for the Chinese people.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church was unable to continue its missionary efforts in China and so Father Elias, who received a complete theological education, decided to dedicate himself to serving Russian Orthodox refugees in China. In order to accomplish this, he first learned Russian and Church Slavonic.

In 1924 Father Elias was ordained deacon and on November 26, 1931, Archbishop Simon ordained him priest. Thus 2006 also marks Father Elias' 75th Anniversary of the priesthood. It is very probable that he is the senior (by ordination) clergyman of the entire Russian Church, both in Russia and abroad!

Father Elias served a number of parishes in Shanghai. After the new Cathedral "Surety of Sinners" was built he was assigned the position of Dean of the Cathedral and in 1946—the Rector of the Cathedral. In the cathedral he served together with Archbishop John (Maximovitch).
In 1949 Father Elias was sent to Hong Kong to organize a parish there. Because communists occupied Shanghai, he was unable to return there.

In 1957 Father Elias was transferred to the Western American Diocese and assigned to the Holy Virgin Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow", to which he is still attached. During his active duty at the Cathedral, Father Elias, besides celebrating the services, sang and read on the kliros daily.

In the course of his pastorate Father Elias, who's mind is still clear and has an excellent memory, would recount to the Cathedral clergy events from church life in China, his memories of Saint John, old Russian liturgical practice and the history of the Holy Virgin Cathedral.

It has been about seven years since Protopresbyter Elias Wen has last served. Following Ever-memorable Archbishop Anthony's (Medvedev) repose in 2000, Father Elias took part in one of the memorial services. He had a great love, respect and appreciation for Vladika Anthony.

At present Father Elias lives with his son. He is regularly communed by the Cathedral ecclesiarch, Archpriest Sergei Kotar. Every year on the Feast of the Prophet Elias, Father Elias has a festal lunch for the Cathedral clergy.

On Sunday, November 19, the Cathedral clergy visited Father Elias and greeted him on behalf of the Cathedral parishioners, diocesan clergy and flock.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another Sign of Reconciliation in the Russian Church

The Staff and Vestments of Metropolitan Philaret of Blessed Memory Are Sent to Moscow

Click here for more photos
Click here to see the story in the Russian press... which was the top story on the nightly news today

On Sunday, November 12, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in fulfillment of the wishes of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985) of blessed memory, and the will of his cell-attendant, Protodeacon Nikita Chakiroff, Mitred Protopriest Roman Lukianov, Rector of Epiphany Church in Roslindale, MA (near Boston), handed over the staff and vestments of the third First Hierarch of the Church Abroad to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia during a very ceremonious service. Fr Roman would have traveled to Russia himself but could not due to illness. Therefore, praying during Divine Liturgy, which was performed by Priest Victor Boldewskul, Deputy Rector of the parish, along with the other clergymen of the church, was Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), Rector of Sretensky Stavropighial Monastery in Moscow, sent there by the Patriarch. At the end of Liturgy, Fr Victor addressed the multitude of worshipers with the following words of edification:

"In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

"Often, events occur during our lifetimes the meaning of which we do not fully comprehend. Twenty-five years ago, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed by its First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, glorified the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. The path leading to their canonization was difficult, for there were various opinions on this matter, some people even being against the glorification of the Royal Family. Still, our bishops displayed their spiritual courage. The events that followed proved that this conciliar decision was the expression of Divine Will and a fateful act, which laid the groundwork for the rebirth of the life of the Holy Church in the homeland. The culmination of this expression of the freedom of the Church was the historic Jubilee Council of 2000 and the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia by the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"One of the three surviving members of the Council of Bishops that canonized the New Martyrs in 1981, Archbishop Alypy of Chicago and Detroit, in a recent Epistle to his flock, noted that church prayer has great significance in the life of our flock. Further, Vladyka writes: 'For over 70 years in the churches of the diaspora we have prayed that God would deliver our country from the godless authority and our Orthodox Church from cruel persecution. After the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian land, the Soviet regime finally began to crumble and fell apart several years later. This happened without any bloodshed, and in this we see the hand of God.'

"From a spiritual point of view, one can now say that after the glorification of the New Marytrs, a pre-conciliar period began, which concluded with the decision by the IV All-Diaspora Council held earlier this year on the need for the reunification of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"The courageous act of the glorification of the New Marytrs performed by Vladyka Philaret and his brethren bishops laid the groundwork for our joint prayer to them for the suffering Russian land. Our brethren in the homeland have now joined in this prayer. The end of the grave period of martyric sufferings of the Russian land must be understood as the expression of the great mercy of God, by the prayers of the host of New Martyrs and all the children of the Russian Orthodox Church in the homeland and abroad. The convening and God-pleasing decisions of the IV All-Diaspora Council in turn are the direct result of the act of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy and his fellow bishops who glorified the New Martyrs in 2000. This notion is expressed in the following excerpt from the IV All-Diaspora Council: 'Bowing down before the podvig [spiritual feats] of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, glorified both by the Russian Church Abroad and by the Russian Church in the Fatherland, we see within them the spiritual bridge which rises above the abyss of the lethal division in the Russian Church and makes possible the restoration of that unity which is desired by all.'

"Those of us who remember and who were fortunate enough to see Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret over his 20 years of service as First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad cannot picture him without his devoted assistant and cell- attendant, Father Protopriest Nikita Chakiroff. Fr Nikita spent all his energies, all his strength and his whole life to serving his Abba and spiritual father. Both during life and after the repose of Vladyka Philaret, Fr Nikita continued to fulfill his wishes and preserve his spiritual legacy.

"And what is the spiritual legacy of Vladyka? He can be seen not in the everyday responses to current, temporary church events of his day, but in the main prayer of his life, that is, for the rebirth of the Holy Church in Russia and the return of the Russian people to the ideals of Holy Russia.

"After the repose of Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret, Fr Nikita preserved some of his vestments as relics, since many revered Vladyka for his piety. With regard to his vestments, which Fr Nikita himself acquired for him, Vladyka Philaret, before his death, issued his oral instructions to him. Fr Nikita told of this to his close friend, Fr Roman, after Vladyka's death in 1985. Fr Nikita himself soon fell ill, and sent a letter to Fr Roman, in which he wrote the following:

Dear in the Lord Fr Roman! Bless me!

Soon after Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret's repose, with the knowledge of Vladyka Laurus, I left a second set of episcopal vestments of Vladyka First Hierarch, which I paid for with my own funds, so that it would be packed away and given to you, Fr Roman, for safekeeping.

My health is poor, and the doctors say that I will not live long; that is why I leave them to you to safeguard, and when the time comes, when the Lord frees Russia, our Homeland, when blessed days arrive, foretold by St Seraphim of Sarov the Wonder-worker, then take them to our Homeland. Give them to His Holiness the Patriarch of All Russia, and one set must be given to Diveevo Lavra, and tell them whose they were. Say that we preserved them as a treasure, and say that Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret, as he performed the rite of the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, in his sensitive soul, endured the suffering of every martyr and rejoiced at their staunchness and unwavering strength and devotion to the Truth.

Metropolitan Philaret performed the great deed of glorification in 1981. With conciliarity and with the whole people, in a great church ceremony he glorified the many millions of new Saints of God.

Here I end my letter. I ask you holy prayers and blessing.

With love in the Lord,

Protodeacon Nikita, the sinner.

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, the time has arrived to fulfill the wishes of Metropolitan Philaret and the will of Fr Nikita.

"Today, in our church, Fr Roman will hand over, through Archimandrite Tikhon, Prior of Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, the vestments of that First Hierarch who glorified the New Martyrs abroad to that First Hierarch who glorified them in Russia.

"Brothers and sisters, let us remember the power of prayer and the power of the All-Holy Spirit, Who will overcome our mortal failings and lead us unto Truth.

"The path towards the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs was not easy. The path to the adoption of the 'Act of Canonical Communion,' which combines in the Eucharist both parts of the Russian Church, was also difficult. But these spiritual feats were finalized successfully by conciliar decision of our archpastor after long, prayerful preparation.

"Fr Nikita's letter is remarkable! Who could have foreseen, in 1987, when Diveevo Monastery was still closed, when confessors continued to suffer for Christ under the godless regime, who could have foreseen the coming emancipation and transformation of church life in Russia? Who especially could have thought that this would come to be during the lifetime of Fr Roman? Fr Nikita's letter is nothing less than prophetic. And behind Fr Nikita's words in this letter, one hears the prophetic voice of Vladyka Philaret.

"Now we will serve a pannikhida for the late Metropolitan Philaret of blessed memory, and for Protopriest Nikita. In raising our prayers for their peace, let us thank the Lord that the 'blessed days foretold by St Seraphim of Sarov the Wonder-worker' have arrived, thanks to which we can now fulfill the testament of our spiritual father, Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret. Amen!"

After Divine Liturgy, the vestments intended for the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and for Diveevo Monastery, were taken out of the altar into the middle of the church and laid beside the pannikhida table, where Fr Roman led the commemorative service along with Fr Victor, Protopriest Alexei Mikrikov and the parish clergymen. After the singing of Eternal Memory , the Parish Rector then welcomed Fr Tikhon and spoke about the life of Vladyka Philaret. In a moving response, Archimandrite Tikhon noted the importance of this event for the Russian Orthodox Church and gave Fr Roman a pectoral cross from His Holiness, along with an icon of Holy New Martyr Archbishop Ilarion (Troitsky) of Verey, containing a portion of his relics, for Epiphany Church. The choir, under the direction of Vladimir Pavlovich Roudenko, then sang Bortniansky's Tebe Boga khvalim , and for a long time, the multitude of worshipers approached to venerate the vestments of the third First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Famous Actors and Actresses you probably didn't know were Orthodox Christians

It is always amazing to discover that some famous person you have known of for years was an Orthodox Christian. Just tonight, I discovered that Jack Palance, who passed away today, was Orthodox.

Jack Palance, born as Vladimir Palaniuk, Ukrainian Orthodox

Some other such folks that I have run across over the years [Mind you, I make no comments on their level piety -- I am just noting their religious background]:

John Belushi, Albanian Orthodox

Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, better known as Natalie Wood, Russian Orthodox

Yul Borisovich Brynner, Russian Orthodox.

Aristotelis (Telly) Savalas, Greek Orthodox

Telly's God-daughter, Jennifer Aniston, also Greek Orthodox

Mladen George Sekulovich, better known Karl Malden, Serbian Orthodox

Tina Fey, Greek Orthodox

And last but not least, Tom Hanks, who was born.... Tom Hanks. He converted to Orthodoxy after meeting his Greek Orthodox wife, Rita Wilson (who was born Margarita Ibrahimoff)-- thus their connection with the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps

Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham will be awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor.

By Staff Sgt. Scott Dunn, Headquarters Marine Corps

Quantico, VA (Nov. 10, 2006) -- A corporal who died shielding men in his care from a bursting grenade deserves America’s highest military decoration, President Bush has confirmed (http://www.mcnews.info/mcnewsinfo/moh/).

Actions by Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who would have turned 25 today, merit the Medal of Honor, Bush said at the National Museum of the Marine Corps’ dedication ceremony, which coincided with the 231st Marine Corps anniversary.

On April 14, 2004, in Iraq near the Syrian border, the corporal used his helmet and his body to smother an exploding Mills Bomb let loose by a raging insurgent whom Dunham and two other Marines tried to subdue.

The explosion dazed and wounded Lance Cpl. William Hampton and Pfc. Kelly Miller. The insurgent stood up after the blast and was immediately killed by Marine small-arms fire.

Dunham lay face down with a shard the size of a dress-shirt button lodged in his head. The hard, molded mesh that was his Kevlar helmet was now scattered yards around into clods and shredded fabric. Dunham never regained consciousness and died eight days later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., with his mother and father at his bedside.

Dunham’s commanding officers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, investigated his actions and nominated him for the Medal of Honor. After two years and seven months making its way to the White House, the nomination now has the necessary approval from the president. Next, the president will present the medal and citation to the Dunhams.

Hoping the president would make the Medal of Honor announcement on their son’s birthday, Dan and Debra Dunham drove to Quantico from their home in Scio, N.Y. Dunham is buried in Scio.

Before Dunham, the last Marine actions to earn the medal happened May 8, 1970, in Vietnam, according to Marine Corps History Division records. A Medal of Honor citation details Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith’s machine-gun charge that inspired a platoon facing nearly overwhelming odds: Wounded, Keith ran into “fire-swept terrain.” Wounded again by a grenade, he still attacked, taking out enemies in the forward rush. Keith fought until mortally wounded; his platoon came out on top despite being heavily outnumbered.

The last Marine to receive the Medal of Honor was Maj. Gen. James L. Day, who distinguished himself as a corporal in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. On Jan. 20, 1998, more than half a century later, President Bill Clinton presented the medal to Day. He passed away that year.

Since the Long War began, the president has presented one Medal of Honor. On April 4, 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith posthumously earned the medal for organizing a defense that held off a company-sized attack on more than 100 vulnerable coalition soldiers. In the defense, Smith manned a .50 caliber machine gun in an exposed position until he was mortally wounded.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy

The following article gives some biographical detail to the author of one of the great catechetical texts that is now available in English, which you can order by clicking here.

NEW YORK: November 3, 2006
On Sunday, the Russian Church Abroad Will Mark the 35 th Anniversary of the Repose of Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, Renowned Author of the Law of God

From the Editors the ROCOR web site: In connection with the approaching anniversary of the repose of Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, we offer an article written by Protodeacon (now Protopriest, Senior Priest of Holy Protection Cathedral in Chicago) Andre Papkov, written on the 20 th anniversary of the death of his spiritual father.

Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy

On November 5 of this year, on the day of St James, Brother of the Lord, we mark the 20 th anniversary of the death of our batiushka of blessed memory, Father Seraphim Slobodskoy. Twenty years is a good period of time, and a whole new generation of people has grown up who never knew batiushka . Still, his image stands brightly before those who were fortunate enough to know him. But as time passes, the fruits of his labor continue to grow.

The parish he founded is one of the most exemplary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and his creation, the parish school, is the best of all such schools outside of Russia.

It is thanks to his organizational talents that the foundation was laid for all aspects of parish life, and his successors can now easily continue his work.

It is worth noting that during his rectorship, Fr Seraphim's parish grew and flourished, but there was also a complete absence of any commerciality. Batiushka , a bessrebrennik [one disinterested in money] by nature, personally inspired his flock to self-sacrifice, and the church was built with the efforts of the parish itself, without the hiring of outside help. Divine blessing manifested itself in the fact that the bank gave the parish a loan without any conditions. The group of Russian immigrants, headed by their rector, were so well-respected by the local population, that the bank officials provided a loan on their word, with no guarantees.

The Russian Text, Zakon Boshij [The Law of God], which is now widely published in Russia

The parish school, established by Fr Seraphim together with his matushka , grew and blossomed thanks to his unrivaled pedagogic talent, which was equaled only by his exceptional love for children; and this love was requited by them.

One result of his work with children was the text book the Law of God , which has now gained significance throughout the Russian world. It has gone through four editions abroad, and is now printed in Russia in the millions. Most Russian people one meets today either have this book or have heard of it, and it should be a standard book in all Russian Orthodox homes. (Incidentally, because of time limitations, Fr Seraphim often worked on his book at night.)

The pastoral work of Fr Seraphim was moved by his love for God and for his neighbor. Batiushka often said that the Gospel teachings on love for God and for ones neighbor are the cornerstone for every Christian, and loved to stress that it is upon this legacy that “the law and the prophets depend.” In connection with this, batiushka did not approve of those brother pastors who, as he said, “suffer from legalism.” “Yes, he is a good man, but the poor fellow is a zakonnik [slave of the law],” he would say sadly.

Fr Seraphim himself was a zealous observer of church order and a champion of the truth. The 1960's were very troublesome in the internal life of the Church Abroad, and Fr Seraphim sensed with pain the sins against Divine Truth which he witnessed.

As a devotee of Archbishop John (Maximovich, +1966), he grieved over the slander aimed against this righteous man, and himself endured accusations and slander for speaking the truth fearlessly to those who did not wish to hear it. Earnest, and by nature incapable of accepting falsehood, he always courageously defended justice wherever he deemed necessary. The passage of time shows who was right and who was in error in those troublesome times.

When it came to his flock, Fr Seraphim fulfilled the words of Apostle Paul: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Relentlessly performing all required divine services and services of need, he always found time to visit and spiritually nourish the elderly, the sick and lonely people at home and in hospitals, which attracted everyone who knew him. Batiushka had a rare gift: empathetic love for people, disregard for himself, he tried to help everyone in sorrow and need in every possible way. One remembers the words of one elderly woman in his parish, who remembered with tears, “Yes, Father Seraphim knew us well, his stragglers.”

It could be said that batiushka had no personal life. The doors to his home were always open to all, at any time, day or night, not only in an abstract but a literal sense: he never locked his doors. Bishops, society figures, parishioners of all cultural levels and all ages—Fr Seraphim found a common tongue with all of them, and he had understanding and good counsel for all.

Fr Seraphim's life began in the town of Cherntsovka, in the Penzen guberniya , where his father, Priest Alexei, was a parish rector. When the Bolsheviks came to power, difficult times began for the Slobodskoy family. Fr Alexei was often saved from arrest by peasant parishioners, who hid him in their homes. In his final years, Fr Alexei served in the town of Petushka in Vladimirskaya guberniya , whence he exiled without the right of correspondence, and, apparently, died in the concentration camps.

Fr Seraphim grew up in the church, served as an altar boy and was an expert in bell ringing. After completing middle school, he received art training and worked as an artist in Moscow. Then, World War II struck, he was sent to the front, was captured and then found himself an emigre.

After the War, Seraphim Alexeevich ended up in Munich, where he soon married Elena Alexeevna Lopukhina, who became his lifelong assistant. There he organized a youth group for religious philosophy.

On April 22, 1951, Archbishop Benedict (Bobkovsky) ordained Seraphim Alexeevich to the priesthood. Soon after his ordination, Fr Seraphim arrived in America and was appointed to be the second priest at Holy Fathers Church in New York City. A short while later he was transferred to Holy Protection Community in Nyack, a suburb of New York.

During the War, the notion came to Seraphim Alexeevich to build a church if only God saw fit to preserve him through the war. The church in Nyack became the manifestation of this dream. Fr Seraphim did not rest as he worked on the construction, not only as an administrator, but as a simple laborer, laying cement blocks, hauling wheelbarrows, etc. Fr Seraphim rarely took a vacation and when he did, he was not idle but worked towards educating youth as the spiritual father of Camp NORR.

The English translation

Fr Seraphim was awarded for his zealous pastoral work with a kamilavka , and a gold pectoral cross for his Law of God; he was elevated to the rank of protopriest for building the church; and given a palitsa for his 20 years of service as a priest.

The constant exertion, both spiritual and physical, undercut the great strength of the good pastor, and in 1971, at the age of 59, Fr Seraphim departed from this world. Archbishop Averky (Taushev, +1976), seriously ill at the time, arose from his sick bed and came to escort him "along the path destined for the whole world." In his eulogy, Vladyka gave a clear description of the persona of the reposed priest, as he now remains in our memories: a pastor, a bessrebrennik , a laborer, a lover of truth.

The priest's legacy was read, which is best understood by those who remember the unearthly joy with which Fr Seraphim served on Paschal night.

"I beseech you, I beseech you all to pray for me, a sinner, for the repose of my soul, and on my part, if I am permitted through the mercy of God, I will fervently pray for all of you, so that we all, upon the resurrection of the dead, meet once again in the future life and abide with God.

"Our desire… is expressed in two words, with which I greet you all: Khristos Voskrese [Christ is Risen]! For 'as the Lord lives and my soul lives,' and 'Christ is risen, and life is liberated!'"