Thursday, November 05, 2020

Reader Services through the 27th Sunday after Pentecost


This installment covers the Sundays of Old Calendar November, which on the civil Calendar runs from November 14th through December 13th. I intend to keep these texts posted as long as there are states or English speaking countries that are still under lockdown due to the Coronavirus.

The Eves

For the Eves of the upcoming Sundays and Feasts, you could ideally do the Vigil. The fixed portions can be downloaded here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/reader_vigil.doc

or viewed in HTML, here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil.htm

For the Rubrics, see: http://www.saintjonah.org/rub/

The variable portions of the service can be downloaded here (all of these would be served on the eve of their respective days). The Sunday services require two files, because these combinations do not repeat annually. In addition to the files linked for the Sundays below, you will need to use the appropriate Katavasia, which for this time period is the Katavasia of the Theotokos and then beginning with the feast of the Entry, it is the Katavasia of Nativity -- the respective Rubrics will tell you which. Also, on Sundays, there are some hymns that are appointed according to which Matins Gospel is read. To find out which one is read, you also need to look at the Rubrics. For those texts, you will find them here: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/matinsgospel.doc Those hymns are usually done at the Exapostilaria and then at the Doxasticon at the Praises.

Also, the texts below do not always have the full canon for the Menaion, but you can find that here:

https://orthodox-europe.org/liturgics/menaion/november/ (you will need to look up the service according to the Old Calendar (o.s.) date).

For the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost / the Martyr Acyndinus (November 15th n.s. / November 2nd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/11-02_martyr_acyndinus.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone6.doc

For the Feast of the Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Hosts (November 21st n.s. / November 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil_archangelmichael.doc

For the 24th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyrs Onesiphorus and Porphyrius / St. Matrona (November 22nd n.s. / November 9th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/11-09_mm_onesiphorusandporphyrius.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone7.doc

For the 25th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew (November 29th n.s. / November 16th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/11-16_apostle_matthew.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone8.doc

For the Feast of Entry of the Theotokos (December 4th n.s. / November 21st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil_entry.doc

For the 26th Sunday after Pentecost / St. Alexander Nevsky / Afterfeast of the Entry (December 6th n.s. / November 23rd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/11-23_stalexander_nevsky_af.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone1.doc

For the 27th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy and All-praised Apostle Andrew the First-Called (December 13th n.s. / November 30th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/11-30_apostle_andrew.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone2.doc

However, if doing Vigil is too much for you at present, you could do Small Compline, and take the canon of each of the above days, and read it immediately after the Creed, and then repeat the Kontakion that is appointed after Ode 6th of  the canon after the following Trisagion.

Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost / the Martyr Acyndinus (November 15th n.s. / November 2nd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent23.doc

For the Feast of the Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Hosts (November 21st n.s. / November 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_archangels.doc

For the 24th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyrs Onesiphorus and Porphyrius / St. Matrona (November 22nd n.s. / November 9th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent24.doc

For the 25th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew (November 29th n.s. / November 16th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent25.doc

For the Feast of Entry of the Theotokos (December 4th n.s. / November 21st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_entry.doc

For the 26th Sunday after Pentecost / St. Alexander Nevsky / Afterfeast of the Entry (December 6th n.s. / November 23rd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent26.doc

For the 27th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy and All-praised Apostle Andrew the First-Called (December 13th n.s. / November 30th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent27.doc

Friday, October 16, 2020

Stump the Priest: Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

 


Question: "What is the understanding of the Church on Matthew 27:46? I have done some research myself and I have seen everything from the idea that Christ was abandoned by the Father, to arguments that Christ was not abandoned, nor was He distressed, but was proclaiming that in this darkest hour, so to speak, the Father is still with Him."

We find the text you reference in Matthew, as well as in Mark 15:34, but it is also clear that Christ is quoting from Psalm 21:1 (which is Psalm 22:1 in Protestant Bibles). The entirety of Psalm 21[22] is seen as a prophecy of the death and Resurrection of Christ by the Fathers, as is either clearly suggested or made explicit in the crucifixion accounts in all four Gospels. Psalm 21[22]:16-17 ("they have pierced my hands and my feet. They have numbered all my bones, and they themselves have looked and stared upon me") which is alluded to in John 19:37, and Psalm 21[22]:18 ("They have parted my garments amongst themselves, and for my vesture have they cast lots") is directly quoted by Matthew 27:35 and John 19:23-24, and clearly alluded to in Mark 15:24 and Luke 23:34.

And so to find the answer to this question we need to see what the Fathers say about these passages.

St. Gregory the Theologian (329-390) emphasizes that these words are spoken by Christ on our behalf, because He suffered on our behalf, but that there was no separation between the Father and the Son, and that Christ's humanity was never separated from His divinity: 

"It was not He who was forsaken either by the Father, or by His own Godhead, as some have thought, as if It were afraid of the Passion, and therefore withdrew Itself from Him in His Sufferings (for who compelled Him either to be born on earth at all, or to be lifted up on the Cross?) But as I said, He was in His own Person representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now by the Sufferings of Him Who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved. Similarly, He makes His own our folly and our transgressions; and says what follows in the Psalm, for it is very evident that the Twenty-first Psalm refers to Christ.

The same consideration applies to another passage, “He learnt obedience by the things which He suffered,” and to His “strong crying and tears,” and His “Entreaties,” and His “being heard,” and His” Reverence,” all of which He wonderfully wrought out, like a drama whose plot was devised on our behalf. For in His character of the Word He was neither obedient nor disobedient. For such expressions belong to servants, and inferiors, and the one applies to the better sort of them, while the other belongs to those who deserve punishment. But, in the character of the Form of a Servant, He condescends to His fellow servants, nay, to His servants, and takes upon Him a strange form, bearing all me and mine in Himself, that in Himself He may exhaust the bad, as fire does wax, or as the sun does the mists of earth; and that I may partake of His nature by the blending. Thus He honours obedience by His action, and proves it experimentally by His Passion. For to possess the disposition is not enough, just as it would not be enough for us, unless we also proved it by our acts; for action is the proof of disposition.

And perhaps it would not be wrong to assume this also, that by the art of His love for man He gauges our obedience, and measures all by comparison with His own Sufferings, so that He may know our condition by His own, and how much is demanded of us, and how much we yield, taking into the account, along with our environment, our weakness also" (Fourth Theological Oration 5-6).

St. John Chrysostom (347-407) adds that Christ, by citing this Old Testament prophecy, bore witness to the Old Testament, and showed that He was not in opposition to it, but that it bore witness to Him: 

"And for this reason, even after this He speaks, that they might learn that He was still alive, and that He Himself did this, and that they might become by this also more gentle, and He saith, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that unto His last breath they might see that He honors His Father, and is no adversary of God. Wherefore also He uttered a certain cry from the prophet, even to His last hour bearing witness to the Old Testament, and not simply a cry from the prophet, but also in Hebrew, so as to be plain and intelligible to them, and by all things He shows how He is of one mind with Him that begat Him" (Homily 88 on the Gospel of Matthew).

St. Jerome (347-420) in his commentary on Matthew, emphasizes the fact that Psalm 21 is clearly about Christ and no one else, and that the humility of the words cited point us to the scandal of the Cross (which St. Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5):

"He has used the beginning of the twenty-first Psalm. Moreover, he leaves out what is read in the middle of the first verse: "Look upon me." For the Hebrew it reads: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Therefore, they are impious who think that this Psalm was spoken under the persona of David, or of Esther and Mordecai. For the evangelists understood the testimonies taken from it of the Savior, as for example: "They divided my garments among themselves and cast lots for my clothing"; and elsewhere: "They have pierced my hands and my feet." Do not marvel at the humility of the words and the complaint of the forsaken one. For by knowing the "form of a servant," you see the scandal of the cross" (The Fathers of the Church: St. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, 4:27:46, trans. Thomas P. Scheck (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2008), p. 319).

Blessed Theophylact (1050-1107) expands on St. John Chrysostom's commentary, and then adds some additional insights:

"Jesus speaks prophetically in the Hebrew tongue to show that He does not contend with the Old Testament. He said, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" to show that He was truly man, and not just in appearance. For man avidly desires life and has a physical appetite for it.  Just as Christ agonized and was sorely troubled before the cross, showing the fear that is ours by nature, so now He says, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" displaying our natural thirst for life. For He was truly man and like us in all respects, but without sins. Some have understood it in this manner: the Savior spoke on behalf of the Jews and said, "Why hast Thou forsaken the Jewish race, O Father, that it should commit such a sin and be handed over to destruction?" For as Christ was one of the Jews, He said "forsaken Me," meaning, "Why hast Thou forsaken My kinsmen, My people, that they should bring such a great evil upon themselves?" (The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Matthew. Fr. Christopher Stade, Trans. (House Springs, MO: Chrysostom  Press, 1992), p. 247f).

Blessed Theodoret (393-458), in his commentary on Psalm 21[22] emphasizes the prophetic focus of the Psalm as a whole:

"This Psalm foretells the events of Christ the Lord's Passion and Resurrection, the calling of the nations and the salvation of the world" (The Fathers of the Church: Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Psalms, 1-72, trans. Robert C. Hill (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000), p. 145).

And on the specific verse in question, he writes very much along the lines of St. Gregory the Theologian: 

"Now, it was while fixed to the wood that the Lord uttered this cry, using the very language of the Hebrews, "Eli, Eli, lema sachthani?" So how could the testimony of truth itself be found inadmissible? He says he has been abandoned, however, since, despite no sin having been committed by him, death prevailed after receiving authority against sinners. So he calls abandonment not any separation from the divinity to which he was united, as some suspected, but the permission given for the Passion: the divinity was present to the form of a slave in his suffering and permitted him to suffer so as to procure salvation for the whole of nature. Of course, it was not affected by suffering from that source: how could the impassible nature suffer? It is Christ the Lord as a man, on the contrary, who speaks these words..." (The Fathers of the Church: Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Psalms, 1-72, trans. Robert C. Hill (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000), p. 146).

Cassiodorus (485-585), in his commentary on Psalm 21[22] echoes the other Fathers, and cites St. Cyril of Alexandria to reinforce them:

"He asks the Father why he has been abandoned by Him. These and similar expressions seek to express His humanity, but we must not believe that divinity was absent to Him even at the passion, since the apostle says: If they had known, thy would never have crucified the Lord of glory [1 Corinthians 2:8]. Though He was impassible, He suffered through the humanity which He assumed, and which could suffer. He was immortal, but He died; He never dies, but He rose again. On this topic Father Cyril expressed this beautiful thought: Through the grace of God He tasted death for all, surrendering His body though by nature He was life and the resurrection of the dead" [Cyril of Alexandria, Ep. 17 (MG 77.113B)]... He broadcasts the experiences of the humanity which He assumed, repelling words of blasphemy and impious mouthings, for He says that words begotten by sins are far from Him. The salvation of His sacred soul was not to embrace the speech of sinners, but gladly to endure by the virtue of patience what He suffered through God's dispensation" (Cassiodorus: Explanation of the Psalms, Vol. 1, trans. P. G. Walsh, (New York: Paulist Press,1990), p. 217).

So in summary, Christ Himself, by quoting the first words of Psalm 21 from the Cross, pointed us to the words of this prophetic Psalm, so that we would understand the meaning of His death, which He suffered for our sakes and in our place. There is no sense in which Christ was separated from the Father while on the Cross, but He voluntarily suffered the abandonment of the penalty for our sins in His humanity. And though this Psalm begins with words that speak of abandonment, and speak of cruel suffering, they end with words that speak of Christ's resurrection, his victory over death, and the salvation of the Church, which would be drawn from all nations:

"I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I hymn Thee. Ye that fear the Lord, praise Him; all ye that are of the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; let all fear Him that are of the seed of Israel. For He hath not set at naught nor abhorred the supplications of the pauper, nor hath He turned His face from me; and when I cried unto Him, He hearkened unto me. From Thee is my praise; in the great church will I confess Thee; my vows will I pay before them that fear Thee. The poor shall eat and be filled, and they that seek the Lord shall praise Him; their hearts shall live for ever and ever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and shall turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him. For the kingdom is the Lord's and He Himself is sovereign of the nations. All they that be fat upon the earth have eaten and worshipped; all they that go down into the earth shall fall down before Him. Yea, my soul liveth for Him, and my seed shall serve Him. The generation that cometh shall be told of the Lord, and they shall proclaim His righteousness to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made" (Psalm 21:22-31).


Thursday, October 01, 2020

Reader Services through the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

This installment covers the Sundays of Old Calendar October, which on the civil Calendar runs from October 14th through November 13th. I intend to keep these texts posted as long as there are states or English speaking countries that are still under lockdown due to the Coronavirus.

The Eves

For the Eves of the upcoming Sundays and Feasts, you could ideally do the Vigil. The fixed portions can be downloaded here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/reader_vigil.doc

or viewed in HTML, here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil.htm

For the Rubrics, see: http://www.saintjonah.org/rub/

The variable portions of the service can be downloaded here (all of these would be served on the eve of their respective days). The Sunday services require two files, because these combinations do not repeat annually. In addition to the files linked for the Sundays below, you will need to use the appropriate Katavasia, which for this time period is the Katavasia of the Theotokos -- the respective Rubrics will tell you which. Also, on Sundays, there are some hymns that are appointed according to which Matins Gospel is read. To find out which one is read, you also need to look at the Rubrics. For those texts, you will find them here: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/matinsgospel.doc Those hymns are usually done at the Exapostilaria and then at the Doxasticon at the Praises.

Also, the texts below do not always have the full canon for the Menaion, but you can find that here:

https://orthodox-europe.org/liturgics/menaion/october/ (you will need to look up the service according to the Old Calendar (o.s.) date).

For the Feast of the Protection: (October 14th n.s. / October 1st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil_protection.doc

For the 19th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Hierarchs of Moscow (October 18th n.s. / October 5th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/10-05_hierarchsofmoscow.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone2.doc

For the Feast of St. Jonah: (October 20th n.s. / October 7th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil_stjonah.doc

For the 20th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (October 25th n.s. / October 12th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/10-08+fathers7thcouncil.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone3.doc

For the 21st Sunday after Pentecost / St. John of Kronstadt (November 1st n.s. / October 19th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/10-19stjohnofkronstadt_sunday.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone4.doc

For the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost / Holy Great-martyr Demetrius and Commemoration of the Great Earthquake at Constantinople in 740 AD (November 8th n.s. / October 26th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/10-26gmdemetrius.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone5.doc

However, if doing Vigil is too much for you at present, you could do Small Compline, and take the canon of each of the above days, and read it immediately after the Creed, and then repeat the Kontakion that is appointed after Ode 6th of  the canon after the following Trisagion.

Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the Feast of the Protection: (October 14th n.s. / October 1st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_protection.doc

For the 19th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Hierarchs of Moscow (October 18th n.s. / October 5th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent19.doc

For the Feast of St. Jonah: (October 20th n.s. / October 7th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_stjonah.doc

For the 20th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (October 25th n.s. / October 12th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent20.doc

For the 21st Sunday after Pentecost / St. John of Kronstadt (November 1st n.s. / October 19th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent21.doc

For the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost / Holy Great-martyr Demetrius and Commemoration of the Great Earthquake at Constantinople in 740 AD (November 8th n.s. / October 26th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent22.doc

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Stump the Priest: Memory Eternal

 

Question: "Is it proper to say "Memory Eternal!" in reference to the non-Orthodox?"

When we sing "Memory Eternal!" at a funeral or a pannikhida, we are not praying that the memory of the departed will be eternal among those here on earth, but that God would remember them eternally. Of course, by this we do not mean to suggest that God might forget if we don't ask him to remember them. We are speaking of a particular kind of memory.

In the Gospels Christ tells us that on the day of judgment, many will be surprised to hear the words "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:22-23). And in the Scriptures when it speaks of "knowing" someone, it refers to the intimate knowledge that results from relationship, and so the point in this passage is that while the people in question professed to be followers of Christ, they did not have a real living relationship with Him. 

When we pray that God would make the memory of the departed eternal, we are also alluding to the prayer of the wise thief on the Cross who said to Christ: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42).

When considering whether it is proper to say "Memory Eternal!" with reference to someone who is not an Orthodox Christian, you should consider whether or not it would be proper to do the funeral service or a pannikhida for them. And the answer is "No." It is true that there is a very short order of service for a non-Orthodox Christian that can be done if they such a person has no one to bury them from their own faith, such as might happen in an Orthodox country. But such services simply consisted of singing the Trisagion, without any of the other prayers of a funeral or pannikhida, including "Memory Eternal!" And if we are not permitted to sing "Memory Eternal!" even at the burial of a non-Orthodox Christian under such circumstances, we should not say it with regard to them in other contexts either (see: On the Burial of the Heterodox).

We certainly can pray for them in our private prayers, and we do not preempt the judgment of God, and assume we know what it will be in their case, but "Memory Eternal! is a prayer that should be limited to baptized Orthodox Christians who have at least not renounced the faith in this life.

Update: St. John of Shanghai did allow "Memory Eternal!" to be sung, along with some other hymns, as "an exception for those persons who during their lives demonstrated goodwill towards the Orthodox faith and took part in its life to the best of their abilities..." It is not clear exactly what sort of person would fit into that category, although perhaps someone who had an interest in conversion, but had not yet completed the process would be such an example. But clearly, saying "Memory Eternal!" for those who had no connection with the Church would not fit, even as an exception.

For more information, see:

Stump the Priest: How do you Pray for the Non-Orthodox?

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Stump the Priest: The Johannine Comma

1 John 5: 7-9 in the Codex Montfortianus

Question: "According to the Orthodox Church, Is 1 John 5:7 original or a later insertion? I've been studying the subject, but I would greatly appreciate your input."

In most contemporary translations of the Bible, you encounter portions of Scripture that are put in brackets or reduced to a footnote, and it is claimed that "the earliest and most reliable manuscripts" do not include the texts in questions. However, when you look further into these cases, you will generally find that the vast majority of Greek  manuscripts include the text. For example, in the case of the ending of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), there are only two 4th century Greek manuscripts that omit these verses, and one other manuscript that is much later in origin, while there are sources that pre-date the 4th century (such as the Diatessaron) that include these verses, not to mention ancient translations that predate that period. And when you add that to the fact that every other Greek Manuscript does include these verses, it makes the move to omit these verses highly questionable, despite all protests to the contrary.

In the case of 1 John 5:7-8, however, the evidence in favor of the longer reading is very weak, although there is some support for it, particularly in the Latin tradition.

The longer reading of 1 John 5:7-8 is as follows, in the King James text:

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

And so without the longer portion, the text would read:

"For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

When it comes to Greek Manuscripts, there are only eight that provide support for the longer reading, and they are all relatively late:

61: codex Montfortianus, dating from the early sixteenth century.

88: a variant reading in a sixteenth century hand, added to the fourteenth-century codex Regius of Naples.

221: a variant reading added to a tenth-century manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

429: a variant reading added to a sixteenth-century manuscript at Wolfenbüttel.

629: a fourteenth or fifteenth century manuscript in the Vatican.

636: a variant reading added to a sixteenth-century manuscript at Naples.

918: a sixteenth-century manuscript at the Escorial, Spain.

2318: an eighteenth-century manuscript, influenced by the Clementine Vulgate, at Bucharest, Romania.

A case can be made that the text is quoted in part by St. Cyprian of Carthage, however, this is disputable.

The longer reading is found in most Latin texts, and the Old Latin text was probably translated in Apostolic times, and so this is not an insignificant fact.

When printing was invented, Erasmus was the first to publish the Greek New Testament, and in his earlier editions, he did not include the longer reading. This is why Luther's translation never included this reading, and so this has never been much of an issue in the German speaking world. However, because the text had such strong support in the Latin, and this was the text of Scripture best known to western scholars of Erasmus' time, there was pressure for him to include it, and he eventually did include it in later editions, after a Greek manuscript was found that included the longer reader. This is why the longer reading is included in the King James Version.

If you look at a Greek Bible, published by the Orthodox Church in Greece, you will see that the longer reading is included, but is reduced to a smaller font, to indicate that it is questionable. I believe this is the only example of this that text.

Η Αγία Γραφή: Η Παλαιά Διαθήκη και Η Καινή Διαθήκη (The Holy Bible: The Old Testament and the New Testament), published by the Zoe Brotherhood of Theologians, Athens, Greece, 2004, p. 1051. 

On the other hand, the Slavonic Bible, the Slavonic Apostol (the Liturgical Epistle Book), and the Russian Synodal translation of the Bible all include the longer reading without any notes questioning its authenticity. This may be due to the influence of Erasmus' New Testament, or due to the influence of the Latin text. Latin was a key part of the the study of early Slavic seminaries. 

The Slavonic Apostol showing the section from 1 John 5 which includes the longer reading.

Obviously there is nothing to object to in terms of the content of the longer reading of 1 John 5:7-8, but given that the support for it is relatively weak, especially in the Greek textual tradition, it is not a text that one should cite authoritatively, given that doing so is more likely to side-track any discussion, rather than settle anything. On the whole, it seems unlikely to have been the original reading. It may have originated as an explanatory margin note that somehow found its way into the body of the text over time. As such, the text is not wrong, just not likely original. The fact there is a textual issue like this should not bother us. There is no single perfect text of Scripture, and yet, the Church has within its tradition the fullness of Scripture as God inspired it, and we can be sure that the Church has properly preserved and understood this text.


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Reader Services though the 18th Sunday after Pentecost


This installment covers the Sundays of Old Calendar September, which on the civil Calendar runs from September 14th through October 13th. I intend to keep these texts posted as long as there are states or English speaking countries that are still under lockdown due to the Coronavirus.

The Eves

For the Eves of the upcoming Sundays and Feasts, you could ideally do the Vigil. The fixed portions can be downloaded here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/reader_vigil.doc

or viewed in HTML, here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil.htm

For the Rubrics, see: http://www.saintjonah.org/rub/

The variable portions of the service can be downloaded here (all of these would be served on the eve of their respective days). The Sunday services require two files, because these combinations do not repeat annually. In addition to the files linked for the Sundays below, you will need to use the appropriate Katavasia, which for this time period is either the Katavasia of the Cross, and the more commonly used Katavasia of the Theotokos -- the respective Rubrics will tell you which. Also, on Sundays, there are some hymns that are appointed according to which Matins Gospel is read. To find out which one is read, you also need to look at the Rubrics. For those texts, you will find them here: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/matinsgospel.doc Those hymns are usually done at the Exapostilaria and then at the Doxasticon at the Praises.

Also, the texts below do not always have the full canon for the Menaion, but you can find that here:

https://orthodox-europe.org/liturgics/menaion/september/ (you will need to look up the service according to the Old Calendar (o.s.) date).

For the 15th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyr Sozon / Forefeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos: (September 20th n.s. / September 7th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/9-07_martyr_sozon.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone6.doc

For the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 21st n.s. / September 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil_nativity_theotokos.doc

For the 16th Sunday after Pentecost / The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 27th n.s. / September 14th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil_exaltation.doc

For the 17th Sunday after Pentecost / The Apodosis of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: (October 4th n.s. / September 21st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/9-21_apodosis_exaltation.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone8.doc

For the 18th Sunday after Pentecost / St. Chariton the Confessor: (October 11th n.s. / September 28th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/9-28_stcharitontheconfessor.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone1.doc

However, if doing Vigil is too much for you at present, you could do Small Compline, and take the canon of each of the above days, and read it immediately after the Creed, and then repeat the Kontakion that is appointed after Ode 6th of  the canon after the following Trisagion.

Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the 15th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyr Sozon / Forefeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos: (September 20th n.s. / September 7th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent15.doc

For the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 21st n.s. / September 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_nativity_theotokos.doc

For the 16th Sunday after Pentecost / The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 27th n.s. / September 14th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_exaltation.doc

For the 17th Sunday after Pentecost / The Apodosis of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: (October 4th n.s. / September 21st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent17.doc

For the 18th Sunday after Pentecost / St. Chariton the Confessor: (October 11th n.s. / September 28th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent18.doc

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Reader Services though the 14th Sunday after Pentecost

This installment covers the Sundays of Old Calendar August, which on the civil Calendar runs from August 14th through September 13th. I intend to keep these texts posted as long as there are states or English speaking countries that are still under lockdown due to the Coronavirus.

The Eves

For the Eves of the upcoming Sundays and Feasts, you could ideally do the Vigil. The fixed portions can be downloaded here:


or viewed in HTML, here:


For the Rubrics, see: http://www.saintjonah.org/rub/

The variable portions of the service can be downloaded here (all of these would be served on the eve of their respective days). The Sunday services require two files, because these combinations do not repeat annually. In addition to the files linked for the Sundays below, you will need to use the appropriate Katavasia, which for this time period is either the Katavasia of the Cross, Transfiguration, or Dormition -- the respective Rubrics will tell you which. Also, on Sundays, there are some hymns that are appointed according to which Matins Gospel is read. To find out which one is read, you also need to look at the Rubrics. For those texts, you will find them here: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/matinsgospel.doc Those hymns are usually done at the Exapostilaria and then at the Doxasticon at the Praises.

Also, the texts below do not always have the full canon for the Menaion, but you can find that here:

https://orthodox-europe.org/liturgics/menaion/august/ (you will need to look up the service according to the Old Calendar (o.s.) date).

For the feast of the Procession of the Cross: (August 14th n.s. / August 1st o.s.):


For the 10th Sunday after Pentecost / Ss. Isaac, Dalmatus, and Faustus(August 16th n.s. / August 3rd o.s.):



For  the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 19th n.s. / August 6th o.s.):


For the 11th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Martyr and Archdeacon Lawrence / Afterfeast of the Transfiguration (August 23rd n.s. / August 10th o.s.):



For the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (August 28th n.s. / August 15th o.s.):


For the 12th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyr Myron of Cyzicus / Afterfeast of the Dormition (August 30th n.s. / August 17th o.s.):



For the 13th Sunday after Pentecost / Hieromartyr Eutyches, disciple of St. John the Theologian (September 6th n.s. / August 24th o.s.):



For the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (September 11th n.s. / August 29th o.s.):


For the 14th Sunday after Pentecost / Ss. Peter and Febronia of Murom (September 13th n.s. / August 31st o.s.):



However, if doing Vigil is too much for you at present, you could do Small Compline, and take the canon of each of the above days, and read it immediately after the Creed, and then repeat the Kontakion that is appointed after Ode 6th of  the canon after the following Trisagion.

Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the feast of the Procession of the Cross: (August 14th n.s. / August 1st o.s.):


For the 10th Sunday after Pentecost / Ss. Isaac, Dalmatus, and Faustus(August 16th n.s. / August 3rd o.s.):


For  the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 19th n.s. / August 6th o.s.):


For the 11th Sunday after Pentecost / The Holy Martyr and Archdeacon Lawrence / Afterfeast of the Transfiguration (August 23rd n.s. / August 10th o.s.):


For the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (August 28th n.s. / August 15th o.s.):


For the 12th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyr Myron of Cyzicus / Afterfeast of the Dormition (August 30th n.s. / August 17th o.s.):


For the 13th Sunday after Pentecost / Hieromartyr Eutyches, disciple of St. John the Theologian (September 6th n.s. / August 24th o.s.):


For the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (September 11th n.s. / August 29th o.s.):


For the 14th Sunday after Pentecost / Ss. Peter and Febronia of Murom (September 13th n.s. / August 31st o.s.):


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Stump the Priest: ROCOR's Future

Metropolitan Laurus and Patriarch Alexei II at the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, in Christ the Savior Cathedral, May 17th, 2007

Question: "Since the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), and the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) have reconciled, why is it that we still have three jurisdictions of Russian origin in the US. We still have ROCOR, we have parishes that are still part of the MP, and we have the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) which was granted a Tomos of Autocephaly by the MP. Aside from all of the historical past disagreements and associated negative “reasons" for why these jurisdictions came into being, is anything being done to unite these three jurisdictions?"

To understand why these three jurisdictions are not already united into one jurisdiction, you do need to understand the history of why we ended up with three Russian jurisdictions in the first place. Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, there was only one united jurisdiction in North America. The Bolshevik Revolution put militant atheists in a position to cause divisions in the Church, and they did not fail to take advantage of that power.

Foreseeing the difficulties the Russian Church would be facing under a militant atheist regime, Patriarch Tikhon did two things to enable the Church to continue to function. He issued Ukaz 362, which allowed for bishops separated from communication with the Mother Church to form their own temporary ecclesiastical authorities to govern the Church. He also appointed three locum tenentes (temporary administrators, pending the election of a new Patriarch) who were to take his place, because he feared that the Church might not be able to appoint a locum tenens when the time came, and he appointed three so that if the first one was not able to take office, the second one would, and if he was unable, the third one would. To make a long story short, the Soviets imprisoned all of the locum tenentes, and we ended up with a deputy locum tenens in charge, Metropolitan Sergius. So we had an unprecedented situation, with two other unprecedented solutions piled on top.

The acting head of the Russian Church, Metropolitan Sergius, was forced by the Soviets to issue a declaration of loyalty to the Soviet Union, which even clergy outside of Russia were expected to consent to. Most of those clergy did not go along with this, however. At first the bishops outside of Russia were all united under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, but disagreements about how to proceed, and how those outside of Russia should be related to the Church inside of Russia, under Metropolitan Sergius, led to divisions. There is a fairly well done, but brief, history of the relationship between ROCOR and what became the OCA (originally known as the American Metropolia) here: https://orthodoxwiki.org/ROCOR_and_OCA But to sum it up, there were two periods of time when ROCOR and the American Metropolia were united: first 1921-1926, and then again from 1935-1946. In the late 60's, they almost united united a third time, but the Moscow Patriarchate offered the American Metropolia a Tomos of Autocephaly, which brought those discussions to an end.

During these years, there were also a number of parishes in North America that came under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate directly, and were neither ROCOR nor OCA, though the number was always the smaller of the three by far.

One important thing to understand about the Tomos of Autocephaly given to the OCA is that it specifically stated that this Tomos did not invalidate any other Orthodox jurisdiction (such as the Antiochian and Greek Archdioceses) in North America, and provided for the continued separate existence of Moscow Patriarchal parishes that did not want to be part of the OCA. And so this Tomos is clearly not a Tomos of Autocephaly in the usual sense, because normally, an Autocephalous Church has exclusive jurisdiction over their own territory, by definition. And so in reality, what this Tomos did was it allowed the OCA and the MP to reconcile, without the OCA having to submit to the MP at a time when the MP was still under severe persecution by the Soviets, and as such, were subject to manipulation by the Soviets (which is why the OCA did not reconcile sooner, when that would have meant becoming a part of the MP). You could also say that the Tomos had the hope that eventually all the other jurisdictions in North America would come together, and make the OCA a truly united and autocephalous Church in the usual sense of the term.

So when ROCOR and the MP reconciled in 2007, it certainly was a topic of some discussion about whether the three Russian jurisdictions in North America would unite, but I think most people understood that this was not possible at the time. The practical pastoral issue is that for many decades, the relationships between these jurisdictions have often been strained. You also had clergy and whole parishes that went from one jurisdiction to the other, and not always because of reasons of principle, but simply because of problems with particular bishops. We are now able to have cordial relations with each other, and there has been a growing level of cooperation between the jurisdictions, but there are issues that remain.

There were some hopes that the Assembly of Bishops might not only bring these three jurisdictions together, but all the others in North America as well, but any such hopes of that happening in the foreseeable future have been dashed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate's recognition of the schismatics in Ukraine. So it is more likely that there would be some merger of these three jurisdictions before there would be anything on the larger scale, but even this has obstacles.

I think it is likely that down the road there will be a unification of MP parishes in Western Europe with ROCOR. I could see there being a Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand, and that becoming its own entity. And it is certainly possible that some merger could happen in North America, but while there are parts of the OCA that are very close to ROCOR in terms of their ethos, there are also elements that have embraced a modernist spirit that is quite foreign to us, and so I think the OCA would need to deal with that before any serious talk of a merger in North America would be possible. The OCA does have many positive things going for it, and many things it does well, and ROCOR is certainly not without its own problems. We don't know what the future holds. Future developments may help bring us all together. There is much upheaval in society today, as well as in the Church, and we can pray that as God shakes things up around us, that He will lead us all closer to Him, which would inevitably bring us all together.

For More Information, See:

ROCOR and the Assembly of Bishops

Voices of Reason (a collection of articles in response to those who objected to the reconciliation of ROCOR with the MP in 2007)

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

An Open Letter to Fr. Aidan Kimel regarding Universalism



An Open Letter to Fr. Aidan Kimel
regarding Universalism

by Dr. David C. Ford



June 22, 2020
St. Alban of Britain

Dear Fr. Aidan,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

I do want to thank you for giving me the courtesy of letting me know ahead of time about your response to my response to Fr. Plekon’s review of David Bentley Hart’s book, That All Shall Be Saved.

And I suppose I should thank you for giving my document such close attention, despite thinking it’s “drivel”!  I guess that’s a compliment of some sort!

By way of contrast, here’s what a retired Assistant District Attorney wrote to his priest about my response to Fr. Plekon’s review:

I read Dr. David Ford’s review of the review of Hart’s book on universal salvation.
It was an excellent piece - very well written. He writes like a good lawyer.
I believe it informed me of just about everything I probably want to know about the book, and seemed to confirmed a suspicion of mine that Hart may have become too “smart” for his own good.

To address your response to my response, I’m sure we completely agree that it would be truly wonderful indeed if every single human being, and every single angelic being including every demon and even Satan himself, were to repent and beg Christ for forgiveness before the Last Judgment occurs, or even afterwards (if that proves to be possible), leaving hell utterly empty if not totally annihilated.  Those with big enough hearts may well be praying for that!  That’s the hope we all are welcome to have.

But not the certainty.  For as you well know, for all the Scripture verses and passages that might possibly be taken in a Universalist way, there are many others that strongly imply what the Church as a whole has always taught against that speculation.  And who has the authority and the certain knowledge of the future to declare unequivocally that everyone, including the Devil and all his hosts, will repent and be saved in the end?  And of those who dare to declare this as a certainty, which of them will be willing to bear all the consequences if they are mistaken – especially if they’ve misled others to the extent of their living without repentance in this life because they got convinced they could just wait and repent in the next life?

Also, I’m very sorry that you don’t seem to understand how the issue of authority is indeed at the very heart of the matter.  For no matter what any of our speculations might be, no matter how well-thought out and well-intentioned they are, if they’re not informed by, aligned with, and centered in the received Tradition of our Orthodox Church, they simply can’t be correct!  This is especially true when the issue at hand is an important one, and when it has already been decided by the Church as a whole, with virtually every Saint and Church Father and holy elder in agreement.

Either our Church, Christ’s Body, has preserved Christ’s Truth in all its fullness, or our Lord has not protected His Body from “the gates of hell” as He promised He would.  And the Spirit of Truth, Whom Christ promised would lead His Church into all the Truth, must have failed to do that very thing.

Concerning the claim that some Christians in the early centuries were apparently Universalists, if we are faithful Orthodox Christians and not crypto-Protestants, we trust our Church to have made the correct decision in eventually rejecting Universalism, even if some unknown number of Christians believed it in the early centuries.  The historical record is that the Church as a whole rejected it; and after about the middle of the 6th century it rightly disappears, under the guidance of the Spirit of Truth Who was indeed leading the Church into all Truth – as all faithful Orthodox Christians believe. 

By that same guidance of the Holy Spirit of Truth, speaking in unknown tongues and the interpretation of tongues, though apparently endorsed by St. Paul himself (1 Cor. 14), as well as the office of the traveling prophets, also dissipated and disappeared, probably by about the beginning of the third century.  And also, the early belief, held by many rigorist Christians, that repentance and restoration to the Church were not possible even after deep repentance for those having committed the worst sins – adultery, apostasy, and murder – similarly was overturned by the Church as a whole, by the end of the 4th century.

You’re asking our Church to view our Orthodox Faith “through Universalist spectacles.”  When I attempt to do so, I see very serious and potentially disastrous pastoral and intellectual problems.

For instance, concerning the pastoral repercussions of Universalism, through our Church's rejection of Universalism She has recognized it as a misleading speculation that could very well undermine our people's incentive to live a life of ongoing repentance, which is so important in our Orthodox spiritual life, and which has direct relevance for our future state in the next life.  For if I can just plan on repenting in the next life, what does it matter how dissolutely I live, or how blasphemously I think, or how recklessly I believe, in this life?  I’m surprised you don’t seem to recognize this very real danger.

Really, with the Universalist claim, where is the incentive to take the Last Judgment seriously, if it’s believed that God absolutely will save everyone from hell the moment they finally repent?  And why are the prayers and hymns of our Church, as well as the Book of Psalms, filled to overflowing with calls and entreaties for the Lord to save us and have mercy on us, if He’s going to do that anyway the moment hell gets too hot for us and we finally repent then?

And what about for people who are in deep depression and struggling to resist suicidal thoughts?  If they’ve become convinced that Universalism is true, what would stop them, in a particularly excruciating moment of temptation, to give in to the temptation and take their own life in the expectation that they’ll be able to repent and be saved in the next life?  It seems clear that it’s not without deep pastoral wisdom, based in deep experience with spiritual warfare, that our Church, in order to provide an additional incentive for those dealing with suicidal thoughts to resist them, has traditionally denied a full Christian funeral to those taking their own life.

In addition, how would it not be deleterious to people's life in the Church if they get swayed by Hart's rhetoric into doubting the wisdom and trustworthiness of the great Saints and Church Fathers through the centuries?  People might ask themselves, If the Fathers are wrong on this issue, what else might they be wrong about?  And I wonder, how can people venerate the Saints and Fathers and ask for their prayers with fullness of reverence, esteem, and confidence if they get convinced that the Fathers were wrong on such a crucial issue?

Concerning the Universalist logic itself, granted that it may very well be extremely well-intentioned, compelling, and driven by the highest of motivations, yet it remains another attempt to reduce the mysteries of the Faith to the level of human reasoning.  It’s another example, as we see with every heresy, of the human mind staggering at some aspect of the mystery of our Lord’s inscrutable Being and Providence. 

According to human reasoning and conceptualizing, it might very well be true that knowing that God is Pure, Divine Love is logically incompatible with the fact that there may well be rational beings, demons as well as human beings, created by Him yet existing in an eternal state of separation from Him because “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).  Such a scenario may very well not seem to us to be something our All-Loving God could ever allow.  But we can only make such a judgment according to our own very limited definitions and concepts of what God’s love must be like. 

And the very foundations of our Faith are wrapped in logically inconsistent paradox and mystery.  How can Three be One?  How can One be Three?  How can God become man?  How can a man be God?  How can our Lord be completely inaccessible to humans, and yet simultaneously be completely accessible?  How can our salvation depend entirely upon our Lord and His saving work, and also entirely upon ourselves to freely accept that work for ourselves?  How can our Church contain the perfect fullness of Truth, yet consist of members who all fall short of being perfectly filled with Truth?  These are paradoxes, antinomies, mysteries, all of which defy human logic, with which they indeed are entirely inconsistent. 

Speaking broadly, I think it reflects a Scholastic mindset to wish to reduce the mystery, the paradox, to the level of logical consistency.  But for the Orthodox, knowing our Uncreated Lord is infinitely beyond our created capacities for reasoning, infinitely beyond the reasoning capacities of even the most intellectually brilliant among us, we calmly accept the paradoxes, the antinomies, the mysteries of our Divinely-revealed Faith.  As St. Gregory Palamas says so well, “The antinomy is the touchstone of Orthodoxy.”

I think we can say that the mysteries that permeate our Faith are in a sense intended by our Lord to defy human reasoning, as one of His ways to keep us humbly reliant upon Him in all things. 

We can also be reminded of the Orthodox understanding of the difference between the apophatic and kataphatic traditions in our Orthodox theology.  As St. Dionysius the Aeropagite says so well, God is Love and yet He is also Not-Love, because His Love is both similar to human concepts of love, yet at the same time His Love is infinitely beyond our human concepts of love.

It’s indeed admirable that Universalists are so concerned to defend and protect the understanding of God as Complete and Total Love.  But in Orthodoxy, we know this already; we’re always saying, “for He is the Good God Who loves mankind.”  I’m reminded of how the erroneous and divisive Filioque clause was added to the Nicene Creed to try to reinforce the full Deity of the Son in the face of continuing Arianism in late 6th century Spain; but the Nicene Creed had already established His full Deity with the use of the word homoousios.  Similarly, the Universalist attempt to reinforce the fullness of God’s Love by removing the possibility of eternal separation from Him leads to divisiveness and confusion, and distrust of the Tradition as a whole.

And in the end, of course, despite all its emphasis on God’s Love, Universalism always boils down not to love, but to power.  As Hart says, “Insofar as we are able freely to will anything at all, therefore, it is precisely because He is making us to do so: as at once the source of all action and intentionality in rational natures and also the transcendental object of rational desire that elicits every act of mind and will towards any purposes whatsoever” (TASBS, p. 183; his emphasis).  Besides, this claim is false because it would make God the ultimate author of every evil intention, decision, and action that’s ever occurred, and we all know that He is not the originator of evil.

Universalism staggers at the idea that any human or demonic will could ever eternally override the will and desire of our All-Powerful God for every demon and every person to repent and be saved from hell.  But that’s part of the mystery – God, in His humble Love, allows this.  He always just knocks at the door of our heart (Rev. 3:20); He never pushes open that door.  It’s this humble dimension of the way God loves that Universalism doesn’t seem to understand. 

In addition, by the logic of Universalism, if it’s morally absurd, if it’s cruel, if indeed it’s evil for God to allow demons and humans to reject His love forever and hence to experience hell forever, then it must have been morally absurd and cruel and evil for Him to have created angels and humans in the first place with the capacity to reject His will for them in anything.  For every time we sin, we reject and override His will for us to live without sin; and every time we sin, we plunge ourselves into a certain kind of hell.  Pressing the logic of Universalism to a logical conclusion, how could a fully loving God allow even one of His creatures to experience any form or degree of hell even for a moment? – for that would be cruel, according to the humanistic logic of Universalism.

But in the end, who would ever think that any 21st century scholar, no matter how intellectually brilliant, is more trustworthy than St. Athanasius the Great, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Basil the Great, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Vincent of Lerins, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. John of Damascus, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Photius the Great, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Nicholas Cabasilas, St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite, St. Silouan the Athonite, St. Paisius the Athonite, and countless other saints and elders? 

Is David Bentley Hart really living closer to God than they did?  Is he really more filled with God’s love and truth than they were?  Is it really possible that all those Saints were wrong about Universalism, and that you and David Bentley Hart are correct?  Do you really think the Head of His Church, Jesus Christ Himself, would have allowed His Church to go into error on this crucial point for all these centuries?  Has He really been waiting all this time for the truth to be finally discovered in the early 21st century by a handful of intellectuals? – with David Bentley Hart even daring to imply that all these Fathers and Saints were “moral idiots” for not believing in Universalism!

Of course, we’re all free to choose whom to trust, and whom to believe.  May we all choose wisely!

So, dear Fr. Aidan, please prayerfully consider my words, even if they are not brilliant.  And let’s all remember our Lord’s sobering words about being a stumbling block to any one of His little ones: “Better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he be drowned in the sea.”

With love and prayers,

Dr. David C. Ford
Professor of Church History
St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary
South Canaan, PA

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Reader Services for through the 9th Sunday After Pentecost


This installment covers the Sundays of Old Calendar July, which on the civil Calendar runs from July 14th through August 13th. I intend to keep these texts posted as long as there are states or English speaking countries that are still under lockdown due to the Coronavirus.


The Eves

For the Eves of the upcoming Sundays and Feasts, you could ideally do the Vigil. The fixed portions can be downloaded here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/reader_vigil.doc

or viewed in HTML, here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil.htm

For the Rubrics, see: http://www.saintjonah.org/rub/

The variable portions of the service can be downloaded here (all of these would be served on the eve of their respective days). These services require two files, because these combinations do not repeat annually. In addition to the files linked for the Sundays below, you will need to use the appropriate Katavasia, which for this time period is the Katavasia of the Theotokos. Also, there are some hymns that are appointed according to which Matins Gospel is read. To find out which one is read, you need to look at the Rubrics. For those texts, you will find them here: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/matinsgospel.doc Those hymns are usually done at the Exapostilaria and then at the Doxasticon at the Praises.

Also, the texts below do not always have the full canon for the Menaion, but you can find that here:

https://orthodox-europe.org/liturgics/menaion/july/ (you will need to look up the service according to the Old Calendar (o.s.) date).

For the 6th Sunday after Pentecost / St. Sisoes the Great (July 19th n.s. / July 6th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/7-06_stsisoes.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone5.doc

For the 7th Sunday after Pentecost / Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils (July 26th n.s. / July 13th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/7-13-19_fathers_6councils.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone6.doc

For the 8th Sunday after Pentecost / Prophet Elijah (August 2nd n.s. / July 20th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/7-20_prophet_elijah.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone7.doc

For the 9th Sunday after Pentecost / Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon (August 9th n.s. / July 27th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/7-27_gm_panteleimon.doc

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/tone8.doc

However, if doing Vigil is too much for you at present, you could do Small Compline, and take the canon of each of the above days, and read it immediately after the Creed, and then repeat the Kontakion that is appointed after Ode 6th of  the canon after the following Trisagion.

Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the 6th Sunday after Pentecost / St. Sisoes the Great (July 19th):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent6.doc

For the 7th Sunday after Pentecost / Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils (July 26th):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent7.doc

For the 8th Sunday after Pentecost / Prophet Elijah (August 2nd):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent8.doc

For the 9th Sunday after Pentecost / Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon (August 9th):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent9.doc


Friday, June 19, 2020

Review: The Soul's Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation


For several years I have been trying to find a good Orthodox book on biblical studies that was not just warmed over Protestant scholarship with a little Orthodoxy sprinkled on top, but I could find any such text (at least in English) until now. Dr. Mary Ford's book "The Soul's Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation," does an excellent job of explaining the Orthodox approach to scripture, in contrast to contemporary Protestant scholarship. It beautifully explains the historic approach of the Fathers of the Church to scripture, and also critically examines the origins and assumptions behind the historical-critical approach to scripture which is most common in contemporary academia.

Discovering the assumptions behind the historical-critical method played a big role in my own conversion to the Orthodox Faith, because even as a Protestant, it was apparent that these assumptions were not Christian in origin. Two texts that I think lay out this history well are "Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700," by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker; and "The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies," by Michael C. Legaspi. I would still recommend both of these books to those who want to really dig into this subject, but with far fewer pages, Dr. Ford makes a similar case, but in a way that is easier to understand for the average reader, and far more likely to actually be read by such people.

Dr. Ford goes on to explain how Orthodox Christians can make discerning use of Protestant biblical scholarship, while remaining faithful to the patristic approach to Scripture. This book is, at least to my knowledge, the best book on the scriptures currently available in English, and one I would recommend to any Orthodox Christian who wants to learn more about how to interpret the Scriptures... which should be everyone.

For more information, see:

Orthodox Biblical Interpretation and Protestant Biblical Scholarship

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Review: A Children's Catechism


The Catechesis of our children is one area that we need to work on, to be sure. Many are unsure how to do it properly, or what resources we should be using. Fr. Michael Shanbour has provided a useful text for preteens, either at home, or in Sunday Schools. The Good Samaritan: A Children's Catechism, covers the basics of the Faith, and does it in chapters short enough to keep a child's attention. It is well illustrated, and provides some instructions for activities that can be done to reinforce the lesson. It covers the questions of sin and the fall, and the remedies God has provided for us. It talks about the sacraments, as well as fasting and almsgiving. It's not the only text you will ever need to instruct your children in the faith, but it provides a good resource for children in that age group.

Your children are not going to grow up to be faithful Orthodox Christians because they are swept along by the culture to do so. The opposite is true. You have to work, and work diligently to instill the faith in your children, and this book will help.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Communion, Communion Spoons, and Irrational Fears


I recently came across a very insightful remark from a conservative writer (Denise McAllister) who was engaged in an online debate with someone over what the government should or should not be able to mandate. She wrote: "My freedom doesn’t end where your irrational fear begins." But of course the question of whether one's fears are rational or irrational is the question we have to consider.

There is unfortunately no risk free way for us to live in this world. If we were to avoid all risks, none of us would ever get into an automobile, but most of us do, because we consider that to be a manageable risk. If you drive while listening to the radio, or drinking a cup of coffee, you are adding to your risks... but these added risks are generally considered to be fairly minimal.

It is curious that while many local governments have closed churches, or severely restricted attendance, they have allowed marijuana shops and liquor stores to stay open. As a judge in Illinois recently pointed out, only 5 months ago, marijuana shops were not even legal, but they are now considered to be essential, but churches, which are protected by the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution are not (at least in many states). But, apparently, some risks are worth taking -- it's just a question of what you think is important. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has said that it is not yet safe for churches to give communion to their people, when asked whether people should refrain from hooking up with strangers for sex, said:
"If you're willing to take a risk—and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks—you could figure out if you want to meet somebody. And it depends on the level of the interaction that you want to have.... If you're looking for a friend, sit in a room and put a mask on, and you know, chat a bit. If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that's your choice regarding a risk" (Newsweek: "Dr. Fauci Says You Can Meet a Tinder Date 'If You're Willing to Take a Risk'" 4/16/20).
So it is all a matter of what your priorities are.

The question of how the various levels of government in the United States have handled the Coronavirus is something that we will probably be debating for years to come, but within the Orthodox Church, there is also an ongoing debate regarding how various bishops have handled this crisis. The bishops have responded to this crisis in various ways. Some only imposed restrictions on services in those places in which this was mandated by the local authorities; while others either restricted attendance or cancelled them altogether, regardless of government mandates being imposed or not. I have seen many who have argued that bishops who imposed such restrictions are outright heretics and apostates. But I have never heard such arguments when a parish has cancelled services because of severe weather. It may be, that as we reflect on this crisis, many bishops will regret that they overreacted. It could also have been that if this virus had proven to be as deadly as many were saying, that some bishops might have regretted under-reacting. So this is not a question of heresy, but a question of wisdom -- i.e., what was the reasonable thing to do under the circumstances. We might disagree with a bishop's decisions, but even if he judged wrongly, one has to assume his motivations were good, and that a desire to subvert the faith was not among those motivations. But what concerns me most at present, is where some bishops are headed with their responses to how we should go forward liturgically, in the wake of this virus.

We currently have bishops mandating the use of a different spoon for each communicate, and some who have instituted the practice of giving people communion in the hand (with a portion of the intincted Eucharist), all driven by the fear that giving people communion with a communion spoon, as the Church has been doing for nearly a thousand years now, might cause someone to get the virus. The question we should ask, however, is whether or not this fear is rational or irrational.

It has been pointed out that the practice of the Church in the first millennium was for people to receive communion much in the same way that Orthodox clergy still do: first with the Body of Christ in the hand, and then by receiving the Blood directly from the chalice. Why did the Church end that practice, and begin communing people with a spoon? Because people were carelessly dropping portions of the Eucharist, and because of some people taking the Eucharist home for superstitious purposes. There is little reason to believe that people in our time will be more pious and careful than people in the first millennium -- and there is plenty of evidence to assume just the opposite.

While many are appealing to the older practice as a basis for what they propose as a solution to concerns over this virus, none are actually suggesting we return to that practice, because obviously, if the laity were all partaking from a common chalice, this would not be an improvement over using a single spoon. In fact, while the spoon is dipped back into the chalice and washed in the Blood of Christ after each person is communed, this does not happen to the outside of the chalice.

Those advocating for the use of multiple, or even disposable spoons, appeal to precedents from the past for how those known to be sick with infectious diseases have been communed. But the key factor is that this is how people who were known to have an infectious disease were communed -- such methods were never used as a preventative measure. Also, when a priest is communing the sick, he normally does so with the reserved sacrament, and so the wine that is in the chalice is unconsecrated wine.*

The question I have asked many people who have advocated that such changes are necessary is very simple: Is there any evidence that anyone has ever gotten sick from receiving communion with a spoon?  There answer to this question is "no." But some people then retort that this is simply because no one has ever done a scientific study of the question, but this is not true. It is true that, to my knowledge at least, there have been no studies involving the use of communion spoons, but there have actually been several studies of people using a common chalice -- which would be more likely to be a means of transmitting disease than a communion spoon, for the aforementioned reason -- and so such studies are a good way to answer the question of whether we are dealing with rational or irrational fears.

John Sanidopoulos, in his article "Scientific Studies on the Transmission of Infectious Diseases Through Holy Communion" has pointed to 6 relevant studies done between 1943 and 1998. One study found that even under ideal circumstances (ideal for allowing transmission, that is), the use of a common chalice showed 0.001% of organisms being transferred, but when studying conditions that actually followed real world practice, no transmission could be detected. In another study, three groups of people were studied: those who go to Church and receive communion, those who go to Church but who do not receive communion, and those who do not go to Church at all. What they found was that even among those who received communion as often as daily, there was no increase in one's risk of infection. And so even if you do not believe in God, fears of getting sick because of getting a virus from a communion spoon are irrational -- and if you do believe in God, and actually believe what we confess before we receive the Eucharist (which is that the Eucharist is truly Christ's Body and Blood), then you should have nothing to worry about.

Fr. Alkiviadis C. Calivas, in his article "A Note on the Common Communion Spoon," says that he himself has no such fears, but expresses his concern for those who do:
"In my sixty-four years in the priesthood, I have consumed the chalice thousands of times after countless Divine Liturgies without fear or hesitation, as every priest does. I am not certain, however, that every faithful parishioner would do the same, if they were asked. My point is this. Holy Communion should be a source of joy, hope and strength for everyone and not a test or measure of one’s faith in God’s providential care (Matt. 4:5-7). St. Paul reminds us that the love of Christ requires that we care for all persons, whatever their situation and be sensitive and responsive to their just needs and concerns for the sake of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9: 19-23)."
I have not been a priest for even half as long, but my experience supports Fr. Alkiviadis' conclusion that there is nothing to fear. When I commune the faithful, the last mouth that I place the spoon into before handing it off to the deacon is my own (to ensure that there is nothing left of the Eucharist on the spoon), and I have not so much as had a fever since several years before I was ordained a priest. If a virus could be transmitted via a communion spoon, there should be widespread instances of priests with oral herpes (which can be spread by the use of eating utensils that have been used by someone with that virus), but as a matter of fact, there is no evidence that anyone has gotten such a virus in this way.

I can appreciate Fr. Alkiviadis' concern for people who have irrational fears, but why should we encourage such irrational fears to persist by acting in a way that communicates to those suffering from them that we believe those fears are well founded?

I am afraid that we as a society may be raising up a generation of germaphobes who will spend their lives paralyzed by such irrational fears, and be so concerned about dying from the many germs and viruses that abound in our world, that they are unable to actually live. But it is far more concerning to contemplate the message that the Church would be sending to the faithful, if we act as if receiving communion is a physically dangerous act. It is indeed spiritually dangerous to receive communion in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-29), but which of the saints ever taught or suggested that the Eucharist could be a means of transmitting a disease? None did. In fact there is a well known episode from the life of St. John of Shanghai:
"Vladyka's constant attention to self-mortification had its root in the fear of God, which he possessed in the tradition of the ancient Church and of Holy Russia. The following incident, told by O. Skopichenko and confirmed by many from Shanghai, well illustrates his daring, unshakable faith in Christ. "Mrs. Menshikova was bitten by a mad dog. The injections against rabies she either refused to take or took carelessly… And then she came down with this terrible disease. Bishop John found out about it and came to the dying woman. He gave her Holy Communion, but just then she began having one of the fits of this disease; she began to foam at the mouth, and at the same time she spit out the Holy Gifts which she had just received. The Holy Sacrament cannot be thrown out. So, Vladyka picked up and put in his mouth the Holy Gifts vomited by the sick woman. Those who were with him exclaimed: `Vladyka, what are you doing! Rabies is terribly contagious!' But Vladyka peacefully answered: `Nothing will happen; these are the Holy Gifts.' And indeed nothing did happen."
If someone does not really believe that the Eucharist is what we say it is, then indeed they should not receive communion, because "...he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (1 Corinthians 11:29).

Aside from all that has been said, when we speak of "risk" or "chance" as Christians, we should understand that these are simply means of referring to the many variable factors that we do not know. We, however, do not believe in a God that is a helpless observer, who fondly hopes that things will work out well for us. We believe, that if we are doing what God wants us to do, that we don't need to worry beyond that. The worst that can happen is that we will die, and go to be with Christ for all eternity. We believe that not a sparrow falls apart from the will of the Father (Matthew 10:29), and as St. Anthony of Optina said during a cholera epidemic (which killed far more people than the coronavirus is likely to):
"You should not be afraid of cholera, but of serious sins, for the scythe of death mows a person down like grass even without cholera. Therefore, place all your hope in the Lord God, without Whose will even the birds do not die, much less a person."
For more on this question, I would highly recommend the article: "A Response to "On administering Holy Communion in a Time of a Plague""

*I personally wouldn't worry about it even then, but this is perhaps why more caution is shown.

Update: You could just skip my article, and go directly to Presbytera Eugenia Constantinou's "More Dangerous than Covid-19," which says it about as well as it can be said.