Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Using the Fear of Epidemics to Shut Down Churches

Having watched how parish churches have been shut down around the world on the basis of the Coronavirus, I had thought prior to reading the following that there must be a bunch of old Soviets kicking themselves that they hadn't thought of it first. But the fact of the matter is, they not only thought of it... they did it. I recently read the book "Red Priests," which is a book about the schismatic "Living Church," and the use that the Soviets made of them to try to undermine the real Russian Church, and I found this quote, which was speaking about various strategies the Soviets were using during the 1930's to try to eradicate the Church:

"Parish churches were often closed when they refused to register clergy or because of the threat of "epidemics," that is, on the pretense of preventing the spread of disease by parishioners who gathered together for worship" (Edward Roslof, "Red Priests: Renovationism, Russian Orthodoxy, and Revolution, 1905-1946 (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 186 [Emphasis added].

History may not repeat exactly, but it certainly does rhyme. 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Reader Services through St. Thomas Sunday

This installment covers the Sundays and Feasts of Old Calendar April, which on the civil Calendar runs from April 14th through May 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 prior to Pascha require two files, because these combinations do not repeat annually. Beginning with Pascha, all the variable material is included in one file. 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.

For  the Great Canon on Thursday, for those who are not use to doing services, I would recommend that you use the text of Small Compline: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/compline.htm and then, right after the Creed, you would do the Great Canon. This text has the text has the text for the Great Canon on the 5th week of Lent, beginning on page 42:

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/greatcanon_sts.pdf

For the Fifth Friday of Great Lent, we do the service of the Akathist Hymn. For those not use to doing services, I would recommend using this text, which follows the more simple Greek order of service, but is arranged as a Reader Service:

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

For the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt (April 18th n.s. / April 5th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/lent5.doc 

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

Beginning with Lazarus Saturday (April 24th n.s. / April 11th o.s.) through Pascha (May 2nd n.s. / April 19th o.s.), you will find all of the services laid out as reader services here:

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

For St. Thomas Sunday (May 9th n.s. / April 26th o.s.)

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/pascha1.doc 

Or alternatively, you could do Small Compline with the canon:

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


Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt (April 18th n.s. / April 5th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_lent5.doc

Beginning with Lazarus Saturday (April 24th n.s. / April 11th o.s.) through Pascha (May 2nd n.s. / April 19th o.s.), you will find all of the services laid out as reader services here:

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

For St. Thomas Sunday (May 9th n.s. / April 26th o.s.)

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pascha1.doc 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

St. Paisios on Fear of Germs and Holy Things

The following conversation that St. Paisios the Athonite had with one of his spiritual children, which is recorded in Elder Paisios of Mount Athos: Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle, is of some interest, especially in the times we currently live in.

I remember also at the Coenobium we had a monk who as a layman had been a police captain. They made him a reader because was educated. He had been in the monastery for years yet was still disgusted by many things. He would not even touch a doorknob! He would try to open a door with his foot, or try to turn the knob with his elbow and then clean his sleeve with alcohol. He would even open the door of the Church with his foot. In his old age, God permitted that his feet developed gangrene, especially the one he use to open the door. I was serving as a nursing aide when he first came to the monastery’s hospital with his foot all bandaged up. The nursing orderly told me to untie it while he went to get some bandages. When I untied it, I gasped. It was covered with little worms. “Go down to the sea to wash it and get rid of the worms, and come to have me change the bandages.” I was at a loss seeing the condition of his foot, the degree of his punishment. The nursing orderly asked me, “Do you know the cause of his afflictions?” “Yes, it’s because he opens the door with his foot,” I told him.

-- And Geronda, did he continue to open the door with his foot?

-- Yes with his foot! And he had grown old as a monk.

-- Didn’t he understand in the end?

-- I don’t know. After that, I went to the monastery of Stomion in Konitsa. I don’t know how he died. But there in the Coenobium on Mount Athos some of the younger monks would eat the food left on the plates of the older monks as a blessing. Thy would gather the leftovers because thy had been blessed. Others would kiss the doorknob touched by the Elders, while the monk who was disgusted by everything would barely touch his moustache to the holy icons when he bowed to reverence them. One can only imagine what his poor moustache had to endure with the rubbing alcohol!

-- Geronda, when something like this happens with sacred things, is it not irreverence?

-- Of course; this is how things start, and then move on to further developments. The same monk reached the point of not kissing the icons because he feared that the monks who reverenced them before him had some illness!

-- In other words, if one is to avoid being disgusted, he must not be fussy or pay attention to such things?

-- People do not see what trash is mixed into the food they put in their mouth! Even if one has some phobia about getting sick, Christ will help if one makes the sign of the cross with faith. Many people who have various illnesses come by my Kalyvi*. Some simple folk who come will cross themselves when they pick up the tin cup I have there to drink some water. Others who are afraid do not touch it. Someone who held an important position in a company recently came to see me. He is so afraid of germs that he had bleached his hands white from frequent washings with disinfectant alcohol. He will even rub  the steering wheel of his automobile with alcohol. I felt sorry for him. Do you know what it is like to hold such an important position and to be like that? I gave him some loukoumi**, and he did not take It because I had touched it. But even if it had still been in the box, he would not have taken it because he would be thinking that someone else must have placed it in the box with his hands in the first place. I took the loukoumi and rubbed it on his shoe and ate it. I did a number things like that in order to help him free himself, even a little, from his feeling of disgust.

Today a young woman came here who was a hypochondriac. She would not receive a blessing when she entered because she was afraid of catching germs. And when she was leaving, after all I had said to help her, she still would not receive a blessing. “I won’t kiss your hand, Geronda, because I’m afraid of catching germs,” she told me. What can you say? Such people make themselves miserable (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos: Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle (published in Greece in 1999, and in English, in 2016, by the Holy Monastery “Evangelist John the Theologian”, Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece, pp.51-53).

*A little house.
**Also known as "Turkish delight"... but not by Greeks.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

Lent is about to begin, and one prayer we should all memorize and incorporate into our daily prayers during Lent is the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not.  Prostration

But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant.  Prostration

Yea, O Lord King, grant me to see my own failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages.  Amen.  Prostration

Then twelve reverences (making the sign of the Cross, with a bow from the waist).  With each one we say:

O God, cleanse me a sinner.

Then, the entire prayer without a break:

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not. But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant. Yea, O Lord King, grant me to see my own failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages.  Amen.  Prostration

You will find this prayer in the current edition of the Jordanville Prayer Book on p. 171.

You can read an explanation of the meaning of this prayer by St. Luke the Surgeon of Crimea, in the following articles:

https://orthochristian.com/111414.html

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Texts for Lenten Services / Annunciation

 

I send out the variable portions of Vigil on a monthly basis to this group, and so you can join it to receive these documents as soon as they are available:

https://groups.io/g/vigil-texts/

I have also been posting the same variable portions in my monthly installments for reader services on this blog, and so, you can get them there too, for as long as the lockdowns continue.

You can find the Rubrics for most Lenten Services posted here (though the complete texts are in the St. Innocent Liturgical Calendar):

https://saintjonah.org/rub/

Also linked on the Rubrics page are the texts for Forgiveness Sunday Vespers. If you want everything put together, however, it is in this document:

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

The variable portions of the full Liturgies are posted here:

https://saintjonah.org/lit/

The variable portions for the Presanctified Liturgies are posted here:

http://www.saintjonah.org/presanct/

All of the texts necessary for the Annunciation services are posted here:

https://saintjonah.org/services/annunciation_index.htm

I don't insert the Triodion variables into the fixed parts of the services for Annunciation because these change every year, but the other texts can easily be re-used from one year to the next (at least most of the time).

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Reader Services through the Sunday of St. John Climacus

This installment covers the Sundays and Feasts of Old Calendar March, which on the civil Calendar runs from March 14th through April 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. 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.

For Forgiveness Sunday (March 14th n.s. / March 1st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/triod4.doc 

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

For Forgiveness Sunday Vespers (done on Sunday Evening), this text has everything laid out exactly as it would be done, with nothing omitted:

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

First Week of Lent: for Monday (March 15/2 ) through Thursday (March 18/5), the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is done. 

http://stjonah.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/greatcanon_sts.pdf

Ideally, this is done as a part of Great Compline, but if that is too much, you can do it as part of Small Compline.

On the Fridays of Great Lent, you can do the Akathist with Small Compline:

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

For the Sunday of Orthodoxy (March 21st n.s. / March 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/lent1.doc 

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

For the Sunday of the St. Gregory Palamas (March 28th n.s. / March 15th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/lent2.doc 

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

For the Sunday of the Cross (March 4th n.s. / March 22nd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/lent3.doc

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

For the Feast of Annunciation (April 7th n.s. / March 25th o.s.):

Annunciation is one of the more complicated services in the Liturgy Year. If anyone wants to try to put it together, the rubrics and texts are posted here:

https://saintjonah.org/services/annunciation_index.htm

But for most people, I would suggest that if you are unable to go to Church, on the eve of the feast (Monday night) use this text for Small Compline, which has the Annunciation Canon in it, laid out for lay use:

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

For the Sunday of St. John Climacus (April 11th n.s. / March 29th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/lent4.doc

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


Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For Forgiveness Sunday (March 14th n.s. / March 1st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_triod4.doc

For the Sunday of Orthodoxy (March 21st n.s. / March 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_lent1.doc 

For the Sunday of the St. Gregory Palamas (March 28th n.s. / March 15th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_lent2.doc

For the Sunday of the Cross (March 4th n.s. / March 22nd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_lent3.doc

For the Feast of Annunciation (April 7th n.s. / March 25th o.s.):

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

For the Sunday of St. John Climacus (April 11th n.s. / March 29th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_lent4.doc

Friday, February 19, 2021

Sarah Riccardi-Swartz and Russophobia


The cover of Time Magazine, 
promoting the idea that Russia was behind the election of Donald Trump, 
from their May 18, 2017

Sarah Riccardi-Swartz is an Orthodox anthropologist who has written extensively about her studies of the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) community in and near the Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia. She has been identified in academic forums as being a member of ROCOR, but if she has ever written about how she came to convert to the Orthodox Faith, I have not seen it, and she is at least currently not affiliated with ROCOR. She began her study not long after the election of Donald Trump, and it is clear that her analysis of ROCOR converts is entirely viewed through a political lens that is colored by her own left-wing politics. Her observations are entirely improbable -- and I speak as someone who is a ROCOR convert, and after having been in ROCOR for most of my life at this point.

ROCOR does not represent millions of people. Alexei Krindatch's data had the membership of ROCOR estimated to be about 27,700, within the United States. I have been in ROCOR since 1990, and so in this relatively small world, while I may not know everyone in ROCOR, there are probably not many members in North America that I don't at least know someone who knows them. In the case of Holy Cross Monastery, I have a former parishioner who is a monk there, whom I have known for decades, and his mother is still a very active member of my parish. There are others in the monastery and in the nearby parish that I know on one level or another, and I simply do not believe her descriptions have any relationship with the reality on the ground there.

For example, in the following video presentation, Sarah speaks of "converts" (in the plural, as if this is common) who are "willing to take up arms for Russia if they invaded the United States," who speak "of the revolutionary day when Vladimir Putin would invade the United States and restore moral order in order to avoid God's wrath." In my 31 years in ROCOR, in which I have traveled all over the country, I have never encountered anyone in ROCOR that I have ever heard say such things, nor could I imagine anyone I have known ever seriously saying anything of the sort. I can imagine someone speaking this way in jest, or someone who is mentally ill speaking this way... but I rather doubt Sarah has heard more than one mentally ill person saying such things in earnest, who thought they were speaking of a realistic scenario. After all, in the age of nuclear weapons, who thinks Russia would ever attempt to invade the United States, much less that they could do it successfully?

She also speaks of a man named "Reynolds" whom she describes as a mid 50's business man, who is ex-military, and regarding whom she makes the following comment:

"For Reynolds, converting to Russian Orthodoxy was more than sitting on the back porch of his priest's cabin drinking vodka and shooting rifles into the night's air, although he admitted to thoroughly enjoying those moments."

I frankly do not believe that anyone with the slightest idea of gun safety, much less someone who had been in the military, sits on anyone's back porch, and fires guns into the night air. People who use guns that I have known will never point their gun, even when they believe it is unloaded, at anything they are not trying to destroy, and they certainly would not be firing a gun into the air, with the knowledge that they could accidentally kill someone by doing so. I could imagine someone shooting at a target from a back porch, but not into the "night's air." But I am sure that many liberal academics get a kick out of having their stereotypes of toothless rednecks confirmed by such assertions.

She also makes some rather unlikely comments about "typical" converts in ROCOR:

"While statistical data has yet to catch up with the influx of converts in ROCOR, primarily because of its geographical diffusion across the US,  clerics and laity consistently offer examples of a typical convert, which aligns quite readily with the folks I have encountered during my research. A composite rendering of a likely convert often paints them as a single or married male between the ages of 20 and 60, typically with a college degree or more often then not a more advanced degree from a seminary or graduate training in theology, philosophy, or history. On the whole their political leanings are conservative at least, and sometimes far more radical, including but not limited to far and alt-right affiliations, and monarchism. Religious backgrounds of typical male converts, often run the gamut from non-denominational to Southern Baptist, to Pentecostal, to Catholic, but the largest number generally hail from Evangelical backgrounds. Crucial to the political concerns of converts were fears over social and moral issues, such as abortion, same sex marriage, human rights -- gay, trans, and women's right primarily, and restrictive access to legal fire arms. These fears are not new, but an embedded part of the religious right's platform, that came to rise during the early years of the cold war, and spread through the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. The language of moral evil that came to prominence during the Cold War, and helped spawn the religious right, and eventually the moral majority, is re-emerging with unabashed vigor among far right Christians today. And those iconic cold war marketing images, of Russia as the red menace, and the United States as the salvific global figure robed in nationalistic -- which we can read as White Christian pride -- have seemingly been inverted for the typical far right convert."

I have not seen Sarah allude to any scientific surveys that she has conducted to find out what the typical views and demographics of ROCOR converts are. Apparently, she is basing her comments on her limited observations in one community, and supplementing this with anecdotal evidence from conversations she has had. This hardly seems like the basis a real scholar would use to make these kinds of sweeping comments. In my experience, I have found converts vary rather widely in terms of their backgrounds and how and why they became Orthodox.

She also is very much off the track in terms of her knowledge of the history she alludes to. There were no culture war issues in the early years of the Cold War. I am old enough to remember when Democrats and Republicans didn't differ very much on issues of morality. In fact, the first presidential race I was old enough to pay attention to, was when Jimmy Carter ran against Gerald Ford in 1976, and I remember a Southern Baptist preacher, whom I think was Adrian Rogers, saying "I'm not going to tell you who to vote for, but he has the same initials as Jesus Christ." Jimmy Carter ran as an Evangelical, and he won the Evangelical vote by a big margin. Well into the 80's, many mainstream Democrats ran as being Pro-Life, including Bill Clinton and Al Gore -- in fact I well remember Al Gore's wife waging a mini-culture war against x-rated and violent music lyrics, and she was joined by a lot of Republicans and Democrats. Barack Obama ran for president twice, taking the position that he opposed same-sex marriage, and only after the mid-term elections of his second term did Joe Biden float the trial balloon of supporting it. This is not ancient history, we are talking about here. So to act like it is the lunatic fringe who oppose abortion and gay marriage, when most people still oppose abortion on demand, and when 20 years ago, almost no one was seriously talking about gay marriage as anything other than as a joke, only shows the youth, inexperience, and ignorance of recent history of the person making these comments.

The idea that concerns about the moral issues she mentions have anything to do with "White Christian pride" is also both slanderous and ignorant. It is slanderous, because the implication is that these concerns are driven by racism, when there is nothing in evidence to support such an assertion. It is ignorant, because only someone who has not spent much time around non-elite Black people could make such an assertion. I am sure that, these days, tossing around accusations of racism in an academic context is common, but in the real world, people should be more careful about such things.

When I first began working for the State of Texas, I was part of a training group for six months that consisted of about eight Black women, two white women, one black man, and one Hispanic man, and myself. We were also trained by a team of three Black women. I remember one day when we were eating lunch together we somehow got on the topic of abortion, and it was me and the eight Black women, against the two liberal White women, with the other two men staying out of it. Over the 27 years that I worked with the State of Texas, I discovered that Black people generally are far more socially conservative than most White people. This was also evident in California when they had a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage. Had only White people voted, the amendment would not have passed. It was Blacks and Hispanics that swung that vote. Here in Houston, when they had an ordinance that would have allowed men who think they are women to use women's restrooms, the ordinance was voted down... and this is in a city in Which white people represent about a third of the population. It was Black and Hispanic Churches that led the push to overturn this ordinance, and it was voted down by an overwhelming majority of voters. 

This past October, I agreed to be interviewed by Sarah, and I was a bit hesitant because I had read some questionable things Sarah had written before, but when I asked the monk I know from Holy Cross about her, he told me that he thought she was sincere, and so I did the interview. I could be wrong, but I am fairly certain she quoted me in her most recent article about the suspension of Fr. Mark Hodges: "After Orthodox Priest Suspended for "Stop the Steal" Activity, A Renewed Spotlight on the Orthodox Far-Right." She wrote:

"Many far-right Orthodox Christians I’ve encountered are gripped by the conviction that progressives have shifted the social ethos of the United States so far left that they are in danger of being persecuted for their moral ideologies. As one convert priest told me, “I don’t know what the future is gonna hold, if this thing doesn’t change and it keeps getting worse, I don’t know what that’s going to mean for us as Russian Orthodox Christians, as American converts to the Russian Church.” His apocalyptic worries are echoed online among far-right Orthodox folks, who suggest that persecution looms on the horizon. [See image below left]"

And here is the image the article refers to:


If memory serves, and she is in fact quoting me, I was speaking specifically about the anti-Russian drumbeat that we have been hearing ever since the 2016 election, when the left tried to say that the Russians stole the election (back when we still had the freedom to think an election might be stolen). My concern is of course that anti-Russian propaganda can lead to anti-Russian actions, and any people or institutions associated with Russians could easily become targets of unhinged people. I have spoken with many Russians about what it was like to be a Russian in the US during the Red-scares of the 50's and 60's, and it was not easy. The older ROCOR parish in Houston, up until the time I talked them into changing their listing in the 90's, was officially "The Eastern Orthodox Church of St. Vladimir," which made finding them in the phone book difficult. This parish was founded in the 50's, and it was because of this anti-Russian sentiment that they made sure to avoid using "Russian" in their name for the public to see.

What Sarah probably does not know about the picture the article included is that it is a picture from a book published in the early 1980's, at a time when Ronald Reagan was president, and few could imagine America ever harboring any sympathy for Marxism. This book based this inscription on the prophesy of a Russian Elder (the Elder Ignatius), who was living in Harbin, China in the 1930's, who said "What began in Russia, will end in America." He obviously did not say this because he was a Trump Supporter, or because of anything to do with the current culture wars of the United States. And so to use this, as evidence that ROCOR converts are a fifth column force for Russia in the United States is ridiculous, slanderous, and based on an ignorance of what she is talking about.

I can't remember if I mentioned this to Sarah when I spoke with her or not, but this past June, my parish was the subject of a terrorist threat from a local Antifa supporter, who was trying to gin up a group of like-minded terrorists to burn my Church down. He made a point of referring to my parish as "St. Jonah Russian Orthodox Church." This is despite the fact that we nowhere use "Russian" in the name of our parish -- not on our sign, and not on our parish website. I had to get the FBI and local law enforcement involved, and our parish subsequently had to spend well over ten thousand dollars to beef up security. So I don't think my concerns are unfounded. We have much better uses we could have put that money towards.

When I entered ROCOR, the Cold War was still going on, and certainly no one in the Church was talking about the Soviet Union as anything other than an evil. When the Soviet Union collapsed, we rejoiced that the Church was once again free, and we have welcomed the growing strength of the Russian Church. I do not, however, think of myself as being a Russian, nor do I want Russia to invade the United States, nor would I encourage anyone to take up arms against the United States on Russia's behalf.

I would also suggest to Sarah that she spend some time talking with people who have experienced Communism. I am married to one, and have talked to many such people over the years. In fact, I have a professional relationship with a Chinese man that has been ongoing for about two decades now. We have often made small talk about our families, but after this past election, he cautiously asked me about it, because he was wanting to make sure I was a safe person to talk to, and then he began expressing his concerns about the rise of Marxism in the United States, as well as the stifling of dissent and the control of the flow of information. He was raised and educated in Communist China, and he told me this was too much like what he had seen there for his comfort. And after seven months of riots across the country, conducted by people who identify themselves as Marxist, you can't seriously argue that there is no reason to be concerned. He has very grave concerns about where things are headed, and he is certainly not a White convert to ROCOR. I certainly hope that these concerns turn out to be unfounded, but eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and if we are not concerned about keeping it, we will certainly lose it. In fact, there is no doubt that we have lost a lot of freedom in this country already -- but someone in their 20's would probably be too young to have noticed.

What seems to be behind all of this nonsense is sort of the left-wing version of Q-Anon conspiracy theories. We had many on the left spend four years asserting the Russia had taken over the United States in 2016, and that Donald Trump was Putin's puppet. Evidently Sarah either has bought into such conspiracy theories, or she is at least willing to feed them with her work, and doing so has certainly garnered her a lot more attention than she otherwise would likely have gotten.

The idea that ROCOR converts are not loyal to their own country is offensive and baseless. I was baptized in ROCOR the same week I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, right as the first Gulf War was on the horizon. ROCOR actually worked with the US government during the Cold War, in its efforts to bring down the Soviet Union, and was thanked by Ronald Reagan for doing so. One can want the best for Russia without hating America, and one can also be concerned about the direction America has been heading in, and be motivated by love of both God and country. If Sarah doesn't believe that immorality could spell the end of the United States, she should open up her Bible and read it. God certainly does judge nations for immorality, and especially for the shedding of innocent blood. In the Bible, she will find, for example, that God destroyed the kingdom of Judah because they engaged in child sacrifice:

"And he [Manasseh] made his son pass through the fire [a form of child sacrifice], and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger" (2 Kings 21:6).

"Surely at the commandment of the Lord this [the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians] came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which the Lord would not pardon" (2 Kings 24:3-4).

And also, that God drove out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan because of their immorality (see, for example, Leviticus 18:24-30).

Of course, I hope God will be merciful to this country, and that our country will be given time to repent. I live here, and so naturally want the best for the country, for my parishioners, and for my family, but being concerned about God's judgment is not a fringe idea for a believer who takes the Bible at all seriously.

Sarah, also in her most recent article, wrote:

"The Orthodox far-right in the United States are caught up in the global Culture Wars; whatever political ideology they align themselves with—fascism, populism, monarchism, and many of the other isms—they are typically homophobic, transphobic, anti-intellectual, and, more often than not, white supremacists—whether avowed or in spirit."

I would ask Sarah to define what she means by "homophobic" and "transphobic," but I would also ask her why she thinks those "phobias" are bad, why she feels the need to stoke Russophobia, and whether she thinks that this is any way a Christian ought to treat those she claims to share the same faith with. Stoking Russophobia has real-life consequences for those who either are ethnically Russian, or who belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, and if people like Sarah continue to stoke it, it is not hard to imagine lives being lost as a result.

*We do not hide the fact that we belong to the Russian Church, but we do not want people to think that our parish is only for Russians.

For More Information, see:

Converts and Culture

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Reader Services through the Sunday of the Last Judgment


This installment covers the Sundays and Feasts of Old Calendar February, which on the civil Calendar runs from February 14th through March 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 Presentation, and then various Katavasiae from the Triodion  -- 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.

For the 36th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyr Tryphon / Forefeast of the Meeting of the Lord (February 14th n.s. / February 1st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/2-01_martyr_tryphon_ff.doc This text does not have the canon for the Menaion, but you can find that here: https://www.ponomar.net/maktabah/MenaionLambertsenFebruary2000/0201268.html

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

Vigil for the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord (February 15th n.s. / February 2nd o.s.):

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

For the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee / Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord (February 21st n.s. / February 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/triod1_af_feb08.doc 

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

For the Sunday of the Prodigal Son (February 28th n.s. / February 15th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/triod2.doc 

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

For the Sunday of the Last Judgment (March 7th n.s. / February 22nd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/triod3.doc

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


Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the 36th Sunday after Pentecost / Martyr Tryphon / Forefeast of the Meeting of the Lord (February 14th n.s. / February 1st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent36.doc

For the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord (February 15th n.s. / February 2nd o.s.):

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

For the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee / Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord (February 21st n.s. / February 8th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_triod1_af_feb08.doc 

For the Sunday of the Prodigal Son (February 28th n.s. / February 15th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_triod2.doc

For the Sunday of the Last Judgment (March 7th n.s. / February 22nd o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_triod3.doc


Monday, January 11, 2021

Reader Services through the 35th Sunday after Pentecost


This installment covers the Sundays and Feasts of Old Calendar January, which on the civil Calendar runs from January 14th through February 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 Theophany and then that of the Presentation -- 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://www.ponomar.net/maktabah/MenaionLambertsenJanuary2000/index.html (you will need to look up the service according to the Old Calendar (o.s.) date).

For the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord & St. Basil (January 14th n.s. / January 1st o.s.):

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

For the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost / Forefeast of Theophany & Synaxis of the 70 Apostles (January 4th n.s. / January 17th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/1-04FFofTheophany&Synaxis70.doc 

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

Vigil for the Eve of Theophany (January 18th n.s. / January 5th o.s.):

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

(This service is not set up as a reader service, but by following the usual modifications, you could easily use this text to do it as a reader service)

Vespers for Theophany (January 19th n.s. / January 6th o.s.):

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

Vigil for Theophany (January 19th n.s. / January 6th o.s.):

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

For the 33rd Sunday after Pentecost / Venerable Theodosius the Great / Afterfeast of Theophany (January 24th n.s. / January 11th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/1-11AFofTheophany&StTheodosius.doc 

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

For the 34th Sunday after Pentecost / Ss. Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria (January 31st n.s. / January 18th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/1-18SsAthanasius&Cyril.doc 

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

For the 35th Sunday after Pentecost / Sunday of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia (February 7th n.s. / January 25th o.s.):

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

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


Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord & St. Basil (January 14th n.s. / January 1st o.s.):

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

For the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost / Forefeast of Theophany & Synaxis of the 70 Apostles (January 4th n.s. / January 17th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent32.doc

Royal Hours and Typika for the Eve of Theophany (January 18th n.s. / January 5th o.s.):

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

Typika for Theophany (January 19th n.s. / January 6th o.s.):

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

For the 33rd Sunday after Pentecost / Venerable Theodosius the Great / Afterfeast of Theophany (January 24th n.s. / January 11th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent33.doc

For the 34th Sunday after Pentecost / Ss. Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria (January 31st n.s. / January 18th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent34.doc

For the 35th Sunday after Pentecost / Sunday of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia (February 7th n.s. / January 25th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent35.doc

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christianity and Communism

From "On the Law of God," by Metropolitan Philaret (Voskresensky). Translated by Hieromonk Varlaam Novakshonoff.

Let us now examine the question of the relationship of Christianity with Communism more precisely, to that particular form of communism which has now appeared as an attempt to realize the ideas of socialism. This form of communism emerged in history as a sworn and bitter enemy of Christianity. For its part, Christianity recognizes it as completely alien and inimical with itself.

The history of the Church in apostolic times reveals that, in those times, it had its own Christian communism and the faithful held everything common, as the Acts of the Apostles says. Even now, this Christian communism exists in the form of Koenobitic monasticism. Both the concept and reality of communal property is a bright, idealistically elevated type of Christian inter-relationship, examples of which have always existed in the Orthodox Church.

How great is the difference between such Christian communism and Soviet communism! One is as far from the other as the heavens are from the earth. Christian communism is not an independent self-motivated goal to which Christianity might strive. Rather, it is an inheritance bred of that spirit of love by which the Church has breathed from the first. Moreover, Christian communism is totally voluntary. No one says, "Give us what is yours, it belongs to us," rather, Christians themselves sacrificed so that "none of them considered any of their possessions to be their own."

The communalism of property in Soviet communism is a self-motivated goal which must be attained no matter what the consequences and regardless of any considerations. The builders of this type of communism are attaining it by purely violent means, not balking at any measure, even the slaughter of all those who do not agree... The bases of this communism are not freedom, as in Christian communism, but force; not sacrificial love, but envy and hatred.

In its struggle against religion, Soviet communism goes to such excesses that it excludes even that most elementary justice which is recognized by everyone. In its class ideology, Soviet communism tramples on all justice. The object of its work is not the common weal of all the citizens of the state, but only the interests of a single class. All the remaining state and social groupings of citizens are "thrown overboard," outside the care and protection of the communist government. The ruling class has no concern for them.

In speaking of its new order, its "free" state, communism constantly promises a "dictatorship of the proletariat." It became clear a long time ago, however, that there is no sign of this promised dictatorship of the proletariat, but instead, there is a bureaucratic dictatorship over the proletariat. Moreover, there is no manifestation of ordinary political freedom under this system: neither freedom of the press, nor freedom to assemble, nor the inviolability of the home. Only those who have lived in the Soviet Union know the heaviness and intensity of the oppression which reigns there. Over all this, there reigns a political terror such as has never before been experienced: executions and murders, exiles and imprisonment in unbelievably harsh conditions. This is what communism has given to the Russian people instead of the promised freedom.

In its political propaganda, communism claims that it is attaining the realization of freedom, equality (i.e., justice) and brotherhood. We have already spoken of the first and second. The idea of "brotherhood" was borrowed from the Christians who call each other "brother." Apostle Peter said, "Honor everyone, love the brotherhood" (1 Pt. 2:17). In practice, communism exchanged the word "brother" for the word "comrade." This is very indicative, since comrades can be co-participants (but not brethren) in any activity, but one cannot really speak of "brotherhood" anyway, there where class struggle, envy and hatred are preached.

All these cited differences between Christianity and communism do not yet exhaust even the very essence of the contradiction between them. The fundamental difference between communism and Christianity lies deeper still, in the religious ideology of both. No wonder, then, that the communists struggle so maliciously and stubbornly against our faith.

Communism is supposedly an atheistic system which renounces all religion. In actual fact, it is a religion - a fanatical, dark and intolerant religion. Christianity is a religion of heaven; communism, a religion of earth. Christianity preaches love for everyone; communism preaches class hatred and warfare and is based on egoism. Christianity is a religion of idealism, founded on the faith of the victory of God's truth and love. Communism is a religion of dry, rational pragmatism, pursuing the goal of creating an earthly paradise (a paradise of animalistic satiety and spiritual reprobation). It is significant that, while a cross is put on a Christian's grave, the grave of a communist is marked by a red stake. How indicative and symbolic for both. With the one - faith in the victory of life over death and good over evil. With the other - ignorant darkness, gloom and emptiness, without joy, comfort or hope for the future. While the sacred relics of the holy ascetics of Christ's faith blossom with incorruptibility and fragrance, the rotting corpse of the often-embalmed Lenin is the best symbol of communism.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Reader Services through the 31st Sunday after Pentecost


This installment covers the Sundays of Old Calendar December, which on the civil Calendar runs from December 14th through January 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 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/december/ (you will need to look up the service according to the Old Calendar (o.s.) date).

For the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 19th n.s. / December 6th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/vigil_stnicholas_sat_t2.doc

For the 28th Sunday After Pentecost / St. Ambrose of Milan (December 20th n.s. / December 7th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/12-07stambroseofmilan.doc 

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

For the 29th Sunday after Pentecost / The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (December 27th n.s. / December 14th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/12-11-17forefathers.doc 

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

For the 30th Sunday after Pentecost / The Sunday of the Holy Fathers (January 3rd n.s. / December 21st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/12-20-23holyfathers.doc 

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

Christmas Eve Vigil (January 6th n.s. / December 24th o.s.)

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

(This service is not set up as a reader service, but by following the usual modifications, you could easily use this text to do it as a reader service)

Vespers for Nativity (the eve of January 7th n.s. / December 25th o.s.):

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

Vigil for Nativity (January 7th n.s. / December 25th o.s.):

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

For the 31st Sunday after Pentecost / Sunday after Nativity (January 10th n.s. / December 28th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/12-28or30sundayafternativity.doc

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


Typika

In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 19th n.s. / December 6th o.s.):

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

For the 28th Sunday After Pentecost / St. Ambrose of Milan (December 20th n.s. / December 7th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent28.doc

For the 29th Sunday after Pentecost / The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (December 27th n.s. / December 14th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent29.doc

For the 30th Sunday after Pentecost / The Sunday of the Holy Fathers (January 3rd n.s. / December 21st o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent30.doc

The Royal Hours & Typika of Nativity (January 6th n.s. / December 24th o.s.):

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

For Nativity (January 7th n.s. / December 25th o.s.):

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

For the 31st Sunday after Pentecost / Sunday after Nativity (January 10th n.s. / December 28th o.s.):

http://www.saintjonah.org/services/typika_pent31.doc

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

St. Paisios the Athonite on Divine Providence

 

We live in uncertain times, but the following words from St. Paisios the Athonite tell us how we should view these uncertainties:

"He [St. Paisios] never worried or despaired, even if things seemed difficult and dire. And this was true as much for personal matters and the affairs of those around him as it was for ecclesiastical, national, and international affairs. He saw the increasing activity and dominion of the evil one and his minions, but he knew and assured others that "someone else holds the reins." "The devil ploughs," he would say, "but Christ sows the seeds." "God," he believed, "doesn't let something bad happen unless something good will come out of it, or unless it'll at least prevent something even worse from happening."

This hope which "will not be put to shame" accompanied him in every aspect of his life, especially in difficulties. In the midst of darkness and fog, he spoke of clear skies. "By the grace of God," he would say to desperate souls, "everything will be all right." To someone who was worried about schemes against their homeland, he replied with a hopeful answer: "If they tell me that there are no more Greeks, I won't worry. God can resurrect a Greek. One is enough." He also believed that "even if there's just one Christian left, Christ will fulfill His plan." When others spread fear and talked of ominous developments for the nation's future, the elder radiated optimism and hope. He spoke about a resurrected Greece and the recapture of Hagia Sophia. "There is a God," he once said to clergyman with a bleak outlook on the future of Greece. "What have you done with Him?"" ("Elder Paisios of Mount Athos," by Hieromonk Isaac, 7th ed. (Chalkidiki, Greece: Holy Monastery of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, 2012), p. 431f) Since St. Paisios' glorification, this book is now published under the title "Saint Paisios of Mount Athos." 

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).