Thursday, December 28, 2006

More Remebrances of Anastasia Titov

The following was sent to me by my friend John Granger of

My name is John Granger and I met Mrs. Titov when my family lived in Houston , 1996-2001. We were recent converts to Orthodoxy and went to as many services as we could at St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Church. Mrs. Titov, or Anastasia as she insisted we call her, was the choir director there. On Feast Days that fell during the week, oftentimes there were very few people at the Evening Vigil services or the Morning Liturgy. Anastasia and Rustik and Barbara Karnauch, however, were always there at the kliros to chant in English and Slavonic, as frequently as not with only my seven children and a few adults to listen. These are some of our fondest memories of life in Houston because of the kindness and good times we shared with the Karnauchs, Mrs. Titov, and the clergy at St. Vladimir’s. We asked Anastasia to be godmother to our son Timothy, born in 1998, and she agreed.

I remember celebrating Theophany at St. Vladimir’s one year when it was the priest, the kliros regulars, and my family. After the blessing of the waters and before we left for home and work, Anastasia pulled me aside and said she wanted to show me something. She dug into what she called her “God-bag” where she kept the music books and notebooks for the choir and pulled out a photograph about the size of a postcard and of a similar feel. In the picture were thousands of people standing on a snow covered frozen lake. They surrounded a central group of Orthodox priests and hierarchs. Men in rason held processional banners and icons on either side and the back of this group and one held an oversized cross. There was a visible hole in the ice. The thousands of people faced the camera and their numbers filled the picture from edge to edge.

I asked her where the picture was taken. Anastasia explained that it was taken in Harbin , China , on Theophany when she was a little girl. “This,” she said, pointing out the picture and looking me in the eye while smiling, “this was Theophany!” As I looked around the church in Houston , empty then except for the priest and the large glass container of water he had blessed, I marveled at the difference in the two scenes – and was grateful once again for the opportunity we had to worship with people like Mrs. Titov and the Karnauchs whose faith and fidelity bridged this difference and united the two.

I asked Mrs. Titov once if she and her husband Paul had come straight to this country from China after the war. “Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head and laughing at my naiveté. “They wouldn’t allow me to come. I was, after all, a sparrow.” Paul nodded his head and smiled at their inside joke. It turns out Anastasia had gone to the American consulate in China for the visa paperwork necessary to escape the Communists taking over the country. The young man who reviewed her paperwork told her that, unfortunately, she could not immigrate to the United States because she was, as a Russian born in China , “White Chinese” and subject to the quotas set for Chinese immigrants.

Anastasia told me she stood up from the chair in front of this young man’s desk, and, with as much disdain as she could muster asked him, “If a sparrow is born in a barn, sir, does that make the sparrow a cow? Do I look or sound Chinese to you?” The American official, sad to say, did not appreciate the avian treasure before him or her brilliant analogy. Anastasia by good fortune and St. John’s intercessory prayers (he was then in the Philippines ) was only able to escape the Chinese Communists in whose barn she was trapped by flying to South America .

Two quick notes about her unfeigned piety: first, Anastasia, because of her bond with her patron saint, made it a point to go to every baptism held at St. Vladimir’s. At my boy’s baptism, though she was weak and not feeling well, she insisted as Timothy’s godmother that she had to walk behind the priest as he circled the baptismal font. These three trips around could not have been easy for her but she seemed almost to be running or dancing, her head well in front of her body except for the candle she held. This is the mental picture I will always have of Mrs. Titov. I think of her, though, each time I confess. Anastasia did not commune every week but she did confess and receive at least at every major Feast that I can remember. Stone-hearted and self-important as I am, I don’t often feel or think much of anything after I confess. I think of Mrs. Titov when the prayers of absolution are said over me in my callowness because she would always be crying quietly after confessing as she prepared to receive. Memory Eternal!

Monday, December 25, 2006

HHSC Reverses Course on Welfare Privatization

What do you do when you have to release a story that you don't want people to pay attention to? You release the week before Christmas. The following two articles tell the story, but in short, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is at long last raising the white flag on its privatization plan. For more on the background of this story, click here.

It will be very interesting to see what those who are responsible for these decisions will have to say for themselves in the next legislative session. What an incredible amount of human misery they have caused in the name of saving money... and in the end they have only thrown money down rat holes, and the price to the tax payers will be much higher than they ever needed to be. It will also take years for HHSC to get back to the level it was even a year ago.

Texas cuts contract on benefits
Janet Elliott
San Antonio Express-News Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — Texas is drastically cutting a private contract for social services because of backlogs and errors in processing applications, state officials said Thursday.
The $899 million contract with Accenture to operate call centers to determine benefits eligibility will be reduced by $356 million and will end in 2008, two years early, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins.

Under the restructured contract, the Bermuda-based company will be largely relegated to data entry, leaving judgments about whether Texans qualify for food stamps, Medicaid and other welfare programs to state workers.

"We didn't draw the line between vendor work and state work in the right place," Hawkins said. "As we rebalance the roles between the state and the vendor, we will be drawing that line in a different place."

For example, if a client applying for benefits fails to list an asset such as a car, and a check of public data indicates a car is registered to the family, the situation now will be investigated by state employees, not Accenture workers.

Additionally, a planned expansion of Accenture-run call centers from two Central Texas counties to other areas of the state won't occur, Hawkins said.

The state will charge Accenture $30 million through service credits and payment discounts to recover costs incurred by the state, which has had to hire extra workers to process applications.

Accenture will retain more control over processing applications for the Children's Health Insurance Program, but state employees will handle all appeals of its decisions. Currently, clients denied benefits must first appeal to Accenture before going to the state.

Critics of privatization seized on the announced changes as evidence that the state's experiment had failed.

"They should have never (embarked on privatization) in the first place," said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. "I'm glad they woke up from whatever episode they were having."

No one should interpret the contract changes as a failure of privatization, said Accenture spokesman Jim McAvoy. "Some of the technology and business processes we tried to apply did not succeed. This is why you do a pilot to determine whether new structures will work."

He characterized the $30 million in service credits and discounts as "an accommodation," not a penalty.

The state's announcement was good news for state workers and groups that work with low-income Texans. Hawkins said 900 temporary positions in eligibility offices will be converted to full-time to stabilize the state work force.

"We're glad to see that HHSC is acknowledging that its call-center experiment didn't work," said Mike Gross, Texas State Employees Union vice president.

Gross said the commission should restore staffing levels at its local benefits offices to levels that existed before the contract was signed in June 2005.

Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin group that has advocated a more cautious approach to privatization, said Thursday's announcement served as a reminder that not all duties performed by state workers can be transferred to the private sector.

"There's a tremendous amount of expertise and skill in the public sector that the private sector could not replicate," he said.

Hawkins said the state eligibility workers for the most part are better trained and more experienced.

Neither of the authors of the 2003 privatization law, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, and former Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, could be reached Thursday for comment.

Hawkins said the state will continue to convert 8 million food stamp, Medicaid and welfare cases to the state's new computer system, which has had its own problems.

A state audit last month said that failed interfaces between the computer and the HHSC's Office of Inspector General have left investigators unable to check for fraud and overpayments in benefit programs.

Hawkins said he thinks the computer program is working as expected and will serve as the "backbone" of the eligibility-screening system when it is in place statewide in 18 months.

Hawkins declined to comment on a decision by HHSC Inspector General Brian Flood to drop recipient fraud investigations and withdraw pending fraud cases in the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System pilot area.

He downplayed concerns raised by Flood that without electronic tools to ferret out potential fraud in food stamp, aid to needy families, or children's insurance coverage, the state would not know if fraud was being perpetrated and to what amount.

Houston Chronicle:
Dec. 24, 2006, 8:40PM
Undoing the damage
Texas Health and Human Services acknowledges the shortcomings of its privatization plan

When state officials negotiated a contract with private vendors to screen applicants for social service program eligibility, they made an expensive blunder. The privatization scheme caused thousands of recipients to be dropped from the rolls and did not produce the expected savings to taxpayers.

After repeatedly defending the $899 million deal with Accenture against criticism by legislators, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and child advocates, Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins admitted the obvious. "We didn't draw the line between vendor work and state work in the right place," he said. "As we rebalance the roles between the state and the vendor, we will be drawing that line in a different place."

Accenture leads a consortium hired by the state to handle eligibility screening for Medicaid, food stamps, Children's Health Insurance and other state-managed assistance programs. Private workers at call centers were to replace state employees, but problems created application backlogs. Applicants complained that their documents were mishandled or lost. The Houston Chronicle documented one case in which dozens of applications, including confidential documents, were faxed in error to a Seattle storage warehouse.

Hawkins says his agency is slashing the Accenture contract by $356 million and the pact will be ended in 2008, two years earlier than previously planned. After previously telling state workers they would be laid off, HHS will now convert 900 temporary positions to full time. The state will also charge the contractor $30 million through service credits and payment discounts to recover the costs of rehiring state workers to process backlogged applications.

Unfortunately, Accenture will now handle eligibility screening for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which previously was conducted by a subcontractor, Maximus. Children's Defense Fund Texas Executive Director Barbara Best expressed concern that a privatization process that ended coverage for many children of low-income Texas families will still be handling CHIP applications.

The lesson of the Accenture debacle is that some state services, particularly those that provide a social safety net for the most vulnerable of Texans, should not be contracted out to companies more interested in amassing profits than serving needy citizens. The next time Commissioner Hawkins draws a line between public and private responsibilities, let's hope primary consideration is given for the people who depend on his agency for their health and welfare.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Handmaiden of God, Anastasia Titov

Anastasia Titov, January 2004, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land

See also:

More Remembrances of Anastasia

A Talking Prayer Book

This past weekend I had the honor of serving at the funeral of Anastasia Titov, who reposed at the age of 92. She was one of the first faces I saw at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Church, when I moved back to Houston in 1992 as a young convert to the Orthodox Faith of not quite two years. Since then she has had a very special place in my heart, but although our relationship was special, I was not unique in having such a special relationship with her. In fact, after listening to the many warm tributes given at her funeral, I believe that she had a special relationship with just about anyone that she had half a chance to get to know.

I want to write more about her, but for now I will just lay out some of the basic facts of her life, and then quote from a tribute posted online from another of Anastasia's special relationships.

I am basing the following on things I have pieced together over the years... if I have remembered something wrong, I hope someone will correct me, and that others will help me to flesh out this story.

Anastasia was born just as the world was entering World War I. She grew up in Harbin, China, where a large number of Russians had fled in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution. In Harbin, these Russians recreated the best aspects of pre-revolutionary Russian culture. Anastasia was very well educated, was multilingual, but most of all, she grew up in a world that centered around the Church. When there was a feast of the Church, the first week of Lent, or Holy Week, school’s and businesses were closed, and the people were in Church… for all the services, which during the first week of Lent, for example, means about 10 hours of services... a day.

Unfortunately, the life that made her into the Christian lady that she became did not remain peaceful. World War II began with the Japanese invasion of China, and during this war her first husband was shot by Japanese soldiers. She moved from Harbin to Shanghai, where she worked in the administrative offices of St. John of Shanghai. (I use to say that she had been his secretary, but she corrected me and said that a bishop does not have a woman as his secretary – that is a position usually held by a priest. She told me I should say she was on his clerical staff. She was a lady, in the fullest sense of the term, and such proprieties were very important to her.) It was during this time that she came to know and love St. John.

At the end of World War II, the Soviets invaded northern China, and used the opportunity to forcibly repatriate many Russian refugees, and place them in prison camps… such was the fate of Anastasia’s younger brother.

After World War II, came the communist take over of all of China. St. John and most of the Russian community in Shanghai left before the Communists took control of that city, but Anastasia refused to go, because she still had her parents in Harbin, and would not leave the country without them. She told me how stern the Communists soldiers were… people would attempt to give them flowers, or food, but they would not accept anything from anyone. She talked about how they searched her apartment. She had a chicken on the stove, and so they wanted to know where, when, and from whom she had bought the chicken, and how much it cost; and then they wanted to know were she got the money to buy the chicken. She had sold something to get the money, they wanted to know what she had sold, where, when, and to whom she had sold it, and they then checked out every detail. She also told me how a Chinese Deacon (Fr. Photi) came to her one evening with the antimins and the holy vessels from the Shanghai Cathedral. She told him that she could not even touch, much less take these things because she was a woman. Fr. Photi told her that if she did not take them that the communists would, so she hid them, and then the next night he came back and picked them up. She never saw him again, and did not know what became of him.

She managed to get a visa out of China, at a time when the various embassies were packing up to leave the country themselves. After visiting several of them in an attempt to get a visa, and being refused, she finally came to the Brazilian embassy, and was again refused. However, her tears finally moved the ambassador to make an exception, and to get the necessary documents out the boxes they had been packed into, and he gave her (and I believe her family members) visas… and so this is how she found her way to Brazil. I can’t remember how many years she lived their, but she learned to speak Portuguese fluently. Eventually, she and her second husband Paul Titov moved to the United States, where she worked at the United Nations building in New York.

She once told me about how she and another Ukrainian Orthodox woman came out to meet a Greek Archbishop who was visiting the UN (I believe he was from Crete). They shouted out “Eis Polla Eti Despota!”, which means “Many years, Master!” in Greek, and is the traditional liturgical greeting of a bishop. A UN policeman wanted to get them into trouble. He demanded to know why they were insulting a guest of the UN by calling him a despot!

At some point in her UN career, she had occasion to visit Ethiopia before the Communist revolution there. While there she got to meet the Emperor Haile Selassie.

When she retired from the UN, she and her husband moved to Houston for some reason… I believe something related to Paul’s business dealings. When I met her she was already in her late 70’s.

One thing that always amazed me about her was that it seemed that every time I had a long talk with her, I would discover some new facet of her life, that I had not known before. At her funeral, I discovered many more facets – particularly the deep impact she had on so many lives, and what a witness for Christ she had been throughout her life.

If Anastasia could be in Church, she was. She continued to keep the fasts strictly until the end of her life, when she was no longer able to, because she was no longer able to get enough nutrition no matter what food she ate. She poured herself into her work as the choir director of St. Vladimir’s, and her work as the senior sister of the parish. She radiated the love of Christ to everyone she met.

As I said, I was a new convert when I met her, as was my wife. We had left an English speaking mission of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in Oklahoma City, and found ourselves in a mostly Russian speaking parish here in Houston. It was a difficult adjustment. For the first few months, my wife was in the parish alone while I was staying in upstate New York. She was a stranger in a strange place… not only was she a new convert, but she was herself from China, but unlike Anastasia she was ethnically Chinese too, and even English was not her first language, much less Russian. Anastasia took her under her wing, made her feel at home, and often spoke of the two of them both being Chinese compatriots.

I learned so much about the faith from her, that I should probably save that for future articles.

Her funeral was like a second Pascha. Everyone who was there was moved by it. Nearly a week later, I am still moved by it in a way that I have never been by any funeral I have ever attended.

So with that lengthy introduction, here is what Matushka Ann Lardas had to say:

She was an amazing woman whose life spanned three continents. She warmly greeted everyone. She and Paul became godparents for many newcomers, and nobody was ever merely accepted, but rather was warmly embraced. Fr. George and I were not just Batiushka and Matushka. To her, he was "Batiushka Dearest," and I was "Matushka Rodnaya." She always addressed the children in the diminutive, so that John thought that "Vanya" was Russian for "John." She insisted on doing things properly but was the first to cover for those who did not, and maintained every year that the only proper way to serve blini was "by the hand of the hostess." She cooked just about every Sunday we were there, always fasting foods during a fast and festive foods the rest of the time. She sang. She conducted. She came midweek to iron vestments and clean the parish house and she cooked and fed anyone who came to the parish. If they were poorly dressed, the next time they came she would give them clothes, new and in their size.

She loved all the children of the parish, and gave them candy on every occasion she could. We have a photo of Anastasia among the children and their Pascha baskets, and she looks like guest host on the Muppet Show. She told funny stories and could have an earthy sense of humor, besides (when I chided her for not even taking time to sit down and eat one busy Sunday, she said held up the plate she had just served herself, arched an eyebrow, and said, "Don't worry. Didn't you know the Russian proverb? 'A good horse does everything standing.'") Even after we moved, she would call on birthdays and namedays to sing, and when we called for her birthday and nameday, she would say, "And now everyone is accounted for." On Annunciation, when I was a new conductor and she couldn't get to church from illness, we sang "Archangelsky glas'" in harmony over the phone, a thousand miles apart and yet together.

If you look at the Normal Sisterhood Bylaws, you will see that Anastasia made sure she covered them all:

The duties of the sisterhood are:

a) maintenance of the Church building, both during the divine services and apart from them; care for the vestry; and the adornment of the church;

b) visitation of the sick; inquiry into the cases of those in need and aid for them; visitation of prisons and aid for the imprisoned;

c) visitation of the dying and informing the priest of such cases; reading the services over the dying; moral support for the families of the dying and care for them;

d) concern for the un-baptized and the unwed; bringing them to the church, that the Holy Mysteries may be performed over them;

e) to aid, with all the means at their disposal, schools for children within the parish.

f) collection of materials and funds, in accordance with pledges distributed by the parish council, signed by the pastor: for the needs of the church (this is done outside the times appointed for the divine services), for the sick, the poor, invalids, etc.

g) to help the church's warden (starosta) in acquiring and distributing religious and liturgical literature, etc.

As sorry as we are to lose her, I am glad that her terrible trial of illness is at an end, and she can be with her beloved parents and husband once more.

May her memory be eternal!

In Christ,
Matushka Ann Lardas


Here is another story about Anastasia that I included in my spiritual autobiography "A Pilgrim's Podvig":

There are many aspects of Orthodox piety that are subtle, and not the sort of thing you are likely to read about in a book on Orthodoxy, and it is these subtleties that a convert can pick up from being around those who are more deeply rooted in the Faith. One example of this was at the Vigil of the feast of the Dormition. We were singing the sticheron of the feast, which is sung after Psalm 50, and we were singing it in Slavonic. My Slavonic being far more limited, I was not emphasizing the right words, and so since there is a long prayer immediately after this hymn, Anastasia Titov took the opportunity of the pause in singing to explain to me the meaning of the hymn in order to explain what words should be emphasized. She then did an on the fly translation from Slavonic into English which was remarkably accurate (which I knew because I had the Festal Menaion in English opened to this text, and was glancing over at it as she explained. As she read the words of the hymn, and got to the part in which it says “And Peter cried aloud to thee, weeping: “O Virgin, I behold thee clearly stretched out, the life of all, and I am amazed, for in thy body the Delight of the life to come, made His abode! O all-pure one, earnestly entreat thy Son and God, that thy flock be saved unharmed,”” she read it with such warmth and piety that I was almost moved to tears. Her point was that the awe of St. Peter should be reflected in how we sing the hymn, but in making her point she expressed a love and reverence for God, the saints, and the services in a way that a book cannot. My ability to sing that hymn in Slavonic had not improved, but my ability to appreciate hymns on a spiritual level had. I was fortunate to have had such instructors.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Price of the Colorado Computer Meltdown Continues to Rise

Remember the Welfare computer meltdown in Colorado... well, it seems it's the gift that keeps on giving, even after two years have passed.

CBS4: Welfare Payment Mistakes Cost Millions
Colorado System Possibly Overpaid $98 Million

(Click on the above link to watch the video of this report)

Brian Maass

(CBS4) DENVER CBS4 has learned Colorado taxpayers will probably have to pay millions of dollars to solve problems with the state's welfare system. The Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS), installed more than 2 years ago, has been making more than 11,000 mistakes in an average month.

Critics of the CBMS called the new figures shocking and said it was unlikely taxpayers will ever get the millions of dollars in overpayments back.

"We've always known there were overpayments gong on, but these numbers are new to us also," said Susan Beckman, an Arapahoe County commissioner.

"This is completely unacceptable," said Tom Mayer, a Boulder County commissioner.

CBMS is used to manage the welfare payments for food stamp recipients, the elderly and poor.

"And if we continue to generate claims and overpay people, it's just throwing money away," Beckman said.

CBS4 learned that in the month before the CBMS was installed, there were 349 claims, or overpayments statewide.

In October of 2006, there were 11,300 mistakes and potential overpayments.

State figures show there may have been more than 234,000 suspected overpayments to welfare recipients in the 2 years since CBMS went live. That could account for $98 million lost.

"This system is not fixed, it is not getting significantly better," Beckman said. "We need to pour more resources into it so we stop handing out free money that really people aren't entitled to."

The state said it is unclear how many of the $98 million in claims have legitimate explanations and how many are actual overpayments.

"We will acknowledge we have a major issue to address and we are going to do what federal law requires us to do," said Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.

Federal law requires the state and counties to seek reimbursements over overpayments. Counties said it will cost millions of dollars to hire more people to sort through claims and figure out what was an overpayment and what was not.

County administrators think it is unlikely they'll be able to collect overpayments from poor and transient welfare recipients.

"If you don't fix the system, it's like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it," Beckman said. "In 2 years, you'll have paid out another $98 million in taxpayers money and that's not right."

Before CBMS, annual overpayments to welfare recipients in Colorado totaled about $1.5 million a year for 30 years.

County human services departments estimate that over the next 2 years, they will need another $7 million to hire 180 people to work full time to go through the hundreds of thousands of overpayments and figure out which ones are worth trying to collect.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Orthodoxy in China: Senior Orthodox Priest turns 110!

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

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

The Senior Priest of the Western American Diocese Turns 110!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another Sign of Reconciliation in the Russian Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear in the Lord Fr Roman! Bless me!

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

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

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

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

With love in the Lord,

Protodeacon Nikita, the sinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

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

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

Jack Palance, born as Vladimir Palaniuk, Ukrainian Orthodox

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

John Belushi, Albanian Orthodox

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

Yul Borisovich Brynner, Russian Orthodox.

Aristotelis (Telly) Savalas, Greek Orthodox

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

Mladen George Sekulovich, better known Karl Malden, Serbian Orthodox

Tina Fey, Greek Orthodox

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

Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps

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

By Staff Sgt. Scott Dunn, Headquarters Marine Corps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy

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

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

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

Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The English translation

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 23, 2006

Biblical Reference Texts

I am currently teaching a course on Scripture, and put the following post together for that class, but it may be of general interest to those who are students of Scripture. I should point out that in the course of teaching that class I have spent a good bit of time talking about the short comings of Protestant scholarship, but also of the areas in which it can be useful, and of the need for Orthodox Christians to understand it. For more on that you can see my article on Sola Scriptura.

Here are the various Categories of Biblical Reference Texts:

1. Original Texts (Greek, Hebrew), and Interlinear texts.

For the Septuagint, you could simply by a Bible published by the Church of Greece... and this would ensure that it was an edition that reflects the text the Church has generally used. The critical edition, which has textual notes, which I believe is the edition that the Orthodox Study Bible is using is Rahlfs "Septuaginta, id est Vets Testamentum Graece iuxta LXX interpretes."
For those whose Greek is either limited or essentially non-existent, there is Sir Lancelot Brenton's "The Septuagint with Apocrypha", which has the Greek and an English Translation in parallel columns.

For the Hebrew Old Testament, the critical edition is the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensia (abbreviated as BHS).

For the New Testament, the critical edition I would recommend is the Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text.

As for Interlinear texts, for the whole Bible (Hebrew Old Testament, Greek Textus Receptus New Testament), The Interlinear Bible is a great choice. One thing that is very handy is that it is keyed to the Strong's Concordance numbering system, which is also used in many other reference texts, and this is particularly good for those that know neither Greek nor Hebrew.
You can get the above just in the New Testament by getting The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament.

2. English Translations and Study Bibles.

As for translations, that is covered in the readings. Study Bibles attempt to give the user a little bit of many different types of reference texts, and as such can be handy. They provide introductions to books, commentary, concordances, maps, and other features. Study Bibles of course reflect a particular theological perspective, and so that is the key factor to be kept in mind. The Orthodox Study Bible is the obvious choice for Orthodox Christians, and when it is complete, it will hopefull be a great resource.

3. Concordances (English, and also Greek and Hebrew)

Whatever translation you are going to use, you should have a concordance that matches it. The Strong's is the best choice for those who use the King James Version, and it's numbering system, as I said, is used in other reference texts. It provides a brief definition of the Hebrew and Greek word of the original text used by the KJV. Each word in English that occurs in the concordance is reference to a number than is linked to the original word that English word translates. Very often the same English word is used to translate more than one word in either Greek or Hebrew, and this numbering system helps you to keep this all straight.

If you know Greek and/or Hebrew, a Greek or Hebrew Concordance helps you to find the various places in which a particular word is used in Scripture. But if you do not know Greek or Hebrew, good word studies will provide you essentially the same information, though generally not in the same degree of detail.

Of course web site and CD-Rom concordances in some ways are better, because you can not only search for one word, but can search for several key words, and exact phrases. And instead of being limited to one translation, you can search several. However, it is still a good idea to have at least one hard copy concordance on hand.

4. Greek and Hebrew Lexicons, and Word Studies

The Best New Testament Greek Lexicon is probably The Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon.

An Analytical Lexicon is also handy, because you can look up a Greek word in what ever form it is found in a given passage, and it will tell you what form it is, and also what the root word is, and give you a brief definition.

You can also get a Greek Lexicon that covers all the words found in the Septuagint.

The Best Hebrew Lexicon is Brown-Drivers-Briggs (which is keyed to Strong's).

There is also an Analytical Hebrew Lexicon which works just like it's Greek counterpart.
But these are all geared more to students of Greek and Hebrew. While I would encourage you all to study both languages, if you don't, you still have some options... and even if you do the following word studies are extremely useful:

There are two sets that are probably more than most of you will want to invest in, or need, but they are The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (15 Volumes), and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 Volumes).

What I would recommend that you actually buy however are:

The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament (which is One Volume, and keyed to Strong's (which given the difficulty a non-Hebrew student would otherwise have looking up a Hebrew word is an essential feature)), and the "Little Kittel" One Volume Abridged version of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

What these book do is give the origin of a word, and then discuss how it is used in the Bible. In the case of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), it discusses the pagan Greek use of a word, it's use in the Septuagint, it's use in the New Testament, and often also discuss it's use in the early Church... so these are extremely useful texts.

5. Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.

The nice thing about Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedia, is that when you run across something in the Bible, for example the Urim and Thumim, you can look up "Urim and Thumim" and read an article that will explain what these are, and reference where in the Bible they are discussed. You can look up a person, like Hezekiah, and read all that is known about him, and again, where in the Bible he is talked about.

There are many one volume Bible Dictionaries that are good. Multi-volume Encyclopedias obviously have much more information.

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, by Thomas Nelson is an example of a good one volume dictionary.

The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible is a good example of an affordable multi-volume set.

6. Biblical Atlases

There are many Biblical Atlases to choose from. You can see some of the options by clicking here.

You find useful maps in many other reference texts, but when you want detailed maps to help you understand some element of Biblical history, it is handy to have a comprehensive Biblical Atlas.

7. Biblical Histories

Biblical Histories combine the information we have from the Bible with archeological evidence, and evidence from other ancient texts, and provide a big picture view of the flow of Biblical history. Being familiar with this big picture will help you understand the how any given passage of Scripture fits into the scheme of history.

The best modern Old Testament history is "A History of Israel" by John Bright.

The best modern New Testament history is probably "New Testament History" by F. F. Bruce.

The two classical histories that you should also be familiar with are:

The Works of Josephus (which provides Old Testament History as well as a contemporary account of New Testament Church History.

Eusebius' Ecclessiastical History

Three other historical books I would recommend by Alfred Edersheim:

The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Edersheim was a very conservative Anglican scholar with a Jewish background and he was both a Biblical scholar and a scholar of Judaism. In this text he provides very interesting insights into the Jewish background of the life of Christ, and contrast the teachings of Christ with those found in the Talmud. This text is the Consevative response to the "Quest for the Historical Jesus" that is most recently manifested in the pseudo-scholarship of the "Jesus Seminar."

The Temple, Its Ministry and Services. This book is not nearly as useful as the previous text, but it provides good information on the worship of the Old Testament.

Old Testament Bible History.

8. Cultural Studies of Biblical Times

Because we do not live in the same culture as that in which the Scriptures were written, we have to make an effort to understand that culture. There are some good texts that focuse specifically on the customs and culture of the Biblical period, here are two examples: Sketches of Jewish Social LIfe, by Alfred Edersheim. The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, by Ralph Gower.

9. Texts on Biblical Archeology

To some extent, you can get information on the findings of Biblical Archeology from some of the other reference sources, such as Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Commentaries, etc. However, if you want to dig deeper into the subject specifically, here is a text worth reading:

Archeology and the Religion of Israel, by William Albright

10. Introductions

An Introduction is a text that discusses the scholarly thought on issues related to the text, authorship, audience, and history of the various books of the Bible.

The best Old Testament Introductions are:

Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, by Brevard Childs. This text accepts to some extent the results of liberal Protestant scholarship, but then approaches the issues through the lens of the authority of the Church's Canon, and so in some respects comes close to an Orthodox approach at the end of the process.

A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, by Gleason Archer. This text takes a much more conservative approach to the issues of text, authorship, and history of the Scriptures. As such, it is a good counter-balance to the text by Childs.

The best New Testament introduction is:

New Testament Introduction, by Donald Guthrie. This is a very conservative Protestant text, that does a bit better of a job than Archer does with the Old Testament.

Brevard Childs also has a New Testament introduction: The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction, however it has been out of print and so has limited availability.

11. Reference Texts on Textual Criticism

There are many books in print on this subject, but most of them advocate a version of the Westcott-Hort Theory. A good text to get, if you are interested in studying this issue in more depth is:

Unholy Hands on the Bible, By John Burgon. This text is actually a collection of the writings of John Burgon on the subject of New Testament textual Criticism, and he is by far the best scholar on this subject.

12. Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology texts focus on the major themes found in the various parts of Scripture, and as such can be useful when you are discussing a particular issue to see how the whole of Scripture addresses that issue. However, since these texts involve theological analysis, you have to keep in mind that you are getting the take of non-Orthodox scholars on these issues.

For the Old Testament there are two highly regarded, though highly rationalistic texts:
Old Testament Theology, by Gerhad von Rad.

Theology of the Old Testament, Volume I and Volume II by Walther Eichrodt.

A more conservative alternative would be:

An Old Testament Theology: A Canonical and Thematic Approach, by Bruce K. Waltke and Charles Yu.

For the New Testament, the best text is A Theology of the New Testament, by George Eldon Ladd. This is both a highly regarded text, as well as a fairly conservative Evangelical text.

13. Books on Exegesis.

As for Orthodox Texts on this subject, all that I have been able to find are included in the reading lists for this course. Here are some Protestant texts that will help you better understand how they approach the subject:

For a good conservative Evangelical introduction, I would recommend:

How to Read the Bible For All It's Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

For a more advanced treatment, I would recommend:

Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, by Douglas Stuart.


New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, by Gordon Fee.

14. Contemporary Literature

What we are talking about here are texts outside of Scripture that were writing during or close to the times of the Biblical texts. Examples of these would include the Pseudepigraphal books of the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls (apart from the Biblical texts found among them), the writing sof Josephus, the New Testament Apochrypha, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (such as the Didache, the Epistles of St. Ignatius, or St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians, etc.), as well as pagan writings of the period.

15. Commentaries (Patristic, More recent Orthodox, and Non-Orthodox)

There are of course Church fathers who wrote entire books of commentary or homilies which explain various books of the Bible. More of this is becoming available all the time. Any Patristic text can be used to find commentary on Scripture... particularly if it has a Scripture index (and so that is something to look for when you have more than one option for a particular Patristic text. I very often find useful commentary in the writings of St. John Cassian this way. In short, you need to build a Patristic library. To start off, you can beat the economy of buying the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, which you can currently purchase for $199.00. You can also read these texts online, but I would still recommend buying the set.

There are two new sets of commentaries that are being published that attempt to organize patristic commentary on various passage, in order to make it easier to find what the father say on a given text. I have found them both to be well done, but you need to keep in mind that they do not present all of what the Fathers have to say on a given text, and the editors are mostly non-Orthodox. Also, they include some writers that we consider heretics in these texts, such as Origen, Novatian, Severus, and Theodore of Mopsuestia... so be on the look out for that. You want to use these as guides to the fuller Patristic texts in which they are found, rather than as a substitute:

The Ancient Christian Commentary Series

The Church's Bible

As for more recent Orthodox Biblical commentaries, you have to be selective. There are good examples, such as the commentary of Archbishop Averky on the Apocalypse; but there are also some one has to be careful because some modern Orthodox texts on Scripture essentially consist of warmed over Protestant scholarship (usually of the more liberal variety), and are not as good as the better Protestant texts that are available. In short, you need to seek those Orthodox writers that embrace the Fathers and the Tradition of the Church, not those who are simply parroting the Protestants.

As for Protestant Commentaries, there are many good options, and many bad ones. The best commentary series that is avaible, in my opinion, is the Word Biblical Commentary. There are shorter, and thus less expensive options, such as the Expositor's Bible Commentary... though many other examples of good conservative Protestant scholarship could be cited.

Most of the above texts can usually be most cheaply purchase from Christian Book Distributers.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Orthodox America: Remembering Vladika John

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco

My bishop is coming to town next weekend, and I was doing some digging around on the internet to put together a brief biography of him, and stumbled across the following article which he wrote while still a hieromonk, back in 1991 -- 4 years prior to St. John (Maximovitch) being officially glorified as a saint. I remember reading about St. John back then, and before I found out what "Vladika" meant, I thought "Vladika" was his first name. :) However, "Vladika" literally means "Master" in Slavonic, but is a term of endearment for a bishop, much like the word "batiushka" (little father) is for a priest.

I suppose I might as well add to these prefacing comments the short bio I finally put together:

Bishop Peter (Loukianoff) comes from a family of Don Cossacks that moved to China after the Bolshevik Revolution, and then to San Francisco, California (where Bishop Peter was born) after World War II. He grew up in the Russian community there, which was head by St. John (Maximovitch), with whom he served closely the last 3 years prior to St. John's repose. He later became a monk at Holy Trinity Monastery, in Jordanville, New York. He studied at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY, St. Vladimir's Seminary, in Crestwood, NY, and the Belgrade Theological Academy. He was consecrated a bishop in 2003, and has since served as the administrator of the Chicago Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

And now, here is the article:

Remembering Vladika John

By Hieromonk Peter Loukianoff

Twenty-five years have passed since Vladika's repose. During this time a great deal has been written about him. I myself have never expressed myself on the subject in print, considering that I had no right to claim that I knew him better than others. Now, however, I have undertaken this for the sake of obedience.

What has been written by others in recent years hasn't always corresponded to the image of Vladika which I have from personal experience. At the same time, veneration of Vladika is spreading; many know about his miracles, but they know little about him personally.

Vladika knew our family when we still lived in Shanghai. When my parents moved to San Francisco, my mother corresponded with Vladika and Vladika knew me practically from the day I was born. From childhood I thought of Vladika as a holy man.

When Vladika came to San Francisco from Europe, my mother would take us to his services in our free time from school. I remember Vladika as always joyful and smiling, affectionate with children and attentive to them. As large as his flock from Shanghai was, he never forgot our birthdays or names days, and always sent greeting cards.

In late 1962 Vladika was assigned to San Francisco, and the Lord granted me to be close to him for the last three and a half years of his life. What I am going to write here is that which I witnessed. I shall omit what is generally known and will try to touch upon that which I have not read in other accounts or that which, in my opinion, has been presented inaccurately.

With gratitude I dedicate these recollections to my dear mother.

And so, bless, O Lord!

Vladika's late sister, Maria Borisovna, once wrote to my mother that Vladika grew up as a very obedient boy; his parents had no trouble in raising him. He was an excellent student, and there were only two subjects he didn't like: gymnastics and dancing.

Vladika was very simple in manner, but one sensed his good upbringing and tactfulness; his every aspect was stamped by an inner nobility.

As a child I heard of an incident which occurred when Vladika was in the Poltava Cadet Corps. Once the corps was marching in formation past a church. Misha (a diminutive of "Michael" -his name prior to his monastic tonsure) took off his cap and crossed himself. The instructor noticed this but decided not to reprimand him. However, in as much as one is not supposed to do anything without a command while in formation, he considered it necessary to report the incident to the director.

The director thought and thought and didn't know what to do. Finally he sent a telegram to Grand Duke Constantine Konstentinovich, Inspector General of the military schools. For a long time there was no reply, but at last it came: "Although he wasn't right, he's a brave lad." Vladika was asked about this in my presence and denied the incident. Whether he denied it out of humility, I cannot say.

Vladika loved Russian history, and knew it well. In one conversation with him, we were talking about Russian rulers and I said that I liked best of all Alexander Nevsky, Ivan III and Alexander III. Vladika thought and then said that these three, in his opinion also, personified the ideal of a Russian ruler.

While still in Belgrade, Vladika, at the request of Metropolitan Anthony, wrote a book, The Origin of the Rule Concerning Accession to the Throne in Russia, which was published in Shanghai in 1936. It begins with Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir and ends with the Tsar-Martyr. It would be good if this book were reprinted.

Vladika was not only a convinced monarchist, but he considered it necessary to support the authority of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich [Romanov]. At the daily liturgies he would commemorate the Russian Royal House, and at feast day liturgies he commemorated the Grand Duke by name. On special days, as for example the Sunday of Orthodoxy, he commemorated individually all the Orthodox monarchs: Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian and Rumanian. Vladika was firmly opposed to substituting the prayer for right-believing kings with the words "Orthodox Christians". Specifically, in the troparion, “Save, O Lord, Thy people," he insisted on the words, "victory to right-believing king.."

In regard to Russian history, Vladika thought highly of Patriarch Nikon. I remember one occasion when Vladika was present at an examination of a class on the Law of God. One girl was given a question about the reforms in the Russian Church. She answered well, and when she finished Vladika asked if Patriarch Nikon was a great man. Following the traditional views in our textbooks, the girl answered "no". Whereupon Vladika, who usually listened patiently to children, stopped her and said rather sternly: "No, Patriarch Nikon was the greatest of the Russian patriarchs."

Vladika likewise valued highly the works of Metropolitan Peter Mogila.

In Yugoslavia, like all refugees, the Maximovitch family had a hard time, and Vladika helped his parents by selling newspapers. One of his classmates, who did the same, told me that during lunch break he had to run from one cafe to another and only with difficulty did he manage to sell all his papers, while Misha simply stood on the sidewalk and within a matter of minutes the Serbs bought up all his papers.

A fellow monk at Milkovo Monastery in Yugoslavia where Vladika was tonsured said that from childhood Vladika stuttered. When, in Belgrade, he became a reader, he would come to the Russian Church of the Holy Trinity and, putting on his stichar, meekly stand in a corner of the cliros and wait to be given something to read. When he became a monk this defect disappeared and only recurred when he became agitated.

Vladika did not have a musical ear, and had trouble enunciating, but those who were used to him understood him,easily enough.

Once Metropolitan ,Anthony (Khrapovitsky) was asked who was closest to him in spirit. The Metropolitan gave only two names: Archimandrite Ambrose (Kurganov), superior of Milkovo Monastery, and the young Hieromonk John (Maximovitch).

Once, sitting with Vladika in his room, I was looking at a portrait of Metropolitan Anthony which had recently been sent from France. (The painting was amateurish but Vladika told me that he liked it because the eyes and expression were just as he remembered the Metropolitan when he last saw him before leaving for Shanghai. The portrait was damaged in transit and Vladika gave it to an artist to be restored. Vladika died before the portrait was returned. Where it is now, I don't know.) Our conversation turned to the Metropolitan.- Vladika was silent for a moment, then said that on July 28, 1936, he was sitting in his study in Shanghai when, suddenly, his heart gave a start. He did not give it much thought, but he looked at the clock and remembered the time. The next day a telegram arrived with news of Metropolitan Anthony's repose~ at that very hour.

I forgot about this and remembered it only at Vladika's funeral, when Metropolitan Philaret, in his sermon, told how his relative, Archbishop Dimiffy, had invited Metropolitan Anthony to Harbin. The Metropolitan replied that he was already too old to think about such trips, but in his stead he was sending "a piece of his heart"--Vladika John.

In the 70s I happened to be in Bitol (in .southern Yugoslavia, where Vladika taught at the seminary) with a group of students from the Belgrade Theological Faculty, and we were looking around the old cathedral. The rector came and began showing and explaining various things of interest. The Serbs, naturally, were interested if he remembered the former teacher, Fr. Justin (Popovich). The "prota" (as Serbs call their archpriests) replied that, yes, of course, and told a bit about Fr. Justin. He said, however, that the most remarkable of their teachers was Fr. "Jovan", and went on to speak primarily about Vladika. The priest could not have known that I was in the group, so it was dearly not for my sake that he spoke about Vladika. It just showed that after forty-five years -since Vladika left Bitol--his memory was still very much alive.

Vladika told me that his ordination 'to the priesthood happened so quickly that he didn't manage to inform his parents. At this Archbishop Gabriel of Cheliabinsk remarked: "Never mind, we'll invite them to your consecration." Bishop Gabriel did not live to witness this, but it was his panagia which was given to Vladika at his consecration. On this occasion, Metropolitan Anthony invited Vladika's father into the altar to watch the consecration of his son. This was the last consecration Metropolitan Anthony performed.

Besides Russian and Serbian, Vladika spoke French and German---how well, I can't judge, since I myself don't know these languages. However, when .a group of French people came to San Francisco for the consecration of Bishop John (Kovalevsky), Vladika spoke freely with them. Vladika was less proficient in English, but he understood everything and read fluently. He also knew Greek. I was always amazed how, during matins, Vladika would translate impromptu the Prologue and some canons from Greek into Church-Slavonic. On feast days Vladika would say "Look down from heaven, O God...? in Slavonic, Greek and, in San Francisco, in English. On weekday Liturgies he would say the third exclamation in different languages, beginning with Latin .and ending with Chinese. The priests on cliros would hold bets: which language he was going to Use.

In speaking about services, it should be remembered that Vladika served Divine Liturgy daily---either in his residence at the St. Tikhon of Zadonsk house, or in the cathedral. Regarding patronal feasts, Vladika was against their being transferred to Sundays; he always celebrated a feast on the day appointed by the church typicon.

When Vladika served in St. Tikhon's house, he liked to wear his red phelonion with a woolen omophor, which looked like a scarf. People unfamiliar with church history would ask why Vladika served as a priest, or if he had a cold.

Vladika's daily schedule was as follows: In the morning he served Matins, followed by the Hours and Divine Liturgy. After services, if he served in the cathedral, he would stop on the way home in some hospital where he would visit all the Orthodox patients. Arriving home, he would tend to business. In addition to his official duties, he received scores of personal letters to which he would reply himself. (In his three and a half years in San Francisco he received more than ten thousand letters.)

At the top of each letter Vladika always neatly placed a large cross. In folding the letter to place it in an envelope I had to make sure that the cross was not creased or put in sideways or upside down. Vladika did not allow us to lick envelopes shut, and insisted they be opened with a knife. He used to remark with a smile that only Stalin ripped envelopes.

At three o'clock Vladika read the Ninth Hour and, on appointed days, the Interhours. If he happened to be traveling, we would read the Ninth Hour in the car.

Before Vespers Vladika would drink a cup of coffee or, on hot days, tea with a light snack. Then he attended Vespers and Compline, either at St. Tikhon's or at the cathedral. During Compline sometimes as many as three canons would be read.

If Vladika attended services in the cathedral, he would again visit some hospital on his return home.

Vladika had supper before midnight, after which he would go to his room to rest. He ate everything from one plate, with one soup spoon, always holding his prayer rope and reciting the Jesus Prayer. Sometimes he used chopsticks.

From the day of his-monastic tonsure, Vladika slept in a sitting position. As a result he had swollen legs and it was painful for him to wear proper shoes, so he wore sandals. At home, in his cell: or when he served at St. Tikhon's he often went barefoot--not for the sake of foolishness-for-Christ, but because it was easier on his feet.

Abbess Theodora, the late superior of Lesna Convent in France, told how once when Vladika was visiting the convent one of his legs gave him great pain, and she called a doctor, who prescribed rest in bed. Vladika thanked her for her solicitude but refused to lie in bed; nothing could persuade him. 'Then," related Matushka, "I myself don't know how I was so bold, but I said to him bluntly, 'Vladika, as the abbess of this convent, by the power given me by God, I order you to lie down.'" Vladika looked with surprise at the abbess, and went and lay down. The next morning, however, he was in church for Matins, and that was the end of the "course of treatment".

Once, in the course of conversation, Vladika remarked that in Greece, if a ruling hierarch dies he is buried in a sitting position. I asked him if he would like to be buried in this way. Vladika smiled meekly and gave me to understand that yes, he would. Bishop Nektary (vicar bishop) knew about this and later he said several times that it bothered him that he allowed himself to be persuaded not to have this done.

On Sundays and Feast days, Vladika did not concern himself with business and spent his time in visiting the sick. On these days he didn't even write any ukases, except in those cases when God's blessing was invoked.

Once there came to Vladika members of a church commission, who brought their protocol for his approval. In giving Vladika the papers, one member mentioned that they had labored all evening. Looking over the papers, Vladika asked: “You say you worked all evening?” Receiving an affirmative reply, Vladika remarked: "You had a meeting instead of attending the Saturday night Vigil?" And he refused to sign the papers. The commission had to meet again and set a different date for their protocol.

There exists an opinion that Vladika was something of a fool-for-Christ. I absolutely disagree. Vladika was not of this world, but this is not to say that he was a fool-for-Christ.

Once, when Vladika was leaving the altar after Liturgy, a man came to .him with some question of business, and Vladika gave a rather confused reply. When the man had left, Vladika turned to me and said that right after Liturgy it was hard for him to concentrate on anything else. And indeed, whoever observed Vladika during services knows that he was entirely immersed in the services.

In Nun Taisia's book, Russian Orthodox Women's Monasticism of the 18th-2Oth Centuries (Holy Trinity Monastery, 1985), on page 11 we read:

'There were also some remarkable fools-for Christ of Diveyevo. This podvig is extremely rare and difficult. These ascetics, in full command of their mental powers, have already reached a high level of spiritual perfection, so that the supernatural world is open to them and they are in communion with angels and battle visibly with demons. In order to conceal their gifts clairvoyance, miracle working, love for God and neighbor--they deliberately act as though they are crazy, mad, if this is God's will, and this is very rare. They always speak in parables or allegories. Furthermore, they take upon themselves the appearance of a madman to provoke people to make fun of them, offend and abuse them, in order to perfect their humility and in this way to gain a more powerful victory over the devil."

In keeping with the above, Vladika could not "act the fool" because he was a hierarch of God, and he would never do anything to give cause for this worthy rank to be mocked. On the contrary, Vladika was very considerate of his rank. In receiving someone officially or going out somewhere, he always wore his panagia and klobuk. On the street he always carried his staff.

I remember one occasion when, on the first day of Nativity, we visited some sick people in the San Francisco General Hospitall. Vladika was tired and that day his leg was especially bothering him. We were walking down a long corridor when Vladika stopped and took off his sandal. He carried it in his right hand as we continued. Some people noticed this and smiled. I brought this to Vladika's attention: "Vladika, people are laughing at you." Vladika stopped and put on his sandal.

Although Vladika was somewhat awkward in his movements, he always tried to he neat.

On the cliros he always insisted that the service books lay in order, in their place, and the ribbon markers had to be placed neatly in the books.

He always folded his vestments neatly and required this of others. If an acolyte came to him for a blessing to put on his stichar and it was not neatly folded, Vladika went would not give a blessing.

During the Paschal period Vladika liked to wear a white robe (riassa) and colored cassock (podriasnik) with an embroidered belt.

In San Francisco at that time there were, as I recall, seventeen hospitals. Vladika issued an ukase according to which all the hospitals were divided among the city priests. They were required to visit their hospitals once a week, and once a month to hand in a list of those people visited to the diocesan office. Each month Vladika himself would visit all the hospitals, and those where Russians were most often to he found he visited several times a month,

Once as we were walking along the empty corridors of a hospital, Vladika remarked that in France, in contrast to America, hospitals are full of visitors on Sundays and holidays. Many times, on Nativity and Pascha, Vladika appealed to people from the ambo not to forget the sick on these great feasts. For these feasts the sisterhood would prepare boxes of goodies, and Vladika would give a small gift-box to each person he visited.

On the subject of feasts, Vladika always corrected those who greeted him with the words, "Greetings with the feast.” “Not with the Feast," he would say, "but with the Nativity of Christ.”

On his arrival-to San Francisco, Vladika organized theological courses, which various priests taught besides himself. Vladika himself oversaw the course of study and allowed lectures to be skipped only if there was a vigil that evening.

The same held true for the school. Just as Vladika was strict in regard to church services, so too he was strict towards religious instruction. He excused those priest-teachers who sang on cliros to go to the lessons, even if the services had not yet finished.

Vladika tried to visit the church school daily. He considered it his duty to be present at the examinations of the Law of God classes. And not only at the church school, but also in other schools. He knew the Menaion and the Lives of saints, and during the exams he always asked the pupil who was his favorite saint, when he was commemorated and about his life. Even when there were pupils with rare names, such as Capitolina, Vladika knew the saint's Life and date of commemoration.

Aware that children were observing him, Vladika carefully .and properly made the sign of the cross, touching each shoulder.

Vladika understood youth; he liked to joke with them and was always interested in what they were doing. Several times, out of his own pocket, he arranged social gatherings at St. Tikhon's, giving Russian youth an opportunity to meet together.

I remember how once after a service Vladika asked us acolytes what we were planning to do. We said we wanted to see a movie. Vladika was interested to know what the movie was about, on hearing that it was a serious film, an historical one I believe, he gave us each money for a ticket.

Vladika realized that youth had to have some kind of fun, but he was emphatically against football.

In his discussions with youth he frequently emphasized the importance of being honest and always telling the truth, adding: whoever lies will also steal, once, I remember, Vladika summoned a priest. The latter informed Vladika that he was ill and couldn't come. Within an hour it was discovered that he was feeling fine; someone had seen him out walking. For some time afterwards Vladika kept repeating: "I never thought a clergyman could tell a lie."

Vladika was a hierarch who lived the life and interests of the entire Universal Church. I remember how on July 5, 1963 we were reading the Ninth Hour. As I finished reading the troparion to St. Athanasius of Mt. Athos, Vladika stopped me and said: “Today on Athos there’s a great celebration.” To my question, what it was all about, Vladika answered that they were commemorating Athos' millennium. This was not an idle remark. It was obvious that in soul and spirit Vladika was there on the Holy Mountain.

Vladika attentively followed what was going on in the other local Churches; he respected their traditions, although he himself adhered to Russian customs. On Holy Friday, after the bringing out of the Shroud, Vladika went round to all the Orthodox churches in San Francisco----Greek, Syrian and others--and venerated the holy Shroud.

His first months in San Francisco Vladika was only the administrative hierarch of the diocese; officially he was still archbishop of Western Europe. Until he was officially appointed to the Western American diocese, he kept his watch set on European time. People who didn't understand Vladika laughed at this, but Vladika always had reason for doing things. Although now living in San Francisco, he still looked after the life of his flock in Western Europe. I remember how on Great Saturday, 1963, we were unvesting Vladika in the altar after Divine Liturgy; it was three o'clock San Francisco time, and Vladika, looking at his watch, crossed himself and said, "In Paris the Paschal Matins has begun."

Vladika often said with a smile that the sun wasn't subject to American laws, and for this reason he never adjusted his watch to daylight savings, nor did he adjust his schedule: in summertime we read the ninth hour at four o'clock and he had dinner at half past midnight.

Vladika was adamantly against setting up Christmas trees for non-Orthodox Christmas. In his sermons he often said that although the trees had no religious significance, they were, nevertheless, associated with the Feast of Nativity and therefore shouldn't be decorated before that.

Vladika always tried to see the good in people. When I was already living in New York and working at Synod, some documents concerning "the: San Francisco affair'" [1] came my way; in them some people, who themselves did not think kindly of Vladika, testified that he spoke very calmly and objectively of his opponents.

I remember vividly being twice with Vladika at a San Francisco ball. The first time was after a vigil on the occasion of the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt. There were people in the cathedral but not as many as would he expected on such a day. After vigil Vladika usually went to some hospital. But this time, in answer to the chauffer's question, "Where?' Vladika answered, "To the ball at the Russian Center."

On arriving, we made our way upstairs to the main hall. Vladika walked around the hall in silence. 'We looked on as elderly men and women and leaders of society literally hid under tables, one woman, on seeing Vladika, joyfully exclaimed, 'Vladika's here! Vladika's here! We must give him some tea? Vladika looked sternly at everyone, but at the same time I noticed that he had no anger towards anyone personally. And without having said a single word, we left as we had come.

The second time Vladika went to the hall he asked for a microphone and addressed those present. I knew how upset Vladika was over all this, but his speech was calm. The next morning the clergy were informed that anyone who attended the hall was not to participate in the service, whether they were serving in the altar as acolytes or singing in the choir.

Regarding Vladika's attitude towards church discipline, I recall the following story.

A diocesan hierarch passed away. One village priest took part in the funeral. Returning to his parish, he continued commemorating the deceased hierarch in the appointed places, as if he were still alive. He explained to his puzzled parishioners that he had not yet received the ukase from the Diocesan office. When Vladika related this story, he added that of course this was rather extreme, but nevertheless he approved such a strict observance of discipline.

Concerning Vladika's asceticism I can give the following example,

Once Bishop Nektary was driving Vladika somewhere. There were only the three of us in the car. A siren was heard and Bishop Nektary pulled over as he was supposed to. Either a fire engine or an ambulance sped by, and Vladika Nektary recalled a similar occasion when he was driving Bishop Tikhon and had to pull over at the sound of a siren. Vladika Tikhon turned to Bishop Nektary, then still a hieromonk, and asked what the siren reminded him of. The latter said that it reminded him of the alarm in Germany during the bombing... Vladika Tikhon remarked that it was more like the cry of evil spirits. Vladika Nektary turned to us: "I don't know how evil spirits sound; I've never heard them." Vladika John listened silently to Bishop Nektary's account, then said quietly, "God preserve you from ever hearing the cries of demons."

Later, Bishop Nektary and I remarked to one another that what Vladika said gave the impression that he had heard them.

In his personal life Vladika was very humble and simple, but in church he was prince. At all the services, except Liturgy, Vladika stood on the solea, in view of everyone. He always made sure that the daily epistle and gospel selections were read properly and nothing was skipped. He taught us that the daily readings could be carried over only on the Twelve Major Feasts, on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, on the Feast of the Apostles and on the church's patronal feast.

Vladika always insisted that the Creed and the Lord's Prayer be sung by the entire congregation. For this the deacons and acolytes came down into the center of the church and the senior deacon, facing the altar, led the singing.

Vladika did not allow women wearing lipstick to venerate icons or the cross.

He always gave out the antidoron himself and only to those who hadn't eaten anything previously, and he made sure that people took it in their right hand.

Vladika would reprove a person who moved candles, which had been put up by someone else, from one candlestand to another. He pointed out that this was a gift to God and it should burn there where it was placed. Once, in one church during the polyelei, the candle wasn't brought out in time for the deacon, and he took one from a candle stand. Vladika stopped the censing, ordered the candle to be put back in its place and waited until the deacon's candle was brought.

He allowed candies to be removed only after they had burned down.

Vladika Was strict in making sure that the Antimension, the church vessels, the Altar and Table of Oblation were kept properly clean. I remember once when Vladika served a weekday Liturgy at one parish. Unfolding the Antimension, Vladika shook his head and began picking up crumbs with the Sponge. The rector, turning to those present in the altar, asked anxiously, “What did he find there? Yesterday I deliberately cleaned everything." Vladika, on learning later of this question, asked, "One might ask what he did with those particles; he didn't serve yesterday."

On Bright Week, after Liturgy on Saturday, the Royal Doors were not closed. Before the vigil, the Ninth Hour was sung in the paschal tone. The Royal Doors were closed during "Lord, I have cried," at "The doors being dosed..."

Vespers and Matins on the Apodosis of Pascha were served according to the typicon for Bright Week. The Hours, including the Ninth Hour, were sung just before the Vigil. This concluded the Apodosis.

At the Liturgy for Ascension, Vladika himself pronounced the exclamation, "Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages,” during which the priests took the Shroud from the Altar and transferred it to the High Place.

At the words, "Let us depart in peace," Vladika blessed the congregation.

During the vigil for the Feast of the Entry into the Temple of the Most Holy Mother of God, Vladika sent me to invite all three- and four-year-old girls to stand with candles in front of the solea. At the beginning of the polyelei Vladika brought the feast day icon out of the altar and the girls accompanied him to the analogion, remaining on either side until the anointing. Unfortunately, this custom did not take hold.

During Liturgy, at the time of the Creed, when, according to the Typicon, celebrants say to one another, 'Christ is in our midst," Vladika taught that the younger should greet the older, to which the older should reply, "He is and will be." During the Paschal period, the younger greeted with the words, "Christ is risen," to which the older celebrant responded, "In truth He is risen."

During the Eucharistic canon, at the blessing of the Gifts, all the celebrants were to approach the Altar table.

Here it would be appropriate to mention that before entering Vladika's cell one had to say the appointed prayer, to which Vladika would reply "Amen." During the Paschal period, one said, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death...," to which Vladika responded, "and upon those in the tombs bestowing life." And after this one could enter.

In the altar Vladika did not allow any conversation and punished severely any infraction. The sub-deacons were to stand constantly by his side. The acolyte who held the service book was to follow the service and himself turn the pages. If one of the servers made a mistake, Vladika would correct him after the service, lovingly tapping his forehead with his staff and adding, "A hierarch's staff is attracted to a foolish head."

Regarding the staff, Vladika did not permit it to be taken into the altar, explaining to us acolytes that angels were present in the altar and a hierarch couldn't shepherd them.

Vladika was strict with us, but also attentive. He never sat down for a festal meal if there weren't a special table set up for the acolytes. Once, in 1963, on Vladika's name day, six hierarchs served. The sisterhood set a very festive and sumptuous table for the hierarchs. After the prayer, Vladika noticed that there was no place for the acolytes. Calling me over, he gave me the keys to the arch episcopal residence and gave the best of everything on the table to us. After this incident, there was always a place for the acolytes at all parish trapezas.

Vladika did not allow acolytes to wear ties under their sticharions. He explained that if a priest can, in case of emergency, use even a thread instead of an epitrachelion, an acolyte shouldn't wear a tie around his neck during a service.

More than once I have observed some unusual practices by some priests, which they justify by saying that this is, allegedly, how Vladika John did it. Zeal is honorable but why cite Vladika to justify one's own inventions?

Likewise, I've read that Vladika, in boarding an airplane, would bless the pilot and such. I accompanied Vladika almost every time he flew from San Francisco and flew with him myself, and never witnessed anything of the kind. Vladika simply sat down in his place, prayed silently, of course, but in no way drew attention to himself.

A lot is also heard about Vladika's supposed predictions concerning the end of the world. In particular, it is said that in 1962 he was walking into a church when he tripped, fell and, getting up, said, "Antichrist was born." And there are many similar stories.

Of course, I was not with Vladika twenty-four hours a day and I cannot say categorically that this never happened, but in the first place, it was my experience that this is not characteristic of Vladika; secondly, Vladika arrived in San Francisco only at the end of 1962, and, thirdly, more than once I heard people ask Vladika about antichrist, and he never stated that he had already been born.

Vladika spoke a great deal about Russia, but this is an entire article of its own. Here I shall only mention one thing he said about the resurrection of Russia: "If the Russian people repent, God has the power to save them."

In the past I heard a story that Vladika John wanted to form a schism in the Church Abroad and, according to one version, to be the Chief Hierarch himself. Another story had it that he wanted to go under the authority of the Serbian Patriarch. I wouldn't have mentioned this if I hadn't heard it again a few months ago. This is outright slander.

On June 16, 1966 Vladika served Liturgy at St. Tikhon's and afterwards went with Bishop Nektary to Seattle with the wonderworking Kursk Icon. I assisted Vladika that day and was to have gone with him, but at the last minute decided to stay. My mother urged me to go, but I didn't listen. Three days later, in Seattle, Vladika reposed.

My mother told me, "You'll remember your mother all your life."

How right she is! But, it means I wasn't worthy.

The day before he left, Vladika phoned the editorial office of the newspaper, Russian Life, and gave notice that on the eve of the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist and also on the day of the Feast there would be a triumphant festive hierarchal service, and Vladika emphasized, triumphant and festive.

Vladika reposed on June 19 (o.s.). This notice was never printed, but those who were in San Francisco on June 24 at his funeral, the day of St. John the Baptist, can testify that the service was indeed triumphant and festive. This was not a day of sorrow; it was a day of Vladika's triumph.

I pray the Lord that, by Vladika's prayers, I might fulfill at least a fraction of what I learned from him. Amen.

June 4,1991 St. Mitrofan, Patriarch of Constantinople
(the birthday of Vladika John)
Holy Trinity Monastery
Jordanville, New York
(Translated from the Russian)

[1] Unjustly charged with misappropriation of church funds, in a bitter parish feud, Vladika was taken to court.