Just to give a sense of the general character of this event — there are two gentlemen regularly attired in black and purple robes and purple skullcaps; neither are Roman Catholic. One is an ECUSA bishop; the other is an Orthodox Western Rite archimandrite. By the same token, somebody in a cassock is just as likely to be an Anglican participant as they are an Orthodox participant. It gets a little confusing sometimes, particularly when one sees somebody dressed in typical Roman garb receiving Holy Communion.
I’m really tired. Sleep is always at a premium at things like this, and the last couple of nights have lent themselves poorly to sleeping much in particular, with the added issue of 7:30am Liturgies Divine. As noted earlier, the good news is that the commute is short. The North Dorm of St. Vladimir’s is on the opposite end of campus from the chapel, to be sure, but what that actually means is that it’s a four minute walk rather than a one minute walk. Nevertheless, I will try to highlight some points. (You can listen to all the talks online, as one of my commenters noted.)
Thursday morning began with a hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Ascension celebrated by Met. Kallistos. He delivered a wonderful homily tying together diverse topics such as the observations of the pilgrim Egeria on her visit to Jerusalem, stained glass windows at the chapel of Queens College in Oxford, and the hymn texts of Richard Hooker. In essence, he told us that the Ascension signifies the elevation of our humanity with Christ, and that from a liturgical point of view, it completes the cycle, begun with the Nativity, commemorating Christ’s time on earth. He is a wonderfully engaging homilist, and one thing that the recordings do not capture is how animated he is when he speaks.
(Another fun part: During the Trisagion, he proclaimed the bishop’s prayer — “O Lord, look down from heaven and behold and visit this vineyard which Thou hast planted with Thy right hand” — once in Greek, once in Slavonic, and once in Latin. Good times.)
Metropolitan PHILIP’s lecture (delivered, appropriately enough, in the Metropolitan PHILIP Room) was powerful. I understand that there are those who take issue with many of his pastoral decisions, and perhaps how he does things in general. I even think there might be good reasons to take issue with him. Regardless, I am inclined to view him with as much charity as possible, particularly when I hear him saying what he said here. This is a man who is obviously very frustrated by the inability of Orthodoxy to have any kind of a visible impact on American life. The heartbreak he felt at Madeleine Albright’s refusal to meet regarding the bombing of Serbia during Holy Week was palpable. The apparent unwillingness of many within “the diaspora” to be more than “the diaspora” clearly causes him very real pain. It is also clear that to an extent, he is limited to what he can do within his own archdiocese (and to quote Bp. Hilarion, “I will not elaborate on that point”). When he said, “My generation is slowly but surely fading away. It is up to you,” it was a genuine, heartfelt, and emotional moment — at least because Metropolitan PHILIP is noticeably frail. He mentioned his dry macular degeneration, but in general he appears to be slowing down.
He was good enough to inscribe my copy of Feed My Sheep, but it also took a moment or two for it to register what I was asking. It has been roughly two and a half years since the last time I heard him in person, and the decline in his health was very stark. It would not surprise me at all if this were to be the last opportunity I had to hear him speak before his repose.
(By the way, I believe this is the parish he mentioned which started with the Jordanians he met at Nathan’s.)
I have much else to say, but frankly, it is 12:45am and there’s a lot more tomorrow. A few things I can mention as a preview (and hopefully I can write more tomorrow night):
- For those who go back to the .Mac days — the gentleman to whom I spoke in Oxford is here, and much to my surprise, he remembered exactly who I was. He’s also an old friend of my roommate’s. Good heavens, it’s a small world.
- I had a very fruitful chat with Fr. John Behr this morning, and I am encouraged. (There is also something of a funny story attached to how this came about.)
- Bp. Keith Ackerman, ECUSA bishop of Quincy (Illinois), is an Anglo-Catholic (and I have emphasized the word Catholic for reasons that are hopefully clear from the picture I posted). Fr. Warren Tanghe of the Society of the Holy Cross, on the other hand, is a Catholic Anglican. Confused? So am I, but I’m pretty sure they’re not. I disagree with where they are, but I think it would be fair to say that so do they, and that it is with a lot of difficulty that they remain. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.
- Bp. Hilarion is an excellent homilist, but of a very different character from his Doktorvater. He is also the speaker who probably will be remembered as the most, shall we say, problematic of this conference. Thing is, I think what he had to say will doubtless be misunderstood by many. Based on what I heard, he says what he says, not to be a jerk or an anti-Roman polemicist; far be it! In fact, I think he desperately wants to avoid anti-Roman polemics. Rather, I think he wants everybody to be honest about what our starting point actually is, not what we (or anybody else) would like it to be for the sake of convenience. I firmly believe that he is one of the bright lights of Orthodox Christianity in the Western world, for all kinds of reasons that I’ll go into later, but I think he’s going to stick in the craw of a lot of folks for awhile. Let me suggest that we need to hear his words prophetically, rather than jumping to the conclusion that he’s just being an arrogant stick in the mud for the sake of Muscovite power.
- Fr. Warren Tanghe’s lecture on the Society of the Holy Cross was at once very moving and very depressing.
- The panel discussion was, I thought, very illuminating in terms of what we should be trying to take home from this conference (besides a suitcase full of books from the St. Vlad’s bookstore).
- I met the new full-time, tenure track liturgical music professor at St. Vlad’s, and I’m heartened.
Okay, I’m wrapping this up for now. Tomorrow is an Anglican Eucharist; I think it’s only fair that we Orthodox go to this — after all, the poor Episcopalians here have sat patiently through roughly seven hours of our services so far, including a Vigil (I doubt very much that the vast majority of Episcopalians here had any idea what we meant by a Vigil, and from the conversations I’ve had, I’d say most of them still don’t) and two hierarchical Liturgies. An hour and fifteen minutes at one of theirs isn’t going to kill us.