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Posts Tagged 'metropolitan kallistos rocks my face off'

In which the author laments the state of English language liturgical books

Last Saturday, it being Great Vespers for the Feast of St. Luke, there were Old Testament readings appointed for the service. I normally leave those to other people so as to save my voice, but I got asked to do one of them anyway since we were short some people we might otherwise have had. “Just read off of the printout of the liturgical guide?” I asked. Yes, I was told, since the parish doesn’t own a Prophetologion.

Well, long story short, nobody owns an English-language Prophetologion, because it doesn’t exist. There’s Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash)’s draft version online, and I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that if I were to be involved in starting a mission I would argue passionately for the use of his translations, but obviously an electronic version just isn’t quite the same thing as actually having a printed liturgical book. Besides which, Fr. Ephrem has done the exactly right thing of translating liturgical texts as a self-referential whole, being aware of biblical references, internal references to other liturgical texts, and so on and so forth — and while this is exactly right, it also renders his liturgical texts somewhat difficult to use unless you’re using them exclusively.

Which gets us to the broader question of English language liturgical books, and the practical situation in various parishes.

The situation at All Saints is interesting, and I expect reasonably common — we use Nassar as the spine, but not everything is in there, and there has been cobbling together of things from various sources over the years. This effort has been by necessity a real “do it yourself” matter by many people, for reasons I won’t go into here but I’m going to assume can be guessed by a sufficient number of people in similar situations. As a result, we use one translation for the proper texts for weekday services, a different translation for Great Vespers, Sunday Matins and Sunday Divine Liturgy, and still another translation for some of our Lenten texts. Sometimes we use the HTM Psalter; sometimes we use the KJV/NKJV variants that are used in the Antiochian service books. For the epistle reading, we have the Holy Cross Apostolos, which we bring out during services, but we insert a sheet with the NKJV text into the book so that the reader is actually reading from that and the book itself is really for show. In other words, we have a fundamental disunity of English translations, thereby achieving a fundamental disunity in the texts themselves. It used to be worse; our Divine Liturgy music used to be a patchwork of things from all over the place, so that there was no textual consistency whatsoever within the service — “Thee/thou” in one section and “You who” in the next. I am also told that for awhile we were trying to use the Orthodox Study Bible liturgically, but since it’s not arranged as a liturgical book (i. e., no prokeimena etc.), that was a non-starter from a practical standpoint.

These are the moments when I see an excellent argument for sticking with ecclesiastical Greek or Church Slavonic.

(On the matter of the HTM Psalter — HTM obviously publishes liturgical books that a lot of people use. I will note for the record that I find the use of liturgical materials by schismatic groups problematic, but I know there are a lot of people who disagree with me.)

I’m not sure what the solution is; what I’d hate to see is the worst kind of “by committee” translation, where all of these texts which were composed by saints and monks are rendered into bland, inoffensive, artless English. There are good “by committee” translations, like the Thyateira translation of the Divine Liturgy, but on the other hand, their committee includes Fr. Ephrem as well as Metropolitan Kallistos.

Maybe if any of our seminaries start offering doctorates, the problem of establishing a fundamental unity of English language liturgical books, and doing it right, can be taken on as a dissertation — or rather, several dissertations, more than likely. Best of all would be if modern-day Ss. Cyrils and Methodiuses would make themselves known for the English-speaking world. I understand that a hundred years ago for the most part the books didn’t just exist, and thus we’re better off than we used to be, but I’d like to think that we’re at a point where we can respect the efforts that have been made, re-assess where we’re at and try to move forward from here nonetheless.

Is a unified English translation of all the liturgical books a realistic goal? Or is the hodgepodge one of those things where we need to accept that it’s not going to happen because Things Are Different In America?

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Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part VI

oxford-ticket-2Back to happier things.

My initial thought had been that we could go to Hagia Sophia Cathedral in London for Liturgy on Sunday; I had only been able to quickly walk through there back in ’07, and thought it would be awesome to actually go for a service and perhaps see the folks I had met who attended there.

Turned out that the Sunday we were going to be in England was the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, however, and given the role of that day in preparing for Great Lent, it seemed preferable to attend a service in English. The Cathedral does a Divine Liturgy in English on the first and third Saturdays of the month; otherwise, they do everything in Greek. (“We’re the patriarchal cathedral for the Greeks in London,” the choir director there told me when I met him. “Our services are in Greek or else.”) Alas, we were there for the second Saturday.

Plus, as Dr. Lingas had told us on Friday, it was a Sunday for Byzantine chant in English up in Oxford.

Liturgy started at 10:30; the earliest train to Oxford we could catch was at approximately 8:30am, and that got us up there around 9:50. It was about a twenty minute walk from the Oxford train station to the Holy Octagon, and I remembered where it was easily enough.

This was the first time I had seen the interior of the Oxford church; while humble in a lot of respects — it is a very simple brick building — they have done a lot with what they have. Also, while somewhat smaller than All Saints, I’d say they packed in about 30-40 more people than we typically do — it was filled to the gills. On the other hand, it was 2 February on the Old Calendar (the Meeting of the Lord, or Candlemas as doubtless some of the English converts might call it), so it being a major feast might well have accounted for the attendance.

The celebrant was Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware); the homilist Fr. Ian Graham; the cantor Dr. Lingas. Talk about a delightful treat of a morning. Metropolitan Kallistos served with a great deal of enthusiasm and verve; I’ve said before that recordings really do not capture how animated he is, and I would like to reiterate that point. Fr. Ian’s homiletics are very different from what we were used to, but not in a bad way, and it was very valuable to hear on this particular Sunday. Dr. Lingas — with one other person — sang essentially a stripped down version of The Divine Liturgy in English; what was interesting was that many of the same, shall we say, pastoral realities were present as I run into at All Saints. For example, the “Dynamis” of the Trisagion was, as is the case for us, merely a repeat of the first iteration rather than a separate, longer, melismatic comp0sition. Also, as with Bloomington, as soon as the Liturgy was over — time to start chatting! In all fairness, they actually have to go to a separate building entirely for their coffee hour, so there’s no hallway into which they may just quietly slip. It was nonetheless comforting to see that such issues are not geographically limited, shall we say. One fascinating difference is that at All Saints, more or less everybody in the congregation tries to sing everything; in Oxford, the people were largely silent.

The Oxford church is on the property of something called Ss. Gregory and Macrina House; it’s a house that exists as a center for non-liturgical Orthodox activity at Oxford, including some accommodations for students and the occasional visitor. It also appears to be where the offices for the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius are presently located, and is also where the coffee hour occurs. I hope to have some occasion to spend more time there in the future.

Following Liturgy, we ate lunch at the Eagle and Child; alas, it was full enough that the Rabbit Room was inaccessible, but the bangers and mash — and the fish and chips, and the beer — were still quite tasty regardless.

The rest of the day was spent strolling around the town and the campus, and it was a gorgeous, if chilly, day for it. In some respects, it was good we were there on a Sunday — most places where we might have been tempted to spend lots of money were closed. That said, Blackwell’s is an exceedingly pleasant place to spend several hours (and perhaps hundreds of pounds). They have shelves and shelves of things which have to be special ordered here — Greek New Testaments and Septuagints, English-Norwegian dictionaries, and so on. On the other hand, Oxford is certainly a place where people with those kinds of interests are concentrated, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. One more reason to contrive a reason to move there someday. Alternately, it’s a great reason to have a little notebook in which one can write down ISBN numbers and look online for better deals in US dollars.

We attended Evensong at Queen’s College; it was almost entirely at the other end of the spectrum of liturgical practice and singing from Metropolitan Kallistos and Dr. Lingas, but it was a nice reminder of what good liturgical singing can sound like in the Western tradition. I forget how much I like a pointed psalm sung antiphonally.

Finally, it was time to go back into the city. We got good sausage rolls from a bakery called La Croissanterie, and boarded the train.

Tips: It is reasonably common to encounter cash-only locations in Oxford. The bakery was cash-only, a coffee chain called Caffè Nero, and admission to the Saxon tower of St. Michael’s at the North Gate (“the oldest building in Oxford”) was cash only. (Megan went up; I didn’t. Again, something about paying to see part of a church just doesn’t sit well.)

Evidently, if the Orthodox visitor to Oxford were to contact the Ss. Gregory and Macrina House well enough in advance, they might find that they would be able to stay there. I don’t have any other details, and they don’t have a website or an e-mail address I am able to find, so the easiest way to contact them appears to be by phone — 01865 513117.

Yeah, Oxford is still my favorite place in the universe. What can I say?

Coming soon: how we actually got to bum around, y’know, London for day, and why the Sherlock Holmes Pub and Restaurant should be avoided at all costs.

Things you think about when you’re trying not to fall

This morning was the first frost in Bloomington, Indiana — or, at the very least, the first at our house. This is a relatively early first frost; I’m more accustomed to it staying hot until sometime in November, at some point during which God hits a switch and the temperature drops fifty degrees in a week. Given that my ancestors, centuries ago, were roaming the frozen wastes of Scandinavia wearing fur loincloths and swinging battleaxes, and that I’ve inherited their programming to stay perfectly comfortable in cold temperatures while wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as well as having to face the unpleasant corollary that above 75 degrees Fahrenheit I tend to be very uncomfortable no matter how little I’m wearing, I am very, very, very much okay with an early frost. The nice thing about cold weather is that you can always put more on. Hot weather… well, not so much. There’s only so much you can take off. (And trust me, you’re thankful for that — very very very thankful.)

What I emphatically don’t like is getting to the top step of my front porch on my way out to the car and realizing, in rapid succession, a) the first frost has arrived very much unannounced and b) I need to grab onto something very quickly. I am not one normally given to quoting John Mayer, but gravity, stay the hell away from me. Otherwise, I will be in repair (again).

For those who have asked — I do not, as of yet, have any information on the outcome of Fr. John Peck’s 16 October meeting with Metropolitan Gerasimos. All I know is that Fr. John is still listed here on the Prescott Orthodox Church website as the priest. Once I hear something I will post it (if I can).

A couple of links to pass along — Anna passed along the article “Keeping the End in View” by James R. Payton, Jr., over at Christianity Today. Prof. Payton, a Protestant, is also the author of Light From the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition, a book which I have not yet read myself, but I have heard Orthodox say that it is a better introduction to Orthodoxy than some books by Orthodox authors. (One hopes that he has less in common with Daniel Clendenin than with, say, Met. Kallistos Ware.) The article is an examination of the Orthodox Christian understanding of “theosis,” comparing it to how Protestants understand conversion, justification, and sanctification as “phases” of salvation. In general, Prof. Payton treats the Orthodox position quite favorably, but there are two points I’d like to mention.

In Orthodox teaching, “image” and “likeness” are not the same: the first is gift, the second, goal.

This is a matter of some imprecision; it’s not called “Orthodox teaching,” it’s called “the Greek language.” εἰκών and ὁμοίωσις are the words in question, and as even a cursory examination of their entries in either Liddell-Scott or BDAG shows pretty quickly, these are different words with related-but-different meanings, and authors do not use them interchangeably. This has nothing to do with “Orthodox teaching” except insofar as Orthodox teaching reflects how the Greek Fathers use the words. “Policy” and “law” are English words which have related but ultimately different meanings, for example. If a German author wrote that “In American politics, ‘law’ and ‘policy’ are not the same…” it would be a similar situation. It’s an issue of what the words mean, not an issue of how they’re treated by a particular group of people.

While evangelicals can learn from the Orthodox, it is fair to note that Orthodox believers can learn from us, too. The Eastern presentation of salvation can smudge the distinct steps of salvation. Justification and sanctification often get folded into the broader concept of theosis, and they become so blurred that Orthodox believers often don’t know what to make of the terms. They would be well served by an explanation of how the steps of salvation as presented in apostolic teaching fit into the larger package of divinization.

While appreciating Prof. Payton’s open-minded, open-armed approach and thus being willing to lay aside concerns about how patronizing this paragraph might be, I will suggest that he fails to mention that the issues he brings up are addressed by the participation of the Orthodox Christian in the sacramental life of the Church. I assume he knows this, and that this is a concept which probably will sail right over the heads of most CT readers, so I can understand why he doesn’t go there, but ultimately the picture he paints is misleading.

I would also direct your attention to the paper, “Approaching the Educated Person in the Post-Christian Era” by Abp. Lazar Puhalo (ret., OCA). I don’t necessarily agree with every point, but I think it’s worth reading and discussing. I might have more to say about it later.

Current reading: The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, by George H. Nash. Whether one agrees with everybody he describes or not, the story he tells is fascinating. I may have more to say about this later.

By the way, I’m considering participating in NaNoWriMo for purposes of finishing a first draft of a particular writing project of mine. I’m not sure I’d quite hit 50,000 words, but I’d have a draft finished finally, after four years of picking away at something.

I’ll wrap this up for now by saying that my application for West European Studies has been submitted, and that now it’s just a matter of my letters of recommendation rolling in. Hopefully I’ll know something soon. In the meantime, another option has come up in terms of a departmental home, and the person who suggested it did so unprompted. I don’t want to say much more about it for the time being. For right now I’ll just say that I’m flipping two coins, West European Studies and this other possibility, and we’ll see what comes up. Maybe both will come up heads, in which case I’m decidedly not opposed to leaving IU with more rather than less. Maybe both will come up tails, and I really will have to leave here with 30+ worthless graduate credits. We’ll see. Meanwhile, a near-annual conversation with a particular faculty member about said options has led to this person dubbing me a “professional applicant.” I suppose he/she isn’t wrong.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be prepared for the frost.

The Divine Liturgy in English by Cappella Romana: the review and other thoughts

As someone who has sung in church at a more-or-less professional level for many years and who always had a deep love and appreciation for, shall we say, more historic forms of liturgical music, when I first became aware of Orthodox Christianity it was a very natural instinct for me to seek out this aspect of the faith. The trick here, of course, is that when you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s a bit difficult to find it, but eventually what I found was the Boston Byzantine Choir‘s recording of the Divine Liturgy, called Mystical Supper: Byzantine Chant in English. I was quite struck at how similar the approach on this recording sounded to something like Shapenote/Sacred Harp singing, to say nothing just how much of the service was sung rather than spoken. When I told my friend Mark Powell about this, he said simply, “Listen to the Greek Byzantine Choir’s recording of the Divine Liturgy in Greek. Then we’ll talk.” It was not an easy recording to find in the States in 2003; I wound up having to order it from a Canada-based Hellenic specialist, as I recall. (It’s much easier to find these days, at least for the moment. Amazon seems to no longer sell it directly — which has changed from a month ago — which suggests to me that the current pressing is gone, the distributor is out of stock, and whoever has it, has it, whoever doesn’t, doesn’t.) This recording really blew the lid off of my nice, safe, clean world of church singing, and redefined a lot of my expectations. Between that and getting to hear Cappella Romana‘s Fall of Constantinople program in the summer of 2004, I began to develop a strong affinity for the Byzantine repertoire.

What I didn’t learn, and what I wouldn’t fully appreciate until I was leading an Orthodox parish choir myself for the first time, from these exposures to Byzantine music — which are, admittedly, highly-idealized “best case scenario” presentations; as one musicologist told me, “Field recordings made at monasteries in Greece don’t sound anywhere close to the Greek Byzantine Choir” — is how divisive the repertoire can be for some people. It is clear that for certain ears, the otherworldly musical characteristics are, to say the least, less transcendent than foreign — “music to whip camels by” and “the nasal-sounding stuff the old man sings before the Divine Liturgy” being among the characterizations I’ve heard. I’ve even heard somebody say that Byzantine music “sounds more like the Muslim call to prayer than Christian singing.” The common assertion appears to be that there’s no way to make Byzantine music sound “friendly” to Western ears — it’s always going to sound like an ethnic import, “too Arabic” or “too Greek” or too something. A related concern is that it’s unison singing (save for the ison, the drone underneath), and Western ears expect four-part harmony as a non-negotiable given, period. It is certainly fair to say that Byzantine music is not appropriate for harmonization; this is for the simple reason that the conventions of four-part harmony are based on a tonal system, and Byzantine music is modal. You can’t harmonize a modal melody according to tonal conventions (i. e., “What Would Bach Do?”) without largely eliminating the distinctives of the given mode (as can be made clear when a new cantor instinctively, but erroneously, assumes that the ison for Byzantine Modes 2 and 4 is supposed to be C/Ne instead of G/Dhi and E/Vou, respectively).

There’s also the more specific complaint that Byzantine music doesn’t play well with English. This is a view shared by some rather visible and influential people; for example, the Preface of Mother Mary and Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)’s edition of The Festal Menaion (St. Tikhon’s Press, 1969) says the following:

In course of time English-speaking Orthodox will doubtless evolve a musical tradition of their own, which will takes its place alongside those of Greece, Russia, and the other Orthodox nations. As yet, no such tradition has had time to develop: and Orthodox of English language must therefore draw for the present upon some existing musical heritage within Orthodoxy. The best adapted for this purpose seems to be that of Russia. Byzantine chant is too intricate: if it is to be used, then the stress and rhythm of the Greek original must be preserved almost exactly in English translation, and this raises insuperable difficulties. But Russian music is far more flexible; and in particular the simpler Russian monastic chants can easily be adapted to an English text. (p. 13, emphasis mine)

I have to be honest and say that I find this to be an odd claim (and yet one which seems to have influenced the assumptions and thinking of many people since its publication); it seems to me that Byzantine music is far more extensible and expressive when it comes to being adapted to English texts, where many forms of Russian chant, at least as presently used in English adaptation, tend to utterly disrespect the needs and conventions of English. It’s true that in many of the attempts to adapt the Byzantine repertoire to English — Kazan’s Byzantine Project, for example, being the one I use week in, week out — it seems like one winds up with melismas on odd words or emphases on the wrong syllables and so on, but I’d argue only that this means we haven’t perfected the system of adaptation yet (or perfected the English version of the text, for that matter), not that it fundamentally can’t work or that somehow we need to “file the corners off” of Byzantine chant, or in general make it something it isn’t, in order to make it work for English-speakers.

But nonetheless, the assumption is held by many that Byzantine chant fundamentally won’t work for English-language, Western Orthodox folks. The lengths to which some marginalize Byzantine music as being merely one of those pesky, overly ethnic, “little-t traditions” which drive away people who are culturally Western is demonstrated by a recent discussion on the PSALM Yahoo! group which involved speculation as to whether or not use of Byzantine chant might contribute to a decline in attendance in parishes.

Which brings me, at last, to Cappella Romana’s masterful, ground-breaking new release, The Divine Liturgy in English, which serves as the definitive response to all of these concerns, providing a fantastic model to emulate, transparency enough in the process to make it replicable, and, for the foreseeable future, the standard to meet for liturgical singing.

This is the recording of Byzantine chant in English which says, “Yes, we can.” This is the CD which you will see wearing black body armor and fighting off Rottweilers on an IMAX screen and telling Michael Caine, “Byzantine chant in English has no limits.”

Several years in the making and part of Cappella Romana’s “Excellence in Orthodox Liturgical Music in English” project — which includes the delightful Lay Aside All Earthly Cares, a collection of the liturgical music of Fr. Sergei Glagolev, which I’ll say more about shortly, and a future release of a Divine Liturgy setting by Peter Michaelides — this 2-disc set represents the monumental effort of adapting the traditional Byzantine repertoire so that it fits the English language idiomatically, often recomposing melodies from scratch in order to match the text. Conducted by Artistic Director Alexander Lingas, these settings are presented in a natural church acoustic, using native English speakers, and in their proper liturgical context, with Archimandrite Meletios (Webber) and Dn. John Chryssavgis serving as the clergy. The result is at once prayerful and phenomenally well-sung, full, rich, and in tune, and entirely Byzantine in character while never straying from understandable, natural-sounding English. It is ecclesiastical ensemble singing of the highest order, easily ranking with the recordings of Lycourgos Angelopoulos and the Greek Byzantine Choir, as well as with the best of English-language recordings of liturgical music such as those by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

Because it is a Divine Liturgy entirely sung in one musical idiom, and therefore comes across as a seamless garment of whole cloth as it were, it is difficult, if not inappropriate, to make critiques of particular sections, so I’m not going to do that. I would say that the best way to get a sense of exactly what has been accomplished with this recording is to become familiar with a recording of the traditional Greek repertoire such as Angelopoulos’, getting a sense for the function and aesthetic which govern hymns such as the Trisagion or the Cherubikon, and then to listen to this recording and hear how those principles are maintained in the English language adaptation. The exact notes of the Greek versions are not preserved because they’ve applied the Byzantine compositional process to the English text, not simply slapped the existing Byzantine melody over the English text and then figured out how to make the syllables fit. The result is a new melody which is completely faithful to the spirit of the model and the conventions of Byzantine music, and fits the English text like a glove at the same time. These adaptations — which Cappella Romana are publishing on their website in both Byzantine and Western notation — range from simple and syllabic (such as the troparia and the Anaphora) to florid and melismatic (the Dynamis of the Trisagion, the Cherubic Hymn), according to the rubrics and intended liturgical function. The booklet credits John Boyer, Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, with much of the work of adapting of the chants, and his sensitivity to the English text while maintaining the Byzantine ethos is to be highly commended.

Let’s be clear — The Divine Liturgy in English is not intended as a musicological curiosity for specialists, but rather as a practical liturgical model for the wider Church. In other words, this is meant to be a clear demonstration of how we can do things now, not an obscure example of how some people used to do it. As such, the set presents a complete Divine Liturgy as would be found on a typical, non-festal Sunday after Pentecost (a “vanilla Sunday” as some choir directors jokingly call it). This includes the celebrant’s spoken prayers, the Epistle and the Gospel, as well as the full Alleluia and Prokeimenon with verses — only a homily is omitted. (An argument can be made that the way they’ve harmonized the various Typika, they’ve in fact left some things out such as the Beatitudes, but this is addressed in the liner notes.)

Among the many delights of this recording is the text. The official translation of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain is used, the product of a panel involving scholars and clergy such as Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash), Metropolitan Kallistos, and Fr. Andrew Louth. Certain renderings are initially unfamiliar — in particular, the use of “Mother of God” instead of Theotokos, and “Holy Strong” in the Trisagion — but It is nonetheless a wonderful translation which adheres quite closely to the Greek text. The booklet includes a helpful essay by Archimandrite Ephrem about the methodology and pastoral principles guiding the Thyateira translation. “Holy Strong” is arguably closer to the actual meaning of the Greek text than “Holy Mighty,” despite the English tradition of the text; see this paper for a thorough look at translating the hymn. I would have liked the “Mother of God” usage to have been addressed in the liner notes; as it is, it is unclear why the Greek word Theotokos, surely standard usage for English-speaking Orthodox by now, is not retained when Greek words such as Dynamis are. Such questions aside, the Thyateira text is an incredible effort which would ideally influence future undertakings of the translation of liturgical texts. 

I will admit to being somewhat puzzled as to why, given the clearly considerable vocal resources Cappella Romana has at its disposal, antiphonal choirs were not used; the liner notes say that “some elements of of the traditional interchange between two choirs are preserved through the use of alternating soloists”, but this strikes me as an unnecessary reduction given everything else they go out of their way to achieve on the recording.

Another major plus of this recording is something which actually isn’t sung — it includes the entire ensemble speaking the Creed and Lord’s Prayer with conviction. This is sadly lacking on the Mount Lebanon Choir recording, where one guy limply reading the prayers into a microphone is too-obviously spliced in after the fact.

Can the musical level achieved on this set, and/or the acoustic in which it was recorded, truly be seen as practical or normative? To be sure, the kind of training needed to meet this standard is not yet widely available in the United States, and many parishes do not have the resources to either provide such musical instruction or to give attention to proper acoustics in their building design. Nonetheless, The Divine Liturgy in English should be understood as a presentation of the “best-case scenario” to which liturgical singers may aspire. As well, Lingas opts for an all-male ensemble — the traditional arrangement, certainly, but unlikely to be the pastoral reality in most places.

The Divine Liturgy in English also shows the way for future adaptations of other Orthodox liturgical music into English, not just Byzantine. To slavishly preserve music written for a different language when adapting it to English is to miss the point of adaptation; that approach does violence to the language and, eventually, the music as well. Rather, those who would adapt the chants for use in a different language must understand the principles which guided the composition in the first place, and then apply those to the new text, while preserving the spirit of the original as much as possible. The music on the previously-mentioned disc of Fr. Sergei Glagolev’s liturgical settings — I said I’d get back to him, didn’t I? — demonstrates his own mastery of how this works for music in a Russian idiom; it is identifiably Slavic in terms of musical character, while still being sung, and sung well, in natural-sounding English in a way which does not obscure the meaning of the text. Perhaps with both the Glagolev settings as well these Byzantine adaptations, one inevitably runs into the objection, “Nobody knows them!” That will simply take time to overcome.

Cappella Romana’s recording is no less than a gift to the English-speaking Orthodox world which will inspire and instruct. Thyateira’s Archbishop Gregorios writes in the liner notes that The Divine Liturgy in English is intended to “increase the understanding and appreciation of both the spirituality of Orthodox worship and the heights of musical expression to which its chanting aspires”; this it does stunningly well. Highly recommended (in case that wasn’t clear by now).

Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius, Day 4

Saturday began with a Eucharist at the Church of St. James the Less in Scarsdale. Paul picked me up at St. Vlad’s, and we followed the MapQuest directions provided to drive there.

Except that they were wrong, as we found out. We made the last right turn the directions called for, and within a minute or two of driving through a neighborhood that certainly looked like a place where Northeastern Episcopalians might live, there was no church. We backtracked and tried again; no luck. We also started to see faces we recognized in other cars clearly having the same dilemma. “We are meandering ecumenists, literally in search of a church,” Paul chuckled. Finally we figured out where the directions went wrong, and we arrived.

The Eucharist was Rite I, celebrated by Bp. Ackerman, with the choir singing a Byrd Mass in Latin for the ordinary. This was as high church as I’ve ever seen an ECUSA service be; if there ever was a time that this was representative, I can understand a little better where certain classical stereotypes of Episcopalians come. It certainly was never representative during my sojourn through ECUSA (and certainly no Episcopal church choir of which I was ever a part would have been capable of doing justice to the Byrd). All that was missing was a pointed psalm.

A couple of observations I might make about some practical contrasts between the Anglican Eucharist and the various Orthodox services which occurred during the conference: we Orthodox did a rather poor job of preparing the Anglican participants for our services — as in, we didn’t do any. By contrast, a well-arranged and easy-to-read service order was provided for us at St. James the Less.

And, frankly, as much as I think the St. Vladimir’s choir is good at what it does, the singing at St. James really put into stark relief what I think some of the problems are with a lot of Orthodox singing in this country. That’s somewhat out of the scope of this write-up, however, so I won’t deal with that now.

Following the service was a very, very ritzy reception — again, not exactly representative of my time as an Episcopalian. We were lucky to have coffee at St. Margaret’s. Paul and Jeremy Bergstrom, the aforementioned Episcopalian student at St. Vladimir’s, hit it off famously; they’re both Purdue alumni separated by a year, they’re both from roughly the same part of Indiana, and it turned out that Jeremy’s uncle was one of Paul’s elementary school teachers.

Canon Jonathan GoodallAfter the reception was an introduction by Fr. Stephen Platt, pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Oxford and General Secretary of the Fellowship, and a greeting from the Archbishop of Canterbury read by Canon Goodall. (I am told that this will eventually be posted on the Anglican Communion website, but I do not yet see it.)

Finally, Bp. Hilarion introduced Met. Kallistos. I encourage you to listen to the entirety of his lecture, “Primacy and the Pope,” for there is no way I will be able to do it sufficient justice here, but here are a few points I wish to highlight:

  • He found the removal of the title “Patriarch of the West” from the papacy to be disturbing; he is concerned that this represents a further expansion of Rome’s understanding of herself.
  • He nonetheless found a couple of points of hope within the Ravenna statement, saying that while it clearly accepts the fact of universal primacy, it also accepts that there is a question of how it is to be exercised and how it manifests. In addition, the Ravenna statement applies the language of the 34th Apostolic Canon (“The bishops of all peoples should know the first among them and recognize him as the head, and do nothing that exceeds their authority without his consideration. Each should carry out only that which relates to his own diocese and to areas belonging to it. But the first among them should also do nothing without the consideration of all”) at the universal level: the bishops are to do nothing, outside of their own dioceses, without the head, the pope; but the head is likewise to do nothing without consultation of the bishops.
  • As such, he suggested that there might be a form of universal primacy, perhaps a certain power of initiative, which would be acceptable to the Orthodox.

The final lecture session was Igumen Jonah (Paffhausen), and I missed a very large portion of what he had to say, alas. What I did hear I had some issues with until it became clear that his talk on the nature of the episcopate was very much in the context of the recent leadership crises in the OCA, and his own impending elevation to the episcopate. I feel I must largely confine my comments, therefore, to the observation that there were many in the room who were visibly moved, some to tears, by the picture he presented of what the episcopate should look like (or the icon that he wrote of the episcopate, to use Fr. Peter Jacobsen’s words). As a seminary under the OCA and therefore with a front seat to the controversies, I can only imagine how healing his words might have been — I have said before that I count myself lucky to be under Bp. MARK; my hope is that the OCA Diocese of the South is at least as blessed with Fr. Jonah.

The afternoon concluded with a group discussion of where to go from here. The Fellowship would very much like to revive its presence in North America, and would like a conference on this side of the Atlantic to be a recurring event. Based on the discussion, it seems likely that it will alternate between St. Vladimir’s and Nashotah House; Nashotah House certainly seems like a focal point for the kind of Anglican(s) who would be interested in participating, and there is definitely a relationship between many Orthodox and Nashotah House, it being the alma mater of certain clergy (such with Fr. Chad Hatfield) or a sometime employer (as with Fr. Patrick).

This raises an issue, however, which presented itself most visibly at this particular session but would appear to have been bubbling under the surface throughout. One thing that Fr. Stephen Platt mentioned as a regret was that certain Anglicans whom they invited to be at this conference took one look at the list of speakers and said, “All you’ve done is invite the Orthodox and the most conservative Anglo-Catholics in this country. No thanks.” It would seem that conservative Anglicans do not agree amongst themselves what they wish to be; some, perhaps, wish only to be conservative Protestants — “mere Christians,” if you will. Others, on the other hand, want to be Anglo-Catholics — and still others “Catholic Anglicans,” who would be indistinguishable from a Roman Catholic save for the accident of history preventing communion. This division also manifested itself in some of the responses I heard after the morning’s Eucharist, particularly regarding the use of the Byrd Mass. “Too many people fought and died for the use of the vernacular and the right to participate in the liturgy for us to hold a concert in Latin and call it representative,” was the grumbling I heard from more than one person.

What is also clear for many of these people is that they feel like they have no place else to go, and I wonder if that isn’t part of what’s the heart of this kind of disagreement. At least one person said this explicitly to Paul and me; they rattled off various very frightening things within the ECUSA to us, but then shrugged and said, “Where else can I go?”

Regardless, I very much hope that a renewed North American presence becomes a reality; perhaps, at the very least, it can function as some kind of a safe haven for those Anglicans in this country who do not otherwise have one. Met. Kallistos (as I recall) admonished the attendees that the purpose of the conference needed to be something other than nostalgia; if the only aim was to go home at the end and say, “What a nice time with great speakers,” then the whole exercise was pointless. I do think that to some extent the future of the group will depend on its younger membership; the median hair color of the attendees, if you take my meaning, was on the grey side, but there were a couple of younger Orthodox there and certainly a decent-sized handful of younger Anglicans. This is hopeful, but only if we keep in touch with each other and try to keep the momentum going — if we don’t think it’s important enough to continue, it will die. I’ve attended conferences, such as the PSALM gathering a couple of years ago, where there are a lot of ideas and a lot of big things said, but ultimately just pulling everybody together for the event takes all the resources the organization has and there’s nothing left for any follow-through. (PSALM, as I understand it, is still recovering from what it took to stage the Chicago conference.) Hopefully that doesn’t happen here.

An important point which was raised was that wherever we do it in the future, common meals are a vital element of the fellowship enjoyed, and need to be retained. I agree with this; it’s such a simple thing, but it accomplishes very much, and there’s part of me that wonders if it so important and accomplishes so much because of the Meal which we cannot share as part of such a gathering.

That, really, was that; Great Vespers followed, and then there was a wine-and-cheese reception for the participants, but all of that was after-party stuff. I don’t have a ton to say about it, except that there was something that seemed apt about the Vespers service being for the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea. The next morning I attended Divine Liturgy elsewhere (a separate, but good, story which I will relate in a separate post) and flew home.

If I may, if you’ve found these write-ups at all intriguing or useful, I would ask that you join the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius. The American presence, as demonstrated at this conference, certainly exists, but it is definitely on the small side (although not as small as I would have thought!). You do not have to be Anglican or Orthodox to join; there was, for example, an ELCA pastor there as an attendee. I would say that the Fellowship, being an “officially unofficial” group, exemplifies what I’ve said before — issues of dialogue and concelebration are out of the pay grade of most of us, but conversation and cooperation, preferably over wine and vodka, are very doable and perhaps more useful for us anyway. Membership really costs very little, and the journal, Sobornost, is definitely worth it. So, please, I encourage you to join if my account has at all piqued your interest.

(You are also still welcome to give to the tip jar, of course.)

There is much yet to process regarding the conference, so I may still have things to post as time goes on, but I’ve done my best, for now, to present what I experienced. The synthesis will occur over time. I will say that I left Crestwood infatuated with the place and with an aching desire to go back; more importantly, I left with a number of new friends with whom I very much hope to keep in contact, and to pray for. Given that the official mission of the Fellowship is that “it exists to pray and work for Christian unity, and provides opportunities for Orthodox Christians and Christians of Western traditions to meet and get to know one another, and so to deepen their understanding of each other’s spirituality, theology and worship”, I’d say that the mission was very much carried out at this conference.

Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius, Days 2 (cont’d) & 3 (cont’d)

I am grateful that Eirenikon has seen fit to link to my rambling trifles on the Fellowship conference. Many thanks.

I got home at about two yesterday morning, distributed the spoils of the St. Vlad’s bookstore to The David and The Daniel (who were good enough to pick me up at the airport at half past midnight on a Sunday), and went to bed. Then I was up at 7am to go to work, and, well… yeah. Sleep? What’s that?

A couple of other things to highlight about Met. PHILIP’s talk — Dr. Dmitri Solodow, a lay delegate of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council from the Diocese of the West, made the wry observation, “The liturgy unites us as long as it is in our native language.”

Met. Kallistos had a number of comments for his brother bishop, beginning by saying, “I agree with far more of what you say than I expected to!” (Always an encouraging thing to hear.) He concurred with Met. PHILIP that “[t]he defining characteristic [of a local church] is territorial, not ethnic[.]” In noting the that idea of the local church is the faithful in a given city gathering around their bishop to celebrate the Eucharist, he further observed that “the Eucharist is not an ethnic event.” A very humorous moment was when Met. Kallistos insisted that “we must not be canonical fundamentalists,” and Met. PHILIP replied, as if they were singing a psalm antiphonally, “Alleluia.” My favorite Met. Kallistos moment of the morning was when he reminded the room, “‘Committee’ is not a canonical word.” Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon ended the session by suggesting that administrative unity might have unintended consequences; he would not, for example, want to end up under a bishop who had no interest in evangelism, observing that the Romanian patriarchal cathedral in Chicago has really nothing to do with anybody else, and that he would just as soon remain under Bp. MARK.

Thursday continued with Bp. Keith Ackerman, a self-professed “cradle Anglo-Catholic” and ECUSA bishop of Quincy, Illinois. I think I have to post a couple pictures of him to truly convey why I was confused when I was told he was ECUSA — there’s this one:

And then there’s this one, showing him from the rear (just because that’s really the only other picture I have of him):

Get the idea? HIs Grace couldn’t be more Roman looking without a mitre. (Well, he mitre he might not.)

(Say it aloud and you’ll get it.)

(I’ll stop now.)

Anyway, he made several points which I truly appreciated; an important one, I think, is that unification of outer order can never move faster than the growth of the inner life. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? To that end, he said, Eucharistic discipline — which, to him, includes fasting, prayer and meditation, and thanksgiving — is absolutely vital to unity, and because truth is the nature of the Church, unity of the “outer order” can only be achieved through doctrinal unity. (This is in remarkable contrast to the thoughts a later speaker, but I’ll talk about that when I get there.)

A very important point, I thought, related to the teaching office of the episcopacy; that is, “tactile succession” is not enough without orthodoxy.

He concluded by saying that we must be fully Catholic (and I don’t think I am misreading his intent for that to be an upper-case C), fully Orthodox, fully confessional, and fully renewed — and while I’m not sure I could put my finger on why I got this impression, but I rather got the sense that for him, Orthodoxy would be a no-brainer if we had our administrative house in order. It might very well be something that I read into his words, but I will nonetheless note that this was my impression.

Following Bp. Ackerman’s lecture, I was running around a bit. I was trying to touch base with Fr. John Behr, who had told me that morning, “Find me this afternoon and we’ll set up a time to talk.” Alas, we kept missing each other, and having plans in the city that night, I ultimately had to leave around 4pm to catch my train to Grand Central. (This also meant I was going to miss Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s talk (originally scheduled for the afternoon), but there wasn’t anything I could do about that at that point).

My previously mentioned friend Matthew Murray is a theatre critic and a Tony voter, so every time I’ve been in New York he’s made sure I’ve gotten to see something. My first time out it was Phantom of the Opera, and last time it was Fiddler on the Roof with Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O’Donnell.

Playing a married couple.

Let’s pause to contemplate this for a moment.

But I digress.

This time it was the current revival of Sunday in the Park with George, a production which dares to ask the question, “Is it live or is it PowerPoint?” Anyway, we arrive at the theatre, and I take notice of a very tall, bearded, and ponytailed man wearing a dress shirt and slacks standing in the doorway to the lobby, looking for all the world like an usher. And I think to myself, Wow, that guy looks a lot like Fr. John. No, really, it’s uncanny how much that looks like Fr. John. It could be his twin.

Wait.

That’s Fr. John.

What in the world is he doing being an usher? Doesn’t he make enough money as dean that he doesn’t have to moonlight?

But then his wife walked up to him and they entered the lobby, answering that question very quickly.

I walked up to him, saying, “Fr. John?” He did a double-take when he saw me, chuckled, and said, “So, you decided to take the evening off as well, eh?” He introduced me to his wife, who said, “Oh, Richard Barrett? I’ve read your book, I think.” I assured her that she hadn’t. We were able to arrange to meet for breakfast the next morning (“Lunch and dinner usually finds me eating with bishops, so let’s do breakfast,” he said), and that was that. What were the odds?

It turned out that a friend of theirs had won the tickets in a radio call-in contest, had given them the tickets and offered to babysit. Sometimes you just want to think (and this was not the last time I thought this over the course of the conference), there are no coincidences.

The hierarchical Divine Liturgy the next morning was celebrated by Bp. Hilarion. Rather at the opposite extreme from Met. Kallistos, his homily was short and pastoral, reminding us that as Christians, we need the Holy Spirit for anything we do to be successful — it is not the priest who makes the sacraments efficacious, or the worker of any ministry for that matter who may take credit for it, but the Holy Spirit, period. To that end, he concluded, as Christians, we should always be praying that the Holy Spirit is with us. Short and to the point, but well worth hearing.

Talking with Fr. John was fruitful; we discussed how a St. Vlad’s education might prepare me for further graduate work, and he was very encouraging, even having a couple of concrete suggestions regarding areas of research I might think about given my interests, and how I might make them more marketable. As with everybody there, he was very approachable and easy to talk to; one remarkable thing he said was that it took him all of two weeks write The Mystery of Christ — when he finished writing the three volumes of The Way to Nicaea, he realized there was a whole underlying, unexpressed argument to what he was saying, and that he needed to get that down on paper as well.

Two weeks.

The morning session was Fr. John Erickson’s talk, and I have to say I missed most of him; the pretense of “minimal impact” on the participation in the conference by us volunteers was dropped fairly quickly, and as a result there were a few sessions where I missed some amount of the presentation. I can’t complain — after all, they were doing us a favor, not the other way around. What I did hear was Fr. John suggestion that there might be a way for East and West to acknowledge each other’s differences as theolegoumena; he cited Pope Benedict’s oft-referenced statement that “Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium,” further saying that somehow the Orthodox could find a way to nuance Vatican I so that it was understood as a legitimate development for the West.

In response to a question about the possibility of redistributing the responsibilities of the Ecumenical Patriarch among several people, he gave the amusing response that “to be governed by a committee is worse than being governed by a tyrant.” I vote we have that printed on a t-shirt.

My friend Paul Bauer arrived during Fr. John’s lecture — I gave him a membership in the Fellowship as a Christmas present a few years ago, and he lives in New Jersey, so it was fairly easy for him to be there as a day participant.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus gave the first of the afternoon sessions, entitled “Reconciliation between East and West: Eschatological hope and temporal urgency.” He was a wonderfully engaging speaker, and it was a boon to the conference that he could be there. He spoke of an “ecumenism of conversion,” saying that this is far more of what’s needed than the modern warm-and-fuzzy ecumenism. The modern ecumenical movement, he claimed, is quite dead, noting that where it is today represents a major decline from its status in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1965, he claimed, the National Council of Churches was the religious establishment in America, akin to Harvard University or the AMA — raising the question, at least for me, if that might not have been why it failed. He also told a story about Fr. John Meyendorff, who upon Ut unum sint being released, said “For a thousand years we have been waiting for a pope to say this, and the great tragedy is that we have not found a way to respond.”

Fr. Neuhaus also said a couple of things which I found troubling. First off, he said that the Catholic understanding of unity is full communion; fair enough, but I did not feel he adequately addressed the question of how doctrinal unity functions within this framework — that is, does doctrinal unity proceed from full communion, or vice versa?

He also spoke of the church having two aspects, communion and institution — but, vis-à-vis Bp. Ackerman the day before, where does the teaching office of the episcopate fit into that? Is orthodoxy part of the communion, or the institution? I wanted to ask him what he thought the proper relationship was between doctrinal agreement and full communion, but the Q&A was over by the time I was able to actually formulate the question.

Bp. Hilarion was next on the docket, speaking on “Catholicity in the Orthodox tradition.” His was a very basic lecture, in a lot of respects; all he did, really, was to lay out the Orthodox understanding of the episcopate and primacy in fairly irreducible terms. This was, however, given the nature of the gathering, a much-needed reminder of where we are, as opposed to where we might like to be. Catholicity is found in the local church, with the “universal” church as the totality of local churches. Characteristic of the local church is the presence of a single Eucharistic gathering presided over the bishop, who occupies the place of Christ in the Eucharistic assembly. There is not a single local church, he said, which has supremacy; a patriarch’s primary administrative role is to govern with the synod of bishops between council. In terms of a framework for reunion, he said, recognition of the primacy of Rome must be preceded by unity of faith. “We cannot simply invent an ecclesiology,” he said repeatedly.

My thought on this is that Bp. Hilarion, more than anybody else, rooted the proceedings very firmly in reality. For this reason I suspect he will not be remembered favorably by some of the participants, including some Orthodox, but much like Pope Benedict’s statement last year regarding the Christian bodies not in communion with Rome, I think it’s important that these things get said so that they may be dealt with directly and honestly. To put it another way, I think it might be important that we try to understand these kinds of statement prophetically rather than pessimistically.

That said, I was not always certain about what Bp. Hilarion understood in terms of questions from the floor. I asked what, in his view, the role of love was in the matter of primacy; he looked bewildered and said that love didn’t have anything to do with primacy. He recovered himself a little bit and said that he supposed that primacy was, ideally, exercised in love, but I still didn’t get the impression he understood what I was getting at.

The next speaker was Fr. Warren Tanghe of the Society of the Holy Cross, a “Catholic Anglican” group which grew out of the Tractarian movement of the nineteenth century. His lecture, frankly, was depressing; he painted a picture of traditional Anglicans being horribly marginalized (he used the word “outlaws” at one point), and on a ship which is sinking more and more quickly by the day. Still, he said, their belief is that as a “daughter church” of Rome, the proper order of healing requires the Anglican Communion to re-establish communion with Rome first, and to do so corporately rather than individually. To that end, he said, while he could not criticize those who have gone back to Rome (or to Orthodoxy) individually, his belief for himself at least was that he could not simply abandon his flock to the wolves. The question I wanted to ask was, “At what point do you have to change your mindset from not abandoning your flock to telling them they need to run for the lifeboats?” Feeling that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the conference, however, I asked it so that it had to do with the qualitative difference between returning individually and doing so as a body. His answer, it seemed to me, mostly restated the above, although he did say he wasn’t sure what his threshold would be for returning to communion with Rome as an individual.

After dinner was a panel discussion, with the panel consisting of (as pictured, in order) Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Prof. William Tighe, Bp. Ackerman, Archimandrite Kyril Jenner, Fr. Arnold Klukas of Nashotah House, Met. Kallistos, and Bp. Hilarion. Fr. Patrick opened by saying that, in terms of primacy, “Rome has it hands down.” The tombs of Ss. Peter and Paul are there, he said, and that has to mean something, even if there has to be some work to understand exactly what it means.

This really was met with very little disagreement; even Bp. Hilarion agreed that primacy is clearly Rome’s, it is simply a question of what that means.  He quoted a friend of his as saying that the second and third Romes both fell, but the first one is still there, and that’s the reality we have to struggle to understand. Met. Kallistos put it this way — if Christ willed that there should be universal primacy in His church, it cannot be anyplace other than Rome. The question, then, is what kind of primacy, given that the definition as set forth in Vatican I is unacceptable to the Orthodox.

There were a number of genuinely moving moments during the panel; Fr. Klukas expressed that it was a relief as an Anglican to come to this gathering and find that the Orthodox have problems “just like us.” Bp. Ackerman appeared close to tears when he described the last time he was able to celebrate the Eucharist with Fr. Patrick before he became Orthodox, grabbing Fr. Patrick’s wrist as he did so.

An issue which came up during the panel was reception — to put it one way, how do we make the things we’re discussing here have an impact at the local level? When we speak of the various joint statements and conferences, are people at the parish level even aware that these things are happening? Met. Kallistos, in response to this question, asked how many of us had read either the Cyprus Anglican-Orthodox statement, The Church of the Triune God, or the Ravenna statement — and the reality was that maybe ten percent of us had done so. His point was, if even us highly-interested parties aren’t reading these statements, then we can hardly question lack of awareness at the local level, and it’s up to us to try to do something about that. I found that to be a very convicting thing to say, and my response was to order a print copy of The Church of the Triune God when I got back to the dorm.

By this session, Canon Jonathan Goodall had arrived, and was sitting in the front row. He made a statement that he felt that the proceedings seemed rather “anxious and North American,” and didn’t have as much bearing on worldwide Anglicanism as many might think. I spoke with him a bit afterwards; it turned out he remembered, and very well, meeting me on the streets of Oxford last summer, and it further turned out that he was an old school friend of my roommate’s. (This prompted my roommate to tell me, “There are no coincidences.”) Canon Goodall said that there is a problem with assuming that because certain problems exist in North America that they are representative of what’s happening in worldwide Anglicanism. “That just ain’t so,” he said.

Thus endeth the day. The report on Day 4 will come shortly.

By the way, I do exhort you all to listen to the talks, and to do so in order; I can’t (and do not set this forth as the aim) provide a transcript of the conference, and as such there are many important things which were said in the sessions which I won’t necessarily talk about here.

Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius, Days 2 & 3

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.


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