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Posts Tagged 'our clergy look like dumbledore'

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.

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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.

Guess the author (it sure isn’t me)

I do not deny that there are differences between the Churches, but I say that we must change our way of approaching them. And the question of method is in the first place a psychological, or rather a spiritual problem. For centuries there have been conversations between theologians, and they have done nothing except to harden their positions. I have a whole library about it. And why? Because they spoke in fear and distrust of one another, with the desire to defend themselves and to defeat the others. Theology was no longer a pure celebration of the mystery of God. It became a weapon. God himself became a weapon!

I repeat: I do not ignore these difficulties. But I am trying to change the spiritual atmosphere. The restoration of mutual love will enable us to see the questions in a totally different light. We must express the truth which is dear to us – because it protects and celebrates the immensity of the life which is in Christ – we must express it, not so as to repulse the other, so as to force him to admit that he is beaten, but so as to share it with him; and also for its own sake, for its beauty, as a celebration of truth to which we invite our brothers. At the same time we must be ready to listen. For Christians, truth is not opposed to life or love; it expresses their fullness. First of all, we must free these words, these words which tend to collide, from the evil past, from all political, national and cultural hatreds which have nothing to do with Christ. Then we must root them in the deep life of the Church, in the experience of the Resurrection which it is their mission to serve. We must always weigh our words in the balance of life and death and Resurrection.

Those who accuse me of sacrificing Orthodoxy to a blind obsession with love, have a very poor conception of the truth. They make it into a system which they possess, which reassures them, when what it really is, is the living glorification of the living God, with all the risks involved in creative life. And we don’t possess God; it is He who holds us and fills us with His presence in proportion to our humility and love. Only by love can we glorify the God of love, only by giving and sharing and sacrificing oneself can one glorify the God who, to save us, sacrificed himself and went to death, the death of the cross.

But I would go further. Those who reproach me with sacrificing truth to love have no confidence in the truth. They shut it up, they lock it up like an unfaithful woman. But I say, if the truth is the truth, we must not be afraid for it; let us give it, let us share it, let us show it in its fullness, let us welcome all that there is of light and love in the experience of our brethren. If we continue in this attitude, then truth will become clear of itself, it will conquer all limitations and inadequacies from within, on the basis of the common mystery of the Church. Let us enlarge our hearts, “let each one of us, as the apostle says, look not to our own things, but rather to the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). We have a sure criterion – life in Christ. Faced with a partial expression of the truth, let us ask in what measure it conveys the life in Christ, or in what measure it is liable to compromise it.

Orthodoxy, if it goes back to the sources of its great tradition, will be the humble and faithful witness to the undivided Church. The Orthodox Churches, in coming together themselves in mutual respect and love, will set a movement of brotherhood going throughout the Christian world, giving the example of a free communion of sister Churches, united by the same sacraments and the same faith. As to the Orthodox faith, centered as it is on liturgical praise and worship, and on holiness, it will bring the criterion of spiritual experience to ecumenical dialogue, a criterion which will allow us to disentangle partial truths from their limitations so that they may be reconciled in a higher plenitude of truth.

But we Orthodox: are we worthy of Orthodoxy? Up till the efforts we have made in recent years, what kind of example have our Churches given? We are united in faith and united in the chalice, but we have become strangers to one another, sometimes rivals. And our great tradition, the Fathers, Palamas, the Philokalia: is it living and creative in us? If we are satisfied to repeat our formulas, hardening them against our fellow Christians, then our inheritance will become something dead. It is sharing, humility, reconciliation which makes us truly Orthodox, holding the faith not for ourselves – if we did that we should simply be affirming yet one more historic confession of faith – but for the union of all, as the selfless witnesses of the undivided Church.

— Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I (1886-1972)

(Doubtless there are those now saying, “See? They’ve been wishy-washy ecumenist heretics for awhile now.” Sigh.)

More here. And look at that picture and just try to tell me that… well, you know. Check the tags if you don’t understand.

(HT: Eirenikon.)

His All-Holiness’ book

217qkj0zbl_aa180_.jpg Patriarch Bartholomew’s book, Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today arrived yesterday. Metropolitan Dumbledore… er, Kallistos provides the Foreword; Dr. Dn. John Chryssavgis contributes a rather lengthy biographical essay. I am through the Foreword and will work my way through Dr. Dn. Chryssavigis’ material this evening. Likely this book will serve as my Lenten reading in capacity, probably in conjunction with Oliver Clément’s Conversations with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, which UPS’ website tells me was delivered today.

(Funny story about the Clément book: I saw it at the St. George bookstore after the Triumph of Orthodoxy Vespers on Sunday. It was $15, and noting a fairly substantial — if not downright questionable — markup on a couple of other items, opted to not get it. Upon getting home, I checked the St. Vlad’s Press website, and found that the book was on sale for $3 — $9 after shipping, but still well worth resisting the impulse purchase.)

The first thing that jumps out at me in the Foreword is liberal use of words to which I try to avoid, like “dialogue.” However, the Patriarch of Constantinople using the word “dialogue” somehow seems more appropriate to me than, well, me using it. I will therefore reserve judgment.patriarch_bartholomew.jpg

The second thing that is crystal clear is that part of the point of this book, even if it isn’t the prophetic witness regarding the situation in Turkey that some would have preferred, is to give Americans a reason to care that the Patriarch exists.

I’ll have more to say as I go on, but for now — I am at the very least respectfully intrigued.

(And yes, I think the same can be said of the Patriarch’s appearance that can be said of Met. Kallistos’. Check how I’ve tagged this post, then click on the tag, if you don’t understand what I mean.)

Behavior which is rewarded will be repeated

Met. KALLISTOS + Dumbledore joke = Biiiiiiig Spike In Blog Hits.

Let’s try it again, shall we?

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Places I wish I could have been

kallistos-speaking-distance.jpg

“Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”


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