Sunday, January 23, 2005

ROCOR News. Ecclesiastical Mismanagment Causes Two More Priestly Departures from the ROCOR

(Church Herald - - Vertograd: Omsk)

Two priests went under the omophor of Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia, of ROCOR ("Lazarite" branch), having left the Ishim Diocese of ROCOR (L)--Priests Constantine Kaunov and Victor Babitsyn. As stated in their open letter to ROCOR Bishop Evtikhii (Kurochkin), the reason for their withdrawal was the "retreat from the Holy Martyric path of the ROCOR (L) from confession of True Orthodoxy and the adoption of a course of union with the Sergio-ecumenist Moscow Patriarchate".

Fr Constantine Kaunov serves in a house-church in Novouralsk, with a sizable following of Old Ritualists. Fr Constantine himself regards the old rites with favor. Originally Fr. Constantine was part of the Volgograd Diocese of the MP, but for health reasons was allowed to be transferred back to his home in the Urals. Two years ago Fr. Constantine joined the ROCOR.

Fr. Constantine openly spoke against the new union of ROCOR (L) with the Moscow Patriarchate. As a result, after the establishment of contacts between MP Bishop Vikentii of Ekaterinburg and ROCOR's Bishop Evthikhii, the former published a Ukaz "suspending" Fr. Constantine. Referring to this edict, Bishop Evtikhii at the last diocesan meeting of the Ishim Diocese of the ROCOR (L) reported to the anti-union priest that he was forbidden from serving at the altar since he "disobeyed the prohibition of Archbishop Vikentii of Ekaterinburg".

The second priest--Fr. Victor Babitsyn--served in the Moscow Patriarchate, in the city of Pervouralsk. After a long period of reflection he went under the jurisdiction of the ROCOR (L) in March of 2004 through Bishop Evtikhii. However, not long after, ROCOR (L)'s vicar Bishop of Stuttgart, Bishop Agapit (Gorachek), arrived in Ishim with an order not to take in clergy from the MP. Bishop Evtikhii carried out this order, explaining on paper to Fr. Victor that he, "by mutual agreement with Archbishop Vikentii, could not be accepted (into ROCOR) without the matter first being tried by the MP."

World Orthodox News. Court Hearings for Georgian Cyprianite Priest Come to a Close

(Forum 18 - - Vertograd: Tbilisi)

On January 11, the prosecutor asked a Tbilisi District Court judge to give Protopresbyter Vasili Mkalavishvili, the Georgian head of the Old Calendar "Synod of Resistance" in Greece, a seven-year sentence and his closest associate, Perer Ivanidze, a six-year sentence, and a third associate a two-year sentence. The prosecution asked that the rest given a three-year suspended sentence. When hearings resumed on January 13, the defendants' lawyers demanded that they all be found not guilty. It remains unclear when the verdicts on Mkalavishvili and his associates will be announced to the public.

Mkalavishvili, Ivanidze and five others were among those seized at their Old Calendarist Orthodox church in the Tbilisi suburb of Gldani after a violent police raid on March 12, 2004. More then 100 policemen and Georgian special forces stormed the Church, where Fr. Vasili was barricaded with his flock.

Their arrest was the result of years of hate crimes inflicted upon religious minorities with impunity, which were made with virtually no attempt to conceal or deny such behavior - indeed, Mkalavishvili proudly distributed video footage of his followers attacking religious minorities, beating believers and burning religious literature. Religious minorities repeatedly demanded his arrest and prosecution, but the authorities were unwilling to do so.

The court case eventually began at Tbilisi's Vake-Saburtalo district court in August 2004. Mkalavishvili and Ivanidze have been charged under Article 155, which punishes violent obstruction of others' right to conduct religious worship, and Article 187 (2), which punishes arson, for their roles in the years of attacks. Accusations against the pair under Article 225, which punishes organizing violent mass disorder, were dropped. The other five defendants face charges only for resisting arrest.

Father Vasili Mkalavishvili is under the direction of Metropolitan Cyprian (Koutsumbas) of Oropos and Fili, unique among Old Calendarists for confessing an ecclesiology of "sick" and "healthy" parts of a "United Orthodox Church". According to Metropolitan Cyprian's theology, the first group, or the "healthy part", are those within his Resistance Synod or of Synods of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, and in the second group fall those Orthodox which are either New Calendar or openly participate in the Ecumenical Movement.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

ROCOR (L) NEWS. Bishop Michael (Donskoff) Holds Joint Prayer Service with Metropolitan of Moscow Patriarchate

(Vertograd: St. Petersburg)

Joint public prayers were held by Metropolitan Vladimir (Kotlerov) of the Moscow Patriarchate and Bishop Michael (Donskoff) of Boston, the Vicar of the Eastern- American Diocese of ROCOR (L) before the holy relics of the New Martyr and Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara, which were brought to the City-on-the-Neva by Bishop Michael on January 16. The sharing and common veneration of the relics of the Holy-New-Martyrs in the region of Russia and CIS member-states is the first joint program between the MP and the ROCOR (L), blessed by their first-hierarchs as a "step towards the union of the two churches".

MP-Bishop Vladimir, the Metropolitan of St Petersburg and Ladoga, is noted for his ecumenical and modernist views, which he has repeatedly and openly expressed. For his ecumenical activity he was awarded by Catholics in Poland with a medal and monetary compensation, known as the "Holy Brother Albert's award", in February, 2000. During the award ceremony, which took place remotely through the Polish Consulate in Petersburg, the Consul General of the Republic of Poland, Yezhe Skotarik, stated that "Poland's Council on Ecumenism adopted the decision about the presentation of a medal and a the award of the Holy Brother Albert to Metropolitan Vladimir for ecumenical activity and for efforts in his work for Christian unity." At the moment of the awards presentation, the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate sang "axios" ("worthy!") to their Bishop. In his reply, Metropolitan Vladimir thanked those being present for the award for what he considered a "modest contribution to the cause of Christian unity".

The previous award of St Albert was was bestowed an another Bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate - Metropolitan Kyrill (Gundayev) of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, with whom Bishop Michael of ROCOR (L) will have the opportunity to pray during the transfer of the holy relics to Moscow this trip.

True Orthodox News. Thanksgiving Prayer Service Held for First-Stage Completion of Moscow ROAC Temple During Christmas Week

(Vertograd: Moscow)

Public prayers of thanksgiving were held during Christmas week, January 9, in the Moscow Temple of St Nicholas the Tsar-Martyr and New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia Parish, situated in Golovinsky cememtery, presided over by the rector of the St Nicholas Parish, archpriest Michael Ardov and assisted by Deacon Alexey Sokolov. In a sermon held before the molieben, Fr. Michael sounded a call to the parishoners to thank the Lord for the successful and timely completion of the first stage of work on the Temple building.

What was once a funeral hall for the Golovinsky cemetery is now the site of the only Free Russian Orthodox Church in the capital and spans across 62 square meters. The temple lacks a cupola, belfry, apse, and other distinctive features of Orthodox Church buildings, save for the icons and artistic lattices on the windows, designed in cross form. In 1991, this building, built in the 1950's, was given to the brotherhood of St Job of Pochaev (ROCOR), and in 1992 passed over to the Suzdal Diocese of the Free Russian Orthodox Church. For almost twelve years Fr Michael has been the rector of this Church, and other clergy of the parish include Hieromonk Arcady (Ilyushin) and Deacon Alexey Sokolov. The parish has about 100 members.

After a great deal of painstaking effort, the community of the parish was able to obtain official permission from the city authorities to renovate the building both to increase space for worship and give it the external features of an Orthodox Church, along with construction of auxiliary accomodations for the Temple. Work on the reconstruction began during July of 2004 and in scheduled to be completed by December of 2006. SMU, a state enterprise, is contracted to complete the work and the project is being developed by the "Restoration Center" scientific and industrial enterprise, with the goal of redesigning the Temple on the model of a classical urban Church of the 19th century.

During the first stage of reconstruction, which was completed this Christmas, a new northern wing for the temple was built along with a basement. The second stage consists of building a southern wing and the three-layer belfry, which is scheduled to take up the rest of 2005. Next year a main cupola and altar apse will be built. As a result of the reconstruction, a second southern entrance will be built. The total worship space will be increased to one and a half times its current size and will be 98 square meters. As it currently stands, it can hold 120 worshippers. With the architecture being designed using the pre-revolutionary standards, it will be sufficient to hold 400 people. The estimated cost for the project will be 3.8 million rubles, of which the parish had only collected 5%, according to Sergei Suvorov, the parish warden. However, with God's aid, the necessary means to cover the expenses are being drawn proportionately to the work completed.

The temple on the cemetery, after reconstruction, will be almost 18 meters high, with the basic arches at 8 meters. There will be three vestibules - western, southern, and northern, choir space, small rooms on the second floor and in the basement.

The temple of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia is located at Golovinskoye highway, house 13, structure 3, Moscow. The telephone number is (095)-450-59-18.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Christmas Holidays in Suzdal

(Suzdal Diocesan Herald--Vertograd: Suzdal)

Solemn Christmas divine services took place throughout the Temples of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church in Suzdal. On Christmas eve, January 6, at the Tsar-Martyr Constantine Cathedral the Royal Hours were served by Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumi and Abkhazia, who presided over Vespers and the Liturgy of St Basil the Great. The service was held in a Church decorated with fir trees and garlands, filled throughout with a prayerful atmosphere, with many pilgrims and catacomb Christians from different cities of Russia and abroad. After Liturgy Archbishop Seraphim removed an icon of the Nativity of Christ from the altar area, placing it in a manger in the center of the Church with a candle. This ceremony began the festivities of the Holy Nativity of Christ and blessing of Christmas foods.

In the evening at Holy Cross-St. Nicholas Church, the All-Night Vigil was performed by Metropolitan Valentine, the First Hierach of the Russian Autonomous Church. The First Hierarch of the Free Russian Church was assisted by Archbishop Theodore of Borivosk and Otradnoe, and Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumi and Abkhazia and clergy under them. The Divine Service was accompanied by harmonious antiphonal singing with two alternating choirs. After the end of the service, a procession with a traditional Christmas star and Christmas carols was held to the Tsar-Martyr Constanine Cathedral where Christ's birth was again commemorated.

The Midnight Service was officiated at Dormition Church by Archbishop Seraphim with the Divine Liturgy beginning at 1 O'Clock in the morning. Later in the morning the Liturgy in Holy Cross-St. Nicholas Church was officiated by Metropolitan Valentine. Night Divine services were also held in other Suzdal parishes of the Free Russian Orthodox Church, with the traditional Christmas message of the First-Hierarch of the Church being read.

On the evening of January 7, after the evening Divine services a traditional Christmas Tree was arranged in the assembly hall at Vasilievsakya street, with the participation of children from the Sunday school and Children's chorus.

By God's favor, Christmas this year for the faithful of the Free Russian Orthodox Church passed easily, without attacks and provocations from the Church's enemies.

Session of the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church

(Suzdal Diocesan Herald--Vertograd: Suzdal)

The final session of the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church for 2004 took place on December 12/25 in the assembly hall of the Monastery of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in Suzdal. Present were Metropolitan Valentine, the chairman of the Hierarchical Synod, Archbishop Theodore of Borisovsk and Otradnensk, Bishop Timothy of Orenburg and Bishop Irinarch of Tula and Bryansk. At the session, events of the life of the ROAC over the last year were considered. The Synod heard reports on diocesan life, considered the facts surrounding recent persecutions of ROAC parishes and clergymen in Zheleznovodsk, in the Stavropol Region and in Tver Region on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate with the assistance of local authorities, and determined candidates for episcopal consecration.

Festal Message of Archbishop Nicholas of Athens and all Greece ("Matthewite" Synod of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece)

To All the Christ-named Pleroma
Beloved Children in the Lord:

The coming into the world of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ our Lord, marks the unique beginning of the change of mankind from hopelessness, and its certain turning and new orientation from darkness to light. Until that time, darkness reigned. Until then, hopelessness covered the race of man. Until the coming of Christ, the reign of death was so strong that even the righteous were led to the darkness of Hades after their death.

It is not, therefore, strange that the coming of the Savior was the object of anticipation not only on the part of Israel, but also of other peoples besides the chosen race of the Jews, all of whom awaited redemption from the heavens. The philosophers of Greece, the Oracles with their pronouncements, and the wise Magi of the eastern lands, all awaited a Savior to lighten the heavy burden of the ruling power of the devil, to scatter the dense darkness of mankind as it groaned, oppressed by the demons.

Today every human endeavor everywhere is marred by confusion. Everyone seeks some refuge, somewhere where he might entrust his future. But wherever he looks, he is disappointed. Social and political life, as well as most human relationships, are full of discouragement. And even in Church life it is oftentimes the same. Everything seems to have little to do with the message of Jesus. Quarrels, misunderstandings, personality cults and self-promotions of the most base sort; arrogance and hypocrisy reign. Where can one place his trust?

Here, the example of the Magi can teach us and fortify us.

Each of us who desires to live the life of the Body of Christ, the life of the Church, must investigate beyond the surface phenomena and delve deeply into the essence of the matter. Then our God, the All-holy Trinity, will enlighten each and every one who draws near with such a disposition. We must be sure that if we approach with genuine and sincere faith, God will strengthen the eyes of our souls to see beyond the external, discouraging surface, which in any case are the tricks of the evil and manslaying demon, so that we can see the majesty of the Church Militant here on earth, and perhaps to see, dimly and from afar to be sure, the glory of the Church Triumphant in the heavens. Then, as did the Magi, who beyond the humbleness of the environment saw the great King, we may lay there our gifts: the gold of our Orthodox Confession of Faith, the frankincense of our traditional worship, and the myrrh of our sincere repentance. And as a result, we shall “go back another way,” that is, our lives will change into an ascension towards the heavens, for no one who “approaches the Unapproachable” ever remains the same as he was before.

These things, my beloved children, do I offer to you as my humble gift and paternal deposit during this festive days of our ecclesiastical journey. And I ask you, in the midst of these sacred Twelve Days, not to forget the unfortunate, the poor and those house-bound because of illness. Your care for all the suffering brethren is an indication that we are true children of Christ.

I entreat you to pray for the sacred clergy of our Church. Your prayers and your moral support strengthens us and encourages us to continue to minister to you with our weak resources. Pray for the unity and the orderliness of the Church, and struggle in a practical way for this peace by avoiding the works of scandal.

Please know that we, as Archbishop of our True Orthodox Church of Greece, together with the honorable members of our Sacred Synod, struggle day and night in prayer and supplication for each of you, our beloved children and brethren, beseeching that the grace and the limitless mercy of God, Who took on flesh for our sakes, be with all of you. Amen.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Nativity Encyclical of Metropolitan Pavlos of America ("Chrysostomos" Synod of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece)

Christmas is the birth of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Our Lord became man in order to save the world from death, which entered creation when Adam and Eve transgressed the commandment.

God fashioned man and set him in an earthly paradise located between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (which place, in supreme irony, man has recently turned into hell). But, in the beginning, this paradise was blissful, and the first humans, Adam and Eve, were lords over all nature.

Man, however, was not satisfied with the blessed state God had given him: he wanted to assume the role of God Himself. Egged on by the devil, he dared to taste of the fruit, which God had forbidden him to touch. Instead of receiving the divine immortality he dreamed of, he became subject to death, both physical and spiritual. Spiritual death separated him from God, while physical death separated him from life. God did not create death: man chose it of his own accord.

Man's rebellion against God's will not only destroyed the happiness of the human race, but also the harmony within nature, which thenceforth ceased to be subject to man. This is why the physical world rages against us, a tragedy we may see demonstrated in the recent disaster in South-East Asia. All the wars, injustices and horrors that occur in the world are the result of the rebellion in paradise.
But God did not abandon his creature. In His infinite love He wished to save man; therefore, He sent His Son to take on humanity, only without sin. The incarnate Lord taught man how to regain the bliss of paradise, but the ingrate human race crucified Him on Golgotha. The sacrifice of Christ became our salvation, for He was not conquered by death, as the devil had foolishly expected, but resurrected through his own power. In so doing, he abolished death for all who believe in Him and live in accordance to His will.

During these days, the Orthodox celebrate the incarnation of the Lord. This is a feast of joy, but this year it has been overshadowed by tears and grief over the terrible tragedy in Southeast Asia. As citizens of this country and Greek Orthodox, we pour out our sympathy for our fellow human beings. We beg and entreat God to wipe away the tears from the faces of those who are suffering; to end the injustices and wars; to shelter His Church and all the Greek Orthodox throughout the world and to bless America, where many of us were born. May the new year of 2005 be blessed for all of us and our families.

Many Years!
Metropolitan Pavlos of America

Nativity Encyclical of Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston (HOCNA)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God…
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
(John 1:1, 14)

My beloved Orthodox Christians:
Christ is born! Glorify Him!

We worship and adore only the Living God of Israel. We are not idolaters. We do not offer adoration to any created thing. We offer the reverence that is due to God alone only to God. Our God is a jealous God, and He does not brook any adoration of a false deity or false image of Himself.

The Word of God Who was before the ages is, as the Holy Scriptures instruct us, God. There is not, nor ever was, nor shall there ever be, another God beside Him. He alone is the perfect image of God the Father (II Cor. 4:4), and He and the Father are One (John 10:30). No man has ever seen the Father, save the Son, Who is of God; only He has seen God the Father (John 6:46). No man knows who God the Son is in His essence, except God the Father alone; nor does anyone know who God the Father is in His essence, except God the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him according to the gift of grace (Luke 10:22).

Although He Himself did not appear, at various times and in diverse manners in times past, God spoke by means of the Prophets. In these last days, God spoke to us by means of His Son, Whom He has made Heir of all things, by Whom also He made the aeons. This Son is the everlasting effulgence of the Father's glory and the express image of the Hypostasis of the Father (Heb. 1:1-3).

In days of old, in the old dispensation, God wisely instructed us not to make any image of Him or to fall down in adoration before any created thing, for this would be idolatry. Indeed, how is it possible to make an image of something which is invisible? What colors will one use to paint something that has no color or form? What canvas is large enough to portray the Infinite One?

But in these last times, a secret plan - which was decided upon by God before the creation of time - has come into effect. This "mystery hidden from eternity and unknown to the angels" was "manifested to those on earth" through the Virgin who gave flesh and form to God the Word (John 1:14).

Now, for the first time in mankind's history, we could see God! We could fall down and worship and adore our visible Creator! As the holy Prophets had foretold, God came and dwelt among us "visibly", and He called the whole earth unto Himself "from the rising of the sun unto the setting thereof" (Ps. 49:3, 1). He did not materialize out of thin air, nor was He a phantom, nor did He come as an angel, but He was born as a man, as the Prophets had proclaimed, of a Virgin who knew not wedlock. Again, as foretold, He was born of a specific race and tribe. He was not Oriental, or African; nor was He an Apache, or a Viking, or Greek, or of Slavic origin. No, my beloved Christians, as the Prophet-King David foresaw, "the magnificence of His beauty" was "out of Sion" (Ps. 49:2).

We proclaim this awesome event not only by the spoken word of preaching, not only by the written word of Scripture, not only by the chanted word of our sacred hymnology, but also by the depicted word of the holy icons - for God has now received flesh and form, and is no longer invisible. He has His deified Body and Blood, which we can see and partake of, as He commands us to do. Just as we can describe Him, and all that He said and did, by words, so can we describe Him accurately and theologically in the holy icons. The Indepictable One has become depictable.

The honor which we tender unto the holy icons is not the same as the adoration that we offer unto God alone. The Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council described our reverence for the holy icons by the term "relative worship" - that is to say, this is not the worship or adoration (in Greek: latrнa) that we give only to God, and Him alone. The English word "veneration" (which has no direct equivalent in Greek) is a good synonym for the term "relative worship".

Just as the law of Moses was superseded by the coming of grace, in like manner was the ancient commandment against depicting God superseded by His Incarnation of the Virgin.

He, and He alone, is the image of the invisible Father!

Christ is born on earth! Glorify Him!

Your fervent supplicant unto God,
Ephraim, Metropolitan of Boston
Nativity of Our Saviour, 2004