Monday, October 05, 2009

Mother Maria of Paris: A Saint for our Day

Just happened online across this excerpt from Metropolitan ANTHONY Bloom's Forward to Sergei Hackle's Pearl of Great Price: the Life of Mother Maria Skobtsova, 1891-1945.

Infinte pity and compassion possessed her; there was no suffering to which she was a stranger; there were no difficulties which could cause her to turn aside. She could not tolerate hypocrisy, cruelty or injustice. The Spirit of Truth which dwelt in her led her to criticize sharply all that is deficient, all that is dead in Christianity and, particularly, in what she mistakenly conceived to be classical monasticism. Mistakenly, for what she was attacking was an empty shell, a petrified form. At the same time, with the perception of a seer, she saw the hidden, glorious content of the monastic life in the fulfillment of the gospel, in the realization of divine love, a love which has room to be active and creative in and through people who have turned away from all things and – above all – from themselves in order to live God’s life and to be his presence among men, his compassion, his love. ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’: this she understood, this she lived for. This is also what she died for.

Mother Maria is a saint of our day and for our day: a woman of flesh and blood possessed by the love of God, who stood fearlessly face to face with the problems of this century.

Metropolitan of Sourozh

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What to Make of This?

For those who still wander onto this site, please forgive the lack of posting in recent months. Much of my attention is now devoted to cultivating our mission parish, St. Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church. Please take the time to visit with us if you have the opportunity!

The article below is a fairly calm and measured report of recent meetings that have generated all sorts of speculation. My own sense is that we may be entering a season of greater cooperation and common witness amongst Russian Orthodox and the Vatican in response to the moral decline of Europe - but any talk of "inter-communion" or a "healing of the 1000 year old schism" is vastly premature. Nonetheless, we should give thanks for the opportunity to explore renewed contact and pray for the courage to be steadfast in the faith and open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. - Fr. M

Will the "Third Rome" Reunite With the "First Rome"?

By Robert Moynihan

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 21, 2009 ( Sometimes there are no fireworks. Turning points can pass in silence, almost unobserved.

It may be that way with the "Great Schism," the most serious division in the history of the Church. The end of the schism may come more quickly and more unexpectedly than most imagine.

On Sept. 18, inside Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer palace about 30 miles outside Rome, a Russian Orthodox Archbishop named Hilarion Alfeyev, 43 (a scholar, theologian, expert on the liturgy, composer and lover of music), met with Benedict XVI, 82 (also a scholar, theologian, expert on the liturgy and lover of music), for almost two hours, according to informed sources. (There are as yet no "official" sources about this meeting -- the Holy See has still not released an official communiqué about the meeting.)

The silence suggests that what transpired was important -- perhaps so important that the Holy See thinks it isn't yet prudent to reveal publicly what was discussed.

But there are numerous "signs" that the meeting was remarkably harmonious.

If so, this Sept. 18 meeting may have marked a turning point in relations between the "Third Rome" (Moscow) and the "First Rome" (Rome) -- divided since 1054.

Archbishop Hilarion was in Rome for five days last week as the representative of the new Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

One key person Archbishop Hilarion met with was Cardinal Walter Kasper. On Sept. 17, the cardinal told Vatican Radio that he and Archbishop Hilarion had a "very calm conversation."

Cardinal Kasper also revealed something astonishing: that he had suggested to the archbishop that the Orthodox Churches form some kind of "bishops' conference at the European level" that would constitute a "direct partner of cooperation" in future meetings.

This would be a revolutionary step in the organization of the Orthodox Churches.

Read it all here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pondering Hart

Now that Great Lent, Holy Week, and the Great Fifty Days have transpired and we're able to breathe a bit more easily and deeply in the afterglow of it all, I'm hoping to get around to some books I've allowed to gather dust on the shelf -- among them, David Bentley Hart's Atheist Delusions.

This passage from the introduction has certainly whetted my appetite:

I think one must grant, though, that to communicate a personal vision one must do more than prove or refute certain claims regarding facts; one must invite others to see what one sees, and must attempt to draw others into the world that vision descries. At a particular moment in history, I believe, something happened to Western humanity that changed it at the deepest levels of consciousness and at the highest levels of culture. It was something of such strange and radiant vastness that it is almost inexplicable that the memory of it should have so largely faded from our minds, to be reduced to a few old habits of thought and desire whose origins we no longer know, or to be displaced altogether by a few recent habits of thought and desire that render us oblivious to what we have forsaken. But perhaps the veil that time draws between us and the distant past in some sense protects us from the burden of too much memory. It often proves debilitating to dwell too entirely in the shadows of vanished epochs, and our capacity to forget is (as Friedrich Nietzsche noted) very much a part of our capacity to live in the present. That said, every natural strength can become also an innate weakness; to live entirely in the present, without any of the wisdom that a broad perspective upon the past provides, is to live a life of idiocy and vapid distraction and ingratitude. Over time, our capacity to forget can make everything seem unexceptional and predictable, even things that are quite remarkable and implausible. The most important function of historical reflection is to wake us from too complacent a forgetfulness and to recall us to a knowledge of things that should never be lost to memory. And the most important function of Christian history is to remind us not only of how we came to be modern men and women, or of how Western civilization was shaped, but also of something of incalculable wonder and inexpressible beauty, the knowledge of which can still haunt, delight, torment, and transfigure us. (xiv)

Sounds promising. May God grant us the grace to see truly the incalculable wonder and inexpressible beauty of the cosmos redeemed by Christ our God. And may we open our hearts to be haunted, delighted, tormented, and transfigured by the wondrous grace of Pentecost.

Christ is in our midst!

Friday, May 01, 2009

"A Pascha of Incorruption"

Christ is Risen!

Rejoice in this passage from a recently translated essay by the new Hieromartyr HILARION, available in its entirety on the blog, Ora et Labora:

"Salvation is healing. Salvation is freedom from corruption. Salvation is the return to the original goodness of incorruption, for man was created for incorruption. Man’s nature needed to be restored to health. This restoration to health was given in the Incarnation of the Son of God. “We could not have become incorrupt and immortal if the Incorrupt and Immortal One had not done so before us.” The Incorrupt and Immortal One took “my nature, held by corruption and death,” into the unity of His Person. Corrupt nature received the vaccination of incorruption, and the process of the renewal of nature began, the process of the deification of man, the formation of divine-manhood began. The sting of death was blunted. Corruption was defeated, for the antidote against the disease of corruption was given. The Pascha of incorruption brings to mind the mystery of the Incarnation. The gates of death had been impassable. All of earthly creation invariably approached these gates, hiding behind them in trepidation and horror. But now Christ is Risen! What does this mean? It means that salvation has indeed been wrought. For human nature has been united with the Divine nature in the Person of Christ, “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.” It was not God that passed through the gates of death, it was not before God that “the bridal chamber of eternity was thrown open,” it was not for the sake of God that the stone was rolled away from the door of the grave, but for the sake of the God-Man. Our human nature passed through the mysterious gates of death along with Christ. Death reigns, but not for eternity!"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Gospodi Pomilui! Lord Have Mercy!

I just happened upon this really delightful YouTube clip:


Friday, February 06, 2009

February 6: Saint Photios the Great

Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, "the Church's far-gleaming beacon," lived during the ninth century, and came from a family of zealous Christians. His father Sergius died as a martyr in defense of holy icons. St Photius received an excellent education and, since his family was related to the imperial house, he occupied the position of first state secretary in the Senate. His contemporaries said of him: "He so distinguished himself with knowledge in almost all the secular sciences, that it rightfully might be possible to take into account the glory of his age and compare it with the ancients."

Michael, the young successor to the throne, and St Cyril, the future Enlightener of the Slavs, were taught by him. His deep Christian piety protected St Photius from being seduced by the charms of court life. With all his soul, he yearned for monasticism.

In 857 Bardas, who ruled with Emperor Michael, deposed Patriarch Ignatius (October 23) from the See of Constantinople. The bishops, knowing the piety and extensive knowledge of Photius, informed the emperor that he was a man worthy to occupy the archpastoral throne. St Photius accepted the proposal with humility. He passed through all the clerical ranks in six days. On the day of the Nativity of Christ, he was consecrated bishop and elevated to the patriarchal throne.

Soon, however, discord arose within the Church, stirred up by the removal of Patriarch Ignatius from office. The Synod of 861 was called to end the unrest, at which the deposition of Ignatius and the installation of Photius as patriarch were confirmed.

Read more here.

Follower of the Apostles' way
And teacher of mankind:
Intercede, O Photius, with the Lord of all,
To grant peace to the world
And to our souls great mercy!
(Troparion-Tone 4)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Many Years... His Holiness KIRILL,
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia!
Eis Polla Eti, Despota!

By MANSUR MIROVALEVMOSCOW (AP) - A new patriarch took charge of the Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday, formally becoming the first leader of the world's largest Orthodox church to take office after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Patriarch Kirill, 62, has been a cautious advocate of change and a prominent figure in trying to reconcile with the Roman Catholic Church.

He became the 16th person to bear the title in a solemn ceremony at Christ the Savior Cathedral. The original 19th-century church was dynamited under Stalin but rebuilt after the Soviet collapse. The ceremony was broadcast live on national television and attended by President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and scores of other officials from Russia and ex-Soviet states...

(from the AP Newstory)