Monday, January 22, 2018

Fordham - the "Here, hold my beer." brand of Orthodoxy

"Blame me not," said the scorpion, in a supplicatory tone, "it is not my fault; it is that of my nature; it is a constitutional habit I have of stinging."

(Fordham) - Together with the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, Fordham’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center has been awarded a research grant from the British Council in the USA to examine LGBTQ rights alongside Eastern Orthodox identity.

As part of the British Council’s Bridging Voices project, the grant will bring together diverging voices from both sides of the Atlantic to Fordham for a seminar in June 2019 titled, “Contemporary Eastern Orthodox Identity and the Challenges of Pluralism and Sexual Diversity in a Secular Age.”

The seminar, research, and resulting papers, will facilitate discussion on issues related to sexual diversity within Eastern Orthodoxy and how policymakers in Europe and the U.S. can respond in a measured manner, said Aristotle Papanikolaou, Ph.D., the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture and co-director of the Center.

Papanikolaou and co-director George Demacopoulos, Ph.D., will be working on the project with Brandon Gallaher, Ph.D., and Edward Skidelsky Ph.D., from the University of Exeter.

“Eastern Orthodoxy has many challenges that it needs to face in the contemporary world including sexual diversity, the role of women in the church in a democratic and secular age,” said Gallaher. “I see this project as part of a larger cooperation of Fordham and Exeter to study the place and role of the pre-modern Eastern Orthodox Church in the modern West.” Problems if you don't like tradition. Not so much if you value the deposit of faith handed down to us, the canons, or the words of the Fathers.

“We’d like a public discussion about religion and LGBTQ rights where there’s not a standoff,” said Papanikolaou, adding that, all too often, dialogues delving into sexual ideologies and religious traditions leave participants “butting heads.”

“We hope this discussion will help educate public policy and open conversation to more nuanced ways to address the issue in the wider public sphere, rather than there being a reactionary approach from both sides,” he said.

This is not the first time that the Center has delved into touchy subjects often avoided in Orthodox ecclesiastical circles. For their part, Exeter brings expertise in LGBTQ Studies, as well as Eastern Christianity, said Gallaher.

“We are one of the only—if not the only—place where these issues can be addressed and that’s sort of our MO,” said Papanikolaou. “Most of these issues can’t be addressed in a parish setting the way they can be in an academic environment.” Read: completely without episcopal oversight and out of earshot at the choruses screaming "Anaxioi!" 

Antiochian Patriarchate opens church in Abu Dhabi

(The National) - The Saint Elias Greek Orthodox Cathedral was inaugurated in Abu Dhabi on Saturday by the Minister of Tolerance, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, and in the presence of Patriarch John X Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.

The new church is located in Abu Dhabi’s Al Mussafah industrial area on a land plot donated by the UAE leadership as a gesture of the country’s values of tolerance, love and peace.

Sheikh Nahyan expressed his thanks to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for their support in establishing the religious edifice in Abu Dhabi.

“Our presence together in this spiritual celebration is a strong affirmation of the special and strong relationship between the UAE and Lebanon, which is always based on the ideal values and common principles we cherish together," Sheikh Nahyan said.

"We are very pleased to celebrate, with you, the opening of this magnificent cathedral."

Patriarch John X hailed the president for his great support and for spreading the message of tolerance and co-existence across the world.

“The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's legacy has instilled within UAE society the values of peaceful co-existence, tolerance, and respect for all beliefs and cultures, which has been carried forward by the UAE leadership,” he added.

The church was inaugurated in the presence of Arab and foreign ambassadors, dignitaries, and members of the Greek Orthodox Church.

At the end of the inauguration ceremony, Patriarch John X presented a commemorative gift to Sheikh Nahyan.

The Journey to Pascha

(AFR) - We were fortunate to find a helpful “Journey to Pascha 2018” chart made by Fr. Jonathan Bannon. He kindly offered to share it, and it is now available as a free download from this post. It provides a map of the milestones along the way and weekly suggestions for participation in your personal spiritual life.

Click here to download the PDF of Journey to Pascha 2018! Good strength for Lent, great joy for Pascha!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Theophany at Optina Monastery

Trump first sitting president to address March for Life

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Canada, where summer jobs and abortion collide

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. (National Post) — On a wintry Tuesday afternoon, in a small conference room at the back of a Pentecostal office building in the Toronto suburbs, 60 people representing Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Christian and other faiths spent two hours debating whether the government is violating their religious freedoms — and if so, what to do about it.

The concern arises out of the Canada Summer Jobs program, which this year comes with a new “attestation” box that all applicants must check off before submitting. The wording of the attestation, which many still find confusing, seems to require a declaration that the applicant does not advocate an anti-abortion position.

A growing number of faith-based groups see the attestation as a threat to the principle of religious freedom in Canada. While some of them are staunchly pro-life, others don’t take a firm stance on abortion rights but don’t want to be forced to take a side in order to apply for a grant.

Tuesday’s discussion was closed to the media, but a few of the attendees spoke to reporters afterward.

Ibrahim Hindy, an imam at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre in Mississauga, said his mosque is struggling over what to do.

“I came to take it all in and hear the concerns that people were having,” he said. “We were going to apply this year, and we’re still discussing whether or not we will…Some people are asking, does this conflict with our beliefs? If the person has an orthodox understanding of scriptures, is this asking the person to contradict those?”

Father Niaz Toma, a Chaldean Catholic priest, said his community of Iraqi Christians won’t be able to apply for the grant, and referred to the attestation as a “persecution” of his people.

“We will never compromise our faith for the sake of grants to be received from the Canadian government,” he said. “Seemingly, the attempt is to be inclusive. But the end result is exclusivity, blocking certain groups.”

The meeting, which was spearheaded by Conservative MP Alex Nuttall, featured a panel of speakers from Islamic, Catholic and evangelical organizations outlining their interpretation of the attestation, taking questions from the crowd, and moderating a discussion of what should be done in response.

Nuttall — who got involved due to his role as Conservative critic on the youth portfolio — said those in attendance included representatives from Baptist churches, Hindu temples, Sikh temples, Coptic Christians, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and many others.

Concerns over the attestation have been popping up around the country, as religious groups grapple with the implications of signing a grant application that includes an attestation about reproductive rights. Some have decided to send in paper applications with their own attestation, rather than sign the government’s.

The attestation requires stating that the organization’s core mandate respects individual human rights as well as the “values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” going on to say this includes “reproductive rights.” The accompanying Applicant’s Guide identifies “the right to access safe and legal abortions” as a human right that the attestation is referring to.

Additional protections for moral and religious objections

(The Hill) - The Trump administration has created new protections for health workers who have religious and moral objections to certain procedures, such as abortion or assisted suicide.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Thursday it will create a new division under the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) responsible for investigating complaints filed by workers claiming that their employers have violated their religious rights.

The changes represent a major shift for the OCR, which in the past has primarily focused on enforcing patient safety and privacy concerns.

"No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice," OCR Director Roger Severino said at the announcement ceremony Thursday morning.

"We are saying, with the launch of this division, you do not need to shed your religious identity, you do not need to shed your moral convictions to be a part of the public square."

The new division, called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, will enforce "laws and regulations that protect conscience and prohibit coercion on issues such as abortion and assisted suicide" in HHS-funded or conducted programs," according to OCR's updated website.

Workers who say they experienced discrimination because they refused to participate in specific medical procedures, including abortion, or were coerced into doing so, can now file a complaint with the office.

Severino said the office has received 34 complaints since Trump took office.

Republicans and anti-abortion groups often complained that the Obama administration did not enforce federal laws that protect health workers and institutions from having to violate their religious or moral beliefs by participating in abortions or other procedures.

The change represents a major win for religious and anti-abortion groups, and comes one day before the March for Life, an annual march against abortion in D.C.

Trump is expected to tout the changes during a live satellite address to attendees Friday.

"This is a welcome change from the Obama administration’s stubborn refusal to enforce federal laws that prohibit discrimination against health care entities," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

Democrats and other critics worry the changes could restrict access to health care for some.

“I am deeply troubled by reports of the unconscionable approach being considered by President Trump’s Administration to use the civil rights office at the Department of Health and Human Services as a tool to restrict access to health care for people who are transgender and women," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health Committee, said in a statement.

"This would be yet another attempt to let ideology dictate who is able to get the care they need. Any approach that would deny or delay health care to someone and jeopardize their wellbeing for ideological reasons is unacceptable. We need to work to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care, no matter who they are.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also announced it would take legal action.

“Denying patients health care is not liberty," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the ACLU.

"Choosing your patients based on their gender or gender expression is not freedom. Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court.”

Candelabra sold separately

Monday, January 15, 2018

Eminent clergy & theologians voice concern over deaconesses

I've kept the numbered footnote references in the post. What they reference is available at the end of the lengthy document.

(Orthodox Ethos) - The Patriarchate of Alexandria’s appointment of six “deaconesses” in the Congo in February 2017 has prompted calls in some corners for other local churches to follow suit. In particular, a group of Orthodox liturgical scholars has issued an open statement of support for Alexandria, declaring that the “restoration of the female diaconate is such that neither doctrinal issues nor authoritative precedents are at stake.”1

We, the undersigned clergy and laity, beg to differ and are writing now with three purposes: to question what was accomplished in the Congo, to clarify the historical record on the place of deaconesses in Orthodox tradition, and to point out the serious doctrinal issues raised by the appointment of deaconesses.

First, as to what was accomplished in the Congo, we note that the Patriarch of Alexandria did not use the Byzantine rite of ordination for deaconesses.2 He laid hands [cheirothetise] on one woman making her “Deaconess of the Mission” and then prayed over five other women using a “prayer for one entering ecclesiastical ministry,” a generic blessing in the Greek-language archieratikon for a layman starting church work. He did not bestow an orarion upon any of the women yet had the five women assist in washing his hands, as subdeacons would. All this was done not during the Divine Liturgy, as with an ordination, but at its end. These facts, plus anecdotal reports from Africa that these new deaconesses have been assigned the duties of readers, call into question the claim that what happened in the Congo was truly a “restoration of the female diaconate,” for their manner of making and assigned duties bear only partial resemblance to those of ancient deaconesses.

Second, what can be said with certainty about the historical presence, role, and status of deaconesses in the Orthodox Church is that setting apart women as deaconesses was just one of several ways the early Church sought to protect the modesty of women by entrusting certain women with certain duties such as assisting in baptizing and anointing adult women and visiting women in their homes where and when men were not permitted, strictly within the limits specified for women by the Holy Apostles in Holy Scripture. The duties and status of deaconesses varied with time and place, as did the way deaconesses were appointed. The same duties were also assigned to widows, laywomen, male clergy, or nuns, so the need for deaconesses did not exist universally. Much of the ancient Church never had deaconesses. Outside Syria, Anatolia, Greece, and Palestine, deaconesses were rare to nonexistent.3

N.T. Wright on DB Hart: “Scripture made strange.”

If you hadn't already heard, David Bentley Hart recently came out with his own pro-apocatastatic rendering of the New Testament. So far the review have not been kind. The very popular N.T. Wright has joined their number. I find Wright's comment "... dogma supersedes the text" to be insightful. It's a rather stinging criticism of the Hart New Testament that some may want to read.

(The Christian Century) - When a theologian of the stature of David Bentley Hart offers a “pitilessly literal translation” of the New Testament that is “not shaped by later theological and doctrinal history” and aims to make “the familiar strange, novel, and perhaps newly compelling,” we are eager to see the result. He promises to bring out the “wildly indiscriminate polyphony” of the writers’ styles and emphases, converging on their “vibrant certainty that history has been invaded by God in Christ in such a way that nothing can stay as it was.”

But his two main claims (to be “literal” and “undogmatic”) are not borne out, and the promise of displaying the strangeness of early Christian life disappears behind different kinds of strangeness. There are indeed some striking passages: we read that Saul had “wreaked such carnage” among the early believers, but was now “marshalling arguments that this man is the Anointed” (Acts 9:21–23). His opponents are people “whose God is their guts” (Phil. 3:19). And so on. But what does literal mean?

Greek and English, as Hart knows well, do not work the same way. Pretending that they do produces not literal translation but the kind of thing you get in an interlinear version, as with “the one making me well, that one told me” (John 5:11), or “going and washing, I saw” (John 9:11). Hart frequently translates houtos and ekeinos as “this one” and “that one,” as in “having received the morsel, that one [i.e., Judas] immediately departed” (John 13:30). The strange English here has nothing to do with a cultural clash between the first Chris­tians and ourselves...
Complete article here.

Feast of the Precious Chains of Peter

This has always been an interesting feast for me. It has an interesting history and the Church has developed some very rich imagery in the hymnody for the feast. Festal celebrations often began locally and then expanded either through constant expansion or through conciliar decree. This process continues today as you will see the occasional post here when a Church joins in the glorification of a local saint from another patriarchate.

Bound to the Lord * and imprisoned in a dungeon, * thou didst bind falsehood, O apostle. * Wherefore, we honor thee lovingly, * and with faith we kiss thy chains, * whence drawing forth health of body * and salvation of soul, * we praise thee as is meet, O thou who hast beheld God, * converser with the incorporeal ones.

O most blessed Peter, chief among the apostles, loose me, who am bound by the chains of the passions, wretch that I am, as once the angel of God loosed thy chains, leading thee forth most gloriously from the dungeon wherein thou wast imprisoned, O blessed one.
The feast was originally kept in Rome, Italy to commemorate the dedication of the Church of Saint Peter on the Esquiline Hill built by Eudoxia Licinia in 442 and rebuilt by Adrian I in the 8th century. When the chains which Saint Peter had worn in prison and from which he was freed by angelic intervention, Acts 12:1-19, were later venerated there, the feast received its present name. The date when these chains were brought from Jerusalem is disputed; some claim they were brought in 116 by travellers sent in search of them by Saint Balbina and her father Saint Quirinus, while others think Saint Eudoxia brought them in 439. Pope Saint Leo the Great united them to the chains with which Saint Peter had been fettered in the Mamertine Prison, forming a chain about two yards long which is preserved in a bronze safe.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sanctity of Life prayer service in Chicago

March for Life - Chicago

Maybe don't do this? Anyone? Anyone?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Second volume of OCA Hieratikon now released!

Already ordered mine. Happy to see they upped the font a tad for easier reading.

(OCA) - Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Press is pleased to announce the publication of the Hieratikon (Volume 2]: Liturgy Book for Priest and Deacon, edited by Hieromonk Herman [Majkrzak] and Dr. Vitaly Permiakov.

The volume includes the full texts of the Divine Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, together with several explanatory introductions regarding hierarchical, vesperal, and paschal Liturgies; the order of censing; and priestly and diaconal concelebration. Appendices include hymns and verses of the liturgical year, various blessings (palms, artos, fruit, herbs, etc.), and more.

With the blessing of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, the 1967 text has been carefully compared to the standard Greek and Slavonic editions, and revised in consultation with the Orthodox Church in America’s Holy Synod of Bishops and Department of Liturgical Music and Translations. Dr. Permiakov explains that the editors’ goal was “for the text of the prayers and litanies to be accurate and understandable, that is, to be both in continuity with the original Greek (and Slavonic) text of the Liturgy and with the accepted style of English-language translations of sacred texts. The editors also sought to make liturgical rubrics both descriptive and prescriptive, so as to reflect the actual liturgical practice of the Orthodox Church in America, while ensuring that the established liturgical use conforms to the broader tradition and practice of the Church.” Hieromonk Herman adds that “the wide expertise of hierarchs, experienced pastors, liturgiologists, and linguists was consulted throughout the editorial process.”