Orthodox Church in America
Diocese of New York & New Jersey
Spring / Summer 2022
Jacob's Well Spring / Summer 2022: "Secularism"
Published with the blessing of His Eminence, The Most Reverend Michael, Archbishop of New York and the Diocese of New York & New Jersey Editor-in-Chief
Presbyter Matthew Brown Acting Editor-in-Chief
Nick Tabor Assistant Editor
Amelia Antzoulatos Copy Editor
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Santa Sofia (1891) John Singer Sargent Back Cover
Theotokos Oranta Kolosov Mural Studio
Becoming Redeemers of the Time
Interview with Sister Vassa Larin
Love Stronger than Arguments
by Presbyter David Wooten
Diocesan Life 4
What it Means to be an American Orthodox Composer
by Professor Vladimir Morosan
A Venture of Faith
by Andrew Boyd
| Theology & Culture |
Letter from the Editor
by Nick Tabor
Daily Bread 52
The Redemption of Evolution
The Dangers of Dualism
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
History of the Cathedral: Part II
Interview with Professor Paul Gavrilyuk and
Feature Essays 22
Cooking the Snake of Secularization
The Hagia Sophia and Secularism’s Unquestioned Authority
To Reconcile is to Revisit
Orthodoxy and the E-Spirit of Radicalism
by Presbyter Vasileios Thermos
by Professor Sarah Riccardi-Swartz
A Christian Secularism
by Professor Aristotle Papanikolaou
Motherhood and Kenosis
by Anastasia Farison
by Deacon Nicholas Denysenko
| Poetry |
Chemotherapy in November
by Jesse Hake
by Steven Roberts
| Liturgy & Life |
by Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun
by David Armstrong
| Family Life |
by Amelia Antzoulatos
by Mark Chenoweth
by Erik Osterberg
by Erik Osterberg
| Youth Pages | 74
Coloring Page: Christ Pantocrator
2022 Diocesan Graduates
Letter from the Editor SECULARISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS
by NICK TABOR
hen in 2020 the Turkish government announced that it was converting the church of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, the news was a flashpoint in Orthodox circles. “I think all Orthodox people in the world grieve over Turkey’s decision,” Archpriest Serafim Gan, the chancellor of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, told one journalist. The Assembly of Orthodox Canonical Bishops of the US said Turkey’s announcement denied “the universal vocation of this holy and sacred space,” and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOARCH) called for a “day of mourning.” In the days following the announcement, the news inspired many paeans to Hagia Sophia itself, but it also spurred tributes to something else: the doctrine of secularism. The GOARCH statement praised the “secular ideal of inclusivity” that the Church of Holy Wisdom had long represented. By keeping the building religiously neutral, the statement said, Turkey had always signaled that it was “a secular state that valued the equality of all its citizens.” It’s unusual to hear this kind of language from Orthodox bishops, or from religious leaders of almost any stripe. And yet it reflects an important truth. Secularism, in this context, is not a bugaboo that amounts to godless liberals enshrining atheism in public life. Rather,
it’s a response to pluralism, a means of making sure people of different creeds and traditions can live together in harmony. For people who find themselves in a religious minority—as we see with the Christians in Turkey—secularism can be a refuge. We might even trace the entire project of secularism back to Christian ethics. It can be seen as an expression of respect for our neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable. Perhaps a better word for secularism, in this context, is laïcité. At one time it was the French term for “laity”; but in the late nineteenth century, it came to refer to the separation of public institutions from the Catholic Church. In modern-day France, more than a century later, it describes a doctrine where religious expression is actively, even aggressively, banned in the public sphere. While this doctrine has no exact parallel in other countries, many people of all faiths, throughout the Western world—including the Orthodox—clearly hold to some version of it. But if secularism, or laïcité, has its unlikely defenders, it also has its unlikely critics. One person who celebrated the Turkish government’s decision was Archimandrite John Manoussakis, a philosophy professor at the College of the Holy Cross. If Hagia Sophia could not be restored to its status as “a place of worship to the living God,” Manoussakis
wrote, then it was better for it to “be used as a living place of worship to God than a mausoleum for the ghosts of the past.” The announcement represented “a victory for the polymorphous sacred,” he wrote, “over the monotonous secular laïcité.” I must admit that Manoussakis’s argument resonated with me personally. When I visited Hagia Sophia in 2018, after years of anticipation, I expected to feel overcome with awe; but instead, it seemed to me the church had been reduced to a crass tourist attraction. It was hard to take a step in any direction without walking in front of someone who was posing for a photo. I couldn’t help but think that if Hagia Sophia were a mosque, at least more visitors would have treated it with respect. For his part, Archbishop Elpidophoros, of GOARCH, also made it clear in a 2021 statement that he did not see secular status as the endgame. For Hagia Sophia to remain a museum, he said, would be “less than any of us would desire.” This is all to say that secularism, in the sense of laïcité, has both values and limitations—and that Orthodox Christians, perhaps more than most faith groups, have a complicated relationship with it. Our church has extensive experience on both sides of the power equation. In our historical memory, we know what it is to be ensconced as the official state
religion, and to have our interests bound up with those of an imperial government; and we know equally well what it is to be marginalized and persecuted. And in the U.S., where Protestantism is the dominant faith, the freedom we enjoy as Orthodox owes as much to secularism as it does to the primacy of Christianity.
However, any serious treatment of secularism and the secular has to go beyond laïcite. Here we might take a lesson from the Canadian writer Charles Taylor. His 2007 book, A Secular Age, a mind-expanding blend of history, sociology, and philosophy, has done more than any other text to define the ways we talk about secularism and the secular. (Many readers who find its 874 pages too daunting have benefited instead from Jamie Smith’s well-regarded CliffsNotes version, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.) As Taylor explains, the term “secular” originally referred to chronological time—as opposed to liturgical, or sacred time. It comes from “saeculum,” the Latin for “century” or “age.” Secular time is what we think of as ordinary time; “indeed, to us it’s just time, period,” Taylor writes. “One thing happens after another, and when something is past, it’s past.” This stands opposed to higher time, or
God’s time, which has its conceptual basis in ancient philosophy, and in Christianity is represented by the liturgical year. Higher time, Taylor writes, “gathers and re-orders secular time.” According to their logic, “Good Friday 1998 is closer in a way to the original day of the Crucifixion than mid-summer’s day 1997,” Taylor writes. Gradually, during the Middle Ages, the term “secular” was expanded to describe every part of human life that wasn’t directly associated with the church. Farming and household labor were secular persuits; reading the Psalter in church was sacred. (In this sense, evangelicals, with their distinction between “secular” and “Christian” pop music, are using the term correctly.) But even though Christianity gave rise to this language, Christian theology has also always challenged any binary opposition between the earthly and the sacred. The world is charged, as the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, with the grandeur of God; and every part of our lives has a spiritual dimension. Countless figures in our tradition have argued this point, from St. Anthony the Great up to Fr. Alexander Schmemann. As Fr. Alexander famously argued in For the Life of the World, when Christians set out for church on Sunday mornings, “whether they have to drive fifteen miles or walk a few blocks, a sacramental act is already taking place.”
At the same time, the secular/sacred binary has never completely gone away. There has always been an impulse, in Christian life, to withdraw from secular society. For examples, we need not limit ourselves to Christian-inspired cults, nor to the culture wars and their offshoots (such as the “Benedict option” now being promoted by the blogger Rod Dreher). Many of us practice a form of withdrawal during Great Lent, when we limit our media consumption so we can focus more intently on prayer; and part of our preparation for the Eucharist is the laying aside of all earthly cares. Monastics, historically, have committed to withdrawal as a lifestyle. This paradox has been a constant in Christian history.
This new issue of Jacob’s Well deals with secularism in both senses of the term. In the pages that follow, Aristotle Papanikolaou argues for a “Christian secularism,” a paradigm founded on the principle of hospitality toward others— including those of other faiths. Vasileios Thermos critiques the Orthodox “addiction” to what he calls another form of secularism, one borne in Byzantium. Cyril Hovorun—and building on his categories, Sarah Riccardi-Swartz—assess the culture wars as a product of secularism, wherein Christianity has allied
itself “with its enemy—ideology” (as Hovorun writes), and examine the implications for church life. Jesse Hake reflects on what Western society has lost in the secular age, then draws on the example of Hagia Sophia to imagine what an ideal post-secular order might look like. And Sister Vassa Larin speaks about navigating the secular world in our spiritual lives. In a preview of her book in progress, she offers some practical advice about how Christians can sanctify ordinary time. The front and back sections also have tributes to the recently reposed priests Leonid Kishkovsky and Sergei Glagolev; a beautiful reflection from Anastasia Farison on why young mothers should avoid the path of “self-abandonment” as they sacrifice for their kids; a pastoral note from David Wooten about practicing civility in our hyper-politicized age; two poems by Erik Osterberg; and more. Planning for this issue was already complete when Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine in late February, and since that time, there have been moments where it felt odd to be focusing on anything else. However, in a context like this one, the question of secularism could not be more relevant. Putin has, for years, tried to reimpose some version of symphonia, the Byzantine model of unity between church and state, and, in drawing on the shared religious history of Russia and Ukraine to justify the war,
he has also received critical support from Russia’s head bishop, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. But Paul Gavrilyuk and Seraphim Danckaert, who have launched the organization Rebuild Ukraine, have a different understanding of Orthodoxy’s value in wartime. They joined our assistant editor Amelia Antzoulatos for a conversation about the crisis and what it means for Orthodox Christians to work within their tradition—and without— to respond. NICK TABOR is a freelance journalist and the Acting Editor-in-Chief of Jacob's Well. His first book, Africatown: America's Last Slave Ship
and the Community It Created is forthcoming from St. Martin's Press. He is a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in Manhattan.
What it Means to be an American Orthodox Composer
THE CASE OF FR. SERGEI GLAGOLEV (1928–2021) Fr. Sergei Glagolev Courtesy of Institute of Sacred Arts
by VLADIMIR MOROSAN
rom the time the Orthodox Church in America was granted its autocephaly in 1970, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether the local Church in North America should develop its own distinct liturgical arts. Should we expect to see the rise of uniquely American forms of Orthodox church singing, iconography, and architecture? And what would be the sources of American artistic expression that would inform and guide such a quest? In the realm of church music, I recall conversations among my colleagues back in the late 1960s and 70s: “It’s time that the Church in America develop its own distinct style of church music, its own system of Octoechos,” some church
musicians would say. “And what would such an Octoechos sound like?” came the sobering response. “Would it be based on the blues, or on jazz? Bluegrass, perhaps? Or some esoteric Native American scale?” And there the matter would rest, as we would turn our attention back to adapting yet another musical setting of Bortniansky, Arkhangelsky, or Kastalsky from Church Slavonic to whatever English translation was in vogue at the time. One participant in these debates, however, did more than simply adapt compositions from an Old World language to English. This original, creative voice was Fr. Sergei Glagolev (1928– 2021). Fr. Sergei was arguably the first genuinely American Orthodox composer—not someone who wrote church music in a traditional “Slavic” or “Russian” style who happened to be living in America, but a composer who actually composed new liturgical music in English, which sounded quite traditional on the one hand, yet had a distinctively American quality. The name and person of Fr. Sergei Glagolev— both as a composer and a pastor—is well known to many within the Orthodox Church. He lectured extensively and in several instances wrote about his involvement with Orthodox liturgical music (including an article titled “Some Personal Thoughts on the Composition of Liturgical Music,” which appeared in the pages of this magazine).1 Those of a younger generation, who didn’t know him personally, have ample opportunities to become acquainted with his compositional output, the scope of his ideas, and the admiration he elicited among all those who were blessed to encounter him. In 2002, on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, PSALM Music Press published a 120-page anthology of his music, which included an extensive biography. In 2005, Cappella Romana, a Portland-based professional choir that specializes in Orthodox chant and choral music, recorded many of the pieces contained in that collection on an album titled Lay Aside All Earthly Cares.2 On the occasion of Fr. Sergei’s 90th birthday, Orthodox church musicians from around the world contributed reflections and
1 Jacob’s Well, Spring/Summer, 1997. 2 Available from Cappella Romana Records at https://cappellaromana.org/product/lay-aside-earthly-cares/.
photographs, as well as 22 original compositions and arrangements, assembled in a “festschrift” titled Prayer, Music, and Joy: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of the Archpriest Sergei Glagolev.3 We could say a great deal more about Fr. Sergei himself and his pastoral career, but in this reflection, I’d like to concentrate instead on his music and point out some of the qualities that distinguish him as an American Orthodox composer. We will try, as much as possible, to avoid technical musical jargon, so that any reader will be able to gain a greater appreciation of the unique contributions to liturgical music that were made by Fr. Sergei. Orthodox liturgical worship is intimately tied to language. There is no “rational worship” (logiki latreia in Greek or slovesnaia sluzhba in Slavonic) that doesn’t involve words. This principle was well expressed by Fr. Sergei in the article mentioned above:
(the rhythm of the words, the syntax of the word groupings.... etc.) 4
On the most fundamental level of chant, the pitches and rhythms that make up a melody actually flow out of the sounds of the words, which are elongated or extended in time and inflected—given varying degrees of emphasis—by bringing accented syllables to the foreground while deemphasizing unaccented syllables. In order to create what we might call successful melodies—ones in which the words and the melodic elements are intimately woven together—a composer must follow Fr. Sergei’s advice: to become, above all, musically literate and learn to “hear” the sacred song by reading it on the page. “Look at the musical phrase,” he wrote. “Why does it work here and not there? Why is it written that way?”5 As one becomes attuned to the sounds, inflections, and rhythms of the English language, and acquainted with the theory of melody and the rules of poetic structure, one begins to understand that the process of composing in English is very different from the process of taking an existing
There is no sacred song without sacred words. In the Orthodox Church “pure music” is not melody without words, but rather the melody of the words. To compose, one must understand the poetic structure of the words...
3 Published by The International Society for Orthodox Church Music, Joensuu, Finland, 2020. (Available in North America at http:// 58 www.musicarussica.com/sheet_music_pieces/sag-f .) LITURGY: The Anaphora 58 4 “Some Personal Thoughts” LITURGY: The Anaphora 5 “Some Personal Thoughts”
A Mercy of Peace (No. 2) A Mercy of Peace (No. 2)
Example 11 Example Soprano Alto Soprano Alto
Andantino. h = 72–80 Andantino. h = 72–80
bP b & b Pœœ & b œœ
˙˙ .. ˙˙ ..
A mer - cy of peace! A A mer - cy of peace! A
Tenor Bass Tenor Bass
b & bb &b
? bb ? bb
œ ? b b œœœ œœ ? b b Pœ œ P P ˙˙ P œ ˙˙ œ
spir - it. spirDoxology - it. MATINS: The Great
˙˙ .. ˙˙ ..
F Fœœ œœ
p œœ œ œ œ pww œœ œ œ œ ww
sac - ri - fice of praise! sac - ri - fice of praise!
œœ œ œ œ ww œœ œ œ œ ww p p p P pww Pœ œ œ œ œ œœ œ ww
We lift them up un - to the Lord! We lift them up un - to the Lord!
P Pœ œ
And with your And with your
˙ ˙. ˙.
œ œœ œ œ œ
œ œ P P
is meet and right is meet and right
œœ œœ œœ œœ œœ œœ œ ww œ œ œ œœ œœ The œ Great Doxology œ œ w w œ œGreat œ œ Doxology The p P F P p P F P Example 2 .. = 98–104 Andantino. q œ œ q œ= 98–104 œœ œœ ˙ œ œ j ˙˙ . œ b bb ˙ #œ Andantino. P &Soprano P œ œ 6 # ˙ œ œ b 688 œœœ œ œœœ œ œœœ œœ œœ œœ œœ ˙ œœ œœ œ œœj ˙ . œ œ & &Soprano œ Alto & ˙ œ œ œ œ ˙ œ œ œ Jœ œœ Alto wor - ship the Fa - ther and the Son and theJ Ho ˙˙ ˙˙
MATINS: The Great Doxology
Fr. Sergei Glagolev (1997) Fr. Sergei Glagolev (1997)
to 29 to 29
Fr. Fr. Sergei Sergei Glagolev Glagolev (1970, (1970, rev. rev. 2002) 2002)
œœ 9œ œ œœœ
˙ œ œœ ˙ œ œœ œ ˙ œœ œ œœ œ
ly Spir - it, the
piece of music written in another language, such as Slavonic or Greek, and adapting it to an English text. The results will inevitably be different as well. To illustrate this, we will compare the treatment of the English language in two settings of the Anaphora—the first, an adaptation into English from Slavonic, and the second, a composition by Fr. Sergei. Our first example comes from his setting of the opening responses of the Anaphora, shown in Example 1. From the very first chords, one cannot help but notice how both the rhythm and the melodic shape of these responses organically flow out of the natural sound and inflection of the English language. It may well be the case that, like many composers before him (and after him), Fr. Sergei spent a certain amount of time simply speaking the text, as one would in normal conversation, and then wrote down what he heard, imparting to the text what he termed “a heightened utterance” through the movements of the melody and harmony. Innately sensing how harmonic movement, the expansion and contraction of the harmony, has the power to inflect the text, he achieves emphasis on the crucial words “praise” and “Lord” by having all the parts converge in a unison. Masterful strokes such as these are found throughout this composition, and indeed in a great many of his works, where at all points they serve to mirror and enhance the poetics of the English text. American Orthodox church musicians, from composers to church choir directors to singers, can all benefit greatly from studying in detailed fashion the rhythm as it relates to text declamation in Fr. Sergei’s works, something we can only do in a few short examples in this article. A good deal of insight can be gleaned from the setting of the Great Doxology, the opening measures of which are shown in Example 2. Here we see the meter of 6/8, somewhat unusual for church music, but which is, in fact, organically derived from the rhythmic content of the text “Glory to God in the highest.” In addition, we see the intuitive rhythmic treatment of words having so-called “feminine endings”—strong-weak—seen in the word “highest” (and later in the text, in words such as “glory” and “Spirit”). The syncopated rhythmic pattern of an eighth note followed by a quarter note precludes the possibility of misplacing the jacob's well
emphasis onto the second syllable, which so often happens in adaptations derived from Church Slavonic. Throughout this composition, Fr. Sergei is keenly sensitive to the natural rhythmic groupings formed by the syllables of the text—sometimes groups of two, sometimes groups of three, and on rarer occasions, groups of four, five, or even seven. Listening to a rendition of this composition, it becomes clear that the notated rhythm of the music is derived from natural speech, rather than the other way around, whereby the music has a pre-established meter, and the text is then forced to conform to that meter. In this regard, Fr. Sergei followed the experiments in rhythmic notation found in the works of some of the leading composers of the “New Direction” in Russian Orthodox church music—Alexander Kastalsky (1856–1926), Alexander Nikolsky (1874–1943), Pavel Chesnokov (1877–1944), and Alexander Gretchaninoff (1864–1956)—whose works he loved and studied. A final example of how Fr. Sergei was led by the requirements of English liturgical texts can be seen in the opening phrase of the introductory Psalm at Vespers (Example 3). Numerous attempts to adapt Church Slavonic settings of the wellknown Russian “Greek” Chant melody fail due to the fact that the English text “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” contains only six syllables (versus eleven in the Slavonic), and the most important word— “Lord”—which should receive musical emphasis, is the fourth syllable, rather than the ninth, as it is in Slavonic. Instead of attempting to truncate the melody so as to make the English words “fit,” Fr. Sergei takes a recognizable motive from the source melody and creates an original variant perfectly tailored to the English text—with the word “Lord” centrally emphasized by a melisma positioned between two structural pillars formed by the monosyllabic words “Bless the” and “O my soul.” Fr. Sergei’s keen awareness of the poetics of the English language and his skillful management of the musical elements, informed by his innate instinct and advanced musical erudition, makes the liturgical text in his works come alive and speak to the hearer—the worshiper—in a most direct way, going straight to the heart in an ineffable manner known only to master artists, musicians, and poets. The bar he sets is high, but
œœ up œœ and ˙˙ ˙ œœ them œœ right ww œ lift œ unœœ - toœœ the œ isœ œmeet œ Lord! We It ˙ . œ toœœ 29 ˙ We lift them Lord! It is meet and right to 29 œ unœ - toœ the MATINS: The Great Doxology œ up ˙ œ ˙ œ œ 29 ˙ œ œ œ œ œ œ ˙ . œ 29 w w spir it. We lift them up un to the Lord! It is meet and right to MATINS: ?Theb Great˙˙ Doxology œœ œ œ œœ MATINS: Theb Great Doxology œ ˙ œ œ œ œœ The œ œ œ œ ˙. œ ww ? b b ˙˙ ˙ œœ œGreat The Great Doxology œ œœ Doxology ˙ œ P p F œ P The Great Doxology ˙ œ œ œ œ œ œ ˙ . œ w w ? b ˙ œ œGreat œ The b F œ Doxology P p P Example 22 Fr. Example P qq .. == 98–104 p Fr. Sergei Sergei Glagolev Glagolev Andantino. F P Andantino. 98–104 (1970, rev. 2002) b œ œ Example 2 Fr. Sergei Glagolev œ œ ˙ (1970, rev. 2002) . ˙ œ ˙ œ ˙ b P Fr. Sergei Glagolev œ œ Andantino. q = 98–104 &Soprano œ œ œ œœ # j . P . 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We praise Thee, ˙˙peace, œ œ œ ˙ ˙ ˙ J peace, good will men. praise Thee, œœ es˙ - sence ˙ wewbless œ one œ int’wards ˙ and ww we w - Thee, ˙ We ? b b Trin - œi - ty, un di - vid ed! jjw˙ . ˙ praise peace, good will t’wards men. We Thee, we bless Thee, ˙ ˙ ˙ œ œ œ ˙ ˙ ˙ œ œ peace, good will t’wards men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we ˙ œ ww œ wœw we . œ ˙ œ œ œ œ ˙ ˙ ˙ ? 6 œ œ œ œ œ œœœ 15 # 2 œ œ b ˙ ˙ . œ j ? Introductory # 244 ˙˙ Psalm 6 œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ . ˙ ˙ b œ œ œ ˙ ˙ ˙ w . VESPERS: 8 œ œ œ œ œ œ œ j œ œ œ œ . œ œ œ œ ˙ ˙ w w w w ? œœœ .. ˙p Jœœœ ˙ 6688˙ œœœ ˙ œœœ˙ œœœπ œœœ œœœ œœœ 15 ? Introductory œœœ œœœœ œœœ œœœ b##b 2244 Psalm VESPERS: Jœ 8 œ œ œπw œ wœ œ . p O œ Bless œ the œLord, pp JJ My Soul Psalm 103 [104 RSV] π Example 3 Bless the Choir, Lord, OandMy Soul (for People, Trio, Chanter) P Psalm 103 [104 RSV] 2 P ## CHOIR: Fr. 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A Venture of Faith
THE WITNESS OF FR. LEONID KISHKOVSKY
by ANDREW BOYD
rotopresbyer Leonid Kishkovsky fell asleep in the Lord in 2021, a leader in our Church and within the Diocese of New York and New Jersey. Well-known as a pastor, father, and writer, he was at times the most prolific voice for the Orthodox Church in America. It’s hard for me to imagine someone within The Orthodox Church in America not knowing Father Leonid’s impressive biography, but a brief summary will help us all remember him more clearly. Father Leonid was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1943. He arrived in the United States in 1951, after his family spent time as post-war refugees. After spending his adolescence in Los Angeles, he attended the University of Southern California and Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. In 1969, he married Alexandra Koulomzine and was ordained deacon and priest. After five years of service on the West Coast, he became rector of the Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Sea Cliff, on Long Island, where he would serve the remainder of his life. In the same year he arrived in Sea Cliff, he started his long service to our central Church administration, eventually leading external affairs and interchurch relations for The Orthodox Church in America and serving as the long-time editor of The Orthodox Church magazine. He also served in various leadership positions in organizations such as the International Orthodox Christian Concern, the World Council of Churches, the National Council of the Churches, and various other ecumenical and inter-religious organizations, charities, and dialogues. Taught by our great luminaries like Fathers Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff, he continued their work and legacy by representing the newly founded Orthodox Church in America. In this role he was constantly asked to justify the OCA’s existence and its mission. Our continued
autocephaly is largely a product of his own sustained commitment, work, and willingness to go and speak and be present on our behalf. Over decades he was our voice to our sister Orthodox Churches, to the greater Christian community, to other religious leaders, and often to politicians as well. He never feared to go anywhere he was invited, often speaking hard truths along the way. He could also be the OCA’s toughest critic, quick to make known when our leaders were stepping away from our clear vision and Gospel calling. At the same time, for me and many others, Father Leonid was first and foremost a pastor of a picturesque church in Sea Cliff. In my early twenties, I lived in a basement apartment down the street from the parish for some time, and I often visited for services. There, I observed Father Leonid in his element, leading a small but dedicated community in the beauty of our Liturgy, pastoring people in need of guidance and generosity. It was warm and hospitable. Every time I visited I felt like I was participating in liturgy in his and Matushka’s own living room. Father Leonid had a commanding presence. He seemed to know every conceivable religious leader, and could also get them on the phone on a moment’s notice. His influence and notoriety were impressive, but they were part and parcel of his work as a pastor. He didn’t do anything for his own status or ego. He viewed all of his work as his duty, and he carried it out with love and sobriety. With the passing of people like Father Leonid, it saddens me to think about how many acts of mercy, how many instances of peacemaking have been lost in our collective memory. So much of what he accomplished was done behind the scenes— impactful, but unknown to most of us. There simply was not a moment in the history of the OCA that Father Leonid was not involved in, to some degree.
However, there is one story I hope never gets lost to memory, one that demonstrates the kind of impact Father Leonid had on the world outside his beloved parish on Long Island. In 1999, during the crisis in Serbia and Kosovo, Father Leonid was called upon to join a group of religious leaders on a trip to Serbia in order to help influence the volatile situation towards peace. Led by Rev. Jesse Jackson, this delegation of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders arrived in Belgrade at the height of tensions between Slobodan Milošević’s regime, the Kosovars, and NATO countries. Amid the worst kind of ethnic and religious violence, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Father Leonid, and two others were able to secure a private meeting with Milošević, advocating for the release of three U.S. military P.O.W. I’ll let Father Leonid tell the story in his own words: “We went in as a venture of faith without much relative chance of success … It was quite a roller coaster! … Everything depended on our conversation with Milosevic[.] In our conversations with other officials, we were getting a grim picture of no flexibility. We thought there was no light at the end of the tunnel, just the lights of an approaching train. … He was tough, and yet there was an undertone of flexibility … We told him that we were concerned about all the people who are suffering … but our perception was that things would get worse. We did make the point that the military logic is inexorable, and there, I believe, Mr. Milosevic was listening intently. He appeared to understand that the delegation did not represent a signal of change in NATO or U.S. policy, and I think he clearly perceived that we were there on our own, neither discouraged nor encouraged by the U.S. government, but nevertheless not hostile to our government. During the meeting, it was emphasized to President Milosevic that the release of the P.O.W., while an important gesture, in and of itself would not change very much,” He was told that, if the release served as a symbol that violence in Kosovo
would cease, that refugees would be permitted to return safely to their homes, and that an international force will be present in Kosovo, then its an opening toward a peaceful solution … Within hours, we received word that the POWs would be freed.”1
In the context of violence, bombings, ethnic tensions, and historic grievances, Father Leonid stepped in, in an unbelievable venture of faith, alongside some (perhaps unlikely) allies, and helped to make peace happen. It required putting his own life on the line. This group of religious leaders also called for an end to bombing from NATO and allied forces, which happened within a few days. The release of the hostages also helped cool tensions and likely paved the way for the initial peace plan that was accepted a month later.2 It may appear difficult to tie together Father Leonid’s profile as an international peacemaker with his life as a pastor of a small parish. But the image of him presiding at liturgy in the homey community in Sea Cliff, set next to him negotiating with Slobodan Milošević on the brink of total war, brings a smile to my face. Father Leonid was himself totally in both circumstances, seeing it all as a venture of faith, whether he was working for the salvation and uplifting of an individual member of his parish family, for the survival of the Orthodox Church in America, or for peace and the cessation of destructive violence and hatred. May the Lord grant us a measure of Father Leonid’s unwavering faith, in our own gospel mission, in the Orthodox Church in America, and in the power of a word of love to bring peace. ANDREW BOYD is a graduate of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and a parishioner at St. Mark’s Church in Bethesda, Maryland. He works in investment research and asset management.
1 “Fr Leonid Kishkovsky Accompanies Jesse Jackson to Belgrade,” Orthodox Church in America, May 7, 1999, https://www. oca.org/news/archived/fr-leonid-kishkovsky-accompanies-jesse-jackson-to-belgrade. 2 Ibid.; Adelle Rifkin and Ira Banks, “Jackson-led delegation to Belgrade placed faith in religious dialogue,” Religion News Service, Jan. 1, 1999, https://religionnews.com/1999/01/01/news-story-jackson-led-delegation-to-belgrade-placed-faith-inreligious-dia/. 13
A HISTORY OF THE CATHEDRAL OF THE HOLY VIRGIN PROTECTION OF NEW YORK PART II: 1943-2023 by AMELIA ANTZOULATOS
Editor’s note: This is the second piece in a twopart series on the history of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in Manhattan. The first installment ran in the spring 2020 issue.
t’s easy to miss what you’re looking for in the city. So when you turn the corner on East 2nd Street and Second Avenue, heading past a line of restaurants, a Hare Krishna pilgrimage site, and a film forum, you almost miss the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection. Like most churches in Manhattan, it’s embedded within a stretch of concrete, but the closer you get, you might hear something that catches you off guard, like keys shaking in someone’s pocket: the rattle of a censer. Inside, attendance at the weekday evening vigils is scant these days, thanks to the pandemic. Around 80% of worshippers, many of them single people, use public transit, and they’ve become wary of traveling alone at night, according to Father Christopher Calin, Dean of the Cathedral. While weekend attendance has also dropped significantly, from 180 people pre-pandemic to about 100 now (plus virtual attendees), the
community remains lively, with Venmo collections and regular virtual Sunday School sessions. Children and teenagers also serve in a variety of ways, and it is not uncommon for as many as 15 people to be serving in the altar at once. With the Bishop’s blessing, girls carry candles in vestments custom-made for each liturgical season alongside boys who serve in the altar. It’s important to give them something to do during the service, says Fr. Calin, who, in a major concession to kids everywhere, admits, “because it’s boring.” Fr. Calin first arrived at the Cathedral in 1986 with Archdeacon Michael Suvak when they had recently graduated from seminary at Saint Vladimir's; he’s now the longest serving priest in the history of the parish. It’s a significant commitment, especially as the Cathedral nears the 80th anniversary of its consecration– which itself was only a midway point in the storied, often tumultuous, life of the community. The congregation first gathered in 1870 in the parlor of its founding priest, Nicholas Bjerring. By 1901, with funding from Russian aristocrats
Cathedral of St. Nicholas, 97th St. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
and the direction of a new parish priest—Alexander Hotovitsky, who was later martyred and canonized as a saint—it built the Cathedral of St. Nicholas on 97th Street. But its stability was challenged by the Bolshevik Revolution when the emergence of a Soviet-backed, “Renovationist” Orthodox sect led to the attempted seizure and nationalization of churches in the United States that had been built with the aid of the former Czarist regime. The process was largely unsuccessful, except for a 1925 decision by the New York Supreme Court of Appeals transferring ownership of the Church of St. Nicholas from the Diocese to the Soviet state. The St. Nicholas congregation found itself with no place to worship, but an Episcopal parish, St. Augustine’s Chapel, ultimately offered to take the group in. For the next 17 years, the communities shared a church on East Houston Street, part of which the Metropolitan was allowed to consecrate in accordance with Orthodox tradition. As the chapel began to deteriorate over time, however, the St. Nicholas community eventually required more space to serve the needs of its members. New neighbors, like the all-night dance hall next door, also compelled the parish to move. In November 1942, it purchased Olivet Memorial, a German Reformed Church on East 2nd Street, for $50,000. Over the course of the next several months, generous individuals, as well as groups like the Sisterhood and the Brotherhood, dedicated their time and labor to the construction of a new Diocesan Cathedral. Fragments of the community’s past were incorporated into its new home, like the oak iconostasis built for St. Augustine’s
Chapel; a parecclesion dedicated to St. Innocent of Irkutsk, the Russian missionary and namesake of the first archbishop of the Americas, St. Innocent of Alaska; and murals painted by eminent Russian artist S.V. Sokoloff, all depicting scenes from the life of Christ in the Western style popular in pre-revolution Russia. On October 24, 1943, a sobor of distinguished hierarchs and clergy joined Metropolitan Theophilus for the much-awaited consecration and dedication service. By the time the Diocese had purchased the building, the surrounding community was mostly Russian and Ukrainian, but a glance above at the rich wooden beams that vault the ceiling serves as a reminder that before it was Little Odessa, it was Little Germany. “I have bibles from the German days that I found behind radiators,” says Fr. Calin, “and little cards of events for German mothers and children that used to happen here.” From across the street outside, the “really cool” stained glass windows had caught his attention, too, behind which was an entire second floor of office space. In fact, this was one of the reasons the building was purchased in the first place, and from the 1940s to the ’60s, every room of the Cathedral bustled with activity. The Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection carried the unique administrative responsibilities of housing and overseeing a web of chancery offices for both the national church and a number of other organizations affiliated with it, such as the the Society for the Relief of Russian War Invalids, Inc., and the Father John of Kronstadt Memorial Fund, Inc. As Archpriest Georges Florovsky, then Dean of St. Vladimir’s, noticed, the Cathedral’s growing capacities as a national institution were impressive, yet they often left little time for the locality of the parish community and the intimate care of its own members’ needs. In response, Florovsky founded St. Innocent’s English Chapel (located inside the Cathedral) in 1943 to serve as a church for his seminarians and to minister to the individual needs of World War II veterans and their American-born family members. Meetings of the Metropolitan Council and the Holy Synod of Bishops, as well as several AllAmerican Church Sobors, were also convened at the Cathedral. With respect to events and activities of national importance, serving the Cathedral meant serving the national church, and local parishioners, like Mrs. Olga Kluge, leader of the Sisterhood, often 15
dedicated their time and resources for a successful operation. During Holy Week, participation was through the roof and around the block, with thousands of people in attendance and members of the Sisterhood hard at work preparing the Cathedral ahead of time. The altar was usually full, too, with two or three hierarchs and several priests and deacons celebrating the liturgy.1 Similarly, nearly all ordinations were held in the Cathedral, and numerous bishops for other dioceses of the Church were consecrated there, as well. White flight in the 1970s spurred the growth of new parish communities in the suburbs, but also the steady decline of membership at the Cathedral. Chancery offices migrated to Syosset, Long Island, and All-American Councils (Church Sobors) moved to luxury hotels. The Cathedral’s administrative and symbolic role within the Church diminished, and its deteriorating space, poor financial accountability, and deepening debt reflected this. Meanwhile, the Chapel of St. Innocent continued to minister to the English-speaking community, and under the pastorate of Archpriest Stephan Plumlee, a fuller cycle of services had been initiated, and converts were slowly drawn to the chapel. As a professional psychologist and gifted preacher, Fr. Stephan facilitated greater outreach to the local community, as well. A small number of St. Innocent’s parishioners also became the de facto custodians of the Cathedral. After the death of Metropolitan Ireney in 1981, there were talks of selling the building to developers and disbanding the parish altogether. After the Council of the Cathedral approached the members of St. Innocent for help, the communities agreed to merge into one parish, but issues of liturgical language, the adoption of the “revised” calendar, and overwhelming financial responsibilities led to in-fighting and further erosion. In 1982, the Holy Synod decided to relocate the Metropolitan seat from New York to Washington, D.C., where a new cathedral had been erected. The Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection was then designated Seat for the Ruling
Archbishop of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey. Though the decision reinforced a loss of status for the Cathedral, it also eased expectations and allowed it to be something it had not been for some time: a local parish community. Recognizing an opportunity, Archbishop Peter l’Huillier of New York and New Jersey called upon his friend Igumen Makary Rossello, then living in Mallorca, to take on the duties of pastor for the Cathedral. Makary had previously served as the Archbishop’s secretary in the Diocese of Chersonese in Paris, and as a young man still in his 30s, he possessed both an infectious enthusiasm and a versatility as a handyman and artisan. After his appointment as Priest-in-Charge in 1985, Igumen Makary took on the task of cleaning and repairing the edifice. Invited by their friend Fr. Peter Baktis, the assistant priest at the Cathedral, Calin and Suvak would also soon arrive, finding themselves, mostly by accident, part of a core group of newcomers willing to rebuild and renew the parish. The giant padlock on the room upstairs, for example, would eventually come off after Fr. Makary, who himself had never seen the inside, struck a deal with the snooping twenty-something year old Calin: he would fetch his lock cutters as long as Calin helped him fix whatever lay behind the door. It was “a disaster,” as it turned out, filled with piles of debris and hanging light bulbs. It had previously been an auditorium. The basement downstairs, also locked, had holes in the floor. “The whole building was rotting around the edges,” remembers Calin. Yet that weekend marked the beginning of a new era, and volunteers would come after work to renovate, plaster, and repaint the Cathedral. Two years later, in 1987, the sanctuary’s interior was refurbished with an iconostasis filled with icons painted by Fr. Makary’s cousin, Daniel Breno, a gifted disciple of master iconographer Léonid Ouspensky (the old icons were sent to the Cathedral of the Ascension in Mexico City, where they’re still in use). When a fire destroyed the back wall of the sanctuary in 1993, Breno repainted it to feature more female saints, and today it showcases
1 The Cathedral clergy of this period included Metropolitan Leonty; Archbishop Ireney; Bishop Makary; Bishop Dimitri; Protopresbyters Feofan Buketeff and Anania Sahaydakovsi; Archpriests Leonid Ladinksy, Nikolai Perehfalsky, Igor Tkachuk, Alvian Smirensky, and Cyril Fotiev; Igumen Julian (Trotsky); Priests Dimitri Royster and Vladimir Berzonsky; and Protodeacon Nikolai Kuzmin-Polansky. St. Innocent’s Chapel was served by Archpriests Nicholas Vansuch, Joseph Kreta, and Vladimir Berzonsky.
the Old Testament matriarchs and patriarchs in the traditional Byzantine style. Though at first Fr. Makary held services only on weekends and feast days, he allowed the newcomers to lead Vespers services on Wednesday and Friday nights, so long as they used the narthex instead of the church. There, with the great acoustics, the main doors opened, and the incense wafting out onto the street, the Cathedral began attracting members as curious passersby, hearing the singing, would step inside to check it out. Many eventually converted, and post-Vespers classes open to Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike also helped grow the community. So did the efforts of choir director Barbara Heckman, who recruited young people to come to practices. She was tough—“like a mama bear,” Calin says—but the choir gained popularity and renown under her leadership, and members bonded during rehearsals. Olga Dorochovich, originally a Brooklyn public school teacher, ran the Sunday School and made sure there were always activities for the youth. Perhaps even more important, she took charge of the filing and paperwork, which had fallen into a backlog during the Cathedral’s many years of administrative disarray. Fr. Makary, who has since returned to Spain, remained with the Cathedral for nine years before Fr. Calin took over in 1994. In the early 1990s, after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Cathedral welcomed an influx of Georgian immigrants, so much so that it became well known across the diaspora and even abroad in Georgia. The community used the chapel for a while before finding its own space, but many retained their membership at the Cathedral. After King Michael of Romania visited the Cathedral in 1991, members of the Romanian community also began attending more frequently. By Fr. Suvak’s estimates, today about 30% of the parish are Georgian, 40% are of Romanian or Slavic background, and 30% are converts to the faith. Regardless of background, people found themselves drawn to the beauty of the faith and to the community, especially younger people living alone in the city. “We were and continue to be radically welcoming,” Calin says. “That is really what saved this place—welcoming anyone who came through the door.” At the same time, he
says he makes it “very clear who we are and who we are not,” and there is no space for religious fundamentalism or displays of nationalism in the sanctuary. A special notice on the Cathedral’s website reaffirms the OCA’s autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate, and according to Calin, there is no polarization in the parish when it comes to the crisis in Ukraine. Engagement with the neighborhood also remains an important part of the Cathedral’s culture. A 1988 Nativity Fast Retreat, featuring a number of speakers, marked the start of renewed inter-Orthodox relations with the other parishes in New York. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Cathedral hosted coffeehouses and street festivals, and for the past twelve years, it has been a member of the organization Local Faith Communities of the East Village. It has also worked with Meat Loaf Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, and City Harvest, distributing a second collection on their behalf each Sunday. As for its own finances, the Cathedral has long been solvent, and it finds ways to support its own members, especially through scholarships for college-bound youth. Once listed for sale for $1.4 million and dismissed as an old building in shambles, the building is now valued at $34 million; but aside from that, Calin says, it “has a lot of history. It deserved to be saved.” Yet he recognizes how fragile it can all be, and he hopes the community at the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection can continue. Perhaps his own aptly titled, original 1993 History of the Cathedral offers the best look forward: “Continuity of Life in Unity of Faith.” AMELIA ANTZOULATOS is the Assistant Editor of
Jacob’s Well. She works with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and her home parish is the Cathedral of St. John the Theologian in Tenafly, New Jersey.
Since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February of this year, the U.N. Human Rights Office has reported over 8000 civilian casualties and over 13 million Ukrainians forced to flee their homes—and the scale of destruction, human atrocity, and war crimes likely far exceeds what official reports can account for at this point in time. Widespread media coverage has dealt an immediate and ongoing shock to observers around the world, as well, including Orthodox Christians in the United States, who, through cultural, faith, or direct familial ties, have an added connection to either Ukraine or Russia. As ordinary Ukrainians resist the invasion and fight to survive, these allies, also often ordinary people, have amplified Ukrainian voices and traditions and have organized rallies, prayer services, and donations. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary responses to the war has been the work of Paul Gavrilyuk, and Seraphim Danckaert and their allies in the new organization Rebuild Ukraine. Gavrilyuk is an internationally renowned Orthodox theologian who teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Danckaert is the headmaster of St. Peter's Classical School in Fort Worth, Texas, with extensive experience in the nonprofit world. They launched Rebuild Ukraine within days of the invasion, with the mission of supplying Ukrainians with medical supplies, protective gear, and food. They managed to deliver $250,000 worth of supplies within the first 50 days. They spoke with us about the motivation behind their efforts, how they built up their operations so quickly, and what Christians in the United States can do to support Ukrainians moving forward. Ukrainian National Guardsman Evghenii Shpakov (2016) Justin Stumberg, U.S. Navy
You’re both very well-known and respected within the Orthodox world: Paul, as a renowned scholar and founder of the International Orthodox Theological Association, and Seraphim, as the former Executive Director and CEO of Focus North America. How did your paths cross? And how did you come to work on this mission together? Paul Gavrilyuk: We met at conferences, and what I think brought us together was a realization that perhaps we, too, could contribute in some way to the alleviation of suffering of people in Ukraine. I come from Ukraine, and everything that's happening there is deeply personal to me. My elderly parents have had to flee Ukraine to safety in Lithuania. And both Seraphim and I sensed that we had a unique opportunity where we could apply our efforts properly to do something about the tragedy that's presently playing itself out there. Seraphim Danckaert: I think we first met at Princeton, actually, but we've never worked together so closely. But we both happen to have significant scholarly interest in Fr. Georges Florovsky and 20th-century Russian theology more broadly. P.G.: Yes, and I think our common respect for Russian Orthodox thought of the past century perhaps bound us together, but also makes us puzzled about the contemporary events—rather, worried, seriously worried, about contemporary events and the role of the church in the conflict, in the war. How is Rebuild Ukraine contributing to what has become a major, and global, humanitarian undertaking? S.D.: In one of our early board meetings, we had our Deputy Head of Operations in Ukraine speak, and it was a sobering mission moment, because he said, "When it comes to strategic planning, our plan is, can we survive tomorrow? That's what we in Ukraine are dealing with." And so priority number one is tourniquets. It sounds very simple, and this is why we've pivoted and focused on it. Thousands of people are bleeding out and dying, and we can prevent that if we focus.
P.G.: We have a group in Lithuania that's procuring crucial things like tourniquets, prescription drugs, and protective gear for the civilian defense volunteers. And we have two key distribution centers: one is in western Ukraine, and the other one is in Kyiv. We're using them to send life-saving medical devices, food, and protective gear to close to 60 locations, many of them very close to the front line. We don't quite yet have the capacity to send things to Mariupol, but with the exception of just that one hotspot, we really have the capacity to cover a very significant area of a very large country. We're getting what people need, and we get the end-user verification through images and social media analysis. We also have a network of more than 20 staffers within Ukraine and a growing network of more than 100 volunteers. Many of them run small businesses, and many are also dedicated Christians. Some are IT engineers. We certainly have doctors and medics as a part of this because we're supplying hospitals. We also, for example, have a program for processing dried meat. If you're in the woods, and it's fairly cold, and you haven't eaten for a few days, something like a jerky would be really great. And the person who is doing it is a small-business owner in the Carpathian Mountains who is also housing more than 20 displaced people. So what's happening here is the production of meat and also the hosting of refugees. Meanwhile, her 25-yearold husband is presently at war and fighting. So what are we also doing, then, for the husband and people like her husband? We are providing them with protective gear. How did you mobilize so quickly? S.D.: One of the distinctive advantages of the organization is drawing on the pre-existing friendships that Paul had in Ukraine and the Baltics. We’re starting with the recipient in mind. We’re getting requests directly from hospitals, or from mobile medical units, and, even then, we put them through a process of vetting and discernment. And we don't buy the supplies here in America and ship them over. We buy them in the E.U. nearby, and can make the deliveries, oftentimes, in less than a week, sometimes even in three days. So that's very unusual and a highly
Do you have any insights into when this war will end? What are the long-term goals of the organization?
Stained glass window of the Protection of the Theotokos Kyiv, Ukraine
P.G.: What makes this war especially nonsensical is the fact that it is not a winnable war. The destruction of the infrastructure of the Ukrainian economy has now been to the tune of over 5$00 billion. Russia has absolutely no game plan, or any way of actually providing that kind of rebuilding and that kind of support. One of the reasons why we call this Rebuild Ukraine is because we believe the process of rebuilding will be continuing for decades. And that's why we created a nonprofit rather than simply focusing ourselves on justice, on the war relief effort. S.D.: The long-term vision is to realize that rebuilding Ukraine is going to take a very long time, even once the war is over. And the trauma of war is already particularly affecting children. So we're trying to prepare ourselves to be an aid to children of war for decades to come. One great pilot project involves one of these young volunteers who make this organization possible. She's an IT professional, and she ended up deciding to become a refugee after a period of time instead of staying in Ukraine, and found herself in Montenegro. She realized that there, in this little town in Montenegro, there are 100 Ukrainian refugee children and eight Ukrainian teachers who were teaching in actual schools back in Ukraine. So she's gathered them together in the city park and is running a school on the grass. We’re putting together a plan where, for a very modest amount of money, we can rent a real facility for them and give a small stipend to these teachers. So that will be kind of our first foray into education. But we see a lot of need and opportunity for that long term.
efficient model for operating in a humanitarian disaster. It kind of works the whole system: the money is American, the business partnerships are in the Baltics, and the due diligence and delivery happen in Ukraine itself. jacob's well
P.G.: We're just so excited about this project. Through just the informality of exchange and play, we can, in fact, save their lives—their psychological lives, spiritual lives. This said, we are also committed to programs in the United States. And I would like, in this regard, to mention a boarding school in Bryan, Texas, called Allen Academy, where Seraphim is the incoming principal. It is now in the process of committing significant
funds to bringing Ukrainian refugee children so as to provide the infrastructure for their studies. We would be focusing on bringing refugee children in difficult circumstances, who are also quite bright and can flourish in STEM fields.
This conflict will also certainly continue to impact the state of global Orthodoxy. Paul, you’ve previously written a lot about this, but at this point in the war, how do you think the Orthodox world moves forward from here?
Your work is already a kind of testament to how Orthodox Christians can respond during a crisis. How can individuals and communities in the United States get involved and help?
P.G.: What's at stake, really, is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, providing an ideological platform for this war and, to this day, openly justifying aggression and destruction. And I think that is scandalous. What would emerge out of this crisis is a mature theology of war and peace that is seasoned by this experience. We've made some important forays into the subject, but it would be more than theology understood as a purely theoretical discipline; it would also be a theology that is now grounded in life and offers a moral vision for the future. To the extent to which we can participate in that work, we will. It is also simply that Seraphim and I, as much as we love scholarly conferences, believe this needs to be set aside in this moment. We kind of need to get a spade or just get our hands dirty and do the work that needs to be done now.
S.D.: There isn't a huge need for more people on the ground in Lithuania or Ukraine. Where we're actually radically understaffed is here in the United States. We have to organize here with the same level of professionalism, with a focus on getting the word out, growing our organizational capacity, our office functions, our social media and marketing, our fundraising efforts, our event management, all that kind of thing. P.G.: If there are also those who might wish to join us as volunteers working for the organization in the United States, we would certainly welcome that. But we would especially appreciate ambassadorship of our programs so that we can become viral and make an even greater impact. S.D.: A very practical way for the readers of this magazine in particular to get involved is to host a virtual fundraiser with Paul as a speaker. We've done that in a number of other churches. Actually, aside from some of our special partnerships with larger donors and corporations, that's the main way we're funding this now.
To donate or learn more about how you can get involved with Rebuild Ukraine, visit rebuild-ua.org -Interview by Amelia Antzoulatos REV. DR. PAUL GAVRILYUK holds the Aquinas Chair in Theology and Philosophy at the Theology Department of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the founder and president of the International Orthodox
deacon in the Orthodox Church of America. His parish,
P.G.: Yes, we're following St. Paul: if you want to support the community of the poor in Jerusalem, you go from church to church in the Roman Empire. And so that's exactly what we're doing. We've done at least seven fundraisers to date in Catholic, Byzantine Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, and other churches. So this is both a Pan-Orthodox endeavor, and also, of course, a Pan-Christian endeavor. And indeed, there is a sense in which it's pan-human, because I think a lot of people, a lot of fellow Americans, are responding because they feel that it's absolutely necessary for us today to respond with both prayer and deeds.
Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (OCA) in St. Paul, was foundational in establishing Rebuild Ukraine as a 501(c) (3) public charity. SERAPHIM DANCKAERT is the former Executive Director of Focus North America, the largest humanservices charity affiliated with Orthodox Christian churches in the U.S. He is the headmaster of St. Peter’s Classical School, a K-12 Orthodox school in Fort Worth, and a parishioner at St. Silouan Orthodox Church in College Station, Texas.School, a K-12 Orthodox school in Fort Worth, Texas.
Rattlesnake (Crotale) Charles Dessalines D' Orbigny from 1892 edition of Dictionnaire Universel D'histoire Naturelle
by Archimandrite CYRIL HOVORUN
he alter ego of the Orthodox churches is symphonic, which means their selfperception has been formed through a close relationship with a state. Most of these churches, which also identify themselves as “Byzantine,” have lived for most of their history in a relationship with the part of the Roman Empire that we now call “Byzantium.” This relationship made them indistinguishable from their political partner. It caused an atrophy of the theological capacity that enables the churches to reflect on themselves in their own terms. For this reason, separation from the state was, and continues to
be, painful for the Orthodox churches. It is almost like separating Siamese twins, which affects not only their physical condition, but also their self-perception and identity. Such a separation is one of the original forms of secularization. The Orthodox churches experienced this form long before modernity—as when, for example, they had lost support of the Christianized state on the territories of the Persian, Arabic, Mongolian, and Turkic empires. After the excruciating pain of separation from the state, the churches of Byzantine origin, each in its own time, experienced catharsis and understood new things about themselves. Thus, following the collapse of Byzantium in the mid-15th-century, the Greek churches rediscovered communities. Hierarchs, after losing support of politicians, now could rely only on parishes. This created a momentum for pulling down the walls between hierarchy, clergy, and laity—several decades before a similar momentum in the West, during the Reformation. After the fall of the Russian empire—the largest modern incarnation of the Byzantine-like symphony-based statehood—the Orthodox Church was pushed to rediscover its ecclesial self. As a result, ecclesiology was born as a self-sufficient discipline. It flourished in the so-called diaspora in the works of Frs. Sergiy Bulgakov, Georges Florovsky, Nikolay Afanasiev, Alexander Schmemann, and others. Even before the Bolshevik Revolution, the idea of the church as a self-sufficient value that trumps the value of any political entity or idea emerged in the works
of such theologians as Aleksey Khomyakov and Fr. Pavel Florensky. It is, therefore, possible to claim that modern Orthodox ecclesiology is a child of secularization understood as the emancipation of the ecclesial from the political. Such a secularization created a crack in the symphonic concrete, through which the idea of the church could grow like a flower.
Separation between church and state became a norm in the period of modernity. This separation is more radical than the ones practiced in premodern times. Most of us, especially in the United States, now perceive the differentiation between politics and religion as something natural. Before modernity, however, such a differentiation was unthinkable. When a state distanced itself from the Christian church, it was because it was aligning with another religion, such as Zoroastrianism or Islam. In our times, the states tend to distance themselves from any religion. That is how secularization, initially understood as the process of separation between church and state, came to mean the process of desacralization in general. When the idea of society as distinct from the state emerged in the modern era, secularization applied to it as well. This came to mean that not only state institutions, but also civil society, can be desacralized. The process of secularization as desacralization created a void, especially in relations between the church and society. In the premodern times, this void was filled by the church, which embraced both the state and society. In modernity, the church no longer plays this role. Instead, the void has been filled with what has been called “ideology.” This word comprises two Greek words, whose meanings are very close: “idea” and “logos.” It is akin to saying “the buttery butter.” The clumsiness of this word reflects the peculiar motivation of the French encyclopedists who introduced it to the lexicon of modernity. Their original motivation was polemically antireligious. They wanted to replace the religious worldview with a non-religious one. They coined for the latter the word “ideology.” Thus, ideology was originally an anti-religious device constructed
to replace religion as a partner for both the state and society. Ideology was promoted in the church’s stead as the main mechanism for securing social cohesion. From now on, ideology and not religion inspired and organized masses. While anti-religious in its nature, ideology was designed in its appearance to resemble religion. Jean-Jacques Rousseau called it “civil religion.” Like religions, ideologies demand that people believe in them. They are also capable of mobilizing masses and leading them toward goals that are larger than individual interests. These goals are beyond the visible horizon of the present; they are eschatological, i.e., promised for the future. There is, however, a difference between religion and ideology. The former locates the purpose of human life beyond this world, while the latter confines it to this world. The latter feature makes ideology an intrinsically secular phenomenon: although it garnishes its goal as divine-like, this goal has to do nothing with God and humanity’s relationship with the divine. All ideologies, deep down, hold that God and his relationship to humanity are irrelevant. Some of them, such as Marxism or Communism, reject God altogether. Others, such as various forms of nationalism and conservatism, instrumentalize Him. This makes any ideology a quasi-religion that is only superficially similar to proper religion.
Ideology has substituted religion as the main driving force for human masses since the beginning of Modernity. In promoting ideologies, secularists hope they may help solve social problems that humanity experienced in the pre-modern era without fomenting the violence that, so they believe, religion had ignited. This hope has been revealed as false. Never in human history have wars, including religious ones, claimed as many lives as the two 20th-century “great” wars that were waged under ideological banners. The Second World War was particularly marked by the violent clash of two major ideological programs: one based on excluding “inferior” classes—Marxism, especially in its Leninist-Stalinist interpretations, and the other based on excluding “inferior” nations—Nazism. That war was the highest point of the ideological era, and its ultimate fiasco. 23
There were hopes after the Second World War that the ideologies had come to their end. Those hopes were vain, as the clash of ideologies continued during the Cold War. It has also continued since the fall of the Soviet Union, in the form of what is usually referred to as “culture war.” This war is particularly acute in the United States, where it is manifest as the clash between “liberals” and “conservatives.” Each group argues that its own program of arranging the matters of this world is better than the other’s. The paradox of this war is that the churches of various traditions often join in the fray. In other words, religion effectively allies with its enemy—ideology. Such alliances sometimes happen with the goal of fighting “secularism.” However, because of the secular nature of ideology, such fighting makes the churches secular, even though they target secularism as their main enemy. Sociologists of religion have described this phenomenon as the self-secularization of the churches. It happens not only to the churches aligning with liberal ideologies, but also those ferociously fighting them. Does this mean the modern churches, including the Orthodox churches in the United States, have only two options: the so-called “accommodationist” one and the “Benedict” one? It seems this way only if we look at the matter through an ideological lens and allow ourselves to be entrenched on either side of the culture war. But there is a third way, and the Orthodox are equipped particularly well for it. In contrast to some other American denominations, which spearhead ideological programs, the Orthodox have the wisdom of the church Fathers, who can teach us how to avoid false dilemmas. The early church faced false dilemmas that were not dissimilar from the ones we face now. For example, when the church rapidly expanded in the pagan Roman Empire, it did not know at first how to relate to this empire, together with its philosophies, traditions, and institutions. One possibility was to reject them altogether. This was the way propagated by Christian zealots, such as Titian and Tertullian. Some of them eventually ended up in various sects, and their example suggests that total rejection of the outside world is unhealthy. Another way was to embrace the
empire without much discretion. This way was also criticized and eventually rejected. The third way, which was suggested by such church fathers as Basil of Caesarea and Maximus the Confessor, was based on a cautious and eclectic attitude toward the world outside the church. Gregory Palamas compared it to cooking a snake: In the case of the secular wisdom, you must first kill the serpent, in other words, overcome the pride that arises from this philosophy. How difficult that is! “The arrogance of philosophy has nothing in common with humility,” as the saying goes. Having overcome it, then, you must separate and cast away the head and tail, for these things are evil in the highest degree… As to what lies in between the head and tail, that is, discourses on nature, you must separate out useless ideas by means of the faculties of examination and inspection possessed by the soul, just as pharmacists purify the flesh of serpents with fire and water. Even if you do all this, and make good use of what has been properly set aside, how much trouble and circumspection will be required for the task! Nonetheless, if you put to good use that part of the profane wisdom which has been well excised, no harm can result, for it will naturally have become an instrument for good. But even so, it cannot in the strict sense be called a gift of God and a spiritual thing, for it pertains to the order of nature and is not sent from on high. (Pro hesychastis I 1.21).
In application to our time, this advice may mean that the clashing agendas in the culture wars, underpinned by secular ideologies, should neither be rejected nor accepted in wholesale. Each one features both venomous and edible parts, which should be carefully separated from one another. There is something nutritious in both political conservatism and liberalism, as well as something poisonous. For example, the liberal idea of equality resonates with early Christian egalitarianism. The notion that human beings are created in the image of God and endowed with free will can be also discerned in the tenets of modern liberalism. At the same time, conservative adherence to absolute principles, also known as foundationalism, is not alien to the concept of orthodoxy. One must have what Fr. Georges Florovsky called a “patristic mindset” to distinguish between the healthy and unhealthy parts of modern
ideologies. The polemical fever demonstrated by each side’s support for one or the other ideological program contradicts such a mindset. Such fever is caused by an infection in the church’s body inflicted by ideology. Even in the post-secular era, after such European thinkers as Jürgen Habermas declared truce between ideologies and religion, ideology remains heterogeneous to religion. Their superficial similarity does not make them allies. On the contrary, such similarity should alert the church to be vigilant and not allow ideology to affect the church’s own agenda. In contrast to ideological agendas, which seek to promote particular social programs, the church’s agenda is one of salvation for one and all, regardless of their political or social credos. This does not mean the church’s focus on eternal salvation excludes any social awareness or activity. On the contrary, caring about the human soul is genuine when it translates into the care for humanity in its various social forms.
The early-4th-century Syrian poet Aphrahat presented the church of Christ as a colored bird: I have abandoned my house, I have abandoned my heritage; I have delivered the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies, and a colored bird has become my heritage. (Demonstrationes 12).
In the centuries after Aphrahat, this bird lived mostly in cages. Although these cages were often golden, they remained cages. The modern process of secularization freed this bird to fly, but it had to learn how to do so anew. This was not easy, and sometimes the bird, instead of living on its own, would prefer to stay in the safety and comfort of a cage. There are still cages on offer—new ones that have replaced the old. But however comfortable they may be, none of them allow the bird to fly free—as it has been intended by the Lord. ARCHIM. DR. CYRIL HOVORUN Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun is Professor of Ecclesiology, International
In conclusion, it is possible to say that there are “good” and “bad” secularizations. “Good” ones liberate the church while “bad” ones enslave it. Separation of the church from the state is a “good secularization,” which gives the church a chance to empower itself and to be what its Founder intended it to be. However, such a liberation is an opportunity, not an automatic process. The church can miss this chance by allying itself with unhealthy forms of secularization, such as ideology.
Relations and Ecumenism at the University College Stockholm.
Detail from the Deisis Mosaic (c. 1261) Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
by JESSE HAKE
n the opening moments of Yelena Popovic’s film Man of God, Bishop Nektarios (later canonized a saint) is confronted by a Muslim man who sits in a line of beggars along a street in Egypt. This beggar has been waiting and watching for Nektarios, and he jumps up to greet the bishop with a radiant face, saying he was healed not long after asking Nektarios to pray for him. As the beggar gives thanks for this miracle granted by the bishop’s prayers, Nektarios gently touches the man’s head and says: “No. Your prayers have healed you.” This is the invitation of Christ that extends over even the dividing lines of faith, and it reflects an understanding of prayer that is mostly lost in our secular age. jacob's well
A couple years ago, we saw the power of secularism (and the pettiness of our faith) in the debates surrounding the Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque for the second time in its history. Built in 537 as the patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, it was a prominent Christian church for almost 1000 years. In 1453, with the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Constantinople, it was converted into a mosque, and then finally into a museum in 1935 by the secular Republic of Turkey. As The New York Times reported two days before the July 24, 2020 transition to a mosque again: “Pope Francis said only that he was ‘pained,’ while the Eastern Orthodox patriarch of
The Hagia Sophia and Secularism’s Unquestioned Authority WHY WE SHOULD THANK GOD FOR ONE MORE PLACE OF PRAYER Constantinople, Bartholomew . . .expressed regret that the Hagia Sophia would cease being ‘a place and symbol of encounter, dialogue and peaceful coexistence of peoples and cultures.’” Following these nods to the sentiments of Christian leaders, the voice treated as the most authoritative by The New York Times was UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization): “Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue.” The statement also warned that alterations to physical structures or changes to accessibility of the site could violate the 1972 World Heritage Convention, to which Turkey was a signatory.
This representation of reality by the Times subtly reinforces all of our current assumptions. The pope and the patriarch only expressed uncomfortable feelings, such as being “pained,” while the voice for educational, scientific, and cultural organization in our world denounced the loss of a powerful “symbol” and warned the nation of Turkey against any actions that would “violate” international agreements. To be clear, the United Nations and its agencies are a great blessing to humanity, and their work should certainly be appreciated and preserved (for even greater reasons than providing Skellig Michael as a filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens). However, layers of other human authority should
be restored alongside the agencies that represent the authority of the secular nation-state. Although Christians like to complain about secularism when it offends us, it is essentially invisible to us all. We also assume that neutrality in religious affairs is a social good, and we fail to see that this assumption collapses layers of ancient meaning and authority into the shallow but pervasive authority of the secular nation-state. The basic concept of the nation-state is so ubiquitous and revered in our world that none of us can fully get the concept into our mind’s eye. However, historians widely agree that the invention of the secular nation state was a key outcome of Christendom’s end and a basic catalyst in the rise of secular modernity. To describe the nationstate would sound to any modern American like describing the way in which apples always fall downward. It is more helpful to start by listing some of the entities that were replaced by the modern nation-state: a host of guilds (including the student or teacher guilds of universities), village commons, empires, kingdoms, townships, manors, church parishes, the papacy, and a host of monastic orders. All these ancient and layered structures of Christendom were radically and suddenly displaced by the single and undisputed secular power of the modern nation-state, and this was widely celebrated as liberation from centuries of tyranny. These layered structures of past human societies, moreover, were not just a part of Christendom but were an aspect of all premodern human cultures. All humans who lived before 1618 and the start of the Thirty Years’ War existed 27
as a living link within a web of meanings and powers that ran between the chief, the shaman, kinship ties, the matriarchy or sisterhood, the guild, etc. My own experience, growing up in a traditional Chinese culture as a child of American missionaries, throws into sharp relief what has been lost in the West. In Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where I lived until I was 18, virtually everyone invited Daoist clerics to oversee the rituals surrounding birth and a Buddhist cleric to oversee the rituals surrounding death while temples to local folk deities (with their neighborhood festivals and lay shamans) supported in the many supplications of everyday life between birth and death. This layering of religious authority across multiple traditions and institutions was typical of many ancient human cultures. With the Peace of Westphalia, this entire layered web of local institutions and traditions (with their deep meanings and diverse kinds of authority) were lost. The various powers of Christendom—in their desperation after the Eighty Years' War and the Thirty Years' War—placed all human affairs under the neutral governance of the nation-state as the one arbitrator for the will of the people. This decision by European powers soon had implications for all human cultures
"Although Christians like to complain about secularism when it offends us, it is essentially invisible to us all." around the globe, and we have codified the secular nation-state since then with layers of international law, with the development of the autonomous individual (a microcosmic reflection of the secular nation-state imposed upon us all as the most basic category of our self-understanding) and with the entity of the multinational corporation (which legal systems now granted the same legal status as an autonomous individual). All this has established secularism globally as the uncontested arbitrator of our very humanity. Of course, such a jacob's well
development in the human story did not take place overnight, and the remnants of the old ways are not entirely effaced from the planet. In his stories of Port William, Wendell Berry calls this network of belonging and mutual help “the membership.” While recognizing pockets of its existence long into American history, Berry’s entire life has been dedicated to documenting how “the membership” has increasingly disappeared. With this seismic shift in human history, state authority came to provide strictly technical and scientific solutions to all people through agencies and programs insulated from all private affections (such as faith in God or even with the bonds of deep relationship, comradeship, or kinship). With the one sovereign arbiter of this impartial secular power, laws and shared practices can no longer be developed and maintained by a pantheon or network of authorities who all seek to fit their laws or customs to “the way things are” (i.e. to the realities of how creation—in its webbed splendor—must move together in a dance of lives who face mutual dependence on every side). In contrast, the laws of today can only be made by an impersonal power (ironically representing the dignity of all the autonomous individuals), and all laws have become tools for shaping, improving, and controlling humanity and our world instead of attuning ourselves with the shared life of our dancing and singing cosmos. This story is grounded upon a series of distortions that developed within the Western Christian understanding of sovereignty and freedom. Many scholars, including David Bentley Hart, have argued that modernity is a Christian heresy. Some ideas about God’s power and human will among the late writings of Augustine started to depict freedom as simply the capacity to make a choice instead of as the capacity to see, want, and move toward the greatest good and the highest form of beauty. As freedom was reduced over time in the West, until it came to be seen as merely a power to decide and dictate, this gave rise to a concept (only late in the medieval period) of an absolute monarch with the same kind of purposeless power that had been attributed to God. This same false idea of freedom and power was applied during the Enlightenment to the autonomous individual and the secular nationstate. (For more, see Hart’s September 17, 2021
interview by Tony Golsby-Smith or Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat.) This sad step on the human journey also involved the invention of modern religion, which is nothing more than a prop to the nationstate. The mechanistic and progressive vision of secularisms renders God pointless and leaves
"...beauty went from being a central interest of human thought and culture to a private concern with no intellectual or even social value." religion with no purpose (beyond perhaps serving as a support to psychological and social health). Religion therefore went from being a universal human virtue—with multiple local institutions in most cultures to steward the singing of sacred songs and to model the habits of wisdom across generations—to being just a set of contending ideologies that must compete for adherents on whatever ground the modern secular state might permit. In this context, religions have long ago come to look to most young people like nothing but a petty collection of outdated factions fighting over inexplicable ritual, arcane points of history, and petty doctrines. (For books about this invention of modern religion see The Meaning and End of Religion by Wilfred Cantwell Smith or Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept by Brent Nongbri.) In all this, secularism has obliterated a once massive and diverse array of unique places and local cultures. Within all these places, the common arts, liberal arts, and fine arts once flourished together as schools and traditions of skill and craft in service of diverse human ways of living together. Artistic creations served the life of family homes, civic buildings, various religious communities, and a diverse network of craft, merchant and academic guilds. We get this story
in Beauty: A Theological Engagement with Gregory of Nyssa in which Natalie Carnes lays out how beauty went from being a central interest of human thought and culture to a private concern with no intellectual or even social value. After surveying beauty’s dethronement within intellectual history, Carnes says that there “was an event at the end of the 18th century as important for the [death of ] aesthetics as any of these philosophers: in 1793, the Louvre Museum opened.” As she explains, “the Louvre was a solution to a problem caused by the French Revolution” as they sought freedom “from the centuries of tyranny by church and crown” and “angry mobs attacked the symbols of the old regime” (25). Some of the revolutionaries considered this destruction to be shortsighted, and Pierre Cambon proposed to the assembly that they create a museum as an alternative. In his book The Invention of Art, Larry Shiner describes the reasoning: By placing the suspect works in a museum, the assembly recognized that the museum would neutralize them. Once in the museum, monuments to royalty would lose their sacred power. They would cease to be symbols pointing beyond themselves and become merely art. Out of the crucible of the Revolution had come an institution that “makes” art, that transforms works of art dedicated to a purpose and place into works of Art that are essentially purposeless and placeless. (182)
Museums were invented expressly so that the new secular powers could dislocate the sacred and place it within an institution for the display of dead things from times long gone. To be dramatic, museums and guillotines were invented by the same people and for the same purpose. Of course, a lot more was going on. Larry Shiner points out that during this same century, the concept of “genius” as a divine gift that everyone had in some unique way evolved into the modern idea of an artistic “genius” as a kind of person that only few people could be (111). Shiner also notes that this century also saw the invention of secular concerts and literary criticism—virtually all of the fine art institutions that we take for granted in the modern world and that create and maintain separation between 29
art and its many situated purposes (88). Two other wonderful books on this topic are Putting Art (Back) in Its Place by John Skillen and The Common Arts Tradition by Christopher Hall. (None of this, clearly, is to entirely dismiss the value of museums, with many examples such as The Met Cloisters in New York City doing all they can to counteract these negatives for their visitors.) Secular nation-states—as they have reinforced the idea of autonomous individuals interacting in the terms of libertarian freedom and provided the legal framework for the development of corporations—have enabled the accumulation of capital and technical resources in unprecedented ways. While many of these resources are obviously great goods that have helped to bless and sustain human life, they have also spurred an unprecedented and systematic destruction of human life in the name of various kinds of progress (both under totalitarian fascist states and communist states) as well as practices such as Down syndrome screening, or abortion as a form of birth control. We generally assume that the Enlightenment reduced the toll taken by warfare and other forms of state-sanctioned violence, but this is not the case. Oxford economist Max Roser (founder of the online resource Our World in Data) has used figures compiled by Dr. Peter Brecke to visually represent the death rates per capita from war and other state-led violence from 1400 through current times. This chart factors in the growing human population by only showing per-capita death rates. It shows that while we have enjoyed a period of remarkably low death rates from war and state violence for over a decade now, the overall rate of human destruction has been measurably higher than it was in the supposedly benighted premodern world. When we consider everything in aggregate, there is much to be concerned over regarding the fruits of modernity (or lack thereof ). In a July 9, 2021 interview with David Armstrong, Hart concluded that “we have arrived at a moment in the post-industrial age in which we are literally killing the world and nothing less than that.” (See also Our Only World by Wendell Berry.) None of this means that the blessings of modern, representative government at regional, national, or international levels should be denied. jacob's well
All of us living in the modern world should be grateful for advances in civic institutions (not to mention science, medicine, and technology), and these many blessings should certainly be preserved. However, nothing about these modern goods is necessarily in conflict with the regrowth of dense regional webs of human institutions such as craft guilds, schools, local food production networks, a diversity of religious traditions, and even clans and dynasties of various kinds. In the interview above, David Bentley Hart argued that this vision is much like the ideas of Christian distributism (promoting layers of local, stateless authority through layered and organic human collectives or solidarities). A similar vision is advanced in Rowan Williams’s book from last year, Looking East in Winter: Contemporary Thought and the Eastern Christian Tradition. To be clear, this proposal upholds the secular-nation state as a good to be preserved while maintaining that a host of alternative authorities and sacred allegiances can coexist with the secular nation-state as people give their time and trust to the network of other institutions and traditions that can claim their loves. This simply means that we should find any opportunity that we can to give and to receive help from organizations close at hand and that our default should be to celebrate when a neutral museum becomes a particular place of prayer. At this post-Christian juncture in world history, David Bentley Hart points to the apocalyptic thrust of Christ’s Gospel, saying that God’s kingdom is uniquely capable of remembering all that has ever been faithful and lovely so that it can be given a home, even if that home is no more than one human heart filled with love for truly human things (to echo the title of Vigen Guroian’s beautiful book, Rallying The Really Human Things). Hart calls for us to diligently seek out, champion, and reassemble (in new and organic forms) all that is good, true, and beautiful from all of the ancient human cultures that once covered our planet. Within Roland in Moonlight, he confides his “unwillingness to relinquish any dimension of anything that I find appealing or admirable… or beautiful” (326). He says this too in his critique of Peter Sloterdijk’s After God (Commonweal, July 2021): “The configurations of the old Christian order are irrecoverable now, and in many ways that is
Detail from the Comnenus Mosaic Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
for the best” because “disencumbered of both nostalgia and resentment” we might be “eager to gather up all the most useful and beautiful and ennobling fragments of the ruined edifice of the old Christendom so as to integrate them into better patterns.” Hart pleads for a return to the “apocalyptic novum of the event of the Gospel in its first beginning” so that we might draw “renewed vigor from that inexhaustible source” and “imagine new expressions of the love it is supposed to proclaim to the world, and new ways beyond the impasses of the present.” Exemplifying this, the Very Rev. Dr. Archimandrite John Manoussakis was one of the minority voices in the Greek church who celebrated when the Hagia Sophia went from museum to mosque. Born in Athens, Greece, and educated in the United States (Ph.D., Boston College), as well as being a monastic, John Manoussakis was ordained to the priesthood in 2011 (Archdiocese of Athens). He currently serves as Associate Professor of Philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA) and as an editor of the Journal for Continental Philosophy of Religion (Brill). In June 23, 2017, he described a “first visit to Hagia Sophia” when he was “disappointed with my disappointment” because
he “was not moved, overwhelmed, amazed” as he “had expected to be.” He wondered if this “had something to do with the fact that Hagia Sophia is a museum.” Three years later, following the announcement that the Hagia Sophia would again become a mosque, Dr. Manoussakis wrote that we should “welcome this decision recognizing in it a victory of the polymorphous sacred over the monotonous secular laïcité.” If the church “cannot be again a place of worship to the living God,” he considered it “much preferable … to be used as a living place of worship to God than a mausoleum for the ghosts of the past.” This is a Christian view of things. It is a view of the matter that is not caught up by the ideological fights to which both Muslim and Christian have been reduced by secularism. This view of the case simply claims that it is better for there to be some kind of prayer taking place than none at all—for there to be human life in the place of a graveyard. JESSE HAKE is the director of ClassicalU.com and the former principal of Logos Academy in York, Pennsylvania. He is a parishioner at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
To Reconcile is to Revisit
ON SECULARISM AND THE ORTHODOX FAITH by Presbyter VASILEIOS THERMOS
ather Mark is a conscientious Orthodox priest. He does care for his flock, he reads and prays, he labors in order to better inform and guide his parishioners. He has sometimes condemned secularism in his sermons as proclaiming emancipation from faith and introducing an anthropocentric worldview. Yet he did not attempt to influence his daughter about her prospective husband. He naturally and calmly welcomed the one she chose. Athena, a pious Orthodox wife and mother, prepared a letter of complaint for the local mayor; if necessary she is determined to reach even the House of Representatives. The issue is about the quality of meals offered in the school of her children. How can they pretend that they know nothing about healthy food? It is unacceptable to feed young students a diet of basically junk. Like thousands of Orthodox Christians, Father Mark has accepted freedom of choice in certain aspects of public and private life, while Athena has made use of her sanctioned civil rights. What do they share in common? They take for granted these protections and freedoms, now cornerstones of political and social life, which would have likely been unheard of earlier in history. Both of them are unaware that these elements of their lives, among many others, are products of secularism. As a historical process, secularism represented the displacement of religion from its privileged status as the measure of everything in society. But it’s important to recognize that along with secularism came other social changes: it affirmed free choice of studies and jobs, introduced political votes and their equality, rendered leadership electable and not hereditary, presented free choice of spouses as the most natural thing in the world, and made jacob's well
interventions of parents to their children’s families sound weird and offensive. It is difficult indeed to grasp that a few centuries ago, all the above were simply unimaginable. Interestingly, all these have been adopted by Christians as natural and desired; Orthodox are not an exception, in spite of our comparatively conservative stance toward modernity. Nevertheless, Athena agrees when she hears Father Mark disapproving secularism, and Father Mark wholeheartedly approves her complaint about her children’s school! Secularism seems an easy target for Christian polemic, yet it yields possibilities one cannot imagine oneself without. Potential objections like “does secularism necessarily accompany progress?” or “why not invent a contemporary social order, with all its acquired benefits, in which religion is the central motivating entity?” sound utopic. A regression to premodern mindsets implies a life without current medicine, a society that oppresses individuals, and a country with non-democratic institutions. Like it or not, premodern society failed to present democracy, freedom, scientific progress; it is meaningless to wonder whether we should regress to it. As we Orthodox Christians sit quite comfortably with these freedoms that stem from modernity, I believe we are called to pose other critical questions. Some of them could be: •
Why has Christianity alone not been able to induce or inspire the achievements of modernity in the past? Is Orthodox theology by definition hostile toward secularism? Are there natural points of convergence? What are the premodern remnants in the Orthodox Church and its theology that
still prevent it from successfully coming to terms with secularism? How can the Orthodox conscience blossom in the middle of secularism?
Given that transformations of institutions, habits, and social psyche in general started as soon as secularism appeared, one reasonably wonders why they never emerged during the times when Christianity prevailed. It can be jarring, or even shocking, to realize that our ancient and medieval Church Fathers and Saints shared the false scientific ideas of their times. To give a few examples, they would have believed that the sun revolves around the earth; that fetuses are preserved in the form of seed in men’s bodies and start developing as soon as they are implanted in women’s uteruses; that the world was created 5,500 years before Christ’s birth; and that the heart as an organ was the locus of emotions and kidneys the place of desires. Obviously we are aware that in the Middle Ages, many scholars and scientists were faithful; religion has never been incompatible with knowledge. Nonetheless, its pace of development became much more accelerated in modernity. In addition to this, democracy was not an option, and human rights could not be conceived. An emperor’s power was thought to be of divine origin, ordinary people were not expected to hold political ideas and goals, and constitutions that restrain leaders would have been seen as arrogant or blasphemous. With this in mind, a serious challenge for Orthodox theology rises. Why was Biblical and patristic theology not adequate for fostering the genuine social improvements that came along with modernity? Is faith not enough? I believe it is a question of how Orthodox theology is interpreted and put into practice. The principles that led to these social improvements were always embedded in the Christian tradition, but it took certain historical events for them to be fully realized. In the 4th century, beginning with Constantine, Christians found themselves in a place of unprecedented power and influence. They became increasingly self-confident. Over time, the revolutionary content of the Gospel faded away, unholy alliances with the state were established, and theocracy became a desired self-evident
reality. As a matter of fact, an immanent political ideology (which composed an early atypical secularism) contaminated the Orthodox Church and for many became part of their psychological and theological “DNA”! It is my hypothesis that the excessive distress and hostility felt by the majority of Orthodox Christians toward secularism stems from their addiction to another form of secularism: the Byzantine one. Though we shouldn’t ignore the Byzantine empire’s excellent cultural achievements, Byzantium also set a precedent by which Orthodox Christians became accustomed to having a privileged status before the state. I believe many are now experiencing a traumatic displacement from that condition. A big portion of the Orthodox distress springs out of the fact that some of us see and speak from the point of a latent secularism, actually antagonistic to the modern explicit one. Paradoxically, it was easier to oppose pagan or Islamic religious persecutions than it is to oppose secular indifference; the former reflected homologous regimes that used to attack other groups in the name of a faith, whereas the latter is a godless locus that promotes neutrality of faith. In other words, Orthodox Christians have been trained for centuries to defeat false gods, yet they now find themselves lacking the competence to convince those who play in a completely different field, without religious terms. After all, the Orthodox Church seems well capable of resisting enemies, yet she does not possess the "know-how" of being one equal among the many. Rather than the Byzantine era—or its parallels in Church history, such as the Russia of the tsars— the best model for us now, in the contemporary, postmodern era, is the Church of the first three centuries. How, we might ask, did the Church expand so rapidly at a time when the state was not only not backing it, but was also actively opposing it? This is indeed the appropriate moment to get lessons from the obvious similarity of our times to the globalized world in which the Church had her first steps. Perhaps the theological adventures of the time are part of the answer. Christianity’s encounter with Hellenism in the 3rd and 4th centuries changed the religion itself without betraying its message. Rather, the experience clarified that message and
further enforced it. According to some thinkers, many aspects of Modernity have their predecessors in Christian thought; for instance, emphasis on personal responsibility, individual freedom of choice against collectivity (a stance which allowed conversions and facilitated martyrdom), equality before God, introspection, voting under the principle of majority in synods and councils, demystification of nature by accepting medicine, and rational undoing of heretical arguments. There is no inherent obstacle in Christianity to what we today experience as progress. Rather, the cultural elements of antiquity and the middle ages colored Christianity, just as they colored everything else. The absence of democracy and personal freedom were an outcome of premodern culture, not of Christian theology. We must admit that many Christians (including some of the Fathers) have supported premodern values. It is such a strange thing, and so difficult for us to acknowledge, that despite their theological profundity, the Fathers were "children of their time" as well! From this perspective, the Orthodox Church is not by definition hostile to secularism. If we reject the very idea of a secular state, the only alternative is a society in which religion is officially sanctioned as the ultimate criterion of law and everything. I do not consider this a viable condition. Of course, it requires hard work to disconnect theological truth from the culture of the time when it emerged, so that we can creatively offer testimony in the contemporary landscape. Along with this challenge, we also have to contend with the strong national and local (not to say tribal) feelings that are common in Orthodox communities. Folk theology, as expressed in sermons, pastoral guidance, writings, and catechesis, often fails to distinguish between truth and habit, and to discern cultural elements that have mingled with spiritual life. In such a situation secularism is automatically perceived as a threat. This helps explain the regressive views that now dominate much of contemporary Russian society—for instance, the opposition found there
to democracy and gender equality. These views are defended in the name of Christianity, which is understood as simply a bulwark of ideas, attitudes, and customs from yesteryear. At the same time, we can take certain cues from the way Christians of earlier eras accepted and made use of Greek culture and thought. In truth, the distance between Hellenism and Christianity was much larger than the one between Christianity and modernity now. Modernity has more characteristics in common with Christian theology than Hellenism did. Hellenistic thought was an immensely different universe compared to the Hebraic one; yet their convergence became reality because our Fathers were neither afraid nor prejudiced.1 To conclude, in the topic discussed here, reconciliation requires revision. The Orthodox Church is invited to revisit both her habitual assumptions (so as to distill them from their premodern context), and her theological hermeneutics when applied to contemporary culture. The church is called to criticize and condemn beliefs and attitudes that are incompatible with the Christian message, but also to identify seeds of divine revelation wherever they exist. This double task seems to me quite urgent if the Orthodox Church is to survive in the middle of so many cultural wars, let alone be of any influence as a "yeast" (Luke 13:21). REV. DR. VASILEIOS THERMOS is a psychiatrist for children and adolescents and a professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Psychology at the Ecclesiastical Academy of Athens. His books in English are published by Alexander Press and Sebastian Press. He is a priest of the Church of Greece.
1 For more on these points see Vasileios Thermos, "Orthodox Tradition and Science: Modernity As a Mediator", in Orthodox Christianity and Modern Sciences. Tensions, Ambiguities, and Potential, eds. Vasilios Makrides and Gayle Woloschak. Brepols, 2019, 67-79. 35
Orthodoxy and the E-Spirit of Radicalism by Professor SARAH RICCARDI-SWARTZ
t seems American Orthodoxy has a radicalism problem. The Church has almost always had a conservative social posture. But in our own moment, it is becoming more bent toward reactive politics and ideology, and nowhere is that more evident than on the Orthoweb. As an Orthodox Christian, anthropologist, and scholar of American religion who has studied and researched Orthodox Christianity in the U.S. for well over a decade, I can say that the turn among some laity and clergy to politicized digital discourse is changing the social ethos of our Church in ways that will have lasting impacts on the faith in the West. When criticizing the secularization of American culture, Orthodox Christians, often converts, take to social media networks to promote a moral Orthodox vision for the future. They express deep concerns over the secularization of society—concerns that are warranted, at least in part. They believe Orthodoxy, perhaps paired with certain far-right political philosophies, might be able to reclaim the
world for God. To enact this type of social change, they often seek out like-minded believers on the internet. Social solidarity, even online, can be a beneficial aspect of a shared worldview; at the same time, it can be a galvanizing force for disruption. Many on the Orthoweb see their posts as a path toward reChristianizing America; but in truth, I believe, this project does not reflect Orthodox theology or teachings, so much as it reflects the long history of the American culture wars—and by extension, the machinations of modern secularism. As Fr. Cyril Hovorun writes elsewhere in this issue, one of the main features of modernity was and is the replacement of religion with ideology. I have witnessed this turn to ideology firsthand, both in person and online. I have watched as lay people—men and women—try to use Orthodox theology in tandem with Southern Lost Cause ideology. This is happening, and I believe it is rapidly getting worse. It is disturbing to witness the hijacking of our faith, but we cannot turn away
from it. Yet to call out the replacement of religion and true spirituality with political ideology and propaganda—both online and in our parishes— we have to come to terms with the social context of why this might be happening and what it has to do with modernity. Enter the culture wars. Culture Wars In the early 1990s, the sociologist James Davidson Hunter wrote a groundbreaking book on the social culture wars in the U.S. He argued that there was a series of social issues—women’s rights, gay rights, even funding for the arts—that ultimately divided people along religious and political lines in a way that had not been seen since the Civil War. I met Hunter in 2018 at Georgetown University during a two-day intensive workshop on Russia and the Global Culture Wars. We spent much of our time discussing how the language of the 1990s culture wars had become reinvigorated and even weaponized in the 2010s, particularly around transgender rights and abortion access. To explain what might happen to the U.S. because of this social or moral divide, Hunter reminded those of us present that after he wrote Culture Wars, he published Before the Shooting Begins. Hunter was concerned that the contemporary culture wars have become more akin to a truth divide— fractures in our social reality. These fractures not only mean that families become estranged because of social moral disagreements, they also mean that, at the macro level, the binding fabric of America, that of a free democracy, is in tatters. Hunter went so far as to suggest that we might eventually see another civil war. Hunter’s concerns over the social divide are not only felt in politics or at the family dinner table; they are also felt in religious communities, even Orthodox ones. In the Orthodox online world, the culture wars are part of the discourses found on blogs, podcasts, and social media of lay people and clergy. Users assert their theological and political positions on a wide range of social issues, often forming what anthropologists call kinship bonds with followers and commenters from around the globe. United by their shared views, they invoke language reminiscent of the early 1990s, when the Moral Majority and Jerry
Falwell used inflammatory, even derogatory language for Americans who were on the other side of social issues. I have witnessed self-professed Orthodox Christians use similar language in social-media discourse to describe people with whom they disagree. Many in these digital communities say they feel alienated from what they perceive as the liberal progressivism of modernity, and they often say that by tweeting, posting on Facebook, and podcasting, they are fighting for their religious beliefs, their theological values, their Orthodox worldview. Ironically, by posting such comments online, by using the language of the culture wars, they do not spread the theology of the Church; rather, they reinforce the secular roots of the social divide, becoming complicit in the historical narrative of secularism in the U.S. After all, the culture wars are a product of secularism, the manifestation of political parties fighting each other to claim moral dominion over the other, using religion as a weapon in their respective quests. Engaging in the culture wars, particularly when using Orthodox language or theology, replaces religion with political ideology. That, it seems Fr. Cyril would argue, is an act of modernity, that “religion effectively allies with its enemy—ideology.” Ultimately, the blend of religious traditionalism and far-right politics is quintessentially a modern project founded in secularism and steeped not in theology but ideology. There are, of course, two sides to any divide, and some might say that the other side of the culture wars deserves some criticism as well. However, it seems to me that within the Church, far-right ideology poses the greatest threat to theological and social unity. Fr. Cyril has noted that we cannot allow culture-war ideology to affect the Church. I would argue that it already has affected the Church, and that we are facing a serious internal crisis. Orthodoxy is being coopted by political speech and far-right ideas, thanks in part to digital technology. Many of the faithful do not realize or take seriously the spread of culture-war ideology online. It does not seem like a real-world problem, and that is precisely why it is such a problem. It threatens not only the spiritual life of our Church but also our internal mechanisms of religious authority.
Radicalism and Internet Authority Orthodoxy is a faith built on tradition, hierarchy, and apostolic authority. These longstanding ideas seem to find appeal among many converts. At the same time, however, there are Orthodox online personalities who promote a notion I call situational authority—that is, they choose to respect or disregard the authority of hierarchs depending on the situation. This was especially noticeable at the height of the COVID pandemic. One avid Twitter user, an Orthodox layman from Southern California, explained that he no longer believed his bishop could be trusted spiritually because the bishop supported the lockdown regulations for churches. Another trend is that some online Orthodox users employ reactive, even violent, language against particular racial, ethnic, and social groups— rather than the language of salvation and love for their neighbors. It could be argued that these posters have become co-sharers in
"Many of the faithful do not realize or take seriously the spread of culture-war ideology online. It does not seem like a real-world problem, and that is precisely why it is such a problem. It threatens not only the spiritual life of our Church but also our internal mechanisms of religious authority." the production of modernity by cloaking their ideological aims in the language of theology, tradition, and the writings of esoteric monks or nuns. The question then becomes one of how to deal with the digital divisiveness. The answer, of
course, is not to ask the faithful to stay off the internet. Given our digitized world, that is not feasible. There are also certain benefits to having spaces on the internet where Orthodox folks can connect—as so many experienced during the pandemic. Nor is it the answer to ask the faithful to practice online etiquette. Pleas for online decorum are simply not enough. I would suggest the answer is to cull radicalism through proper catechetical training and a willingness, on the part of clergy and bishops, to acknowledge openly that this problem exists in our Church. Recently, I spoke with a deacon who teaches catechism for his parish. He mentioned that the first thing he does is try to weed out political ideologies posing as spirituality or theology. He exhorts seekers to stop following online spiritual guides and to instead read the Church fathers and mothers, alongside other classic theologians. At the same time, he worries it is not enough. As a researcher, I too am worried. We are seeing the language of history and tradition being used to spread political ideology into our parishes—in other words, being used as a carrier of modernity. We must not allow farright radicalism to infect our faith. Instead, we must discuss the matter openly and frankly. We must examine closely the social conflicts occurring between parishioners, among congregations, and even between jurisdictions. To do so demands that we take seriously Orthodox social-media culture wars, rather than dismiss them as digital aberrations without real-world effects. DR.
RICCARDI-SWARTZ is an assistant
professor of religion and anthropology at Northeastern University and the author of Between Heaven and
Russia: Religious Conversion and Political Apostasy in Appalachia. She is a member of the Orthodox Church in America.
A Christian Secularism by Professor ARISTOTLE PAPANIKOLAOU
he “secular” has come to mean many things. Most Orthodox speak about the secular as an aggressively antireligious attitude and space, in which religion is marginalized or privatized. Given the communist experience, the Orthodox suspicion of the secular is understandable. But this is an excessively narrow view, and to devise a genuinely Orthodox approach to civil society and democracy, we need to come to terms with secularism in all its complexity. In fact, secularism can be entirely consistent with an Orthodox Christian theological worldview. Our faith in the divine-human communion realized in Christ demands that we, as Orthodox Christians, together with other institutional churches, promote a secular space that is understood as a distinct public sphere that is pluralistic, including but limited to religious pluralism. Such a space is a “Christian secularism” because it reflects the Christian vision for the space outside the Church—the political space—and the Christian value of hospitality toward our neighbors. It is only in supporting such a vision that the mystical becomes the political.1 First, let me be clear about what is meant by “secular.” In the global popular imagination, it is usually associated with a decline or elimination of religion that is correlated with modernization and scientific advancement. For many, the word also conjures the idea that political and cultural elites are aggressively trying to eradicate religion. This particular meaning, however, was more a prediction than a way of simply describing the changes in the way religion functioned in Western society. Since the 17th century in the West, the relationship between religion, on one hand, and politics, society, and culture, on the other, has
changed considerably; and no doubt, these changes have led to decreased religious participation, particularly in western Europe, along with a weakening of the institutional churches. However, it would be wrong to say religion has gone away. Despite the efforts of certain intellectual elites, it remains a powerful political, societal, and cultural force worldwide, including western Europe. Ironically, the claim that religion is declining is now used by some religious figures as a rhetorical scare tactic to push an agenda of reintegrating certain religious values in default social mores, or in the law. There is another meaning to the word “secular,” which has to do with the privatization of religion. The idea is that for democracy to thrive, religion must be taken out of the public sphere. While the total decline of religion has turned out to be a myth, it’s true that religion has been privatized to varying degrees in different countries. The most extreme example is in France, where the privatization of religion is seen as necessary for the sake of securing freedom. The country is well known for not allowing people to publicly wear religious clothing, such as a head scarf, or even to visibly display a cross in the workplace. France, however, is an exception, as religion still plays some public role in most Western societies. In many Northern European countries, even though church attendance has diminished, the Lutheran churches still play an important social role, which most citizens support vocally and through taxation. And religion remains far more prominent in the United States, especially in politics—both in elections and in legislation on controversial issues. So, if by “secular” we mean the privatization of religion, not all Westerners
1 Aristotle Papanikolaou, The Mystical as Political (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012). 39
After Sir Christopher Wren (1920) Charles Demuth Metropolitan Museum of Art
think alike about this privatization, and it is clear that religion plays a very public role, even if it is different depending on the particular country.1 So again, if what we mean by “secular” is the privatization of religion, then the secularization of Western countries has been greatly exaggerated.2 Even so, it’s clear that religion does play a different role now than it did in premodern societies. So we might ask: In what sense have Western societies become secularized? In premodern societies, religion was what we may call “the all-encompassing reality.”3 Everyone believed in the supernatural; it was a given, a default belief, and it informed the way people thought about other aspects of society, such as politics, government, law, culture, science, and education. To not believe in the supernatural was inconceivable.4 After the Reformation, but especially after the American and French Revolutions, all these other areas of society started to separate themselves from religion. Not only was there church-state separation, but culture, economics, science, and education also started to develop independently of the churches. This separation was not only promoted by influential atheists, like Karl Marx, but was also a result of the scientific revolution, where it became clear that scientific advancement could occur independently of a religious worldview. As a result of this separation, the various parts of Western societies no longer rely on religion for their meaning. Religion has ceased to be the all-encompassing reality; there is no common theological perspective shared by everyone.5 In this condition, we start seeing a rejection of the supernatural as a given reality as unbelief becomes an option;6 an emphasis on personal autonomy; and the elevation of human rights as a way of protecting the individual from the power
of government. It is not the case that religion stops playing a role in society, nor that morality is eliminated. Religion simply takes on a different role. Another effect of these changes has been the emergence of secular pluralism. Some version of pluralism has always existed—even in premodern societies and empires. Secular pluralism, however, means that no one can be designated a second-class
"What the Orthodox should really focus on, and should be discussing more often, is whether we can accept what I would call a Christian secularism." citizen in a society as a result of who they are, in the way that Orthodox Christians were once second-class citizens under the Ottomans, or Jews were secondclass citizens under the Byzantine empire. It means the civil acceptance of various faith traditions, ethnicities, and lifestyle choices (to use a contemporary term), in a way that never existed in premodern societies and empires. We might think of it as a form of mutual generosity and accommodation. Even though many Orthodox like to criticize the West for promoting a social vision of pervasive atheism and immorality, that kind of secular society rarely exists anywhere in the world. In fact, the clearest example we have of an atheistic, anti-religious society was former Sovietstyle communism, which often contrasted itself against the “religious West.”
1 See Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (Princeton University Press, 2015), 26. José Casanova, “The Secular, Secularizations, Secularisms,” eds. Craig Calhoun, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jonathan van Antwerpen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 2 Even the one-time adherents of the privatization thesis have changed their minds. See, John Rawls, Theory of Justice, 2nd edition (Belknap Press, 1999) and Political Liberalism, expanded edition (Columbia University Press, 2005). See also Jürgen Habermas, “Religion in the Public Sphere,” European Journal of Philosophy 14:1 (2006): 1-25. For a recent Rawlsian rendition of liberal democracy that includes a public role for religion, see Cécile Laborde, Liberalism’s Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017). 3 José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World, 15. 4 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 3. 5 Jeffrey Stout, Democracy and Tradition (Princeton University Press, 2004), 11. 6 For an understanding of the secular in terms of “unbelief as an option,” see Taylor, 3. 41
One possible response to secularization is the one we have seen in those former Soviet countries. Increasingly, since the 1990s, they have swung in the far opposite direction from the statesponsored atheism of the past. They have tried to reject secularism altogether—including secularism understood as a public, pluralistic space—and to uphold Christianity as a state religion, whether official or unofficial. This approach is motivated by fear that the decline of religious participation in the West will be mirrored in these post-communist countries. In other words, these countries worry that in time, being religious will not be simply the default, and that national identity will no longer be linked to religious identity. However, imposing a state religion does not necessarily translate into a homogeneously religious society—as these countries’ experience shows. In Russia, for example, even though 90% of residents identify as Russian Orthodox, only 75% believe in God, and less than 5% attend religious services. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the pattern is similar in most historically Orthodox countries.1 History has also taught that since the shift to secularization occurred in the West, state religions—both official and unofficial—often produce resentment more than they inspire belief. In short, enshrining a state religion is not an effective long-term strategy. What the Orthodox should really focus on, and should be discussing more often, is whether we can accept what I would call a Christian secularism.2 This would mean recognizing that religion now has a different social role. It would mean making peace with pluralism. This kind of secularism does not mean denying religions a public voice; quite the opposite, it actually allows multiple religious voices to have a public hearing. If, in fact, we can imagine spaces in the world where religions play a public role, but no single religious voice or common theological perspective dominates, then we are, in fact, not living in a post-secular world, nor do I think we want to. The hard question for Christians, and especially for Orthodox Christians, is what role
religion should play in a society where it is not the all-encompassing reality, and where Orthodoxy is not the default common theological perspective of all citizens. The first and primary role that the Orthodox Church (as an institution) and Orthodox Christians (as individuals) should play in the political space is to promote and protect religious pluralism. The political space is, by nature, that space where we encounter the other—the person who does not believe what we believe. That “other” should not be coerced, either directly or indirectly, to convert to the majority religion of a particular nation. Besides this, however, there are other forms of pluralism that Orthodox churches should both accept and promote in the political space, though it does not accept them within the borders of the Church. For instance, women cannot be ordained to the ranks of clergy in the Orthodox Church, but this should not prevent the Church from promoting the full equality of women in every aspect of society within the public sphere. More examples could be given, but the underlying theme here is that we must act with discernment. It’s not that the Church cannot have a voice; rather, it has to decide what it should say in light of a commitment to a democratically free and equal public space. Put more theologically, the Church needs to discern how to act in such a way that it shapes a public sphere that is hospitable and welcoming of the stranger. It is in promoting such a pluralistic space that the Church acts most consistently with its own beliefs and values. In so doing, it supports a secular space that is also Christian. DR. ARISTOTLE PAPANIKOLAOU is a Professor of Theology and the Co-Director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, where he holds the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture. He is a parishioner at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Andover, Massachusetts.
1 https://www.pewforum.org/2014/02/10/russians-return-to-religion-but-not-to-church/ and https://www.pewforum.org/ 2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/ 2 See also, Brandon Gallaher, “A Secularism of the Royal Doors: Toward an Eastern Orthodox Christian Theology of Secularism,” in Fundamentalism or Tradition: Christianity after Secularism, eds. Aristotle Papanikolaou and George E. Demacopoulos (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019): 109-30.
Becoming Redeemers of the Time
AN INTERVIEW WITH SISTER VASSA LARIN
Conversations about secularism tend to focus on big-picture questions about history, society, and politics. But the idea of the secular also has a spiritual side. It’s connected to questions about the divide between the sacred and the profane, and about when it’s appropriate for Christians to withdraw from the world and when— and how—it’s appropriate to engage. For reflections on these questions, we spoke with Sister Vassa Larin, who is known to tens of thousands for her “Coffee with Sr. Vassa” channel on YouTube and her Patreon-supported podcast. Sr. Vassa is also a prolific scholar of liturgical studies at the University of Vienna and a prolific scholar on matters of liturgy and theology. In April, she joined editor Nick Tabor on a Zoom call from Vienna. I wanted to start by going back in history. We always say Christian monasticism began in the time of Constantine, when large numbers of people started fleeing to the Egyptian desert to engage in more intense prayer and fasting. We tend to think monasticism is about withdrawal. But does that oversimplify it? St. Basil famously established the first hospitals, near Caesarea, and more recently, St. Maria Skobtsova and Metropolitan Anthony lived as monastics in dense urban areas, heavily engaged in the lives of their cities. Could you speak to that diversity in the tradition? Well, withdrawal is a concept that you could understand in different ways—but it's really about what one's vocation exactly is. There have been, of course, throughout history, both in East and West, more contemplative monastics, and there are also 43
more contemplative laypeople. And there are vocations that are more active, or more engaged in this world, whether they're monastic or lay. It's easy to say, Oh, she's a Martha or he's a Martha or a Mary. But human beings are more complicated than questions of where they happen to be living. I think all of us will understand when you say something like, Well, I think there's a lot of the Martha and the Mary in me, or I've always sort of looked like a Martha, but I have always been thirsting to be the Mary. I mean, even the original Martha and Mary were not just Marthas and Marys. Maybe we could approach this by talking about your own model of monasticism. As most of us know, you’re a nun, but you’re also an academic living in the heart of Vienna. This doesn’t conform to the conventional picture of monasticism that a lot of people have. I can't speak to the image any of you have. You know, some people walk around with an image in their heads about what any layperson is supposed to do. If you're not married and you’re at a certain age, somebody might ask, “Is there a vocation to be single and unmarried and living not in any family?” I was raised to think you had to be
doesn’t come from other people."
Sure. And if there are different forms of monasticism in real life, and monastics have different levels of engagement with society at large, it seems like this also translates to the internet and social media. Another way that you don’t fit into the conventional boxes is that you’re a nun who is also pretty online. I’m curious about how you integrate that with your liturgical life. Obviously it’s part of your ministry. But do you have any advice for the rest of us about how to use social media without letting it seriously disrupt our spiritual practices?
either in a monastery or married. So that leaves a lot of people with no legitimate vocation. That's an important question of modern-day Orthodoxy. I understand that we have tradition, we have institutions; but we have also certain things that don't fit into the box. Sometimes we bully one another with some kind of Disneyland perception of what everybody's supposed to be doing.
Well, for me, there are ups and downs in trying to rein in, or implement, the instruments that I have for communication with others— according to the gentle discipline that is the presence of God. I have my rule of integrating the liturgical hours according to their meanings. I'm writing a book about this right now, actually: about praying the hours as a layperson. I have my own system that I use throughout the day. It's not
"Vocation liberates us from whatever battles we're having with all of that, because vocation doesn't come from us, and it
But time and again, extraordinary people, the ones we have canonized as saints, don't fit into our boxes. The greatest teacher of Hesychasm, Gregory Palamas, spent more time in cities than he ever did in any monastery, and for much of that time he was at the center of political turmoil. That is a fact of his life. He was conducting negotiations and trying to be a middleman in certain conflicts— aside from also being involved in the polemics of the day, writing against the Barlaamites and all that stuff. Gregory Palamas, in that sense, was sort of a bundle of contradictions. Was he actually a powerful example of prayer? He was! Otherwise he couldn't have testified to the life of prayer the way he did. There are many other manifestations of grace connected to his life and his person. But the point is that God challenges the stereotypes about men, about women, about vocations in general, and about the way things should be done. We see this in the life of the Theotokos as well. God does this with our vocations: he takes us out of our interdependencies, which are merely human, whether of tribe, of nationality, of gender interrelationships. Vocation liberates us from whatever battles we're having with all of that, because vocation doesn't come from us, and it doesn’t come from other people.
a matter of stopping what I'm doing and praying the hour; instead I pray the troparion of the hour wherever I happen to be and whatever I happen to be doing—whether I am taking my power walk, doing the grocery shopping, or sitting at my desk and preparing a podcast. I’m constantly integrating. I have a traditional framework of hourly prayer, and then I have my responsibilities. Sometimes they're unpredictable, and they unexpectedly come into my life. Laypeople have more of these unpredictable moments, especially people who live within families—they don't belong to themselves, or their time is less under their control. Some people have their small children jumping up and down in their beds at 7 in the morning, so that's when they get up; it's not like there's some church bell and they get up and pray. There are different vocations, and we are called to rise up to the challenge of what is known as redeeming the time, according to St. Paul. That means to buy the time back. Redimere, the Latin root of “to redeem,” literally means to buy back. So time is sort of under someone else's control. And the idea is that you pay the price and you buy back the time. The price you pay is carrying the cross, right? How do you do that? Well, acceptance of things you cannot change, the courage to change the things that you can, according to the Serenity Prayer… Sister Vassa Larin Courtesy of coffeewithsistervassa.com
“And the wisdom to know the difference.” Also known as the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer. Right. So you have to have humility, in the case of the children jumping up and down on your bed, to not to flip out, and to roll with the punches. But whatever your situation, you have to practice a certain diplomacy that is connected to everyone around you. How can you redeem all of the madness? How do you rein it in? In my specific situation, it’s about constantly opening the windows to God's grace. That's my job, and I think that's what we're here for. That's what we're supposed to be doing, becoming redeemers of the time. It’s interesting that you say that, because the word “secular” originally referred to time: to 45
chronological time, as opposed to liturgical time, or sacred time, which is cyclical instead of linear. And then it started being used to describe this general distinction between the sacred and the earthly, or the mundane, which has never been totally accepted in Christian thought. But tell us more about how you try to redeem the time on a daily basis; for instance, how do you do that when you have social media and a smartphone? Smartphones are a mixed blessing. People have different problem moments, but for me, the evenings are the most difficult. That's where there's a lot of temptation to stay up too late and to disrupt your sleep time. I like to think of it as breaking the fast. It’s a no-no. We have to respect our rest times as much as we respect our work times, just like we have to respect our eating times as much as we respect our not-eating times. We have to affirm life through our healthy choices, right? As I said, not everybody has the luxury of having control over their daily schedule, but there is still something we can do. My strategy with my cell phone is to turn it off at the same time, every evening, and then to turn it on, at the same time in the morning. My sister has a friend who's a seamstress, and we're making sleeping bags for phones, with crosses embroidered on them. I want to sell them as part of my merch. It closes with a string, and then you can recharge the phone. I thought that might be an additional kind of inspiration to put it away. It’s tricky when something's going on— say someone close to you is really ill, and you're waiting for news, or you have elderly parents who live far away. But I try to resist that pressure to be on, 24/7. I'm biologically not set up to go 24/7. I read an interesting book very recently: A HunterGatherer's Guide to the 21st Century. It argues that a lot of things about our lives now are too much for our actual physical makeup. We have to know how to turn off the lights, literally. Our bodies
work according to cycles of light and darkness. In ancient times, before electric lights, there was candlelight in the evening. But there was also ritual. Our Vespers service, in the Byzantine rite, is all about the lighting of the lamps. Candlelight is still dimmer than electric lights, and then it would be extinguished, and people would sleep. So this book was fascinating to me because of the way light and darkness are greeted and thematized in our daily liturgical services. We're enlightening everything with prayer. Transitions, with God in the picture, help us not to go insane. When life becomes “something that happens when you're not paying attention,” as John Lennon said—or at least the quote is attributed to him— this breeds fear. In the liturgical cycle, you have hourly moments, where you’re reminded, “Oh, OK. This is what this is, this is what this means, and I'm buying it back according to my faith. This is what I say it means.” Every day has meaning. That way you’re not just chaotically tossed to and fro. This prayer adventure is what keeps me sane. Speaking of John Lennon: I’ve sometimes thought that when evangelicals came up with the term “secular music,” they were actually using the term “secular” in a way that was historically correct. It’s distinct from church music, or music that’s specifically about Christian spirituality. Years ago, I had a friend who was in catechism, and we both loved The Velvet Underground. A lot of their lyrics deal with the druggy art scene of New York in the ‘60s, and my friend asked, “When is it OK to listen to something like the Velvets?” I know you’ve expressed a love for the Rolling Stones, so I wonder how you would have responded. That's a question that's impossible to answer with a blanket answer. That's like saying, how do you incorporate Netflix or YouTube? Or a museum of modern art? Or a museum of any kind of art into your life? It’s very case-by-case. You have to find the right time and the right place to enjoy something like art, or even literature. Really my answer is this: Don't lead a dualistic life. Don't put your so-called orthodoxy into one compartment, and then everything else that isn't dressed in a long black dress, donning a long beard—don’t start
thinking that everything that doesn't look like that is something else. It's impossible for you to sustain that kind of dualistic Orthodoxy. I had a video chat with Father John Behr recently, and he’s come up with this definition of church that is amazing. He said the Church is the whole of creation, seen eschatologically. That sounds a little bit too intellectual, because of the fancy word “eschatological.” But it’s just seeing all of creation, basically, as headed toward God's goal for it, which is what “eschatological” means. So whether you're enjoying a work of art, or you're reading a book that's not about Orthodoxy, or written by the Orthodox, or even if you're buying a nice dress, or in your case a suit. Fr. John’s definition certainly challenges the idea of a secular/sacred binary. We also have the examples of the Basils and the Gregorys, who went to Athens, to the center of pagan—not Christian—education, studying things from astronomy to natural sciences. They were very proud of this education; they couldn't mention it enough. They will talk about how much they learned about philosophy, pagan philosophy, and the various systems of thinking that were nonChristian. Literature, and music, and art are created by human beings. In some cases we don't know if the human being was responding, in some way, to God's call. They did have gifts, obviously, since they created something. Scripture mentions certain voices throughout salvation history who were not believers, but who had a prophetic voice. Remember when Caiaphas said, “It is better that one die for all the people, so that not all the people die”? And St. John, I believe, says, “He didn't say that of himself, but because he was the high priest that year, it was sort of given to him to say something that needed to be said—because Jesus was to die for all the people.” There are other examples in Scripture when somebody who’s not a believer plays a prophetic role. Music is a tricky thing, because some music might have associations for you. When I had only recently entered the convent, I wouldn't have listened, for example, to the music I listened to in my teens. But now it doesn't weaken me. We don't
have the same pitfalls, and the younger you are, the more you have to watch out. If I sound reckless, like “Sister listens to this and that”—well, I really would not have said that, maybe even 15 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago. I certainly wouldn’t if I were a novice. You have to be good to yourself, but also be honest with yourself, and also not be dualistic. Because the problem is not some of these great artists that actually do bring us a lot of good. Actually, the Stones are coming to Vienna, and I can’t afford the tickets, but I would definitely go if I could afford it. Even though Charlie is dead— although, of course, they'll never die. But I've never seen them live. I think they have a prophetic vocation. There's a reason why such large crowds will go to a concert of great artists, more than almost to anything else. There's a vocation that great athletes have, as well, and I don't think it’s a demonic or bad thing. I think there's a place for these things. Extraordinary talent has the touch of God. To be a genius, people who are ingenious in something, they're often absolutely un-extraordinary and underwhelming in anything else. But when they're doing what their vocation is, then we’re touched by God, when we learn from them. Well, we’re healed by them. I’d have to say that’s been my experience. So we have art. We have poetry that’s, I think— it goes beyond just, you know, your usual—which is what art does: it’s ecstatic. It stands out from our usual reality, and we have all of that in our liturgy. It’s human—it’s very human. It’s humanslash-divine, because it’s our reaching out to God in this way. So I think it’s a matter of discipline as to where are the places for it, but we don’t reject, dualistically, everything that doesn’t come directly out of our faith tradition. -Interview by Nick Tabor SR. DR. VASSA LARIN is a scholar of Orthodox liturgy and founder of Coffee with Sister Vassa. She is a nun in the Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Love Stronger than Arguments
KIND DISAGREEMENT IN THE SECULAR LANDSCAPE by Presbyter DAVID WOOTEN
ife in the secular, democratic West means pluralism. What does it mean, in a secular society, to love another person when serious disagreement -especially about deeply personal matters rooted in religious faith or other core beliefs-comes into play? When each person is (hopefully) free within the broader culture to hold to and express their sincerely held beliefs-religious or not-within society, how should that be treated when people with opposing viewpoints clash? This used to be something we spoke about (and perhaps yelled about) over the table at Thanksgiving Dinner. Political candidates. Educational standards. Foreign policy. Religion. All nearly guaranteed to ruin a family meal, unless exceptionally level heads and a good deal of familial charity prevailed. But now social media has brought us all to one big, American table, where the pluralistic chorus of voices now screams out at an intolerable level. And there has been a shift in interpersonal communication over recent years that concerns me greatly. This shift has led to posturing from both sides of the political aisle. It’s led to strangers
in the supermarket erupting in screaming matches over hats and t-shirts they see their fellow shoppers wearing (I watched this very thing happen, sadly not for the first time, just last week at an H-E-B here in San Antonio). It’s led to incredibly invasive and personal shaming campaigns that have cost people their livelihoods. This shift is one that has, in essence, one message at its heart: “Pluralism is now at a point where it is a threat to me. The very existence of opposition to my sincerely held beliefs is, itself, an attack, or a likely lead-up to an attack, on everything I hold dear.” This manic defensiveness, as I call it, leads many to believe that even love-whether familial, fraternal, or romantic-is now impossible to uphold when members of “that group,” or someone with “that opinion,” disagrees with my central tenets of living. A viral tweet from 2019, which continues making the rounds online, expresses this attitude succinctly: “Turns out my friends who love to tell me they ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ in regards to my sexuality feel very attacked when I tell them I ‘hate the belief, love the believer.’ Almost as if that phrase is just an underhanded way to tell someone you actually don’t love them.” (Cris Miller / @ StillNo_H, Sept. 18, 2019, emph. mine).
I can appreciate the author’s restraint, and the comparison to hating the creeds of religious adherents is intriguing and worth considering. But the final sentence saddens me. In my own life, I’ve developed relationships with many people who, indeed, have told me they hate the Christian faith (or theism in general). They’ve lamented the “brainwashed billions” who “waste their lives” in interminable prayers to an “imaginary Man in the sky.” They vociferously decry the “obstacle” to a thoroughly materialist existence that religious adherence continues (rightly, in my opinion), to be. They see the struggle to conform oneself to a particular ascetic ideal, however that manifests itself, as tragically limiting and antithetical to the full flowering of human experience-“a colossal waste of human potential.” And they see the efforts of parents to instill in their children a love for, and obedience to, God as tantamount to child abuse. They’ve made these comments knowing I am an Orthodox priest.
But do I take this to mean they hate me, as a person? By no means. My friends and I have done the hard work necessary to communicate, to listen, and, yes, to continue to value one another’s presence in each other’s lives. We’ve come to realize that one person’s beliefs do not require validation on the part of another, and disagreement about them does not preclude friendship and mutual respect. This kind of coexistence can be a reality, both in interpersonal relationships and political arrangements, such as the religious pluralism that once existed in places like Syria prior to current conflicts in the area.1 Pluralistic society requires us to “live and let live” in order for the center to continue to hold. For us as Orthodox Christians, this means maintaining certain, firm boundaries, so as to be faithful to Christ and His commandments, while also respecting others’ boundaries, even (and especially) in those instances in which the Church disagrees with them. A certain respect for the person in front of you is always required; after all,
1 For eye-witness accounts of this type of coexistence, though such has been sadly disrupted in recent years, see Syria Crucified by Zachary Wingerd and Brad Hoff, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2021. 49
that person is created in the image and according to the likeness of our God, and is always so much more than simply that belief or practice you don’t like. Recognizing this, I believe, is a genuine part of love, and though it is not the full scope of Christian love and communion within the Church, I pray that at least this modicum of recognition of what we know to be the image of God can be writ large over our secular society, sooner rather than later. What, then, can we do on a personal level when these thorny encounters inevitably occur? I offer below a few suggestions: 1. Do not capitulate, but do not debate. Love does not mean abandoning your own convictions when confronted with other people’s beliefs (though it often involves being able to listen to what you had not previously considered). Ask questions. See if you can hear and understand the other person’s point of view accurately, perhaps even “summing it up” afterward to see if you’ve heard them right. For the encounter to go well, that same charity needs to be extended to you in kind. But if the encounter devolves into a hopeless loop of contradiction or name calling, it’s best to “agree to disagree” and end on civil terms. 2. Be aware that hurt people, hurt people. In seminary, I was told about a monk who, before he ever responded to a question or a comment, took a breath, prayed the Jesus Prayer silently, and made the sign of the cross. We always begin our services with the petition, “in peace, let us pray to the Lord.” If we cannot engage someone in conversation while maintaining an attitude of prayer and peace, it’s usually better to come back to the topic at a later date. 3. Read the room. Some people simply do not want to converse; they just want to engage in monologues. Sometimes we have to recognize that we are that person! As I’ve said, many people are also convinced that if you disagree with them, this amounts to an expression of hate or a threat of violence. No amount of good faith on your part will convince them otherwise. Perhaps they have been hurt in the past by people of faith. Perhaps they have not yet formed trusting relationships with people who respectfully disagree with their views. If that’s the case, be sensitive to it; better not to waste your time and theirs.
We really do find ourselves in an unprecedented place in today’s pluralistic society. Orthodox Christianity stands as one voice in a great many, still proclaiming the Good News of Christ and the salvation of mankind from sin and death. We will face opposition, but let us always remember three admonitions from St. Paul: •
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” -that is to say, your neighbor himself is not your enemy-“but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). We must be constant in prayer and ready to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15, emphasis on the love). We have to strive to practice charity toward those who disagree with us: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18).
May God bless our efforts, and may the beauty of deliberate charity temper us all. REV. DAVID WOOTEN is the rector of St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church in San Antonio, Texas.
The Redemption of Evolution
MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, THE INCARNATION, AND MODERN SCIENCE
by MARK CHENOWETH
lthough some Orthodox Christians are skeptical that biological evolution is compatible with our faith tradition, evolution may actually provide us with a deeper understanding of the doctrine most at Orthodoxy’s heart: the Incarnation. When brought to bear on modern science, the thought of Maximus the Confessor offers us a dazzlingly beautiful vision of what it means for God to become a human so that all of creation might be redeemed, glorified, and deified. In what follows, we will look at how Maximus viewed the creation accounts in the first few chapters of Genesis, and how his concept of the logoi (the plural for logos, which in this context means something like a “teleological code,” or a code for the purpose of a thing) might map onto modern-day evolutionary theory. As we will see, the theory of common ancestry and Maximus’ conception of the human being as a “little universe” actually complement one another in surprising ways. We can start with Maximus’ understanding of the beginning of the cosmos. However, as with Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, what Maximus means by the “beginning” is not very straightforward. As Maximus says in at least two places in his writings,1 we can only know our beginning by “investigating” our end. As for how “literally” we should understand him, the answer is probably more literally than makes us logically
comfortable. Maximus says that the end has already “properly and truly been created.”2 This may sound puzzling, but it echoes the portion of the Divine Liturgy where we “remember…the second and glorious coming” of Christ— even though, for us, it hasn’t yet occurred. For God,
"In a sense, our true creation has yet to take place, and it is when we are divinized that we are truly created—or as Maximus dares to say, this is when we become “uncreated,” without beginning or end." in His timelessness, all these events have already occurred. This makes cause and effect much more difficult to parse out, since causes and effects don’t have to work chronologically. As patristic scholar Fr. John Behr is fond of saying, from God’s timeless perspective, the future can determine the past.
1 Amb.71.5; Ad Thal. 59.12. Unless otherwise indicated, every quotation from Maximus’ Ambigua is taken from Fr Nicholas (Maximos) Constas’s translation, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, Vol. I and II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). Similarly, every quotation from The Responses to Thalassius, is taken from Constas’s translation, St. Maximos the Confessor: On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thalassios, The Fathers of the Church 136 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2018). 2 Amb. 71.5.
This brings us to Maximus’ understanding of what is traditionally known as the fall. Could the fall, for Maximus, be caused by what hasn’t (for us) yet occurred? In one sense, yes. Fr. John, in summarizing his novel interpretation of Origen, happens to give an insightful summary of how we can understand the fall from Maximus’ point of view as well: “our beginning in this world and its time,” he writes, “can only be thought of as a falling away from that eternal and heavenly reality, to which we are called.”3 Maximus also repeats three times throughout his works that humanity’s fall from that heavenly reality took place “simultaneously with its coming into existence.”4 For Maximus, our end, or telos, is currently rejected; and time, as we now experience it, is “fallen time.” The fall, then, is humanity’s momentary glimpse, and immediate rejection, of its true creation and deification in Christ. In a sense, our true creation has yet to take place, and it is when we are divinized that we are truly created—or as Maximus dares to say, this is when we become “uncreated,” without beginning or end.5 The great Russian theologian Sergius Bulgakov brings out what is implicit in Maximus when he speaks of us giving consent to our own creation. This can only be given at our divinization, in the eschaton; but nevertheless, in God’s foreknowledge, it has already occurred. It should be clear that Maximus didn’t interpret the creation story in Genesis 1-3 in a straightforward manner, especially since an instantaneous fall (as he says, humanity “fell together with its coming into being”) is in no way compatible with Adam’s naming of all the animals, his being put to sleep, the creation of Eve from his side, and the entrance of the snake into the garden, all of which took place before the first human sin. Maximus’ non-literal interpretation is not at all surprising, given his general preference for the spiritual interpretation of scripture. For Maximus, the literal level of the texts contains “erroneous opinions,” and anyone who interprets scripture only according to “the letter” will be 3 4 5 6 7 8
Adam and Eve, Design for Stained Glass Window (1870) Sir Edward Burne–Jones Smithsonian Institution
“concerned only with the enjoyment of the flesh.”6 Similar statements are scattered throughout his writings. He also believes that certain events have been woven into accounts in scripture “that [have] no real existence whatsoever, thereby rousing our sluggish minds to an investigation of the truth.”7 Although Maximus does seem to believe Adam was a literal human being, in one of his interpretations of the fall, he nevertheless writes that “Adam” symbolizes “the common nature of human beings, and in himself, he mystically figures our nature, which slipped away from the good things of God.”8 Given that Maximus believed the allegorical or typological interpretation of scripture was legitimate, whether or not the events being allegorized happened historically, it’s reasonable to assume that he would not be opposed today to a more non-literal reading of the creation accounts in Genesis. On our proposed symbolic reading inspired by Maximus, “Adam” symbolizes, as Maximus already said, humanity as a whole and its immediate rejection of its ultimate destiny— or, put more properly, its “true beginning” in Christ.
https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/origen-and-the-eschatological-creation-of-the-cosmos/. Ad Thal. 59.12; 61.2; Amb. 42.7. Amb. 7.9; 10.42. Ad Thal. 32.3. Ad Thal. 48.11. Ad Thal. 17.5 53
Icon of St. Maximus the Confessor Jim Forest, Flickr
Such a symbolic interpretation of Adam and Eve leaves room for what most scientists tell us about the long history of the cosmos and humanity’s common ancestry with the animals (provided that certain discontinuities are maintained between ourselves and our ape-like ancestors). For example, both C.S. Lewis and Sergius Bulgakov suggested that at some point in the evolutionary process, humanity received a “spirit” which set it apart from the rest of the animals. A “Maximian” symbolic interpretation can also accommodate the substantial amount of evidence that homo sapiens most likely did not come from one human pair, but evolved as a population.9 If Adam symbolizes humanity at large, and its rejection of its final destiny in Christ, locating one individual “historical Adam” in history is no longer essential to the doctrine of the fall. Even if we can allow for a symbolic interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis, some still believe there are too many hurdles to get over for evolution to be a viable option for Christians. For example, some of us find it hard to accept that there were millions of years of animal death before humans arrived on the earth . If it was human sin that brought evil and death into the world, how is it that animals were dying for millions of years before we arrived on the scene? Maximus offers one possible explanation: that since God had foreseen humanity’s fall “in advance,” he created matter with its inherent disorder and capacity for suffering.10 Although Maximus offers this proposal as one possibility among others, given what we know today about the history of the natural world, opting for Maximus’s notion of a disordered creation in advance makes good sense. This should not be seen as a punishment, but as the creation of the only type of world that could support a fallen and mortal humanity. Even though we arrived on the earth after the animals, perhaps God had to create a world with our laws of physics so it would support a mortal and fallen humanity, not a perfected one.
Yet, another question arises: why, if God foreknew the fall, did he create a world that actually helped facilitate it? As Maximus says, humanity became obsessed with the creation rather than the creator.11 One possible answer, again, comes from looking to our deification in Christ, rather than our beginning “in Adam.” If, as I’ve said before, our true “creation” comes at the end, then perhaps God looks to our end in deification to decide how to best create a beginning that would eventually help us reach that end. If God’s providence is “perfect,” as Gregory of Nyssa says,12 or as Maximus says, God’s providence and punishments do “not fail to do what [is] required,”13 then perhaps it was only by creating the universe in the way that we find it, with all of its death and suffering, that God could eventually lead and educate the community of humans he created back to their end or true creation in Christ. Although there is no “time”
"As Maximus says, God’s 'aim was that, by experiencing pain, we might learn that we have fallen in love with what is not real, and so be taught to redirect our power to what really exists.'" involved in God’s decision making, we can crudely speak of our end in Christ being established by God first. Then, God must decide how he will providentially get us to that end. Perhaps it was only in a world of intense natural suffering, with the long and winding road of biological evolution, that God could eventually lead and educate free human beings back to Himself. As Maximus says, God’s “aim was that, by experiencing pain, we
9 https://biologos.org/series/genetics-and-the-historical-adam-responses-to-popular-arguments/articles/adam-eve-andhuman-population-genetics. 10 Amb. 8.2. 11 Ad Thal. 61.2. 12 PG 44.185. 13 Amb. 7.32 55
might learn that we have fallen in love with what is not real, and so be taught to redirect our power to what really exists.”14 But what of the randomness of evolution? Is it not a completely directionless process, incompatible with a personal God? This concern brings us to Maximus’ concept of the logoi. The logoi can be thought of as God’s “teleological codes” for everything that exists, or codes for the essence or purpose of a thing. “Before” God created the world, Maximus tells us that in God’s “mind,” “a logos preceded the creation of everything that has received its being from God.”15 We don’t need to think of this “creation” according to the logos of a thing as God’s making certain animals poof into existence out of thin air. There is no need to envision God causing full-grown zebras and lions to suddenly pop into existence on the savanna, as if they were “beamed down” from above. As Maximus says, God “continues to create all things… at the appropriate time,”16 which means God is still creating today through perfectly natural causes. What is striking about this concept is how well it seems to accord with how the findings of evolutionary science. Evolutionary biology is now full of examples of what is known as “convergence,” which is when separate evolutionary lineages arrive at the same end. In other words, different species of animals tend to evolve similar ways, according to patterns. One of the most striking examples of convergence can be seen in the separate but parallel evolution of mammals in South America and Australia. As biochemist Michael Denton points out, there is (or was, some are now extinct) an Australian version of the
In addition to these examples, the two most prevalent types of eyes in animals have evolved separately on more than 40 occasions,18 while echolocation—the animal equivalent to sonar— has evolved separately in at least four different species.19 There are many more examples of this all throughout the animal and plant kingdom. Given evolution’s surprisingly repetitive nature, it makes sense to think of a separate logos for the lion, the cat, and the wolf existing in God’s mind before they were actualized more than once through the evolutionary process. For all the talk of randomness in biology, a good deal of the evolutionary process is quite directional. It should be clear at this point that Maximus’s vision of the cosmos was not overly centered on humanity, though it is humanity that holds the logoi of all the other creatures together. As Maximus says in one of his most famous texts, Ambigum 41, the human being is a microcosm of the universe, or a little universe in and of itself. Following and expanding upon Gregory of Nyssa, and other thinkers, Maximus writes that humanity is “like a most capacious workshop containing all things,” “naturally mediating through itself all the divided extremes,” and “manifestly possessing by nature the full potential to draw all the extremes into unity.” Through this potential, he goes on,
“lion, cat, wolf, mole, anteater, jerboa, and flying squirrel. There was even a giant wombat equivalent of the placental rhino. Only the kangaroo is moderately unique, although it could be thought of as a giant jumping rat!17
“Adam,” or the first human beings, obviously failed at this task of uniting all creation— though Christ, as the perfect human being, did not. Maximus is clear that all creatures benefit from the union that Christ’s Incarnation brings about, not just human
“humanity was called to…bring to light the great mystery of the divine plan, realizing in God the union of the extremes which exist among beings, by harmoniously advancing in an ascending sequence from the proximate to the remote and from the inferior to the superior.20
14 Ibid. 15 Amb. 7.16. 16 Amb. 7.16. 17 Michael J. Denton, Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe (New York: The Free Press, 1998), 287. 18 Denis Alexander, Is There Purpose in Biology?: The Cost of Existence and the God of Love (Oxford, UK: Lion Hudson Limited, 2018), 74. 19 George McGhee, Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2011), 41-2. 20 Amb. 41.2
beings. As he says, not even “the most ignoble among beings [is] completely destitute or devoid of a natural share in the general relationship to the most honored beings.”21 It is through God’s becoming the perfect human being that all of creation is brought to unity; and from our perspective, the long, and sometimes tragic, process of evolution is healed of all its suffering and death. The majority of biologists today believe humans share a common ancestry with all life on earth, which, from a Maximian perspective, can
"Maximus is clear that all creatures benefit from the union that Christ’s Incarnation brings about, not just human beings."
“in the ‘new earth’ of the Age to come there is surely a place not only for man but for the animals: in and through man, they too will share in immortality, and so will rocks, trees and plants, fire and water.22
The Creation of Adam (c. 1511) Michelangelo Sistine Chapel
Put in Maximian terms, in the Incarnation, Christ redeems and will redeem every death, disease, and sickness that took place through the evolutionary process, so that “not even one of the logoi of creatures will be found falsified.”23 *Thanks to Fr. John Behr and the scholar Jordan Daniel Wood for their inspiration concerning the ideas of St. Maximus. MARK CHENOWETH is an adjunct instructor of theology at St. John’s University in Jamaica Estates, New York, and is writing his PhD dissertation on the eschatology of Maximus the Confessor. He is a parishioner at St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church in Jamaica Estates.
make sense: since Maximus believed the human, in a way, contained within itself the entire universe. It is because Christ, as the perfect human being, contains within Himself the history of the cosmos that He can bring it to its glorious participation in the life of God. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes in The Orthodox Way, 21 Amb. 41.10. 22 Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, Revised ed. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 136-7. 23 Ad Thal. 63.19, trans. from Ilaria Ramelli, A Larger Hope?: Universal Salvation From Christian Beginnings to Julian of Norwich (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2019), 185. 57
The Dangers of Dualism
SOURCES OF THE SELF IN VEDANTA AND CHRISTIANITY by DAVID ARMSTRONG
n 2020, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware spoke with Michael James, a practitioner of classical Hinduism, in an interview recorded for YouTube. They discussed the relationship between the Orthodox concept of theosis and the Hindu notion of jnana, which James describes as a liberating form of knowledge. In James’s subset of the Hindu tradition (Advaita Vedanta—one of the six orthodox darshanas, or philosophical schools, in classical Hinduism), the knowledge that liberates humanity is the realization that reality is “not-two”: that there is a total unity between God, world, and self. For James, the world as we know it is nothing other than the infinite God manifesting in all of these finite forms, as a kind of “play” (lila in Sanskrit). It is clear throughout the interview that Met. Kallistos appreciates the wisdom and sanctity of the Hindu tradition; but he cannot embrace this radical idea of unity. In his understanding of Christian theology, the barrier between self, world, and God never fully disappears. It’s easy to see where he’s coming from. The Byzantine Liturgy describes God as the “lover of the human being,” and this seems to imply a distinction between God and humanity. But I would suggest—with fear, trembling, and filial love for the Metropolitan— that Ware misrepresents the proper Christian view of the self. He seeks to defend the notion of a stable self, a distinct principle that can relate to God and the world as a self among other selves, both now and in the future. Yet Christian Tradition offers something better: a fluid, empty self, which can serve as an icon of the divine, precisely because it is mutable. To start with, it will be useful to chart some of the conversations around the self in the GrecoRoman philosophical tradition, which early Jews 1 Plato, Cratylus 420a. 2 e.g., Simplicius, In Phys. 145.1-146.25
and Christians relied on. The two main schools of thought come from the Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heraclitus was remembered to have said that a man could not step in the same river twice, since it would not be the same river, and it would not be the same man. “Everything goes, and nothing remains.”1 Parmenides, by contrast, reportedly said that change was impossible, since true being was not subject to growth or decay.2 For Parmenides, the true self of both river and man—what we more often think of as the “soul”—could not really change, and all appearances to the contrary were either illusory or dealt with something less than true existence. At least superficially, the distance between these positions is obvious, and to the ancients it posed a logical problem. Plato and Aristotle resolved it by saying that where Heraclitus spoke of the sensible world of phenomena, Parmenides spoke of the intelligible world of the forms. The Epicureans solved the problem by denying the immortality of the soul and the guidance of divine providence. The Stoics solved it by dividing the world into two bodies: a corporeal “spirit” (Greek: pneuma), which is divine, fiery, intelligent, and ubiquitous throughout the universe; and matter, which is passive, heavy, and mortal. For the Stoics, the individual consciousness was simply the particular dosage of “spirit” as present in the individual body. Several centuries later, the philosopher Plotinus coined the teachings that came to be known as Neoplatonism by combining all of these answers except the Epicurean. In his view, reality had three fundamental principles: the One (the metaphysically supreme God); Intellect (nous), which contemplates the One and produces the
intelligible world of the forms; and the World Soul, which animates matter with copies of what it perceives in the Intellect. For Plotinus, the individual soul is just part of the World Soul, just as the individual intellect is simply the Intellect. The philosophical quest, he said, is part of the soul’s ascent back to its true origin, and its realization of absolute unity with the One. Jewish scribes also wrestled with similar questions. For the author of Ecclesiastes, the vaporous “futility” or “vanity” of the world renders belief in a meaningful personal self—especially one that endures death—unrealistic. The author even doubts whether generational immortality through offspring provides any relief (Eccl 2:16). “All go to one place; all are from the dust, and
all turn to dust again,” the author wrote. “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?” (3:19-21).3 The scribe Ben Sirach, writing in the 2nd century BCE, agreed; he argued that the human being is a composite of elements that are separated at death, and that there is no remaining personal “self ” to enjoy an immortal afterlife (Sir 40:11).4 In the waning centuries before Christ and the first centuries of the common era, Jewish attitudes about this matter were influenced by the popular teachings from Greek philosophy. Jewish translations of Scripture into Greek made use of the Greek concept of spirit by using pneuma as a translation for the Hebrew ruach, the “breath”
Christ on the Mount of Olives (1889) Paul Gauguin
3 Ecclesiastes 3:19-21, RSV 4 These authors are writing contemporaneously with the first stirrings of belief in postmortem immortality and resurrection in Jewish settings; for more on their traditionalist answers, see C.D. Elledge, Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism, 200 BCECE 200 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 87-94.
or “wind” of God. Ambiguity in Jewish Scripture about the relationship between God’s spirit and the human spirit allowed for new understandings of the self that were more aligned the prevailing intellectual trends.5 Belief in the soul as an entity distinct from the body, which could survive in a personal form beyond death, first appears in the texts from this period, like the apocalyptic Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36, esp. 22). So also does belief in a future, eschatological reunion of soul and body, where the whole human being will be reconstituted.6 These attitudes were not universally affirmed by all early Jews, but they became increasingly popular as ways of resolving both the problem of evil and the relationship of self, world, and God. It is in this Greek-influenced setting that the teachings of Jesus, His apostles, and the authors of the New Testament should be understood. For instance, when Jesus debates with the Sadduccess about whether there is a future resurrection, their discussion actually revolves around the character of the self that will be resurrected in the future. Both agree that the self as presently constituted will be irrecoverable in the eschaton. For the Sadducees, this means the resurrection itself is impossible, but for Jesus, it simply means that what will be resurrected will be of a different quality than the present self (Matt 22:23-46; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40). Paul’s understanding of the self is also changeable. Paul measures human beings by their concentration of spirit (pneuma): some people are “spiritual,” while others are “psychics” and “sarkics” (1 Cor 2:10-13); the future body of the resurrection will not be “flesh and blood” but “spiritual,” in the sense that it will be composed of spirit (as opposed to the present body which is psychic—15:44-51). But Paul—who uses a wide number of terms to characterize the human condition, including “spirit,” “psyche,” “flesh,”
“blood,” “inner” and “outer” human, etc.—never identifies a single one with the “self,” something perennial which is identifiable with the person. For Paul, the resurrected human exists in a world where God, through Christ and the Spirit, has become “all in all” (15:28), completely filling all things with Himself as their final content. Early Church Fathers, from Sts. Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria (in the 2nd century) up to Gregory Nazianzen, Basil the Great, and Gregory Nyssen (in the 4th), would all depend on the synthetic philosophy of later Platonists as the lens through which they read these New Testament texts—and therefore as the source of their own doctrine of the self. Early Christian interpreters of the New Testament clearly articulate an unstable, dynamic, fluid self. As St. Athanasios puts it in On the Incarnation of the Word, the self and the world do not exist independently. This is why creation lapses back into nonbeing when communion with God is broken. As St. Augustine of Hippo puts it in Enchiridion XI, evil is “the absence of the good,” because God, who is the Good, is also Being itself; therefore, that which is not God does not have real existence. To put this in a positive way, to have communion with God is a means of coming to really exist. Likewise, in the Desert Fathers, key to the processes of purification and illumination is stripping away false conceptions of the self and coming to a true account of the soul. According to them, as one comes to know the full truth about the poverty of oneself as a creature, what one discovers is what Thomas Merton would later call the “still point of nothingness” at our core: where God Himself indwells us. For Nyssen, the changeable nature of the self, empty of private content apart from what is given to fill it, is the logical ground of epektasis, the “striving,” or ceaseless ascent, into the infinite God “from glory to glory.”7 Later Christian writers in East and West—John Scotus
5 This observation is still a very green field of biblical scholarship; see, among others, Carol Newsom, The Spirit Within Me: Self and Agency in Ancient Israel and Second Temple Judaism (New Haven: Yale, 2021). 6 On the development of theology on resurrection in Early Judaism and Christianity, see Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006); Levenson and Kevin J. Madigan, Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008); Outi Lehtipuu, Debates Over the Resurrection of the Dead: Constructing Early Christian Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Elledge, Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism; Thomas D. McGlothlin, Resurrection as Salvation: Development and Conflict in Pre-Nicene Paulinism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Candida Moss, Divine Bodies: Resurrecting Perfection in the New Testament and Early Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019). 7 Gregory, Vit Moys II; Cant 6; 8; An et res, PG 46, 105); for precedent see Origen, De Principiis 2.11.
Eriugena, Meister Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa, and the Russian sophiologists Vladimir Solovyov, Pavel Florensky, and Sergius Bulgakov—would all come to different forms of the same conclusion: namely, that God includes, though He transcends, both world and self. Christians are therefore not very far from the Advaitin doctrine that the self is infinite, and therefore identical with both world and God, or with the Buddhist doctrine of “no-self ”—that is, the denial of a perennially stable self which underlies the succession of our mental and physical experiences. True, Christians remain beholden to a future personal immortality for the individual being in the glorified body of the resurrection, while Advaita does not clearly teach a single postmortem future for the liberated. Buddhism’s concept of liberation as “extinction” (nirvana) of the causes of suffering, while it is not annihilation, does however represent the end of what most of us would recognize as “personal” existence. But despite these differences in emphasis, Christian Tradition agrees with Advaita that God is the source of existence and awareness for all beings, and therefore that the idea of an absolute separation between God, world, and self is nothing other than an illusion arising from ignorance of the truth. And with Buddhism, Christian Tradition concurs that much of what we conventionally call the “self ” is really a misidentification, that all such misidentifications are impermanent, not constitutive of either the soul’s endurance beyond death or of the future resurrection. The self ’s fluidity and emptiness is exactly the possibility, in Christian hope, of theosis: the possibility of deification through our ever-greater unification with God—which God, from His own vantage, has always eternally known and willed. If we understand this, it can free us from the suffering that is intrinsic to the transient world, which, as South Asian religions are so good at observing, seems to be filled with cycle of gain, loss, and sorrow. It also gives Christians— particularly Christians whose theological heritage is closer in culture and thought to Central, South, and East Asia—a seat at the table with Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains in talking about the primary spiritual goal of moksa, or “liberation.” Christians can acknowledge just as readily as
Advaitins or Buddhists that prosperity and pleasure do not satisfy our deepest spiritual longings for transcendence. But it must be admitted that modern Christians, especially in the West, are generally reluctant to embrace this kind of nondualism. It seems too dangerous, foreign, and exotic, and destabilizes our larger religious, cultural, and political assumptions of individuality and separation. Ware’s hesitance, then, to affirm a simple nondualism makes sense, but the conversation should not end there. In our context, where traditional forms of religion are breaking down all over, in part because they seem intellectually untenable to many postmodern people, a compelling vision of God will have to be one that speaks to the deepest felt anxiety that our modern concept of the changeless self engenders: that however substantial we are, we are no less alone. Ware perhaps underestimates the damage that dualistic thinking can do to us, of the gulf that it can open up between us and ourselves and other people, between us and the world, and finally between us and God, fixed and so great that none may pass it (Lk 16:26). DAVID ARMSTRONG writes the Substack newsletter A Perennial Digression and runs the YouTube channel of the same name.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann LIBERAL OR CONSERVATIVE?
by STEPHEN ROBERTS
“Christianity is freedom from conservatism and from revolution. Hence a “rightist” Christian is as frightening as a “leftist” one, and I know why I sway to the left when dealing with the rightists and to the right when I am dealing with leftists.”1 - Fr. Alexander Schmemann I remember first reading through the writings of Fr. Alexander Schmemann toward the end of college. Schmemann was presented to me, by my priest at the time, as someone who critiqued traditionalism and fundamentalism and was essentially a “liberal,” with all the theological and political tendencies that term implied. I was surprised at this, since I had known about Schmemann growing up, and had known many “conservatives” who loved and revered him. After actually reading his work, in particular his journals, I found a lot to back up the description of Schmemann as a “liberal,” but I also found much that made him a “conservative” by today's standards, and much more that did not fit into“conservative” and “liberal” categories. He himself wrote in a 1973 journal entry that “he could not accept either position, neither Right nor Left.”2 How do we then make sense of his views? How did he bypass this divide? The main reason Schmemann doesn't fit in either camp is that his concern was largely to bring about more awareness of the Liturgy, and especially the Eucharist, as the breaking-in of the Kingdom of God at the center of the Christian’s life. In Schmemann’s era, the norm was infrequent communion, music that obscured the text of the Liturgy, and a lack of participation in the services by the laity. There was also a spirit of individualism that dominated sacramental life, where baptism and the Eucharist were seen primarily as matters of an individual’s personal piety rather than as community endeavors. Schmemann, throughout his career, railed against these trends.
Issues of liturgical reform and lay participation were part of the zeitgeist raised by the “liberals” of Schmemann’s time, especially among Roman Catholics and Protestants, and so it can be tempting to see his work as simply a reflection of his era. However, Schmemann consciously distanced himself from the radical liturgical reformers of his day, who were often interested in making the Liturgy “relevant,” with measures such as writing new liturgies and anaphoras to fit contemporary trends. In contrast to this, Schmemann was more interested in giving access to what was already there within the services, which was either obscured by language or seen as exclusively belonging to the clergy. Seen in this way, his revival was very “conservative,” given that it wasn’t adding anything “new,” but was rather a return to the true purpose of the Liturgy, as a source of encounter and change for all people. Much more revival than change. This model poses a timely challenge to both liberals and conservatives. Looking to his example, “conservatives” in our parishes may have to learn that some of their most beloved customs are not entirely consistent with the theology of the church, and may be merely historical accumulation or even a deviation from the authentic Tradition of the Church. Another takeaway is that as Christians, we have to be involved in contemporary discussions, much like Schmemann was with regard to liturgical reform. Liberals, meanwhile, who have a natural desire to see elements of the Church change and evolve, sometimes need a reminder that any changes should only be done on the basis of our Tradition. Schmemann also cuts through the liberal and conservative divide in the social and political realms. He grounds his views in an understanding of the world as a place where the Kingdom of God, or God’s presence, is constantly being encountered.
1 Alexander Schmemann, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983 (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000), 99. 2 Schmemann, 215.
On this basis, he firmly rejects secularism, which he defines as a way of dividing the world into the “sacred” and “profane” categories which essentially deny the saving work of the Incarnation as the joining of the divine and human. In one entry, Schmemann wrote that he was “infuriated” by the “huge bankruptcy of the ‘Right.” He faulted the political right for its attachment to consumerism and capitalism, which were responsible, he thought, for the “stifling boredom” and moral “baseness” of the modern world.3 What, after all, is more at odds with Christianity than unfettered capitalism, or the notion that life and society should be directed primarily towards material gain? This is the exact opposite of the Gospel, which reminds us that “life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” (Luke 12:23) Yet for many “conservatives,” Christianity and consumerism are seen as compatible and mutually enhancing. Another critique of right-wing Christianity is seen in Schmemann’s criticism of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who he described as childish, oversimplified, and a nationalist. Schmemann also observed that Solzhenitsyn was obsessed with Russia, and that this undergirded his entire worldview. His own views were much different. “Russia could disappear, die,” he wrote, “and nothing would change in my fundamental vision of the world.”4 What would Schmemann say to today’s Christian nationalists? There is certainly a place for loving one’s country and desiring that just laws prevail, but are we holding up American conservatism as our fundamental worldview, or do we base our love for our country on our faith in Christ? Further, with many conservatives, there is a tendency to live in the past and to harbor disdain for contemporary society. For Schmemann, by contrast, Christ died for the life of the world— for this world, with TikTok and iPhones and Starbucks—and our goal as Christians is to find Christ within all of this in some way. Schmemann makes similar critiques of the left. He states that American liberals often have a “cheap self-identification with suffering people” and a “cheap cult” of “the Indians, of any
minority.”5 We can imagine here many liberals who post on social media about their concern for the marginalized, but have never actually volunteered time or donated money to those suffering. There is a tendency too, for some liberals, to be concerned only with an abstract “humanity,” or a “poor” who are always “somewhere out there.” And much like “conservatives,” living in a future which is never quite here, which is never concrete. While not denying the value of societal reform or action, Schmemann places primary importance on the individual person, the person who comes to us in each moment of the day. This is the person we may not like, who seems to be in our way, and may be on the opposite side of the political spectrum, who we are called to love. Schmemann prioritizes selfcriticism and openness to new ideas. He would have us recognize that there may be aspects of the “right” that are accurate and aspects of the “left” that go too far. He’d have us keep the authentic Gospel always in our sight. For us today then, an insight into how to heal our growing divisions can be found in Schmemann’s theology. What if, instead of using labels like “liberal” and “conservative,” when we may have no idea what they actually even mean, we spoke about all things in reference to Christ and His Kingdom, and allowed others to label us as either liberals or conservatives? What if we learned to listen, even to that person who we think is absolutely wrong, and had enough humility to be open to the world around us? What if we deepened our faith through reading Scripture and the Fathers, and attending services, rather than parroting phrases given to us by conservative talk radio or Twitter? Maybe this is idealistic and overly ambitious, but it is what our broken world needs. STEVEN ROBERTS is a recent graduate of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He is a youth director at St. Justin Martyr Orthodox Church in Jacksonville, Florida.
3 Schmemann, 49, 70. 4 Schmemann, 61. 5 Schmemann, 113. 63
Motherhood and Kenosis ON THE LIMITS OF SELF-SACRIFICE
by ANASTASIA FARISON
he transition into motherhood is a momentous shift for any woman. It’s a universal, yet completely personal, transformation, and one that demands universal, yet completely personal, attempts to remain whole. Personally, as a young mother, I struggle most with the allconsuming nature of life with little ones. Every moment of every day belongs to them, is full of them—not only with their needs and desires, but with cries and laughs and pounding of tiny feet. A ten-minute activity brings a hundred interruptions. I’m not sure I’ve had a coherent train of thought in months. I miss silence and focus more than anything—but quiet moments with children in the house are enjoyed at one’s peril! Balancing the reality of continual parenting with the necessities of housework, cooking, relationships, and a spiritual life seems close to a recipe for catastrophic failure, and yet I am constantly being told to savor the beauty of these fleeting moments.
Despite all this, I know myself well enough to be grateful for, and somewhat in awe of, the salvation being worked upon me. Motherhood subjects me to a perfect obedience that I could never have achieved through my own paltry will. Sheer necessity, the clear grace of God, and the hormones ruling my nervous system have all brought me to a place of blessed self-forgetfulness that my painfully self-conscious soul desperately needed. I am beginning to feel and understand for the first time how true obedience might bring true freedom. However, I also recognize (in my more lucid moments) how easy it is to fall prey to that idea of selfsacrifice. Obviously, it’s impossible to always remain grateful for salvation. Salvation in my life these days mostly looks like explosive diapers, projectile vomit, and constant tiny voices singing, crying, asking asking asking. Because this way of life is all-consuming, one of the easiest ways to cope is to simply
Mother and child (Moeder en kind) (1929) Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita The Rijksmuseum
abandon ourselves to the role of motherhood. We subconsciously conclude that to hope for anything else is to be disappointed, and the energy and planning it takes to find a break from the children never seem worth it. We might as well resign ourselves to the necessities of life, give up that shower or the book we thought we might read over nap time, and resolve to make our lives entirely sacrificial. We are walking in the footsteps of the Theotokos, after all. This, we assume, is what salvation requires. As heroic as that sounds in theory, I have realized that this kind of self-abandonment is not the path to Christ. I have not found peace in my sacrifice: I "obey" in a spirit of hopelessness, feeling ever more burdened rather than ever more free. I become lost in the Sisyphean nature of both housework and parenting, and by the end of the day, I don’t feel that I exist to anyone except my husband—sometimes not even to him. The resentment that follows, toward anyone who is not suffering as much as I am,” clearly negates any possibility of salvation through the experience. Sometimes I can’t even practice compassion toward mothers who have fewer children, even though I clearly remember struggling in their shoes. There are more and more conversations happening within the community of mothers to address issues like these. There is a push to enumerate the infinite mental tasks and the vast emotional burden placed on a mother, with the desire for others to understand and honor her work. There is also the push to encourage mothers themselves to practice "self-care," as part of the effort to not lose ourselves entirely in the struggle. However, “self-care” is often just language we use to let mothers attend to their own basic needs without guilt, which is an absurdly low bar. When I snatch five minutes to shower for the first time in five days, I am in no way attaining personhood—I am merely relieved that I “feel human” again. This is the absolute bare minimum for survival, let alone to fill myself with the love and grace I need to raise my children! Even activities that seem frivolous (as if frivolity were not an acceptable source of joy) often only help me attain that minimum: driving into town by myself to get a coffee or sitting in the bath for half an hour are just excuses to give
my body and mind the chance to rest from their usual hectic pace. I’m pretty sure that my toddler having to ask my husband for snacks once in a while is a necessary part of life, and not some sort of extraordinary circumstance. So, how do we kenotically pour ourselves out without emptying ourselves, in a way that is both fulfilling and salvific? Especially as an Orthodox Christian, I struggle daily with this question. We are called to die to ourselves, of course—to sacrifice, to be changed utterly. But I would argue that we are also called to participate in the Resurrection. For mothers, this does not necessitate a total erasure of the people we were before, but a transformation. Motherhood will certainly be our first and foremost role for many years, but it will not be our primary role forever, and it prevents us from participating fully in our many other relationships with our friends, family, or spouses. In Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis points out that we cannot pursue a meaningful relationship with God until we can meet Him face to face: that is, “till we [ourselves] have faces.” That feeling of ceasing to exist amid the all-consuming work of motherhood makes it difficult to respond to text messages, or to interact with my husband as anything other than a ‘chore machine,’ and definitely means any prayers I may remember to say are purely rote, often prompted only by the guilty feeling that I should be teaching my children to pray. I am not even sure that this kind of “work” put into parenting is the kind that results in meaningful relationships with my children. I am coming to believe that what is needed in order to perfect our individual motherhoods are precisely the interests that marked us as individuals prior to having children. If we took pride in being writers, athletes, cooks—that is the work that can still rejuvenate us, even as mothers. I know women who will spend every possible moment across three different naptimes writing a blog post, or finishing a workout, or cooking a five-course meal. Those pursuits are chores for me, and if I spend a day doing too many of them I will be grumpier than ever by the end of it; but if I spend a day reading a new book and ignoring the children while they trash the house, I will emerge cheerfully able to handle the chaos. Sometimes it can take more emotional work to allow ourselves
Maternal Caress (1891) Mary Cassatt The National Gallery of Art
those "luxuries," and it is certainly more work to make space for them consistently. But if we as mothers allow ourselves (without guilt) to do the things that truly matter to us, that make us Persons, we will be able to do our work without bitterness, and sacrifice greatly without resentment. We will finally be able to encourage other mothers with true empathy and to keep our friends and husbands close. Sacrifice alone is not enough to attain salvation, unless it is accompanied by our true and joyful participation in that sacrifice, in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. We must do whatever it takes to accomplish this in our hearts, even if it means being "bad housekeepers." We will be better mothers for it, even if–especially if !–it keeps us from catering to our children all day long. Of course, knowing what is necessary is different from accomplishing it. It’s taken me a lot of grey days to reach these conclusions, and a lot more to figure out what I, personally, truly need. The main enemies are usually guilt and my own good intentions: I, as I think most mothers do, maintain a constant internal dialogue about how I "should" be parenting and spending my time, and I’m remarkably good at overestimating my own capacity. But I think the effort is necessary. Even the small successes can make my days significantly happier. The only other option seems to be “wait it out–it gets easier”; but waiting—how many years? two? ten?—only consigns the present moment to despair. If I can spend any portion of these frantic years living, instead of surviving, perhaps I will occasionally meet Christ face-to-face–in my children, in my family, and as Hopkins had it, “in the features of men’s faces.” ANASTASIA FARISON is a homemaker and Hillsdale College alumna. She is a parishioner at Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Albion, Michigan.
by Deacon NICHOLAS DENYSENKO
Fresco of the Baptism of Christ Svyato-Vvedensky Island Monastery, Russia
ne of the highlights of the winter feasts in Orthodoxy is the blessing of waters on Theophany. Distinct from Epiphany in the Western Christian tradition, Theophany is an invitation to participate in Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. This ancient Christian tradition is all about receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus is among those who responds to the call of John the Baptist and goes to the Jordan to receive a Baptism for the remission of sins (Mk. 1:9). Jesus’ baptism is, of course, extraordinary. The Church uses language of awe and wonder at the paradox of the Creator of all receiving baptism from the hand of one of His created children. The baptism of Christ is a celebration of the renewal of humankind, the restoration of the image of God in all who partake of the blessed waters. Those who receive the water, partake of it, and anoint themselves with it have the image of God renewed in them. This mighty 68
act of God performed for us—now as then—is a source of marvel and thanksgiving. It is also not the end, but the beginning of a ministry, and appointment to be the body of Christ. The biblical narrative of Jesus’ baptism does not end with the hearer marveling at God’s condescension, awesome as it is. The evangelists tell us that the One whom the Holy Spirit revealed as the Son of God is then led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Mk. 1:12), where He fasts for forty days and overcomes the temptation of the evil one. Naturally, our own participation in Christ’s baptism leads us to follow the Spirit into our own wilderness. The Spirit’s descent upon us capacitates us to withdraw into the wilderness where we converse with God in prayer and learn how to renounce evil and refrain from partaking of its vices. This process of rehearsal—dependence upon God, renouncing evil, and refraining from partaking of its vices—is a central dimension
Theophany’s Mandate THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST, PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT, AND CONTEMPORARY ORTHODOX MISSION of Christian living. No Christian ever perfects this art—one seeks to make it part of one’s habit through constant rehearsal, out of love and thanksgiving for God. Certainly, prayer, fasting, and the renunciation of evil sound quite familiar to us, as does the metaphor of sojourning in the wilderness. It sounds like Lent, when we quiet the soul by slowing down, praying more often, living more simply, and refraining from sin. One challenge posed to us concerns the notion of withdrawal. A particular spiritual school would appeal to Christians to remain withdrawn from the world, reducing exposure to temptation and preventing distraction from the quietness of soul necessary for prayer. Another school of thought would send Christians into the world, to partake of the sacrament of the brother and sister, and in so doing, to love God. The evangelists tell us that this is not an either/or scenario. Jesus does not remain in the wilderness, but goes into the villages, and encounters the people in their homes, and in public spaces. Jesus teaches His disciples and then sends them into the villages to announce the coming of God’s kingdom and to restore the people from the afflictions of life and death: healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead (Mt. 10:1). Jesus’ own example illustrates a pattern of withdrawal for vigilant prayer followed by going out among the people, teaching and praying in the synagogues, and conversing with lawyers, teachers,
scribes, and Pharisees in public spaces. Jesus invites His disciples to join Him in vigilant, ceaseless prayer, modeling for them the necessity of withdrawal, and the equal necessity of providing God’s ministry to the people (Mt. 6:6). The pattern of the Lord’s ministry, and of apostolic ministry by definition, includes both withdrawal and direct engagement with the people, regardless of the severity of their sins or hypocrisy. The apostolic ministry does not include a renunciation of public engagement — it depends on the recurring pattern of withdrawal for intense prayer and vigil. To put it simply, one must be in constant dialogue with God to be God’s body when witnessing to His kingdom in the public sphere. The pattern can include one additional step: rejection by the public. One does not abandon the cross of rejection while representing God in the public sphere. The Christian community is to see this ministry through to its end, even if it is inglorious (Mt. 10:22). Receiving that anointing at
"To put it simply, one must be in constant dialogue with God to be God’s body when witnessing to His kingdom in the public sphere." Baptism and renewing it every year) on Theophany require the disciple to be willing to carry the cross without abandoning the ministry of preaching, healing, renouncing evil, and raising the dead.
The Incarnation feasts, and Theophany in particular, then, establish this pattern of appointment, intense vigil and prayer, and ministry to and with the public. A reader might ask what, if anything, is new here? The pattern of anointing and apostolic ministry provides an opportunity for self-reflection on the mission of the Church in the 21st century. The culture of contemporary North America is evolving rapidly. Demographic shifts represent the mobility of the workforce. People born and raised in a native parish often leave their hometown and are unlikely to return. They may move several times in their lives without establishing roots in a particular parish. Parishes with legacies of multiple generations can no longer depend on family members remaining in the Church. We are also familiar with the phenomenon of “nones and dones.” Some of the baptized leave the Church and do not return. Others remain on the periphery of the Church, but participate only rarely. As Orthodoxy began to adopt English for the liturgy in the mid-to-late 20th century, some people raised in other Churches became Orthodox. Initially, most of those converts were introduced to the Church through marriage, but now many others have become Orthodox on their own. In the same general period, Orthodoxy tended to define itself through comparison to other Christian Churches. We explain who we are by pointing out similarities and differences with other Christian communities. There is no doubt that the North American Orthodox Church appealed to disaffected Christians of other Churches through a confessional model. In our parishes, seekers have found elements of the Christian Tradition that seem to be missing elsewhere, such as icons, ornate liturgical rituals, and the high Christology of Greek patristic thought. Presently, people looking for a church are less interested in confessional comparisons. Today’s seekers remain interested in the fundamentals that have always attracted non-Christians, especially a strong Biblical tradition. More than anything else, seekers are looking for a sense of belonging to a community, a church that values service and fellowship as much as articles of faith. The desire for community is particularly needful during this age of political and cultural polarization and the isolation caused by the pandemic.
The pattern of Jesus’ ministry of vigorous engagement complemented by withdrawal functions as an essential instrument of the Church’s mission toolbox for the 21st century. The Orthodox Church that adopts this pattern remains committed to the practices of vigil, prayer, and occasional withdrawal for intimate time with God. The Church does not remain withdrawn, however. Just as the Spirit led Jesus out of the wilderness and into the villages and cities—to be among the people—the Spirit leads us into our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to be among all of the people. The Spirit leads us to interact with people who differ from us culturally, politically, and religiously, just as the Spirit led Jesus to harlots, tax collectors, lawyers, and people who were not of the house of Israel. The mission is to be God’s body to whomever God sends us, and not only when we are within the safe haven of our parish buildings. The mission is to be a good neighbor and citizen by limitless serving of those in need—even if they never express interest in becoming Orthodox or coming for Divine Liturgy. The mission is to engage everyone with the patience and longsuffering of Christ, even if we suffer as a result of the encounters. After they were anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit, Christ and the apostles ministered to all. They remained themselves throughout their service. This is what it means to be anointed and sent, just as Jesus was anointed and sent. The Theophany feast, then, confirms the deep reverence the Church has for the practices of withdrawal, vigil, prayer, and engagement of the people. The challenges posed to Orthodox Christians today are daunting. The message from God has not changed—follow the Spirit into the wilderness to be nourished by God, and then go into the world to be God’s body. REV. DR. DEACON NICHOLAS DENYSENKO is the Emil & Elfriede Jochum University Chair and professor of theology at Valparaiso University. He is a deacon in the Diocese of the Midwest.
Vodokreschenie in Kaliningrad Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
CHEMOTHERAPY IN NOVEMBER
by Erik Osterberg Snow is falling into open water, hushing the harsher world of cancer wards, of fluorescent lights and cheery Christmas tunes played in waiting rooms where even children wait their turn. The ducks that lately groomed near shore have flown away. What birds remain are mute as clouds. The cottonwoods rest after rioting for weeks. The lake is still, still composing its November face for the freeze to come. The snow keeps falling into open water, disappears into its dull, gray surface without trace, as if the sky were whispering a prayer too cold and frail for any soul to bear.
Ice Floes (1893) Claude Monet Biodiversity Museum
by Erik Osterberg What startles is vast quiet quieting thoughts to only now. Following my breath to the warming house, old dull-bladed skates hanging from my neck, I cross angled beams of street lights lit by snow. Out of the hush, children’s cries; a puck knocks against a board. Only now. And here I am as I am lost in the night sky face up and falling into stars of flakes, eyelashes holding (with such a light touch) every crystal like a holy relic for as long as Ifor as long as I can keep from blinking.
ERIK OSTERBERG is a tonsured reader and chanter at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Color Me! jacob's well
2022 Diocesan Graduates High School
Krzysztof Antoporowicz, parishioner at Cathedral of the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord in Brooklyn, NY, graduated from New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math High School. He will attend Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in Biology.
of the National Art Honor Society, and served President of the Art Club. He was awarded the Fludzinski Foundation Scholarship, Toni Stabile Scholarship, “Best Friend of the Seeing Eye” award, and received Honorable Mention in the Scholastic Art & Writing Scholarship.
Isaac Davis, parishioner at St. Simon of Cyrene Mission in New Brunswick, NJ, graduated from Franklin High School in Somerset, NJ. He will attend The Citadel having received a scholarship, majoring in Biology. Isaac served as a Reader at St Simon's for the past three years and was a member of Franklin High School's JROTC and its Raiders team.
Alexander Bohensky, parishioner at
Holy Trinity Church in Randolph, NJ, graduated from Oratory Prep in Summit, NJ. He will attend Rowan University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Studio Art. Alex received St. Philip Neri and High Honor Roll, was a member
Gregory Enfield, parishioner at Christ
the Savior Church in Ballston Lake, NY, graduated from Shenendehowa Central School. He will attend Hudson Valley Community College, majoring in Computer Science. 75
Luke Henderson, parishioner at SS.
Feliciano, parishioner at Christ the Saviour Church in Paramus, NJ, graduated from Fair Lawn High School. He will attend Stevens Institute of Technology, majoring in Business. Sebastian served on the Student Council, and was a member of the National Honor Society and Social Studies Honor Society.
Niko Fox, parishioner at Holy Trinity
Church in Randolph, NJ, graduated from Randolph High School. He will be pursuing work and trades education with the intention of becoming an Electrician. Niko lettered all four years as a member of the high school Swim Team, two years on the Crew Team, and one year on the Track Team.
Peter and Paul Church in Syracuse, NY, graduated from Jamesville DeWitt High School. He will attend Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Luke has taken a strenuous course load of honors and AP courses, and was inducted into National Honor Society. He was named All Empire Division Salt City Athletic Conference Honorable Mention for Boys Swimming and Diving, and his team went undefeated his senior year and became the Section III Class A champions. He has been awarded a Presidential Scholarship and Alumni Referral Award at RIT this fall.
Paul Holowatch, parishioner at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Endicott, NY, graduated from Maine-Endwell High School. He will be pursuing work after graduation, and has an interest in Heavy Equipment.
Elianna Geertgens, parishioner at St.
Innocent of Alaska Mission in Oneonta, NY, graduated from Chase Academy. She will be pursuing future studies in Ultrasonography with the intention of owning a crisis pregnancy center to end the horrors of abortion.
Nicholas Hook, parishioner at Christ the
Saviour Church in Paramus, NJ, graduated from Fair Lawn High School. He will attend New York University Shanghai, majoring in Physics and Computer Science. Nicholas was an active member of the National Honor, Music Honor, and Chinese Honor Societies and is on course to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. He is looking forward to studying internationally and becoming proficient in the Chinese and Japanese languages.
Hannah Kitson, parishioner at Cathedral
Zackary Morgan, parishioner at Holy
of the Holy Virgin Protection in New York, NY, graduated from Bard High School Early College Queens. She will attend SUNY Binghamton, majoring in Psychology.
Trinity Church in Randolph, NJ, graduated from Jefferson High School. He will attend County College of Morris, majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology.
Daniel Lamlamay, parishioner at Holy
Sofia O’Malley, parishioner at Holy Trinity
Spirit Church in Wantage, NJ, graduated from Walkill Valley Regional High School. He will attend Sussex County Community College, majoring in Business. Daniel was the captain of Walkill’s Varsity Baseball team, and will go on to play baseball with the Sussex County Skylanders at SCCC. He spends the off season working and coaching younger baseball players.
Church in Randolph, NJ, graduated from Manhattan Village Academy. She will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, majoring in Environmental Engineering. Sofia was a flutist in Advanced Band, and a member of the Architecture Club and Model United Nations.
parishioner at Holy Resurrection Church in Wayne, NJ, graduated from Hendrick Hudson High School. She will attend The Ohio State University, majoring in Nursing. Rachel graduated with a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. She was a member of the chorus, as well as the Partners Program, volunteering to assist senior citizens with their daily needs. Rachel lettered in soccer (Team Captain) and lacrosse, and is currently working towards obtaining her EMT certification. Rachel
Sophia Medina, parishioner at Church of
the Annunciation in Brick, NJ, graduated from Red Bank Catholic High School. She will attend University of Scranton, majoring in Nursing. Sophia played Varsity Tennis for four years and was a senior captain, and was active in the performing arts, specifically dance and theater. She received the Spanish 3 award for having the highest grade in the classes, Academic Excellence for Honor Roll, and was the first student to receive the James J. Scarpone, Sr Memorial Scholarship.
in the Marching Band and Jazz Band. He sings in SS. Peter and Paul’s church choir, and was selected for the Central Jersey Music Educators Association Choir. Todd was recognized as an AP Capstone Scholar and was a member of both the Varsity Cross Country Team and Varsity Spring Track & Field Team for four years. Rachel Peregrim, parishioner at St. Basil
Church in Watervliet, NY, graduated from Shaker High School. She will attend Binghamton University, majoring in Chemistry (pre-med). Rachel was a hardworking AP student and is very much looking forward to college and beyond. Her goal is to become an anesthesiologist.
Peterson, parishioner at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Manville, NJ, graduated from Manville High School. He will attend Rutgers University School of Business, majoring in Business Analytics and Information Technology. David was a member of the National Honor Society (served as Vice-President his senior year), was recognized as an AP Capstone Scholar, and was Class Officer (Treasurer) for two years. He was a member of both the Varsity Track & Field Team and Varsity Wrestling Team for four years, and served as the Wrestling Team Captain his senior year. David was also elected Homecoming King and "Mr. Manville”.
parishioner at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Manville, NJ, graduated from Manville High School. He will attend Rutgers Honor College, majoring in Astrophysics and Russian. Todd was a member of the National Honor Society (served as President in his senior year), the Slavic Honor Society, the Forensics and Debate team, and played Todd
Eva Reduto, parishioner at Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, NY, graduated from Edgemont Junior-Senior High School in Scarsdale, NY. She will attend the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, having received the Chancellor's Award Scholarship, and will major in Early Childhood Education. Eva volunteered as a Sunday-school assistant teacher at Holy Trinity, and was a member of the awardwinning Edgemont Vocal Jazz Chamber Choir.
Sophia Refinski, parishioner at Christ the
Saviour Church in Paramus, NJ, graduated from Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, NJ. She will attend Quinnipiac University, having received the Quinnipiac University Trustee Merit Scholarship and the President’s Volunteer Service Gold Award, and will major in Nursing.
majoring in Aerospace Engineering to pursue a career in rocket science. Peter hopes to be a participant in the future of space travel.
Santangelo, parishioner at Holy Resurrection Church in Wayne, NJ, graduated from Suffern High School. He will attend the University of Scranton, majoring in Business.
Seraphim Schafranek, parishioner at
St. Gregory Palamas Church in Glen Gardner, NJ, graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School. He will attend Rutgers University, majoring in Business. Seraphim was a member of the National Honor Society, Soccer Team, volunteered at the local food pantry, and has been a counselor-in-training at an Orthodox summer sleepaway camp.
parishioner at St. John the Theologian Church in Shirley, NY, graduated from Rocky Point High School. He will attend Suffolk County Community College, majoring in Cybersecurity. Despite challenges and irregularities due to virtual learning and a part-time job, Matthew achieved High Honor Roll throughout high school, participated in school clubs, and had his graphic design artwork selected for the annual district art show.
Maxim Williams, parishioner at Cathedral
of the Holy Virgin Protection in New York, NY, graduated from Westhill High School in Stamford, CT. He will attend Purdue University, majoring in Cybersecurity.
Ulrich, parishioner at Holy Resurrection Church in Wayne, NJ, graduated from Cedar Grove High School. He will attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida,
parishioner at St. Gregory the Theologian Church in Wappingers Falls, NY, graduated Summa John
Cum Laude from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering. He is a RIT Outstanding Scholar and member of Tau Beta Pi. After graduation, John will work at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, NY.
parishioner at Church of the Holy Transfiguration in Pearl River, NY, graduated from Baruch College with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communications and Minors in Economics and Marketing. He was recognized on the Dean's List, obtained his Eagle Scout award, and will be entering the United States Coast Guard. Matthew
Aidan Hintermaier, parishioner at Holy
Transfiguration Chapel in Princeton, NJ, graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has been active at his home parish of St. Innocent Orthodox Church in Macon, Georgia and his college parish, the Chapel of the Transfiguration, where he was tonsured a Reader by Archbishop +Michael. Aidan will enter a Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering program at Lehigh University in July. He was State OCF coordinator.
Johnson, parishioner at St. Nicholas Church in Auburn, NY, graduated with Honors from the University of Dallas – Braniff School with a Master of Humanities in Classical Education.
Krawczuk, parishioner at Cathedral of the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord in Brooklyn, NY, graduated from Emory University with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience & Behavior Biology and Minor in Anthropology. Barbara believes that the human brain is a wonder, would like to study it more and, with God's help, find a cure to help people with illnesses troubling them.
Michael Fedorko, parishioner at Holy
Spirit Church in Wantage, NJ, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Rutgers University-Newark with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Minor in Sociology. He was inducted into the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, Alpha Phi Sigma, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA with the highest honors. Michael was on the Dean's List every semester, and plans to attend law school.
Caleb Larkin, parishioner at Holy Trinity
Church in Randolph, NJ, graduated from County College of Morris with an jacob's well
Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering. He was recognized on the Honor Roll and received a Certificate for Assembly and Testing in Electrical Engineering. Caleb plans to land a full-time job in the field to start his career.
Eva Naumiuk, parishioner at SS. Peter
and Paul Church in South River, NJ, graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts.
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Nathanael Mengistle, parishioner at Holy Transfiguration Chapel in Princeton, NJ, graduated from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Originally from Ethiopia, Nathanael hopes to enter a career at the intersection of medicine and health policy. Recently named a Sachs Scholar at Oxford's Worcester College, he will be pursuing separate master's degrees in International Health and Tropical Medicine as well as Public Policy. He plans on going to medical school after completing his studies in the UK.
Marta Anna Pawluczuk_2.jpg
parishioner at Cathedral of the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord in Brooklyn, NY, graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Minors in Global Health & Health Policy. Marta
Larisa Paxton, parishioner at Church
Lauren Mosser, parishioner at Church of
the Holy Cross in Medford, NJ, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education and Special Education. She served as President of the Collegiate Panhellenic Council and Secretary of her sorority, and was on the Dean's List all four years.
of the Annunciation in Brick, NJ, graduated from Rowan University with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science and Minor in Environmental Science. Larisa was a member of Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority and the Biology Club. She conducted research at Cooper University Medical Center and earned her degree in three years. She will be continuing her studies as a Graduate Student this Fall at Rowan University College of Earth and Environmental Science in Urban Planning and Environmental Sustainability. She is working as an Environmental Scientist while studying as a Graduate Student.
Nicholas Romanofsky, parishioner at SS.
Peter and Paul Church in South River, NJ, graduated from Rowan University with a Bachelor of Science in History and Minor in International Studies. He received a Certificate in Creative Writing, and was a member of the History Club and Chess Club.
He came to Princeton and successfully completed his PhD in mathematics, specializing in low-dimensional topology. Starting next Fall, he will be a postdoc in the math department at UCLA.
Paul Vichiconti, parishioner at Holy Jaclyn Santangelo, parishioner at Holy Resurrection Church in Wayne, NJ, graduated from University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She was a member and Vice President (Pledge Mom) for Kappa Delta Sorority. She was also a member of the Order of Omega and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Societies. In the Fall, Jaclyn will begin her career at Pricewaterhouse Coopers in the Financial Services Audit Department.
parishioner at St. Nicholas Church in Auburn, NY, graduated from Upstate Medical University with a MD in Medicine and Surgery. Katie will be starting a residency in Radiation Oncology at Upstate Medical University in July.
Konstantinos Varvarezos, parishioner at
Holy Transfiguration Chapel in Princeton, NJ, graduated Princeton University with a PhD in Mathematics. Dr. Konstantinos grew up in Houston, TX, and studied math at Rice University as an undergrad. jacob's well
Resurrection Church in Wayne, NJ, graduated from Montclair State University with two Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degrees in Classics and Latin, with Minors in Ancient Greek and Russian, for which he received several academic awards and scholarships. His goal is to teach Latin in the New Jersey Public School System while pursuing a Master of Arts (MA) Degree.
Evan Yasuk, parishioner at SS. Peter and
Paul Church in South River, NJ, graduated from Rowan University with a Bachelor of Arts in Computing.