Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy in Different Lands’ Category


Written by Fr. John Palmer

According to the renowned Patrologist Fr Theodoros Zisis, Orthodox theology teaches that, “…[t]wo phases, two economies are readily distinguished within the mystery of man’s salvation and renewal: the economy of the Son, and the economy of the Holy Spirit.”[1]  Vladimir Lossky fills out this assertion for us, stating that, “The redeeming work of the Son is related to our nature.  The deifying work of the Holy Spirit concerns our persons.  But the two are inseparable.  One is unthinkable without the other.”[2]  In other words, Christ renews human nature through his Incarnation and the Holy Spirit then applies this renewed nature to individual persons by various appointed means in order that they might be united to God, becoming partakers of the divine nature, and saved.  From an Orthodox perspective, then, both economies – that of the Son and that of the Holy Spirit – are equally important and integral to the mystery of salvation, with Pentecost serving as the ‘Metropolis of Feasts’ wherein the salvific mystery is perfected.

In contrast, Frankish theology (the foundation of Roman Catholicism and Western theology in general) develops a one-sided understanding of the mystery of salvation as a result of its emphatic focus on redemption.  Here salvation is largely reduced to a legal drama, Lossky writes, “…played between God, who is infinitely offended, and man, who is unable to satisfy the impossible demands of vindictive justice.  This drama finds its resolution in the death of Christ, the Son of God who has become man in order to substitute himself for us and pay our debt to divine justice.”   Within the context of this drama, the Holy Spirit largely vanishes and consequently the feast of Pentecost fades into the background, at least soteriologically speaking.[3]

The groundwork for this aberration was laid by the adoption of the filioque heresy and the novel Trinitarian theology that arose from it.  The Holy Fathers derided the filioque not only because of its addition to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed when every addition to said Creed was prohibited by the Ecumenical Councils, but because it introduced an inequality among the Divine Persons wherein the Holy Spirit ranked last.  For example, in his Mystagogy, St Photios the Great writes that,

“…if, according to their babble, the Spirit proceeds also from the Son, then the Spirit is differentiated from the Father by more properties than the Son.  Both issue forth from the Father, and even if one issues forth by begetting and the other by procession, nonetheless, one of two modes equally separates them from the hypostasis of the Father; but here the Spirit is differentiated by a second distinction arising from the dual procession.  If more distinctions differentiate the Spirit from the Father than differentiate the Son from the Father, then the Son would be nearer to the Father’s essence, and the Spirit, equal in honour, will be blasphemed as being inferior to the Son…”.[4]

This leads Lossky to conclude rightly that if Frankish theology, “… could stop at the redeeming work of Christ…it was precisely because [by this] time the West had already lost the true idea of the Person of the Holy Spirit, relegating him to a secondary position by making him into a kind of lieutenant to the Son.”[5]  Similarly, Zisis writes, “First the filioque was introduced into the Symbol of Faith and made into a dogma, initially with serious protest coming from certain of the Popes, resulting in a diminution of the Holy Spirit…”[6]

As we have asserted in previous posts, Ælfric of Enysham (+1051) finds himself caught in the middle of the West’s transition from one point to the other, and his Sermones Catholici help us plot the particular path taken by England as it left behind the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and Orthodox Faith.

Though his life and activities pre-date the Norman Conquest of 1066 – the date typically assigned to England’s apostasy – England was already experiencing a cultural captivity during Ælfric’s time.  The heavy Norman influence characteristic of the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) caused England to gradually forfeit its Orthodox theological heritage in favour of those Frankish theological ideals embraced by the Normans.  Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the Sermones Catholici show Ælfric to be a firm devotee of the filioque (though he never expounds it in a polemic manner, suggesting that he simply received it from his teachers and was unaware of its controversial nature).  For example, in his homily On the Beginning of Creation he writes:

Ðeos þrynnys is án God; þæt is se Fæder and his wisdom of him sylfum æfre acenned; and heora begra willa, þæt is se Halga Gast: he nis na acenned, ac he gæð of þam Fæder and of þam Suna gelice. This Trinity is one God, that is, the Father, and his Wisdom, of himself ever produced; and the Will of them both, that is, the Holy Ghost: he is not born, but he goeth alike from the Father and from the Son.

Moreover, in his sermon Of the Catholic Faith, he offers the following exposition of the dogma of the Holy Trinity which concludes asserting the filioque:

Soðlice se Fæder, and se Sunu, and se Halga Gast, habbað áne Godcundnysse, and án gecynd, and án weorc. Ne worhte se Fæder nán ðing ne ne wyrcð, butan ðam Suna, oððe butan þam Halgan Gaste. Ne heora nán ne wyrcð nán ðing butan oðrum; ac him eallum is án weorc, and án rǽd, and án willa. Æfre wæs se Fæder, and æfre wæs se Sunu, and æfre wæs se Halga Gast án Ælmihtig God. Se is Fæder, seðe nis naðer ne geboren ne gesceapen fram nanum oðrum. Se is Fæder geháten, forðan ðe he hæfð Sunu, ðone ðe he of him sylfum gestrynde, butan ælcre meder. Se Fæder is God of nanum Gode. Se Sunu is God of ðam Fæder Gode. Se Halga Gast is God forðstæppende of ðam Fæder and of ðam Suna. Verily the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, have one Godhead, and one nature, and one work. The Father created nothing nor creates, without the Son, or without the Holy Ghost. Nor does one of them anything without the others; but they have all one work, and one counsel, and one will. The Father was ever, and the Son was ever, and the Holy Ghost was ever One Almighty God. He is the Father, who was neither born of nor created by any other. He is called Father, because he has a Son, whom he begot of himself, without any mother. The Father is God of no God. The Son is God of God the Father. The Holy Ghost is God proceeding from the Father and from the Son.

However, while the Abbot of Enysham receives and indeed clearly teaches the filioque, he yet manages to remain aloof from its implications.  In an impressively Orthodox manner he expresses the economy of the Holy Spirit as this pertains to salvation, and clearly presents salvation as deification, and what is more he does this in his sermon, On the Holy Day of Pentecost.  In a passage where he describes the importance of the feast (and ironically again affirms the filioque) he writes:

Þyses dæges wurðmynt is to mærsigenne, forðan ðe se Ælmihtiga God, þæt is se Halga Gast, gemedemode hine sylfne þæt he wolde manna bearn on ðisre tide geneosian. On Cristes acennednysse wearð se Ælmihtiga Godes Sunu to menniscum men gedon, and on ðisum dæge wurdon geleaffulle men godas, swa swa Crist cwæð, “Ic cwæð, Ge sind godas, and ge ealle sind bearn þæs Hehstan.” Þa gecorenan sind Godes bearn, and eac godas, na gecyndelice, ac ðurh gife þæs Halgan Gastes. An God is gecyndelice on ðrim hadum, Fæder, and his Sunu, þæt is his Wisdom, and se Halga Gast, seðe is heora begra Lufu and Willa. Heora gecynd is untodæledlic, æfre wunigende on anre Godcundnysse. Se ylca cwæð þeah-hwæðere be his gecorenum, “Ge sint godas.” Þurh Cristes menniscnysse wurdon menn alysede fram deofles ðeowte, and ðurh to-cyme þæs Halgan Gastes, mennisce men wurdon gedone to godum. Crist underfeng menniscnysse on his to-cyme, and men underfengon God þurh neosunge þæs Halgan Gastes. The dignity of this day is to be celebrated, because Almighty God, that is the Holy Ghost, himself vouchsafed to visit the children of men at this time. At the birth of Christ the Almighty Son of God became human man, and on this day believing men became gods, as Christ said; “I said, Ye are gods, and ye are all children of the Highest.” The chosen are children of God, and also gods, not naturally, but through grace of the Holy Ghost. One God is naturally in three persons, the Father, and his Son, that is, his Wisdom, and the Holy Ghost, who is the Love and Will of them both. Their nature is indivisible, ever existing in one Godhead. The same has, nevertheless, said of his chosen, “Ye are gods.” Through Christ’s humanity men were redeemed from the thraldom of the devil, and through the coming of the Holy Ghost human men were made gods. Christ received human nature at his advent, and men received God through visitation of the Holy Ghost.

[1] Επόμενοι τος Θείοις Πατράσι· ρχές καί κρίτήρια τς Πατερικς Θεολογίας (Thessaloniki: 1997), 173.

[2] ‘Redemption and Deification’ in In the Image and Likeness of God (Oxford: 1974), 109.

[3] ‘Redemption and Deification’ in In the Image and Likeness of God (Oxford: 1974), 99.

[4] On the Mystagogy of  the Holy Spirit (New York: 1983), 84.

[5] ‘Redemption and Deification’ in In the Image and Likeness of God (Oxford: 1974), 103.

[6] Επόμενοι τος Θείοις Πατράσι· ρχές καί κρίτήρια τς Πατερικς Θεολογίας (Thessaloniki: 1997), 180.


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(Written by Fr. John Palmer)

Continuing my reading of Ælfric of Eynsham’s Sermones Catholici, perhaps the most prominent collection of vernacular homilies belonging to the Anglo-Saxon period, I have stumbled across an interesting, spiritually-beneficial observation in his interpretation of the Parable of the Good Shepherd (Homily XVII, On the Second Sunday after Easter, pp. 239-245).  Admittedly, I have not undertaken much source analysis of this text.  It is thus quite possible (even probable) that Ælfric has lifted the position in question directly from the works of someone like St Gergory the Dialogos or Blessed Augustine, since he makes frequent use of these.  He only cites his sources, however, when the work of a particular ecclesiastical writer or Father forms the base of the largest part of his sermon or homily.  A cursory scan of the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici database would seem to suggest its provenance in Blessed Augustine’s Tractates on the Gospel of John.

As he often does, Ælfric begins this particular homily by translating into Old English the gospel passage just previously read in Latin within the context of the Liturgy:

Dixit Iesus discipulis suis, Ego sum pastor bonus: et reliqua.  Þis godspel, þe nú geræd wæs, cwyð, þæt se Hælend cwæde be him sylfum, “Ic eom gód hyrde…” Dixit Jesus discipulis suis, Ego sum pastor bonus: et reliqua.  This gospel, which has now been read, says, that Jesus said of himself, “I am the good shepherd…”


The Good Shepherd, then, is Christ himself.  However, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul are also good shepherds, he says, only:


“…ac heora gódnys wæs of ðam heafde, þæt is Crist, ðe is heora heafod, and hí sind his lima.” “… their goodness was of the head, which is Christ, who is their head, and they are his limbs.


Consequently, the successors of the apostles, the bishops and priest of the Church, are called to be good shepherds of the spiritual flock in the same manner.  And in what way is their ‘goodness’ manifested?  Particularly in their shielding the flock from the attacks of wolves.  The first wolf is the devil and his machinations, which are fended off by two means:  sound doctrine and prayer.


“Mid lare he sceal him tæcan, þæt hi cunnon hwæt deofol tæchð mannum to forwyrde, and hwæt God bebýt to gehealdenne, for begeate þæs ecan lifes. He sceal him fore-gebiddan, þæt God gehealde þa strángan, and gehæle ða untruman. Se bið to strángum geteald, seþe wiðstent deofles lare; se bið untrum, seðe on leahtrum fylð.” “With doctrine he shall teach them, that they may know what the devil teaches for men’s perdition, and what God commands to be observed for the attainment of everlasting life. He shall pray for them, that God may preserve the strong and heal the weak. He is to be accounted strong who withstands the precepts of the devil; he is weak who falls into sins.”


The second wolf who stalks the spiritual life are unrighteous secular powers:


“Wulf bið eac se unrihtwisa rica, ðe bereafað þa cristenan, and ða eadmodan mid his riccetere ofsitt” “The unrighteous powerful man also is a wolf, who robs christians, and oppresses the humble with his power.”


Here the Abbot of Eynsham is most certainly speaking of early medieval lords who mistreat their subjects, unfairly punishing them and exacting crippling taxes.  His words also apply to our own times, though, where unrighteous authorities in many liberal democracies are enacting policies which aim at the persecution of simple, faithful Christians, and are using their position of power to ‘oppress the humble’ under the weight of a constant barrage of worldly, impious ideals.


Faced with these two wolves, the unworthy shepherd – the hireling – will flee, but,


” Ne flyhð he na mid lichaman, ac mid mode. He flyhð, forðan þe hé geseh unrihtwisnysse and suwade.” “He flees not with body, but with mind. He flees because he saw iniquity and held silence.”


And what particular characteristic corrupts a shepherd and leaves him a hireling who flees at the moment he is most needed?  Worldliness.  He flees, Ælfric says, “…because he considers worldly advantages.” It is worldliness which will cause the shepherd to see adultery, covetousness, pride, anger, division, and remain silent, being blind to the spiritual damage they cause.  Moreover, it is worldliness which will cause him to be concerned for his own station, to worry about how the powerful of this world view him, leading him to abandon his flock when worldly authorities mistreat or mislead them.


It is one of Ælfric’s concluding thoughts which I found particularly insightful and equally important to both clergy and laity:


Ge sceolon beon geornfulle to eower agenre ðearfe, þeah hit swa getimige þæt se láreow gimeleas beo, and doð swa swa Crist tæhte, “Gif se láreow wel tǽce and yfele bysnige, doð swa swa he tæcð, and na be ðam þe hé bysnað.” Se Hælend cwæð be him, “Ic eom gód hyrde, and ic oncnawe mine scép, and hí oncnawað me.” Þæt is, ic lufige hí, and hí lufiað me. Ye should be zealous for your own need, though it so happen that the teacher be heedless, and do as Christ taught, “If the teacher teach well, and give evil example, do as he teacheth, and not according to his example.” Jesus says of himself, “I am a good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and they know me.” That is, I love them, and they love me.


“I know my sheep,” the Good Shepherd says, “and they know me.”  Ælfric interprets this line as highlighting the direct relationship between the individual Christian and ‘the Good Shepherd’, Christ himself.  It is the goal of the individual Christian to know, to be united to Christ, and it is the central task of the clergy to facilitate the establishment of this relationship.  Should a bishop or priest prove a hireling, however, this no excuse for the individual to turn away from Christ.  He is bound directly to Christ by ties of love and thus duty-bound to persevere and labour in faith within the Church: “Ye should be zealous for your own need, though it so happen that the teacher be heedless.”


Moreover, this passage also serves as a reminder for those clergy struggling to fulfill their vocation conscientiously that the faithful bear final responsibility for pursuing a relationship with Christ.  “I know my sheep,” the Good Shepherd says, “and they know me.”  The bishop or priest can teach the flock about temptation, sin, confession, fasting, the prayer rule, but he cannot live the spiritual life for those committed to his charge.  Such a realization should help him to fend off despondency and resist the temptation to ‘micromanage’ lives, attempting without discretion to force a relationship with the Eternal Bridegroom.

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Today is the feast of Sts. Perpetua, Felicity, and their companions.

Their story is one close to my heart. St. Perpetua wrote the account of her and her companions’ baptism and subsequent imprisonment. She was one of  the earliest female writers whose writings have survived until today.

Below is a historical fiction novella I wrote, using Perpetua’s own account as the foundation. In modern language it opens the door to St. Perpetua’s experiences; it invites the reader to feel the saint’s anxiety, her anticipation, her zeal and her commitment to die for Christ rather than live by denying Him.

by Constantina R. Palmer

Print$6.95 + sh&h (USD) / $7.95 + sh&h (CAD)
E-book$2.99 (USD)

Target Audience: Ages 12+


      In the African provinces of the Roman Empire conversion to the Christian faith is punishable by death. But this does not stop Perpetua and her companions from seeking entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven–even if living for Christ means having to die for Him.

      Out of the African Lands is a historical fiction novelette and chronicles the arrest, imprisonment, and death of Perpetua and her five companions Felicity, Saturus, Saturnius, Revocatus, and Secundulus. Receiving freedom from their sins through baptism while imprisoned, the martyrs shine with the light of Christ, instructing us in word and deed how a person not only lives as a Christian but dies as one.
Purchase your copy HERE. Read an excerpt HERE.

Also, here is n excerpt from their Akathist hymn:

When the Lord deemed it fitting He called His saints out of the African lands: holy Perpetua, Felicity, Saturus, Saturnius, Revocatus and Secundulus, to witness to their faith through suffering death. Thus, we have as an inheritance the flourishing tree of Orthodoxy, for they shed their blood, watering the seedling. Wherefore we cry aloud:

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity, and your companions

As a catechumen, O holy Perpetua, thou wast taken captive and while in prison thy father besought thee to denounce Christ. But boldly thou didst proclaim that thou couldst be called by no other name but Christian. Wherefore we marvel at thy conviction and cry out to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou who art a shining example for all catechumens

Rejoice, thou who chose the heavenly over thine earthly father

Rejoice, thou who refused to be called anything other than a Christian

Rejoice, being freed from the bondage of sin through baptism while yet in prison

Rejoice, for being informed by the Spirit thou prayed only for endurance of the flesh

Rejoice, Married Matron mother of a son

Rejoice, thou who wast tempted by womanly anxiety for thy suckling child

Rejoice, thou who wast ministered to by the holy deacons Tertius and Pomponius

Rejoice, thou who didst commend thy son to the care of thy mother

Rejoice, thou who didst comfort thy brother, a catechumen in the faith

Rejoice, thou who didst look upon the dungeon as a palace

Rejoice, Bold One asking the Lord whether thou wouldst die a martyr’s death

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Beholding a heavenly vision, holy Perpetua wast informed of her martyrdom. She was found worthy to see with spiritual eyes the contest of salvation. And looking upon the bronze ladder she didst see holy Saturus going up ahead of her, calling after her to follow. Wherefore we call to her:



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Great Vespers and Paraclesis to the Theotokos in the Domestic Chapel, December 27

Merry Christmas!

It seems every time the end of the year rolls around I post an update about our life and mission here on the island of Newfoundland. I’m posting once again as I wanted to keep this tradition alive – after all, we are Orthodox Christians who love and honour Tradition :).

20171228_145033We have now lived in St. John’s for four years. In fact, we’ve celebrated five Christmases here. We celebrated six in Greece; I can’t believe that we’ve lived here almost as long as we lived in Greece.

[For those interested, updates from previous years can be read herehere, and here.]

If you were to ask me how life is as a missionary I would answer honestly: “Man, it’s hard.” While I firmly believe attempting to spread Orthodoxy anywhere in this day and age would be met with innumerable challenges, being 1,500 kilometers from the nearest Orthodox church makes the natural isolation of mission work feel a tad bit more acute. After all, there is a 10-12 hour boat ride from where we live just to get to the Canadian mainland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But, to be honest, it’s not the isolation that is the hardest element of mission work in Newfoundland. It’s our times. Few are interested in a faith built on a model of a self-sacrificial God. Our times are fraught with ego-centricism and the selfish, materialistic mindset of our times poisons the human heart and makes it difficult for people to be attracted to a way of life which values and cultivates self-discipline and humility. And yet, while few, there are still individuals being drawn to the truth of our faith. We had one adult baptism last September and another this past August.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn addition to daily services of Matins and Vespers, Fr. John began to offer the Service of Supplications (Paraclesis) after Vespers every Wednesday evening in the domestic chapel. A senior priest had suggested this to him as he found people would attend Supplication services for their various needs. We rotate between the Paraclesis to the Theotokos and the Paraclesis to St. Nektarios Wonderworker of Pentapolis (the patron of the domestic chapel). The uptake has been inspiring. Attending a service specifically designed for us to lay our pain, passions, and yearnings before God and His saints and seek healing, consolation and spiritual encouragement obviously resonates with the human soul. We have also taken this opportunity to pray for a solution to our need for a permanent worship space.

P1010308.JPGWe are going through a difficult transitional period right now with our temporary chapel situation. And as it looks now like things are only going to get more “tangly” (as they say here in Newfoundland) in the near future. But we’re trying to place our trust in Christ.


Fr. John and I with Pres. Catherine

Despite the ups I find I focus far too much on the downs. This is a struggle for me. Once when I was lamenting the hardships of mission work in Newfoundland my spiritual father told me to think of St. Gregory of Neocaesarea. There were only seventeen Christians in the city of Neocaesarea when St. Gregory was first appointed bishop over the flock there. Through his holy life, his God-inspired preaching and his grace-filled miracles by the time St. Gregory reposed only seventeen pagans remained in the city. His life is a reminder that by working on one’s own spiritual life we can affect change and spread the Gospel even when it feels impossible.

As we close out 2017 we keep struggling to “set a safe course”:

Those who put out to sea at first sail with a favorable wind; then the sails spread, but later the wind becomes adverse. Then the ship is tossed by the waves and is no longer controlled by the rudder. But when in a little while there is calm, and the tempest dies down, then the ship sails on again. So it is with us, when we are driven by the spirits who are against us; we hold to the cross as our sail and so we can set a safe course.

–St. Syncklektiki


We had my brother, Fr. Matthew, and sister-in-law, Pres. Catherine, visit us over Christmas

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(This post is written by Fr. John Palmer)

My studies in homilietics have taken me to some unexpected, yet rather interesting places.  Of late I have found myself reading mostly about pre-Norman Britain, and particularly about a significant Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical writer named Ælfric of Eynsham (955-1010).  Ælfric is perhaps best known for having produced two Latin series of sermons – the Sermones Catholici – which he later translated into Old English, intending them to be used by priests as an aid in homily preparation, or in some cases even read aloud by unlearned priests at liturgy over the course of a two-ecclesiastical-year cycle.  He writes:

“[I]t occurred to my mind, I trust through God’s grace, that I would turn this book from the Latin language into the English tongue, not from confidence of great learning, but because I have seen and heard of much error in many English books, which unlearned men, through their simplicity, have esteemed as great wisdom…” (Ælfric, Sermones Catholici I, [Preface], 3).

There are some beautiful expositions of the Scriptures and explanations of Feast of the Church contained in these sermons.  There is a particularly nice section wherein he comments on the quality of the Protomartyr Stephen’s prayer and its role in the conversion of the Holy Apostle Paul, and I thought this section to be worthy of sharing today, St Stephen’s feast.  Below I will post the original Old English text (I find it impossible to penetrate if read silently in my head, but somewhat more intelligible if read out loud) next to the Modern English translation:

Understandað nu, mine gebroðra, þa micclan lufe þæs eadigan weres. On deaðe hé wæs gesett, and ðeah he bæd mid soðre lufe for his cwelleras; and betwux ðæra stana hryre, ðaða gehwá mihte his leofostan frynd forgytan, ða betæhte hé his fynd Gode, þus cweðende, “Drihten, ne sete þu ðas dæda him to synne.” Swiðor he besorgade þa heora synna þonne his agene wunda; swiðor heora arleasnysse þonne his sylfes deað; and rihtlice swiðor, forðan ðe heora arleasnysse fyligde se eca deað, and þæt ece líf fyligde his deaðe. Saulus heold ðæra leasra gewitena reaf, and heora mod to þære stæninge geornlice tihte. Stephanus soðlice gebigedum cneowum Drihten bæd þæt hé Saulum alysde. Wearð ða Stephanes bén fram Gode gehyred, and Saulus wearð alysed. Se árfæsta wæs gehyred, and se arleasa wearð gerihtwisod.

On ðyssere dæde is geswutelod hu micclum fremige þære soðan lufe gebed. Witodlice næfde Godes gelaðung Paulum to lareowe, gif se halga martyr Stephanus swa ne bæde. Efne nú Paulus blissað mid Stephane on heofenan rice; mid Stephane hé bricð Cristes beorhtnysse, and mid him hé rixað. Þider ðe Stephanus forestóp, mid Saules stanum oftorfod, ðider folgode Paulus gefultumod þurh Stephanes gebedu. Þær nis Paulus gescynd þurh Stephanes slege, ac Stephanus gladað on Paules gefærrædene; forðan þe seo soðe lufu on heora ægðrum blissað. Seo soðe lufu oferwann ðæra Iudeiscra reðnysse on Stephane, and seo ylce lufu oferwreah synna micelnysse on Paule, and heo on heora ægðrum samod geearnode heofenan rice. Eornostlice seo soðe lufu is wylspring and ordfruma ealra godnyssa and æðele trumnys, and se weg þe lǽt to heofonum. Se ðe færð on soðre lufe ne mæg hé dwelian, ne forhtian: heo gewissað, and gescylt, and gelæt. Þurh þa soðan lufe wæs þes halga martyr swa gebyld þæt he bealdlice ðæra Iudeiscra ungeleaffulnysse ðreade, and he órsorh betwux ðam greatum hagolstanum þurhwunode; and he for ðam stænendum welwillende gebæd, and þær to-eacan ða heofenlican healle cucu and gewuldorbeagod inn-ferde.


Mine gebroðra, uton geefenlæcan be sumum dæle swa miccles lareowes geleafan, and swa mæres cyðeres lufe. Uton lufian ure gebroðra on Godes gelaðunge mid swilcum mode swa swa ðes cyðere þa lufode his fynd.

Understand now, my brethren, the great love of this blessed man [namely, of St. Stephen]. He was placed in death, and yet he prayed with true love for his slayers; and amid the falling of the stones, when any one might forget his dearest friends, he commended his foes to God, thus saying, “Lord, place thou not these deeds to them as sin.” He was more afflicted on account of their sins than of his own wounds, more for their wickedness than his own death; and rightly more, seeing that eternal death followed their wickedness, and eternal life followed his death. Saul held the garments of the false witnesses, and zealously instigated their minds to the stoning. But Stephen with bended knees besought the Lord that he would redeem Saul. Stephen’s prayer was heard, and Saul was redeemed. The pious one was heard, and the impious justified.

By this deed is shown how greatly avails the prayer of true love. Verily the church of God would not have had Paul as a teacher, if the holy martyr Stephen had not thus prayed. Behold, Paul now rejoices with Stephen in the kingdom of heaven; with Stephen he enjoys the brightness of Christ, and with him he rules. Whither Stephen preceded, stoned with the stones of Saul, thither Paul followed, aided by the prayers of Stephen. Paul is not there defiled through Stephen’s murder, but Stephen rejoices in the fellowship of Paul, because true love rejoices in them both. True love overcame the cruelty of the Jews to Stephen, and the same love covered over the greatness of his sins in Paul, and it in both of them together earned the kingdom of heaven. Verily true love is the fountain and origin of all goodness, and noble fortitude, and the way that leads to heaven. He who journeys in true love cannot err nor fear: it directs, and shields, and leads. Through true love was the holy martyr rendered so courageous that he boldly reproved the disbelief of the Jews, and he continued tranquil amid the great stones, and benevolently prayed for the stoners, and, in addition thereto, entered the heavenly hall living, and crowned with glory.




My brethren, let us in some degree imitate so great a teacher’s faith, and so great a martyr’s love. Let us love our brothers in God’s church with such affection as that with which this martyr loved his foes.  (Ælfric, Sermones Catholici I, ‘The Passion of Blessed Stephen, Protomartyr, 51-53).


Beyond this specific passage, Ælfric proves an interesting figure to Orthodox Christians for at least a couple of more general reasons.  First, his works (along with that handful of other vernacular collections of homilies belonging to late Anglo-Saxon England), show us one local Orthodox church’s approach to linguistic adaptation and vernacularization.  Today, many are inclined to consider linguistic adaptation a sort of ‘all or nothing’: vernacularization ought to occur instantaneously and unilaterally or it means that there is something dramatically wrong in the Church.  In Anglo-Saxon England, however, where Orthodox Christianity dated back to Apostolic times, we encounter an alternative model, a sort of middle road, which endured for a significant period of time.  All services were conducted in Latin rather than the vernacular English, but by Ælfric’s homilies we are shown that preaching could often be in English.  Perhaps the realization of the existence of the British example can help us in North America to be patient with our current situation, seeing that it is not unprecedented.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, Ælfric represents a living example of Fr John Romanides’ point concerning cultural captivity and the West’s fall into heresy.  The Abbot of Eynsham’s death well predates the Schism (1054), as well as the Norman invasion (1066) which marks the official imposition of Franko-Latin doctrine (what we today call, ‘Roman Catholicism’) on the English people; he reposes some forty years before the former, and some fifty years before the latter.  In this sense, then, he is an Orthodox Christian.  But while his sermons contain many beautiful, Orthodox thoughts (like that quoted above), having lived under the philo-Norman regime of Edward the Confessor, one begins to see Norman influence rear its head in his writings – for example, he clearly assents to the filioque.  In the person of Ælfric, then, we see the gradual dimming of the light of Orthodox Britain even before the official date of the Schism or the Norman Conquest.  This is particularly important to recognize when it comes to developing an understanding of the Schism, but also when it comes to discerning issues associated with the Orthodox Western Rite.  It is not enough to use the dates of the Schism and the Conquest as so-called ‘cut-offs’ when determining Orthodox liturgical practices; rather we need to develop a subtle sensitivity to the issue of cultural captivity.

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Below is an interview Olga Rozhneva (frequent contributor on pravloslavie.ru) conducted with a Russian monk at the Holy Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Anthony the Great in Arizona, Hierodeacon Seraphim. Originally in Russian, it was translated into English by Jesse Dominick and posted on Orthodox Christianity. A large portion is re-posted below; to read the full article click here

(Source—Fr. Seraphim, the providence of God is at work in the life of every man, but sometimes it is hidden and sometimes it clearly reveals itself in some kind of sign, remarkable encounters, or words. Did you have such signs—a clear manifestation of God’s providence for you in your life?

—You know, the Lord leads every man to Himself when the most opportune moment for him comes. I was born in Moscow. In childhood, like my peers, I was an Octobrist, Pioneer, and Young Communist. I graduated from the Moscow Aviation-Technological Institute with a diploma in mechanical engineering for aircraft engines. I started to get involved in various religious currents, but didn’t arrive at Orthodoxy.

In 1995 a professor of physics from Chicago, David Chesek, came to Moscow. He was a very good Catholic and wonderful family man with eight kids. He died two years ago. We got acquainted, having similar interests in physics, and he invited me to America to study and work. He helped me with my visa.

I was twenty-three and had the opportunity to travel to another country, live and study there, and receive some life experience. The Lord allowed me to do all of it.

Several American universities cooperate with various companies where the companies pay the universities for research. The university in Alabama, where I began to study, collaborated with automotive companies. They looked for students who would do research along with their studies, so they paid for my education and gave me a salary for work in the metal casting department. This was the most ideal option for me. I rented a small house from a family, studied for seven years and received my masters and doctorate. I was offered work at General Motors.

But the Lord already had other plans for me. In America I studied and worked, worked and studied, and was deprived of those human consolations I had in my homeland: interaction with my parents and relatives and friends. People who move to other countries lose these comforts they had at home.

Any Orthodox country is a country of collective communication. You know, you can just drop by a friend’s without calling, and you’ll drink some tea in the kitchen and have a heart-to-heart… But western countries are societies of individualists: “Hello,” “Goodbye.” There’s parties, but the conversation is very superficial. And no matter how well you speak English, you always feel that you’re from another culture.

Being without these human consolations, you begin to look for them in God. My mom, learning of my interest in faith, advised me to get baptized.

When the Lord wants to bring someone to Himself, He creates such circumstances, arranges meetings through which the man can begin to recognize Him. I made some Russian friends, and they turned out to be Baptists. I was always very curious, and here I wanted to immediately know: where is truth? After all, there can’t be several truths. I started to attend the catechumen courses at the Orthodox church and learned about Church history and doctrine. I compared and analyzed, and realized that the truth is in Orthodoxy. I received Holy Baptism.

My life changed dramatically. Prestigious work at General Motors didn’t entice me anymore. I didn’t want to stay with the university department—I had developed an interest in monasticism.

—And why did you choose the Monastery of St. Anthony the Great?

—Once my spiritual father, Archpriest Alexander Fekanin, the rector of the church of St. Symeon the New Theologian in Birmingham, advised me to go to St. Anthony’s Monastery. My first time there I was twenty-six. I met the founder of the monastery, Elder Ephraim—a spiritual child of Venerable Elder Joseph the Hesychast. I said to him in broken Greek: “Father, I want to become a monk,” and he blessed me.

I came here a few more times; I liked it, but I was confused: I wasn’t sure that I was supposed to stay in this monastery. I even wanted to return to Russia and enter seminary.

I had just graduated from my university in Alabama, and after my defense and all my work I felt tired, and my spiritual father blessed me to go on vacation to the west coast. California is a huge, beautiful state: mountains, the Grand Canyon, nature, monasteries… I went to St. Anthony’s and told the fathers that soon, after my vacation, I was going to Russia, and rented a car and drove to California.

I went to the convent of the Lifegiving Spring Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which Elder Ephraim had also founded, in 1993. There I met one mother, Schemanun Fevronia, who bore obedience in the guest house. We started talking, and I told her: “You know, I’m soon returning to Russia,” to which she replied: “You forget to add a phrase.” “What phrase, mother?” “If it’s God’s will”…

I spent three days there, and somehow Mother Fevronia, and she was a spiritually experienced person, began to talk with me about the monastic life. At the end of the conversation I felt like she wanted to tell me something, but she wasn’t saying it. It’s a sign of a spiritual person, to not enforce his point of view, but to wait until you ask. And if you ask, then he answers. That is, he speaks to those who are ready to listen.

I went to San Francisco and wrote a letter to St. John of Shanghai, requesting that he pray for me. Then I went to St. Anthony’s and immediately felt sure that it was “my” monastery. That’s how I wound up here.

You see, I prayed for several years, from the time I felt the pull of monastic life, that the Lord would teach me: to go to a monastery or not, and if so, which one. I prayed that the Lord would inform me about it in such a way that no doubts would remain about the correctness of my choice, and I received my answer at the most opportune moment—when I had graduated from college, when I was free to choose my path—that is, precisely when I needed it. There are many monastic testimonies that when they had chosen the monastic path in life, they couldn’t immediately leave for the monastery—some obstacles appeared for them. The Lord revealed it to me when it was most necessary, to secure my path.

It’s worth noting that when I would come to the monastery, being unprepared, I tried to meet with Elder Ephraim every time, but he didn’t want to receive me at all. And when I was finally ready to choose my path, the elder immediately received me. And moreover, he summoned me himself and instructed me.


—Could you tell us about the elder’s instructions?

—I told him I had been baptized as an adult, and he anxiously asked if I had been baptized by full immersion. It was obvious that it’s important to him. When I answered affirmatively he began to smile and joked about me being tall: “And where did they find some a large font?”

He gave me a few pieces of advice for beginning the monastic life. Perhaps they’ll be useful for your readers, because they can be applied to monks or to laypeople. The elder stressed the importance of preserving your conscience everywhere: at work, during our obediences. He advised me to keep that initial zeal with the help of obedience to a spiritual father and unceasing prayer. He said that ascetics have three enemies: the world, the evil one, and our own selves—our passionate nature.

He emphasized that, taking care for our salvation, we mustn’t waste time doing nothing. He gave the example of one nun (I suspect he was talking about his mother, Nun Theophano). When this nun would hear the chiming on the hour, she would say to herself: “Another hour has passed, and I’m another hour closer to death.” Thus she kept the memory of death, helping her to never forget the salvation of her soul.

In September 2002 I arrived at the monastery and became a worker, working in the kitchen. After four months the elder blessed me with the novice’s cassock and gave me an obedience in the bookstore: book orders, receive pilgrims. I speak in English and Greek, so I can also answer phone calls and take care of the mail. In 2012 I received the monastic tonsure and in January 2015 I was ordained a hierodeacon. Perhaps, that’s it… I can tell a few more stories about the providence of God.

—Allow me to thank you, Fr. Seraphim, for the interesting and soul-profiting conversation. What would you wish for the readers of Pravoslavie.ru?

—In Russia, especially amongst the laity, we lost the tradition of the Jesus Prayer. Even some priests look askance at laypeople who carry a prayer rope in their hands. They consider the Jesus Prayer with a prayer rope a monastic tradition, and are afraid of prelest.[1]

Our spiritual father, Elder Ephraim, blesses laity to engage in the Jesus Prayer, to the extent, of course, that their life in the world, work and family allow them. The elder explains that there’s no danger for those praying at the beginning stages of the Jesus Prayer, when a person says it orally, when he has a small prayer rule he does at home or on the road.

Usually our spiritual fathers bless laity new in the faith with a daily rule to do at home in the morning or in the evening. It’s about 50—150 Jesus Prayers with the Sign of the Cross at each knot, and 50—150 prayers to the Mother of God, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us,” also with the Sign of the Cross on each knot, and 20—50 prostrations with the Jesus Prayer and Sign of the Cross at every prostration. You should fulfill this rule given by the spiritual father, and not change it arbitrarily.

The rest of the day you walk around the streets, ride on the bus, in the subway, and pray to yourself, with a small prayer rope in your hand, or without one. When there’s no one else around, it’s useful to say the prayer out loud, quietly. It helps the mind to concentrate on the words of the prayer and not get lost in dreams. The main condition is a feeling of repentance. Don’t strive for spiritual achievements, but ask for mercy and forgiveness of sins.

Elder Ephraim also strongly recommends (and for us it’s part of the monastic rule) to read the Akathist to the Mother of God every day, that she might shield us from all evil, and also when we have to go somewhere.

We had a novice here in the monastery, a Greek (he’s a monk now). During obediences and at other times he often said the Akathist to the Mother of God aloud, which he knew by heart. One night he was walking around the monastery, praying his favorite Akathist aloud. He went a little beyond the bounds of the monastery, and not noticing it in the dark, stepped on a rattle snake. Usually if a snake touches you, it bites you. But a miracle occurred here: the Mother of God covered the novice and the snake didn’t bite him, but simply slithered away. That’s the benefit of reading the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos.

God bless!

Olga Rozhneva spoke with Hierodeacon Seraphim (Molibog)
Translated by Jesse Dominick Pravoslavie.ru 12/8/2016

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St. Maximos the Greek Russian Orthodox Chapel, Seoul, South Korea

I was recently contacted by an American reader of my books who wrote to tell me of a lovely coincidence. While reading my second book she was surprised to read the story of the epitaphios icon found the rubble of the destroyed Orthodox church in South Korea as she is personally acquainted with the persons who were responsible for returning it to its rightful owners. I talk about this event in The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victory as we use to attend services in the Russian Orthodox chapel of St. Maximos the Greek in Seoul where the icon currently resides. (We lived there from July 2006 to August 2007).


The Seattle Times wrote an article about this significant event which took place during Holy Week in April, 1997:

Saturday, April 26, 1997

Missing Icon Home At Last — Seattle Man Helps Church Find Relic

By Sally Macdonald

Seattle Times Religion Reporter

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Kudla knew exactly what to look for as he patrolled the ruins of a Russian Orthodox church in Seoul: a sacred, embroidered icon showing a crucified Christ.

It was during the Korean War and he was sure if the tapestry wasn’t already

destroyed, it eventually would be. Kudla found his way to a spot behind the altar and there, in a wooden cabinet, was the church’s plashtschanitsa [epitaphios], a precious representation of Christ used only on Good Friday.

Kudla, a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church, rescued the icon and now, four decades later, thanks to help from a Seattle man, it has been returned to its grateful owners.

Clifford Argue, a vice president of Alaska Airlines in Seattle, helped the church find the missing relic recently and escorted it back to Seoul in time for Good Friday services yesterday. Orthodox Christians calculate the date of Easter differently from other denominations, and tomorrow they will celebrate Easter.

Icons like the one found in the ruins of Seoul’s St. Nicholas Cathedral have been used for 1,500 years to drape the shoulders of Russian Orthodox priests during Good Friday services.

By 1951, when Kudla found the relic, Seoul had changed hands four times in less than two years, falling to the North Korean and Chinese Communist armies and being recaptured each time by United Nations forces. The city was subjected to heavy shelling and bombing in each invasion.

Kudla feared for the safety of the icon because the interior of the church already had been vandalized and burned during the war, likely by North Korean soldiers. Red paint was splashed around the building, and the pews were broken apart. He was sure that the Communists would destroy the icon if they found it.

Kudla mailed the purple and gold tapestry to his suburban Pittsburgh church for safekeeping. There it was used for several years and then stored away.

The cathedral was rebuilt after the war, but the tapestry was never completely forgotten.

Argue, who was stationed near Seoul in 1968 as an Air Force civil engineer and attended the cathedral, helped relocate the relic after seeing a posting on the Internet by an Orthodox discussion group that said the congregation was looking for its missing icon.

Word gets out

Argue, a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Orthodox Christian Mission and active member of Seattle’s St. Demetrios Church, spread the word to other church groups and related organizations by computer.

The posting was seen by the Rev. Stephen Kachur. Now retired and living in Arizona, Kachur had been a pastor at Kudla’s church in Rankin, Pa., and remembered the relic well.

Kudla, now a 69-year-old retired foreman at a tool factory, recently traveled from his home in Detroit to Rankin, to watch members of his old church pack up the relic to return it.

He told church members it had bothered him for 46 years that he had taken something from a church and that the icon might be missed by its owners.

The relic is about 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and weighs about 15 pounds. Such artifacts are used only during Good Friday services, after which they are placed in flower-covered boxes representing Christ’s tomb. Then they are placed on the altar for 42 days, when the Ascension, the day Christians believe Jesus rose into heaven, is celebrated.

The St. Nicholas tapestry was woven in 1874 at a monastery in St. Petersburg,

Russia, then taken to Seoul at the turn of the century by missionaries there to try to convert their Korean neighbors.

Argue went to Pennsylvania to pick up the relic and then on to Korea to take it home. There he joined members of the cathedral, who celebrated its return with a prayer service led by Greek Orthodox Bishop Sotirios Trambas.

“It’s like we read about so many times,” Argue said after returning to Seattle earlier this week. “Artworks that get misplaced in wartime are slowly being returned to their rightful owners. They’re not just art, but precious pieces for the church. It reminded the people of that time when the church was almost destroyed and they were scattered.

“I wanted to return it personally because they were good to me during the war and this was a way to give some of their history back.”

*Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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While the quality of photos in this post are great, at least they give you the idea of what the icon and chapel look like.

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