He’s on a mission for God!

A friend of mine here at the seminary, Jordan Zanetis, is preparing to return to Tanzania on a mission trip, teaching in Orthodox schools in the country. He spent two weeks there last year, and had an amazing experience, sharing pictures and stories with me when I first got here last summer.

He’s set up a blog with various interesting items he’s been posting before going:

Mission to Tanzania

Check out the recipe for pan-fried Tilapia!

Please take a look and help Jordan on his trip if you’re at all able.

Music to Study New Testament Greek By


So, I’m doing a bit of studying for a New Testament Greek test while listening to the classic Stan Getz album, The Girl From Ipanema. Thanks to iTunes Match on my iPad! Very nice!

Also on tonight have been Depeche Mode, Violator; Hamza el Din, Eclipse; Djivan Gasparyan, Moon Shines at Night, and some other goodies.

On Greece’s Dostoevsky

The following is the third in a series of four guest posts at various blogs from Herman A. Middleton, author of Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece (featuring eight Greek Orthodox monastic elders), and translator of the recently released Greece’s Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis (a study of one of modern Greek literature’s finest writers). It is about his new book that he now writes. (The first, second, and fourth posts are posted elsewhere,for which see below.)

In my last post, I touched on the biography of Alexandros Papadiamandis, and why, from the perspective of Orthodox Christianity, he is a significant figure. These posts are all related to the book I translated from Greek, Greece’s Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis. In this post, I wanted to delve a bit deeper into the content of Greece’s Dostoevsky.

I first read Greece’s Dostoevsky for Dr. Anestis Keselopoulos’s pastoral theology class at the University of Thessalonica. This is significant because it suggests the type of book that it is: a handbook for pastors. It is much more than this, however. It is very much a book for laymen as well as clerics. As Fr. Alexis Trader mentions in his Introduction to the book, “It is a catechism. In fact, it is not only a catechism for those who know little about Orthodox liturgy and faith—it can also act as a compass for those who have some knowledge about Orthodox prayer and doctrine, but are in need of criteria for evaluating authentic liturgical life today. In other words, this gift to America is both a catechism and a strategy for Orthodox evangelism that begins with the pulse of the heart of Orthodoxy—the liturgical life of the faithful.”

Among the many questions Dr. Keselopoulos considers are the following:

  • What should the relationship between the clergy and the laity look like?
  • What is at the root of many of the problems within the laity and within the clergy?
  • What is the answer to these problems?
  • What is the role of the laity?
  • What is the meaning of “Tradition” in the Church?
  • How do you distinguish between the Church’s Tradition and traditions?
  • How does the Church’s Tradition get passed down and what does this mean for Orthodoxy in the West?
  • What is the essence of the Church’s life of worship and prayer?
  • What aspects of worship are non-negotiable, and what aspects can be adjusted (and who determines these things)?
  • Why is liturgical art important?
  • How does/should liturgical art affect worship?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, while Dr. Keselopoulos’s book deals with the depths of Orthodox life and thought, it does not deal with these things in the abstract. Keselopoulos restricts himself to the spiritual issues that arise from Papadiamandis’s stories. Because the issues that Papadiamandis brings to light emerge from the context of real life, his stories remain both practical and timely. And Keselopoulos’s insightful analysis helps us appreciate Papadiamandis’s work even more.

In the final post, I’ll consider the broader significance of Greece’s Dostoevsky for the Church in the West, in particular as regards the example of Papadiamandis as an artist-evangelist, and as an example that can inform and instruct artists desiring to create faith-inspired work.

Learn more about Greece’s Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis.

Posting Schedule:

Road to Emmaus Journal Needs Your Help

The Road to Emmaus journal is extraordinary. Of all the Orthodox journals and magazines that I’ve run across, this one is by far the best for Anglophone Orthodox. It is subtitled “A Journal of Orthodox Faith and Culture” and it is precisely that: each issue generally follows a theme, whether broad or tight, including several lengthy articles touching on the subject matter at hand. What is extraordinary is the quality not only of the writing, but the choice of subject matter. Every issue is enlightening, and never disappointing.

The website for Road to Emmaus includes articles from at latest about a year and a half ago and earlier. More recent issues are available only in print. So, while there are a number of excellent things to read on the website available gratis, more current issues will only be posted after they’re about a year and more old. But this also brings to mind the necessity of contributing toward the production of the journal.

I am now at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, studying in the MDiv program. It is with great joy that I discovered that Mother Nectaria Mclees, the International Editor for Road to Emmaus, is a fellow student, and we have met and “hit it off” so to speak. But she has told me that the financial state of Road to Emmaus is quite dire at the moment. More than 500 subscribers have let their subscriptions lapse in the last six months (as I had done) and have not renewed. This jeopardizes the existence of the journal itself. So, please, please, please, SUBSCRIBE (one year is merely $25; two years is $46), or give a GIFT SUBSCRIPTION, or even just DONATE something to the cause of keeping this excellent, high-quality Orthodox publication in circulation. It is vastly superior to other Orthodox journals in English, in its quality of subject matter, its production, and in the phronema that it relates. Without more support from a number of subscribers, the journal will certainly cease publication.

I myself, a poor graduate student (I am still becoming accustomed to this new state of being!), have ponied up $46 for a two-year subscription, which is economical and inexpensive for the insights gained from a single issue. The price of $25 or $46 is a steal for such a quality publication! The thought of English-speaking Orthodox losing this journal is quite upsetting. I trust that other readers who appreciate the journal will renew their subscriptions, start up new subscriptions, or at the very least, donate some amount to the upkeep of the journal. Consider this an open hand needing to be filled! Open your own hand to fill it, and you’ll receive the blessing.

Do not let your hand be stretched out to receive, but closed when it is time to give
(Sirach 4.31)

A new review of Fr Alexios Trader, Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy

Fr Alexios has brought to my notice a new review of his book, Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy (Peter Lang Publishing, 2011), appearing as a post on the blog of Eighth Day Books. I wasn’t aware of that blog, so his message was multiply informative. Eighth Day Books is a fine purveyor of all the kinds of books that have held my attention for the last decade and more. They are worthy of your patronage!

The big news is, as Fr Alexios also mentions, that the print run is almost exhausted, with only forty copies left to find homes. Selling out the print run will greatly increase the chances for the publication of a less expensive paperback edition. Eighth Day Books conveniently offers the book for sale for the lowest price that I’ve yet seen (just under $100). As it’s been a difficult volume to obtain, whether due to expense or to limited availability through the larger vendors, this is another good thing.

Rejoice with me!

This morning I became a nounó, a godfather, for the servant of God Elias! He is Turkish, and will be going back to Turkey in September to do his military service. Of your charity, pray for him in this critical time, when the forces inimical to the Light are outraged at being deprived of a soul to ruin at their whim.

Glory to God for all things!

Papadakis quote

Before analyzing the Byzantine understanding of the new Roman primacy, a brief synopsis of the issue as it was understood before 1100 is in order. In the first place, the East had no difficulty in explicitly recognizing Rome’s presidency or primacy within the pentarchy of patriarchs. Its willingness to do so is well documented. It was assumed, however, that the government of the Church was vested jointly in all five patriarchs. No one bishop or patriarchate—including the primary see in Christendom—possessed universal jurisdiction as an exclusive prerogative. Certainly primacy, though in principle never denied, was not understood or confused with doctrinal infallibility or absolute supremacy over all Churches and their hierarchy in toto orbe. As such, the right of any see to intervene directly in the internal affairs of another Church was alien to the Christian East. Indeed, monarchical government was never part of Orthodox ecclesiology, canon law, or tradition. (It is safe to assume that this was also true in the West before the eleventh century; the special papal prerogatives listed in the Dictatus papae [of Gregory VII/Hildebrand] represented, as we have seen, the particular bias of reformist policy; they did not reflect catholic tradition in its historical form.) It was for this reason that the papacy’s claims to jurisdiction over the Byzantine Church during Photius’ patriarchate were resented. The priveleges claimed by pope Nicholas I were indeed deemed uncanonical and, as such, unacceptable. Western attempts to undermine the balance of conciliarity and legitimate primacy in the Church catholic were always passionately rejected as ecclesiologically unsound. As conclusive evidence that Church structure stipulates such an equilibrium, the Byzantines often pointed to the familiar canon 34 of the apostles.

The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him who is the first do anything without the consent of all. For so there will be oneness of mind, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.

Suffice it to say, allusions to the Petrine idea found in Byzantine texts before the eleventh century also should be understood the same way. Churchmen invariably used the idea “rhetorically” without any real recognition of its implications; invoking it was in fact the smart thing to do, especially if the moral support of the Roman bishop was required against a powerful emperor or a heretical teaching.

Invariably, twelfth century Byzantine theologians remained faithful to this earlier ecclesiological vision. Their polemic is in all essential respects in full agreement with the traditional understanding of ecclesiological authority professed by Eastern Christendom since antiquity. Granted their examinaation of ecclesiastical government was to be more exhaustive than the somewhat hesitant summary observations of the first millennium. But then, the “state of reciprocal ignorance,” which in part explains why the issue had not been confronted directly or defined more precisely before the twelfth century, no longer existed. Besides, by 1100 the high-medieval papacy with its armory of new canonical collections had come to its own, and a more detailed refutation was unavoidable. Indeed, western ecclesiology had by then moved inflexibly and unmistakably in the direction of papal monarchy, methodically supporting its claims by a new legalistic interpretation of the so-called Petrine texts of the New Testament.

Aristides Papadakis, The Christian East & the Rise of the Papacy: The Church AD 1071-1453, volume IV of The Church in History (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994)