Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

Hangover or Church?!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

On January 1 each year, the Church commemorates both the feast of the Circumcision of Christ as a child, and Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, who is attributed with the long poetic Eucharistic Prayer, or Anaphora, that we use on some major feast days and the Sundays during Lent.

Since many are recovering from celebrating the New Year from the night before, attendance at Liturgy on January 1st is usually pretty sparse in most parishes. The two feasts seem to fall on the same day from mere coincidence, and not for any particular theological reason.

It is the 8th day after Christ’s Nativity, and so according to the Convenant of Abraham, male children are circumcised 8 days after their birth. Jesus was no different from us, and therefore like us, he was subjected to Jewish law at the time. This simply reminds us of the connection between the old covenant and the new, the Old Testament and the New Testament, the teachings of the prophets that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

St. Basil is commemorated this same day as a remembrance of the date of his death in the year 379. Basil was a noted theologian, writing many books and treatises, his most famous, On the Holy Spirit, expresses the doctrine of the Trinity. He was a noted episcopal leader, overseeing the province of Pontus as archbishop, which was half of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). He was also known for his great influence on monasticism, both throughout the East, and in the West through Saint Benedict. Numerous religious orders of men and women, east and west, bear the name of Saint Basil. In particular, he emphasized monastic communities rather than isolated ascetics or the solitude of hermits.

Finally, Basil atttended the Council of Constantinople in 360, and his teachings on the Holy Trinity and divinity of the Holy Spirit are seen in the final Profession of Faith (Creed) approved by that council.

My Memories of Christmas

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

As a young boy—waking up at first light on Christmas Day before everyone else in the family to check out what gifts were under the tree for me!  I especially remember a battery powered, remote control tractor-trailer truck about three feet long that I could drive all over the house.

As an older boy—enjoying the special foods for Holy Supper (In the Slav tradition, Holy Supper is a special family meal on Christmas Eve with food prepared only once a year.) and taking a short nap so I could stay up late and be an altar server at Midnight Liturgy at church.

As a young teen—helping Dad put together the Easy Bake Oven for my sisters; Dad was never that good at following instructions, written down or from Mom!

As an older teen—going to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve with my Dad after we had our Holy Supper at home to share a bowl of mushroom/sauerkraut soup and some pirohi and bolbaki with her and sing Christmas Carols.

As a young adult—always traveling home to Pittsburgh, no matter where in the world I was living, to be there for Holy Supper with my parents and help prepare the special foods.

As a middle-aged adult—always traveling home to Pittsburgh, no matter where in the world I was living, to be there for Holy Supper with my parents and prepare all the special foods.

As an older adult—always traveling home to Pittsburgh, no matter where in the world I was living, to be there for Holy Supper with my parents and prepare all the special foods.

In case you haven’t noticed, I LOVE Holy Supper on Christmas Eve, and haven’t missed spending it with my parents since I was born—over 50 years now. So what are your favorite memories of long past or recent Christmas celebrations?

Feast of Saint Andrew

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

November 30 is the feast of Saint Andrew, the first-called apostle. He is also the patron of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who by tradition traveled to the ancient city of Byzantium and founded the Church there. In some years over the last 20, I have been privileged to travel to Constantinople and be present for the celebrations, and especially the visit of the delegation from Rome that come to celebrate with the Orthodox. The most significant was in 2006 when Pope Benedict XVI himself led the delegation and was present for the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Bartholomew.

But this year, since the OL Conference took place there, I stayed home for the special Divine Liturgy held at Mt. St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Father Lee Gross is Professor of Liturgy and Dean of Students, and has organized and hosted a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy for the seminarians and students of the university on the same campus. The seminary choir has learned to sing the response according to the Carpathian chant tradition, and in four-part harmony.

So, this year, I was able to attend and serve as Lector for the Liturgy. The university chapel was filled almost to capacity with 200 persons, and Bishop William Skurla came to be the main celebrant.

As usual, it was a great event, and provided a wonderful opportunity for seminarians and students alike to learn about the Christian East by experiencing the Divine Liturgy. Congratulations to Father Lee for organizing this event, and to the seminarians who work to serve and sing according to the “eastern lung” of the Church.

Our Christian Life

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

In a recent edition of Unirea-Canton, the monthly newsletter of the Romanian Catholic Diocese in America, Bishop John Michael (page 3) and Hieromonk Maximos (page 14) give us insightful “food for thought” for how we live our Christian lives. His Grace talks about how we live in the world and respond to the continual temptation of sin. Father Maximos makes this same topic personal by connecting our actions to the Gospel of Christ. How many of us have really thought about this—really thought about it deeply?

Do we reveal Christ through our actions in every day activity to our family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, or even strangers? Did we vote in this past election according to the teachings of Christ and His Church? Do we truly take the Gospel of Christ home from church on Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy, and live according to His commandment—to love one another?

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is commemorated on the Sunday before the Great Fast, Lent. The icon depicting this event shows Christ as Judge over all of creation, and is one of the few icons that depicts God the Father. I find it to be a useful reminder to live the life that Christ wants me to live, the reason I was put on this earth. He commands us to spread the “good news” of salvation through Him. We are to reveal Christ to the world by acting according to His teachings, and by being the image of Him in all things that we do or say or even think.

Going to church on Sunday is edifying and a wonderful experience. But, to truly experience the Kingdom of God, we must take that experience into the world, revel in God’s creation, and shape it in our small way. Small actions may have a huge impact on someone else; we’ll probably never know. But God will know, and we’ll be judged on the Last Day according to how we live our lives EVERY day, not just on Sunday!

Visiting with Metropolitan Kallistos

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Last spring, Msgr. George Dobes and I had planned to travel to Oxford, UK and record some additional lectures for OLTV by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, retired Spaulding Lecturer in Eastern Christian Studies at Oxford University. Our flights were cancelled because of the disruption to trans-Atlantic air travel to and from Europe due to the volcano in Iceland. We re-scheduled the flights to be here this weekend.

In retirement, Metropolitan Kallistos seems to be busier than ever. In addition to being a new member of the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue, he has also recently been appointed co-chair of the Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue. Even though he has also retired as co-pastor of the Orthodox parish in Oxford, he still actively participates in the parish life by celebrating liturgies and administering the sacraments.

We stayed at a smallish hotel with just about 25 guest rooms a few blocks from his residence. On previous trips we were given smaller rooms on the upper floors in the new wing. But this time, we were lucky and assigned the two largest rooms on the main floor of the original building. The beds were the same size as before, what we would call “queen size” (but of course you can’t use that sort of term in England!), but in these rooms you could actually walk around the beds without hitting your shins on the frame. There was also a good size desk where I could set up my laptop and get some work done.

Our recording sessions were scheduled from 10 am to Noon each day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Then we would leave His Grace to take care of his own lunch, have a rest and other appointments. On Friday evening, we met up again for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called the Parsonage, which was the renovated residence of the Anglican church in the center of Oxford. Across the street was the Oratory where Blessed John Henry Newman visited and preached.

On Sunday, His Grace was scheduled to visit the Orthodox parish in the city of Bath, where he was born. Rather than take a train or have one of the parishioners there come bring him to Bath (about a 2 hour drive), we offered to go with him and all of us travel by rental car. Having lived in the UK for three years back in 1987-90, I was quite comfortable driving back roads and long distances on the other side of the highway (you don’t say “wrong side of the street” over there)!

The Divine Liturgy was beautifully sung in a mixture of Greek and Russian chant with mostly English translations by a small schola. About 100 persons attended the service which was held off to the side of a functioned Anglican parish. His Grace also ordained two subdeacons and elevated the pastor to Archpriest. After a wonderful celebration of many kinds of foods in the parish hall, we did a short driving tour of the city and stopped to view Metropolitan Kallistos’ boyhood home. He seemed very pleased to show us around, and remembered quite well walking the streets of Bath. It was his first visit in several years. We then drove back to Oxford, arriving in late afternoon.

On Monday morning, we made one last recording and then flew back to Washington on Tuesday morning. All in all, another great trip and wonderful experience with Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia!

Iconological Journey of the Great Feasts

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Professor Richard Schneider is a professor of iconology (the theology and symbolism of icons) at York University in Toronto and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York.  He has been a speaker at several Orientale Lumen Conferences over recent years and always gives a fresh and in-depth perspective of iconography.

In October 2009 he was invited to give a lecture in Washington, DC by the Washington Theological Consortium in conjunction with an icon exhibit at the Dadian Gallery of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary, one of the members of the consortium.  While in the area, he agreed to record several lectures about the icons of the Great Feasts of the Eastern Churches.  He illuminates the deep meaning that lies within the Holy Icons and their importance in the Eastern Christian liturgical cycle of feasts.  He teaches us how to read icons through their “rhetoric” and “order.”  Focusing on 14 Great Festal Icons, Professor Schneider objectively discusses the historical, theological, and scriptural significance of each and their inter-relationships.

In his six lectures he covers:

  1. Introduction
  2. Nativity of Our Lord; Encounter with Simeon
  3. Nativity of the Theotokos; Entry of the Thetokos into the Temple; Annunciation
  4. Epiphany of Our Lord; Palm Sunday; Great and Holy Friday
  5. Transfiguration; Ascension; Dormition of the Theotokos; Pentecost; Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  6. Resurrection and Conclusion

In each talk, Professor Schneider uses scripture and liturgical texts to point out the meaning behind specific elements of each icon.  The video shows the icons in a general view but also highlights the details explained during the lecture.

Each lecture is 40-80 minutes in length and is an excellent series for anyone who wishes to better understand the Holy Icons and their importance to Eastern Christian worship.  This series would also be a great program for an adult education program in a parish, using the video as the starting point following by group discussion.

This program is one of the newest additions to the OLTV group of Adult Enrichment programs available in DVD form, and can be purchased through the online catalog at or by calling 703-691-8862.

A Weekend in Rochester

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I graduated from the University of Rochester with a bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1976.  I have only had a chance to visit a few times since then, the last visit being about 4 years ago to help the Catholic Newman Community (Catholic parish on campus for students) with strategic planning and fund raising to support their growing student population.

As a student, I was quite active in the Newman Community (or “club” as it was sometimes known back then) writing and typing and printing the weekly bulletin (I was involved in “publishing” even 35 years ago!), frequent attendance at Mass (in those days, every Sunday liturgy was a “Folk Mass” with guitars, etc.), and lots of other activities.  During my sophomore year, I attended Mass every day, which was an informal gathering of the chaplains (we had a full-time priest and nun assigned by the Diocese of Rochester) and a few students, at noon on M-W-F and 7:30 pm on T-R, much like a class schedule!

Even in my freshman year, I organized “Jack Figel’s Dixieland Band” to play dance music, including polkas, for the annual campus Mardi Gras that we held as a party on the Sunday before Lent.  I was a member of the parish council, a group of volunteers students who did most of the work running the parish, and in my junior year was elected to the five-member Executive Committee to help the chaplains even more extensively.  One year, I also organized a Byzantine Catholic priest from Harrisburg, PA (the closest parish of my Church at the time) to come and celebrate a Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in English and expose all my Roman Catholic student friends to who I was as a Byzantine Catholic.  So, I did an awful lot back then, and wonder how I ever completed my engineering degree!

Early in January of this year, Father Brian Cool, the current chaplain, emailed me an invitation to visit the last weekend of February and participate in a panel discussion about Catholic-Orthodox relations today.  I was quite surprised that such an event was going to happen at my alma mater, and even more pleased to be invited to participate.  It was organized by the Newman Community and a newly formed (since my day there) Orthodox Christian Fellowship of students.  The other panelists were Father Curt Cadorette, a professor of Religious Studies at the university, and Father Patrick Cowles, a local Greek Orthodox parish priest.

So I flew up on Saturday morning and had lunch with the chaplains that I knew back during my years there, Father Jim Lawlor and Sister Joan Sobala.  It was great to see them both after so many years.  Father Jim is retired about two years, but still serving in his last parish, and Sister Joan is parochial administrator of a parish cluster where a priest comes to celebrate the sacraments, but she is the administrator.  Saturday evening, I drove out to Newark, NY about 50 miles east of Rochester and had a lovely dinner with Gail and Bruce Chambes.  Gail was assistant to the dean of engineering when I was a student, and we have kept in touch all these years.

On Sunday morning, Father Brian invited me to serve as Lector for the Mass and in my Byzantine style sticharion, chanted the Epistle in Carpathian style and gave a short reflection on myself as a Byzantine Catholic.  After Mass, the students held a pancake breakfast and I had the opportunity to chat with a number of students.  I did the same at the Sunday evening Mass.

The panel discussion was held at 5 pm Sunday with about 25 students and others attending.  We also shared various Lenten foods that the Orthodox students brought for the event — vegetables, fruit, chips, hummus, dips, etc.  I started the discussion laying out the early history of the Church and how the current dialogue was trying to heal the separation of 1000 years.  The three of us spoke briefly on our own background, and then responded to questions.  After a two-hour session, all seemed quite happy to with the discussion and we then went to the second Catholic Mass for the day.

It was a great weekend and I was very pleased to participate and see the interest among the students, and visit with old friends.

Visit of Metropolitan Kallistos — Week 2

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

With two postponements from the previous week, the second week of the visit of Metropolitan Kallistos to America became quite filled with events.  The snowstorms had left there mark on the area, but we managed to not cancel a single event, and only delayed two — coincidentally the two Catholic venues were those postponed!

The lecture on the theme of “Lent: Our Personal Journey” took place on Sunday evening, February 14, at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale, VA.  Nearly 100 persons attended the reception in the parish center followed by the lecture in the church.  Bishop William Skurla of the Eparchy of Passaic, the diocese of Epiphany Church, also attended the lecture and welcomed Metropolitan Kallistos.

On Monday, we traveled to Toms River, NJ where His Eminence attended Great Compline for the first day of the Great Fast at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church that evening.  Nearly 400 persons were present for the service and his lecture on the same theme as at Epiphany, “Lent: Our Personal Journey”.  A large receptions was held in the parish social hall, and a long line of people eagerly waited to have copies of his books signed.  The next morning we returned to Washington.

On Tuesday evening, an ecumenical prayer service was conducted by the student board of the Washington Theological Consortium, a group of theological education institutions around Washington, DC.  At the prayer service, the annual Ecumenism Award was bestowed upon Metropolitan Kallistos.  After a short reception, Metropolitan Kallistos delivered the Second Annual Figel Lecture in Ecumenism to a group of over 100 persons gathered in the Happel Room of Caldwell Hall on the campus of The Catholic University of America.  His Eminence gave “An Insider’s View of the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Today.”  A lively Q&A discussion followed with many interesting points raised.  Father Mark Morozowich, Associate Dean of CUA, Father John Crossin, Executive Director of the WTC, and Father Paul McPartlan, Professor of Ecumenism at CUA and member of the International Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Commission, all made remarks welcoming Metropolitan Kallistos.  As the financial sponsor of the event, I also made a few remarks, and told of my first encounter with Metropolitan Kallistos some 18 years ago (perhaps subject of a future blog posting?!)

The last scheduled event of His Eminence’s visit was a lecture at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, MD on Wednesday, February 17.  Over 200 persons attended the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts and the lecture entitled “Trinity:  Heart of Our Life.”  A Lenten dinner buffet was served between the liturgy and lecture.  After the lecture, a line again formed for many to have their books signed.

I obtained copies of the Metropolitan’s most popular works to have available for people to buy at all the events, and we sold over 100 copies of each.  They included:  The Orthodox Church, The Orthodox Way, and The Inner Kingdom.  We are now carrying all three titles in our catalog and on our website:

All of the lectures from this week are also available from OLTV, and a combo pack of all the lectures has been specially priced.  You can order online at or call 703-691-8862.

After a grueling schedule, and speaking to nearly 1000 persons at 8 venues, Metropolitan Kallistos returned to the UK on Thursday morning.  We especially scheduled his return on the “day” flight that leaves the US in the morning and lands in London the same evening, avoiding having to sleep overnight on a “red eye” flight.  At the age of 75, His Eminence deserves all the comforts possible!

But in the end, I believe he returned home with a renewed vigor and enthusiasm for his ministry of teaching and lecturing, given the great response he received everywhere and the thousands of people he has touched with his wisdom and insight.  Many years, O Master!

Visit of Metropolitan Kallistos — Week 1

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Despite two record-setting snowstorms in the Washington area, Metropolitan Kallistos arrived from the UK safe and sound on Monday evening.  Dulles Airport was opened just long enough for his scheduled flight to arrive only 3 hours late.

However, because of the snow on the ground (over 2 feet!), the Washington Theological Consortium postponed their Ecumenical Lecture one week and rescheduled it for Tuesday, February 16.  This was done soon enough to get the word out, and to allow His Eminence and I to drive to Richmond, VA a day early for his lecture there.  Richmond was not expecting the great amount of snow as in Washington, and over 200 people turned out for the Wednesday evening event at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  He spoke about “Athens and Jerusalem: Hellenic Paideia and the Greek Fathers” followed by a social reception where His Eminence signed many copies of his books.

With the second storm dumping another 2 feet + on Washington, we likewise postponed the lecture at Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church from Thursday evening to tonight, February 14.  So we were able to stay over a second night in Richmond and have a more leisurely return in the afternoon.  Having left Washington on Tuesday before the snow, and returning after the storm was over, we missed the storm entirely, except finding over 5 feet of snow on the ground when we returned, the most ever in Washington history.

Despite all this, over 100 persons attended the lecture at St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in Falls Church on Friday evening to hear His Eminence speak about “Salvation in Christ: the Meaning of the Cross.”  A small social reception was also held for attendees to meet Metropolitan Kallistos and get copies of his books autographed.

On Saturday, St. Mark’s Orthodox Church in Bethesda, MD was the host parish for three lectures throughout the afternoon.  Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was present and introduced His Eminence to the 150+ persons attending.  Metropolitan Kallistos gave three lectures on various aspects of “Our Transfiguration in Christ:  The Message of the Philokalia”, in particular linking the feast of the Transfiguration with the image of the Holy Cross.  Refreshments were served in the parish social hall throughout the afternoon, and a small dinner was hosted that evening at a nearby restaurant for the two Metropolitans and invited guests.

On Sunday morning, Metropolitan Kallistos was the main celebrant at the Divine Liturgy at St. Mark’s Church, along with several priests, deacons, servers, and the parish choir singing choral arrangements in English.

All the lectures by Metropolitan Kallistos, and the Divine Liturgy, are available as CD or DVD recordings from OLTV through the online catalog at or by calling 703-6912-8862.


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The reception and Lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church that was originally scheduled for Thursday, February 11, has been postponed until Sunday, February 14 because of weather conditions in Washington, DC.  The same times — reception at 6:30, lecture at 7:30 — will be maintained, following Forgiveness Vespers which will begin as normally scheduled at 5:00 pm.

Please pass the word to anyone who was planning to attend.