Archive for March, 2009

OL XIII Speakers Finalized

Monday, March 30th, 2009

The Orientale Lumen XIII Conference is now all set for June 15-18, 2009 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC on the theme of “Monastic Spirituality for Everyday Life.”  I am very hopeful that this ONE conference for 2009 (rather than the three locations we had last year) will bring everyone together in one place and foster more “face-to-face” ecumenical dialogue and exchange of understanding.

Our speakers will be:

Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America — a year ago, Archimandrite Jonah was a monastic on the West Coast and after being elected and consecrated bishop last summer, he gave a stunning speech at the OCA Sobor which then elected him their leader.  We are very honored that he has agreed to be with us for most of the conference agenda, will serve a Divine Liturgy for the Orthodox participants, and will surely have some unique ideas about monasticism for the every day life of lay persons and clergy alike.

Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, Ukrainain Greek Catholic Church, Kyiv, Ukraine — I have known Bishop Hlib for almost ten years, meeting him in Rome several times when I accompanied Archbishop Vsevolod there.  He has also attended both Orientale Lumen Conferences in Constantinople, accompanying Cardinal Husar there in May 2007.  He is responsible for Monastic Matters of the Patriarchal Curia of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church along with other jobs and has family (his brother is Father Taras Lonchyna, pastor of Church of the Holy Trinity in Silver Spring, MD) in the Washington area and is American born.  I am certain he will also provide a wonderful perspective on monastic life for lay persons.

Mother Lois Farag, Coptic Orthodox Church, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN — Mother Lois earned her doctorate in Early Christian Studies at the Catholic University of America and also holds an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School  She attended several of the early OL conferences while a student in Washington.  She teaches Early Church History at Luther Seminary and is doing research on a book project related to the conference theme of spirituality.  She will have a special perspective for the conference working in Church history, teaching at a Lutheran-oriented college, and being from the Coptic Orthodox tradition.

Sister Barbara Jean Mihalchick, OSBM, Retreat Center Director, Mt. St. Macrina, Uniontown, PA — In addition to her current position of directing and giving retreats to a wide range of participants, Sister Barbara Jean was also the Vicar General (number two) of the Order of Saint Basil the Great at their world headquarters in Rome for some 12 years.  She has traveled the world, visiting Basilian monasteries and other religious institutions in many places, and will bring a wealth of experience for our spiritual journey of “theosis,” becoming like God.

Professor Richard Schneider, Orthodox Church in America, Director of the Orthodox Eastern Studies Program at Trinity College, Toronto, Canada — Prof. Schneider has been a speaker at the last three OL conferences, 2007 on Icons and 2008 on Feastdays in the US, and at OL EuroEast II on Liturgy in Constantinople.   He has a unique perspective of understanding and learning from icons that he refers to as “iconology,” and will apply that to personal spirituality and growth in our Christian journey.

Mr. Elias Damianakis, Greek Orthodox Church, Iconographer and Lecturer — Mr. Damianakis has been studying and living the spirituality of an iconographer for many years, and has developed a well-respected studio of iconography which not only has decorated many churches around the world, but also produced icons for the Vatican and Ecumenical Patriarchate.  His talk will bring iconography and spirituality together, and he will also display an exhibit of icons and the process of painting an icon at the conference.

Father John Crossin, OSFS, Executive Director of the Washington Theological Consortium and President of the North American Academy of Ecumenists — Father Crossin has written several books on spirituality, teaches courses on ecumenism, and served as the moderator of OL XII East in Washington last year.  We welcome him back as moderator this year, and as an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, he brings a unique perspective to spirituality.

This year’s agenda for OL XIII will be a little like Noah’s ark — two by two!  We have two bishops, two nuns, and two lay men!  It will be fun, exciting, and spiritually rewarding.  Come and join us!

More details and registration information at:

New Programs from OLTV

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Although the OLTV streaming website ( has not been updated in several months (I hope to fix that soon!), we have been filming and editing a large number of new programs over the last several months.  Most if not all of these new programs are currently available for purchase in either DVD (video) or CD (audio only) format from the online catalog of the OL Conference website:

The new programs include the following:

Paschal Pilgrimage to Europe
— Sunday Divine Liturgy, Cathedral of the Holy Cross Bratislava, Slovakia
— Tuesday Presanctified Liturgy, Blessed Theodore Romzha Academy Chapel
— Wednesday Presanctified Liturgy, Blessed Theodore Romzha Academy Chapel
— Holy Thursday Divine Liturgy, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Uzhorod, Ukraine
— Good Friday Matins, Blessed Theodore Romzha Academy Chapel
— Resurrection Matins and Paschal Divine Liturgy, Blessed Theodore Romzha Academy Chapel

Christmas Pilgrimage to Europe
— Vespers and Liturgy of St Basil, Romzha Theological Academy Chapel
— Compline of Christmas, Romzha Theological Academy Chapel
— Matins of Christmas, Romzha Theological Academy Chapel
— Hierarchical Christmas Divine Liturgy, Holy Cross Cathedral, Uzhorod
— Christmas Divine Liturgy, Outdoors in the Village of Velyky Lazy
— Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Holy Cross Pro-Cathedral, Mukachevo
— Divine Liturgy, Outdoors in the Village of Benedikivtsi
— Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Holy Cross Cathedral, Bratislava

History of Liturgy by Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ
— Byzantine Synthesis of the Divine Liturgy
— St John Chrysostom’s Role in the Formation of the Liturgy
— Eucharistic Anaphora Aloud?
— Liturgy and the Medieval East
— Worship in the Sinai Pennisula in the First Millennium
— Stages of Byzantine Liturgical Evolution
— Women at Liturgy in  Byzantium

Theology of Liturgy by Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ
— Theological Developments in the Byzantine Anaphora
— Contribution of Eastern Liturgy to Understanding Christian Worship
— Eastern Catholic Theology?  Is There Such a Thing?
— Theology of the Divine Office — Part 1
— Theology of the Divine Office — Part 2
— Missionary Effort of the Eastern Churches as Inculturation

Spirituality of Liturgy by Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ
— Christ in the Byzantine Office
— Devotion to the Eucharist in the Christian East
— Liturgical Prayer as Icon of Our Life in Christ
— Liturgy in the Life of the Church
— Lord, Teach Us to Pray
— Putting Mary Back into Christmas

Light and Life Seminars on Eastern Christianity
— Icons: Seeing the Light — Part 1 and Part 2
— Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom — Part 1 through Part 6
— Byzantine Catholic Church History — Part 1 and Part 2

Melkite Patriarchal Divine Liturgy for the Year of Saint Paul, Rome, May 2008

Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the Closing of the Ukrainian Catholic Church Synod, Washington, September 2007

More recordings are in the works include 10 lectures by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia entitled “Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church Fathers.”  Watch this space for more details as they are released, or keep checking the website online catalog at

Success of Seminary Concert Tour

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Over the past 2-3 years, I have had the opportunity to visit the TransCarpathian Region of Ukraine, the location of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo which is the original Church of all the Churches re-united with the Bishop of Rome through the Union of Uzhorod in 1646.  In this Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, the majority of clergy are married with families, Church Slavonic is the normal language of all liturgical services, and they follow the Julian Calendar for both fixed feasts (such as Christmas on January 7) and Pascha (calculating the date of Easter as do the Orthodox Churches).

In my travels, I found the spirituality of the people and clergy, and the faith, especially of the seminarians who are studying for the priesthood, to be very positive and strong.  This Church and its people were severely persecuted by the Communists;  even the bishop of the diocese in the 1940’s, Blessed Theodore Romzha, was martyred for his faith and allegiance to Rome.  They have come out of the underground and are a vibrant, growing Church with enthusiasm abounding.  The seminary has a waiting list with over 125 men already enrolled.

It seemed that the spirituality that they have in TransCarpathia is lacking in our American parishes, and the financial resources that we have in abundance in America are lacking in Ukraine.  I wanted to find a way for more Americans to experience the vibrancy of the Church in Europe.  So I came up with an idea last spring that could allow for an exchange to benefit both Churches — a fund-raising concert tour of the seminary choir to our parishes in America.

The tour was designed with three goals in mind:

— fund-raising to benefit the seminary by asking for donations from patrons and by selling recordings of the choir

— provide an education about the American church and culture to the seminarians, most of whom had never before been on an airplane, let along leave Ukraine and travel to the West

— spark enthusiasm among our parishes for the singing of the Carpathian Mountains, our liturgical heritage, and enouraging vocations to the priesthood and religious life by witnessing the “call of God” demonstrated by these young men studying for the priesthood

We traveled to 25 parishes, singing concerts and some Divine Liturgies, with 17 seminarians over 28 days throughout the Northeast and Midwest.  Every parish welcomed us with great support, provided meals and accommodations, and had “standing-room-only” in many places for the Concerts of Sacred Music.  In total, over 4,000 persons attended the concerts with hundreds more coming for the liturgies sung in Church Slavonic.  After paying all the travel expenses and other costs for the tour, the tour generated over $50,000 in financial support to the seminary to help with their ongoing operational costs.  That is enough to run the entire seminary — meals, utilities, staff, faculty, etc. — for over a month.

More details of the tour locations and a photo album of scenes from the tour can be found at:  Also, CD and DVD recordings of over 100 songs in a collection of 6 programs are available for purchase at:

Most of the parishes invited another us to bring another tour in the future, and so one is being discussed to take place next year, September through October 2010, with the seminary choir from the Preshov Archeparchy in Slovakia.  This is the second historical center of Greek Catholics and has the same singing tradition and overflowing seminary as in TransCarpathia.

With the success of last year’s tour — financial, spiritual and educational — more details will be distributed as plans are finalized.

Orientale Lumen Conferences — Update

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

As fuel prices began to rise in late 2007 and early 2008, it seemed important to make the experience of the OL conferences available to as many people as possible and reduce travel costs for attendees.  So we embarked on a strategy of having more locations for the conference, with the same theme and mostly the same speakers, thus making it one conference in three locations — sort of Trinitarian!

In 2008 the single theme was “Feastdays” and we had wonderful speakers talk about their liturgical, scriptural, and calendar traditions associated with the various feast days of the Church year.  Four of the speakers spoke at all three locations, in Washington, DC for OL XII East, in San Diego, CA for OL XII West, and in Detroit, MI for OL XII North.  The speakers who traveled from place to place included:

  • Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ, Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Orientale Institute in Rome and the world’s foremost theologian on the Byzantine Liturgy.
  • Father Thomas Loya, pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church outside of Chicago, IL and host of the syndicated radio program “Light of the East”.
  • Sister Vassa Larin, religious of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and professor at the University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
  • Professor Richard Schneider of the Orthodox Church in America, who teaches at York University in Toronto and St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary in New York in the field of “iconology”.

In Washington, we also heard from Father Daniel Findikyan, rector of St. Nerses Armenian Seminary in New York and Professor Shawqi Talia, Chaldean Catholic layman from The Catholic University of America.  In San Diego, Father Maximos Davies from Holy Resurrection Monastery, Romanian Greek Catholic Church, was an additional speaker (we also showed Father Findikyan’s talk by video because he could not travel to California at the time).  In Detroit, we were blessed to hear from Archbishop Nathaniel, of the Romanian Episcopate of the Orthodox Church in America and Bishop Ibrahim of the Chaldean Catholic Church, both local to Detroit.

Father Loya and Professor Schneider gave wonderful talks using icons and slides to demonstrate their points, and all the other speakers presented fascinating information about the liturgical calendar and traditions from their specific Church.  We had a marvelous video recorded talk by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia entitled “Sacred Time” that was the opening session.  His educational approach is marvelous from which to learn, and his anecdotal stories are always fun to hear.  Even his video presentation received some higher evaluation scores than the live speakers!

Audio CDs and video DVDs of all plenary sessions and liturgical services at each conference are available for purchase from the online catalog at or by calling the conference office at 703-691-8862.  The hope to make the OL conferences more accessible to more people worked to some extent — we had approximately 60-70 attendees at each location totaling a little over 200, which is more than any single conference in the past.  However, the added cost of having three locations, travel expenses for the speakers, and other costs for three different sites caused a significant financial deficit at each location.  The breakeven point for an OL conference is about 100 paying attendees.

So for 2009, we are going to “downsize” a bit and hold just one conference in Washington, DC at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center on June 15-18, 2009.  We’re sorry that this will not be as convenient for those on the west coast or in the midwest, but for now, we have no other financially viable alternative.  Some have also commented to me that it is better to have just ONE conference that is THE conference for the year so that all attendees can gather together and meet each other rather than be spread around the country in different locations.  Maybe the future will provide a way to do both — we are in discussions with other possible co-sponsors for 2010 to have more venues again.

We are also significantly lowering the price of the basic conference fee to UNDER $200 per person for three days of meetings, including lunch and dinner.  In today’s economic crisis, we are trying to keep the travel costs for speakers to a bare minimum and hope that the lower conference fee will attract more attendees.

 We also hope the theme of “Monastic Spirituality for Every Day Life” and the speakers we are planning will bring back our old friends and attract new persons as well, so please spread the word.  More information and online registration can be found at:

I look forward to seeing each of you there!