Freitag, 25. Dezember 2009

Fröhliche Weihnachten!



Heute ist uns der Heiland geboren. Lasset uns gehen und anbeten!

Today a Savior is born to us. Let us go and worship Him.

Donnerstag, 22. Oktober 2009

Orthodox Oktoberfest

Ignore the politics of this film trailer and simply enjoy watching Oktoberfest in the Orthodox Christian Palestinian town of Taybeh...

Samstag, 25. Juli 2009

Gerontas Joseph von Vatopaidi- Das erste Wunder

Das erste Wunder von Gerontas Joseph von Vatopaidi (Athoskloster) nach seinem Tod: 45 Minuten nach seinem Entschlafen hat er gelächelt. (Γερμανικά, German)

keidia-5

Sehr geehrter Herr Papanikolaou

wenige Stunden nach der Beerdigung von Gerontas Iosif veröffentlichten Sie im WordWideWeb einen Artikel mit dem Titel: “Die Bestattung des seligen Gerontas Iosif (Joseph) von Batopaidi – Ein Lächeln aus der Ewigkeit”, der mit wenigen Worten das Geschehene erklärt und einige Photographien bietet. Die Photographie des Entschlafenen, der lächelt, und zwar nicht allein mit seinen Lippen, sondern im gesamten Ausdruck seines Antlitzes hat einen großen Eindruck auf die Welt gemacht und das können wir in Artikeln und Abhandlungen auf vielen Internetseiten sehen.

Und in der Tat trifft niemand auf Tote mit leuchtendem Antlitz, mit friedlichem Ausdruck, mit tiefer Ruhe, und sogar mit dem Lächeln. Zum einen sagen alle Geistlichen Väter, daß die Stunde des Todes schrecklich für den Menschen ist, zum anderen lesen wir in den Büchern über die Väter (Gerontika), daß auch diejenigen, die ein wenig im geistlichen Leben vorangeschritten sind, wegen der Demut sich nicht überheblich zeigen, bis sie ins andere Leben hinübergegangen sind, wo es keine Gefahr mehr gibt. Zu guter Letzt war Gerontas Iosif herzkrank und viel von Krankheit geplagt. Wie also konnte er lächelnd entschlafen?

Die Antwort ist: NEIN, er entschlief nicht lächelnd, aber er lächelte nach seiner Entschlafung.


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Nach Gesprächen mit einigen Vätern des Klosters will ich Ihnen folgende Erklärung des Geschehenen geben.

Die zwei Mönche, die mit ihm bis zum letzten Augenblick zusammen waren, liefen sofort los, um den Abt Efrem zu informieren und auch die übrigen Väter und achteten zunächst nicht auf den Entschlafenen, der zudem noch mit halboffenem Mund verblieben war.


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Schließlich kamen sie zurück, um ihn gemäß der monastischen Ordnung (für die Aufbarung) zu bereiten. Der Abt Efrem gab den Befehl, daß sie sein Gesicht unbedeckt lassen. Die Väter versuchten, den Mund zu schließen, aber es war zu spät, der Mund blieb offen. Sie banden schließlich eine Binde herum, die seinen Mund geschlossen halten sollte, aber als sie diese wieder wegnahmen, blieb der Mund wieder offen. Es waren seit seiner Entschlafung ungefähr 45 Minuten vergangen.

- Geronta, sieht es nicht häßlich aus mit solch einem Mund, was sollen wir machen?

- Laßt es wie es ist, bedeckt nicht sein Gesicht.

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Sie nähten ihn in seinen Mönchsmantel wie üblich. Die ganze Anstrengung, ihn in seinen Mantel zu legen und ihn einzunähen dauerte in etwa weitere 45 Minuten. Schließlich schnitten sie den Stoff rings um sein Gesicht gemäß dem Auftrag, und sie fanden den Gerontas genau so, wie ihn nun alle sehen: lächelnd. Er hatte sie gehört und er machte ihnen diesen kleinen Gefallen, um sie nicht traurig zu machen? Oder er wollte uns eine Idee davon geben, was er gesehen hat und von der Situation, in der er sich jetzt befindet nach seinem Weggang aus dem gegenwärtigen Leben?


Das Lächeln des Gerontas Iosif ist das erste übernatürliche Geschehen nach seiner Entschlafung und geschah zu einem großen Trost für alle.

keidia 1

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Panagiotis Koutsoú

Aus dem Griechischen von p. Martinos

Donnerstag, 14. Mai 2009

St Walburga, Abbess of Heidenheim


Today, 1 May on the Old Calendar, we celebrate the memory of St Walburga, Abbess of Heidenheim, also known as 'Walpurgis', 'Gauburge', 'Vaubourg', 'Falbourg', and 'Waltpurde'. Here is the account of her life on the Fish Eaters site (also see my other post at Logismoi):

St Walburga was born in Devonshire, England in A.D. 710. Her parents were a West Saxon under-king who became known as St Richard, and St Boniface's sister, Winna. She had two brothers, boys who grew up to be known as SS Willibald and Winibald. When she was eleven, her father and brothers went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, so she was sent to the abbess of Wimborne who ran her Benedictine abbey with holiness and discipline in mind. Walburga's father died in Lucca a year after her arrival at the abbey, and she remained there for twenty-six years, receiving a good education, including the study of Latin. This last skill allowed her to write the account of her brother Willibald's pilgrimage, an act which has led to her being seen as the first female author of England and Germany.

Boniface wrote to the Abbess, asking that nuns be sent to help in in his work, and in A.D. 748, his wish was granted when the Abbess sent along some Sisters, Walburga amongst them. En route to Germany by boat, a great storm arose. As the waters raged above and beneath, Walburga knelt on the deck and prayed. Instantly, the sea became calm, and the sailors went on to proclaim the miracle at their destination. She made her way through Antwerp and then on to Mainz, where she met her Uncle Boniface and her brother, Willibald.

She spent some time in the abbey at Bischofsheim, and was later made abbess of Heidenheim, part of a double-monastery where her favorite brother, Winibald, ruled over the male monastics. When this beloved brother died, she not only ruled her abbey, but ruled over his monastery as well, and became known for her sanctity and miraculous gifts of healing. The story is told of how one night her Sisters came to accompany her down to supper, and found the hall to her room bathed in a divine light that remained until Matins the next morning.

On September 23, 776, she and her brother, Willibald, went to translate Winibald's relics to Heidenheim, but upon opening his tomb, found that no remains were left. Soon after this miracle, she became ill, and then died on February 25, 777 in the company of Willibald, who laid her to rest near Winibald. Willibald himself died in 786.

Jumping forward about a hundred years to A.D. 870, the Bishop of Eichstadt in Bavaria went to restore Walburga's monastery and church. In the process, the workmen desecrated her tomb, and she appeared to them to reproach them for their negligence. The good Bishop reacted by ensuring a solemn and respectful translation of her relics to the Church of the Holy Cross (now known as St Walburga's) in Eichstadt on September 21. But it is what happened twenty-three years later, in A.D. 893, that helps keep St Walburga in our consciousness. In that year, the successor to the Bishop who translated her relics opened her tomb to retrieve some of those relics for the Abbess of Abbess of Monheim. He found that her remains exuded an oil—a healing substance known as the ‘Oil of Saints’. This precious substance has been exuding from her remains yearly ever since between 12 October and 25 February, her Feast in the Benedictine Breviary, only stopping ‘during a period when Eichstadt was laid under interdict, and when blood was shed in the church by robbers who seriously wounded the bell-ringer’ (from the Catholic Encyclopedia). The Abbess got her relics, and some were also sent to Cologne, Antwerp, Furnes, and other places—many of these translations giving rise to Feasts—but it is her tomb in the church in Eichstadt that, to this day, exudes the fragrant, healing oil. A Benedictine nunnery (see picture below) immediately arose near the church that houses her tomb so that the Sisters could tend to her relics and help with the pilgrims who came for the healing oil. The Sisters have been there now for a thousand years.

Here as well is a brief German account from this site:

Walburga war die Tochter des Königs Richard von England und der Wunna und die Schwester von Willibald von Eichstätt und Wunibald von Heidenheim. Sie wurde um 748 von Bonifatius, dem Bruder ihrer Mutter, mit Lioba und anderen Gefährtinnen als Missionarin nach Deutschland gerufen und lebte als Nonne im Kloster Tauberbischofsheim. Mit drei Ähren habe sie ein Kind vom Hungertod errettet; auf dem Wege zur kranken Tochter eines Burgherrn sei sie von Hunden angefallen worden und habe den ihr zu Hilfe eilenden Knechten zugerufen, sie stehe unter dem Schutz Christi, worauf die Hunde von ihr abließen. 761 wurde Walburga zur Äbtissin des von Wunibald gegründeten Benediktinerklosters in Heidenheim in Franken ernannt; das dortige Doppelkloster war ein wichtiger Missionsstützpunkt. Sie ist dort auch bestattet. Die ‘alpurgisnacht’vom 30. April auf den 1. Mai hat inhaltlich keinen erkennbaren Zusammenhang mit der Heiligen, manche Überlieferungen berichten aber von ihrer Kanonisation durch Papst Hadrian II.er regierte 867 - 872—an einem 1. Mai, und in England wurde ihr Gedenktag am 1. Mai begangen.

Sonntag, 10. Mai 2009

The Letters of Fr Clement (Sederholm)

Ручьёв at Incendiary has thankfully begun the task of translating the letters of Fr Clement (Sederholm), the German-Russian who converted to Orthodoxy from Lutheranism and became a monk of Optina Pustyn'. The first translation was just posted, along with the promise of more.
[Following the request of Christopher at Orrologion, I have begun translating some selections from the letters of Fr Clement Sederholm (1830-1878) to his father. In the book I have acquired there are only 15 letters, and they are mostly from the period of Fr. Clement’s life after he was tonsured a monk at Optina in 1863 (ten years after converting to Orthodoxy). One feature that runs throughout all these letters is Fr Clement's unwillingness to openly argue with his father over points of theology. (Evidently at some point they did have such arguments as they are hinted at in early letters.) While in many letters Fr Clement talks about theological matters it is usually simply stating what the Orthodox believe or do, as in this first selection.]

I can briefly explain to you concerning prolonged prayers in our [Orthodox] Church. Every one of us prays not for himself only and not in their own way. We gather together for common church prayer in order to fulfill the unity and mutual love which is commanded by the Holy Spirit as well as what is prescribed by the apostle: forsake not the assembly as do some (Heb. 10:25). No matter how elevated the apostles stood they did not remove themselves from the assembly of believers (Acts 3:1). And that a few prayers of the Church are stronger than the prayers of one man can be seen from the fact that the Apostle Peter was freed from prison by the prayers of the Church (Acts 12:5-19). Our church prayers are made up of psalms, church songs, and various prayers. Every person praying follows the church prayers as they can: if his thoughts scatter he can quickly gather his senses and again follow after the course of the service and pray. But when someone prays alone and composes prayers himself then if his thoughts scatter it is harder for him for begin again to pray; and where does he start? If you, at your age and after long years of studying lofty subjects, feel how hard it is to keep your thoughts together, what can be said about a beginner? Concerning those who already reached the a high level of spiritual life, they add their short prayers to the common church prayer.

I heartily wish that my explanation turns out to be satisfactory to you.

October 26, 1863

Samstag, 9. Mai 2009

Victory Day in Dachau




Today is Victory Day in Russia, marking the anniversary of the surrender of the Nazi government to the Soviet Union in 1945. The day will be marked in Moscow and elsewhere with the sorts of parades that we all remember from the days of the Soviet Union: tanks and soldiers and missiles rolling through Red Square as the power elite stands in rigid attention.

A very different sort of procession was organized today in the German Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Archpriest Ilya Limberger of the Church of St Nicholas in Stuttgart led a procession of young people on foot from the Monastery of St Job of Pochaev in Munich to the concentration camp in Dachau, a distance of some 12.5 kilometers (nearly 8 miles). Once at Dachau they served a panikhida (memorial service) for the reposed and a moleben (service of intercession) to St Nicholas (Velimirović) of Ohrid and Ziča who, along with Patriarch Gavrilo of Serbia, was imprisoned in Dachau for several months in 1944.Both services were performed in the Russian Orthodox chapel (depicted above) built in honor of the Orthodox prisoners who perished at Dachau. An online guide to the chapel notes the following:

A small Russian Orthodox Catholic [sic] Chapel stands on a mound just to the left of the tourist entrance into the crematoria area. It was built in honor of an estimated 6,000 Russian Prisoners of War who died in the Dachau camp or were executed at the SS firing range at Herbertshausen. All Russian POWs who were believed to be Communist Commissars were executed, in Dachau and elsewhere, on an order from Adolf Hitler who issued this directive on the eve of the German invasion of Russia on July 22, 1941. In all the camps, the Russian POWs were treated much worse than other prisoners in retaliation for the atrocities committed by the Russians against German soldiers. The Russians had not signed the most recent agreement at the Geneva Convention and were not following the rules of warfare with regard to German Prisoners of War. After the liberation of Dachau, the remaining Russian POWs were turned over to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Allied agreement at Yalta in 1943. The Soviet Union treated these returning prisoners as traitors and immediately sent them to the gulags, as the Communist concentration camps were called.

For an extraordinary account of the celebration of Pascha in Dachau in 1945, shortly after its liberation, go here. For another brief account (in French) of today's pilgrimage, go here.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Thy servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting.

Montag, 20. April 2009

Orthodox Pascha in Dachau

Taken from Ora et Labora:

The [following] account, by the late Gleb Rahr (+2006), tells the story of the celebration of Pascha at Dachau shortly after its liberation in 1945. It is among the most extraordinarily moving things I've ever read. It's been posted on a good number of websites and blogs, but I can't help but reproduce it once again. The photograph below depicts the interior of the Russian Orthodox chapel in Dachau, which the author mentions. Notice in particular the large icon behind the Holy Table.



This is my father's account of how he celebrated the feast in 1945.

The last transport of prisoners arrives from Buchenwald. Of the 5,000 originally destined for Dachau, I was among the 1,300 who had survived the trip. Many were shot, some starved to death, while others died of typhus...

April 28th: I and my fellow prisoners can hear the bombardment of Munich taking place some 30 km from our concentration camp. As the sound of artillery approaches ever nearer from the west and the north, orders are given proscribing prisoners from leaving their barracks under any circumstances. SS-soldiers patrol the camp on motorcycles as machine guns are directed at us from the watch-towers, which surround the camp.

April 29th: The booming sound of artillery has been joined by the staccato bursts of machine gun fire. Shells whistle over the camp from all directions. Suddenly white flags appear on the towers—a sign of hope that the SS would surrender rather than shoot all prisoners and fight to the last man. Then, at about 6:00 p.m., a strange sound can be detected emanating from somewhere near the camp gate which swiftly increases in volume...

Finally all 32,600 prisoners join in the cry as the first American soldiers appear just behind the wire fence of the camp. After a short while electric power is turned off, the gates open and the American GIs make their entrance. As they stare wide-eyed at our lot, half-starved as we are and suffering from typhus and dysentery, they appear more like fifteen-year-old boys than battle-weary soldiers...

An international committee of prisoners is formed to take over the administration of the camp. Food from SS-stores is put at the disposal of the camp kitchen. A US military unit also contributes some provision, thereby providing me with my first opportunity to taste American corn. By order of an American officer radio-receivers are confiscated from 'prominent Nazis' in the town of Dachau and distributed to the various national groups of prisoners. The news come in: Hitler has committed suicide, the Russians have taken Berlin, and German troops have surrendered in the South and in the North. But the fighting still rages in Austria and Czechoslovakia...

Naturally, I was ever cognizant of the fact that these momentous events were unfolding during Holy Week. But how could we mark it, other than through our silent, individual prayers? A fellow-prisoner and chief interpreter of the International prisoner's committee, Boris F., paid a visit to my typhus-infested barrack 'Block 27' to inform me that efforts were underway in conjunction with the Yugoslav and Greek National Prisoner's Committees to arrange an Orthodox service for Easter day, May 6th.

There were Orthodox priests, deacons and a group of monks from Mount Athos among the prisoners. But there were no vestments, no books whatsoever, no icons, no candles, no prosphoras, no wine...

Efforts to acquire all these items from the Russian parish in Munich failed, as the Americans just could not locate anyone from that parish in the devastated city. Nevertheless, some of the problems could be solved: The approximately 400 Catholic priests detained in Dachau had been allowed to remain together in one barrack and recite mass every morning before going to work. They offered us Orthodox the use of their prayer room in 'Block 26', which was just across the road from my own 'block'. The chapel was bare, save for a wooden table and a Czenstochowa icon of the Theotokos hanging on the wall above the table—an icon which had originated in Constantinople and was later brought to Belz in Galicia, where it was subsequently taken from the Orthodox by a Polish king. When the Russian Army drove Napoleon's troops from Czenstochowa, however, the abbot of the Czenstochowa Monastery gave a copy of the icon to Tsar Alexander I, who placed it in the Kazan Cathedral in Saint-Petersburg where it was venerated until the Bolshevik seizure of power. A creative solution to the problem of the vestments was also found. New linen towels were taken from the hospital of our former SS-guards. When sewn together lengthwise, two towels formed an epitrachilion and when sewn together at the ends they became an orarion. Red crosses, originally intended to be worn by the medical personnel of the SS-guards, were put on the towel-vestments.

On Easter Sunday, May 6th (April 23rd according to the Church calendar),—which ominously fell that year on Saint George the Victory-Bearer's Day, Serbs, Greeks and Russians gathered at the Catholic Priests barrack. Although Russians comprised about 40 percent of the Dachau inmates, only a few managed to attend the service. By that time 'repatriation officers' of the special 'Smersh' units had arrived in Dachau by American military planes, and begun the process of erecting new lines of barbed wire for the purpose of isolating Soviet citizens from the rest of the prisoners, which was the first step in preparing them for their eventual forced repatriation. In the entire history of the Orthodox Church there has probably never been an Easter service like the one at Dachau in 1945. Greek and Serbian priests together with a Serbian deacon adorned the make-shift 'vestments' over their blue and gray-striped prisoners uniforms. Then they began to chant, changing from Greek to Slavonic, and then back again to Greek. The Easter Canon, the Easter Sticheras—everything was recited from memory. The Gospel—'In the beginning was the Word'—also from memory.

And finally, the Homily of Saint John Chrysostom—also from memory. A young Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and recited it with such infectious enthusiasm that we shall never forget him as long as we live. Saint John Chrysostomos himself seemed to speak through him to us and to the rest of the world as well! Eighteen Orthodox priests and one deacon—most of whom were Serbs, participated in this unforgettable service. Like the sick man who had been lowered through the roof of a house and placed in front of the feet of Christ the Saviour, the Greek Archimandrite Meletios was carried on a stretcher into the chapel, where he remained prostrate for the duration of the service.

The priests who participated in the 1945 Dachau Easter service are commemorated at every Divine Service held in the Dachau Russian Orthodox Memorial Chapel, along with all Orthodox Christians, who lost their lives 'at this place, or at another place of torture' ('na meste sem i v inykh mestakh mucheniya umuchennykh i ubiennykh'). The Dachau Resurrection-Chapel, which was constructed by a unit of the Russian Army's Western Group of Forces just before their departure from Germany in August, 1994, is an exact replica of a North-Russian 'tent-domed' (Shatrovyie) church or chapel. Behind the altar-table of the chapel is a large icon depicting angels opening the gates of the Dachau concentration camp and Christ Himself leading the prisoners to freedom. Today I would like to take the opportunity to ask you, Orthodox Christians all over the world, to pass on the names of fellow Orthodox who were imprisoned and died here in Dachau or in other Nazi concentration camps so that we can include them in our prayers. Should you ever come to Germany, be sure to visit our Russian Chapel on the site of the former concentration camp in Dachau and pray for all those who died 'at this place, or at another place of torture'.

Khristos voskrese! Christos anesti! Christ has risen! El Messieh Qahm!

Christus ist auferstanden!

Sonntag, 19. April 2009

Ein frohe Osterbegrüßung!

Christus ist auferstanden!

Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!




Freitag, 17. April 2009

Good Friday in Germany


From this informative page:

The German name for Good Friday (Karfreitag) comes from the Old High German form kara, which has the same meaning as the English word 'care'. This gives the meaning of 'Sorrowful Friday to the day when Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is also known as 'Quiet Friday' (Stiller Freitag) for obvious reasons. On this very solemn day no church bells are rung in Roman Catholic churches. Some children believe that the bells are sent to Rome at this special time to be consecrated. Consequently the male members of the communities make up for the lack of noise with the 'Good Friday rattles' - in appearance rather like football rattle - which not only provide them with pleasurable task of making a lot of noise but also summon the villagers church services. In Swabia a loud-mouthed person is rebuked with saying: 'You have a mouth like a Good Friday rattle' (Dui hot e Meul wie e Karfreitigrätsch).

In former times there were far more restrictions on individual behaviour on this day of mourning than there are today. The drinking of alcohol was strictly forbidden in order to bring to mind the fact that Jesus Christ was thirsty whilst on the Cross. No one was allowed to kill an animal and the blacksmith was not allowed to use either hammer or nails, since these were employed in the Crucifixion. In some homes the crockery which had been specially polished during the Green Thursday spring clean was kept covered up in baskets until Easter Saturday, since it was considered unfitting for anything sparkling to be on view on Good Friday.There are special church services on Good Friday, some lasting for three hours, and Bach's St. Matthew's Passion is performed in many churches. Passion Plays used to be popular on Good Friday but are rarely performed today. The Passion Play in the Eifel mountains was banned around the year 1800, because it was considered to have become too worldly and to be too distracting. Many families eat the familiar Lenten food on Good Friday, choosing fish in preference to eggs or meat, and in some areas the bread eaten on Good Friday has the sign of the cross marked on the crust. Twigs from the sloe tree and buchthorn are sometimes brought into the house as an Easter decoration, reminding the householders of the crown of thorns which Jesus Christ was made to wear. Furthermore, a symbol of new life and future growth is to be found in the blossoms the branches bear, in the same way as Jesus Christ in his resurrection was the first fruit of believers.

Montag, 13. April 2009

Göttingen Scholar to speak on Syriac Christianity


The Canadian Society for Syriac Studies is hosting Professor Martin Tamcke of Göttingen University, Germany. His presentation is entitled

The Correspondence between Mar Thoma V of India and Professor Karl Schaaf (18th Century)

8 pm: Wednesday April 15, 2009
Hosted at the University of Toronto's
Koffler Institute for Pharmacy Management
Room 108, 569 Spadina Avenue
University of Toronto

Karl Schaaf (1646-1729) was a professor of Aramaic and Syriac and was responsible for a series of definitive lexicons and grammatical works on the Syriac language. Schaaf also corresponded with the Syriac Bishop of Malabar.

Donnerstag, 9. April 2009

Orthodox German: Hieromonk Clement (Sederholm)



Thanks to Ручьёв of the Incendiary blog, I have found a book I have long been looking for. Of course, it's in Russian - which I don't read - but I at least know that the book has been published in this century rather than the turn of the last (like, 1902).

Православный немец. Иеромонах Климент (Зедергольм) [Orthodox German: Hieromonk Clement (Sederholm)] was published in 2005 by Московское подворье Свято-Введенской Оптиной Пустыни [the Moscow dependency of the Holy-Entry Optina Hermitage].

It contains letters to his father (a Lutheran pastor, thus my interest), two biographies of Fr. Clement (one of which was written by Konstantin Leontiev and is available online here and here [also, John Hogg has begun an English translation of it in the combox here]) and six other articles of his. Two works of his have appeared in English - Elder Leonid of Optina and Elder Anthony of Optina - both published by St. Herman Press.

I am eager to see this text translated into English and would be thankful for any help at all in even a rough translation into English.

I shall also append Leonard Stanton's brief overview of Fr Clement's life in his wonderful book, The Optina Pustyn Monastery in the Russian Literary Imagination (NY: Peter Lang, 1995), p. 152:

The author [of the Life of Elder Leonid of Optina], Karl (later Father Kliment) Zedergol'm, died in 1878, before Dostoevsky's last visit to Optina. Zedergol'm was a cantakerous man of great culture and learning. He was at home both in a monastic setting and in the inner circles of Russia's literary beau monde. He graduated in classics from Moscow University in 1853, having written a master's thesis on Cato the Elder that [Konstantin] Leont'ev, his biographer, called both stimulating and controversial. In the same year, Zedergol'm converted from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy. (His father was the head Lutheran pastor in Moscow at the time.) Zedergol'm was at home in the brilliant Moscow salons, particularly Mrs Elagin's with its erudite ferment of German Romantic thought and Slavophilism. He was a protégé of Ivan Vasil'evich Kireevskii, Russia's first original philosopher, and counted among the friends of his youth some of the leading lights of the Moscow literary intelligentsia, including Tertii Filippov and the 'young editors' of The Muscovite. After a brief career as a layman working in the Holy Synod, Zedergol'm entered Optina Pustyn in 1862 and soon became a monk and a priest as well. He was never himself an elder, nor was he possessed of a sufficiently irenic disposition ever to have been considered for elderhood. He devoted himself to literary endeavors at Optina, as a translator of spiritual works from Latin and Greek into Russian, as the author of the elders' biographies, and as secretary to Elder Amvrosii.

Mittwoch, 8. April 2009

St Rupert of Salzburg


Today, 27 March on the old Orthodox calendar, we celebrate the memory of St Rupert (c. 660-718), Bishop of Salzburg (other forms of his name are Ruprecht, Hrodperht, Hrodpreht, Roudbertus, Rudbertus, and Robert). According to one Life of St Rupert:

He was gentle and chaste, simple and prudent, devout in praise of God, full of the Holy Spirit. He was also circumspect in his decisions and righteous in his judgement. He possessed great spiritual discernment, and his good deeds formed his flock into true images of Christ, for he inspired them not only with his words, but by the example of his works. He often kept vigil, weakened himself with fasting, and adorned his works with compassion. He gave away his riches that the poor might not go hungry, believing himself to be one who should clothe the naked and help the destitute.
Traditionally believed to have been one of the Merovingians, very little is known about St Rupert’s early life. At some point he was a made Bishop of Worms, a position he held until about 697, when he was invited by Duke Theodo II to Bavaria to do missionary work. St Rupert was greeted by the Duke at Regensberg, and ‘set out immediately on a journey along the Danube, preaching in towns and villages as far as Hungary’ (Butler’s Lives of the Saints, New Full Edition: March, rev. Teresa Rodrigues [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1999], p. 261). He went to Lorch, and built a church dedicated to St Peter on the Wallersee, later becoming the town of Seekirchen.

At St Rupert’s own request, Duke Theodo gave him about two square miles of the old ruined Roman town of Juvavum. According to the previously quoted Life:

Some very reliable men came to the blessed hierarch and told him of an amazing phenomenon which had taken place when they had gone into an unnamed wilderness area now called Bongotobum (Pongau). Three or four times they had seen heavenly lights shining like bright lamps in the sky and they had also experienced a wonderful fragrance in the same place. The pious bishop sent the priest Domingus to Bongotobum because of the reports which he received concerning these lights. It was his desire that the priest would verify the authenticity of these wonders by erecting in that location a wooden cross which the holy one had made and blessed with his own hands. When Domingus arrived, he at once began the First Hour with the monks who had come with him. They saw a bright heavenly light which descended from the sky and lit up the entire region with the brightness of the sun. Domingus saw this vision on three nights in a row, and experienced the wondrous fragrance as well. He erected the blessed cross in that place, and it was miraculously transported to a spot above the dwelling of St Rupert, confirming the truthfulness of what had been reported to him! St Rupert took word of the miraculous occurrence to Theodo and then he himself went into the wilderness to the very spot, and seeing that it was suitable for habitation, began to cut down aged oaks and brought in building materials that he might build a church with dwellings for a monastic community.

Here he built a church and monastery dedicated to St Peter (the Archabbey of St Peter), which St Rupert himself served as abbot, as well as a women’s monastery dedicated to the Theotokos (Nonnberg Abbey), and where he installed his niece, St Erentrude, as abbess. Both are still functioning monasteries under the Benedictine rule, and the latter was made famous as the monastery of Maria von Trapp’s novitiate. St Rupert is said to have encouraged the development of salt mining at his new see, and it is from this industry that the city acquired the name by which it is still known today: Salzburg, or ‘Salt castle’ (I have blogged about this beautiful city a little bit before, in connection with St Rupert’s successor, St Vergilius). For this reason, St Rupert is often depicted holding a container of salt (see here, for instance).

Despite his attachment to a particular see, St Rupert continued to travel throughout the area, ‘preaching the Faith and founding many other churches and monasteries’, until finally, ‘After a life of strenuous activity he left his helpers to carry on the work and returned to Salzburg, certain that he was about to die. He died on Easter Sunday, probably between 710 and 720’ (Butler, p. 262). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

. . . [H]e died at Salzburg, aided by the prayers of his brethren in the order; his body reposed in the St Peterskirche until 24 September 774, when his disciple and successor, Abbot-Bishop St Virgil, had a portion of his remains removed to the cathedral. On 24 September 1628, these relics were interred by Archbishop Paris von Ladron (1619-54) under the high altar of the new cathedral. Since then the town and district of Salzburg solemnize the feast of St Rupert, Apostle of Bavaria and Carinthia, on 24 September.

One can read more about St Rupert in German here and here, and about Nonnberg Abbey here. The second link includes the following hymn for Ss Rupert and Vergilius:
Lied zum Fest der Heiligen Rupert und Virgil
Melodie: Gotteslob 639 (Ein Haus voll Glorie schauet)
Ein Jubellied erschalle,
dem heiligen Bischofspaar,
das hier in unserem Tale
einst Hirt und Lehrer war:
Singet Preis und Lob
Gott, der sie erhob
auf Salzburgs Bischofsthron
und uns zum Schutzpatron.

Sankt Rupert hat verkündet
das Evangelium,
den Bischofssitz gegründet
als Hort dem Christentum.
Gottes Wort und Macht
ist in dunkler Nacht
uns Schirm und unser Licht
bis Christi Tag anbricht.

Sankt Virgil trug die Lehre
des Glaubens in die Fern;
dass er das Land bekehre,
war Auftrag ihm vom Herrn.
Hütet Gottes Geist,
der den Weg uns weist,
dem Volk auf Pilgerfahrt,
das um das Kreuz sich schart.

Montag, 23. Februar 2009

The Jewish Roots of Orthodox Baptism


I really do not like to dwell on previous incarnations of the GermanOrthodoxChurch website, but I find it highly ironic and almost humorous that racists would try and emulate or masquerade as the Orthodox Church- especially given the Jewish roots of Orthodox worship, practice, tradition, and mysticism.

Take baptism, for example. Like much of early Christian worship, Baptism was a Jewish custom. The people living in the Middle East in the first century were already familiar with the practice. So when the Jews and Greeks saw John the Baptist immersing people in the river, they didn't say to themselves "what is this strange act"? It was something they were already familiar with. An article once posted on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website said:

A significant parallel exists between Jewish proselyte baptism (when pagans were converted to Judaism) and early Christian baptism. The contacts between early Christian baptism and proselyte baptism, with the similarities in terminology, interpretation, symbolism, and the rite itself, are especially notable. What is of greatest interest, however, is that the baptism of the early Church followed that of proselyte baptism, in which children and infants were baptized with the convert’s family. This is especially significant when one realizes that the very early Church was made up primarily of converted Jews. -“Infant Baptism” by Jordan Bajis.

Baptism, or “mikveh” in Hebrew, is the ceremonial and purifying washing of an object or person in the presence of witnesses. The object or person becomes sanctified, or purified and set aside for a holy purpose. From Old Testament times onward, this has been applied to new mothers, burnt offerings, personal garments, one's hands before a meal, etc. Even in modern Jewish homes, kitchen utensils are immersed in a mikveh, thus a simple meal is transformed into an act of spiritual significance. We can see examples of this ritual in the following Old Testament passages:

Exodus 19:10-14
Exodus 30:18-21
Leviticus 11
Leviticus 17:16
Numbers 8:7

Christian baptism was the continuation of the Jewish mikveh - the sanctification and entrance of the person into the faith community. Churches that baptize babies do so with the belief that those who are baptized (infants and adults) are being set apart for a holy purpose and the process of salvation has begun in their lives.

The Old Testament teaches that males coming into the Covenant should be circumcised. Hebrew men who accepted God’s Covenant were to be circumcised, but what about Hebrew children? Did the law require that they wait until an “age of accountability” so they could decide for themselves? No, the Law taught that Hebrew infants were to be circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant, just like any adult convert. The early Church simply continued with this understanding when baptism became the “circumcision of the New Covenant” for the New Testament Christians (Colossians 2).

Forbidding the baptism of infants (“believer’s baptism”) came about in Europe with the Protestant Reformation. In their zeal to distance themselves from anything resembling Roman Catholicism, the Anabaptist and Mennonite reformers lost sight of the historical meaning behind baptism. Protestant theology was heavily influenced by European political ideals, particularly the new emphasis on individual rights and thus baptism became the “public declaration of one’s personal decision.”

In the Conservative and Orthodox Jewish traditions, men and women still go to the purifying waters every shabbat eve. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, full immersion is required, often done in a large basin, exactly as going to the mikveh. Chrismation and the Eucharist immediately follow. Just as the Jewish mikveh is done in view to partake in the Shabbat meals, baptism/Chrismation culminates in the Eucharistic meal.

We are like the burnt offerings and kitchen utensils in a Jewish home in that we can never fully comprehend our sanctification through the mystery of Baptism, no matter what our age is. Yet, we as Christians are separated for a Holy purpose, and we begin the process of salvation through the mystery of Baptism. We are then able to enter God’s temple as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”

Jordan Bajis's article is also careful to point out:

Baptism in and of itself, of course, is not enough. It must be accompanied by genuine faith. No parents should be allowed to baptize their infant if they themselves have not made an expressed commitment to serve Jesus Christ and raise their children in accordance with God’s Word. As adults, we are called to accept the challenge of our baptism and live dedicated lives for Christ. If we do any less, we have rejected Christ and the gift of salvation He has made available to us since our birth.

- by David Schneider with the assistance of Fr. Aleksandr Winogradsky Frenkel

Freitag, 20. Februar 2009

St Pirminius in Reichenau


This photograph, which I originally posted during Bright Week, prompted a reader to ask for an explanation. I'm happy to oblige. This is a photograph of a sundial painted on the outside wall of the rectory outside the Abbey Church (which it depicts in its current form) on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance, Germany. The figure holding the staff and treading on a serpent is St Pirminius (or Pirmin, c.670 - 753). The monk Hermann the Cripple (+1054 – great timing!) writes the following in his chronicle for the year 724:

Saint Pirminius, abbot and bishop, is led by the princes Berthold and Nebi to Charles, who entrusts Reichenau to him. He drove out the snakes and during his three-year stay organized monastic life.

The inscription, ora et labora, is a Benedictine exhortation (in Latin) to 'pray and work'. This points to the abbey's monastic roots. Abbot Walahfrid Strabo (842-849), in a letter to Pope Gregory IV (827-844), praises the abbey in these words:

That earlier-named site of our endeavors indeed occupies first place in these regions. It is dedicated to the Most Pure, Blessed Virgin Mary and the Prince of the Apostles Peter. A not insignificant group of men who conduct their lives after the Rule of Saint Benedict is united there. The fullness of their spiritual wisdom nourishes the adjacent land with ample instruction.

Saint Pirminius left Reichenau in 727, and reposed on November 3, 753, as Abbot of Hornbach in the Palatinate, the last monastery that he founded. His holy relics are preserved in the Jesuit Church of Innsbruck.

Visitors to Reichenau should by all means visit the treasure room – and do confirm ahead of time that it will be open – in order to venerate a large relic of the the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, as well as a number of other ancient relics, most of which were likely brought from Constantinople during the Crusades.

Holy Saint Priminius, pray to God for us!

Dienstag, 17. Februar 2009

Tolkien on the Germanic Ideal


Strictly speaking, this has nothing to do with ‘German Orthodoxy’, but it does represent a very Orthodox view of national pride, one that is most definitely in conflict with Nazism. Furthermore, an important part of the Daseinszweck of this blog is specifically the response to those who would have German identity—and even love of the German land and people—and hatred of others go hand in hand. From a letter of J.R.R. Tolkien to his son Michael, dated 9 June 1941, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter with Christopher Tolkien (Boston: Houghton, 1981), p. 55-6:

People in this land seem not even yet to realize that in the Germans we have enemies whose virtues (and they are virtues) of obedience and patriotism are greater than ours in the mass. Whose brave men are just about as brave as ours. Whose industry is about 10 times greater. And who are—under the curse of God—now led by a man inspired by a mad, whirlwind, devil: a typhoon, a passion: that makes the poor old Kaiser look like an old woman knitting.

I have spent most of my life, since I was your age, studying Germanic matters (in the general sense that includes England and Scandinavia). There is a great deal more force (and truth) than ignorant people imagine in the ‘Germanic’ ideal. I was much attracted by it as an undergraduate (when Hitler was, I suppose, dabbling in paint, and had not heard of it), in reaction against the ‘Classics’. You have to understand the good in things, to detect the real evil. But no one ever calls on me to ‘broadcast’, or do a postscript! Yet I suppose I know better than most what is the truth about this ‘Nordic’ nonsense. Anyway, I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that it in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.

Montag, 16. Februar 2009

Hymns for St Anscharius from Sweden & Bremen


Besides the modern Orthodox service for St Anskar, with its own hymnography based on Byzantine forms, one can find the Latin texts and English translations of two Western hymns for the holy hierarch here. I shall post the English translations of both. The first is apparently taken from the Breviary used in the Swedish church at Upsala:

Most noble father, Anskar,
Restore us by thy grace,
And those who wander now afar
In Christ's own bosom place.

In holy strife contending
Thou did'st the faith proclaim
To Danes and Swedes declaring
The honour of His name.

An unbelieving nation
From thee the light receives,
The teachings of salvation,
It now with joy believes.

Thou to God's sheep hast given
The food they fain would claim,
And earnestly hast striven
To glorify His name.

To the great King thou bringest
When earthly strife doth cease,
The talents thou receivest,
With manifold increase.

To Father, and His only Son
Be laud and honour given
To Holy Spirit, Three in One
In earth and highest heaven.

The second hymn is prefaced by this note: 'This hymn in honour of Anshar was written by Conrad Benne, who was a deacon in the monastery of S.S. Willehad and Stephen at Bremen from 1429 to 1456. It is included in the Missal of the Church at Bremen issued by Archbishop Johann Rode.'

Ye men of Bremen sing with joy,
Your hearts with minds and tongues employ,
Such wondrous gifts without alloy
Each with beauty all its own
Of joyful sound the piercing reed
To praise your glorious patron, speed.
Blest Anskar, now from troubles freed
High on his triumphal throne.

He, God's High priest midst Northmen rude
The pattern life to Romans shewed
In Heaven's high fortress unsubdued
Now holds his prize in glory.
Once nurtured up in Corbey's Hall,
His sanctity acclaimed by all,
To highest priesthood hears his call,
Rejoice, and sing his story.

With wide stretched sails, in faith he flies
Displays to wondering Danish eyes
The Lamb of God that rules the skies,
Bids them worship at His Shrine.
In pagan lands hard hearts he breaks,
Disciples for the Mister makes
Thy signs and merits conscience wakes,
Fount of eloquence divine!

The conqueror of kingdoms three,
Temples profane destroyed must be
Vain idol worship fain must flee,
For Christ are won these regions
In faith shine forth the Danes and Swedes
Where Bremen's faithful bishop leads
Icelanders, too, forsake their creeds
Greenlanders and Norwegians.

Oh, mind upraised, to things on high
Oh, salt of earth! oh sanctity!
Oh, light, no bushel hidden by,
Shining now with heavenly beam!
The warrior weeps, with grief cast down
Lest he should lose the martyr's crown,
'Twas surely promised for his own,
Once in brightest vision's gleam.

The Cup of Solomon the True
He drinketh ­yea, death's tortures too,
Though not by violent sword thrust through
Martyrdom he is denied.
Abuse and threats on every hand,
Tormentors, tyrants, round him stand,
His life a sign to every land
Faith triumphant will abide.

In hope of contemplation sweet
In thickest forest finds retreat
And there pours out oblation meet,
Corn and wine in Jesus name.
For though absorbed in cares of earth
He loves the things of highest worth
Two lives he leads; e’en from his birth
Brightly burns the sacred flame.

To Christ, of all his life the End
Triumphantly his steps do bend,
To Thee my spirit I commend,
Dear Lord’, he breathes, believing
Then to his brethren bids farewell,
Is taken up, in heaven to dwell
With rapture­ those who loved him well
Can scarce refrain their grieving.

Oh! Anskar blest, to thee we pray
As we revere thy name to­day,
Be thou our leader that we may
The path of virtue cherish.
Guide ever through the trackless world
Thy pilgrim sheep to the true fold,
Lest wolves upon thy flock take hold
And far from home we perish.

Sonntag, 15. Februar 2009

St Anscharius of Hamburg & Bremen, Apostle of the North & Patron of Germany


Today, 3 February on the old Orthodox calendar, we commemorate St Anskar (sometimes written Ansgarius, Ansgar, or Anschar) of Hamburg and Bremen (801-65), Apostle of the North and Patron of Germany. His Life was written by his disciple, St Rimbert, his successor to the see of Bremen-Hamburg, and unless otherwise noted, all quotations will be from the translation of that Life by Charles H. Robinson at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

St Anskar came from a noble family of Amiens, Picardie, in modern France, who may have been close in some capacity to Charlemagne. While still a boy, he received the first of many ‘celestial visits which admonished him to turn away his thoughts from things on earth and to keep his whole heart open to heavenly influences’. According to St Rimbert, the Mother of God appeared to St Anskar, who had previously indulged in childish games with his fellows, saying, ‘If you desire to share our companionship, you must flee from every kind of vanity, and put away childish jests and have regard to the seriousness of life; for we hate everything that is vain and unprofitable, nor can anyone be with us who has delight in such things.’ Apparently, the boy took this to heart, and spent more time in ‘reading and meditation and other useful occupations’, eventually receiving tonsure in the Benedictine monastery of Old Corbie in his native region (Chapt. II).

But it was a second set of experiences that seem definitely to have fixed St Anskar on the path of sanctity. The first was the death of Charlemagne, at which, upon hearing the news, the Saint was ‘affected with fear and horror’. St Rimbert tells us:

Accordingly he put aside all levity and began to languish with a divinely inspired remorse; and, devoting himself wholly to the service of God, he gave attention to prayer, watching and fasting. By these virtuous exercises he became a true athlete, of God, and, as a result of his persistent severity, the world became dead to him and he to the world. (Cf. Gal. 6:14)


Then, immediately after this, St Rimbert relates another vision, or more properly, an entire ἀποκάλυψη–


When the Day of Pentecost came, the grace of the Holy Spirit, which was at this time poured forth upon the apostles, enlightened and refreshed his mind,­ so we believe; and the same night he saw in a vision that he was about to encounter sudden death when, in the very act of dying, he summoned to his aid the holy apostle Peter and the blessed John the Baptist.

These two great Saints appeared to him, and guided St Anskar through an experience of torment to a vision of the throne of God, surrounded by the ranks of Saints and angels. According to the Saint’s own words, which he related to St Rimbert on condition that he tell no one before the former’s death:

In the east, where the light rises, was a marvellous brightness, an unapproachable light of unlimited and excessive brilliance, in which was included every splendid colour and everything delightful to the eye. All the ranks of the saints, who stood round rejoicing, derived their happiness therefrom. The brightness was of so great extent that I could see neither beginning nor end thereof. . . . When, then I had been brought by the men whom I mentioned into the presence of this unending light, where the majesty of Almighty God was revealed to me without need for anyone to explain, and when they and I had offered our united adoration, a most sweet voice, the sound of which was more distinct than all other sounds, and which seemed to me to fill the whole world, came forth from the same divine majesty, and addressed me and said, ‘Go and return to Me crowned with martyrdom.’ (Chapt. III)

Apparently, St Anskar served for a time as ‘master of the school dedicated to St Peter’ (Chapt. IV), but in 822 he was sent to the foundation of New Corbie far to the north, in the Sollinger Wald in Westphalia in what is now Germany. It seems his services as a schoolmaster and homiletician were desired there, a fact which St Rimbert emphasises in his concern that St Anskar not be thought to have violated St Benedict’s clear command of stability in RB 58—‘But let him understand that according to the law of the Rule he is no longer free to leave the monastery . . .’ (The Rule of St Benedict in English and Latin, trans. Justin McCann [Fort Collins, CO: Roman Catholic, n.d.], p. 131). (Chapt. VI)

It was at New Corbie that St Anskar came to the attention of King Harald 'Klak' Halfdansson from Denmark, who had been converted to Christianity at the court of Charlemagne’s son and successor, Louis the Pious. Upon returning to Denmark, King Harald took the holy man and his companion, Autbert, with him to build a church and school and to teach his people the new Faith (Chapt. VII). But while St Rimbert tells us that ‘many were converted to the faith by their example and teaching, and the number of those who should be saved in the Lord increased daily’ (Chapt. VIII), St Anskar was soon summoned before Louis again. Having been told not even ‘to stop and shave’ (believed to be a reference to renewing his tonsure, one should note), he arrived to receive the king’s request that he go with an embassy to Sweden to preach the Gospel there. Thus, as Christopher Dawson observes, ‘Christianity first penetrated into Scandinavia through the work of St Anskar’ (Religion and the Rise of Western Culture [Garden City, NY: Image, 1958], p. 85). (Chapt. IX)

According to St Rimbert, the missionaries ‘were kindly received by the king, who was called Björn [at Haugi]’, and made great progress in spreading the Gospel among the heathens of the North (Chapt. XI). They eventually returned to Louis bearing letters written in runic characters from the Swedish king, and it was at this point (in 831, according to Butler) that Louis had St Anskar enthroned as abbot of New Corbie and consecrated bishop of the newly formed diocese of Hamburg by his half-brother Drogo of Metz, with the aim of sending the new hierarch on further missions in the northern regions (Chapt. XII). He was then sent to be confirmed in his authority by Pope Gregory IV, who, before the tomb of St Peter—

appointed him as his legate for the time being amongst all the neighbouring races of the Swedes and Danes, also the Slavs and the other races that inhabited the regions of the north, so that he might share authority with Ebo the Archbishop of Rheims [a co-consecrator of the new bishop], to whom he had before entrusted the same office. (Chapt. XIII)

St Rimbert tells us that his elder faithfully administered his diocese, converting many of the heathen by the example of his life. He also redeemed young boys from slavery to educate them and train them to serve the Church—a good work which has been depicted in the illustration above (Chapt. XV). According to Butler, St Anskar continued to oversee missions in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (the last being administered by an auxiliary bishop), built churches, and founded a library, giving himself over to this labour for thirteen years. But in 845, Vikings destroyed Hamburg, and the bishop and his flock barely escaped with their lives (Chapt. XVI). Soon after, as the bishop of Bremen had fallen asleep in the Lord, that see was joined with Hamburg into a new archbishopric under the oversight of St Anskar (Chapt. XIII), who continued to foster missions in various parts of the North.

In Chapter XXXV of his Life, St Rimbert tells us that his elder would practice extreme asceticism, wearing a hairshirt in imitation of St Martin of Tours. While St Anskar also followed the great hierarch of Gaul in preaching the Gospel with zeal and serving the poor and the sick, ‘At the same time he loved to be alone in order that he might exercise himself in divine philosophy’, and thus he built himself a private cell in which to practice hesychia. He was tireless in his solicitude for the poor, for scholars, widows, and hermits, bringing them money and gifts, feeding them and washing their feet with his own hands. Once, when the large numbers of people he had healed through prayer were referred to in St Anskar’s presence, out of a desire to hide his virtue he replied, ‘Were I worthy of such a favour from my God, I would ask that he would grant to me this one miracle, that by His grace He would make of me a good man’ (Chapt. XXXIX).

It is interesting to reflect that St Anskar carried out many of his dangerous missions among the Northern heathens with the expectation that he would likely be martyred, in accordance with the commandment he had received from God as a young man (related in Chapt. III). But while the opportunity to shed his blood frequently eluded him, St Rimbert tells us, ‘The life that he lived involved toils which were accompanied by constant bodily suffering: in fact his whole life was like a martyrdom’ (Chapt. XL). At last, in his old age, St Anskar also began to suffer from a final martyrdom—a wasting illness which tormented him slowly over the course of some months. Having arranged for a glorious celebration of the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord, this holy hierarch fell asleep in the Lord the very next day. Even though he did not meet a violent end, according to St Rimbert (Chapt. XLII), his can still be held to have been a martyr’s death:

For day by day, by tears, watchings, fastings, tormenting of the flesh and mortification of his carnal desires, he offered up a sacrifice to God on the altar of his heart and attained to martyrdom as far as was possible in a time of peace. And inasmuch as the agent, though not the will, was lacking in order to bring about the visible martyrdom of the body, he obtained in will what he could not obtain in fact. We cannot, however altogether deny that he attained actual martyrdom if we compare his great labours with those of the apostle. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from his own race, in perils from the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in lonely places, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren ; in labour and distress, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings; often, in cold and nakedness ; besides those things which are without, that which came upon him daily, the care of all the Churches. Who was weak and he was not ? Who, was offended and he did not burn? (Cf. II Cor 11:26-9)

Reader Isaac Lambertson has written a beautiful Service for St Anskar. The first verse of Ode VI of the Canon reads, ‘The rivers and seas of the North were honoured to bear thee on thine apostolic journeys, O Ansgar, disciple of Christ, for the ship of thy soul was propelled by the Holy Spirit.’ Here, in conclusion, is the dismissal hymn of the Saint:

Ever moved by love for God and man, O Ansgar, like the apostles thou didst journey afar to bring salvation to the benighted, offering up thine afflictions upon the altar of thy heart, in thy toils and distress bearing witness unto thy Saviour like a martyr, enduring perils on land and at sea for His sake, undaunted by temptations and tribulations. Wherefore, pray with boldness, that our souls be saved.

Dienstag, 3. Februar 2009

Pro Arte Beuronensis


After reading Fr John Meyendorff’s article on the Orthodox Church in Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, the very first thing that I read about Orthodoxy was Photios Kontoglou’s hard-hitting, but, I felt, persuasive apologia for traditional Byzantine iconography, ‘The Hopelessness of Death in Western Religious Art and the Peace-Bestowing and Profoundly Hopeful Orthodox Iconography’ (printed in English, in, I believe, The True Vine—my own copy is buried in a box somewhere in my house). I very quickly wrote off Western religious art. If it wasn’t the fleshy naturalism of the Renaissance and Baroque eras (made for churches like this), it was the tacky, quickly dated, and hopelessly subjective modernism of the post-Vatican II years (made for churches like this). Neither one seemed right to me.


But then I was surprised to make a discovery. It was about two and a half years ago, when I was first looking into the history of the St Benedict medal. I learned somewhere (most likely here) that the medal as it’s typically produced now had been designed in something called ‘the Beuronese style of sacred art’, at the (I found here) ‘St Martin's Archabbey, Beuron, Germany’. Now, this name, ‘Beuron’, was familiar to me. In his wonderful conversion-to-Orthodoxy story, Fr Placide (Deseille) made a passing reference to this place, saying of his aunts that ‘the great abbeys of Beuron, Maredsous, and Solemnes were the high places of their Christianity’ (Archimandrite Placide [Deseille], ‘Stages of a Pilgrimage’, The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mt Athos, trans. and ed. Hieromonk Alexander [Golitzin] [South Canaan, PA: St Tikhon’s Seminary, 1999], p. 63). It was precisely this passage that sprang to mind when I came across that reference to the design of the medal. It sparked my curiosity as much as the expression ‘the great abbeys’ had fired my imagination.

The story I discovered is a long one, and I haven’t been able to work out all of the precise details. What I do know, is that the main figures in the development of Beuronese art were a group of German artists named Peter Lenz (1832-1928), Jakob Würger (1829-92), and Fridolin Steiner (1849-1906). The three young men went to Rome to work with some members of what had been the ‘Nazarene’ movement, a brotherhood of German artists devoted to St Luke the Evangelist (the first iconographer, according to tradition) who had lived a semi-monastic existence painting religious and neomediæval subjects in a simple, serene style. One critic in 1820 ascribed to the Nazarenes’ work the qualities of ‘simplicity, holiness, and purity’ (Fr Kenneth Novak, ‘The Art of Beuron’, Angelus Online). George Eliot referred to the Nazarenes as ‘the chief renovators of Christian art, . . . who had not only revived but expanded that grant conception of supreme events as mysteries at which the successive agess were spectators, and in relation to which the great souls of all periods became as it were contemporaries’ (George Eliot, Middlemarch I, Vol. VI in Works of George Eliot [NY: The Century, 1910], p. 310). James D. Merritt notes the Nazarenes’ influence upon and anticipation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England (Introduction, The Pre-Raphaelite Poem [NY: Dutton, 1966], pp. 9-10). A meeting with one of the Nazarenes, Peter von Cornelius, had a tremendous influence on the art of Ford Maddox Brown (1821-93), who subsequently was a mentor to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and a contributor to the Pre-Raphaelite periodical, The Germ (in a letter to Maddox Brown, Rossetti apparently writes ‘that if he ever does anything on his own account, it will be under the influence of such inspiration’—Joseph Knight, Life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti [London: Walter Scott, 1887], p. 22).

So, to return to Lenz, Würger, and Steiner, they were highly influenced by the Nazarene movement. But, in addition, they became fascinated with the ancient Egyptian art that had poured into Europe in the wake of Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. According to Novak:


Lenz [the primary theorist among them] thought sacred art should reflect the natural laws of aesthetics through formulae he believed were forgotten after the Greeks and Egyptians. Geometrical proportions determine ideal forms, and the result is an innate harmony comparable to the mathematical relationships in musical composition.

Believing a monastic brotherhood to be the ideal context in which to put their ideas into practice, the three talked about forming a monastery. But in 1868 they met Fr Maurus Wolter, abbot of the new Benedictine monastery of Beuron. Wolter had initiated a close relationship with the centre of the Gregorian chant revival, Solemnes, corresponding with the abbot, Dom Prosper Guéranger, and even going so far as to model Beuron on the Solemnes Congregation. The cultivation of traditional Gregorian chant at Beuron dovetailed nicely with the approach to the visual and plastic arts of Lenz, Würger, and Steiner. The three were tonsured as monks of Beuron, taking the names Desiderius, Gabriel, and Lukas. They began an art school at Beuron that—besides designing the St Benedict medal—built churches, painted murals, created mosaics, and even hand-crafted church furnishings and altar vessels in Europe and later in America, based on the principles developed by Desiderius Lenz. Novak lists a few of these (apparently taken from Lenz’s writings):


The art speaks to the mind of the viewer. The art is itself worshipful and invites the viewer to worship. It does not stand out boldly of itself but is part of an environment of worship.

Works are anonymous, done by group effort, and not for the glory of the artist, but of God.

As in icons, the Beuronese style favors imitation over originality, with freehand copying revealing an artist's true genius.

There is full integration of art and architecture. Painting and sculpture are not ‘stick-ons’ to an architectural plan but an integral part of it. Beuronese art encompasses painting, architecture, altar vessels, and furnishings.

One can see some examples of these principles in practice at the Archabbey of Beuron itself here, in the crypt of the monastery church at Monte Cassino here, at the Mauruskapelle here, in the Basilica at Conception Abbey in Missouri, at the Abbey of St Hildegard here, at Maria Laach Abbey in Germany here, and at the chapel of the Gymnázia Teplice in the Czech Republic here. There is a beautiful photo of a Beuronese chapel at Daniel Mitsui’s blog here, and a few images at ‘History and Sources’ here. The photo above is of the 'Great Hall' at St John's University in Collegeville, MN, which was apparently restored some years ago.

Samstag, 31. Januar 2009

Alle Tischendorfs Schriftensarbeit sollen digitalisiert werden beim Monch


Friedrich Konstantin von Tischendorf was born in 1815 in Saxony. In 1834 he traveled to Leipzig to study theology where he established himself in the field of New Testament textual criticism.

In 1838 he finished his PhD and in 1839 began traveling the world in search of "lost" and forgotten New Testament manuscripts in order to "to clear up in this way, " he wrote, "the history of the sacred text, and to recover if possible the genuine apostolic text which is the foundation of our faith." In a career reminiscent of Indiana Jones, he traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Near and Middle East.

In 1840 he was appointed chair for Theology at Leipzig. The same year he translated the Codex Ephraemi Syri which no scholar had been able to decipher.

Much of his travel was supported financially by the Saxon and Russian governments. In fact, Tischendorf was made a Count of the Russian Empire. He edited and published many of the works he found.

In 1844 he visited Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai for the first time. This was a unique period in time where wealthy Europeans were at liberty to poke around and explore the hidden corners of the Middle East, a fact which still incites much jealousy in me. His curiosity led him serendipitously to a trash heap where he discovered several pages of what was then oldest known copy of the Septuagint.

These pages were archived at the University of Leipzig. On his third visit many years later he discovered the remainder of the text. It contained the New Testament, part of the Old Testament, and other early writings. This was the famous Codex Sinaiticus- the oldest known manuscript of the Greek Bible.

Among many other academic contributions, the crowning acheivement of his career was his 8th edition of the Codex Sinaiticus which included extensive critical notes and analysis. He labored on the text from 1865 - 1872. It remains a standard tool of reference for Biblical Greek studies in the West. In the Christian East it is well respected although not the final authority on textual questions.

One of Tischenforf's descendants, Klaus Zehnder-Tischendorf, maintains a website dedicated to him here.

What makes Tischendorf pertinent on this blog? In addition to being the nexus of German and Russian Christianity, Tischendorf's work will be discussed by priest-monk Justin Sinaites from Saint Catherine's Monastery.

Fr. Justin is an Orthodox Christian monk who was born in Texas but is now serving as the librarian at St. Catherine's Monastery where he is preserving and digitizing ancient manuscripts. He is one of several scholars working on the Codex Sinaiticus project. Fr. Justin's presentation is entitled "The Sinai Codex Theodosianus: Manuscript as Icon". It will be held Wednesday, February 4 in Denton, Texas.




Donnerstag, 29. Januar 2009

St. Gall (d. 646)

As a Companion of the great Columban, thou didst travel throughout the lands of the Franks, O Father Gall, thy ascetic life contrasting with that of the worldly prelates whom thou didst encounter. Open to us, we pray thee, the treasures of sacrifice and struggle, that we too may attain the joy of eternal salvation. -Troparion of St Gall Tone 8

St. Gall was born in Ireland and was sent by his parents to be educated at the famous monastery of Bangor. He was ordained with the name Gall (possibly a Latin form of the gaelic gall, meaning “foreigner”) St. Gall was chosen together with eleven other monks to accompany St. Columban (not to be confused with St. Columba or Columcille of Iona) on a missionary venture to Gaul.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Gall departed for the Continent after his ordination in Ireland. On the other hand, a Russian Orthodox Church Abroad site says “the group traveled first to England and then and then, about the year 585, they crossed the channel.”

It must be pointed out that at this time, there was no England, but rather post-Arthurian British cheifdoms facing the encroachment of newly established Saxon territories. If Gall and his colleagues were in fact on the island at this time, they would have arrived about a decade after the death of St. Gildas (c. 570) and a mere generation after the legendary Battle of Camlann (as described in the Annales Cambriae) and the estimated death of Arthur (c. 542).

In 585, they founded a monastic community in the Vosges Mountains with support and kindness of the local Frankish chieftain. Five years later Columban, together with Gall, founded the famous monastery at Luxeuil, a former spa that had been plundered by the Huns.

They oversaw the growth of the Luxeuil community for over twenty years until persecution drove Columbanus further into the Continent. Gall travelled the Rhine as far as Bregenz, where he fell severely ill and was unable to follow Columbanus further. Gall remained in the region of Swabia (Schwaben, Schwabenland). The Swabian region covered parts of modern Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, German-speaking Switzerland, and parts of France. For his inability to fulfill obedience, Gall was forbidden to celebrate the Divine Liturgy as long as Columban was still alive. St. Columban went on to found the famous Bobbio Monastery.

After Gall recovered he moved to what is now Saint-Gall further west along Lake of Constance. Gifted in language (which may have been a reason he was chosen as a missionary), he learned the local Alemanni dialect and converted so many pagans he was known as the Apostle of Constance.

Tradition says St. Gall was miraculously informed of the death of St. Columban. A monk was then sent to Italy to and returned with the confirmation of St. Columban's repose. A letter from the Bobbio monks explained that Columban’s dying request was that Gall would inherit his abbot's staff. St. Gall wept abundantly. Not only had he been obedient by not celebrating the Divine Liturgy, but he had refused offers to become bishop. St. Gall then resumed the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. He spent most of his time in his cell, leaving it only to preach the Gospel and to instruct his humble flock.

Tradition also says a bear would visit him and bring wood to feed the fire which Gall and his companions had kindled in the forest. Even today a bear is represented on the town flag of St. Gall as the symbol of the Saint.

St. Gall died on the of October 16th, 646 at an old age. He left behind a Christianized Alemanni nation. After his death a small church was erected which developed into the Abbey of St. Gall and the surrounding land developed into the Swiss Canton of St. Gallen.

The only writing of St. Gall that has come down to us is a homily which he delivered when his disciple John became a bishop. St. Gall himself had been proposed for this honor but he again declined, recommending his disciple in his stead. (The text of the homily is found in Canisius' Lectiones Antiquae.)

In the territorial reorganization of the Holy Roman Empire of 1803 all the ecclesiastical estates were secularized, and a part of Swabia was incorporated into the state of Bavaria, forming what is now the Bavarian administrative region of Swabia.

Despite losing precious manuscripts during the Protestant Reformation, the Abbey of St Gall is still one of the most important in Europe. Its library is one of the richest and oldest in the world and is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of early medieval books in German-speaking Europe. A new manuscript digitization initiative is underway and can be viewed online here.

The Feast of St. Gall is celebrated on October 16.

Sources:
http://www.roca.org/OA/63/63f.htm#Saint%20Gall
Elgin Moyer "Who Was Who In Church History" Moody Press, 1974.

Dienstag, 20. Januar 2009

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Munich


(From this article on the homepage of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.)
The history of the Russian Orthodox community in Munich begins in 1798, when a Russian consulate was established on the Ottostrasse, where, as was customary, a chapel was erected. From 1832 on, the members of the consulate and their families would attend Salvatorkirche Greek Orthodox Church in the center of town. It was here that the poet and diplomat Feodor Tiutchev was married and baptized his five children.

In 1921, local Russians formed the Community of St Nicholas. The parish would assemble at two church locations they did not own: the Mathildenstift hall on a street of that name, and a barracks on Denningerstrasse. Priests would travel from afar, sometimes from as far away as Poland.

In the early 1990's, the parish was able to purchase an edifice from the German government for a church of their own—a church built in the middle of the 20th century by Americans and abandoned after they withdrew their military personnel from the country. This church drew the attention of the clergy and parishioners through its proximity to a prison in which one of the founders of the student group ‘White Rose’, Alexander Schmorell, was executed. Shmorell was glorified as a local saint by the German Diocese of ROCOR in 2007. The church is also close to the cemetery at Perlacher Forst, where Schmorell and his fellow members of ‘White Rose’, as well as a multitude of Russian prisoners of war and ‘Ostarbeiters’, are buried.

The church was remodeled from an American Romano-Gothic style to a traditional Pskovian style. In 2001, 13 bells cast by the Shuvalov brothers in Romano-Borisoglebsk (near Yaroslavl) were hoisted into the bell tower.

In May, 2005, the adjoining Chapel of St Nicholas was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, then-Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

The Munich Cathedral became the first church of the Russian Church Abroad in which His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia served after the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion: on November 29, 2007, His Holiness performed a moleben and akathist before the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God here.

Today, the Cathedral on average hosts a hundred or so baptisms, 15-20 weddings and a similar number of funerals every year. Sunday services draw approximately 250 worshipers, and over a thousand people gather on Pascha. The main language used in the services is Church Slavonic, while the Epistles and Gospel are read in German. Every Wednesday, vespers is performed in German, and once a month, a choir of Orthodox Germans sings an early Liturgy. The parish publishes materials in both Russian and German.

Over 130 children are enrolled in the parish school. The curriculum includes Russian and Church Slavonic, Russian history and literature and choir. The Law of God is taught from the first grade on a high-school level, in accordance with a program approved by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture. Grades given at the school are counted on the students' educational record.

‘The number of Russian parishes in Germany is growing as a result of new immigrants and those who come here to work. Since the beginning of the 1990's, the greatest number of Russians—3.5 million—has come to Germany, a country of 80 million, while in comparison, 3 million have come to the USA, and 1.5 million to Israel’, noted Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff in an interview granted to RIA Novosti.

The cities of Germany now count some 90 Russian parishes, though sometimes a single priest must minister to several at the same time.

According to one source, Munich now has two Russian monasteries (ROCOR) and three Russian parishes (two belonging to ROCOR and one to the MP). The Munich Cathedral is the largest church, is an active participant in city life and collaborates with the Theology Department of Munich University.

‘The Cathedral of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia and St Nicholas is today an active participant not only in Orthodox and Russian life in Munich, but in Munich life in general’, said the ROCOR representative.