Deaconesses: An Orthodox Institution Untheologically Blocked

by Petros Vassiliadis

Orans of Kyiv

At the initiative of the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES), an International Scientific Symposium on “Deaconesses. Past-Present-Future” was organized in Thessaloniki (1/31-2/2, 2020) at the International Hellenic University (IHU), to which its Inter-Orthodox English-speaking Post-graduate Program “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology” belongs.

In addition to ΙΗU, 4 other institutions were registered as co-organizers: The Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, St. Philaret’s Christian Orthodox Institute of Moscow, the Orthodox Academy of Crete, and Saint Phoebe Center of Deaconess.

The symposium focused on the Rejuvenation of the Order of Deaconesses with a multi-layer (biblical, liturgical, Patristic, archeological, canonical, theological, and historical) analysis, but also with a critical theological assessment of the recent developments in the Orthodox and other churches.

Extremely encouraging were the Messages sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Patriarch of Alexandria, and the Archbishop of Athens. Continue reading

Patriotism in Wartime: Nikolai of Japan and the Kingdoms of this World

by Betsy Perabo

St. Nikolai of Japan

In a diary entry on Christmas Eve 1904, Bishop Nikolai of Japan expresses his deep sorrow over Russian losses in the ongoing Russo-Japanese War.  Nikolai remained in Tokyo during the war at the request of the Japanese Orthodox congregation he had served for more than four decades.  His suffering was all the more difficult because he lived alongside Japanese Christians he had known for many years, who were – appropriately, he said – celebrating their own victories.  He states his desire to transcend this suffering when he is with his fellow Christians, writing:

I live now in a two-story house. On the upper floor we are all children of the Heavenly Father; on that floor, there are no Japanese, no Russians. Most of the time, I try to be there…Together we engage in Christian deeds for the Church, translation, book publishing, even Christian help to the prisoners of war or the Japanese wounded—all of this is suitable for the children of one Heavenly Father….But sometimes an oppressive state of soul pulls me down to the lower floor, where I remain by myself, without the Japanese….I must go to the upper floor, where there is no anger…I must be an inhabitant of the upper floor. (Betsy Perabo, Russian Orthodoxy and the Russo-Japanese War, 149. Other in-text citations also come from this source.)

In a twist on the classic forms of the “doctrine of the two”—two cities, two kingdoms, two governments—Nikolai characterizes the coexistence of the “earthly kingdoms” and the “heavenly kingdom” as two floors of the same house, with the lower floor divided into two separate sections.  What Nikolai’s version of this theological construct captures that others do not is the multiplicity of the earthly kingdoms. Continue reading

Part Two: Historical and Pastoral Responses to the Forty-Day Churching of Infants Pastoral Recommendations

by Rev. Dr. Stelyios Muksuris

Icon of the Presentation of the Lord

In the last segment, we examined the manuscript tradition that addressed the established practices of the churching rite within the Byzantine liturgical tradition. I now proceed to make my own suggestions for a uniform practice that is theologically sensible and pastorally sensitive.

Theological Reflection and Practical Recommendations

In accordance with the Church’s theological stance as expressed by Symeon, and as Foundoulēs rightly affirms, all human life is sacred and worthy to be offered as a gift to God. In fact, an examination of the three pre-baptismal rites of the Church (First Day, Eighth Day, Fortieth Day) are replete with references to the praise of God for the gift of new life that has entered the world. All of humanity, represented by Adam and Eve, is redeemable and deserving of salvation. Continue reading

A Historical and Pastoral Response to the Forty-Day Churching of Infants Part One: Historical Considerations

by Rev. Dr. Stelyios Muksuris

Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

The pre-baptismal rite of the forty-day churching of infants has raised manifold questions with regard to the manner of its execution by clergy. Supplementing such quandaries are issues regarding the gender of infants, the need to reassess and modify the language of certain prayers, and to include the father into the rite in such a manner that the focus becomes not simply the “forgiveness” and reincorporation into communion of the mother but the sanctification and celebration of the whole family in the fulfillment of the will of God.

In this segment, I shall base my responses on the evidence found within the manuscript tradition of the Church, likewise analyzing the historical shift into the variegated practices we witness today. In the final installment, I shall proceed to make my own suggestions for a uniform practice that is theologically sensible and pastorally sensitive. Continue reading