Under the Radar – A Hidden Diaspora: Growing Up Orthodox in the Episcopal Church

by James Rouman

Wash basin

I was baptized in a wash tub as were both of my brothers.  It’s true. I really was. My aunt Helen was married in an Orthodox ceremony performed in our house as well. I recall liturgies celebrated in our dining room with Fr. Chrysostom whispering words in a Greek language that seemed somewhat different from the one we spoke at home. I remember the decorative cloth depicting Christ that was spread on the table, along with a cross, a bejeweled book, and the hot water my mother always provided during every service. And there was plenty of incense burning too. Drowsy from having been awakened at five in the morning and without anything to eat or drink, I fidgeted constantly before receiving communion. After breakfast, I was off to school and to a world quite different from the one experienced only minutes before. That’s how it was three to four times every year during my childhood. It was, in fact, my introduction to Orthodox Christianity. Continue reading

Beyond Secular Critique? The Trial Speech of Yegor Zhukov

by Dmitry Uzlaner

Yegor Zhukov

The wave of political protests sparked by irregularities during the 2018 mayoral election in Moscow led to a number of arrests of activists and protesters. One of them, a student, Yegor Zhukov, was tried and convicted at the beginning of December 2019 and sentenced to three years of probation. This case, among other things, attracted the attention of the public with a powerful speech delivered by the defendant on December 4—the day before the verdict was announced.

I will not reproduce this speech here, it has already been translated into English and is easily accessible. Instead, I’ll pay attention to the theological and religious background of what was said. Yegor Zhukov, explaining the motives of his political activity, began to talk about traditional values, of which Russia claims to be “the last defender.” In addition to the “patriotism” and “the institution of the family” that are constantly mentioned, he named Christian faith and the Christian ethics that follows from this faith as the main traditional value. In Yegor Zhukov’s theology, Christian ethics implies two main values: responsibility (“Christianity is based on the story of a man who has decided to put the suffering of the whole world on his shoulders, the story of a man who has taken responsibility in the greatest possible sense of the word”) and love (“‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This is the main phrase of the Christian religion”). According to Yegor Zhukov, these two Christian values motivate him in his social and political activities. He then asked the question: “How does the current Russian state, which proudly defends Christian values and hence the values, that were mentioned above, actually protects them?” His conclusion is disappointing: the policy of the Russian state is a policy of “atomization” and “de-humanization.” As Yegor Zhukov said: “We have become a nation that has forgotten how to take responsibility. We have become a nation that has forgotten how to love.”

What is remarkable about this speech from a religious, theological point of view? Continue reading

Transformative Love of Neighbor A Closer Look at Orthodox Ministries Working to Address the Crisis of Homelessness

by Kyra Limberakis

Homeless Man

Who am I? Who is God? Who is my Neighbor? These three questions frame the theological exploration of vocation that takes place at the CrossRoad Summer Institute—a 10-day academic summer program for Orthodox Christian juniors and seniors in high school.

At CrossRoad, we explore the question of “who is my neighbor” and our Christian call to “love thy neighbor” through both rich theological education and the physical experience of walking the streets to encounter the “least of their brethren” (Matt 25). With St. John Chrysostom’s words, “if you can’t find Christ in the beggar you won’t be able to find him in the chalice” ringing in their ears, our students venture into the streets of Cambridge and Chicago in groups of three, accompanied by a staff member, to share in a conversation, and perhaps a meal, with someone experiencing homelessness.

The primary goals of this activity are to foster an attitude of openness to seeing Christ in the neighbor we often overlook and to challenge young people’s assumptions and stigmas about those on the margins. We remind students that people want to be treated like people rather than objects to be helped or fixed. We encourage them to view service as a way of being in the world that expresses an openness to our neighbor, rather than just a project, charity case, or set of hours to put on a resume. Continue reading

The Paradox of Ecclesial Asceticism

by His Grace Bishop Maxim (Vasiljevic)

Byzantine Expressionism

The counsels of a twentieth-century spiritual father to the modern human being can be summed up in three core philosophies—do not despair, do not be sentimental, and do not force yourself to anything. This advice leads to the discovery of an authentic person through a triune experience of delight, realism and freedom. But it is difficult, more difficult than we might realize, as it manifests the nature of the two poles—or, better—the antinomy of ecclesial asceticism.

The antinomy of ecclesial asceticism requires a break from established tastes or puritanism. It requires an acceptance of the other, no matter how different. It requires that we take no notice during a musical performance when the pianist played a wrong note, or when we are not annoyed that a priest used the wrong exclamation at the end of a litany. Further, it requires that we are glad that we can forgive ourselves and others for abandoning a “principle,” or that we are not overly troubled when our instincts betray us. Only then we can we gain a different kind of knowledge and aesthetics. Continue reading