by Mark Arey
For many years now, the word “hierarch” has become a catch-all when referring to bishops with differing titles (e.g. Archbishop, Metropolitan, Auxiliary Bishop). Many of us have had that moment of discomfort when we address a “hierarch” and get their salutation or title wrong! The reactions can range from neutral indifference to a hurtful scolding. “Hierarch” has become a safe alternative, especially when in doubt. But it would be a mistake to leave “hierarch” as a mere synonym for any member of the Episcopacy.
All bishops, regardless of their titles, jurisdictions, antiquity, are hierarchs, or at least are called to function as hierarchs. As bishops, they ἐπισκοπεύειν, they “oversee” (literally) their flocks, hopefully in imitation of our Great Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. In all the Divine Services the bishops preside, and in the Divine Liturgy—the central and chief liturgy of the Church—they preside in the full complement of the signs of their episcopal dignity. The omophorion—the episcopal stole that represents the lost sheep carried home (Luke 15: 4-6). The crown—a late accretion but a referent of the Kingship of Christ. The sakkos—a vestment of the Byzantine Emperor shared first with the Ecumenical Patriarch and then with all bishops to honor their position. The staff—a wonderful mash-up of the Ascelpian staff and the brass snake that Moses raised in the desert (Numbers 21:9)—both symbols of healing. The dikērotríkēra—the set of candles in two (δίκηρον) and three (τρίκηρον) with which bishops bless the faithful. And there are others as well, some shared with presbyters and deacons. These vestments are not worn or used outside the celebration of the Sacred Services. Although these signs belong to the bishop, their symbolic value goes much deeper. Continue Reading…
by Mark Arey
As the last General Secretary of SCOBA (the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) and the first Secretary (albeit for less than an hour) of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, I have always marveled at the ‘Golden Age’ syndrome around “Ligonier” of many Orthodox Christians when it comes to Orthodox unity in the Western Hemisphere.
There are still many who believe that the Ligonier gathering in 1994 of most of the Orthodox Bishops in America (represented by SCOBA primates) was an inflection point for Orthodoxy in the New World, subsequently squashed by Mother Churches overseas. Let’s consider for a moment. SCOBA, founded by and presided over by the late Archbishop Iakovos, was never a complete representation of canonical Orthodox presence in America. In fact, it was never a formal component of the the international movement to prepare a Great and Holy Council which could regularize the canonical arrangements of the Diaspora communities. However, SCOBA did work in concert with the international process, guided by the local primates in North America (all of whom were located in the United States).
However, as soon as the Metropolia was transformed into the OCA and there was no universal Orthodox acceptance of this action of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), things became complicated. Continue Reading…
by Mark Arey
The recent visit of the President and First Lady to the Vatican raised again the question of head coverings for women in the Christian context. Many Christians perpetuate a theology of women’s submission to men that is symbolized by head coverings, based on a Scriptural text (First Corinthians 11:3-16).
In 11:5, Paul stresses the Jewish custom that married women should cover their head. Every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, dishonors her own head. Indeed, it is the same thing as having a shaved head!
As pointed out by M.D. Hooker, “According to Jewish custom, a bride went bareheaded until her marriage, as a symbol of her freedom; when married, she wore a veil as a sign that she was under the authority of her husband” (Authority on Her Head: An Examination of I Cor. XI. 10, New Testament Studies, 10, 1964, pg. 413). As Paul progresses in his argument in verses 8 and 9, he relies on the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman (Genesis 2:18-25) to create his logic. Thus, by the time we get to verse 10, we have a curious conclusion to his reasoning: That is why it is appropriate for a wife to have authority over her head, on account of the Angels. Continue Reading…