Πέμπτη 27 Ιουνίου 2013

Orthodox Saints and the Future of America

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

The latest information from our press has announced a new book written about the late actress Marilyn Monroe by Joyce Carl Oates, which in reality is presented as a fictional biography. But what is important in this case and needs to be noted is that in the interview granted by the author of this book there is a characteristic quote: "In America cinematography is a religion. We don't have saints, but we have folklore" (Ελευθεροτυπία, 11/06/2000).

America is a young country, the so-called "new world", created after the migration of entire populations of Europe, primarily to find work. In this way the spirit of the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment with all its consequences on individual and social life was transferred. So the spirit that prevails is rationalism and sensationalism. This affects all social behaviors, which is why Puritanism dominates the American land.

When one reads several books by American writers they will find that the examples they use come from films, which at their basis represent the American environment and the American atmosphere, where there is no deep theological or philosophical thought. This shows that indeed cinema is a religion in America, and actors are considered models and idols.

Frank Schaeffer, in his book Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion, writes: "Unlike the ancient Orthodox Churches in various countries such as Palestine, Africa, Greece, Ukraine and Russia, the Orthodox Church in North America (with the exception of the Church in Alaska) is entirely a Church of migrants. The founders were not monks and missionaries, but people seeking to find a better life."

In the Roman Empire, known as Byzantium, the standards of our society were the Saints, the deified, whoever had communion with God at various levels. Even today in Greece we honor, celebrate and process our Saints. This is precisely the difference between our country and other countries, especially America. If we don't understand this truth we will not be able to understand the difference between us. For this reason Greece and the Greeks of America play an important role in changing the climate and culture in America. When the manners and customs of our country are transferred there, which at its basis is an ecclesiastical atmosphere and life, then the climate of America will change, which has been influenced by Protestantism, who rejected the Saints.

Our models should be the Saints and not the "American dream", in which there are no saints, but folktales from the fields of art, science and politics.

Click: Jonathan Jackson Wins Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor (2012) 
Synaxis of All Saints of North America

On the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church commemorates all the saints, known and unknown, who have shone forth in its territory. Accordingly, the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of North America on this day.

Saints of all times, and in every country are seen as the fulfillment of God's promise to redeem fallen humanity. Their example encourages us to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us" and to "run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of North America also teach us how we should live, and what we must expect to endure as Christians

Although it is a relatively young church, the Orthodox Church in America has produced saints in nearly all of the six major categories of saints: Apostles (and Equals of the Apostles); Martyrs (and Confessors); Prophets; Hierarchs; Monastic Saints; and the Righteous. Prophets, of course, lived in Old Testament times and predicted the coming of Christ.

The first Divine Liturgy in what is now American territory (northern latitude 58 degrees, 14 minutes, western longitude 141 degrees) was celebrated on July 20, 1741, the Feast of the Prophet Elias, aboard the ship Peter under the command of Vitus Bering. Hieromonk Hilarion Trusov and the priest Ignatius Kozirevsky served together on that occasion. Several years later, the Russian merchant Gregory I. Shelikov visited Valaam monastery, suggesting to the abbot that it would be desirable to send missionaries to Russian America.

On September 24, 1794, after a journey of 7,327 miles (the longest missionary journey in Orthodox history) and 293 days, a group of monks from Valaam arrived on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The mission was headed by Archimandrite Joasaph, and included Hieromonks Juvenal, Macarius, and Athanasius, the Hierodeacons Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Herman and Joasaph. St Herman of Alaska (December 13, August 9), the last surviving member of the mission, fell asleep in the Lord in 1837.

Throughout the Church's history, the seeds of faith have always been watered by the blood of the martyrs. The Protomartyr Juvenal was killed near Lake Iliamna by natives in 1799, thus becoming the first Orthodox Christian to shed his blood for Christ in the New World. In 1816, St Peter the Aleut was put to death by Spanish missionaries in California when he refused to convert to Roman Catholicism.

Missionary efforts continued in the nineteenth century, with outreach to the native peoples of Alaska. Two of the most prominent laborers in Christ's Vineyard were St Innocent Veniaminov (March 31 and October 6) and St Jacob Netsvetov (July 26), who translated Orthodox services and books into the native languages. Father Jacob Netsvetev died in Sitka in 1864 after a life of devoted service to the Church. Father John Veniaminov, after his wife's death, received monastic tonsure with the name Innocent. He died in 1879 as the Metropolitan of Moscow.

As the nineteenth century was drawing to a close, an event of enormous significance for the North American Church took place. On March 25, 1891, Bishop Vladimir went to Minneapolis to receive St Alexis Toth (May 7) and 361 of his parishioners into the Orthodox Church. This was the beginning of the return of many Uniates to Orthodoxy.

St Tikhon (Belavin), the future Patriarch of Moscow (April 7, October 9), came to America as bishop of the diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska in September 1898. As the only Orthodox bishop on the continent, St Tikhon traveled extensively throughout North America in order to minister to his widely scattered and diverse flock. He realized that the local church here could not be a permanent extension of the Russian Church. Therefore, he focused his efforts on giving the American Church a diocesan and parish structure which would help it mature and grow.

St Tikhon returned to Russia in 1907, and was elected as Patriarch of Moscow ten years later. He died in 1925, and for many years his exact burial place remained unknown. St Tikhon's grave was discovered on February 22, 1992 in the smaller cathedral of Our Lady of the Don in the Don Monastery when a fire made renovation of the church necessary.

St Raphael of Brooklyn (February 27) was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in North America. Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated by Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) at St Nicholas Cathedral in New York on March 13, 1904. As Bishop of Brooklyn, St Raphael was a trusted and capable assistant to St Tikhon in his archpastoral ministry. St Raphael reposed on February 27, 1915.
The first All American Council took place March 5-7, 1907 at Mayfield, PA, and the main topic was "How to expand the mission." Guidelines and directions for missionary activity, and statutes for the administrative structure of parishes were also set forth.

In the twentieth century, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, countless men, women, and children received the crown of martyrdom rather than renounce Christ. Sts John Kochurov (October 31) and Alexander Hotovitzky (December 4 and August 7) both served the Church in North America before going back to Russia. St John became the first clergyman to be martyred in Russia on October 31, 1917 in St Petersburg. St Alexander Hotovitzky, who served in America until 1914, was killed in 1937.

In addition to the saints listed above, we also honor those saints who are known only to God, and have not been recognized officially by the Church. As we contemplate the lives of these saints, let us remember that we are also called by God to a life of holiness.
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