There are times and delays. Kohelet underscores the fact and it is the Book that indeed is dedicated to destiny and to “Congregation, Assembly, churching”. There is a call that gathers in, together, in a togetherness that often appears to be segmented, broken down, suffers and long after a profound desire of oneness, uniqueness and unity. The Orthodox Church definitely focuses on the unity of the One Body of the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, true man and True God, as the announcement has been expanding from the Gates of Jerusalem, at the heart of the Old City and the Mount of Olives till the ends of the Earth. We do maintain and even “clutch” to the ancient tradition of the local Church that transcends all nations, races, languages, backgrounds and origins as also the future prospects to envision redemption as heralded to the whole of the human existence. One could think that it only starts and that the Kerygm of salvation is not restricted to our globe, but deals with the whole of the universe in times and delays that we hardly can think of or fathom at the present.
The Exarchate that has been headed and protected by Metropolitan Evlogii who was entrusted the task to take spiritual care of the Russian émigrés in Western Europe led to numerous prospects, exceptional actions anticipated and shared during the short-term (far too much) Council of Moscow 1917-8 led by the first Patriarch of Moscow in modern times, Saint Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia.
Metropolitan Tikhon had served in America, he is known for having supported the Alaskan natives and backed the local Orthodox moves, in particular by blessing the translation into vernacular Aleutian language of the Divine Liturgy and Services. I keep in my smartphone a copy of the text in Aleutian and Slavonic. When the faithful I serve with find it a bit “itching” to hear some prayers in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ukrainian and sundries… I open my smartphone in the altar and choose a special ecteny and pray with it. Usually, just to make it clear, ectenies in Aleutian are terribly long, a bit like kilometer-like “one-words” in the Inuit languages and dialects. So they get scared or may think someting gets wrong. I go out of the altar after the ecteny and explain so far I can that God understands and blesses every single tongue, that it has been the very vocation of Orthodoxy and the Oriental Churches to express, with much respect and spiritual care, the universal dimensions of redemption as proclaimed to the entire Body of Christ.
This is why Metropolitan Evlogii is so important for the whole Church, also the Roman Catholic See of Rome as spread throughout the world. He covered a wide territory, from Narvik to Barcelona and down to Italy via Benelux, Germany and the marches of present-day Czechia, former Czekoslavakia. The Church Abroad that separated and some other parishes that are under the omophoron of Moscow and/or other jurisdiction at the present do not erase the very unique aspect of the theology as it was taught ans transmitted in a then-pilote way by the School of Paris. The arrival of the Russian, Greek, Bulgarian, then Serbian, Romanian, Albanian and so many other refugees to France and Western Europe, followed by the beginning of the spreading of new contacts with the Eastern Byzantine traditions that had been set aside or even forgotten in the West got regenerated by the creation of the St. Photios Brotherhood and definitely took a turn with the exceptional quality of the the Saint Sergius Orthodox Institute of Theology on the Hill, a beautiful place, a former Protestant temple. Till recently, it did train most of the present-day theologians, numerous priests, bishops and een patriarchs were educated there with a spirit of profound openness that also found new spaces in New York and the “Saint Vladimir Orthodox Seminary” where FFrs. Schmemann, Meyendorff have taught along with many specialists of different Patriarchates and jurisdictions. For the moment, things are on hold at the Institute, for one year.
Yesterday (on Saturday 28.11.2015), there was a memory service, a panichida for the memory of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, of blessed memory, who had left the rather German-speaking Alsacian Protestant community where she had been serving as a “woman-pastor” to join the Orthodox Church and the desire to constitute a French-speaking local Church entity that exists in Paris at the “Crypte” down the St. Alexander Nevsky cathedral at “Daru” (the name of the street). She followed Father Lev Gillet, a Catholic priest who had left the Catholic Church because of the then-Roman ban on inter-church relations. She studied with the major theologian of the School of Paris (Fr. Berdiaev and the followers), which also impacted Fr. Louis Bouyer (also a Protestant pastor who chose to be a Catholic priest) who used to come daily to the large St. Sergius Library.
East and West could meet at different levels. It would not be wise not to mention the fact that Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky of Lviv and All Ukrainian, recently declared a Venerable by the Roman Catholic Church, who had been in prison in Russia under the control of late Metropolitan Evlogii received him when Patriarch Tikhon assigned Metr. Evlogii and Archbishop Vladimir in Western Europe. As the then-Archbishop Evlogii recalled in his Memories, he had been surprised to be heartfeltly welcome by Metropolitan Sheptytsky who could provide him with the required “laissez-passer” to arrive and settle in France.
At the present, the memory of Mother Maria Skobtsova and her canonisation by the Church of Constantinople shows the dynamics that Metropolitan Evlogii and his successors exercized with insights for the spiritual benefit and theological impact of the Eastern tradition to the whole of Europe.
As a matter of fact, clericalism, stubborn and theological stiffness have not prevailed at all in the Exarchate over the decades. On the other hand, it became a bit difficult to find the right clergy people and lay people to renew, revive the intuitions that had been at the core of a meaningful Church body.
As reminded recently by the new president of the Saint Sergius Theological Institute, the Church needs prophetic people, beyond clericalism, people of all ranks to herald anew and with full dedication the Mysteries of faith and the dare implement this in the name of the Living and Life-Giving God. It has to overcome the legal and ritual aspects of strictness, knowledge and checking of the correct rules and Canons of the Church because the Mysteries, Eucharist and Word of the Lord attract all human beings and every flesh to lead all to the reality of the Kingdom.
The situation of the Exarchate is not unique in the Church. The Church will always be confronting confusion, will of power, legal extorsion, twisted reflection that some would like to impose as Divine decisions. On the other hand, there are times for repairs, remedy as proclaimed by the Jewish tradition and featured by Venerable Paissii Velichkovskii whose memory was commemorated on this same Saturday according to the Julian calendar.
Here is the first mention of the decision taken by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios of Constantinople and New Rome and the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Throne concerning some American priests. Then, the decision that releases Archbishop Job of Telmessos from his office as Head of the Patriarchal Exarchate of the Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe. His charge passes as for now to Bishop Jean (John) of Charioupolis who will act as the Locum Tenens of the Exarchate.
Κυριε ελεησον – Носподи помилуй – Seigneur, aie pitié – משיח רחם נא.
SAINT ET SACRE SYNODE
Le Saint et Sacré Synode, sous la présidence de Sa Sainteté le Patriarche, a poursuivi ses travaux le vendredi 27 et le samedi 28 Novembre 2015. Au cours de ses travaux: 1) Il a infligé la peine de la déchéance du sacerdoce aux Protopresbytre George Passias et aux Prêtres John Roll, George Savvas, Michael Stearns et Demetrios Iliou, clercs de l’Archevêché d’Amérique, et les a ramenés dans l’ordre des laïcs, en raison des fautes ecclésiastiques qu’ils ont commises, et 2) Il a décidé, d’une part, de confier les tâches de Représentant du Patriarcat Oecuménique auprès du Conseil oecuménique des Eglises à Son Eminence l’Archevêque Job de Telmessos, Professeur à l’Institut d’études supérieures en théologie orthodoxe auprès du Centre orthodoxe du Patriarcat Oecuménique à Chambésy-Genève, et, d’autre part, de confier les tâches de Locum Tenens de l’Exarchat Patriarcal des paroisses de tradition russe en Europe Occidentale, devenu vacant, à Son Excellence l’Evêque Jean de Charioupolis. Le Saint et Sacré Synode a également examiné tous les sujets inscrits à l’ordre du jour et a pris les décisions qu’il convient. A la fin de ces séances, Sa Sainteté le Patriarche et Son Eminence le Métropolite Jean du siège majeur de Pergame, au nom du Saint et Sacré Synode, ont échangé des discours à l’occasion des fêtes imminentes de la Sainte Douzaine (Noël et Épiphanie).
Au Patriarcat, 29 Novembre 2015 Du Secrétariat Général du Saint et Sacré Synode