The Diocese of the South
Orthodox Church in America
The Lenten Observance

February 26, 2013

By + Archbishop Dmitri

(On Sunday, February 17, Orthodox Christians entered a four week season of Pre-Lent, to prepare themselves for a spiritually rewarding time of year:  the Great Fast.  In anticipation we offer the following article from His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri.)

"In the not too distant past, a minister of one of the denominations was quoted as saying:  "Almost no one in my Church observes Lent in the traditional way any longer.  The people simply cannot find a place for fasting and self-denial in their current lifestyles. They are, however, attracted by the idea of a period of intensive sharing and helping others.  This is what we are concentrating on in our Church nowadays.  After all, isn't that what Lent is all about?

It is unfortunately true that what this minister says reflects a very popular attitude.  There is just no place for Lent in the contemporary way of life, so some Churches have seen fit to adapt themselves to the "realities of modern life," skip the "empty ritual observances," and "make the spring preparation for Easter more meaningful" to their people.  These platitudes dominate many discussions of the purpose of Lent

Still more unfortunate is the acceptance (sometimes without realizing it) by not a few American Orthodox of these notions.  Perhaps in a country like ours where certain religious and semi-religious ideas fill the air, it is natural for people who do not think things through to be carried along by the trends.  This is especially true when what is offered is less demanding

No one will question the fact that the Orthodox Christian Lenten observance is difficult.  What is prescribed requires almost a super-human effort -- the dietary changes, the cessation of entertainments, the constant call to self-examination, the reminders of our need to turn away from this world and set our sight on God's Kingdom, the injunction to forgive and love even our enemies.  It has little appeal to a society in which self-indulgence is no longer a sinful departure from God's will for man, but a philosophy of life.  Orthodox people are inescapably members of such a society, and being Orthodox not just in name, but conscientiously, is really a deliberate rejection of most of what that society offers.

What is missing from so many discussions of Lent and what is of primary importance in the Orthodox concept, is the idea of repentance.  In fact, the underlying idea of the Great Fast is exactly that, and the ritual observance is nothing more than a sign of it.  By the way, the term Great Fast is still a better name for the period than Lent.  We use the latter term, however, for ease of discussion, for fear that many of our own people would not know what we are talking about if we used the other one.

Actually, by rejecting traditional Lenten disciplines, what society and some of its obedient churches and churchmen are implicitly rejecting is the very idea of repentance, because repentance means a change of mind, of direction, of one's way of life, of values.  These changes which must come from the heart, arise from a conviction that one does not live as God would have him live.  They would not appeal to a self-satisfied and basically self-righteous society.  And a society which is convinced that it is good and has no sin to be sorry for is just that, self-righteous.

The radical change of diet that is called for,  is a sign of a radical change of lifestyle to which the Christian Faith calls us, even if it means running the risk of being 'odd' to those we work and associate with.  The increase in church attendance (during Lent) is an indication of the Christian's longing to be with God, in His house, and with His people.  The sharing with and the helping of others, an enormously important part of the observance, is not just a response to some humanitarian concerns, but a response to Christ's new commandment to love one another.  All of these characteristics of the Fast are intimately bound together and interdependent.  A mere outward observance of these things without the change of heart that they signify, is useless.

The Church is calling her faithful people once again to the observance of the Great Fast.  Nothing has changed.  Even if someone, moved by a false feeling of compassion for the people, should try to 'lighten the load' and make it easier by reducing the requirements, he is fooling himself and those who follow him. The ideal is still the same -- in this world in which we live -- being in it, yet not of it, as the Lord has characterized His followers.  We shall be invited to come back to God, overcome all obstacles so that the One we see is Jesus, to overcome self-righteousness, to repent of our sins against God and against our fellow man, and to make our lives models of self-giving, sharing, and forgiveness -- in a word, of love -- love of God and of our neighbor." 

In Memorium: The Repose of Mother Lyubov

February 24, 2013

Mother Lyubov
(Patricia Jenkins Louthan)
March 13,1948 - February 22, 2013

   Born in Duplin County in eastern North Carolina, Mother Lyubov spent most of her life serving others.  Patricia understood the difficulties that handicap people face, as her mother was blind, her father suffered and died from work-related lung disease, and her youngest sister was born with Downs Syndrome.  Having obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy from the University of North Carolina, she spent most of her career working as a pharmacist at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Springs, Maryland, where her knowledge, great attention to details, and prayerful and loving care of both patients and co-workers helped many.  She was the oldest of five children born to Thomas & Ruth Farabaugh, who long ago preceded her in death.  Mother Lyubov is survived by two brothers, Tim and Glenn, and two sisters, Tess, and Maria, as well as three daughters, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Brittany, and eight grand children.  While raised a Roman Catholic, she and her family became Orthodox Christians in 1982.  After raising her children, she fulfilled her life-long calling to become a nun.  God led her to Saints Mary & Martha Orthodox Monastery in Wagener, South Carolina, where she spent the last five years of her life deepening her faith and dedication to doing God’s will, and, in the process, helping many with her down-to-earth prayers and spiritual direction.  May her memory be eternal!

Her funeral will be on Monday, February 25th, at 11:00am.  Interment and a mercy meal will follow. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to Saints Mary & Martha Orthodox Monastery, 65 Spinner Lane, Wagener, South Carolina 29164.

2013 Diocesan Pastoral Conference

February 12, 2013

The clergy and council of the Diocese of the South gathered for the 2013 Pastoral Conference at St Mary of Egypt Church in Noross, GA.  We are grateful to the community of St Mary of Egypt for their hospitality.

To listen to audio recordings of each talk, please stream or download them from the following links.
- Fr Andrew Morbey - Reflections on Marriage and Family Life
- Fr Andrew Morbey - The Rubrics Nudge: The Priest as a Eucharistic Celebrant
- Fr Andrew Morbey - Refreshing the Pastors Heart
- Fr Luke Veronis - The Resurrection of the Church in Albania.  This talk was open to the public and was given at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunication in Atlanta.
- Fr Luke Veronis - Reviving a Parish in Decline

(Please note the talks might not open to play in Firefox, but they work in Google Chrome)

(117 images)


Serbian House of Studies to be Founded at St. Vladimir\'s Seminary

February 12, 2013

[SVOTS Communications] St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, NY, and the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Belgrade have made a formal agreement to work together with the aim of establishing a Serbian House of Studies on the campus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. The House of Studies has several goals, including the promotion of sustained dialogue and educational exchanges between Orthodox Christians in America and Serbia.
 
The Serbian House of Studies is one of many endeavors outlined in the Seminary’s newly crafted “SVS Strategic Plan 2020,” and the first to be implemented. The Strategic Plan—which sets forth the Board’s vision for St. Vladimir’s Seminary for the next decade—actually calls for several such foreign houses of study, together comprising “The International Center of Orthodox Christian Studies,” eventually to be located in the historic stone “Germack Building” on campus.
 
The agreement between St Vladimir’s Seminary and the University of Belgrade had been in negotiation for some time, including review and reception by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. An opportunity to formally sign the agreement came when His Grace, the Right Rev. Maxim, bishop of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, and a member of the Board of St Vladimir’s, together with Protopresbyter Stauvrophor Dr. Predrag Puzović, dean of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology, University of Belgrade, visited St Vladimir’s for the Feast of the Three Hierarchs.
 
“There are many advantages to our envisioned ‘International Center,’ said The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr. “Firstly, these houses of study will ‘formalize’ our existing relationships with other Orthodox schools around the world; ultimately, St. Vladimir’s will be the only place on the planet where Orthodox Christian faculty and students are living, working, and studying while fostering international dialogue.
 
“Secondly, student exchanges between two countries will enrich the whole student body,” he continued. “In this case, American Serbian seminarians will get to experience church life in the country of their home jurisdiction, while foreign students will train here and get to understand the American Orthodox scene. This will help our American students better understand and incorporate their heritage, including Serbian history and liturgical practices, into their ministry.
 
“Thirdly, our seminary campus will be the locus for further theological research by a faculty member from Belgrade University, who will remain in residence for one year and share his particular knowledge with our own student body, while overseeing Serbian exchange students.
 
“And finally,” Fr. John concluded, “the Serbian House of Studies will act as a liaison and center for alumni of Serbian descent from theological schools around the world. We plan to run alumni events throughout the year from this new center, and we plan to publish a newsletter reporting on those events.
 
The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, seminary Chancellor/CEO, also enthusiastically endorsed the agreement, saying, “This is only the first of many proposed Houses within the International Center for Orthodox Christian Studies. It should be noted that the long-term plan is to include various Oriental Orthodox Houses as well, and their inclusion will build upon our Seminary’s history as a place of serious exchange between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians.”
 
Anyone wanting to explore enrollment in the Serbian House of Studies may contact Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak, director of Admissions and Alumni Relations, 914-961-8313 ext. 328 or jmatusiak@svots.edu.

Texas Mission Participates in Local March for Life

February 1, 2013

Fr John Filipovich and 2 parishioners from St Jonah Church participated in the Inaugural March for Life in Alpine, Texas on Saturday, Jan 26. The event was organized by the Knights' of Columbus from Our Lade of Peace Catholic Church. The march was from the Brewster County Courthouse to the parish hall at Our Lady of Peace, just a few blocks from St. Jonah Church. Fr John was invited to speak at the program following the march and spoke of how the relatively small population of Christians in ancient Rome rescued infants that were abandoned to die, and how such seemingly small actions evangelized and ultimately converted the Roman Empire to Christianity.   He emphasized that impmortant for Christians today to demonstrate care for the unborn and born, the young and the elderly so that we too, in our small march in Alpine, will lead some to the knowledge of Salvation in Jesus Christ!

Reflections on the National March for Life

February 1, 2013

By Fr John Parker

I walked in a sea of a half-million people.  I had never been in a crowd that size—though equally impressive was walking against the tide of 10,000 Muslims prayerfully leaving the old city of Jerusalem on a Friday in Ramadan in 2008.  There were people everywhere—the streets were ‘wall to wall’ with marchers.  Some climbed trees to see and hear speakers encouraging the crowds in the middle of the Mall, the United States Capitol in the backdrop.  Bus after bus dropped off Pro-life supporters who came from near and far to rally for the sanctity of human life, particularly with respect to abortion.

The arctic cold rapidly chilled us all, before the snow showers began about half-way through the four-hour event.  The freezing temperatures and stiff wind did not deter.  There were groups processing with signs and placards.  There were choral groups singing sacred hymns.  There was even a marching band!  Several groups, including ours, had spontaneous prayer services along the route to the steps of the Supreme Court.

Among the crowds, I heard languages from around the world.  I met a young couple who had come from Minnesota—the woman had ridden a bus from Nebraska in previous years.  In addition to the 10 or more Orthodox Christian bishops and countless lay people with whom I walked, there was at least one Roman Catholic Cardinal present, dozens, if not hundreds of Orthodox and Roman Catholic priests, pastors from several Protestant denominations including at least one Anglican Archbishop, and scores of young people.  With us was an Archbishop from Ethiopia, and seminarians from Jerusalem, Austria, and Romania.  In a most remarkable way, the world was present in Washington, DC, on Friday, January 25, for the 40th March for Life

When I saw the front-page photo in the Washington Post that said, “Anti-abortion activists protest in front of the Supreme Court”, I thought to myself, “Does that describe me? Is that what we did?  Am I an ‘anti-abortion activist’?  Did I protest?”  I have never considered myself to be a “protester”; I have never been to a march.  Am I an activist? 

For me, this being the first March for Life that I have ever seen and in which I have participated, it was a half-day experience of supporting the underpinning concept of the inherent sanctity of human life—the protection of the unborn ‘weakest’ members of our society.  “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” came to mind.  Simultaneously the event was a chance for me to observe, though from the inside, what the March is all about.

Haunting concepts arose.  For example, there were folks who made a cogent point, asking:  when is a fetus a human life and when is it a blob of tissue?  Answer:  According to many, it is a blob of tissue when it is unwelcome, unplanned, unwanted, or inconvenient.

Several statistics of the day have struck me to the core.  For example, it is widely reported that since Roe v Wade, there have been 55,000,000 abortions in the United States.  To put number in perspective—that would be the equivalent of killing every man, woman, and child in the state of South Carolina annually for 12 years. 

Each year in the USA there are roughly 1.2 million abortions—more deaths, by 500, than the 9/11 attacks, daily.   This would equal the death of every student at Burke high school, five times, every single day.

When confronted with numbers and statistics like this, it is understandable that numbers of people would become what the Washington Post labeled “anti-abortion activists”.  (I wonder such media has not accepted the term “Pro-Life”, or why, if it insists on renaming what others have named, that it does call ‘the other side’ “Pro-abortion”.) 

Still, though, statistics also reveal a terrible inner-conflict for Christians: for every one finger they point at others, more than 3 point back at themselves.   65% of all aborted children are aborted by self-described Christians.  Specifically, 37% are Protestant, and 28% Roman Catholic.  If Christians alone would follow the teachings of Jesus, 2275 lives per day would be saved.  That would be a Wando High School full of children about every other day.

The March for Life opened my eyes to see the complex intricacies of abortion in the public sphere—a meeting of politics, social agendas, and religion.  In a rather blunt way, it also help me to observe on the one hand just how strong the support is to defend the sanctity of life, and on the other hand just how gravely Roe v Wade has impacted our country. 

It likewise highlighted for me just how much work Christians have to do under their own Christian roofs. What reasons do Christians offer for their abortions?  At the heart of Christianity is an obligation, in faith, to be as equally concerned (if not more so) about responsibilities than about rights.  To be bearers, protectors and choosers of life, rather than purveyors of death.

Finally, the March for Life reminded me that Christians, at heart, are ‘pro-choice’ people.  From the days of Moses himself, there have been “two ways to live”.  There have always been, for all men and women, two choices from which to choose:  Good or bad, right or wrong, blessings or curses, life or death.

The vast, vast majority, almost rounding others to nil, of pregnancies (which end by abortion) occur by some impassioned, self-indulgent, out-of-wedlock sexual encounter.  Which of us believes that men and women are not free to make such choices?  But from the Christian view, if and once “that” choice is made, and a woman is pregnant, rights must be subjected to responsibilities, and life must reign.