Archive for September, 2010
Editor’s note: Today, we present the second of three historical documents recently discovered by Nicholas Chapman. On August 24, we published Nicholas’ introduction to the documents, and last week, we published a letter by St. Philaret of Moscow on the subject of Orthodoxy in America in 1865. Today’s document is an 1865 letter from Agapius Honcharenko to a priest. While the recipient is not identified by name, Nicholas notes that the priest was “most likely the Rev. Eugene Popov, the Russian Priest in London, England.” The initial translation of this letter has been provided by Matushka Marie Meyendorff.
The letter isn’t dated, but we can get a good idea of when it was written from this sentence: “I received today a letter from New Orleans, from the Greek Consul …… to go there and baptize four children and ten Illyrians.” On March 26, 1865, the New York Times reported that Honcharenko was to depart for New Orleans “in a few days.” It is thus probable that the letter was written shortly before that date.
Very Reverend Father,
I have always regretted and wondered why in the new world there is no Catholic Orthodox faith and because of this having prepared myself with the necessary objects for a church service: of course icons, vestments etc. Last fall on October 1 I embarked from Smyrna on an American ship and left for America having received the ordination to the priesthood, the holy antimens and the holy myrrh with a letter from the Great Church. I arrived on Dec 21 and on Dec 25, the day of the birth of Christ, in our Orthodox dogma, among the Greeks, was performed the first liturgy on this continent since the time of Columbus.
In the Republic I find in the official documents seven thousand Orthodox Slavs, (Illyrian Dalmatians of Montenegro) , three thousand Russians and three thousand Greeks. These sheep live from birth without a Pastor. The Slavs and Russians, although they are citizens of the Republic…….. But they ask with all the soul addressing themselves to Russia, asking that the Russian Synod send a blessing for their church meetings and they ask to have the petition at the litany to commemorate the Emperor Alexander II and the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia as a symbol of the unity with the Russian Church. As I am a citizen of Greece, during my services I commemorate the Greek King and Synod and the Slavs do not wish this. During the several days of my stay in New York I baptized a few friendly …. (eight) and two Russians. I received today a letter from New Orleans, from the Greek Consul …… to go there and baptize four children and ten Illyrians.
By birth I am a Russian and I served at the Russian Church in Athens as a deacon. My unfortunate fate…….. (March 15, 1860) Unfairness of people …… made me become a Greek citizen. I am also with my soul and body dedicated to the Russian people…. The Russian government . Prince Gorchokov is convinced of this. But why does not the Russian Holy Synod recognise the truth of what I say?!!!
I am addressing you the deepest request very very Reverend Father. I have heard a lot about the goodness of your soul. Please pay attention to me and to the goodwill of the Orthodox Church and ask the petition for me that I would receive the blessing upon my sheep, both Slavs and Russians, from the Holy Synod, because I am the only and first Pastor of the Orthodox Church on this continent and the Pastor for all the Orthodox sheep of the flock of Christ.
I remain with the deepest respect ,
Priest Agapius Honcharenko
47 Exchange Place, Room 19, New York
Helen Keller was one of the most famous women in America in the early 20th century. Both deaf and blind, she overcame her disabilities to become a bestselling author and popular lecturer. Keller’s tutor, Anne Sullivan, became rather famous in her own right, for her role in training the young Keller. In 1962, Anne Bancroft won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. Less well-known, but just as significant, is the man who put Keller and Sullivan together — Michael Anagnos, an Orthodox immigrant from Greece, and the longtime head of Boston’s Perkins Institute for the Blind.
Anagnos (shortened from Anagnostopoulos) was born in a mountain village in Epirus in 1837. The son of a peasant, he grew up tending his father’s flocks and studying in the village school. He eventually earned a scholarship to a better school, and ultimately was admitted to the University of Athens. There, he was so poor that he couldn’t afford textbooks, and had to copy the required readings by hand. He worked his way through college, graduated, and then studied law.
After law school, Anagnos began a career, not in law, but in journalism. In his mid-20s, he became editor of an Athens newspaper, Ethnophylax (The National Guard). From that post, Anagnos opposed the government of King Otho, which led to his arrest and imprisonment. In 1866, he supported the cause of revolutionaries in Crete. As it turned out, a certain American, Dr. Samuel Howe, was also a supporter of the Cretan revolutionaries, and had come to the region to engage in relief efforts. Howe hired Anagnos to be his assistant, and when Howe returned to the US, Anagnos joined him.
Dr. Howe happened to be the founder of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, in Boston, and he gave Anagnos a position as teacher of Greek and Latin, and also the job of private tutor to the Howe family. Before long, Anagnos and Howe’s daughter Julia had fallen in love, and they were married in 1870. As Dr. Howe’s health declined, he gave Anagnos more and more authority at the Perkins Institute, and after Howe’s death, Anagnos became the Institute’s head.
Anagnos was perfect for the job. Right away, he raised $100,000 (roughly $2 million today) to publish books for the blind, and he made sure that every public library in Massachusetts had copies. He set up vocational training programs for blind people, and started a kindergarten for blind children (raising another $100,000 to keep it going). Helen Keller was the Institute’s most famous product: she was sent to Anagnos by Alexander Graham Bell, and Anagnos paired her with 20-year-old former student Anne Sullivan, who herself was visually impaired. Anagnos led the Perkins Institute for thirty years, affecting the lives of countless blind individuals. After his death, one student offered this remembrance (reprinted in Annie S. Beard’s Our Foreign Born Citizens, 1922, which has been a major source for this article):
His strength comforted our weakness, his firmness overcame our wavering ideas, his power smoothed away our obstacles, his noble unselfishness put to shame our petty differences of opinion, and his untiring devotion led us all to do our little as well as we could… Better than all, he taught us to the best of our ability to be men and women in our own homes.
Besides his role at the Perkins Institute, Anagnos was a towering figure in Boston’s Greek community. He also served as president of the National Union of Greeks in the United States, and may well have been the most famous Greek person in America in his day. He made many trips back to Europe, where he donated tens of thousands of dollars to fund schools in Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and Romania. After Anagnos’ death in 1906 on a visit to Romania, the Boston Evening Herald (7/16/1906) published a tribute from T.T. Timayenis of the Boston Greek community:
He was the man who taught the Greeks of America to learn and adopt everything that is good in the American character, the only man whom all Greeks revered and implicitly obeyed; the man who did good for the sake of the good; the man who conceived the idea of establishing a Greek school in Boston; the man who expected every Greek to do his duty toward his adopted country — America.
Here is an account of Anagnos’ funeral, from the Boston Globe (7/16/1906):
The little Greek church at Kneeland and Tyler sts was crowded yesterday forenoon in memory of Michael Anagnos, who had done so much in the latter years of his life to bring his fellow-countrymen together in this place of worship. The church was heavily draped both inside and outside and in front of the sanctuary were displayed a number of rich floral tributes from Greek societies.
There were present oin the church delegations from these various societies in addition to the regular congregation, and there were present a number of other friends of Mr. Anagnos.
The service was simple, consisting of singing and an address by Rev. Nestor Souslides, which was very affecting and which moved many in the congregation to tears. Tears streamed down from the eyes of the preacher before the conclusion of his address and he was so overcome by his emotions that he was obliged to step for a moment int his study before he could give the benediction.
The speaker laid so much stress on the broad humanitarianism of Mr. Anagnos, on his deep love for Greece and for the Greeks who were struggling for their independence in Macedonian, Roumania and other places, and of the deep personal interest he took in his fellow-countrymen who came to the United States, and finally there was the touching friendship which existed between the speaker and Mr. Anagnos and the work of the latter in organizing and help[ing] maintain the spirit of Greek patriotism among his fellow-countrymen here.
It all seemed very significant and a little strange, perhaps, to step into this little Puritanical church of other days, with its high-backed seats and un-adorned walls and with the few scriptural passages in old English Gothic letters n either side of the sanctuary — put there by another race, and another denomination — to see the picturesque Greek priest in flowing black beard, tall head dress and heavy gold vestments, delivering to his fellow-countrymen in their own language a eulogy of one who was great as an American citizen, but who had never forgotten his native land and whose native patriotism never waned in life.
The Greeks of Boston propose to hold memorial services each year in honor of Michael Anagnos.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Editor’s note: In 1938, Fr. Michael Gelsinger, with his wife Mary, published a Handbook for Orthodox Sunday Schools. Gelsinger was one of the most influential convert clergymen in American Orthodox history. He served in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and this book was published with the blessing of Metropolitan Antony Bashir. Last week, we published the first of a four-part series, taken from the introduction to Gelsinger’s book. Today, we’re running Part 2, on “The Sunday School Session.” Gelsinger begins by talking, in minute detail, about how a Sunday School session should take place. He then allows himself to meander into topics of more general interest — language and music. We’ll run Part 3 of this mini-series next Thursday.
The law of our Orthodox Church requires every Orthodox Christian to attend all the Services on Sundays and on other holy days. Therefore, the members of a Sunday School cannot be excused from attendance at the Divine Liturgy, the most important of all Services. And since the work of the Sunday School cannot be done well if the pupils are tired and restless, it is better to have the Sunday School meet before the Liturgy rather than after it.
There is still another reason why the Sunday School should meet before the Liturgy. The Service of the Orthros (Matins) is much neglected among us, in spite of the fact that in importance it ranks next to the Liturgy itself. It is in the Orthros that we find the special meaning of any Feast most fully and elaborately expressed; and it is in the Orthros that we find the greatest variety of hymns by the Church’s most inspired poets and musicians. This Service is neglected in America mainly because many of our people are so lazy and slack that they cannot endure to spend more time in Church than is required for the Liturgy; and some of them complain that even the Liturgy is too long. Under present conditions the only hope of bringing the Orthros back into use is for the Sunday Schools to take over the responsibility for singing it, — a responsibility that possibly could be shared with organizations of young people beyond Sunday School age, such as the Orthodox Frontier Club. But the chief responsibility for the Orthros should be laid upon the Sunday Schools; and as the Orthros precedes the Liturgy, it is highly desirable that all our Sunday Schools at once begin to have their sessions before the Liturgy if such is not their custom already.
The following Schedule is suggested as a guide in planning the Sunday School Session:
- 9:45 — Secretary of the School must be in his place.
- 9:45-9:50 — Teachers get their Class Roll Books and other supplies from the Secretary of the School.
- 9:50 — Teachers must be in their classrooms.
- 10:00 — Pupils must be in their classrooms.
- 10:05-10:10 – The Secretary of the School visits each class to collect the Class Roll Books and the offerings, and then returns to his place to make out his report for the whole School. At the First Warning Bell messengers from the classes will bring him the offerings and the names of pupils who came in after roll call; at that time he will change the Absence marks for those pupils in the Class Roll Books to Tardiness marks, correct the entries for offerings, and bring the report into final form.
- 10:05 — Instruction begins in each class.
- 10:35 — First Warning Bell. Instruction ends, and each Teacher sends a messenger to the Secretary of the School with the names and the offerings of the pupils who have come in since Roll Call. The messenger may go from the Secretary to the place reserved for his class in the Assembly Hall.
- 10:40 — Second Warning Bell. All classes march to Assembly, each class going quietly to the seats reserved for it in the Assembly Hall.
- 10:43-11:00 — Assenbly, directed by the Superintendent (or by the Priest).
- 11:00 — Procession of the whole School, class by class, into the Temple for the Liturgy.
The following program is suggested for the Assembly:
- The Trisagion Prayers, recited by some pupil appointed by the Superintendent. The School should join in for the Lord’s Prayer at the end.
- Recitation by members of different classes. (Memory Passages for which prizes are offered, summary of the Lesson taught in a class, quizzing of pupils by the Superintendent, or any other drill that is truly helpful and not contrived merely for display.)
- Secretary’s Report.
- Birthday Greetings. (Pupils who have had birthdays recently may drop into the Birthday Treasury as many pennies as they are years old. While they put in their pennies the School congratulates them by singing the Many Years for them.)
- Comments and announcements by the Superintendent.
- The Trisagion Prayers recited by the whole School in unison.
- Procession of the whole School, by classes, into the Temple for the Liturgy. Each class is led by its Teacher, and the Teachers are required to stay with their classes until after the dismissal of the Liturgy.
Whenever possible, the Sunday School should enter the Temple in time to sing the Great Doxology and its Troparion (“This day salvation for the world is come”); after which the Priest begins the Liturgy of the Catechumens).
The Trisagion Prayers and the Memory Passages referred to in the program suggested for the Assembly are printed in another part of this book. We are printing also a separate book of music so that our Sunday Schools may have something to sing; for the time has come when we must get rid of every book, every hymn, and every influence of any kind that is not Orthodox absolutely and exclusively.
Until a Service Book with music appears, the Parish Priest should teach the young people as many hymns as possible in the language of the Parish (Arabic, Greek, Slavic, or whatever the language may be). It is very bad indeed for the different Parishes to sing different English translations instead of waiting for a standard English text approved for permanent use. Anyone who has even a slight understanding of our Orthodox Church must know that our Church Services cannot go on without the original languages, and must realize that a Parish will surely die if its young people are not taught to sing in the language of their parents. A standard English translation, prepared at the University of Buffalo and accompanied by the necessary music, is ready for publication; but even when it appears many things will still need to be done in the original languages. To translate all our Service Books into English suitable for public worship, and suitable for singing, will take years of work. Meanwhile our young people must learn to sing in the original languages as well as in English. They should learn to sing in English only such things as have been approved by proper authority as suitable to remain in permanent use everywhere.
The program for Sunday School leaves little time for instruction in singing. Occasionally the Assembly period may be so used, but singing is so important in our Orthodox Church that it really deserves and requires to be developed in a program of its own entirely separate from that of the Sunday School. Accordingly, in every Parish at least one evening a week regularly should be set aside for instruction in music.
We must not forget that our Orthodox Tradition forbids the use of musical instruments in Church Services. This is a rule which we should be very glad to obey, for obedience to it brings rich reward. No Parish that uses an organ or any other musical instruments in its services can ever have good singing. The use of a piano or organ to help people learn to sing something that is new to them is often good, and sometimes is even necessary. But it is one thing to use the piano for teaching, and quite another thing to get people into the habit of depending upon the piano so much that they cannot sing without it. Far better to teach without a piano or organ at all than to develop a habit of dependence upon an accompanying instrument. One of the greatest glories of our Orthodox Church is our music, all of it composed for singing and none of it intended for any musical instrument. Our children inherit with their Orthodox Catholic religion the grandest music ever heard on earth; and they should begin to know the delights of that inheritance as early in life as possible.