Posts tagged 1873
A lot of Antiochian-related events this week:
January 30, 1902: Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny, head of the Syro-Arab Orthodox Mission in America, began a pastoral journey to Mexico. Later this week — on February 3 — he made a brief stop in Cuba en route to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. St. Raphael remained in the Yucatan for a month, until March 2. To his great surprise, he found not only Arab Orthodox Christians, but also many Mexican Catholics who were interested in converting to Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, this would be the only visit St. Raphael ever made to Mexico, and the missionary potential there was never realized. Incidentally, I’ve heard that the Mexican newspapers gave St. Raphael quite a bit of publicity, so if anyone reading this has access to Yucatan papers from 1902 (and can read Spanish), please let me know.
January 31, 1938: Metropolitan Samuel David, head of the Antiochian Archdiocese of Toledo, was excommunicated by both the Patriarch of Antioch and the ROCOR Holy Synod. The backstory was this: In 1935, the Arab Orthodox in America were set to elect a new hierarch who would, it was hoped, unite the long-divided factions of Antiochian Orthodoxy in America. The majority voted for Archimandrite Antony Bashir, who was duly consecrated in New York. But a strong minority favored Archimandrite Samuel David of Toledo. That minority found some other bishops to consecrate their man on the very same day that Bashir was consecrated. This division lasted until 1975, when Met Michael Shaheen of Toledo accepted subordination to Met Philip Saliba of New York.
February 1, 1928: The future Greek Archbishop (and Assembly of Bishops President) Demetrios Trakatellis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. May God grant him many, many more years!
February 2, 1927: The Holy Synod of the Russian Metropolia (today’s OCA) created “The Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of North America” (more palatably known as the American Orthodox Catholic Church). This body — let’s just call it the AOCC — was led by Bishop Aftimos Ofiesh, who was simultaneously the head of the Metropolia’s Syro-Arab Mission. Whatever the intent of the Metropolia in creating the AOCC in the first place (and that intent is far from clear), Ofiesh himself viewed the AOCC as the vehicle for Orthodox unity in America. The AOCC was always on the fringe in terms of legitimacy, having been the ambiguous creation of the Metropolia, which itself was on shaky canonical footing in that era. (Only a few years earlier, the Metropolia had declared itself independent of the Soviet-influenced Moscow Patriarchate.) It wasn’t long before Ofiesh and his jurisdiction ticked off their Metropolia creators, driving the AOCC even further away from the mainstream. For all intents and purposes, the AOCC experiment ended in 1933, when Ofiesh married a young girl. However, as Fr. Oliver has recently shown, the AOCC did continue on until 1940 in the person of Bishop Sophronios Beshara, its last surviving hierarch. For a lot more on the AOCC, check out my conversation with Fr. Andrew Damick over at Ancient Faith Radio.
February 5, 1873: The future Fr. Nicola Yanney was born in what is today northern Lebanon. Yanney eventually immigrated to America and settled down in Nebraska. After being widowed at a young age — and with a house full of young children — Yanney was chosen by his fellow Syrian parishioners in Kearney, NE to be their first parish priest. He traveled to Brooklyn and studied for the priesthood under St. Raphael, who had just been consecrated a bishop. In fact, Fr. Nicola was the first priest to be ordained by St. Raphael. Upon returning to Kearney, Fr. Nicola not only shepherded that community, but he was given responsibility for an immense territory — he was essentially responsible for all Arab Orthodox Christians living between Canada on the north and Mexico on the south, the Mississippi on the east and the Rocky Mountains on the west. Roughly speaking, he was the lone priest over all the territory that now comprises the Antiochian Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. And he was a single parent.
Fr. Nicola was, by all accounts, an outstanding pastor. His end was a testament to his dedication: he died from influenza in 1918. Of course, that was the year of the horrible flu pandemic that killed so many millions. Fr. Nicola’s parishioners were among those dying from the disease, and rather than keep himself safe, Fr. Nicola went to his stricken people, hearing their final confessions and giving them communion. In this way, he caught the flu and soon died. It seems to me that he may be worthy of canonization. (To learn more about Fr. Nicola, read this article by Fr. Paul Hodge.)
Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the New York Times on August 4, 1873. That’s nearly two decades before Greek immigrants began to flood into America. According to the book Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America, only 217 immigrants came from Greece to the US in the entire period from 1824 to 1872. Another source (Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait) has similar numbers, reporting 188 immigrants in the 1821-1870 period. Yet another book, Greeks in America (1913), reports just 77 Greek immigrants via New York from 1847-1864, and 77 more from 1869-1873.
To be honest, I’m a tad skeptical of these statistics. The article below talks about 20 Greek custom houses in the US in 1873 (including 12 in New York alone), plus two Orthodox communities with large Greek contingents in New Orleans and San Francisco. From the article, it sounds like Greeks sailed to America pretty regularly, looking for temporary work before returning home. Add it all up, and I would guess that there were maybe a couple thousand Greeks in America in 1873, rather than only a few hundred. Either way, though, the numbers were quite small, and this article presents a rare snapshot of Greek life in America long before the Ellis Island era.
Comparatively little is known about the Greeks in America. Reference is made occasionally in the daily Press to the Greek merchants of this City, whose enormous transactions in cotton and grain form an important item in the exports of the country; but beyond that we seldom see a Greek name coming before the public in the daily incidents of this cosmopolitan City.
Greece is so thinly populated that she can hardly spare any hands to emigrate to foreign countries, and we seldom see any Greeks among the nationalities mentioned in the regular reports of our Commissioners of Emigration. Yet a great many Greeks arive daily on our shores, but they come under the quality of sailors, working their passage on board sailing ships of various nationalities. As soon as they land here they apply to their Consul in this City, Mr. D.N. Botassi, for work, when with few variations, the following dialogue takes place:
“When did you arrive”
“Any particular profession?”
“What do you expect to do?”
“Anything, your Excellency.”
“Have you got any money?”
“Not a cent, your Excellency.”
“Where are your lodgings?”
“Our traps are at the door; we shall go anywhere your Excellency will send us.”
“Can you speak English?”
“Nothing but Greek, your Excellency.”
There are two sailors’ boarding-houses in this City doing a thriving business. The Consul invariably sends them there, and it seldom occurs that they do not find work in a short time. They begin by doing rough work in loading and unloading merchandise at our piers, and, being generally very temperate, they soon accumulate some savings.
Their first care is to send the little which they can spare to their families in Greece. The family ties are so strong among all her classes, particularly the lower ones, that even years of absence in foreign lands cannot diminish their love for their native land and the dear ones they have left behind. The love of their country is one of the strong characteristics of the Greeks; they emigrate under compulsion to better their condition, but the hope to return one day to their country under more comfortable circumstances is always strong and paramount.
Few of the Greeks who arrive at this port go West to become agriculturalists. This means to become in time owners of land whereon to build their new home. But, as we said before, the Greek has always the hope to return one day to his country. They mostly go to Chicago, where they easily find work in loading vessels and navigating the lakes. On the water they find themselves happy, being in their element. As soon as the lakes are frozen in the Winter time they go down the Mississippi River, and many of them are working on the steam-boats plying between St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Cairo, and New-Orleans. Over 200 of them are to be found in the Crescent City, where they seem to be thriving under the more genial climate, not dissimilar to that of their own country. They have all sorts of professions; many are fruit dealers, keep little restaurants and coffee houses, where the American bar is combined with little tables a l’orientale, round which are seated Greeks talking all at the same time generally, all the idioms of the Grecian Archipelago, drinking coffee, and smoking paper cigarettes. Many of them are oyster dealers and oyster fishers, owning generally their little craft, which they navigate themselves, and trade all along the coast from New-Orleans to Indianola and Matamoras, or on the other side through the lakes to Mobile and Pensacola. The writer tasted, some years ago, an excellent glass of sherry cobbler made by a Greek barkeeper on one of the steam-boats on the Alabama River. In New-Orleans the Greek colony is important enough to maintain a church of their own religion, built some five years ago by subscription, and divine service is celebrated every Sunday in the Greek language by a priest educated in the National University of Athens.
The Greek colony in San Francisco numbers about 300 members, and is the best organized of all the Greek colonies in the States of the Union. They maintain a little chapel of their own, and have established a benevolent society. This latter was rendered necessary from the quantity of new-comers of their countrymen to the Golden State, with the hope of finding gold in abundance. It is strange with what great expectations these children of Hellas go to California, and their disappointment in not finding gold in the streets of San Francisco can be better imagined than described. They seem utterly astonished when they are told that they must work in San Francisco, as everywhere else, to gain their living, and the idea of gold is so deeply rooted in them, that many go to the mines of California and Oregon with the hope of enriching themselves one day by some sudden smile of fortune.
Even in those distant localities they do not forget their native land. They write to their families in Greece from time to time, and are subscribers to a Greek newspaper, to learn the news. To the positive knowledge of the writer eight copies of a Greek newspaper are sent to Greek miners in Placer County, California, and a Greek roaster of pea-nuts in Galveston, Texas, is a subscriber to one of the best Greek newspapers. The only subscribers in America to an Ecclesiastical Review, published in Athens, are an American Episcopalian clergyman in New-York and a Greek boarding-house keeper in Chicago, Ill.
There are no students from Greece in this country, with the exception of one, who is studying agriculture at the expense of the Greek Government, in the Illinois Industrial University, in Champaign, Ill., on the scanty allowance of $40 per month.
The average salary of sailors, on board Greek vessels, is about $10 per month; it is no wonder, therefore, that those who come to this country are reluctant to go back, getting, as they do, from $30 to $40 per month. But they get even more on land. Last year a Greek vessel arrived at this port from Sicily with a cargo of brimstone. The crew, consisting of twelve men, refused to go to Havana, where the vessel was bound, and remained in New-York. They soon found their way to Athens, below Albany, where they engaged to work at the railroad depot. They ahve worked there for one year, saved $300 each, which they sent to Greece through their Consul, and worked their passage home recently on board an American vessel. Their abstinence from drinking and their hard work were much remarked by the employees of the railroad.
But the most remarkable incident of the strength of family ties among the Greeks which came to our knowledge is that of a Greek boy who came to this country thirty years ago. He was educated for the ministry and pursued his avocation. A year ago he made inquiries about his relatives in Greece, and finding that a sister of his, a widow, was still living, but very poor, he opened a correspondence with her. They have never seen each other, but the expatriated Greek felt an inherent duty to assist her. He sends her now very regularly a yearly pension, with which she lives at present comfortably in Athens.
We mentioned above a Greek vessel which arrived at this port last year. The father of her Captain has a rather curious history. He was the owner of a small vessel employed in the grain trade during the Crimean war. A tthe time he was in the City of Kertch, in the Crimea. The Russian ports were blockaded by the allies. A Russian regiment was ready in Arrapa, on the Black Sea, to come to the Crimea. But how? The Greek Captain made an arrangement with the Russian General to run the blockade, and bring the regiment where it was needed. He ran the blockade successfully, took the regiment on board, and was nearing the coast of the Crimea, when he was discovered by the English cruisers, who began to fire on him. He succeeded in landing the Russians safely, but his vessel was captured. The Russian General was delighted. Acting on superior orders, he paid to the Greek 5,000 silver roubles, and added a Russian schooner in the bargain. But the port was shortly bombarded by the allies, and his schooner was destroyed. Nothing daunted by this reverse, the Greek started for St. Petersburg, and, laying his case before the Emperor Nicholas, he had the satisfaction to receive 10,000 silver roubles as an additional compensation for his services to the Russian cause, besides a medal of honor.
There are twelve commercial Greek houses in this city, dealing largely in cotton, grain, and East India produce; four more are in New-Orleans, similarly engaged; one in Mobile, one in Memphis, Tenn., and two in Boston, Mass. These latter deal principally in Mediterranean produce, mostly dried fruit from Constantinople and Smyrna, exporting thither New England rum, machinery, and Yankee notions.
On the morning of Sunday, February 9, 1873 — that is, 137 years ago today — a crowd assembled in Holy Trinity Russo-Greek Chapel in New York City. The priest, Fr. Nicholas Bjerring, gave an address on “Unbelief and the Indifference in Religion.” The whole speech was printed in the next day’s New York Times. It is one of the few full Bjerring homilies that has survived, and it is reprinted below in full:
The subject about which, by the grace of God, I intend to speak to-day, is the perversion of this age in which the enemies of God and of man confuse the minds, corrupt the morals, undermine religion, and, rending asunder all bonds, seek to overthrow Divine and human order. It is the spiritual blindness of so many who attack Christianity, preach vice under the name of virtue, allow themselves everything with lawless audacity, proudly disregarding every authority, mislead the innocent, who poison the spirits and murder the souls. It is the deadly unbelief and the religious indifference which denies everything Divine and holy, the indifference, which is lukewarm and cold toward all that is good — this it is that troubles my heart and fills my soul with pain.
The greatest evil in the world is unbelief, the apostacy from God. This apostacy from God is the continual source of corruption. This is a law of the eternal justice. For the man who falls from God and recognizes infidelity is nothing more holy; for him ceases everything that religion highly esteems — family, property, father-land. A nation in which skepticism gains the dominion is sure to meet perdition. Unbelief undermines all foundations of society, till finally regarding neither divine nor human authority it seeks seeks to upset everything existing. Thus teaches the history of all times.
Was it not during the rule of the Commune in Paris, as if there the angel of the Apocalypse had opened the abyss from which ascends scorpions? Was it not the lot of the Prince of Darkness to plunder and murder; was it not a picture of unspeakable misery, which there unfolded itself under the red, blood-steeped banner? God permitted for a short time of t his unlimited rule, in order to remind the nations again into what abyss apostacy from God does lead, and how everywhere, at all times, the truth of the law of eternal justice does stand, that unbelief is the source of all evil, and the end of corruption. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” This eternal truth appears very clearly, when one considers more closely the watchwords and phrases of unbelief, and compares with them the deeds which were seen as the last consequences of the same in the days of the Parisian Commune.
The devil is only the ape of God; he knows no other inducements to allure to his kingdom than the promises which the Lord has made to His believers, only that he explains them in his way, and thus turns the divine truth into a lie. Man was created in the image of God, and “ye shall be as God,” were the words of the first temptation of the serpent, but it led, through sin, to corruption. To the Son of God was promised dominion over the world, and the devil endeavored to seduce Him through the promise of “all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory.” The same value have the promises of the Internationalists and the communists. They incite men to their service through all that which God has named as the prize in His service.
“Liberty” is the first watchword that resounds from the ranks of these enemies of order and government, and the glorious liberty of the children of God is also the reward of those who follow the Gospel. But the evangelical liberty is freedom from slavery of sin, from the power of death; it is the sonship of God. The liberty at which the Internationalists aim is the despising [of] the commandments of God, the self-willed separating from His ordinances upon earth, as Church authority, family — these all are instituted to bring man into the service of God, or to preserve him in the same.
“Equality” proclaims the Internationale to its adherents eager after unjust good and enjoyment, and agreeably falls the word upon the ear of the envious multitude. The equality of men is also the doctrine of Christianity. All men are equal before God; all were created alike in His image; to all has appeared the same salvation. The equality of the Commune is the claim alike to the enjoyments of the world, possession, power, and the gratification of the passions. The desire after this equality is the opposite of the commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” The motives are envy, disloyalty, and indolence, and the way to satisfaction is the putting aside of every authoritative order, the plundering of those who hold possessions, and the emancipation of the flesh.
“Fraternity” is the third word upon the red flag — the beautiful battle-cry also of the Christian. The children of God are brethren, and are to be of one mind and soul, and to communicate among themselves that there be none among them that lacketh. The common love of man becomes among Christians brotherly love, and the standing salutation of the Apostle, “Beloved brethren,” is the language of every Christian heart. But what does the Commune understand by “fraternity”? The answer was given to the world in the howling of rage and murder, of petroleurs and petroleuses, even the names of which point to crime, because only the Commune had invented them.
The abuse of those words shows us that words in themselves are dead, and receive life only by the spirit that enters into them. “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!” Only Christianity gives us the true meaning of these words, and never have the greatest philosophers of the world so highly spoken about the relations of men to each other as Christ has taught and His Church proclaims. The Christian Church with her doctrines and sacraments is, in this respect, to become the leader. She is the medium whereby the Divine life is communicated to each human being, in order to complete the Divine image in him and to unite him most intimately with God. Continually must we cherish the desire to be more and more in unity with the eternal, infinite Deity; and this bond of men with God will then also unite mankind into one family, and make them beloved children of God. That is the meaning of liberty, equality, and fraternity, in the Christian sense.
If we look around us, we cannot fail at the same time to perceive how religious indifference in so many families has also disturbed the Christian life. That faithful, pious mind, that strong trust in God, that content, experienced in former times, have severally disappeared. Acquisition, gain, employment are often the first items in the home, but the last is religion. Prayer has disappeared — nothing more is known of a lifting up of the soul to God. The cares of the body reign over all — religious indifference rules the home. Business flourishes, the master of the house is esteemed, the lady of the house is courted by society, but are we not deceived? The good fortune of such a family is only in appearance, and treacherous, because it is without a foundation. How will it be there when the plays of misfortune and sadness appear? How will it be there when the blessings of this world forsake such a house, for God’s blessing was never sought? Even if the children are so educated as to understand how to acquire with skill the goods of this world, can they endure the trials which life imposes upon them? Will they approve themselves in the hour of temptation, when sin with her seductions approaches near; when the excitement of vice decked with flowers misguides them, when the advantage of chrime blinds them? Surely not.
On the contrary, the certain end of an education without religion and the fear of God, will be that they do not approve themselves. And suppose it were not so; suppose God suffered such a family and their children’s good fortune until the end in the full enjoyment of earthly goods, because their whole heart was attached to them, yet this end must be at the last. Then such a family shall know by experience that they have sowed to the earth, also reaped only from the earth, for heaven they have done nothing, and shall also receive nothing. How often one meets in families a lukewarmness which stifles all Christian life. The faith is dead, the will without power; cold and indolent is the exercise of religion, the life spirit is vanished away. But the exterior practice of religion is nothing without a union with the inner, spiritual. The spirit giveth life, but the flesh profiteth nothing.
However many lights may be burning here in this chapel, and however beautiful the robes of the clergy appear, that will be of no avail either to me or to those that are present, if we are not converted unto repentance. Let us above all not forget prayer, this bond which joins in a mystical manner mankind to God, and the Saviour, who for us all died on the cross, will, let us hope, have mercy on us. For we are all bought with the blood of Christ; we are all to attain to the possession and the vision of God, to drink of the well-spring of eternal love and bliss. May we not forget this final object, but when we celebrate upon our terrestrial pilgrimage the Christian mysteries may we, looking for that heavenly home and spirit, exclaim: “O God, grant us that we may yet be filled with the enjoyment of thy Divinity, whose presence we here celebrate in the reception of thy body and blood.” Amen.