Posts tagged 1902
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: Last year, we reprinted St. Alexander Hotovitzky’s 1902 reflection on the New Year. It was originally published in the January 1902 supplement to the Vestnik (Messenger), of which he was the editor. With New Year’s Day coming this weekend, we’re reprinting the reflection again:
Again I stand on the threshold of a New Year. Again I stand on the crest of a mountain, where I may make a halt and review, before I walk again on the path I have brod. I shall halt, I shall rest, I shall hush my troubled heart, be it only for this short moment, I shall hide from the blizzard, which had followed me ever since I set out, and will meet me again the moment I leave my seclusion. Oh, Lord! help me calmly examine my soul and Thy creation.
I gaze at God’s creation, at everything which He had sent to me, which has been placed close to me, which, through His will, has come together in my life, and, with my hand on my heart, from the depth of my heart and conscience, I say: all this is very good! Yonder is my happy childhood — how brightly it shines, diffusing its aroma from the distant long ago, how it lights up my path before me, how it freshens my soul, during spells of exhaustion! Yonder is my ardent youth and with it all that brought to my soul the first raptures of feeling. Here are my lessons, my joys, my bitter losses, here are the people to like with whom is my happiness, here are others, whom I have buried in the damp earth, almost unconscious with grief; here are all in whose company I grew up, with whom I worried, from whom I have received gifts of love and of wrath, from whom have I accepted honour and dishonour; here is Nature, which, at times, appeared to me more alive and more responsive, which had more power to energize my spirit, than living beings themselves; here are my pleasures, my connections, my illnesses. All, all this is very good. All was good, that God’s Providence sent into my life. Nothing was in vain. Everything was for good.
My past! How far it stretches back in the wondrous country, whence come to me a glad sound, or a beloved image, consolation, and hope, and bitter remorse. I gaze at it and I smile for joy, I gaze at it and I cover my face with my hands for shame. Yet I know: it is mine, it is myself, it is a part of my life, and no power can take it from me or erase what is written in it. And that which is written in it is the future, it is the fate of man. Many are the lives in it, whose mysterious meaning will be disclosed at some future time, at the time when the seed that was sown, will come to ripeness, when, in letters of fire, it will bring forward the word, traced on it by eternal wisdom, unrevealed as yet to mind and conscience, but not to be separated from life. Whilst man lived his days, whilst he worked and slept, whilst he laughed and cried, whilst he moved and rested — eternal Wisdom traced this word on his life and sealed it with a seal of its own, putting a magic spell on it, until the time comes for the seal to be broken, and for a dark corner of a man’s life to be lit up by the light of God’s understanding, which lies hidden in life. It is an agony to read some of these words, but once you have read them, your heart will know, that those are words of God’s love, of God’s solicitude for man. And with every new word, a mystery is revealed, a veil is drawn away and man is made able to understand the thoughts and longings of his own heart.
All is very good. Yet, even now, my restless heart is throbbing with unknown longing and straining to see into the distant future.
Oh Lord! let Thy blessing rest on us.
Editor’s note: The following homily, by St. Tikhon, was published in the March 1902 English supplement to the Russian Orthodox American Messenger, the official periodical of the Russian Diocese. From the reference to St. Macarios the Great, we can date this homily rather precisely. The feast of St. Macarios is January 19. St. Tikhon mentions “evening songs” (Vespers hymns) to St. Macarios, which means that this couple was married on the eve of the feast — January 18. Of course, this would have been on the Julian Calendar; adding the requisite 13 days, we come to January 31, 1902 by American reckoning.
Another thing I noticed, when reading this homily, is that the marriage in question appears to be between an Orthodox man and a non-Orthodox woman. I could be reading too much into this, but at the outset, St. Tikhon says, “[A]s for thee, beloved bridegroom, being a servant of the Orthodox Church…” And in closing, St. Tikhon tells the bride, “And thou, oh wife, takest a husband not merely from the edifice of the church, but from the rank of the servants of God.” It sounds quite likely, then, that the bride was not herself Orthodox.
I don’t know where this homily was given. I suspect it was in San Francisco, the headquarters of the Russian Diocese in 1902. This could be confirmed by looking at the metrical books of the San Francisco cathedral.
In greeting you, my beloved in Christ, on the occasion of your marriage, I also intend to say a few words for your edification. The Holy Church prescribes, in the marriage ritual, to offer to the people about to be married an edifying word by telling them what the sacrament of marriage is, and how they are to live, in matrimony, in righteousness and honor. A good deal is said about matrimony and family life, especially of late, but it is not always sane words that we hear. Therefore people ought firmly to know and to heed, and as for thee, beloved bridegroom, being a servant of the Orthodox Church, thou oughtest to teach as well what is the sacrament of matrimony, in righteousness and honor.
It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help meet for him (Genesis, 2, 18), said God Himself, when our forefather Adam was still in paradise. Without a helpmate the very bliss of paradise was not perfect for Adam: endowed with the gift of thought, speech and love, the first man seeks with his thought another thinking being; his speech sounds lonely and the dead echo alone answers him; his heart, full of love, seeks another heart, that would be close and equal to him; all his being longs for another being analagous to him, but there is none; the creatures of the visible world around him are below him and are not fit to be his mates; and as to the beings of the invisible spiritual world they are above him. Then the bountiful God anxious for the happiness of man satisfies his wants and creates a mate for him — a wife. But if a mate was necessary for a man in paradise, in the region of bliss, the mate became much more necessary for him, after the fall, in the vale of tears and sorrow. The wise man of antiquity spoke justly: two are better than one, for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up (Ecclesiastes 4, 9-10). But few people are capable of enduring the strain of moral loneliness, it can be accomplished only by effort and truly not all men can receive this saying, save they to whom it is given (Matthew 19, 11), and as for the rest — it is not good for a man to be alone, without a mate.
The wife is the mate for her husband. Living chiefly with her heart, the woman is the best mate for the man, his best friend, consoler, and help, with the tender love, resigned loyalty, gentleness, longsuffering and sympathy proper to her heart. In the properties of woman’s nature, man finds the counterpart of his powers, of reasoning, firmness, character, and from a good wife he receives support and encouragement: there is no heavy labour, no bitter circumstances to which a man cannot be reconciled by a loving wife. This the ancient philosopher says, that he who acquires a wife, acquires a help and a support for peace; grace upon grace is a modest wife and she is priceless! A virtuous wife rejoices her husband and fills his years with peace; the amiability of the wife will gladden her husband, and her reasonableness will strengthen his bones; with her the rich man and the poor has a contented heart and a merry face at all times (Syr. 26, 1-14, 16-18; 36, 26-29). Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest, which He hath given thee for that is thy portion in this life and in thy labour (Ecclesiastes 9, 9).
And this portion — matrimony — is acceptable in the eyes of God. This day in the evening songs the Holy Church praised the light giving, angel-like life of saint Maccarior [sic] of Egypt. He was made beautiful by his virtues, especially by his abstinence and prayer. Nevertheless one day this great saint heard a voice, which spoke. “Maccarios, you have not as yet made yourself the equal in virtue of two women, who live not far from you.” The holy recluse found these women and inquired how they lived, what did they do to please God. The women humbly answered: “We are sinful, we live in the vanities of this world; there is no great virtue in us, and in one thing only we do not make God angry with us, as having married two brothers fifteen years ago we live so peacefully, that we have never spoken a harsh word to each other.”
This means, that matrimony is perfect and acceptable to God, but only when at its foundation there is no desire of material gain, no low impulse, but the mutual love and devotion of the husband and wife, joined to self-forgetfulness, constancy, gentleness, patience, when the husband loves his wife and takes care of her, and the wife respects her husband and obeys him, as the head, which the Holy Church also demands from them (Ephesians 5, 22-29).
Moreover, in order to be acceptable in the eyes of God, marriage must be entered in only in the Lord (Corinthians 7, 39), the blessing of the Church must be called on it, through which it will become a sacrament, in which the married couple will be given grace, that will make their bond holy and high, unto the likeness of the bond between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5, 23-32), which will help them in the fulfillment of their mutual duties. Sometimes, as for instance in this country, Church marriage is deemed unnecessary. But if without the help of God we can accomplish no perfect and true good (John 15, 5), if all our satisfaction is from God (II Corinthians 3, 5), if God produces in us good desires and acts (Philippians 2, 14), then how is it that the grace of God is unnecessary for husband and wife in order honorably to fulfill their lofty duties? No, a true orthodox Christian could not be satisfied with civil marriages alone, without the Church marriage. Such a marriage will remain without the supreme Christian sanction, as the grace of God is attracted only towards that marriage, which was blessed by the Church, — this treasury of grace. As to the civil marriage, it places no creative religious and moral principles, no spiritual power of God’s grace, at the basis of matrimony and for its safety, but merely legal liabilities, which are not sufficient for moral perfection.
Your matrimonal bond, my beloved, is blessed to day by the Holy Church, and the grace of God has been imported to you, through the priest of God. And thou, oh wife, takest a husband not merely from the edifice of the church, but from the rank of the servants of God. Accordingly we hope and pray the Lord, praised in the Holy Trinity, that He grant you long life, fecundity, perfectioning of life and faith, perfect love and that He fill youwith all the good things of the earth and make you worthy of the promised bliss of reception, through the prayers of the Holy Virgin, with whose image I bless you, and of all the saints. Amen.
As you may have heard, a few weeks ago thieves made off with six church bells from Holy Dormition Church (OCA) in Cumberland, Rhode Island. The bells were soon recovered, albeit in a seriously damaged condition. The whole episode got me thinking about other instances in American history in which valuable church bells were stolen from Orthodox parishes.
One of those thievings took place exactly 108 years ago yesterday morning, May 5, 1902. The victimized parish was St. Vladimir’s Russian Church in Chicago, which would soon become Holy Trinity Cathedral. Its priest, Fr. John Kochurov, went on to become one of the first hieromartyrs killed by the Bolsheviks.
The bell of St. Vladimir’s was originally part of the Russian exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. It was your classic bronze Russian bell, cast in St. Petersburg, and covered with bas-relief icons of saints. At the conclusion of the World’s Fair, the iconostasis of the Russian exhibit was given to a new parish in Streator, Illinois, and the 520-pound bell was donated to Chicago’s fledgling Russian church. According to the Chicago Tribune (5/6/1902), “The gift was received with enthusiasm, which was turned to grief when it was found that the building was too small to allow the bell to be placed in position.”
So, for nearly a decade, the 4-foot tall, 3 1/2-foot wide bell sat in storage, in a building attached to the small Russian church. By 1902, construction on the new Holy Trinity Cathedral was under way, and a special belfry was designed for the great bell. Installation was scheduled for August, but on the morning of May 5, three men broke into the storage area, rolled the bell into an alley, hoisted it onto a wagon, and drove away.
As you might imagine, the parishioners of St. Vladimir’s were terribly upset. The Tribune reported, “The chapel was filled yesterday with angry and gesticulating members of the church, who left the place to search the city for a trace of the bell.”
They had no luck, but the next day, May 6, Fr. John Kochurov visited the city’s Greek parish. While the two churches were made up of different ethnic groups and answered to different ecclesiastical authorities, they had long maintained friendly relations with one another. On this occasion, the Greek priest offered the pulpit to Kochurov. According to the Tribune, “A general meeting there of both congregations, comprising seven-tenths of the members of the faith in the city, will be addressed by him and exhorted to recover the bell and cause the arrest of the thieves.”
In the Tribune article on May 6, we’re told that at least one of the thieves was a member of St. Vladimir’s Church, although they don’t seem to know his name. The police thought that the thieves planned to melt down the bell and sell the metal. The bell was valued at $500 — over $12,000 in today’s money. But, said the Tribune, “members of the congregation assert that it is the work of persons who have declared their enmity to the pastor and his flock.”
Alas, I haven’t been able to track down the rest of this story. If anyone knows what became of the bell, please send me an email at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
As I’ve probably said a hundred times now, America is a frontier region for Orthodoxy. This was especially the case at the turn of the last century, when the chaotic nature of the American Orthodox scene provided ample opportunity for imposter priests to make a good living on unwitting Orthodox immigrants. I’m sure we’ll discuss various examples of this phenomenon in the future. Today, I’m going to talk about two fundraising “monks” from, apparently, Kurdistan.
This report appeared in a number of newspapers (including the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post) on November 6, 1900:
Two priests of the Greek Church, Fathers Simeon and Joseph Nathan, from the Monastery of Oyos Caralambos, of Kurdistan, were ordered deported by the immigration authorities today. They are said to have come to this country by commission of Bishop Laveneu, the head of their order, to raise funds for the Church. Having very little money they were excluded as likely to become public charges. They said that they had passports from the authorities in Greece.
Frs. Simeon and Joseph appear to have been non-Chalcedonians of some sort or another. From later reports, it seems that they had previously visited India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Japan. They then reached the Pacific Coast of the US, where they met the Episcopal Bishop of Olympia, Washington. They traveled across the country (stopping in St. Paul, Minnesota, among other places), and eventually found their way to New York City. They claimed to be raising money for an orphanage. From the Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica, 10/30/1902):
It seems that they church to which they belong was destroyed at the time of the Armenian massacres by the Turks and their mission is to raise funds to establish a new church, and also an orphanage in connection with it, for the support of fifty orphans whose parents perished in that terrible affair.
After being deported from the US, these “Chaldeans” went to Haiti, and in the fall of 1902, they came to Jamaica. The Gleaner newspaper encouraged readers to contribute money, pointing out that the fundraisers had a letter of recommendation from (among others) the Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies. This effort appears to have been successful, and even the Acting Governor of Jamaica made a donation. After leaving Jamaica in November 1902, the “Chaldean agents” went to Colon and collected still more money.
It was only after they were long gone that the Gleaner received a letter of warning from Anglican representatives in Persia. From the December 5, 1902 issue of the newspaper:
We ask your permission to warn your readers against all persons coming from this country to England for begging purposes, whether they call themselves Assyrians, Chaldeans, Nestorians, Armenians, or by any other name. Many of the most worthless of these Christians have learnt to travel to Europe to beg nominally, in most cases, for some school or other institution, but in reality for themselves. Many persons in England have been deceived by them, even those universally known to be most astute, and the amount of money that has been wasted in this way is most lamentable.
The letter went on to comment that these fraudulent fundraisers displayed “a wonderful versatility in their religion. They will one day be Baptists, the next Anglican, the third Roman Catholics, and the fourth Orthodox Easterns. No religion comes amiss to them, if they can make money by it.”
Many years later, in 1914, other Chaldean fundraisers — or perhaps the same ones — surfaced in America. St. Raphael Hawaweeny found it necessary to publish this notice in the Russian Archdiocese’s Vestnik magazine:
For a long time already, various “collectors” with counterfeit documents, written in various languages, are traveling around North America… They claim to be Syrian or Orthodox Syrian-Arabs while they are Chaldeans and Nestorians by religion… Many times I warned my Syrian compatriots… now I found out that those “collectors” act among the Russian clergy… so I warn you… that those who do not have the papers with my signature and seal are tricksters. Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn.
[I found this in Fr. Andrew Kostadis' 1999 St. Vladimir's Seminary thesis, Pictures of Missionary Life, page 39. The ellipses are in Kostadis' text.]
We’ll probably never know the true origins of these Chaldeans, or what became of them. But they were just two of many fake, or at least unauthorized, individuals who claimed to be Orthodox clergymen in America.