Posts tagged 1904
It’s a common debate within American Orthodoxy: should our priests wear cassocks, or should they wear suits and collars like their Roman Catholic and Protestant counterparts?
One side rightly argues that cassocks are the traditional and virtually universal style of dress for Orthodox clergy. The other side just as correctly points out that even some American saints wore suits and collars. As with so many issues, both camps can cite historical precedent. This is from a New York Sun article shortly after St. Raphael’s consecration (5/22/1904):
The Bishop is only 42 years old. He is a handsome man, with piercing black eyes, a black beard and hair just tinged with gray, which is brushed back from his high forehead in long curling locks. He wears a costume which resembles the cassock of a Roman Catholic priest indoors, and a plain gold cross suspended around his neck by a golden chain. He has a democratic spirit, however, and has cut his long hair, which used to flow down over his shoulders to a more conventional length, and refuses to wear his pontificals in the street.
“I do not wish to attract attention by any peculiarities,” he says. “There is no reason why I should be so extreme.”
In the photo above, you can see St. Raphael and his archdeacon, the future Bishop Emmanuel Abo-Hatab, both wearing suits and holding their hats. Both men have closely-cropped beards and short hair.
That said, St. Raphael did not impose his own preferences on his clergy. For instance, check out the impressive beard on his priest, Archimandrite Meletios Karroum, printed in theÂ Boston Globe (9/18/1904):
Very generally, in the early 1900s, Russian clergy tended to be more “Westernized” in their appearance. Photos of St. John Kochurov from his time in America depict him with no facial hair at all. A lot of early Russian priests had only moustaches or goatees, and many wore suits. Take a look at this photo of St. Alexander Hotovitzky, from 1913:
Meanwhile, Greek clergy tended to be more traditional in their dress. As best I can tell, until the 1920s, Greek priests in America typically wore cassocks and sported full beards. In the ’20s, a general trend towards Americanization (pews, organs, etc) in Greek churches began, and it seems like collars and shaved faces became popular at about the same time.
More broadly, I would emphasize that diversity in clergy appearance has been pretty standard throughout American Orthodox history. Also, whatever their personal preferences, saints like Raphael did not impose their own views on their clergy. Flexibility, it seems, is generally to be preferred.
St. Alexander Hotovitzky was the rector of St. Nicholas Church (and then Cathedral) in New York City from his ordination in 1896 until his return to Russia in 1914. For almost all of that time, he was the highest-ranking priest in the Russian Mission. Of course, he was dean of the diocesan cathedral, but he traveled a great deal, ministering to Orthodox people all over the Northeast. He was also editor of the Vestnik (the official diocesan magazine).
Anyway, St. Alexander traveled to Russia in 1903, and while there, he paid a visit to Fr. John Sergiev — known even then as the wonderworker John of Kronstadt. After his return to America, St. Alexander spoke with a reporter from the Wilkes-Barre Times. The resulting article is one of the best things I have ever read in a newspaper, and, while it’s quite long, it is so good that I’m reprinting most of it in full. (The date, incidentally, is April 7, 1904.)
In the study of Rev. Alexander A. Hotovitzky, Archpriest of the church of St. Nicholas, the chief adornment is a large picture of Father John bearing his autograph. This was presented to Father Hotovitzky last Summer when, during a visit to Russia, he called upon Father John to thank him for the interest he had taken in his little flock. A portion of the funds necessary for the erection of the handsome new church edifice was collected in Russia, and Father John both by personal donations and by enlisting the interest of others in the cause became a substantial contributor.
The visit of Father Hotovitzky to Cronstadt [sic] occurred on July 19 (old style). It so happened that this was Father John’s name day. Faithful to a custom of many years, the Russian divine on that day celebrated a solemn mass in the cathedral and then entertained at dinner the many friends who had come to extend their good wishes. The Rev. Father Hotovitzky was one of the guests.
“Vice Admiral Marakoff was toast-master at the dinner,” said Father Hotovitzky yesterday. “It was only natural that he should be, for he and Father John are bound together by ties of warm personal friendship. There were present at that dinner many dignitaries of Church and State, but, nevertheless, it was a most democratic affair. Father John has some quaint notions, and even in a land of such marked class distinction as Russia, rich terms of equality. It was a good dinner, and good things to drink went with it, for Father John, though ordinarily he lives as frugally and abstemiously as a monk, believes that God put the good things of life on earth for the cheer of man, and he loves to see others enjoy themselves.
“Father John in some respects is the most remarkable man in Russia to-day, and certainly is the most talked of. He represents a type all by itself in the Russian Church, and no one has so vividly brought home to the people its power and potentialities with a complete leaving out of all the ostentation, pomp, and grandeur with which it formerly charmed and awed the people.
“Those who have been wont to consider Father John as a mystic or as a man of a monastic cast of mind have erred. He is the opposite. He took a wife, and he mingles freely in the common life of the people, and he enjoys a good joke. He has secularized religion and both by life and teaching has steadily striven to lift the common life to the level of religion. He is a strong advocate of the living help, and he turned his back on monastic orders just because he felt he was needed and could be a potent influence for good by remaining in the open life where those that needed him could constantly besiege the doors of his simple dwelling in Cronstadt when he is there and the crowds that gather at railroad stations during his many journeys through Russia which occupy the greater part of his time have shown that he was right.
“His influence reaches from the throne of the Czar to the meanest hovel in Russia. He takes from the abundance of the rich with both hands and scatters it as freely among those that need it. It is only through the remarkable gifts he receives that he has been able to maintain something like twenty-five asylums and institutions in different parts of Russia, of which he is the founder.
“One charm about Father John is his broadness. While orthodox in the essential meaning of that word, he makes no distinction between those that follow his and other beliefs. He bestows his blessing on all alike, for he recognizes as divine every channel through which a devout spirit and a realization of the highest life can flow into the human soul.
“In his study you will find a desk, a bed and some holy pictures. It is as simple as the cell of a monk. He spends little time there, however, for his time is mostly taken up with relieving suffering among the poor, comforting the dying, and on missionary journeys. Were a call to attend a deathbed at the other end of the empire to reach Father John in the middle of the night he would rise and take the first train.
“There are many in Russia who ascribe supernatural powers to Father John. He does not claim any, except the power of prayer. He is a firm believer in that, and the most remarkable thing is that his prayers are very brief. But one cannot look into his wondrous violet eyes without feeling that the look in them is not of this world. They seem to be looking, one minute far beyond the border line of life, and at other times they seem to penetrate into one’s very soul. Strangely, also, those who have observed him during the last twenty-five years of his life – he is now over seventy – declare that age seems to have wrought no change in his appearance.”
Further along in the article, the author (not St. Alexander) tells this story, which, while not really relevant to American Orthodox history, is still so good that I have to print it here.
During the lifetime of the late Czar [Alexander III] he [Fr. John] was often summoned to the Imperial Palace. Once he was sent for on behalf of the Princess Elizabeth, consort of Duke Sergius and a sister of the present Czarina. The Princess was ill and his prayers were wanted. Father John is said to have asked the Czar whether the Princess had entered the Greek Church from conviction or merely as a matter of policy – she was a German and originally a Lutheran. Astounded at his holiness, the ruler of All the Russias sharply told the prelate to mind his own business. Father John drew himself to his full height, fixed a penetrating glance on his imperial master and replied:
“That is just what I am doing, your Majesty. God, whose humble servant I am, demands that this question should be answered.”
Whether it was answered or not is not known. But when the Czar was dying in Crimea an urgent call was sent to Father John, and he was rushed across Russia on an imperial special [train] to the bedside of the monarch.
It’s hard to imagine something like this in a newspaper today, but in St. John of Kronstadt’s lifetime, the American press was fascinated with him. Beginning in the early 1890s, St. John appeared quite regularly in US newspapers, complete with accounts of miracles (including even the raising of someone from the dead). But this Wilkes-Barre Times article stands out from all the rest. Here, you have one saint talking about another (a rare enough thing), and for a secular audience no less.
Fr. Vladimir Alexandrov was a priest in the Russian Mission in the late 19th and early 20th century. He began his career in 1896, as the choir director of the multiethnic St. Spiridon Church in Seattle, Washington. After his ordination in 1898 (or ’99), he remained in Seattle as the pastor of the church. It was there, in 1904, that tragedy struck. From the San Jose Evening News (January 28, 1904):
Rev. Vladimir V. Alexandrof, pastor of the Greco-Russian Orthodox church gave his five year old son Nicholas a teaspoonful of strychnine last evening. Three physicians were immediately summoned, but before they could do anything the child died in convulsions. Both Rev. and Mrs. Alexandrof are prostrated over the terrible mistake.
Alexandrof thought he was administering penopeptine in accordance with the physician’s instructions, but picked up the bottle containing strychnine instead. The medicines were in bottles of [the] same size. The Alexandrofs had only two children, and it is a little girl which is left to them. Rev. Sebastian Dabovich of San Francisco has been telegraphed for and will arrive in time to conduct the funeral services next Saturday.
This has to be one of the saddest stories in early American Orthodox history, and it is also illustrative of the pharmaceutical industry at the turn of the century. The Alexandrovs no doubt had strychnine in the house to kill rodents, but it was in the same generic bottle as the actual medicine, and apparently kept in the same place. (Incidentally, I looked up penopeptine, but found no results. Anyone know what it would be used to treat?)
Normally, if a priest takes a life — even by accident — he can’t continue serving at the altar. St. Tikhon, who was the Russian bishop at the time of the tragedy, must have decided to exercise economia in this case. Fr. Alexandrov was a young priest with a family, and he was obviously suffering immensely. Losing his priesthood would have only made things worse.
I haven’t been able to track Alexandrov’s whole career, but he appears to have been transferred to the parish in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. After that he served in, among other places, Ansonia, Connecticut; Chicago (as successor to St. John Kochurov); and San Francisco.
But Fr. Alexandrov’s troubles were far from over. His life reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. In 1917, he was rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco. Upon returning from a trip to Russia, Alexandrov found that his wife had disappeared and $19,000 was missing from his bank account. The culprit in both cases was Fr. Vasily Dvornikoff, Fr. Alexandrov’s assistant priest. Dvornikoff and Mrs. Alexandrov were lovers, and had run off to Buenos Aires, Argentina with all of the Alexandrovs’ money. Fr. Alexandrov sent a public letter to the newspapers:
October 7, 1917.
Mrs. Rose V. Alexandrof, wherever she may be.
Dearest Wife: October first I returned from Russia finding you missing. I know from your letters your desire to join me in Russia. No matter what may have happened to you, please know my absolute faith in your goodness, truthfulness and love for me and children and pay no attention whatsoever to the slandering false stories.
Nobody believed them, as your noble and exemplary record of wifehood and motherhood for twenty years with me, known by many, stands well in your favor, and if you fell victim of prearranged criminal plot of robbery of those whom you and I were helping in their needs and who having robbed you, still, are trying to defame you, please do not for a moment hesitate to communicate with proper authorities and me, as I care so much more for you when you are suffering.
Trust in God’s mercy and help and in my everlasting devotion to you and that soon our hears’ wounds will heal and we will become still happier. My trip to Russia was especially successful. I received special honors for my services to my fatherland in connection with this God-blessed country and have full hope that we shall enjoy life with our dear children better than ever before. My address is 834 Cabrillo street, telephone Pacific 8381, San Francisco, Cal.
REV. ARCHPRIEST VLADIMIR ALEXANDROF.
Dvornikoff was indicted by a grand jury on the charge of grand larceny, and he was arrested upon his arrival in Buenos Aires. Mrs. Alexandrov was with him. (Documents and articles related to the case can be found here.)
So Fr. Alexandrov had lost both his son and his wife, and both in the worst ways possible. I’m not sure exactly what happened to him in the years immediately after 1917, though I suspect he returned to Russia. In 1923, he was made a bishop of the Bolshevik-backed Living Church. He returned to America, and to his old parish, St. Spiridon in Seattle. He was obviously a damaged man, and he became a thorn in the side of the Orthodox community.
In 1932, “Bishop” Alexandrov filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court, trying to take control of the St. Spiridon church property. Alexandrov won, but the St. Spiridon parishioners stripped the church of everything — icons, holy vessels, etc. Alexandrov was left with an empty church, and essentially no congregation. (For more information, see click here and go to page 6.)
Of course, the Living Church itself wasn’t to last much longer, and in July of 1933, Alexandrov was received into the Roman Catholic Church, which recognized him as a bishop. Here is the New York Times report from July 28, 1933:
SEATTLE, July 28 (AP). — The Most Rev. Vladimir Alexandrof, Seattle Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, has been made an Archbishop-elect of the Catholic Church.
The reception of the Russian Archbishop into the Catholic Church, with Papal recognition of his rank, was disclosed by The Catholic Northwest Progress and the Right Rev. Mgr. J.G. Stafford, pastor of St. James Cathedral.
Church leaders here said that his request for recognition and the acceptance is the first among fourteen other Russian orthodox priests in America.
Papal recognition of his rank was involved, editors of The Catholic Northwest Progress said. He spent several months at the Franciscan Graymoor Monastery at Garrison, N.Y., for a period of meditation and prayer before he made his profession of the Roman Catholic faith.
The profession was made to the Most. Rev. Peter Bucys, who was delegated by the Holy See to receive it, on June 4. As Archbishop-elect he is now at the head of the Catholic Russian Mission of North America.
The Most. Rev. Alexandrof was married — the Russian clergy is allowed marriage — and he was received into the Catholic clergy under the vows of celibacy, with which many other men, once married, have become priests. He has been separated from his wife for several years.
I’m not sure what happened to Alexandrov after that, but whatever the case, it’s a sad end to a tragic story. One cannot help but think that all of Alexandrov’s troubles began on that awful day in 1904, when he accidentally killed his son.
May God have mercy on his soul.
UPDATE (9/30/09): It appears that Alexandrov died in Baltimore, Maryland on May 20, 1945. The entry just lists his title as “Rev.”, and I’m not sure if he was still a Roman Catholic bishop.
Also, I stumbled upon the 1932 diary of James Wickersham, the then-Congressman from Alaska. It includes the following entry for June 28: “Archbishop Vladimir Alexandrof who claims to own the Russian Church property in Alaska called – I do not care for him – He is a troublesome Soviet agent if I am not mistaken.”
St Raphael was consecrated Bishop of Brooklyn on March 13, 1904, by St Tikhon and Bishop Innocent of Alaska (not to be confused with the earlier St Innocent). What follows is a little article I wrote on the consecration. My plan is to include the article in a book I hope to publish on the early history of American Orthodoxy.
The first thing to know about Bishop Raphael’s consecration is the crowd – the enormous, crushing crowd. Two thousand people – some worshippers, some sightseers – were crammed like sardines into the cathedral on Brooklyn’s Pacific Street. Throw in a generous portion of incense and hundreds of burning candles, and the place was one hot, dense mass of humanity. “There were half-smothered cries of women and children,” one newspaper reported.[i] As you might expect, at least three women fainted and had to be carried out of the building.[ii]
Adding to the chaos were the newspaper photographers, one of whom chose to take a picture at the moment of consecration. From the New York Sun: “[T]he photograph fiend, who apparently respects religion no more than any other material for a subject, startled the congregation and the clergy by exploding a flashlight cartridge. The building was soon filled with smoke, making the rest of the ceremony very indistinct for some time.”[iii]
Anyway, it was quite a ceremony. No less than four canonized saints participated – Raphael, Tikhon, Alexis Toth, and Alexander Hotovitzky. Afterwards, there was a big dinner, attended by a lot of people (between 150 and 500; the newspapers don’t agree, though I’m inclined to believe the smaller figure). It was a fast day, but that didn’t stop the feasters from having an impressive menu. From the New York Tribune: “The menu was vegetables, oysters and lobsters, Damascus artichokes, fried fish, lettuce salad, peas a la Syriene, cabbages a la Turque; desserts, mishabbak, cornstarch; fruits, apples and oranges; Turkish coffee.”[iv] Presumably no one left hungry.
As far as the general public was concerned, the consecration was a decidedly Russian affair. The newspapers referred to it as being at the Tsar’s orders, and at the celebratory dinner, the Tsar was toasted and the Russian national anthem was sung. One of the first public acts of the new Bishop Raphael was to visit the Russian ambassador in Washington.[v]
These facts did not please the local Greeks one bit. They saw it as an act of Russian imperial expansion, and it contributed to the growing Greek fear that Russian Church aimed to spread its influence across Orthodoxy worldwide. The Greek consul in New York chose not to attend the consecration, and his absence itself made headlines.[vi] A few weeks later, on Holy Friday, Bishop Tikhon tried to visit Holy Trinity, one of the Greek churches in New York. Fr. John Erickson writes, “He was barred from entering by its angry trustees, who feared a Russian takeover of their parish properties.”[vii]
The Greeks may not have been happy with the consecration, but the Episcopalians certainly were. Bishop Tikhon invited his good friend, the Episcopal Bishop Charles Grafton of Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin to attend. That fact alone means little; non-Orthodox religious leaders are often invited to witness such events. But Grafton’s invitation was different, at least in the eyes of the Episcopalians themselves. Supposedly, Bishop Tikhon’s invitation included a request that Grafton actually participate in the ceremony as the third consecrator, along with Tikhon and Innocent![viii] In reality, it is highly unlikely that Tikhon actually intended for Grafton to be one of the consecrators. Such an act would require full communion between the Orthodox and the Episcopalians, and, as later events would prove, Tikhon was unwilling to unilaterally declare such a union. He had great respect for the Episcopalians and Grafton in particular, and he may even have privately believed in the legitimacy of their holy orders, but he by no means would have permitted Grafton to actually participate in the service.
In any case, Grafton proved unable to come due to illness, but a delegation of other Episcopalians came in his stead. Some of Grafton’s representatives were allowed to stand in the altar itself during the ceremony, just as was Bishop Tikhon and his delegation at the “Fond-du-Lac Circus” a few years earlier.
Of course, Raphael’s consecration meant the most to his own Syrian flock. They now had a bishop, and officially, they were now a vicariate of the Russian Diocese. Unofficially, though, things were much less clear. While making clear that Raphael was a bishop of the Russian Church, Patriarch Meletios of Antioch felt it his “most important duty” to bestow his blessing on the consecration, and he said that he and the rest of the Antiochian Holy Synod “still consider him as a member of our body.”[ix] For his part, Bishop Tikhon, while also affirming Raphael’s membership in the Russian Church, stated his “certitude” that Raphael “would never break the most intimate spiritual ties with his mother Church of Antioch,” and he asked the Patriarch to guide and advise the new bishop.[x]
Bishop Raphael himself was rather ambiguous when he spoke to his flock about his jurisdictional allegiance. He said that his consecration was “by the order and permission of Melatois [sic], the Patriarch of Antioch”[xi] and that “Patriarch Melatois [sic] counted the new parish of Brooklyn, New York, as one of the parishes of Antioch.” He went on to say that Patriarch Meletios declared that he “had instituted the new diocese as one of the dioceses pertaining to the See of Antioch and thus it is in actuality, notwithstanding its nominal allegiance to the Russian Holy Synod.”[xii]
After Raphael’s death, such ambiguities would become points of serious contention among his orphaned flock. But in 1904, they were of little significance; the important fact was that the Syro-Arabs now had their own bishop, who would prove to be among the greatest American Orthodoxy has yet seen.
[i] “Crowd Uncontrollable,” Boston Globe (March 14, 1904), 5.
[ii] “New Bishop of Greek Church Consecrated,” New York Times (March 14, 1904), 9. Also cf. “Third Russian Bishop,” Washington Post (March 14, 1904), 1.
[iii] “New Bishop Consecrated,” New York Sun (March 14, 1904), 10. Also cf. “Ordain Raphael Bishop,” New York Tribune (March 14, 1904), 3.
[iv] New York Tribune (March 14, 1904).
[v] Cf. “Social and Personal,” Washington Post (March 17, 1904), 7 and “In Society,” Washington Times (March 17, 1904), 6.
[vi] Cf. “Greeks Angry at the Czar,” New York Sun (March 15, 1904), 12 and “Fear Russian Rule of Church,” New York Tribune (March 15, 1904), 6.
[vii] Erickson, Orthodox Christians in America, 73.
[viii] C. Lewis Leicester, “What Might Have Been,” The Christian East 13:2 (Summer 1932), 79-80. Quoted in Andre G. Issa, The Life of Raphael Hawaweeny, Bishop of Brooklyn: 1860-1915 (unpublished M.Div. thesis, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, May 1991), 46.
[ix] Patriarch Meletios to Bishop Tikhon (March 11/24, 1904), translated from the Russian by Fr. John Meyendorff in “Notes and Comments: The Patriarch of Antioch and North America in 1904,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 33:1 (1989), 83-86.
[x] Bishop Tikhon to Patriarch Meletios (April 1904), reprinted in Issa, 49-50.
[xi] Al-Kalimat (The Word) 1, 2, reprinted in “Hanna et al v. Malick et al, 223 Mich. 100, 193 N.W. 798 (June 4, 1923), Northwestern Reporter 193, 802.
[xii] Al-Kalimat 3, 95-96, reprinted in “Hanna v. Malick.” An alternate translation renders this statement, “And so it is indeed, though in name it belongs to the Russian Holy Synod.” Issa, 62.