Posts tagged Alexander Hotovitzky
On November 4, 1905, a religious and literary journal entitled The Friend published a letter by St. Alexander Hotovitzky, dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York. Hotovitzky wrote in response to an article in The Friend which claimed, “In this Russian service, of course, no one understood what was said, not even the Russians themselves, as the whole of it was in the ancient ecclesiastical Slavonic tongue. As the Romish Church addresses the Lord in Latin, so do the Greeks use this Slavonic language.” Here is Hotovitzky’s reply:
This is not true.
1. Our ecclesiastical Slavonic tongue is the original of modern Russian, Servian, Slavonian, and of other branches of the Slavic world.
2. Every Russian, even children (of school age) understands well the real text and meaning of all prayers in Slavonic, excluding, perhaps, not many expressions which are lost for living use and are not fitting for ordinary practice.
3. Easy to be understood, this Slavonic language has, besides, immense dignity of words, and is sanctified as proper church language by long ecclesiastical usage.
4. To compare the use of the Latin tongue in the Roman Church and of Slavonic in the Russian is, then, far from consistency and knowledge of true conditions of things, because the chief rule of the Eastern Church (which combines Russia, Greece, Jerusalem, Antiochia, etc.) is to say the divine services in the language of the people for whom the services are intended; in Japan we celebrate and preach in Japanese, in China in Chinese, in Alaska in the native tongue of the Aleutians, and in some churches of America in English, always according to the needs and understanding of the congregation.
5. Russians do not understand Greek, and Greeks do not understand the Russian; so in a Greek church you never hear one word of the Slavonic tongue, and vice versa; yet both are of the same Eastern Catholic confession.
A. Hotovitzky, Dean of the Russian St. Nicholas Cathedral.
New York, Ninth Month 24, 1905.
I’m particularly interested in St. Alexander’s point about the use of English in some American Orthodox parishes. This was 1905; the very next year, Isabel Hapgood published her landmark English translation of the Service Book, facilitating the wider use of English. But Slavonic would remain the dominant language of the Russian Archdiocese for years to come. The 1916 Census of Religious Bodies reports that 166 of the 169 Russian Orthodox congregations in America worshipped exclusively in Slavonic.
In fact, among American Orthodox groups, only St. Raphael’s Syrians (Antiochians) really embraced English in the early years of the 20th century. Although they liturgized exclusively in Arabic in 1906, by 1916, over half of the Syrian parishes had completely switched to English, and numerous others had incorporated English to one degree or another. In fact, in 1916, no more than four of the 25 Syrian congregations continued to worship in Arabic alone. It was a remarkable, dramatic shift that probably had several contributing causes, including the vision of St. Raphael, the influence of Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, and the translation work of Isabel Hapgood. For more, check out my article from August 21 of last year.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Recently, I happened to revisit an essay by Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, published in St. Raphael’s Al Kalimat (The Word) magazine. I don’t have the precise date, but I think it was written in 1907. The whole article is on the subject of “Church Unity” — what, today, we would call “ecumenism.”
Irvine’s ecclesiology is interesting. Focusing just on his terminology, it is easy to mistakenly think that he has a rather “liberal” position on ecumenism. He speaks of Orthodoxy as being a “portion of the Church of Christ,” and he makes multiple references to the “undivided Church,” which implies that the Church was “divided” after 1054. But, when reading this sort of thing, it is essential to remember that Irvine was the product of late 19th century Anglicanism. While his underlying ecclesiology is indeed Orthodox, his vocabulary retains traces of Anglican ecclesiology, which can lead to confusion.
As a practical matter, Irvine was uncompromising. Unity, in Irvine’s view, meant that other Christian bodies had to conform to the Orthodox standard. The Orthodox Church, writes Irvine, is “the only one which has a right to dictate conditions of Unity if any approachment should be made to her.” Irvine flatly rejected any notion of papal supremacy: “The Church of Christ will never be brought together either under the lash of the Roman Curia or by the wiles of the need of an earthly universal, visible head, or on the ground of Papal claims to a Divine right of existence.” In fact, Irvine was so opposed to any compromise with Rome that he actually considered the fall of Constantinople, while tragic, to be ultimately providential:
We regard the destruction of the Eastern Empire by the Turk and Mahamadon as a providence of God to protect the Holy Eastern Church from the influence which might have been brought to bear upon her by the West. He knew what the result would be if there would not have remained any portion of His Holy Church steadfast “in the Apostles’ doctrine, fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in the prayers.” There would have been left no part of His Church true to Antiquity if the East had followed in the wake of the West in adding new doctrines or accepting those which had been proclaimed from time to time by Rome.
It is Orthodoxy, declares Irvine, which is the “Mother Church of Christendom,” and has alone “neither added to nor taken from ‘the Faith once for all delivered unto the Saints.’” Irvine continues:
The chief factor in the unity of Christendom, therefore, is the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church. This Church is free from all the entanglements of Rome; free from the perplexing questions of the Anglican Reformation or the Continental Protestant Revolution. She has had neither hand nor part in any of these. Rome, of course, will still hold on to her presumptions. She will still blindly hold herself up as the centre of Catholicity and Christianity, but her stand in this matter will, as it is now apparent, be passed by; for as the dismembered portions of Western Christianity come together they will ask the question Where can the Ancient Faith be found unchanged and unadulterated? And learned and reasonable men will say as they have already said “it can be found alone in the Holy Eastern Church.”
According to Irvine, the Orthodox Christians in the West — and particularly in the United States — have a particularly serious responsibility. First, says Irvine, the Orthodox in America must remain true to the Church, “and under no circumstances whatever be induced to either join the Church of Rome, the Anglican Church or any Protestant Church.” Furthermore, Orthodoxy must adapt, externally, to its new home in America. Speaking as a Westerner, Irvine writes, “We want to see the Eastern Church in the dress of the language of England and America. We can never study her well in either Slavonic, Greek or in Syrian Arabic or in any other foreign language.” This leads to Irvine’s second point:
We want, therefore, the Holy Orthodox people to build Churches for their English speaking children and place at those altars priests who can speak the English language and look upon the Christians of the English speaking world as friends who are enquiring after “the truth as it is in Jesus.”
Finally, says Irvine, “We need here a class of priests of the Holy Orthodox Church who, however dear their native land may seem to be to them, and however great the temptation in a financial way, should regard the building up of the Holy Eastern Church in the United States and the proclaiming of her Ancient Faith and practices a greater duty than going home.” In other words, American Orthodoxy needs missionary, rather than mercenary, priests.
Especially at this early stage of his Orthodox career, Irvine viewed himself as a bridge between Western and Eastern Christianity. He closes his article with an anecdote about a recent Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York. Bishop Innocent Pustynsky of Alaska (not to be confused with the earlier St. Innocent) was the celebrant, and was assisted by Irvine and the cathedral dean St. Alexander Hotovitzky. An Episcopalian priest, Rev. Dr. Calbreth Perry, was allowed to stand in the sanctuary, wearing his Anglican vestments, and while he in no way concelebrated or communed with the Orthodox clergy, he was clearly treated with great honor. For Irvine, Perry’s presence was especially important. Perry had been Irvine’s Sunday School teacher, and was representative of those in the Episcopal Church who were not upset by Irvine’s Orthodox “reordination” in 1905.
Irvine argues that he — Irvine — is “the one man who could well explain the position of the Holy Eastern Church to a congregation of Anglican Priests. There ought to be such a gathering.” He goes on, “Both sides now, surely understand that there was never intercommunion and that, therefore, the reordination of Dr. Irvine was no offence but God’s way of giving a terrific shock to the dreadful sin of schism. May the effect of that shock raise us all up to the real sense of our duty.” To Irvine, that “duty” is the “reunion” of Christendom, which is nothing less than the conversion of other Christian groups to Orthodoxy, whether individually or institutionally.
Leaving aside Native Alaskans and Uniates, conversions to Orthodoxy in America were quite rare at the turn of the last century. Yes, American women occasionally converted when they married cradle Orthodox men, and there was the odd Episcopalian convert, but even taking those into consideration, conversions were very uncommon. And if Protestants joining the Orthodox Church were rare, a Jewish convert was rarer still. In fact, I’ve found only one solid example of a Jewish convert to Orthodoxy in America in the early years of our history.
We don’t know his name, or his story, but the event was sufficiently notable that the New York newspapers reported on it. The convert — baptized with the name “Vladimir” — was received on Sunday, February 14, 1897, at St. Nicholas Russian Church in New York City. The convert, described by the New York Times (2/16/1897) as “young,” renounced the “false doctrines of the Hebrews,” including the teachings of the Talmud. He swore that he was joining the Church only out of genuine conviction of faith and love for Christ, and not because of fear, coercion, the hope of personal gain, or any other reason. While the Hours were read, a wooden baptismal font was filled with water. The font was behind a low screen, which blocked the baptism from the view of the congregation. From the New York Sun (via the Atlanta Constitution, 2/25/1897):
The priest, the convert and the male sponsor went behind the screen. The woman sponsor staid [sic] outside. The screen was not high and the congregation could some times see garments that were raised in the convert’s complete disrobing. They could hear the solemn words of the service by those within. They could hear the splashing and gurgling of the water as the convert was immersed for the first, second and third time. They saw the symbolical white robe and the cross as they were raised above his head. Meanwhile they joined in singing the hymn of baptism.
The ceremony coincided with the Feast of the Entrance of Christ into the Temple, and the officiating priest was St. Alexander Hotovitzky. Presumably, St. Alexander played a major role in bringing this young Jewish man to Christ. But how, exactly, did a young New York Jew come to join the Russian Orthodox Church in 1897, just two years after St. Nicholas parish was founded? What effect did this conversion have on his life? Was he unique, or were there other Jews who converted around the same time? It’s likely that a record of this baptism still survives, perhaps in the OCA archives, and it’s possible that the Vestnik, the official diocesan publication, may have mentioned the event, so information is out there to be found.
In many ways, the conversion of a Jewish man to Orthodoxy in New York in 1897 is just as remarkable as the conversion of the black Jamaican Fr. Raphael Morgan a decade later. And, as with Morgan, this anecdote leaves us wondering about the rest of the story. Hopefully, one day, we will learn more.
St. Raphael was consecrated Bishop of Brooklyn on March 13, 1904. I wrote about this event in July, and my article was accompanied by a small photo of Raphael — the only known surviving photograph of his consecration. That is, until now.
Last month, I stumbled upon an issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from March 14, the day after the consecration. It included the above image. The small photo I posted in July appears to be just a cropped version of this larger original.
In its March 14 report on the event, the New York Sun wrote,
… The candidate was led by Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent to the holy gate. Here he was gowned in the vestments of his rank and crowned with the golden crown of the bishopric. These vestments and the crown were the personal gift of the Czar.
At this point the 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.
I don’t think this Daily Eagle photo is the same as the image that resulted from the “photograph fiend’s” flash. That disruptive photo (for lack of a better designation) was taken during the ceremony. The Daily Eagle shot, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to include St. Tikhon, who (as the main consecrator) presumably would have been right next to Raphael when the disruptive photo was taken. In the Daily Eagle photo, we see that Raphael is standing with his back to the iconostasis, surrounded by a throng of people. I could be wrong, but it sure looks to me like the photo was taken after the consecration, when everyone was coming up to receive a blessing from the new bishop.
Whatever the case, in an era of mostly posed photographs, this is a rare action shot from a truly historic event.
UPDATE: In the comments, Fr. Andrew Damick pointed out that the mustachioed priest standing behind St. Raphael is none other than St. Alexander Hotovitzky, dean of the Russian cathedral.
If you were living in New York City exactly one hundred years ago, you could have read the following article in the Tribune, one of New York’s many newspapers:
Prayers Offered for Czar at Cathedral of St. Nicholas.
Christmas was celebrated in New York yesterday by ten thousand Russians, Greeks and Syrians, in accordance with the Julian calendar, which is thirteen days later than the Gregorian calendar. The observation of the day was almost purely religious, and services were held in two Orthodox Greek churches and two Greek Catholic churches in Manhattan.
As there are no seats in the Greek orthodox churches, one thousand Russians stood for two hours in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, in East 97th street, while the liturgy was chanted and a sermon delivered by the pastor, the Rev. A. Hotovitsky. The service closed with a prayer for the safety of Nicholas II, Czar of Russia.
For those who attended these services and those at the branch of the Cathedral at No. 347 East 14th street, where the pastor is the Rev. Peter J. Popoff, the day ended six weeks of fasting. The home celebrations, which began after the services, consisted of elaborate feasts. Among those who attended the branch church were twelve Russian immigrants, the members of two families, who left Ellis Island in the morning. Consequently it was their first Christmas Day in the new land. They will stay at the Russian Immigrants’ Home, which is under the charge of the Rev. Mr. Popoff, until employment is found for them.
Two hundred Syrians gathered in the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, in Pacific street, Brooklyn, at midnight, to begin the observation of the day. A low and a high mass were celebrated during the morning. In the Syrian quarter business was dropped for a day of devotion and festivity.
Rev. A. Hotovitsky is, of course, St. Alexander. He presided at the Russian cathedral because the archbishop, Platon, was visiting Russia at the time. I’m pretty sure St. Raphael was in Brooklyn at this point (as opposed to traveling), so he would have served at the Syrian cathedral. Oddly, especially given the title of the article (“Greek Christmas”), the Tribune makes no mention of the actual Greek churches in New York, which were also celebrating Christmas that day.