Posts tagged Evdokim Meschersky
Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on November 28, 1915:
The Holy Orthodox Russo-Greek Catholic Church has established a college for young women at the corner of Pennsylvania and Glenmore avenues, in the East New York section. About nine years ago Archbishop Platon and the priests of the Russo-Greek Church decided in their Convention that it would be advisable to found a college for young women of their own faith. This was thought especially desirable for the reason that many of the daughters of the clergy as well as of the laity could not gain as much attention in the secular institutions of this country in the branches of learning most needful to the Slavic population as in an institution of their own denomination. In time they were to take their places as polished and educated young Slavic-American citizens of the country; and, while devoted to their Church, still equally so to this republic as Americans. They would have to become factors in its life and progress. Russians move slowly but surely. Their Church in this country and in Canada has made very great strides. Their objects have been especially to gather in their own people who, for a time, from necessity, have been left here and there without a shepherd; to so work as to conform rigorously to the established laws of the United States without in any way grasping political power or drawing upon public State funds to help their Church institutions, but depend upon the pockets of their own children, however poor, to share for the common good of all; and, finally, to establish monasteries, nunneries, schools, orphan asylums, seminaries for theological students and colleges for the higher education of their young women.
The first of these latter institutions, the one in East New York, was founded by the Most Rev. Evdokim, the present Archbishop of North America, on the 14th of last September, which date, according to the Russian Julian Calendar, was September 1. The building was formerly the Russian Orphan Asylum, but on that institution having been demoved to the State of Massachusetts, it opened up the way for the far-seeing Archbishop to occupy the premises for the new venture.
Pupils from several States of America and the Balkans are already in attendance. They are a very bright and intelligent set of young women, ranging in age from 16 to 25 years. They are a serious and determined number of students, who realize much the object of their presence in their Church’s college. Indeed, from among their number many will become the wives of future priests of the Orthodox Church, fully equipped, both educationally, socially and religiously, as helpmates to their husbands.
The Russian priesthood is a Class in Society and their wives are expected to be refined and educated to fit into their lives and church interests. Of course, it is voluntary on the part of the Greek Orthodox Catholic clergy to marry or not, but they must marry, if at all, before they enter the priesthood, according to the ancient rule of the General Councils. And if, after marriage, a priest’s wife dies, he cannot remarry. The bishops are always selected from among the unmarried monastic, or “Black Clergy,” as they are called in contradistinction to the “White Clergy,” or secular priests, that is, the married, parochial clergy.
The general supervision of the college is under His Grace, Archbishop Evdokim, who, himself, visits regularly and acts as a professor in one of the branches. Besides the Archbishop there are nine other professors, five of whom are women, viz., Mrs. A.S. Meschersky, Miss Chervobawa, Mrs. Turkevitch and Mrs. Kohanik. The men professors are Very Rev. L. Turkevitch, Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral; the Rev. Peter Kohanik, secetary of the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory; G. Cherepin and the Rev. Dr. Ingram N.W. Irvine. Mrs. E.A. Krilova is the house superintendent and Mrs. Meschersky is her local assistant.
The college is divided into two departments, namely, the Russian and English. The English department is under the Rev. Dr. Irvine, who, for a time, was a professor in the Russian Orthodox Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, Minn., and has been used as a utility priest in all departments of the Holy Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. In the theological seminary he was the lecturer for six chairs of instruction. He has been used in a versatile way in his Church and has ever been a great favorite with all the young of the different nationalities who are represented in the Russo-Greek and, in fact, the whole Holy Orthodox Church of America.
For some years Dr. Irvine was associated with the late Bishop Raphael of Brooklyn, head of the Syrian-Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America. The doctor was his theologian and he always consulted him on matters of importance. They were old and fast friends till the bishop’s seemingly untimely death. Dr. Irvine on the death of his personal friend was retransferred to St. Nicholas Russian Cathedral, Manhattan, at the request of the Russian clergy, with whom he is quite a favorite. On the opening of the college in Brooklyn by the present Archbishop he was placed in charge as rector of the English department and the preacher at the chapel as well as associate at the Liturgical Service.
Few men of any nation have had a more varied experience than Dr. Irvine. He is acquainted with many characteristics of the Slovanic, Grecian and Oriental races, which make up the membership of the Holy Eastern or, as it is technically known, the Greek-Orthodox Catholic Church. The doctor is an Irishman by birth, but came to America as a youth, studied in the United States and graduated in the great Episcopal General Theological Seminary, West Twentieth street, New York City. A class of men now fast passing away were his associates. The present Episcopal Bishop Burgess of Long Island and Dr. Irvine were seminary rectors. In fact, Dr. Irvine in his early ministry was rector of St. James Church, Smithtown, Long Island, and through his influence Mrs. Stewart gave the money to build Garden City Cathedral Church.
The Rev. Dr. Irvine’s wife has been in his long ministry his fellow worker and is equally loved with him by all who know her. It is a pathetic sight to see the Syrian children, whose spiritual welfare was looked after for years in Brooklyn by the doctor, gather around him and Mrs. Irvine when they enter the section of Brooklyn or Manhattan where the Syrians reside, and embrace them. It matters not how the little faces look, clean or unclean, they are filled with pleasure.
Into St. Mary’s Russian College he takes the same love for and interest in the young priests who were his students in the West and who are now scattered through the States and Canada, holding his name as a household word. Another institution of learning has been added to Brooklyn’s long list and the Russian Church has selected a Long Island man to head her English department, especially a priest who thoroughly understands American life and the peculiarities of many denominations.
Last week, I posted Isabel Hapgood’s 1915 article in which she begged Archbishop Evdokim, “Please let us have a splendid choir!” She said, in part, “The Cathedral Choir, propertly constituted large enough, is immensely more important to your Church and Mission in this country than twenty little new parishes.”
The whole article is well worth reading, as it gives a fascinating insight into Hapgood’s personality. And it was a personality that Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine could not stand one bit. Irvine, who was always ready to defend Orthodoxy against any and all threats, responded forcefully in a lengthy reply to the editor in the next issue of the Vestnik (Messenger, September 23, 1915). I’m reprinting that letter — entitled, “The Choir and the Church” — and afterwards, I’ll offer some comments.
I am sure I would be untrue to both my priesthood and citizenship if I were to remain silent and not respectfully protest against the unchurchly and unpatriotic letter written by Miss Isabella F. Hapgood and published in our official magazine — the Russian Orthodox American Messenger of August 20th (Sept. 2d) of this year.
Miss Hapgood says, “The Cathedral Choir, properly constituted large enough, is immensely more important to your (the Archbishop’s) Church and Mission in this country than twenty little new parishes.” This statement is a gross insult both to the Archbishop and to the whole Orthodox Priesthood in the United States. I refrain from speaking my full mind in reference to the blasphemous insult to the Holy Ghost whose voice is heard in every “little new” parish through the Right Hand of the Incarnation, namely, the Priesthood.
Such a letter, my beloved and learned friend, has already done harm. I noticed this insult to the priesthood myself last Sunday, but since then others have called my attention to the fact, — men outside the Orthodox Church.
Our Archbishop was not called by the Holy Ghost to consecrate Choir Leaders for roving Singing-Bands to help and please new Orthodox churchgoers — “Episcopalians” and Protestants in general to whom Miss Hapgood refers. The thoughtful of such respectable Bodies believe that, he came to America for a different purpose, viz; to oversee and represent the Mother Church of Christendom and perpetuate her Priesthood as well as see that, Houses of Worship were erected all over the land in which the Doctrines of Jesus Christ were preached.
Music is a luxury, but the “Bread of Life,” distributed through “twenty little new parishes,” is a necessity.
Christ and His Holy Apostles went forth, and sent forth their representatives, without Singing Bands to tickle “itching ears,” or please the sensual — Eternal Truths were the Themes then: — “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” — Salvation alone through the Blood of Jesus Csrist [sic]. — Repent and believe the Gospel. Except ye are Baptized, and eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of the Son of God ye shall not have Eternal Life. Today, the Themes are as necessary as ever.
Music is a grand expression of the feelings of the heart, — but it can, even in sacred art, be the generator of sensuality. Every cord [sic] whether minor or otherwise falling upon unconverted ears can suggest to the unsanctified souls the evil passions of this fallen nature. Who dares to deny this? Is our beloved Archbishop to be used as a medium of this world — devised, secular or sensual plans just for the sake of commercialists? I doubt it. He is too true and noble an Ecclesiastic to be misguided by Miss Hapgood in such an important matter. He is too loving a Chief Pastor to “let the falsehood spread that one good choir is worth twenty little new parishes.” Why, Oh, why, was such a letter as that of Miss Hapgood’s published? It is easier to spread an error than to correct it. The evil is done. The Orthodox are made a laughing stock to the pious Christians of both Protestant and Roman bodies. We have elevated Music above the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, – Miss Hapgood’s Musical heresy; — we have done it to the extent, at least, of publishing her letter.
Besides, please remember, Miss Hapgood is a Protestant. We do not desire to be ungracious, but there is not an Orthodox in America who would presume to dictate to Bishop Greer or any of the Protestant Episcopal Hierarchy that they should retard the growth of the parochial system and substitute a Musical propaganda instead.
We have in the United States, and especially connected with St. Nicholas Cathedral, Orthodox ladies capable of doing any thing, that is of any practical use, for the advancement of the Church. It would be ungallant to mention, in print their names, — but I can compare them with the ladies of any other portion of the Church in Christendom. Let us give them a chance to show what they can do. Let no overestimated wings of the outside world lower down upon their talents and over-cloud them. They are extremely modest for the reason that they are not in their native land. Yet I may assure them, as an American citizen, their adopted home needs such lov[e]liness and depth as well as lady-like sensativeness [sic] as are manifested in both them and their daughters who are being raised up in our midst.
But there is another point against, which I am solemnly protesting — Miss Hapgood’s unwarrantable statement as follows: — ["]For the first time in history (I think), America is willing to listen to favorable remarks about Russia.” This, indeed, is not so. Why suggest that, so serious, of which we are doubtful?
America, as a Government “by the people and for the people” has always listened to “favorable remarks about Russia”; — has always looked upon Russia as her sincere friend, and has ever felt grateful to that great Empire for it’s [sic] silent yet impressive influence, in her behalf, at the most crucial times of our national history. Any learned reader of political history will recall what Russia did with her ships and guns, long ago, in solemn silence, in our waters when nations, more akin to us in blood, were only too anxious to see our Union disrupted.
We must draw a vast distinction between jingoists and Americans, between a Judaically subsidized press which has often mis-represented Russia to us and us to Russia, and that of the real thought and writings of intellectual and broadminded citizens. We too, must learn that, when a Unitarian President of the United States signed the abrogation of the Treaty between Russia and this country at the instance of the Judaically-influenced Congressman who was Chairman of the “Committee on Foreign Relations” that that President and that Congressman, as well as that whole Administration, were wiped out politically. And if, today, that Treaty were in existance [sic] the abrogation of it would be voted down in Congress like if it were the suggestion of an evil genius. We Americans love the Slavs. The revelations of despotic acts in their great Empire are no darker pages in history than what is goign on in the United States at this moment under mob law and grafters. We have nothing to boast over Russia. That great and mighty Empire consecrated to the service of the Blessed Trinity may not have stamped on her coins “In God We Trust” yet her sons and daughters have engraved upon their hearts the love of Jesus Christ and the expansion of His Kingdom which, alas, cannot be said of us as a Nation. When our star is waning Russia’s will be high in its meridian.
A few words more. I love music. But I may add, — never can any church choir equal a great organization such as the “Boston Symphony” or any other body so constituted of thoroughly trained Artists and Professionalists. A church choir is made up of members of mixed ages to lead in devotional exercises. A musical organization, such as Miss Hapgood requests, is for a wholly different matter — purely commercial purposes, however otherwise it may advance the Art of Music. They can neither be compared nor interchanged.
I dare not express my opinion of Miss Hapgood’s egotistical sentence — “I am going to be frank. There is no one else who can tell you (Archbishop) about the American public and the conditions connected with concerts as well as I can.”
I am afraid that our beloved Archbishop will be tempted after we have begun to revere him, to make preparations to leave us. Who would like to stay in a country where there was but one (lady) out of 100,000,000 souls that knows all? Shame, shame, shame on America! Miss Hapgood will have to get another reward from the Tsar. This time it must not be a trifling gold watch and chain but a diadem of gold beset with most precious jewels. By this time, I take it, — several copies of the Messenger are on their road to Russia to prepare the way for the presentation. I beg of the Orthodox ladies not to grow jealous. It is their own fault and in fact the fault of all of us that we are still ignoramuses. Why have we not had a few talents given to us, — one at least?
I remain, my Very Rev. Brother,
Faithfully and Lovingly Yours,
Ingram N.W. Irvine
A couple of comments. In this letter, Irvine juxtaposes a woman he obviously views as snobbish and prideful with the quiet, modest women from the Cathedral. I have no reason to think that Irvine was a misogynist, but he did apparently feel that Hapgood was being quite un-ladylike in her bold approach to the Russian Archbishop. Furthermore, Hapgood bears at least some resemblance to Emma Elliott, Irvine’s former Episcopalian parishioner who used her connections to have Irvine defrocked by his Episcopal bishop in 1900.
There may also have been a touch of jealousy. “Miss Hapgood will have to get another reward from the Tsar,” Irvine sarcastically remarks. He, after all, had given his life to Orthodoxy and was doing thankless work among immigrants, while Hapgood was receiving international acclaim and living comfortably. And it has remained so to this day: Hapgood is practically a household name among American Orthodox Christians, despite not being Orthodox herself, while Irvine, whose work was at least equal in significance, has been almost completely forgotten.
On Wednesday, I posted a collection of quotations from Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine. Among them was this, on the famous translator Isabel Hapgood: “That vixen Miss Hapgood. What a liar — she has damned the Church for years.” Over on our Facebook page, Michael Beck asked the very reasonable question, “What was his deal with Isabel Hapgood? I’ve never heard anyone mention her with anything less than praise.”
Today, Isabel Hapgood is remembered by Orthodox Christians for her groundbreaking translation of the Service Book. But she did more than that — she was a prolific translator and writer, with multiple books and countless articles to her credit. She was trusted by some of the leading Orthodox churchmen of her day — St. Tikhon, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, Constantine Pobedonostsev (the Ober Procurator of the Russian Holy Synod). And yet, she was loathed by Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, which is especially ironic given that Hapgood and Irvine were the foremost advocates of the use of English in the Orthodox Church.
Or maybe it isn’t so ironic. Very often, the leaders of a given movement will be rivals. In England a generation earlier, the two great leaders of Anglo-Orthodoxy, J.J. Overbeck and Fr. Stephen Hatherly, opposed one another and had very different views about what Western Orthodoxy should look like. It’s likely that the same sort of rivalry existed between Hapgood and Irvine. It probably didn’t help that Hapgood was a well-to-do Episcopalian (exactly the sort of person Irvine tended to clash with), while Irvine had converted to Orthodoxy and was working in the trenches, teaching Sunday School and so forth.
We can get a sense of that rivalry by reading public letters written by Hapgood and Irvine on the subject of the St. Nicholas Cathedral choir. Today, I’ll print Hapgood’s letter, which appeared in the Vestnik (Russian Orthodox American Messenger) on September 2, 1915. Next week, I’ll publish Irvine’s reply.
I said a little to you yesterday about the Choir and the Concert. I did not say all that was requisite to give you a thorough understanding of the situation.
I am going to be very frank. There is no one else who can tell you about the American public and the conditions connected with Concerts as well as I can.
I paid the $50 you gave me to the Management of Aeolian Hall, to bind the contract for the hall on the evening of Dec. 21 next, for a Concert by the Choir. I have the contract, signed and binding.
The first concert which the Choir gave, Feb. 1, 1912, was successful, although there were only six men. The two concerts of the following season (the pay concerts), November 1912 and March 1913, were greater artistic successes, and finally established the reputation of the choir as the most unique and remarkable organization in America. There were eight men on these last occasions — the precize [sic] number indispensible to counterbalance the twenty-one boys. Twenty-one boys and eight men constitute the very smallest choir which can appear, successfully, before the American public; and they must all be perfect.
A newcomer to America does not realize what a musical centre New York is. The very best musicians in the world come here: the wealthiest, most widely-travelled, most musical, most cultivated people from all over this Continent come here, to attend the Opera and the great Concerts. Our public know what is the very best, and insists on having it. Now that there is little or no occupation for musicians in Europe, our choice here is unlimited.
If an organization, like a Symphony Orchestra or a Choir, can win the approval of the public, it can count upon a full well-paid audience year after year. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, for instance, gives a series of concerts here every winter. The same subscribers buy the same seats every year. No seat can ever be bought by anyone else — unless perhaps, when death, illness or absence throws one or two on the market. In that case, there are a dozen applicants, who are only too happy to pay ten or fifteen times as much for one seat, at a sigle [sic] concert as the subscriber paid for the entire series! Those concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra are considered the greatest events of the musical season in New York.
Of course, the popularity of the Conductor has an immense amount to do with this. The public realized that the perfection of execution and interpretation are due to his brains and training.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has existed for many years. Your Cathedral Choir has existed a very short time. Nevertheless, the Choir has made immense progress along the road to the same sort of fame, popularity and prosperity as the Boston Orchestra enjoys. Last winter it could not give a concert, as you know. If it now gives a concert less good than those of two years ago — its career is ended, so far as the musical critics and the best public are concerned. “That Choir is the most wonderful thing in all wonderful musical New York!” one musician said to me. “And it is all due to that wonderful Leader — it is his wonderful brain,” said another (the Secretary for over thirty years of a famous New York Chorus). As you see, we have the elements of a neat public future — a Choir and a Regent beloved by musicians, critics and public. If we ruin that magnificent foundation, it will take years to re-build it; and it may prove impossible to re-build it at all.
So much for that side of the question.
I now wish to repeat to you, with great emphasis:
The Cathedral Choir, propertly constituted large enough, is immensely more important to your Church and Mission in this country than twenty little new parishes. It is particularly important at the present grave crisis in World affairs. For the first time in history (I think), America is willing to listen to favorable remarks about Russia. Everything which can strengthen that favourable inclination is very precious. There is nothing which can exert so great an influence on the best, most influential part of the public here as can a splendid Cathedral Choir. There is nothing which can win more friends for your Church. The Roman Catholics are very powerful here, and the Orthodox Catholic Church needs every favorable influence it can secure, to combat prejudices in that quarter, and among the so-called “Protestants”. A prejudiced person who hears the Cathedral Choir will (if it is really fine), wish to know about the services of your Church which have inspired such music, such singing, such interpretation of spiritual emotion. They will become helpful friends of Russia and of your Church. Look it what the Choir has done for you already among the Episcopalians!
If we can give only one Concert in a season (and, in view of the fact that the Church songs cannot be diversified with solos by famous foreign singers, by piano concertos, or anything else, one good concert is all we can confidently plan, w[e] ought to be able to ask somewhat higher prices. We have never actually sold all the tickets, so far, it is true. But we have secured some of the wealthiest and most musical people in town for our friends, as well as the musicians and the critics, as I have already said. On that foundation we ought to grow more successful.
Please let us have a splendid choir!
Next week, we’ll print Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine’s reply.