Posts tagged language
Most of the time, on this website, we talk about the history of Orthodoxy in the Americas. But it’s important to remember that, especially in the 19th century, American Protestant missionaries were traveling in the other direction, going to places like Greece and Syria in an effort to convert Orthodox Christians to Protestantism.
I recently stumbled upon an interesting book, Fair Athens, written by Elizabeth Edmonds in 1881. Edmonds recounted a story that I suspect readers of this website will appreciate:
To send missionaries here [to Greece], with the intention of evangelizing, is futile, and the answer of a Greek peasant to some active Americans bent upon his conversion is quite to the point and conclusive. A copy of the Testament was offered to him, in modern Greek. On the title page he read, “Translated from the original Greek.”
“Thank you,” he said, giving it back; “we have the original.”
In 1905, the Holy Synod of Russia was preparing for an All-Russian Council. In advance of this, the Synod asked all the diocesan hierarchs of the Russian Church to send in their opinions on various church reform issues. St. Tikhon was among the respondents, and a portion of his reply has become rather famous among American Orthodox Christians. There are a couple of translations of this section of Tikhon’s response; I’ll print one of them here:
The diocese of North America must be reorganized into an Exarchate of the Russian Church in North America. The diocese is not only multi-national; it is composed of several orthodox Churches, which keep the unity of faith, but preserve their peculiarities in canonical structure, in liturgical rules, in parish life. These particularities are dear to them and can perfectly be tolerated on the pan-orthodox scene. We do not consider that we have the right to suppress the national character of the churches here; on the contrary, we try to preserve this character and we confer on them the latitude to be guided by leaders of their own nationality. Thus, the Syrian Church here received a bishop of its own (the Most Rev. Raphael of Brooklyn), who is the second auxiliary to the diocesan bishop of the Aleutian Islands, but is almost independent in his own sphere (the bishop of Alaska having the same position). The Serbian parishes are now organized under one immediate head, who for the time beign is an archimandrite, but who can be elevated to the episcopacy in the nearest future. The Greeks also desire to have their own bishop and are trying to settle the matter with the Synod of Athens. In other words, in North America a whole Exarchate can easily be established, uniting all orthodox national Churches, which would have their own bishops under one Exarch, the Russian Archbishop. Each one of them is independent in his own sphere, but the common affairs of the American Church are decided in a Synod, presided by the Russian Archbishop. Through him a link is preserved between the American Church and the Church of Russia and a certain dependence of the former on the latter. It should be remembered however that life in the New World is different from that of the old; our Church must take this into consideration; a greater autonomy (and possibly autocephaly) should therefore be granted to the Church of America, as compared with the other Metropolitan sees of the Russian Church. The North American Exarchate would comprise: (1) the archdiocese of New York, with jurisdiction over all Russian Churches in the United States and Canada. (2) the diocese of Alaska, for the orthodox inhabitants of Alaska (Russians, Aleutians, Indians, Eskimos). (3) The diocese of Brooklyn (Syrian). (4) the diocese of Chicago (Serbian). (5) a Greek diocese.
That translation comes from St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, in 1975. There was, however, an earlier translation, commissioned by St. Tikhon himself. This earlier version appeared in the Vestnik (the official periodical of the Russian Mission), in March of 1906. There are some notable differences between the two translations. Among them:
- The 1906 version includes St. Tikhon’s full (and fascinating) response to the Holy Synod, which runs 22 pages. The 1975 version consists only of the section quoted above, thus lacking the context of St. Tikhon’s proposal.
- The 1906 version says that St. Raphael is “nominally the second vicar”; the 1975 version does not include the word “nominally.”
- The 1906 version does not include the parenthetical “(autocephaly)”, which the 1975 version has. On this point, the 1975 version appears to be more accurate; I am told by those who can read Russian that the original Russian text does include that parenthetical.
- The 1906 version, when it mentions a diocese (bishopric) for the Greeks, includes a question mark: “The bishopric (?) of the Greeks.” The 1975 version omits this question mark, which does in fact appear in the original Russian.
Otherwise, the two versions basically agree with each other, aside from the obvious differences in word choice in translation. I don’t know who translated either version — neither the 1906 nor the 1975 version credited anyone.
Needless to say, St. Tikhon’s vision was never fully realized. Fr. Sebastian Dabovich never became bishop for the Serbs, and the Greeks weren’t about to submit to Russian authority. And, as pragmatic as it might have been, St. Tikhon’s proposal was also completely uncanonical, predicated as it was upon overlapping episcopal territories that were a total violation of Orthodox ecclesiology. But St. Tikhon’s vision would inspire two later efforts to form a single American Orthodox jurisdiction — the “American Orthodox Catholic Church” in the 1920s/30s, and, in 1970, the OCA — and it is still hailed by many today as a viable solution to our present jurisdictional situation.
PODCAST NOTE: Today on the American Orthodox History podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, we’re airing Part 2 of my interview with Fr. John Erickson, on the subject of the Russian Mission. In this two-part interview, Fr. John gives us, among other things, the context to understand St. Tikhon’s vision.
“Self righteousness. Self assuredness. Emphasising unity of administration. Not understanding the importance of Church music. The Freemason Conspiracy Theory. Aggressiveness…..”
The other day, I happened upon an online discussion of Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine and his dislike of Isabel Hapgood. One commentator, whom I would credit if I knew his/her real name, said, “I understand that Fr. Nathaniel Irvine is called the ‘Prophet of American Orthodoxy’. Reading his quotes, all I can say is mores the pity for American Orthodoxy.” When asked to clarify, the commentator offered the above list of criticisms: “Self righteousness. Self assuredness. Emphasising unity of administration. Not understanding the importance of Church music. The Freemason Conspiracy Theory. Aggressiveness…..”
I found this response to be intriguing, in that it largely parallels the critiques that many of Irvine’s contemporaries would have offered against him. Was he self-righteous and self-assured? Having read a huge number of his writings (both private and public), I would certainly call him “confident,” but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say he was those other things. He did stake out a position and fight for it; what’s striking is that he usually turned out to be right.
Take the “emphasizing unity of administration” critique. Nowadays, more and more American Orthodox Christians realize that unity of church administration is extremely important. Shoot, it’s not just American Orthodox Christians — the recent Chambesy decision indicates that the Mother Churches agree, and, frankly, “unity of administration” is enshrined in the ancient canons themselves. Back in Irvine’s day, many (and probably most) American Orthodox Christians would have said that unity of administration was not really important. Ethnic and nationlistic interests were just too strong then, and only a few (such as Irvine and St. Tikhon) really got the picture. I find it odd that someone today would criticize Irvine for emphasizing administrative unity, but it would have been an unsurprising critique a hundred years ago.
“Not understanding the importance of Church music”? Isabel Hapgood certainly would have agreed with that one, but Irvine’s own response to Hapgood shows that his position was rather nuanced. He did, in fact, understand and appreciate the importance of music in the Church, but he didn’t think it should take precedence over missionary and pastoral efforts.
“The Freemason Conspiracy Theory”? I have yet to print Irvine’s entire letter against Aftimios Ofiesh’s consecration, but I can tell you that Irvine speaks from experience, having had problems with a Freemason bishop’s divided loyalties when he was an Episcopal priest. Come to think of it, that’s why Orthodox priests (and laity) are not allowed to be members of secret societies — such societies divide one’s loyalty, which should be to God and the Church.
I particularly like the “aggressiveness” critique, because, of course, Irvine was aggressive. Aren’t all prophets? Prophets speak the hard but necessary word to the people of God, and to people in power. They do so without regard for their personal well-being. This is why I referred to Irvine as a “prophet.” I didn’t mean to equate him with the Biblical prophets, but rather to illustrate (perhaps too dramatically) that he was one of those rare individuals who could see what was wrong and what needed to happen, say what needed to be said, and care not a bit about the negative consequences to himself. Irvine was “loud,” as he himself admitted; at the same time, he spoke “lovingly,” with the aim not simply to attack but to correct. He pushed for the use of English. He rebuked Syrian parents for keeping their children out of church on Sundays, and for letting them attend Protestant and Roman Catholic services rather than Orthodox ones. He spoke out against the beloved Isabel Hapgood when she claimed that a good choir was worth more than twenty “little new parishes,” and he argued against the consecration of Aftimios Ofiesh, who would indeed prove to be unworthy of the episcopate. Irvine may not have been right one hundred percent of the time, but he was right pretty darned often, and you can bet that if he were alive today, he’d be just as vocal and just as polarizing.
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.
Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, the great convert priest who was ordained by St. Tikhon in 1905, may well be the most quotable figure in American Orthodox history. You can expect lots of Irvine-related material on this website well into the future, but I thought that today, I might offer some particularly great quotations from the man who was once nicknamed, “The Spurgeon of Brookhaven,” and who, in my opinion, might justifiably be called, “The Prophet of American Orthodoxy.”
On the modern world (1895): “People have to-day lost sight of Scriptural facts and become afraid of the old ritual. [...] I do not care who may criticise me when I say that there cannot be found a more idolatrous age, full of Satanic cunning; an age governed more by loud talk, gold and allurement than by pure Christianity.”
On the Episcopal Church: “The Anglican Church is not the true platform of unity. She is too political and diplomatic, always compromising for expediency and shading like a chameleon to attract each Protestant Sect. [...] She allows her Bishops in some respects to be more papal than the Pope of Rome and she gives to her laymen the casting vote in Doctrine, Discipline and Worship.”
On the Orthodox Church: “It may without controversy be truly said that she is the parent Church of all Christian Churches, whether they be Roman or Anglican or Protestant, and that as such she ought to take her place in every land, in every city, in every hamlet, so that those Churches which have either added to or taken from the Faith of the first seven General Councils [...] may correct their creeds, articles and charts by her original and scriptural standard of ‘the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints.’”
On the teachings of Orthodoxy: “The Holy Eastern Church says just what she means; and means what she says.”
On his conversion the Orthodox Church: “God the Holy Ghost, on the morning of Whitsunday [Pentecost], 1905, in St. Mary’s Church, Philadelphia, in response to the inquiry of my soul, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ commanded me in an irresistible way, ‘Go and work for the Holy Eastern Church.’ And I was obedient unto the voice.”
On prayer: “Heaven, is nearer to us than Boston is to New York. I can speak from New York through a telephone to a friend in Boston. Why not through prayer – God’s own ancient telephone, never out of order – speak with a friend in a nearer place? Heaven is where Christ is present. The spiritual law of Religion surely is as great as the physical law of Science. To doubt it would be folly.”
On St. Tikhon: “To see the Archbishop celebrate at the Liturgy was an inspiration. In every word, act and posture he was perfect, yet unconscious of self because of his reverent and natural spirit.”
On St. Raphael’s death: “We see him now in his true light, great and good, learned, and, yet humble as a little child, a brave champion for the Orthodox Faith, yet filled with love for all mankind.”
On Orthodox unity in America: “Let it be hoped that, at least here in the United States, where children of parents unfriendly to each other in the old world intermarry and love each other, the sons and daughters of all the Orthodox Confederated Churches of Europe, Asia and Africa may realize that in unity of organization there is strength.”
To negligent Syrian parents: “Oh, foolish parent, who hath bewitched you! What demon is it which has blinded your eyes, dulled your understanding and filled you with unnatural love for your children? Do you think that love only means the satisfying of the eye, the ear, the palate and the body? Alas, these are the last to be thought of.”
On translator Isabel Hapgood: “That vixen Miss Hapgood. What a liar – she has damned the Church for years.”
In response to an article by Hapgood: “Our Archbishop was not called by the Holy Ghost to consecrate our Choir Leaders for roving Singing-Bands to help and please new Orthodox churchgoers. Music is a luxury, but the ‘Bread of Life,’ distributed through ‘twenty little new parishes,’ is a necessity.”
On the Old Calendar: “It is a standing protest against the encroachments of Rome on the rights of Christendom and suggests investigation on the part of seekers after Ancient ways and truths amongst Protestants.”
On Freemasonry: “If a Bishop of the Church is a Freemason then every priest had better be a Mason in his Diocese, for otherwise it may follow that a Jew, an Infidel, an Atheist etc. or the lowest saloon keeper, or house of ill fame manager, as a member, would have more influence as a Mason with the Masonic Bishop than the priest who was not a member of the Order.”
On Fr. (later Archbishop) Aftimios Ofiesh: “I will never recognize him as a Bishop. I can not serve God and Mammon in the Episcopate.”
In defense of the use of English: “Here are our thousands of young Orthodox of the parentage of every nationality who are being educated in our public schools and entering into our Mercantile and Professional life. They look upon the language of their parents as only an accomplishment, but not as a medium of either religion, politics or business. Are you and I, as Orthodox going to starve them both soul, mind and body simply because we love too well but not wisely, our mother tongue? I am not fighting for the English language as a tongue. My words would fit any other country with its mother tongue as well as that of North America. I am fighting for a principle and Orthodoxy.”
More on English in the services: “I am convinced that the Russian Holy Orthodox Church in America and every part of the Orthodox Church under her jurisdiction cannot prosper as she and they should unless we use English more freely in her and their services. I venture to say that in the recital of every Liturgy, we ought to have one or more Ektenias, etc. in English and until this is carried into effect we will be losing hundreds of youth as we are now irrespect of claims to the contrary.”
On himself: “From without and within, there may be some who would like to have me brushed aside. Yet be it so, still clearly, fearlessly, loudly but lovingly and respectfully, I proclaim, we need Aggressive Orthodox Catholicity for the Truth’s Sake.”