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Editor’s note: The following article was written by Isabel Hapgood and appeared in the New York Tribune on March 8, 1915. It is the most complete surviving description of the funeral of St. Raphael, who died on February 27, 1915. Hapgood herself had known St. Raphael for nearly two decades, from the time that he first arrived in America.
The first Syro-Arabian Bishop in America was buried yesterday in a tomb beneath the Syro-Arabian Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, which forms his monument.
Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny was born in Damascus, a pure Arab. [In fact, St. Raphael's family was from Damascus, but he was born in Beirut. - Ed.] From the Patriarchal Theological School, at Khalki, he went to Russia and became so identified with the spirit of the country that he was wont to say, “In soul I am a Russian.” He went in a monastery at Kiev for six years, and then was professor of Arabic at the University of Kazan. A desire for active work brought him to America.
In Russia he was ordained, and it was under the auspices of the Holy Synod that he labored here. On several occasions the Patriarch of Antioch offered him the rank of Metropolitan in his native Syria. It is probable that had he returned he would have become Patriarch, but he felt that his work was among the 25,000 Syro-Arabians here, whom he had organized into thirty parishes.
He came to this country in 1895. His first church was on the second floor of a house in Washington Street, Manhattan. How the floor bore up under the masses of worshippers, especially when the Russian Bishop held services there on his infrequent visits from San Francisco (then the seat of the Russian diocese), I never understood. Another dispensation of Providence was required to avert a catastrophe when we adjourned to the floor above and enjoyed a genuine Arab feast, ending with Arab coffee flavored with rosewater from Syria. All the partitions and supports below had been removed to make space in the church.
Bishop Nicholas, now Archbishop of Warsaw, remarked to me on one occasion: “I know now exactly how Louis XIV felt when he had to eat in public!”
After the feast a couple of handsome young fellows (ladies’ tailors by their American profession) in Albanian costume performed the famous sword play over the oilclothed floor, upon which dressy lengths of ingrain carpet had been loosely laid, with such vigor that they literally cut the gas jets, partly smashed the fixtures and had to be separated by the umpire, who interposed with a dagger — more Providence!
One day a pistol flew from one of the swordsmen’s sashes across the room and landed at my feet — that illustrates the vigor of the proceedings. I captured it and refused to return it until the end of the session — and thereafter, instead of sitting at the side of the room, I took a safe seat by the side of the Russian Bishop.
A few years passed and Father Raphael was able to move his church to a building on Pacific Street, near Hoyt Street, which later on became a cathedral. That was in 1904. Early that year he was raised to the rank of Archimandrite, and in May of that year he was consecrated Bishop, and became the second Vicar of the Russian Archbishop.
Ordinarily three bishops are required for consecration. In this case, owing to its exigencies, only two officiated, the Most Revered Tikhon, Archbishop of Aleutia and North America, now Archbishop of Vilna, and the Right Rev. Innokentz, first Vicar, later Bishop of Yakutsk and Viluisk, and now Archbishop of Tashkent, in Turkestan. That is, I am sure, the only ocasion [sic] when a Bishop of the Orthodox Eastern Church has been consecrated in America, and a wonderful service it was.
The Russian Ambassador, not being able to come, sent his representative, who sat at the right hand of the new Bishop at the banquet which followed. As the only representative of America and the Episcopal Church, I was placed at his left hand, opposite the consecrating prelates, and was called on for a speech after the Ambassador’s representative had conveyed his formal message.
In course of time Bishop Raphael came to know many of the Episcopal clergy, and was highly respected by them. His later alienation from them is regarded as having arisen under misapprehension. By his own people he was cherished as the man to whom they owed their beneficent organizations. The Young Turk element quarrelled with him for reciting the formal prayer for the Sultan, as the ruler of Syria, in the services, and several attempts were made on his life. At times he was obliged to go about with a guard, and I met him in the Syrian restaurants dining with a guard on duty. But he lived down their enmity.
Bishop Raphael died, after an illness of three weeks, from dropsy, kidney trouble and heart disease, worn and gray as a man of seventy with his toils and sufferings.
For a week he lay in state in his cathedral, and morning and evening requiem services were held by the Right Rev. Alexander, Bishop of Alaska, assisted by Russian and Syrian clergy. A wonderful service, picturesque in setting.
Across the foot of the open coffin was draped the purple episcopal mantle, with its crimson velvet “tables of the law.” Over the face lay a sacramental veil of white and silver brocade, embroidered with a gold cross. At the head of the coffin stood pontifical candles, but no longer lighted, as during pontifical service. They were tied with black ribbons, so that their tips spread abroad, reversed and unlighted. Between them, leaning against the head of the catafalque and the coffin rose the crozier. Behind, on a folding lectern, lay a purple velvet cushion, on which were placed the orders and decorations which the Bishop had received, many from Russia. The holy doors in the centre of the ikonostasis, with its many ikoni, were closed and draped in black and gold, purple and silver. All about the walls were more ikoni, and huge floral pieces surrounded the coffin. One of the set pieces was an armchair, of white artificial flowers, with sprays of lavender flowers and surmounted by a canopy or arched gateway of palms, violet tulle and white flowers.
At the evening requiems the church was always filled. Many women waited for hours to secure front seats in the little gallery. More women thronged every step of the stairs. The Syrian priests, in passing, kissed the dead Bishop’s hand, after kissing the cross. The Russian Bishop and priests passed without saluting cross and hand.
The gospels were read night and day, instead of Psalms, as with a layman, by relays of clergy. The Syrians relieved one another at frequent intervals, and showed the finest, most varied forms of intoning.
Bishop Alexander who, by command of the Holy Synod, has charge of the vast Russian Diocese of North America until the newly appointed Archbishop shall arrive, stood at the services motionless (“like a candle” is the Russian term.)
Thursday evening, at the close of the services, a picture was taken of the dead Bishop and the circle of celebrating clergy. After the clergy had retired, representatives of all the Syrian societies, including women, made addresses from the chancel platform about the great work which Bishop Raphael had accomplished for his people in America.
Saturday morning, after the liturgy had been celebrated in Old Church Slavonic and Greek by Bishop Alexander and his clergy, and in Syrian by the Syrians, while the choir of the Russian Theological Seminary from Tenafly, N.J., sang their part in Slavonic, two requiem services were held, the first by the Metropolitan Hermanos Shehadah, of Selveskia Mount Lebanon [should be Baalbek - ed.], Syria (his black, waist-long hair concealed beneath his black cassock and cloth of silver pall) and the Syrian clergy; and the second by Bishop Alexander and a few Russian priests, the seminary choir singing. The Syrian clergy no longer kissed the dead Bishop’s right hand. That lay at rest forevermore. The raised left hand supported a large cross, and this alone was saluted.
Yesterday morning, at 10 o’clock, the liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Alexander, standing at the right of Metropolitan Hermanos, on their eagle rugs upon the dais at the head of Bishop Raphael’s coffin. As was customary, Bishop Alexander was vested on the dais in magnificent vestments of silver brocade. Metropolitan Hermanos wore gold brocade and the tall Metropolitan’s mitre of crimson velvet and gold, from whose crest rose a diamond cross. The choir of the Russian St. Nicholas Cathedral sang, except during the brief intervals when the Syrians chanted.
At a layman’s funeral the clergy wear black velvet and silver; at the funeral of a priest or bishop, no mourning is worn and the flowerlike vestments of the priests, mingling with the magnificent floral pieces, produce a very brilliant effect. The Syrian deacon wore pink brocade with a stole of blue and gold. As only 500 people were allowed by the authorities inside the cathedral, there was space for the ceremony of processions to and from the altar. At 12 o’clock the liturgy ended. At 1:30 the funeral began.
The singing was now done for the Syrians by the boys’ and girls’ choir of the Sunday school, wearing white vestments with lavender crosses, the girls, with mortarboard caps, occasionally assisting the clergy. The Russian singing was done by the clergy, assisted by the adult members of the choir. In all there were about forty priests, Russian and Syrian, who chanted, the Russians led by Archdeacon Vsevolod, of the Russian Cathedral, with his magnificent voice.
Among the hymns, which show the spirit of the service, were:
“Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of thy servant and establish him in Paradise. Where the choirs of the saints, O Lord, and of the just, shine like the stars of heaven, give rest to thy servant, who hath fallen asleep, regarding not all his transgressions.”
“Forasmuch as we all are constrained to that same dread abode, and shall hide ourselves beneath a gravestone like to this, and shall ourselves shortly turn to dust, let us implore of Christ rest for him who hath been translated hence.”
In the Eastern Church there are several orders of burial. One is for a child under seven years old, in which no mention is made of sin, because a child’s soul “is not grown,” as the Russians say, until he is seven. Another is for adult laymen; a third, for those who die in Easter week, in which there are almost no songs of mourning, but all are songs of the joy of the Resurrection; the fourth, for dead priests, has five epistles and five gospels. These were read by the Syrians and the Russians alternately, as were the many hymns, most of which were written by St. John of Damascus.
Then at last the clergy made addresses, Father Basil Kerbawy, dean of the cathedral, Father Sergius Snegyeroff and others, in praise of the Bishop. Father Kerbawy reduced the congregations to tears. Bishop Alexander made the last speech, directly addressing the dead as he stood by the coffin.
After “Memory Eternal” had been proclaimed in Syrian and in Old Church Slavonic, with the addition of the Bishop’s title and name, the procession formed. It is customary to carry the body of a Bishop around the outside of the church and to hold a brief service on each of the four sides before going to the graveyard. This constituted the funeral procession in the present case, as its route was along Pacific Street to Henry Street, thence to State Street, then to Nevins Street and back along Pacific Street to the cathedral.
The procession formed in the following order: Cronin, political leader of the district; squad of mounted police; twenty to thirty small boys in white tunics, with lilac crosses and flowers; the Cathedral committee (honorary pall-bearers); girls, singing hymns; Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society; the Homsian Fraternity; the Syro-American Political Club; members of the various Syrian diocesan parishes; the United Syrian Societies; cathedral Sunday school pupils, carrying crosses, candles and church banners; coaches with floral offerings; Archimandrite [Aftimios] Aphaish of Montreal, carrying the cushion with the late Bishop’s orders; finally, St. Joseph’s Society of Boston.
The dead prelate was borne in an open coffin by the priests, the snowflakes drifting down upon his splendid mantle of purple, crimson and white, his golden mitre, and the white brocade sacramental veil which covered his face. The body was followed by the Orthodox clergy, both Syrian and Russian; last came Bishop Alexander of Alaska. The family of the deceased, parishioners and friends followed, women joining, although it is not the custom to do so abroad.
Directly beneath the altar the Bishop had built for himself a vault. On the return of the procession masses of the flowers were carried into the crypt, and the clergy surrounded the bronze coffin into which the mahogany casket was lowered. The Metropolitan Hermanos made the final address before the coffin was closed, and a most distressing scene of grief ensued. Not only the clergy, but many parishioners, cast earth upon the body of their beloved Bishop.
In September of 1896, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov made his first archpastoral visit to the brand-new parish of Ss. Constantine and Helen in Galveston, Texas. This multiethnic church was founded just a few months earlier by Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides, the great Greek archimandrite who served in the Russian Mission.
Just after the bishop’s arrival on September 19, a reporter from the Galveston Daily News paid him a visit (see Galveston Daily News, 9/20/1896). The reporter was told that Bishop Nicholas had fasted all day in preparation for the next day’s Divine Liturgy, and ”was about to retire into the room for the purpose of self communion and prayer.” On his way out, though, the reporter ran into Bishop Nicholas in the hall. The reporter wrote,
Bishop Nicholas is a typical Russian in appearance. He is large of frame, with a full, round face, somewhat thin beard and long, heavy, black hair. Though somewhat heavy, the features are those of a man with a strong mentality. From those who are in a position to know, it was understood that he is a man of great culture and scholarly attainments. He speaks very little English, but French and German fluently. He was attired in a long, black gown, similar to the ones used by the priests of the Roman church. From around his neck a gold chain was suspended, with a crucifix pendant.
Through a translator, Bishop Nicholas explained, “I am the only bishop on the American continents, and the head of the church in North and South America.” This is one of the earliest explicit assertions of Russian jurisdiction throughout the New World. The bishop continued, “My headquarters are in San Francisco, and I came here direct from that city. From what I have seen of Galveston, I think you have a beautiful city, and I like it very much.”
The reporter asked, “How many churches of the orthodox Russian-Greek faith are there in America?”
“There are about twenty-five churches and about sixty chapels scattered throughout the country,” the bishop said. “The largest are in Alaska, where the members are chiefly Russians, and therefore conform to the orthodox church. There are quite a number in Pennsylvania, but many of them do not belong to the orthodox church.” Of course, Bishop Nicholas was referring to the Uniate parishes, which began to join the Russian Mission in earnest during Bishiop Nicholas’ episcopate.
The reporter continued, “What is the difference between the orthodox and the unorthodox church?”
“The members of the orthodox church in America believe that God is the head of the chruch and the czar the first son of the church,” explained Bishop Nicholas, “while upon the other hand, owing to the political conditions of Russia, the people there have to believe that the head of the church is the pope. That is why the Russian people like America. They are free here to follow the dictates of their conscience, which they can not in Russia.”
I suspect that something got lost in the translation, because Bishop Nicholas was pretty obviously referring to the Carpatho-Rusyns living in Roman Catholic lands (particularly the Austro-Hungarian Empire), who retained many Orthodox traditions but acknowledged the authority of the Pope of Rome. The bishop certainly didn’t mean to say that otherwise-Orthodox people in Russia recognized the Pope and couldn’t “follow the dictates of their conscience” in Russia.
In any event, the interview concluded as follows:
“Is the church growing much in America?”
“Yes, it is growing steadily.”
“Do you expect to return or be recalled to Russia?”
“I may return, but not to work there. My field will be in America.”
The next day, Bishop Nicholas celebrated a hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the Galveston church (Daily News, 9/21). A few interesting notes about that service:
- The service commemorated “the bi-centenary of the independence of the church under Prince Nicholas of Montenegro.”
- The congregation was mostly composed of Greeks and “Slavonians” (mainly Serbs and Montenegrins). Bishop Nicholas may well have been the only Russian in the building.
- Prayers were offered for the Prince of Montenegro, the Tsar of Russia, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the clergy, and the President of the United States. The newspaper doesn’t mention it, but I assume that the Holy Synod of Russia was also commemorated.
- Bishop Nicholas gave his sermon, on the doctrines of the Church, in Slavonic, but Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides translated it into Greek.
- After the service, in addition to receiving holy bread, the parishioners were given “a religious book in Greek or Slavonic and a small metal cross,” both gifts from the bishop.
- Also after the service, Bishop Nicholas appointed the trustees and officers of the church. I don’t know if the parish held elections which were merely ratified by the bishop, or if Bishop Nicholas actually made all the choices himself.
Bishop Nicholas left Galveston for New Orleans the following day, September 21. Just before he left, a Galveston Daily News reporter (probably the same one mentioned above) caught up with him for a final interview. Here is the resulting article, in full (Daily News, 9/22):
Bishop Nicholas, the head of the Russian Greek orthodox church on the continent of America, left Galveston yesterday afternoon at 4.30 for New Orleans, en route to Chicago and the larger cities of the east.
A News reporter called upon the reverend gentleman a few hours prior to his reparture and found him just about to partake of some tea with a dash of lemon in it, a la Russian. He courteously invited the reporter to join him in a cup, which invitation was promptly accepted.
In response to the quesiton if he had enjoyed his stay here, the bishop replied in the affirmative with considerable emphasis.
“I like Galveston very much,” he said by way of continuation. “It is a beautiful city, but a little too warm just now. I shall try to come here and make a long stay — say about two months.”
“You did not dedicate the new church yesterday?”
“No; the report in The Galveston News of this morning was correct about that. The people of the church here are going to try to build a residence for the pastor, a school house and make other improvements. I shall try to come back again in December next. I will dedicate the church then.”
The bishop here rose and, going to a desk at the other end of the room, took from it a small book and, handing it to the reporter, said with a smile:
“If you will study that you will be able to give the service in full when I come again.”
The book contained the liturgies of the Russian Greek church, printed in Greek on one side and English on the other. The paper was of fine quality and the book was neatly bound.
“Where are you going from here?” inquired the scribe after he had returned due thanks for the gift.
“I go to New Orleans from Galveston, then to Chicago, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, New York and other large places,” replied the bishop.
“In what condition did you find the affairs of the church here?”
“O, very good; very satisfactory. When I come back I will tell you all you want to know about the church, but I must now prepare to take the train,” and the bishop rose as an indication that the interview was ended.
It’s not known whether Bishop Nicholas visited the Orthodox church in New Orleans when he passed through the city. There is no evidence that the parish was a part of his diocese, but given Bishop Nicholas’ own view that he had jurisdiction over the entire Western Hemisphere, he may well have considered the New Orleans parish to be under his authority. It would be very interesting to know what, if any, contacts the New Orleans Orthodox community had with the Russian bishop.
In any case, Bishop Nicholas can’t have been in New Orleans for very long. He arrived in New York on September 25, in time to celebrate the Elevation of the Cross with two of his newest priests, St. Raphael Hawaweeny and St. Alexander Hotovitzky (New York Times, 9/26/1896).
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
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Tsar Alexander III of Russia died on November 1, 1894. A week later (and 116 years ago today), on November 8, two memorial services for the Tsar were held in America. Both were of note, for various reasons.
New York had no Russian church in 1894, so the Russian consul and numerous other dignitaries converged on the Greek church of Holy Trinity, on West 53rd Street. Here is how the New York Times described the event the next day:
The church was draped in black and white, and the walls were covered with a background of white, relieved at intervals with white crosses. Flags of Russia, Greece, and the United States hung in the forward part of the church, and in front of the altar was a canopy of black crepe, with a wreath of violets on one side, and another of white roses on the other side.
Father Matrofani, a Russian monk, conducted the services, partly in Greek and partly in Russian, and Father Agathadora, the pastor of the church, assisted him. An introductory prayer in Russian opened the service, and then Father Matrofani appeared before the altar clad in full golden sacerdotal robes, accompanied by Father Agathadora, who wore a black surplice.
Both priests carried lighted candles, and Father Matrofani led the chant choir, which consisted of Mme. Eugenie Lineff, Mlle. Chacquin, and Peter Popoff. Two Greek gentlemen who stood to the left of the altar responded to some of the Greek chants.
A portion of the service which seemed queer to the Americans present was the eating of a portion of rice and a raisin by Father Matrofani at the conclusion of the singing. This is an old custom in the Greek Church, commemorative of the early Christianity, when the priests were fed by their congregations.
Following the Russian custom, the women were separated from their escorts upon entering the church, and were conducted to their seats in the aisle to the left of the altar by Consul General A.E. Alarovesky of the Russian Consulate.
The Times went on to list the many notable people who attended the service, including Russian officials, representatives of numerous countries, the granddaughter of the last Tsar of Georgia, and future St. Nicholas Cathedral founder Barbara MacGahan. The article concluded, “Father Matrofani, who is on his way from San Francisco to Russia, sailed on the Columbia yesterday. Before going he expressed the hope that a Bishop of the Greek Church, now on his way to this country, would establish a Russian congregation here.”
The Times was slightly misinformed, as the bishop in question, Nicholas Ziorov, was already in America and had, in fact, conducted a memorial for the Tsar in Washington, DC on the very same day. This service is especially notable because it was attended by the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland. The following account is reprinted from the Daily New Mexican of Santa Fe (11/9/1894):
Profoundly impressive ceremonies were held at the Russian legation to day in memory of the late czar, Alexander II [sic]. President Cleveland and his entire cabinet, except Postmaster General Bissell, attended, accompanied by Mrs. Cleveland and the cabinet ladies. Foreign ambassadors and ministers, with their extensive suites, wearing their rich official and court costumes, were present in a body, lending a brilliant color to the solemn occasion. Ambassador Bayard and ex-Secretary of State Foster were also there. The service began at 9 o’clock with mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas, of the Russian Greek church, assisted by a Greek monk and two attendants. These services lasted until 10 o’clock and were held in private, being attended only by Prince Count Cresene, Russian minister, his daughter and the officials of the Russian legation. At 10 o’clock, chants and prayers for the repose of the czar’s soul began in the presence of the president, the members of the cabinet and the diplomatic corps. Each participant held a wax candle throughout the service.
I’m not certain, but this may be the first Orthodox church service ever attended by a US President. When the previous Tsar, Alexander II, died in 1881, Fr. Nicholas Bjerring held a memorial in Washington, but President Garfield was unable to attend (Washington Post, 3/16/1881).
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
This past weekend, those of us on the New Calendar celebrated the feast day of St. John Kochurov, the Russian New Martyr and former priest of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago. With that in mind, I thought I’d talk a bit about St. John’s arrival in Chicago.
John Kochurov was just 24 years old when he became a priest, in the summer of 1895. The ordination took place in Russia, but it was done by the visiting Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, the head of the Russian Mission in America, and Fr. John was to accompany Bishop Nicholas back to the United States. They arrived in November, just as Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny was getting settled in Brooklyn.
The young Fr. John was entering a bit of a sticky situation. From the Chicago Tribune (11/25/1895):
Nicholaei of St. Petersburg, Archbishop of All America, held solemn mass in the Greek [that is, Orthodox] Church, at No. 13 South Center avenue, yesterday morning for the installation of Father Kochureff as assistant priest of the parish. He was assisted by the local priest, Father Kazantsier, and assistant, and two pages from St. Petersburg. The vacancy of assistant priest was caused by a difference of opinion between Archbishop Nicholaei and R.A. Bouroff, late assistant pastor, who has come under the displeasure of his superiors by attendance at the University of Chicago.
Nearly 100 persons were crowded into the little room reserved for the congregation of the Greek Church in Chicago. It is the front room of a ground flat in a modest three-story building erected for a dwelling. The chancel occupies an adjoining front room. The service is more elaborate than that of the Roman Church, and differs radically in much of the ceremony, being conducted behind a high chancel screen, sometimes with the single entrance closed. All the appointments of the altar and chancel are different. The service is unique in many ways.
A pretty standard description of vestments, candles, etc. follows. Then, we read,
There is a division in the Greek congregation owing to the retirement of Assistant Priest Bouroff. It is said that a wing of the congregation is at outs with the authorities because of loyalty to the younger priest, who persists in carrying on his studies at President Harper’s institution. These members credit Archbishop Nicholaei with having caused the exile of more students to Siberia than any man in Russia. On this account it is easy to believe, they declare, that the Bishop of All America will never forgive the independence of ex-Assistant Pastor Bouroff.
About a dozen clergy from all over the country came to Chicago for Bishop Nicholas’ visit; these included Fr. Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky of New York, Fr. Anatolii Kamenskii of Sitka (the future bishop and confessor), and Fr. Theodore Pashkovsky of Jackson, CA (the future Metropolitan Theophilus).
Several things, right off the bat: Bishop Nicholas was not actually an archbishop, and his title was “Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska,” not “Bishop of All America.” Other newspapers give various names for the other Chicago priest; the most accurate rendition is probably “Fr. Pavel Kazanski.” Also, the Chicago Inter Ocean says that the parish is called “St. Ivan.” Originally it was “St. Nicholas,” and this was soon changed to “St. Vladimir” and later “Holy Trinity.” I’m not sure if, at some point, “St. Ivan” was used, or if this was a reporter’s mistake.
In the Tribune article quoted above, Fr. John Kochurov is named as the assistant priest, with Fr. Pavel Kazanski as the parish rector (having apparently replaced Fr. Ambrose Vretta, who was transferred to Seattle). However, I’ve found several reports from 1896 which put it the other way round, with Kochurov as the rector and Kazanski as his assistant. It’s possible that the earlier Tribune article got it wrong; certainly, it would be odd to have a formal “installation” for an assistant priest. Most probably, Kazanski held down the fort until Kochurov arrived, at which point the former became the latter’s assitant.
In any event, the most interesting part of this story is the Fr. Bouroff, who was apparently removed from his post for daring to attend the University of Chicago. I know some of our readers here have connections to that institution; perhaps there is something in the school’s archives which could shed more light on this episode?
Of course, for the Chicago parish, everything worked out fine in the end. Kochurov would prove to be a dedicated and exemplary pastor, and he would lead the community for more than a decade. It’s interesting; recently, we discussed the fact that Fr. Evtikhy Balanovitch, in New York, got into trouble and was replaced by a saint, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky. Here, at exactly the same time, Fr. Bouroff got into trouble and was replaced by another saint, Fr. John Kochurov.
For the rest of the story on Fr. Basil Bouroff, click here.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
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.]