Posts tagged Saints
The Northwest Indiana Times recently published an article on St. Varnava Nastic, who was born in Gary, Indiana in 1914. St. Varnava was the first person baptized in St. Sava Orthodox Church, which was originally in Gary and is now located in Merrillville. The Nastic family returned to Yugoslavia when St. Varnava was nine years old. He went on to become a bishop in the Serbian Church, suffered under the communists, and died under suspicious circumstances in 1964. He was glorified in 2005.
Anyway, there’s more information in the article, which you can read by clicking here. Thanks to Bishop Savas of Troas for the link.
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.]
Editor’s note: The following lecture was given by Fr. Sebastian Dabovich on August 15, 1897 to the parish school St. Sergius in San Francisco, in the presence of Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. The occasion was the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Innocent Veniaminov, the great Alaskan missionary and later Metropolitan of Moscow. The text was originally printed in Dabovich’s 1898 book The Lives of the Saints (1898).
As I stand here in the midst of this gathering, I picture in my mind another company, greater than this, filling the spacious halls of a more magnificent structure in the capital city of the Russian Empire — Matushka Moskva (dear mother Moscow). My imagination reaches still farther out, and I behold another throng of busy citizens, together with young Seminarians and prayerfully inclined Christians, away off in Siberia, in the city of Irkoutsk. Methinks I hear them speak the very name of him whom they have come to honor, Innocentius. My whole being thrills with a veneration at the sound of that name. My heart is filled with gladness when I think of the pure joy and reasonable pride of the country folk in rural Anginskoe of the Province of Irkoutsk — the native home of the Most Reverend Metropolitan Innocent.
Yet all these multitudes and territorial distance are but a part of the whole, celebrating a great event. Look you, the tribes of Kamchatka with the Yakout race sing of him, while the Aleut and the Alaskan Indians gratefully commemorate their teacher on this day — the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. While the great Orthodox Missionary Society in Russia, which to-day upholds our prosperous Church in Japan and in other parts of the world, is paying honor to the sacred memory of its founder, we too bless this one hundredth birthday of our first Bishop in America — the same Innocentius, Metropolitan of Moscow.
This great Missionary, who passed away from this visible world eighteen years ago, and rests with his remains in the holy Troitse Sergiev Monastery, still dwells in the loving hearts of the different peoples of his spiritual charge. I understand and feel the special privilege which I enjoy to-night, and for which I most heartily thank thee, Gracious Bishop and Most Reverend Father in God. Deeply feeling the love of our Archpastors, I become bold and venture to look into the unseen, where I behold the spiritual eyes of our first hard-working Missionary, with kindly light beaming upon this gathering and approving of the feeble words of your son (to the Bishop), and your brother (to the Clergy), and your pastor (to the Congregation) — one of the first born of the young American Orthodox Church!
John Veniaminov, indeed, was a great man. As one of the first priests in Alaska, he labored for fifteen long years in several parts of that vast region, making his home, principally, first in Ounalashka and then in Sitkha. In those pioneer days of Alaska an Aleutian badairka or small canoe made of the skin of a walrus was the only means he had for his constant locomotion, and not seldom for his voyages of a longer course. It often happened that, in a mean, wet climate, his only comfort for whole months would be found in an earthen dug-out. I will not detain you by repeating; you will soon hear, and also read for yourselves, of his life, and then you will know how in the Providence of God the Reverend Father John became to be known by the name of Innocent, and how he returned to Alaska — as the first bishop there, and likewise our first bishop in America! Brief accounts of his life are now printed in English, as well as in Russian and other languages, and may be had for nothing, comparatively.
There are several people in this city who have personally seen him, and remember well the wholesome instructions of their gentle pastor — Bishop Innocent, later the Metropolitan of Moscow. Besides the elder brethren and the elder sisters among you, some of the people mentioned are also fathers in their community. Our present Bishop and beloved Father in God was at one time under the spiritual rule of the Most Reverend Innocentius, and that was during his student life in the Academy of Moscow, when Innocent was the Bishop of the Church of God in that Province.
I have strong reasons for maintaining my assertion that this Missionary Priest, John Veniaminov, also landed on our shores here, and — how I love to dwell on the thought! — he bestowed God’s blessing upon our beautiful California. It was in the fall of 1838 that this God-fearing worker left Sitkha in a sailing vessel — to voyage down the whole length of the great Pacific, and make his way around Cape Horn to Europe and St. Petersburg. At that time the government of Alaska, following the wise counsel of Baranov (another great man), obtained and held land in California, where it had a flourishing colony in the part now known as Sonoma county. Baranov was well aware of the worth of Alaska, but he needed California as a store- house of grain for the Great North with its many resources and grand coast. The globe-circumnavigating vessels, coming from the north, certainly must have anchored in California waters, in order to take on supplies and make a final preparation before setting sail to round the Cape for Europe. And so it is possible that our dear Missionary may have even offered the Divine Liturgy in the chapel at Fort Ross, and also baptized the Indians in Russian River. I do not attempt to speculate on the idea that our apostle trod the sands where now our splendid city of San Francisco is built. For memory’s sake I simply ask: Is there not a history attached to Russian Hill in San Francisco?
A most remarkable man was this Russian priest from Siberia. He was a mechanic, navigator, school-teacher, administrator, and a preacher of the Gospel. A poor orphaned boy, too young to earn his own bread, must depend upon the charity of poor relatives and even strangers for his very existence. From a little town in the heart of Siberia he finds his way into the city of Irkoutsk, where he becomes a pastor, beloved by his devoted people. Then he goes, as he thought, to give up himself with his entire strength and knowledge to the simple Aleuts, who sat in darkness in the distant islands of the ocean. It was he, as he afterwards sat in the councils of the Most Holy Governing Synod of our Church, who moved the proposition that the Orthodox Bishop in America should transfer his residence from Sitkha to San Francisco.
God selected the priest, John Veniaminov, to bear the light of Orthodox Christianity from the East to the West, from Asia to America! And nobly did the Great Russian Church prove herself worthy of the apostolic power of rightly dividing the Word of Truth by carrying out the work in all its detail. She faithfully keeps the apostles’ will as expressed in these words: Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and teaching; she elevates her Missionary to a high post. In his new office as an archpastor, the M. Rev. Innocent created two more dioceses in Eastern Siberia, besides the church of Alaska. He was ever sailing over the ocean, or driving in reindeer and dog sledges over a country thousands of miles in extent, everywhere baptizing the natives, for whom he has introduced the use of letters, and translated the Gospel into their native tongues.
It has been, and still is, the habit of some who are unfriendly to the Orthodox Church to speak of her as a dead church. Such a daring charge could be uttered for three reasons, and they are these: Such persons are either determined upon a certain course of public policy, with no respect for the truth, or they are not inclined to think well of Eastern Christians, whom it would be inconvenient to recognize as brethren while enjoying personal comfort through social connections; but if it be not that, it is then because of a light head and total ignorance of the facts in universal history. In modern times the Russian Church has proved, in more instances than one, that she is alive with the missionary spirit. May we condemn the Slavonic Orthodox Church in the Balkan States, and in Austria, simply because she is struggling for her existence in spite of the aggressive intrusion on her own ground of the brethren of the Society of Jesus? Nor is the influx of American Sectarian preachers in Arabia and in Palestine, a reason which could justify any one in saying that the Church of Christ in those parts is dead! In these days we know something of what enslavement to the Turk involves. And what, in common justice, to say nothing of Christian charity, have we a right to expect from those groaning under such bondage? Have we the conscience to ask that they should make converts, when now for five hundred years they have been struggling, as in a bloody sweat, to keep Christianity alive under Moslem tyranny? And, in that time, how many martyrs of every age and condition have shed a halo around the Oriental Church? Not less than a hundred martyrs of these later days are commemorated in the services of the Church, and countless are the unnamed ones, who have suffered for the faith, in these five hundred years of slavery. In 1821, Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople, was hung at the door of his cathedral, on Easter Day. Many other prelates and prominent ecclesiastics were put to death in Adrianople, Cyprus, the Ionian Islands, in Anatolia and Mount Athos. And yet, none apostatized from the faith of Christ. Are not such martyrdoms the best way of making converts? It was thus that, in the first three (and more) centuries of our era, the Church was founded in those lands by the apostles and their immediate successors. How can it be said that, among people who could so die for the faith, there was no real spiritual life ? Has not the Greek Church shown by her deeds the steadfastness of her faith?
But it is not our purpose to lecture on history. Nor is it that out of mere curiosity we are here. Let us now look to the duty we have before us this hour. We are gathered here to show our gratitude to our benefactor, and also in a becoming way to honor the memory of our dear Archpastor, Metropolitan Innocentius. Remembering him who has had the rule over us and our fathers — the Christians of this Diocese; remembering him who had spoken unto us the Word of God, let us now, according to the Divine commandment, consider his end, so that we may be able the better to follow the example of strong faith, which he gave us throughout his whole life. Although he was much weakened in his last days by old age and sickness, yet the venerable prelate retained his mind clear up to the last, and truly his course on earth was appropriately crowned with a bright Christian end. Tell them, he said, as he was about to sleep, that no eulogies be pronounced at my funeral, they only contain praise. Let them rather preach a sermon, it may be instructive; and here is the text for it: The ways of man are ordered by the Lord.
The following letter was found in Ingram N.W. Irvine’s file in the OCA Archives in Syosset, New York. The letter is undated (the pre-printed date line “190_” does not have a specific year) and appears under the letterhead of the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory, 15 East 97th Street, New York, N.Y. It is handwritten and appears to be a draft of a letter that was sent to Irvine notifying him of his transfer from the Archbishop Platon to Bishop (now Saint) Raphael. This letter was probably written by Fr. Alexander Hotovitsky. The signature is not very legible, but the first initial is clearly an “A.” The first four letters of the last name are almost certainly “Hoto” or “Hato” or “Hito.”
This is to inform you that by the order of His Grace Archbishop Platon of North America you are […] now transferred to the Orthodox Syrian Mission in Brooklyn, N.Y. to be under […] jurisdiction of Rt. Rev. Bishop Raphael and perform such missionary work […] as His Eminence Bishop Raphael would desire for you within his diocese with understanding that all your service in N.Y. St. Nicholas Cathedral since now shall be discontinued and your connection with […] Cathedral cease, your name having been taken away from the list of clergy of the Russian Cathedral.
Therefore you have to remove your mailing box, etc. to any other address you wish and to make all necessary changes in your cards, letterhead, […], etc. without fail.
As to details in connection with this order please apply to the Bishop Raphael […] has a copy of this […]
[signed] A. Hoto[vitsky?]
Irvine is listed among the Syrian Orthodox clergy in the (Episcopalian) American Church Almanac & Year Book for 1912. Thus, the letter can have been written no later than 1911, when the book was published. In addition, the OCA archives have a letter from Irvine to the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory dated May 25, 1909 in which he talks about the Holy Synod blessing him to establish an English-speaking chapel in New York. More importantly, the archives also include a letter dated just one day earlier (May 24) from the Coudert Brothers law firm to Archbishop Platon regarding a lawsuit against St. Nicholas (Russian) Cathedral. The dispute involved a transaction between Irvine and a printing company. The Cathedral had won, but the printers were appealing, In a postscript, there is the following: “We understood from Dr. Hotovitsky that he had gone over this matter fully with you and that you were fully advised of the situation.”
I don’t think the printing company dispute related above would have been sufficient to precipitate Irvine’s transfer out of the Russian jurisdiction, but it was probably one of several factors. (Notice how strongly the letter’s author emphasizes that Irvine’s connection with the Russian cathedral has “ceased.”)
Irvine was a forward-thinking visionary, and that fit in well when St. Tikhon was in charge. But St. Tikhon was replaced by Abp Platon in 1907, and… well, let’s just say that Platon was no Tikhon. Abp Platon was probably far less encouraging of Irvine’s English work, and far less patient with Irvine’s idiosyncracies. On the other hand, St. Raphael was much more in like with St. Tikhon’s mindset, and would have welcomed a talented priest like Irvine. (In fact, even before he joined the Syrian diocese, Irvine had been writing articles for St. Raphael’s Al Kalimat journal.)
UPDATE: Since this article was published, we have verified that the above letter was, in fact, written by St. Alexander Hotovitzky.
[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.]