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A Conversation About Modernism

What follows is a conversation between Fr. Alexander Lebedeff and an inquirer to the Orthodox Faith. The content was drawn from numerous email postings to the Orthodox List Forum (a.k.a., the "Indiana List") in 1996. I took the liberty of piecing them together to form one complete conversation.

I am a Roman Catholic who is inquiring into the Orthodox Faith. I have some friends in the OCA who have gotten me interested in your church. I am attracted to Orthodoxy, but also quite confused by all of the divisions I see in the Orthodox Church today. People are arguing about a lot of issues, many of which seem trite. Can you please explain to me the reason for all of this? It is all so bewildering.

I am happy to address your important question. At the outset I would like to say that the opinions I express are my own, and do not necessarily represent the official position of the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), in which I have been a Priest for twenty-five years.

In my honest opinion, world Orthodoxy is now experiencing a polarization into two camps: for lack of a better term one can think of them as "traditionalists" and "modernists."

As we all know, the 19th century saw the development of liberal ideas that ultimately led to the revolution in Russia. A number of the clergy in the Russian Orthodox church had become involved in the liberal movement and wished to "liberalize" the Church. Their proposals included: a change to the New Calendar (the Gregorian Calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII at the end of the 16th century and rejected by all the Orthodox churches at that time, who continued to use the traditional Julian Calendar); married Bishops; permission for Priests to marry a second time; shortening of services; reduction of fasting periods and the strictness of the fasts; use of non-clerical garb by clergy outside of the church; eliminating the traditional requirement of beards and long hair for clergy; and many other innovations.

These Priests became the kernel of the so-called "renovationist" movement in early post-revolutionary Soviet Russia, which cooperated with them, since they expressed complete support for the Communist regime. Most of the church buildings in the Soviet Union were transferred to the renovationists, and those who didn't cooperate (the followers of Patriarch Tikhon) were persecuted and often killed.

At the same time, a rather interesting figure had had himself elected to the office of Patriarch of Constantinople, Meletios Metaxakis. This individual had previously been ArchBishop of Athens, then Patriarch of Alexandria. It is not exactly clear how he had been able to be the head of three independent local Orthodox Churches in succession. Suffice it to say, it is known that he was a Freemason and had "connections."

He was extremely modernist in his views. He supported all of the above-mentioned innovations of the renovationists, and shocked the Orthodox world by appearing in a civilian suit. In 1923 he instituted an official change to the new calendar, although the other innovations he proposed did not go through. He also recognized the Renovationists in Soviet Russia as the true Church of Russia and joined in their condemnation and deposition of Patriarch Tikhon.

To make a long story short, as a result of the calendar innovation, the Orthodox world was divided. Some of the Orthodox churches remained Old Calendar, some accepted the New, and the liturgical unity of the Church was shattered. In Greece, the introduction of the new calendar caused extraordinary upheaval and physical persecution of the old-calendarists was widespread.

The calendar question is one of extraordinary significance to "traditionalist" Orthodox, although it is presented as a matter of little importance by the new-calendarists ("This is not an issue of dogma, Father, just custom," one hears). The answer, of course, is that the Pope's calendar innovation had been condemned many times by pan-Orthodox Councils, so it is not a matter of "taste."

So how has this affected Orthodoxy in the United States? Today one can see the following: New-calendar churches, typically, have accepted many of the "trappings" of Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. They, for the most part, have pews in their churches, some have organs (!) and electronic carillons instead of bells, their Priests, and in some cases even Bishops, most often wear "clerical collars" and suits (outside of the services), almost all clergy have short hair and trimmed or no beards, and like to be called "Father Tom," or "Father Al." The services are typically shortened, frequently even Saturday-night Vigil services are eliminated. The new-calendarists have relatively few monasteries and monastic clergy. Many churches thrive on Bingo, and almost all have lay "presidents" of the congregation, who, together with a parish council, direct the affairs of the church. Being a Freemason is not considered to be in conflict with Orthodoxy. 

On the other hand, traditionalist Orthodox parishes will never have pews, organs and the like; their clergy will never be seen without a rasson (they wouldn't be caught dead wearing a "dog collar" and "clergy shirt"!); no one would dream of addressing them as "Father Tom"; they typically do not cut their hair or beards (unless required by outside employment); the services follow a much fuller Typicon; the Priests are rectors of their parishes and they are themselves the "presidents" of the parish corporations, with the parish council acting in a more advisory role; there are far more monastic clergy and many monasteries and convents. Freemasonry is soundly condemned as incompatible with Orthodoxy. 

Another significant area dividing traditional Orthodox from their "modernist" brethren is the area of Ecumenism. To a traditionalist Orthodox, ecumenism is an outright heresy, condemned by innumerable Councils who clearly forbid praying with heretics. The new-calendarists, on the other hand, are very active participants  in the "ecumenical movement," in the WCC and the NCC, notwithstanding the incredible mixture of paganism, new-world thinking, radical feminism, and other weird stuff that goes on at WCC assemblies.

Unfortunately, the last three Patriarchs of Constantinople (Athenagoras, Demetrius, and, now, Bartholemew, have been rabid ecumenists. Patriarch Bartholemew, at least at the time he was Metropolitan) had frequently been photographed in a civilian business suit (with tie, not even an ecclesiastical collar), and studied at the Papal Institute in Rome. He recent meetings with the Pope underscore his desire to reunite with Rome by the year 2000. He, and other ecumenically-oriented Eastern Patriarchs have virtually accepted the Monophysite heretics as valid Orthodox, without making them renounce their views or accept the Orthodox position regarding the Divine and human natures of Christ. 

All this is appalling to traditionalist Orthodox, who wish to preserve the faith of the Apostles and the Fathers without any change.

As a Roman Catholic, some of this may be familiar to you. You may remember the upheaval that was caused in the RC church when wholesale modernization took place. The traditional Orthodox will struggle to keep this from happening within Orthodoxy. Although a relatively small part of the contemporary Orthodox population, the traditionalists (comprising the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which has 400 clergy outside of Russia; the old calendarist churches of Greece, Bulgaria, Roumania, and like-minded Orthodox throughout the world) will continue to witness for the purity of Orthodoxy and against the heresies of modernism and ecumenism that have, so unfortunately, infected so much of World Orthodoxy.

While there are some fanatical fringe groups within the traditionalist movement (who aver that everyone else is devoid of grace), the majority of traditionalists do not agree. They consider the other (modernist) Orthodox to still be Orthodox, although in grave error, and pray for their return to the path of traditional Orthodoxy, as preserved by the Church for 2000 years. Among the "modernists" there is also a fanatic fringe, who consider the traditionalist Orthodox to be "schismatics" and outside the Church.

I think we should let the two fanatic fringes shout themselves out, while the more rationally-minded traditionalist and new-calendar Orthodox Christians should engage in peaceful and constructive dialogue in non-confronational places such as this forum, and of course, pray for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

In closing, I should point out that there are ROCOR parishes that have some of the same ills as I have mentioned above. I do not wish to give the appearance of oversimplifying a complex situation in order to make the point that there were significant differences between the appearance and praxis of "traditionalist" and "modernist" Orthodox in America.

Certainly, there are ROCOR parishes that shorten the Typicon far beyond reason. There are ROCOR Priests who have no beards and short hair. Some ROCOR clergy (mostly deacons), appear among parishioners wearing suits. Some parishes are run by a Church board with a lay president. In fact, some ROCOR parishes may even have pews! At the same time, there are some parishes in "modernist" jurisdictions with no pews, with Priests who preserve traditional clergy appearance and garb, who follow a full Typicon, etc.

Still, these may be the proverbial exceptions that prove the rule. I am speaking of new-calendarist jurisdictions as a whole, and not any specific one. You have friends in the OCA, which definitely can be characterized as a "modernist" jurisdiction. However, compared to, say, the Antiochian Orthodox in the USA, the OCA is more traditional. I remember being alternately amused and appalled at a photograph I saw in the Word (the Antiochian magazine) some time in 1982 (or so). It was a picture of Metropolitan Philip dressed in a cowboy suit, complete with bandana and six-shooter (his panagia was tucked into his shirt pocket). The Archdiocese was having its annual convention in Dallas, Texas, and the Metropolitan decided to "dress for the occasion." The six-shooter was pointed at the reader, with the inscription "Pay your diocesan assessment, or else," or something similar. I imagine no OCA Bishop would have been caught dead in such a ludicrous get-up. I, in fact, have never seen a picture of Metropolitan Philip in a rason except when the Patriarch of Antioch comes to visit. But this type of external appearance, together with big cigars, is a long-standing tradition from the time of Metropolitan Anthony Bashir. Can you blame traditionalist Orthodox for being scandalized?  

I am certain that there are extremely dedicated, competent, and serious clergy and lay people in the OCA. There are also some serious problem situations among the clergy and parishes of the ROCOR. Neither changes my admittedly generalized picture of "modernist" vs. "traditionalist" poles of Orthodoxy in America. The typical OCA parish is new calendar, has pews, clergy wearing Western-style clerical suits and collars, and a much-shortened typicon. The typical ROCOR parish does not. Exceptions exist on both sides, but do not change the substance of the dichotomy. Also, the OCA is definitely involved in the ecumenical movement, with the Chancellor of the OCA, Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, actually having served for a time, relatively recently, as a President of the National Council of Churches—something I doubt any clergyman of the ROCOR would ever think to do.  

So there are differences, of substance as well as form. To deny this would be to deny the truth.

OK, this makes sense. On the old calendar, though, my OCA friends tell me that their Bishops allow each parish to choose which calendar to use. Isn't this a fair compromise that keeps the Tradition?

This position of the OCA (to have both old and new calendar parishes) has always amazed me. As far as I know, lay members of parishes were actually allowed to vote as to which calendar to follow. This must be a first in the history of the Church—lay people making decisions regarding the calendar by which the Church lives (and, as a living organism, one could say—breathes). People without any theological education are given the authority to decide serious theological issues? I fear that the best they could do would be to vote for what was most convenient for them. In my view, it would have been much better for the Bishops of the OCA to have made a conciliar decision that would have been binding on all parishes—one way or another, but with unity in the calendar among all the parishes.

To an Orthodox Christian, the Calendar of the Church directs much of his life. According to the calendar, he knows when to fast, when to prepare for major Feast Days, when to celebrate these Feast days and for how long after. We all look forward to the next feast day, to the next fast period.

Imagine yourself a Bishop in the OCA with parishes under both calendars. How do you direct your life? In one parish, you may be celebrating the Nativity and breaking the 40-day Nativity Lent. The next week (or even day, you may be celebrating Liturgy in a parish under the old calendar, whose members are still strictly fasting and still awaiting the arrival of the Feast of the Nativity. How can your own spiritual cycle of anticipation and celebration be reconciled with this? Do you in your heart follow the calendar you believe to be correct, and then pretend to celebrate with those who follow a different one?

This is not an enviable position.

I know that in Paris, at one time, the situation was even worse. In the same cathedral, the upper church was old calendar and the lower church was new. On January 6 (n.s.) the upper Church was in strict fast, serving the Liturgy for the Eve of the Nativity. In the lower church, at the same time, they were celebrating the Feast of  Theophany and blessing water. Nativity had long come and gone...

Does this make sense?

One can think of the Orthodox Church Julian Calendar is a marvellous machine, consisting of several gears, intricately intermeshing. It combines Menaion cycle (based solely on the date) with two paschal cycles (that of the current year and of the next), the daily cycle and eight weekly cycles. It is so wondrous that the full cycle repeats only every 532 years!

The new calendar reform was very much the same as throwing a monkey-wrench into this intricate machinery. By keeping the paschal cycles intact and changing the Menaion cycle, absurdities began to occur, such as the well-known one where the Fast of the Apostles (one of the most ancient institutions of the Church) actually ends before it begins! (this happens every few years under the "new" calendar, when there is a very late Pascha, since the beginning of the fast (eight days after Pentecost) depends upon the time of Pascha, while the end comes on a fixed calendar date—the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul).

How do New Calendarists reconcile themselves to the disappearance of one of the four major fast periods of the year? Don't they realize that this cannot in any way be what the holy fathers of the Church intended when they established these fasting and festal periods?

For a nominal Orthodox, who goes to Church on Sundays (occassionally), these issues are relatively unimportant. For an Orthodox Christian trying to guide his life by the life of the Church as expressed in its marvellous calendar, this is a critical issue.

But why all the arguing? There seems to be a fair amount of hostility between Orthodox. This is especially evident on the Orthodox email forums.

To a traditionalist Orthodox, the modernist innovations are a departure from the established path of Orthodoxy, so you should understand that the traditionalists will defend what they believe is the way the Church has taught and practiced throughout the centuries.

They deplore the new calendar, pews, organs, no royal doors (or always open royal doors) or curtains, Bishops and Priests in business suits or clergy shirts, clean-shaven clergy, clergy that smokes, shortening of services, laxity regarding fasting practice, general confession or no confession before Communion, lack of Saturday night vigil services, Saturday weddings, twice-married clergy,  participation in the ecumenical movement, lack of strictness regarding monophysite heretics, reception of heterodox through Chrismation rather than Baptism, and a host of other new things that are not in keeping with established Orthodox practice.

Traditionalist Orthodox feel strongly about these things. To them, correct faith and practice (Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy) are indivisible. When they speak of these practices as being common in a particular jurisdiction, it should be taken as an expression of sincere concern, rather than hatred.

As I said, there are many very sincere and pious clergy and faithful in the Greek and Antiochian jurisdictions. There are many very admirable programs of outreach to non-Orthodox as well, especially among the Antiochians, and many, many people have been brought into the Holy Church as a result. This is wonderful. 

The traditionalists would be concerned as to whether what these new members of the Church have been given a "watered down," American-style "EZ Orthodoxy," rather than the fullness of the faith and practice of the Church as handed down through the ages.

It is not an ethnic question. Many of the traditionalist posters to this list, Fr. Alexis Duncan, Fr. David Moser, Fr. Anthony Nelson, Fr. Seraphim Holland, and others, are all American converts to Orthodoxy themselves. They may be part of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, but none are Russian. In their parishes, they mostly serve in English (some, only in English). Many have had exposure to modernist jurisdictions, but have come to believe that if Orthodoxy is to be taught and lived, it must be taught and lived the way it has been for centuries. These Priests don't want to look like Anglican Fr. Bob down the street. They don't want their churches to look like Fr. Bob's down the street, either. To them, there is absolutely no reason to "Americanize" the Orthodox Church by copying practices of the non-Orthodox.

Orthodoxy should stand on its own. As I said before, our goal should be to make America Orthodox, not to make Orthodoxy American.

Some of these matters seem to be "little things." But Our Lord told us that those who are faithful in little things will be put in charge of bigger things. Although your Orthodoxy is not measured by the length of your Priest's beard, even little things like that can matter. You get used to accepting little deviations from Orthodox practice, and pretty soon you're in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water. There is a point when you're watering down grape juice when it begins to taste more like water than grape juice. It may still look purple, but it doesn't taste right. 

I deplore "jurisdiction-bashing" as much as anyone. But I feel that I have the responsibility to point out deviations from Holy Tradition when I see them. I am opposed not to jurisdictions, not to their Bishops, Priests, or faithful, but to those practices, which I feel are not in keeping with Orthodoxy.

We should be able to discuss these things without nastiness, name-calling, finger-pointing, etc. But these unfortunate distinctions between traditionalist and modernist Orthodox are real, not imaginary, and it would be yet another departure from the tradition of the Holy Church to ignore them—the history of the Church gives us plenty of examples of saints who stood up for their faith, sometimes alone, facing Emperors, Patriarchs, and popular opinion. History has shown them to be right.

Would you mind saying a few more words about what you call "little things," as they do often seem fairly petty?

Many people often assume that things traditionalist Orthodox get upset about are merely "little t" traditions—things that are really ethnic variants or that are of little consequence. This disturbs me, for all of these "little things" are part of the greater Holy Tradition of the Church, so that the division between "little t" and "big T" traditions I find arbitrary, artificial, and harmful.

Especially in a country where Orthodoxy is relatively new and little known among the general population, one would think that it would make sense to be extremely careful in keeping all of the traditions strictly. Orthodoxy in America is young, and needs the support of valid traditions, just as a newly planted sapling needs to be tied between two solid stakes before it can be allowed to grow on its own. If there are no stakes to support it, it will bend and grow crooked, rather than straight. These solid stakes are Holy Tradition, expressed in many ways, including little things, which may seem unimportant, but, cumulatively, can be very significant. Just as a bag of tiny pebbles can outweigh a rock, so can an accumulation of little departures from established tradition outweigh a major departure from the faith. 

It is not a matter of just one national custom or another. Let's take liturgics. In the Russian Orthodox Church, we get our instruction on how to do the services from the Typikon, a heavy volume full of rubrics on how to put the services together. The rubrics for just the service of the Annunciation probably span 50 pages, with every possible combination of this Feast with each day of Great Lent and Pascha Week worked out in detail. Remember, the Orthodox services repeat exactly only once every 532 years!

The Typikon used by the Russian Church is the Typikon of St. Savva's Monastery in the Holy Land. (The other widely-used Typikon is that of the Great Church in Constantinople). It is this Typikon that tells us when to serve Vigil Services, when to open and close the curtain and the Royal Doors.

So, it is not a matter of local or ethnic practice—the correct way to do the services is clearly written in the Typikon. You either do it correctly or you don't. 

One thing to keep in mind. You hardly need the Typikon for Sunday Divine Liturgy, where very little changes from week to week.

Unfortunately, in this country, people have become accustomed to the idea that being a believer means going to church on Sundays (or at least some Sundays), Christmas and Easter. Well, not for the Orthodox. The Orthodox have an extremely rich liturgical calendar. Of all of the richness of Orthodox liturgical texts, perhaps 1/10 of 1 percent is used at Sunday Liturgies, so if that's all you attend you are missing 99.9%.

Pious Orthodox believers live their lives by the calendar of the church—from feast to feast, from fast to fast. They even speak of dates only by the Church feast days:   "I'm going to visit my parents in New Jersey right after Transfiguration—I'll be back by Dormition," they'll say. The church calendar is the heartbeat of the life of the church—true Orthodox Christians tune their own lives to be in keeping with it.

Actually, the Church is a radiant joy—every single day of the year is a feast day! Every day of the year is the feast day of a saint (actually of a large number of saints), so we are continually celebrating. Those in tune with the life of the Church look forward to the next major feast day or major saint's day. On the eve of these days, vigil services are held, and on the day itself—Divine Liturgy.

Let's take the month of July. This is particularly rich in special holy days—in our parish we celebrate Sts. Cosmas and Damian (July 1), the Royal Martyrs of Russia (July 4), St. Sergius of Radonezh (July 5), The Kazan Icon of the Mother of God (July 8), St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves (July10), St. Olga, Enlightener of Russia (July 11), St. Vladimir, Enlightener of Russia (July 15), St. Seraphim of Sarov (July 19), The Holy Prophet Elias (Elijah) (July 20), St. Mary Magdalene (July 22), Sts. Boris and Gleb (July 24), and St. Panteleimon (July 27). Also in July comes the feast of the Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. This is all in addition to Saturday and Sunday services (we serve Divine Liturgy every Saturday year round), and, of course, this means services on the eve of all these days as well as Divine Liturgy on the day itself.

Such a schedule should be the norm in every parish where the Priest is not forced to work on the side. And guess what? People come. They come after work for the vigil services. Those who are able come in the morning for liturgy. Glory be to God, wondrous in His saints!

The "I go to church on Sundays" mindset has to be combatted. Every effort must be made in all our parishes to encourage people to come to Saturday night vigils, and to the many feast day services that are held (or should be held) during each month.

Alright, this all makes sense to me. But aren't many of these erosions of Tradition due to the influence of American culture on Orthodoxy? Weren't these changes inevitable?

No. Whenever I read discussions regarding [altar] curtains, pews, organs, vigil services, clergy appearance, etc. my mind involuntarily keeps asking the question, "Where were the Bishops?"

It is the Bishop's responsibility to insure that good order and Orthopraxis is maintained in the parishes under his direction. When the first churches with pews started to be built in this country, where were the Bishops? I imagine that all of these churches were duly consecrated by a Bishop, and had episcopal services at least once a year. In theory, the Bishop should have been asked to approve the building plans before construction, as well. If the Bishop saw pews in the building plans, why didn't he say, "Sorry, no pews."? Or if he came into a newly-built church that had installed pews, why didn't he say, "The pews go, or I will not consecrate this church."? The Bishop's responsibility at that time would have been to explain to the congregation that pews were outside of the tradition of the church. He should have brought the issue up at the next Bishops' council meeting and had an official statement issued that pews were not acceptable. Why didn't those Bishops do this?

The same goes with curtains and royal doors. If a Bishop came to visit a parish and noticed that there was no curtain, it was his responsibility to instruct the Priest and the congregation that a curtain was an absolute requirement and insist that it be installed or punitive measures would be taken. This is just simple church order and discipline.

If the first time a Bishop walked into a church that had installed an organ and said, "Sorry, no organ," we wouldn't have these problems today. If the first time a Bishop saw a Priest wearing a clergy shirt or a suit jacket said, "Put on your rassa—you are never to appear in front of your parishioners without it," we wouldn't have this issue being a problem today.

It is the Bishop's direct responsibility to ensure good order in his diocese. The Bishop, finding out that a Priest doesn't serve vigil services on Saturday night, has the responsibility of correcting him. Bishops doing their jobs meet with their Priests, visit parishes, issue directives, and maintain good order.

The problem in this country is that the Bishops of most jurisdictions failed  to do their jobs—they allowed innovations to creep in and did nothing about it.

So, let's not blame these things on the influence of American culture—every one of these departures from established Orthodox tradition was allowed either overtly or tacitly by Bishops—who knew these things were wrong and did nothing to correct them.

Other Commentary on Modernism Posted to Orthodox Email Forums by Fr. Alexander

The test for modernism is interesting but really not a very accurate one.   There are plenty of us who would answer 'no' to the questions while their parish would  answer 'yes'.  The personal feelings of a person has nothing to do with what their parish prefers.  I don't like pews, for example, but my parish has them and since we are not officially attached there is nothing we can say about it.  I find this obsession with outward things disturbing at times. Just because a Priest wears a clerical collar and is clean shaven does not make him a bad Priest and visa versa. We all know what the traditional way is, but because a person does not follow it does not make them 'modernist' and, as many will tell you, there are plenty of liberal or modernist Priests who have long beards and cassocks.  I don't think you can catagorize someone with a 'test for modernism' such as this one.  It always has to be a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the person's environment and special situations.

Permit me a few comments on your comments.

First, the admittedly tongue-in-cheek "Modernism Test" was just that—it was not a test for determining Orthodoxy [i.e., in a dogmatic or ontological way—webmaster], or "goodness" or "badness." It consisted of a list of things (mostly external) that are prevalent in the majority of non-traditionalist Orthodox parishes in the US today. These are the things that make a traditionalist Orthodox cringe.

Not all are external, outward things either. The trend to make optional or eliminate private confession before communion in many, if not most, GOA, OCA, and Antiochian parishes is extremely disturbing to me.

And one must be aware that even the "outward things" I seem "obsessed with" are often a reflection of deeper "inner things." This is the relationship between "form" and "substance." I believe that form is to substance as a vessel is to the liquid it contains—you eliminate the vessel, and the liquid just leaks away.

That is why the external appearance of the Church is important, the external aspects of the services are important, and the external appearance of the Priest is important. It was God Himself Who decreed to Moses that the Priests of the Old Testament church were to wear distinctive vestments. Otherwise, it would be perfectly appropriate for the Priest to serve Liturgy wearing his suit and clerical collar—his internal essense doesn't change and his God-given grace doesn't disappear because of what he wears, does it?

One really needs to look at what the motivation is in abandoning traditions that have existed in the Orthodox Church for almost two thousand years.

Perhaps the best way to phrase the question is: "What in the world would make an Orthodox Priest put on a suit and ecclesiastical collar instead of a rasson?" The answer, unfortunately, lies in the question itself: "What in the world?" Abandoning clerical garb that has been traditional for countless centuries in order to look just like "Pastor Bob" down the street?

Whether you like it or not, we live in a society in which "clothes make the man." You would probably not interview for an executive position wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, even though your external appearance is just an "outward thing" that has absolutely nothing to do with your intelligence, experience, or ability.

When an Orthodox Priest wears his cassock outside the Church (yes, even at K-Mart) he is witnessing for the faith. I remember how impressed I was as a child when I saw Roman Catholic nuns before they "kicked the habit." Now, most wear civilian clothes with only a lapel pin to identify them as a nun. I, personally, feel that this is a sad attempt to be "of the world," when we are called by our Saviour to be "not of this world."

Pews, organs, and clergy shirts are clearly an attempt to assimilate into the Western culture—and one should seriously ask "why?" If the early immigrants were looked down upon because of their "old country" ways and accents, and so tried to assimilate into the American mainstream as soon as possible—this certainly does not apply anymore.

The ROCOR has over 300 Bishops, Priests, deacons, monks, and nuns here in the US. More than half of them are American converts to Orthodoxy. Yet the overwhelming majority of them seem to have no problem in maintaining traditional Orthodox attire and outward appearance, both in church and out. So there is no "imperative" that one needs to "go mainstream" in this country.

Orthodoxy is a "counter-current" faith—a constant struggle against the things of this world. Assimilation, even in "outward things," should be avoided, for in abandoning the "outward things" there is a real danger of losing some of the "inner things" and then Orthodoxy in America will drift on with the current and popular culture and finally become a sort of mainstream "Eastern Rite Protestantism."

It was never my intent to go "jurisdiction-bashing." There are many fine Priests among the "modernist" jurisdictions as I have been labelling them, who are doing their best in leading people to salvation.

But I believe that faithfulness to traditions, even in the smaller "outward" things, is important. Let's not forget the words of our Savior, Who said to those who were faithful in small things:  "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful in small [things], I will make thee ruler over many: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt. 25:21).

+ + +

You ask, "Are there canons that speak to the issues of pews and tobacco?" I would ask you, where are the Canons that forbid use of marijuana or snorting cocaine or downloading pornography from the Internet? Obviously, there are none. Does this mean that your innate Orthodox common sense should not be enough to guide you to recognize what is healthy and what is not? The Canons should not be considered a compendium of answers to all possible questions. God gave us a mind and a conscience and we should use them to determine what is right and what is wrong, whether or not the particular issue has been addressed in the canons or not.

Smoking tobacco is a digusting, filthy, addictive habit that turns the mouth of the smoker into an ashtray. It not only poisons the body of the smoker but pollutes the air that others around the smoker breathe. It is absolutely incompatible with the dignity of the Orthodox Priesthood, diaconate, or monastic state, whether the Canons specifically address it or not.

Pews violate the principle of standing while praying to God and make prostrations impossible. They are obviously an innovation in Orthodox churches, taken from non-Orthodox, heretical assemblies. They have absolutely no place in an Orthodox church.

Beards and exorassa have been a mark of Orthodox clergy for countless centuries. What, as I asked before, would be a rational reason for abandoning the traditional Orthodox external appearance of a clergyman? To look just like "Pastor Bob" down the street? I must tell you, that I have experienced many, many instances where little children, seeing me in long beard, long hair and rasson come up to me and ask: "Are you Jesus?" or even "Are you God?" These little children, who have never seen an Orthodox Priest before, still see the image of Christ in a Priest dressed in a traditional way, no matter how sinful, in this case, the Priest may be. I doubt that a modernist cleric in a clergy shirt or suit would get the same reaction. The inability to grow a beard, however, would never be an impediment to ordination (for example, the late Archbishop Paul of Sydney, being ethnically a Kalmuk, was unable to grow a full beard—no one considered him any less Orthodox for it, but he was the exception that "proves the rule"). This is a far cry from institutionalizing the "anglicanization" of the external appearance of Orthodox clergy in America.

The change to the new calendar is a gross "liturgical innovation" in itself. But there are many more. In how many Antiochian parishes does the Priest start the Divine Liturgy ("Blessed is the Kingdom") behind closed Royal Doors, as the rubrics, including the ones published by the Antiochian Archdiocese) clearly indicate? In how many parishes are the doors closed after the Gospel, and then closed again after the Great Entrance? In how many Antiochian parishes is the curtain behind the Royal Doors closed at the appropriate times during the Divine Liturgy? Isn't it true that many Antiochian parishes have only vestigial Royal Doors and no curtain at all? Aren't pews and organs a "liturgical innovation"? How many Antiochian parishes do full Vigil Services on Saturday nights? How many Antiochian parishes preserve the prayers for the catechumens and the litanies and prayers for the faithful just before the Cherubic Hymn? Aren't there many parishes where private Confession as a requirement for receiving the Holy Sacraments has been eliminated?

And, of course, the Orthodox world witnessed the incredible liturgical innovation of the Antiochian Church performing "mass ordinations" of the EOC clergy, when, according to the Canons, only one Priest and one deacon can be ordained at one Divine Liturgy. Recently, there was some scandal regarding the lax attitude of the Antiochian Church concerning some divorced Priest who had been teaching at St. Vladimir's Seminary that led to the departure of the Antichian Seminarians. I don't know the details, nor do I particularly care to, but the matter revolved around the OCA being more strict in following the canons regarding the marriage of clergy that the Antiochian Archdiocese.

The attempt to justify participation in the ecumenical movement as a sort of "witness for the Church" is so weak it does not hardly merit a response. Nothing in the Holy Canons permit prayer with heterodox, no matter how good the intentions. Anyone who saw or read anything about the WCC Assembly in Canberra can not accept Orthodox participation in these meetings at all.

And, frankly, Easter Egg hunts during Great Lent seem to be an obvious failure to teach children the Sanctity of the Holy Fast.

Regarding Freemasonry, I am unaware of any official statement by the Antiochian Church condemning it as incompatible with Orthodoxy. My own experience has been that it is tolerated, as many Parish Board members in many Antiochian are openly involved in Freemasonry. My experience with this comes from several years of serving a "mainline" OCA parish and, with the blessing of my Bishop, being a member of the Bridgeport Association of Orthodox Clergy, where the question of Freemasonry and the attitudes of the various jursidictions (twelve in all) toward it were a frequent matter for discussion. Also, my two brothers-in-law and their families have been long-term members of the local Antiochian parish, so my familiarity with the customs and practices of the Antiochian church in the US is not based on abstract "book knowledge" but actual experience.

The Antiochian choir director even consulted with me as to which music would be more appropriate to play on the organ at the entrance of my niece at her wedding—the Mendelsohn Bridal march or the Bach Cantata about Grazing Sheep. I told her I preferred the Bach, of course.