Arlington Sermon

Last Sunday, after His Eminence visited our Sts. Anargyroi parish, he celebrated a vespers service at St. Athanasios in Arlington.  The Philoptochos chapter there is named for St. Barbara, so the vespers was for the eve of her feast.  Here is the sermon delivered by Fr. Manoussakis:

Sermon on the Feast of Saint Barbara

Delivered at the Church of St. Athanasius, Arlington

By the Very Reverend Fr. Panteleimon Manoussakis

(on the 3rd of December 2017)

Your Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston;

Reverend Fathers;

My beloved Brothers and Sisters—those of you who stayed within the Arc of the Church and, in particular, those of you who chose to remained outside the walls of the Church;

We have gathered this evening here in order to commemorate Saint Barbara. Every saint in the Church’s calendar is like the icons on either side of the icon of Christ in the iconstasis. If you look at the icon of the Virgin Mary on the one side and at the icon of St. John the Baptist on the other, you will notice that both of them point away from themselves and towards Christ. It is as if they were saying “pay no attention to us, but direct your gaze to Him.” If this is the case for the Theotokos and St. John how much more, then, it should be the case for each of us priests.

No-one among us priests, regardless of how pious, saintly, successful, or kind we may be, could consider the Church as his personal estate or the priesthood as his personal accomplishment. We clergy ought to resist the temptation of personality cult—to avoid that is, to make ourselves the center of people’s attention so that we can allow Christ to shine through us, as if it were through some transparent material. When our devotion is centered on the person of the priest instead on Christ, of whom the priest is only a sign and reminder, then that priest has failed. Such a priest becomes an obstruction that hides Christ from his parishioners. In short, he becomes a “Christ” instead of Christ, that is, an “anti-Christ.”

The same secular mentality that gives rise to the temptation of a personality cult leads also astray those among our faithful who behave as if the Church belongs to them, instead of them belonging to the Church. We often meet people who seem to understand their communities as a self-regulated, semi-autonomous church, over which they demand to have the first and final word. This, however, is not the structure of the Church. The Church is hierarchical, a term that has become particularly detestable to our democratic ears. To our modern minds “hierarchical order” conjures up negative associations of forceful submission, inequality, and domination. Yet, an authentic understanding of order belongs to a worldview of a cosmos in which every single thing has its place and is allowed to be the kind of thing it is. Without hierarchy, there is nothing to protect us from the tyranny of sameness masquerading as equality. Under such equality, however, all degrees of difference are lost and with them the proportionality that ascribes to each of us our proper place. St. Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Nor can any part of the body demand that every other part be equal. A human body whose every member is a foot is not more tolerant or democratic; it is simply monstrous. Without difference, order, and proportion there can be no beauty, goodness, and truth—and above all, that characteristic that pertains uniquely to the Church, namely, unity.

How is this unity to be achieved? Is it perhaps by confessing the same faith? That alone does not suffice, for faith alone becomes abstract and thus it degenerates into an ideology. Is it perhaps by a common rite of worship? Yet, aren’t there schismatic who followed the same rubrics in their worship as we do? Then, where from could we derive that much desired unity, that oneness for which we pray in our liturgies? Oneness, my dear brothers and sisters, is a characteristic of the One, but we are many and for as long as we remain many we cannot become the One Church unless we are in communion with the One of our Eucharist, namely our Bishop. This is the salvific role of the Bishop: to gather the scattered members of the Church into the unity of the one bread and the one chalice of the Eucharist which he has the right to celebrate. He alone is the celebrant. He alone is the unifying principle. He alone can establish a holy altar around which we, the many, can gather in order to form the one body of the Church. He alone can make the many one by bestowing on each and every one, through and by the holy sacraments, the dignity that belongs to the citizens of God’s kingdom. Without the Bishop, there is no Church. Without the Bishop, we are merely a number of people unrelated to each other. As twenty students in a classroom don’t make up a class unless they have a professor, and as fifty musicians cannot make an orchestra without their conductor, so too five or five hundred Christians in a room by themselves could never become the Church without their Bishop. Take, if you wish, the most beautiful building, adorned with splendid icons and iconography—without the Bishop, it can never become a church, but it would remain bricks and stones. The Bishop alone has the prerogative to consecrate the buildings of our churches where our salvation is wrought. And only the Bishop can consecrate the holy altar from which our sanctification flows. Even though we, priests, perform the sacraments and celebrate the Eucharist, we can do so only in the Bishop’s absence and on his behalf. In every local church there is in fact only one priest, the Bishop. He unities us to each other and, through him, we are united with the faithful of other local churches, with all the churches across the world. If, for a moment, a parish were to consider itself independent, then there would be nothing to unite it with the faithful across the world and throughout history—that is, with the Church as a whole. Such a parish would inevitably end up in self-isolation.

To this twofold secularization of the Church that manifests itself both though a narcissistic personality cult and through a divisive autonomy we respond by commemorating our saints—men and women with genuine ecclesiastical ethos. Neither did they claim their rights, nor did they allow others to claim them as their right, but rather they “sought God’s righteousness” (Ps. 118:94). “When they were cursed, they blessed; when they were persecuted, they endured it; when they were slandered, they responded with kindness” (cf., 1 Cor. 4:12-13), so that they may receive abundantly the grace of the only God. To Him belongs all glory, amen.

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December 7th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

New England Clam Chowder

Last week we kicked off this Lenten season’s Celebrity Chef series at the church after presanctified liturgy.  Konstantina Choros showed us how to make her delicious fasting clam chowder while also regaling us with tales from the history of chowder.  Here is the recipe:

Ingredients 2 tablespoons Olive Oil 1 medium onion, finely diced (150g) 2 celery stalks, quartered lengthwise, then sliced into 1/4-inch pieces (130g) 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 cups water or vegetable stock 3 6.5 oz cans chopped clams with juice 1 cup potatoes finely chopped for thickening agent (250 g) 2 bay leaves 1 pound potatoes, cut into 1/2- inch cubes (500 g) Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions Soup 1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until softened, mixing often. 2. Stir in flour, distribute evenly and break any clumps. 3. Add the stock, juice from chopped clams, potatoes, and bay leaves. 4. Bring to a simmer, stirring consistently (the mixture will thicken). 5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often. 6. Add potato thickening agent and cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are nice and tender. 7. Add clams and season to taste with salt and pepper. 8. Cook until clams are just firm, another 2 minutes.

Thickening agent 1. In a small pot cook the finely chopped potatoes until they begin to fall apart. 2. Using a food processor pulverize the potatoes in to a thick paste.

Approximately 0.79 calories per gram or 23 calories per oz

 

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March 13th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Pumpkin Kibbeh

Last night after presanctified liturgy we had the latest installment in our series of local celebrity chefs doing a cooking demonstration for us.  First, some background: There is a tradition of having potluck meals after these evening liturgies.  When I came to Marlborough I realized there hadn’t been a Wednesday night lenten liturgy in a while.  I didn’t want to saddle everyone with six straight potlucks, so I decided to alternate them with lenten cooking demos.  We always have fun – the chefs give freely of their time and food, everyone enjoys it and learns something, and we eat well and see a side of the chef’s personality that we may not see in everyday life.  Last night Miriam Hyder from Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Marketplace kicked off this year’s series, and it was awesome.  Miriam made pumpkin kibbeh, a vegan variation on the traditional meat dish.  Everyone had a great time and enjoyed the food – pictures will soon be up on the church website.  A nice bonus was having Miriam’s mother Edna on board to help out.  Edna and I are both from the same hometown, so we enjoyed reminiscing.  The recipe is below.  If you wish to make it gluten or grain-free, you can substitute quinoa for the bulgur.

 

Pumpkin Kibbeh
Preheat oven to 400. Grease 9 X 13 Pyrex
1.5 cups fine bulghur
2 15oz cans pumpkin puree
1 can chicpeas
1/2 cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1t salt X 2
1/2 t black pepper & 1 t black pepper
1t cumin
1T Sumac
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
olive oil
4-6 cups spinach, or leafy greens
Soak bulghur in very hot water for 20 minutes. Drain in mesh colander, squeezing out extra liquid. In a mixing bowl, combine bulghur, pumpkin, flour, water, salt, 1/2t black pepper, cumin.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Saute onions for a few minutes, before adding chickpeas. Sprinkle spices (Sumac, Black pepper, Cinnamon, Salt) over this mixture. Stir, mixing spices throughout. Add spinach (or other greens.) Once wilted, add raisins and walnuts. Mix. Take off heat and pour contents into a bowl.
Use half of the pumpkin/bulghur mixture to evenly line the bottom of the pyrex. use spatula to distribute. Evenly spread “stuffing” (chickpea, onion mixture) over. Lay down third layer, using remaining pumpkin/bulghur mixture.
Use knife to cut halfway down to give kibbeh desired shaped pieces. Brush top with olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes, or until you reach desired crispness.

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March 31st, 2016 by Fr. Greg

A Titled Post

After logging on tonight I noticed my last post – about the most common words in the Hebrew Old Testament – was untitled.  We will let that anomaly remain unedited.  Today we will finish with the 6-10th most common words in the Hebrew scriptures.  I would have posted yesterday but I left the flashcards which inspired this in my office.  So…

6) Min – from or out of – is the 6th most common word in the Hebrew OT and appears 7, 592 times.  In Semitic languages the words for from and who are pretty much the same with usually just the verb – which is flexible in Semitic languages – changing.  In Arabic min means from and men means who – in Hebrew we have min as from and mi-, with the weak n sound dropped, as who.  Young scholar Gabrielle Russo suggests that the sameness of the words comes from the fact that in ancient Near East society your identity was so tied into the area from where your family originated.

7) ‘al – on or upon – clocks in at number 7 with 5, 777 occurrences.  This otherwise unexciting preposition lives on in the name of the Biblical priest Eli as well as the common Islamic name Ali, meaning elevated.  All of these words begin not with an a sound but with the voiced pharyngeal fricative ‘ayin, a consonant that is very difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce.

8) Appearing 5,518 times is the preposition el, which means to or toward and is clearly a variant of le which we examined above.

9) ‘ashar appears 5,503 times and is an indeclinable relative pronoun.  There may be a connection with the word for happy, which shares the same tri-consonantal root, but again that is for another article.

10) Rounding out our top 10 occurring Hebrew words is kol, which means all or every and is common in Semitic languages.  If you come to liturgy at Sts. Anargyroi you will hear it during the Great Entrance, when after the Greek and before the English I proclaim “‘al ‘ana wa kulla ‘awanin” – literally now and all nows, meaning forever.

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March 23rd, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Tonight at the church is, as mentioned in the previous post, Bible Boot Camp.  In preparing for my presentation I brought out my Old Testament Hebrew vocab card set.  I’ve never actually used these – I bought them long after I took my last Hebrew class, but when you are into languages you tend to collect these things.  The cards are numbered from 1-1000 and on the back of each is a number saying how many times the word occurs in the Hebrew scriptures.  Cards 1-979 are every word that occurs 30 times or more except for proper names.  Cards 980-1000 are words occurring less than 30 times and select proper names.  So it doesn’t include every single word (and remember that many Hebrew words are built off of each other due to the root system – words meaning liver, heavy, and glory all come from the roots k-b-d, for example) as many proper names are left out and there are words that appear only a few times or once that aren’t included (such as the word for gopher wood – the wood of Noah’s ark).  This also explains the neat round number of 1000 cards.  So what are the top ten most frequently used words in the Hebrew Old Testament?

1) The most used word, at a count of 50,524, is we, a conjunction that primarily means and.  It is an enclitic, which means it never stands alone and always attaches to the following word.  Its appearance at the top of the list is a bit deceiving, though; in Semitic languages there is no concept of commas like we have when listing things.  It is proper in Semitic languages to say something like “I saw the bird and the dog and the cow and the eagle” and on and on.

2) Coming at number 2 is ha, the definite article (and also enclitic), with 24,058 appearances, less than half of the word for and.  In its primeval form, ha likely had a lamed at the end, making it hal.  This makes it easy to see how it is cognate with the Arabic definite article ‘al.

3) At third we have another enclitic – there will be more – with le, which appears 20,321 times.  Le is a preposition meaning to or for.  It is a very useful word, but that is about the extent of the story.

4) Be (and please note there are no capital or lowercase letters in Hebrew) -is much like le – a preposition, this time meaning in or at.  It can also mean with but in an instrument sense and its use in this form is very idiomatic. Be appears 15,559 times.

5) The fifth most common word in Biblical Hebrew…well, it isn’t actually a word.  Eth appears 10,978 times and it is used as a definite direct object marker and always left untranslated.  The reason such a thing exists is that in Hebrew sentence order is fluid and vowels are not written, so sometimes it can be confusing to know what is the direct object of a sentence.  The marker removes most all ambiguity.  Also, case markers do not exist in Biblical Hebrew, although the “u” in the name Samuel may signify a case marker from an older form that was left in the word – that is a subject for a future article.

Words 6-10 up next!

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March 21st, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Long Day/Yup, He’s Orthodox Part II

Today has been a long day – we had service in the morning with the traditional procession of icons for the Sunday of Orthodoxy – check out photos here – as well as our March 25 Greek School program during coffee hour.  This evening I joined all of the local Orthodox priests for a vespers service.  Among all of this, today was the feast of St. Cuthbert the Wonderworker – read his story here.

Cuthbert – the “bert” part of his name is cognate with “bright” – is, let’s just say, not a common Orthodox name, although it is well represented as an English last name – think of the popular Canadian actress Elisha Cuthbert.  The saint’s commemoration today, though, reminds us that there are tons of saints that we don’t think of as part of our Orthodox tradition because they aren’t from the eastern Mediterranean or Russia.  There is much value in exploring the lives of saints such as Patrick, Brigid, Kenneth, and Cuthbert.

Onto tomorrow!  We will be having Bible Boot Camp at 19:00 hours.  Dismissed!

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March 20th, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Moses And Goldschläger

This evening I had the pleasure of speaking at First Church Marlborough (who are celebrating their 350th (!) anniversary) on the topic of the theology of food.  I spent about half the talk going over uses of food in the Bible – a topic for another post – and then spoke about fasting practices in the Orthodox Church.  Today is, for us, the second day of Lent while our Western friends will have Holy Week next week – it is one of those years.  In going over food (and drink) in the Bible, I came across a point I had long forgotten.  In Exodus 32, the Israelites have fashioned an idol to worship – the Golden Calf.  Moses, in his anger over this, has the idol pulverized and makes the Israelites drink water mixed with the powder.  While I have not seen this anywhere, I figure this must be the origin of Goldschläger, a Swiss schnapps that has tiny flakes of gold in it.   The name of the liqueur – “gold-beaters” – refers to those who pound gold into thin leafs.  There is an urban myth that the gold cuts your digestive apparatuses and the alcohol goes straight into the blood stream.  I remember, though, a story from 20-odd years ago of someone who drank it regularly and ended up with a problem of too much gold in his bloodstream – internet searches have proved fruitless on this one.  In any case, if you have a friend drinking Goldschläger, you have an opportunity to talk about Biblical events.

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March 15th, 2016 by Fr. Greg