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  • Dcn Joseph Suaiden 4:29 pm on May 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Orthodoxy, Q&A, Saints, True Orthodoxy   

    Last night I was asked: “Deacon, how do you feel about saints canonized after the 1920s, like St. Paisos and St. Silouan?”

    I figured the answer would be a bit too complex and wordy for Twitter, so I’m going to unpack it here.

    Let me preamble by saying I am no fan of the question of “modern saints”. I am not sure I like my saints knowing Twitter and the television exist. I feel like people saying “well, they’re newer so they’re more approachable” is bunk: I would question the authenticity of a saint who sounds “like me”. No one reads the history of the civil war and says “that’s too unapproachable”. The saints of all ages are real people with real lives. While there are great saints of the modern era (see St John of Shanghai for example) their behavior was often considered insane, and so I imagine they will appear more and more “insane” to a more and more insane world. The lives of Saints should not confirm us. They should correct us.

    On to the question.

    In the first place, there is no such thing as “canonization” as it exists in the Roman Catholic Church in Orthodoxy. Local Bishops in fact have the right to glorify local saints, and it is up to the Church to recognize them. My Synod’s calendar often corresponded to a calendar ROCOR produced of Western and Eastern Saints until the mid-2000’s. Because of this, it contains a wide number of insertions to the calendar which are often uncommon among other True Orthodox (the most recent insertion being that of St Philaret of New York, whom we didn’t actually glorify but did quietly attend one of the various glorifications done among True Orthodox Russians.)

    That said, I presume you are talking about recent additions to the calendar by the EP of more recent Athonite Elders (ones glorified after 1920 but who died before often had a local cultus anyway). The question in such a case is not so much who’s doing the glorification (that is important, but often a formal glorification consists of nothing but insertion of the saint’s name into a diocese’s calendar) but whether the saint is in fact a saint, and that is a function of time. Some saints will never be known to the world; by contrast, some who were claimed to be saints (such as the Patriarch Michael Cerularius at the time of the schism) were forgotten as saints over centuries, despite being public figures. So we need to put aside the idea of an “official list” in the way the Roman Catholics do. The saints are there for more than simple commemoration but their lives are meant to be emulated. The saints on our local calendar are sufficient, but thanks to globalization and the internet local glorifications now get worldwide treatment.

    Now the deeper question of these saints’ positions during a time of polarization and heresy can often be quite revealing and which leads to the question of “politicisation” of glorifications: when Russian True Orthodox in different Synods glorified St Philaret it was referred to as “political” (though his body was found to be perfectly incorrupt.) This can probably also be said for Athonite elders who have condemned the Greek Old Calendarists. It is a complex question, and one that has to be looked at from the entire life of the saint. I have less to say about an elder who condemned ecumenism and modernism and viewed Old Calendarists as schismatics than one who would claim that ecumenism is from God– the former can be in simple error, and the latter would be a flaming heretic. But since we are living through a time of polarization and heresy, the former example and St Philaret could still end up on the same calendar 100 years after our deaths, as this would all be seen as something as tame looking as the “ecumenist controversy” in Church history books for future generations, the struggles will be those recorded through their lives.

    This can manifest in many forms: we cannot forget the name of new-martyr Katherine Routis, a wife and mother who was killed by police while protecting a priest of the Old Calendar in Greece. Is that the extremism decried? We can look at other confusing examples, such as St Nicholas Planas, recognized by the EP and Old Calendarists alike? Or the incredible case of St Myrtidiotissa, recognized as a Saint in Kleisoura, glorified as a nun of the Matthewite Old Calendarists– but as a pious laywoman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate???

    History, in the end, must make sense of this in ways we cannot. We look at the writings of no less a Saint than St Jerome, who was literally decrying other saints of his day as heretics and schismatics. Thus, in a time of controversy, it is best, as St Vincent of Lerins writes, to cleave to what is ancient, and accept the wisdom and counsel of the Fathers who agree with those before them. If a pious departed Orthodox elder inspires you to a greater life of prayer and Orthodox practice, far be it from me to tell whether his glorification is “valid.” Only his life can do that. I’ll end like I started: Older Fathers are always better than newer ones.

  • DcnJosephSuaiden 11:35 pm on January 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: True Orthodoxy   

    A last forum response: On Scandals and divisions, and keeping argument private 

    Dear _______:

    Since the last time I discussed my distaste for private debates I ended getting sanctioned, I have no interest in rehashing my reasoning to disagree. I personally find the argument that we will scandalize people out of True Orthodoxy very problematic. If we have to cover up the truth to explain it, we are on far shakier foundation as Christians than we realize. A Christian should have very limited business in these debates anyway. (More …)

  • DcnJosephSuaiden 12:23 am on January 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: True Orthodoxy   

    Another Forum Response: On the Canons and Written Tradition 

    Dear _______:

    In the first place, my name is Deacon Joseph Suaiden. Why I’ve been downgraded to my last name in a third-person response to me indicates that you are not communicating directly with me at this point, but communicating about me to other readers. (I’ve known you far longer than to be reduced to a username.) I find such behavior somewhat jarring as I wrote with sufficient candor, but took care not to be offensive. This is not an Internet debate. You are relaying misinformation and now I am correcting it. Further, I found your tone somewhat condescending, which left me disinclined to explain myself.

    Now that you wish to make a show of me, however, I will have to take the time to explain your errors.

    You write:

    However, I don’t agree with your interpretation of Orthodox history, since you seem to think that we have a comprehensive written record for everything going back to the Apostles, which is manifestly not true historically (how else would we have different textual variants of the NT?) and not even doctrinally necessary, as shown by St Basil’s defense of the Sign of the Cross, a practice founded on unwritten authority.

    This is a sham argument. I had not claimed that “we have a comprehensive written record for everything going back to the Apostles”. Without touching on the fact that we have everything necessary for the proper functioning of the Church written down in many volumes–which is in fact true– I was referring rather specifically to procedure in terms of the public acts of the Church. Certainly in the time of the Apostles things were preserved much more by oral tradition than written. Yet even the Apostles themselves recorded canons. But to claim that is the case now isn’t just silly, it borders on disingenuous. Certainly by the time of the Ecumenical Councils, there were already episcopal registers, festal sermons, grammatas and numerous other writings connected specifically to Church procedure. Certainly there was virtually nothing being preserved solely by oral tradition in terms of the liturgical actions, which have incredible textual support in East and West.

    On these matters I wrote exactly this much: But putting aside the moral aspect of such a view is that the historical record is precisely what we use for making determinations…. This is why our meetings have minutes. This is why meetings, trials, require a scribe or a secretary. Can we even envision a Church of the Councils– with none of the councils having documentation?… We have traditions, we have policies, canons, procedures. They are, for most people, incredibly boring. But to people who are sticklers for doing it right– they are our assurance that we have retained the actions going back to the time of the Apostles.

    How you seem to have deduced that I did not include oral traditions in “traditions” is somewhat beyond me, but it is irrelevant to the argument. The procedural aspects to which I referred in my original blog post concerning Abp Auxentios concern the by-laws of the Greek Church and the canons of the Church itself– things that are obviously not oral tradition, and not only written, but have substantial commentary concerning every line. Trasmuting what was canonically a farce of a trial into a mystical act no subject to canonical procedure is a unique but flawed counter to the reality that the events leading the trial and the events leading up to it were patently uncanonical.

    I’ve referred to the Synod of the Oak a couple of times on this because the Synod of the Oak’s proceedings were in fact nullified and a second council was reconvened to condemn St John. Even then, there was procedure, which is why St John, like Abp Auxentios, walked away from the proceedings– in the first place, they had no jurisdiction over him, and in the second, he refused to be judged by his accusers. Unlike Abp Auxentios, the persecutors of St John in fact did at least make multiple attempts against him. Apparently, the persecutors of Abp Auxentios didn’t see any need to bother with the inconvenience, canons notwithstanding!

    This over-mysticization of routine Church procedure– and the deposition of a Bishop is a routine procedure with a fairly straightforward process, one that the 1985 conspirators basically ignored since it would have worked against them– is a fairly recent phenomenon as official Orthodoxy “renews itself” through the ecumenical movement and has led to disastrous canonical anomalies; but it is alien to True Orthodox of all races.

    I would recommend you read the Dialogue of Palladius concerning the Life of St John Chrysostom. Besides the deep edification from such a holy life, it is also very educational on how trials were not to be conducted and precisely how seriously documentation “for those with legalistic scruples” was taken as far back as when the Church had committed only two Ecumenical Councils to its memory.

    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/palla … 2_text.htm

    I would also advise trying to read my post in the spirit in which I tried to write it, which was not polemical but explanatory.

    Deacon Joseph

  • DcnJosephSuaiden 9:03 pm on January 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: True Orthodoxy   

    More on the Milan Synod history and accountability 

    From a forum post.

    Dear _____:

    I was quite intent on not getting involved in this, but historical honesty is important to me. I’ll be putting this up on my blog, because you’ve covered two topics important to me personally– the Kyiv period and transparency.

    You wrote: The Milan Synod was in communion with the sergianist Kiev Patriarchate for almost 20 years.

    This is a completely false statement. In the first place the Kiev Patriarchate was not Sergianist at its highest levels until the rise of Filaret Denisenko in late 1995. The Milan Synod waited a year to see how Filaret would behave and whether he was honest. He was not. Communion was broken in early 1997, having been in communion with both Greece and Kyiv in 1993, and solely with Kyiv in 1994 with the repose of Abp Auxentios.

    At most, you are talking about one year of tenuous communion with someone who publicly actually *did* repent of Sergianism.

    You are likely basing your argument on Vladimir Moss’ polemic for the GOC-Chrysostomos at the time, which implies Milan joined Kyiv under Filaret in 1993 and that’s the end of the story. By contrast, I have looked at all the relevant documents of the period and interviewed Bishops of the Synod on the matter for my book. My Metropolitan joined Milan in 1997. He’ll be the first to tell you Filaret Denisenko was never commemorated in our Church in America. The first translation into English ever done of the Ukrainian Tomos was in my book. I sent Moss a polite letter pointing out his factual errors concerning the Milan Synod (he actually says we went “under ‘Patriarch’ Filaret” in 1993, when Filaret wasn’t even elected to the leadership of the KP till ’95). He hasn’t responded to this day although I noted the errors repeatedly, though he responded to me in other correspondence.

    You later wrote: Another thing I’ve learned is that not everything gets into the historical record; knowing people personally counts for a lot.

    No, no. Tsk. That’s when the devil pops in, see. The Church’s actions are not done in secret quarters with rumors and talk behind the backs of others. That is exactly how the Synod of the Oak was run. It is exactly how the 1985 deposition was run. One of the policies our Metropolia made clear since the Tomos was an absolute need for transparency. Milan was no stranger to pulling secret meetings and playing games. It is precisely this “it’s who you know” attitude that creates an environment lacking accountability on the part of the leadership to the flock.

    But putting aside the moral aspect of such a view is that the historical record is precisely what we use for making determinations. We do not base our separation from “official Orthodoxy” on our feelings but on the concrete actions which have severed communion between us. This is why our meetings have minutes. This is why meetings, trials, require a scribe or a secretary. Can we even envision a Church of the Councils– with none of the councils having documentation?

    I understood fully that my blog post would make people uncomfortable. Yet this is exactly the attitude I carry in my own Synod and with my own leadership, including the Metropolitan. We have traditions, we have policies, canons, procedures. They are, for most people, incredibly boring. But to people who are sticklers for doing it right– they are our assurance that we have retained the actions going back to the time of the Apostles. The answer to the finding of wrongdoing in the Church is not to hide it, but to fix it. I’ve had arguments with my Bishops when I’ve thought they were wrong. In an environment based on accountability, even the most heated of disagreement will produce a positive result. So no. Nobody is perfect. But we are called to be perfect, not to cover up our own imperfections and certainly, having so covered them, to give the pretense of absolute correctness.

    In this, many Matthewites are far more humble than the Florinites on the issue of deviation from good canonical order.

    Again, I am sorry if I offended, and I hope for this to be my last post on the matter.

  • DcnJosephSuaiden 6:47 pm on July 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: True Orthodoxy,   

    I Haven’t Quit Yet: Observations, Thoughts on NFTU & True Orthodox Unity 

    It started as an experiment, really, to see if I could write about the positive on the ground. I felt that True Orthodox in general often know each other well (I don’t believe this as much anymore) and that if our site focused on ecumenism in World Orthodoxy while focusing on news less covered in the True Orthodox Church throughout the world, there could be a positive effect.

    In 2006, NFTU– which began in 2004 as an unofficial ROAC news site– decided to pursue a policy of non-jurisdictional preference, which has been given a variety of names, both positive and negative. At the time, I alone ran the site, though previously other members of the Church have helped. After nearly seven years, one failed international relocation, one return home, one jurisdictional change, one wedding, elevation to the diaconate, assistance from a number of people from almost all jurisdictions on NFTU as a project, and 11 months short of NFTU’s ten-year anniversary, I’m calling it quits with the experiment.

    I’m not shutting down NFTU (part of my goal was to make NFTU pretty difficult to shut down, and there’s enough people working on it that even my taking a two-month break did not stop the site from being active) but at least for me, the experiment– wondering if reporting on all True Orthodox jurisdictions impartially could help improve the working environment of True Orthodox Christians in America– is over, and I’ve drawn a number of conclusions, some positive, and some sufficiently disheartening that I’ve wondered whether or not I would continue altogether with the site.

    Rather than quit NFTU, I’d rather take down the conclusions I’ve drawn, explain my thoughts on the matter, and continue on in a new chapter of my life, with NFTU as a part of that, but without guile or deception on my part, which is what it would be if I am not honest.

    Probably the first thing NFTU as a non-jurisdictional site was greeted  with in 2006, besides curiosity and huge interest by World Orthodox trying to leave, was suspicion. After all, if you’re obedient to your Bishops, why wouldn’t you focus on building “your empire”? That’s how we roll in True Orthodoxy. Everyone wants a metochion in country X where they can say “see? The Church survives in the hinterlands of Abkhazia, so as you can see, we’re all over the world”. Leveling the field obliterates that argument. Why join TOC-blank if you live in the hinterlands of Abkhazia when other-TOC-blank has four Bishops and two dozen Churches there, known as the “HATOC”? In the immediate short-term, this led to confusion with what NFTU’s goal is, but it generally produced two results, one substantially over the other, at least among True Orthodox with online presences.

    The first and larger response is stake-raising. It became apparent that as TOC writers and thinkers had to include other TOC’s in their thinking, that we stopped talking about individual jurisdictions as the Church and we began discussing the Church globally. One the one hand, this alone is an incredibly positive development, and one that, if it continues over the next decades (if we even have that long) will eventually lead to the consolidation of True Othodox Churches into a largely unified and organized communion. Certainly we can’t take credit for that sort of discussion. It was going on without us. But the fact that NFTU reported on it was a sea change: on the ground people began to realize that their Bishops did in fact personally relate with other Bishops on a level laypeople could not bring themselves to do because they thought it was impossible (or at the least highly inappropriate).

    The downside of this has been the competitive nature of the inter-Orthodox communications. Whereas before, one man’s single jurisdiction was “the Church”, now this one and that one and that one together are the Church and to the others, anathema sit.  “Except maybe for Father So-and-so, because he gave me a confession once.” Certain jurisdictions (such as the ROCOR under Abp Vladimir) have backed away from such intercommunication with other jurisdictions (which I consider a sort of “ostrich” response) and others have stretched their resources to the point of the ridiculous, such as Metr Kirykos’ Synod (a Pope of each land!–it is enough) and others have taken a team mentality (my Bishop may not recognize you, but darn it, I like you!) and yet others have maintained agreement through formal communion, while stabbing each other in the back (practically every communion agreement that exists right now, including my own Synod’s).

    We’ve managed to decrease the size of the “other” when it comes to competing jurisdictions in True Orthodoxy, but we’ve drawn bigger lines in the sand and upped the ante in terms of hostility towards those we don’t include in our personal circle. Whereas before we were more inclined to say “I don’t know if you’re in the Church, but prudence favors a lack of recognition” we’re more apt to give a “nope, you’re not in the Church” answer. The unneeded triumphalism in our decision to stay with the True Church, dormant and something to be rooted out with humility, has become a badge of honor we wear proudly.

    We’ve taken ten steps forward in recognizing other True Orthodox and twenty steps back in our behavior those we are not sure we recognize, or now openly say that we don’t. Perhaps it’s more honest, but it’s unexpected and much more disheartening. “Leveling the playing field” does not bring an end to inter-Orthodox conflict. All it does is raise the stakes and make the conflict larger. For someone who has done his best to be an outside observer, the jury is still out as to whether or not this is a good thing.

    My experience as the “non-partisan” guy has been far from a positive one. At best, I’ve been generally seen as some sort of demented public servant whose job is to “fix this” or “report that”. At worst, I’ve been seen as a secret agitator for my Synod, who’s secretly working for the Moscow Patriarchate anyway. In between those I– and NFTU with me– have been seen as everything from a marginally useful, if logically misunderstood, personage or grouping to a secret “True Orthodox Ecumenist” (or grouping) who wants to join together all religions– which doesn’t make sense to begin with.

    Then there was our intercommunion. Hailed as a milestone for True Orthodox Unity (which it is, I won’t take that away from it) never have I seen such a level of jurisdictional politicking,

    If I collected all the opinions from 2006 to today in one email, I’d probably find them funny. Doled out over seven years, wondering what I could to do improve the user experience, I concluded they take a toll on one’s spirit. A few months ago, I simply began thinking “why bother” to everything. And it began to spread to posting. Then my prayer life. My personality had become subsumed into what I did. I’d become depressed.

    For that reason, from May till a week or two ago, I stopped writing on NFTU altogether. As they say in the common parlance, “the haters had won”. I shifted to another one of my non-ecclesial interests at the time– soccer– and made it my whole focus. There was no better time. The New York Cosmos were coming back. The summer came. Two weeks ago, for the first time in almost four years, my family went to the beach. I answered this or that Church-related email, but basically I considered myself having quit anything not related to my Synod personally. And even that wound down.

    A funny thing happened then. Taking a look at NFTU a few weeks into the end of June, I realized Hieromonk Enoch had been posting news stories. It didn’t have to be him per se– it well could have been my wife, or Jonathan Gress (it was probably going to be Fr Enoch, though, he’s been very supporting of NFTU and does a lot of the work on it now)– but I realized maybe this thing could work without me. Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to give up altogether on it. Maybe it’s not time to burn out.

    So here we are. Almost 10 years with NFTU, and it’s served as a source of joy and frustration (as well as occasional donations for which I am grateful). I will post as I always have, but I probably will have a greater focus on True Orthodox who are making news, not just everything and everyone. I don’t have the strength or the patience.

    And don’t mind me if I take a break every so often.

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