Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Corfu

I went to high school in a little blip on the map named Corfu, NY. People kept wanting to call it corfoo, but we pronounced it corfyu. It's from an Italian form, which I would now guess is supposed to be pronounced more like outsiders' initial expectation. I didn't know then that it was named after a Greek island, and still don't know now why it was named after that Greek island. (The only remark I could find about it on their Web site was that some postmaster suggested it.) It's interesting to me, nonetheless.

The original Corfu (Gk. Κέρκυρας) is off the coast, just north of modern Greece, next to Albania. The Gospel reached the island in the time of the Apostles, and it has remained predominantly Greek Orthodox down to this day. For much of its history, Corfu fell on the border of the Eastern Roman Empire and bounced back and forth between Eastern and Western control. It was saved from the Ottoman conquest by appealing to Venice for protection. There was an influx of Latins, which has left a permanent mark on the cultural landscape, but the Greeks were allowed to practice their own Christian traditions in relative freedom.

Over the centuries, several Ottoman sieges were repelled, owing at least in part to Venetian assistance; the locals, however, see another, more important cause. When Byzantium fell to the Turks, a priest who had charge of the uncorrupted relics of St. Spyridon fled to Corfu, bringing the relics with him. Ever since, St. Spyridon has been the patron and protector of Corfu; deliverance from plague and invasion has been considered a miraculous result of his intercession.

In modern times, the island fell with Venice under Western colonial rule, until it was finally given to Greece. There remains a Catholic presence on the island, but it is fairly small and generally gets along well with the Greeks. When Greece adopted the Gregorian civil calendar in the 20th c., it caused a split in Easter celebrations, but the Catholic bishop appealed to the Vatican, and they now observe the holiday with the Greeks for the sake of consistency. (Western Easter is also celebrated for the sake of visitors.)

It's interesting now to think that this little village where I went to school was named after a place of such historical significance for Greek Orthodoxy (despite having hardly any Greeks in the community). In a county that currently lacks a single Orthodox church, perhaps St. Spyridon would be a good intercessor for that to change?

Monday, April 28, 2008

PBS, eat your heart out

If you ever need to raise money to build or repair a monastery, ask the Serbs how to do it. I've seen at least two different videos from this project referenced on different Orthodox blogs. Apparently a bunch of professional musicians and performers contributed to this fund-raising effort, to restore a medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery. I don't know more than about two words in Serbian, but if I weren't already interested in Orthodoxy, I'd like to think watching these music videos would have got me interested.

I definitely recommend the one I saw referenced most recently, which features prominently the Slavonic Easter greeting: Christos Voskrese! (Christ is risen!) But as far as I'm concerned, they're all (all that I could find online anyway) worth watching.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

alive!

Well, we survived this morning's service. My Godmother Laura was a big help, watching Ian most of the time. When we got there, I figured he'd probably have a better vantage point on the baptisms from where she was standing with her kids, David and Ana. He stayed with them for the rest of the service, other than one time when he came looking for me.

Both kids decided to start the day by getting up early. Jenna was making noise before 5:00. She, Julie, and I all got up around 5:30. Ian was awake a little after 6:00. I made him stay in bed until 7:00, but he never went back to sleep. The good news is that Jenna got a good nap before we left the house around 9:30. The bad news is that she was due to eat again around the time we'd be arriving. I checked her diaper before we left but forgot to check it when we arrived. I realized after we were in the service that it was poopy, but there wasn't much to be done. Baptisms and chrismations start at the back, by the entrance, so there was no convenient way to get out. She didn't seem to mind, so we waited it out until after the chrismations--about half an hour. I took her downstairs, changed her, came back up, and hung out a bit longer until she got really irritable about not eating. By that point, I'd lost my seat anyway, and it was getting crowded in that section. So I grabbed everything and went back downstairs to give her a bottle.

She ate quite well. We weren't sure how she'd do. She hasn't typically nursed much for Julie during services. It had been about five hours since her last feeding (quite a bit longer than she normally goes), so she may just have been extremely hungry. Or maybe it's easier for her to take a bottle with distractions. In any case, she ate all six ounces that I made. Ian came down to see what I was up to, but I sent him back to stay with Laura. He stayed with her the rest of the service. After I came back up, we also went over by Laura, so I could help keep an eye on Ian. Also, I figured she was probably more interested in holding Jenna than watching one more active little boy.

Jenna did OK for a while, but she started to get sleepy around the middle of the service, so I took her to the back of the room, hoping she would sleep in her car seat. No such luck. I think she might be coming to the end of doing that sort of thing. Earlier this week, at our small group study, she kept puling the blanket down when she was supposed to be sleeping. She'd end up crying, all hot and sweaty. She was doing the same thing today. With the warmer weather and her more active, I don't think it's going to be as easy. She wouldn't go to sleep in my arms, either, so I took her out into the narthex to get away from some of the noise. She calmed down but still wasn't interested in sleeping. I let her scoot around a bit on the floor, then took her back into the service and let her roll in the back. She had fun playing with the bay leaves Fr. Gregory had scattered around. Eventually, she got irritable again; the service was almost over anyway, so I took her downstairs and fed her solids. We were wrapping up by the time others came down.

She melted down pretty quickly after that. When I was cleaning up, someone asked to hold her. I warned them that she was close to her limit, and sure enough, she melted down pretty soon after that. At least I was able to get everything together, scarf down some food, and round up the kids. She's sleeping now, hopefully for another good nap. Ian did OK, aside from constantly bugging Ana. He got upset at the very end, when he wanted to go over to David's house, and we had to explain that today everyone's too busy.

The service was quite good. It might not have actually been the longest liturgy of the year. Maybe it was anyway, but I did notice we skipped some of the (something like 15) Old Testament readings, including the entire book of Jonah. There were two baptisms and one chrismation--a couple (he was already baptized, she apparently wasn't) and a new baby from another family. I'd never seen a baby baptized there before. He seems to have a good technique. He gets the baby balanced just right and then skims it through the water three times, going in all the way, but coming out very quickly each time. He cried for a few seconds afterward, but settled down pretty quickly.

I had to eat so quickly, I didn't get anything to drink. Traditionally, Holy Saturday doesn't have an actual meal. In earlier times, this service would have started later in the day and been followed by a reading of the book of Acts until the Pascha Vigil. There would be a short break to distribute nuts, dried fruit, and wine for some energy to sustain everyone through to the end. We do this service earlier in the day and skip the reading of Acts, but we still eat the traditional snack. I didn't have time to drink anything there, but I finished it out with a beer when I got home. I wasn't planning on taking a nap, but now I feel like maybe I should. If I'm feeling this sleepy already, what will it be like at 4:00 a.m.?

I probably won't blog again today. A blessed Pascha to all.

Friday, April 25, 2008

let us be attentive!

We tend to schedule out the Orthodox services I will attend pretty far in advance. Usually, at the beginning of each month, I send Julie a list of what's coming, my preferences, etc., and we try to line things up with both our schedules. Of course, this month has a lot more services to manage than most, since it includes Holy Week. I don't try to attend everything (though it would be nice), but I try to catch the highlights, especially incorporating services I've never attended before or haven't attended recently. This year, I finally get to attend the Lamentations service in the evening. It was my first service at Holy Cross, three years ago. Joel, the only Orthodox person I knew at the time, invited me to come along with him. It's a beautiful and moving service, but I haven't been able to line things up to attend since.

I would also have liked to attend vespers this afternoon, when the icon of Christ is taken down from the cross. But Jenna has a doctor's appointment that conflicts, so instead I dragged Ian to the Royal Hours this morning. His behavior wasn't perfect, but I had to give him kudos anyway. If you don't know, the Royal Hours consist of four services combined--first, third, six, and ninth hours, which were designed to stand alone throughout the day, especially in monasteries. These days, even monasteries tend to skip or contract them. In Russian churches, I believe the vigil service ends with the first hour and liturgy is preceded by the third hour. But in a lot of parish settings, they only make an occasional appearance, before the greatest of the feast days, when they're combined like this into one long service. There's nothing particularly dramatic or exciting about them, either. They're intended to be quiet breaks of contemplation throughout the day, and stringing them all together doesn't change the mood much. For a kid who struggles to stay in his seat from start to finish of family dinner time, one such hour would be hard enough--two is pretty taxing.

I'm still learning how to interest my son in spiritual things, and I know his experience of worship is still mostly "waiting it out." But today I think I learned an important lesson. As usual, he asked me periodically through the service, "Are we almost done?" I realized part-way through that, if I'd taken more initiative, and if he had a little bit better capacity to follow my explanations, I might have explained to him in advance that the service consisted of four cycles, and he could get a good sense of how much longer we had by counting those cycles and paying attention to what happened when. It would have gone over his head, but as a secondary application, I decided that when he asked during the ninth hour part, "Are we almost done?" I would give him an answer that would hopefully get him to pay some kind of attention. So I said, "After the priest reads from his big Bible again, we'll be almost done."

Of course, I suspected that that "almost" would be an Orthodox "almost." It's a common joke that "let us complete our prayer unto the Lord" means the service is maybe 15-20 min. from winding down. I didn't have a service book to look at, but I figured the ninth hour couldn't be too much longer than the others. It did, in fact, have extra stuff at the end, which forced him to ask me a couple more times if we were (really) almost done. But he was definitely more attentive to the Gospel reading in that last cycle than in any of the others, or for that matter, in most other services he attends. Granted, he was paying attention because he wanted to know when he could get out of there; but for now I'll take what I can get.

Incidentally, at the last minute, I had decided to attend the service at St. Matthew's instead of Holy Cross. Julie was kind of floored yesterday by how much it cost to fill up the car, and I think we were both looking for ways to minimize driving. I consider it a form of offering to drive back and forth to Linthicum so many times this week, but it still seemed like attending at least one service close by would help break things up a bit. Plus, I had to take time off of work to attend, and the less I consumed with travel time, the less leave I'd have to use. In any case, I'm glad I did. Attending a service like that in the middle of the day, I'd just be running in and running back out anyway. More to the point, it was perhaps the most moving, impressive experience I've had at St. Matthew's.

I don't know what it was--maybe my own spiritual condition, maybe the different feel of having such a small group present. (Hours services tend to be sparsely attended.) Maybe the experience of attending an "off" service at St. Matthew's. (In my experience, they have mostly done Sunday morning liturgy only; Lent and Holy Week constitute a general exception, but other than Sunday of Orthodoxy, I think this was my first time attending anything out of the normal routine.) Whatever it was, I was glad to be there. I have to admit that I did not stay focused on what was going on in the service 100% of the time, but what I mostly remember being distracted by was contemplating how helpful the experience was for my attitude. I can sometimes get a little uppity about parishes like St. Matthew's, where the clergy wear suits and collars, the chairs obstruct proper bowing, the liturgical schedule is thin, etc. It was a good dose of humility to realize there's more there than I give them credit for.

I've got about an hour and a half before I have to leave for the Lamentations service. Next up after that, Vesperal Liturgy at Holy Cross tomorrow morning. (The services of Holy Week tend to run ahead of schedule. You get Matins in the evening and Vespers in the morning. It's like we just can't wait to get to Pascha.) This is the big day for baptisms and chrismations. Lent was historically a preparation for catechumens anticipating baptism right before Pascha. So between that, the blessing of bread and wine at the end, the fact that it's vespers and liturgy combined, and St. Basil's liturgy no less--I read today that it's the longest Divine Liturgy of the year. (Speaking here just of the liturgy itself. The Pascha Vigil will be longer, but that's because you've got three or four services together.) And what am I doing? I'm bringing both kids by myself! Should be exciting. I haven't done that since shortly after Jenna was born, when Julie was laid up at home from her gall bladder surgery. This was the only way I could make it--Julie's going to a nearly new sale, and I would normally be staying home with the kids. Fortunately, she can ride with a friend, so at least I have transportation. Now let's see if I can "take no thought for any earthly thing when the time comes . . . "

Thursday, April 24, 2008

evangelical Bible-thumpers

Last night was my first time witnessing the sacrament of holy unction. (In the Orthodox Church, what RCs often know as "extreme unction" is actually available many times throughout life, for both physical and spiritual healing.) It is commonly administered to anyone who wants to receive it, the Wednesday before Easter.

I don't know how it's done in more isolated applications, but in this service, it begins with the chanting of a canon, followed by 14 Scripture readings--seven from the Epistles and seven from the Gospels, alternating along with seven prayers. I suppose it probably seems long and repetitive to anyone who's not used to "liturgical" services. (Our service was a concise two-hours-and-ten-minutes.) At the conclusion, the faithful kneel under the upraised Gospel book, which is held open, pages facing down over their heads, while the priest prays. Then, one by one, they are anointed with oil, again coming under the Gospel book.

I guess some people think that Orthodox don't give enough attention to the Bible. They put too much emphasis on Tradition, they don't do enough personal reading, etc. But it's a tough accusation to substantiate. Their treatment of the Bible is certainly different from Protestant expectations. But to call it a de-emphasis of Scripture misses the point. Last night was, in a sense, a warm-up for tonight's reading of the Passion Gospels, in which the accounts of Christ's sufferings and death will be read from all four Gospels, with the faithful kneeling for each extended reading. There's a lot of Scripture reading in Orthodox public worship, and a lot of context for that reading. No one had to explain last night that unction is for both physical and spiritual healing--it's obvious from the selection of readings. And in general, if you pay attention to what passages are used and how and when, you start to see a lot of connections between the biblical text and the substance of faith and practice. Often, too, there will be accompanying icons and actions; there is extensive quoting from and allusion to Scripture in Orthodox hymns; often the point of the sermon is to tie it all together and make explicit what is otherwise implicit.

Orthodox bow when the Gospels are carried into the nave, when they are opened to read, when they are closed at the end. The book sits enthroned on the altar whenever it is not in use. It is venerated during the Orthros service. It is used in situations like holy unction to convey the presence of Christ in the midst of his people. The Gospel is laid on the head of the person in need of healing, and the priest lays his hands on the Gospel. It is Christ, first and foremost, who heals; the priest is just there to do the leg-work. Similarly, the Gospel is laid across the neck of a bishop at his consecration. No one's ever explained to me why that is, but I can guess that at least some of it is to show the burden he is taking up as one with primary responsibility to convey the Word of God to his people. It also shows that Christ's yoke is on him, and Christ is the one laying hands on him, blessing him for the work of leadership.

There is no question in Orthodoxy of the divinity of Scripture, of its power for salvation, of its inspiration by God, its truth, its status as God's Word. Scripture is woven throughout all of the Church's worship and is regularly referred to as the standard for the lives of the faithful. It is integral to the authority of the priests and bishops and essential for the Church's gathering as the Church. If that's not evangelical (centered on the Gospel), what is?

As a side note, Orthodox seminarians are currently attempting to hand out 400,000 booklets of the Gospel of Mark in Moscow subway stations during Holy Week.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

for those who missed it

Esteban comments on my post "into the splendor of Thy Saints . . . ":
Glory to God! These are wonderful news. Imagine: to receive the perfecting Grace of Baptism through the seal of the Holy Spirit on the very day on which He, like a mighty rushing wind, was poured on all flesh! Please let us know in time which name you will be given so that we all may pray for you by name at the Services after Pentecost.
I agree--it's a great day for it. Pascha would be the ultimate, but since he just made the decision, I'm guessing he didn't want to rush things. An interesting note here. A couple of years back, when I moved into a newly renovated space at work, I had these shelves that weren't good for much of anything "practical." I deduced that they were for such things as pictures and knick-knacks, so I ordered a few icons to put there. I needed four to get a shipping break; I knew I wanted a Pantokrator, a Theotokos, and St. Michael. (At the time, I was exploring just sticking with my middle name for a patron saint; plus, St. Michael is just a cool icon to have in any case.) For the fourth, I went with one that was on sale, figuring I'd eventually collect the Great Feasts anyway. As you might have guessed by now, it was the icon of Pentecost. Some of the others have found homes elsewhere, but that one still watches over my office. I was never quite sure why. ("It was on sale" didn't seem like a reason.) Now I guess I know.

As for your request, some time ago I found St. Peter the Aleut, or perhaps he found me. In any case, there seems to be a consensus among my priest, my Godfather, and this poor sinner. Follow the link (and subsequent links), if you feel like reading my thoughts on this subject over the years.

into the splendor of Thy Saints . . .

. . . how shall I who am unworthy enter? For if I dare to enter the bridechamber, my vesture betrays me, for it is not a wedding garment, and as a prisoner I shall be cast out by the Angels. Cleanse my soul from pollution and save me, O Lord, in Thy love for men.

After three years of waiting here on the doorstep, I've finally been invited to come inside! Now the only question is, can I get beyond trembling at the threshold? Fr. Gregory has proposed Pentecost for my chrismation. I'd grown so used to being told "not yet," that his "yes" really caught me off guard. There was joy in my initial reaction, but the dominant response was probably terror. In a way, it's good that he told me now. I think I can finish Lent and Holy Week with the proper perspective. Contemplating my own death doesn't inspire enough fear to make me truly repentant, but apparently the thought of approaching the mysteries does the trick.

More details as they become available. For now, here's St. Symeon the New Theologian's pre-communion prayer, which expresses what I'm feeling a lot better than I can:
From sullied lips,
From an abominable heart,
From an unclean tongue,
Out of a polluted soul,
Receive my prayer, O my Christ.
Reject me not,
Nor my words, nor my ways,
Nor even my shamelessness,
But give me courage to say
What I desire, my Christ.
And even more, teach me
What to do and say.
I have sinned more than the harlot
Who, on learning where Thou wast lodging,
Bought myrrh,
And dared to come and anoint
Thy feet, my Christ,
My Lord and my God.
As Thou didst not repulse her
When she drew near from her heart,
Neither, O Word, abominate me,
But grant me Thy feet
To clasp and kiss,
And with a flood of tears
As with most precious myrrh
Dare to anoint them.
Wash me with my tears
And purify me with them, O Word.
Forgive my sins
And grant me pardon.
Thou knowest the multitude of my evil-doings,
Thou knowest also my wounds,
And Thou seest my bruises.
But also Thou knowest my faith,
And Thou beholdest my willingness,
And Thou hearest my sighs.
Nothing escapes Thee, my God,
My Maker, my Redeemer,
Not even a tear-drop,
Nor part of a drop.
Thine eyes know
What I have not achieved,
And in Thy book
Things not yet done
Are written by Thee.
See my depression,
See how great is my trouble,
And all my sins
Take from me, O God of all,
That with a clean heart,
Trembling mind
And contrite spirit
I may partake of Thy pure
And all-holy Mysteries
By which all who eat and drink Thee
With sincerity of heart
Are quickened and deified.
For Thou, my Lord, hast said:
"Whoever eats My Flesh
And drinks My Blood
Abides in Me
And I in Him."
Wholly true is the word
Of my Lord and God.
For whoever partakes of Thy divine
And deifying Gifts
Certainly is not alone,
But is with Thee, my Christ,
Light of the Triune Sun
Which illumines the world.
And that I may not remain alone
Without Thee, the Giver of Life,
My Breath, my Life,
My Joy,
The Salvation of the world,
Therefore I have drawn near to Thee
As Thou seest, with tears
And with a contrite spirit.
Ransom of my offences,
I beseech Thee to receive me,
And that I may partake without condemnation
Of Thy life-giving and perfect Mysteries,
That Thou mayest remain as Thou hast said
With me, thrice-wretched as I am,
Lest the tempter may find me
Without Thy grace
And craftily seize me,
And having deceived me, may seduce me,
From Thy deifying words.
Therefore I fall at Thy feet
And fervently cry to Thee:
As Thou receivedst the Prodigal
And the Harlot who drew near to Thee,
So have compassion and receive me,
The profligate and the prodigal,
As with contrite spirit
I now draw near to Thee.
I know, O Saviour, that no other
Has sinned against Thee as I,
Nor has done the deeds
That I have committed.
But this again I know
That not the greatness of my offences
Nor the multitude of my sins
Surpasses the great patience
Of my God,
And His extreme love for men.
But with the oil of compassion
Those who fervently repent
Thou dost purify and enlighten
And makest them children of the light,
Sharers of Thy Divine Nature.
And Thou dost act most generously,
For what is strange to Angels
And to the minds of men
Often Thou tellest to them
As to Thy true friends.
These things make me bold, my Christ,
These things give me wings,
And I take courage from the wealth
Of Thy goodness to us.
And rejoicing and trembling at once,
I who am straw partake of fire,
And, strange wonder!
I am ineffably bedewed,
Like the bush of old
Which burnt without being consumed.
Therefore with thankful mind,
And with thankful heart,
And with thankfulness in all the members
Of my soul and body,
I worship and magnify
And glorify Thee, my God,
For Thou art blessed,
Now and throughout the ages.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

we have movement!

Figured we'd try out the video component on our rather old, rather cheap digital camera. We have a camcorder, but it's also old, from back when it was the decidedly more affordable option to get analog. Jenna's taken right off with a lot of her motor skills in the past few days. She's clapping and waving, feeding herself snack puffs, and monumentally--she's ambulatory! (Does that have to mean walking, or is any form of propulsion sufficient?) You can't see it in this brief clip, but she can make a full circuit of the room (or at least the open area), just by rolling. She does get a little hung up sometimes when she reaches a corner, but that shouldn't take long to sort out. Anyway, enough yappin'--here she is!

video

Friday, April 11, 2008

does this mean they're OK for Lent?


"There's very little meat in these gym mats."

--Lunch Lady Doris
"The PTA Disbands"
The Simpsons

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

monasticism in the 21st century

This is more than seven years old, but still quite good I think. Mother Ephrosynia discusses the point of monasticism in our (post)modern age.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Where are the American saints?

A couple of things I've come across recently have got me thinking again about the American saints. There are about a dozen recognized saints associated significantly with the territory of North America. Of these, most were immigrants from Russia or Eastern Europe. Only two were born and died on the continent (both Alaskan); one (Varnava of Hvosno) was born in the contiguous U. S. (Gary, IN) but left as a child, never to return. About half a dozen others were born elsewhere but died here.

Although many of them were not ethnically Russian, all but two of the American saints belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church. For the sake of convenience, we could divide the American saints into three periods:
  • the foundation, from the start of the Russian mission in 1794 to the departure of St. Innocent in 1867
  • the zenith, from the arrival of St. Alexis in 1889 to the death of St. Raphael in 1915
  • the struggle, from St. Nikolai's first visit in 1915 to the death of St. John in 1966
Naturally, the first stage would be exclusively Russian, because it falls during the time when the Russian church was planting Orthodoxy on American soil. Russian dominance in the second stage also makes sense, though I guess there are some who argue that by this point Greek Orthodoxy already had an independent existence in America. In the third stage, there's not much to show in any case, but we have two Serbians--one going, one coming--and another Russian.

In the first two periods, there were almost always multiple saints at any given time. In the foundation period:
  • 1794-96 St. Herman and St. Juvenaly
  • 1802-16 St. Herman, St. Peter, and St. Jacob
  • 1816-23 St. Herman and St. Jacob
  • 1823-37 St. Herman, St. Jacob, and St. Innocent
  • 1837-64 St. Jacob and St. Innocent
In the zenith period, the concentration was even higher:
  • 1895-1898 St. Alexis, St. John, St. Alexander, and St. Raphael
  • 1898-1907 St. Alexis, St. John, St. Alexander, St. Raphael, and St. Tikhon
  • 1907-1909 St. Alexis, St. Alexander, and St. Raphael
  • 1909-1914 St. Alexander and St. Raphael
Of course, everything changed with the Russian Civil War (1917-22). Around this period, we have the three brief visits of St. Nikolai to America (1915, 1921, 1927) and the American childhood of St. Varnava (b. 1914). After WWII, St. Nikolai spent the last decade of his life in America, from 1945 to 1956. Finally, St. John of Shanghai arrived in San Francisco in 1962 and reposed in 1966. From a high point of five saints at the turn of the century, we've seen more than 90 years in which only two saints lived here as adults, one of them for four years, the other for 11. From the standpoint of the chaotic condition of Russian Orthodoxy during this period, the dearth makes a fair amount of sense; but does it in any way indicate an American Church that is ready to stand on its own?

Various groups argue that our fate has long been detached from that of the Russian Church. But where are the Greek saints? Where the Arab? Where the distinctively American? Should we really care which group is the largest, or the fastest growing, or the most at home in American culture? Should we ascribe weight to claims of universal jurisdiction? What would it mean to follow this strategy: the Church in America is founded on her saints; when those saints are distinctively American, she will be ready to run her own affairs. It is also interesting to consider that, in the age of ecumenism, the saints we see in America (and, I have heard, the saints in historically Orthodox lands) have been anti-ecumenist. Indeed, when we turn to the third period, it may well be that the forces of ecumenism have been at least partially responsible for the dismal numbers.

Now, I'm not saying that any of this is terribly conclusive. I set out mostly to get a clearer picture in my own mind of when the saints lived, where their lives coincided, and what any of this might show us about Orthodoxy in America. And I doubt that there's anything profound here. I'm sure plenty of people before me have seen these trends. They don't say much in themselves, without some kind of interpretation of what's going on. Is it the fragmenting of Orthodoxy in America that has caused the lack of saints (or perhaps vice versa)? Is it ecumenism? The New Calendar? The loss of Russian leadership? A general apostasy? I'm hardly the person to say what caused what. But it does seem to me like we should pause over these trends. In a century when the Old World has seen the ranks of its saints swell with new martyrs, American Orthodoxy has offered very little. I don't want to wholly discount whatever benefit we have experienced here from relative religious freedom; but when we leave things like saints and monastics out of the equation, are we perhaps adopting the wrong standards by which to measure maturity?