Monday, September 30, 2013

Great Oaks Grow Slowly

Abbess Victoria is on the right

Below is the cover article by Mother Victoria from the latest St. Barbara Monastery news letter.  In the article Mother Victoria reminds us of just how new Orthodox Christianity is to English-speaking North America.

This is needed perspective and a needed reminder.  At least it is needed by me.  I am impatient.  I want the infant English-speaking Orthodox Church in Canada to look and act like the thousand year old Orthodox Church in Russia, or the nearly two thousand year old Orthodox Church in Greece and the Middle East.  Great oaks grow slowly.

Dear Friends of St. Barbara Monastery,
One of our Friends happened to react with astonishment overhearing someone at the monastery remark that the Presanctified Liturgy was restored to general use in America in the early 1960’s, that is, about fifty years ago. This is, indeed, a fact, and one that is testimony to a theme we reflect on often: Despite all the deficiencies of the Orthodox Church in this country that we might lament (some of them, yes, quite legitimate and quite serious), things really are better than they were—and getting even better.
Fifty years ago, it was possible to have read just about every book that had been published in English on the Orthodox Church. Today, one can’t keep up with the wealth of Orthodox literature of every kind coming off the presses, even if one were to do nothing else but read. As few as twenty years ago, no complete collection of the lives of saints (Menaion) had been published and neither had a complete liturgical Menaion. St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, when he was the presiding bishop in North America at the turn of the 20th century, attempted to address this problem and patronized the translation of certain service books—notably Isabel Hapgood’s famous volume of Divine Services that everyone relied upon for years and years for texts of the Divine Liturgy, Sacraments, and other services such as the funeral. People might lament the heavy use of foreign languages in their churches, but for complete church services the texts simply had not yet been translated! Now the tables have somewhat turned, and we have the happy task of translating services originally composed in English for saints like Herman of Alaska and Raphael of Brooklyn, that is, our American saints, into foreign languages for the use of our Orthodox brothers and sisters who live in other countries.
Last, but not least, we cannot fail to mention how fifty years ago there were almost no monasteries in the United States. Throughout the centuries, monasteries have been integral to Orthodox Church life; but in this country in 1960 there were only two monasteries for men and only two or three for women (our own Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga being one of these). Now, glory to God, monasteries can almost be said to dot the landscape from coast to coast. In California alone, we have something like six or seven (depending on how one counts them).
All that we have mentioned constitutes only the foundation, or one might say the foundation and the tools, for the growth of Orthodox Church life in this country. The years ahead are ripe with possibility, and we look forward to seeing what the Lord will bless.
Abbess Victoria and the community of St. Barbara Monastery 

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