So Great a Cloud: A Celtic Litany
(Hebrews 11:4-12:1)
Ye sons and ye daughters! Come gather around!
Find drink for your thirst at the wells of thin places;
Turn homeward your hearts to God’s verdant oasis,
Where grace glints like dewdrops on this sacred ground.
And tho’ time should fail us, and evening draw nigh,
Our fathers and mothers in faith let us ponder;
Tho’ humble and meek, theirs to labour and wander,
In glory they shine now with angels on high.
These Isles were not worthy by such to be bless’d,
Yet while we lay lifeless, the heavens were gracious;
From isles of deep darkness a Paradise spacious
They wrought on these shores by their heavenward quest.

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The late Margaret O’Gara of the University of Toronto was fond of using a phrase that the late Bishop of Rome, John Paul II, also employed regularly: an “ecumenical gift exchange.” O’Gara published a book in 1998 under that title, while three years earlier the Pope used it in his landmark encyclical, Ut Unum Sint, on Christian unity. I also use the phrase in my new book, Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power (Angelico Press, 2019, 154pp).


Readers of the book will quickly see that many of my proposed reforms are gifts from the East, starting with Nicholas Afanasiev, especially his book The Church of the Holy Spirit. It was from him that I developed my argument for a three-fold ordering of the Catholic Church: the laics (to use Afanasiev’s somewhat ungainly term), the clerics, and the hierarchs, all existing together, each with voice and vote in the councils of governance of the church—from the lowly parish council through to diocesan, regional, and international synods. All three orders are necessary for the Church to flourish; each of the three acts as a check on the others, ensuring that none can run totally roughshod over the others.

I am equally indebted to examples drawn from the current structures of various Eastern Orthodox Churches—the Russian, the Antiochian, the OCA, and also—and above all—the Armenian Apostolic Church, whose singular and admirable structures I first highlighted in my earlier book Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011). Read More


In recent weeks a number of conflicting news items related to Ukraine have appeared in various sources which combine to demonstrate the scope of “Byzantine symphonia” in its 21st-century Russian reincarnation.

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Patriarch Kirill and Vladimir Putin

As I noted previously on these pages, the expression denotes a religio-political ideology from Orthodox Byzantium according to which church and state were said to speak with a single voice. This produced mixed outcomes in the Byzantine Empire, and later in Tsarist Russia, resulting in some of the most shameful pages in the history of the Orthodox Church. In Russia’s case we have only to recall the brutal persecution of its Old Believers from the middle of the 17th century over how to make the sign of the cross and which prayer books to use.

This made it all the more ominous when, at the state-sponsored banquet in honour of his enthronement as Patriarch of Moscow in February 2009, former KGB agent Kirill Gundyaev expatiated on the restoration of Byzantine symphonia as his vision for the Russian Orthodox Church’s relations with the Kremlin in the Putin era. The ensuing ten years have shown how this plays out in the lives of real human beings in Russia and its ever-widening sphere of influence. Implicitly or explicitly, the Russian Church has supported the draconian response to Pussy Riot’s 2012 protest in Christ the Saviour Cathedral; repressive LGBT laws and the wilful blindness of law enforcement and the judiciary to incidents of homophobic violence on Russia’s streets; the weakening of legal redress for children and women subjected to domestic violence; the Kremlin’s geopolitical aggressions near and far, including the unlawful annexation of Crimea, election meddling in the US and elsewhere, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the acceleration of hostilities in the wake of the Ukrainian Church’s autocephaly. The list goes on and on.   Read More


Chilling Study Sums up Link between Religion and Suicide for Queer Youth

“Religious groups who stigmatize LGBT people should be aware of the potential damage they can do.”

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Faith is supposed to be a source of strength for believers, especially during times of struggle and sorrow. However, a new study suggests that religiosity may be linked to negative feelings among queer individuals ― including increases in suicidal behaviors.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last month, is a chilling revelation of the ties between suicide and theology that doesn’t affirm queer identity. Read More

LENTEN MEDITATION: FORGIVENESS by Protodeacon Theodore Feldman

This is the second article in our Lenten Meditations 2019 series.


Brothers and sisters,

God has forgiven us.

Before the foundation of the world, God knew we would turn our backs on Him, grasp the fruit of knowledge and power, and crucify His Son. And yet God created us. Our very creation is forgiveness. Since the beginning, God has continued to forgive us. At the moment when we stood accursed before him, frightened, ashamed, and about to be driven from Paradise, God sewed skins to clothe us in our need, as a mother comforts her children—having already promised us salvation.

Over all of history He has accepted our sacrifices: “the gifts of Abel, the sacrifices of Noah, the whole burnt offerings of Abraham, the priestly offerings of Moses and Aaron, and the peace-offerings of Samuel”—so we recall at Divine Liturgy during Lent. And finally, He accepts even today our Eucharistic service for the forgiveness of our sins. Read More