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Do I Know My Bishop?

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Written by Basil on 04/2/2005 12:42 AM. Filed under:

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Earlier today, an Orthodox brother was trying to help me put the Roman Pontiff’s failing health into perspective. “What if,” he said, “it was our bishop? How would you feel?” I’ve met his emminence Dmitri, as well as other bishops: his emminence Job and his grace Nikon. However, I have never spent quality time with my bishop, as many of my brothers and sisters in my parish have. I remember him as a kind, gentle sort of man, but I find myself at odds with some of his policies in our diocese, particularly in the liturgical sphere. Perhaps my ability to relate to him as a bishop would be improved if I had been able to spend some time with him last May.

Sometimes I wonder what obedience to my bishop should look like. I tend to have rather strong opinions (as previous posts attest), and I think sometimes I appear disrespectful of authority or even rebellious. Some of the same prinicples of authority and obedience apply in the Church as in the military. I’m learning that I understand submission to authority much better than I thought I did. Yet, the Church is not a military organization. Obedience and submission proceed from love, not power or fear. I think this is part of what I’m missing.

Perhaps if I had been able to spend time with him, as the rest of my parish did, I could more easily submit to my bishop out of love. Instead, I find that I associate my bishop with my return to a home parish where everything is changing liturgically. Before I left, we used mostly standard OCA texts and music. This made the parish I worship with in Connecticut very familiar — much of the texts were the same. I loved being able to step into another parish and feel at home. Now I don’t feel at home when I return home! Since my connection with my home parish is deeply important to me, this disconnect really angers me.

Thus, it’s hard for me to relate to his emminence Dmitri as a loving father; I tend to relate to him as the guy who came in and changed everything back home. Very perplexing emotions for an Orthodox convert, to say the least.

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13 Responses to “Do I Know My Bishop?”

  1. pete Says:

    Help me out on this basically non-relevant issue: Why do you capitalize the name of DMITRI et al? And is “his emminence” an honorific or an assigned title? Genuinely curious about how this all works.

  2. Matt Says:

    It is surprising to me to hear that an Archbishop of the Orthodox faith is “changing” the liturgy. You said musically, but that seems unimportant (there has always been variation in the music.) What else is he changing? Has he explained why he is changing things?

  3. Matt Says:

    Basil, I can tell you are pretty disturbed by the changes. Have you talked to His Emminence? He is very approachable. I met him in San Francisco. I’m sure you have his phone #, so give him a call.

  4. Basil Says:

    Matt, “changed” is in relation to me, mind you. He would probably describe it in other terms. You must also understand that my parish is a mission, three years old in terms of our diocese. We are still being “raised up in the way,” so some changes are to be expected.

    Mostly I was disturbed that I couldn’t sing with the different translation/different setting. His emminence has recently republished his translation of the liturgy, which is different from the standard OCA texts. So, we’re singing the antiphons. I recognize the music, and I recognize the texts. But their different enough that I just had to step back and not sing. It was like I was visiting someone else’s home parish.

  5. Basil Says:

    Pete, I don’t know the why on capitalization. I just see that it’s done, so I do it. Is tradition.

    About honorific titles:

    1. bishop: his/your grace
    2. archbishop: his/your emminence
    3. metropolitan: his/your beatitude
    4. patriarch: his/your holiness
    5. ecumenical patriarch: his/your all-holiness
  6. pete Says:

    Huh. Thanks for the explanation. It’s in moments like these that I’m glad to be a Lutheran–it would take me forever to talk about the church hierarchy, let alone more important issues.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Maybe the changes are internal, & gradual…on your part as well as your “home” parish’s. Perhaps the “disconnect” you are experiencing is an inner one, not “bad” necessarily, but a difference from what was…maybe your “home” is not your true home. Maybe it’s as simple & natural as that. Loneliness an expression of this movement into deeper waters, less company there…

  8. Paige Says:

    Basil, who publishes the standard OCA texts? Is translation more unified outside of the Diocese of the South?

    Did His Eminence make the parish switch to his translation? What were they using before? I ask because my home parish (same diocese) is still using ROCOR/ROCA translations, has been for years, and His Eminence doesn’t seem to mind.

  9. Basil Says:

    Paige, the official Divine Liturgy is, I believe, published by St Tikhon’s Seminary Press. The festal books are published by Orthodox Christian Publications Center. These are the only body of “standard” texts, besides what is published by the liturgical committee on the website (which is currently only troparia and kondakia). The music books for the various services published by St Tikhon’s Seminary Press and St Vladimir’s Seminary Press also are usually considered “standard,” since most choir directors use them as the basis for their repertory.

    Beyond this, there really is no standard. The official Divine Liturgy, ie, the 1969 Liturgy, is mostly what I was referring to, since that serves as the basis for the common settings found in the books by STS Press and SVS Press. That is the default prayerbook.

    But, sadly, no; translation is not more unified outside the Diocese of the South. If I were to look around to see who made other translations available (eg, with a Google search), 9 times out of 10 they would be OCA priests. We appear to be the least organized jurisdiction on this continent, primarily because the synod hastily approved the 1969 Prayerbook, and then has never approved anything since. The common speculation is that this is because some bishops, like h.e. Dmitri, want a more thoroughly Elizabethan style, while others are comfortable with the half-n-half approach of the 1969 text, while still others want to dismiss all archaism. H.e. Dmitri has been pretty vocal about his views, and has published his own translation — the translation St. A. is moving toward. Other bishops on the synod I would not want to hazard guesses about.

  10. Gideon Says:

    For what it’s worth…

    We have stopped using the translation of the antiphons that you reference above and have gone back to the “old” ones. In fact Fr. David and I discussed the exact issue that you bring up in this post and decided to go back to the old antiphons. I am still looking for a way to effectively incorporate more of the Psalm verses in the antiphons and maintain their “singability”.

    The changes that we are making are not being mandated by His Emminence DMITRI. They are being incorporated after Father David has contacted several other priests and researched what the “common” rubrics are in specific services. For instance we are not fully going toward the Archbishop’s translation, but we are using it as a guide as we continue to learn and grow. For instance, we refer to the Theotokos and our priest as “Thee” in the services. This was not mandated by His Emminence. Rather we discovered that this is his preference and is common practice in our diocese, so we made the change. As a matter of fact, the only “correction” that we received during his visit was that he would like us to be more consistent with the translation that we were/are using. He did not specify that he wished for us to use his translation.

    I am very sorry that you felt disconnected at your last visit. I know that it is difficult to have been as involved in a parish as you were and then to be gone for months at a time. An up side to this is that you have had the opportunity to visit other parishes and begin to put together an idea of what is “common”. This is something that I have not had the opportunity to do, although I hope to change that beginning with All-American this summer. Be patient with us as we grow, and with yourself while you try to decipher how we have changed and how that affects you. I am always glad to hear your thoughts on things.

    Peace to you brother,

  11. Gideon Says:

    Oh, as far as a “common” translation for the OCA. The closest thing is in the Diocese of the West. The have adopted Archbishop DMITRI’s translation diocese wide.

  12. Basil Says:

    Gideon, it’s good to hear that you put that setting aside. I am still working on getting a copy of the fuller version of the antiphons to you.

    My experience obviously does not include the Diocese of the West, but I know that Abp. Tikhon is quite a bit more specific about what he wants liturgically. My only other experience of the Liturgy in the OCA is St Nicholas parish and St Tikhon Monastery. To be honest, somehow I rather doubt that there is any confusion over which prayerbook to use when the Synod celebrates the Liturgy.

  13. matt Says:

    “…Abp. Tikhon is quite a bit more specific about what he wants liturgically.”

    Hah! Understatment of the month!!!!