Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Rules of Silent Ninja

The most popular game played at conference (at least among the people I hung out with) was Silent Ninja. It’s a little hard to explain how to play it online, but I’ll try my best to lay out what it’s all about. Perhaps you can try it at your New Year’s or Christmas parties!

Silent Ninja is a live action turn-based strategy game. I’m explaining here the rules we followed at syezd.

To play the game, you will need:
  • A large open space, preferably with some kind of padding on the floor.
  • A decent number of participants (at least ten)
  • A referee
The players get into a circle and reach out their hands into the center. They yell, “One…Two…Three…NINJA!!!” and jump back, freezing into various poses. At this point, all players have to stay in position, moving nothing but their eyes. The referee then begins with one player to start.


One…Two…Three…NINJA!!!

The players take turns and try to get each other out. This is done by using your hands to hit other player’s hands. The wrist does not count. 

During your turn, you can only move in a single fluid motion to attack. The person you’re attacking can defend himself, but again using a single fluid motion. After you finish your turn, both you and your target have to freeze in position. This can leave you wide open to attack, so be careful!


Various positions you can take during play.

Your position is key. Oftentimes you can’t see your targets (or your attackers for that matter) and you have to use peripheral vision and ninja skills. If your hands are out in the open, they will get slapped. Sometimes players stay in defensive mode by crossing their arms; this can get a little silly once there are only two or three players left.

The referee keeps track of whose turn it is. At first, all the players are in a circle, taking turns clockwise, but after all that movement things get jumbled up, so you really need a good referee to sort things out. However, you are allowed to move as soon as player before you moves: no permission from the ref is required.

Once there are two or three players left, things start heating up. Since you can move as soon as the other guy moves, the pace of the game gets much quicker. The endgame is all about reflexes at this point.

Last ninja standing wins!

Pictures taken from the 2010 conference in Jordanville.

Friday, December 30, 2011

St. Herman’s Youth Conference: Ottawa (Part II)


Sunday

The first several days of syezd were fun, but things really started to pick up on Sunday. In the morning, we took several buses to the Protection Church in Ottawa, which I think is an example of good, traditional Orthodox church architecture. The church reminded me of the churches I’ve studied for my church architecture paper, especially churches in the Novgorod and Vladimir regions. The interior was a very large space, with four piers towering over the nave, making the usual cross-in-dome plan. The western piers also helped support a gallery (the choir loft). The square nave and piers create a sense of verticality which is complemented by the multi-tiered iconostasis, which had excellent icons executed in a traditional style. Unfortunately, the vaults and cupola of the church were bare; the ceiling was covered in blue paint. Hopefully someday, when the church has enough funding (and a skilled iconographer), the blue paint will be replaced with beautiful frescoes.


The Great Entrance.

The liturgy was hierarchal, and at least ten or so priests and deacons assisted Metropolitan Hilarion and Archbishop Gabriel. Their presence combined with the many youth in attendance made the service feel very lively. Most of us received Holy Communion from one of the three chalices which came out. At the end of the liturgy, we all had a group photo.

The trapeza meal was filling, and it was nice to sit and talk for a bit. After the meal, the guys helped clear the parish hall and set it up as a food bank. The Ottawa church sponsors this and other projects; it also owns a retirement home and runs a church school. During the last Great Lent, I went up to Ottawa to participate in an annual fundraiser the parish holds for an orphanage in Ukraine. It’s very nice that the parish is active, and I think that’s why it’s doing well.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel. We had a little time for some activities (mostly Silent Ninja) before coming back for the group discussions.


Actually, it wasn’t so silent.

When we got back, Reader Nektary, the guardian of the Hawaiian Iveron icon, told us how he discovered the icon, and about the miracles the Mother of God has done through her Icon.

There was little time left for small group discussions, so the priests got together in a panel and answered questions that we wrote for them. I liked Fr. Vyacheslav’s answer to the question, “When is the right age for dating?” He told a joke: “A realtor is showing a couple around a house, and is explaining all its features. The couple listen excitedly. Finally, it’s getting close to the end, and the house seems to be just the right fit for them. The realtor then asks them, ‘By the way, what sort of hobbies do you have?’ They answered, ‘We like going with realtors to look at houses on the weekend.’” The point of the story being that whether you’re is 16 or 40, if you’re not ready to settle down, you shouldn’t get involved in a romantic relationship.


Some of the other questions got more compact answers. Fr. David Straut got: “Is it okay to party in college?” “No,” he said. “Next question!”

After the discussions we sang an akathist in front of both the Iveron and Kursk-Root icons. Unfortunately, the Iveron icon had to leave with its guardian the next day, but the Kursk-Root icon was staying.

We then had dinner and free time, which was spent going out in the snow. I had my first snowball fight!

Monday

After prayers and breakfast, we all got on buses headed to downtown Ottawa. There, we looked around the ByWard Market. Some of us, led by Alex Cooley, went Christmas caroling. We then had a tour of the Canadian Parliament. I loved its Gothic architecture! The exterior was interesting, and featured a giant beaver guarding the entrance-way. The tour was short but informative.


Mr. Beaver guards the Parliament.

We returned to the hotel, had lunch, and remained in the conference hall for the last lecture, which was given by Nicholas Chapman, who happens to be my boss at the monastery bookstore. Nicholas gave his lecture on Colonel Philip Ludwell III, one of the first Orthodox converts in America. Ludwell, a relative of George Washington and connected to many of our Founding Fathers, converted when he was only 22 years old. He wrote several books on Orthodox teaching and piety, and led a small Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Virginia.

We had a little bit of free time afterwards before the final banquet. I got signed up for the talent show. As I put on my red vest and tie, I started worrying about what to do. I had brought my ukulele all the way from Jordanville to Ottawa, and like Chekhov’s gun, it was aching to be used. Suddenly, in my head, I heard a familiar tune:

Five foot two, eyes of blue,
But oh what those five foot could do!
Has anybody seen my gal?


I quickly googled the song (“Five Foot Two”) and found a site with tabs. I practiced playing it while lending the computer to some girls who were practicing a Serbian kolo.

The talent show was pretty hilarious. It was MC’d by four of the guys calling themselves SHEEEPS: The St. Herman’s Envious, Energetic, Emotional Poetry Society (or something to that effect). The SHEEPS came out to recite some haiku in between acts, including:

Syezd is over, he's home
Ten new female Facebook friends
Which one is the One?

I was introduced as the “Hilarious Hawaiian.” I can’t speak for my strumming skills, but I guess people liked it, which was good for a few minutes’ practice. I also sang with Anthony and one of the SHEEPS an Irish wedding tune called “Mary’s Wedding,” in honor of the recently engaged Maria and Michael.


And thus, we finished syezd. I’m very grateful to everyone who organized the event, as well as Fr Stelian Liabotis and Fr Alexis Pjawka for inviting us to Ottawa!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

St Herman’s Youth Conference: Ottawa (Part I)


December is a pretty relaxing time for a seminarian. Classes wind down, the exam season begins, and then comes the home stretch—the pre-Christmas cleaning. Somewhere in the middle is the youth conference.

I was pretty stoked for this year’s syezd. The first conference I attended was in 2009 in Methuen, but I was only there for a short time. In 2010 the conference was in Jordanville, but of course as part of the local group I didn’t stay at the hotel with everyone else. So even though it was technically my third syezd, I was going to have the full conference experience for the first time.

Friday

We drove up on Friday. That morning, I finished my last exam for the semester, which was New Testament Greek. Later that afternoon, we set off. Three of us were going: My classmate Anthony, his sister Catherine, and I. On the way to Ottawa we listened to and sang along with an eclectic selection of music, which included Simon & Garfunkel (“I am a ROCK, I am an iiiiiiiiiiiiiiisland.”) and Hannah Montana (“I’m a rock star!!!”). The latter was made bearable with interspersed color commentary.

We met with some unexpected trouble at the border. The last time I went to Canada we had to go inside and explain ourselves. This time I tried to prepare. I wrote down the address to the hotel, had the three of us get our stories consistent, etc. But, when the border guard started questioning us, the following (slightly exaggerated) exchange happened.

Guard: “Do you have any guns, bombs, weapons of mass destruction, pepper spray, etc.?”
Catherine: “Uhhh…I have some mace. [takes out a tiny canister of mace, colored bright pink]”
Guard: “Yes, that’s a weapon. You know that’s not allowed in Canada, eh?”
Catherine: “I do now!”

Catherine had to go inside and surrender her deadly weapon. Thankfully I left my Hawaiian war club at home.


Those shark teeth are purely for decoration…really!

Several hours later, we finally arrived at our hotel. Anthony and I reunited with friends long unseen, and we unpacked and got settled.

Saturday

Nobody goes to syezd for down time, as I discovered. After morning prayers, a moleben and a breakfast of muffins, we quickly got down to business. Fr Peter Jackson and Archbishop Gabriel of Canada both gave opening remarks. Like last year, Vladyka Gabriel gave the “X number of particpants, X/2 number of marriages” line, but also stated his great pleasure in hearing that one couple from last year got married and another got engaged. The two couples—friends of mine—started turning a little red.

We had quite a few guests at the conference. Metropolitan Hilarion was present over the whole weekend, alongside Archbishop Gabriel and many priests. Throughout the conference, we were also blessed with the presence of two wonder-working icons of the Mother of God: the ancient Kursk-Root icon, protector of the Russian diaspora, and the Hawaiian Iveron icon.

After breakfast we had two lectures. The first was done by Fr Vyacheslav Davidenko and was on spiritual role models. He used examples from the lives of saints to show how they converted people based on their holy way of living. For example, St Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna, was sought after by some soldiers. They met the old man in his house and demanded to retrieve Polycarp. The saint replied that he would find Polycarp the next day for them. But first he took care of them, feeding them well and giving them lodging. After the morning came, the saint presented himself to them. The soldiers, impressed by the kind way he treated them, refused to arrest him, but St Polycarp pressed them to do their duty. This they did, and as a result they were all converted by him and shared in his martyrdom. Fr Vyacheslav entreated us to begin reading the lives of the saints in order to let them influence our lives today.

Fr Sergei Sveshnikov then gave us a talk on living life as a sacrament. You can find his talk at his site, here. He basically said that the whole of life could be transformed through prayer and attention. I really liked both lectures.

After the lectures we had some free time. My group mostly spent in the Hospitality Room (which through mispronunciation became known as the Hostility Room). Then came lunch, choir rehearsal, small group discussions, and finally prayers for communion. By the time we finished, it was time to go to church.

A bus took several trips to bring us all to the Protection Church in Ottawa. We had dinner in the parish hall. Then we had a full vigil service, with the hierarchs in attendance.

After we got back, we had some time to relax and play some rounds of Silent Ninja (which will require a post of its own). Finally we went to sleep, anticipating Sunday and the rest of the Conference.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Unexpected Feast

Our dormitory has a kitchenette that we use quite frequently. Recently, one of the seminarians cooked up some red beans and rice for us. He combined a box of Zatarain’s, a can of beans, and assorted shellfish to create a delightful dish for eight. I saw him adding something that vaguely looked like sausages.


Lenten goodness.

“What’s that?” I said, somewhat alarmed.
“Never you mind, John Martin,” he answered.

The sausage-like things turned out to be chipotle peppers, which added some Texas heat to the beans and rice. The heat dissipated from them so much that the peppers themselves turned out to be quite bland. “There’s a party in my mouth, and it’s burning stuff,” I said between bites.


Scarfing down a pepper!

Another seminarian came in and decided to make his own contribution. He took out some tilapia filets from the freezer and thawed and fried them up. I’m not a big fan of tilapia, but the filets turned out really well!


Another seminarian, of Mongolian extraction, announced earlier that he was going to make a “Nestor” for his eggs. Something clearly got lost in translation. It wasn’t until “Nestor” came out that we realized what it was:


“Nestor” (гнездо=nest) made from shoestring potatoes.

“Nestor” was really delicious, and it had a slight vinegary, savory taste which cleansed the palate after the spicy beans and rice. To round out the affair, a (married) sister of one of the seminarians baked us a vegan chocolate cake.


Good food, good friends, and a pleasant evening.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free Table Finds (1)


A two-liter bottle of Diet Canada Dry Ginger Ale, along with some pamphlets in Russian. Found after dinner several weeks ago. I didn’t take the ginger ale because a) someone already opened the bottle and b) it was diet ginger ale.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Our First Gig!


Months of practice finally paid off at our Seminary Choir’s public debut at Holy Epiphany Church in Boston. We didn’t sing a concert. Rather, we did the weekend services, which was even better. There were five of us: Nicky Kotar, David, Anthony, Pete, and me.

Boston is one of my favorite cities on the east coast, at least judging from the places I’ve been. The last time I was in Boston was for the Boston Ball and Youth Choir Weekend last summer.

Pete and his wife Kate went ahead of us on Friday night, so just four of us left on Saturday morning, taking the old, beat-up seminary van for the weekend. Nicky had classical music CDs for our enjoyment. I voted for Mozart’s Requiem. Driving on the cold highway, past the snow-covered trees, we thus heard:

Dies iræ! Dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla!


Which gave us a little memento mori for our journey.

We then listened to Dvořák’s New World Symphony, which sounded like every movie soundtrack ever made, probably because everybody ripped off Dvořák.

We arrived at downtown Boston around 2:30. I’ve had some experience in Boston before, but I wasn’t very familiar with the area, and it was hard giving directions. “Um, there’s a P.F. Chang’s. And a Legal Seafoods.” We wandered around a bit until our friends showed up. We met up with Alex Cooley and Nadia, and then with Pete, Kate, and Suzie. Suzie, a Boston native, gave us a whirlwind tour of the area around Boston Common, including the Make Way For Ducklings statues, the State House with its gilded dome, and some rearranged graves of famous Bostonians. By the time we made our transit we had to leave for Fr Victor Boldewskul’s house for dinner. So, we got into the car, managed to navigate through Boston traffic, reconnected with Cooley’s car, and drove like madmen through the streets of Boston, toward Roslindale.

We finally parted ways with Cooley at Fr Victor’s house, and went inside for dinner. Fr Victor was very happy to see us, and we had a light dinner of Chinese takeaway. At the end of the dinner, we opened up our fortune cookies. Mine said, “No one ever became great through imitation.”

“That’s funny,” Nicky said, “mine says, ‘Now is the time to be a role-model. The younger is watching.’”

We then went to church and sang the Vigil, which went by smoothly. We did the whole service by ourselves, and used all the pieces we practiced, which included various arrangements of ancient chant. Unfortunately, we didn’t do a special “Svete Tikhii” (O Gladsome Light) because we forgot to bring the second page of the piece.

After Vigil, we went to Fr Alexander Jarostchuk’s house, where we had a delicious second dinner. Fr Victor also came by, and he regaled us with stories of seminary life back when he was at Jordanville twenty years ago. Meanwhile, Fr Alexander’s wife Elena came in with some treats made with pineapple.

“I’ll be stereotypical,” I said. “Give me the pineapple.”


Return of the purpledryasnik!

Sunday also went well. I was wearing my infamous purple cassock, which always puts me in a good mood. After the liturgy we had a nice lenten meal in the downstairs trapeza. The babushki kept offering us potent potables. All went pretty well. After we had something to eat, we went to the Law of God class to talk about life at the seminary, fielding questions: “Yes, we can go out (if we get a blessing). No, we don’t eat kasha and bread all the time.”


We rounded out the trip with a final visit to Fr Victor’s house, where he showed us some old pictures from his time as a seminarian. We then did a little reprise of a couple of pieces.


Bow ties are cool.

It was a very memorable weekend. I’m very grateful to Fr Victor and Fr Alexander for their generous hospitality in hosting us, and hope to be back in Boston before too long!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Surprise Trip

Last week Thursday we were in Fr Andrei’s Russian Church History class, when Fr Cyprian stuck his head inside the doorway and said: “Who wants to go to St Nektarios today?”

St Nektarios Monastery is a Greek monastery founded by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, located near Roscoe, NY. It’s a little over two hours away from Jordanville. In lieu of Greek class, we second-years were going to get a first-hand taste of Greek monastic life.


By a little pond near the trapeza.

Soon after ten o’clock, four of us second-years (plus Nicky Kotar) got into the black monastic van, and gunned it for Roscoe. After all, we wanted to make it in time for lunch. I brought a book along for the ride, but the undulating landscape was not very conducive to reading, and I had to set it aside.

We got there around noon, only to find out that lunch was actually going to be at half-past. We spent some time in the bookstore before heading to the trapeza. Lunch was simple: some potatoes, pickled green tomatoes, soup, some rusk. Yet it was very delicious. We quietly ate while a monk read from a high pulpit towering over the refectory. When the meal finished the monks sang the kontakion for Christmas, and we all processed out of the trapeza, while the abbot, Elder Joseph, stood to the side and blessed us.

We seminarians then went back inside and helped out with the cleaning up and preparation for the next meal, which took about an hour and a half. We spent some more time in the bookstore, taking pictures, etc. and then went to the monastery church, where a priest was blessing people with a relic of the True Cross. We received the blessing, and soon afterwards Vespers began. We stood in our monastic choir stalls (stasidia) while listening to the beautiful antiphonal chanting of Byzantine hymns.

By the end it was dark, and the grounds were all lit up with Christmas lights.


There was also a rather unique nativity scene, executed in a Byzantine iconic style:


Right after dinner we had to take leave of our hosts. We drove back at a leisurely pace. It’s nice to have a little vacation now and then.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Parks and Ordination

The period after Thanksgiving seems to go by very quickly. Two weeks of classes are sandwiched in between the Thanksgiving vacation and exams, which actually are a bit of a vacation in themselves. Papers get turned in, loose ends get tied up, and all the while our minds are already checked in and boarding the plane. It’s a busy time.

Last weekend, we had two big events happen. On Saturday (December 3) a contingent of officials, higher-ups, bureaucrats and activists descended upon our monastery for a ceremony celebrating the inclusion of Holy Trinity Orthodox Monastery into the National Register of Historic Places. The whole impetus for getting the monastery recognized was the proposed building, not too long ago, of a number of wind turbines (“Each as tall as the Statue of Liberty,” according to Fr Luke) about a mile east of the Monastery. The monastery joined forces with local interests groups opposed to this development, and applied and received historical landmark status at the state level. Federal recognition allows the monastery to potentially receive grant money or tax credits for the upkeep of its buildings. Usually religious buildings don’t receive this kind of recognition, but according to the powers-that-be, not only does the monastery represent the local community, it is a landmark for the entirety of the Russian Diaspora.

So, a number of people spoke about their individual and group efforts to preserve the monastery and fight the wind turbine people (who were forced out of business, apparently because of shady dealings that they did). Fred Miller, one of the members of the New York State Preservation League, spoke about how he had help understanding our Russian Orthodox ways with the help of one of the nuns in the nearby skete: “Whenever I got something wrong with protocol and what-not…Mother Barbara would grab me by the throat!”

After the talk, we partook of a big spread of refreshments and the visitors got a tour of the monastery grounds.

The next day, one of our seminarians got ordained. It was the Feast of the Entrance of the Holy Mother of God into the Temple. Igor, the seminarian in question, got tonsured a reader before the beginning of liturgy, and then ordained a deacon by Archbishop Gabriel of Canada. Fr Igor will serve for the next forty days in church and will be ordained a priest on Christmas Day.

But otherwise, everything is все нормально, business as usual, here in Jordanville. At least until uborka.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe



And now for something completely different. As I’ve noted before, some of us seminarians watch Doctor Who on a regular basis, and we’re quite excited about the upcoming Christmas Special: The Doctor, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The BBC has put up a prequel, which you can see above. And here’s the trailer!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Common Courtesy



Today I received a very slanderous comment from a clearly confused individual. The anonymous commenter made some very serious and nasty remarks about someone I know personally. Of course, I was both shocked and delighted. Shocked because of the nonsense that people can get away with saying under the cover of anonymity, and delighted that I finally have a troll. My blog has made it in the Internet world!

I’ll take this opportunity to lay down the law regarding comments. If someone writes anything which whiffs of slander, back-biting, tale-bearing or the like, I will immediately delete his comment and that commenter will be persona non grata on this site. This blog is free of the contentions that plague much of “Internet Orthodoxy”—I intend to keep it that way.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Victorious Union



Last weekend, I went with my friends Pete and Kate M. to a wedding in New Jersey. I last saw the bride and groom, Nicolas and Victoria, at last year’s youth conference at Jordanville. At the syezd, Archbishop Gabriel, in his opening address, expressed his hope that the 150 assembled youths form 75 marriages.

Well, one down, seventy-four to go.

Before we headed out, we attended the baptism of the baby of one of the local residents. Bishop Peter of Cleveland came to baptize the baby, which was held in the monastic baptistery. I love baptisms; they remind me of my own baptism nearly four years ago. After the baptism and the churching, the parents held a reception in the local bed and breakfast. Fully satiated, the three of us hit the road.

It didn’t take too long to get to New Jersey. We went immediately to St. Elizabeth’s in Princeton, where the Youth Choir (a.k.a. Cooley & the Gang) was gathered to sing Vigil and Liturgy, as well as practice the wedding music. While we waited for the others to shop up, I had a happy reunion with my Canadian friends Manya and Katya, as well as with my other syezd friends John and Michael. Cooley had us go over the repertoire, which was made up of many of the standard wedding hymns. One of the unique pieces was “Eternal Father,” the official Navy hymn. We used it for the entrance hymn for Nicolas, who is a naval officer. For the bride we used the first verse from an Englished “Agni Parthene.”

The next day, after singing the liturgy, we went to St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral for the wedding. St. Alexander Nevsky is one of my favorite churches, with its bright frescoes and architecture reminiscent of both the New Cathedral in San Francisco and a super-sized version of the monastery church at Jordanville. The beautiful interior and spacious hall make the church an ideal place for a wedding. We continued to rehearse for the wedding, though “Eternal Father” had a funky tritone at the end which gave us basses a hard time.

The wedding was beautiful, and everything worked out. The bride and groom looked very happy (from what we saw from the choir loft) and were married with Greek wedding crowns made of silver. I think we sang well enough, and even got that tritone, thanks to one of our more musically proficient basses. Fr David, one of the priests, called Victoria “Victorious,” which I think was an inspired mis-speaking.

The reception was very fun, and I got to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while. I also got to dance quite a bit! In all, it was a very enjoyable weekend.

I’m very grateful to Nicolas and Victoria for inviting me. May God grant them many years of blessed married life!

Monday, October 31, 2011

“That’s going in the blog.”

Things have been getting pretty quiet here at my blog. Second year actually feels more busy than first year for some strange reason, even though we technically have less hours of class (and don’t have to wash dishes, for that matter). Even so, for whatever reason I haven’t had the time to post, until now. Our Church Slavonic/Music teacher rescheduled classes this week, which means that I am free all morning. Huzzah! And it’s Fr. Luke’s namesday, which means ice cream! Huzzah! Here’s what I did over the past couple of weeks:

  • Participated in the Eastern American Diocese clergy conference
  • Attended a youth choir weekend in New York City
  • Sold stuff to a busload of pilgrims from DC
  • Watch a few episodes of Downton Abbey and Doctor Who for Movie Night(s)
  • Go to church a lot
  • Oh yeah, study.
With that brief update out of the way, let’s put a little meat on the skeleton and talk about the youth choir weekend. The last one of those I attended was in June, right after the Boston Ball. This time we were singing at the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils Russian Orthodox Church in Upper Manhattan (think Harlem). Four of us set out for New York City: my friends Harry and Ben from Buffalo, fellow seminarian Nicky Kotar, and myself. We spent the time going there talking about sundry subjects such as yak-dragons* and Don Quixote. The seminarians tried to get some productive work done in between bursts of conversational creativity.

After arriving in Manhattan we headed straight to the church, where rehearsal was just about to begin. Rehearsal went on for quite some time because we were basically going over all the music for both Vigil and Liturgy, and moreover were gathered together for the first time in months. Alex Cooley (that guy people made a Facebook page about) conducted. I met quite a few new people and reunited with old friends. After rehearsal we had some delicious lasagna and readied ourselves for the Vigil.

Vigil ended later than expected; we were all too tired to do any wandering around the city, so we just went to our respective places-to-sleep. Harry, Ben and I went to the Djurdjinovic** household, where our hosts fed us with some delicious pelmeni. It was a lively evening; up to three conversations were going on at the same time on the long table. We talked into the night and finally went to bed. The girls went upstairs, leaving the guys to sleep in the basement, which was actually pretty comfortable.

The next day we had Liturgy. On the way there we complained about the toll ($12!!!) to get over the GWB. I also had a cold that weekend, so my singing ability was quite compromised. I kept sniffling and coughing all through the Liturgy (“Lord have mer—cough!—cy”). We did all right in the end, especially since it was the first time in many years that an actual choir was singing liturgy. The moleben at the end of liturgy was a mouthful though, with the refrain “Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, pray to God for us” in Slavonic.

The parishioners fed us pretty generously. I enjoyed the meat and caught up with some people I met the previous weekend at the Youth Symposium. A few made toasts, including one of the sub-deacons (pére Djurdjinovic):

“You might have heard about an old band in the 80s called Kool & the Gang…now it’s Cooley & the Gang!”

“That’s going in the blog,” I said to Nicky.

Right after lunch, we had a group photo and parted ways. Good times were had in NYC, and I only regret that we had so little time to enjoy the city. Well, maybe next time!

*That creature that appears in the Neverending Story. Correctly referred to (according to an ardent Reader) as a luckdragon. We discussed the merits of keeping them as fire-breathing guardians of an estate, as well as for milking purposes (“It’d taste like burning…and milk,” said Ben).
**It’s pronounced as read.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night Vigil!

October has been quite a busy month for me. It seems that almost every weekend there’s been something going on. That plus studies plus work (plus, let’s admit it, sheer laziness) equals not much time to write posts. This business unfortunately creates a backlog of potential posts, making it difficult to choose one. If I followed chronological convention I would simply begin with writing about the big fat Russian Orthodox convert wedding I went to in the beginning of the month. But since thankfully I can write about whatever I want, let’s start with something more recent: our trip to Synod and back.


The view from the roof.

Synod, or rather the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign, is the literal HQ of the Russian Church Abroad. A very pious and equally rich Russian bought a Park Avenue mansion for the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. Its main hall and dining room were transformed into a cathedral nave and a chapel respectively.

Four of us seminarians were invited as guest participants at a youth symposium conducted by the Synodal Youth Department. Fr. Cyprian, the Dean of Students (and my Greek teacher), was slated to talk to the youth on missionary work. When we arrived at Synod, we were ushered to our quarters, which turned out to be the conference room. Four cots were laid out for us:


Despite the Spartan appearance, the beds were comfy, and a nice lady with a love for Apple products fed us very well.

The next day, we got up early to help Fr. Cyprian serve liturgy in the lower chapel. It also happened to be his namesday (Hieromartyr Cyprian). I struggled through the liturgy with my co-sufferers and at the very end mangled the polychronia, promoting Vladyka Ieronim to the metropolitanate.


Moleben before the relics of St. Innocent of Moscow, enlightener of Alaska.

The symposium itself was great and I liked Fr. Cyprian’s talk. I liked just as well the chance to meet new people and eat barbecued meat, not necessarily in that order. We also discussed future activities for the Synodal Youth Department, including pilgrimages to various places such as Jordanville. I bit my tongue; I didn’t want to appear too self-interested.

The services were interesting. Vigil at Synod was short and sweet. After a long day of conferencing, I welcomed the respite. However, Synod is perhaps one of the few places where the liturgies are longer than the vigils, because nearly every Sunday liturgy is hierarchical. On Sunday morning, I stood in awe seeing an army of altar servers come out with Bishop Jerome. The Sunday choir was also pretty impressive and sang lots of difficult pieces.

After liturgy and lunch, we bid farewell to our hosts, and left laden with leftover chicken and other food for the road. But instead of a straight shot to Jordanville, we went to Holy Protection Convent in Pennsylvania. Holy Protection (Agia Skepi) is a beautiful Greek Orthodox convent founded by Elder Ephraim. The nuns unsurprisingly knew Fr. Cyprian well. We took a detour to the convent in order to stock up on supplies for the Autumn Pastoral Conference. The abbess, Gerondissa Olympiada, came out to greet us in the bookstore. We received her blessing and she gave us some refreshments. While ministering to us, the phone rang. She ran to answer it.

“That’s a Greek abbess,” Papa-Kyprianos proudly said.

We had called ahead to order spanakopita, baklava, and other dishes. The nuns brought out box after box of food for us to stuff in the back of the van:


Supplies!

They also packed for us, without our knowledge, some cheese-filled pita for us to have on the road. This time I actually had the presence of mind to take a picture of my food before completely devouring it:


We got to attend Vigil and Compline (with the Akathist to the Mother of God) at the convent. The soft sound of Byzantine hymns chanted by the nuns served as a nice close for the day.

Our last stop was at St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, New York. There, a visiting priest had a large relic of the True Cross, which we venerated and were blessed with.

It was quite an amazing weekend. I’m very thankful to the kind people at Synod, Holy Protection, and St. Nektarios for welcoming us as pilgrims. I hope to visit again soon!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What I did on my birthday.



My birthday falls on the Exaltation of the Cross, one of the major feasts of the Church. It also happens to be a strict fast day—no meat, poultry, fish, or dairy! This year, I was in kitchen helping prepare a Lenten meal for the feast. I like working in the kitchen, being assigned kitchen on one’s own birthday is a rare occasion, so I relished the opportunity. Plus I figured it would be pretty blogable.

I dragged myself out of bed a little before six in the morning. I went to the refectory, my way faintly illumined by twilight. There, I met Fr. Gabriel, who was going to be cook. Being on kitchen with O. Gavriil on a fast day is as simple as you get; all you do is chop vegetables, and he takes care of most of the rest. After Vanya, another seminarian, showed up, we were tasked with peeling potatoes. I followed Vanya down to the basement.

We have an industrial-strength potato-peeler. It works by agitating and rubbing potatoes against each other in a kind of centrifuge. An old alumnus compared seminary life to being in the potato-peeler. Seminarians—all with their different viewpoints, personalities, quirks, and flaws—get thrown into common life. We smash up against each other, share joys and sorrows, and then come out more or less okay. At least I hope that’s the case for me.

There was a lot of peeling and chopping and mixing and other cooking activities. We successfully served the food and cleaned up afterwards. I washed the small dishes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What came next.

Last week we picked apples and made some of them into 155 gallons of delicious cider. That gives the best pretext opportunity to share our produce with the outside world!

Yesterday, the Albany parish celebrated its parish feast, the Nativity of the Mother of God. The last time I visited was for the church consecration about a year ago. This time I went with a couple classmates of mine, supplied with 25 gallons of cider and about as many jars of honey. One of our hieromonks came as well to serve with the other clergy. Bishop Jerome of Manhattan was the main celebrant.

At 9:30, the parish greeted Bishop Jerome at the church with bread and salt.


Then the bishop was vested in the church.


The bishop’s particular vestments, especially the sakkos (dalmatic), is taken from Byzantine court ceremony. In fact, a hierarchical liturgy is probably the closest we get to being back in the time of the Palaiologos. What was once a symbol of secular pomp is now transformed into an icon of heavenly glory.


Vladyka blessing with the dikiri and trikiri.

The liturgy was wonderful. At the end, we had a cross procession around the church; I was in charge of the lantern at the head of the procession. One of the standard-bearers said to me jokingly, “If we mess up, it’s all your fault!” Thankfully, that was not the case. After everything finished, I looked at the time and was surprised; time really did fly by!


We set up the cider and honey table in the parish hall, where lunch was under way. Working the table did not prevent us from enjoying other refreshments, as you can see above. There was also the most delicious cheesecake ever:


The rector of the parish, Fr. Vsevolod Drobot, celebrated fifty years in the priesthood, so of course we sang many, many renditions of Mnogaya Leta.


Fr. Vsevolod pointed out that he served his first year in Schenectady, with the remaining forty-nine in Albany.

“So we can celebrate again next year!” someone said.

I hope we can! Not only did I have a good time, I also made some new friends and reconnected with old ones as well. I’m very thankful to the parishioners at Albany, and especially to Fr. Vsevolod for blessing us to come sell our cider.

S prazdnikom!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Apple Picking!

It’s that time of year. The weather changes, the leaves turn into sunset hues, and apples become ripe for picking. We have quite a few apple trees at the monastery. Actually, the first time I’ve ever seen an apple tree was at Jordanville. Apples don’t grow in tropical Hawaii, after all. Or San Francisco.

By early September, the ground was littered with apples. You couldn’t walk anywhere near the area where the apple trees are (next to the garage, across from the monastery building) without hearing the crunch-crunch, or rather smoosh-smoosh, of apples under your feet. The trees, pregnant with fruit, ached to be relieved of their produce.

So, I was happy to hear that Father Luke blessed, or rather instituted, a general obedience to pick the monastery’s apples on September 22 (last Thursday). Not only would that be fun in itself, we would also get to enjoy the fruits (get it?) of our labors. Plus for me it makes good journalistic fodder for the school website.

Father Cyprian split us up into several groups involved with apple picking and processing. I ended up on the Party Planning Committee, i.e. getting stuff for the barbecue afterward. Before we headed out, I took some pictures of people picking apples.

Most of the apple-pickers used staves to whack the apples from the trees. My classmate S. didn’t bother with that. He climbed the biggest tree and started shaking the branches pretty vigorously. Apples fell like hail onto the ground. “I’m an energetic Serb!” S. shouted from the treetop.

Soon, it was time to get going. My team went to several stops to get the best prices on different goods. We got hot dogs from Price Chopper, burgers from Wal-Mart, and kielbasa from a Polish sausage vendor in Utica:


Doesn’t that look beautiful?

Of course, we didn’t skimp for our monastic brethren, either:


As we were getting the goods the sky began to change and the temperate apple-picking weather turned into rainy picnic-ruining weather. We got a call from Jordanville: it was raining hard. Should we postpone the barbecue to Saturday? Of course not! Meat! The show must go on!

“Move the grill to the garage. We’re eating inside,” I said.

Once we got there the garage was already filled with eager and hungry seminarians. Some apple pies were in the oven, but man must not live by pie alone. We got out the good stuff and before long there was a queue forming at the grill.


Worth queuing up for.

The evening was a smashing success. Apples got picked and made into various apple-y products, meat was available in abundance, and people had a fun time. What’s more, we cleaned up after ourselves with hardly any fuss. I can’t wait for what comes next!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The First Week

Thanks be to God, we got through the first week of school. The week began with Labor Day weekend and ended with the (real) feast of St. Job of Pochaev. In between, we had a smooth transition to seminary life.

On Tuesday, we had a moleben for the new school year after the liturgy. Then we met in the summer kitchen, where Fr Luke had a short talk with us about the new school year. The question to ask ourselves, he said, was “Why am I here?” He gave us some other sound advice and finally blessed the new students to wear their cassocks. Then Fr Cyprian passed out our student handbooks, and we went in detail over the various rules of living in common.

The first days of class went by very quickly. For Russian Church History I am doing a term paper on ecclesiastical architecture. for Russian Literature we are studying Ilya Muromets and other heroes. And in Biblical Greek, we are struggling to pronounce the [gh] sound. Things are back to normal!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Last Weekend

It’s been a pretty good weekend, the last hurrah before the new school year begins, and we all start to get a little (but not too) serious.

Labor Day weekend is a pretty big deal at Jordanville, usually second only to Pentecost or Memorial Day. The ever-memorable Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), the third abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, instituted an annual pilgrimage on Labor Day weekend in honor of both St. Job of Pochaev, the patron of the monastery’s printshop, and the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God. He took the idea from St. Tikhon of Moscow, who instituted a Memorial Day pilgrimage at St. Tikhon’s Monastery when he was still in America. The pilgrimages on Memorial Day and Labor Day help sanctify the summer, encouraging Orthodox people to visit the monastery and spend their time in a God-pleasing manner.

Usually, quite a few people show up, but it was a little less than last year, perhaps because of the weather. There was, however, a sizable contingent from New Jersey led by Fr. Serge Lukianov. I also heard rumors of a certain M.M.* who was in search of a husband/going to be engaged, but those claims were absolutely, definitely groundless.

Sunday was the longest day for me. I had to wake up early in the morning, go to the first liturgy, and then open the bookstore, which was pretty quiet because everyone was at the later liturgy. The weather was quite muggy, and the heat hung off one’s skin; wearing a podryasnik didn’t help. The morning was quite relaxing with the (unfortunate) lack of customers for my shift; I feasted on some bacon and eggs that a friend brought from a restaurant in nearby Richfield Springs.

After the lunch, I left my duties to my superior, and went with a certain seminarian to another certain married seminarian’s house, where we watched episodes of The Office. Later that afternoon, I hung out with people from New Jersey, who kept feeding me hamburgers and sausage: “Eat, eat! You’re a growing boy!”

Later that evening, we went to Mr. Shake, another Jordanville Haunt, where we second-years had a last meal with a former compatriot, who is becoming a novice at Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia. We’ll miss him terribly, but are thankful that he’ll be praying for us!

All in all, it was a very full weekend, and a good way to end the summer. I’m very much looking forward to whatever the new year brings!

*Matushka Material

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Don’t Panic.


Serving in the altar is not something you learn from a book. It doesn’t hurt to have a cheat-sheet, like the one you see above. But, like dancing, serving just requires developing a sense for what’s going on, which takes time.

Unfortunately, I’m a singer, which means that I am more required on kliros than in the altar. Indeed, here at Jordanville there is a division of labor among the seminarians between those who serve and those who sing. Those who do both usually do one better than the other, and represent that exception that proves the rule.

I don’t expect to be able to serve blindfolded, like some of my classmates. But I do hope to know the basics. This week, I was supposed to serve with one of the more experienced monks. But, a last-minute change made me the senior to an incoming seminarian. Being forced to be the “responsible” one for a change, I had to really start watching what was going on, and learned a thing or two.

Case in point: one does not use regular candles during a hierarchical service, but just the dikiri and trikiri. I learned that yesterday, when Metropolitan Hilarion, our First Hierarch, came to serve Liturgy for Ss. Florus and Laurus, the namesday for one of our elder monks (Fr. Flor) and late Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory. I was guided here and there, and moved around like an action figure. But it was magnificent. The service, I mean.

As I enter my second year as a seminarian, I guess I have to raise my standards a bit higher, beyond “not setting self on fire.” Yes, serving in the altar can’t be learned in a book. Just like life.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Axios!

Today I discovered with great pleasure that Hieromonk Irenei (Steenburg), the Director of St. John’s Academy and priest at St. Tikhon of Zadonsk church, has been made an archimandrite by Archbishop Kyrill. Axios! Axios! Axios!

Déjà vu…

I hope that despite this not-so-irenic storm, that everyone is having a blessed Feast of our Holy Mother’s Dormition. Here at Jordanville it’s quite wet and windy, but we’re still dry and warm at the dorm.

Once again I’m hitting the ground running. I got here last Tuesday, having taken a red-eye from SFO and transferred in DC. Despite my nearly complete lack of rest, I quickly adjusted to the monastic schedule and am now sleeping normally. Things here are the same as ever, but with several interesting changes, including new seminarians! Along with a certain PK from San Francisco, there are also two students from China, plus a guy from Sweden. From what I hear, there will be about 13 to 14 new students this year.

I’m pretty happy to have my (sort of) brother Chinese* here. The other day, I had my first taste of real pu-erh tea. The tea comes in a brick shaped roughly like a frisbee. Using a pick-like instrument, some leaves are cut out, and then steeped in a tiny pot. The leaves are reused several times, producing a subtly different flavor and aroma each time.

We also just celebrated the Feast of the Dormition today. I was in the kitchen, just like last year. In fact, it all felt like déjà vu. Not only was I assigned to kitchen for Dormition 2010, I also attended the English vigil at the cemetery chapel, as well as confess (to the same priest, even!). Thus, the cycle is complete. I’m ready to begin a brand-new year, full of much of the same, but with interesting variations.

*my late grandmother was Chinese.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jordanville Journal Digest (2010–2011)

In two weeks, I will have completed one year of blogging. Of the uku-billion blogs I’ve started and abandoned, this is the longest-lived. So, in preemptory recognition of my anniversary, here are ten of my favorite posts, in chronological order:



“We assembled yesterday morning on the second floor of the seminary building, then entered one of the classrooms. Someone came in: ‘If you don’t know any Russian, please proceed to the next classroom.’ First exam: over!”


“To prevent any widespread outbreak of meat consumption and other hazards, we are kept very busy by our classwork and obediences.”


“Warning: do not leave items on the free table if you do not want a monk or seminarian to take them within thirty seconds.”


“What really gets me up (after several hits of the snooze button) is my cell-phone alarm, set to a funky ringtone. It's about 5:45 am or so, which makes me a little late for Liturgy. Oh well: I throw on my podryasnik and coat, and brave the elements.”


“Like everything in the world, our human nature is wisely constructed. We are capable of acquiring and preserving knowledge, and we are capable of forgetting. Often even forgetfulness is useful and laudable.”


“…there are many interesting side-conversations, mostly involving monastic footwear, coming from one of our more animated classmates,”


“When I got here, I quickly realized that coming here had not automatically changed me, and the Uncreated Light didn't suddenly burst out of my face the day I stepped into my dorm-room.”


“Fr. Killian: And there we have rooms for the single female students, an area we affectionately call the Feminary.”


“I awoke at five in the morning to the sounds of the mallet hitting the semandron, that ancient instrument used to rouse monks to prayer. The potent sound of wood against wood is a call to prayer: a call to rouse oneself in preparation for the long prayers during the first week of Great Lent.”


“‘It's winking at me,’ said somebody looking at the spit.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Far across the Sea…

Happy Feast to my New Calendar friends!

A week ago, I left my homeland and traversed the dark sea until I came to another old haunt, the City by the Bay. San Francisco, known to locals in abbreviation as “S.F.” or simply “the City,” but never “San Fran” or (anathema!) “Frisco,” was my home for two years before I left for Jordanville. My San Francisco days had their ups and downs, but I learned to be a little more ambitious and less wary to step outside my comfort zone. In many ways, it prepared me for seminary life.

Here’s a few things I’ve done so far:

  • Hang out with friends.
  • Visit the San Francisco library. I still have my old card!
  • Eat as much meat as possible before the Dormition Fast began.
  • Go contra-dancing!
  • Walk around the neighborhood. This city is probably one of the most walkable in the country. Even the sleepy neighborhood around the Cathedral has a good deal to see within a walkable ratio.

It’s always a joy to see my old friends here. My parish at the Old Holy Virgin Cathedral have always welcomed and supported me like family. I’ve also seen and greatly enjoyed my time with other good friends from around the Orthodox community. Now, let me put on my seminarian hat for some pertinent reflection:
  • After a year at Jordanville, it’s no surprise that many of my anecdotes and jokes concern seminary life. I try to cool it before the eye-rolling starts.
  • Thankfully, my Orthodox audience is mostly receptive, and would ask quite a few questions (“Do you really eat with spoons?!?”).
  • Being a seminarian (like it or not) comes with an aura of authority, even though, as a lowly second-year, I have none. During a service, people could look at you as if to say, “well, what do we do next?” Or, they could ask you to conduct a piece of music or two. It’s best to say “I don’t know” if you’re not sure, but it helps to be prepared just in case.
  • It is indeed nice to eat with forks again.
It’s been a great Summer! My fellow seminarians, enjoy the rest of your vacation!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A wake-up call to future (and current) seminarians!

Fr. Alexander Antchoutine of Holy Virgin Protection parish in Glen Cove, New York, gave an excellent interview for the ROCOR Fund for Assistance. Priests in the Russian diaspora have a special cross to bear, because in addition to their many priestly duties most of them also have to work lay jobs, and are heavily scrutinized by their parishioners. I recommend this article to basically everyone.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Theanthropic Theatre

Note: In response to this thread on Monachos I decided to put the paper I wrote for my Patristic Anthropology class online, since it deals with the pertinent subject of the Creation, Fall, and Redemption of man. Any mistakes in this paper in transmitting the teaching of the Holy Fathers are my own.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vintage Orthodoxy

I hope my friends on the New Calendar had a good Transfiguration.

An idea came to me today, which has yet to be fleshed out: why not have an Orthodox photo blog? Specifically, one which captures (for the most part) ordinary people doing Orthodox things. An emphasis would be on older (vintage) photographs. The sort of pictures I’m talking about include:
  • Youth activities (camp, conferences, etc.)
  • Sisterhood activities
  • Seminarians doing stuff (natch)
  • Historically significant pictures
  • Basically anything old, preferably in black and white.
I’ve already set up a blogspot and an e-mail address. All I need are pictures! So, if you have any old photos (regardless of jurisdiction) that you find interesting, please send them to me at vintageorthodoxy [at] gmail.com, alongside a description of the activities and people depicted. The pictures will remain your intellectual property. I’m looking forward to your submissions! In the meantime, here’s footage of the glorification of St. John of San Francisco:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sense and Seminarians (preview)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man studying at an Orthodox seminary, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views a young lady may be on her first visiting a seminary, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the seminarians, that she is considered as the rightful property of one of them.

“My dear friend Ivan,” said his classmate to him one day, “have you heard that there’s going to be a youth conference here?”

Ivan replied that he had not, and was quite ruffled at being called “dear.”

“But there is,” returned the classmate, whose name was Andrew; “for I heard all about it on the diocesan website.

Ivan made no answer.

“Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“You brought up the subject, and I have no objection to hearing of it.”

This was invitation enough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jordanville Videos



It’s great being home again. But at the same time, I miss life at Jordanville: nature, solitude, silence, and holy services. In order to help this home-sickness (or is it monastery-sickness?) and gear me up for the coming year, I put together a Youtube playlist of videos from Jordanville. If you miss Jordanville too, I highly recommend watching. The playlist includes several videos introducing the monastery, clips of services, and two full-length documentaries (Russian-only).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Strummin’ Along

Tonight I heard the guitarist Anastasios Comanescu at the Greek parish. Taso is the son of Fr. Ioan and Matushka Effie Comanescu in Palo Alto, whom I know from my San Francisco days. The concert was a fundraiser for the Nisiotes Greek dance troupe, which provided refreshments.

About a hundred people sat in the church hall. The guitarist came in wearing casual clothes and decked in a few flower leis (“I don’t usually wear these at concerts.”). As he tuned his guitar he introduced himself and talked about the pieces he was going to play.

The first set began with “Romanza,” a very recognizable tune which, according to Taso, “will warm up both my fingers and your ears.” Then came a couple pieces by Narváez, followed by a great adaptation of the Prelude from Bach’s First Cello Suite. He continued with a Celtic hymn (“Be Thou My Vision”), something by Ponce, and finally works by the French composers Visée and Couperin originally written for the harpsichord. The lilting guitar was very soothing for the soul, and loud applause punctuated the end of each piece.

A short intermission followed; I got some refreshments (including baklava!) from the table, and talked to my neighbor (a German exchange student) about actual guitarists in Spain.

The second set was made up of three pieces by Mikis Theodorakis (famous for scoring “Zorba the Greek”), which added a nice Greek flavor. He ended the set with three pieces from the brilliant blind composer Joaquin Rodrigo. “Pajaros de Primavera” was quite enthralling, using intricate jumps to mimic the chirping of birds. After the final piece we called for an encore, which Taso gladly played.

It was the best ten dollars I’ve spent in a long time. Good music, good food, and good company equal a wonderful evening.

Friday, July 15, 2011

…just call him Vladika.

My Internet search for correct terms of ecclesiastical address came up with contradictory results, especially for the lower clerical ranks. However, I think I found what looks to be a reliable text for common usage in ROCOR on Fr. Deacon Eugene Kallaur’s website. The text itself was prepared by His Grace Bishop Peter (Lukianov) of Cleveland.

DISCLAIMER
1. The below forms of address are meant for the most formal written correspondence. You should not use them outside of a very formal context.
2. The translations of the non-Episcopal titles (e.g. “Your Very Venerableness”) are very, very unofficial and are meant only for educational use. If you are an English speaker, please DO NOT use them. I take no responsibility for the looks you might get.

Title Honorific Translation
Metropolitan or Archbishop Ваше Высокопреосвященство Your Eminence
Bishop Ваше Преосвященство Your Grace
Archimandrite or Abbot Ваше Высокопреподобие Your Very Venerableness
Hieromonk Ваше Преподобие Your Venerableness
Archdeacon or Hierodeacon Ваше Преподобие Your Venerableness
Protopresbyter or Archpriest Ваше Высокоблагословение Your Very Blessing
Priest Ваше Благословение Your Blessing
Protodeacon or Deacon Ваше Благовестие Your Evangelicality

NOTES
1. Abbesses also have the address «Ваше Высокопреподобие». From what I’ve read so far, monks in general also have the address «Ваше Преподобие».
2. I have found two sources with slightly different forms of address (here and here). For example, in the second source «Ваше Преподобие» can refer to priests, protodeacons, and deacons. The first source is very close to the ROCOR text I found, though it lacks «Ваше Преподобие».
3. The ultimate source of these titles is of course the Table of Ranks prepared by Peter the Great in 1722. However, I am not sure when the ecclesiastical ranks were formally codified. These forms of address have most probably changed over the course of time; further research may reveal when the ROCOR usage was adopted.