Sunday, August 28, 2011


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], 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.