26 December 2010

HOW-TO: Christmas Eve Holy Supper or Svjatyj Vecer

In many areas of Eastern Europe, more specifically Slovakia, Carpatho-Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Byelorus, a strict-fast Holy Supper or Svjatyj Vecer is observed on Christmas Eve. The customs differ from area to area.

According to custom, the meal begins after the first star appears in the sky.

Everyone is standing. The father exclaims for the first time the Christmas Greeting:
Christ is Born!
The family replies:
Glorify Him!
One of the children, with ewer and basin, washes the hands of each of the family members, in order from eldest to youngest. A silver coin may be placed in the basin, then given to the youngest child.

After this is complete, the father takes a rope, sprinkles it with holy water and ties it around the legs of the table. This symbolizing the ever-lasting bond of the family.

The mother sprinkles the family members with holy water so that their souls and minds may be receptive to the meaning of the Birth of Christ.

The father then sprinkles the animals of the household (if there be any) with the holy water reminding the family of the animals in the stable when Christ was born.

A single candle, placed near the center of the table, is now lit. This reminds us of the apperance of Christ, the Light of the World, who was born this day.

The father leads the family in a prayer of gratitude to God for the past year. It includes petitions for health, happiness, long life, salvation and that the family may be united in love forever.

The entire family now joins in the singing of the Troparion and Kondakion for the Feast:
Tone 4 - Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has shone to the world the light of understanding! * For by it, those who worshipped the stars, * were taught by a star to adore You, * the Sun of Righteousness, * and to know You as the Orient from on high. * O Lord, glory to You!
Tone 3 - Today the Virgin gives birth to the Trancendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the unapproachable One! * Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The Wise men journey with the Star! * Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a little child!

The father then blesses the food:
Lord Jesus Christ, Who was born in a manger for our sake and salvation, bless this food and drink of Your servants, for You are holy, always, now and ever, and forever.
The "Christmas Greeting" is now exchanged.

Everyone may now be seated.

The father breaks the bread, first making the sign of the cross on the bottom of the loaf with the knife, and gives a piece to each member of the family. The bread is a symbol of Christ, the Bread of Life. The bread is then eaten.

The father then toasts:
Good Christians! I greet you on the Feast of Christ's Nativity and wish that the Lord grant us good health and fortune to praise the eternal God for many years.
Grant this, O God!
The mother takes a tooth of garlic, dips it in honey and makes the sign of the cross over the forehead of each family member. The honey sybolizes sweetness in life, and the garlic, bitterness.

The meal now begins. No one is permitted to skip a dish.

After the dinner is complete, the father reads one of the accounts of Christ's birth from Holy Scripture. Then kol'day - traditional carols - are sung.

Traditional Christmas Eve Supper (12 Courses)

  1. Oplatky (Christmas Wafers) with Honey
  2. Wine
  3. Mushroom Soup
  4. Pagach
  5. Bobalky
  6. Fish, Beans, Peas, Sauerkraut
  7. Mixed Dried Fruits or Stewed Prunes
  8. Assorted Fresh Fruits
  9. Mixed Nuts
  10. Nut and Poppyseed Rolls
  11. Rozky
  12. Coffee


  • The dough for this recipe is using the traditional holiday braided bread recipe as follows:
  • 1 Cake Yeast
  • 1 cup scalded Milk
  • 6 cups Flour
  • 1 small can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 cup warm Water
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Butter, melted
  • 2 Egg Yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 tablespoon Salt

Dissolve yeast with sugar in lukewarm milk. Set aside to rise. Sift flour in deep bowl. Add warm evaporated milk mixed with water and melted butter. Add beaten egg yolks, salt and yeast mixture. Knead very well. Cover and set in warm place. Do not permit dough to stand in draft. Let dough rise 2 hours.

Pinch off portion of dough, roll out on floured board by hand to make roll about half inch in diameter. Place on cookie sheet. Cut with edge of teaspoon into small pieces. Let rise for 10 minutes.
Bake at 375° for 15 minutes, or until lightly brown.

When cool, break and place in colander. Pour boiling water over bobalky. Place in large serving bowl.

Cook 2 sticks of butter with one onion chopped onion until brown.

Pour butter/onion mixture over bobalky.

Sprinkle with poppyseed to taste.

Toss gently and serve immediately.
Cook 1 1/2 cups ground poppy seed in 3/4 cup water for 10 minutes. Boil 3 cups milk, add 1 cup sugar, or according to taste, pour over poppyseed and mix. Add to bobalky. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Mushroom Soup (Sour)

  • 1 lb. fresh Mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Flour
  • Sauerkraut juice, to taste
  • Sale and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped onion

Wash mushrooms and cook in 1 quart of water until tender. Strain (save the water). Run mushrooms through food chopper. Add sauerkraut juice to mushroom water. Salt and pepper and bring to boil.
Brown flour in butter until light brown, add onion and brown. Add 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil and stir. Strain. Add to contents along with mushrooms and simmer for a couple of minutes.


  • 1 cup scalded Milk
  • 1 Cake Yeast
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 cup warm Water
  • 1 1/2 lbs. All-purpose Flour
  • 2 Egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons Salt

Dissolve yeast in half cup warm water. Pour half cup scalded milk over butter and sugar. Cool to lukewarm. Add dissolved yeast. Sift flour and salt into deep bowl, add eggs and yeast mixture with remaining milk and water. Knead well. Cover with cloth and set aside in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about two hours.

Turn out on floured board. Divide dough into three portions. Cover each portion with bowl and let rest for ten minutes.

Take one piece at a time, turn over, flatten in the center with back of hand.

Place filling in center and draw up and pinch edges together. Again place bowl over dough for ten minutes. heat over to 375°. Turn dough over with filling and press carefully with back of hand all around, then roll out slowly, so the filling will not break through, to 12-inches in diameter.
Place both hands under pagach and put in the bottom of the over for ten minutes, then turn over on the rack (in center of oven) and bake for another ten minutes.

When done, wrap in damp cloth. Let it stand for ten minutes. Brush lightly with sweet cream, then with golden brown butter on both sides. Cut to desired size. Sprinkle with sugar. Follow the same method for the other two pieces. Each portion is for one pagach.

Pagach Fillings:


  • 1/2 lb. sauerkraut
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt and cinnamon

Wash sauerkraut in half cup of water, squeeze dry. Chop fine.
Sauté in brown butter and seasonings until brown. Cool to lukewarm.

One large potato cooked and mashed. Add one tablespoon melted, browned butter and salt to taste. A few dry crushed peppermint leaves may be added. However, this is optional.

One pound head of cabbage chopped fine, to which add 1 tablespoon salt and set aside to stand for several minutes. Then squeeze out water from cabbage and fry in one tablespoon butter that has been allowed to brown. Add one teaspoon sugar, and stir occasionally to keep from burning. Fry until golden brown.


  • 1/2 cup dry Cottage Cheese
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 12 teaspoon Butter
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Combine ingredients and mix thoroughly

Sviat Vechir recipes from various regions of Ukraine

To commemorate Christ's birth, the evening before Rizdvo, Sviat Vechir, a ritual meal is prepared with 12 meatless dishes.
Khrystos Razhdayetsya!
Christ is Born!

  • 2 cups cleaned wheat 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3-4 quarts water 1/3 cup honey, dissolved in
  • 1 cup cleaned poppy seed 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup sugar 

Wash wheat in cold water and soak overnight in the 3 to 4 quarts of water. The next day, bring the water to a boil then simmer for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The wheat is ready when the kernals burst open and the fluid is thick and creamy. Chop the poppy seed in a food processor and set aside. Mix honey, sugar and hot water. Before serving mix the honey mixture, poppy seeds, chopped nuts and wheat. More honey can be added to taste.


  • 1 cup fresh or dried mushrooms 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 large onion - chopped 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil 3 peppercorns
  • 2 cups beets, sliced into strips 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup diced carrots lemon juice (to taste:tart, not sour)
  • 1 potato, diced salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dill (fresh or frozen) 8-9 cups water
  • 1 tsp. parsley (fresh) 

Saute onion in oil until transparent. Add mushrooms- saute slightly and set aside. Cover beets, carrots, potato, parsley/dill with water and cook until barely tender. Add cabbage and cook until slightly tender. Add onions, mushrooms, tomato juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice with caution since you want the borshch tart, not sour. Bring to boil and serve.

Baked/Fried Fish

Any variety of fish baked or fried, but if frying use only vegetable/olive/hemp oil (in keeping with the meatless nature of the meal)

Osyletsi (Pickled Fish)

  • 2 filleted Whitefish (preferably caught while ice fishing) or 4 salt herrings
  • Milt
  • 2 large onions (sliced)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp pickling spices
  • Additional sugar if desired
  • 1 glass of dry white wine

Wash the whitefish (or herrings) fillets and soak in cold water for about 12 hours, changing the water 2 or 3 times. Wash again and cut into the size you want to serve. Place into a jar or crockery with a layer of sliced onion and some milt between the layers of fish. Boil vinegar, water, wine, spices, and additional sugar for 10 minutes. Let the boiled mixture cool. Strain and pour it over the fish. Let stand at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours. Then store in the fridge for another half day.

Holubtsi (Cabbage Rolls)- buckwheat and rice filled

Place one large head of cored cabbage in a deep pot of boiling water to which salt has been added. Remove the leaves as they become soft. Cool and drain the leaves and remove any remaining core. Cut the leaves to the desired size (personally I cut them about 3" wide). Grease a cassarole dish and place a few leaves of cabbage to line it. Put a tablespoon full of filling (filling recipe follows) into each leaf and roll it up tucking in the edges of the leaves as you roll. Arrange the holubtsi in layers, adding some fried onions and garlic (to taste, sauteed in olive oil) between the layers. When the dish is filled place extra prepared cabbage leaves over the top to prevent scorching. Cover and place in 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs or until both the cabbage and filling are tender. For a nice variation you could also use grape or beet leaves. Also, you could pour some tomato juice over the top to add flavour.


Rice Filling

  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper

Wash rice well. Add water and stir in salt. Bring to boil and cook for one minute. Stir and cover. Turn down heat and simmer until rice starts to get tender. Take off of heat and let stand covered until the rest of the water is absorbed. The rice at this stage will only be partly cooked. Saute chopped onion in olive oil and add to the rice. Season to taste. Cool and roll into cabbage.

Buckwheat Filling

  • 2 cups buckwheat groats
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 4-5 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cups water

Brown groats very lightly in the oven. Place in pot with boiling salted water. Add 4 tbsp olive oil. Cook until water is absorbed. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. After baking allow the buckwheat to cool. Saute chopped onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the sauteed onions to the cooked buckwheat. Cool and fill the holubtsi.

Varenyky (pyrogies)


  • 4 cups flour 1. Combine flour and salt
  • 2 tsp salt 2. Add rest of ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 3. Kneed until smooth and elastic
  • 2 eggs well beaten 4. Cover and let stand at least 15 min.
  • 1 cup water 5. Roll out thin on a floured board
  • 6. Cut out rounds with a glass or beer mug
Combine flour and salt. Add rest of ingredients. Kneed until smooth and elastic. Cover and let stand at least 15 min. Roll out thin on a floured board. Cut out rounds with a glass or beer mug.



  • 2 cups mashed potatoes 
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp. vegeatble oil 
  • salt and pepper to taste

- saute onions in oil, season, add potatoes and mix well.

Kapusta (sauerkraut)

  • 2 cups sauerkraut 
  • 4 tbsp. vegeatble oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped 
  • pepper to taste

- bring sauerkraut to boil in some water. Rinse, cool, drain and squeeze out water. Chop finer if you want. Saute onions in oil and add to sauerkraut, season to taste.

Prune filling

  • 1 cup prunes honey to taste
  • 1/2 cup water 

-bring prunes and water to a boil, let cool and drain. Chop prunes very fine and add honey to taste.

Add 1 tbsp of filling to each round of dough , fold over and pinch the dough together well. When boiling add a little salt and oil to the water so they don't stick together. When they come to the surface, they're ready.

Cooked beans

  • 2 cups white beans 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 7 cups water 
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda 
  • 2 tsp. cooking oil

1 tsp. salt Boil beans in water and add baking soda and salt when almost done. Continue simmering until beans are tender. Drain if necessary and set liquid aside for later. Mash beans well, adding bean liquid a little at a time until it is of a thick consistency. Crush garlic and stir into beans. Saute onions in oil and put on top of beans before serving.

Kapusta and peas

  • 2 cups sauerkraut 
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried peas 
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 2 tbsp. flour

Soak peas overnight. Rinse and drain. Cover with fresh water and cook until tender. Drain. Rinse sauerkraut in cold water and drain. Add the water and cook for 15 minutes. Combine peas and sauerkraut. Save the liquid. Saute onion in oil. Sprinkle flour over onions and brown lightly. Pour liquid from cooked sauerkraut and peas; add crushed garlic and stir until sauce thickens. Add sauce to sauerkraut and peas, stir and add salt and pepper to taste, simmer for 30 minutes and serve.

Beets with Mushrooms

  • 3 cups chopped beets 
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 tbsps. oil 
  • 1/2 tsp.lemon juice
  • 1 cup mushrooms

Chop the raw beets finely and then boil in a bit of water until tender yet firm. Add lemon juice to beets. Simmer for 5 minutes. Rinse mushrooms in hot water. Drain. Saute onion in oil, then add mushrooms and crushed garlic and simmer for a half hour. Combine with beets and simmer a further 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.


Get an assortment of dried fruits such as apples, apricots, prunes, peaches, pears, figs or raisins and soak the fruit overnight in water. Next day, simmer until tender and add honey to sweeten to taste.


For the dough, it's easiest if you have a bread machine with a manual setting. In that case all you do is make up a batch of sweet dough, letting the machine take care of the kneading then following the directions after the (*). If not here is the longer, more traditional method.


  • 8 cups flour
  • 2pkg. yeast
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast as instructed on package. Let stand 10 minutes. In a large bowl, put in part of the flour (about 6 cups), making a well in the middle. Beat the eggs lightly, add melted butter, milk, sugar and salt. Add this mixture to the flour along with the yeast. Mix well and knead until dough is soft and not sticky adding the remaining flour only as necessary. Knead about 10 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until double in bulk. Punch down and knead lightly. Let rise again. (*) Take a small amount of dough, roll on a lightly floured table. It must be fairly thick. Cut out rounds, coffee mugs work well. Place a small amount of filling in the centre bringing the edges together and pinch well to seal tightly. Place pompushky seam side down on lightly floured surface, cover and let rise a while, about 15 minutes. Do not let over rise. Deep fry in Canola Oil, about 375F for about 3minutes turning them to brown on both sides. When removing try to have most of the oil back into the pan, then leave the pompushky on paper towel for more oil to come off.


Poppy Seed (Maky)-

  • 1 cup poppy seed
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 1 cup raisins (opt)
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil

Grind the clean dry poppy seed in a coffee grinder and add to the moistened raisins. Add honey, nuts, vegetable oil well and then fold into the poppy seed- raisin mixture. Ready to be used.


  • 1 lb. apricots
  • Sugar to taste
  • 1/4 cup crushed walnuts
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. of lemon juice

Boil apricots until soft. Drain thoroughly. Put through food processor or blender. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend well. Ready to be used.

the same recipe as for apricots but with 1 lb. of pitted prunes.

Additional Recipes


  • 1 pkg. yeast 6 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt 2 c. water (approximately)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1/2 c. oil

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water; add salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let it set about 10 minutes. Sift flour and sugar. Add yeast mixture and rest of ingredients. Knead well. Let rise until doubled. Punch down. Cut off portions of dough about the size of an egg. Roll out on floured board by hand to make roll about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Place on greased cookie sheet. Let rise about 20 minutes.

Bake at 3500 for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool and separate. Place in colander. Pour boiling water over Bobalki. Drain quickly to prevent sogginess. Any of the following mixtures may be used on the Bobalki:

1. Sauté 1 small onion in 2 tablespoons oil. Add 1 pound sauerkraut (drained); cook about 15 minutes. Add mixture to half of Bobalki.

2. Combine 1 cup ground poppy seed, 2 tablespoons honey and 4 tablespoons water. Add to remaining Bobalki. Mix well.

3. Melt 1 stick margarine. Combine with 2 tablespoons honey and 1/2 cup strawberry preserves.


  • 1 small (3 oz. ) box lime Jell-O
  • 1 pkg. Dream Whip
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple, drained maraschino cherries, drained
  • 1 (3 oz.) pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese

Make Jell-O according to box instructions and let set until it just starts to jell. Beat Dream Whip according to instructions on box. Add cream cheese and beat until fluffy. Add mixture to lime Jell-O and stir until well blended. Add drained crushed pineapple and maraschino cherries. Then let jell and serve.


  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 ( 1 oz.) cake yeast

Sift flour and salt in a bowl. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and add to flour mixture. Knead until smooth. Let rise until double in size. Then place in a 9-inch greased pie tin and let rise again. Bake in a 4000 oven for 30 minutes. Makes 1 loaf. This dough may also be used for making Bobalki.



  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cut potatoes as for mashed potatoes. Cook until done. Drain water just before potatoes are finished cooking. Fry onion in oil trying not to get the onion brown. After water is drained from potatoes, add the fried onion and oil, salt and pepper, and mash and mix well. This can be eaten with fish or can be placed in soup bowl and put either a bean, mushroom or pea soup over it and eat it that way.


  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 large can sauerkraut
  • 1 c. ground mushrooms (either canned, dry or frozen
  • 1 c. rice (uncooked)
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Cut core out of cabbage to loosen leaves. Place the head of cabbage into boiling water for a few minutest Remove leaves as they get slightly softened. Cut away the thick rib from each cabbage leaf. Fry onion in oil until soft and add to mushrooms and rice. Add salt and pepper. Mix. Place about 1 tablespoon mixture in each cabbage leaf and roll.

Drain sauerkraut; use about half the kraut in the bottom of the pot. Arrange the rolls over the kraut. Cover with remaining kraut. Fill pot with water just to the top of the rolls. Cook slowly for about 2 hours.

For flavoring and coloring you may add 1/2 can tomato soup over the top of kraut before cooking.


  • 1 lb. fresh mushrooms or canned mushrooms
  • 4 Tbsp. Oil
  • 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 clove garlic, cut up
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 c. water
  • Vinegar (optional)

Clean, wash and drain mushrooms. Cut mushrooms up with garlic. Add 1 cup water and let simmer for about 1/2 hour. Make a brown sauce (Zaprashka), blending oil and flour together in a frying pan. Keep on medium heat and keep stirring until lightly browned. Cool slightly and add 1 cup cold water and blend until smooth. Pour this brown sauce into the cooked mushroom mixture. Cook the mushrooms until tender. Add salt and pepper and a little vinegar to taste.



  • 2 small cakes yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1/2 c. Crisco
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 6 1/2 -7 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar

Soak yeast in 12 cup lukewarm water. Mix all other ingredients and then add the yeast mixture. Knead dough about 10-15 minutes. Allow to rise in warm place until double in bulk.

After dough rises, divide into 8 parts. Let rise again, covered with dry cloth. Then flatten dough out to about 12 inch thick using rolling pin. Place filling over top of dough, leaving about 12 inch from edges free from filling. Roll another part of dough the same size and place on top. Pinch edges together. Roll again. Prick with fork all over top.

Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until done. Brush with oil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When taken out of the oven, cut into triangles.

Note: Any bread dough may be used.


  • 1 head cabbage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil (enough to fry cabbage)

Grate cabbage and fry in oil, adding the salt and pepper to taste. Cool.


  • Turbot fish, cut in serving pieces
  • 1/2 box cracker meal
  • Salt and pepper

Season fish with salt and pepper. Roll in cracker meal. Press while rolling in cracker meal. Place on greased (Crisco or oil) cookie sheet. Cover with foil and bake until done, about 45 minutes, at 350 degrees. When done remove foil and put under broiler to brown fish.


  • 1 lbs. whole green peas
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 potatoes (medium to 1/2 small onion, chopped large), diced
  • 5 qt. water
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped

Note: if you have hard water soak peas in water

Cook peas in water until almost done. Then add iced potatoes and cook until done. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make a thickening by frying the oil and flour until light brown, then adding onion and flying until well browned. Put the thickening in the pea Soup and cook 10-15 minutes. This makes a large pot of soup.


  • 1/2 lb. dry mushrooms or 1 qt. canned, drained and chopped
  • l qt. sauerkraut juice
  • 1 qt. Water
  • 1 c. rice
  • I Tbsp. butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • Salt and pepper

Wash dry mushrooms well in warm water. Mix sauerkraut, juice and water. (If a more sour soup is desired, use more juice and less water.) Place liquid over heat 4 and bring to boiling point. Add mushrooms. Simmer about 1 hour. Wash rice and drain. Add to boiling Mushroom soup; simmer 12 hour or more.

Put onion, butter and flour in skillet. Brown well. Add to soup; mix well. (If canned mushrooms used, simmer only about 12 hour.) Serves 12.


  • 1 c. dried mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 c. sauerkraut juice
  • 1 qt. water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 potato, cubed (optional)

Soak dried mushrooms in cold water overnight or at least 2 hours. Drain and chop. Add water, sauerkraut juice and oil to soup pot. Simmer 2 hours. Add potatoes now if desired.

Brown flour in oil in frying pan. Stir constantly or flour will burn. Add about a cup of soup, stirring constantly, to make a thin gravy (Zaprashka). Add to soup. Simmer 15 minutes more. Adjust seasoning.

KAPUSTA (Sauerkraut)

  • 2 large cans kraut
  • 1/4 c. margarine or oil
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium potato

Rinse kraut in pan of cold water and drain. Place the kraut in a kettle of fresh water. Water level should cover kraut about 1 inch above kraut. Cook for 1 hour 1q. and add 2 mashed cloves of garlic, adding salt and pepper to taste. Grate the potato and add to the kraut. Let cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Sauté I chopped garlic clove in the margarine; gradually add the tablespoon of flour and fry until lightly browned. Add to kraut; continue to cook mixture for approximately 1/2 hour. Makes 8-10 servings.


  • 1/2 lb. dried lima beans
  • 1 1/2 qt. water
  • 2 1/2 c. raw potatoes, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. Catsup
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 small or medium onion
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • Salt and pepper

Bring lima beans and water to a boil; cook until partially done, approximately 1 hour. Add more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Add raw potatoes and catsup. Brown onion lightly in butter. Add flour and continue browning until golden. Add hot water, one cup or so; stir until well blended. Add lima bean mixture and continue to cook all ingredients, adding water if necessary, until done.

Zaprashka is a brown sauce used for seasoning vegetables, especially on strict fast days. It is also used to thicken soups and stews.

  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped onion liquid
  • 1 Tbsp. flour

Heat oil and add flour and onion. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and turns a golden brown. Add liquid from vegetables or soup and stir until smooth. All is then returned to soup or vegetables.


  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c. warm water (110 degrees)
  • 4-4 1/2 c., all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. ( 14 lb.) butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. light cream or milk
  • Sweet Cheese Filling*
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar

In large bowl of electric mixer stir yeast with water and let stand 5 minutes. Melt butter and mix with milk and sugar; add to yeast. Mix with eggs, 2 cups flour, nutmeg and salt. Stir to blend. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Gradually mix in 1 34 cups flour. Scrape dough onto a board coated with about 1/4 cup flour. Knead, adding flour as required, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Put into greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover bowl. Let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 12 hours. Punch down and knead several times. Wrap airtight and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Knead dough several times to remove air, then divide into equal portions. Shape one portion at a time into a 6 to 6 12 -inch circle. Place equal portions (2 to 2 12 tablespoons) filling in center. Draw dough up around and pleat; pinch firmly just above filling, letting dough top flare loosely.

Place 2 inches apart on greased 10 x 15-inch baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep cold until all dough is shaped. Place baking sheets with covered bundles in a warm spot and let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes, then uncover.

To seal firmly, lightly pinch pleats together again. Brush surface with egg-water mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, cool completely; freeze up to 6 months. Makes 16 buns.

24 December 2010

Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah for the Nativity of Christ 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men” [Luke 2:14].

The angelic proclamation at the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the good news of the restoration of all things. In Christ, all things are made new, God is made man, and the order of nature is restored. All things are filled with His glory. All creation itself sings with joy, radiating the glory of God, while the angelic hosts join in praise of the One Who has been made manifest to us.

There is no separation between God and us, because God has taken our flesh and been born of the Virgin. He has emptied Himself in order to fill us with Himself. He has drawn us to Himself that He might fulfill every aspect of our lives with His joy, His presence, and His righteousness.

In light of this great mystery, how are we to respond to God?

Our spiritual life involves our every breath -- how we live in this world and conduct ourselves in our neighborhoods, at work and in school, in the midst of our families and communities and parishes. It involves bringing the remembrance of God into every aspect of our lives. During the Nativity Fast, as we prepared ourselves for the coming of the Savior, we were offered the opportunity to repent, to seek renewal, and to recommit ourselves to Christ and His Church. We discerned those areas of our lives in which we turned away from God, once again opening ourselves to His radiant presence, that He might heal and raise us up. Even when things seem dark and dismal, when we struggle to find the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, we can regain our spiritual focus -- that focus which is once again restored to us through the Incarnation of the One Who, as the "Light of the world," leads us.

Too often, we allow ourselves to be blinded to the light of God’s presence. We become preoccupied with anger and pride, lusts and the desire for material things, and -- even worse -- gossip, slander, judgment, criticism, and condemnation of those whom we should accept as our brothers and sisters. These sins must be confronted, confessed, and stopped. It is only by repentance that we can accept Christ back into our lives when we have banished Him by our sins. It is only by forgiving those who have offended us that we can be freed from slavery to the demons of anger and bitterness. And, indeed, it is only through repentance and forgiveness that we come to remembrance of Him as the One Who has come to set us free.

God comes and reveals Himself in the midst of our lives -- if we let him -- just as He came to the obscurity of a cave in Bethlehem. He exposed the envy and hatred of Herod. He was intuitively known to the simple shepherds -- the “pure of heart“ -- but those immersed in the bitterness of sin “knew Him not.” His Mother was slandered and condemned by those around her; how, then, can we slander? He was adored by the Wise Men of Persia, but those who, in their pride thought they were wise, could not understand.

Giving thanks to God for our healing and salvation, let us join with the angels and the shepherds, and all creation in the song of praise, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will to men!”

With love in the Newborn Lord,

Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

14 December 2010

Joint Statement of the Commissions of the OCA and the ROCOR

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) share a single origin – the local Church of Russia – and a long history on the North American continent. It was the Russian Church that first sent missionaries to America, established the first parishes, sent the first bishops and established the first dioceses. Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, the North American Diocese of the Russian Church was the principal canonical ecclesiastical authority here, and although there were clergy and parishes of differing cultures and languages, many were in the archpastoral care of the bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. Therefore, there is no question that the formation of multiple jurisdictions on this continent was largely due to the ecclesiastical chaos that ensued after the Revolution of 1917.

The life and witness of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th century was marked by violent persecution at the hands of the totalitarian atheist Bolshevik regime brought to power by the communist revolutionaries in 1917. The decades of persecution included the martyrdom of bishops, priests, monastics, and lay people in overwhelming numbers and in numerous killing fields and gulags. Thousands of churches and monasteries were desecrated and destroyed. The voice of the church was silenced in the public arena. Charitable and educational ministries were made illegal. In the midst of massive anti-religious campaigns and by means of unjust laws religious believers, both clergy and lay, were deprived of their rights and put on the margins of society as objects of derision and discrimination.

The decades of persecution were a time of human suffering and genocidal cruelty. These years were also a time of witness to Christ and faithfulness unto death. What the Russian Orthodox Church endured during Soviet rule affected Church life outside Russia.

In the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America, the loss of contact with the Church of Russia and the loss of support from Russia created confusion and even chaos in the midst of uncertainty. From this turmoil emerged the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America (popularly known as the North American Metropolia), which is today the Orthodox Church in America.

For the millions of refugees fleeing from revolution and civil war in Russia and settling in the Balkans and Western Europe, in Asia and the Americas and Australia, there was need to find comfort and support within Church life under new circumstances.

With regard to the situation of the clergy and parishes of the Russian Church that were found abroad, there were two distinct directions that evolved. The first was the striving for a unified central Church Administration which could oversee the ecclesiastical life abroad until conditions would change in the homeland and the Patriarchate, independent of Soviet control, could be restored. The second was the striving toward the establishment of a completely independent self-administered Orthodox Church in North America.

These two directions are the essence of the conflict between the bishops, clergy and parishes which would become the Orthodox Church in America and the bishops, clergy and parishes which would remain part of a central Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

However, even after the rupture of relations that occurred at the 7th All American Sobor in 1946, there were periods of close collaboration and mutual support between the North American Metropolia and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Even when the close collaboration faltered, support and welcome to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was offered by the American Metropolia in the period when the Synod of ROCOR bishops moved from Europe to the United States.

On December 11, 1950, a joint meeting of the Metropolitans Anastassy and Leonty and bishops of the Metropolia and ROCOR was held in New York. As noted in the official Minutes of ROCOR’s Council of Bishops, the Metropolia and ROCOR hierarchs had during their meeting “unanimously recognized that the sad fact of ecclesiastical separation causes significant damage to the holy cause of Christ’s Church: it weakens the preaching of Orthodoxy, undermining Church discipline and a sense of responsibility among clergy of the Church, is a temptation for the faithful, diminishes the prestige of the Church in the heterodox world and makes more difficult its struggle with militant atheism. It was unanimously determined that the Church's unity is necessary.”

Those Minutes also note that: “after the discussion of practical ways for achieving Church unity the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in conjunction with the bishops of the American Metropolitan See, accordingly recognized that the most appropriate path for that time was the preservation of the existing organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the American Metropolia, which will exist in parallel, but will be in close fraternal cooperation between themselves, periodically calling meetings of hierarchs of both Church organizations to resolve common or contentious issues with a firm hope that further ways to more closely achieve canonical unity with God's help will be provided by life itself.”

After the meeting of the two first hierarchs and members of their Synods, the Great Council of Bishops of the North American Metropolia issued an Archpastoral Epistle dated December 2/15, 1950, which included the following statement:

“Let enmity between brothers be abolished and let mutual respect be established on the basis of our mutual acceptance of the co-existence of two paths for the Church in this country, one permanent and one temporary, which are the result of the exceptional sufferings of our time, full of terrible events, and forebodings, imperiously demanding from all the greatest submission to the Lord, the greatest brotherly love and moral support for each other. This does not break, but further strengthens the historical path of our Metropolia.

“What happened after the close of the Council on December 11, i.e. Metropolitan Anastassy twice visiting our newly elected primate at the Holy Protection Cathedral, and the talk that we bishops had which took place the same evening with the hierarchs of the Russian jurisdiction Outside of Russia who visited us, determines the possibility of peaceful life in parallel, subject to internal mutual respect and clear delineation of our canonical rights and historical foundations. The Russian Church Outside of Russia has its own flock in America as well. She has spread her wanderers’ tent in this country, too. Let the peace of God be with its zealous hierarchs, its kind shepherds and its laity!

“Let brotherly love prevail, and let mutual forgiveness of past wrongs be accomplished. The American Metropolia wishes to live in peace with these brethren as well, based on the temporary presence of their hierarchical administration on the territory of America until the future free All-Russian Local Council.

“No treaties or agreements protect this decision of our Church coexistence. It rests upon the requirements of life itself and the clear precepts of the Savior: "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if ye have love for one another" (John 13:35).

“The clear and unconditional definition of our own canonical path, made at the 8th All-American Sobor, requires us to have an attitude of brotherly love toward those who, while wishing to preserve their temporarily separate ecclesiastical administrative organization next to ours, are our brothers in Christ.”

Despite these mutual efforts toward establishing brotherly relations, the paths of the Church Outside of Russia and the American Metropolia continued to be separate.

In 1970, by recognizing the self-governing status of the Metropolia with the granting of the Tomos of Autocephaly, eucharistic communion between the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the American Metropolia was restored and reconciliation was achieved.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the deep and extensive changes in Russia with the renewal of church life, the restoration of thousands of churches and monasteries, the freedom to bear public witness to the Gospel in Russian society, a process of dialogue between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate led to the restoration of canonical unity through the Act of Canonical Communion in 2007.

It is now time for the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to declare together in the spirit of mutual repentance and mutual forgiveness that we are committed to living together as brothers in Christ and as sister Churches, and to sharing a common witness to the Gospel of Christ and the Holy Orthodox Faith. This common witness should most clearly and most fully be expressed in eucharistic communion.

In addition, we see the need to work together in harmony on joint projects, such as pastoral education, parish schools, student outreach, translations of services, ministering to the poor and needy, and missionary efforts. To work in harmony we will need to reflect together on theological, pastoral, and liturgical issues which we face in our ministry in North America. We also affirm the need to examine together and develop a common understanding of the historical record concerning our churches. These hopes and endeavors can be encouraged and advanced through periodic meetings of our first hierarchs, bishops, clergy and laity to discuss matters of mutual concern, including those theological, liturgical and pastoral issues.

We are committed to the processes and goals expressed in the Chambesy accords of June 2009, specifically the active participation of both our Churches in the regional Episcopal Assembly as we strive to achieve Orthodox unity on this continent.

The following text from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Ephesians is addressed to us, and therefore to the believers of the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia: “I … beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all” (Ephesians 4: 1-6).

We ask for the intercession and blessing of the Holy Hierarch Tikhon, Patriarch and Confessor of Moscow and Enlightener of North America and all the saints who have shone forth on this continent as we labor “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 12).

OCA Commission

Bishop TIKHON of Philadelphia
and Eastern Pennsylvania (Chair)
Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky
Archpriest Alexander Garklavs
Archpriest John Erickson
Igumen Alexander (Pihach)
Alexis Liberovsky (consultant)

ROCOR Commission

Bishop GEORGE of Mayfield (Chair)
Archimandrite Luke (Murianka)
Archpriest Alexander Lebedeff
Archpriest David Moser
Priest Peter Jackson
Archpriest Seraphim Gan (consultant)

13 December 2010

15 Historical Facts You Do Not Know

We all love facts – especially historical ones and ones that are new to us. This list looks at 15 facts that are, hopefully, unknown to most of us here. From the Ancient world to the early modern times, these are all entries that have not appeared before on Listverse. Be sure to add your own unusual or little-known facts to the comments.

1. Saint Simeon Stylites (pictured) was a monk who gained fame in the 5th century for spending 37 years standing on a small platform on top of a tall pillar in Syria. He did it for ascetic reasons and his example was followed in later years by other well known stylite saints. His story is quite amazing and you can read more about it here.

2. In the First Dynasty of ancient Egypt, hoards of staff and family members were walled up with the body of the dead king. The humans and animals buried with the king were expected to help him in the afterlife.

3. In 1927 Otto Rohwedder invented sliced bread. He made the first machine to slice and wrap bread and won a patent for the process. After only six years from invention, more sliced bread was sold than unsliced.

4. In 1911, pigtails were banned in China because they were seen as a link with its feudal past.

5. To save the effort of sailing boats upstream, Mesopotamian traders built collapsable boats which they would sail downstream with a donkey on board. At the other end of their journey they would sell the frame and when they finished trading, they would use the donkey to return home.

6. In ancient Rome the punishment for killing one’s father was to be drowned in a sack along with a viper, a dog, and a rooster. The reason behind this? I have no idea.

7. Alexander the Great (pictured) invented a spying technique still used today: he had his soldiers write letters home, which he then intercepted and read to discover who was against him.

8. In Gubbio, Northern Italy, a race has been run every year since the 12th century – and the outcome is rigged. Villagers carry three statues in the race, Saints Ubaldo (for whom the race was started), Anthony and George. Every year Saint Ubaldo comes first, Saint George second, and Saint Anthony last.

9. When anaesthetic was used for the first time in childbirth in 1847, the mother was so amazed and relieved at how painless the birth was that she named her child Anaesthesia.

10. The last time a cavalry charge was used in war was in the Second World War. A mongolian cavalry division charged against a German infantry division – the result? Not one German was killed and 2,000 of the cavalry were.

11. The grid layout used in many cities around the world is not a new invention – it first appeared in the city of Mohenjo Daro, in India, 4,500 years ago. The houses to the side of the streets had bare walls facing the street to keep out the sun and dust from carts.

12. The first policewoman was Alice Stebbins Wells (pictured) who joined the LAPD in 1910. Because she was the first (and only) policewoman, she designed her own police uniform. Four years later, Britain had their first woman policeman.

13. In the 1700s in Paris, women wore hats with lightning rods attached when venturing outdoors during bad weather. Bad idea.

14. In circa 3100–3050 BC Egypt was ruled by its very first Pharaoh – King Menes. It was said that he was the first human ruler – inheriting the throne from the god Horus.

15. Gorgias of Epirus (3rd century BC), a Greek sophist, was born in his dead mother’s coffin! Pallbearers heard him crying out as they carried his mother’s coffin to the grave.

11 December 2010

Children and the Church by Archpriest Basil Zebrun

(The following is an edited version of a sermon given on August 8, 2010)

 As we begin the new school year – both church and public – it would be good for us to consider the topic of Children and the Church. It can be said without a doubt that children are one of the most precious of God’s gifts. How many Orthodox prayers, blessings and services, either paraphrase or quote Psalm 128:6: “May you see your children’s children.” It has always been considered a great blessing to live long enough to see one’s grandchildren. Nowadays, many expect to see their great grandchildren as well.

Jesus Christ Himself singled out children during His Ministry. For example, in the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – we are told that the people brought little children (infants) to Jesus wanting Him to lay His hands upon them and to pray over them. The disciples rebuked the parents but Jesus stopped them saying, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mark 10:14). “Let the little children come to Me:” these words point to why children are full, communicating members of the Body of Christ from their baptism at infancy. Sacramentally, spiritually, nothing is held back from the youth because Jesus invited the children and said, “do not forbid them.”

But our Lord added, “whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15). And elsewhere He said, “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Jesus’ words do not advocate naïve behavior or thinking, although a certain innocence is expected from His followers. Essentially Christ was speaking about humility (Matthew 18:4) as well as trust, an unconditional trust that children have for parents and elders, a faith, a trust that adults must strive to have for their Heavenly Father. The Lord was also referring to the openness of children to the wonders of life, to a depth of existence that often escapes adults but needs rediscovery. Speaking of this in terms of liturgical experience, Fr. Alexander Schmemann stated:
“Children penetrate more easily than adults into the world of ritual, into liturgical symbolism. They feel and appreciate the “atmosphere” of worship. The experience of the “Holy” which is at the root of all religion – the feeling of an encounter with Someone Who is beyond daily life – is more accessible to children that it is to us. “Unless you turn and become like children” (Matthew 18:3): these words apply to the receptivity, the open-mindedness, the naturalness which we lose when we grow out of childhood. How many men have devoted their lives to the service of God and consecrated themselves to the Church because, from their very childhood, they have treasured their love of the house of God and the joy of liturgical experience” (Liturgy and Life, p. 16, Department of Christian Education, Orthodox Church in America).
As parents, educators and elders we want to encourage children in their ability to trust, their natural receptivity to God as He reveals Himself in creation, and we might stress, in the Church. We do not want to hinder the development of the youth by consciously or unconsciously passing on to them (as sometimes happens) a skeptical or cynical view of life, easily acquired as a person ages. How many adults have been heard to say of children: “it’s time they learned about the harsh realities of life.” This is a strong sentiment. If by it, a person refers to offering challenges to the young, helping them overcome challenges in a Godly manner, learning that we must work hard as we mature, and that life is not a bed of roses, then, well and good. But if by this saying an adult intends to teach children to be suspicious of everyone, to trust no one, and to “look out for number one,” then such a lesson in animal survival is incompatible with Christianity.

We can recall a relevant and poignant story of two children taken to a park by their father on a bright Saturday afternoon. While walking they saw a homeless man about thirty yards away sitting on a picnic table bench. One of the children asked, “who’s that man?” After the father explained the man’s situation the children asked, “does he need money?” The father answered, “yes, he does,” to which came the reply, “do you have any money with you dad?” The father explained that he did have five dollars but that he was saving that to buy ice cream for the three of them a little later. The children responded, “well, doesn’t that guy need the money more than us?” At that moment a light went off in the father’s head. The children had been more open, more receptive to the plight of others, and more sensitive to the spiritual significance of the presence of the homeless, than he (the parent) had been. He ended up giving the man the five dollars and telling him that “the children wanted you to have this.” What could have been a lesson in callous behavior toward the less fortunate had the father refused the request of his kids, ended up being a revelation to the father himself, a lesson that “he” would never forget.

With regard to the natural openness of the young, one of the great joys that we have both as parents and members of Christ’s Body, is the opportunity to see a kind of wonder and amazement in the faces of infants and toddlers coming to Church. I often think of how extremely fortunate we are at St. Barbara’s in this respect, that there are members of Churches (Orthodox and non-Orthodox) across the country who would sacrifice much to hear just one baby cry during the service, or to see a young boy serving in the sanctuary. But with these kinds of blessings there are responsibilities given, to love, educate and discipline our children in a Godly manner. Books exist on this subject. Two highly recommended works are: “Children in the Church Today: An Orthodox Perspective” by Sister Magdalen; and “On Marriage and Family Life” by St. John Chrysostom, both published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Teachers of the Faith explain that besides leading children along a path to employment and financial security, parents should stress with equal strength a virtuous life, spiritual priorities. Here, the greatest teacher is most often the parents’ example: children will generally follow the priorities of those who raise them. Chrysostom states: “It is necessary for everyone to know Scriptural teachings, and this is especially true for children. Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainments. Our children need remedies for all these things! We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we were equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!” (On Marriage and Family Life, p. 67). Keeping these concerns in mind there are specific things that may be emphasized that pertain to children coming to Church.

First, that the Church is a household of love where young and old alike experience forgiveness and compassion. Adults must strive to make the parish reflect this reality in human relations. Our youth should be protected from the negative influences of Church gossip and politics. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing for children to witness occasional disagreements, even confrontations between grownups, as along as these disputes are followed by equally visible acts of reconciliation and brotherly affection. Such experiences are quite valuable. Every effort should be made to ensure that children learn what is meant at the Divine Liturgy when the priest and choir chant: “Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…” i.e., that love is the condition for everything in the Church, and that often it is acquired through much effort, humility and self sacrifice.

In addition, children should be encouraged to appreciate the heavenly character or dimension of the Church as the Kingdom of God on earth. As such the Body of Christ is the model for all households: St. John likens the home to a “mini Church,” an expression of the Kingdom. At the same time, however, the Church is not exactly like every other home. It is “God’s House,” and children must be taught reverence for that House and for what takes place in it. Let us look at some ways in which this may be accomplished.

Laying the foundation for this appreciation ultimately starts long before the family arrives at Church. Along with their parents, children prepare for worship services through observing the fasts, Bible reading, and a daily routine of prayer (even briefly, once a day). Another useful practice is the turning off of all televisions, computers, cell phones, CD players and so forth on the morning of Divine Liturgy as well as prior to Holy Week services and special festal gatherings. If a child or adult is sick it is profitable for both to remain quietly at home (again, no T.V. etc.) during the hours of Liturgy. It must be emphasized to the youth that this is not done as punishment, but out of reverence for the liturgical services that the family is unable to attend because of illness. In some families when sickness prevents people from participating in the Divine Liturgy, brief prayers are read at home during the time of the service. Children can also be encouraged to “dress up for worship.” This serves to stress the special character of Church participation. Again, adults set the example. If the Church and her worship are special to the parents, if that recognition is shown by attention to “preparation,” and by joyful “anticipation,” this attitude will be passed on to the kids. In many households where these ideas are new it is best to work gradually toward each of the disciplines over a period of time.

Once the family arrives at the Church it is helpful not to give children a great deal of free, running around time prior to the service. Preparation is needed for both adults and youth to adjust from the ride over, to transition into worship. There are icons to venerate, candles to light, and prayers to be said before the service begins. Psalm 5:7-12 provides appropriate words to say as one enters the chapel. In fact, these are recited by clergy prior to each Liturgy: “I will enter Thy House, I will worship toward Thy Holy Temple in the fear of Thee; lead me, O Lord, in Thy righteousness, because of my enemies make Thy ways straight before me…” Children should be taught that during the Liturgy there can be no wandering about the building to drink water, make cell phone calls, send text messages, read books from the library or bookstore, or to use the kitchen as a place for prolonged conversations and visits. When these latter activities are practiced by adults (as sometimes happens), children are implicitly taught to take corporate worship lightly, that it is acceptable to “drop in and out” of the Liturgy at one’s discretion. More than that, however, they are not experiencing the joy and saving character of worship, the benefits received by a full participation in the Liturgy. When a child is small it is much easier to impress upon him (or her) this understanding of prayer, one that will last a lifetime. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Adults (specifically parents) are called to be involved continually in loving instruction and discipline during the services to insure that children – according to their age and maturity level – are attentive and engaged. This watchful care is “our” offering to God while our kids are young. As children develop they should learn that more is expected from them in terms of understanding and participation. It is likewise important that youngsters learn that “they” are not the center of attention during Liturgy, “God” is. A child quickly realizes how easy it is to command the notice of a Church full of adults through various kinds of behavior, and will take full advantage of such opportunities when allowed.

Parents can help to engage children by pointing out and explaining quietly the particulars of the service: entrances, processions, Gospel and Epistle readings, color of vestments and altar coverings, symbolism of festal icons, etc. Much of this can and should be done prior to arriving at the Church itself. It may then be reinforced briefly and discretely during the prayers. Occasionally it may be helpful for parents to bring quiet, Church related items for the “very young” to work with while the congregation prays. Children’s bibles or illustrated liturgy books come to mind, or small, soft stuffed angels or Noah’s arks, etc. Restraint must be shown, however, so that the Church doesn’t resemble a day care center because of the mass variety of toys. Noisy playthings and those not in keeping (thematically) with the movement of the Liturgy should not be brought into the Church: i.e. building blocks, trucks and cars, robots, books about witches and goblins, comic books, etc. What to bring is easier to remember if one keeps in mind that the idea is to help engage the child in worship, not to distract, or take his mind off of the service while adults pray.

Service to the Church, i.e. stewardship of time, talent and resources, must be emphasized beginning with young children, enhancing the message progressively as they mature. While being taught about the many blessings they receive from God each day, and specifically from their union with the Church, they are to be taught the value of “giving back” to God. For example: visiting the sick with their parents, getting food for the elderly during coffee hour, learning how to sing and chant, making monetary offerings from their weekly allowances, passing out flyers at the end of Liturgy, taking out the trash, vacuuming floors, helping adults carry items to the Church from their cars. These are just some of the ways in which children can make meaningful offerings. Sister Magdalen in, “Children in the Church Today,” writes the following:
“Children should feel that they are responsible members of the parish community. They should not always be on the receiving end of parish activities. They should be encouraged to contribute help not only in church, but also in the social activities of the parish, in visiting the sick, and so on. A Christian belonging to a parish should feel a responsibility towards the other parishioners; he cannot merely attend services and remain indifferent to the lives of his fellow members…Let there always be willing volunteers to help with projects involving children” (pp. 69-70).
If adult Church members are patient and consistent in the above efforts they will pay great dividends in the long run for the life of the Church and for the lives of specific households. Let us think about these things and above all let us be grateful for the blessings that our Lord has bestowed upon the community of St. Barbara’s most assuredly in terms of our youth for which we give thanks.

08 December 2010

Re-establishing the Russian Orthodox Christian Mission in China

“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers”
(1 Corinthians 4:15)

Ivan Apollonovich Figurovich, named Innokenty upon his monastic tonsure, was born on February 24, 1863, in the Yenisei Diocese to the family of a priest. Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of blessed memory wrote that “he led a blameless life in heavy podvig and sought the glory of God, with no regard for himself” (“Bei-Guan,” Tyanzin, 1939, p. 35, author unknown).

In 1878, after completing Krasnoyarsk Seminary, he enrolled in Tomsk Seminary, which he left after four years, in 1882. In 1884, he was ordained to the priesthood and assigned to a church in Derbin, in the Yenisei Diocese, and later transferred to the town of Verkhne-Kuzhebarskoye in the Minusin region. In 1886, he began the fourth-year course of St Petersburg Seminary, which he graduated in 1888. That year he enrolled in St Petersburg Theological Academy, and in 1890, tonsured by Archbishop Anthony (Vadkovsky, +1912) and given the name Innokenty. In 1892, he finished the Academy with a doctorate in theology and appointed Inspector of St Alexander Nevsky Theological School. On May 15, 1893, he was awarded the gold cross. The following year, he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed Rector of St Petersburg Theological Academy. In 1895, he became the Abbot of the Second-class Pokrovsky Missionary Monastery in Moscow.

On October 3, 1896, Fr Innokenty as appointed Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Peking. In accordance with the wishes of the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Ruling Synod, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, in order to familiarize himself with missionary work in the Western countries, he departed Russia and traveled to London, Paris, Rome, Mt Athos, Palestine, Suez, Aden, Colombo, Saigon and Shanghai. He visited missionary institutions, mostly in Europe. On March 1, 1897, he arrived in Tyanzin.

After his arrival in Peking, he came to love the Chinese people with all his heart, the energetic Archimandrite Innokenty established a schedule of daily Liturgies at the mission, and within a year established a typographical shop and bindery, built 5 churches and a cemetery chapel, a mission rest house in Peitaho with a chapel dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord and a skete in Tsintantzui. That year, the Holy Synod gave its blessing for the bishop of Vladivostok to ordain two Chinese Orthodox priests.

During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, at the insistence of the Russian ambassador, Fr Innokenty and his colleagues came to the embassy for protection, and had with them the Albazin Icon of St Nicholas of Mozhaisk. All the mission’s churches and buildings, including its great library were destroyed or burned by the haters of the Europeans. The Chinese Christians at the embassy were not spared, and 222 people were killed, and so those who suffered for the faith and the Church received the uncorruptable crowns from God. The future Vladyka Innokenty wrote about them:
“Terrible was their fate. Their stomachs were cut open, heads were chopped off, they burned them in their homes. The Orthodox catechism teacher Pavel Van died a martyric death with prayers on his lips. Iya Ven, a teacher at the missionary school, was tortured by them two times. The first time, the Boxers hacked at her then dumped earth upon her. When she regained consciousness, her moans were heard by a guard (a pagan), and he brought her to his booth. Soon after the Boxers once again seized her and this time tortured her to death. Both times, Iya Ven joyfully witnessed Christ before her tormentors. After the terrible events of the first night, the peaceful Chinese found an 8-year-old boy, Ivan Tzi, the son of a murdered priest who was brutally mutilated by the Boxers: his fingers were cut off and there were wounds on his chest. When they asked the boy if he was in much pain, the boy replied with a smile that suffering for Christ was not difficult. This child martyr was seized, his head cut off and burned in a fire” (Ponomarev, Protopriest Nikolai, Khristiyanstvo na Dal’nem Vostke [Christianity in the Far East], Harbin, Doctoral thesis, 1937, p. 193).
The feast day of the Chinese martyrs is celebrated on June 11/24, when most of them were killed and the Mission destroyed, as was confirmed by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1996. In 1903, Bishop Innokenty and his clergy and flock ceremoniously transferred their relics to a crypt in a church dedicated to these holy martyrs.

In August, 1900, Fr Innokenty moved with his monastic brethren and a few families to a Laman monastery in Yunhogun, where they lived in a palace once used by Chinese emperors for their fasting days. Here he opened a school with a temporary church. The Mission then moved to Tyantzin, where they settled in houses belonging to General Neshichen. In order to prevent the Mission from being moved to Port Arthur, Fr Innokenty reorganized the mission in Shanghai and bought a parcel of land and a building, in which he set up a chapel, registering it with the US Consulate.

In 1901, Fr Innokenty took to reestablishing the Peking Mission, and as he disseminated the Word of God among the Chinese population, he and his brethren enjoyed the fruits of success in their apostolic efforts, converting 6,000 Chinese people to faith in Christ during a 15-year period (1902-1917).
The blood of martyrs has always been the seed of Christianity, and so it was in China. Credit is due to the success of proselytizing, and other circumstances. The intercession of martyrs before the Throne of God gave strength, wisdom and unflagging courage for the missionary work of those who spread Orthodox Christianity. Everyone who studies the history of this period must praise God, wondrous in His saints, Who by the prayers of the martyrs blessed the missionaries. Their selfless service is worthy of praise, too.

The Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, helped by the prayers of the martyrs, restored the destroyed mission headquarters, the churches, buildings, the fine Dormition Monastery, bell tower, print shop (one of the best in China), the book bindery, the rest home with its chapel in Peitaho. He also built new churches: St Seraphim, Dormition, St Nicholas and St Innokenty Churches in Peking; St Vladimir Church in Port Arthur; Annunciation Church in Harbin; Epiphany Church in Shanghai; St Innokenty Missionary Cathedral in Hankow, along with several chapels; St John the Theologian Church in Dundinan and Elevation of the Cross Church in Mantowtsun. He also opened branches of the Mission in Dal’ny, Harbin, Hailar, Manchuria, Moscow and St Petersburg; one seminary, 21 schools, a hospice, a convent in 1903; 30 Mission offices in Tziansua, Tziansie, Hubei, Chesyan and other locales; the Brotherhood of Orthodox Churches in China (during the Russo-Japanese War), which opened a hospital at the Harbin branch and published Izvestia Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v Kitaje [News of the Orthodox Church in China], and a series of other very profitable endeavors: a dairy farm, an apiary, etc. As a result, Fr Innokenty was able to expand the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, which by then occupied an enormous block in north-west Peking, and increased its budget to 100,000 gold rubles a year.

Archimandrite Innokenty, traveling to St Petersburg in 1902, learned that the Holy Rulin Synod had desired to close the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Peking and appoint him Head of the Urmian Mission in Persia, but, thank God, he was able to save the Mission in China. On May 25, 1902, he was nominated for the episcopacy and consecrated on June 3 as Bishop of Pereyaslavl, Vicar of the Vladimir Diocese, in honor of St Innokenty of Irkutsk, the first bishop appointed to Peking, who had also been bishop of Vladimir). The consecration took place on the feast day of the Holy Spirit at Holy Spirit Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

According to his successor, Archbishop Simon (Vinogradov), the late Metropolitan Innokenty lent special significance to the day of his consecration to the episcopacy as the day the Church of Christ in China was founded. He celebrated it not on June 3, but annually on the feast day of the Holy Spirit, the day after Pentecost. According to Orthodox tradition, when a new church is built, relics of martyrs are placed by a hierarch under the altar table. So Vladyka Innokenty placed relics of the Chinese who suffered for the Holy Orthodox Faith under the altar table in Peking’s Mission church.

In 1917, because of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Mission suffered a sudden lack of funds from the Holy Ruling Synod and the Mission’s offices in Russia, and, fighting to preserve the Mission from atheists who sought to seize its property, it still managed to receive over 300 homeless and hungry “new Albazins,” that is, Russian refugees. Only towards the end of Vladyka Innokenty’s life did the Mission receive financial relief:
“Thank God,” wrote Vladyka Innokenty, “His mercy and aid has visited the Mission—our material situation has improved, the social, educational, charitable and cultural life of Orthodox Christians is improving. Things are not falling apart, but are moving towards fruition, not dying, but coming to life.”
In March 1918, Vladyka Innokenty’s cathedra was renamed “of Peking and China.” On Pascha of 1921, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop, and in October 1929, to metropolitan. Vladyka Innokenty is renowned not only in China but throughout the Russian Orthodox Church for his fiery zeal for the glory of God and adherence to the holy laws of the Church, allowing no compromises and deeming any violator of such as a fighter against God. In August 1927, he spoke at the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on the wrongness of the nullification of Christian matrimony:
“Marriage, as a Mystery, in the teaching of the Orthodox Church, is not repeatable. After the death of a husband, a woman can marry another man… In these times of falling morals and failure of marital discipline, the Church of Christ must expecially srive to bring to life ideals in their purity for the betterment and strengthening of the foundations of family life. Compromises with the times and sinful tendencies of mankind are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ’s teachings.”
After the Council of Bishops, Vladyka Innokenty wrote the following in his article “On Divorce,” published in the journal Put’ khristjanina [The Path of a Christian], No. 8, 1927:
“The Synod of Bishops has condemned my opinion on divorce, and consequently, the practice of the Chinese Orthodox Church, since until now, the Peking Diocese has not allowed anyone to enter into a second marriage while a lawful husband or wife is alive. I feel it is my duty to declare that my episcopal conscience does not allow me to agree to the permissibility of divorce, and I make bold to rise to the defense of the sanctity and indivisibility of the Mystery of matrimony.”
Such zeal on the part of Vladyka was a praiseworthy deed, but it sometimes led to various difficulties and conflicts with the clergy and laity.

Vladyka Innokenty knew the Chinese language well, as is shown by his two-volume Chinese-Russian Dictionary. He knew 62,000 characters. Chinese professors even contacted him to decipher unknown hieroglyphs. He studied English, Sanskrit and Greek; he translated many service books from Greek to Chinese. These translations are also used by the Japanese Autonomous Church, headed today by Metropolitan Daniel. Most of them have never been published and remained in the Mission’s archives, and, after it closed in 1956, has probably disappeared. He wrote several Chinese-language theological works and a defense of the old calendar, the Orthodox Paschalia, dogmas of the Church, etc. Vladyka also composed an anathema of the godless regime, which is read in the cathedrals of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on every Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Metropolitan Innokenty died quietly on June 28, 1931 (that year marked the 200th anniversary of the deat of St Innokenty of Irkutsk, which was solemnly celebrated in the churches of the Peking Mission and in the Harbin Diocese). He was buried to the right of the iconostasis in a crypt of the Church of the Holy Martyrs at the Mission. As he lay dying, Vladyka Innokenty said to the visiting Bishop Simon of Shanghai: “Thank God, now I can die in peace; my lawful and worthy successor is here.”

In his eulogy, Archimandrite Victor (Svyatin), who then succeeded Metropolitan Innokenty and Archbishop Simon in heading the Peking Mission, said:
“We deeply believed you as a Church teacher. You were an undeniable authority in matters of the Orthodox faith… we relied on you and felt perfectly safe that in your experienced, strong and firm hands, the steering wheel of our Church here in the East follows the true path, and that turbulence and storms on the sea of life are no cause for fear… We loved you, because you were a real father to us—strict but fair, punishing us for wrongdoing, but also coming to aid in times of need, kind and merciful… You walked in the footsteps of great hierarchs of the Orthodox Church, the path of uncompromised truth, and for this reason always endured persecution in this life… Holy Vladyka, you are leaving us and we will not see you until the joyous day of the Resurrection from the dead. Forgive me and the flock of Tyantzin if we ever brought you sorrow or insult in any way… pray for us sinners, that we, the clergymen of Your dear Mission, would live in peace and concord, that we would, with one mouth and one heart, praise the name of the Lord… Bless us, Vladyka, for our future service in the harvest fields of Christ. Bless, too, Vladyka, all the Orthodox Christians in this land to live by the laws of God and the establishment of the Orthodox Church in accordance with the Holy Canons. Forgive us, holy Vladyka, intercede for us and bless us.”
Protopriest Serafim Gan
Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops,
Secretary of the First Hierarch of the 
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

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