SVOTS’ “East Meets East” Celebrates the Oriental Orthodox Churches

On Saturday, October 3, 2015,Saint Vladimir’s Seminarywelcomed hundreds of friends and alumni to campus for its annual Orthodox Education Day.

“This year’s theme, ‘East Meets East,’ was inspired by the diversity of our student body,” remarked seminary Chancellor/CEO, Archpriest Dr. Chad Hatfield.  “At Saint Vladimir’s, Oriental and Eastern Orthodox students have been living, learning, and growing together in Christ for over 50 years.”

Three Hierarchs Chapel served as the locus for the day’s events.  The day began with Sh’himo, a service comprising Matins and the Third and Sixth Hours according to the Rite of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.  The Rev. Dr. Varghese M. Daniel, newly appointed Sessional Assistant Professor of Malankara Studies at Saint Vladimir’s, presided alongside Malankara Orthodox seminarians, alumni, and friends of the seminary.  In the afternoon, Coptic Orthodox students and friends led the community in prayer at a raising of incense service.  The day concluded with Eastern Orthodox Great Vespers.

Archpriest Dr. John Anthony McGuckin presented the keynote address, “Our Common Father: Saint Cyril.”  Renowned author of 25 books, several of which are published by SVS Press, Father John is The Ane Marie and Bent Emil Nielsen Professor of Late Antiquity and Byzantine Christian History at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies at Columbia University.

“We have preferred, because of political reasons, to relegate each other’s traditions to poor apologetic representations,” stated Father John.  “We have to learn a dialogue of love and the truth of one another’s traditions.  We need to learn to love through prayer.”  Father John then went on to outline a brief history of Saint Cyril and made the point that the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox traditions agree with much of the saint’s theology.  “It is not beyond us to restore the fallout of the last 1,600 years,” he stated in closing.

Guests had the opportunity to explore a marketplace filled with Orthodox Christian books and gifts and to eat their fill of barbecue, Indian cuisine, and delicious desserts prepared by the seminary community.

Workshops on topics ranging from Coptic iconography to a history of the dialogue between the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches filled the late afternoon hours.  A lively book discussion group, co-moderated by Three Hierarchs Chapel member Vera Hubiak and third-year seminarian Deacon Shiryl Mathai, mulled over the message and themes in Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander.  Eight seminarians performed a concert of Orthodox music titled “Our Common Saints: Hymns of Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Sebaste,” under the direction of Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak), Lecturer in Liturgical Music and Director of Chapel Music at Saint Vladimir’s.

“The day was replete with opportunities to explore the relationship between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, a relationship that is lived out daily at Saint Vladimir’s,” commented Archpriest Dr. John Behr, Dean.  “Our seminary is a unique community where priests and leaders from both traditions are molded and prepared for ministry.  We are grateful for our long history with the Oriental Orthodox churches.”

View a gallery of Orthodox Education Day photographs on the seminary’s Facebook page.  Listen to the keynote address and sacred music concert on the seminary’s Ancient Faith Radio podcast, Voices From St. Vladimir’s Seminary.