R. Janin’s article on Metrophanes of Smyrna in the Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 10/2 (Paris, 1923), cols. 1627-1628:

Metrophanes of Smyrna

Metrophanes of Smyrna: metropolitan of that city (9th century). He was born probably at Constantinople. Baronius, Annales, an. 843, n. 2 and 3, following John the Curopalate, reports that his mother had been the woman who, by a payment of money, had been successfully persuaded by the adversaries of Patriarch Methodius to accuse the latter of having formerly violated her. Nothing is known either about Metrophanes’ childhood or about his youth. He was already Metropolitan of Smyrna when St. Ignatius was deposed in 857. He showed himself an implacable adversary of Photius and placed himself at the head of the bishops who remained faithful to Ignatius; they excommunicated the intruder, who excommunicated them in turn (Baronius, an. 859, n. 54, and 860, n. 1). This courageous attitude earned Metrophanes the harsh attentions of Michael III. This prince had him first thrown in prison, then exiled. After the first deposition of Photius (867), Metrophanes was able to retake possession of his see. He attended the Eighth Ecumenical Council (869) and took an active part in its deliberations. During the fourth session (13 October), he put forward the motion of the patrician Baanes, the imperial commissary, demanding that two bishops, ordained by Methodius and partisans of Photius, be introduced into the assembly so that they might there learn the reason for their condemnation. The pontifical legates were opposed to this, but he ended up having his way. During the same session, he professed that he himself had been momentarily deceived by Photius who pretended to have been recognized by the pope and by the eastern patriarchs (Mansi, Concil., vol. X, cols. 55-73, passim; Baronius, Annales, an. 869, n. 27-28). During the sixth session (25 October), he gave an important speech and refuted the arguments of Zacharias, metropolitan of Chalcedon, a partisan of Photius (Mansi, ibid., cols. 89 sq.). At the end of the council, he was one of two bishops designated to read solemnly, at Hagia Sophia, the fathers’ profession of faith (Mansi, col. 179 A; Baronius, an. 869, n. 29-30). In 870, Metrophanes wrote, at the request of the patrician Manuel, Logothete of the Course or prefect of the imperial posts, an exposé of Photius’s conduct (Mansi, col. 413-420; Baronius, an. 870, n. 44-51). It was perhaps in the years following this that Photius wrote an ambiguous letter to Metrophanes (published by A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Ss. Patris Photii … Epistolae XLV, St. Petersburg, 1896, pp. 18-19). Upon the death of St. Ignatius, Metrophanes did not want to recognize Photius as patriarch and refused, under the pretext of illness, to attend the council held during the winter of 879-880 to pacify the Church. After the third warning, John VIII’s legates declared him cut off from the Church (Mansi, vol. XVII A-XVIII A, cols. 496 sq.). At this council of 879 there was seated a certain Nicetas with the title of Metropolitan of Smyrna; he must have been ordained by Photius during Metrophanes’ exile. All trace of Metrophanes is lost after 880. The date of his death is unknown, nor is it known if he was able to retake possession of his see after Photius’s second deposition (886). Certain manuscripts of his works give him the title of saint and even that of martyr; nevertheless, no service seems to have been composed for his veneration.

The works of Metrophanes of Smyrna are quite numerous and varied. John Bekkos, in his Epigraph VIII, PG 141, 692 (L. Allatius, Graecia orthodoxa, 1648, vol. II, p. 605), cites the beginning of his commentary on the first epistle of St. John. A Georgian translation exists of his commentary on Ecclesiastes, K. S. Kekelidze, Thargmanebay Eklesiastisay Mitrophane zmwrnel metropolitisay (Commentarii in Ecclesiastem Metrophanis, metropolitae Smyrnensis), Tiflis, 1920; the Greek text has not yet been reported. Allatius, De libris ecclesiasticis graecis, n. 67, says that Metrophanes is the author of the canons to the Holy Trinity that are sung in the office of Sunday (Fabricius, Bibliotheca graeca, 1722, vol. v, p. 49; A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Ἱεροσολυμιτικὴ βιβλιοθήκη, vol. I, ms. 249, p. 320, vol. II, mss. 257, 434, and 468, pp. 383, 548, and 559); from him are also sticharia on the same subject (A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, op. cit., vol. II, ms. 434, p. 548); diverse hymns (ibid., vol. II, ms. 106 and 342, pp. 118, 464); canons and sticharia in honor of the Holy Virgin (Theotocarion, ed. Venice, 1808, pp. 15, 47, 65, 91, and 105; A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, vol. II, ms. 435, pp. 547-548). He also left an instruction on the manner of transcribing hymns (A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, vol. II, ms. 106, p. 188). We spoke above about his letter to the patrician Manuel on Photius’s conduct; it is found in Latin in Baronius, op. cit., an. 870, n. 44-51, in Greek and in Latin in Mansi, op. cit., vol. XVI, cols. 413 E-420. B. Georgiades has published (in Ἐκκλησιαστικὴ Ἀλήθεια, vol. 3, 1882-1883, pp. 298-302) a panegyric by Metrophanes on St. Polycarp; another by the same author on the archangels likewise appeared in the same review, vol. 7 (1887, 2nd ed.), pp. 386-393. Finally, a treatise against the Latins on the subject of the procession of the Holy Spirit has been attributed to Metrophanes: L. Allatius, De Ecclesiae occidentalis et orientalis perpetua consensione, 1648, vol. II, c. 6, col. 575; but J. Hergenröther, Photii liber de Spiritus Sancti mystagogia, Ratisbon, 1857, has proven that this work is by Photius.

Baronius, Annales ecclesiastici, ann. 843, n. 2 and 3; 859, n. 54; 860, n. 1; 869, n. 27-30; 870, n. 44-51; Mansi, Concil., vol. XVI, cols. 55-73, 89 sq., 179; vol. XVII a-XVIIIa, cols. 496 sq.; Fabricius, Bibliotheca graeca, 1721, vol. X, p. 540.

Gerhard Podskalsky, Von Photios zu Bessarion: Der Vorrang humanistisch geprägter Theologie in Byzanz und deren bleibende Bedeutung (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003), pp. 40-41.

Aufs äußerste zugespitzt, aber aus zweifellos schmerzhafter Selbstreflexion über relevante Texte der lateinischen und griechischen Patristik in den Monaten der Einkerkerung erwachsen ist die systematische Kritik des Patriarchen Johannes XI. Bekkos an der Hauptthese der “Mystagogie” des Photios. Bekkos geht es um das hohe Gut des kirchlichen Friedens; darum wollte er in seiner Antwort die umstrittene syllogistische Methode der westlichen Scholastik vollständig vermeiden. Tatsächlich bleibt der Ton in seiner abschnittweisen Widerlegung (aus Kirchenvätern und. Hl. Schrift) sehr maßvoll und unpolemisch. Aber bei aller Irenik sah (der inzwischen als Patriarch abgesetzte) Bekkos sich doch gezwungen, auch der Vermittlungsformel seines ihm gegenüber äußerst antipathisch gesonnen und handelnden Nachfolgers, Gregorios II. Kyprios, dem gleichsam “halbierten Photios” (ὁ τῆς ἀρτιφανοῦς αἱρέσεως ἀρχηγός: PG 141, 865B), entschieden entgegenzutreten: in zwei großen Reden werden einzelne, im Wortlaut zitierte Sätze des Zyprioten auseinandergenommen; auch diesmal möchte sich Bekkos der dialektischen Methode enthalten. Die pneumatologische Position des Patriarchen Gregorios II. wird von modernen Autoren des Orthodoxie als “antinomische” bezeichnet; es stellt sich aber die Frage, ob dieses Prädikat nicht einfach ein Dilemma verschleiert, bzw. ob die gleichzeitige Distanz zu Photios wie zu Bekkos metaphysisch-theologisch überhaupt nachvollziehbar ist. Of an utmost acuity, but born of undoubtedly painful self-reflection on relevant texts of the Latin and Greek Church Fathers in his months of imprisonment, is the systematic criticism of Patriarch John XI Bekkos on the main thesis of the Mystagogy of Photios. Bekkos is concerned with the high good of ecclesiastical peace; therefore, in his reply he wanted to avoid completely the controversial syllogistic method of Western scholasticism. In fact, the tone of his refutation, based on excerpts (from Fathers of the Church and Holy Scripture), remains very modest and unpolemical. But in spite of all irenicism, Bekkos (now deposed as Patriarch) saw himself compelled likewise to oppose resolutely the mediating formula of his successor, Gregory II of Cyprus, who was extremely inimical to him, and who acted as a “semi-Photios” (ὁ τῆς ἀρτιφανοῦς αἱρέσεως ἀρχηγός: PG 141, 865B): in two great treatises individual statements of the Cypriot, quoted verbatim, are dissected; again, Bekkos wants to abstain from the dialectical method. The pneumatological position of Patriarch Gregory II is described by modern Orthodox authors as “antinomic”; but the question arises as to whether this predicate does not simply conceal a dilemma, or whether the simultaneous distancing from Photios, as well as from Bekkos, is at all metaphysically and theologically comprehensible.

How to Speak About God

July 21, 2018

In images we speak of God correctly
Because some things cannot be said directly.
How can a Name unspeakable be said
Without it rendering the speaker dead
At least as to the intellect and heart
Which, by one’s arrogance, are torn apart?
In images we speak of God with care
In hopes to find our truth and meaning there
In what we cannot otherwise proclaim
And, in so doing, glorify His Name.
Because our human intellect is such
That it transforms whatever it may touch
Into a kind of idol: which to break
God breathes in us, a truer mind to make.

Commentaries on the four gospels, excerpted from the writings of the Church Fathers.

Every Sunday is the Lord’s day, the day of the resurrection; but today, Sunday, April 8, 2018, is, for millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, the day of the resurrection par excellence, the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days, the Lord’s Pascha. Yesterday evening and earlier this morning, I experienced this feast in a new way: for most of the past month I have been conducting our church choir in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, our official choir director being incapacitated due to a recent hip replacement. So, although I have sung in many Easter services, today was the first time in my life of some 59 years that I conducted one. Thanks be to God, our singers sang well, we acquitted ourselves of our task with jubilation, and, I think, helped the congregation to pray and to focus their minds and hearts on the glory of God, which is what a choir is supposed to do.

Whether it is this novel experience of directing a church choir during an Easter service that has awakened these reflections, I don’t know, but I think it is right, on this feast day, to speak of joy. What is the joy that characterizes the life of a Christian? A Christian is, like other human beings, subject to innumerable ups and downs, a Christian is not, any more than anyone else, continually floating on a cloud of earthly and material bliss, and, even in spiritual matters, a Christian is acquainted with the grief first of all of his or her own sinfulness and the estrangement from God and man that sin entails, and secondly, with the grief of living in a fallen world in which might frequently triumphs over right and falsehood over truth. Nevertheless, the life of a Christian is characterized by joy. How is this possible?

It is possible, I think, because of the resurrection. The resurrection contains the entire message of Christianity, and, if we are to understand what makes the life of a Christian what it is, it is there that we must look. On the cross, Christ broke the power of sin, the demonic forces that tyrannize human life, and provided, for all time, an infallible key for escaping spiritual imprisonment; by rising from the dead, Jesus showed us that death is not the final reality, he showed himself the victor over death and corruption, and gives us the possibility of sharing in his victory and in newness of life. That is what Christian joy is all about; it is the response of one who begins to live in the light of the risen Christ, who has overcome the world. And Easter, as it is the feast of Christ’s resurrection, is preeminently a feast of joy — a joy, not in ourselves or our accomplishments, but in Christ who gives us the victory. It is the communal joy of Christ’s redeemed people. If the singers at a liturgy, by their voices, are able to communicate this joy to the congregation, they have done their part in proclaiming the gospel.

May God grant the readers of this blog a joyous Easter. Christ is risen!

Poem on Moses

March 13, 2018

My seventh-grade Old Testament class reached the end of the Pentateuch today, after several hard weeks of slogging through the Sinai desert. Some while ago, one of the students observed that, instead of drawing pictures (which is what I let the students do when their attention spans wane, which happens not infrequently), we should write songs on selected Old Testament themes. I approved of the suggestion, and proposed that, for extra credit, they each write a poem on Moses; I did not anticipate that what some of them would come up with would be rap songs. Below is my own contribution to the class project.

When Moses through the wilderness
the people once did lead
with manna fallen from the sky
their hungry frames he’d feed
thus teaching them that man does not
survive on bread alone
but by each word that comes from God
we feed our flesh and bone

But stiff-necked were the people and
his guidance they did spurn
and for Egyptian flesh-pots they
incessantly did yearn
So God sent them such flocks of quails
that meat dripped from their noses
and thousands died of sickness there
as sacred writ discloses

Then Dathan and Abiram raised
their heels in dire revolt
and from the rule of Moses
they encouraged men to bolt
but God procured a remedy:
beneath their sullied feet
a sudden chasm opened wide
wherein they death did meet

So we also, if we complain
about God’s laws and ways
shall find ourselves in gloomy pit
of hell one of these days
But whereas we a Savior have
who shows us life and light
let us our whole hearts turn to him
and learn to do what’s right

From Martin Gerbert, Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra potissimum, Tomus I. (1784), pp. 2-4.

Ὁ Ἀββᾶς Παμβῶ ἀπέστειλε τὸν μαθητὴν αὐτοῦ ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ, πρὸς τὸ πωλῆσαι τὸ ἐργόχειρον αὐτῶν. Ποιήσας δὲ ἡμέρας δεκαὲξ ἐν τῇ πόλει, ὡς ἔλεγεν ἡμῖν, τὰς νύκτας ἐκάθευδεν ἐν τῷ νάρθηκι τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἐν τῷ ναῷ τοῦ ἁγίου Μάρκου. Καὶ ἰδὼν τὴν ἀκολουθίαν τῆς ἁγίας ἐκκλησίας, ἀνέκαμψε πρὸς τὸν γέροντα. Ἔμαθε δὲ καὶ τροπάρια. Abba Pambo sent his disciple to Alexandria to sell their handcrafts. During the sixteen days he spent in the city, he slept at night (as he himself told us) in the narthex of the church, in the shrine of St. Mark. After seeing the order in which services were done in the holy church, he returned to his elder. (Now, he also learned troparia.)
Λέγει οὖν αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· Ὁρῶ σε τέκνον τεταραγμένον, μή τις πειρασμός σοι συνέβη ἐν τῇ πόλει; λέγει ὁ ἀδελφὸς γέροντι, Φύσει Ἀββᾶ ἐν ἀμελείᾳ δαπανῶμεν τὰς ἡμέρας ἡμῶν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃ, καὶ οὔτε κανόνας οὔτε τροπάρια ψάλλομεν. Ἀπελθόντος γάρ μου ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ εἶδον τὰ τάγματα τῆς ἐκκλησίας, πῶς ψάλλουσι, καὶ ἐν λύπῃ γέγονα πολλῇ, διατὶ καὶ ἡμεῖς οὐ ψάλλομεν κανόνας καὶ τροπάρια. The elder therefore says to him: Child, I perceive that you are troubled. Did you encounter any temptation in the city? The brother says to the elder, Indeed, Abba, we spend our days in this desert negligently, singing neither canons nor troparia. For, when I was in Alexandria I saw the order of the church, how they sing, and it made me very sad that we do not also sing canons and troparia.
Λέγει οὖν αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· οὐαὶ ἡμῖν τέκνον, ὅτι ἔφθασαν αἱ ἡμέραι, ἐν αἷς ὑπολείψουσιν οἱ μοναχοὶ τὴν στερεὰν τροφὴν τὴν διὰ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος ῥηθεῖσαν, καὶ ἐξακολουθήσουσιν ᾄσματα καὶ ἤχους. Ποία γὰρ κατάνυξις, ποῖα δάκρυα τίκτονται ἐκ τῶν τροπαρίων; ποία γὰρ κατάνυξις τῷ μοναχῷ, ὅταν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ ἢ ἐν κελλίῳ ἴσταται, καὶ ὑψοῖ τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ὡς οἱ βόες; Εἰ γὰρ ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ παριστάμεθα, ἐν πολλῇ κατανύξει ὀφείλομεν ἵστασθαι, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐν μετεωρισμῷ. Καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἐξῆλθον οἱ μοναχοὶ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃ, ἵνα παρίστανται τῷ Θεῷ, καὶ μετεωρίζονται καὶ μελῳδοῦσιν ᾄσματα, καὶ ῥυθμίζουσιν ἤχους· καὶ σείουσι χείρας, καὶ μεταβαίνουσι πόδας. Ἀλλ᾽ ὀφείλομεν ἐν φόβῳ πολλῷ καὶ τρόμῳ δακρυσί τε καὶ στεναγμοῖς μετὰ εὐλαβείας καὶ εὐκατανύκτου καὶ μετρίας ταπεινῆς φωνῆς τὰς προσευχὰς τῷ Θεῷ προσφέρειν. The elder therefore says to him: Woe to us, child! for the days have arrived, in which monks will forsake the strong nourishment spoken by the Holy Spirit, and will follow after songs and “tones.” For what sort of contrition, what sort of tears are produced by troparia? What kind of contrition is there in a monk, when he stands in church or in his cell and raises his voice like cattle? For if we are standing in God’s presence, we ought to be standing there with great contrition, and not with our heads in the clouds. For, indeed, we monks did not go out into this desert in order to stand before God and be raised up on high and make melodious tunes and measure out tones (modes), and wave our hands, and move our feet. But it is with great fear and trembling, with tears and groans, in reverence and repentance and with a moderate, humble voice, that we ought to present our prayers to God.
Ἰδοὺ γὰρ λέγω σοι τέκνον, ὅτι ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι, ὅτε φθείρουσιν οἱ χριστιανοὶ τὰς βίβλους τῶν ἁγίων Εὐαγγελίων, καὶ τῶν ἁγίων Ἀποστόλων, καὶ τῶν θεσπεσίων Προφητῶν λεαίνοντες τὰς γραφὰς τῶν ἁγίων· καὶ χυθήσεται ὁ νοῦς εἰς τρόπους καὶ εἰς τοὺς λόγους τῶν ἑλλήνων· διὰ τοῦτο καὶ οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν εἰρήκασιν, ἵνα μὴ γράφωσιν οἱ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃ ὄντες καλόγραφοι τοὺς βίους καὶ λόγους τῶν γερόντων ἐν μεμβράναις, ἀλλ᾽ ἐν χαρτίοις· μέλλει γὰρ ἡ ἐρχομένη γεννεὰ λεαίνειν τοὺς βίους καὶ λόγους τῶν πατέρων, καὶ γράφειν κατὰ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῖς. For I tell you, child, that the days will come when Christians shall corrupt the books of the holy Gospels, and of the holy Apostles, and of the divine Prophets, erasing the writings of the saints; and their mind will be dissipated on rhetorical figures and on the discourses of the Greeks. That is why our fathers also have said that those who are calligraphers here in this desert should not write the lives and words of the elders on parchment, but on papyrus. For the coming generation is going to erase the lives and words of the fathers, and write as it pleases them.
Καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἀδελφὸς, τί οὖν ἀλλαχθήσονται τὰ ἔθη καὶ αἱ παραδόσεις τῶν χριστιανῶν· καὶ οὐκ ἔσονται ἱερεῖς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἵνα ταῦτα γένηται; καὶ εἶπεν ὁ γέρων· ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις καιροῖς ψυγήσεται ἡ ἀγάπη τῶν πολλῶν, καὶ ἔσται θλίψις οὐκ ὀλίγη ἐθνῶν. And the brother said: What then? Are the customs and traditions of Christians going to be changed? And the elder said: At such times the love of many shall grow cold, and the nations shall be afflicted in no small way.

Postcard to Ahed Tamimi

January 23, 2018




A Christmas present: links to the texts of The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, a series of commentaries, critical in perspective but intended for the general reader, published mostly in the decades leading up to the First World War. I have read some of them over the past few years; they have been useful to me in my capacity as a teacher of Old and New Testaments at The Lyceum near Cleveland. I believe this is a complete list, though there may still be gaps; e.g., it is possible that volumes were published on other books of the Apocrypha besides First Maccabees, but I have been unable to find them. The Wikipedia has further links and information on the series.

An Introduction to the Pentateuch: A. T. Chapman (1911).
The Book of Genesis : Herbert E. Ryle (1914). [Not whole view of book. See full text at HathiTrust.]
The Book of Exodus : G. R. Driver (1911).
The Book of Leviticus: A. T. Chapman and A. W. Streane (1914).
The Book of Numbers : A. H. McNeile (1911).
The Book of Deuteronomy : George Adam Smith (1918).
The Book of Joshua : G. A. Cooke (1918).
Earlier edition:
The Book of Joshua : G. F. Maclear (1880).
The Book of Judges : G. A. Cooke (1913).
Earlier edition:
The Book of Judges : J. J. Lias (1884).
The Book of Ruth : G. A. Cooke (1913).
The First Book of Samuel : A. F. Kirkpatrick (1880).
The Second Book of Samuel : A. F. Kirkpatrick (1894).
The First Book of the Kings : J. Rawson Lumby (1890).
The Second Book of the Kings : J. Rawson Lumby (1889).
The Books of Chronicles : William Emery Barnes (1899).
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah : Herbert Edward Ryle (1907).
The Book of Esther : A. W. Streane (1907).
The Book of Job : A. B. Davidson (1889).
The Book of Psalms: Book I (Psalms I-XLI) : A. F. Kirkpatrick (1891).
The Book of Psalms (whole) : A. F. Kirkpatrick (1906).
The Proverbs : T. T. Perowne (1899).
Ecclesiastes : E. H. Plumptre (1898).
The Song of Solomon : Andrew Harper (1902).
The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel : A. B. Davidson (1892).
The Book of Daniel : S. R. Driver (1900).
Hosea : T. H. Cheyne (1892).
The Books of Joel and Amos : S. R. Driver (1897).
Jonah : T. T. Perowne (1879).
Micah : T. K. Cheyne (1882).
Haggai and Zechariah : T. T. Perowne (1902).
Malachi : T. T. Perowne (1890).
The First Book of Maccabees : F. Fairweather and J. Sutherland Black (1908).
The Gospel According to St. Mark : G. F. Maclear (1879).
The Gospel According to St. Luke : F. W. Farrar (1910).
The Gospel According to St John : A. Plummer (1896).
The Acts of the Apostles : J. Rawson Lumby (1891).
The Epistle to the Galatians : E. H. Perowne (1900).
The Epistle to the Ephesians : H. C. G. Moule (1902).
The Epistles to the Thessalonians : George C. Findlay (1908).
The Epistles to Timothy and Titus : A. E. Humphreys (1895).
The General Epistle of St. James : E. H. Plumptre (1901).
The Epistles of S. John : A. Plummer (1906).
The Revelation of S. John the Divine : Rev. William Henry Simcox (1891).

The other day a friend of mine, Jesse Anderson, posted a video of a speech that was recorded three years ago at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas, given by a Syriac priest from Mosul, Iraq, Fr. Bashar (it’s unclear to me what his last name is; it sounds as though he is introduced as Fr. Bashar al-Sham Sham Shamadi, but it’s possible that the person introducing him is stuttering). Although the video is three years old, it deserves to be watched; it is a powerful statement of what the Christians of northern Iraq have had to endure under the hegemony of the Islamic State. Although I do not usually post videos on this website, I will make an exception here, because I think Fr. Bashar’s speech deserves a wide audience.