With God's grace, the help of our generous benefactors, and the diligence of our faculty and staff, Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary was once again blessed to celebrate our patronal feast day of the Three Hierarchs: St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom. On February 11 and 12, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, the monastic community, the seminarians, faculty, staff, and friends gathered to praise God the Holy Trinity, honor those great saints of the fourth century, and extol the virtues of the Seminary.
The annual tradition established by Archbishop Averky began with a Hierarchal All-Night Vigil on Sunday night, February 11, featuring Byzantine chant and Old Testament readings in Greek, in addition to the usual Church Slavonic and English chants. Thus, they honored the ethos of the era of the Three Hierarchs and gave third- and fourth-year students an opportunity to reinforce their Biblical Greek classes taught by Hieromonk Cyprian (Alexandrou) and to integrate classroom instruction with practical liturgics.
Following the Hierarchal Festal Liturgy on Monday morning, the feast day continued with blini in the trapeza and tea and a wide array of desserts in Seminary Hall. A few choral chants by our Seminary choir conducted by Deacon Nicholas Kotar and short presentations focused on the pertinence of the feast to Holy Trinity Seminary.
Met. Hilarion opened the talks by reminding us that 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Seminary in 1948. Since then, the Seminary has produced many bishops, including among our alumni six current bishops (ruling, vicar, or retired).
Amplifying the festive spirit, Fr. Ephraim (Willmarth) highlighted the success of our Giving Tuesday Campaign that began in late November last year. We have collected some $79,000, or 87% of our $91,000 goal. Each dollar raised will be matched by a generous donor to a maximum of thirteen $7,000 scholarships for our Bachelor of Theology degree program. We are grateful to our new Director of Development, Deacon Michael Pavuk, for his tireless efforts to revitalize our constituency.
In honor of the Three Hierarchs, Archpriest Alexander Webster, Dean of the Seminary since September, delivered a charge to the Seminarians. He reflected on the power of those saints, demonstrated not only in their profound, lucid writings, but also, in the holiness of their lives. The Three Hierarchs were great theologians, great Church Fathers, great bishops, and above all, great saints worthy of veneration and emulation. To honor and learn from them, each Holy Trinity Seminary student ought to read, before he graduates, the most compelling of their many works: St. Basil's treatise On the Holy Spirit and Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature; St. Gregory's Five Theological Orations and the decree of the Second Ecumenical Council in AD 381 over which St. Gregory presided as Archbishop of Constantinople; and St. John's numerous homilies on all the books of the New Testament (which, Fr. Alexander revealed, he consults before preparing his homilies to this day). Fr. Alexander concluded with an exhortation to the seminarians to begin where the Three Hierarchs themselves began, by cultivating a spiritual life of virtue and wisdom.
Archimandrite Luke provided the final thoughts, connecting Fr. Alexander's exhortation with a phrase from the canon to the Three Hierarchs as sung during the Festal Matins: "you acquired the knowledge of lower wisdom, all-glorious ones. Through the wisdom of God, you received a guiding position; therefore you wisely made the lower wisdom serve you as a handmaid." Honing in on the concept of the "lower wisdom," Fr. Luke explained how philosophy was transfigured by these theologians and how their training in the lower wisdom disciplined their minds for the higher wisdom, the true experience of the living God. Since mastery of the lower wisdom is difficult, people in our society do not read the works of the Holy Fathers because they have not done the necessary work to understand them. Thus, the writings of the Fathers seem intimidating, and people tend to be lazy (declining to do the work) or fearful that the texts will prove too difficult. To correct those tendencies, Fr. Luke exhorted the seminarians to labor and courage. Finally, he connected this patristic spirit to Fr. Seraphim Rose, and ultimately, to the Russian theological tradition, ROCOR, and Holy Trinity Seminary, which inspired Fr. Seraphim in his struggle.
We thank God for another successful year at Holy Trinity Seminary, which has given us promise for growth in the immediate future, particularly with our new Dean and Director of Development!
Let us who love their words come together
And honour with hymns the three luminaries of the light-creating Trinity:
Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John of golden speech,
Who have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines,
And are mellifluous rivers of wisdom
Who have watered all creation with streams of heavenly knowledge;
They ever intercede with the Trinity for us!
-Troparion of the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs