Posted by: oldbelieving | September 29, 2011

Second Year of Seminary

Greetings to the lone few who may happen to read this! I am now a few weeks into my second year here at St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and thank God so far everything is going well. We have a great class of new guys who are very eager to learn more about the Orthodox faith and to prepare for a life of serving the Lord, and it is great to see the retuning students again.

We began the year with a retreat led by Fr. Chrysostomos of St. Anthony’s Monastery and Fr. Jason DelVitto of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Bridgeville, PA. The topic was “The Laborers Are Few …” and both priests gave us excellent advice concerning the life of a priest in his efforts to shepherd his flock into the kingdom of Heaven. We had several sessions with both priests and some lively discussion, and I think the retreat really set a great tone for the coming semester and year.

This year I have several courses that I am very excited about. In Anthropology/Christology with Dr. Harry Boosalis we have been discussing the nature of man, and what it means to be made according to the image of God. We will also be discussing the differences between human nature before and after the Fall. If you have read my earlier posts you will know that I am very interested in the Orthodox understanding of the Creation, Paradise, and Fall account in Genesis and so I am very excited about this course. For this course I have also been assigned to write a paper about the Orthodox view of the Theotokos – the Virgin Mary. The mystery of redeemed humanity is unfathomably deep and it is most fully revealed in her, so it should be a very interesting project!

We also have Psalms and Wisdom Literature with Fr. Dr. Michael Meerson who holds a PhD in both the Old and New Testaments. We have begun with the Psalms and Fr. Michael is incredibly knowledgable in the historical context of the Psalms and their liturgical usage by both the Jews and the Orthodox Church. It is shaping up to be a great class.

In our Church Order course, with His Grace Bp. Tikhon and Benedict Sheehan, we are learning how to organize the various services of the Church. The Orthodox Church has a huge mass of hymnography in several different books that are used for very specific times and purposes. Trying to figure out what to sing, from which book and when can be very confusing, so this class will be an enormous help, especially since I sometimes have the responsibility of setting up the evening Vespers service for the reader. We also have Choir in which we are learning proper singing techniques and practicing the music for upcoming feasts of the Church. We are blessed to have a very experienced singer and director in Benedict, and we have some very talented singers.

Foundations of Pastoral Theology with our Dean, Fr. Alexander Atty has been incredibly informative and inspiring thus far. Fr. Atty is a priest of 30+ years, and he took his one parish in Louisville, KY from a congregation of 150 to one of 1,000 people during his tenure. He has many and varied experiences to share with us and a great depth of wisdom. He is a great pastor to learn from.

In the second year we also have Field Education. In the Fall semester I have been assigned to Prison Ministry, and in the Spring I will be part of the Hospital/Hospice ministry. Due to state regulations concerning background checks we have not yet visited any actual prisoners, but we are in the process of orientation and we should be visiting prisoners within a few weeks. From what I have heard from older students, this is one of the most rewarding experiences in Seminary, so I am really looking forward to the opportunity to speak with some guys who just need someone to listen to them and show that they are loved and valued.

Finally, this year we begin our courses on Homiletics, with Fr. David Cowan. So far we have been talking about the purposes of preaching according to the Church Fathers and have looked at Scriptural examples of preaching. Throughout this semester each of us will have to write 2 homilies and present them to the class. I do not have a whole lot of public speaking experience, so I’m not really sure how my first experiences will be, but with the help of God and your prayers I hope to learn the fine art of preaching! Along these lines, this year we have begun praying the 6th Hour together in the Seminary Chapel at 1220, just before lunch. We also read the daily Epistle and Gospel reading at the end, and Fr. Atty randomly assigns someone to offer a 3-5 minute meditation/homily, and just a few days Fr. Atty asked me to give the meditation. He asked me right at the beginning of the 6th Hour so I only had 10 minutes or so to prepare, and I was definitely pretty nervous! But thank God, people told me that it went well. I just tried to offer a few words concerning our freedom from the Law and our righteousness through faith in Christ Who has the power to cast out our sicknesses and demons.

I have also spoken to our registrar and one professor about the possibility of writing a thesis on Fr. Seraphim Rose, and it looks like it just might shape up.

Of course there is also the very busy liturgical schedule, which is absolutely the cornerstone of the Seminary experience, and should be the foundation of our entire lives as Orthodox Christians for both clergy and laity. In the services are found the expression of our entire faith through hymnography, liturgical actions, and of course the Sacraments. Nothing is more important than the Divine Liturgy and worthily partaking of the Body and Blood of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, and I am grateful that at St. Tikhon’s we have the blessing to offer the Divine Liturgy every day, in addition to the rest of the cycle of services. The services are the most important part of our education and formation for a possible future in the priesthood. We have already had a few ordinations this year, a visit from the Metropolitan, and the re-consecration of a local parish, All Saints in Olyphant, PA which was severely damaged by fire 5 yrs ago and is now covered inside with the beautiful iconograpy of Ivan Rumiantsev. And best of all, at the beginning of the year I became the Godfather of lil’ Daniel, the son of Dn. Matthew and Rebekah. I was honored that they chose me, and I ask that you would all also pray for Daniel, and for me to be a good influence.

Of course there are struggles involved with being here. In such a close-knit community there is always the temptation to gossip about one another, but we know we are called to bear one another’s burdens in prayer and to see only our own sins. It can be very hard to go to Church every day and not get sick of the services, but this only means that I am in need of further repentance and sanctification, and thus, more services is precisely what I need! But overall, the experience here so far has been amazing and blessed by God, and I am expecting this year to continue in the same vein.

I am still in the midst of trying to figure out where exactly it is that God is leading me in life. I know this takes patience and I’m not worried – He will let me know when I need to know, but in the meantime your prayers for patience and guidance are greatly appreciated! Also, if anyone is able to donate any amount towards my books and/or tuition that would be greatly appreciated. As I have indicated, the schedule is very busy here and there is no time to keep a job. I am sorry to ask this, but any contribution would be greatly appreciated! If you are able, you can click the PayPal link on the sidebar on the right, or send donations to:

Jesse Dominick, PO Box 130, South Canaan, PA 18459.

Again, thank you, and especially for your prayers! And feel free to send me any names to add to my prayer list. God bless you all!

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Responses

  1. All that sounds awesome. I confess my envy. Lord have mercy!! Please post what you learn!!

  2. Dear brother in Christ, please elaborate on your report. Have you found there many traditional Orthodox Christian teachers? Ones who believe the Orthodox Church is uniquely the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church? Ones who teach the Way of the fathers? I have heard that there are some very good men there.

  3. Dear Isaac,

    All of our professors and teachers believe that the Orthodox Church is the one, true Church. We are very blessed in that regard. And our classes definitely have a good emphasis on the Fathers. Our theology courses are all directly from the Scriptures and Patristics – no personal opinions are being taught. We also have Patristic courses taught by Dr. Christopher Veniamin who was a spiritual child of Elder Sophrony. Our Dean, who also teaches, had a spiritual father on Mt. Athos for 30 years, and all the other classes I have taken so far have been firmly grounded in Scripture and the Fathers. We also have the monastery across the street which gives us the way of the Fathers firsthand. The abbot, Fr. Sergius, is young but very mature in the faith and gives good and humble counsel. Thank God!

  4. This is wonderful to hear. I have heard great things about Dr. Christopher Veniamin.


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