On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14th, our seminary community richly celebrated sacramental life and theological study. Highlights of the day included two student ordinations and an academic convocation in honor of Professor Christos Yannaras, making the solemn feast full and joyous from beginning to end.
We were particularly blessed by a host of distinguished guests who participated at various points in the daylong celebration, which included His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America; Archpriest Alexander Atty, dean-elect of St. Tikhon’s Seminary; Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America; Professors Aristotle Papanikolaou and George Demacopoulos from Fordham University; and Professor George Parsenios from Princeton Theological Seminary.
The extraordinary day also brought together three episcopal members of our Board of Trustees, who concelebrated the morning Divine Liturgy: His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA); His Grace The Right Rev. Maxim, bishop of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America (SOC); and His Grace The Right Rev. Savas (Zembillas) of Troas, director of the Office of Church and Society at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America (GOA).
During the Divine Liturgy, Dn. Maximus Cabey was ordained to the priesthood, and seminarian John Frazier was ordained to the diaconate. Fr. Maximus and Dn. John, both third-year students at St. Vladimir’s, were ordained by Metropolitan Jonah, and were given a “word” by Bishop Savas at the Liturgy. “Today,” said Bishop Savas, “you have become ‘cross-bearers’ in a special way, but in a way that is meant to be joyful. May God give you the strength, wisdom, and gifts needed to fulfill your priestly ministries."
Bishop Savas also congratulated our Dean, Fr. John Behr, on the ninth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Additionally, Fr. David Mezynski, our Associate Dean for Student Affairs, was awarded the nabedrennik, a priestly vestment in the shape of shield, for his service to the Church, by Metropolitan Jonah.
Punctuating the evening was the academic convocation honoring Dr. Christos Yannaras, professor emeritus of philosophy at the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens and leading Greek Orthodox ethicist. Dr. Yannaras has authored more than fifty books on ethics, theology, and modern religious philosophy, including one by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press entitled The Freedom of Morality.
Following a chapel vespers service and surrounded by faculty in their colorful academic regalia, Fr. John Behr warmly welcomed guests and enthusiastically opened the convocation. “Although we have gathered many times in the chapel over the past few weeks,” he said, “this if the first time that we have gathered together for academic purposes, gathered together to reflect upon what it is that we do as a seminary, a school of theology.”
First, Fr. John presented the “St. Basil Award for Academic Achievement” to this past year’s “Junior” seminarian Jason Ketz and to “Middler” seminarian Michael Soroka. Established in 2003, the St. Basil Award recognizes excellence in theological studies and is given to students who rank first among their classmates in the Master of Divinity program.
Fr. John then proceeded to introduce Professor Yannaras, saying, “From its beginning, seventy-two years ago, St. Vladimir’s Seminary has been committed to standing in the tradition of the great Fathers of the Church, thinking through what they said, to be able to address our own contemporary world. Today, we honor someone who exemplifies all this in an extraordinary manner throughout his long and distinguished scholarly career.”
Dr. John Barnet, associate dean for Student Affairs at St. Vladimir’s, reiterated Professor Yannaras’s expertise in critical engagement with church tradition and the contemporary world, as he read the citation  that officially bestowed the degree of Doctor of Divinity honoris causa upon him.
In his remarks  just prior to his address to the audience, titled “The Trinitarian God as the Causal Principle of Existential Freedom,” Professor Yannaras expressed his gratitude to the Seminary. “The theological ‘climate’ that St. Vladimir’s has represented for so many decades,” he noted, “has been for me a real ‘nursery,’ a point of reference, a place that I have always experienced, even from a great distance, as a place I belong to.
“Today,” he continued, “you are bestowing on me a great academic honor. But for about fifty years you have been nourishing me with something of great importance: with criteria of theological orientation. The brief lecture that, as is customary, I shall now deliver, has as its title, ‘The Causal Principle of Freedom.’ I should like it to evoke a sense of the presence of Father John Meyendorff and Father Alexander Schmemann.”
Also participating in the liturgical services and the convocation was the Student Choir from the Theological Faculty at the University of Belgrade, with their faculty advisor, Nenad Milosevic. The choir visited the seminary campus after completing a tour of parishes in the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Listen to Dr. Yannaras’s address, podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. 
View a photo gallery  of the joyous day, by Gregory Hatrak.
View the citation read at the bestowal of the Doctor of Divinity degree honoris causa upon Dr. Yannaras, in the attached PDF.
View Dr. Yannaras’s full introductory remarks and address, in the attached PDF.
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