Monday, May 14, 2007

Reader Poll - Still on hiatus, however

Dear readers who are Orthodox Catholic Christians -

Due to some potential circumstances, I may move up chrismation from a rather hazy "sometime next year, maybe Theophany or Pascha" to Pentecost of this year. I've sort of put off the Saint's name decision a bit, but if it IS going to be happening on Pentecost this year, then I've got to sort that out.

Understanding that it is a personal decision, I would like your input nevertheless. You need not remind me that it is my decision in consult with my spiritual father, priest and bishop (thank you very much!). Just your unvarnished opinions.

Here are the candidates, with a few pros and cons, in no particular order:

1. Ephrem or Ephraim - in honor of St. Ephrem of Syria

I need not spill a lot of ink about the pros of this Saint - one of the first icons I acquired other than that of Christ was this Saint's icon. I also have found Bishop Theophan's selections of his writings in A Spiritual Psalter to be a most rewarding devotional again and again for development of compunction and realistic outlook - the pure air of faith. Unfortunately (for me) I gave away my copy to another catechumen and have yet to spring for the $28 to replace it.

On a practical note, Ephrem as a Saints name is close enough to 'Eric' to not cause too much jarring upon hearing it and people could get used to it quickly. On the con sides of practicality are the questions of whether to make it 'official' with the governing folks.

2. Hilarion, Ilarion, Hilarius, Hilary, Hilaire - in honor of St. Hilary of Poitiers.

I've used this as a nom-du-plume in the Latin form for some time now, so I'm sure many of you have gotten used to it. However, as I've joked, I'm not sure what the parishioners would think as I introduce myself as 'Hilarius' to the newcomers. The Greek form of Hilarion/Ilarion is perhaps better, but Hilary was no Greek. The English form 'Hilary' is now relegated to a woman's name in popular usage. All of that said, I am convinced that I wouldn't have found Orthodoxy if I hadn't gone to Poitiers and visited his old see, and viewed the very baptismal chapel where the Saint would have immersed those to be illumined. Moreover, he is a Western Saint, and thus gives us the constant reminder that, despite the schism, Orthodoxy is part of our heritage in the West as well.

3. Procopius - in honor of the German Catholic Procopius who became an Orthodox and the first fool-for-Christ in Russia or in honor of the Holy Great Martyr Procopius, the Roman Soldier who was martyred in 303 in Jerusalem, both celebrated July 8.

Procopius was born in Jerusalem of a father who was a Christian and a mother who was a pagan. At first, his name was Neanias. Following the death of his father, the mother raised her son completely in the spirit of Roman idolatry. When Neanias matured, Emperor Diocletian saw him and, at once, took a liking to him and brought him to his palace for military service. When this nefarious emperor began to persecute Christians, he ordered Neanias to go to Alexandria with a garrison of soldiers and there to exterminate the Christians. But, on the road, something happened to Neanias similar to that which happened to Saul [Paul]. In the third hour of the night there was a strong earthquake and, at that moment, the Lord appeared to him and a voice was heard: "Neanias, where are you going and against whom are you rising up?" In great fear, Neanias asked: "Who are You Lord? I am unable to recognize You." At that moment, a glowing cross as if of crystal appeared in the air and from the cross there came a voice saying: "I am Jesus, the crucified Son of God." And further, the Lord said to him: "By this sign that you saw, conquer your enemies and My peace will be with you." That experience completely turned him around and changed the life of Commander Neanias. He issued an order to make the same kind of cross which he saw and instead of going against the Christians he, with his soldiers, turned against the Agarians who were attacking Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem as a victor and declared to his mother that he is a Christian. Being brought before the court, Neanias removed his commander's belt and sword and tossed them before the judge thereby showing that he is only a soldier of Christ the King. After great tortures he was cast into prison where the Lord Christ, again, appeared to him, baptized him and gave him the name Procopius. One day twelve women appeared before his prison window and said to him: "We too are the servants of Christ." Accused of this they were thrown into the same prison where St. Procopius taught them the Faith of Christ and particularly about how they will receive the martyr's wreath. For that reason in the marriage ritual of the betrothed, St. Procopius is mentioned along with the God-crowned Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena. After this, those twelve women were brutally tortured. Witnessing their suffering and bravery, the mother of Procopius also believed in Christ and all thirteen were slain. When St. Procopius was led to the scaffold, he raised his hands toward the east and prayed to God for all the poor and misfortunate, orphans and widows and especially for the Holy Church that it may grow and spread and that Orthodoxy shine to the end of time. And to Procopius there was a reply from heaven that his prayers were heard after which he joyfully laid his head under the sword and went to his Lord in eternal joy. St. Procopius honorably suffered in Caesarea in Palestine and was crowned with the glorious wreath of immortality on July 8, 303 A.D.

Saint Procopius was a German Catholic. He was running a merchant business in Novgorod when he became enraptured by the beauty of the Orthodox services. He converted into Orthodoxy, gave his wealth and possessions to the indigent and became a monk at the Saint Varlaam-of-Khutyn monastery outside Novgorod. After some time shunning from fame he left for Ustiug where Procopius chose to accomplish the ordeal of God’s fool pretending to be a fool in order to attain utmost humbleness and humility. Thus he became the first fool-for-Christ-sake in Russia. He had to go through many afflictions accomplishing this hard feat. Carrying three wooden staffs he walked barefoot and poorly dressed all year round. He slept on church porches or simply on the ground. He would take alms from the compassionate simple people, but he would never accept any charity from the rich, whom he considered obtained their possessions by unrighteous ways; even though this would cause him to go hungry for several days.

So - pros and cons - the Saint's day is my birthday; Procopius Fool-for-Christ was a German Catholic; my ancestors were from probably Stadlohn in Westphalia and although we think of them as Dutch, they were probably Low German speakers who became connected to the Dutch through the colonialization of North America and the aftermath of the 30 Years War. Great Martyr Procopius was a soldier who was willing to turn in his belt rather than persecute Christians. Downsides are practical - Procopius is a rather uncommon name to borrow and comes with all the risks of being taken for Uberfromm (a la Ochlophobist's articles on that subject) and simply being taken as 'weird' by the family and friends, perhaps detrimentally. I am (alas) no Fool-for-Christ as yet and perhaps too weak of character to take as patron a Great Martyr such as Procopius the soldier.

4. John - in honor of St. John of Damascus; or possibly St. John the Hutdweller.

At one time I had considered John the Hutdweller, for story of his unrecognized sojourn outside his parents house as a hermit which was only revealed after his death when a gold-bound bible that his parents gave him was discovered on him. I have since leaned for the more well known St. John of Damascus for his greater influence in my Orthodox journey - his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith I refer to frequently for my own correction, his influence on the hymnology of the Church is unquestioned, and he spent his life in discourse with Arab culture, which I have found to be my lot for the past 2+ decades. Although raised in privilege, he did not lack for humility in the end. As a practical matter, my middle name is John and, if you have visited my side blog you will know that John or Johannes is a very common name among my ancestors in this country over several generations.

As you can see, I'm leaning to this selection . . . however that may be just being overly conservative - and there are a lot of 'Johns' in the world. And I shall have to retire the nom-du-plume, I'm afraid (sorry folks).



Blogger Ian Dalrymple said...

A tough one, Eric. Personally, I vote for number two. I have known two men named Hilary, by the way. Perhaps you could reclaim it for masculinity? Just my two cents.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Mimi said...

THIS Pentecost? Eeeek! Thanks be to God!!!!!

My vote is Hilarius, actually.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Eric, I really want to get together with you. I need to practice my Arabic. I've been meaning to tell you, I think the original idea of Hilarius is good, EXCEPT, I always think of Hilary of Poitiers by his Greek name, Ilárion. But take whatever name you'd feel comfortable with, like I did. Romanós the moron, I mean, the melodian!

Please advise me of the date of your chrismation, so I can try to be there.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

Your Arabic is probably better than mine, Ρωμανός - I hear tell of your linguistic prowess in several languages; but I'd be happy to be of whatever support I can.

I might suggest this free courseware as a good resource for Syrian/Levantine colloquial Arabic.

I'm always fascinated by the way languages have effect on names. For example, it is comparatively rare for an English speaker to use the name Jesus or Caesar . . . it sounds presumptuous. But in Spanish these are not uncommon. Hilary may sound (now) like a feminine name, but Ilarion/Hilarion (Ρωμανός, it's a rough breathing, right?) doesn't have the same effect.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Yes, Eric, it is a rough breathing, but that means a very, very, very soft H if at all. The thing is not to pronounce it with an Arabic ‘ayn before the iota. You just glide into the vowel, far more softly than alif. But then, it's all regional and personal preference!

Let me know if you're heading down the aisle on Pentecost!

4:07 PM  
Anonymous handmaid mary-leah said...

You have a fine "saint's name" in John why not go with that? We have so many John's to choose from its not funny in the church. You weren't real specific as to why you chose these, the reason you gave we really very general...
This is the name that you will commune under for the rest of your life and this is the saint who will pray for you for the rest of your life.
Honoring our family by respecting the name's that we are given by them is always a good idea, when we can, if we already possess a fine and good solid saint's name like John, then I would suggest to go with your favorite St. John and get on with it.
May God bless you as you take this next step in your journey.
the handmaid,

12:05 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...


Thank you for stopping by and your kind comment. As you know, I am seriously considering John for many of the reasons you state.

I'm sorry if I given short shrift to the other candidates - those that have read this 'blog and the prior hilariusfool 'blog (now deleted) probably have heard much more of my attachment to Saint Hilary of Poitiers, and to Saint Ephrem of Syria as well.

Anyway, thank you for your thoughts on this, they are greatly appreciated!

See you here or over on Fr. Stephen's 'blog!

2:48 PM  
Blogger John said...


They are good choices, every one. For what it is worth, when I was chrismated in the Greek church, I put forth the names Ephraim and John. My spiritual father suggested that the name Ephraim traditionally was reserved for monastics. I went with John, even though I think he would have been fine if I had stayed with Ephraim. This Pascha, I heard of someone in the OCA being chrismated as Ephraim, so maybe that reservation is just a "Greek thing." Regardless of which you choose, congratulations are in order!

3:24 PM  

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