Traditionally, the Seminary’s academic year has commenced with the Divine Liturgy, followed by a molebin and a talk (beseda) by the HTOS Rector, currently V. Rev. Archimandrite Luke (Murianka). This year, building upon our legacy, HTOS’ new dean, the V. Rev. Archpriest Alexander Webster, organized a more robust and definite beginning to the academic year with a convocation in Holy Trinity's mode of celebration. Thus, on the first day of classes, the entire Seminary administration, a number of faculty, and all students gathered in the Seminary Hall for presentations and fellowship.
Fr. Luke opened the event with a brief but poignant discussion on developing a successful spiritual life in the Seminary. He exhorted the seminarians to take advantage of the unique environment in which they find themselves, which nurtures the intellect and the spirit while preserving them from the distractions of empty, worldly spectacles. Concurrent with the benefits from this pressure-cooker atmosphere, there are many pitfalls that may overwhelm new students. Fr. Luke counseled the group on how to avoid such demons as criticism and pride. To support his own suggestions, he shared reflections on his correspondences with Fr. Seraphim Rose, who guided him through a difficult period of his seminary career.
Fr. Alexander then addressed the combined faculty and student body for the first time. He noted the great opportunities that the Seminary offers for personal, spiritual, and priestly formation. He shared the insight of Professor Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was like a monastery in its discipline, hierarchy, and rugged training. Fr. Alexander, a retired U.S. Army chaplain, suggested that, here at HTOS, seminary life is like military basic training. He also exhorted the seminarians to be “100% committed to 100% of the faith.” Only then can HTOS take on its vital role in the contemporary Church, offering “Traditional Orthodoxy for the 21st Century.” Summarizing his sentiments about HTOS, our new Dean quoted Daniel Webster, who defended his alma mater, Dartmouth College, in a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1819: “It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet, there are those who love it!"
Following a brief address by Assistant Dean Fr. Ephraim Willmarth, the new students introduced themselves to the Seminary community, and members of the Faculty spoke about their work, both in and beyond the Seminary. After Prof. Elena Nelson spoke about her strategy for teaching foreign language and discussed her forthcoming book on methodologies for writing Slavonic troparia, V. Rev. Hegumen Theophylact (Clapper-Dewell) explained the importance of biblical archeology not only for strengthening faith in the historical account of the Bible, but also for deepening the understanding of the world and culture from which the Bible emerged. Prof. Edward Novis then explained the importance of composition for persuasion and exhortation and of philosophy to understand the intellectual development that led to today's society as well as solutions to its problems. Next, Fr. Peter Heers, stressed the necessity of understanding the patristic phronema (“mind” or “spirit”) in biblical interpretation. Finally, Fr. Peter Markevich described his method of teaching liturgy in a practical context, and Prof. Vitaly Permiakov explained liturgy in a theoretical light.
The combined assembly set the tone for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Group photographs immediately followed the convocation, and everyone enjoyed an ice-cream social.