The benefits of a Theological Education

at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary

When considering what the benefits are of a theological education for clergy, and, more specifically, the education offered by five years of study at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary at Jordanville, some other aspects need to be mentioned.

Yes, the theological instruction was comprehensive: Five years of study with 20 hours plus of instruction per week.

The classes included:

  • Fundamentals of the Orthodox Faith
  • World History
  • Russian History
  • History of the Church
  • History of the Russian Church (2 years)
  • Russian Language (3 years)
  • English Language and Composition (2 years)
  • Church Slavonic (Grammar and Syntax - 3 years)
  • New Testament Greek (2 years)
  • Church Singing (3 years)
  • Old Testament (2 years)
  • New Testament (2 years)
  • Apologetics
  • Logic
  • History of Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Pedagogy and Child Psychology
  • Physics
  • Theory of Literature
  • Russian Literature,
  • Patrology and Patristics
  • Homiletics
  • General Theology
  • Moral Theology
  • Comparative Theology
  • Pastoral Theology (2 years)
  • and some elective courses such as Orthodox Art and Architecture, Choral Conducting, and some others I can't recall.

But one must also remember that living at Jordanville was not merely an academic experience in the ivory towers. It was living for five years in a working Orthodox monastery, basically living, praying and working shoulder to shoulder with the monks and novices.

In addition to the twenty hours of academic instruction, (not counting the time it took to study and prepare assignments and papers), the seminarians spent at least another twenty hours a week in Church, praying, reading and singing--often a lot more, as the monastery celebrated all the Holy Days, big and small--sometimes there would be as many as three Feast Days in a week--and the First Week of Lent and Holy Week meant that you would spend literally all of your waking hours in Church, starting at 4:30 in the morning.

Every Seminarian also had to have an "obedience"-- a job that he was assigned to, and had to work several hours a day at--in the printing shop (where I worked as a typesetter--a Linotype operator), in the bookbindery, in the bookshop and office, cleaning bathrooms and halls, in the icon painting shop, in the wood shop, etc. Some Seminarians helped bake bread and Prosphoras (dear Fr. Stefan Pavlenko was the expert).

And all Seminarians had to take turns in general obediences as well, such as working in the cow barn, starting at 5 in the morning, milking cows, hauling bales of hay and straw, feeding the cows and calves, shoveling manure, etc.; working in the kitchen, preparing food and serving it, then cleaning up, washing dishes, tables, pots and pans. This was a grueling obedience. You had to get up before 4 in the morning to chop wood (the monastery kitchen stoves were wood burning, not gas), peeling potatoes, chopping vegetables, etc. This obedience would last all day.

And these obediences were done by the Seminarians on Sundays and Feast Days, when the regular monks working these jobs were off, so that they could attend services.

All the Seminarians took turns washing dishes (for some 120 people three times a day--including huge pots and pans) on other days of the week, at reading at the trapezas, and at being the assigned readers for the daily Church services: 4-7pm for Vespers and Matins; 7:30 - 8:30 pm for Compline and Evening Prayers; 4:30 am to 7:30 am for Midnight Office and Liturgy. And these obediences do not include the general obediences in taking care of the farm duties outside of the barn--picking potatoes in the fall (by hand--a backbreaking job); picking rocks out of the fields in the spring (another backbreaking job), and many others.

Even us city slickers all learned how to work a cow barn (I had only seen cows in the zoo before I came to the Seminary), lugging bales and slopping manure. You would come back from a day working in the cow barn (wearing army surplus fatigues and boots tired, dirty and very smelly. We learned

how to drive tractors (some good enough to even plow). The first year I was at Seminary we still had a large chicken coop--now cleaning **that** was a messy and smelly job.

And you know, I believe that these experiences were equally as important as the theological education. When you are shovelling manure together with Archimandrite (later Archbishop) Laurus, both in army fatigues, or cooking for 250 people (on a Sunday the monastery fed not only its own brotherhood, all of the Seminarians, but also for all of the visitors and guests) with Archimandrite Kiprian or Igumen (later Archbishop) Alypy, or picking rocks with Hieromonk (later Archimandrite Iov, you learn a lot about hard work

and humility, and, of course, in the Church, singing, serving or just praying, you learn a lot about piety.

This, in addition to the theological studies, was what a Jordanville education was really about.

With love in Christ,

Protopresbyter Alexander Lebedeff





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