St. Raphael of Brooklyn
St. Raphael of Brooklyn

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the falling asleep of this pioneering evangelist.

St. Raphael, a native of Syria, was an active and pioneering evangelist in early 20th century America.  Aside from being the first bishop consecrated in America (1904), he made several trips across the country ministering to the scattered Orthodox communities, establishing churches, cemetaries and consecrating the land for the first Orthodox monastery in America on July 31, 1905 (St. Tikhon's). He was also an early voice for the need to use English in worship after seeing the children of immigrants adopting the language of their new nation.

When Protestant Episcoplians misinterpretted his friendship with them as endorsement of non-Orthodox sect, he clearly repudiated that in a lenghtly letter in 1912.  Excerpts serve as a concise summary of the Orthodox Faith and a timeles warning against false unity:

The Holy Orthodox Church has never perceptibly changed from Apostolic times, and, therefore, no one can go astray in finding out what she teaches. Like her Lord and Master, though at times surrounded with human malaria — which He in mercy pardons — she is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 8:8) … the mother and safe deposit of “the truth as it is in Jesus” (Eph.4:21).
The Orthodox Church has ever taught that there are seven Sacraments. She plainly points out the fact that each of the seven has an outward and visible sign and an inward and spiritual Grace, and that they are of gospel and apostolic origin.
Again, the Orthodox Church has certain rites and practices associated and necessary in the administration of the Sacraments which neither time nor circumstances must set aside where churches are organized.In the case of the administration of Holy Baptism it is the absolute rule of the Orthodox Church that the candidate must be immersed three times (once in the name of each Person of the Holy Trinity).
The Orthodox Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation without going into any scientific or Roman Catholic explanation. The technical word which She uses for the sublime act of the priest by Christ’s authority to consecrate is “transmuting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). She, as I have said, offers no explanation, but She believes and confesses that Christ, the Son of the living God Who came into the world to save sinners, is of a truth in His “all-pure Body” and “precious Blood” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom) objectively present, and to be worshiped in that Sacrament as He was on earth and is now in risen and glorified majesty in Heaven; and that “the precious and holy and life-giving Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ are imparted” (to each soul that comes to that blessed Sacrament) “Unto the remission of sins, and unto life everlasting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).

You were a guardian and a defender of the Church’s teaching; / you protected your flock from false doctrines and confirmed them in the true faith. / O holy father Raphael, son of Syria and glory of North America, / always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved. (Kontakion)

 Full Text of St. Raphael's Letter

Life of St. Raphael

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