meanwhile, back at the ranch....
Okay, it's not "our" ranch, but you get the idea...
meanwhile, back at the ranch....
Okay, it's not "our" ranch, but you get the idea...
It is no longer shameful to lust after power so long as one lusts for the good
of the people. In the words of Boromir, speaking of the One Ring, “For you seem
to think of its power only in the hands of the enemy: of its evil uses not of
its good.” The only rejoinder, in Frodo’s words to Boromir, is that “we cannot
use it, and what is done with it turns to evil.” Yes, it’s that simple. And as
you ascend the levels of authority, from city to state to nation, it only
becomes more true.
"It was a historical event, in which a Pope celebrates vespers before the representatives of the entire Catholic episcopate and on this occasion, doesn't exercise his ministry as teacher, but concedes it to the second bishop of the Church when it was not yet divided."Sandro provides the whole address. Read it all.
[I]n having today the privilege to address Your Synod our hopes are raised that the day will come when our two Churches will fully converge on the role of primacy and synodality in the Church’s life, to which our common Theological Commission is devoting its study at the present time.As part of Pope Benedict's response to the Ecumenical Patriarch's intervention, he is quoted as saying:
At each celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the presiding celebrant at the Eucharist entreats “that we may be made worthy to hear the Holy Gospel.” For “hearing, beholding and handling the Word of life” (1 Jn 1.1) are not first and foremost our entitlement or birthright as human beings; they are our privilege and gift as children of the living God.
The challenge before us is the discernment of God’s Word in the face of evil, the transfiguration of every last detail and speck of this world in the light of Resurrection. The victory is already present in the depths of the Church, whenever we experience the grace of reconciliation and communion.
Your Fathers, that you have quoted so many times, are also our Fathers, and ours are also yours: if we have common Fathers, how could we not be brothers?Indeed.
It follows that to speak of Christ and culture is to speak also of the Church and culture. Within this society, or any society, the Church is a distinct society. The word Church is from the Greek ekklesia, which means a gathering of the people who are called out. In theology, the subject of the Church is called ecclesiology. Some Christian traditions—the Orthodox and Catholic, for instance—have a full-orbed ecclesiology, an understanding of the Church through time that encompasses continuity with the apostles, councils, martyrs, saints, and authoritative teachers, all inseparably bound by a sacramental communio that is nothing less than communion with Christ through time....
American Babylon is our culture. It is not the culture of our choice, although, given the other cultures on offer, it may be the culture we would choose if we had a choice. It is certainly the culture in which we have been chosen and for which we have a measure of responsibility. The irrepressible human aspiration toward the transcendent, toward that which at the core of our being we know to be our destined home, takes many different forms. That aspiration is our religion, whether or not we call it by the name of a religion. The aspiration may be stifled or misplaced, but it cannot be denied; at least it cannot be denied for long. When, as Augustine teaches, our loves and loyalties are rightly ordered, we recognize that the only satisfactory alternative to Babylon is the City of God. At least this is how Christians see the matter.
In Catholic theology, Christ comes not simply to save something called the "soul," but rather a much more mysterious reality called the person.
Let us consider why it is that the human person, created as we are in the image and likeness of God, is mysterious and what it means for us to walk with God in a life in Christ.
Each of us is unique and unrepeatable.
We share, paradoxically, the quality of being unique.
We are able to experience empathy for others in which we see our unique selves in the other human person.
Empathy for others in their moments of hardship makes it possible for us to transcend our own uniqueness and enter into a sense of sameness between our neighbor and self.
It is often in moments of great need that we come to see our neighbor as really and truly neighbor.
Jesus established the second of the great commandments: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Collectively, we rose in many ways to help our neighbors when we were attacked by Moslem terrorists on Sept. 11th.
We came to our neighbors’ aid when hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast a couple of years ago.
Daily, when we hear that clear small voice that directs our hearts to action, we love our neighbor as our self.
Ideally, all this happens in a way that both preserves, and even sharpens, our uniqueness while making manifest, sometimes unbearably so, our sameness.
Like St Cyril of Alexandria said of the distraught widow: “I want, like Christ, to have "mercy upon the woman, . . . that her tears might be stopped, . . . [and see] the cause of her weeping . . . undone".
But because my communion with God is impaired through my sin, my communion with my neighbor is also wounded.
Because of my sin in the face of human suffering, and the renewed and deepened communion that contact within that suffering offers, I fail.
So often the face of human suffering, with its invitation to experience our common humanity, overwhelms us.
My concerned for my neighbor is well intentioned, but in the final analysis I am only able to lower my friend into his tomb.
Respect for each human person and empathy for our shared humanity are pleasing things.
As in Gal 5 these basic truths of respect and empathy must be transformed by the grace of Christ into "the fruit of the Spirit . . . love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control".
We are warned by St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians that it is only through cultivating a life in Christ through the Holy Spirit can we put to death in us:
"the works of the flesh [that] are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like" (vv. 19-21).
These works of the flesh need to be healed since it is these that are the cause of lost resolve in the face of human suffering.
These preoccupations of self blind me to the mystery of the human person since each degrades the person and changes my stance toward him from an end into a means.
Changing him from a human person into an object.
Standing unrepentant in my sins before God in Whose image and likeness I have been created, I do prefer to think that God saves souls and not that He saves persons.
There is a cleanness, a simplicity to the idea of a soul.
This simplicity does not require from me an acceptance of a life of communion with other human persons in their embodied uniqueness.
The salvation of the person, the person in all his uniqueness, however, is an invitation to live a life of respectful communion.
Christ comes to save people, not souls.
Christ gives people life in its full abundance, not amorphous souls.
Again, St Cyril:
Christ raised him who descending to his grave.
The manner of his rising is plain to see.
"He touched," it says, "the bier and said 'Young man, I say unto thee, arise.'"
How was not a word enough to raise him who was lying there?
What is more powerful that the Word of God?
Why then did he not work the miracle by only a word but also touched the bier?
So that we "might learn that the Holy Body of Christ is productive for the salvation of man."
In Christ, human flesh becomes "the body of life" and is "clothed with [divine] might."
To be saved, to have salvation, to be in Christ, means that we are not only liberated from sin, but are united once again to one another.
St Cyril says: Christ has entered into our sinfulness and has delivered us "from evil works, even from fleshly lusts" so that He "may unite us to the assembly of the saints."
Christ unites each unique human person to all others through love!
Jesus commands us: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Life in Christ returns to us the transcendent possibilities of our own full humanity.
We can love one another and need not fear the weight of our shared humanity.
As Christ said to the widow’s dead son, "…I say to you, arise.”
In Christ, life everlasting is given to us in and through his Church.
Let us lift up our hearts.
Let Jesus raise us, as He raised widow’s dead son, to true life and joy in Him guided by and nurtured in His Church. Amen.
[Inspired by Fr. Gregory Jensen]
“Finally, we need to see pregnancy as a dual operation, involving an egg and itsThe issue of personhood returns with a vengeance: “We need to see pregnancy as a dual operation, involving an egg and its host.” At first blush, this would seem to coincide with the heart of the pro-life position - two beings are involved. But the writer subtly mischaracterizes the issue. Pregnancy involves a fetus and a mother, not an egg and its host. An “egg” by definition is unfertilized and has only the potential for life; a fetus is a living entity. Similarly, a “host” need not be ascribed to have any relationship whatsoever other than proximity to the one for whom it is host. Using this terminology at best obfuscates the issue; and at worst seeks to persuade through assuming the conclusion. This is begging the question.
host — the woman. Robert Goldstein, a teacher of law at the University of
California at Los Angeles, suggested that we should continually think of the
"dyad" of mother and egg. Her needs and her rights should have weight as much as
those of an embryo. She needs the right to exercise choice.”
The Orthodox Church of Tomorrow
By Fr. John A. Peck
There is an interesting phenomenon occurring in Orthodox Christianity in America today, and reflected powerfully in our seminaries. Seminaries are loaded almost exclusively with converts, reverts (cradle Orthodox who left the faith, and were re-converted to it again), and the sons and grandsons of clergy.
I believe we are looking at the future of the American Orthodox Church — today.
The notion that traditionally Orthodox ethnic groups (the group of ‘our people’ we hear so much about from our primates and hierarchs) are going to populate the ranks of the clergy, and therefore, the Church in the future is, frankly, a pipe dream. Orthodoxy, despite the failings of its leadership, has actually lived up to its own press. The truth of the Orthodox faith, as presented on paper, is actually being believed - by those who have no familial or historical connection with the Orthodox. These poor deluded souls (of which I count myself) actually believe what they are reading about the Orthodox faith, and expect the Church to act like, well, the Church. They refuse to accept the Church as a club of any kind, or closed circle kaffeeklatsch. No old world embassies will be tolerated for much longer - they will go the way of the dodo. No one will have to work against them; they will simply die from atrophy and neglect. The passing away of the Orthodox Church as ethnic club is already taking place. It will come to fruition in a short 10 years, 15 years in larger parishes.
This is a well known problem. Statistical studies taken a mere seven years ago predicted that within 10 years the Orthodox Church in the United States would for all practical purposes, no longer be viable. If nothing was done within five years (that’s two years ago) the decline would be irreversible. Demographics determine destiny, as they say. As you may have imagined, not only was “nothing done,” such reports were surreptitiously filed away, while the calls for a solution from clergy and laity alike only increased. Larger jurisdictions will, of course, have a little more time, but not a different result.
What we are looking at, of course, is of the highest concern to the hierarchy. They know, in their heart of hearts, that they cannot reverse this trend. Yet they fight a rearguard action, hoping against hope to forestall the historically inevitable movement toward an American Orthodox Church.
Statistical studies taken a mere seven years ago predicted that within 10 years the Orthodox Church in the United States would for all practical purposes, no longer be viable. The laity has already moved on. Americans, generally, don’t fall for very much strong arm intimidation or brow beating, don’t go for bullying by insecure leaders, and certainly don’t see the value of taking on and promoting someone else’s ethnic culture. They care about the Gospel, and the Gospel does not require Slavonic or Koine Greek, or even English for that matter. The Gospel requires context, which is why it cannot be transmitted in any language unknown to the listener.
When we look at our seminaries, we are looking at the Church of Tomorrow, the Church twenty years from now. Indeed, this is the Church we are building today.
Twenty years from now, I anticipate we will see the following:
Vastly diminished parishes, both in size and number. There will be a few exceptions, (and they will be exceptional!) but for the most part, most current Orthodox parishioners will age and die, and have no one to replace them. Why? Because as they have taught the context of their culture, instead teaching the context of their faith. Some parishes will simply be merged with others. Many will close outright. A few will change how they do ministry, with a new vision of parochial ecclesiology. These newer parishes will be lighthouses of genuine Orthodox piety and experience. Some parishes, I believe, will actually be formed specifically, in the old fashion, by purchasing land, building a chapel or Temple in the midst of it, and parishioners building or buying homes around it. The Church will be the center of their lives, and many will come from far and wide to experience their way of life.
Publicly renowned Orthodox media and apologetic ministries. These ministries are the ones providing a living and powerful apologetic for the Orthodox faith in our culture (that is, our 21st Century life in the United States), and actually providing the Gospel in its proper context - engaged in society and the public arena. These will succeed in visibility and public awareness more than all the speeches before the U.N. and odd newspaper stories about Orthodox Easter or Folk Dance Festivals could ever do. In other words, the Orthodox Christian faith will become that most dangerous of all things - relevant to the lives of Americans, and known to all Americans as a genuinely American Christian entity.
More (and younger) bishops. If our current slate of bishops has been mostly a disappointment, reducing their number will only tighten this closed circle, making the hierarchy less and less accessible, and more and more immune to things like, oh, the needs and concerns of their flock. The process of selection for the episcopacy will contain a far more thorough investigation, and men with active homosexual tendencies, psychological problems, insecurities, or addictions will simply not make the cut. We aren’t far from open persecution of Christians by secularists in this country, and we need bishops who know the score. With better bishops, no one will be able to ‘buy’ a priest out of a parish with a gift of cash. Conversely, parish councils will no longer be able to bully priests into staying out of their affairs, and will be required to get out of the restaurant/festival business and get into the soul saving business.
A very different demographic of clergy. Our priests will be composed of converts, reverts, and the sons and grandsons of venerable, long-suffering clergy. These men all know the score. They won’t tolerate nonsense like homosexual clergy (especially bishops), women’s ordination, or financial corruption. They will not tolerate the Church being regularly and unapologetically dishonored by her own clergy. Twenty years from now, these convert and revert priests will be sending life-long Orthodox men, a new cradle generation, en masse to our seminaries. They will be white, black, Asian, Polynesian, Hispanic, and everything in between. Fewer will be Russian, Greek, or any other traditionally Orthodox background.
Orthodox Biblical Studies. Orthodox Biblical scholarship will flourish, and will actually advance Biblical Studies, rather than tag along for the latest trends, staying a minimum safe distance back in case the latest theory tanks unexpectedly. Septuagint studies are already on the rise and Orthodox scholars will usurp the lead in this arena, establishing a powerful and lasting influence in Biblical Studies for decades to come. Orthodox higher education — specifically in Biblical Studies in the Orthodox tradition — will finally have a place at the doctoral level in the Western hemisphere, and it will become a thriving academic entity. The whole Church will feed on the gleanings of this new scholarship and Scriptural knowledge, preaching, and Biblical morality will invigorate the Church for generations.
A much higher moral standard from all clergy. The next twenty years will see a revival of practical ethics. Instead of trailing military or business ethics, the Church will, once again, require the highest standard of ethical and professional behavior from her clergy — and they will respond! The clergy will not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing and hold to account those who practice these vices. They will vigorously defend the honor of Christ’s priesthood, and Christ’s Church. I dare say, even the clergy will finally respect their own priesthood.
Vocations will explode. As a result of the elevated ethical standard publicly expected from the clergy, candidates in far greater numbers will flock to the priesthood. There will be very full classes, distance education, self-study and continuing education going on in every location. Education at a basal level will disappear, except in introductory parish classes. Clergy will powerfully articulate Orthodoxy to the faithful and to the culture around them. Personal opinion will no longer be the standard for clergy when articulating Orthodox ethics and morality. Our seminaries must become beacons for this teaching, and give up “training culture” once and for all. We will finally begin to penetrate our society, rather than go along for the ride like a tick on a dog’s back.
Philanthropy will flow like the floodgates of heaven. Finally, the many Orthodox Christian philanthropists who annually give millions of dollars to secular institutions will finally find their own Church completely transparent, completely accountable, and worthy of their faith-building support. Let’s face it, there is more than enough money in Orthodoxy right now to build hospitals, clinics, schools, colleges, universities, and a new Hagia Sophia right here in the United States. The reason this is not being done is because these philanthropists are intelligent men and women who do not trust the hierarchy to do the right thing with their millions. This will change in short order once it is shown that transparency doesn’t destroy the Church, but strengthens it immeasurably. Frankly, I don’t anticipate every jurisdiction to do this in the next twenty years, but those that are practicing transparency will emerge as the leaders in every arena of Church existence.
This all may seem unlikely today, but it is coming.
How do I know this? For one thing, the last holdouts of corruption, Byzantine intrigue and phyletism (a fancy theological term for ethnic preference) are clinging desperately to a vision of the Church that is, quite frankly, dying fast. Oh, they are doing everything to shore up their power and influence, and busy serving their own needs, but their vision is dying. And where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).
As frightening and disconcerting as it may seem to our leaders, they will learn that emerging from a cocoon, even a Byzantine cocoon, is not a bad thing. Orthodoxy is about to take flight on new beautiful wings. These are the birth pangs of a new era for Orthodoxy. God is giving us a time of freedom and light.
This new Orthodox Church will have a different face, will be ready for contemporary challenges, and will have begun to penetrate American society at every stage and on every level. This Church is the one that will be ready for the challenges of open persecution, fighting for the soul of every American, regardless of their genetic affiliation. This Church will be the one our grandchildren and great grandchildren will grow up in, looking back on the late 20th-early 21st century as a time of sentimental darkness from which burst forth the light of the Gospel. Let it begin.
Fr. John A. Peck is pastor of Prescott Orthodox Church in Prescott, Ariz.
Piotr Ilyich Kamenev: This is you. Political prisoner 103592R, Kiril Pavlovich Lakota. All of you is here, from the day you were born until now. Except for the answer to one question. What have you learned in twenty years of confinement?
Kiril Lakota: That is a big question, Piotr Ilyich.
Piotr Ilyich Kamenev: The answer is important to me, you know.
Kiril Lakota: What I have learned? I have learned that without some kind of loving a man withers like a grape on a dying vine.
Piotr Ilyich Kamenev: Is that all?
Kiril Lakota: [Chuckles] I am trying to learn more.
(The Shoes of the Fisherman, 1968 MGM)