Positive resolution at last

Monday, May 27, at St Tikhon's Monastery: From left: Bishop Michael, Archbishop Benjamin, former OCA Metropolitan Jonah, current OCA Metropolitan Tikhon, ROCOR Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop Melchizedek, and Bishop Mark.

Monday, May 27, at St Tikhon’s Monastery: From left: Bishop Michael, Archbishop Benjamin, former OCA Metropolitan Jonah, current OCA Metropolitan Tikhon, ROCOR Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop Melchizedek, and Bishop Mark


“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

-Psalm 133 KJV (132 LXX)

As many of you may have read via oca.org, e-mail, or the OCA Facebook page, Metropolitan Jonah’s ecclesiastical and financial situation with the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has finally been resolved. As reported on the OCA website here, Metropolitan Tikhon invited Metropolitan Jonah to meet with him and members of the OCA Holy Synod this past Monday at St Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania to reach a consensus on his situation.

It appears that all has at last been settled, and that the hierarchs and senior clergy in the OCA have agreed to honor Patriarch Kirill’s admonition in his November 2012 congratulatory letter to Metropolitan Tikhon that “through the efforts of Your Beatitude the American Church will restore full-fledged relations with other Local Orthodox Churches, restore peace and harmony within herself and make comfortable the further life of your predecessor at the Metropolitan See of Washington.” (Emphasis mine). Glory to God that after months of uncertainty, this at last has been accomplished!

Here is the text of the short article posted on Monday on OCA.org:

May 27, 2013

Metropolitan Tikhon, Holy Synod members meet with Metropolitan Jonah

SYOSSET, NY [OCA]

A brief statement with regard to the retirement of His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah was issued by the Office of Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, on Monday, May 27, 2013.

The text of the statement reads as follows.
“At the invitation of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah met with a number of members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA and reached an understanding with the Holy Synod concerning his retirement. Following their meeting, Metropolitans Tikhon and Jonah, together with hierarchs of the Holy Synod and guest hierarchs, including His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy marking the 109th annual Pilgrimage to the monastery.”

On Monday, May 27, Memorial Day, Metropolitans Tikhon, Jonah and Hilarion concelebrate the Divine Liturgy in the belltower of St Tikhon's Monastery, South Canaan, PA.

On Monday, May 27, Memorial Day, Metropolitans Tikhon, Jonah and Hilarion concelebrate the Divine Liturgy in the belltower of St Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA.

Additionally, from this article on the pilgrimage to St Tikhon’s Monastery posted yesterday, May 28, on the OCA website, one may read the following excerpt:

“. . . In the revival of another custom that had faded in the 1980s, the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the monastery bell tower, rather than the pavilion, on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27.  Concelebrating with Metropolitan Tikhon were Metropolitan Jonah; Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; Archbishop Benjamin; Bishop Melchizedek of Pittsburgh; Bishop Michael; and Bishop Mark.”

In terms of the details of the agreement reached between the hierarchs, Metropolitan Jonah has been awarded a monthly stipend along with insurance coverage to support his continued ministry in the life of the Church, and he will not be expected to absent himself from both Dallas and Washington, D.C. as some senior OCA leaders had previously demanded, but will free to live where he likes. He be listed as the OCA’s most recently retired former Primate and Metropolitan, and he will keep the style of Metropolitan, since he was consecrated to this primatial honor by the grace of the Holy Spirit at his enthronement at St Nicholas Cathedral in November 2008. 

Joyfully, Metropolitan Jonah is also free to serve wherever he likes and will be at liberty to eventually start a monastery in the DC Metropolitan area, as he has wished to do for some time. Plans are currently underway to look into acquiring a rural Maryland site near Washington, D.C. which has a host of beautiful buildings. Evidently, the OCA hierarchs have agreed that they will no longer oppose his transfer to another Orthodox jurisdiction (as some had previously) in the event that another jurisdiction requests his reception.

Metropolitans Jonah and Tikhon exchange the kiss of peace during the Divine Liturgy on Monday, May 27, 2013 at St Tikhon's Monastery in South Canaan, PA.

Metropolitans Jonah and Tikhon exchange the kiss of peace during the Divine Liturgy on Monday, May 27, 2013 at St Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA.

In the meantime, two weeks ago Metropolitan Jonah launched a new seminar at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist in DC, “Orthodoxy 101”. Here are links to the YouTube video recordings of the first and second lectures, respectively. For this seminar series, Vladyka has encouraged us to do additional readings and out-of-class research, in the manner of an engaging university seminar.

It is my sincere hope, as it is the hope of so many Orthodox Christians who have either remained in their parishes or found their spiritual home in another jurisdiction, that the OCA senior hierarchs will offer a public apology for the deeply offensive letter they released on July 16, 2012 which contains many falsehoods about Metropolitan Jonah. In time, I hope that the OCA hierarchs will realize that this simple step – a public apology for issuing a letter containing so many false allegations about their primate – will do more than any continued silence to bring about a fullness of healing to the faithful within the OCA. This is my hope, but not my expectation.

Still, these are joyous developments, and I am very glad that things have at last been resolved in a dignified and fair way. Glory to God for His providence which brings good out of evil and causes us to rejoice after sorrows.

Joyfully in the Risen Lord,

-Silouan

Metropolitan Jonah: A man of extraordinary kindness

“Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee. . .” – Psalm 30:19 (LXX)
 
It is often the seemingly simplest things in life which give us the greatest joy, from the happiness of an unexpected call or e-mail, to an impromptu dinner surrounded by the warmth and laughter of great friends. Yesterday was filled with both these simple joys for me. I’ve resumed my correspondence with one of my mentors, the world-traveling futurist and educator Gary Marx, and in the evening I attended a fascinating conference planning session and wonderful dinner with a group of Orthodox friends.
 
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Metropolitan Jonah invited a group of Orthodox friends to his house here in Washington. As a university student, I was the youngest person present. It was a great joy to be with so many dear friends (and several new acquaintances, including an Anglican priest and a newly-arrived Orthodox monk) brainstorming about panel and lecture topics, reaching out to would-be sponsors and affiliate organizations, and discussing media outreach strategies. We are in the infancy of planning a series of pan-Christian conferences focused on the overarching themes of secularism and the place of faith in public life.
 
Vladyka is a wonderfully kind host! Following several hours of enthusiastic discussion, and tea served by Vladyka, we moved to the dining room for a delicious Lenten dinner which he had prepared for us. My godmother has told me many times, and I discovered for myself that he is a very gifted cook! It was very touching to gather together in his home enjoying this lovely dinner which he had made for all of us. The main course was a savory vegetable stew with squid (an Athonite recipe, he told us) along with plenty of pasta, bread, fresh tomatoes and cut lemon.
 
For dessert we enjoyed blackberry turnovers and cherry pie with soy ice cream, and I was delighted to see that my godmother (who is not of Jewish heritage) brought hamentaschen! These triangularly folded fruit pastries baked with poppy seeds are a delicious Ashkenazic Jewish tradition. Most often eaten during the Purim festivities, the time when Jews commemorate the Hebrews’ deliverance from destruction through the courage of Queen Esther, they remain popular year-round with Jews and non-Jews alike. It was a delight to eat these Jewish pastries during our Orthodox Lenten dinner, as I recalled my introduction to them during my Long Island childhood.
 
The food was delicious, but it is the warmth of the conversation, the easy and frequent laughter (Vladyka and the visiting Anglican priest are both wonderful storytellers) which I will most remember. It was a great blessing to spend the evening with such wonderful church friends. The dinner was yet another reminder of how profoundly blessed I am to have such a kind and thoughtful man as my spiritual father and bishop.
 
To those of us who are blessed to see him regularly, Metropolitan Jonah is a shining example of Christian love actualized through thoughtful actions, a warm nature and a heart filled with a deep awareness of God’s presence and an abiding love for serving others. Unassuming, down-to-earth, and warm-hearted to the core, he is a blessing to talk with and a joy to learn from in his brilliant Bible study talks and incisive and pastoral sermons. I feel very blessed that I have come to know him over these past several years, and that I have the opportunity to continue learning from him. To all those whose lives he touches, he is a great blessing.

Blessed Saint Herman of Alaska on Christian love and joy

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Saint Herman of Alaska (1756-1837) was one of the first Russian Orthodox missionaries to the New World, celebrating the first Orthodox Liturgy in the Americas on the Kodiak Archipelago’s Spruce Island in 1794. From 1808-1818 the saint lived there in a tiny hermitage. He is considered by Orthodox Christians to be the patron saint of the Americas.

“A true Christian is made by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Savior Himself. He deigned to say: not the righteous have I come to call, but sinners to salvation; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety righteous ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He deigned to say to the Pharisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgments a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept an inflicted despair. Here one needs the shield of faith.”

—Letters of St. Herman of Alaska

On divine awe

Divine awe has nothing to do with trepidation – by which I mean, not the tremulousness induced by joy, but the trepidation induced by wrath or chastisement or the feeling of desertion by God.

On the contrary, divine awe is accompanied by a tremulous sense of jubilation arising from the prayer of fire that we offer when filled with awe.

This awe is not the fear provoked by wrath or punishment, but it is inspired by wisdom, and is also deserted as ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps. 111:10).

Awe may be divided into three kinds, even though the fathers speak only of two: the awe of beginners, that of the perfect, and that provoked by wrath, which should properly be called trepidation, agitation or contrition.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.

On divine love

Patience, forgiveness and joy are the three greatest characteristics of divine love. They are characteristics of all real love – if there is such a thing as real love outside divine love. Without these three characteristics, love is not love. If you give the name ‘love’ to anything else, it is as though you were giving the name ‘sheep’ to a goat or a pig.

-St. Nikolai Velimirovic

Saint Nikolai Velimirovic of Ohrid and Žiča lived from 1881-1956. He served as bishop of Ohrid and of Žiča in the Serbian Orthodox Church and was an influential theological writer and a highly gifted orator who came to be widely regarded as The New Chrysostom.

The Holy Spirit and the waves of God’s righteousness

There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active in those who genuinely aspire for this to happen and are not just putting God to the test – for, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, ‘It is found by those who do not put it to the test, and manifests itself to those who do not distrust it’ (cf. Wisd.1:2).

In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in others as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God’s visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins.

Again, in some the soul, at the outset, experiences an unutterable sense of contrition and an indescribable pain, like the woman in Scripture who labors to give birth (cf. Rev. 12:2). For the living and active Logos – that is to say, Jesus – penetrates, as the apostle says, to the point at which soul separates from body, joints from marrow (cf. Heb. 4:12), so as to expel by force every trace of passion from both soul and body.

In others it is manifest as an unconquerable love and peace, shown towards all, or as a joyousness that the fathers have often called exultation – a spiritual force and an impulsion of the living heart that is also described as a vibration and sighing of the Spirit who makes wordless intercession for us to God (cf. Rom. 8:26).

Isaiah has also called this the ‘waves’ of God’s righteousness (cf. Isa. 48:18), while the great Ephrem calls it ‘spurring’. The Lord Himself describes it as ‘a spring of water welling up for eternal life’ (John 4:14) – He refers to the Spirit as water – a source that leaps up in the heart and erupts through the ebullience of its power.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.

Marvelous in our eyes

The Lord can and does work miracles in the simplest of ways. Most often He does this by reminding us of His presence in our lives when we have become too self-centered, spiritually ‘blind’ or ‘deaf’ amid the bustle of our day-to-day existence to discern or appreciate it. His presence can be felt everywhere, in every moment of the day, in every minute of the hour, if only we open ourselves to it. If only we would allow ourselves to see with our spiritual eyes, with our noetic soul, how much richer and more beautiful our lives would be!

We could then easily discern the presence of God pervading every aspect of our lives. In this ever-present, ever deepening discernment, we would experience constant spiritual, and even physical, renewal, a rejuvenating transformation, for the glory of God’s presence restores all things to their most beautiful state of fullness in Him! By this restoration, our spirits become reanimated and reawakened as they bask in the radiant awareness of God’s majesty, and they feel in close communion with all beings and things created by God.

In every smile you give and receive, the light of God is present, especially in those smiles which you can tell really warm the soul by the creases they form all across one’s face, especially near one’s eyes. In the innocent, pealing laughter of babies and young children, fully animated with an unbridled joy, God is surely present, along with many angels.

In very old churches, testaments of stone and mortar to the enduring memory of the ancients whose piety and love for God drove them to raise these temples in which they glorified and worshiped Him, we see the abiding presence of God, especially in those holy places His providence has saved from almost certain destruction in the wake of wars.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, Chicago, IL, built in 1903, is one of the more ‘ancient’ Orthodox churches in the Americas, but compared to other Orthodox churches in the rest of the world, it is practically a ‘baby’!

In comparison to Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli (“Living Pillar”) in the eastern Georgian city of Mtskheta is truly ancient! The cathedral, which dates to the eleventh century, is the seat of His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, and thus, this stone church is at the spiritual heart of Georgian Orthodoxy. Miraculously, the church has survived numerous fires, raids, and threats of war.

Even in the quiet, simple day-to-day encounters with nature, God is so clearly evident and abundantly present, for there is a sense of the sacred, the holy, the mysterious and the majestic, which pervades all created things. I especially feel this beauty, this divine presence, around water.

Every time you walk out of your home early in the morning, and feel the warmth of the sun on your face or the soft, awakening drops of rain from the heavens, God is there. Every time you await the change in seasons, and you delight in stepping on a crunchy, crisped autumn leaf as I do, or the cool, gentle September breeze replacing the thick, humid summer heat, thank God for this small but monumental blessing. As you delight in these things, remember that He made each of us in His image, and created all that we see that we might recognize and ceaselessly praise the glory of His creation. Remember that the timeless splendor of His endless creation is a reflection of the Lord’s own eternal glory, and this is a mirror of the fullness of glory to which we are called to attain, by participation and cooperation with, by, and through the Holy Spirit, what is His by nature, essence, and from eternity.

If you try amid prayer to find that long sought-after stillness of innermost heart and soul, if you let the Holy Spirit of the Lord move you and take hold of your heart in its deepest quiet, you invite natural contemplation by which you can wonder and marvel in awe at the magnificent expanse and breadth of the Lord’s creation. If you then endeavor to contemplate, just for a few moments, the sheer majesty and transcendent beauty of all created things, all embodied beings, all physical matter in its incredible variety, expanse, diversity, vitality and order, how can your soul not marvel, how can your eyes not fill with tears at the indescribable doings of the Lord? How can you not but rejoice and say,

“This is the doing of the LORD, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” -Psalm 118, verse 23

“A Domino factum est istud et est mirabile in oculis nostris.”

“παρα κυριου εγενετο αυτη και εστιν θαυμαστη εν οφθαλμοις ημων.”

Glory to God for all things!

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