Metropolitan Jonah’s 2011 Pastoral Letter at the start of Great Lent

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Dearly Beloved in the Lord:

      The beginning of another Lenten season is upon us, and with it comes the opportunity for us to cast aside those things which have distanced us from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Like a wise mother, the Church provides this period of time as a means for us to prepare for receiving the joy of Pascha and Christ’s holy resurrection.

      This same joy and blessing was granted to us at our baptism, when the following prayer was read:

      “Grant that he (she) who is baptized therein may be transformed; that he may put away from himself the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh, and that he may, in like manner, be a partaker of Your Resurrection; and having preserved the gift of Your Holy Spirit, and increased the measure of grace committed to him, he may receive the prize of his high calling, and be numbered with the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, in You, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

       Our baptism in the waters of regeneration enabled us to participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore, it is appropriate for us to use the upcoming season of Great Lent to return to those baptismal waters. For this transformation to take place, we must first have a desire for a change of heart. Do we want to turn aside from the passions of our flesh? Carnal thoughts or deeds, idle chatter, gossip, lying, selfish acts, greed, and gluttony are all things which separate us from Christ. Isn’t it time to stop these destructive habits? Simply put, we know our passions stand in our way of entering into the heavenly kingdom. Now is the time to cast them into oblivion. Instead of tearing each other down, let us build each other up, as the Gospel commands. Instead of slander and accusation, judgment and condemnation, let us encourage and love our neighbors.

      If we truly desire to return to God, then let us do so in a spirit of humility. Let God transform our minds and hearts through true repentance, the fruit of that humility. We live in a society which encourages us to have an opinion or comment worthy of posting or tweeting about everyone and everything, but as Orthodox Christians it is time for us to stop thinking we have all of the answers. Let us turn off the rhetoric and excuses while rejecting our arrogance and pride. Denial of self is not easy. Yet we can echo the example of our Savior, who silently, and with meekness and humility approached the cross. When we take up our cross and follow Him, He will make our burden light.

      When we have reacquired a sense of humility, it is possible to more clearly recognize our sins and repent of them. Admission of our sins through repentance will not only help us as individuals, but also as communities of Orthodox Christian throughout North America. The effects of a broken and contrite heart can have a great impact on every relationship in our lives. True repentance replaces discord with harmony, and frustration with love. Individually and collectively, our lives should and need to reflect the love found in Jesus Christ.

      Great Lent is an excellent time for us to rediscover the importance of loving one’s neighbors. If, as Orthodox Christians we are the Body of Christ, then we have a responsibility to ask forgiveness for our failings, while banishing our grudges and egos. It means sharing the love of Christ with those in need, whether they are in our parishes or on the street. Putting an extra ten dollars in the basket is an excellent start. Or try to actually tithe your income (10%) to the Church during Lent. Taking it one step further to make a connection with someone by providing them with a meal or charity can make Christ present in their lives and so fulfill the law of God.

      The joy and radiant light of Pascha will quickly be here, and it is imperative that we make use of the time available for us during Great Lent to work on our spiritual health. It is time for us to cast off the works of darkness, as the Apostle Paul says in his epistle to the Romans. The services, prayers, fasting, and acts of charity we do during Lent are merely tools to help us return to God. Be careful, my beloved ones, that these tools do not become stumbling blocks for us, or that we use them to cause others to sin.

      I believe it is possible for each of us to turn from our sins and draw closer to our God the Father by redirecting our lives through Christ. What a joy it will be if each of us begins taking those first steps in love on the narrow path leading back to God. Our collective journey through Great Lent will bring us closer together as a community of love, and as the baptismal prayer says, may we become partakers of the Resurrection. Let us keep a sober mind to properly prepare for that moment on Pascha when we boldly and confidently may proclaim: Christ is Risen!

      In the many ways while serving as your archpastor, if I have failed or wronged you, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. May the Lord forgive us all!

      With my prayers for a holy season of Great Lent,

       With love in Christ,

      +Jonah

Incredible words of wisdom from St John of Kronstadt

Fear evil like fire. Don’t let it touch your heart even if it seems just or righteous. No matter what the circumstances, don’t let it come into you. Evil is always evil. Sometimes evil presents itself as an endeavor to God’s glory, or as something with good intentions towards your neighbor. Even in these cases, don’t trust this feeling. It’s a wrong labor and is not filled with wisdom. Instead, work on chasing evil from yourself.

Evil, however innocent it looks, offends God’s long-suffering love, which is His foremost glory. Judas betrayed his Lord for 30 silver pieces under the guise of helping the poor. Keep in mind that the enemy continuously seeks your death and attacks more fiercely when you’re not alert. His evil is endless. Don’t let self-esteem and the love of material goods win you over. When you feel anger against someone, believe with your whole heart that it’s a result of the devil’s work in your heart. Try to hate the devil and his deeds and it will leave you. Don’t admit it as a part of yourself and don’t justify it. I know this from experience. The devil hides himself behind our souls and we blindly think we’re acting by ourselves. Then we defend the devil’s work as something that is a part of us.Sometimes we think that anger is a fair reaction to something bad. But the idea that a passion could ever be fair is a total and deadly lie. When someone is angry at you, remember that this evil feeling is him. He’s just fooled by the devil and is a suffering instrument in his hand. Pray that the enemy leaves him and that God opens his spiritual eyes, which have been darkened by the evil spirit. Pray to God for all people enslaved by passions because the enemy is acting in their hearts.
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Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Perhaps you hate your neighbor, despise him, don’t want to talk to him peacefully and lovingly because he has been rude, arrogant, or disgusting in his speech or manners. You may despise him for being full of himself or proud or disrespectful. But you are to blame more than he is. “Physician, heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23). So, teacher, teach yourself. This kind of anger is worse than any other evil.How could evil be chased out by another evil? How can you take a needle from the eye of another person while having a log in your own? Evil defects must be fixed with love, kindness, resignation, and patience. Admit yourself as the worst of all sinners, and believe it. Consider yourself the worst one, chase away any boldness, anger, impatience and fury;you may start helping others. Be indulgent about the defects of others, because if you see their faults all the time, there will be continuous enmity. “The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.”(Psalm 129:3). “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”(Matthew 6:14).

We can feel from time to time the most perfect love for God without loving each other. This is a strange thing, and only few care about it. But love for our neighbor will never come without our own effort.A real Christian doesn’t have any reason to be angry about anybody. Anger is the devil’s deed. A Christian should have only love inside and since love doesn’t boast, he shouldn’t boast or have any bad thoughts towards others. For example, I must not think about another person that he is evil, proud etc; and I must not think that if I forgive his offense he would laugh at me or upset me again. We must not let evil hide in us under any pretense. Evil and anger usually have many different veils.Don’t yield to gloomy feelings in your heart but control and eradicate them with the power of faith and the light of the sane mind. These strengths will make you feel secure. ‘Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you’. (Psalm 25:20).

Gloomy feelings usually develop deep in the heart. Someone who didn’t learn how to control them will be gloomy, pensive most of the time and it will be hard for him to deal with himself and other people. When he comes close to you, sustain yourself with inner strength, happiness and innocent jokes: and they will leave you soon. This is from experience.

Lord, give me strength to love everyone like myself and never to get angry or work the for devil. Give me strength to crucify my self-esteem, my pride, my greed, my skepticism and other passions. Let us have a name: a mutual love. Let us not worry about anything. Be the only God of our hearts, and let us desire nothing except You. Let us live always in unifying love and let us hate anything that separates us from each other and from love. So be it! So be it! If God showed Himself to us and lives inside us as we in Him (according to His eternal Word), wouldn’t He give us everything? Would He ever trick us or leave us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32). Now be comforted, my dear, and know nothing but love. This is my command: Love each other (John 15:17).

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Beginning on Sunday, August 12, 2012 and lasting through to the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, many special holy icons and relics were present at St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This myrrh-streaming double icon depicts two pillars of the Orthodox faith in Russia. Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), offering the Communion chalice and a benediction, is shown with Saint Matrona of Moscow (1885-1952) because when he saw her as a young, blind girl in a crowd, he predicted that she would be his spiritual successor. Blessed Matrona healed many people of their spiritual diseases and predicted numerous marriages, events and deaths- including her own.

Mother Thekla on love

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Poor, old, sick, to our last breath, we can love. Not sentimental nonsense so often confused with love, but the love of sacrifice – inner crucifixion of greed, envy, pride. Never confuse love with sentimentality and never confuse worship with affectation. Be humble – love even when it is difficult. And do not treat church worship as a theatrical performance!

This is an excerpt from a 2009 letter which Mother Thekla (1918-2011), abbess of the English Monastery of the Assumption, wrote to a new English convert to Orthodoxy.

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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“If you possess love. . .”

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“If you possess love, you feel no jealousy or envy. You are not boastful, carried away by reckless pride. Nor do you put on airs with anyone. Nor do you act shamefully toward your fellow beings. You seek not simply what is to your own advantage, but what also benefits your fellow beings. You are not quickly provoked by those who are angry with you.” -St Nikitas

The depth and mystery of Confession

“Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me.” –Psalm 50

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more…”-Heb. 8:12.

Going through the mystery of Confession can be, as it ought to be, immensely healing, but it can also be very spiritually dangerous because its potential effects on a Christian soul depend so heavily on the spiritual frame of mind of the penitent during the time he or she confesses and shortly thereafter. It is in this crucial time afterwards that the grace of the Holy Spirit present in the mysteries of the Church, radiating through her sacraments, is so crucial to catalyzing real spiritual growth and renewal in the penitent’s heart and soul. If the penitent sinner does not fully acknowledge the ruptures their actions have caused, which have obscured God’s grace in his or her life, he or she will be blind to the healing grace all around and within them.

If confession is undertaken by someone searching after the righteousness and purity of heart of which Christ spoke in the Beatitudes, if he or she comes before God with the priest as their witness and confidant in a spirit of Christian piety and simple humility, then the counsel the priest provides, and the gentle grace and the loving whispering of God in the repentant sinner’s heart will heal, restore and illumine them.

When this happens, the words of Psalm 50 ring true in the penitent’s heart. God will “blot out [their] transgressions”, washing them thoroughly and cleansing them from their sins. When this happens, he or she will see Christ in all people, even in their foes who might hate them, and they will be inspired to heal any ruptures or schisms in relationships with loved ones. They will want to forgive others, and to ask those they have hurt for forgiveness. Their loved ones will see the love of God in them and forgive them, discerning their hearts to be fully cleansed.

As much as it is a true blessing for those seeking after true righteousness, confession often becomes for the spiritually blind or immature a vehicle for further gratification of the ego, of the deluded sense of self- it becomes all about the person “feeling better”, and people thus mistake a symptom of gradual spiritual healing and recovery for the intrinsic goal. This sad delusion stunts any real progress in the process of repentance, obscuring the necessary union of a repentant soul with a loving heart. Thus for those unwilling to change their ways, confession is essentially a gratifying ritual void of the true repentance meant to accompany it.

In this confused state, a sinner is likely to not only continue sinning, blind as they are to the grace of God and the need for real repentance, but to become proud or boastful in his or her transgressions. Then, truly, they are to be pitied and loved all the more. Even in this state of persistent sinfulness, we must not condemn our brother or sister. We must pray for them, for something truly dark lives in their soul, whatever idol they have set up in place of God!

We are all of us hypocrites in how we quickly condemn and judge others. We would serve our own salvation far better if we looked to our own sins, from which we can and should turn, and examine not so much what we do wrong, but why we give into temptations. What spiritual void or weak spot or illness in us is the underlying cause of our sin? When we can do this for ourselves, we will see the image of God shining through our brothers and sisters, even those immersed in sin, and then we can be unto them as Christ is unto us, infinitely loving and forgiving.

A reflection on true personhood

“Seek God daily. But seek Him in your heart, not outside it. And when you find Him, stand with fear and trembling, like the Cherubim and Seraphim, for your heart has become a throne of God.” – St. Nectarius of Aegina (1846-1920).

Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – St. Matthew 5:48.

All too often we are mere shards or fragments of the persons we are truly called to be, and in that state of ignorance of our true personhood, of our true selves, we feel overwhelmed by loneliness, fear, doubts, and alternating thrills of joy and desperation, of fear of who we are in the present confusion, and fear of what we may be called to become. Ignorant of our true selves, we lack the inner peace and calm of those who are truly fulfilled and pursuing introspective, godly living. In this state we can hurt anyone who approaches us, anyone Christ-like who really cares for us, especially those who love us. This is the worst sin of the heart, and it comes from not knowing ourselves. In such a time, those who truly love us know us better than ourselves, and we must cleave to them. Truly, the purpose of this life is to worship God in all that we are, all that we do and say, and anything that interferes with that—and seeing God in those we love—is sin.

On the need for profound Christian forgiveness in the life of the Church

“If we love not our brother we cannot have peace. Let every man think on this.” – St. Silouan the Athonite

“To forgive means to restore a bond of love and communion when there has been a rupture. Sin ruptures our relationship with God and others, as also do offenses taken and given among people. When the bond is broken with other people, we tend to objectify them and judge them, not seeing them as persons, but only as objects of our anger and hurt. This is our sinful reaction. We categorize people in terms of their transgression against us. The longer we nurture the anger and alienation, the more deeply the resentment takes hold in our heart, and the more it feeds on our soul.” – Then-Hieromonk Jonah in an interview with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America on “Forgiveness and Reconciliation”.

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Metropolitan Jonah, my spiritual father and the former primate of the Orthodox Church in America (2008-2012)

Metropolitan Jonah shared the above insights with his interviewers before he was called to the episcopate, before his elevation and consecration to the primacy as the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America. He shared them at a time when he was beset by many frustrations and difficulties, struggling to sustain the men’s monastery he founded which was dedicated to St John Maximovitch, archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco in the wilderness of north central California.

These words reveal not only startling insight into his pastoral approach and the spiritual wisdom he acquired from his time living for over a year as a monk at the Russian island monastic community of Valaam, but they are a testament to his entire spiritual worldview. Irrespective of what future position Metropolitan Jonah may or may not hold in the Orthodox Church in America or in another jurisdiction, it is this spiritual worldview which Orthodoxy in America, indeed, the faithful everywhere, so desperately needs today.

With regard to the Metropolitan’s recent resignation, I cannot and do not claim to be without any sort of bias, except that I am in no ways a ‘partisan’ of any side. Metropolitan Jonah is my spiritual father. He received me into the Church by chrismation last December. I have known him to be a person whose loving and pastoral kindness, spiritual wisdom, and theological insights have inspired and challenged me and many faithful parishioners at St Nicholas Cathedral in DC and across the continent.

In this time of great pain and confusion, what we need more than anything else is to pray for a spirit of Christian forgiveness to return to our hearts. As difficult as it is, we must somehow transcend our anger and hurt and look to our bishops and all leaders in the OCA and see them for what they are, however broken or flawed: living icons of Christ, just as we ourselves are. Let us try to recall Metropolitan Jonah’s words from his interview with the Antiochian Archdiocese, words which take on an especially poignant significance in times such as these: “Resentment is a cancer that will destroy us if we don’t forgive! It also leaks out and damages our relations with others when we slander and gossip about those who have offended us and try to draw others to our own side.”

Applying such words in times such as these can be very difficult whenever we are feeling hurt or confused or betrayed. In the spirit of Christian loving-kindness, we must endeavor not to give voice to our anger, which, once uttered in public or on some Internet forum, can never be undone, but in our love for the Church, in our love for Metropolitan Jonah, for all that he was and is for us, we must turn to Almighty God with our prayers. Let us ask for the mercy of God and peace for our souls from the Holy Spirit in humble, simple prayer to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us try to find that space within ourselves where we can attune our nous, our spiritual consciousness, to that prayer of the heart which springs forth from the very depths of our being. We must also turn to our Blessed Mother and champion Lady, the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, and to our many beloved saints, that they might intercede with God for us and bring peace anew to the suffering Church on earth.

As someone who was blessed to meet and talk with His Beatitude many times, who witnessed firsthand his loving pastoral spirit, his incredible kindness, his acetic discipline, and deep spiritual wisdom, I mourn his resignation as Primate. Selfishly, I fear that I will not be able to see him in the future as often as I would like. This is difficult for me because he is my spiritual father and he has been a steady source of great wisdom and guidance. Yet for me it is much more difficult to hold onto anger or feelings of shock or hopelessness, then to let them naturally give way to love, hope, and a spirit of forgiveness.

As Metropolitan Jonah observed in the above-mentioned interview, to have an attitude of forgiveness does not mean ‘enabling’ or accepting wrongs as somehow justified or ‘right’, but it means letting go of anger or resentment and endeavoring to see Christ present in the person or persons who have hurt us: “Forgiveness means overlooking the sin or transgression, and restoring a bond of love. . . Forgiveness means laying aside our judgments of the other person and our own sinful reactions, and accepting others for who they are.” It is this truly radical spirit of forgiveness to which we are called today in the life of the Church.

A great temptation exists right now to rave about conspiracies and factions and, as some Internet writers have put it, about ‘wolves’ moving in darkness. I look at these writings and I see something of myself in them, in that many of these writers are hurting deeply right now because of their love for the Metropolitan and their feeling that his resignation was pursued in a way contrary to an expected spirit of Christian love. Yet in these writings and blogs, the rumors and speculation about the motives of the Holy Synod, etc, I see the potential for great spiritual harm and danger to all present.

Like most of you, I too have a strong desire to see a full and open, third party investigation into the Synod’s claims against the Metropolitan. I expect that this investigation will reveal the Metropolitan to be innocent of the grave charges leveled against him by the Synod in their recent July 16 public statement, and that, in his vindication, the Metropolitan would be magnanimous and forgiving in a true Christian spirit. We must assume the best about the Holy Synod’s intentions until we have any proof otherwise, and likewise, the Metropolitan’s critics must also assume the best about him.

All the while, as members of the same Church, united in all matters of faith, belief and doctrine, we must be very cautious not to use words or enter into an attitude which can be considered one of ‘attacking’ the Holy Synod, not for fear of being silenced, but because if we allow any anger or hatred into our hearts, we risk destroying any possible future unity in the Church. We risk destroying the most basic bonds of Christian love, however strained they might already be, and we cannot do this. However difficult, we must remember Christ’s great commandment that we need to love one another even as He loves us, in spite of our flaws.

This temptation to give into suspicion and anger is surely sowing further discord in the life of the Church. Think of how broken and fragmented she is now! Do any of us want to add to that by numbering our voices among the hateful, the angry, or the bitter? We must remember the words of the Metropolitan’s official resignation letter, regardless of whether or not they were his own words or if someone else wrote them for him to sign, as seems likely. Metropolitan Jonah still signed his name to them, acknowledging that he did not think he had the personality or temperament to continue as primate of the Church.

I have my own thoughts on whether or not he signed his name to this letter under great emotional strain and duress, but the Metropolitan has often spoken of how he felt inadequate as the untested new hierarch taking on complex administrative responsibilities which made him effectively the ‘chief administrator’ of such a geographically vast Church. Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation does not mean that we as a Church are losing his guiding voice or the deep spiritual insights he will continue to offer the faithful. He is simply taking off an immensely heavy role which, by his own admission, he believed he was not the correct person to bear at this time.

Another temptation in this uncertain period is for those of us who feel a close connection to Metropolitan Jonah to give in to hyperbolic and exaggerated notions of despair. The idea that the OCA is coming apart internally primarily due to the ‘culture war’ disputes is absurd, given that the other bishops of the Holy Synod joined the Metropolitan in compassionately but firmly defending the Church’s ancient views on the sanctity of human life and on human sexuality. I read Bp. Michael and Bp. Matthias’ letters to their respective dioceses in defense of traditional Christian marriage and expressions of human sexuality and shared these documents with Latter-day Saint (Mormon) friends who expressed a strong interest in our Church’s commitment to these fundamental principles. This unfortunate happening is not a death knoll for Orthodoxy in America. Outside of the OCA, life for other of our Orthodox brothers and sisters continues on, though many of my friends in other jurisdictions have expressed their shock and sadness at hearing of the Metropolitan’s resignation.

Given that the OCA survived past scandals of far greater scale, scandals involving criminal and ethical wrongdoing on the part of her senior hierarchs, I do not believe this tumult signifies the absolute death knoll of the OCA. I am not naively optimistic, and I expect a period of decline brought on by many faithful Orthodox Christians’ sense of sadness at the Metropolitan’s abrupt resignation and disillusionment with the lack of transparency and other aspects of the ways senior Church leaders handled this matter, especially in the wake of their letter of July 16 which is already being closely scrutinized.

Metropolitan Jonah will not be silenced or shut away. He was and remains a source of great spiritual wisdom and pastoral light and guidance to so many of the faithful. We have no reason to think that his departure from the primacy will change that! Whatever path he discerns, whether he will eventually serve the OCA as a bishop in a new capacity, or enter another jurisdiction as seems likely, I have no doubt that his words of wisdom will continue to inspire many Orthodox faithful for years to come, especially young adults like myself and so many of my friends across jurisdictions. Above all, I hope and pray that he continues to write on current cultural issues, Church theology and spiritual practices, areas in which he as inspired tens of thousands of people, especially young Orthodox Christians.

We must remember that Christ remains the head of this Church, guiding and strengthening all Orthodox Christians around the country and across the world. When I was received into the Church, I took on the mantle of the Orthodox faith. The question of which jurisdiction I “belong to” is ultimately irrelevant, so I see myself as belonging only to God, insofar as I struggle to live His commandments and love Him and His creation in all that I do. But in my spiritual sonship to the Triune God, I recognize that I am, by extension, a brother to all my fellow Christians. A crucial part of this life in Christ is for me to love others, even when I do not understand them or approve of their actions or approach.

As difficult as it is in these times, we must somehow all summon forth Christian love and a spirit of forgiveness from the depths of our souls. To continue on in a spirit of resentment, anger or possibly even hatred poses not only immense harm to the inner life of the Church, but to the spiritual state of every person who entertains such temptations in their hearts. My patron saint, Elder Silouan the Athonite, cautions that “If you think evil of people, it means you have an evil spirit in you whispering evil thoughts about others. . . This is the rule we have: if you forgive others, it is a sign that the Lord has forgiven you. But if you refuse to forgive, then your own sins remain with you.” Only a radical spirit of forgiveness, strengthened by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, can bring about the healing which the Orthodox Church in America so desperately needs.

“Reconciliation presupposes forgiveness. If we forgive someone, we need to be open to reconciliation, if possible. Reconciliation is forgiveness in action—the actual restoration of the interpersonal bond between two people, in mutual acceptance of each other for who each one is. Forgiveness and reconciliation can lead to a stronger bond than previously existed. Each time an offense occurs, we can learn more about both the other and ourselves. This can lead to a deeper knowledge and understanding of each by the other, and thus can also lead to a more authentic bond of intimacy. Reconciliation should always be the goal.” – Metropolitan Jonah, then a hieromonk and Abbot of the monastery of St John near Manton, California

“Grace proceeds from brotherly love, and by brotherly love is grace preserved; but if we do not love our brother the grace of God will not come into our souls.” – St Silouan the Athonite