“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
“Again, we ask Thee, Lord, to remember all Orthodox bishops who rightly teach the word of Thy truth, all presbyters, all deacons in the service of Christ, and every one in holy orders.”
– from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, inspired from this verse of Holy Scripture.
Many friends across the U.S. and Canada have asked me to give an update on Metropolitan Jonah’s situation. People often ask me how he is doing, or if I have heard anything new. I hope that I am able to answer people’s questions here.
I am blessed to see him regularly, since he resides here in Washington and has been serving each week at the ROCOR Cathedral of St John the Baptist, a warm and bustling parish. Metropolitan Jonah has been welcomed very kindly by all, including both English-speaking parishioners and Russian and Ukrainian parishioners who usually attend the Slavonic Liturgy. His weekly Friday night Bible studies are always very well attended, and this is a growing ministry at St. John’s which Cathedral rector Fr. Victor Potapov has kindly encouraged with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. Friends from across the country have told me of how much this ministry enriches their faith and spiritual lives, and deepens their understanding of Orthodox teachings and beliefs, Church history, and contemporary moral issues in society.
When I think of his growing ministry, how so many people are asking me how they can access his YouTube videos (these can be found here at the St John’s Cathedral YouTube page), I am amazed and deeply moved that, despite everything he is going through, he has the focus and presence of mind to continue his teaching ministry. I see this as the Providence of God. By cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Metropolitan Jonah is able to continue to serve as a teacher, his true capacity as a bishop.
The true responsibility of an Orthodox bishop is a profoundly pastoral one: to communicate the transformative wholeness and living beauty of the Faith to people in the language and context of the times in which they live. Above all, a bishop’s writings, sermons, and talks should enable the faithful to better live and integrate the fullness of Orthodox teaching and spirituality into their daily lives. As Metropolitan Jonah often says, “what we do in church on Sundays counts for less than 5% of the week, so how are we spending our time while outside of church?” How are we understanding, and most of all, living, our faith day-to-day, hour by hour?
Thus, in communicating to the people the fullness of the Orthodox faith which is the way to salvation, the inner life and glory of the Church, a bishop’s role is primarily that of a teacher. He is charged with guiding the people, “rightly dividing”, or discerning and communicating, the word of Truth in all its catholicity.
This is how I see Metropolitan Jonah: above all, he is a teacher. From the numerous Bible studies, sermons, conference and retreat talks I have heard him give, it is clear to me that he is an exceptional one. Metropolitan Jonah has the charism of communicating profound spiritual truths, as well as deeply intellectual, and often philosophically worded, Orthodox spiritual concepts (theosis, koinonia, theoria, synergeia, hesychia, prayer of the heart, conciliarity/sobornost, etc) in language that people can understand and apply to their lives. Thus, as a teacher who can articulate Orthodoxy to people today living in a cultural context removed from that of a traditionally Orthodox cultural environment, he is invaluable. He is widely and rightfully recognized as an engaging speaker whose spiritual talks have served as an Orthodox bridge to the Roman Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant communities.
Even now, Metropolitan Jonah’s ministry is inspiring many faithful across the Orthodox jurisdictions on this continent. This is a great joy, and I am reminded of one of my favorite verses from Holy Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16):
It amazed me to discover that the verse following St. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to always rejoice is a verse with which I was already familiar, but whose exact context and placement in his epistles I did not remember until re-reading it: “Pray ceaselessly”. (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How fitting that, inseparably tied to rejoicing in the boundless grace of God, we should also always remember to thank and supplicate Him in prayer, our hopes, praises and deepest yearnings which rise like incense to heaven (Psalm 141:1-2).
There is so much for which I and many others close to Metropolitan Jonah are profoundly grateful. His constant kindness, easygoing warmth and sense of humor always put anyone meeting him for the first time at ease. When one has talked with him often, one comes to appreciate how he has not only a remarkable depth of theological knowledge and spiritual awareness, but a profound humility of spirit.
This humility and real sense of Christian love is at the heart of who Metropolitan Jonah is as a person. Anyone who has heard his spiritual talks or read his book Reflections on a Spiritual Journey knows that a constant theme is: “Do not resent. Do not react. Keep inner stillness.” It is this profound theological and spiritual principle which he has so often articulated, one which the early Desert Fathers and many of the Church’s foremost theologians taught, which he is trying to live now.
My wonderful godmother, who is a great blessing in my life, often tells me about the extraordinary life of Bishop Basil Rodzianko, her spiritual father, whom she assisted for many years. From my godmother I have heard many wonderful stories and anecdotes about his life, and in many ways I feel I have come to know this remarkable holy man, especially through prayer.
There are a number of parallels between the life and work of Bishop Basil, and Metropolitan Jonah. Just like Metropolitan Jonah today, Bishop Basil preached the true fullness of the Christian witness of two millennia, offering to all the full message of the Gospel and the Church’s revealed moral teachings.
In retirement, Bishop Basil often served at St. Nicholas Cathedral, and lived out the remaining years of his life in a cozy studio apartment-chapel. He often served liturgies there, and continued his remarkable radio ministry to the faithful living behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union. As you can see below, this intimate, holy place remains in use today.
Besides his acting teaching ministry at St. John’s ROCOR Cathedral here, where he also serves regularly at Liturgy and vigil, Metropolitan Jonah spoke at the February 8-10 DC-Baltimore Orthodox Christian Fellowship district winter retreat at the Mar-Lu-Ridge camp site near Jefferson, Maryland. For many years he has participated in similar conferences and retreats, recently speaking at the 2012 winter OCF College Conference in California.
It was a joy to host him as a speaker, along with the exceptionally kind author and lecturer Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green and Dr Joel Kalvesmaki, Editor in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks.
The Holy Archangels Foundation, originally set up in 1986 to support Bishop Basil’s continued radio and teaching ministry, has been receiving hundreds of envelopes with checks and cash to go toward supporting Metropolitan Jonah’s continued teaching ministry here in Washington. Every day the Foundation receives many e-mails and letters from people across Orthodox jurisdictions, asking what they can do to support this kind hierarch whom so many of us love and support.
If you or anyone you know would like to help support Metropolitan Jonah’s continued ministry, please write any letters or send checks to this address:
Holy Archangels Orthodox Foundation
3027 Foxhall Road NW
Washington DC, 20016
Wherever you are, if you love and support Metropolitan Jonah as do so many people, please continue to pray for him. He deeply appreciates everyone’s prayers. Many of us here in Washington have begun praying the Akathist to St. John Maximovitch (the Wonder-worker) in the hope that this blessed saint will intercede with the Lord to bring about a clear resolution.
May God bless you and keep you, and give you joy in all things.