Posts Tagged ‘Metropolitan Jonah’

Paschal Message of Metropolitan Jonah

April 6, 2010

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

I’m a little slow on this, but I’m passing along the Paschal message of his Beatitude  Metropolitan Jonah.  The excesses of the Feast of Feasts got to me yesterday on Bright Monday.  Too much rich food, too little sleep, too much busyness and activity.  It’s been my usual practice to take this day off work and recuperate, but I couldn’t do it this year, and was really feeling lousy.  In a way, I’m relieved the day of Pascha has come and gone.  It’s a hard Feast to really connect with because of the busyness that accompanies it.    The extras that attach to Pascha – the Pascha basket, the parish picnic, the baking, the cooking, the clothes to buy for the kids, the rushing and fussing – they seem to overwhelm the Feast and my simple enjoyment of it.  It’s the same problem we have with the Nativity.  How do you just stop the frenzy?  Going to the services and not participating in any activities seems a bit extreme.   There must  be a balance somewhere, but after 19 years I still haven’t found it.  Nor have I found a way to indulge my food cravings in moderation.  Before the holy water has dried off the blessed Pascha baskets, I’m diving two-fisted into a pyramid-shaped Pascha and a side dish of sausage and eggs, washed down with wine.

Enjoy and meditate on the Paschal message of Metropolitan Jonah.  He seems to have been writing it specifically for me and my festal gluttony.  (Is it really possible to fall into sin so soon after the end of the Paschal Liturgy?)

Having passed the course of the Fast, let us feast soberly, giving thanks to God. Let our feasting never obscure the Feast of Grace, the experience of the Presence of Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, in our midst, the Host of our Feast.

Advertisements

Sanctity of Life Sunday

January 21, 2010

Tomorrow, January 22nd, marks the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  What’s there to say after all these years.  America is still killing its own children, and the good fight is still being waged against it.    

Metropolitan Jonah’s Sanctity of Life Sunday message to the Orthodox Church in America has now been posted on the OCA’s website.  Please don’t skip reading it with the idea that you’ve heard everything that can possibly be said about abortion and a Christian’s duty to stop it.  Every soldier, no matter how long in the fight, needs to be reminded about the importance of their mission and encouraged to keep going on, despite the hostile forces waiting for them.    This is a war, but our enemy is not the desperate sinner fallen into hopelessness so great that abortion seems the only way out.  Our enemy is not the deluded and morally fallen abortionists who convince themselves of the charitable service they’re providing to women in crisis.   This is a war, and the enemy we fight against is the same Great Enemy that has always opposed mankind.

Orthodox Conference on Missions and Evangelism 2009

September 17, 2009

Now posted on Ancient Faith Radio are the talks given at the recent Conference on Missions and Evangelism sponsored by the Antiochian Archdiocese.   This has been a very succesful, enthusiastically attended conference, attracting a Who’s Who of Orthodoxy, particularly well known converts.  The frank, heartfelt responses of Metropolitan Jonah to a variety of questions about Orthodox unity, missions and relations with the Oriental Orthodox churches are very edifying.  Every word I’ve  heard from Metropolitan Jonah has the power to move me in so many positive ways.   I always come away with a renewed sense of commitment and love for Orthodoxy and the Church in this country.  What a blessing he is for American Orthodoxy.

The Search Begins For a New Bishop

August 13, 2009

OCA Diocese of the South

The website for the Diocese of the South is reporting the news that Metropolitan Jonah has taken the first big step in the search for a new Bishop for the Diocese.  Metropolitan Jonah has been acting as locum tenens i.e. temporary caretaker (Latin, “one holding a place”) since our beloved Archbishop Dmitri retired in the Spring. 

August 12.   With the blessing of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South (‘DOS’), an Episcopal Search Committee has been established. The Committee was approved at the recently concluded DOS Assembly in Atlanta.

The Search Committee will consist of the DOS deans and the chancellor of the Diocese. Members of the Committee include, Archpriest Philip Reese, Archpriest Peter Smith, Archpriest Ted Pisarchuk, Priest Stephen Freeman, Priest Marcus Burch, Priest Seraphim Hisph and Archpriest Joseph Fester.

The Episcopal Search Committee is scheduled to hold their first meeting in early September.

I’m sure there’s going to be lots of idle speculation, rumors and blatthering from the peanut gallery.  The priests that have been selected are well-known and respected, not just for their administrative skills, but for their spirituality and love of the Church.  

The best we can do is to pray for them and the hard work they’re undertaking.  Filling the shoes of Archbishop Dmitri is going to be difficult but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit I believe they will find worthy candidates. 

Canon 28 and the Ecumenical Patriarchate

May 13, 2009

I really like George Michalopulos’  writing.  Finally, someone has written clear, concise background and analysis of jurisdictional issues and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s jockying for power in the US.   The American Orthodox Institute  has quite a few articles on these issues, but for a good overview try this one on the history of Metropolinitates and Canon 28 and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’.    

When you’ve finished those, here’s an excerpt from Metropolitan Jonah’s interview with the Russian Patriarchate’s news service during his recent trip, with specific emphasis on his vision for Orthodoxy in America and the OCA’s autocephaly.   This is a man who may have recently apologized to the Patriarchate Bartholomew for being too honest in an age of political correctness and diplomatic niceties, but he isn’t taking back the basic message – the Orthodox Church in America has no intention of looking to Constantinople for its leadership.   Personally, I think Metropolitan Jonah’s leadership style points up another characteristic in which America differs from the Old World – up front honesty – we lay our cards on the table even when it means stepping on some toes (how’s that for some blatant metaphor mixing!)

Here’s Metropolitan Jonah laying out some honesty in his interview-

The Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as some other Local Orthodox Churches do not recognize our autocephaly. And if they want to make any decisions affecting our life, this is only possible with our consent. Otherwise, it will be a great sin against us.

Bright Week and Pascha Address of Metropolitan Jonah

April 20, 2009

pascha-6

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

I’m spending Bright Monday under the influence of sleep deprivation and a meat-induced food hangover, due to my gluttonous consumption of meat, cheese, sausage, paska, ham, chocolate…did I say meat already?  

It’s hard to write when you’re just emotionally and physically burned-out with the anticipation, joy, stress and type-A busyness of this over-achieving Orthodox Christian who’s just celebrated Pascha.  I shouldn’t complain nearly so much, considering how tired all the priests and deacons must be today.  I always imagined there’d be a market for a Bright Week Clergy Carnival cruise.    An aircraft carrier-sized cruise ship  leaving port in Florida with a boatload of tired clergy wearing Hawaiian print riassas, ordering umbrella drinks and skipping the salads and veggies on the buffet line.

freedom_seas_ship

Well, now for something more edifying, here’s the Paschal address of Metropolitan Jonah.  You’ll notice that I didn’t read his homily before I pigged out the past two days.   After reading this, I am wondering ‘what was the purpose of my lenten journey’?  Did I get so wrapped up at the end with the preparations for a big parish Pascha picnic, or with putting together a Pascha basket of goodies that I had craved and drooled over for 5 weeks?   Busyness, even church busyness, is not Christ’s business.  While he was busy dying on the Cross for my sins and lying in a tomb, I was busy cooking, rushing around to the grocery stores and doing errands in between Holy Friday and Holy Saturday services, and on Pascha morning itself.   Makes you think before you stuff another piece of ham in your mouth, doesn’t it?

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful
of The Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Beloved, let us greet one another with Paschal Joy, and exchange the kiss of peace.

Let us feast soberly, that our joy may be full. Let us not stuff ourselves to satiety with feasting, nor indulge our passions to insensibility. Most of all, let us not give ourselves over to the darkness of the fallen world from which we have sought to purify ourselves, lack of forgiveness, anger and judgment, bitterness and hatred.

Rather, let us allow our old selves to remain crucified and buried, that the New Man may live, resurrected in and with Christ. Let us live according to the Kingdom, in communion with the Holy Spirit, so that we may be renewed by the Resurrection.

Our Pascha is not simply the beautiful services and the good food. It is not just family and Easter bunnies. It is not just the fellowship and familiar old customs.

Pascha is the dawn of the Age to Come, the Kingdom of God radiating into our souls and minds and hearts. Pascha is the experience of salvation itself, the foretaste of the Messianic Banquet, and the transformation of our lives. In Pascha we behold Christ, Risen from the dead, the revelation of the Second Coming.

We have gone with Christ to His Passion, but have we been crucified with Him?

We have held vigil at His Tomb, but were we asleep, and missed Him? Did our minds betray us and we doubt His Resurrection?

Let the fruit of our Lenten efforts be the enlightenment of our minds and the renewal of our hearts that our repentance not be in vain.

Let us sing with joy together with the Angels and Archangels, and all creation which has groaned awaiting the revelation of the Son of Man. With all creation, the living and dead, the spiritual and material, and with all the saints, let us cry:

Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Христос Воскресе из мертвых, смертию смерть поправ, и сущим во гробех живот даровав!

Χριστος ανεστη εκ νεκρων, θανατο θανατον πατησας και της εν τοις μνημασι ζωην χαρισαμενος.

With love and joy in the Risen Christ,

+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South

New Pascha Website

April 15, 2009

resurrection

Can you feel it?  Only 4 days to go before Pascha!  This is it folks; the home stretch.  We’ve almost made it to that great day of Resurrection.   It’s easy at this point to already start feeling we’re celebrating Pascha.   The power of that joyful day is so great it spills over, even into the sadness of Holy Week. 

In anticipation of the upcoming Great Feast or Feast of Feasts, the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America have joined up to create a really nice website focusing on Pascha and the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.   The Feast of Feasts website  features articles by well-known Orthodox writers and theologians, photos, testimonials, and a lot more.  A really nice feature that is going to be added will be stories of Pascha submitted by readers.  Send an email with your story, reflection or memories of Pascha to editor@feastoffeasts.org and it may be chosen to add to the website.  Keep the length to 300 words or less (no photos, no PDF, text-only)

Saint Tikhon and the Unity of the American Church

April 7, 2009

tikhon

Today is the celebration of the repose of one of the greatest American saints – Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Enlightener of North America.  He served as Archbishop of the entire North American continent at a time when communication and travel were difficult,  when no well-organized, central administrative structure governed the church in this country, when there were no seminaries, and the faithful were either new immigrants without churches or had been unpastored for decades in remote areas.  His time in America was relatively short – just nine years between 1898 and 1907, but in that time he transformed the Orthodox Church in America and gave it a vision and mission for self-governance and independence.

Ironically, the Orthodox Church in this country has entered a period that, I believe, will test the very limits of what Saint Tikhon envisioned and worked to achieve.  A series of events and actions are taking place right now which, if they do not seem divinely guided, at least are the kind of events that may one day be seen as the opening shots in a very strident conflict between the Old World and the New. 

1.   The election of Metropolitan Jonah to lead the Orthodox Church in America (the only autocephalous Orthodox Church in this country and a grandchild of Saint Tikhon).  Metropolitan Jonah is the strongest voice for American Orthodoxy – a hierarch who isn’t mincing words about the urgency for Orthodox administrative unity in America.

2.   The reigning in of the Antiochian Bishops of North America and Canada and the re-enforcement of submission to the Patriarch of Antioch, supported wholeheartedly by Metropolitan Philip.  

3.   The anticipated Pan Orthodox Synod  that is being convened by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Preparatory meetings are already scheduled for this summer.  Big topic of discussion – the church in the diaspora.

4.   Patriarch Bartholomew I’s strongly worded “suggestion” that American Orthodox fulfillment and unity are best achieved by submitting to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.   If you have a strong gag reflex, please be warned when you read the speech given by the EP Holy Synod’s Chief Secretary, Archimandrite Dr. Elpidophoros Lambriniadisthis, to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary on March 16th. 

Let me just make one observation here to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s proposal….. BAAW HAW HAW HAW.  Sorry, I don’t know how to write up the corresponding sound of me snorting my morning coffee all over the screen.   With all due respect Your Eminence, it seems that the more desperate your situation becomes in the oppressive, hostile, crushing state of Turkey, the more you resort to fancy tap dancing to extend your influence, power and importance over the Orthodox faithful in the diaspora.   We all feel for your difficult situation but this is America.  At least for us in the OCA, we’ve been handling things on or own for a good long while now – not always successfully, but we ain’t about to turn against the work of Saint Tikhon and go back to the Old Country, to an isolated, besieged patriarchate which, under the “freedom” of the Turkish constitution and the threat of terrorist attack, has zilcho autonomy and self-determination.   Let’s be frank – Your Eminence has been overseeing a slow death, 500 years in the making, while Orthodoxy in this country is young, alive and moving forward.  And we can go forward as co-workers and co-equals in Christ, but we won’t be doing it holding our Daddy’s hand.  

Metropolitan Jonah put this so much more eloquently than I do in his sermon during a Pan Orthodox vespers  at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas on April 5th (We had some parishioners attend and I can’t wait to get their impressions.)  I absolutely love Metropolitan Jonah!  This is the kind of leadership we have not had in the OCA in decades and it seems only by the providence of God that his election coincides with these new attacks on American Orthodox independence.

As Saint Tikhon observed in a speech given in March 1907 during the first All American Sobor (the precursor to the present OCA All American Councils) shortly before he returned to Russia (and you will excuse his use of the word “Russian” Orthodoxy – he was after all preaching to a predominantly Russian audience) 

…the more I study the history of the Orthodox Church in this country, the more I am convinced that our work here is God’s work; that God himself is helping us; that when it seems as though everything we do is ready to fail — the work of Russian Orthodoxy — on the contrary, it not only does not die, but grows in new strength and brilliance.

Has the Antiochian Archdiocese Jumped the Shark?

March 6, 2009

simpsons13x17-gump_roast-jumpingtheshark

Did you feel the earth move on February 24, 2009?   

The jolt you felt was the seismic shift under the fragile ground of American Orthodox unity, thanks it would seem, to the  the machinations of the Patriarch of Antioch and the Self-Ruled  Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.  With the issuance of  this decision  by the Holy Synod of Antioch, the Self-Ruled Archdiocese has effectively become a ‘sole-ruled’ diocese under the leadership of Metropolitan Phillip.  The Bishops of the Archdiocese have been demoted to Auxilliary Bishops, and what they are left with in the way of real leadership for their individual dioceses has yet to be defined.  (You’ll note this decision affects all Bishops – worldwide!)

I’ll admit I’m pretty ignorant of the ecclesiastical structure of the Antiochian Archdiocese, Orthodox canon law or ecclesiastical politics.  I’m just a lay person whose opinions are based solely on common sense and the smell test.  For what it’s worth, this decree stinks to high heaven.  It has left me with a feeling of  hopelessness and futility over the promises made 15 years ago at the Antiochian Village.   

Strangely, this trampling of ecclesiastical order has re-affirmed and strengthened my belief in the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America and its new leadership.  For all it’s own scandal and dysfunction, there is at least a clear and coherent hierarchy in which each Archbishop knows his role, his responsibilities and his limitations under Metropolitan Jonah.  Will these newly made auxiliary bishops have the the normal freedoms of our OCA Archbishops to plant missions, ordain clergy,  investigate and administer discipline, or any of the normal administrative roles expected of a Bishop? 

Link here to read Metropolitan Phillip’s explanation  for this coup, which sounds more like a paranoid overreaction to the successes and forward thinking of his own Bishops than any kind of heroic rescue of the Archdiocese from a vague threat to its unity.  If he wanted unity for the AAOA, this certainly isn’t going to do it.

What does this all mean in the long run for Orthodoxy in  America?  I pray it doesn’t lead to schism and outright rebellion.  The world is a hard place to understand right now without our Church adding to the grief.   But, as history goes for other events, it might be that the backlash from laity and clergy will in the end lead to more independence for the Church in this country.   Make no mistake – I’m not advocating this – it’s purely speculation.  However, the establishment of so many Antiochian mission parishes over the last decade, their progressive and successful evangelization efforts, the rise of Orthodox internet media and to some extent, the election of Metropolitan Jonah, are all factors that could lead many American Orthodox Christians to stand up and say ‘we aren’t going to take these kinds of slap downs from the old country any more’.    Isn’t that how the American Revolution started?   Change comes when a people’s tolerance reaches the tipping point amid an awakening sense of self-determination. 

Ehh, but what do I know? 

Forgiveness Sunday

March 2, 2009

panagia_and_christ_-_extreme_humility

Great Lent is finally here and I couldn’t be more excited and happy.  I ate blini and eggs at the Maslenitsa dinner till I could bust and  I completed my ritualistic, gluttonous consumption of Blue Bell ice cream this evening.  Somehow that makes me ready to face the Great Fast.   More importantly, my parish began yesterday afternoon with the Forgiveness Vespers service, personally embracing and giving a kiss of peace to each and every man, woman and child in our parish. 

There is something so humbling and spiritually cathartic about having to go from one person to the next in a receiving line and ask the personal forgiveness from your fellow parishioners.   The words are simple:  “Forgive me brother/sister”.   The response is “God forgives”.   Two words that contain the whole message of the Gospel.   You say these words as you look straight into the eyes of someone you’ve had a tiff with, someone you bad mouthed, a friend you failed, even your own children.  And at that moment of personal admission you connect with the one you’ve sinned against in a spirit of  real Christian brotherhood.  There is no hiding personal animosity from a person you’ve just embraced. 

I’ve learned some practical things about the service, such as don’t wear mascara, take your glasses off,  only air kiss the kids, and thank the men who’ve taken the extra care to close shave that morning.  But what I’ve never learned, no matter how many times I participate in this service, is how not to sin until the beginning of Great Lent the following year.   I am obviously a slow learner and a fast sinner and I humbly ask the readers of this blog for their forgiveness if I have offended with my hasty or unkind words, my presumption or my pride.   I wish everyone a blessed Lenten journey as we approach the life-giving death and glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah has written a very edifying message for the beginning of Great Lent and I post it below for your benefit.

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics
and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in the Lord:

Christ is in our midst!

Our Church has gone through a tragic and bitter episode in her history. Many souls suffered shipwreck, demoralized by the sins of a few. That is over. But the lingering bitterness and mistrust, resentment and desire for retribution, hang over us. We must heal this, both on an individual as well as corporate level. The only way to do this is repentance, using this season of repentance to make changes in our lives, cleanse our hearts and minds, and embrace the hope that can only be grasped by forgiveness. Unless we forgive others from our hearts, we cannot accept God’s forgiveness for our own sins.

Every time we criticize, judge, condemn or despise another person, no matter how gravely he or she may have sinned, we sin equally ourselves. All our self-righteous indignation is all hypocrisy that blinds us to our own sins. The resentment we allow to fester in our hearts gives us over to corruption and evil. We allow ourselves to gossip, and talk about other people, and forget that we condemn ourselves by doing so. It does not matter what another person has done; that is his or her sin. Why do I need to make his sin my own, by my judgment and criticism, and destroy my own life by resentment of someone else?

If I fast from foods, St John Chrysostom said, how can I devour my brother by gossip and slander? If we don’t eat things that have been slaughtered, why do I murder my brother by character assassination? If I abstain from wine, how can I allow myself to be drunk on my passions of resentment and bitterness? It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but rather what comes out of the mouth and the heart. It is these things, judgment and criticism, which reveal our piety to be a hypocritical sham. All our self-righteousness is as filthy rags before God, and we only condemn ourselves.

The only way of life for us, as Christians, is repentance and forgiveness. We must be “transformed in the renewal of our minds,” (the real meaning of “repentance”) and forgive those who have offended and sinned against us. Only then can we be free from our resentments, and our souls and livesand our Churchcan be healed. In short, we have to change our behavior, our words and our thoughts.

Let our fasting be accompanied by the refusal to indulge in judgment and criticism of others: gossip, slander, suspicion and innuendo, all that is hateful to God. Let us fast from meat, as we fast from the carnality of hatred and resentment of others, which is the source of our passions, pain and addictions. Let us fast from cheese, as we cut out the bitterness that curdles the joy in our lives, the pure milk of love. Let us fast from eggs, so that the seeds of corruption do not hatch in our souls. Let us fast from oil, so that we do not grease our lips to slander and fry our neighbor. Let us fast from wine, that we might remain sober and watchful, to maintain the purity of our souls, minds and hearts.

Let us make this Lent a spiritual fast, so that purified in mind and heart, as well as in body, we might behold the radiant Resurrection of Christ in the reception of the Holy Mysteries at Pascha, but most especially, in the resurrection of our souls. Let corruption be abolished, and let us be loosed from the sins that keep us enslaved. The only place to start is in our own souls, mindful of our sins, and in a spirit of love and compassion towards our neighbor. Only by the purification of our souls, freed from the guilt of sin and pain of resentment, will we be able to feast with Christ at His Messianic Banquet, illumined by His grace, being made partakers of the eternal Joy of His Kingdom.