Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Church in America’

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.

All Saints Orthodox Mission, Victoria, Texas

March 11, 2010

I’m posting some photos and video below of last Saturday’s road trip  to All Saints Orthodox Mission in Victoria, Texas.  

I was not prepared for how obvious and visible the new church was from the highway.  I was looking for the big water tower – a handy landmark when you’re  trying to find the church – but it was the starkly white and unusually shaped (for Victoria) church building that got my attention.   You just can’t miss it as you drive into town on Hwy. 87.  As I posted last time, Victoria has never had an Orthodox church.  It has a large percentage of Roman Catholic churches, but mainline Protestant and non-denominational are equally present.  There’s even been a Muslim mosque for several years, but never an Orthodox church.  Corpus Christi, 50 miles away, had the closest Orthodox church.

Can you spot the small water tower near the church?  This was about 10:30 a.m. as folks started to gather outside.  By the time the service started I’d guesstimate there were close to 75 or 80 people there, including several Protestant clergy and a photographer from the Catholic Diocese of Victoria.

The Very Rev. Fr. Dimitri Cozby, pastor of All Saints, and our own, the Very Rev. Fr. Leo Poore, begin the service of Thyroxenia or opening of the doors.  (And check out those doors – gorgeous!  An All Saints parishioner pointed out to me that the metal scroll work on the doors perfectly matched the filligrees on the 7-branched candlestick on the altar.  Not intentional but a beautiful coincidence.)

Now, I don’t think many people have ever seen this service performed so none of us knew what to expect, but the symbology of what is being done ties perfectly into the purpose of the service – the opening of the doors of a new church.  Up to this point the reading of Psalm 83, “How beloved are Thy dwellings, O Lord”, the litanies, the Epistle reading from Hebrews 3:1-4, “For every house is constructed by someone, but God has constructed all things.”, and the Gospel of Matthew 16:13-18, “…thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”,  pointed above all else to the founding of God’s Holy Church, both temporal and spiritual.  The climax of the service outside the church and the literal opening of the doors comes after another litany specifically for the raising of a new temple.  The priest then repeats three times a literal knocking at the door:

Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in.

Stationed inside the church is a parishioner reading a response to the priest:

Who is this King of Glory?

And again the priest knocks:

The Lord storng and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.  Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in.

And the final response from inside the church:

Who is this King of Glory?

The priest’s final statement:

The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

Below is a clip of Fr. Dimitri at this point in the service.  It was a pretty windy day and you can barely hear the exchange described above.

After entering the temple, Fr. Dimitri blessed the interior with holy water.   Now I’m sorry I didn’t get more pictures, but the interior is something else.  The nave is semi-circular with side areas that will be perfect for adding more space on crowded days.  The doors separating the narthex and nave are huge glass double doors, that when combined with all the clear  windows in the church and the windows around the dome, make the church feel almost like it’s outdoors.  The floors are stained concrete and the altar area is floored with the most satiny smooth exotic hardwood.  All I can say is the finished effect is simply beautiful.  Once the iconostas is in place and the iconography on the walls and dome, then this will be an example of the very best in “modern” Orthodox church architecture.

Altar area sans iconostas

Fr. Dimitri’s sermon at the conclusion of the service was particularly good.  He’s a very scholarly priest and I’ve never heard one of his sermons that didn’t expand my understanding of the Church.  All Saints is blessed to have him.  (You’re gonna to have to bear with me on the video – how was I supposed to know that if you hold the camera sideways the video would turn out sideways too!  Fr. Dimitri usually doesn’t preach in this position, but I think he’d be the first to say that his perspective on things is usually just a bit “off  kilter”.  That’s our life as Christians – off kilter from the world.   So turn the volume up, close your eyes and everything will be alright.)

 

The parish catered a wonderful meal by a local Greek restaurant (sorry I just can’t remember the name of the business).  Despite the wind and the cool tempertures it turned out to be a perfect day.  God is blessing this mission in so many ways and I pray for their success in this life and the next.

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. 

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? 

Part 2 – Illumined Heart Interview with Metropolitan Jonah

January 8, 2009

I’ve been meaning to post Part 2 of Kevin Allen’s Illumined Heart  interview  for days now, but getting slammed at work wasn’t part of my post-New Year’s plan.  I wanted to ease into the routine after a pretty slow Christmas work schedule, not spend the last few days running like a hamster on a wheel.  Now that I’ve been back at work I have just today replayed this interview at least 6 times, and each time I hear something new and exciting.

In particular, it’s so encouraging to hear Metropolitan Jonah talk about the important position the OCA’s Metropolitan holds as the head of the autocephalous American Orthodox church.  For so long it seems the OCA has been insular and suffering from a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence.   The Church of Serbia, the Church of Finland, the Church of Poland, for example, are autocephalous or self-governing churches.   How are we any different?  Yet, I just don’t see the OCA confidently embracing itself as The Orthodox Church in or ‘of’ America.  If the OCA wants to see the growth of American Orthodoxy and unification of Orthodox jurisdictions in this country we need to act like leaders.   

It’s a given that unification wasn’t going to happen under the last two Metropolitans.  The will, the desire  just wasn’t there, and now that we know about the  financial mess, the credibility certainly wasn’t there either.  We were in “the desert…” as Metropolitan Jonah calls it.  I was shocked when Metropolitan Jonah said unification would be easy.  He jokingly states that with enough funds American Orthodox could achieve unity in one week if we just let loose the attorneys on the administrative details.   Seriously, he has no doubts about the feasibility of unity; it is just a matter of stoking the desire while setting aside pride and self-interest.

I say GIVE HIM A WEEK!  Give him all the time and whatever it takes to achieve this.  I want to be part of a united, strong witness for Orthodoxy in America.  It’s time we suck up our pride, our petty jurisdictionalism, the provincialism and culture club mentality and really be “The Orthodox Church of America”.  I am tired of explaining to my friends, family and acquaintances why there is no difference between Greek, Serbian, Syrian, Russian, ad nauseum, Orthodox Churches, much less how we are similar or different from Roman Catholics.

This is the clear and strong vision of Metropolitan Jonah.  This is what we all have to work towards – laity and clergy.  Who can’t be standing 100% behind him when he says

“I believe that our church is set at a crossroads…we have definitively left behind the old way of doing things.. and have embarked upon  a very new road, of really taking up the challenge of being  the fullness of the presence of the  Orthodox Catholic  Church in this country and the ministry at the cross that that entails.   The challenge to bring together, to come together with all the other Orthodox communities in this country, so that together we can create a new incarnation, as it were, of the Orthodox church in America, which embraces all Orthodox Christians in this country, so that we can reach out to and evangelize this country in new and creative ways which we may not have even thought of yet, so that we can challenge our society to live a life in accordance with the will of God, in accordance with the scriptures, in accordance with Christian ethics.  Not by being judgmental and critical of individuals, but rather of showing them in compassion that there’s a better way to live.  Orthodoxy is not just about what you believe, and it’s certainly not just about what you do in church.  Orthodoxy is about how we live.  It’s about how we treat one another.  How we forgive one another, how we’re transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit, how we let go of resentment, and bitterness, and anger, and vengeance, and desire for retribution and all of these things which defile our souls so that we can grow into the fullness of personhood that God intended for us.  This is my vision.”

I want this too and God-willing, with Metropolitan Jonah’s leadership, his devotion to the Gospel and God’s Holy Church, we are past the days when the Orthodox Church in America could do nothing more than shoot itself in the foot.

 

An Early Glimpse Inside the Metropolitan Council

November 15, 2008

Here is a very informative blog post  by Fr. Ted Bobosh, parish priest of St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church in Dayton, Ohio.  It describes a meeting he attended at the conclusion of the All American Council between the new Metropolitan, the Metropolitan Council and the Synod of Bishops.  As an outsider I have a hard time understanding why such a meeting seems so unusual, but then, I never was a witness to the weird workings of the Theodosius or Herman administrations.   In the B.J. days (‘before Jonah’), divisiveness and secrecy meant that no one talked with each other, there were no conciliar decisions.   Anyone who has ever been on parish council, run a business or even made family decisions knows you just can’t do it in secrecy or without working together.  That is just a no-brainer.  Thank God we’re in the A.J. days now and a lack of self-interest and openness are the standards we will expect our hierarchy to uphold.

Fr. John Peck, Nostrodamus?

November 14, 2008

crystal-ball

I’m beginning to believe Fr. John Peck has got some kind of cystal ball under his riassa.  It seems that every week brings some new revelation or finding that supports his beliefs about the present state and future life of the Orthodox churches in America.  In reviewing the list of predictions and speculations in his now infamous article, The Orthodox Church of the Future, I realized we’ve got several more to check off:

  • More (and younger) bishops – Well, Metropolitan Jonah was a bishop, albeit briefly, but I think a young Metropolitan will do just fine.  This is not to denigrate the wisdom and experience of an older hierarchy, but in the present times we need someone with the vigor, energy and time to see a renewed vision through in the long run.
  • Publicly renowned Orthodox media and apologetic ministries – Only three words are necessary:  Ancient Faith Radio.  I’d like to expand on this in another post, but is there any doubt about how important it was to provide the faithful with contemporaneous downloads of the proceedings of the 15th All American Council?   Their professionalism and expertise provided the link that made all of us feel that for once, we were a part of the proceedings.  We didn’t have to wait for word-of-mouth or gossip, some uninformative pastoral announcement or a month old article in The Orthodox Church magazine.  This is the power of an effective Orthodox media.
  • A different demographic of clergy – i.e. converts.  This could also read ‘a different demographic of hierarchy’.  There are quite a few convert hierarchs, our beloved Vladyka Dmitri, for example.  But can anyone name me a convert Metropolitan prior to his Eminence Jonah?  This is the ultimate example of the convert shift in Orthodoxy. 

And this may be the most compelling evidence for Fr. Peck’s prophecies – hope.  The events of this past week have given me such a renewed sense of hope and joy, an expectation that just around the corner is greatness.  Not material wealth, not esteem and secular laurels, but the fulfillment of the Orthodox Church’s potential in this country.  As Fr. Peck predicts

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.

Did I Dream Yesterday’s Primatial Election?

November 13, 2008

sunriseWhen I woke up this morning I still had a smile on my face!  Can y’all believe what actually happened yesterday?  I bet His Eminence woke up this morning with the same thought,  but he wasn’t smiling.  One day you’re an abbot, running your monastery, leading a brotherhood in sunny California.  Next thing you know, you’re kicked back into the world to be the No. 2 guy in a diocese.  And before you even get your stuff unpacked in Fort Worth, you’re elected the Big Kahuna and you’ve got to move to the cold Yankee North and lead a million souls (though after living at Valaam, New York state ought to be positively balmy).   Would you be smiling?   I’d be, well….there’s a phrase I’m thinking of but it’s not something you put on a respectable blog. 

When I imagined Barack Obama on election night I pictured a guy jumping up and down for joy, at least in a dignified manner.   I bet Metropolitan Jonah is having a very different reaction.  He was chosen as a man of obvious prayer, vision and spiritual depth – things that he will draw upon even more so now.  And just like Barack Obama, there are a million people expecting change and miracles the day after he’s “sworn-in”.   Good thing his Eminence is in the business of miracles. 

I would imagine that just like all of us are being called upon to make sacrifices and do our part to help the national economic and political recovery, equal sacrifice is going to be expected of every praying member of the Orthodox Church in America.  So don’t just sit back and expect to see some results (or failures) to plight your troth.   Our clergy and hierarchs aren’t here just to serve us laity.  We serve each other and together we grow and change spiritually, each building up the Kingdom of God within ourselves and in God’s visible Kingdom on Earth.  So, when you pray, pray more.  If you tithe to your parish, tithe more.  And if you’re still bitching and moaning about problems and scandal, make your prostrations in a glass house, then pray and tithe more.

Video of Metropolitan Jonah

November 13, 2008

jonah

This is so awesome – the first video  I’ve seen of the Council proceedings and the announcement of the election of Metropolitan Jonah.   (I even thought I caught a glimpse of our priest, but men with grey hair dressed in black all look the same on a 1 second glance).  Here are also a couple of photos taken by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this afternoon.  Right now I’m ready to follow his Eminence from city to city like an Orthodox Deadhead, just for the chance to hear every word that comes out of his mouth.jonah-2 

The Post-Gazette has promised a longer follow-up article to today’s news piece.  Will post when that comes out.

Metropolitan Jonah

November 13, 2008

 

met_jonah21

He looks good doesn’t he?  The audio announcement of the election of Metropolitan Jonah is now available for download on Ancient Faith Radio.   It positively sent shivers down my spine to listen to the entire 700 plus crowd shout “Axios” when Archbishop Dmitri announced the election of Metropolitan Jonah.  I so wish I could have been there.  People must be feeling an almost drunken joy.  As it says in the Acts of the Apostles,

13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”  14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.  15 “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.  16 “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.  18 And on My menservants and My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days…’

Please pray for Metropolitan Jonah that God will guide him in all things and give him strength to bear the burdens that come with this office.  Our new President has the responsibility for the lives of millions of Americans, but a Metropolitan has literally the souls of millions dependent on his leadership.  That kind of weight can only be held up by the Lord himself.