Because of all the news that has overwhelmed the OCA, I’ve dropped the ball on the Episcopal Assembly front. I read a release by Bp Demetrios Kantzavellas regarding our struggle but it was quite unmemorable. I don’t mean to single out His Grace for disparagement because the entire Assembly itself seems to be entirely beside the point so please don’t give me any grief.
I guess what I’m getting at is that is there anything at all that exercizes our episcopate? Do they even care about this country or anything outside their own particular ethnic concerns?*
Look at it this way, if somebody told the Serbian contingent on the Assembly that Kosovo should be cleaved from the Serbian heartland they’d come down on you like a ton of bricks. If you told the GOA bishops that we should call the country situated to the north of Greece “Macedonia,” the screaming would never stop. If an Antiochian bishop heard you say “Israel” instead of “Palestine,” you’d be called a Zionist warmonger. The list goes on…and on…and on…
We hear nothing about the Gospel, nothing about baptizing this nation. Nothing about what it means to be a real bishop. That’s why I was very gratified to read this comment from Michael Stankovich on the American Orthodox Institute. Dr. S and I have long sparred over various and sundry things, but he hits the nail right on the head.
Axios! to Dr. S.
Source: American Orthodox Institute
How to say this respectfully…
Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, perhaps you have forgotten that which moves are the words of the Psalms – the prayerbook of the Church – on your lips, and not your thoughts on politics and global economics. Perhaps there is a tremendous lesson for you in Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s recollection of his first visit to Cairo, where the service of Daily Vespers in the Pope-Patriarch’s packed cathedral lasted for hours; then, immediately following, Pope Shenouda himself, of blessed memory, brought a chair to the center of the church, with an old amplifier and microphone, and answered handwritten questions about the Faith, collected in a bowl passed among the young people who gathered. And I will add my own observation of Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) who, from a one-bedroom apartment, fashioned himself a chapel, a full recording studio, and a living quarters. From there, he managed to produce a sermon for the laity on living the Orthodox Faith that was broadcast into the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe everyday by the Voice of America for more than a decade. To this day, there are Orthodox faithful who consider Vladyka Vasilli their “spiritual father,” having never once met him.
The lofty instructions of our Fathers Ignatius and Chrysostom ring hollow in diocese so vast that the yearly (or less) visit of the bishop is no more reflective of “where the bishop is, there is the Church,” than one could expect of total – albeit “friendly – strangers. In reality, functionally, unless for some specific reason an individual parish “distinguishes” itself enough to be brought to the attention of the bishop, the “vexing issues of the faithful” are addressed by the parish priest. Or are they? Is, as Fr. Andrew writes above, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, ” and that simply because there is an absence of “speak” is not “necessarily an indication of inaction” true at this level as well? And how would we know? Am I hearing the “authority” of the bishop, of which Ignatius chastens presbyters & deacons they must never presume to supplant, OR is the priest’s Orthopraxy more attendant to Orthodoxy than the bishop? Somehow you have to guess that each and every individual we refer to as Confessor of the Faith experienced the moment of “existential nausea”: “My spiritual father fails me.” And despite having led them dutifully for forty years in the desert, “That great Moses,” said St Chrysostom, could not accompany them to the promised land because of his lack of moral authority.
When I was a kid, I would visit with an elderly Syrian widow (she was Sarah, and her deceased husband was Abraham!), sometimes for lunch. She once told me the story of how the Patriarch would visit the villages, sometimes accompanied by others, usually alone, in his cassock and riding on a beautiful white horse. He would pray in the church, visit the priest, pray in the cemetery, visit the sick, sit for coffee/tea, speak with the children, even chop wood for an elderly widow or two. He had a bag with little gifts, candies, beads, always something to give. The way she described it was quiet, warm, no paparazzi, no raucous laughter. “How often did he come?” “It wasn’t once a week, but he was no stranger.” Hmm.
It seems to me that our bishops need to realize that our Church needs Bishops. And these must be Bishops who in their person – as in the person of the Master – will look into the tree and call to us out of the crowd and today bring salvation to this house; and who can say, “to do so, I’m prepared to chop a little wood.”
*I’m not blowing smoke here. The committee tasked with engaging moral issues impacting the broader society (which headed by Met Savvas Zembillas of Pittsburgh), hasn’t even met yet. That’s three years and counting.