Sunday, April 19, 2009

Paschal Greeting from HEM CHRISTOPHER

Paschal Greeting 2009

Centuries have passed since the Myrbearing women first saw the empty tomb. They came to anoint the body of the Teacher with aromatic fragrances sprinkled with their tears. They were present at the Cross of Crucified Savior, when all except His mother and one of the disciples abandoned him. Thus, they were honored to be the first witnesses and the first to announce His Resurrection. Likewise, many centuries separate us from that first resurrection evening, when the Risen Lord appeared to his disappointed and frightened disciples and greeted them with a greeting of encouragement: “Peace be with you! In a moment he returned peace to them, renewed their faith in Himself and His Divine mission.If He, the Son of God, had not risen, the history of Christianity would have ended with His last words on the Cross: “It is finished”. He did arise, and in the name of that truth, His Disciples had joyfully given their lives, bearing witness to Him, our Lord and Redeemer. Bearing that great and undisputable truth, His Church has undertaken a worldwide mission throughout the worldWe pray to the Risen Lord to resurrect in us the human image of mans original nature, which today is so disfigured with countless faults and vices. That in us everyone would recognize a human being, regardless of our intellectual, social or financial status. Our time abounds with material goods, grand plans and ideas. Nevertheless, our age is characterized by a crisis of morality and character. Let us pray to the Risen Lord and beseech Him, as did Luke and Cleopas, that He remain with us, that we may rejoice in Him, derive strength from Him, that we may uplifted and escape and not be carried away by the murky waters of our time. On this day of our common spiritual joy we call upon you, dear brothers and sisters to remember St. Sava Monastery, the center of our spirituality and place which nurtures the future pastors of our Holy Church, and your Metropolitanate with a generous offering that they may successfully fulfill their holy mission.With these thoughts, we greet you, dear brothers and sisters, with our joyous Paschal greeting:

Christ is raised! Indeed, he is Raised!
~Your Prayerful intercessor before the Resurrected Christ,
+CHRISTOPHERMetropolitan of Midwestern America

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some relections on Confession-Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

1. For each conscientious priest confession is without any doubt one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of his ministry. It is here, on the one hand, that he encounters the only real object of his pastoral care: the human soul, man, as he stands sinful and miserable, before God. But it is here, one the other hand, that he realizes to what degree nominal Christianity has pervaded our Church life. The basic Christian notions of sin and repentance, reconciliation with God and renewal of life, seem to have become irrelevant. If the terms are still used, their meaning is certainly quite different from that, on which our whole Christian faith is based.
2. Another source of difficulties is the theoretical, or even theological, confusion as to the nature of the sacrament of penance. In practice a purely formal and juridical understanding of it, clearly Western and "romanizing" in its origin, coexists paradoxically with an equally doubtful reduction of confession to psychology. In the first case the man comes to the priest, confesses transgressions of Christian law, and receives absolution which entitles him to the second sacrament "of obligation" - Holy Communion. Confession proper is reduced here to a minimum, and in some churches even replaced by a general formula to be read by the penitent. All emphasis is on the priest's power of absolution and the latter is considered "valid" regardless of the state of soul of the penitent. If the first case reveals "romanizing" tendencies, the second can be termed "protestantizing". Confession is regarded as "counseling," as helping and solving difficulties and problems and is a dialogue not between man and God, but between man and a supposedly wise and experienced advisor with ready answers to all human problems. Both tendencies, however, obscure and deform the truly Orthodox understanding and practice of confession.
3. The existing situation is due to many factors. And, although, it is obviously impossible to enumerate all of them here and to even outline the very complicated historical development of the sacrament of penance, a few remarks are necessary before we discuss possible solutions.
a) Originally the sacrament of penance was understood and practiced as reconciliation of those excommunicated, i.e., banished from the "ecclisia" - the assembly of the People of God and its fulfillment in the Eucharist which is the "Koinonia" of the Body and Blood of Christ. The excommunicated is the one who cannot offer and, therefore, cannot receive. This reconciliation was a long process and the absolution - its final seal, the sign or "image" of repentance, i.e., of the rejection and condemnation by the penitent of his sin and alienation from God, of its real confession (manifestation, recognition) as sin. The power of absolution was not thought of as a "power in itself," virtually independent from repentance. It was indeed the sacramental sign of an accepted repentance which has brought forth its fruit. The Church in the person of the Priest witnessing that there is true repentance and that God has accepted it, has "reconciled and united" the penitent with the Church. Whatever changes occurred in the practice of the sacrament, this first and essential meaning, is still the starting point of its Orthodox understanding.
b) Also from the very beginning the ministry of the Church implied the care of souls, i.e., guidance in spiritual life, help in a man's fight with the old Adam in him. But at first, it was not included in the sacrament of penance. It was under the influence of monasticism with its highly developed theory and practice of spiritual guidance, that the latter became little by little an integral part of confession. Yet, in monasticism itself this spiritual guidance remained for a long time distinct from sacramental confession and was entrusted quite often to non-ordained monks. What made it an essential aspect of the pastoral ministry and almost the central contents of confession was the progressive secularization of Christian society. The Church after Constantine ceased to be a minority of heroically minded "faithful," she identified herself almost completely with the "world" (cf. the Russian term "mirianin" for "laikos") and had to deal with a multitude of nominal Christians in need of help, constant guidance and personal care. The significant change in the Eucharistic practice (from a corporate communion as an essential act of membership in the Body of Christ - to a more or less frequent individual communion) which occurred during the same period and under the influence of the same factors, meant a decisive transformation in the understanding of penance. From a sacrament for those cut from the Church, it became a sacrament for those inside the Church. The theological emphasis shifted from repentance to absolution, as virtually the only essential element of the sacrament.
c) The secularization of Christian society made it open and receptive to humanistic and pragmatic philosophies of life, which radically obscured the Christian idea of sin and repentance. The concept of sin as separation from God, from the only true life in Him and with Him, was progressively replaced by a sort of moral or ritual legalism in which sin means primarily the transgression of an established rule. In a man centered and self-satisfied society with its ethics of success and purely external "decency," these rules themselves underwent a radical transformation. They ceased to be regarded as absolute norms, and were reduced to a socially accepted ethical code. If an early Christian always knew that he was a sinner whose sins are forgiven and who, without any merit on his part, is introduced into the Bridal Chamber, given a new life, made partaker of the Kingdom, the modern Christian, since in the eyes of the society he is a decent man and a "nice fellow" always "feels fine" about himself and thoroughly enjoys his self admiration. His vision of life, which, in turn, shapes his understanding of religion, excludes altogether any dimension of depth, be it that of his alienation from true life (sin) or that of a new life in Christ. From time to time he commits, to be sure, certain transgressions - very common and minor! - but, after all, who doesn't? However, when I recently happened to confess about 50 people in a typical Orthodox parish in Pennsylvania, not one admitted to have committed any sin whatsoever! Are we not told daily by the press and other media of mass communication that we live in the best possible society among the best possible people? "Christian" people have taken this affirmation quite seriously.
d) This secularism finally won the hierarchy and the priests themselves. Our Church life is simply based on a system of mutual praise and adulation. A parish is always happy about itself and requires the pastor to constantly thank his "fine" people for their contributions, efforts, help and generosity, to be the mirror in which they can admire themselves. The same spirit of success, "good-neighborhood," and external activities pervades our life from the top to the bottom. The success of the Church is measured in terms ofattendance, financial wealth and the number of "parish affairs" of all possible kinds. Where in all this is there any room for repentance? It is indeed absent from the very texture of the Church's preaching and action. A priest can call his parishioners to ever "bigger ‘n better" achievements of material nature, he can sometimes voice his dissatisfaction with their "attendance" and "obligations," he can fight masonry and church committee, but he himself usually does not think in terms of a world which ". . . is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of eyes and the pride of life" (I John 2:16). He himself does not really believe in the Church as salvation from the despair and darkness of sin, and not an institution for the satisfaction of the "religious needs" of members "in good standing." In these spiritual conditions, in this pseudo-Christian moral situation confession cannot be but what it actually is: either another "religious duty" to be performed once a year for the satisfaction of an abstract canonical norm, a real "end in itself" with no spiritual consequences whatsoever, or, then, a discussion of one's "problems" (not sin, for a sin, as soon as it is recognized as such, has ceased to be a "problem") which most of the time have no solution precisely because their only solution would be the conversion to real Christianity.
4. Can a truly Orthodox view and practice of confession be restored? Yes, if we have the courage to deal with the problem at its roots and not with mere externals.
The starting point of this restoration is in preaching and teaching. To some extent all Christian preaching and teaching is a call to repentance, to the metanoia, the change of mind, the reevaluation of all values in the light of Christ. There is no need to preach constantly on "sin," to judge and to condemn. It is when a man is challenged with the real "contents" of the Gospel, with its Divine depth and wisdom, beauty and all embracing meaning, that he becomes "capable of repentance," for the true repentance is precisely the discovery by the man of the abyss that separates him from God and from His real offer to man. It is when the man sees the bridal chamber adorned that he realizes that he has no garment for entering it. Too much of our preaching is in the form of abstract imperatives: the Church prescribes to do this and that; but commanding is not preaching. Preaching implies the desire to convey to people the positive, the Divine meaning, for it is only this meaning that makes "prescriptions" significant, life-giving, saving. Christian teaching should also include a deep and constructive criticism of the secularistic philosophy of life, an evaluation of the culture in which we live. Christians must always fight idols - and there are plenty of them today: "success," "materialism," "security," "money-centerdness," etc. For here again, only within such broad and truly Christian judgment of this world the notion of sin recovers its true meaning, as deviation of love and interest, as worshipping values and norms that are not truly "valuable." This implies, of course, that the priest himself is free of this identification with the world, puts eternal Truth and not the "practical considerations," in the very center of his ministry. Both preaching and teaching must have a prophetic element in them, i.e., an element of Divine judgement, an invitation to consider everything in this world with the eyes of Christ.
5. Confession, then, must be replaced in the perspective of the sacrament of penance. And each sacrament implies at least three equally essential elements: preparation, liturgical order, and fulfillment. If the whole life of the Church, but especially preaching and teaching are, as we have seen, preparation for repentance in a broad sense, there is room and need for spe cial preparation. The Church has set apart special periods of repentance: Lent, Advent, other fasts. Here the liturgy itself becomes a "school of repentance" (cf. for example the inexhaustible riches of the Lenten Triodion), and it is the proper time to center preaching on the sacrament of penance itself. The order of Gospel readings, the Psalter, the hymns and prayers supply us with abundant material, the purpose of preaching being to "apply" all this to men, to their life, to their actual situation. The goal is to provoke in them the penitential mood, to make them examine their life not only in terms of isolated sins and transgressions, but in their deepest motivations. Where is the real treasure of their hearts? What guides them in their life? How do they "feel" the precious time given them by God? What is the meaning of this rapid progression to the unescapable end? A man who questions the deep motivations of his life, who has understood, be it just once, that life in its totality can and must be referred to Christ, is on his way to repentance, which is always a conversion, a change of mind, a renewed vision, a decision to return to God (cf. my pamphlet on Great Lent). The preparation must, of necessity, include an explanation of confession, - its order, prayers, meaning.
6. The liturgical order of confession consists of A) prayers before confession, B) exhortation to penitents, C) confession proper, and D) Absolution.
Prayers before confession should never be omitted. Confession transcends the level of a human dialogue and also that of a purely rational acknowledgment of guilt. The man can say - "guilty" and yet feel no repentance. All sacraments are acts of transformation. And the first transformation in the sacrament of penance is precisely that of a human confession of transgressions into Christian repentance, i.e., into a purifying crisis of the human soul, which turns itself to God and from Him receives the vision of both - sin and the overwhelming love of God "covering" that sin. But this transformation requires Divine help and prayers before confession invoke and call for, this help. They are, therefore, an integral part of the sacrament.
After the prayers comes the exhortation. It is the ultimate invitation to true repentance. "God stands here invisibly and receives your confession . . ."
But it is essential that at this solemn moment, when the priest points to the presence of Christ, he himself would not be opposed to the penitents. One of the best forms of exhortation is an identification of the priest with all sinful men. "We have all sinned . . ." For he is neither a prosecutor, nor a silent witness. He is the image of Christ, the One who takes upon Himself the sins of the world, and it is his active charity which will move men to repentance. The Russian pastorologist, Metropolitan Antony, defined the essence of priesthood as "compassionate love." Penance is the sacrament of reconciliation, i.e., sacrament of love, not of judgment.
Confession itself has various patterns. But, since the penitent usually does not know how to begin, it is the duty of the priest to help him. The form of a dialogue is, therefore, the most practical one. And although all sins are essentially sins against God, against His truth and love, it is advisable to divide confession into three parts:
A) Relation to God: - Questions on faith itself, on possible doubts or deviations, on prayer, liturgical life, fasting etc. Too many priests narrow the whole confession to "immoral acts," forgetting that the deep root of all sins is in the weak or deformed faith, in the lack of love for God.
B) Relation to fellow man: - The basic attitudes of selfishness and self-centerdness, indifference to men, lack of attention, interest, love. All acts of actual offense must be mentioned and their sinfulness shown to the penitent. Envy, gossip, cruelty, etc.
C) Relations to one's self: - Sins of flesh with, as its counterpart, the Christian vision of purity and "wholesome," respect for the body as an icon of Christ, etc. - Lack of serious interest, of any real effort to deepen the whole life; alcohol, cheap idea of "fun," irresponsibility, family relations. We must never forget that we usually deal with a man who is not used to examine himself, whose attitudes towards life are shaped by common standards, who is basically self-satisfied. It is the function of the confessor to shake this "petty bourgeois" attitude, to show the penitent the real Christian dimensions of perfection, to challenge him with the idea of constant conflict. The Christian vision of life is a tragical one and unless people realize it, there is simply no hope for a "Christianization" of our soft and socially centered Church life.
A final exhortation concludes this dialogue. In it the priest must call the penitent to a necessary change. God does not forgive, unless the man desires a better life, makes the decision to fight his sins, to begin an ascension towards God. What seems impossible with men, is possible with God. This last exhortation must be an act of faith: try hard and God will help for He has promised to do so . . .
And then, only then, comes the absolution - as the fulfillment of all this: - preparation and effort, preaching and meditation, exhortation and confession. Once more, from an Orthodox point of view, there can be no absolution where there is no repentance. God does not accept a man, who has not come, and "coming" is precisely repentance, an act of "conversion," a real and critical change of the whole attitude of man. To think of absolution as sheer "power," valid and efficient whenever pronounced by the priest, is to deviate from Orthodoxy into a magical sacramentalism and a "juridicism," denounced by the whole spirit and the entire tradition of the Orthodox Church.
7. Therefore, the absolution must, of necessity, be refused if a man
- is not an Orthodox Christian, i.e., openly and confessedly rejects the vital teachings of the Church;
- refuses to give up an obvious state of sin: for example, adultery, stealing, exercising a dishonest profession, etc.;
- conceals his sins or fails to acknowledge them as sins.
We must remember, however, that the refusal of absolution is not a punishment. Even excommunication in the Early Church was pronounced with the hope of healing the man. For the Church's purpose is to save, not to judge or condemn. The priest must always contemplate the total fate of man, strive at his conversion and not simply follow a formal norm of justice. We know that the Good Shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to save just one. This leaves a great freedom to the Priest who must follow his priestly conscience, must pray before he decides anything and must never be satisfied with an external conformity, with "rules" and "prescriptions."
May, 1961
St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall, 1961, pp. 38-44

Paschal Encyclical in Serbian




Рецимо, браћо, и онима који нас мрзе, опростимо све ради васкрсења.(Пасхална стихира)
И ове године у пролећне дане, драга браћо и сестре, у једнакој радости прослављамо највећи празник Цркве Божије, Васкрсење Христа Спаситеља. Сваке године у ово доба, када тајанствена сила живота буди обамрлу природу, слава Васкрслог Господа и у нама буди један светлији, светији и радоснији живот. Данас навиру узвишене мисли, рађају се дивна осећања и обузима нас једно свето и несвакидашње расположење. Са Васкрслим Господом и ми се уздижемо у један виши и садржајнији живот. Блиста у срцу нашем победнички сјај вечног живота који нам је даровао наш Васкрсли Искупитељ и Спаситељ. Као што је у оном тајанственом Почетку, на Божију Реч постао свет и у свету живот, тако је својом Божанском силом васкрснуо из мртвих Син Божији Исус Христос. Овај велики догађај тајанствен је као стварање света, чудесан и узвишен као права песма радости која се заорила над свеукупном Божанском творевином. Шта више, као пуноћа првог стварања и као ново стварање, он је још чудеснији и узвишенији како од првог стварања тако и од свих историјских збивања.

Многи векови деле нас од оног ведрог јерусалимског праскозорја, када су свете жене Мироносице угледале празан гроб. А биле су дошле да мртво тело свога Учитеља помажу мирисима, да Га оросе сузама и да хладну гробну плочу загреју топлином своје љубави, своје верности и своје оданости. Биле су оне и поред крста Распетог Спаситеља онда када су Га, осим Мајке и једног ученика, сви били оставили. Макар и издалека пратиле су оне последње тренутке највећег Учитеља. Нису Га заборавиле ни када је умро. Зато су удостојене да буду први сведоци и први весници Васкрсења, прве радоснице новога живота у Васкрслом Господу. Данас и у нашим ушима одзвања ехо оне благе опомене коју им је упутио анђео Божији са гробног камена: „Што тражите живога међу мртвима? Није овде, него устаде” (Лк 24, 5–6). И уплашене жене, ту у врту где је био гроб, прве доживеше радосни сусрет са Васкрслим Господом. Упутио их је да иду у Галилеју, да обавесте ученике и да их обрадују радосном вешћу да ће се и њима јавити (Мк 16, 7). И ево, драга децо Божија, и ова наша данашња васкршња радост потиче од тог сусрета са Васкрслим Господом, Који је васкрсао за нас и унео радост новог живота у све следбенике Своје и исповеднике Његове Божанске науке.

Исто тако, деле нас векови од сутона оног јерусалимског дана, када се Васкрсли Господ јавио следбеницима Својим, Клеопи и другом ученику. Преплашени, хитали су они из Јерусалима у Емаус, да би се склонили због страха од Јудеја. Иако нису били храбри као свете жене Мироносице, удостојени су сусрета са Васкрслим Господом. Скрио је Он од њих Свој пређашњи лик, па Га нису познали. И када их је после разговора о ономе што се догодило у Јерусалиму и ломљења хлеба напустио, исповедише се један другоме како је „срце горело у њима” док је са њима беседио (Лк 24, 13–32). Онај исти свети огањ, који је горео у срцима двојице Христових ученика који су ишли за Емаус, пламса данас и у нама, када прослављамо овај Празник над празницима, када и ми доживљавамо духовни сусрет са невидљивим победитељем смрти. Исти тај огањ грејао је и греје Цркву Божију у дугим вековима њене историје. Зар Он сам није казао: „Дођох да бацим огањ на земљу” (Лк 12, 49). Тај свети огањ грејао је и претке наше и осветљавао им живот у тамницама дугих векова. Живели су они дуго без дома, без огњишта, без слободе, у крајњој несигурности, без кућишта и имања, као и многи данас који су избегли са својих огњишта, али увек са вером у васкрслог Господа, с вером у победу правде и истине и с вером у васкрсење.

Исто тако, дуги векови деле нас од оне прве васкршње вечери, када се Васкрсли Господ први пут јавио својим од страха и разочарења преплашеним ученицима, и поздравио их поздравом охрабрења: „Мир вам!” (Јн 20, 19). У трен ока вратио им је мир, васкрсао веру у Њега и Своје Божанско посланство. Да Он, Син Божији, није васкрсао, историја хришћанства била би завршена одмах Његовим последњим речима на Крсту: „Сврши се!” (Јн 20, 30). А Он је васкрсао и у име те истине Његови ученици дадоше радосно живот за Њега. Носећи ту велику истину Његова Црква пошла је у победнички поход широм света, да без проливања крви победи своје бројне до зуба наоружане непријатеље.

„Што тражите живога међу мртвима?” (Лк 24, 5), опоменуо је, као што сте чули, анђео Божији свете жене Мироносице, наднете над светим гробом. Али оне су пошле на Његов гроб жедне истине и вечног Живота. А данас милиони и милиони духовно осиромашених и морално опустошених људи, занесени сјајем пролазних ствари, живе у овом свету као у хладном гробу. Зар се свет не претвара у фабрику и тржиште лажног сјаја и пролазних вредности? Зар се данас често не говори да човек и без неба може мирно да ходи по земљи? Као да се попео данашњи човек на високе врхове своје вавилонске куле, самоуверен у своје знање, али често ситан, себичан, агресиван и пун злих настројења која прете његовој кули и његовом опстанку. Бојимо се да ће се ова наша цивилизација сувише касно сетити Христових речи: „Без мене не можете чинити ништа” (Јн 15, 5).Наш Спаситељ је и постао човек, да бисмо се ми обожили. Дао је да се разапне на Крсту да би искупио грехе рода људског. Васкрсао је из мртвих да би нама даровао вечни живот. Учинио је смрт само једним посебним тренутком у животу - животу који не престаје. Када је Пилат пресуђивао Спаситељу, није имао духовне снаге ни умне висине да у Њему препозна Сина Божијег. Али ипак, испред његових очију није могла да умакне лепота људског лика страдалног Спаситеља у његовој судници. „Ево човека!” – објављује Пилат тужитељима (Јн 19, 5). Овим је ипак покушавао да утиче колико-толико на окореле савести Христових убица. Веровао је да ће људски сјај Његове Личности можда неке поколебати.

Молимо Васкрслог Господа да и у нама васкрсне људски лик првобитне човекове природе, који је данас тако често извитоперен, маскиран и унакажен бројним манама и пороцима. Да и у нама свако препозна човека, обасјаног Његовим вечним животом, био имућан или сиромашан, на великом или малом положају и месту. Наше доба је тренутно суочено са материјалном кризом, али је код нас још присутнија криза морала и карактера. Радоваћемо се ако свако, угледавши било кога од нас, може да каже: Ево човека! – да би свако, и пријатељ и непријатељ, и судија и тужилац, у свакоме од нас увек доживео истинског и правог човека. Сачувајмо, браћо и сестре, људско достојанство, које је толико уздигао Својим Васкрсењем Син Божији. Сачувајмо веру у Васкрслог Господа, љубав према ближњима, истини и правди; према свему добру које људи ипак желе, али које без помоћи Васкрслог Господа и Његовог Јеванђеља не могу постићи.Помолимо се Васкрслом Господу и замолимо Га као двојица ученика, путника за Емаус, да остане са нама. Да му се радујемо, да из Њега црпимо снагу, да се духовно уздижемо, да нас не захвате и не однесу мутне воде нашег времена.

Упућујући ову поруку свој нашој браћи и сестрама, данас се посебно сећамо верника на Косову и Метохији, као и наших верника широм света, на свима континентима где православни Срби и сви православни хришћани данас прослављају Васкрсење Христово, ваш Патријарх и сви Архијереји Српске Цркве поздрављају вас поздравом радости и новог живота.

Дано у Патријаршији српској, у Београду,о Васкрсу 2009. године.
Ваши молиtвеници пред Васкрслим Господом:Архиепископ пећки,
Митрополит београдско-карловачки и Патријарх српски ПАВЛЕ
Митрополит загребачко-љубљански ЈОВАН
Митрополит црногорско-приморски АМФИЛОХИЈЕ
Митрополит средњeзападноамерички ХРИСТОФОР
Митрополит дабробосански НИКОЛАЈ
Епископ шабачки ЛАВРЕНТИЈЕ
Епископ нишки ИРИНЕЈ
Епископ зворничко-тузлански ВАСИЛИЈЕ
Епископ сремски ВАСИЛИЈЕ
Епископ бањалучки ЈЕФРЕМ
Епископ будимски ЛУКИЈАН
Епископ канадски ГЕОРГИЈЕ
Епископ банатски НИКАНОР
Епископ новограчаничке епархије ЛОНГИН
Епископ источноамерички МИТРОФАН
Епископ жички ХРИЗОСТОМ
Епископ бачки ИРИНЕЈ
Епскоп британско-скандинавски ДОСИТЕЈ
Епископ рашко-призренски АРТЕМИЈЕ
Епископ бихаћко-петровачки ХРИЗОСТОМ
Епископ осечко-пољски и барањски ЛУКИЈАН
Епископ средњоевропски КОНСТАНТИН
Епископ западноевропски ЛУКА
Епископ тимочки ЈУСТИН
Епископ врањски ПАХОМИЈЕ
Епископ шумадијски ЈОВАН
Епископ славонски САВА
Епископ браничевски ИГЊАТИЈЕ
Епископ милешевски ФИЛАРЕТ
Епископ далматински ФОТИЈЕ
Епископ будимљанско-никшићки ЈОАНИКИЈЕ
Епископ захумско-херцеговачки ГРИГОРИЈЕ
Епископ ваљевски МИЛУТИН
Епископ западноамерички МАКСИМ
Епископ горњокарловачки ГЕРАСИМ
Епископ аустралијско-новозеландски ИРИНЕЈ
Епископ умировљени захумско-херцеговачки АТАНАСИЈЕ
Викарни Епископ хвостански АТАНАСИЈЕ
Викарни Епископ јегарски ПОРФИРИЈЕ
Викарни Епископ липљански ТЕОДОСИЈЕ
Викарни Епископ диоклијски ЈОВАН
Викарни Епископ моравички АНТОНИЈЕ
Архиепископ охридски и Митрополит скопски ЈОВАН
Епископ полошко-кумановски ЈОАКИМ
Епископ брегалнички и мјестобљуститељ
Епархије битољске МАРКОВикарни
Епископ стобијски ДАВИД

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sermon by Metropolitan Jonah

It is a great joy to see everybody here this evening from so manydifferent communities, from different traditions. Orthodoxy is acelebration of diversity in unity, and unity in diversity. Our unity is in our one Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and our one Orthodox faithand our one commitment to living the truth, to living as Christians.Not to live according the spirit of the world, not to live accordingto our passions, not to live according to the desires that flit by through our minds and lead us into all sorts of trouble, but to livethe truth, to live Orthodox.

And, our diversity is something wecelebrate, not a diversity of lifestyles, but a diversity that reflects the whole spectrum of our community, people of all races,people of all colors, people from a multitude of different ethnic backgrounds.And yet, there is another thing that unites us here as well: we areall Americans. We are a single community, we are a single community of Orthodox Christians, and we are the local church in Dallas, the localchurch in Northeast Texas. It doesn't matter that we have all these various administrative jurisdictions, ultimately, because we gathertogether as one body, to pray with one mind and one heart, to celebrate the same Eucharist, to come to the same chalice. It doesn'tmatter if we are eastern rite or western rite, doesn't matter the language in the service is, but its all, we are one church, we are one local Church, and I might add, we are one indigenous Church.

Right now in world Orthodoxy there is a solution to our disunity being proposed. But I would propose there are two solutions. There's onesolution being proposed in which we all submit to Constantinople. We all submit to a foreign patriarchate where all decisions will be madethere, where we will have no say in the decisions that are made. We will have no say in our own destiny. We surrender the freedom that wehave embraced as American Orthodox Christians to a Patriarchate still under Islamic domination. I think we have a better solution.And this is something of the utmost importance, and it is something imminent. It is not something where we can wait and say "Oh maybe in my grandchildren's time there will be Orthodox unity." I'm talking about June. And, if you think I'm kidding, there is a conference being convened in the Phanar in June to discuss exactly this -- (actually,it's in Cypress) -- to subject the Diaspora to the single singular control, the so-called Diaspora, to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and thereby come into unity.Well, that's one model for unity. I would submit if we wanted a Pope we'd be under the real one. And I don't think any of us want a Pope,otherwise we wouldn't be here.

But who are we really? I think part ofthis comes from a total and complete ignorance and misperception onthe part of the holy fathers who are the leaders of the churches inthe Old World. They don't understand that there are Americans who are Orthodox.There are Americans who have been born and bred in this land who have embraced the Orthodox faith. There are Americans who have come over here -- fleeing communism, fleeing Islamic domination, fleeingoppression. Who have come to this land to embrace a new life, a lifeof self-determination as well as a life that is governed by the Orthodox faith. I don't think they understand that our church here has this rich diversity but we all share a common identity.It doesn't matter what language the services are in, we appreciatethem all. We appreciate the Arabic and the Romanian and the Slavonic;we appreciate the Georgian and the Albanian and who knows what else.But we also have to appreciate the English and the Spanish and the French, just as we have to appreciate the Klinkit and the Aleut, andthe Upik and the Athabaskian, who are the true indigenous Orthodox Christians of our land.I don't think the holy fathers in the Phanar understand that we are a Church, albeit with separate administrations, but that has a common value of determining our own destiny. A church that is dedicated tothe conciliar process, which does not ignore the voice of the laity,which does not ignore the voice of the priests, a church which is united in its common commitment. Because we are Orthodox not simply by birth, we are Orthodox not simply by our ethnic heritage. We are Orthodox because we have chosen to be Orthodox. We are Orthodox because we have committed our entire life to Jesus Christ and the Gospel. And, it is that commitment to Jesus Christ and the Gospel andour commitment to bring our brothers and sisters in our land to thatsame commitment of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, not to some kind ofalien ideology, not to some nationalist or imperialist ideology fromsome forgotten empire, not the imposition of foreign customs and thesubmission to foreign despots.But, to a united Church in this country, a Church in which we value the diversity and value the unity equally. A Church in which weappreciate one another and listen to the voice of one another so that no person is devalued. So the traditions that our fathers in the faith have brought to this country are valued.

So the efforts and the labor and the sweat and the blood and the tears of all those who have gonebefore us to establish the Orthodox Faith in America for over 200years now, 215 years to be precise, to acknowledge their sacrifice.And, it is upon their sacrifice, upon their martyrdoms, upon their sanctity, upon their sacrifice that our Church here is built.There are those there that say that there was no canonical OrthodoxChurch in the North American until 1924 until the establishment of thePatriarchate of Constantinople and the Greek archdiocese. Excuse me. The Russian Orthodox Church established a missionary workhere in 1794. It established English-speaking churches where priests were trained to speak, to serve the liturgy, to teach the Gospel, andto bring faithful people into the Orthodox Church, from 1857 in SanFrancisco. They say our unity in America was a myth at the time of St.Tikhon. Well yes, there were a few dozen churches that were not partof it, but what about the 800 that were? What about those 800churches? Churches that may have had Russian clergy, or had clergy whowere trained by the Russians, but were composed of Greeks and Serbs,of Arabs, of Romanians, of Bulgarians, and of converts, who have stood for the integrity of the Orthodox Faith and the integrity of theGospel of Jesus Christ, and the integrity of the witness, the missionary outreach which is essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.Not to make people Greeks, not to make people Russians, not to makepeople Arabs, but to simply bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to thisland, in its wholeness and its completeness, as it was preached by the holy Apostles, in the fullness of its integrity. There are those there, in the old world, who devalue this, who say that they are the only criteria of Orthodoxy. Who are ignorant of our Saints, who refuse to recognize the sacrifice of so many of those who have come beforeus, in Christ, to establish the Gospel here.

I think we have a different solution. It is imperative for us to cometogether. Not for all the other churches, the Antiochians and theSerbians and the Bulgarians and the Romanians and everyone, to jointhe OCA, but to come together in a new organization of Orthodoxy in North American that brings us all together as one Church, even justpulling together all our existing organizations so that all the bishops sit on one Synod, so that all the Metropolitans get together on a special Synod or something like that. So we can continue ourrelationship with the Mother Churches, a relationship of love and support. Firm in our own identity as Orthodox Christians and making our witness to protect them from whatever evils confront them, whetherit be an aggressive Islam, or whether it be Communists who now call themselves democrats (I'm not talking about Washington by the way, not at all.)It's very interesting. Seven months ago I was still an abbot in a monastery in northern California. Just a few months ago I was madeMetropolitan and I had no idea, really, what the scope of Orthodoxy isin America. And, now I'm beginning to get an idea. Not only did I findmyself the Metropolitan of the OCA, but Locum tenens of the Bulgarian diocese. Well, these are people who have fled oppression just as in somany eastern European countries. It's the same people who were thereunder the communists; they just changed their titles.It's the same thing with the churches in the Middle East. How manyhundreds of thousands of faithful Iraqi Orthodox Christians are livingas refugees in camps in Jordan and Syria, ignored by the world. Weneed a united, powerful witness. A witness that will not only bear witness to the unity of the Gospel and our common commitment to oneFaith in Jesus Christ the one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism that constitutes the Orthodox Church. We need to bear witness as a united Body, only to those issues that affect the Phanar, not only to the tragic situation in Cypress, but to those issue that affect all Orthodox Christian throughout the world. There is no witness in Congress. There has been no Orthodox voice, save one lone Serbian bishop, during the American aggression in Kosovo. There were so manyhundreds and thousands of Orthodox Christians that suffered and died at our hands, and the hands of our government and our voice was muted.

We have to come together as one united Orthodox Church in North America in order to truly show people that the Orthodox Church is the One Holy Catholic Church, in order to show that truly we are the Church constituted by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. And, there is only one way to show that -- not by self-righteous proclamations of our Orthodoxy it's not by self-righteous condemnation of non-OrthodoxChristians, it's by coming together and showing people how we love oneanother, how we forgive one another. How we bear common witness to the Gospel. Though we have multiple churches and diverse traditions, weaffirm that there is One Truth, who is the person of Jesus Christ. The Orthodox way of life is the way of the healing of the soul and the way of salvation.It is imperative brothers and sisters, imperative on us that, we come together and with one voice, as the Orthodox Church of North America,to say to the holy fathers of the Old World, the Orthodox Church exists in North America. We are grateful for the support you have given us. We love and support your work. We rejoice in your victories and we are sad with your tragedies. But, you have to give us the freedom to take care of our own Church in our own country, in our own culture, and not to be controlled by people who have never heard a word of English much less allow a word of English to be spoken in the liturgy. We can't allow our Church to be controlled with people who have no appreciation of our culture and have to bow to the Turkish Islamic authorities.This, my friends, is something truly critical affecting our life and our witness. We hear of all of these scandals, all the stuff that wenton in the OCA and all the stuff going on in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and all the petty little stuff that goes on in ourparishes. All of that is pettiness. We have to come together. The Lord Jesus Christ is calling us together to be one Church in America,composed of all Americans, no matter where they came from, no matterhow long their ancestors, or they themselves, have been in this land.Because the canonical organization of the Church, according to theHoly Apostles and all of the ancient Fathers, is not about some kindof international organization where we look 8000 miles away for some source of canonicity. But it is the local Church, the presbyters andthe deacons, and the faithful people gathered around their bishop.This is the fullness of the catholic Church. This is the fullness ofthe Orthodox Church as it was given to us from the holy Fathers, as it was given to us by the Apostles. And, it is this that we must affirm.That Church exists now, here, in our midst. It was planted by ourFathers in the faith generations ago, on this continent. It has grown and bears fruit. And, it subsists out of our common sacrificial commitment to Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to God for our unity,let us give thanks to God for our diversity. Let us affirm to ourbishops that they will tell the bishops of the Old World,"There is an American Orthodox Church. Leave it alone."God Bless you.

(transcribed from Sermon, April 5, 2009)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Schedule of Services for Holy Paschal Cycle



APRIL 11 LAZARUS SATURDAY Liturgy at 10:00 am.

APRIL 12 PALM SUNDAY Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am. with blessing of Palms

APRIL 15 GREAT & HOLY WEDNESDAY Holy Unction Service at 6:30 pm

APRIL 16 GREAT & HOLY THURSDAY St. Basil’s Liturgy at 10:00 am
The Reading of the twelve Passion Gospels at 6:30 pm.

Vespers at 6:30 p.m. ( Taking Down from the Cross)
Matins ( Lamentations of the shroud and the procession) at 7:30 p.m.

Procession around the church & Matins of Christ's Resurrection at 11:45 pm


APRIL 26 ST. THOMAS SUNDAY Liturgy 10:00 am





MAY 24 SUNDAY OF THE BLIND MAN Liturgy 10:00 am

MAY 28 ASCENSION OF OUR LORD Liturgy 10:00 am


STS. CONSTANTINE & HELEN -Patron Feast Day of the Church
Divine Liturgy 10:00 am followed by banquet.