It has been nearly a week since His Beatitude, Met. Jonah resigned as head of the OCA. The blogosphere and ‘discussion’ groups were, and continue to be, a flurry with the news, ‘analyzing’ the situation like vultures over carrion. One would think the people were political talking heads evaluating a situation as big as Kennedy’s assassination. Of course, the analyzing was pure speculation since nothing newsworthy had been released from the ‘home office’. So what’s to analyze? Some blog commentors even called for someone to ‘leak’ news. Really??!
One OCA bishop, His Grace, Bp. Matthias of Chicago and the Midwest courageously and wisely released an archpastoral letter giving a decent outline of the circumstances surrounding His Beatitude’s resignation. It was well written, in a calming tone. His Grace acted like a true shepherd of the flock granted him by God – a leader – who spoke the truth in love. What a concept! What an example! May God grant him many blessed years!
Did the truth satisfy the blogosphere pundits? No. Now there’s a surprise! I dare say, had Jesus Christ written the letter Himself, those same pundits still wouldn’t have been satisfied.
I will not lie to you Dear Readers. My head ached throughout the week.
Then after attending parish where the priest communed a non-Orthodox woman and toddler the headache intensified. How do I know this? I know the woman from previous meetings. At the end of the Liturgy I hugged her and expressed joy at her being received into the Church. “Oh no,” she said, “I’ve not been received. Father asked me, ‘Are you baptized? Yes. That’s good enough.” Boom! Done! Apparently his part time status and living a distance from the parish is too much for him to overcome to catechize her properly, she said. ‘There are a lot of problems here.’ Really? That’s a surprise….uh not. She thinks she will go to another Orthodox priest to ask if maybe he’ll catechize and Chrismate her and her child because she feels, ‘illegitimate.’ My head ached all the way home.
So what to do about the headache and heartache? Sew! While making an adorable iPad cover, I listened to Fr. John Oliver’s Hearts and Minds talks on Intercessory Prayer found on Ancient Faith Radio. In Part 6 Fr. Oliver spoke on the Intercessory Prayers said during the Divine Liturgy for the Royal Priesthood of God – those who care for the Holy Churches. It would appear, my choice was a timely one indeed.
Fr. John mentioned Stalin, who as a seminary student understood the church hierarchy and that to destroy the Church, he would focus on destroying the bishops. By the time Stalin was through, four bishops remained. “Choke the river upstream and all those downstream would suffer.” Fr. John said, “The devil has a strategy, strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” Thus we pray during the Divine Liturgy for our bishops, priests and deacons to be “defended from all assaults of the enemy.”
Fr. John makes some very good points about Church leadership; one being that it is terrifying because those leaders are called to give an account for their leadership not to man but to God. We must pray for our leaders to be “above reproach, to be good teachers, upright, rightly handle the Word of Truth, and hoping that they might be preserved from the temptations and corruptions that accompany positions of power.” “Positions of influence are like living under a magnifying glass. Strengths and weaknesses are magnified. Both the positive and the negative are in play.” He said that a priest will always claim the prayer at ordination that “Grace Divine will heal that which is lacking.”
Most of us don’t have a clue what it feels like to live under that type of scrutiny. We are quick to analyze, speculate, pick apart words and the possible intent behind them. Some in the blogosphere are doing just that – looking at intent behind the words. Even if we were present in the room during discussions and decisions, I doubt we’d have a blessed clue what the intentions were in any one person’s heart who sits on the Holy Synod. We are not there, shadowing any of them.
Rather than being a Monday morning quarterback, how many of us are asking God to help our bishops “rightly divide the Word of Truth”? Or asking God to grant His Wisdom, Mercy and Love to them? Or for that matter calling any one of them to offer a word of encouragement instead of demanding explanations and giving criticism? How does any of that help Met. Jonah? I daresay, he doesn’t need any of our help, after all, he’s a big boy and has been on his own for quite some time!
Yes, it is true that truth needs to be spoken and measures taken, just as Bp. Matthias and the Holy Synod did. But “We must choose either the way of Love or the way of condemnation,” says Fr. John.
Let’s choose the Way of Love by praying that “Grace Divine heal that which is lacking” and that “God grant them many, many blessed years” for that healing and salvation.