The local OCA parish has a temporary rector since the former priest is now officially retired. I can’t say I am disappointed by the latter’s retirement. He and his matushka were not the friendliest, felt free to make comments to me (a new visitor) about the lack of pay he was receiving and were unwilling to reach out to those Orthodox displaced when a tiny local OCA mission closed its doors.
The temporary guy and his matushka are positively delightful. She barely comes up to my shoulder which isn’t saying much since I am short and she has the most pleasant, loving face. I don’t even know her and feel like I’ve known her forever. A priest-friend told me they are the end of the era of “really good” priest families who are wholly dedicated to the Church and serving Her in goodness and Truth.
At the conclusion of this morning’s Liturgy Father gave a very brief talk about the Cross. “It was an ugly instrument of torture which our Lord used for the good; for our good. Christ willingly went to it. We have in Christ the Image of God. We must remember that each person we look at, even if they do evil, in them is the Image of God. We must look for that Image and raise it up in our mind’s eye so we can love that person as God loves them.” Those are quite poignant words; ones I took to heart and held close.
In the last couple of weeks, I have witnessed a good man have his heart ripped out and trampled upon by people on the internet who do not have first hand knowledge of a difficult situation he happens to find himself embroiled in. Nearly to a man these bloggers and commentators have condemned him. NONE of them have any first hand information about the situation. NONE OF THEM has called this man to offer their Christian love, prayers and support.
In the last week I have spoken to a woman who is so angry with her pastor because she feels her last 14 years of ministry have been invalidated by a decision he is making which she just so happens not to agree with. The pastor is returning the church to the polity of their faith tradition which had been eroded by a previous pastor. He has that responsibility as the spiritual head of the church. But she and others disagree with him.
Another man and his wife gave a small financial gift to a sister church to help defray costs of new vestments. He is a man of stature in his denomination. The recipient posted the financial gift in the church’s bulletin, along with the list of others who have donated to the fund. Do you know that a church member emailed that man to tell him she thought he gave that gift so he could look good in his hierarchy’s eyes and kiss up to them! Can you imagine!? I was speechless when I heard about that.
Truly we are at the end of time. Christians are chewing up and spitting out other Christian people, priests, pastors and laity. Sister against brother. Father against brother. Son against father. And I don’t mean blood relatives either. Today I was asked, “Philippa, do you know of a Christian church I can join?” If you knew the person who asked me, you would fall down in a faint.
Yet what are we to do? I reminded the questioner of their words to me not two days ago. “We soldier on and serve the Lord.” Just as Christ willingly went to the cross, just as Christ stood still when he was spit upon, just as Christ remained largely silent in front of Pilate, just as Christ healed the man’s ear that the Apostle cut off, so should we do the same. It was hard for Him. It is hard for us. He did it. So can we.
That is what this Feast Day is all about.
Before Thy cross, we bow down in worship, O Master; and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.
O Lord save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory to Orthodox Christians over their adversaries. And by virtue of Thy cross preserve Thy habitation.