Thursday, November 20, 2008

SERVICE TONIGHT: Entrance of the Theotokos

Just a reminder (made all the more necessary by my failure to post it on the St. John's and St. Nina's web-calendar - my apologies!) that we will be celebrating the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple with a Vesperal Liturgy at St. John's Monastic House (I was not able to get in touch with the folks who run St. George's) TONIGHT (Thursday, November 20th) at 7:30pm. Please come fasting from noon onwards if you are planning to receive communion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Glory to God! We have a leader!

As was said by one member of the All-American Council here: "God has not abandoned His people!" Or as another put it, enthusiastic and repeatedly, "We have a leader!"

The election of the newly-minted Bishop Jonah of Ft. Worth to become our new metropolitan is nothing less than a miracle - and at the same time it reveals just how radically the Holy Synod of Bishops and the central administration of the OCA has changed in the last little while. In the process of nominating a metropolitan for the OCA, if no nominee receives more than 2/3rds of the ballots cast in the first round of voting, the Holy Synod of Bishops elects as metropolitan one of the two men who receive the most nominations in the second round of voting. In both of the last two elections since the OCA received its autocephalus ("self-heading") status from our mother-church in Russia in 1970, the synod has chosen the more experienced second-place nominee over the less-experienced "people's choice": first Metropolitan Theodosius was chosen over Archbishop Dimitri, then Metropolitan Herman was chosen over then-front-runner Archbishop Seraphim.

This is the first time that the Holy Synod of Bishops has chosen the "people's choice" to be the new metropolitan of the OCA, and the first time that someone who converted to Orthodox Christianity in adulthood has been chosen - a choice made all the more dramatic by Bishop Jonah's radical inexperience: he had been a bishop for less than two weeks before being made metropolitan! The bishops' choice shows that the Holy Synod is listening carefully to its flock - and reminds me of how the catechumen Ambrose was elected bishop of Milan in AD 374.

The turning point came when Fr. John Jillions, speaking for the pre-conciliar commission, pressed the Holy Synod to respond to the questions they had asked us to ask them at the beginning of the council. The bishops were at first reluctant to respond, as (through a typically Orthodox oversight) they had not received a copy of the compiled questions beforehand to consider. At last, as it was obvious to all that all the delegates present earnestly desired to hear the bishops' response to the questions, the Holy Synod sent Bishop Jonah up to answer some of the questions after first putting them in their proper theological context. Bishop Jonah's response, available to listen to here in its entirety (and well worth a listen - do check it out!) revealed to all present exactly what a thoughtful, articulate, wise and loving individual he is - and his response made it clear that he understood the hurt and betrayal that many have felt, and at the same time made it clear that forgiveness of the hurt does not justify what was done, but absolutely must be extended as it is essential for our own salvation and healing.

The feeling of joy and gratitude to God that can be felt here is overwhelming, and may be glimpsed in the response to Metropolitan Jonah's speech at the banquet here tonight - a speech which also revealed him to be a man of vision, and a man whose vision is firmly rooted in the resurrectional reality of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. With Metropolitan Jonah we all cry "Glory to Jesus Christ!" and with all those present at the council we all cry "Axios!" and "Many years!" to our newly-elected leader.

Looking forward to coming home and rejoicing with you all, I remain,

your servant in Christ,

Fr. Justin.