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Hate Breeds Hate

By Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo)

Asullen, somber young man goes to a gun store in Virginia, where he will have no difficulty purchasing handguns. He is seriously mentally ill and many people around him are aware of it, but no one has succeeded in placing him under professional care; perhaps no one has tried. The clerk at the gun store has no obligation to know whether or not the man is mentally ill. There is no program for assessing who may buy a handgun. The only real requirement is that the buyer be at least eighteen years of age. A while later, the young man has massacred more than thirty classmates and teachers, then committed suicide.

The first thing that stands out among the details of this matter is how many people knew that this young man was seriously ill and yet apparently did nothing about it. On the surface, it looks as if some people cared; but the fact is that of the dozens of people who say they knew, and of the several who were in positions of authority, it seems no one took any action to intervene in his situation. The demons in this young man’s head were not of his own making. They only mirror the world of paranoia, fear and violence around him. His psychiatric condition inclined him to personalize all this.

His symptoms are well known. One should have expected some kind of violence from him, but perhaps no one looked carefully enough at him to be able to see it. We have twice had young men much like him show up at the monastery, and we got them into mental health care situations very quickly. I wonder how many tragedies might we would avoid if only we could open ourselves to the grace of God to be good Samaritans to the very troubled?

If we speculate about why things like this happen, it is often because human beings do not care enough about each other to prevent them from happening. In our society there is more to it than this, however. Violence has been given a value in culture and society. Television has made it graphic and the value given to it has made it difficult to distinguish heroes from anti-heroes. Victors in violent actions are noble, losers are evil, but there is little to distinguish them except which one won and which one lost. In the arena of actual warfare, it is only the losers who are guilty of war crimes, while the winners put them on trial, but in reality both committed atrocities, killed innocent civilians and wrought immense destruction.

Such episodes of personal violence as school and university mass murders can happen almost anywhere, but happen much more easily in the US because there is an almost idolatrous worship of guns. In the state of Virginia, one can own a rifle or shotgun at the age of twelve and one can legally purchase a handgun at the age of eighteen. How many people in those age ranges do you know whom you would want to have such weapons?

In a world and society which has in so many ways separated itself from God, it is difficult to ask “why does God allow…?” When many prominent religious leaders in the US are backing the death penalty, supporting war and even acting as advocates for the gun lobby, while almost openly hoping for Armageddon, practically reducing morality down to only sexual behavior, when the nation’s leaders think that violence and sowing death and destruction is the way to handle conflicts, who is listening to God anyway?

Moreover, when many Orthodox Christians no longer observe those ordinary ascetic disciplines of Church life which God has given us to teach and exercise us in self-control, what should we expect of the rest of the world? Look at how many Orthodox Churches actually sponsor meals that violate the fasts, and do so in parish halls. Too many Orthodox Christians, those who are supposed to be the salt of the earth and the lights set upon lampstands for the rest of the world to see, do not take the Christian life seriously. They reduce the faith to some philosophical positions or customs, but have no desire to apply the living faith to life itself in a transforming way. And yet, without the ingredient of self-control and self-discipline, how can violence and injustice be avoided? If we, who claim to have the truth, the “faith once delivered,” have no desire to learn or to teach our children self-discipline and self-control, what should we, then, expect of the world around us, or even of our own children?

How can we stop all this? We cannot avoid violence in this world. So long as Satan has the ear and heart of so many, we cannot stop it. We can pay more attention to each other and watch for symptoms in others that would alert us to the fact that they urgently need help, but we cannot stop violence in a fallen world in which violence itself appears to have value, a world in which we are taught by the example of national leaders and whole nations that violence is the solution to violence.

Stopping violence to a greater degree would require that we diligently search for root causes of the violence and seek, aided by prayer and fasting, for the Grace of the Holy Spirit to heal the root causes, not simply to bomb and shoot those whom we feel are responsible (we ourselves never are responsible, of course) for the violence. So long as nations and the leaders of nations deal with problems by resorting to violence and state terrorism, we have no reason to suspect that people who are mentally or emotionally unbalanced will not follow their example. Children tend to imitate adults, alas!

Prayer does have a healing power. We need to pray sincerely, and not just “because one is supposed to pray,” for the healing of mankind, for the healing of our world, and we should not neglect to pray for the young man who committed this most recent massacre.

What else can we do? Let us begin by trying to recapture the meaning of our Orthodox Christian life, the actual meaning of the parish, to discover again the sweet mystery of the parish, how the parish itself is intended to promote the healing of the fallen human nature and our assimilation into the life in Christ.

Physically, the only thing we can do to protect ourselves is to be alert. We live in a world that is dangerous, and we need to be aware of that, to pray about it and to live our lives in such a way that we do not contribute to it. We place our hope in God for our own lives. We must make proper use of our Christian faith as a source of healing in the world, not as a source of judgment, division and enmity toward others.

The less we endorse violence, the more we observe the disciplines of Orthodox Christian life, the more we can contribute to love, peace and healing in the world around us. We do so need to learn to love “the other,” those who are not “us” and not “like us.”

How shall we, as Orthodox Christians, make such contributions to the world if we cannot have peace, harmony, self-control and self-discipline even in our own parishes, among neighboring parishes of the same jurisdiction and among the local national Orthodox Churches? Did our beloved father St. Paul not tell us that though we may speak with the tongues of men and of angels, know all mysteries and even give our bodies to be burned in martyrdom, but do not have love, we are only clanging brass and it does not profit us anything?

We must see the image of the creator in every other human being, not merely in those whom we see as being also an image of our own selves, those who agree with us and think and act as we do. The Church has even given us a program of prayer and fasting to help us accomplish this. If we do not strive to accomplish it, then we become part of the problem rather than the seed of healing in a troubled and suffering world.

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo is Civil Liaison for the Orthodox Church in America, Archdiocese of Canada. He is founder and abbot of the Monastery of All Saints of North America near Vancouver, Canada. He is educated in physics as well as theology, and lectures internationally on science and religion. He is Canadian secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and director of the Canadian Institute for Biblical and Patristic Studies. He is the author of more than 40 books.

Prisoners We are Forbidden to Visit

by Paul Grenier

“I was in prison, and you visited Me.” These words from the Gospel remind us that Christianity is not a set of dogmas to be believed, but is a truth to be lived and practiced. Visiting those who are in prison is simply an extension of the foundational Christian practice – loving one’s enemies. The ideologue, by contrast, urges us to hate our enemies. The ideologue is always bent on destroying “once and for all” evils that exist outside his favored group. But Christ was not an ideologue and Christianity is not an ideology.

The New Testament is instead the antidote to ideological perversions of thought, and as such it focuses attention on the struggle against evils inside my own self. Apparently the most certain way of succeeding in this struggle is by practicing forgiveness and charity toward those whom we find repellant – toward those who are, in fact, our enemies, and who for that very reason tend to end up in our prisons.

Today, however, we Christians in America are often not allowed to visit Christ in prison. The Bush administration has declared that there are those in our prisons whom no one may visit, not even a lawyer. It is said that these secret prisoners must not be visited because the “alternative methods of interrogation” being used against them are among the United States’ “most sensitive national security secrets.”

One would think that every American would immediately rise up in indignation against such policies and demand an accounting from those who ever dared initiate them. And yet almost the opposite has happened. For the most part, we go about our lives as if all this was no big deal.

What has happened? It would appear that the following has happened. We have become a nation of security ideologues. We want “national security,” yes, but especially and at all costs we want guarantees of our personal security.

That is why we feel little distress about the millions of men and women who fester in our bulging prisons. And just as we spend more on military systems than any other country – indeed, than all other countries combined – so too we hold more humans in our prison system than any other country.

And yet, the most humane and wise of Christian voices have always held that the first task of a civilization, when it comes to the treatment of its prisoners, is to do its best to restore the moral and intellectual good health of the persons being punished. To be sure, the protection of society is also a crucial function of prisons; but in a Christian civilization, this task is subordinated to the first.

There is no time here to elaborate on this complicated subject. Suffice it to say that a just punishment always serves to increase rather than decrease the dignity of the prisoner. It might be added that, were our society to provide more security to its workers, and give greater emphasis to the moral and intellectual improvement of its children, there would be fewer domestic prisoners in the first place. But that too is a matter for another essay.

What must be addressed first – both in this essay and as a matter of public policy – is the treatment of “enemy combatants” captured during America’s current “war on terrorism.”

The barbarity of such practices as “extraordinary renditions,” and other cruel practices at locations known and unknown, would be just as great if these detainees were all guilty as charged. Yet many are clearly not guilty – or if they are, it is very strange, because many have never even been charged. They are simply being held.

What if they are guilty, and truly are our enemies? Such a circumstance should only increase our concern for their welfare. At any rate, that is what Christ said.

And to find out which of these detainees deserve this special measure of Christian concern, it behooves us to insist that our government at long last allow lawyers and courts to thoroughly investigate each of these cases according to a credible system of justice. This will have the additional benefit of allowing those who have been simply picked up by accident to be immediately released.

In the interests of fairness, it must be emphasized that cruelty is far from being an eternal truth about Americans. It is, rather, an alien trait we have acquired by falling prey to a spiritual temptation-the temptation of making security the final goal of our existence.

Indeed, it is this same all-consuming quest for security that induces so many of us to remain silent. With perfect logic we think to ourselves: “If they have treated other defenseless human beings this way, what will keep them from treating me with similar cruelty if I speak out?”

There is only one way to respond to this fear, and no one has formulated it better than the fearless Simone Weil: “To die for God is not a proof of faith in God. To die for an unknown and repulsive convict who is a victim of injustice, that is a proof of faith in God.”

Paul Grenier, a writer and cultural geographer, is the founder of The Common Task – http://www.thecommontask.org. The Common Task is a research center devoted to the humanization of culture, cities and economies. He is a member of St. Nicholas Cathedral parish, Orthodox Church in America, in Washington, DC.

Voluntary Simplicity in the Bible

By W. David Holden

In the 20th and 21st centuries the practice of voluntary simplicity has rightly become a central virtue for Christians and others for whom social justice and environmental stewardship are vital concerns. The concept and practice of voluntary simplicity, however, are much older. Voluntary poverty has been a central tenet of monasticism since the days of the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth century. Voluntary poverty received renewed emphasis in the poverty movements of the Western Church in the late Middle Ages, most notably the asceticism of St. Francis of Assisi and his order of “lesser brothers.” The Mennonites, among whom are the Amish, and the Society of Friends (better known as Quakers) also made it a central practice of their traditions.

While the phrase “voluntary simplicity” is modern, the concept is to be found in the Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity.

The writers of the Bible taught that human beings are to treat the earth as a garden, and in the past century it has become obvious that the earth will not be a garden for long if we continue to practice unbridled consumerism.

The Bible’s authors taught that wealthy people have obligations toward the poor. They also taught that gluttony, greed, and vainglory are obstacles in the relationship of human beings with God. These vices contradict Biblical teaching about wealth, which is always a gift to human beings from the boundless riches of God. They also refute the trust that the Lord will provide for human beings.

When researching biblical concepts, students customarily explore key words, in this case the terms “simple” and “simplicity” and the like, to see whether they refer to voluntary simplicity in a way similar to the way that phrase is used today.

The words “simple” and “simplicity” do in fact occur in English translations of the Bible, but they do not refer to voluntary simplicity in the sense that we have come to understand it in the past century. In the New Revised Standard Version, for example, the English word “simple” translates forms of the Hebrew word peti (). This word comes from a verb that means “open.” It refers to a person who is open to outside influences, whether for good or for bad. As an illustration of this meaning, Proverbs 14:15 reads, “The simple believe everything, but the clever consider their steps.” The same translation also has the adverb “simply” in three passages and the noun phrase “simple-minded” in one, but never in reference to the virtue of voluntary simplicity.

If the concept of voluntary simplicity is to be found in the Bible, it is more elusive than finding a word or word-family. If it is to be found, it must be embedded in other teachings. It seems to the present writer that it is found in three contexts: in the those passages that might be called the simplicity proverbs, in teachings about modesty, and teachings about quietness.


The Simplicity Proverbs:

The writers of the Bible taught the concept of voluntary simplicity in sayings in the wisdom literature that I call the simplicity proverbs. These are found in the books of Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Sirach. All of these proverbs declare that it is better to live a simple life than to perpetuate some kind of evil. Here are four such proverbs.

Proverbs 15:16: “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” The fear of the Lord is, as Scripture says several times, the beginning of wisdom. The “trouble” referred to here is of a very particular kind. The Hebrew word is mehumah (), which refers to a tumult or uproar. The meaning here is perhaps indicated by Amos 3:9-10,10 which reads:

Proclaim to the strongholds of Ashdod, and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, “Assemble yourselves on Mount Samaria, and see what great tumults are within it, and what great oppressions are in its midst.” They do not know how to do right, says the Lord, Those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.

The point of the proverb is that obeying the divine commands to do justice to others may require one to lead a simple life.

Proverbs 17:1: “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” The second half of this proverb has been paraphrased in the New Revised Standard Version. The Hebrew literally says, “than a house full of the sacrifices of strife.” The ancient Israelites ate little meat. Livestock were more important for wool, milk, and work than for meat. To kill one’s livestock was unthrifty; one would do so only for good reasons. One reason to kill an animal was as an act of worship. When an animal was offered in sacrifice, the person who offered it usually ate it. Therefore, a house full of sacrifices would be a house full of feasting on choice food. But strife ruins any feast. The proverb means that a very simple meal, the merest mouthful of dry bread, when accompanied by some prosperity and peace and quiet, is to be preferred over delicacies with conflicts and legal disputes.

Psalm 37:16: “Better is a little that the righteous person has than the abundance of many wicked.” (Septuagint: 36:16) The word for “wicked” (reshaim, ) can also be translated “cruel.” The proverb means that if a person obedient to God owns only a little bit, it is to be preferred to the wealth of many people who oppress others.

Ecclesiastes 4:6: “Better is a handful with quiet than two handfuls with toil, and a chasing after wind.” The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to have regarded all work as no more meaningful than a child’s game of catching shadows. He said, “I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from one person’s envy of another.” While he may overstate his case, to the extent that envy motivates someone to work, his next observation is certainly on the mark: “This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.” The toil to which he refers is meaningless, pointless work. In this proverb the Septuagint is somewhat more literal in its understanding of the Hebrew than is the English. The Septuagint reads, “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of trouble and waywardness of spirit.” The meaning is that it would be better to have a single handful of anything than twice that much gained from a meaningless task.


Modesty:

The terms “modest” and “modesty” are rare in Scripture. They are not used in the New Revised Standard Version in its translation of the Hebrew Bible. The terms are used, however, to translate Greek terms in the books that Protestants call the Apocrypha and in the New Testament. Four Greek terms lie behind the English word, all of which may be translated with other English terms. Aidos in I Timothy 2:9 is a sense of shame; the cognate verb aideomai in II Maccabees 15:12 and IV Maccabees 8:3 means “to be ashamed to do something” or “to stand in awe, fear, or respect of someone.” These terms are used of both men and women: Paul in his letter to Timothy refers to the modesty of women, while the writers of the Books of Maccabees refer to the modesty of men. Another Greek term is aischynteros. which in Sirach 26:15 and 32:10 is an adjective meaning “bashful.” Also in Sirach (in 26:24) is the term euschemon, which means “elegant in figure,” “graceful,” or “becoming.” St. Paul uses the term for the virtue of temperance, sophrosyne, with the meaning of modesty in I Timothy 2:15.13
Clearly, the concept of voluntary simplicity can be derived from other teachings in the Scriptures. In the case of the teaching on modesty, however, St. Paul realized these implications himself. St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes” (I Timothy 2:9). The logic here is: If you are going to practice the virtue of modesty, then you must to some degree practice the virtue of voluntary simplicity. St. Peter gave a very similar instruction, but without referring directly to modesty. St. Peter, addressing the women in his churches, wrote, “Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight” (I Peter 3:3-4). In other words, if you wish to have a quiet and gentle spirit, then you must to some degree embrace voluntary simplicity.

Clearly, the concept of voluntary simplicity can be derived from other teachings in the Scriptures. In the case of the teaching on modesty, however, St. Paul realized these implications himself. St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes” (I Timothy 2:9). The logic here is: If you are going to practice the virtue of modesty, then you must to some degree practice the virtue of voluntary simplicity. St. Peter gave a very similar instruction, but without referring directly to modesty. St. Peter, addressing the women in his churches, wrote, “Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight” (I Peter 3:3-4). In other words, if you wish to have a quiet and gentle spirit, then you must to some degree embrace voluntary simplicity.

These verses, especially when combined with St. Paul’s teaching about the length of hair that is appropriate to the two sexes and to the propriety of a head covering for women, have fueled controversies about how men and women should dress, in church and elsewhere. Some Christian traditions have been very strict, insisting that women should never cut their hair, never do anything with it other than wash and comb it, and never wear any kind of jewelry or make-up. Other traditions have been less strict, but have still taught that male-female differences should be mirrored in dress and grooming. The questions raised are not merely relics of the ancient world. Modesty for both men and women is connected with the practice of voluntary simplicity. However cultures may differ on the details of modesty, the practice of voluntary simplicity as it is understood by the Apostles will be expressed in clothing as well as other aspects of ordinary life.

Quietness:

The simplicity and modesty texts already noted connect the virtue of living simply with the virtue of living quietly.

Proverbs 15:16: “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”

Proverbs 17:1: “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” The word translated “quiet” is not common in the Hebrew Bible. The word is shalvah and it refers to being in a state of quiet, abundance, prosperity, or peace. The Septuagint reads, “Better is a morsel with pleasure in peace [meth’ hedones en eirene].”The term in the Septuagint (and the concept in the Hebrew text) connects voluntary simplicity with peace and peacemaking, one of the central concepts of the theology and ethics of the entire Bible.
Psalm 37:16: “Better is a little that the righteous person has than the abundance of many wicked.” Hamon is the Hebrew word translated “abundance.” The word also means “sound,” “murmur,” “rush,” or “roar.” It suggests loud and ostentatious wealth.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 contrasts quietness with trouble and futility: “Better is a handful with quiet than two handfuls with toil.” The author uses the Hebrew term nachat – more often translated “rest” than “quiet.” This noun is related to the verb nuach, which the Fourth Commandment uses in reference to the rest of the Lord after creating the world. The Septuagint translates that Hebrew word in Ecclesiastes with the Greek word anapausis, ordinarily translated “rest” in English. In the Fourth Commandment, the Septuagint uses a similar Greek term, katapauo. The Greek term in Ecclesiastes is also used in the great invitation of the Lord Jesus: “Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Ecclesiastes connects voluntary simplicity with the Sabbath, itself a foretaste of the Kingdom yet to come.
St. Peter, in his teaching on the dress appropriate to women, says that women should seek “the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (I Peter 3:4). The word translated “quiet” is the adjective hesychios. St. Paul used the verb related to this adjective when he said, “Aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands” (I Thessalonians 4:11). In other passages of the New Testament the English versions translate it and its cognates not only with the term “quiet,” but also with the terms “cease,” “hold one’s peace,” “rest,” “silence,” and “peaceable.” This term is especially beloved to Orthodox Christians, who have developed a profound system of prayer and ascetic practice around the cultivation of inner quietness.

Living quietly and simply are not, strictly and logically speaking, the same thing. It is possible for a person to live simply, but also very much in the public eye. But the passages under consideration teach that this is not ordinarily the case. Ordinarily people who seek to live simply will also seek to live quietly, out of the view of the public and the powerful. Voluntary simplicity is therefore not only about avoiding sin and wrongdoing and expressing solidarity with the poor. It is a way to embody peace and peacemaking, to anticipate the Sabbath rest of the coming Reign of God over the world, and a way to practice the deep silence of attentive listening to God.


Conclusion:

No single word or phrase in the Bible teaches the concept of voluntary simplicity. Concepts are not always designated, however, by single words or phrases. Sometimes people hold to a concept without using these linguistic conveniences.

Voluntary simplicity is such a concept. Voluntary simplicity is taught in some of the proverbs and in connection with the concept of modesty. Furthermore, when the concept of voluntary simplicity is presented in the Bible, it is often connected with the concept of quietness, which itself has connections with the great Biblical themes of peace, Sabbath, and silence before God. In this light, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that while voluntary poverty may be a special calling, a way of life that only a few people are to follow, voluntary simplicity is a universal obligation for those who already live prosperously.

The slogan “Live simply, that others may simply live” and similar modern sayings are more than worthy sentiments. Living simply, from a biblical viewpoint, is an ethical obligation of a high order.

W. David Holden studied biblical languages at Duke University and received a Master of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. His spiritual journey brought him to Orthodoxy in August 1999. He is a professional counselor and clinical addictions specialist. He and his family live in the country outside Boone, North Carolina.

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Peacemaking in the Parish: Selected Articles

The Liturgy begins with the exclamation: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” All too often the Christ-revealing peace of the Kingdom of God seems far from parish life. Factions thrive. Group is set against group. We kiss the icons, but there are some in the parish whom we prefer not to greet and whose departure might cause us to quietly rejoice. “What a fine parish this would be if it weren’t for certain people.”Love and forgiveness, even respect, all too often seem to elude us.

We hope this collection of essays from past issues of In Communion will prove helpful in overcoming barriers within our parishes that lock us out of the Kingdom of God.

Jim Forest

editor

(photo credit: Aaron Haney)

CONTENT

Conversations by e-mail: Winter 2007

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson or Jim Forest .

Pacifism: There was a letter last week from a new OPF member who had hesitated to join because she could not call herself a pacifist. “I confess I still have trouble with pacifism,” she wrote, “not so much with an individual being pacifist within his or her own individual circumstances, but with national defense.”

I responded by pointing out that in fact one does not have to be a pacifist to belong to the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. I went on to say that the aspiration to eliminate violence as a means of conflict resolution is something all sane people have in common, yet few would say that they would never use violent methods to protect the innocent. All we can do is attempt to find ways of responding to injustice that are consistent with the Gospel. Clearly nonviolent methods are to be preferred to violent. In working for peace, I don’t think it helps to describe ourselves as pacifists. It’s enough to say that we are attempting to be Christian peacemakers. Pacifism is a modern word. In the Oxford English Dictionary, which organizes its definitions historically (oldest first, most recent last) and also provides examples of word usage, it is not surprising to find the earliest examples of the words “pacifist” and “pacifism” are from the first decade of the 20th century. Pacifism is defined as “the policy or doctrine of rejecting war and every form of violent action as a means of solving disputes, especially in international affairs.” It is also “the belief in and advocacy of peace- ful methods as feasible and desirable alternatives to war.” A pacifist is a person “who rejects war and violence as a matter of principle” or “advocates a peaceful policy as the first and best resort.”

I find dictionary definitions helpful and use dictionaries almost daily, but people do not hear dictionary definitions. They hear sounds which may suggest very different meanings. The major problem with the word “pacifist” is that it sounds like “passive-ist.” Yet there is nothing passive about peace-making. To work for the healing of a divided society is not just watching with folded hands from a safe distance.

The ideological charge that words ending in “ism” have is also a problem. Christianity is not an ideology. It’s a way of life in which love of God is impossible without love of neighbor.

We need not label ourselves pacifists, but peacemaking is not something optional for Christians.

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Peace in the parish: Our parish’s patron is St. Nicholas of Myra, which means not only that the temple is dedicated to him but that he is literally a patron and protector of it. When I’m aware of any trouble in the parish, I try to remember to pray to St. Nicholas to intercede for our church and to guide and protect us in the conflict we face. All of us, including me, could do more of this.

While “fleeing the situation” sounds cowardly or irresponsible, I believe that there’s a “holy fleeing” too. In every parish, there seem to be some who see the Church and its local manifestation in relatively worldly, political terms. Structural problems, differences between factions in the church, tend to seem very important to them, and they want you to see them as very important too – in brief, to take sides, to have an opinion in whatever the conflict is. It’s difficult not to get sucked into that worldview and that agenda, but in my view it’s worthwhile.

John Brady [email protected]

Global warming film: Tonight we had a public showing of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the film on global warming made by Al Gore. I’m not sure how many the theater holds, but every seat was taken and around 100 people were turned away, and this was in a small suburb of Vancouver. This is the fourth event we have participated in representing the Canadian branch of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and I believe the most successful.

By popular demand, we’ll have a second showing this week. OPF-Canada is also arranging with the David Suzuki Institute for a special program on Global Warming to be held jointly, one session at the Monastery and one at the local University College. This event will take place in February.

+Archbishop Lazar

[email protected] org

The Atlantic Divide: Since living in Europe, I have been impressed by how much more environmentally conscious Europeans are than Americans – that is, more concerned about genetically modified food, more intensive use of public transport, more interest in fair trade, and generally in better physical condition. Oddly, this conscious- ness seems to not apply to smoking. At least here in Romania, it is nearly impossible to find a smoke free restaurant to eat in while in the US, we have whole states where each restaurant is totally non-smoking, yet we pollute the world with our gas guzzlers, eat the most unhealthy of foods, and inject our livestock with synthetic hormones and chemicals. Why the contradiction on both sides? Strange.

Monica Klepac

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Depression: It would be good to remember that the effectiveness of anti-depression drugs is regularly exaggerated or even falsified by their promoters; and that some kinds of “talk therapy” and even exercise programs have been proven to be as effective as drugs for many sufferers.

The depressed person often isn’t in a position to be a “smart shopper,” but his loved ones may be doing him a service by looking up the available interventions and the numbers that support them before automatically filling that prescription. John Brady [email protected]

Failed strategy: I find the question of depression of personal interest, as I have been inclined to depression throughout my life. I have never taken drugs to deal with it. I’ve come to agree wholeheartedly that drug therapy, especially as the first and primary resort, is a failed strategy. It avoids dealing with the real causes, whatever they may be. It is quick, easy, and oh so American. By examining my own life, I’ve found three things that contribute to bouts of depression. First, I think some people are inclined by temperament toward a more melancholy disposition. I am. I tend to slide to the dark side for a number of reasons, some of which I have identified, some not. I have friends who claim, astonishingly, to never have suffered a minute of depression! Second, there are numerous environmental factors that contribute to depression. They may range from what I had for breakfast or how well I slept, to the state of my relation- ships, to what is in the air and how much sunshine I enjoy, all the way to socio-cultural factors that I can’t understand or control. Third, there are spiritual factors. Sin matters. Worship matters. My orientation to God, others, and life all matter. By prioritizing spiritual things, I secondarily affect my depression. Whenever I realize I’m being affected by depression, I try to run down a mental checklist to find if there is something I’m overlooking in one of those three categories.

My tendency toward depression does not obviously involve any kinds of physical or chemical abnormalities that should be treated medically. I have had a great deal of success in “treating” myself through attention to the primary causes of my own depression. Whatever residual depression I suffer from still, I think I’m predisposed to, and I can live with that.

A further insight that may be helpful is that it seems to me from what I’ve learned that we can experience happiness and sadness, joy and grief, and suffering and blessing all at the same time. I’m therefore not sure that the goal is to rid ourselves completely of things like depression. Depression can actually be part of our giftedness and can be made a useful tool in whatever God has given us to accomplish. Accepting that has actually given me some joy – I think the way I’ve experienced God is in large part a function of what I’ve suffered, including from depression. That must be a good thing.

Pieter Dykhorst

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Psychiatric pharmacology: My mother was wrongly diagnosed as depressed for forty years. It was only toward the end of her life that she was correctly diagnosed as bi- polar and appropriately medicated, so her last years were comparatively normal. I doubt she would have had the emotional or even the physical wherewithal to do without her medications. I have great respect for sensitive and appropriate psychiatric pharmacology.

I’d like to share with you a comment made by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, himself a medical doctor and psychiatrist: “A great many mental illnesses could be avoided by a sincere confession early on.” Now, this is true psychiatry, whose etymology yields “healing of the soul.” In my experience, the “talking cure” applied in many schools of non-pharmacological psychotherapy is a first cousin to spiritual direction, since it’s rooted in the affect, or the area of choices we make based on what we think we know.

As such, it could take a longer or shorter time, but I’m always happier with short-term psychotherapy than with any approach which takes more than six months or so, and I think that Freudian psychoanalysis is completely useless.

Generally, I’d rather rely on active-directive psychotherapeutic models with the client’s needs clearly in focus than with any one-size-fits-all theory. We are individuals, each of us reflecting something of the divine image unique to ourselves, and we should appreciate each other as such, no matter the context. And this is exactly how we must do spiritual direction, too.

Monk James Silver

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Drug withdrawal: It is human instinct to alleviate suffering, indeed to escape it, and our culture has certainly taken that to an extreme. After years of struggling with the meaning of my depression, looking for causes, psychological family history, spiritual perspectives, and so on, I finally succumbed to my own weariness and the voice of our medical culture that said it was biochemical and genetic, and started taking anti- depressants. I really wanted a “fix.” All I got over three years was a minor reduction in morbidity and a lot more tiredness. The last year I was getting desperate, trying several different drugs, and finally at my worse moment, I thought: maybe I’m just supposed to bear it. This is my thorn in the flesh, this is my “karma.” It is simply who I am. Was it not possible that all my obvious family history of mental illness (two suicides in my immediate family!) had a spiritual meaning as well, that in fact we can’t separate the spiritual from the physical/psychic? Spiritually, I was simply bearing the sins of my father. (Medically, it was an inherited condition that with the right treatment could be eliminated or at least controlled, like diabetes – so doctors told me). With my spiritual father’s approval (he was psychiatrist as well), I gradually with- drew from drugs and have now been drug free for eight years, apart from one six- month period.

And here is the paradox: That if I really give my assent to this cross of mine (but there is no faking this assent), if I really let it pierce me in all it’s personal horror, then in the long run I’ll “feel better” because I know that I have the incredible privilege of being joined to Christ’s own act of redemption. For only he took on the full weight of the human condition. But because he did it, now we can too, our own personal share of it.

Paul del Junco

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Beatitude of mourning: I just spent the whole train ride back from Amsterdam thinking about the Beatitudes, in particular “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (We’re having a series of discussion on the Beatitudes at church, and this is the one I’m going to be discussing.) Could this be what Christ was saying – to assent to the thing that’s causing you pain? Does it have to do with exercising the full extent of one’s personal freedom in Christ, to accept the cross and ride it out to the very end? And that this is the key to “comfort” – the root meaning of which is to be strengthened – in Christ?

Nancy Forest

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From Pakistan: I have just received the Fall issue of In Communion. I have gone through Jim Forest’s article, “The Healing of Enmity,” and found it impressive and thoughtful. If you agree, I would like to translate it into our local language for publication in our Christian newspaper, so that our readers may read its beauty and inspirational teaching.

Rev. Fr. Andrew Mushtaq

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D. C. Road, Narowal – 51600, Pakistan

Soup kitchen: I do some dishwashing one night a week at the Catholic Neighborhood Center in Wheeling. It serves three meals a day to about thirty to 100 guests. The Wheeling Soup Kitchen, a non-denominational operation a few blocks away, does comparable business.

Some of the clientele look like “street people”; others wouldn’t attract any special attention on the street. I’ve been told that very few are literally homeless – many live in subsidized rooming houses, etc. Quite a few are unemployed families or elderly people whose government checks run out before the next one arrives. It’s painful to see a young couple with kids coming to a soup kitchen.

One of the Neighborhood Center’s services is a small medical and dental clinic staffed by volunteer doctor/dentists. (I wonder how do they get liability coverage?). In this part of the world, missing teeth are pretty much the norm and wouldn’t set someone apart. The Neighborhood Center also has washing machines and showers. Good thinking.

John Brady

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Christian disunity: I’ve often thought that Christian disunity is a crime against humanity. If the world will know that the Father has sent Christ by our love for one another, what will the world think about Jesus and the Father by our schism? Probably what so many do think. Sad. More than sad, it’s disgusting, and no reason or excuse is good enough to justify the greatest failure of our history. Good will may not be enough alone, but without enormous good will to start, it will be utterly impossible – probably why it hasn’t happened. God bless the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew as they lead their flocks in the creation and showing of such good will, and may it lead to the hard work required to atone for our great sin of division and bring us back together as one body to show the world that the Father has indeed sent the Son.

Pieter Dykhorst

[email protected]

A tragic wound: The first searing experience I had of this very real and sinful rift was in 1988, when I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem for the first time. I felt a tragic wound was being inflicted daily on the Body of Christ by allowing division lines to go straight through that space, the very topos marking His saving sacrifice. In that church one beholds the fruits of separation – a fragmentation of heart and purpose, the implicit violence of derailed loyalty to split traditions…The suspiciousness and absence of love are palpable for any visitor.

To this day, when I think of that Church I am overwhelmed with a tragic sorrow for our having alienated our own brothers and I want to repent for the sin of fratricidal rejection among those bearing the Name of Christ.

Ioana Novac

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Barred at the border: When I returned to Canada from my year of study in Lebanon, one of the first things I did was get a new passport. In addition to my time in Lebanon, I also had the opportunity to visit Egypt, Turkey, and Syria. In November, I was invited to give a guest lecture at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY. A friend of mine teaches a course in world religions there. He thought I’d be a good person to talk about eastern Christianity. Since I’m working midnights now, my brother offered to come along with me to drive so that I could sleep in the car.

Those who have met my family know that my brother is a different race than I am, since my parents adopted him when he was a newborn. The last time we did a road trip to the States was in early November. The immigration officer we spoke with on that trip was satisfied with the explanation. (Perhaps it helped that she seemed to have been the same race as my brother.)

On our most recent trip, however, we were told to park the car and report to the immigration office. When we walked in, we both noticed that I was the only white person on the wrong side of the counter. Everyone else waiting to speak with an immigration officer was “a person of color.”

For reasons known only to himself, the officer we spoke with decided that he did not believe me and my brother. Apparently his view was that the whole thing was simply a ruse to allow my brother to stay illegally in America. We were held at the border for over two hours. We were insulted and berated. We were threatened with arrest and huge fines. We were fingerprinted and photographed. Our rental car was searched. Finally we were sent back to Canada.

My brother was mortified, since he had only come along to help me out. My friend was mortified, since his extension of hospitality had been so brutally trampled upon. I was infuriated that my brother had been accused of being a liar and a person of poor moral character in front of me, and I didn’t dare open my mouth to defend him.

I contacted the US Consulate in Toronto two days after our return, and after wading through the automated voice mail system was finally instructed to call the Toronto airport branch of US Customs. I have yet to reach a human being at that number. For now, the monasteries that my friends and I visit in America are off-limits to me. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend this year’s graduation ceremony at St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Any church conferences are similarly off-limits to me unless they are being held in Canada. It’s really a shame to see what America is becoming.

Peter Brubacher

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Thinking about war: Attitudes toward war and peacemaking are quite varied, even in the Orthodox community, in this country, at least. Our church community here in Alaska has been together for many years, yet the Orthodox canonical development with respect to war has never been discussed. I know that the priests and deacons have considered it, but the laity has never thought about it until the past year, to my knowledge. That is sad; it would have been nice had we considered it before the country found itself at war and some of our children have gone off to serve for the most honorable reasons.

Still, we grow as we grow. We are ignorant of our blind spots. We stay under the influence of the biases we have known as we have matured.

Abortion and euthanasia have been considered already. At some point, because of God’s love, some of us begin to question the matter of war. For me this came because of an increasing awareness of what our country is doing and how very dramatically it is at odds with what God shows me in the Liturgy, as I bow to others in mutual love, respect, forgiveness; and with what He shows me in the scriptures and the homilies.

Sally Eckert

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Violence against women: Today is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, in which a deranged misogynist shot dead a number of female university students. This anniversary will be commemorated across Canada with vigils and workshops on domestic violence.

Violence against women remains a serious problem, not only in “third world” nations, but in Canada as well. We have all read of the attempts of some cultural groups to justify “honor killings” of women who marry without parental consent, who divorce abusive husbands or marry “beneath the families status,” and for other reasons. At the same time the savage and cruel practice of female circumcision continues in many parts of Africa, and the sexual torture of women in Darfur, the Congo and other places rages unabated.

The fact that most domestic violence is carried out by men against women is certainly not comforting. Indeed, it would seem that men should be in the forefront of striving to bring an end to all these acts of brutality. We should be deeply offended that our gender is being defined in some part, in so many places, by acts of cruelty and violence against women.

I would like to respectfully suggest that it might be a good subject for clergy to discuss with young people in their parishes. Those who are inclined to, might also in some small way, observe this day, which has become a semi-official memorial day for women who have lost their lives in domestic violence and in the violation of the humanity of women.

+Archbishop Lazar

[email protected]

Execution in Iraq: My heart was heavy yesterday with the news of Saddam’s hanging and what it might mean for the continued cycling of violence here. What I hadn’t realized was the significance of where I’ve been living for the past few months. I was walking with Colonel T and he mentioned being in “Saddam’s hometown.” “Tikrit is his hometown?” I asked. “Yes, haven’t you heard his full name, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti? ” I had not been aware of that. I subsequently was told that all movement to and from our base had been canceled for the next few days because of the anticipation of increased attacks.

This information became particularly pertinent today at the chapel. I was up with the choir and we were standing in the front of the congregation, facing them, off to one side. Father K stood behind the congregation at the back entrance where he signals the choir to start the service so that he can walk down the center aisle to the altar as we sing. Today he waved at us to begin with his trademark big smile and… BOOM!!! The building shuddered. Everyone froze. The choir did not begin singing. Faces all around were wide-eyed and some looked frightened. I looked back again to Father K and he seemed uncertain of what to do. There was dead silence for several seconds that seemed like several minutes. He reached over to a small basin of holy water, dipped his fingers into it, and crossed himself. A few more moments of silence and then Father K smiled sheepishly and waved at us to begin again. Captain H snapped out of her own reverie after a few seconds and announced the song. After the service we all agreed it must have been a controlled detonation somewhere in the vicinity, otherwise an alert would have gone out. Regardless, as I came out of the chapel I half expected to see a smoldering crater nearby. I was struck by just how focused I’d been in those timeless moments. Priorities were clear, all things superfluous were instantly burned away. The unspoken challenge to myself seemed to be one of “how do I get that back?” and “how does one maintain such a state?” How is it that I so seldom feel the realness of what is real? I think I must be amassing questions here that I’ll have the rest of my life to try and answer.

Aaron Haney

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Eternal memory: George Zarifis, 80, a longtime member of our Minnesota Chapter of Orthodox Peace Fellowship, died in his sleep on January 12, 2007. Despite his age, it was unexpected – just like George himself.

George was a founding member and our secretary, recording the notes for our OPF meetings each month. I have the notebook in which he kept track of the life of our little group. I’m glad we have them now, not just to remember what our group has discussed and done, but to remember George.

More than just our secretary, George was a guiding light and tireless worker in our chapter as we have pursued our desire to open an Orthodox house of hospitality in the Twin Cities area. He has had a hand in every event and project we have sponsored or supported, sharing his time, money, talent and generous love in so many ways.

The last time I visited with him was shortly before Christmas at a prayer retreat sponsored by his parish, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis. He was involved in many ways in the life of the Church, including being an usher and greeter with a warm smile and kind heart.

It grieves me that George did not live to see the day that our Orthodox house of hospitality for the poor will open in Minnesota. He truly believed in this shared vision of our small chapter. Frequently he would ask in a bewildered way, “Why don’t more people join us?” I was never able to answer that question. Would that the words “peace” and “hospitality” would draw a crowd. Perhaps George, with his background in the military and his own life of outreach, had a deeper sense of the essence and interconnectedness of these two words, and the need for them to be lived out in concrete ways.

In my tears I draw hope from the sense that George has gone to be with the Lord. I pray that he is interceding for us who still struggle on earth for peace, justice and salvation.

The thoughts, prayers and compassion of all of us in the Minnesota OPF chapter go out to George, his wife Cleo and his family. It will be awhile before we again see his smile, feel his warm hug, his gentle laugh and words of wisdom.

Memory Eternal, dearest George. You are missed. Pray for us as we pray for you.

Rene Zitzloff

[email protected]

In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007

News: Winter 2007

An Orthodox Appeal Against New Nuclear Weapons

In December Dn. John Chryssavgis, representing Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, presented testimony before a hearing at the US Department of Energy, the agency responsible for nuclear weapons. He opposed development and production of a “new generation” of nuclear weapons. Extracts from his statement follow:

“As theological advisor to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, I have observed how environmental protection and peaceful coexistence among nations define his worldwide ministry, as witnessed most recently by his joint declaration with Pope Benedict during the Papal visit to Turkey.

“Why is increasing nuclear armament still uncritically considered a viable option when the sheer costs are exorbitant: human, financial, environmental and moral? … If taxpayers continue subsidizing weapons development, nuclear waste disposal, insurance against accidents (human and ecological), and the decommissioning of older facilities, then the financial expense alone of nuclear arms removes them from contention.

“Nuclear weaponry absorbs enormous intellectual and physical resources, directing scientific research away from the promotion of authentic human values toward the production of destructive devices…

“Submitting to the temptation of nuclear solutions betrays the moral fabric of the soul that directs us to solutions that benefit the whole world (environmentally) in the long-term, not the few (economically) in the short-term…

“Not only is nuclear weaponry unsustainable; it is primarily destabilizing. With the increasing danger of international terrorism – and with the US’s rightful insistence against the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran – the sheer vulnerability of nuclear facilities and weapons, combined with their leverage in the acquisition of further nuclear weapons, ought not simply to encourage the reduction, but also to oblige the elimination of nuclear arms. Nuclear dissuasion (based on the logic of fear) is no longer a valid policy or strategy.

“At the level of security, it is time to move beyond refinement to reduction of arms; and to move beyond mere deterrence to elimination of nuclear weapons. How can we ever imagine a future of peace when interests and investments increase in production of nuclear weapons and the development of facilities? Simply put, security based on force is no more legitimate than peace based on terror…

“It is not only a matter of adhering to religious principles of peace, which is justifiably the primary focus of religious institutions. It is a matter of common sense. Our world has received glimpses of the threat of nuclear destruction. Yet, we continue to blunder along the present path with all the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. A ‘Reliable Replacement Warhead’ program can be neither reliable nor responsible. What will it take for us to realize that it is not … ‘modernization’ but a return to outdated politics of fear and power. It does not simply affect specific regions or states, but ultimately threatens the security of the nation as a whole and indeed the entire planet.

“The question is … how serious we are as a nation to lead the world with an alternative vision, which interprets power differently and promotes peaceful coexistence globally. And the US surely has a unique and historical role to play for the sake of the planet’s survival and the life of future generations. At our present moral and strategic crossroads, the world needs to see the US enforce a step-by-step … reduction and even prohibition of nuclear facilities and weapons – not their replacement or refurbishment. It needs to see the US initiate cooperative security measures, not increasingly military security policies. Instead, what do they see? They see an unrestrained drive to impose absolute global superiority in weaponry. Yet, US action will invariably encourage and invite reaction from other nations. Perhaps it is time for self-reflection, for reconsideration of our grave political and moral responsibility on a global level.

“In spite of any skepticism regarding the efficacy of international institutions and instruments, building peace presupposes trust and cooperation. It implies perceiving the other as a partner and not as a threat, committing jointly to constraint and regulation. I have to wonder sometimes if the US cannot itself restore authority to international agencies and agreements. Have these agencies and agreements lost their credibility, or have we undermined this credibility?…

“Progressive and concerted decommissioning is the only viable pledge for long-term, moral, and courageous leadership.”

Iraqi Death Toll Exceeded 34,000 in 2006

The United Nations reported in January that more than 34,000 Iraqis were killed in violence last year, a figure that represents the first comprehensive annual count of civilian deaths and a vivid measure of the failure of the Iraqi government and American military to provide security.

The report was the first attempt at hand- counting individual deaths for an entire year. It was compiled using reports from morgues, hospitals and municipal authorities across Iraq, and was nearly three times higher than an estimate for 2006 compiled from Iraqi ministry tallies by The Associated Press earlier this month.

Numbers of civilian deaths have become the central indicator for the trajectory of the war, and are extremely delicate for both Iraqi and American officials. Both follow the tallies, but neither will release them. The UN said it used only official sources, most of which relied on counts of death certificates. A vast majority of Iraqi deaths are registered, at least to local authorities, so that Iraqis can prove inheritance and receive government compensation. Some deaths still go unreported, however, and the United Nations tally may in fact be lower than the true number of deaths nationwide.

About Face: Soldiers Call for Iraq Withdrawal

For the first time since Vietnam, a robust movement of active-duty US military personnel has publicly surfaced to oppose a war in which they are serving. Those involved are petitioning Congress to withdraw American troops from Iraq. Sixty percent of the signers have served in the Iraq war. Their statement is brief: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

The appeal’s initiators are Jonathan Hutto and David Rogers. Hutto, 29, works in communications on an aircraft carrier. Rogers, 34, is quartermaster on a frigate. They’ve been friends since boot camp three years ago.

The petition was presented in January to Congressman Dennis Kucinich in January. “Just because you joined the military doesn’t mean your constitutional rights are suspended,” said Hutto, a petty officer third class and 1999 Howard University graduate. “True patriotism is having a questioning attitude about the government.”

The idea for the within-the-ranks antiwar group came after Hutto read Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War by David Cartwright. Hutto showed the book to Rogers. They invited Cartwright to come to Norfolk.

“I was so impressed by the seriousness of the discussion,” said Cartwright, who teach- es at the University of Notre Dame. He said “it takes guts for active military members to speak out, but they do it respectfully.”

Signers include:

Kevin Torres, 23, from Brooklyn, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne who has served two tours in Iraq. “I felt like with our being there, we were making more enemies,” he said. “The people hated us. They wanted us out of the city.”

Liam Madden, 22, a Marine sergeant from Vermont, spent seven months on the ground in Iraq. “I saw Iraq struggling to get on its feet and failing to do so – despite the best efforts of American military,” he said. “I have nothing against the military or my experience. It’s the policy I oppose.” One of the signers, Navy Lieut. Commander Mark Deaden of San Diego, enlisted in 1997 and is still considering the possibility of a Navy career. “So this was a very difficult decision for me to come to. I don’t take this decision lightly,” he says, but after two deployments in Iraq, he said that signing the Appeal was not only the right thing to do but also gave him personal closure. “I’m expressing a right of people in the military to contact their elected representatives, and I have done nothing illegal or disrespectful.”

Pope, Ecumenical Patriarch unite in Istanbul on “Christian Europe”

On a visit to Istanbul, Pope Benedict XVI prayed with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that progress would be made in overcoming ancient divisions.

“The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel,” said Benedict at a service on 30 November with Bartholomew. They met in the Church of St George on the feast of St. Andrew, the apostle and brother of St. Peter who preached after the death of Jesus in Constantinople, which is now Istanbul. Benedict and Bartholomew signed a joint declaration in which both noted the need to “preserve Christian roots” in European culture while remaining “open to other religions and their cultural contributions.”

In his homily, Bartholomew said, “We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity.” Pope Benedict said his four-day trip to Turkey was aimed at resuming the process to full unity between the two oldest paths for Christianity, which remained divided, particularly over the degree of papal authority. The Ecumenical Patriarch has a special role among Orthodox bishops, though other Orthodox churches note his title in Latin is “primus inter pares” – first among equals. Part of their declaration was posted on the web site of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (www.patriarchate.org). In it, the Pope and Bartholomew said, “We evaluated positively the path towards the shaping of the European Union. The key players in this huge endeavor will surely take into account all … non-negotiable rights, especially religious freedom, which is proof and assurance of respect for all other freedoms…

“In every initiative for union, minorities, with their cultural rights and religious distinctiveness, should be protected. In Europe, both Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics, while remaining open to other religions and their contribution to culture, should unite their efforts to safeguard Christian roots, traditions and values, in order to preserve respect for history and to also contribute to the culture of a future Europe.”

Pope, Greek Orthodox Leader Forge Anti-Secular Alliance

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, agreed in December to join forces in defending Christian values against growing secularism in Europe.

In a joint declaration signed at the Vatican, the two leaders called for “constructive theological dialogue” on the road to Christian unity, appealed for an end to religious violence and reaffirmed the Churches’ opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

“We come,” Archbishop Christodoulos said, “to visit the eminent theologian and university professor, the assiduous researcher of ancient Greek thought and of the Greek Fathers of the East; but also the visionary of Christian unity and cooperation of religions to ensure the peace of the whole world.”

He said his visit offered the opportunity “to undertake a new stage on the common path of our Churches to address the problems of the present-day world.”

He expressed his commitment to “overcome the dogmatic obstacles that hinder the journey of unity in faith” until Orthodox and Catholics attain “full unity,” and can “commune in the precious Body and Blood of the Lord in the same Chalice of Life.”

“Europe,” Pope Benedict said, “cannot be an exclusively economic reality. Catholics and Orthodox are called to offer their cultural, and above all spiritual, contribution. It is necessary to develop cooperation between Christians in each country of the European Union, so as to face the new risks that confront the Christian faith, namely growing secularism, relativism and nihilism.”

The meeting was the first at the Vatican between the head of the Roman Catholic Church and Greece’s most senior cleric. Pope Benedict gave Archbishop Christodoulos two links of the chain with which Apostle Paul was held as a prisoner.

Met. Kirill Urges Orthodox to Stay with World Council of Churches

A senior Russian Orthodox bishop said in November that it was important for the Church to continue its participation in the World Council of Churches. Self-isolation would not serve the Church, he said in a radio interview in Moscow.

Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Department of External Church Affairs, told Radio Mayak that the World Council of Churches is the best forum for the Russian Orthodox Church to bear witness and understand the state of contemporary Christianity. “On that platform,” he said, “we have the opportunity to immediately, instantaneously, see what is happening in the Christian world … to form a clear understanding of where contemporary Christianity is heading, to bear witness to our position and convince others.” He was responding to a listener’s question during a call-in as part of the broadcast. Kirill spoke of the dangers of cutting ties with the world, both in the religious arena and beyond.

“If you take it further, then Russia should go into isolation, withdraw from the UN, from regional organizations,” he said. “Can we live in isolation in the modern world? This is suicide.”

Kirill described in Biblical terms the only acceptable reason for withdrawal from the WCC: “When we understand that the World Council of Church is ‘the council of the wicked’, then we will leave, but for now one doesn’t get this impression,” he said. [Sonia Kishkovsky/ENI]

British Christians, Muslims Unite to Keep Religion in Christmas

Britain’s Christian-Muslim Forum has strongly criticized moves to take the religious message out of Christmas in the country on the grounds that offence might be caused to members of other faiths. The forum, launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to promote interfaith relations, draws half its membership for the Muslim community.

It warned that attempts to remove religion from the Christmas festival acted to encourage right-wing extremism. Some local governments have tried to excise references to Christianity from Christmas. One renamed their municipal celebrations “Winterval”. The statement was signed by forum leaders including the Anglican Bishop of Bolton, David Gillett and Ataullah Siddiqui, director of the Markfield Institute of Higher Education. It noted that some local authorities had decided that Christmas should be called by another non-religious name. “As Muslims and Christians together we are wholeheartedly committed to the retention of specific religious recognition for Christian festivals,” their statement said, “Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of the country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. The desire to secularize religious festivals is offensive to both communities.”

“Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianize British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda they do not hold.”

Some church leaders have criticized the British Post Office for issuing Christmas stamps with no Christian theme.

Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, the second highest person in the Church of England hierarchy, attacked “illiberal atheists, who under the cloak of secularism, insist that religion must be a private matter.”

Catholic and Orthodox Leaders Jointly Bless Icon

Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders in San Francisco came together in late November to bless an icon, and, in the process, help bridge a millennium-old divide. The two hierarchs together blessed a mosaic icon depicting the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Prior to the event, no Catholic archbishop of San Francisco is known to have participated in a service exclusively with a Greek Orthodox metropolitan, the equivalent of an archbishop. Both churches have been working for years to remedy their longtime tensions.

“We’re the spiritual children of our mother churches,” said Fr. Michael Pappas, pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco, where the event was held. Speaking before the service, Pappas said the local leaders’ actions were “a reflection of what is happening in Constantinople” (where Pope Benedict was visiting Patriarch Bartholomew).

“This is, after all, what Jesus instructed his disciples to do at the last supper,” Archbishop George Niederauer said in an interview before the service.

“That his followers be one, just as he and the father are one. We are trying to respond to that from our own perspective.”

Christian Population Shrinking in Holy Land

The death threat came on simple white fliers blowing down the streets at dawn. A group calling itself “Friends of Muhammad” accused a local Palestinian Christian of selling mobile phones carrying offensive sketches of the Muslim prophet.

While neighbors defended the merchant saying the charges in the flier were bogus, the frightened phone dealer went into hiding. Now he is thinking of going abroad.

The steady flight of the tiny Palestinian Christian minority that could lead to the faith being virtually extinct in its birthplace within several generations – a trend mirrored in many dwindling pockets of Christianity across the Islamic world.

But Christian populations are in decline nearly everywhere in Muslim lands, most notably in the Holy Land.

For decades, it was mostly economic pressures pushing Palestinian Christians to emigrate, using family ties in the West. The Palestinian uprisings – and the separation barrier started by Israel in 2002 – accelerated the departures by turning once-bustling pilgrimage sites such as Bethlehem into relative ghost towns.

The growing strength of radical Islamic movements has added distinct new worries. During the protests after the pope’s remarks in September, some of the worst violence was in Palestinian areas with churches fire- bombed and hit by gunfire.

“Most of the Christians here are either in the process of leaving, planning to leave or thinking of leaving,” said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based peace group. “Insecurity is deep and getting worse.”

The native Palestinian Christian population has dipped below 2 percent of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, down from at least 15 percent in 1950. The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land said Christians could become “extinct” in the region within 60 years. “It certainly doesn’t look good for us,” said Mike Salman, a Palestinian Christian who has conducted studies on demographic trends.

“Here is where Jesus was born and over there, across the hill in Jerusalem, is where he was crucified,” a Christian restaurant owner, Ibrahim Shomali, said. “We Christians now feel like we are on the cross.” Some are trying to change the momentum. Groups dedicated to Muslim-Christian cooperation are active.

During the protests over Benedict’s remarks, militiamen from Islamic Jihad vowed to protect a West Bank church. A poll released Oct. 18 by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found 91 percent of respondents opposed attacking churches to protest Benedict’s comments.

These days Palestinian Christians – dominated by Greek Orthodox and Latin rite churches – face questions about whether their hearts lie in their homeland or in the West. It gets even more complicated because of the strong support for Israel and Jewish settlers from American evangelical Christians.

“We are stuck in no man’s land,” said a leading Palestinian Christian activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of reported death threats.

“In the eyes of the West, we are Arabs. In the eyes of Arabs, we are a fifth column.” At the St. Theodosius Monastery, a site with a Christian history dating to the fifth century, the Greek Orthodox caretaker, Father Ierotheos, said he mostly remains behind the walls. He claims he was harassed by “Muslim fanatics” for speaking about Christian fears on a local television show. “It’s a jungle for us now,” he said.

US Prison Population Sets Record

In the USA, a record 7 million people – one in every 32 U.S. adults – were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to a Justice Department report released in Decameter.

Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to the report. More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more.

Men still far outnumber women, but the female prison population is growing faster. Over the past year, the female population in state or federal prison increased 2.6 percent and the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year’s end, 7 percent of inmates were women.

The study found that racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men – about one in 13 – are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men.

The figures are similar among women. By the end of 2005, black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and more than three times as likely as white women to be in prison.

From 1995 to 2003, inmates incarcerated in federal prisons for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.

OCA “Stunned” by Extent of Financial Abuse

Leaders of the Orthodox Church in America, who had long resisted calls for an investigation, acknowledged in December a history of financial abuse at church headquarters in Syosset, NY.

“Large amounts of church funds were used to improperly pay for personal expenses,” said a statement issued by the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council, a governing body of clergy and laity.

Church leaders heard from attorneys and accountants hired in March to investigate allegations raised by a former church treasurer and others. Their statement said they were “stunned by the magnitude of today’s revelations.”

“The severity of some of the problems could not be fully determined due to a lack of documentation. However, these abuses of church trust were determined to be centered on and around one individual and were not found to be widespread among the employees of the church,” the statement said. The report said financial controls had been circumvented since at least 1998. It cited “numerous unsubstantiated cash withdrawals.”

It said credit cards were abused, trips were reimbursed without proper documentation, there were attempts to divert money from charities and financial reports were poorly documented, untimely and sometimes even falsified.

“The Metropolitan Council will oversee the implementation of appropriate accounting procedures in the OCA’s accounting office, which will include the replacement of antiquated accounting systems,” the statement said.

“But the new direction is clear – changes need to be made in order to bring the church to the high level of accountability that is expected of it.”

The investigation will continue under a special committee led by Archbishop Job of Chicago. It will include Greg Nescott, a Pittsburgh attorney.

Mark Stokoe, a layman from Dayton, Ohio, whose Orthodox Christians for Ac- countability had documented the allegations on its Web site, was jubilant. He said he expected more details when the investigating committee reports next year.

“It’s a great day for the OCA,” he said. “It’s beginning to restore integrity to the institutions that have really been challenged. A lot of people had been losing hope that things could be changed. This shows they can be.”

Survey: 744,000 People Homeless in US in 2005

There were 744,000 homeless people in the United States in 2005, according to the an estimate issued in January by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

A little more than half were living in shelters, and nearly a quarter were chronically homeless. A majority of the homeless were single adults, but about 41 percent were in families.

The group compiled data collected by the Department of Housing and Urban Development from service providers through- out the country. It is the first national study on the number of homeless people since 1996.

Counting people without permanent addresses, especially those living on the street, is an inexact process. But the new study provides a baseline to help measure progress on the issue.

In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007

Bridges

by Mother Raphaela

We, with the whole of creation, are fallen. Along with the writers of the Old Testament, we can take that for granted. Scandal, corruption, violence, betrayal – that whole list – should not surprise us – not in ourselves, in others or in our surroundings. Our surprise and joy are found as we discover the Gospel faith that God meets us where we are, builds bridges over the walls we have constructed around ourselves in our fallen attempts to live our own lives in spite of others (including God) and by these bridges, brings us to eternal life and salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This Gospel faith – this bridge-building by God – is what we call revealed religion. One who has experienced such a revelation cannot deny it; one who has not experienced it cannot begin to comprehend it. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, Peter, but my Father in heaven…” There is a uniqueness in revelation: a choosing and a calling. “You have not chosen Me,” Christ says to His followers, “but I have chosen you.”

If God has touched us in this way, if we have experienced something of Him through His calling of us, we will know that “our ways are not His ways” (cf. Isaiah 55:8). The experience of the Christian saints down the ages has been that we cannot look at ourselves to discover what we are to be like, but at God in Whose image and likeness we are made.

Yet to look at God is to enter the realm of poetry. The saints who used many words to speak about Him remind us that no words are adequate: whatever we may think or say, His reality remains far greater and beyond our grasp. When we think He fits into our intellectual constructs, we have rather produced an idol which He will delight in destroying. Many people’s loss of faith is actually a step in the right direction – their god was too small and its destruction is sometimes the first step towards a relationship with the true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the main reasons for the crucifixion of Jesus was that those around Him could not accept that God could or would use a man to build a bridge to His creation. God could not be walking in their midst. To claim to be God, as Jesus did, was at best lunacy, at worst blasphemy.

Indeed, it took Christians over 300 years to gradually develop a vocabulary to describe their experience of God’s revelation in Jesus. Then as now, Christians have begun with the reality of the three different persons, with the fact that men and women have experienced Jesus and known Jesus. With Peter and with Martha of Bethany, they have come to see Him as “the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 16:16, John 11:27). With the apostle Thomas they have come to an overwhelming

realization that He is their Lord and their God (John 20:28). With John the Theologian, they have heard Jesus speak to Philip and say, “He who has seen Me has seen My Father” (John 14:9). They are aware that Jesus said, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30). At the same time, they have heard Jesus pray to His Father and speak of the Spirit as totally other than Himself: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will but as You will…” (Matt. 26:39) “But when the Counselor comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to Me” (John 15:26). At first, they weren’t sure how to describe all this in what we today call the language of theology. There were too many paradoxes; too many facts they could not deny yet which did not fit their view of reality. Indeed, as we continue to grow into our life in Christ, each of us goes through the same process of breakdowns in what we believe.

We do believe that God is love and that it is the nature – not just the choice – of love to pour itself out on the other. For this reason we believe God must have others as part of His very being. While some might say that creation is the other, we believe that creation mirrors what already exists within God Himself, Trinity in Unity. This mirrors our view of human persons made in the image and likeness of God: the unity of humanity does not compromise the uniqueness and integrity of persons; true bridges do not violate boundaries.

Another image of God’s revelation – His bridge-building with His creation – is found in the Biblical theme of love and marriage. In the Old Testament, the Song of Songs and the marriage of the prophet Hosea are examples of this allegory of the nature and love of God. St. Paul is explicit in the New Testament as well – for example, see Ephesians 5:31-32. To use words of theology: in love, God begets the Son and sends forth the Spirit.

Creation is seen by some as a mysterious result of the union of the Divine Son and the Spirit, just as the marriage of a man and woman normally results in the begetting of children. Nevertheless, there is a very long debate on the nature of this union that goes back at least as far as Origen and that has not yet been resolved.

Some, with Origen, have taught that intercourse between Adam and Eve was only a result of the fall; that before then, the unity they had with one another in the Garden of Eden precluded sexual relations. Those who favor this approach still teach that Christians should not have sexual relations except as a matter of catering to weakness and then only to beget children.

There is another equally venerable and Orthodox reading of Scripture, however, which teaches that human intercourse was part of God’s original plan, that love indeed always pours itself out and is by nature creative. In this view, the union of a man and women in marriage reflects the joining of God to His creation, i.e. the “other” who is created and then redeemed to share in the essence of God in theosis, without being destroyed personally. Marriage is seen as a matter of mutual support, love and respect. If children are given in response to such sharing it can only be a blessing. While a choice not to bear children could be sinful depending upon the reasons, to participate in God’s love and creativity can mean an infinite number of other things as well.

When Christian marriage (and community life) shows such a reflection of the love of the Trinity, unity is found in the harmony of differences. Even people who are close enough to know pretty well what the other is thinking and anticipate reactions and behavior, will continue to be strong individuals, not pretending that boundaries don’t exist or trying to obliterate them. Such families, communities and friendships will indeed be fruitful and rejoice as their offspring grow up, move on, become their own persons. They expect them to do different and perhaps even greater things than they are doing and understand that the main heritage they have given them is life in the Church, the Body of Christ.

The Church as well rejoices in her offspring: new missions, monasteries, national churches. Each of these groupings, when it is truly animated by the Holy Spirit, reflects the uniqueness of its time and place as well as the particular people who are called to be part of it. When the first assembly in Jerusalem saw that the gentiles who previously had been far from the Church had received the same Holy Spirit, it recognized that this new situation called for an entirely different framework if the Body of Christ was to flourish with these new members. The Church, speaking through St. James of Jerusalem, refused to place on them the full burden of the laws and traditions of Judaism (Acts 10-11). Thus was laid the groundwork for the unique, autonomous national churches which have ever since characterized the Orthodox Church, with a world-wide apostolic hierarchy descended from that assembly in Jerusalem balancing the local authority within the boundaries of each group.

For us fallen people, however, ignoring and violating boundaries comes natural- ly; building bridges does not. While as St. Paul tells us, God has been revealing Himself through His creation from the beginning of time (cf. Romans, Chapter 1), our natural fallen response is not to use creation as such a bridge to God, but rather to idolize it; to turn it into an end in itself. This is one of the chief reasons Jews and Christians have needed to place appropriate boundaries between themselves and others, so as not to lose their identity as God’s “Chosen People”; not to bow down in worship to the surrounding society or its false gods.

Yet how do we reach out to others without losing what we have to share with them? How can we make sure we are not used by those things which are meant to be used by us?

Forgiveness seems to me to be the key. Without a truly robust understanding and practice of forgiveness, Christian life is a sham, whether in marriage or community. Forgiveness cannot be something tacked on after all else fails; it is the way Christians approach life, for it is the way our God approaches us. Forgiveness means being able to look clearly at the world and those around us in true detachment, seeing that all is not well (even within ourselves) and loving in spite of that. It does not mean going through life in denial that anything is ever wrong, nor in being scandalized when it becomes obvious that evil has been perpetrated by known individuals.

Such a life of forgiveness demands letting go of control – or the illusion of control that revenge and constant defensiveness bring. It is the way to be sure that we build bridges rather than fortifications and not violate or ignore boundaries. Forgiveness is truly life-giving. Only one who has been truly seen as he or she is and then forgiven can fully understand the gift of grace. For ourselves as well, this means letting go of justification, of the desire to appear better than we are. If we do not let our God and others know us (not just know about us), we cannot know the wholeness and healing of forgiveness. And what we have not received we do not have to give to others.

There are reasons bridge-building and forgiveness are not popular and widely practiced, however. It can mean not only true detachment but also the sacrifice of everything, including the crucifixion of ourselves. It can, in actual practice, mean laying down our life for another or “for the many” as our Lord did.

For those not ready to take on such forgiveness themselves, this can be very threatening. Paradoxically, the way of bridge-building, like the way of the Cross, can be a very lonely one at times on this earth. Christ built the only true and eternal bridge for mankind to heaven when he ascended the Cross, yet that was the time when He knew Himself most forsaken by both God and man.

Death was the only right way of reaching out to us and to the world, yet it was also the way of His leaving us and the world in the flesh. While others do not always see such a leave-taking as bridge-building, when leaving is an authentic response to God as was that of Jesus, it is indeed the most fully loving action possible. Jesus knew He belonged elsewhere and could continue to love those He was leaving only by going to the Father.

For us, the Church and its liturgical life are powerful tools in making forgive- ness central to our lives. To be fully members of the Church, we must choose and make time to gather as the people of God, to “come out of the world” for definite periods. Making the choice to come faithfully for Sunday Divine Liturgy may be a real sacrifice for some, yet for the Orthodox Christian it is a necessary first step. As we are present at the liturgy, we bring our lives, ourselves, our loved ones, the whole world to offer in sacrifice – to make holy – before God.

We learn as we do this that the truest relationship we can have with others is to allow them to be themselves and to place them in God’s hands. Liturgy teaches us that this is true prayer. It is the way of radically letting go rather than always attempting to control.

Christians, called into the priesthood of all believers as the Body of Christ offering the liturgy on behalf of all and for all, become by that action the bridge between God and the world. This is a divine reality that transforms in time and eternity both those who participate and all they bring with them. We can forget this reality, for we remain ourselves, with our own personal boundaries and limitations, just as bread and wine remain bread and wine yet truly become the Body and Blood of Christ. To catch even a glimpse of this reality, however, is enough to know the God Who creates and sustains the whole universe at every instant of its being. No one can prove this truth to another. It is something that can be proven only in the crucible of life’s experience. Yet as we continue, our times of prayer will take on the force of reality and move beyond the hours of liturgy. We will continue to grow into God’s own life and will learn how to bring ourselves, one another and the whole world before God as we go about our daily lives.

We will eventually discover that the acceptance of boundaries and the building of bridges through the life-giving grace of forgiveness slowly replaces our fallen approach to life. We will find ourselves on the road to heaven with those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, holding all others up to God in prayer.

Mother Raphaela Wilkinson is the Abbess of Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in Otego, New York. She is the author of Living in Christ: Essays on the Christian Life by an Orthodox Nun and Growing in Christ, both published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg:

Early in her long life Xenia had been married to an army colonel who drank himself to death and who may have been an abusive, violent husband. Soon after his funeral, she began giving away the family fortune to the poor, a simple act of obedience to Christ’s teaching: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you have and give it to the poor … and come, follow me.” In order to prevent Xenia from impoverishing herself, relatives sought to have her declared insane. However the doctor who examined her concluded Xenia was the sanest person he had ever met.

Having given away her wealth, for some years Xenia disappeared, becoming one of Russia’s many pilgrims walking from shrine to shrine while reciting the Jesus Prayer. Some- where along the way during those hidden years, she became a Fool for Christ. When Xenia finally returned to St. Petersburg, she was wearing the threadbare remnants of her late husband’s military uniform – these are usually shown in the icons of her – and would answer only to his name, not her own. One can only guess her motives. In taking upon herself his name and clothing, she may have been attempting to do penance for his sins. Her home became the Smolensk cemetery on the city’s edge where she slept rough year-round and where finally she was buried. Xenia became known for her clairvoyant gift of telling people what to expect and what they should do, though what shesaid often made sense only in the light of later events. She might say to certain persons she singled out, “Go home and make blini [Russian pancakes].” As blini are served after funerals, the person she addressed would understand that a member of the family would soon die. She never begged. Money was given to her but she kept only an occasional kopek for herself; everything else was passed on to others.

When she died, age 71, at the end of the 18th century, her grave became a place of pilgrimage and remained so even through the Soviet period, though for several decades the political authorities closed the chapel at her grave site. The official canonization of this Fool for Christ and the re-opening of the chapel over her grave in 1988 were vivid gestures in the Gorbachev years that the war against religion was truly over in Russia.

Why does the Church occasionally canonize people whose lives are not only completely at odds with civil society but who often hardly fit ecclesiastical society either? The answer must be that Holy Fools dramatize something about God that most Christians find embarrassing, but which we vaguely recognize is crucial information.

It is the special vocation of Holy Fools to live out in a rough, literal, breath-taking way the “hard sayings” of Jesus. Like the Son of Man, they have no place to lay their heads, and, again like him, they live without money in their pockets (thus Jesus, in responding to a question about paying taxes, had no coin of his own with which to display Caesar’s image). While never harming anyone, Holy Fools raise their voices against those who lie and cheat and do violence to others, but at the same time they are always ready to embrace these same greedy and ruthless people. They take everyone seriously. No one, absolutely no one, is unimportant. In fact the only thing always important for them, apart from God and angels, are the people around them, whoever they are, no matter how limited they are. Their dramatic gestures, however shocking, always have to do with revealing the person of Christ and his mercy.

-Extract from the Holy Fools chapter of Praying with Icons (Jim Forest, Orbis Books)
In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007