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Parish Peacemaking in a Consumer Society

by Fr. Ted Bobosh

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At least in America, the parish is part of a larger matrix of the consumer attitude. When someone is really unhappy with the parish, he often simply moves on to “greener pastures.” What is revealed in this is the way in which a parish as community is very tenuous.

Parishioners often have the same relationship to the church building that birds have to a bird feeder. Birds of all kinds flock to the feeder, but they stay only long enough to be fed. They don’t live at the feeder. They nest elsewhere. They come to the feeder to be nourished but then get on with their lives and their day. It is also true of many parishes that the coffee hour is a more attractive than the liturgy itself. People flock to the coffee hour and enjoy the fellowship of close friends, then disperse to their homes and families. Of course there are some who want more community, or more in-depth

relationships, but this is hard to establish in commuter parishes, especially in a culture which values independence and individualism.

In some ways parish communities never get past the state of what Dr. Scott Peck referred to as “pseudo-community.” In pseudo-community, there is not a real commitment of people to each other. Divisive issues are avoided, swept under the rug, ignored, because the members fear a real discussion of the issues will only lead to a division within the community, or worse, a dissolution of community. So some uneasy state of passivity (rather than “pacifity,” if I might coin a word) is attained. People are reluctant to rock the boat. In such a state it is hard to make real decisions as real discussion is discouraged.

A stalemate is attained which somehow holds all powers in check and helps prevent threatening issues or people from coming to the foreground. In this state, “peacemaking” largely means accepting the status quo. Sometimes the departure of someone from the parish is the most obvious

route to peace. One contentious person in the community can be remarkably destructive. He or she can be an unfruitful branch on the vine. Sometimes the way to peace is to allow (even encourage) that person to leave. Jesus says in John’s Gospel that his Father prunes away unfruitful branches.

It may even be that the contentious person has raised an essential issue and the community may have to deal with that issue once the difficult person is gone. But it is possible that keeping that person will actually block resolution.

I think this is the most common way parishes in the West come to peace – they allow the difficult persons to leave.

Sometimes communities resolve tensions and disagreements by acknowledging that there is a bigger vision which is guiding each of them. This might happen during a church building project. Each parishioner may have an idea as to what the new building should be, but if everyone agrees on the goal, it is possible that each person can come to the conclusion that the project is

more important than their own individual ideas. Sometimes having a vision, or proper goals, can lessen problems or help the community resolve differences between members. In some ways this does bring about some self-sacrificial love, as people lay aside their personal wants in favor of what is good for the community as a whole.

Parish communities are not quite the same as monastic communities. In a monastic community, at least ideally, the members of the community share a space and their lives 100 percent of the time. Monastics cannot get away with putting on a “church face” when they show up for services. Others in the community know the individual, warts and all. They are therefore forced to deal with each others foibles, faults, debts and sins. (I didn’t say deal successfully; sometimes dealing may be denial, pretend, closing one’s eyes, looking askance, etc). They not only go to church together, but they work, eat and live together. But what can happen in such a community is that the members have to deal honestly with who the others are. They are forced to deal with others and, within themselves, with their attitudes towards these others, as the others are not going to go away at the end of liturgy.

In many parishes, people put on a “church face,” acting in a particular way with the other people at church, then resume being their usual selves when leaving the church. Sins, problems, worries, addictions, illnesses, concerns, attitudes, etc, are left outside, and thus are left untouched by the Body of Christ. They come in unwhole and leave unhealed. Parish life often encourages this duality. We come to the church to be “holy” rather than whole, leaving our unholy selves outside.

Many parishioners are not sure that they are ready or willing to deal with all that others might be bringing to church, because they each have so many burdens of their own which they are already carrying. They want someone to deal with their problems rather than have to take on the problems of others.

Often, the parish as community is not mature enough to learn about the sins and problems of everyone else. Thus parishioners, rather than coming to the parish, go to various help groups to reveal their problems and seek healing. Parishioners like to imagine that those they meet in the parish are “healthy” and “normal” folk with whom they can share interests and trust that their kids

will be okay, not people with serious sins and faults and addictions – not sinners among who “I” am the first! The parish is not viewed as a hospital for sinners and the sick, but rather a health spa. We carefully avoid the things that could lead to conflict and require reconciliation. What passes for peace

in the parish, in that case, is simply avoidance.

Fr. Ted Bobosh has been a priest for 26 years in the Orthodox Church in America.

He has been a priest at St. Paul Church, Dayton, Ohio, for 20 years. He is also an

adjunct professor at the University of Dayton.

IN COMMUNION / FALL 2006

Healing and Monasteries

by Mother Raphaela

fisherman

Men and women come to monasteries for many reasons. The primary reason is to welcome those who know they have been touched by God and want to respond by offering Him their whole life. A monastery is meant to be a place where such an offering can be made to God; where a person, having tasted the love of God, can seek to empty him or herself of his or her own fallen dreams, ambitions and agendas, in order to be filled with the love of Him who alone heals and transforms. All the ascetic disciplines of the monastic life are aimed at promoting this self-emptying, to “lay aside all earthly cares that we may receive the King of all.”

Yet a monastery is not the only place where this can or should be done. Before taking the first steps, one must test to be sure that one will be under doctors and not sick men; that the ship has a pilot and not just ignorant crew members. One who has made this discernment and decided that a certain monastery is indeed where one believes one is to live out this vocation of love and self-denial, must then accept that those who are the guides and teachers in that monastery must make a similar discernment. Just as a physician must sometimes judge that a very sick person cannot tolerate a certain drug or procedure, so those who have experience in living the monastic life know that certain people who want and need God’s healing are far too fragile for strong spiritual medicine. Many such fragile, wounded people come to monasteries. Some seek them out on their own; some are sent by friends or priests who may think that, even though they have problems, if they can put in a few rough years, they will get themselves straightened out with the help of grace and monastic discipline. They assume that anyone can persevere in a monastery if that is what they want.

Frequently, however, wounded people are not at all sure what they want. Usually they have a very distorted view of the monastic life: on the one hand, they are hoping it will be an escape from a life they have come to find intolerable, and on the other, they have real fears of its being a completely unnatural life, even resembling a concentration camp.

While a magical ability to take deeply disturbed people and have them instantly turn into saints is attributed to monasteries, the asceticism and prayer which have been the traditional means for turning sinners into saints are not popular. Americans especially live in a culture marked by extreme feats of physical endurance under unquestioning obedience to trainers for the sake of sports, conquering new realms in outer space, or simply returning to a “natural life-style.” Yet far too often much milder discipline is questioned as an aspect of the monastic life, let alone of parish life.

At least part of the reaction against asceticism may be because again, too often, disciplines have been uniformly imposed without discernment of personal, God-given needs and calling. Such arbitrary imposition of rules comes very close to the binding of burdens too hard to bear that the Lord condemned in the pharisaical direction of His day. Such an approach is far different from supporting another person in growing into what God desires, with the recognition that this differs for each one. For example, the basic ascetic discipline of obedience, if rightly under- stood, is a great safeguard against personal whims becoming one’s private religion. Yet a person in authority must exercise great discernment in the obedience he or she requests from others. Most people today, even if they do not seem to be deeply troubled or wounded, must begin the path of the ascetic life by practicing voluntary acceptance of the ordinary problems and difficulties of daily life: they should practice giving up their attachment to resentments, bitterness, the taking of offence at any questioning of their words or behavior; begin cultivating gratitude and taking up the old practice of counting one’s blessings daily. Only then can they even think of beginning to take on the silence and solitude, the prayer, fasting and other forms of self-denial that are the basic monastic medicines for the sickness of self-will and resistance to God and His love. Only those schooled in such forms of self-denial are able to accept, as further medicine, sufferings like those that many endure today in prison camps, war zones, or areas struck by natural disaster, poverty and famine, for to endure such suffering without voluntary acceptance does not lead to growth in love and grace, but only to bitterness and further wounding.

Beginners in the Christian journey have a faith far too weak to look upon any unpleasant situation, much less endure it themselves, without jumping to the conclusion that, at least in this case, God has made a mistake. Yet full Christian faith knows that God does not make mistakes. Everything, even our own sins and the evil done to us and to others, is part of the reality He has called into being and uses to work out His ultimate good purpose. This is why Orthodox Christians insist that salvation into the eternal kingdom of God from this world of sin and suffering was won only by God’s own suffering in Jesus as He hung upon the Cross.

class=This is also the reason for the strong tradition that the monastic life is a way to embrace voluntarily, in un- ion with Jesus Christ, an authentic form of living martyrdom. The Lord’s words that “He who would be a disciple of mine must take up his cross daily and follow me” and St. Paul’s dying daily to the sinful self that he might be alive to Christ, are at the heart of the Gospel message. Men and women in all walks of life have been made saints – have received healing and God’s eternal life – in no other way than through suffering, accepted in faith, while trusting entirely to Him.

Sometimes monastic community life, in an attempt to help those who come, lost and wounded, can turn into a non-ascetic, “therapeutic” environment. Indeed, many of the people who came and then left over the years have been greatly helped by monasteries through the grace of God. In the process, however, communities often come to realize that they cannot be the ones to help people who are not capable of digesting strong monastic medicine. Such beginners need special programs set up for them, but these programs may compromise community members’ own necessary efforts to live the monastic life and sometimes even tempt them to become merely psychological rather than spiritual trainers for those whose faith is not strong enough to accept the tools of ascetic healing that are a monastery’s heritage.

If a community does feel called to work with people who need such pre-monastic, therapeutic experience, it should be understood that this experience is not training for the life of the community. Such experience is primarily a chance to go back and grow up normally through some of the stages people went through earlier in harmful and damaging ways.

A very large part of growing up is finally leaving home or getting pushed out of the nest. Since the point almost always comes when leaving the community is the healthy next step for such men and women, such experience is better sought before attempting to leave home and parish life for a monastery.

While the monastic life is sometimes looked upon as a higher vocation, if God has something else in mind for a person’s life, being turned away from monastic life may lead that person to what is for them a higher calling. Christian marriage and family are not easy vocations in our world, and they are badly needed. Only parents who are struggling to grow in God’s love and the faith of the Church can raise up children to be healthy men and women.

Workplaces, not to mention homes and parishes, badly need the influence of Christians who are trying to bring God’s love and discernment into every word and action of their lives. Indeed, only such families and parishes can prepare men and women for the monastic life. God may, in His providence, have allowed the damage in the lives of some people who may be too wounded for family life or the workplace and be incapable of living with others in community, because He has something else in mind for them, also. An extreme illustration may be found in the lives of some of the “Fools for Christ,” a few of whom have been exceptionally sane and healthy people who, with the advice of their spiritual fathers, have taken on the exterior aspects of insanity as a form of asceticism in order to go beyond the purely social ego. Most, however, seem to have been mentally or emotionally damaged people, living in situations where no source of healing could be found for their state; where the Lord withheld the power to cast out the demons and leave them “clothed and in their right minds.” Some of them, by accepting the circumstances of their lives, have reached a real holiness. It has also been to the credit of some of those around them, that although they might not have had the skills to bring them healing, they have been able to include them in their society with care, compassion and even veneration.

Much will be expected from those who, through no merit of their own, have been given more capacity to grow and enter into God’s healing salvation. Those who see themselves as having been given lesser talents must in their turn learn to be faithful in little here in this life, in order to be accounted worthy of the fullness of healing and life in the Kingdom.

Whether or not we are following the monastic way, may we be given the strength gradually to grow into an acceptance of the limitations of our lives as well as the suffering and the cross we are asked to carry. With the saints, may we come to embrace these eagerly and joyfully.

May we see that the evil, sin and suffering around us and in our own lives can be voluntarily taken on through love, and become the means of healing unto eternal life in God’s kingdom of love.

Mother Raphaela Wilkinson is the Abbess of Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in Otego, New York. She is the author of two books, 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 / FALL 2006

Healing Our Damaged World

by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia

In all our ecological endeavors, we are called to keep in view not only our generation and its immediate needs, but also the well-being and happiness of women, men and children as yet unborn. The vast industrial and financial corporations in the world around us are concerned for the most partwith short-term profit. They lack a firm commitment to the distant future. But we, as ecologically-concerned Christians, are required to take a long-term view. Our perspective is inter-generational.

By what means, then, shall we safeguard the creation for future generations? What symbol shall we take to guide and inspire us in our intergenerationalprogram? Let us not underestimate the significance of symbols. The human animal, it has been rightly said, is not just a logical animal, but, far more fundamentally, a creative animal, and this creativity we express above all through our ability to devise symbols. We are symbol-forming animals, and if we lose touch with our capacity for symbolic thinking, ourimaginative vision will be grievously impoverished.As a guiding symbol for our ecological thinking, I would the vast mosaic Gemmata. Behind it there is the firmament of heaven, filled with stars, and in the center of the Cross, if we look carefully, we can make out a human face.This is the face of Christ, and the mosaic as a whole – although this is not at once obvious – depicts the Transfiguration of Christ. The green hill is Mount Tabor, the twelve sheep are the apostles; and the three sheep at the top of the hill are Peter, James and John, the three chosen disciples whom Jesus took with him up the mountain and who saw him transfigured in glory, as his face shone with divine light and his clothes became dazzling white.

The mosaic in Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, dating from the middle of the sixth century, is in fact one of the two earliest representations of the Transfiguration in Christian art. The other early depiction, more or less contemporary with that in Ravenna, is to be seen in the apse of the main church in the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai. In this second case the iconography is more explicit and familiar. There is no Crux Gemmata. In

the center stands a full-length figure of Christ, surrounded by a blue mandorla, with shafts of uncreated light radiating from him, while below him the three apostles are shown, not as sheep but in human form. Within the entire Gospel story, the Transfiguration of Christ stands out as the ecological event par excellence. What, then, do these two mosaics, andmore especially, that in Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, have to tell us about our work for the environment, about the ecological program that we are undertaking, not for ourselves alone, but for all future generations? Extending the Mystery of the Transfiguration:

Let us consider three key points. In the first place, let us reflect on the basic significance of the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration. It shows us that matter can be transfused into spirit. It shows us, that is to say, how material things – not only Christ’s face, hands an feet, but also his clothes; and not only the body of Christ, but also those of the three disciples upon whom the rays of light fall; and not they alone, but likewise the grass, trees, flowers and rocks of the mountainside which also share in the radiance that emanates from Christ – all these can be transformed, rendered luminous, filled with translucence and glory. TheTransfiguration reveals the Spirit-bearing potentialities of all material things.

Christ, so the event on Mount Tabor makes clear, came to save not our souls alone, but also our bodies. Moreover, we human beings are not saved from but with the world. In and through Christ – and, by virtue of Christ’s

grace, in and through each one of us – the whole material creation, as Saint Paul expresses it, “will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtainthe freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

We human beings, in other words, are called to continue and to extend the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration on the mountain. As Metropolitan John of Pergamon has affirmed, the distinctive characteristic of the human animal is not so much that we are a logical animal, but rather that we are an animal that is creative. Endowed as we are with freedom and self-awareness,entrusted with the power of conscious choice – “sub-creators” formed in theimage of God the Creator, living icons of the living God – we have the capacity not merely to manufacture or produce but to create, to set our personal seal upon the environment, to reveal new meanings within nature: in a word, to transfigure. Through our creative powers, through science, technology, craftsmanship and art, we enlarge the radiance of the transfigured Christ, revealing in all material things the glory that is latent within them. That is precisely what we are seeking to achieve through all our ecological initiatives.

The Beginning and the End:The mosaic of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, as we have alreadysuggested, sets before us Paradise. This brings us to a second point. The Transfiguration of Christ recalls and restores the beauty of the unfallen world; it shows us the glory and wonder of the material creation as God intended it to be. At the same time, however, Mount Tabor does not simply look back to the beginning but it also looks forward to the end. It is not merely protological, but eschatological. As Saint Basil the Great affirms, the Transfiguration is the prooimion, the prelude and inauguration of Christ’s second and glorious coming (PG 29:400CD).

What is true of the Transfiguration is true also of our ecological work. This too is teleological and eschatological. We are not seeking to return to some supposedly “ideal” situation in the past, but we are advancing towards a future as yet largely beyond our imagination; and for this very reason in all our ecological endeavors we think not only of the past or the present, but of our responsibility to generations not yet born.

Transfiguration and Sacrifice: Coming now to our third point, let us recall the Cross which dominates the Transfiguration mosaic in Sant’ Apollinare. What is it, we ask, that links Paradise in the past (Genesis 1-2) with Paradise in the future (Revelation 21-22)? There is but one answer: the Cross. Without cross-bearing, there can be no cosmic transfiguration. Without sacrifice and kenosis (self-emptying) after the example of Jesus Christ crucified, there can be no ecological renewal. As the Ecumenical Patriarch will be telling us tomorrow, it is precisely sacrifice that constitutes the missing dimension in your work for the environment.

doves mosaic

While it may at first seem paradoxical that the Transfiguration should be indicated in the Sant’ Apollinare mosaic through the figure of the Cross, this is in fact entirely appropriate. In the Gospel story the Transfiguration and the Crucifixion are closely linked, and chronologically there is no great gap between the two events. The Transfiguration occurred as Christ was mak- ing his last journey to Jerusalem, only a short time before he was to die on the Cross. The connection, however, is spiritual as well as chronological. It is no coincidence that in the conversation on the road to Caesarea Phillippi immediately prior to the ascent up to the mountain, Christ insists on cross-bearing as an essential element in disciple- ship: “If anyonewants to be my follower, let him deny himself, take up his cross and

follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

In Christ’s life, as in the life of each Christian, glory and suffering go together. Moreover, during the actual moment of his Transfiguration, what Jesus speaks about with Moses and Elijah is precisely his coming “exodus” or departure at Jerusalem, that is to say, his imminent death (Luke 9:31). In the midst of the light of Tabor, there is planted the Cross. Most strikingly of all, exactly the same three disciples who accompany Christ at his Transfiguration are likewise present with him at his agony in the garden of Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37). Witnesses of his uncreated splendor, they are witnesses also of his utter dereliction.

From this and from much else in the New Testament, it is clear that in Christ’s earthly experience light and darkness, joy and sorrow, are intimately connected. The mysterium Crucis (“mystery of the cross”) and the mysterium Gloriae (mystery of the glory) are a single and undivided mystery. Between the two hills Tabor and Calvary there is no great distance. If we divorce Christ’s Transfiguration from his Crucifixion, then we distort the meaning of both alike. As Saint Paul insists, “They crucified the Lord of glory” (Corinthi- ans 2:8).

What is true of Christ is true also of each Christian. Sometimes in the window of funeral directors I have seen a notice stating: “Crosses or crowns to order.” But there is in fact no alternative. As William Penn shrewdly observed, “No cross, no crown.” It is only through the willing acceptance of suffering that we can come to understand the meaning of glory. To be a Christian is to share, at one and the same time, in the self-emptying and sacrifice of the Cross, and in the overwhelming joy of the Transfiguration and the Resurrection. To be transfigured with Christ does not mean that we escape

all suffering; it means that we are to find transfiguration in the suffering. The transfigured Christ offers not a way around but through. This teaching about suffering and glory, indeed, is in no way limited to Christianity. The other great faiths affirm the same, each in its characteristic way.

All this needs to be applied to our ecological work, whether for our own or for future generations. There can be no transformation of the environment without self-denial, no fundamental renewal of the cosmos without voluntary

sacrifice. In Christ’s words, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground an dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Gain comes through loss, life through death,

transfiguration through cross-bearing.

Faith, Hope, Love: Such are three ways in which the mosaic in the apse of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe can help us to understand our environmental vocation. As a further guideline in our ecological endeavors, we cannot do

better than take as our motto the familiar words of Saint Paul, “And now there remain three things: faith, hope and love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

Faith: For our present purpose this signifies above all faith in the essential goodness and beauty of the world, in the basic, inalienable, inexhaustible value of the universe. As is said in the opening chapter of the Bible: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). In the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, the final words here are lian kala, which are stronger in impact than the English “very good”; the Greek means “altogether good and beautiful.” The goodness of the world goes hand in hand with its beauty, and this beauty is apparent not only to the romantic artist, painting a sunset, but equally to the physicist or biologist.

The Greek word for beautiful, kalos, is from the same root as the verb kaleo, signifying “I call, invite,” and here we discern the primary characteristic of beauty: it calls out to us, draws us to itself, it is intrinsically attractive. Unless we feel the beauty and attractiveness of the world around us, our ecological efforts will be tragically weakened. It is all too true that human selfishness and sin have obscured this cosmic beauty, but none the less the world still remains a place of joy and awe. If we are to save the world for future generations, we need to renew our sense of wonder. As Plato insisted,

“The beginning of philosophy is to feel a sense of wonder” (Theaetetus 155D). Such also is the beginning of ecology.

Hope: This is also an indispensable element in our ecological vision. As Cardinal Casper has reminded us, our task is not to curse, but to bless; not to anathematize, but to convey hope to others. We have already seen how true ecology is not nostalgic, but eschatological. Our faces should be turned towards the future, not the past. We are not seeking to return to some hypothetical “golden age”; and it is not enough to be totally immersed in the immediate present. We need also to be forward-looking, with our gaze fixed in firm hope upon emerging possibilities, as yet no more than dimly envisaged. Without this creative hope, without this far-reaching vision, we shall fail the generations to come.

Love: “The greatest of these is love,” adds Paul (1 Cor 13:13). Let us not forget the words of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania: “People protect only what they genuinely love. We cannot save what we do not love. There can be no deep knowledge, and certainly no true wisdom, without love; and equally there can be no cosmic transfiguration without love.”

I remember the teaching of the geronta [elder] on the island of Patmos, Father Amphilochios (+1970) whom I knew when I was deacon at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian. “Do you know,” he used to say, “that God gave us one more commandment, Love the trees.” Whoever does not love the trees, so he believed, does not love God. “When you plant a tree,” he affirmed, “you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God’s blessing.” An ecologist long before ecology had become fashionable, when hearing the confessions of the local farmers, he used to assign to them as an epitimion (a penance) the task of planting a tree. The consequences of his teaching and his practice are visible for all to see: in several areas on the island of Patmos, where at the start of the twentieth century the hillside was bare and stony, today there are woods of pine and eucalyptus.

Let us then love the trees, and let us love the whole of creation, “every grain of sand of it,” as Dostoevsky says. Let us do so with a love that is hope-filled, forward-reaching and inter-generational. Let us begin here and now to plant trees, both material and noetic, which will perhaps require many decades before they grow to full maturity – trees beneath whose shelter in the future not we but our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, will be able to sit with security and eucharistic joy.

Bishop Kallistos, now retired, was for many years Spalding Lecturer in Eastern Orthodox Studies at the University of Oxford. He leads the Greek parish in the same city. His books include The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way. His essay was originally presented as a lecture at the 2002 Symposium on the Adriatic Sea initiated by Patriarch Bartholomew.

IN COMMUNION / FALL 2006

Do you wish to be made whole?

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Christ with Lamb

There are many passages in the Gospel in which Christ, turning to a person who is sick in mind or in body, asks a question, and this question is always: “Do you wish to be made whole?” This phrase is important because it implies something which is vaster and more complete

than simply the restoration of health: a return to the condition that was the sick person’s before illness attacked him. Very often illness is the result of the way of life which we lead, of our folly, or it is the result of heredity or of outer conditions. All this is within the compass of our situation in a world which, from a Christian point of view, i s a fallen world, or, if you prefer, a distorted world, a world that has lost its harmony, its wholeness, or has not attained it.
Whatever way you look at it, our world is a broken one.

A thing that has been striking me quite a lot in the last years is why does Christ ask, “Do you w ant to be made whole?” Isn’t it obvious that any sane person will say: “Of course I do,” – with the emphasis on the phrase “of course.” “Why are you asking a silly question? Who wishes to be ill?” And yet, I think it is a very important question, because, in terms of the Gospel, to be made whole means not simply getting rid of one’s physical illness but of being reintegrated to a quality of life which one did not possess before and which may be given us on condition, the condition being that being made whole, being restored to health, means that we must take responsibility for our bodily and mental condition in a way in which we didn’t do before. To be healed physically is perhaps a small image of being restored to life, having come to the brink of d eath. The life which would have continued within us without this healing act of God would have been a life that gradually deteriorated more and more and would bring us to dying, a gradual disintegration either of our mental condition or our physical condition. If we are given back a wholeness which we had lost, or perhaps which we never possessed before, it means that the life which is ours now after healing is not simply for us to use any way we choose. It is a gift. It is not ours, in a way. We were dead, we were dying, we are brought back to a plenitude of life and this
plenitude is not ours – it is a gift.

So that in terms of the Gospel, as I understand it, when Christ says: “Do you wish to be made whole,” he implies: “Supposing I do it? Are you prepared to lead a life of wholeness? Or do you want Me to make you whole in order to go back to what destroyed this wholeness, all that destroyed you in body and soul?” This is a question which stands before each patient, although most patients have no idea of the question.

Another aspect of wholeness restored is revealed in Christ’s words: “Go and sin no more.” We must realize that when we speak of healing in Christianterms we do not speak simply of a power possessed by God or by His saints or by people who, being neither saints nor God, are possessed of a natural gift to restore health to enable us to continue to live in the way in which we

lived before, to remain the same, unchanged. God does not heal us in order that we should go back to our sinful condition. He offers us newness of life, not the old life which we have already lost. And the new life which is offered us is no longer ours. It is his. It’s a gift of his, a present. Thinking in spiritual terms, it is true. Because what is sin? We define sin all the time as moral infringement, but it is much more than this: it is the very thing of which I was speaking. It is a lack of wholeness. When we think of ourselves:

I am divided – mind against heart, heart against will, body against all the rest. We are all not only schizophrenic, but schizo-everything. We are like a broken mirror. That is the condition of sin: it is not so much that the mirror doesn’t reflect well. It is the fact that it is broken. That is the problem. You can, of course, try to take a small piece of it and see what you can see, but it is still a broken mirror. This brokenness of ours within corresponds to a brokenness in our relationships with other people. We are afraid of them, we are envious of them, we are greedy, and what not. So it creates a whole relation of sinfulness and indeed it applies supremely to God, because it all results from our having lost our harmony with God. The saints are people who are in harmony with God, nothing more, nothing less, simply that. And as the result of being in harmony with God, they can then be in harmony within themselves and with other people.

Let me want suggest something which you may find difficult to take. Then in a way, whether one is healed physically or not becomes a secondary thing, not to our relatives, not to our friends, but to the person concerned. What matters is wholeness being restored. Once the wholeness is restored, if together with it goes a physical healing, good. And if it doesn’t, that may also
be good.

Metropolitan Anthony, former head of the Diocese of Sourozh, UK, died 4 August 2003. Encounter, a collection of his writings, has been published by Darton, Longman & Todd, London. The same publisher has issued a biography, This Holy Man, by
Gillian Crow. This is an excerpt from a talk given on 25 November 1987, copyright by the Estate of Metropolitan Anthony. Metropolitan Anthony Library: http://www.metropolit-anthony.orc.ru/eng/

IN COMMUNION / FALL 2006

Healing and Peacemaking

We are called by Christ to be peacemakers. Those who make peace are witnesses to the Kingdom of God and are regarded by Christ as God’s own children. We see in Christ’s life a constant witness to what peacemaking involves and, paradoxically, the dangers to which one is exposed by refusing to be anyone’s enemy. Another word for peacemaking is healing. What peacemakers attempt to do in a sicksociety is similar to what physicians attempt to do in caring for the sick. Sickness is a kind of war within the body just as division, injustice, crime, violence, conflict and war are social illnesses. The peacemaker is someone working to heal damaged or broken relationships, whether in the home, the community, the work place, between religious groups in conflict, and between nations. In this issue of In Communion we are looking at aspects of illness, healing and peacemaking.

The engraving on the right, in recalling Christ’s healing of the man born blind, is also a reminder of a more widespread blindness: our inability to see the image of God in the those around us. May Christ heal our eyes. St. Ambrose of Milan, a bishop of the fourth century, uses the metaphor of healing in this passage from an essay on the duties of the clergy:

“Some ask whether, in case of a shipwreck, a man of wisdom should have first right to a plank rather than an ignorant sailor. Although it seems better for the common good that a wise man rather than a fool should survive ship-wreck, yet I do not think that a Christian, a just and a wise man, ought to savehis own life by the death of another; just as when he meets with an armed robber he cannot return his blows, lest in defending his life he should stain his love toward his neighbor. The verdict on this is plain and clear in the books of the Gospel. ‘Put away your sword, for whoever lives by the sword will perish with the sword.’ (Mt 26:52) What robber is more hateful than the persecutor who came to kill Christ? But Christ would not be defended from the wounds of the persecutor, for He willed to heal all by His wounds.”

Wisdom from St. John Chrysostom

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As it is not to be imagined that the fornicator and the blasphemer can partake of the sacred Table, so it is impossible that he who has an enemy, and bears malice, can enjoy the holy Communion…. I forewarn, and testify, and proclaim this with a voice that all may hear! Let no one who has an enemy draw near the sacred Table or receive the Lord’s Body! Let no one who draws near have an enemy! Do you have an enemy? Do not draw near! Do you wish to draw near? Be reconciled, and then draw near, and touch the Holy Gifts!

– Homily 20

We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled! But with a brother, never be at enmity in thy heart. – Homily 20

Praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of law. – Homily: Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren

How great punishment must they deserve, who, far from themselves forgiving, do even entreat God for vengeance on their enemies, and as it were diametrically transgress this law; and this while He is doing and contriving all, to hinder our being at variance one with another? For since love is the root of all that is good, He, removing from all sides whatever mars it, brings us together, and cements us to each other.

– Homily 19: On St. Matthew: On the Lord’s Prayer

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye, and the feet, and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ears by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?

– Homily III:8 On the Statutes

For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force … it is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice.

– Six Books on the Priesthood

Pro-Life Resources

From the early days of Christianity, the protection of human life — from the womb to old age — has been a major priority for the Church. Safeguarding unborn children is a topic that has often been addressed in the pages of In Communion. A partial list of articles and essays on this topic follows. (For a complete listing, use the site’s search engine, inserting the word “abortion”.)

Abortion and the Early Church

The Sacredness of Newborn Life

The Bitter Price of Choice

Many Offering Death

Treehouse: Saving Lives One by One

True Free Choice

Zoe Means Life

On Homicide

The Troublesome Word “Murder”

Victims and Heroes

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

Changing a Society Which has De-Valued Women and De-Humanized the Unborn

On Abortion and Over-Population

Learning to Be Peacemakers

The Other As Icon

The Great Human Rights Issue of Our Time

On Behalf of Unborn Children

Cleansing By Tears

* * *

Wisdom from St. John Chrysostom

johnchrysostom

As it is not to be imagined that the fornicator and the blasphemer can partake of the sa-

cred Table, so it is impossible that he who has an enemy, and bears malice, can enjoy the holy

Communion…. I forewarn, and testify, and proclaim this with a voice that all may hear! Let no

one who has an enemy draw near the sacred Table or receive the Lord’s Body! Let no one

who draws near have an enemy! Do you have an enemy? Do not draw near! Do you wish to

draw near? Be reconciled, and then draw near, and touch the Holy Gifts! – Homily 20

We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled!

But with a brother, never be at enmity in thy heart. – Homily 20

Praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of law.

– Homily: Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren

How great punishment must they deserve, who, far from themselves forgiving, do even

entreat God for vengeance on their enemies, and as it were diametrically transgress

this law; and this while He is doing and contriving all, to hinder our being at variance

one with another? For since love is the root of all that is good, He, removing from all

sides whatever mars it, brings us together, and cements us to each other.

– Homily 19: On St. Matthew: On the Lord’s Prayer

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him.

If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but

also the eye, and the feet, and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the

hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the

eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ears by not

listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.

For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our broth-

ers?

– Homily III:8 On the Statutes

For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force

… it is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither

have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know

how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force,

but by choice.

– Six Books on the Priesthood

Cover letter for In Communion issue 31

Cover letter for the Fall 2003 issue of In Communion:

November 2003

It may be the most familiar of all icons: the Vladimir Mother of God. The Church regards this as one of the icons actually painted by the hand of St. Luke. The original is kept in a bullet-proof glass case in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Even in a museum setting, it inspires prayer.

The copy reproduced at the left — a lacquered paper print mounted on a thin piece of dark wood — has its own special history. It was a gift to OPF founder Mariquita Platov when she visited Russia in 1928. Quita — a young woman fresh out of college — had decided to visit the Soviet Union. It was then only a decade since the Revolution. The smoke from civil war was still in the air. Stalin was fully in charge. A nightmare time was underway in which Christians were suffering the worst persecution of the past two thousand years.

Quita was deeply touched by the wordless message of the icon: Christ embracing his mother; his mother supporting her son while drawing our attention to him; Christ’s bare feet — feet that walked on the same troubled world that we stand upon; the climate of love. Even in a copy, one can sense the history of Russia in the icon’s battered surface.

Until that trip, Quita had given very little thought to Orthodox Christianity. What most impressed her were not the Communist posters promising an earthly paradise but rather the way suffering believers gathered in any church that was still open, and the intensity with which they prayed. Her experience of Christianity in Stalin’s Russia marked the beginning of her journey to Orthodoxy. She was chrismated in New York City ten years later. (The icon was Quita’s gift to me when I was chrismated in 1988, not long before she asked me to serve as OPF secretary. For more of the story of OPF’s history, see the article “Learning to be Peacemakers” that starts on page 9 of the latest In Communion.)

It seems appropriate that this issue also includes an article about a Russian whose family was driven to the West by the Revolution. Metropolitan Anthony was one of the Church’s most remarkable bishops of recent times. An influence in shaping the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, he wanted us to be not pacifists but “men and women of peace.” You will see what he meant by this distinction in the article that starts on the first page.

While writing, let me once again appeal for your help to keep the Orthodox Peace Fellowship going. Subscription payments alone are not enough. Especially now that we have a staff person on each side of the Atlantic, we need to substantially enlarge our base of support. Please send a donation. There is already a community of donors who make monthly or quarterly donations. Might you join that core group? Without their help, OPF would have achieved much less. Could you manage 15 euros a month? Or 20? It would make such an enormous difference in our capacity to serve the Church.

Please help us take the next step forward.

in Christ’s peace,

Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary

Cover letter for In Communion issue 31

Cover letter for the Fall 2003 issue of In Communion:

November 2003

It may be the most familiar of all icons: the Vladimir Mother of God. The Church regards this as one of the icons actually painted by the hand of St. Luke. The original is kept in a bullet-proof glass case in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Even in a museum setting, it inspires prayer.

The copy reproduced at the left — a lacquered paper print mounted on a thin piece of dark wood — has its own special history. It was a gift to OPF founder Mariquita Platov when she visited Russia in 1928. Quita — a young woman fresh out of college — had decided to visit the Soviet Union. It was then only a decade since the Revolution. The smoke from civil war was still in the air. Stalin was fully in charge. A nightmare time was underway in which Christians were suffering the worst persecution of the past two thousand years.

Quita was deeply touched by the wordless message of the icon: Christ embracing his mother; his mother supporting her son while drawing our attention to him; Christ’s bare feet — feet that walked on the same troubled world that we stand upon; the climate of love. Even in a copy, one can sense the history of Russia in the icon’s battered surface.

Until that trip, Quita had given very little thought to Orthodox Christianity. What most impressed her were not the Communist posters promising an earthly paradise but rather the way suffering believers gathered in any church that was still open, and the intensity with which they prayed. Her experience of Christianity in Stalin’s Russia marked the beginning of her journey to Orthodoxy. She was chrismated in New York City ten years later. (The icon was Quita’s gift to me when I was chrismated in 1988, not long before she asked me to serve as OPF secretary. For more of the story of OPF’s history, see the article “Learning to be Peacemakers” that starts on page 9 of the latest In Communion.)

It seems appropriate that this issue also includes an article about a Russian whose family was driven to the West by the Revolution. Metropolitan Anthony was one of the Church’s most remarkable bishops of recent times. An influence in shaping the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, he wanted us to be not pacifists but “men and women of peace.” You will see what he meant by this distinction in the article that starts on the first page.

While writing, let me once again appeal for your help to keep the Orthodox Peace Fellowship going. Subscription payments alone are not enough. Especially now that we have a staff person on each side of the Atlantic, we need to substantially enlarge our base of support. Please send a donation. There is already a community of donors who make monthly or quarterly donations. Might you join that core group? Without their help, OPF would have achieved much less. Could you manage 15 euros a month? Or 20? It would make such an enormous difference in our capacity to serve the Church.

Please help us take the next step forward.

in Christ’s peace,

Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary