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Holy Wisdom, Holy Foolishness

January 2007

st. xenia

Dear In Communion reader,

On the cover of this issue of In Communion is an icon of one of the Holy Fools on the church calender, St. Xenia of St. Petersburg. In the summer of 1988, while attending a Council of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery north of Moscow, I had the privilege of witnessing the canonization of nine saints, of which St. Xenia was one. At the time I knew nothing about her, but was impressed by the surge of joy that filled the hall when her icon was carried through the assembly. That day I began to know her and at the same time started on a journey of better understanding the importance of Holy Fools in the life of the Church.

It was St. Paul who asked: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

Peacemakers are sometimes seen as being among the world’s fools. The “real world,” we are told, is a world of war and preparation for war; the sane are those who have made their peace with conflict and lose no sleep over the casualties of violence. “Blessed are they who mourn” is made over into “Blessed are the well adjusted” and “Blessed are they who march where they are told.”

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship has a role to play in encouraging the vocation of Christ-revealing foolishness, the divine foolishness of resisting the contagion of enmity.

Would you take a moment to help keep OPF going? We need your support. Subscription payments and annual dues fall far short of our needs. We have two part-time staff members, myself and Sheri San Chico. We are paid very little for our many hours of work, but OPF’s income doesn’t justify more adequate payment. We also have a part-time web master. In addition there are all the usual expenses: office and publication costs, postage, telephone, travel, etc.

If you have in fact made a recent gift or are one of those who makes regular donations or donate volunteer time, thank you! You are a God-send. If you aren’t, please consider becoming part of our community of committed donors. If you can’t manage a monthly or quarterly donation but can make an occasional special donation, please do so. Thank you!

We depend on our supporters to make at least one donation annually, but without those who give more than once a year, and give more than the minimum, we would have to call it a day.

In Christ’s peace, Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary

In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007

Love Your Enemy As Yourself

[Lecture delivered at St Herman’s Orthodox Church in Edmonton, Canada, 15 October 2006]

by Jim Forest

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

– Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:44)

Passenger planes taken by terrorists fly into the two towers of the World Trade Center; the buildings collapse and thousands are killed. Many more are wounded. Still more now suffer from having breathed in the toxic airbourne debris.

During the Second World War, entire cities – London, Manchester, Birmingham, Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki – become targets of war. Everyone without exception was a target – children, the ill, grandparents, ordinary people. They died in countless thousands.

In the Soviet era, millions were taken away, some to labor camps in which it was a miracle not to die of disease, exposure, abuse, or execution. I recall visiting a place of executions in a Belorussian forest. Here, during the Stalin years, people were brought by the truck-load each day and one by one were shot in the back of the head and thrown into deep pits. When one pit was filled, another was dug. There were many pits and many similar places of execution.

We still aren’t sure how many millions were killed under the Hitler regime – Jews, gypsies, political dissidents, homosexuals, Christians who dared to resist or people simply regarded as inconvenient. As in the Soviet gulag, many died simply of the consequences of living in such condition and being worked like slaves. A vast number were simply executed. The murders were done not only in concentration camps but also in hospitals. In the latter, people regarded as genetically or mentally inferior were killed. It was regarded as “mercy killing.”

In Communist Albania it became a criminal activity to make the sign of the cross, to have an icon in one’s home or to dye an egg red at Easter. Every church, monastery and seminary without exception was closed. The smallest indication of religious belief could be severely punished. Most priests and many lay people died in concentration camps.

One could spend hour upon hour briefly describing, country by country, the many horrors of violence that human beings have suffered just in the past hundred years. I mention a few examples only to point out that, when we talk about Christ’s commandment to love one’s enemies, the beginning point is the recognition that we have enemies and that evil deeds occur every minute of the day. Often times nationalistic, racial or ideologically-driven movements develop in such a way that enormous numbers of people find themselves in grave danger.

There are people who seem to have entirely lost any sense of the sacredness of life and abuse and murder innocent people, even children – some on a large scale, others as a kind of hellish past-time. I think of my stepmother, Carla, who was shot and killed by sniper as she stepped off the bus one evening in San Francisco in 1966 after a day of service in a center for alcoholics. Such events were once rare; in more recent years they have become more common. While the rate of homicide is much lower in Canada than in the USA, probably here, too, most of us have stories to tell of awful things that happened – grave danger, abuse, or violence – to ourselves or to people we know. I am equally sure that many of us have memories of dreadful things we have done or said to others, under obedience, out of fear, or in a state of rage.

The reality of enmity is a cental theme in the Gospels. The peaceful, star-illumined Bethlehem we see in Christmas cards tells us nothing at all about the hard life the people lived there were enduring when Jesus was born. The years of Christ’s life described in the Gospels occurred in a small land under heavy, often brutal, military occupation. There was no concept of human rights. Torture and crucifixion were not rare punishments. It’s no wonder that there was a serious movement of Jewish armed resistance, the Zealots, and that conflict between Israel and Rome not many years later resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the enslavement of thousands of Jews.

So when Jesus instructed his followers, as he did in his Sermon on the Mount, to love their enemies and pray for them, it was not a teaching that would have been offered in a state of naivet by someone living in an oasis of peace, nor was it a teaching that would have been easily embraced by the suffering people who were listening to him. It’s not a teaching anyone, even in situations of relative social tranquility, takes to easily. What most of us do when we are abused by others is look for a way to return the abuse, even doing so in double measure. Say an irritating word to me and I’ll give you irritation back, multiplied by two. Hit me and I’ll hit you twice as hard. Few Jews had a kind thought regarding the uninvited Romans. Occupation troops are resented and despised. They often become the targets of deadly violence. (We see this even in cases where an occupation is meant to be humanitarian. Though on a mission that is in principle meant to be one of peacemaking and reconstruction, many Canadian soldiers have been killed or wounded in Afghanistan.)

Jesus is never just a man of words. Can you think of anything he taught that he didn’t give witness to in the way he lived and interacted with other people? I cannot.

He urged his followers to be peacemakers. In the Beatitudes, he says they will be known as God’s own children. In his own life, again and again we see both courage and nonviolence. He repeatedly gave the witness of refusing to return evil for evil. His most violent action was to use a whip of chords to chase money-lenders from the Temple because they were profaning sacred space. Many were upset, but no one was harmed. The only life endangered by his action was his own. The total number of people killed by Jesus Christ is zero.

While many people are driven by anger and vengeance, Christ taught forgiveness and again and again gave the example of forgiving others. When asked by his disciples if they must forgive as much as seven times, Christ replied: seventy times seven. Forgiveness is one of the main themes of the Lord’s Prayer, in which we ask God to forgive us only insofar as we have forgiven others. Perhaps nothing is more impressive than seeing Christ praying for his enemies as he hung nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Indeed, it seems that none of those involved in crucifying him had any idea what they were doing. The idea that Jesus was king of the Jews and son of God was nothing more than a joke. For some, a heretic was being punished. For others, he was a threat to the Jewish people. For the Roman soldiers, it was simply a grim duty they were under orders to perform.

Jesus also gave the witness of healing. Healing is another word for peacemaking. Peacemaking is the healing of damaged or broken relationships. On one occasion an act of healing was done in response to an appeal not from a fellow Jew but from an officer of the Roman occupation forces, the centurion who appealed to Jesus on behalf of a critically ill servant. Jesus was prepared to come to the soldier’s home, but the officer said there was no need for that; Jesus’s word was all he needed. Jesus later said that he hadn’t seen such faith in all of Israel. Can you imagine how annoyed, even scandalized, some of the witnesses to this exchange would have been? Doing a good deed for a Roman? Then speaking admiringly of a Roman’s faith?

If you take Jesus’s teaching about love of enemies out of the Gospel, you have removed the keel from the ship.

But then how do we go about loving an enemy? The answer is given to us by Christ. He doesn’t simply command us to love our enemies, but to pray for them.

Without praying for our enemies, how would it be possible to love them?

Think about these two important words, love and prayer.

The love so often spoken of by Christ is not romantic love. Love is not about how we feel regarding the other but how we respond to the other. If you say you love someone, but you let him starve to death when it is in your power to give him food, in fact you do not love him. love. If you say you love God, but you abandon your neighbor, you love neither God nor neighbor.

Love is not the acquisition of pleasant feelings for an enemy, the kind of feeling we have for a sweetheart, a member of your family, or a cherished friend. The love Christ speaks of has very little to do with feelings and much to do with actions. Love is to do what you can to preserve another life and to bring that person toward salvation. Christ uses a metaphor: God’s love is like the rain falling equally on both wheat and weeds; or it is like the sun shining on both the just and the unjust. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t distinguish between the just and the unjust; but so long as a person lives, the possibility of repentance and conversion lives.

Think about the word prayer. Prayer is the giant step of taking into your heart, the center of your life, your appeal to God for the well-being and healing of another person’s life. It is not a sentimental action but an act of will and an obedience to God, knowing that God seeks the well-being and salvation of each person. After all, each person, no matter how misguided, no matter how damaged, is nonetheless a bearer of the image of God. If it pains you to imagine the intentional destruction of an icon, how much more distress should we feel when an human being is harmed or killed?

I’m talking now about the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – not the Gospel according to Hollywood. The latter provides us with a never-ending parade of stories about evil people killed by good people. The basic story tempts us to prefer heroism to sanctity, or to confuse the two. A basic element of The Gospel According to Hollywood is that the evil people are so evil that there is no real solution short of hastening their death. Confronted by such pure evil, what else can one do?

But the teaching of Christ is not to kill enemies but to overcome enmity. It’s like the transformation of water into wine that Christ performed at the wedding feast in Cana. We are commanded to convert our enmity into love, and it starts with prayer.

But to pray for an enemy is no small or easy step. The fact is that the last people in the world we want to pray for are the people we fear or hate or regard with disgust. You know you have an enemy whenever you discover a person or community of people for whom you hesitate to pray. But once you recognize enmity, take note of it. Keep a list of the people you find it hard to pray for and then pray for them anyway. Do it as a religious duty.

Prayer is an invisible binding together. The moment I pray for another person, a thread of connection is created. I have taken that person into myself. Praying for him means to ask God to bless him, to give him health, to lead him toward heaven, to use me to help bring about his salvation. As soon as this occurs, my relations with that person or community of people is changed. You look differently at a person you are praying for. You listen differently. It doesn’t mean you will necessarily agree. You may disagree more than ever. But you struggle more to understand what is really at issue and to find solutions that will be for his good as well as your own. In fact, the saints tell us, that the deeper we go in the life of faith, the freer we become from worrying about our own welfare, and the more we worry about the welfare of others.

Some years ago, at a conference on the Greek island of Crete, I gave a talk in which I summarized Orthodox teaching about war. I pointed out that the Orthodox Church has never embraced the just war doctrine, a doctrine that evolved in the west. The Orthodox Church, I said, regards war as inevitably sinful in nature even in cases where no obvious alternative to war can be found. No one has ever been canonized for killing. Priests, deacons and iconographers are forbidden by canon law to kill or cause the death of others. Under all circumstances and at all times, every baptized person is commanded by Christ to love his enemies.

There was nothing remarkable in what I said, no novel doctrines, nothing borrowed from non-Orthodox sources, yet the lecture stirred up a controversy not only in the hall in which I was speaking but into the city itself as my talk and the translator’s words were being broadcast live over the diocesan radio station.

The debate continued that night when the local bishop, Metropolitan Irinaios, and I took part in a radio conversation with listeners phoning in with their comments or questions. Responding to a man who called in to denounce Turks as barbarians who only understood the language of violence, I summarized what Christ had to say on the subject of loving one’s enemies. “That’s all very well,” the caller responded, “but now let me tell you about a real saint.” He proceeded to tell me about a priest who, in the 19th century, played a valiant role in the war to drive the Turks off the island. I suggested he not dismiss the teaching of Jesus so readily and asked if he wasn’t perhaps confusing heroism and nationalism with sanctity.

In fact we have soldier saints, like Great Martyr George. But when we study their lives in order to find out why the Church canonized them, it was never for their courage and heroism as soldiers, but for other factors. Most were martyrs – people who died for their faith without resistance. There are saints who got in trouble for refusing to take part in war, in some cases dying for their disobedience. St. George dared to confess his faith publicly during a time of imperial persecution. The “dragon” he irritated was Caesar. One saint, Martin of Tours, narrowly escaped execution after refusing to take part in battle; he went on to become a great missionary bishop. There is Ireland’s renowned Saint Columba, who is on the Church calendar not because he was co-responsible for a great battle in which many were slaughtered, but because he went on to live a life of penance in exile, in the process converting many to Christ.

All of what I’m saying probably sounds fine. It isn’t hard to admire saints. Most people realize that the Gospel is not a summons to hatred or violence. But what about our ordinary selves living here and now? What does this have to do with how we carry on our lives?

A beginning point is to admit we are only partial Christians – that is to say, our conversion has begun but is far from complete. When we go to confession, many of us don’t even try confessing all of our sins because no priest in the world would have time to hear them all. We try to identify the main ones, the sins that are most urgent and problematic, and focus on them, saving other sins for a later confession. Each of us is painfully aware that we have far to go. As the cartoon character Pogo used to say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

One of the great obstacles were up against is that it’s easier to be more nation-centered than Christ-centered. The culture we live in is a powerful influence. One is less likely to be shaped by the Gospel than by the particular economic, social, political and cultural milieu we happen to be part of.

If I am a German living in Germany in the 1930s, there is a good chance I will gravitate toward Nazism. If I am a white South African living in the era of apartheid, it’s more than likely that I will accept the justifications for racism, and the benefits that come from being part of a racist society. Our thoughts, values, choices, our “life style” – all these tend to be formed by the mass culture in which we happen to be born and reared. If we are Christians, we will try to adjust Christ and the Gospel to the national flag and the views of the people around us.

Yet we have in the Church many saints who provide us with models of what it means to follow Christ wholeheartedly – without holding anything back, without compromising with the demands of money or politics.

One such saint – canonized only two years ago – is Mother Maria Skobtsova, a Russian refugee in France who devoted herself to the care of the homeless and destitute, and also to the renewal of the Church. She and the community she was part of helped save the lives of many people, especially Jews, when France was occupied by the Third Reich. On one occasion she managed to smuggle children awaiting deportation out of a stadium in which thousands of Jews had been rounded up. It is hardly surprising that eventually she was arrested and ended her life in a German concentration camp, Ravensbrk, dying on Good Friday. Yet we find in her many letters, essays and the acts of her brave life not a trace of hatred for Germans or Austrians, even those who were captive of Nazi ideology. She was part of the resistance to Nazism and Hitlerism, but was no one’s enemy, not even Hitler’s. Her small community produced three other martyrs: the priest who assisted her, Fr. Dimitri Klepenin, her son, Yuri, who was then just entering adulthood, and her good friend Ilya Fondaminsky, a writer, editor and publisher.

At the core of their lives and many courageous actions was the conviction, as Mother Maria put it, that “each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world.” This is not some new idea that was discovered by a few saintly Christians in Paris in that grim time, but what C.S. Lewis referred to as “mere Christianity.” It is because each person is an icon of God that everyone in the church is honored with incense during the Liturgy.

Mother Maria had been married and become a mother before taking the monastic path. Before that happened, her husband left her and one of her children died of illness. She embraced a celibate vocation, but her understanding of monastic life was not the traditional one of withdrawal. Her desert was the city. She was opposed to living a life that might impose “even the subtlest barrier which might separate the heart from the world and its wounds.” Like any Orthodox Christian, the Liturgy was at the heart of her life, not as an end in itself but because it gave daily life a divine imprint.

“The meaning of the Liturgy must be translated into life,” she said. “It is why Christ came into the world and why he gave us our Liturgy.”

She was determined to live a life in which the works of mercy were central. As she wrote: “At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked, Did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked.”

No one has lived in a more violent time than she, a time in which there were powerful temptations to keep one’s head down and quietly survive. Yet instead she and those who worked with her give us a model of centering one’s life on those whose lives are threatened.

In Europe in those days it was especially the Jews. In our time the list of those in danger is much longer, including not only the born but the unborn as well as those who are handicapped or old. We live in what many people have come to identify as a culture of death. The only question each of us must struggle with is where to focus our life-saving activity. It is not just a question of saving lives but making clear to others, through our response to them, that they bear God’s image – thus we proclaim that there is a God, and that God is love.

We have met the enemy and he is us, as Pogo said. But the self is no small foe. In the days when India was struggling for independence, Gandhi sometimes said he had only three enemies – the British nation, his favorite enemy; the Indian people, a much more difficult adversary, and finally a man named Gandhi, the hardest enemy of all.

Each of us sees our most difficult enemy when we look into a mirror. Yet if we will only cooperate in Christ’s mercy, struggling day by day to die to self, day by day our conversion will continue, which will be good not only for ourselves but good for everyone else as well.

Let me close with these words from St. Cyprian of Carthage:

You have many things to ponder. Ponder paradise, where Cain, who destroyed his brother through jealousy, does not return. Ponder the kingdom of heaven to which the Lord admits only those of one heart and mind. Ponder the fact that only those can be called the sons of God who are peacemakers, who, united by divine birth and law, correspond to the likeness of God the Father and Christ. Ponder that we are under God’s eyes, that we are running the course of our conversion, and life with God Himself looking on and judging, that then finally we can arrive at the point of succeeding in seeing Him, if we delight Him as He now observes us by our actions, if we show ourselves worthy of His grace and indulgence, if we, who are to please Him forever in heaven, please Him first in this world. [“On Jealousy and Envy”, chapter 18]

Christ called on his followers to be peacemakers, calling such people the children of God. May each of labor to become the peacemaker Christ intends. My each of us become people who love our enemies and pray for them with fervor.

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

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/abortion-and-the-early-church

The Sacredness of Newborn Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-sacredness-of-newborn-life

The Bitter Price of Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-bitter-price-of-choice

Many Offering Death

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/many-offering-death

Treehouse: Saving Lives One by One

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-36/the-treehouse

True Free Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/true-free-choice

Zoe Means Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/zoe-means-life

On Homicide

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-homicide

The Troublesome Word “Murder”

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-32/the-troublesome-word-murder

Victims and Heroes

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/victims-and-heroes

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us

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

http://incommunion.org/articles/resources/changing-a-society

On Abortion and Over-Population

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-abortion-and-over-population

Learning to Be Peacemakers

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/learning-to-be-peacemakers

The Other As Icon

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-other-as-icon

The Great Human Rights Issue of Our Time

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-great-human-rights-issue-of-our-time

On Behalf of Unborn Children

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/on-behalf-of-unborn-children

Cleansing By Tears

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/cleansing-by-tears

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

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/abortion-and-the-early-church

The Sacredness of Newborn Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-sacredness-of-newborn-life

The Bitter Price of Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-bitter-price-of-choice

Many Offering Death

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/many-offering-death

Treehouse: Saving Lives One by One

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-36/the-treehouse

True Free Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/true-free-choice

Zoe Means Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/zoe-means-life

On Homicide

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-homicide

The Troublesome Word “Murder”

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-32/the-troublesome-word-murder

Victims and Heroes

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/victims-and-heroes

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us

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

http://incommunion.org/articles/resources/changing-a-society

On Abortion and Over-Population

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-abortion-and-over-population

Learning to Be Peacemakers

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/learning-to-be-peacemakers

The Other As Icon

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-other-as-icon

The Great Human Rights Issue of Our Time

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-great-human-rights-issue-of-our-time

On Behalf of Unborn Children

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/on-behalf-of-unborn-children

Cleansing By Tears

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/cleansing-by-tears

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

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/abortion-and-the-early-church

The Sacredness of Newborn Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-sacredness-of-newborn-life

The Bitter Price of Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-bitter-price-of-choice

Many Offering Death

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/many-offering-death

Treehouse: Saving Lives One by One

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-36/the-treehouse

True Free Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/true-free-choice

Zoe Means Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/zoe-means-life

On Homicide

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-homicide

The Troublesome Word “Murder”

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-32/the-troublesome-word-murder

Victims and Heroes

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/victims-and-heroes

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us

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

http://incommunion.org/articles/resources/changing-a-society

On Abortion and Over-Population

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-abortion-and-over-population

Learning to Be Peacemakers

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/learning-to-be-peacemakers

The Other As Icon

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-other-as-icon

The Great Human Rights Issue of Our Time

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-great-human-rights-issue-of-our-time

On Behalf of Unborn Children

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/on-behalf-of-unborn-children

Cleansing By Tears

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/cleansing-by-tears

The Healing of Enmity

by Jim Forest

But I say to you, Love your

enemies and pray for those

who persecute you.

– Jesus Christ (Mat 5:44)

Passenger planes taken by terrorists fly into the two towers of the World Trade Center; the buildings collapse and thousands are killed. Many more are wounded. Still more now suffer from having breathed in the toxic airbourne debris.

During the Second World War, entire cities – London, Manchester, Birmingham, Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki -become targets of war. Everyone without exception was a target – children, the ill, grandparents, ordinary people. They died in countless thousands.

In the Soviet era, millions were taken away, some to labor camps in which it was a miracle not to die of disease, exposure, abuse, or execution. I recall visiting a place of mass executions in a Belorussian forest. Here, during the Stalin years, people were brought by the truck-load each day and one by one were shot in the back of the head and thrown into deep pits. When one pit was filled, another was dug. There were many pits.

We still aren’t sure how many millions were killed under the Hitler regime- Jews, gypsies, political dissidents, homosexuals, Christians who dared to resist or people simply regarded as inconvenient. As in the Soviet gulag, many died simply of the consequences of living in such condition and being worked like slaves. A vast number were simply executed. The murders were done not only in concentration camps but also in hospitals. In the latter, people regarded as genetically or mentally inferior were killed. It was regarded as “mercy killing.”

In Communist Albania it became a criminal activity to make the sign of the cross, to have an icon in one’s home or to dye an egg red at Easter. Every church, monastery and seminary without exception was closed. The smallest indication of religious belief could be severely punished. Most priests and many lay people died in concentration camps.

One could spend many hours briefly describing, country by country, the horrors of mass violence that human beings have suffered just in the past hundred years. I mention a few examples only to point out that, when we talk about Christ’s commandment to love one’s enemies, the beginning point is the recognition that we have enemies and that evil deeds occur every minute of the day. Often times nationalistic, racial or ideologically-driven movements develop in such a way that enormous numbers of people find themselves in grave danger.

christ

There are people who, having lost any sense of the sacredness of life, abuse and murder innocent people, even children – some on a large scale, others as a kind of hellish past-time. I think of my stepmother, Carla, who was shot and killed by sniper as she stepped off the bus one evening in San Francisco in 1966 after a day of service in a center for alcoholics.

Such events were once rare; in more recent years they have become more common. Most of us have stories to tell of awful things that happened – grave danger, abuse, or violence- to ourselves or to people we know. I am equally sure that many of us have memories of dreadful things we have done or said to others, under obedience, out of fear, or in a state of rage.

The reality of enmity is a cental theme in the Gospels. The peaceful, star-illumined Bethlehem we see in Christmas cards tells us nothing at all about the hard life the people lived there were enduring when Jesus was born. The years of Christ’s life described in the Gospels occurred in a small land under heavy, often brutal, military occupation. There was no concept of human

rights. Torture and crucifixion were not rare punishments. It’s no wonder that there was a serious movement of Jewish armed resistance, the Zealots, and that conflict between Israel and Rome not many years later resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the enslavement of thousands of Jews.

So when Jesus instructed his followers, as he did in his Sermon on the Mount, to love their enemies and pray for them, it was not a teaching that would have been offered in a state of naivete by someone living in an oasis of peace, nor was it a teaching that would have been easily embraced by the suffering people who were listening to him. It’s not a teaching anyone, even in situations of relative social tranquility, takes to easily. What most of us do when we are abused by others is look for a way to return the abuse, even doing so in double measure. Say an irritating word to me and I’ll give you irritation back, multiplied by two. Hit me and I’ll hit you twice as hard. Few Jews had a kind thought regarding the uninvited Romans. Occupation troops are resented and despised. They often become the targets of deadly violence.

We see this even in cases where an occupation is meant to be humanitarian.  Jesus is never just a man of words. Can you think of anything he taught that he didn’t give witness to in the way he lived and interacted with other people? I cannot.

He urged his followers to be peacemakers. In the Beatitudes, he says they will be known as God’s own children. In his own life, again and again we see both courage and nonviolence. He repeatedly gave the witness of refusing to return evil for evil. His most violent action was to use a whip of chords to chase money-lenders from the Temple because they were profaning sacred space. Many were upset, but no one was harmed. The only life endangered by his action was his own. The total number of people killed by Jesus Christ is zero.

While many people are driven by anger and vengeance, Christ taught forgiveness and again and again gave the example of forgiving others. When asked by his disciples if they must forgive as much as seven times, Christ replied: seventy times seven. Forgiveness is one of the main themes of the Lord’s Prayer, in which we ask God to forgive us only insofar as we have forgiven others. Perhaps nothing is more impressive than seeing Christ praying for his enemies as he hung nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Indeed, it seems that none of those involved in crucifying him had any idea what they were doing. The idea that Jesus was king of the Jews and son of God was nothing more than a joke. For some, a heretic was being punished. For others, he was a threat to the Jewish people. For the Roman soldiers, it was simply a grim duty they were under orders to perform.

Jesus also gave the witness of healing. Healing is another word for peacemaking. Peacemaking is the healing of damaged or broken relationships. On one occasion an act of healing was done in response to an appeal not from a fellow Jew, but from an officer of the Roman occupation forces, the centurion who appealed to Jesus on behalf of a critically ill servant. Jesus was prepared to come to the soldier’s home, but the officer said there was no need for that; Jesus’s word was all he needed. Jesus later said that he hadn’t seen such faith in all of Israel. Can you imagine how annoyed, even scandalized, some of the witnesses to this exchange would have been? A good deed for a Roman? Admiration for a Roman’s faith?

If you take Jesus’s teaching about love of enemies out of the Gospel, you have removed the keel from the ship. But then how do we go about loving an enemy? The answer is given to us by Christ. He doesn’t simply command us to love our enemies, but to pray for them.

Without praying for our enemies, how would it be possible to love them? Think about these two important words, love and prayer. The love so often spoken of by Christ is not romantic love. Love is not about how we feel regarding the other but how we respond to the other. If you say you love someone, but you let him starve to death when it is in your power to give him food, in fact you do not love him. love. If you say you love God, but you abandon your neighbor, you love neither God nor neighbor.

Love is not the acquisition of pleasant feelings for an enemy, the kind of feeling we have for a sweetheart, a member of your family, or a cherished friend. The love Christ speaks of has very little to do with feelings and much to do with actions. Love is to do what you can to preserve another life and to bring that person toward salvation. Christ uses a metaphor: God’s love is like the rain falling equally on both wheat and weeds; or it is like the sun shining on both the just and the unjust. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t distinguish between the just and the unjust; but so long as a person lives, the possibility of repentance and conversion lives.

Think about the word prayer. Prayer is the giant step of taking into your heart, the center of your life, your appeal to God for the well-being and healing of another person’s life. It is not a sentimental action but an act of will and an obedience to God, knowing that God seeks the well-being and salvation of each person. After all, each person, no matter how misguided or damaged, is nonetheless a bearer of the image of God. If it pains you to imagine the intentional destruction of an icon, how much more distress should we feel when an human being is harmed or killed?

I’m talking now about the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – not the Gospel according to Hollywood. The latter provides us with a never-ending parade of stories about evil people killed by good people. The basic story tempts us to prefer heroism to sanctity, or to confuse the two. A basic element of the Gospel According to Hollywood is that the evil people are so evil that there is no real solution short of hastening their death.

Confronted by such pure evil, what else can one do? But the teaching of Christ is not to kill enemies but to overcome enmity.  It’s like the transformation of water into wine that Christ performed at the wedding feast in Cana. We are commanded to convert our enmity into love, and it starts with prayer.

But to pray for an enemy is no small or easy step. The fact is that the last people in the world we want to pray for are the people we fear or hate or regard with disgust. You know you have an enemy whenever you discover a person or community of people for whom you hesitate to pray. But once you recognize enmity, take note of it. Keep a list of the people you find it hard to pray for and then pray for them anyway. Do it as a religious duty.

Prayer is an invisible binding together. The moment I pray for another person, a thread of connection is created. I have taken that person into myself. Praying for him means to ask God to bless him, to give him health, to lead him toward heaven, to use me to help bring about his salvation. As soon as this occurs, my relations with that person or community of people is changed.

You look differently at a person you are praying for. You listen differently. It doesn’t mean you will necessarily agree. You may disagree more than ever. But you struggle more to understand what is really at issue and to find solutions that will be for his good as well as your own. In fact, the saints tell us, that the deeper we go in the life of faith, the freer we become from worrying about our own welfare, and the more we worry about the welfare of others.

Some years ago, at a conference on the Greek island of Crete, I gave a talk in which I summarized Orthodox teaching about war. I pointed out that the Orthodox Church has never embraced the just war doctrine, a doctrine that evolved in the west. The Orthodox Church, I said, regards war as inevitably sinful in nature even in cases where no obvious alternative to war can be found. No one has ever been canonized for killing. Priests, deacons and iconographers are forbidden by canon law to kill or cause the death of others. Under all circumstances and at all times, every baptized person is commanded by Christ to love his enemies.

There was nothing remarkable in what I said, no novel doctrines, nothing borrowed from non-Orthodox sources, yet the lecture stirred up a controversy not only in the hall in which I was speaking but into the city itself as my talk and the translator’s words were being broadcast live over the diocesan radio station. The debate continued that night when the local bishop, Metropolitan Irinaios, and I took part in a radio conversation with listeners phoning in with their comments or questions. Responding to a man who called in to denounce Turks as barbarians who only understood the language of violence, I summarized what Christ had to say on the subject of loving one’s enemies. “That’s all very well,” the caller responded, “but now let me tell you about a real saint.” He proceeded to tell me about a priest who, in the 19th century, played a valiant role in the war to drive the Turks off the island. I suggested he not dismiss the teaching of Jesus so readily and asked if he wasn’t perhaps confusing heroism and nationalism with sanctity.

In fact we have soldier saints, like Great Martyr George. But when we study their lives in order to find out why the Church canonized them, it was never for their courage and heroism as soldiers, but for other factors. Most were martyrs – people who fisherman died for their faith without resistance. There are saints who got in trouble for refusing to take part in war, in some cases dying for their disobedience. St. George dared to confess his faith publicly during a time of imperial persecution. The “dragon” he irritated was Caesar. One saint, Martin of Tours, narrowly escaped execution after refusing to take part in battle; he went on to become a great missionary bishop.

There is Ireland’s renowned Saint Columba, who is on the Church calendar not because he was co-responsible for a great battle in which many were slaughtered, but because he went on to live a life of penance in exile, in the process converting many to Christ.

All of what I’m saying probably sounds fine. It isn’t hard to admire saints. Most people realize that the Gospel is not a summons to hatred or violence. But what about our ordinary selves living here and now? What does this have to do with how we carry on our lives?  A beginning point is to admit we are only partial Christians – that is to say, our conversion has begun but is far from complete. When we go to confession, many of us don’t even try confessing all of our sins because no priest in the world would have time to hear them all. We try to identify the main ones, the sins that are most urgent and problematic, and focus on them, saving other sins for a later confession. Each of us is painfully aware that we have far to go. As the cartoon character Pogo used to say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

One of the great obstacles were up against is that it’s easier to be more nation-centered than Christ-centered. The culture we live in is a powerful influence. One is less likely to be shaped by the Gospel than by the particular economic, social, political and cultural milieu we happen to be part of.  If I am a German living in Germany in the 1930s, there is a good chance  I will gravitate toward Nazism. If I am a white South African living in the era of apartheid, it’s more than likely that I will accept the justifications for racism, and the benefits that come from being part of a racist society. Our thoughts, values, choices, our “life style” – all these tend to be formed by the mass culture in which we happen to be born and reared. If we are Christians, we will try to adjust Christ and the Gospel to the national flag and the views

of the people around us.

Yet we have in the Church many saints who provide us with models of what it means to follow Christ wholeheartedly – without holding anything back, without compromising with the demands of money or politics. One such saint – canonized only two years ago – is Mother Maria Skobtsova, a Russian refugee in France who devoted herself to the care of the homeless and destitute, and also to the renewal of the Church. She and the community she was part of helped save the lives of many people, especially Jews, when France was occupied by the Third Reich. On one occasion she managed to smuggle children awaiting deportation out of a stadium in which thousands of Jews had been rounded up. It is hardly surprising that eventually she was arrested and ended her life in a German concentration camp,

Ravensbruk, dying on Good Friday. Yet we find in her many letters, essays and the acts of her brave life not a trace of hatred for Germans or Austrians, even those who were captive of Nazi ideology. She was part of the resistance to Nazism and Hitlerism, but was no one’s enemy, not even Hitler’s. Her small community produced three other martyrs: the priest who assisted her, Fr. Dimitri Klepenin, her son, Yuri, who was then just entering adulthood, and her good friend Ilya Fondaminsky, a writer, editor and publisher.

At the core of their lives and many courageous actions was the conviction, as Mother Maria put it, that “each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world.” This is not some new idea that was discovered by a few saintly Christians in Paris in that grim time, but what C.S. Lewis referred to as “mere Christianity.” It is because each person is an icon of God that everyone in the church is honored with incense during the Liturgy.

Mother Maria had been married and become a mother before taking the monastic path. Before that happened, her husband left her and one of her children died of illness. She embraced a celibate vocation, but her understanding of monastic life was not the traditional one of withdrawal. Her desert was the city. She was opposed to living a life that might impose “even the subtlest barrier which might separate the heart from the world and its wounds.” Like any Orthodox Christian, the Liturgy was at the heart of her life, not as an end in itself but because it gave daily life a divine imprint.

“The meaning of the Liturgy must be translated into life,” she said. “It is why Christ came into the world and why he gave us our Liturgy.” She was determined to live a life in which the works of mercy were central. As she wrote: “At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked, Did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked.”  No one has lived in a more violent time than she, a time in which there were powerful temptations to keep one’s head down and quietly survive. Yet instead she and those who worked with her give us a model of centering one’s life on those whose lives are threatened.

In Europe in those days it was especially the Jews. In our time the list of those in danger is much longer, including not only the born but the unborn as well as those who are handicapped or old. We live in what many people have come to identify as a culture of death. The only question each of us must struggle with is where to focus our life-saving activity. It is not just a question of saving lives but making clear to others, through our response to them, that they bear God’s image – thus we proclaim that there is a God, and that God is love.

We have met the enemy and he is us, as Pogo said. But the self is no small foe. In the days when India was struggling for independence, Gandhi sometimes said he had only three enemies – the British nation, his favorite enemy; the Indian people, a much more difficult adversary, and finally a man named Gandhi, the hardest enemy of all. Each of us sees our most difficult enemy when we look into a mirror. Yet if we will only cooperate in Christ’s mercy, struggling day by day to die to self, day by day our conversion will continue, which will be good not only for ourselves but good for everyone else as well.

This essay is based on a lecture delivered at St. Herman’s Orthodox Church in

Edmonton, Canada, in October. Jim Forest is secretary of the Orthodox Peace

Fellowship. His most recent book is The Wormwood File: E-Mail from Hell.

You have many things to ponder. Ponder paradise, where Cain, who destroyed his brother through jealousy, does not return. Ponder the kingdom of heaven to which the Lord admits only those of one heart and mind. Ponder the fact that only those can be called the sons of God who are peacemakers, who, united by divine birth and law, correspond to the likeness of God the Father and Christ. Ponder that we are under God’s eyes, that we are running the course of our conversion, and life with God Himself looking on and judging, that then finally we can arrive at the point of succeeding in seeing Him, if we delight Him as He now observes us by our actions, if we show ourselves worthy of His grace and indulgence, if we, who are to please Him forever in heaven, please Him first in this world.– St. Cyprian of Carthage

“On Jealousy and Envy,” chapter 18

Recommended Reading Fall 2006

Christian Faith and Same Sex Attraction:

Thomas Hopko

Conciliar Press, 126 pp, $13

Writing with compassion, clarity and humility, Fr. Thomas Hopko (Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and a retired professor of dogmatic theology) draws on the wisdom of the Orthodox Church, the Bible, Patristic sources and many years of experience of giving counsel. His book helps readers better understand same-sex attraction and, for those living with such attractions, not despair.

Through the perspective of Orthodox theology, Hopko analyses the nature of gender identity and sexuality, pointing out that, in our damaged world, inevitably many people will have sinful passions of every sort. He argues that platonic same-sex love is normal, but that same-sex genital activity joins a pantheon of other sinful desires as something we may have urges towards but must struggle not to succumb to. Christian living, he says, quoting Fr. Alexan- der Schmemann, is “how you deal with what you’ve been dealt.”

“All men and women,” Hopko writes, “whatever their sexual feelings … are human beings who cannot be essentially defined in their God-given humanity by their feelings and desires – feelings and desires that have been produced in them by their biological, psychological, and cultural inheritance, and by the way they have been treated by others, particularly family members, within the corrupted conditions of the fallen world.”

Hopko passionately defends the civil rights of those in same-sex unions while chastising those who are too judgmental. He calls on those who counsel those who have same-sex attractions “to identify with them, to respect them, to listen to them, to put themselves in their place, feel their pain, and advocate for them before God.” Counselors “must abandon all stereotypes … and see each person as the unique person he or she is … They must never forget that God alone knows the culpability of every person’s thoughts, words, feelings and actions.”

This is a book that will be useful to those who experience same-sex desires, pastors, and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the nature of identity and sexuality. The emphasis is on overcoming the passions through the traditional Christian ascetic struggle, an issue each person must face no matter what his or her sexual orientation.

The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer

Frederica Mathews-Green

Paraclete Press, 166 pp, $17

When traveling in a foreign country, it is helpful to have a guide who has visited your own land and can offer keen observations, appropriate context and lively translation. Frederica Mathewes-Green serves as such a guide, welcoming the reader to an imaginary Orthodox church filled with icons. The result is an examination of the role of icons in public devotion as well as private prayer, leading the reader to the edge of the sanctuary. Theological debates and historical explanations that might in other hands seem academic are in this work compelling and vivid.

Dividing her book into two sections, Mathewes-Green writes first on the major icons of the iconostasis and then on icons of feasts and saints that appear elsewhere in the church. She approaches each icon from a perspective of prayerful reflection and belief.

The Culture of Fear

Barry Glassner

Basic Books, $16

Thomas Merton once observed that “the root of war is fear.” Fears are occasionally well founded but many are manipulated by the political powers and the mass media. Glassner’s book, published six years ago in a less fearful period, has become more timely in the post 9-11 world.

“Culture of fear” refers to a dominance of fear and anxiety in public discourse and relationships between people. Barry Glassner, a sociologist, argues that fear is being intentionally promoted as a means for increased social control. Through the manipulation of words and news, fears are carefully and repeatedly created and fed by those who benefit from a culture of fear. The results influence personal behavior and justify governmental actions or policies both at home and abroad. Such a culture helps elect demagogic politicians and serves to distract public attention from such social issues as poverty, health care, unemployment, crime and environmental damage.

Glassner analyzes many commonly held beliefs about the threats of the modern world and exposes the media’s role in keeping citizens in a state of unnecessary fear.

Frightened citizens, he argues, make better consumers and more easily swayed voters. Glassner raises a series of public safety threats – for example, road rage, middle-class heroin addiction and domestic abuse – and then systematically strikes them down with statistics. Glassner has a sharp eye for what causes unnecessary goose bumps: “The use of poignant anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, the christening of isolated incidents as trends, depictions of entire categories of people as innately dangerous,” and unknown scholars who masquerade as “experts.” While Glassner rejects the notion that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, he clearly shows that we have much less to fear than we think.

Sweeter Than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma And Truth

Peter Bouteneff

St. Vladimir’s Press, 213 pp, $16

Peter Bouteneff’s book confronts difficult questions that accompany professing Orthodox faith in the contemporary world. How can we assert that Jesus Christ is the only Truth in a culture that relativizes all truths to personal preferences? In addressing these questions, Bouteneff rejects both the relativism of contemporary culture as well as the triumphalism of an unthinking absolutism.

The reader is given an expression of traditional Orthodox teaching on how Jesus Christ is the Truth, and the only Truth, and how the Orthodox Church is the bearer of that Truth, but always with an eye to responding to the particular questions of the present age. There are discussions of creeds, of scripture, of saints, of church hierarchs, icons, and even the myth-structure underlying the Harry Potter novels, but all of them are geared toward the core question of how the Orthodox Church defends the Truth of the Gospel.

There is a pressing need for such a book, for these are questions that confront people on a daily basis. This is an excellent introduction to the Orthodoxfaith, written in a unique fashion, and with a view toward contemporary debates.

The author is Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St. Vladimir’s

Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Sergius Bulgakov: On Love

The God of Love created man for love. The human heart thirsts to love and to be loved. It suffers if it does not give or receive love. It longs to expand, to embrace in its own life other lives, many lives, all lives; it goes out and seeks to lose itself in another ; to become itself the other one, to be drowned in a sea of universal love. To lose one’s life that one may save it – that is the law of love as shown by the Word Himself, who gave it to us.

Man lives only according to what and how much he loves; he dies according to what and how much he fails to love. He who loves is rich; for God, who is Love, is richness itself. And man, formed in the image of God who creates and holds all things in love, is called to take all men and all things into his love. Here on earth he only begins his first lessons in love; but before him lie the life of the age to come and all eternity, waiting to be filled with love alone — for there is no life and no eternity where thereis no love.

The power of love is the capacity to become other to oneself, to include the other one in oneself, to be filled with universal life. This, however, is but one form of love; and if it were to exhaust the power of love, personality would dissolve and in the end be completely absorbed in cosmic love. Yet man cannot and should not be depersonalized in loving; he must lose his life that he may regain it and he should love his neighbor as himself. There must, therefore, be some measure of valid divinely-ordained self-love.

Egotism is, of course, a wholly unnatural condition for man. Indeed, in its extreme manifestations it verges upon delusion, and most commonly on moral immaturity. But normal self-love in the true sense of the word has its expression in personal love, in the irrepressible longing to love and to be loved by a particular person or persons.

– Fr. Sergius Bulkakov an extract from Jacob’s Ladder from Sobornost, no 33, June 1946 translated by Katharine Lampert

IN COMMUNION / FALL 2006

Conversations by e-mail: Fall 2006

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 .

St. Constantine:

OPF received a letter yesterday in which a questionwas raised as to why St. Constantine is not on the calendar of saints in the Catholic Church, although he is in the Orthodox Church. “Does it concern you that this ‘man of war’ is honored in our tradition?” I responded by saying that my impression is that there are quite a few pre-Schism. No doubt a factor in his canonization was his decision to end all persecution of Christians and the influence Christianity had in encouraging him to reshape many laws in a more merciful direction. Many saints have taken part in war – none has been canonized for being a soldier. The calendar of the saints cension of the Lord. I think the timing of this feast was, consciously or uncon- sciously, a decision of great wisdom. Our Lord has gone up to rule over heaven and earth from the right hand of the Father. Part of His rule includes the kingdoms of this earth. Constantine was among the very first rulers to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over the State and to begin the process of transforming the laws and customs of this world to conform to the law and wisdom of the Lord.

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We celebrate what the Lord has in fact accomplished; but we also celebrate what has begun. Constantine was not in fact the first Christian king (a king of Armenia preceded him). His sins were many and some of them serious; some of his accomplishments were not long-lasting; and some of his achievements were not even appropriate – the Constantinian union of church and state was in fact an unholy matrimony that has caused endless problems to the message and integrity of the Church. Even so, his accomplishments were great indeed. Perhaps more than any other saint of the ancient Church, he represents the task that Niebuhr called the transformation of culture. From that point of view, oddly enough, in light of his being chief commander of the Roman armies, he is close to the spirit of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

David Holden [email protected]

Byzantium:

The Byzantine Empire was culturally Byzantine, unique in all the ways cultures always are, with Hellenistic culture being but one influence. It is customary to refer to Byzantine culture as Greek, but that didn’t mean the same thing in pre-modern times that it does now. The marriage of blood, culture, and religion to create the modern conception of Greek ethnicity as something pure and inherent began in the eighteenth century. Byzantines didn’t think of themselves as Hellenes; neither Byzantines nor Hellenes ever being thought of themselves as an ethnic group. Hellenism was always a cultural phenomenon. It was the post-Byzantine culture under the Ottomans that recovered for themselves, from the pre-Byzantine past, their Hellenic identity. Prior to the development of nationalism in the 18th century, there was never any such idea as a Greek, or any other, ethnicity.

The migrations that led to large amounts of today’s mainland Greece being Slav took place between the 6th and 7th centuries, dates and extent of settlement being uncertain and debated by historians. Most of the cities remained Greek, and there was much intermixing of the populations. The peninsula was recovered and once more largely Greek by the 9th century. There is no evidence that there was anything like a large-scale population exchange, though Imperial policy was influential.

Constantine was certainly neither Serb or British, as neither of those ethnicities even existed then, Slavs being a completely unknown people to the Romans at that time. Slavs migrated into the Balkans in the 6th century as raiders and didn’t begin to settle in significant numbers until the 7th. They never supplanted native populations (assimilation, over time, may be more accurate, but such processes were so bi-directional that we can never say that the cultural end product was the same as at the beginning of the process). While there was a cultural influence in both directions, by the time the Greeks recovered dominance, the settled Slavs had been thoroughly “Grecified.”

Pieter Dykhorst [email protected]

Conciliar model:

Constantine’s significance in the East has largely to do with the importance we place on Ecumenical Councils, as distinct from a Roman-style Magisterium. His moving of the capital to Byzantium/Constantinople, the effect he had on establishing the emperor as the vital link between Church and State, the significance of the Nicene Creed from the Council over which he presided, his leadership in the Donatist struggle: all of this political influence – coupled with the fact that he was St. Helena’s son (is holiness genetic?) and introduced an impressive number of ethical and social changes into the life of the Empire, from tax relief and charitable works to endowing churches in the Holy Land and elsewhere – certainly contributed to the growth of popular veneration of his person. We are called to emulate Constantine’s virtues, not his vices – but that’s true with any saint, who, by the simple fact of being human, is also a sinner.

Fr. John Breck

[email protected]

Byzantines and war:

Thinking a little bit about history, I was wondering, if one compared the Orthodox Byzantine Empire with other great world powers in history, is it the case that the Byzantines engaged in war mostly from a defensive and protectionist stance, to consolidate their position, rather than engaging in expansionist wars?

Certainly Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire of an earlier age, the Muslim Arabs, Genghis Khan, the Turks, all engaged in imperial expansionism.

The crusades too might fall in this category. But the Byzantines after Constantine seem rarely to have gone on wars of expansion. They did fight against the Persians, Arabs, Turks, Bulgars, but these were mostly attacks upon them.

After Constantine, the empire goes into a pattern of land lost by attrition and war. Pretty much the Byzantines lose interest in the territories of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century. In the 7th Century, the Arab Muslims gobble up huge portions of the empire. The Bulgars carve out their own empire. The Turks further diminish Byzantium until they conquer it.

The Byzantines seem to have engaged in some diplomatic efforts with the Arabs, Persians, Turks, Bulgars, and eventually with the Crusaders. But their war efforts were defensive rather than expansionist, except at times to regain lost territories.

I wonder if anyone is aware if any research has been done on the attitude of the Byzantine Empire toward war itself. After Constantine, did Christianity have an impact on the imperial attitudes toward war? Did this lead to the Empire being more defensive than expansionist?

For example, here is the Theotokian from Matins Canticle Nine for the Be-heading of John the Baptist:

Son of the Theotokos:

Go forth, ride prosperously and reign. Place the forces of Ishmael that fight against us, beneath our feet, and grant victory to the Orthodox

Christians over their adversaries by the intercessions of her who bore You, O Word of God.

It is interesting that Monk John, who wrote this hymn, does not call for the armies to go forth and conquer Arab territories, but only that Jesus would grant victories over those who are attacking the Byzantine lands.

Even the “Protection of the Theotokos” is more defensive than offensive.

It is a call to protection from aggressors, and not a call for the Orthodox to become aggressors. So though the Constantinian legend was that he would conquer beneath the Sign of the Cross, the later Byzantines seem to have relied more upon God as a protector than as an aggressor conqueror God. Is this perhaps part of the peace tradition in the Byzantine legacy?

Fr. Ted Bobosh [email protected]

Byzantines and War:

There is a recent book by John Haldon, Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World (London, 1999). My guess is that the Byzantines mostly engaged in defensive wars, because they had little option for anything else. But under Basil II, there was expansionist warfare (though he probably thought of it as regaining lost Byzantine territory).

Fr. Andrew Louth

Lebanon:

Just to let you know I’m unharmed. I left Lebanon twenty days before Hezbollah crossed the border, killed the soldiers, and took the captives. My biggest hassle in leaving the country was the fact that I was over my weight allowance. My priest told me not to buy books while I was there, but I didn’t take his advice. At this point, I’m unspeakably grateful that I decided against staying in Lebanon until September.

I have been in contact with many of my friends in Lebanon. I have spoken with Fr. Symeon by phone twice now. His apartment has what used to be a beautiful view of Beirut across the harbor. They’re far enough out of town and away from any potential targets that they’re as safe as anyone can be in Lebanon about now, but his wife and children are staying with her parents in a mountain village for the time being.

What grieves me even more than the scenes of devastation and death is the thought of yet another generation of scarred survivors. Fr. Symeon’s oldest child is three. One of my other friends from Canada who returned to serve the

Church in Lebanon has a young son.

Lord, have mercy!

Peter Brubacher [email protected]

Orthodox prison ministry:

Fr. David Ogan, who heads Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, has been doing a tremendous job by filling a void in the area of prison ministry. Sad to say, but few institutions in the United States provide religious services for Orthodox Christians, though there are exceptions. The jail where I serve as Supervising Chaplain provides 32 religious services each week to the inmate population, including Orthodox Christian liturgy and catechism. Prisoners who become Orthodox believers in our jail are connected with a local parish when they are released. However, at least 30 percent of the inmates are sentenced to penitentiaries where they will spend many years of their lives. Most US penitentiaries do not provide Orthodox Christian religious worship services simply because there has not been a voice from the Orthodox

Christian community calling for such service, and not enough clergy to provide the services. Therefore, the new Orthodox Christian believers behind bars have been relying on Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry and local parishes to keep them connected to their new faith without any formal worship experience.

I am not sure what we would do without that ministry. Thank you, Fr. David.

The need is so great and the door is wide open for Orthodoxy in our jails and prisons. I am in a position of influence in the state of Pennsylvania. I have been praying and trying to think of a way to enlist more Orthodox Christians in ministry to prisoners. Is this something that OPF might be interested in exploring?

Patrick Tutlella [email protected]

Inequality:

Inequality has been on my mind a lot recently. First, I read Tracy Kidder’s superb Mountains beyond Mountains, a profile of Paul Farmer, an American doctor who has established a health-care system in central Haiti. One small anecdote struck me especially. His clinic arranged to fly a boy with a rare

but treatable cancer to the US, and ended up having to pay $20,000 to fly him out (they’d meant to take him on a commercial flight, but his condition deteriorated). Some people in the organization wondered whether that money couldn’t have been better spent to serve more people – a legitimate question. Farmer recognized the issue, then pointed out that a first-year doctor in the US makes about $100,000 – but no one asks if that money might be “better spent” on other healthcare needs. A mere tithe on American doctors’ incomes would pay for a lot of medevac flights…

Then I read an issue of The Atlantic Monthly with two pieces on growing inequality in the US. One was mostly on why the average person’s pay hasn’t gone up, even while productivity has been climbing for decades. The other was a profile of the rapidly-growing business of providing services to the super-rich. Its concluding paragraph is haunting:

“Then, out of the blue during one of our later conversations, Natasha Pearl [head of one of the cater-to-the-rich companies] said something surprising:

‘If the income inequality persists, we could end up with real armed camps, like in South Africa.’ She said she was increasingly aware of the tension between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’ and she described a surge in demand among the ultrarich for real estate in out-of-the-way places such as New Zealand and rural Argentina – expensive insurance policies in case things go haywire for some reason at home. ‘The wise ones are thinking about it now,’ Pearl said. Indeed it might be worth planning ahead; I wonder what the going salary will be for a spot in an oligarch’s private army.”

John Brady [email protected]

On Power:

John Brady raises a key point. The question is that often for people, equality of goods is not per se the issue but the ends they want to pursue. I don’t care that many people have lots more money than I do since all I’m interested in is having the resources I need to pursue the ends that interest me. I’m bothered by the fact that many – too many – people have lots, lots less than me not simply because they have less but because they are thwarted in pursuing the sorts of ends that seem to be part of a minimally decent life. On the other hand, many people are quite content with living very simple lives that require few material possessions – I know people that don’t have a television since they have no interest in watching one. But a “simple” life is not the same as one that is materially impoverished. Some saints and ascetics have so renounced the ends of ordinary life that they have virtually no interest in any material possessions except those required for bare survival and their religious devotion.

Such people don’t care that other people have a lot more. Once again, we are back to the questions of the ends that we pursue for ourselves and with reference to others. Most of the “goods” that we consider in terms of equality/inequality are merely means to those ends and they get their value and moral worth from those ends.

Christianity seems ambivalent on this score. On the one hand, there are the injunctions for a radical renunciation of the world leading to a life of extreme poverty (on any definitions of poverty) and, on the other, the legitimacy of engaging in the world (even if one isn’t “of the world”) and thus “acquiring” and using the wealth and goods which makes such engagement possible.

John Jones

On being downsized:

This past year, since I was “downsized” out of a job, has been a very positive experience for me, and I try to analyze just why it has been so. Clearly, it might have been more trying if our general financial situation had been more precarious; we had beenprudent (and, in some ways, just lucky) in setting ourselves up for retirement time, although we didn’t think it would come quite so soon. But, there are other elements that are even more important.

The loss of control: It is a good thing to be reminded that we are not in charge in this life, that the vagaries of fortune or providence can change things in a twinkling.

Free time: Time was suddenly available to help with family crises. One daughter had a problem pregnancy. Another needed to move to Atlanta with her toddler while her husband was doing research in Japan.

Time to give: I have been able to commit time to pro bono projects related to war and peace in which I could much more readily invest my deepest feelings than in any paying job I ever had.

Freedom: Suddenly I had freedom to look for what God really wanted me to be doing, rather than what “made the most sense” in some job-counselor/personnel office way.

Living on less: The realization that our (relative) “poverty” – regular pay-checks stopping – did not make our lives worse – and most days made them better. There has been more time to spend with my wife, more time to play the piano, more time to tend my flower garden, etc.

I am currently a candidate for a job that I am truly enthusiastic about. It is quite freeing to be able to go into my upcoming key interview with a sense that it is all about doing God’s work, not ensuring that we will have the income to take fancy vacations, add on to our house or give lots of gifts at Christmas time. God is good! I had to go on unemployment to realize how good!

Alex Patico [email protected]

Riches and poverty:

A friend of mine here in Romania who is also interested in living out the Gospels has been reading Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. She was chuckling at his list of suggestions of things you could do to live more simply. There were things like “use fans instead of air conditioning,” etc. She said, “Well, we do almost all these things already whether we want to or not.” Air conditioning is rare in Romania!

“Simplicity” is often a thinly veiled disguise for figuring out how to save in one place just to spend it on something else. I wonder if the “wherewithal” does not come from a change in perspective where we see the contemplative and relational fruit from voluntary simplicity whatever degree it may take, rather than the supposed cost to our material abundance.

I think it was Wendle Berry who said something about what a shame it was that we now feel comfortable giving money instead of ourselves.

Joel Klepac

[email protected]

In the military:

At times I can’t help but feel that I’m being judged by those who all but say that there is no place for an Orthodox Christian in the armed forces.

[email protected]

The circumstances that have brought me to this place are complex and pre-date my becoming Orthodox. No doubt my decision to incur a commitment to the armed forces would have been different if I had been Orthodox at the time, but God has put me here for a reason and I have to honor that.

There is no doubt that the military is a tough place to be an Orthodox Christian, but I feel the Church helps me navigate these things by maintaining a tension that encourages humility and respect for the image of God in others and does not allow me to participate in the glorification of violence.

The work I do is oftentimes mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting, but soldiers are real people with real problems and they do not need the “easy wisdom” of those who simply tell them to get out of the military at any cost even if it means being dishonest or somehow misrepresenting themselves and their circumstances. They need prayers, not man’s judgment.

Aaron Haney, MD

CPT/USA/MC

[email protected]

Ex-Army:

I am a seven-year Orthodox Christian, converted after twenty-four years as a non-denominational Protestant. I got out of the Army after nine years in 1985 as a conscientious objector. I have traveled a long and difficult road in search of what is true and right and good, as I trust we all are doing. I have come to the conclusion that honest dialogue between Christians does not always lead to agreement, regardless of the experience, wisdom, and maturity of the individuals.

Though I am convinced of my conscientious objector beliefs, rooted in Christian faith and practice, I honor my brothers and sisters who disagree with me and serve in the military for honorable reasons. I can’t wait till we can sit before God and sort this all out so that it makes sense.

Pieter Dykhorst

[email protected]

Questions, not judgments:

The questions we raise about war are not an oblique way of putting people in uniform on the spot. Whatever we do in life, we are all implicated in the activities of the society to which we belong, but when we look at how individuals respond in their own lives, we may find some of those who best reveal the peace of Christ happen to be people in the military.

I recall the executive officer of the unit I was part of while in the US Navy who stayed up much of a night reading a book he borrowed from me – War and Christianity Today – and afterward decided to give me his public support in my application for a special discharge as a conscientious objector. What he did, in my opinion, required more courage than anything I had done.

He was a career officer who probably sacrificed promotion from commander to captain by his efforts on my behalf. I’ve always been grateful that my interest in peace issues initially took shape while I was in the military – the period of my life in which I found my way to Christian faith. The experience was a blessing in many ways and ever since has protected me from dehumaniz- ing people wearing military uniforms.

Jim Forest [email protected]

Houses of Hospitality:

According to books I’ve been reading, Peter Maurin (Dorothy Day’s inspiration in many things) quoted a “fifth-century church council” that required bishops to set up houses of hospitality in all their parishes. (These would provide food, shelter and probably medical care for the poor).

I’ve tried to find out what council this was, and what it said, but haven’t

been successful. Does anyone know?

John Brady

[email protected] com

Canons:

A canonist I am not, but I look- ed a little and here is what I found. I found a list of the Captions of Arabic Canons that are attributed to the Council of Nicaea (which is, of course, actually 4th Cent.). The caption of Arabic Canon 70 is: “Of the hospital to be established in every city, and of the choice of a superintendent and concerning his duties.” I also found incidental reference to a poor house (ptocheion) in Canon 8 and to a hospice (xenodocheia) in Canon 10 of the Council of Chalecedon (5th Cent.). These canons do not specifically command that such facilities be constructed, but assume that they exist; the point of these canons is that bishops should govern them and that clergy who have moved from one place to another should not meddle in the affairs of institutions they have left.

David Holden

[email protected]

Peace, Islam and Christianity:

I know that there is not only no unity on the teaching of nonviolence which Christ gave us in the Gospel, but there are many who see nothing amiss in the current war in Iraq. I do not feel the Orthodox are especially blessed with true under- standing about nonviolence, but I know that it is what we are called to be as Christians.

In a recent sermon I heard, our priest said that for all intents and purposes Christianity in Europe is dead while Christianity in the US is now a political distortion. The responsibility for this situation lies in the unfortunate decision to align ourselves with political power, beginning with Constantine. To make ourselves comfortable in this world, we were quite willing to abandon the Kingdom of Heaven. We have no message of salvation, we have no Resurrection to reveal to our fellow humans. Wherever and whenever Christ through the Holy Spirit reveals that we have not succeeded in burying Him, we rush with planks and nails to entomb Him again.

Unless we begin to state the truth as baldly as this, we can expect no more of the Middle Eastern Muslims. Why should they lead the way to peace? And where would they begin to find it? Since Christ is our Peace and the Peace of the entire universe, if we bury Him how will the Muslims find Him?

It is because we live in a “post-Christian world” that the Orthodox Peace Fellowship has the task of exhuming the theology of the Gospel left to us by the Councils and Church Fathers, but buried by our eras-long alliance with military and government power.

Orthodox Christians who see nonviolence as unpatriotic are still living within the romantic delusion of Christian imperialism. How hard the Gospel is on that refuge of the deluded! Why shouldn’t the devout and fanatical Muslims continue their war against the “west”? They really believe in theocracy and practice it as well. As long as we see the Gospel as compatible with war and violence, why should we call the Koran into question?

Alice Carter

[email protected]

War on terror:

The news report “Washington losing ‘war on terror'” (In Communion, Summer 2006) left me dissatisfied. The remarks by Alain Chouet, formerly of France’s foreign intelligence service, do not go far enough.

Chouet says that we should not be attacking the effects of terrorism but its causes, a remark with which it is difficult not to agree. But when I read that he attributes the causes of terrorism to Wahhabite ideology, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim brotherhood, alarm bells began to ring in my head.

To be fair, he went on (in a passage In Communion omitted) to say that: “US policy in the Middle East, which had turned Iraq into a new Afghanistan,’ was acting as a powerful recruiting agent for a generation of Islamic radicals.” He also said that “the continued US presence in Iraq, the atrocities committed by a campaigning army, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq and the grotesque US detention center at Guantanamo in Cuba all ‘provide excuses’ for violent radicals.”

It is good to see widespread recognition that the USA is its own worst enemy. It is also hard not to agree with the main thrust of Chouet’s remarks. But what about the things he and the other people in the report omit to say? What about Arab/Muslim anger at the appalling way the Palestinians have been treated by Israel year after year, Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, the USA’s unqualified support for Israel over several decades, the fact that jets and missiles made in the USA fall almost daily on Palestine, killing and maiming men, women and children in larger numbers than the Israelis who are killed by Hezbollah rockets?

What about US hypocrisy and double standards, confronting Iran over nuclear weapons it does not have while refusing to condemn Israel for its nuclear weapons program? Chouet mentions Wahhabite ideology, but what about the neo- conservative ideology emanating from Washington? Here Chouet appears to be buying into the US extreme-right ideology based on the “clash of civilizations,” in which “they” are portrayed as out to wreck “our” way of life and the values “we” hold dear.

His criticisms suggest US incompetence and stupidity while downplaying the extent to which the USA is in fact guilty of more serious, deliberate and premeditated crimes against humanity, in Israel, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Perhaps this is why he mentions only “the continued US presence in Iraq,” omitting to mention that the US invasion of the country in the first place was a war crime.

There is a temptation to see all politicians in Western democratic countries as fundamentally well-intentioned but prone to blunders and apt to fly off the handle. Unfortunately I think the reality is more somber, and the prophecy about the “hearts of men growing cold” is being fulfilled in our time by cynical, hollow politicians among others.

Not only Hezbollah rockets and Islamist suicide bombers, but also bombs, bullets and torture made in the USA, have cheapened life and defaced the image of God that is printed on each one us.

What is the most appropriate Christian response to all this? As I say, I find it hard to keep up!

James Chater

[email protected]

Meeting President Bush:

I had my picture taken last week with the President of the United States. For some this means I had my picture taken with one of the greatest men alive, to others it means being frozen in time with a war criminal. When my father-in-law first invited my husband and me to attend a fundraiser compliments of him, my first response was negative. I am not a sup-

porter of George Bush Jr.

I ran the idea past some of my friends at the homeless shelter where I volunteer.

These people are the poorest of the poor and would never have the chance to go to anything like this. “What would you say to the president of the United States,” I asked, “if you had a few seconds with him?” Suggestions ranged from asking him to resign to asking for money to telling him gently that we are all humans and make mistakes and perhaps he should take responsibility for the ones he has made.

Although the luncheon itself was not set until 11:30, we had to be at the hotel by 9 a.m. because they would be closing the roads for security reasons. We were greeted by cheerful volunteers, given name tags, and ushered into a room towait. After being taken through a metal detector, we were taken to another area where there were breakfast rolls, fruit, coffee and tea. We milled around while a buffet was set up.

At last we were told the president would be there soon and we should get into the velvet-roped line. Various Republicans ascended a platform and gave speeches in support of the Republican candidate, Mark Kennedy. The priorities of the Republican Party became clear to me. First it was the war (brave and noble), second it was the economy (getting better), and third it was family (bright and shiny). A vote for Mark Kennedy was not only a vote for security and continued wealth, but a vote for family. As my attention turned from the speakers, I looked around the room and a thought slipped into my consciousness.

There were only one African-American in the room. No Hispanics or Asians. We were as white as the snow outside. I noticed the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, not far from me. “Governor,” I said, “look around. There are only white people here. Except for one person, I don’t see any people of color.” The Governor’s eyes moved around the room. He nodded. “It’s a little disturbing isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, a bit hesitantly. “I am a volunteer at a homeless shelter in Minneapolis,” I went on. “We have diversity there, but here I see only one color. Do you think there is anything we can do about that?” The governor was vague, told me about a homeless initiative of his administration, then asked me a few questions about Peace House. I invited him to come and visit, writing down our phone number and address for him. “God bless you,” I said, as I moved away, “He has,” he replied, almost defensively.

Finally the moment arrived. We were in an area divided by long blue velvet curtains. On the other side we heard applause. The president had arrived.

Then things went quickly. Suddenly my husband and I were next in line. We walked toward the president standing in front of the bright lights of the photographer. I felt the president’s hand in mine.

We smiled. Camera flash.

I turned and sought the president’s eyes, and took his hand again. “Please,” I pleaded, “don’t forget the poor and the homeless.” His eyes seemed worried, he appeared to have braced himself. “I won’t,” he said staunchly. He looked like a brave little boy.

Rene Zitzloff [email protected]

News Fall 2006

Soldier who said no: Resistance an act of penitence

soldierwhosaidno

A soldier who fled to Canada rather than return to Iraq surrendered October 4 to military officials. Specialist Darrell Anderson, 24, said he deserted the Army last year rather than fight in what he believes is an illegal war. “I feel that by resisting I made up for the sins I committed in Iraq,” Anderson said during a press briefing shortly before he turned himself in at nearby Fort Knox, Kentucky. Anderson risked facing a charge of desertion, but it is anticipated that he will be given a discharge other than honorable. At that point, he should be free from his military commitment and face no other charges, according to one source.

Anderson joined the Army in January 2003 and went to Iraq a year later with the 1st Armored Division. He was wounded and received a Purple Heart in A large majority of Iraqis want US-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their departure would make Iraq more secure and de- crease sectarian violence, according to polls commissioned by the State Depart-ment and independent researchers. The results were released by The Washington Post.

In Baghdad, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if US and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout. Another poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the US government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends to keep permanent military bases in the country.

“Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the Multi-National Force-Iraq should withdraw immediately, adding that the [military] departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence,” concludes the 20-page State Department report. The report was based on 1,870 face-to-face interviews.

“I really don’t like the Americans who patrol on the street. They should all go away,” said a young boy as he swept up hair in a barber shop. “But I do like the one who guards my church. He should stay!”

Lebanese Christians took in Muslims

lebanese father

The word went out that there was refuge in a Christian village and thousands came. In a pilgrimage of fear, Shiite Muslims from the most ravaged towns along the Lebanese border fled for Rmeish, a hilltop hamlet along a road where Israeli shells were steadily falling, at times every 15 seconds. Once in Rmeish, they escaped to a church, and at the church, a basement lit by soft shafts of sunlight.

In it were the wretched of this war: children with dirty feet and a pregnant woman who feared giving birth in squalor, an 85-year-old man whose donkey, his sole possession, was killed by a bomb, and hundreds of others among the at least 10,000 who arrived in Rmeish, some drinking from a fetid pool and walking the streets in search of food and goodwill. “The safety of God,” said Heidar Issa, one of those here. “That’s what we were counting on.”

In a country fractured by faith, torn asunder by 15 years of civil war, they found refuge among the Lebanese Christians they once fought. Their politics often diverged, but they shared a plight. And in a common misery wrought by war, less than a mile from the Israeli border, there was fleeting coexistence rather than talk of strife. “Everyone is opening their doors to anyone who comes,” said Tannous Alem, a 43-year-old Christian resident of Rmeish, who had brought 120 people into his home over 12 days. “We’re all the same in times like these.” “They welcomed us with 100 hellos,” said Issa, who arrived 10 days ago with 26 people in his truck. “Bless them.” His friend, Hussein Rahmi, nodded. “It’s safer with the Christians,” he said.

Metropolitan Philip decries Israel’s methods in Lebanon

On July 31, Metropolitan Philip, head of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, issued a statement opposing Israel’s offensive in Lebanon. “Indiscriminate killing is against the Geneva Convention, the UN Charter and all laws of civilized nations,” he said. “This savage war is between Israel and Hezbollah. Lebanon has no air force, no navy and no large military force. As a matter of fact, the Lebanese army is not involved in this war at all….

“Why is Israel bombing Lebanese cities, villages, bridges, roads and killing innocent men, women and children – in the south and north, east and west of Lebanon? According to UN statistics, more than 800 civilians have been killed, many of them children, and more then 800,000 Lebanese have been made refugees in their own country. Israel knows “We deplore the kill- ing and destruction on both sides. We know that Hezbollah has weapons which are causing some unfortunate killing and destruction in Israel. But Hezbollah does not have American weapons such as F-16s, F-15s, Apaches and smart bombs, etc. “When I saw the Leb- anese Red Cross retrieving the tender dead bodies of little children from underneath the rubble and I looked at their innocent faces and iconic eyes, I wept. I was indeed ashamed to see the extent of the cruelty and barbarism of our world. This morning, when the Lebanese Broadcasting Company showed pictures of the city of B’int-Jbeil which was completely leveled by the Israeli air force, I was reminded of the destruction of Stalingrad and Berlin during the Second World War. We and the whole world, with the exception of the United States, Great Britain, and Israel, are calling for an immediate cease fire. If we allow the law of the jungle to prevail, and if we allow our moral principles to be trodden on by barbarian feet, what will be left of our civilization?”

Russian Orthodox relations with Rome improving

The Russian Orthodox Church leader in charge of inter-denominational contacts has said relations with the Roman Catholic Church have steadily improved sincethe ascent of Pope Benedict XVI. “After the election of Pope Benedict XVI our dialogue became more intensive,” Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, said in August. “And that’s why I have a much more positive attitude to the level of Orthodox tensions come to fore at meeting with Catholics An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing Orthodox-Catholic relations than previously,” Kirill said. Kirill met Pope Benedict at the Vatican in May and spoke warmly of the pontiff in July at the World Summit of

Religious Leaders in Moscow. Pope Benedict did not attend that event, but Cardinal Walter Kasper led a large Vatican delegation. Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, spoke repeatedly of his dream to visit Russia, but met resistance from the Moscow Patriarchate, which accused the Vatican of seeking converts and infringing on its jurisdiction by creating Roman

Catholic dioceses in Russia. Kirill said the two churches had much in common in counteracting “the policy of pushing religion out of public life.” But he appeared restrained about prospects for a speedy meeting between the church’s leaders, despite the improved relations. “We will develop them and see what this realistically will bring to our churches, and then we’ll decide when, where and how the primates of our churches should meet.”

Orthodox tensions come to fore at meeting with Catholics

An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing relations between the two traditions but also showcased intra-Orthodox tension between Moscow and Constantinople, participants at the gathering report. The Orthodox and Catholic leaders gathered in Serbia from 18 to 25 September to restart a dialogue that broke off in 2000 because of post-communist tensions in Eastern Europe over “uniatism,” or the role of Greek-Catholic churches that are in communion with Rome.

While no major breakthroughs were reported, the 30 leaders from each side discussed a document on the nature of the Church dating back to 1990, which was “carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity,” a joint statement on the web site of the Serbian Orthodox Church noted. A committee was set up to bring a revised text back to another meeting in 2007.

The joint commission was established in 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited Istanbul, once the Byzantine Christian capital of Constantinople, and which is the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bartholomeos.

But after the collapse of communism, meetings of the commission were marked by tensions between Orthodox and Catholics in Eastern Europe and the former USSR.

Those conflicts are said to have eased markedly under Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate, which oversees the world’s largest Orthodox population, now emphasize common goals. Still, the meeting was marked by tension between the Orthodox patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople, which are in an increasing tug-of-war for dominance in the post-Soviet Orthodox world.

Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria lodged an official complaint to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top official for church unity who is the commission’s Catholic co-president, the Interfax news agency reported.

Hilarion objected to the document’s definition of the status of Rome and the of Constantinople. He also rejected an amended text that had been suggested to try and take account of his objections. But when Cardinal Kasper proposed that an amended text be put to the vote, most Orthodox churches sided against Moscow and voted for the amendment.

[Sonia Kishkovsky/ENI]

ROCOR clergyman backs communion with Moscow.

The signing of the Act of Canonical Communion will ensure the future of the self-governing Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and place it on “a solidcanonical foundation,” according to Fr. Rev. Alexander Lebedev, secretary of the ROCOR Commission on the talks with the Moscow Patriarchate. In an article published in November on the ROCOR website, he noted that the earlier grounds for the ROCOR inde- pendent existence can no longer be justified, now that the Church in Russia is free.

Rejection of the Act, he said, “would mean the total break of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with all the Local Orthodox Churches, which will then have every reason to deem us schismatics.”

If this occurs, he continued, “the Serbian Orthodox Church, our last link with the fullness of canonical Orthodoxy, will doubtless refuse communion with us,” while the Church of Jerusalem may withdraw the blessing for our bishops and priests to serve in the Holy Land. Rejecting the Act would make us, in the eyes of the Russian OrthodoxChurch, schismatics, “and will exclude the possibility of participating inthe church life of our homeland.” If the act is not signed, he said, “not only the Moscow Patriarchate, but the entire Orthodox world would thereby be convinced that we cannot be dealt with seriously, that we ourselves prefer to be essentially sectarians, torn from the fullness of universal Orthodoxy, and do not wish to be united with our much-suffering Church in the Fatherland and with canonical Orthodoxy.”

“Adoption of the Act will serve to end the sorrowful division of the Russian Orthodox people.

“The participation of our clergymen and faithful in the work of the spiritual rebirth of the Russian people will rise to an entirely new level.”

One in eight Americans living in poverty

In the world’s biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty in 2005, the US Census Bureau said in August, a figure virtually unchanged from 2004. The survey also showed 15.9 percent of the population, or 46.6 million, had no health insurance, up from 15.6 percent in 2004 and the fifth increase in a row. It was the first year since President Bush took office that the poverty rate did not increase. As in past years, the figures showed poverty especially concentrated among blacks and Hispanics. an entirely new level. In all, some 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line, defined as having an annual income below around $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a family of four.

Patriarch Bartholomew welcomes Pope’s visit to Turkey

Pope Benedict XVI’s November trip to Turkey will help calm recent tensions with Islam and advance his church’s struggle for religious rights, predicts Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Speaking to reporters in Istanbul in October, Bartholomew said the visit alsowould underline the pope’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue at a time when Catholic-Orthodox theological talks are resuming. “It’s an opportunity to cultivate dialogue and to remove misunderstandings. The circumstances at this moment make this visit more interesting, more necessary and more important than at any other moment,” he said. “The pope always underlines the principles of religious freedom and human rights … which are valid principles for democratic societies. So I think the pope in his sermon here will speak not only in favor of Catholics but in favor of all religious minorities,”

Russia: take the afternoon off and make a baby

The governor of a Russian province gave workers an afternoon off and told them to go home and multiply in the most direct attempt yet by officials seeking to tackle the country’s growing depopulation crisis. Politicians have been dreaming up imaginative schemes to help reverse the trend ever since President Vladimir Putin identified Russia’s demographic crisis, caused in part by soaring levels of alcoholism, as the country’s biggest threat.

But few have been quite as blunt as Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, a depressed region on the Volga. In exchange for an afternoon of state-sponsored passion, his “give birth to a patriot” campaign, launched in September, offers parents who give birth next year on June 12, Russia’s Independence Day, a range of incentives from a fridge or washing machine to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on how many children the couple already has. President Putin has promised to give €5,000 to every mother who gives birth to a second child.

Ten-year window to act on climate warming

A leading US climate researcher said in September that the world has a 10-year window of opportunity to take decisive action on global warming and avert a weather catastrophe. NASA scientist James Hansen, as dean of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.8 degrees F.

“I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change… no longer than a decade, at the most,” Hansen said at the Climate Change Research Conference in Sacramento, California. If the world continues with a “business as usual” scenario, he said temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and “we will be producing a different planet.”

On that warmer planet, ice sheets would melt quickly, causing a rise in sea levels that would put most of Manhattan and many other cities and towns under water.

Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species

If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global col- lapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting. The scientists, who report their findngs today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say.

But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.” The researchers drew their conclusion after analyzing dozens of studies, along with fishing data collected by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organiza- tion and other sources. They acknowledge that much of what they are report-ing amounts to correlation, rather than proven cause and effect. And the F.A.O. data have come under criticism from researchers who doubt the reliability of some nations’ reporting practices, Dr. Worm said.

Twelve scientists from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Panama contributed to the work reported in Science today. “We extracted all data on fish and invertebrate catches from 1950 to 2003 within all 64 large marine ecosystems worldwide,” they wrote. “Collectively, these areas produced 83 percent of global fisheries yields over the past 50 years.”

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