June 12, 2012

Faith and Fruit

St Paul is making an elaborate argument here for the priority of faith, because he’s trying to find a way that the Gentiles (the “uncircumcised”) can be included among God’s chosen people, the Jews (“the circumcised”). We can see that it’s not an easy argument to make, because Jewish tradition seemed to be so clear that membership depended on keeping the Law given by God to Moses.  But the early church’s experience (see Peter and Cornelius, Acts 10-11), confirmed by Paul’s missionary travels, was that the Gentiles had truly received the message of Christ crucified and risen and been transformed by the Holy Spirit no less than Jewish Christians. How then to understand theologically this shared experience and to broaden the boundaries of the people of God? Paul looks to Abraham, whose faith predates the Mosaic law. Throughout his letters, Paul returns to transformative faith in Christ as the single touchstone of the community’s new boundaries, “for neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

Today’s gospel is related to this, because it focuses on how to discern who is a shepherd and who is a wolf. “You will know them by their fruits.” Christians have to evaluate for themselves, by their experience, in the light of Christ, what they are being told and make judgments about what kind of fruit is being produced. Galatians 5:16-23 gives a useful checklist to discern the “works of the flesh” from “fruit of the spirit.” So if we don’t see “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”—beware. 

Diaconal Vocations Program (DVP)

St. Sergius Chapel
St. Sergius Chapel

After being in Canada most of last week I had a busy couple of days catching up on emails, phone calls and tasks with Fr Eric Tosi, Fr Leonid Kishkovsky and others. I served Great Vespers on Saturday at St Sergius chapel, and on All Saints Sunday Fr Eric served the Divine Liturgy while I sang in the choir under Jessica Linke’s direction.

Today I will join His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah at St Vladimir’s Seminary (he drove up yesterday from Washington) to be with candidates from across the OCA in the Diaconal Vocations Program. They are in Crestwood for their annual four-day liturgical practicum, learning hands-on how to serve as deacons, including a hierarchical liturgy with Metropolitan Jonah (in contrast, I will be giving them some basic instruction on what they need to know about preventing, recognizing and reporting abuse—tough topic but necessary for anyone serving in a church). 

The DVP is a training program for mature candidates (over 35) who with their bishop’s blessing have been called to prepare for service as deacons but for various reasons cannot enroll as full-time seminary students. The Board of Theological Education (led by Archbishop Tikhon) oversees the program, which is directed by Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov. For information and application see oca.org/dvp.