February 7, 2014

Psalm 65

Blessed is he whom thou dost choose and bring near, to dwell in thy courts!

We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house,
thy holy temple!
(Psalm 65:4)

This psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving for the bounties of God’s creation. But it comes out of a heart that is shaped by being in God’s house and filled with the love of God, the first of the two great commandments. These days love of neighbor is something that everyone appreciates —religious, secularist, agnostic, atheist. But love of God is widely viewed as peculiar, pointless and possibly dangerous. In contrast, the psalms and our liturgical life are filled with this pointless delight in God’s presence.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
 that will I seek after; 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
 all the days of my life, 
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
 and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)

We pray for those who devote themselves to the care and beauty of the Lord’s house. Yes, of course, like anything else this too can become an idol that pulls us away from love of God. As they say, we need to be devoted to the Lord of the house, not just to the house of the Lord. And yes, we believe that love for God—if it is authentic—will spill over into love of neighbor. But we Orthodox have a special duty to care for the beauty of the Lord we have inherited in our rich liturgical tradition and in our temples. Going to services, cleaning the church, paying attention to its good order and that everything contributes to creating an oasis of divine peace and healing in the midst of a chaotic and suffering world—all of this is our collective responsibility. May every act of care for the house of the Lord nurture love for entering the court of the Lord with thanksgiving and joy.

Metropolitan Council Meeting

Met Council

The last few days have been taken up with meetings about the business of the Metropolitan Council (MC). The website will report the main discussion items but from my perspective it was a very peaceful gathering—together with members of the Lesser Synod who were there—that continues to address the nuts and bolts of OCA-wide life and planning.

The meeting ended with an unexpectedly candid discussion about the state of OCA theological education. Given that we had representatives of all three seminaries (Saint Herman, Saint Tikhon’s and Saint Vladimir’s) His Beatitude asked them each to say something. Two major issues emerged. First, it became clear that the Metropolitan Council and Holy Synod need to have an extended dialogue about how the seminaries and bishops can work together collaboratively in the formation process of seminarians for service in the Church.

Fr Leonid Kishkovsky
Fr Leonid Kishkovsky presenting report on External Affairs

Second, there was concern that theological education is something of an afterthought as long as parishes have a priest. Instead, it should be a top priority in planning for the future of the OCA as the MC and bishops consider what might be best for the church as a whole.

His Beatitude said he would be addressing with the Holy Synod these big questions of planning for the next 20, 30, 40 years. The seminaries are a big part of this, but they are connected with lingering aspects of our past “fracturing”—dioceses versus central administration, parishes versus diocese, territorial dioceses versus ethnic dioceses etc. All of these questions need to be brought together in a unified vision for where to take the OCA.

Judge Lanier
Judge Lanier presents report of the Legal Committee to the Metropolitan Council during power outage.

You should know that this intrepid group from across North America is undeterred by snow and ice and darkness. Winter storms disrupted power lines periodically leaving us in the cold dark basement conference room of the East Norwich Inn, where MC meetings have been held for years (it’s a mile or so from the Chancery).  There was hardly a pause as emergency lights went on and camping lamps were distributed.