May 28, 2014

Leave-taking of Pascha

Psalm 106: a confession of Israel’s sins

Both we and our fathers have sinned;
 we have committed iniquity,
we have done wickedly.
(Psalm 106:6)

We have sinned, transgressed, done wrong before You.
We have not watched or done as You have commanded us,
but do not give us up utterly, O God of our fathers.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.
(Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete, Ode 7)

Psalm 105 and 106 go together: the first as a remembrance of God’s saving intervention in the history of Israel, the second as a communal confession of sin over that same history. Whatever God has done, Israel—and the community of the Church afterwards—has been repeatedly unfaithful.

The Journals of Fr Alexander Schmemann

Indeed, the Orthodox Church itself can be “a thicket of idols” that pushes Christ into the background in favor of a Byzantine or Russian or some other glorious past, as Father Alexander Schmemann wrote candidly in his Journals

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” (1 John 5:21). Sometimes I see Orthodoxy in a thicket of idols. To be attached to the past always leads to idolatry, and I see many people living by the past, or rather, by many pasts. (Nov 1973)

I realize how spiritually tired I am of all this “Orthodoxism,” of all the fuss with Byzantium, Russia, way of life, spirituality, church affairs, piety, of all these rattles. I do not like any of them, and the more I think about the meaning of Christianity, the more it all seems alien to me. It literally obscures Christ, pushes him into the background (Feb 1977).

Idolatry was the perennial temptation in the Bible and throughout church history. At the Memorial Day pilgrimage at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery this past Monday, Metropolitan Tikhon gave the sermon at the Divine Liturgy. He focused on the words of Acts 17:1-15, where in Thessalonica Saint Paul and his disciples were accused of having “turned the world upside down.” They were seen as troublemakers who upset the status quo and self-contentedness of their hearers. They were overturning the comfortable idolatry of the past and showing a new way in Christ. His Beatitude challenged us to ask ourselves what actions we as Orthodox Christians are prepared to take to do the same as witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection today.

Memorial Day Weekend Diary

Friday May 23: Saint Tikhon’s Seminary Board meeting, including approval of new graduates

Saturday May 24: At the Divine Liturgy before Commencement, Bishop Michael focused on Saint Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445), commemorated that day and whose Commonitorium summarized the church’s approach to Holy Tradition as “that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” Thus, the threefold test of Christian doctrine is 1) universality, 2) antiquity and 3) consent. The Church changes and grows over time, but in the same way a human being changes from infancy to childhood to maturity while remaining the same person.

Early morning at St Tikhon’s cemetery

After the Liturgy, like many others over the weekend, I walked through the cemetery remembering departed family members, friends, and servants of the Church. With my wife and brother-in-law, we had a memorial service at the grave of my parents and sister before driving to south Jersey for a 25th wedding anniversary celebration with my brother’s family (and therefore missed commencement at Saint Tikhon’s this year.)

Sunday May 25: Served with Father John Shimchick at Holy Cross Church in Medford, NJ.

Monday May 26: Memorial Day at Saint Tikhon’s. Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Justinian (Russian Orthodox Church), Bishop Sava (Serbian Orthodox Church), Bishop Michael (NY-NJ), Bishop Mark and Bishop David (Alaska) and many local clergy.

Fr Michael Lipa
Fr Michael Lipa, St Tikhon’s Seminary Class of 1964

Tuesday May 27: After all the events of the weekend, a quiet divine liturgy served by Father Michael Lipa, who was celebrating his 50th anniversary of graduation from Saint Tikhon’s Seminary. Breakfast with Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop David of Sitka, Archimandrite Sergius (the abbot) and the monks in the refectory.

* * *

Today after the Paschal Divine Liturgy for the Leavetaking, Metropolitan Tikhon, Father Leonid Kishkovsky, and I will go to Englewood, NJ to meet for lunch with Metropolitan Silouan, the Administrator of Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

Christ is risen!