Christian Unity 2017

Last Saturday a bunch of us from the Metropolis joined our Catholic brethren as well as representatives from other Christian traditions – our Coptic friends, the Black Mission Alliance, Congregacion Leon de Juda, the Mass. Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, and many others – for a day of Christian unity.  There were workshops and fellowship culminating with a worship service at the beautiful Holy Name parish in West Roxbury.  There is an account on the Metropolis site here and some remarks from Cardinal Sean here.  It was a great day – the worship service was beautiful, with hymns from different choirs and an inspiring homily from Cardinal Sean – and a nice gathering of different Christians from across the Christian spectrum.  Let’s pray for and plan more such events!

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January 30th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Yup, He’s Orthodox

Today is St. Patrick’s Day – a huge secular feast day in America, and one that has huge religious roots.  It is seen as an Irish-based holiday, and indeed most all of the people I encountered today here in the heart of Massachusetts had green on (and I was on pinch patrol).  On Facebook today someone posted an article entitled “YES he’s Orthodox and NO he’s not Irish!”.  Well, yes on the first and, I would argue, no on the second part.  St. Patrick is indeed an Orthodox saint (and a great bridge between our faith and American culture).  He is, like many others, a western saint who lived before the great schism – a period of a thousand years shared by the west and east.  While St. Patrick was not ethnically Irish, he made the country his home and became one of the people – like coming to American, buying into the program, and becoming American.  His Eminence Metropolitan Savas has shared a great article on what food St. Patrick likely would have had at a feast.  Here is a hint – it is likely not like the local pub’s St. Paddy’s day special.

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March 17th, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Moses And Goldschläger

This evening I had the pleasure of speaking at First Church Marlborough (who are celebrating their 350th (!) anniversary) on the topic of the theology of food.  I spent about half the talk going over uses of food in the Bible – a topic for another post – and then spoke about fasting practices in the Orthodox Church.  Today is, for us, the second day of Lent while our Western friends will have Holy Week next week – it is one of those years.  In going over food (and drink) in the Bible, I came across a point I had long forgotten.  In Exodus 32, the Israelites have fashioned an idol to worship – the Golden Calf.  Moses, in his anger over this, has the idol pulverized and makes the Israelites drink water mixed with the powder.  While I have not seen this anywhere, I figure this must be the origin of Goldschläger, a Swiss schnapps that has tiny flakes of gold in it.   The name of the liqueur – “gold-beaters” – refers to those who pound gold into thin leafs.  There is an urban myth that the gold cuts your digestive apparatuses and the alcohol goes straight into the blood stream.  I remember, though, a story from 20-odd years ago of someone who drank it regularly and ended up with a problem of too much gold in his bloodstream – internet searches have proved fruitless on this one.  In any case, if you have a friend drinking Goldschläger, you have an opportunity to talk about Biblical events.

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March 15th, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Religious Freedom

Today’s assignment in the blogger challenge (and make sure to check out the other participating blogs here) is Eden.  Eden, if one thinks of it as having been a real place, has traditionally been associated with Mesopotamia – the land between rivers.  Tonight we had our annual Marlborough-Hudson Interfaith Association’s Thanksgiving service.  Normally at this event I do a prayer or hymn from our Orthodox tradition but I did something a little different this time.  In light of what has been happening in Iraq and the Near East with ISIS, I thought I would talk about how we should be thankful that we are free to worship, talk about our faith, and gather with people of other faiths.  To this end I read Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was a predecessor of the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Authorship of it, along with of the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia, were the three of his many accomplishments that Jefferson chose to put on his epitaph.  I went to UVa and so I have a natural affinity for Mr. Jefferson, as we ‘Hoos are supposed to call him.  He was also a philhellene and a supporter of the Greek revolution (although he considered the Orthodox Church to be monkish tomfoolery).  Here is the complete text of his Statute:

An Act for establishing religious Freedom.

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;

That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;

That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,

That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;

That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

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November 20th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

From Constantinople To Rome

Address of His All-Holiness to His Holiness Pope Francis of Rome

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in a formal reception in honor of the church and religious leaders by Pope Francis, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew represented the christian and faith communities in a special address to the Pope. The Patriarch’s attendance at the papal inaugural mass was a historic initiative on the part of Patriarch Bartholomew inasmuch as it was the first time in history that an Ecumenical Patriarch was personally present at a papal installation.

Vatican, March 20, 2013

Your Holiness,

In the name of the Lord of powers, we wholeheartedly congratulate You on the inspired election and deserved assumption of Your new high duties as First Bishop of the venerable Church of Senior Rome, defined by the primacy of love.

On this Throne, You succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who boldly retired for reasons of health and fatigue, a man distinguished for his meekness, theology and love. The task and responsibility before You are immense before both God and humankind. The unity of the Christian Churches is surely our foremost concern as one of the fundamental prerequisites for the credibility of our Christian witness in the eyes of those near and afar. In order to achieve this unity, we must continue the inaugurated theological dialogue so that we may jointly appreciate and approach the truth of faith, the experience of the saints, and the tradition of the first Christian millennium shared by East and West alike. It should be a dialogue of love and truth, in a spirit of humility, meekness, and honesty.

After all, the global economic crisis urgently mandates the coordination of our humanitarian action, in which You are well experienced as a result of Your long and fruitful ministry as a Good Samaritan in Latin America, where You pastorally witnessed – like so few others – the bitterness of human pain and suffering. Those who “have” must be motivated to offer – willingly and gladly – to those who “have not.” In this way, peace will be secured through justice as the sole universal request and the basic expectation of all nations. We must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, treat the suffering, and generally care for the needy so that we may hear from our Lord: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Matt. 25.34)

The selection by Your beloved and esteemed Holiness of a lifestyle of simplicity has highlighted – and will continue to highlight – your priority for what is essential. This fills the hearts of everyone – Your faithful and all people in general – with a sense of hope. It is the hope that this priority will be applied broadly so that judgment and mercy, as the essence the law, may prevail in the Church.

Throughout the two-thousand-year history of the Church of Christ, certain truths of the sacred Gospel were misinterpreted by some Christian groups, resulting in secular misconceptions that have unfortunately spread in Christian circles today. Thus, the burden of our obligation andresponsibility is to remind ourselves, each another, and the entire world that God became human in Jesus Christ in order that we may lead a divine way of life. Indeed, “God is the Lord and has appeared to us.” The one who created all things in the beginning, who guides and provides for all things, descended to the depths of death on the cross in order that, through His resurrection, He may demonstrate that “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,” and in His name alone, to serve His people, so that we may all be united, and that Christ may be all things and in all things,

This world is the domain where we realize this spiritual way of life, where we achieve our integration into the body of Christ, and where we are brought through Him into eternal life. The Church consecrates this earthly life, although it does not consummate its mission in this earthly life. We all realize and recognize this truth, which is why – as pastors and faithful alike – we travel this way of truth, acquiring the heavenly through the earthly.

As the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the worldwide Orthodox Church of Christ, we are certain that Your venerable and dearly beloved Holiness, who commences this historical journey with such favorable auspices as Bishop of Rome, will – together with all those who are willing and able – exhibit special concern for the reparation of secular trends so that humanity may be restored to its “original beauty” of love. We fervently pray with all Christians as well as with people throughout the world that Your Holiness will prove effective in this deeply responsible and highly onerous task.

May our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed and glorified. Thanks be to God, who in every period of time raises up worthy leaders, deserving of their calling to lead and guide His people, for the adoration of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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March 24th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

An Ecumenical Embrace

As an Orthodox Christian of Orthodox and Roman Catholic background it fills me with great pride, happiness, and love to see this picture of the Patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople together.  They follow in the footsteps of Bishop Flanagan and Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory as well as our hierarchs Metropolitan Methodios, Cardinal Sean and Bishop McManus.

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March 20th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Taking Back Sunday

Below is a note from Metropolitan Methodios and a joint statement from the recent Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation:

 

Sadly, Sunday has lost its significance in our society, becoming less of a day of worship of almighty God and more like any ordinary work day.  This especially affects our young people who are obligated to attend sports events on Sunday mornings rather than attend the Divine Liturgy.  At my request, this sad reality and its ramifications were discussed at the recent meeting of the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation.  After lengthy discussion, the following joint statement was issued.  I ask you to read it carefully and approach civic, business and school authorities in your community to schedule sports events after 12 noon so that our young people may worship together with their families on Sunday mornings.

 

The Importance of Sunday

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation

Saint Paul’s College, Washington, DC
October 27, 2012

Recovering the theological significance of Sunday is fundamental to rebalancing our lives. As Orthodox and Catholics, we share a theological view of Sunday and so our purpose in this statement is four-fold: to offer a caring response to what is not just a human, but also a theological question; to add a little more volume to the growing chorus of Christian voices trying to be heard in the din of our non-stop worklife; to offer brief reflections in hopes of drawing attention to the fuller expositions elsewhere; and to reinforce the ecumenical consensus by speaking as Orthodox and Catholics with one voice.

For Christians, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is a special day consecrated to the service and worship of God.  It is a unique Christian festival.  It is “the day the Lord has made” (Ps. 117 (118):24). Its nature is holy and joyful. Sunday is the day on which we believe God acted decisively to liberate the world from the tyranny of sin, death, and corruption through the Holy Resurrection of Jesus.

The primacy of Sunday is affirmed by the liturgical practice of the early church. St. Justin the Martyr writing around 150 AD notes that “it is on Sunday that we assemble because Sunday is the first day, the day on which God transformed darkness and matter and created the world and the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (First Apology, 67).” Sunday has always had a privileged position in the life of the church as a day of worship and celebration. On Sunday the Church assembles to realize her eschatological fullness in the Eucharist by which the Kingdom and the endless Day of the Lord are revealed in time.  It is the perpetual first day of the new creation, a day of rejoicing.  It is a day for community, feasting and family gatherings.

As we look at our fellow Christians and our society, we observe that everyone is short of time and stressed. One reason is that many of us have forgotten the meaning of Sunday, and with it the practices that regularly renewed our relationships and lives.  More and more Christian leaders see the effects of a 24/7 worklife and ask “Where is the time of rest?”  As members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, gathered October 25-27, 2012, we add our combined voice to their call.

Our purpose here is not to replace or replicate their message; it is to underscore and point to it.  Anyone who looks at the 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (The Lord’s Day) of Pope John Paul II and its cascade of patristic quotations will see there is already a feast of food for thought on the meaning of Sunday.  Anyone who reads the recent book Sunday, Sabbath, and the Weekend (2010, Edward O’Flaherty, ed.) will see there is also strong ecumenical consensus on the need to recover the meaning of Sunday– not just for our souls, but for our bodies, our hearts, and our minds as well.

Sadly Sunday has become less of a day of worship and family and more like an ordinary work day. Shopping, sports, and work squeeze out the chance for a day of worship or rest in the Christian sense.  By abandoning Sunday worship we lose out on the regenerative powers that flow out of the liturgical assembly.  And when Sunday becomes detached from its theological significance, it becomes just part of a weekend and people can lose the chance to see transcendent meaning for themselves and their lives (The Lord’s Day, 4).

Sunday is more than just the first day of the week.  In our faith we see how it is the ultimate day of new beginnings: “It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death, the fulfillment in him of the first creation and the dawn of “the new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to “the last day”, when Christ will come in glory (cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Th 4:13-17) and all things will be made new (cf. Rev 21:5. The Lord’s Day, 1).”

Sunday even unlocks the mystery of time itself, for “…in commemorating the day of Christ’s Resurrection not just once a year but every Sunday, the Church seeks to indicate to every generation the true fulcrum of history, to which the mystery of the world’s origin and its final destiny leads (The Lord’s Day, 2).”  The Lord’s Day is the day after the last day of the week and so it symbolizes eternity as well: what St. Augustine calls “a peace with no evening (Confessions 13:50).”  St. Basil the Great in his Treatise on the Holy Spirit writes, “Sunday seems to be an image of the age to come… This day foreshadows the state which is to follow the present age: a day without sunset, nightfall or successor, an age which does not grow old or come to an end (On the Holy Spirit 26:77).”

The apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II calls it a day of joy, rest, and solidarity.  Joy there is, because the disciples are always glad to see the Master. God scripturally established a day of rest as a gift to us, and rest there must be for every human person. Rest is built into our nature and also withdraws us “…from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew [our] awareness that everything is the work of God. There is a risk that the prodigious power over creation which God gives to man can lead him to forget that God is the Creator upon whom everything depends. It is all the more urgent to recognize this dependence in our own time, when science and technology have so incredibly increased the power which man exercises through his work. Finally, it should not be forgotten that even in our own day work is very oppressive for many people, either because of miserable working conditions and long hours — especially in the poorer regions of the world — or because of the persistence in economically more developed societies of too many cases of injustice and exploitation of man by man (The Lord’s Day, 65,66).”

As members of the Consultation, we strongly urge both clergy and laity to work cooperatively within their communities to stress the importance of Sunday for worship and family.  Foremost we call for all to render thanks to God and render love towards one another – and be willing to reserve time to do both — and avail ourselves of the riches of the Lord’s Day.  Appropriate authorities can be approached to schedule sports activities after 12 noon in order to give young athletes and their family the opportunity to worship on Sunday morning.  We call for our children to live in a timescape that respects the God-given rhythm of the week.

“Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction. He is the One who knows the secret of time and the secret of eternity, and he gives us “his day” as an ever new gift of his love. The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human (The Lord’s Day, 7).”

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November 17th, 2012 by Fr. Greg