DO WE SPEAK OUT ENOUGH?

The Protection of the Theotokos

Earlier in the week the “March for Life” rally as held in Washington, D.C. It is held to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.  This year marked the 38th. anniversary of that court ruling. The question I would like to pose does not have direct bearing on the issue of abortion, as disturbing as it is; but the general topic of the Church and social consciousness.  Do we, as an Orthodox community, speak out as often as we should or with a loud enough voice on pressing social issues and moral concerns in this country?

Looking below the surface of this question, what the real question that underlies this concern is; are we comfortable in this country, yet? Have we grown comfortable and confident enough to freely comment on the pressing issues of our society or that confront our nation?  This question has bearing on the degree, which we now view ourselves as fully American. Is this country home; or do we still feel like the Diaspora? If we answer by declaring this home, then we absolutely have an obligation to speak with a loud voice of moral guidance based on an Orthodox ethos and ethics.

There is part of me that looks at our reticence to speak with a loud voice as a consequence of our immigrant background.  As an immigrant Church, we did not speak out due to our own sense of isolation and insecurity. Our community and even our leadership, both clergy and laity, felt isolated, inferior and was focused introspectively.  We looked inward. Fortunately, these days are behind us; or are they?   It is fitting to raise our voices in the event of a catastrophe or a difficulty befalling a sister Orthodox community anywhere in the world.  This is our duty and our responsibility, to focus the American society and leadership on the difficulties our fellow Orthodox face.  But, do we not also have a responsibility to speak to issues that our country faces.  Please, encourage our leadership to speak out. Hierarch, clergy and knowledgable lay leadership need to speak out and to attempt to positively influence the course of our nation.  The Orthodox social conscious can be that new perspective that the American society needs to make better choices in these crucial times. May Our Lord Guide us all and may the Theotokos ever protect this great country.

Silent Voices (04 January 2011)

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The pain on Pope Shenouda III’s face.

One of the sad consequences of our Orthodox disunity on this continent became so evident this week.   Unless you have been totally disconnected from current events, you could not help but noticing the tragic events in traditional Orthodox lands.  In Egypt, we witnessed the bloody martyrdom of Coptic Christians.  In Alexandria, the city of Sts. Athanasius, Cyril and many more luminaries of Orthodoxy, our sister Coptic Orthodox Christians were massacred by fanatics. In “Northern” Cyprus, Orthodox were murdered and Churches desecrated.  In Lebanon, a leader of the Christian community has correctly labeled the systematic elimination of Christians in the Middle East as genocide. In Palestine, we continue to here terrible reports from Fr. and Pres. Khoury about the misery the Palestinian Christians endure each day.  Even in New York, we continue to await the resolution of  issue of St. Nicholas Church at ground zero.  What do all these issues have in common?  The small voices of divided Orthodox leaders are barley heard above background noise!  Archbishop Demetrios issues a statement, Metropolitan Jonas prays for Egypt and unfortunately Constantinople must remain silent!  Since our voices are not united they can barely be heard.  Who cares what we say since, we have succeeded in marginalizing ourselves!

Our own disunity and divisions assure that no one pays attention to us.  We are small ethnic enclaves who are quoted in our own jurisdictional press and by a few niche publications.  We don’t make an impact; consequently we don’t make a difference. Critical events and essential issues present themselves and we provide little cogent Orthodox witness.  We live not only in a time when national and international events occur at break neck speed, but when moral and ethical judgments need an Orthodox compass.

If we insist on staying apart, how can we begin to have a louder voice?  What about a joint press office that would issue simultaneous press releases in New York and Washington, perhaps under the auspices of the Assembly of Bishops of the Orthodox Church.  What about a joint commission of Orthodox Theologians who could speak to moral and ethical concerns. Little voices are whispers and are not heard.  We must begin to act united and who knows it might get to be a habit!!

Traveling to Bethlehem (17 December 2010)

gennhch_xrictoy-close-up1

Let Christ be born in our hearts!

Question: Are we the Church of Christ or the church or Baklava and Kibbeh? This is a serious question. The reality is what started as a way to share our culture and to expose our ethnic heritage to the American public has now become something else.  It was a really good purpose, but somewhere along the way we got hooked.  What do I mean?  The festivals that our Churches sponsor each year have become an income stream for many parishes.  They have become a necessity and not icing on the cake.  How many parishes dedicate 100% of the receipts to charity, civic endeavours or philanthropy?  Just like a narcotic our parishes have learned to depend upon these yearly events, while allowing us, the parishioners, to avoid our personal responsibility to our parish. Stewardship should be the support for our Churches, yet as we rely on outsiders to fund our Churches: we deny our own duty and let the guests support of our parishes.

If we provide according to our means and responsibility then our festivals should be bonuses. There is a deeper question. Are we mature in our faith? Are able to look at our Parish as ours and as given to us by Christ to care for and support.  If are faith is centred on Christ, then the parish is Christ and never a burden. The problem is our attitude towards Christ.  Are we committed to His Church and to Incarnate Him in the world? During this Nativity season are we prepared to care for Christ out of love or are we content to let others meet our obligations?

Traveling to Bethlehem (15 December 2010)

We will be asked hard questions!

We will be asked hard questions!

Where are they?  As some of you know I am a cradle Orthodox.  The truth is that I am also a generational, cradle Orthodox. I grew up in the Church with many contemporaries that are no longer in the Church.  Where did they go and why did they leave?  These are questions we are either ashamed or frightened to ask.  I believe we delude ourselves by not seeking the answers to these questions.  What is it about the Orthodox Churches in America, all jurisdictions, that greet and speak with pride of the “new” Orthodox; people who embrace the faith, while generations walk out the back door? There are many others who are primarily unchurched or who are holiday Orthodox.  What do I mean? They come with parents or family for holidays or for family events either marriages, baptisms or funerals, but are absent the rest of the time.  Years ago, we used to say it was “the language issue” or the “ethnic issue” Hogwash! Even in the most ethnic or single language areas, there are still churches which are predominately English speaking. This is not the reason, this is an excuse.  We must look deeper, the vast majority of us need to ask serious question. Do I really understand what is going on in my Church?  Is it meeting my inner needs? Obviously, by the exodus of faithful, we as the Church are missing the boat. Are we prepared to ask hard questions and listen to the answers.  Over the next few blog posts I would like to ask some of these questions, but I would like this to be a dialogue.  Comment and let’s try to engage the issue.

Personal note: Today is St. Eleftherios’ Feastday – to my beautiful wife Ria, Thea Ria, Granddaughter Ella, and Son Vastan (Eleftherios) I Love you all. Hronia Pola!

St. Eleftherios

St. Eleftherios

Ecumenical Patriarch Talks Candidly

The Great Church in Captivity

The Great Church in Captivity

It seems to me that this is even more fitting now!  Please click on the  link below and watch His All Holiness Bartholomew I interviewed by CBS News.

http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/60minutes/main3415.shtml

ISTANBUL – There are two front gates into the walled compound that protects the home of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Visitors enter through a door secured by a guardhouse, locks and a metal-screening device. They cannot enter the Phanar’s main gate because it was welded shut in 1821 after the Ottoman Turks hanged Patriarch Gregory V from its lintel. The black doors have remained sealed ever since.

A decade ago, bombers who tried to open this gate left a note: “We will fight until the Chief Devil and all the occupiers are chased off; until this place, which for years has contrived Byzantine intrigues against the Muslim people of the East is exterminated. … Patriarch you will perish!”

The capital of Byzantium fell to the Turks in 1453. Yet 400,000 Orthodox Christians remained in greater Istanbul early in the 20th century. That number fell to 150,000 in 1960. Today fewer than 2,000 remain, the most symbolic minority in a land that is 99 percent Turkish. They worship in 86 churches served by 32 priests and deacons, most 60 or older. What the Orthodox urgently need is an active seminary and patriarchate officials are convinced the European Union will help them get one, as Turkey races to begin the formal application process

The Door of Tears

The Door of Tears

Pray for the Patriarchate !!!

Christ is Born!

Glorify Him!

“I believe; help my unbelief” – Mark 9, 24

Simple Faith

Simple Faith

Last week, I wrote about children and the Church. We often hear children are the Church of tomorrow. What dribble.  Children and the youth are the Church today; but they are not alone. We all assemble as the Church. I have a problem that many of you who know me can confirm, I tend to approach faith intellectually. I read, study and search out answers. The photo that I use today illustrates that which I envy, YiaYia’s simple faith.

We read in the Gospels, Our Lord says many times: “your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10, 52.) What is faith? In the 11th chapter of his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul has a beautiful chapter on faith. Parts of the chapter are read as Epistle readings on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers (the Sunday before The Nativity of Christ in the Flesh – Christmas) and on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (the first Sunday of Great Lent). But, I believe one of the most touching thoughts is captured in the very first sentence of the chapter:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence

of things not seen. (Hebrews 11, 1)

One of the strengths of the Church is that each of us learn from the other. Last week, I said we are all responsible for teaching children. The beauty is that we can learn from everyone in the Church. If we stop and try to quietly follow the examples of faith around us; it will help our own spiritual growth.  Бабушка can teach all of us.  Grandma’s faith is born from years of prayer. Sittie’s trust in God gives us all an example, which will guide us.  Last Saturday, we celebrated the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Panagia is the model of the Church; remember her words: “Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be according to your word.” ( Luke, 1, 38)  Trust in God, by putting things in His hands. YiaYia has learned her simple faith; and she shows us this in her unbounded love.  As we approach faith, we must learn both from YiaYia and from our children. They share a simple trust in God.  Yiayia’s trust is born from prayer, and a child’s trust is born from innocence. They are two examples from different ages, but are they really that dissimilar? Putting faith in God give both, YiaYia and a child, a serene confidence and a peaceful reliance on His Love. Knowing that God loves us no matter who we are should allow us to put our hearts at ease. We have children, YiaYia and what is more important the example of the Most Holy Theotokos to guide us. Let us declare, as did the father of the epileptic boy: “I believe; help my disbelief!” (Mark 9, 24).