For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. (1 Cor 12:12)
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matt 18:20)
We Orthodox call our sacraments “mysteries,” and that is a good word to label the inexplicable, especially something as mysterious as marriage. Worldwide there must have been thousands of weddings this past Sunday, but I was aware of two, the Chancery’s Jessica and Matt in Long Island, and my friends Bob (“Reader James”) and Martha in Ottawa, where I am now. Two utter strangers finding each other and choosing to start a new community that begins now and is meant to continue “unto ages of ages, amen.” It’s mysterious enough on a human level, but then add the divine dimension, seeing God’s hand in all the events of past, present and future in this fledgling family….The only adequate response is wonder, and wonder turns in to gratitude.
Marriage, as the quintessential human community, also represents the mystery of the Church. The epistle and gospel speak of this mystery of the Body where Christ is present among “two or three” gathered in His name. But the mystery of unity over a lifetime doesn’t happen just by itself, as any marriage of long duration knows. St Paul talks about the conscious and co-suffering care that each member of the Body needs to have for the others, “that there be no schism in the body…For if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
The Lord too speaks of the ascetic effort of keeping a community together. Peter feels pretty good about himself suggesting that he might forgive his offending brother seven times, but the Lord takes him to outrageous levels of forgiveness he hadn’t dreamed of. “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
The mystery of marriage and community is in its first coming together, but even more so in its flourishing constancy and fidelity.
Archdiocese of Canada
The Archdiocese of Canada is getting ready here for the clergy synaxis, or gathering (Wednesday) and the Assembly (Thursday to Sunday). The synaxis is an opportunity for the clergy from across this huge diocese to share their experiences and discuss pastoral matters with Bishop Irénée, His Beatitude and with each other. Fr Ian Pac-Urar will lead a workshop on protecting parishes from abuse. Other presentations will deal with clergy compensation and the St Arseny Institute.
Bishop Irénée arrives late this afternoon from episcopal travels in Alberta; His Beatitude arrives tonight. The Assembly is taking place both at Annunciation Cathedral in Ottawa and—the majority of events—at the Château Cartier, a hotel/conference center in Gatineau,Quebec, just across the Ottawa River.
For more on the Archdiocese and the events this week see http://www.archdiocese.ca/