August 23, 2012

Communal Healing and Personal Prayer

“And He healed many…“And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:34,35)

12th All-American Council
12th All American Sobor, 1965, one-day council at Holy Protection of the Virgin Cathedral in NYC for election of successor to Metropolitan Leonty.

This will be another occasions when I write just one reflection for the day. The announcement of the OCA’s next All American Council calls for that, and, as often happens, the readings today are providentially appropriate. St Paul is writing to those who in Corinth who are angry with him and his earlier letter to them about a painful pastoral situation that caused everyone a lot of grief. That other letter is lost to history and we don’t know for sure what the problem was, but we can feel the anguish of a community torn by misunderstanding. Paul says “we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.” He talks about his own struggles in ministry, “fighting without and fear within,” and also of the goodness of God who in many and various ways “comforts the downcast.”

In a little over two months we will be electing a new metropolitan. I’ve said a few times that the church is in good hands, that the day-to-day work continues well and that for the most part there is calm across the OCA. But I also recognize that there are still many hurt people, especially those who were closest to Metropolitan Jonah.

Over the last month and a half since Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation I’ve had a few angry letters, phone calls and emails, though also many supportive ones. Yesterday I received this hand-written note from a woman in the Diocese of Washington (to her credit she signed her name).

Dear Chancellor Jillions,
I am writing this note in response to your report posted on the OCA website…
In my long life (75 years) I have learned that God always wins. The part I remember most about your report informed us that the OCA was in “good hands.”
We lay people know that we are not in good hands. We know that you were the “hit man” in the Met Jonah coup! We know that the bishops have shown him not one iota of brotherly love. We know that we can neither trust you nor them. If this is Christianity—Orthodoxy—at work, who needs it.
PS When you face judgment day, what are you going to say, “They made me do it?”

It’s all too easy to say, “Nothing to see here folks, just move on.” But we’re a church and that’s not good enough. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 1:26). Healing takes time, and I hope that we will use this time before the All American Council to open our hearts and deepen our prayer. That individual, secret, personal prayer is the mysterious medicine that will strengthen and heal the whole body of the Church. As one of the fathers said, it’s like the spokes on a wheel, the closer we come to the Center, the closer we come to each other at the same time.

This is my reply to yesterday’s note.

Dear ___
I just received your note, written with love for Metropolitan Jonah and deep anger at me and the bishops. Nothing I can say right now will make any of this better for you and others who feel the same way. But I hope in time, by God’s grace, you will see that Met Jonah’s resignation was right for the Church. I do continue to feel that the Church is in good hands—bishops, clergy and laity who care deeply for the health of the Orthodox Church in America. And I wish I could convey to you the genuine “brotherly love” the bishops have shown Metropolitan Jonah.
Thank you for taking the time to write.
With love in Christ,
Fr John