August 30, 2013

Days of Creation, Labor and Church New Year

“So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:3)

This holiday weekend marks three commemorations. Labor Day is on Monday 9/2, but Sunday September 1 is both the start of the ecclesiastical year and the “Day of Prayer for Creation.”

The Creation

The Lord himself gives us a model of creative labor, and also resting from that labor, however good and even “very good” it is. Americans are a nation of workaholics, and we need periodic reminders of recovery, reflection and refreshment. The Labor Day holiday is also therefore the ideal time to remember our place and responsibility in God’s creation. In 1989 the late Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople initiated the first Orthodox Day of Prayer for Creation, and this custom has since spreads throughout the world to many Catholic and Protestant churches.

His successor, Patriarch Bartholomew, has championed environmental causes even more forcefully and is known as “the Green Patriarch.” Here is an excerpt from his letter to the churches this year for September 1st.

Naturally, we are not opposed to scientific research, so long as it provides beneficial services to humanity and the environment. Thus, the use of scientific determinations, for instance, for the healing of illness is surely acceptable; but the forceful commercial exploitation of resources from contemporary chemical and biological technology in the light of some predetermined conclusion that these are not harmful to humanity, is certainly denounced because it has repeatedly led to tragic consequences for humanity and the environment.

… Unfortunately, sometimes human beings forget the fact that “the source of beauty created all things” (Wisdom 13.3) and “the Lord’s hand established the earth, while His right hand founded the heavens.” (Is. 48.13)

Consequently, it is our obligation, as shepherds of the Church and every person of the spirit and the sciences but also of all devout Christians, to do good and especially to pray that the divine Creator of all may enlighten the scientists, who are particularly involved with these issues, that they may enter the mysteries of nature with humility before God and respect toward the natural laws so as to avoid the unnatural use of their research for commercial or other reasons….

On the occasion, then, of this important day and the commencement of the year, we pray with Joshua, the angelic Symeon, the seven children in Ephesus, and the sacred Psalmist David that the Lord will send forth His spirit and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps. 103.20 [104.30]) to bless the works of His hands and deem us worthy of peacefully completing the time that lies before us. And we invoke upon those undertaking scientific research into the power of nature the illumination, grace and blessing of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Community Engagement in Oyster Bay Cove

Since last February or so the Chancery has been talking with representatives of AT&T about putting up a cell-phone tower on the Chancery grounds. In fact the company approached us and showed persistent interest. And while skeptical, we were attracted by the promise of some additional reliable income (about $25,000 per year.) After studies and drawings and meetings we were increasingly satisfied that the project was a good one, and the Metropolitan Council authorized us to keep talking. Still, we did not want to move forward until we had spoken with our surrounding neighbors in Oyster Bay Cove. In almost two years of working here I had yet to meet a single one of them and didn’t want our first encounter to be a contentious public meeting. So, we wrote up a letter last week inviting the locals to come to the chancery for an evening of refreshments and discussion with Metropolitan Tikhon and the officers.

Chancery Green Room
The “Green Room” at the Chancery

At 7:00 pm on Tuesday night we were waiting downstairs in the “green room” (the one with murals and plants), half-expecting that no one would show. Boy, were we wrong. By 7:10 we had some 30 anxious residents who had been emailing and talking with each other in advance about this project and had come prepared for a fight. We discovered that twice before in the last few years the residents had gathered together to reject similar proposals. But after a few minutes they were all reassured that we had no intention of pursuing this project if everyone around us was opposed. And immediately the atmosphere changed and relaxed. Most had never been to the property, much less inside. So we gave them a quick tour of downstairs, the chapel, and the bell-tower garden, and we parted friends.

As Father Eric told the Metropolitan Council, “They were greatly appreciative that we reached out to them before any project would move forward. In the end, this helped our relations and we left with a very positive spirit of cooperation. In fact, because of this meeting we will have a closer relationship with them all…”

So, there will be no cell-phone tower at the Chancery and we’ll just have to come up with other plans for boosting income. Stewardship?

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Met Tikhon & Abp Justinian
Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Justinian, Fr Georgy Roshchin and Fr Leonid Kishkovsky

On Wednesday afternoon Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk (Moscow Patriarchate) came to the Chancery for conversations with Metropolitan Tikhon. He was accompanied by Father Georgy Roshchin, the Moscow Patriarchate’s new representative to the United Nations. Father Georgy was also one of our guides in Moscow, Kyiv and Minsk when the OCA delegation recently participated in the 1025th anniversary celebrations of the Baptism of Rus’.