February 25, 2014

Psalm 73

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
 my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant…
(Psalm 73:1-3)

One of the reasons the Psalms have endured is their realistic honesty about the spiritual life. So in Psalm 73 we have the confession of a believer who begins with a pious conclusion (“God is good to the upright”) and then spends the rest of the time admitting that he didn’t arrive at this conclusion easily. On the contrary, when he looked around it seemed that others, especially unbelievers, were doing much better, and he resented their prosperity, their ease and their arrogance, while “I have been stricken,
and chastened every morning.” Where was God’s goodness? “All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.” Even making the attempt to understand this “seemed a wearisome task.” Until he “went into the sanctuary of God.”

How often that’s the case. Some impossible knot of problems and resentments suddenly unravels in church. Or we are given a fresh perspective. We realize just how stupid, ignorant and “beastly” we’ve been. And the goodness we receive above all is God Himself.

Nevertheless I am continually with thee;

thou dost hold my right hand.
Thou dost guide me with thy counsel,
 and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee?

And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

For lo, those who are far from thee shall perish;

thou dost put an end to those who are false to thee.
But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord God my refuge,

that I may tell of all thy works.

Or, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Bishops in Annunciation Chapel of “The Russian Bishop’s House,” Sitka
Gospel Book
Bishop David holds St Innocent’s staff

Return from Alaska

Late last night Metropolitan Tikhon, Roman Ostash, and I got back to Long Island after a day of travelling from Alaska. Saturday and Sunday we were in Sitka for Bishop David’s installation, when His Beatitude formally delivered to him the episcopal staff of Saint Innocent in the cathedral built by Saint Innocent. There were many other connections too. We processed for the Liturgy from “The Russian Bishop’s House” where Saint Innocent once lived. We used Saint Innocent’s huge silver Gospel book. We communed from his chalice and venerated his cross.

There is more to write about these days, and how we in the rest of the Orthodox Church in America might strengthen our connection with the mother diocese of Alaska.

O Holy Father Innocent
In obedience to the will of God
You accepted dangers and tribulations
Bringing many peoples to the knowledge of truth.
You showed us the way, //
Now by your prayers help lead us into the Kingdom of Heaven.