Mindful of God
But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”(Mark 8:33)
I sympathize with Peter. He thought he was just being an exemplary devoted disciple of Jesus. In fact, Jesus had just questioned the disciples to ask who they really thought he was and it was Peter who said for the first time, “You are the Christ.” Peter openly proclaimed what they were all thinking, that Jesus was the promised Messiah who would usher in a new age of power for Israel. That was the conventional thinking about the coming of the Messiah. So it was shocking and upsetting to hear Jesus talk of suffering and death, and Peter was bold enough to quietly take Jesus aside and tell Him he really shouldn’t be speaking like that. And then Jesus in the roughest terms turns around and publicly rebukes Peter! This had to be utterly confusing for Peter and the other disciples, all of whose minds were shaped by “normal” human religious assumptions about good things and glory happening for the godly.
It would take a long time—not until after Jesus’ death and resurrection—for them to understand what it meant to acquire the self-sacrificial, self-emptying mind of Christ that Saint Paul describes in the beautiful hymn in Philippians (Phil 2:5-11).
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If you’ve been following the OCA website you know that there’s been a lot happening in the last week. Metropolitan Tikhon’s enthronement (vigil, liturgy and banquet), the March for Life, prayers at the Catholic Basilica, a productive meeting with Congressman Chris Smith, the enthronement of Metropolitan Anthony as primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, and then yesterday a very substantive conversation and visit at the Chancery with Metropolitan Hilarion (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) and Archbishop Justinian (Moscow Patriarchate). After Metropolitan Tikhon’s enthronement dinner, Father Daniel Ressetar, one of the OCA’s senior retired priests (Harrisburgh, PA) came up to me and said, “You’ll have enough material for a month in your chancellor’s diary!” I am grateful to the scores of people who worked so hard to make all these various pieces come together so beautifully, most especially Marina Poutiatine and her local committee members, Father John Perich and the clergy of Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Professor David Drillock and the choir, Peter Ilchuk and Father Eric Tosi. As my friend and colleague, I see Father Eric up close and am consistently amazed by his juggling skills.
Life being what it is I’ll have to move on pretty quickly from these events, but I’d like to share one impression from these days. In between all the high profile, public pomp Metropolitan Tikhon and the bishops were meeting quietly behind the scenes to deal with the work of the church. On Saturday night, after a day of events, vigil and supper they began their meeting at 9:00 and went until 11:00 pm. Next morning they had to be downstairs in the hotel at 7:30 am for the bus to the enthronement liturgy. Then on Sunday again, after the enthronement and the banquet, again they met for a working supper at 8:00 and worked till11:00. Monday was the formal Synod meeting at the Cathedral, starting at 9 and ending after 3. I was present for most of these meetings (there were some closed sessions) and in all of this—some of it quite difficult—it was reassuring how engaged, hard-working, collaborative, pastoral, good humored and vigorous the bishops remain. By God’s grace there is a buoyancy in the life of our Church that gives me great hope.