- 1 John 3:11-20
- Mark 14:10-42
The Limits of Insight
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (1John 3:20)
We have a rich set of readings as we prepare to enter Great Lent. The epistle talks about Christian self-sacrificial love, demonstrated in deeds, giving up our lives for the love of the brethren following the pattern set for us by Jesus. And the Gospel mirrors this by giving us the account of our Lord’s betrayal and the Last Supper, where he points to the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine as the acts that will forever afterwards remind his disciples of His Way of self-emptying “on behalf of all and for all.”
But it’s the very last line of the epistle that stands out for me today. Lent will be a time to stir up our hearts—our conscience—and think about the ways that we have fallen away from the path of Christ. We will be going to confession and perhaps in preparation will use that little pamphlet that Father Thomas Hopko wrote in the late 1960’s, If We Confess our Sins. He uses the Beatitudes as a way to reflect on our life and ask searching questions about how in practice we carry them out. By God’s grace, during that process of preparation, maybe our hearts will soften and we will genuinely sense how far away we have wandered from God and from each other. Our hearts will “condemn us.” But that is precisely the point when the loving, merciful, forgiving God steps in to lift us up and welcome us home, because He “is greater than our heart.”
Our heart, our conscience, our insight into ourselves is limited. We need God, but we also need other human beings—including a priest in confession—to help put our limited insights in perspective, correcting misperceptions we have about ourselves. Sometimes, no matter how insightful we think we are on our own, we just don’t see reality in ourselves, in others or in the situations around us. And in those times of blindness we have to walk by faith, trusting not only God but those whom He has put into our lives to point out the bad, the ugly—and also the good—that we don’t see.
The Chancery always welcomes visitors. Call in advance, but normally someone from the staff will take time to give you a tour. The beautiful grounds (better in a few weeks) are available for walks and picnics. Saint Sergius chapel is a very peaceful place for sitting, praying and reading and is open all day during the week.
It is special to be in the quiet chapel surrounded by icons and the relics of so many saints, including Saint Herman, Saint Innocent, Saint (Patriarch) Tikhon, Saint Alexis, Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr, and Saint Seraphim of Sarov. We have a regular schedule of services on weekends, during Lent and on feastdays (Saturday Great Vespers at 5, Sunday Liturgy at 9). Jessica Linke directs the small choir and several priests take turns celebrating the services: Father Eric Tosi, Father Basil Summer and I. The Metropolitan is usually travelling on weekends, but he serves as well on occasion.
As His Beatitude said in his address to the Metropolitan Council last week, there is a lot of OCA history in the Chancery and in this chapel, beginning with Metropolitan Leonty, who walked these hallways and grounds (often with his cat draped on his tall shoulders). He loved living here and made it a place of warmth and welcome.