The Coming of the Lord
Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)
The Nativity Fast that started on November 15 prepares us for celebrating Christmas. But part of that preparation is not just to look backward to Bethlehem, but forward to the Second Coming of the Lord, and “Advent” (adventus) is the Latin for “parousia,” the coming of the Lord in power at the end of time. We keep both these appearances of the Lord together as we celebrate Christmas, the first appearance in humility and hiddenness, the second openly and with glory, but also with the burning judgment of the Lord.
The epistle and gospel today both focus on the Second Coming. Saint Paul reminds the Thessalonians that whatever tribulations, insults and persecutions they are enduring now must be kept in perspective of the long term hope they all share. Looking beyond the present difficulties will keep them steady, unshaken and untroubled. Paul knows what they have been going through, and yet he also knows that despite all, or because of it, their faith and love for one another is growing. And for this he gives thanks (2 The 1:3). Saint Luke emphasizes that the coming of the Lord will overturn without warning everything we know about normal life, beginning with the central paradox of Jesus’ teaching, that the instinct for self-preservation is turned on its head. The one saved is the one willing to give himself up.
A new metropolitan’s first days
Speaking of life being turned upside down, let’s consider Metropolitan Tikhon. After being elected exactly seven days ago he has been thrown into the deep end of archpastoral responsibilities: the transition in his former diocese, the first primatial Liturgy at Saint Nicholas Cathedral, writing letters to heads of churches and responding to their greetings, constant email and phone communications with the other members of the Holy Synod on episcopal matters, meeting with Chancery officers and staff, fielding interview requests, reviewing invitations and planning his schedule for the next few months, planning for the official enthronement on January 27th. He even managed to squeeze in a visit to his parents. And in the midst of all this he is also responding as a pastor to a brother bishop, Metropolitan Jonah, in the loss of his sister.
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Metropolitan Tikhon’s first day at the Chancery was last Friday, November 16th. He was driving in from Pennsylvania, I texted him around 9:00 am, he replied that ETA would be 9:30, so Chancery staff scurried around to make ready. Father Eric prepared to greet him with the cross, Greg Sulich and Andrew Boyd straightened up the chapel, Svetlana made arrangements for morning coffee and lunch, and Jessica, after posting photos from the AAC, brought out the bread her mother (Katherine Linke) made for greeting the Metropolitan.
Metropolitan Tikhon arrived with his assistant Roman and his dog Max, and we all (minus Max) went into the chapel for a service of prayer “for the beginning of a good work.” Then it was a day of touring the Chancery premises, meetings with Bishop Michael, Bishop Mark, officers and staff.
All of this was interrupted by some happy drama with Bishop Mark’s cat, Athena, who we thought had been lost during Superstorm Sandy. Greg Sulich reported meowing sounds coming from behind his office wall. Turns out she had fallen into a deep hole in the attic, next to the chimney, maybe 15 feet down. Syosset Animal Rescue was called but they couldn’t reach her and had to call the fire department. They had to break a hole in the back of a closet to get her out, but after 10 days and covered in dust she was otherwise unhurt. With calm restored, meetings and work at the Chancery with Metropolitan Tikhon got back on track until early evening, when His Beatitude drove back to Pennsylvania for a short visit to his parents on Saturday before going to Washington, DC on Sunday.