“Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” (Luke 20:2)
I met a priest a number of years ago who had started a very successful project of outreach in the community. The bishop was visiting and was impressed with what the priest and parish were doing, but he upbraided the priest good-naturedly and said, “You never asked for a blessing to do this.” The priest replied in the same tone of good humor, “I don’t need a blessing to do something good, and you can’t give me a blessing to do something bad.”
Jesus was always getting into trouble for taking initiative and doing things without proper authorization. It doesn’t matter that what he was doing was good—preaching the gospel, teaching, healing—what bothered the religious leaders of His day (and of every generation) is the idea that someone might act without their say so.
We as Orthodox should be sympathetic to the authorities, because we too place a high value on obedience, tradition and hierarchical good order. Our very name “Orthodox” labels us as conservative, cautious, and careful about innovations and upstarts. We dislike periods of uncertainty—as most recently in the OCA—when we’re missing the key leader. But we also emphasize that on every level of church life—parish, diocesan and church-wide—the priest/bishop/leader needs to act in consultation and concert with everyone else: parish councils, diocesan councils, metropolitan council, synods. On that basis the priest in the story above should work on his communication skills with his bishop.
Such a closely guarded system of checks and balances helps ensure that the Tradition is preserved and passed on. The flip side though is the temptation to lose sight of the unexpected ways God works among us as he raises up new people and new initiatives for the building up of His Church in ways we never dreamed of before. So as we settle back into comfortable hierachical order, I pray we will also dream dreams of how we might bring the life of the Church to those who have yet to encounter it.
Learning the Tones
A priest recently wrote to me, very happy about the turn of events in the OCA and the new start we’ve been given. But he added, “Eventually, the photo galleries of vested bishops and deacons will have to yield to (or at least supplemented by) the reality of Orthodox Christians at work, at play, at study about their faith, in agony over the decline of communities, and the nature of our witness in the REAL (not Byzantine) Year of the Lord.”
That’s true enough. One of the ways that our communities grow is through vibrant, joyful, meaningful liturgy. In fact, according to researcher Alexei Krindatch, this is the single most important factor. The Department of Liturgical Music is contributing its part to this by making it easier to learn the liturgical tones on line. Last week Professor David Drillock was at the Chancery working with Jessica Linke to help prepare the site to go live with the new “Tutorial for learning the tones” section shortly. So stay tuned and, in the meantime, check out all the musical resources already available.