November 7, 2012

High Expectations

For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:48)

Our Lord expects a lot from the leaders of his Church. This is why the canonical tradition in the Orthodox Church is severe when it comes to clergy discipline. But before discipline is imposed the canonical tradition also provides for fair due process. And the bishops are responsible for ensuring due process. Indeed, when a bishop is consecrated, he promises to resist pressures from all quarters, whether it comes from eruptions of popular opinion or from powerful individuals.

And here I promise also to do nothing though constraint, whether coerced by powerful persons, or by a multitude of the people, even though they should command me, under pain of death, to do something contrary to the divine and holy laws…

I will deal with the opponents of the Holy Church with reasonableness, uprightness and gentleness, according to the Apostle Paul, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves; so that God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” [2 Tim 2:24-25].

It goes without saying that bishops, and all church leaders, will regularly be criticized and misunderstood. They have to accept that as part of their vocation, without either ignoring criticism or kow-towing to it. All things must be done decently and in good order, especially when passions are running high. At such times church leaders must discern as best they can, like Saint Paul, how “to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict…not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” Taking time to discern this path will inevitably draw fire, but that is one of crosses every church leader must bear.


My mother, my family and I are grateful for your prayers. I rushed down yesterday to be at her bedside in the hospital, but her condition has improved beyond the expectations of the medical staff. My old friend and her priest Father John Shimchick (Holy Cross Church, Medford, NJ) arrived about the same time as I did and anointed her, and then I spent most of the day there with my sister Tania. I admit to checking emails regularly (OK, mostly while my mother slept), but this time is a God-given break to remember about being a son, a member of a family, sitting quietly. I was alone with my mother when the supper tray came around and for the first time in my life had to feed her, a spoonful of soup at a time. This is just a token, far away from the day-to-day love and care she has received for years from my brother Andrew and sister-in-law Kathleen who live nearby, but it was a gift to me to do this. I thought of Saint Paul’s words today, “We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children,” (1 Thes 2:7), and being able to return a mother’s care in some little way.