“Gideon said to the Angel, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13)
Gideon was one of the celebrated Israelite generals-judges, but time and again he was overcome by hand-wringing fear and indecision as he looked for sure signs from God that he was on the right path. Learning to step out in faith when the odds were against him was a tough lesson, but so was learning to do the best he could with his own initiative and effort in uncertain times.
On my one visit to Mount Athos, in 1995 with my son Andrew who was twelve at the time, we stayed one night at Simonos Petras monastery. I had the chance to speak with one of the monks and asked him about the famous abbot, Father Aemilianos. Was he accessible to the monks, could they speak with him easily? “Of course,” the monk replied, “But some he sees right away and others have to wait for six months.” Why the difference? “The abbot knows who really needs counsel immediately, and who needs to learn to struggle on their own.”
There are going to be “Midianites” all along the way in our life, and just as we think we’ve figured out how to deal with them and found some peace, there they are again, but in some other shape. Sometimes the Midianites are “hopeless” situations just need more time and effort, as in today’s gospel. The exasperated owner of the estate is ready to cut down the unfruitful fig tree, but the gardener wants to take a little more time and care to see if it might just yield some fruit. “He answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.’ And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’”(Luke 13:8-9).
Back at the Chancery
Again, thank you for your prayers for my mother and family. She was well enough yesterday that I could return last night to Long Island for the first time since Sandy, although I drove right into the nor’easter that has blanketed the area with snow and hampered recovery efforts. Many streets are still blocked with fallen trees and hundreds of thousands of people have no power and heat. Father Eric Tosi emailed staff early this morning to say that power is off again at the Chancery too (and at his house). Although I filled the car with gas in southern New Jersey yesterday, I’m told that gas in Long Island is still hard to find and two-hour waits are normal.
In all this the Chancery is getting ready for the All-American Council next week. Andrew Boyd is assembling everything that will need to be packed into the SUV on Friday to be driven to Parma: registration files, vestments, hierarchical candles and “eagle rugs,” flags of the United States, Canada and Mexico, large chalices, service books for the opening and closing of the council and the akathist to the North American saints, white klobuks of different sizes, primatial blue mantiya, panagia and staff. And above all, the relics of Saint Herman, Saint Innocent and Saint Tikhon.