It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. (Isaiah 66:18)
So we’ve come to the end of Great Lent and the transition to Holy Week, with the raising of Lazarus tomorrow and our Lord’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on Sunday. He attracted crowds and adulation throughout his ministry but he knew that this kind of glory is fleeting. The following week will prove that once again.
The cross behind the altar at Saint Sergius Chapel at the Chancery is inscribed at the top with a phrase often found on Orthodox icons of the cross: “The King of Glory.” That could be taken as a sarcastic insult, but in four short words it goes to the heart of our faith. It’s even shorter in Greek (basileus tes doxes) and Slavonic (tsar’ slavy). If you Google images for the “king of glory” you’ll find all sorts of glowing pictures of Jesus on clouds, in light, ascended, resurrected. But for us it is on the Cross that God most displays His glory. There is no better explanation of these words at the top of the Cross than the mysterious acronym at the base of many Russian crosses: MLRB, Mesto Lobnoe Raj Byvaet, “The place of the skull becomes Paradise.”
While serving as OCA Chancellor, I still have a few academic responsibilities left at the Sheptytsky Institute and Saint Paul University in Ottawa, almost all associated with doctoral students. So today I’ll be serving on a four-person jury at a doctoral defense in the Faculty of Theology. Universities vary in their procedures, but here the defense is public. A “neutral” professor from another discipline at the University of Ottawa chairs the proceedings, the candidate briefly summarizes his or her work (the dissertation is read and commented upon in advance by the examiners) and then the jury members take turns questioning. The proceedings last 2-3 hours and then the jury decides the outcome, ranging from pass, to pass with minor revisions, to resubmit, to outright fail. The four panelists include the two members of the student’s doctoral committee (my role), an internal examiner from the Faculty of Theology and a specialist brought in from another university as external examiner. Today’s dissertation is on the New Testament, a study on Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John (specifically on John 4:1-42, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman), placing it in its social and rhetorical setting while focusing on Origen’s aim that readers would be transformed by their encounter with Christ through the scriptures.
* * *
As you know, His Beatitude spent the last few days at New Skete Monastery. Among the various aspects of their community life the monks are well-known and sought-out for their humane approach to training dogs. I recently came across an apt quote about dogs and Christian life in Scott Cairn’s Short Trip to the Edge: Where Earth Meets Heaven—a Pilgrimage:
As one desert father, Abba Xanthias observed—clearly anticipating my Labrador—“a dog is better than I am, for he has love and does not judge.”
…Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw years ago: I WANT TO BE THE MAN THAT MY DOG THINKS I AM.
* * *
If you haven’t listened to Father Thomas Hopko’s podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio, now is a good time to start, with his talks on the first three days of Holy Week. I haven’t finished yet, but I especially like the quote from his mother about clergy who teach the Orthodox Faith but aren’t always good examples (that’s me, and probably most of us): “If the water is pure it doesn’t matter who is cranking the well.”