August 17, 2012

“The Cross of Collaboration”

Father Thomas Hopko has spoken about the “cross of collaboration.” It’s often a lot easier to do things by oneself or with a few trusted fellow workers. But much of life, in any organization, and especially the Church, requires collaborating with others. Our OCA is filled with many such “opportunities” for collaborative service, with bishops, clergy and laity working together, sometimes—often?—in the uneasy tensions that checks and balances and personalities almost always produce. Parish councils, Diocesan Councils, Metropolitan Council and its numerous committees, the All-American Council, seminary boards of trustees…we are a Church committed to working in a conciliar manner. As a corporate lawyer told me yesterday, it’s a lot simpler in the business world. But that’s why business leaders often fail in politics, in churches and in academia. Non-profit institutions work by “the cross of collaboration.”

How we carry that cross will be one of our big tests on the Last Day. Our discussions may be muscular. The apostles had contentious debates and even had to separate on occasion. But as today’s gospel says, we need to keep watch lest we fall into temptation and start beating our fellow servants instead of working with them. Whatever affliction collaboration causes, it is minor in the eternal scheme of things. Even Saint Paul looked at all his imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks and hardships as only “a slight momentary affliction” (2 Cor 4:17). So really, how bad is the cross of collaboration? “So we do not lose heart…For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:16, 17-18).

The Paris School of Orthodox Thought

Histoire de la Pensee

While working as chancellor—and with the blessing of our bishops—I still have academic projects on the go. One of these—I’m doing this today—is helping Father Michael Plekon edit the English translation of Antoine Arjakovsky’s in-depth study of émigré Russian religious thought as it appeared in the journal The Way 1925-1940. These were seminal years that produced an avalanche of creative Orthodox thought, much of it still to be explored, and much of it to be rediscovered by a newer generation of Orthodox here and in the rest of the world. Berdyaev (the journal’s editor), Bulgakov, Florovsky, Arseniev, Nicholas Lossky, Fedotov, Frank, Mother Maria Skobtsova, Vysheslavstev, Zenkovsky, Zernov and many others debated each other and contemporary thought vigorously and with refreshing freedom.  A number of these thinkers and their leading students came to the US and taught at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, most notably Father Alexander Schmemann and Father John Meyendorff.

Arjakovsky is himself a direct heir of the Paris School. His grandfather was Father Dimitry Klepinin, the priest who was arrested by the Nazis with Mother Maria for protecting Jews and died in a concentration camp (he was canonized in 2004).  The book will be published next year as The Way: Religious Thinkers of the Russian Emigration in Paris and their Journal, 1925-1940 (translated by Jerry Ryan, published by University of Notre Dame Press).