December 7, 2012

Saint Ambrose and Pearl Harbor

“I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed…” (2 Tim 1:12)

On December 7, 374 AD Ambrose was consecrated bishop of Milan (then known as Mediolanum), famously going from layman to bishop in a single day. Ambrose was nominated while still a catechumen, because as the civil governor of the area he impressed everyone with his peacemaking role between warring factions in the Church. Contrast this with the “Day of Infamy,” December 7, 1941, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when 2,390 American service members and 49 civilians were killed. Could there be starker contrast between following the Prince of Peace and the Prince of this world?

We find a similar contrast between peace and violence in the epistle and gospel today. Paul is in prison, suffering because those in authority hated his preaching of Christ. Paul refuses to be embarrassed into silence. And in the passage from Luke, Jesus is shown teaching peacefully all day long, and “all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.” But others, even someone close to Jesus, wanted to kill him because of these same words. “And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.” How odd that the non-violent gospel of peace provokes such violent hatred.  This is part of the mystery of evil that defies easy explanation.

Shame is a powerful motivator. We don’t know when or how we will be put to the test and have to choose practically between the shameful peace of Christ and the proud violence of this world. As Father Thomas Hopko says, the test is more often now “not by the spear but by the sneer.” Indeed, “the world” often tries to convince us that its ways are the ways of God and that there is no tension at all. But however the test comes, we will all face the question, “Are you ashamed of Me and of My Gospel?”

Assembly of the Archdiocese of Washington

St. Luke's

Later today I will be travelling to Washington, DC for the Archdiocesan Assembly that begins tomorrow morning, chaired for the first time by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. It is being held this year at St Luke’s Church in McLean, Virginia. The Assembly will start with the Divine Liturgy, continue all day and end with vespers.