February 12, 2013

“A House of Prayer for All Nations”

The Temple in Jerusalem that Jesus knew and loved was built after Israel’s return from the Babylonian Captivity, starting in 516 BC (the original temple was destroyed by the invaders and left as a pile of rubble in 587 BC). The whole Temple area was holy, but the deeper one entered in, from east to west, the holier it was. To enter the inner temple one had to walk through the huge outer area known as the Court of the Gentiles, the only section non-Jews could go. They were excluded from entering any of the inner courts, and signs in Greek and Latin warned trespassers that the penalty was death.

Court of Gentiles
The Court of the Gentiles

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is angry because this one universal area that was supposed to be left open for everyone, the Court of the Gentiles, had been taken over by all the vast and noisy trade of buying and selling animals for the Jewish sacrifices going on in the inner temple. By overturning the tables and throwing out the merchants and moneychangers, Jesus was reminding everyone that God’s people needed to make room for everyone, not just their own co-religionists.

Church communities are proverbial for being parochial. Perhaps that’s natural as people worship and work together for years in parish life. Often people are related, or come from the same ethnic background, so there are strong family and national connections that help parishes bond, and that’s good. But that carries with it the temptation to being insular, closed-in and suspicious of outsiders. The life of the parish turns in on itself and starts to be built around the wants and needs of those who are already insiders.

What Jesus says to us here is to consider those who are outside and turn our own temples into houses of prayer for all nations.

Prof Paul Meyendorff Receives Honorary Doctorate

Paul Meyendorff
Professor Paul Meyendorff

Last Sunday Professor Paul Meyendorff of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary was awarded an honorary doctorate from St Sergius Institute in Paris, the famous theological school associated with so many great names of 20th century Orthodox theology—Father Sergius Bulgakov, Georges Fedotov, Father Georges Florovsky, Father Nicholas Afanasiev, Father Alexander Schmemann and many others, including Professor Meyendorff’s own father, Father John Meyendorff, who was dean of Saint Vladimir’s 1984-1992. The citation honoring Professor Meyendorff’s lifetime of scholarly work and service to the church was presented on behalf of the faculty by André Lossky, professor of liturgical theology at the Institute.

Dr Meyendorff is the Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology at SVS where he has been teaching since 1987. In addition to his teaching, research and a long list of books, translations and articles, he is well known internationally as an important Orthodox theological voice in the ecumenical arena. He currently serves on the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, and is a regular consultant to the OCA’s Office of Interchurch Relations and Ecumenical Witness. Dr Meyendorff is also a member of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council, the executive body that meets twice yearly to work with the bishops and officers to carry out OCA-wide administrative work and implement the decisions of All-American Councils.

Dr Meyendorff’s full educational background and record of teaching, publishing and service to the church and ecumenical community, can be found here.

Chapel Garden
Chancery in the snow
Met Tikhon & Max
Metropolitan Tikhon takes Max for a walk

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It was a snowy weekend at the Chancery. Very few could come to church at Saint Sergius Chapel, and as of yesterday Jessica Linke was unable to leave her home in eastern Long Island because of impassable roads. But the grounds around the Chancery were beautiful in their winter clothing.