January 15, 2014

Psalm 53

The fool thinks in his heart: “God is not present.”
Psalm 53:1a (Anchor Bible)

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands, no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong;
no one does good, not even one.
Romans 3:10-12 (Psalm 53:1b-3)

If you go back and compare Psalm 14 with Psalm 53 you’ll see that they are almost identical. There are some minor differences in verse 5, but otherwise what distinguishes them is that Psalm 53 speaks mainly of God (Elohim, Theos), while Psalm 14 refers to the Lord (Yahweh, Kyrios). Why the two versions are both included in the Psalter is a mystery, but a good suggestion is that the psalm was composed originally for two dialects, northern (“Elohistic”) and southern (“Yahwistic”).

The Psalm is not so much about intellectual atheists (whose integrity must be respected even if their conclusions are rejected) as about practical atheists. And that’s what we believers become when we behave in a way that refuses to acknowledge God’s presence.  Saint Paul lumps all human beings together in this and thus underlines that we all need the Savior, both Jews and Gentiles. This was a radical and disturbing argument for Jews who trusted in their divine chosenness.  But Paul was adamant.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. …For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.

Our Savior is the God of all, both Jews and Gentiles. Orthodox Christians should thus be wary of any temptations to boast.

Diocesan Chancellors and Treasurers at the Chancery

Divine Liturgy
Meeting of diocesan chancellors and treasurers, opening Divine Liturgy
Chancellor Meeting
Meeting of diocesan chancellors and treasurers
Fr Victor Nick
Fr Victor Nick, Tuntutuliak, Alaska

Led by Metropolitan Tikhon, we had an excellent day of productive conversations yesterday with the diocesan chancellors and treasurers. The full story is on the main page, but I particularly want to mention the representative who came the furthest distance. Father Victor Nick, from the Yupik village of Tuntutuliak, Alaska was sent as “Chancellor in waiting” by Archimandrite David (Mahaffey), bishop-elect of the Diocese of Alaska. If we are ever tempted to doubt the OCA’s vocation to champion an Orthodox Church in and for North America, Father Victor reminded all of us that the Orthodox Church in America is rooted in the Alaska of Saint Herman, Saint Innocent, Saint Jacob, Saint Juvenaly, and Saint Peter. “The Orthodox Church in America” is not just a name, it’s the land, it’s home. “I know my people, and this is our home.” There could not be a more powerful witness that the Orthodox Church on this continent is more than a collection of immigrant groups, but is planted firmly in the native soil of North America.

Today his Beatitude left on the 5 a.m. train for Washington DC to attend the annual conference of ecclesiastical endorsers of military chaplains.