January 30, 2014

Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; 
from Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved.
(Psalm 62:1-2)

One of the constant affirmations in the psalms is that in times of chaos, stress and oppression the godly person seeks silent inner refuge in God. It is a maxim of the spiritual life that without inner silence we cannot to attend to the voice of God. This doesn’t mean we reject an active life of service, but that true service in God’s name and with His strength and not our own emerges out of silent communion with Him. As Mother Teresa said,

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

Inner silence also tells us when we need to speak. Saint Basil, whom we commemorate today, remarked on this after waiting a long time to rebuke his slanderers in his letter Against Eustathius of Sebasteia. It is instructive to see how he came to the conclusion that it was time to speak up and defend himself.

There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak is the saying of the Preacher. Time enough has been given to silence, and now the time has come to open my mouth for the publication of the truth concerning matters that are, up to now, unknown. The illustrious Job bore his calamities for a long time in silence, and ever showed his courage by holding out under the most intolerable sufferings, but when he had struggled long enough in silence, and had persisted in covering his anguish in the bottom of his heart, at last he opened his mouth and uttered his well-known words. In my own case this is now the third year of my silence…

I thought that I ought to bear my troubles in silence, waiting for some indication to come out of them. I did not even think that what was said against me proceeded from ill will… But now I see that hostility increases with time, and that my slanderers are not sorry for what they said at the beginning, and do not take any trouble to make amends for the past, but go on and on…

I, therefore, no longer see safety in silence. …God grant that I may both receive the reward of silence, and gain some strength to confute my opponents, and that thus, by confuting them, I may dry up the bitter torrent of falsehood that has gushed out against me.

Archbishop Anastasios of Albania at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary

Abp Anastasios
Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
Abp Anastasios
Abp Anastasios

His Beatitude received an unexpected call yesterday around noon saying that Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, accompanied by Metropolitan John of Korca, would be at Saint Vladimir’s for a surprise brief visit at around 2:30. So we dropped other matters and drove to the seminary. Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Nikon, Father John Behr, Father Chad Hatfield and a small seminary delegation greeted Archbishop Anastasios, brought him to the chapel and then spent more than an hour having tea and illuminating and wide-ranging conversation.

Archbishop Anastasios spoke of the need for creativity and originality in church life, and that it’s not enough to just look through the records of the past to decide how to approach the issues of the present. He cited his plans for developing a hydro-electric plant in Albania as a step toward “financial autocephaly” for the Church there.

While much of his life has been devoted to missionary work, he prefers to speak about witness, as in Acts 1:8, that begins with the home territory and spreads from there.

Mission begins with learning carefully and sincerely about the people to whom you are bringing the Gospel. All too often this step is omitted by zealous missionaries who have an exalted view of their own faith and are far to dismissive of the other.

When asked about preparation of clergy in seminary, he stressed that anyone who is not motivated by love of Christ and desire to serve Him should be encouraged to look elsewhere for a vocation, otherwise they will do incalculable damage to themselves and others.

How can the Church in America help the Church in Albania? He said there is a special need for well-trained and experienced English teachers (“Albanians like American English!”) and hoped that ways could be found to help in this way as he works on establishing a foreign-languages department in the university now being developed. 

A photo gallery can be viewed on the OCA web site and Facebook page.