January 8, 2013

Beginning the Year

The start of the new year is a natural time to make resolutions—and the fact that so many people do so shows how deeply hope is embedded in the human heart. Whatever specific changes we’d like to make in our life this year, the readings today give us two areas of focus, the first (the epistle) very precise, the second (the gospel) very basic.

In the epistle, James writes at length and passionately about the damage caused by unkind, unnecessary and unchecked speech. “The tongue is a fire,” and sets people, families, communities and whole nations at war with each other. And yet a good word in season can also be a powerful blessing. “With the tongue we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10). If only James knew of the internet! I would like to see us all resolve not only to check our own speech (Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?) but also put to shame those in the household of faith who do not.

The gospel today reminds us to look forward to Christ, to not dwell on the past, and to put our entire life at His disposal. “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). Every day this coming year—and only God knows if it will be our last—will test our resolve to follow Christ in this total way. God grant us strength, courage and resolve to meet this test with patience, perseverance and joy.

Blessing the Chancery

Happy New Year and blessings to all during this Theophany season.

Painting at Chancery
Painting the Metropolitan’s apartment

Metropolitan Tikhon came back to the Chancery last night, after being away for ten days as his apartment was painted and refurbished. He’ll be fully moved-in (with dog Max) by the end of this week. Today we’ll bless the apartment and the chancery offices, with His Beatitude, Father Eric Tosi and I each taking Theophany water and blessing brush to different parts of the building at the same time. Metropolitan Tikhon has asked to meet with all the staff for an hour this morning, and Father Alexander Garklavs (our former Chancellor) and Robert Koory are here for some preparatory work for the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee (SMPAC) which meets tomorrow. Most of the SMPAC work is done in conference calls and emails, but this is an important face-to-face meeting (the first with Metropolitan Tikhon) to review the final draft of the new Policies, Standards and Procedures and interview a candidate for the Coordinator position. Today as well two husband-wife couples will be meeting with His Beatitude as part of the interview process leading to possible ordination. 

Theophany at Chancery
Parishioners of St Sergius Chapel
Theophany at Chancery
Blessing the pond in the Chancery garden

All across the OCA parishes have been blessing their church buildings, grounds and local places of water: rivers, lakes, oceans—or, more humbly at the chancery, the little frog-pond at the back of the walled garden. In summer it’s a lush lily-pad patch of water with several healthy frogs and ringed with flowers. But right now it’s pretty bleak, a reminder that life is there waiting to come out, a kind of symbol of the transformation that Epiphany represents. Still, it was a crisp, bright sunny Sunday morning as the parishioners of Saint Sergius chapel went outside, sang and Father Eric blessed the pond. As Father Alexander Schmemann said, few can be glum when the priest is sprinkling water everywhere. You just have to smile.