July 13, 2012

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1)

The story goes that when Fr Alexander Schmemann was close to death, two of his close friends and colleagues from St Vladimir’s Seminary asked him to bless the continuation of his work. He was silent and then said, “It is not my work to bless.” The Church belongs to none of us. It is God’s. For whatever reason, we have been given the gift of being a part of it and serving Christ. But we are only holding this little piece of Christ’s work and His church in trust for Him and for coming generations. “Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor 4:2). The Body of Christ, with its members working together provides checks and balances to ensure as best as is possible that the stewardship is being carried out in a trustworthy manner. The bishops, working collaboratively and in consultation with the other members, have the stewardship of authority to make decisions for the health of the Body, “that there be no spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph 5:27). But judgment is a tricky business and is always imperfect. No one really knows how well or poorly anyone is carrying out his or her stewardship except God. Even St Paul is unwilling to judge his own work, because everything will ultimately be revealed by the Lord, “who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Cor 4:5). Still, if we love the Church we can’t avoid the hard, imperfect decisions required of trustworthy stewards. That’s what adults have to do, deciding and acting in the absence of perfect knowledge. Anything less is irresponsible.

Archbishop Nathaniel, Bishop Michael and Chancery Officers meet

Archbishop Nathaniel (by phone), Bishop Michael and the OCA officers will meet today in Syosset to plan for the continuing work of the Church’s administration. Letters from Abp Nathaniel were sent out yesterday to the heads of the Orthodox churches worldwide explaining the latest developments and today additional letters are being sent to the heads of Orthodox churches in North America. Abp Nathaniel’s letter to the local churches said in part, “On behalf of the Holy Synod I ask for your fervent prayers for the Orthodox Church in America, its bishops, clergy and people as we set out on our pilgrimage towards the election of a new primate of our Church.”

We’ve all had a tough, busy week here at the Chancery but the OCA “canoe” hasn’t capsized. I used the image of a canoe earlier in the week and one of my friends said that was entirely too peaceful an analogy. It was more like an ambulance going the wrong way on a busy one-way street in New York City!
Please continue to pray for everyone involved—especially the bishops.