March 13, 2013

The Blessings of Repentance

Wednesday and Friday in the week before Great Lent are what might be called practice days for the coming fast. The order of services is Lenten, the fast is strict and the daily readings are from the Old Testament. But it’s curious how joyful the very first reading is that opens the door to these coming weeks of Lenten biblical reflection. It begins with a beautiful image of communal repentance. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room” (Joel 2:15-16). The remainder of the reading from Joel is devoted to the blessings that await, the full vats of oil and wine. This can be interpreted literally of course, but it’s wider application is spiritual. The people who go into the “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14), reflect on their life, ask forgiveness of each other and of God, and make a determined effort to turn around and live God’s way—find overflowing and unexpected blessings.

Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. (Joel 2:25-26)

Dedication of the Metropolitan Leonty Room

Matushka Tamara Skvir
Matushka Tamara Turkevich Skvir
Fr. John Nehrebecki
Father John Nehrebecki
Metropolitan Tikhon
Metropolitan Tikhon

“Your old men shall dream dreams.” That’s the verse that came to mind at last night’s dedication of the Metropolitan Leonty Room. The old metropolitan reposed in 1965 after a lifetime of service to the Church in tumultuous decades. And throughout those years, to the end, he retained his vision and hope for the flourishing of Orthodox Christianity in North America.

Members of his family and a few senior clergy who knew Metropolitan Leonty joined the Holy Synod of Bishops for an evening of remembrance that began with a moving memorial service led by Metropolitan Tikhon. Archivist Alexis Liberovsky gave a historical review of his life, including his time living in Syosset (he was the first metropolitan to do so, and moved here in 1955 from the cathedral on Second Street in New York). His granddaughter, Matushka Tamara Turkevich Skvir—in the presence of several cousins—spoke warmly of their grandfather’s kindness and humor (and walking the grounds with his cat draped on his shoulders). Father John Nehrebecki had given the eulogy at the Metropolitan’s funeral, and he reminisced about the kind, white-bearded old man dressed in white that children on the Lower East Side of New York nicknamed “Santa Claus.” Metropolitan Tikhon ended the program with an appreciation for all that he has learned about the person, vision and legacy of Metropolitan Leonty, who not only “dreamed dreams,” but lived out the gospel in the most practical and personal ways.

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The Holy Synod continues its meetings today and will end with interviews of possible candidates for the episcopate.