September 13, 2012

Prefeast of the Elevation of the Cross

Tomorrow is the feast of the Elevation of the Cross and we therefore have a rich set of readings today.

Hebrews 3:1-4 underlines the faithfulness of Jesus to his vocation. He is the apostle, from the Greek word meaning “sent.” He voluntarily accepted the mission to be sent into the world.  As the High Priest (archiereus, the term we use for bishops) he offers himself as a living sacrifice for the life of the world and its salvation. All other apostles and priests have Him as their model, or rather share in His one apostleship and priesthood.

Galatians 3:23-4:5 includes two famous passages that emphasize Christ as the source of all ministries and unity. “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” (3:27) is sung at every baptism and on many feast days. The very next verse, 3:28, speaks of the effect that shared baptism has on forging a community, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Matthew 16:13-18 is the key question of faith: “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter’s confession gives the Church’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is who goes to the Cross.

Mark 6:30-45 recounts the return of the apostles from their first mission. They’ve worked hard, the crowds were pressing “and they had no leisure even to eat.” So Jesus takes them away into a secluded place to give them some rest. But when the crowds follow them Jesus “had compassion on them” and keeps talking with them and teaching. The apostles are exasperated and exhausted, and as the long day ends they beg Jesus to finally tell the crowds to go home. It’s late, the apostles are tired and hungry, the people too need to eat and there just isn’t enough. But Jesus says “You give them something to eat.” Miraculously, 5000 people are fed that day.

Lamb of God
Divided and Distributed is the Lamb of God

The message to the apostles: take what little you have to give—food, time, patience, care—and you’ll be surprised what God does with it. As we say in preparing the Lamb for communion, “Divided and distributed is the Lamb of God, who is ever broken but never disunited; who is ever eaten yet never consumed.” 

Deciding Who to Vote For

No, I don’t mean in the US Presidential election. Delegates to the 17th All-American Council on November 13th will be voting for a bishop to take on the heavy responsibility of serving as Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America. In the first round of voting delegates will write one name on a ballot. If any candidate receives 2/3 of the votes then that name is sent to the Holy Synod for consideration. If no one receives 2/3 of the votes, then there is a second round of voting and the names of two who receive the most votes are sent to the Holy Synod, which then elects the Metropolitan. 

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions by delegates and others, “How do we decide how to vote?” In stark contrast to our US political process there are no ads, no lobbying, no fundraising, no speeches and no debates. So how is a responsible delegate to decide whose name(s) to write down? The Delegate Handbook in the AAC section of the website addresses this and gives some key points.

As preparation for the 17th All-American Council, participants and parishes are specifically asked to:

  • Prepare through prayer for the All-American Council and ask for discernment, wisdom and guidance for all participants.
  • Reflect on the needs of the Church at this present time and in the future to guide your vote.
  • Discuss the needs of your parish, your diocese and the entire Church with your fellow parishioners to assist you in representing them at the Council.
  • Read or reacquaint yourself with the history of the OCA, the lives of the saints of North America, and the lives of the former Metropolitans of the Orthodox Church in America.
  • Familiarize yourself with the biographies of the members of the Holy Synod.
  • Pray for and support God’s work at the All-American Council together with your fellow parishioners and in your personal life.
  • We pray that the Grace of the Holy Spirit will descend on this Council and open our minds and hearts to doing the Will of God.