Reflections On The Scandal
Homily at Bridegroom Matins
His Eminence JOB, Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest
Delivered at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois
1. The Completion of Great Lent
Great Lent is now over. The school of repentance is closed but the ‘text book’, the Lenten Triodion, remains open and opportunities for repentance are still available to us – even for “those who have delayed until the eleventh hour’ (St. John Chrysostom).
2. The Holiest of Days
We have entered into the holiest of days where time is sanctified and we experience true reality through the liturgical life of the Church. Great and Holy Week began Friday evening and two feasts, the Raising of Lazarus and the Entrance into Jerusalem are combined into one. The joy manifested in the entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem is now fleeting. Now we have entered into the time of Passion – Icon of Life – where darkness, sorrow, defeat, despair and death are all tempered by the light, joy, triumph, hope and life promised through Our Lord’s Resurrection.
3. Many Great Lents, many Great and Holy Weeks, many Paschas
It is indeed mind boggling to think how many millions of faithful have observed the Feast of Feasts; how many souls have been saved; how many lost? And to be sure there has never been a time in the history of the Church – from Pentecost to our present day – without troubles besieging Her both from within and without. The Church is not even exempt from trouble and difficulties when acting officially. Indeed we can find many cases in our history as best exemplified by a synod that deposed St. John Chrysostom, a synod that endorsed and accepted iconoclasm, a synod that agreed to the selling out of Orthodoxy at the Council of Florence, a synod – Your Holy Synod – who shirked responsibility, allowed itself to be lulled into complacency, and let you down for so many years, and who have led the Church into this time of crisis.
4. Why Here? Why Now? Shouldn’t We Just Pray? Holy Week: In invitation to Contemplate Reality
There may be those among you who are thinking, “Why is he bringing this up now? We have more important things to meditate on, to pray about – the Passion of Our Lord. Why doesn’t he just leave it alone? Didn’t His Beatitude, in His archpastoral letter read last week, say to do just that?”
Yes! In fact, Metropolitan HERMAN wrote:
It is time for this turmoil in our parishes, in our dioceses and throughout the Church to cease and desist, especially as we approach Holy Week. We must lay aside these earthly cares and re-focus our spiritual lives on… “the one thing that is needed…that good part which will not be taken away.” (Luke 10:42)
Unfortunately, I am afraid that I see it another way. With respect to His Beatitude, I must express disagreement. Let us look at these days which we had behind and before us and see if they don’t give us a clue as to where our minds should be:
- After the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the temple, not a politically correct thing to do.
- Today’s Gospel deals with the unfruitful fig tree.
- Tomorrow’s with the condemnation of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees
- Today, we hear the frightening words of The Lord, “therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”
- Tomorrow we will hear:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the Kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. (Matthew 23)
The Church at this time invites us to contemplate and confront these realities – painful and disturbing as they are, and not avoid them.
5. The Readings of Holy Week: A Lesson and Directive for us Today
Can we read these Gospel lessons and not be immediately reminded of the current state of our Orthodox Church in America? The Fig Tree: beautiful to look at, inviting and with the promise of good fruit. With the same mind let us think of our All-American Councils or pilgrimages to St. Tikhon’s where hierarchs, resplendent in gorgeous vestments put up a great façade so as to “Keep up with the Joneses” of other jurisdictions and to try to impress all with a proud and chest pounding roar of “we are autocephalous”. Who are try trying to fool?
And so we must ask: where is the fruit?
One of my brother hierarchs wrote, “We don’t need accountability; we don’t need transparency; all we need is Christ?” To me this sounds so pious, so convenient, so easy. God protect us from such empty words!!
6. A Reality of Dysfunction
As lay people, as clergy, as dioceses, as hierarchs, as Holy Synod we must deal with REALITY – OUR reality, as unpleasant or even tragic as it is. We must not “lay aside these earthly cares” at this time, but rather we must deal with them and recognize the dysfunction in our midst – a dysfunctional Synod, a dysfunctional Central Church Administration, a dysfunctional Metropolitan Council, dysfunctional dioceses and parishes, and dysfunctions in our own Diocesan Church. Only after we recognize and admit these dysfunctions can there be RESPONSIBILITY, REPENTANCE, and FORGIVENESS. Otherwise, if we remain as the barren fig tree, we may hear the words:
Woe to you, Orthodox Christians of today, hypocrites: for you bind the Book of Gospels in covers of gold and silver and jewels, but you fail to live by its teachings.
Woe to you, Orthodox Christians of today, hypocrites: for you give lip service to the precepts of the Church, and place your trust in the wisdom of this world.
Woe to you, Orthodox Christians of today, hypocrites: for you travel land and sea to win one convert, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
Woe to you, Orthodox Christians of today, hypocrites: for you hold to a semblance of faith but deny its power.
We must look at our poor Church and confess that it is intolerable:
- that division in the Holy Synod, acute as never before seen, should not be addressed and remedied.
- that the Holy Synod not address the anger, frustration, depression and cynicism among the clergy and informed lay people and assume pro-active leadership.
- that the vision and enthusiasm, empowered by the gift of autocephaly 36 years ago, has faded into obscurity.
- that words like humility, forgiveness, repentance, obedience should be used as “pious platitudes” reducing them to empty words.
- that one person or group of persons – be they lay people, priests or hierarchs – should have unlimited power.
- that the influence that our Church and many of her leaders once had among Orthodox and non-Orthodox in North America and abroad is lost or greatly reduced.
- that our Orthodox ecclesiology, as we are experiencing now, is being put to such a cruel test.
- that one single dollar obtained from one of our faithful ones for a specific purpose, be utilized for another – regardless of excuse.
8. Discussion, Solidarity, Oneness of Mind, Dedication
This crisis has brought the best and the worst out of people in all levels of Church life. In my opinion it has brought the best out of the faithful in the Diocese of the Midwest as witnessed by discussion, solidarity, oneness of mind and dedication. We do not need pointing fingers or blame casters. We must all assume our share of the responsibility for not being as faithful as we should and for not praying unceasingly as Paul the Apostle exhorts us to do.
I most of all am responsible and humbly ask your forgiveness. Things are being done – drastic measures have been taken. And so now we are able to follow The Lord in His Passion, having faced and accepted reality, as unpleasant and traumatic as it is.
Now I can quote His Beatitude:
Again, I ask for your understanding and forgiveness, and your prayers for [our first hierarch] for … our Holy Synod, for our clergy and for all our faithful. The time has come for us to unite our efforts to restore peace and harmony in our Church. If we are to become the co-workers with Christ that we are called to be, we must place our focus on our Savior. His Saving mission, and our shared participation in that saving mission. We must direct our energies to the work to which each of us has been called: our own salvation and the salvation of those around us … May Our Lord help us and strengthen us and bless our every good effort.
To Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is going to His voluntary Passion for us, be all glory, now and ever and unto ages of ages…