In following the recent events of our Church I would like to make some comments and share some thoughts for you and your readers to consider. I want to mention some things of which you may not be aware.
The retirement of Metropolitan HERMAN is the result of a movement against him in which many have felt justified in their words and actions. His physical condition is very serious and demands surgery, the recovery is very critical, and therefore a medical leave of absence for a time was inevitable and this was his preference rather than retirement. For the sake of being truthful, and to give both those who read your web site and those who hear of its content a more comprehensive picture, I feel a pastoral responsibility to share some comments and thoughts.
When did this movement against Metropolitan HERMAN begin?
It began at the All-American Sobor of 2002 with the announcement of the late Archbishop Kyril of the new metropolitan. At this some of the delegates were booing. It was muffled and not heard everywhere but it did happen. And then many of the delegates refused to sing “eis polla eti Despota”, while there were also some who refused to receive his blessing. And there were some—I believe it was only clergy—who grumbled and said, “We are going to get rid of him.”
In October of last year I had a meeting with our new chancellor and when I brought up all of the above he regrettably made a gesture of agreement and hung his head low. I believe he was disappointed in his fellow clergy.
Again I emphasize that I write to give a comprehensive picture because of a pastoral concern for our laity who are exposed to your web site. In the many varied comments that they read they will need to discern whether they are following the passions of worldly- minded men or the virtues of those who, in an Orthodox manner, are living a life of repentance.
Since there seems to be a continued movement both to have others of our episcopate retire, to take action against others, and the former Metropolitan deposed, I want to share a reflection by including a sermon I delivered on Sunday August 31st, and add a brief comment.
Beloved of God, today we heard a parable which tells us something about the judgment of God, it tells us something about the judgment of God in reference to forgiveness, that is, the lack of forgiveness. Today’s parable tells us how great a sin this is in the sight of God.
Christ begins to speak of a man who owes his Lord 10,000 talents and since he has nothing to pay he orders him to be sold and all that he has and even his family. And so when this servant falls down and begs for mercy, and promises to pay he is pardoned the whole debt. By a mere humble entreaty he is pardoned the whole. And what is the motive for this great gift of forgiveness? There was nothing for his lord to gain from this, because he was completely released from the debt when all he asked for was time to pay. The Gospel says that his Lord was moved with compassion, so the motive was compassion. Even though there was a very great debt, his Lord was moved with compassion to such a great degree that he immediately forgave the whole. This shows us how God repents of their sins.
Although our sins may be great we should never despair because there is no end to God’s mercy, His love towards those who repent. For God’s love is like a fountain of spontaneous compassion which is ever springing up and has no bottom. It is like a torrential fire which would burn those who reject Him but illumine those who accept him and love Him.
And what we need to be careful of is not to become like the man in this parable who lost the forgiveness granted him. He lost it because he rejected the example of love and forgiveness that was displayed to him by his Lord and demanded payment from a fellow servant for a debt that was small in comparison to what he owed his Lord. He refused to give his fellow servant more time and was cruel and he grabbed him by the throat and cast him into prison. And we have to take heed and fear that we do not do the same for this is a great sin before God. Because we see in this parable that when the man was in debt for 10,000 talents, he was not condemned by his Lord and was able to obtain forgiveness through a humble entreaty. But when he refused to forgive and was vengeful towards his fellow servant his Lord said to him, “Thou wicked servant”.
This parable is sometimes called the parable of the wicked servant. Nowhere in the gospel does the Lord speak with such severity like this. And what is the cause? Again that lack of forgiveness and vengeance. What a dreadful, fearful thing, this is something that could happen to any of us on the Day of Judgment if we do not forgive our brethren their trespasses from our hearts.
Therefore we need to take heed to ourselves for we are never safe in this life, we are fallen unstable creatures, and we should not consider ourselves to be above this or any temptation. For although we may not outwardly physically do such things as were done in this parable, yet if someone fails to repay a debt, or may offend us in some way and we nourish ill feelings and our hearts become hardened towards others, and we refuse to forgive from our hearts and think evil of them, then we are basically doing the same thing as the wicked servant in today’s parable. And many people fall into this imperceptibly under the pretext that they must give others what they deserve, but their heart really becomes poisoned with evil and inclined to be wicked.
So how can we escape this and be watchful over our souls?
First we should keep in mind our own sins and the great debt that we owe God, how we sin every day and offend God and are in need of His forgiveness. If our heart is constrained in this manner then it will be much more inclined to forgive others their trifling debts or offenses. For when the heart is thus humbled or bruised, so-to-speak, it does not readily strike out at others. And if we do happen to get offended or hurt in some way we must consider it an act of Divine providence which has occurred for saving reasons. And so we must humble ourselves and consider it our due because we have an enormous debt of sins before God which we are unable to pay. We should also remind ourselves that according to the Holy Fathers of our Church bearing patiently with the offenses of others and forgiving them is a means of obtaining remission of our sins. And so we should thank God and pray that He does not hold this sin against the one who has caused the offense. In this way we shall not nourish the hurt which can harden our hearts and then bad thoughts will multiply and could even grow into terrible sins of wickedness towards others like we saw in today’s Gospel.
So let us make this a goal of ours, that is, not to remember or nourish the offenses that others cause us because this destroys the harmony and unity of the Church. For the Church is the body of Christ and we are meant to function as one single organism united in the common bond of faith and love. Just think: If a limb of our body were broken we would want it to be healed and do everything that would facilitate this. And we should act in like manner to those who hurt us, especially those in the Church; we should have compassion on them and seek their healing. But to refuse to forgive and be vengeful is like warring with the body of Christ. Let us never do so but let us be like God Who is full of compassion and quick to forgive and if we act thus we shall easily receive forgiveness from God. And so He will make for us an entrance into His heavenly kingdom, there we shall rejoice throughout the endless ages in an unveiled direct experience of the love and compassion of the Holy Trinity, our all-good God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Our Lord said, “Be ye merciful as your Father is also merciful”. He exemplified this when He received the Holy Apostle Peter who denied Him, and before this the other apostles did not reject him. It is said in the Gospel that St. Joseph the betrothed, because of his righteousness, “did not want to make a public example of Mary.” But in the OCA we appear to be practicing: “Be ye legalistic, take advantage of any opportunity ye find to strike out at your brother or defame him, and take vengeance to the utmost.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Igumen Gregory (Zaiens)
St. Tikhon’s Monastery