Monday, December 10. 2007
Your comments on events in Syosset, WPA or elsewhere, and thoughts on Fr. Hopko's reflection are welcome.
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I was drawn to the words of Fr Thomas... noting the humility of St Nicholas amongst others;
"The word bishop (in Greek episkopos), which literally means overseer or supervisor, was the title in an ancient household (oikos) for the chief slave. The “epi-skopos” was the head servant and first steward who “over-saw” and “super-vised” the work of all the other slaves, servants and stewards. The “episkopos” spoke in the Master’s name, held the Master’s authority, wielded the Master’s power, cared for the Master’s properties, guarded the Master’s possessions, directed the Master’s services and distributed the Master’s goods. But he was not the Master himself"
An example of a humble much loved leader - not feared or hated.
#1 Ted Panamarioff on 2007-12-11 00:05
Other unofficial OCA news....
A new book has been published entitled, "Murder at Holy Cross" Interesting reading about the background of the OCA's newest monastery, Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in Weaverville NC. This monastery was accepted into the OCA by Met. Herman in 2003, after a thorough investigation of the brotherhood by Fr. David Brum and Robert Kondratick. Available at amazon and all major book sellers.
Thank you for posting this. I just read the book review on line and I have ordered the book. It looks like the OCA picked up the problems of the Byzantine Catholic Church by accepting these "so-called" monks without a proper investigatiion or even waiting for the trial to end.
Thank God, for the Good of the Church, none of the monks became bishops.
It looks like we keep repeating the same mistakes doesn't it or in this case taking into our fold the mistakes of the Uniates, after they have been revealed yet. This book really must given us all pause to examine why we keep making these mistakes.
#2.1 anonymous on 2007-12-12 15:03
Please come up with some good news , everything is so gloomy. I'm going to see santa today and asking for a new Metropolitan , that's it. Perfect !!!
#3 Anonymous on 2007-12-11 07:11
Father Hopko paints a pretty "DR SPOCK" picture of St Nicholas never once mentioning the fights St Nicholas had within his own flock when certain people were telling lies! he also never mentions the many times Our Lord had to admonish his own diciples. I know Fr Hopko and the agendas he hastried to influence people with. Get over it!!!! We belong to a" Hierarchical Church" and the Holy Spirit is alive and well and will define what the "American Orthodox Church" should be. It would be well if Fr. Hopko would use his talentin writing to unify the church instead of telling the Bishops how to conduct their affairs!! I am justified in saying this because it seems Fr Hopko always has articls like this which only add tp the confusion, or can I be wrong and the Author Mark Stokoe is creating a web in hopes of destroying Metropolitian Herman! Let me be assure you that the Holy Spirit was, is and always will work to unite and not "Divide"
#3.1 Anonymous on 2007-12-12 10:30
Absolutely wonderful as usual from Fr. Tom. Truly one of the OCA's great treasures. Now why can't we have him as our Metropolitan? There really is nothing wrong with married bishops, we just need to re-instate them. It's about time sanity ruled.
O Holy Father Nicholas Help Us!
#4 Ananamouse on 2007-12-11 08:01
Matushka Hopko might have some reservations about that ....
#4.1 Anonymous on 2007-12-11 20:04
What a wonderful picture taken from the troparion for St. Nicholas is Fr. Hopko's reflection of the qualities of the bishop and the presbyter: the icon of meekness, self-control and humility, of kenotic servanthood.
I would just add some further thoughts about the pastor (whether bishop or prebyter) from the stichera of St. Nicholas' feast. The following qualities speak to me of the rod and staff of the shepherd; the staff that pulls the sheep caught ih the thickets and the rod that beats off the wolves.
These are some of the the qualities of St. Nicholas in the stichera:
Destroyer and fierce opponent of Arius (error and lies)
Champion of godliness
Fervent advocate of widows, orphans and those who
Zealot for divine things
Scythe cutting the weeds of error
Fan winnowing the chaff of Arius
St. Nicholas, intercede for us as the great shepherd of our souls that you are!
#5 Karen Jermyn on 2007-12-11 08:20
Santa Claus The North Pole Dear Santa, could you bring me a new Metropolitan for Christmas? Please send one that is honest, not crooked..............Please send one that will say the truth, not lie.........Please send one that will make people proud and happy, not ashamed and sad Your friends, OCA priesthood
#5.1 Guileless on 2007-12-11 20:44
I missed 3; they are:
Wrestler with godlessness
Fount puring forth Myrrh
As for the last one, myrrh was not only a perfume that was burned and quenched the stench at funerals, but it also had medicinal value that was a disinfectant, an antiseptic, and a healing agent. It was used to increase circulation, heart rate and power and was used in liniments to ease pain, to tone and rejuvenate [ cf. the myrrh with vinegar that was offered the Lord on the cross]
Bishops (and as Fr. Hopko says presbyters) that are worth thier salt, salt that has not lost its flavor, should emulate St. Nicholas whom the stichera of his feast day have immoratalized. Bishop Job reveals himself as such a bishop.
#5.2 Karen Jermyn on 2007-12-12 07:15
Fr. Hopko's letter was awesome... We need more letters like that these days in the OCA!
#6 Anonymous on 2007-12-11 14:27
THANK YOU, FR TOM!
#7 Mark Harrison on 2007-12-11 15:38
In his book, 'The Winter Pascha', Father Hopko said this about St. Nicholas the Wonderworker: "...the extraordinary thing about the image of St. Nicholas in the Church is that he is not known for anything extraordinary."
Just one more example of the double-mindedness that is the mark of the OCA and really the cause of all of her problems.
#8 Anonymous on 2007-12-11 21:04
If there was ever a comment on this website that was quintessentially nit-picky and hair-splitting, it is this one by Anonymous (another person lacking the courage to sign their name to their posts). What this person sees as "double-mindedness" is actually the multi-faceted nature of the human being. Each of us is capable of good, evil, compassion, contempt, love, indifference, etc. St Nicholas, as Fr Tom tells us in "The Winter Pascha" did nothing extraordinary: he performed no miracles, he did not see the Uncreated Light, he wrote no grand theological treatises. However, as Fr Tom says in his recent reflection, St Nicholas did have the qualities of a good bishop and pastor. What Anonymous fails to realize is that one does not have to do extraordinary feats in order to be a good Christian or bishop!
#8.1 David Barrett on 2007-12-12 10:29
"...did no miracles?!"
No wonder St. Nicholas is called the "Wonderworker" in the Orthodox Church! Thanks for clearing things up!
#8.1.1 Anonymous on 2007-12-13 16:16
Huh? Anonymous, it's called "paradox". It's a literary and rhetorical device. Good writers use it and good readers understand it.
#8.2 Scott Walker on 2007-12-12 12:23
Fr. Thomas, David, Scott,
FYI, here is what the OCA proclaims about St. Nicholas (taken from OCA.org):
Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the region of Lycia (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had vowed to dedicate him to God.
As the fruit of the prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant, while still in the baptismal font, stood on his feet three hours, without support from anyone, thereby honoring the Most Holy Trinity. St Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother until after his parents had finished their evening prayers.
From his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books, making himself a worthy dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Bishop Nicholas of Patara rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his nephew. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the priesthood, making him his assistant and entrusting him to instruct the flock.
In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an Elder, who aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, in unceasing prayer, the priest Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards the afflicted who came to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor.
There was a certain formerly rich inhabitant of Patara, whom St Nicholas saved from great sin. The man had three grown daughters, and in desparation he planned to sell their bodies so they would have money for food. The saint, learning of the man's poverty and of his wicked intention, secretly visited him one night and threw a sack of gold through the window. With the money the man arranged an honorable marriage for his daughter. St Nicholas also provided gold for the other daughters, thereby saving the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, St Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and to conceal his good deeds.
The Bishop of Patara decided to go on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, and entrusted the guidance of his flock to St Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, Nicholas asked his blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted a storm would arise and threaten the ship. St Nicholas saw the devil get on the ship, intending to sink it and kill all the passengers. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed the waves of the sea by his prayers. Through his prayer a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured was also restored to health.
When he reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and came to Golgotha, St Nicholas gave thanks to the Savior. He went to all the holy places, worshiping at each one. One night on Mount Sion, the closed doors of the church opened by themselves for the great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, St Nicholas decided to withdraw into the desert, but he was stopped by a divine voice urging him to return to his native country. He returned to Lycia, and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. But the Lord again indicated another path for him, "Nicholas, this is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for Me. Return to the world, and glorify My Name there." So he left Patara and went to Myra in Lycia.
Upon the death of Archbishop John, Nicholas was chosen as Bishop of Myra after one of the bishops of the Council said that a new archbishop should be revealed by God, not chosen by men. One of the elder bishops had a vision of a radiant Man, Who told him that the one who came to the church that night and was first to enter should be made archbishop. He would be named Nicholas. The bishop went to the church at night to await Nicholas. The saint, always the first to arrive at church, was stopped by the bishop. "What is your name, child?" he asked. God's chosen one replied, "My name is Nicholas, Master, and I am your servant."
After his consecration as archbishop, St Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love for people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians for refusing to worship idols, sustained them and exhorted them to endure the fetters, punishment and torture. The Lord preserved him unharmed. Upon the accession of St Constantine (May 21) as emperor, St Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received their guide and intercessor.
Despite his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, St Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior of the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint made the rounds of the pagan temples and shrines in the city of Myra and its surroundings, shattering the idols and turning the temples to dust.
In the year 325 St Nicholas was a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of Faith, and he stood up against the heretic Arius with the likes of Sts Sylvester the Bishop of Rome (January 2), Alexander of Alexandria (May 29), Spyridon of Trimythontos (December 12) and other Fathers of the Council.
St Nicholas, fired with zeal for the Lord, assailed the heretic Arius with his words, and also struck him upon the face. For this reason, he was deprived of the emblems of his episcopal rank and placed under guard. But several of the holy Fathers had the same vision, seeing the Lord Himself and the Mother of God returning to him the Gospel and omophorion. The Fathers of the Council agreed that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to God, and restored the saint to the office of bishop.
Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, uprooting heresy, nourishing his flock with sound doctrine, and also providing food for their bodies.
Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. One of the greatest was the deliverance from death of three men unjustly condemned by the Governor, who had been bribed. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The Governor, denounced by St Nicholas for his wrong doing, repented and begged for forgiveness.
Witnessing this remarkable event were three military officers, who were sent to Phrygia by the emperor Constantine to put down a rebellion. They did not suspect that soon they would also be compelled to seek the intercession of St Nicholas. Evil men slandered them before the emperor, and the officers were sentenced to death. Appearing to St Constantine in a dream, St Nicholas called on him to overturn the unjust sentence of the military officers.
He worked many other miracles, and struggled many long years at his labor. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. He appeared to a certain Italian merchant and left him three gold pieces as a pledge of payment. He requested him to sail to Myra and deliver grain there. More than once, the saint saved those drowning in the sea, and provided release from captivity and imprisonment.
Having reached old age, St Nicholas peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. His venerable relics were preserved incorrupt in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087, his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (See May 9).
The name of the great saint of God, the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed in every corner of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples. In Russia there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name. There is, perhaps, not a single city without a church dedicated to him.
#8.2.1 Anonymous on 2007-12-13 16:28
No, "doubleminded" is appropriate here.
From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) :
Doubleminded \Dou"ble*mind"ed\, a.
Having different minds at different times; unsettled;
" A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." --James.i. 8.
#8.2.2 Anonymous on 2007-12-14 05:11
You still, evidently, do not understand paradox. But I suppose that, as the self-appointed Anonymous Voice Of Authentic Orthodoxy, you don't really need to pass reading comprehension. interesting that you take it upon yourself to take shots at Fr. Hopko; just what about humility, wisdom and humanity offends you, O Anonymous Voice Of Authentic Orthodoxy?
#220.127.116.11 Scott Walker on 2007-12-16 21:41
Read Fr. Tom's letter. It is the difference between a believer, and these cold heartless ... bishops of the OCA.
#9 Mike on 2007-12-11 21:07
Thank you Fr. Hopko for reminding us of the qualities that a bishop is supposed to exhibit. It's hard to remember sometimes, since we have so few current examples. Of course the "reality" will always fall short of the "ideal," but at least the standard needs to be acknowledged and every effort made to conform to it.
By the way, it should be pointed out that passivity and silence do NOT equate with true humility and compassion for one's flock. So our silent bishops, while less overtly offensive, are complicit in allowing their arrogant and prideful episcopal brothers to run amuck.
Good Lord deliver us and lead us out of the muck!
#10 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-12-12 06:14
But why are we being passive and silent about the fact that a monastery like Holy Protection was taken in to the OCA during this murder trial? The young "monk in training" who murdered the nun, passed a lie detector test in which he stated he was molested by the leaders of this monastery since he was 14 years old. By the way he was taken from his family and out of his native country to come to the US by these monastic leaders. They even attempted to adopt him.
Another of the Ukrainian boys was successfully adopted by Fr. Gregory Wendt.
I'm concerned about the financial mismanagement but I am more concerned about the network of abuse which continues beneath the surface in the OCA.
Thank you Fr. Tom,
That is a wonderful reflection on St. Nicholas (the name of our little bumping-along-for-years OCA mission in Fayetteville, NC).
Your reflection was very thoughtful and inspiring. I would hope *and pray*, as I have done since our OCA woes were made public, that each and every one of our episcopal leaders would venture to read, and learn from such a well-written reflection.
#12 Patty Schellbach on 2007-12-12 10:13
The press release for the Second Meeting of the Preconciliar Commission (http://oca.org/News.asp?ID=1395&SID=19) can make your blood boil if it isn’t already in that state. In this session, at the invitation Nick Liolin, a Mr. Brian Strom from the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution, “offered suggestions on how Council preparation and sessions could be best structured to create an environment conducive to open communication and reconciliation.” He has, it was noted, over 12 years of conflict resolution experience including working with faith-based organizations. Where should I begin?
Let’s start with the experience of working with “faith-based” organizations. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, this is not a faith based organization, it is an organization of faith, it’s a Church. We are not an organization that operates within a framework of a faith, we are an organization that lives a faith and worships God, which makes this a very different kind of organization. We have sacraments. The food pantry down the block that’s a faith based organization does not. Our “leaders” can trace their commission back to the Apostles, the hospice down the block probably has a board who appointed their leaders. Get the difference? Our mission IS the faith, its not an influence in the mission of the organization, although you can say that there is very little influence of any faith in our leadership. That the commission cannot recognize that in the first place is a very serious indictment of their ability to carry on in this commission because they don’t even know what kind of an organization they are dealing with. It’s even more of an indictment of the bishop in the lead on the commission that rather than follow the example of our Lord, we are going to some guy who has 12 years of conflict resolution to solve our problems. 12 Years! Makes him an expert on the moral decomposition of this organization! It’s laughable, but it also brings you to tears.
Secondly, what don’t the people on the commission get? Is +Liolin SO BLIND that he cannot tell what is wrong in this Church? We need to involve a consultant to tell us how to have constructive meetings?! Good Lord! I’m so livid I need to take a break before I continue…
This isn’t a negotiation between two sides, this is a fight for the soul of a Church. There is no give and take between right and wrong. God didn’t pass a note saying “Hey, you follow 8 out of those 10 commandments I was talking about and I’ll give you a pre-approved ticket to paradise.” “Put an extra 10 into the collection basket and I’ll overlook that gluttonous night out last week.” That’s not how things work here people and our bishops don’t understand that. This isn’t a negotiation between two teams for a star player and a player to be named later. This isn’t a negotiation between management and labor over when people can take a full pension. This is a fight for the very soul of the Orthodox Church in America. We cannot get our bishops to see the resolution IS GOD, when they hold Christ’s very body in their hands at every liturgy. There is no human being on earth that is going to be able to resolve this conflict other than those that are responsible for this scandal. If holding the body of Christ in their hands cannot move them to resolve this then there’s no hope. PERIOD. Definitely not from some conflict resolution expert from Canada who’s been doing this for 12 years!
What they are trying to do, this commission, probably with the prodding of the leadership of this corrupt and incompetent organization, and its disgraceful, is they are trying to reduce the anger of the laity and some of the clergy to this scandal as merely a conflict that can be reconciled by use of secular conflict resolution techniques. In other words, there’s a middle ground here that can be obtained to make people happy all around. A middle ground that will mollify our anger while not having accountability on the part of the leadership. A middle ground that will allow us to have constructive talks while we have a priest in Eastern Pennsylvania and a Bishop in Alaska who play with the Sacred Gifts of Grace, the sacraments, to punish the spiritual life of any who speak out and disagree with them or remove them from their jobs. A middle ground when priests who speak out are disciplined by their bishops because what they say isn’t the party line of the corrupt bishops. A middle ground where people who speak their minds on this site and others are tormented, abused, and dragged through the mud because the bishops and their goons don’t like what was said. A middle ground when people here have to speak anonymously because they will have mud slung at them and personal weaknesses displayed because they demand accountability of their bishops and leaders as to how the millions they (the faithful) pumped into this Church have been used. A middle ground when there are serious sexual allegations and the Church conducts a sham investigation leaving us liable for the results. A middle ground where people have to stop money to the Church force the BISHOPS and our leadership to be honest and GOD LOVING. A move because these bishops understand nothing on paper unless it contains the portrait of a notable American! BS!
There is no middle ground here for those that demand accountability and priests to act like priests and bishops like bishops the way that Fr. Hopko wrote. There is no middle ground when money we gave in good conscience to help worthy causes has gone to TANNING SALONS and no one wants to accept responsibility or to discipline those who are guilty. There is no middle ground when after all the reforms we STILL cannot account for all the 9/11 money even after taking out a loan to cover it! There is no middle ground people, right is right and wrong is wrong, and God demands us to stand up for His Church and what is right. He doesn’t call us to negotiate happy endings where there is no repentance and changing of lives. And no conflict resolution expert is going to make us think otherwise. You want free, open, and frank discussions at the next AAC? Remove from the phrase “out of order” from +Swaiko’s lexicon! You want constructive discussions concerning this Church, bar the bishops from the meetings! Suspend any priest or bishop who plays power games with the Gifts of Grace from God. No, this is meant to water down the faithful and bring us to concessions that leave these miscreants be. Downright disgusting!
If they want resolution, there are numerous ways to achieve and anything less is not a resolution. A free, unfettered investigative committee with the original members. The re-affirming of Kondratick’s defrockment. A complete audit and accounting of all monies back to 1998 including St. Tikhon’s and Eastern PA. The resignation or removal of +Swaiko and +Soraich. And the removal of any other spineless bishop who has allowed this to continue to this point and to the degree that it has. Let’s see the resolution conflict expert get THOSE resolutions! If they want an environment conducive to “open communication and reconciliation”, put the Gospel in front of each of our bishops and let them gaze down on that as they deliberate their corrupt actions.
I can’t believe they would even pull this garbage and think it would stick to the wall. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, whether it be “righteous suffering”, or “ecclesiology of the internet” or “innocence and neglect”, they come up with a whopper. If they spent as much time trying to act like Christians and less time trying to pull the wool over our eyes and deceive us and others as to what the real problem is we would be in good shape right now. They might think that conflict resolution is going to make their lives better, but woe be unto them because Mr. Strom is not going to be able to reconcile their conflicts in their final judgment!
They must ALL GO!
#13 Stonewall on 2007-12-12 12:46
An excellent article from Fr. Thomas. This is exactly the type of information and references the laity and the clergy need to have as reference to help get a better understanding of our situation and use in the struggle for truth and righteousness, and in working to right the OCA ship (if such a thing is still possible at this late stage).
If y'all don't mind, I would like to post one of the two passages that Father Tom cited but did not quote.
1 Timothy 3:1-18: "This is a faithful saying: if a man seeks the office of an overseer, he desires a good work. 3:2 The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching; 3:3 not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 3:4 one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence; 3:5( but if a man doesn't know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the assembly of God?) 3:6 not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 3:7 Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are outside, to avoid falling into reproach and the snare of the devil.
3:8 Deacons, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money; 3:9 holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 3:10 Let them also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, if they are blameless. 3:11 Their wives in the same way must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 3:12Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. "
You will notice that this translation uses the word "overseer" to denote a bishop, just like Father Tom did. This is an important point and we should keep in mind what Father Tom wrote:
"The word bishop (in Greek episkopos), which literally means overseer or supervisor, was the title in an ancient household (oikos) for the chief slave. The “epi-skopos” was the head servant and first steward who “over-saw” and “super-vised” the work of all the other slaves, servants and stewards. The “episkopos” spoke in the Master’s name, held the Master’s authority, wielded the Master’s power, cared for the Master’s properties, guarded the Master’s possessions, directed the Master’s services and distributed the Master’s goods. But he was not the Master himself!"
I would like to make the following observations.
1. Two types of clergy are mentioned by Saint Paul: Overseers and deacons. Indeed, I don't know of any Biblical evidence of any other types of clergy. From Father Tom's exposition on "overseer," it is clear, at least to me, that there is an overseer at each local parish (the parish priest); at each monastic community (abbot or abbess); at each diocese (the diocesan bishop); and at each national jurisdiction (the first bishop among equals, whether that is an Archbishop, Metropolitan or Patriarch). In 1 Timothy, we have the gold standard for the characteristics of our clergy. By this I mean that this is Holy Tradition with a capital T. Anything else cannot be sustained except by the flimsiest of reasoning" that is the way we've always done.
2. You must have noticed that an overseer or a deacon is to be "the husband of one wife." Saint Paul must have been reflecting the widespread practice of the Church because in other passages he advises believers to stay as they are. The logical conclusion is inescapable: we are going against Biblical teaching and Biblical practice when we insist (since the 8th century) that our bishops come from the ranks of monastics.
3. You must also have noticed that Saint Paul does not treat the office of deacons as a temporary office on the way to "real" clergyhood. It is clear from the New Testament, particularly Acts, that deacons had very important administrative functions. Again, the logical conclusion is inescapable that we are going against Biblical teaching and Biblical practice.
Three observations are perhaps one too many. However, I would like to make just one more. And, this one is tied to the question whether the Diocese of Alaska will celebrate Christmas on a different date than the rest of OCA? If you want, you can substitute any church that uses the Julian calendar. My observation is this: this issue is (or should be) fundamentally a non-issue for Orthodox Christians. However, it is emblematic of other such matters that are put forth as "real Orthodoxy."
I know that things cannot change overnight and that many sincere Orthodox folks disagree. I beg their forgiveness and ask only that they open their minds to these notions of married bishops, permanent deacons, and God knows what else that flows from the true holy Orthodox Tradition. Just remember that Church existed long before Constantinople and Moscow.
Wishing you a holy, healthy and safe Chrismas,
#15 Carl on 2007-12-12 13:57
It was encouraging to read something sane.
I'm glad someone as respected as Fr. Thomas has written this and other salient writings in the past.
The good news is that (at least those reading at this site) are alive, breathing, and can still pray for the OCA, the bishops, and everyone else.
#16 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-12-12 14:05
I too wish to thank Fr Thomas Hopko for his timely reflection on St Nicholas. The qualities that St Nicholas incarnated are in fact the very "qualities" of Christ Himself, the Archtype for all of humanity. Thus, whether we be bishop, or laity, ordained or not ordained, we are all called to that same end, to be like Christ.
The moment we read Fr Hopko's reflection and only think of the 'other, the "bad" bishop or bishops, and not ourselves, we miss the entire point of his words.
Thank you again, Fr Thomas, for I, the first sinner, take you words as they are written only for me.
#17 Anonymous on 2007-12-12 14:32
Thank you, Fr. Hopko, for this warm and thoughtful and timely reflection. I was struck by the point emphasizing that "the word bishop ... was the title in an ancient household (oikos) for the chief slave... But he was not the Master himself!"
In my ignorance I wonder about "Master, bless" and other places where the word "Master" is customarily used as the honorific for the bishop. How does this square with Fr. Hopko's reflection? Is "Master, bless" a poor translation, or is there some other explanation?
I don't mean to get hung up on words or out-of-context prohibitions (a la "call no man Father"). But I have to admit that the word "Master" does not have good associations for me when it is applied to fellow fallen humans. Jesus is my Lord and Master; I am his slave, but that is tempered by the other sense in which by grace I may be an adopted son of Our Father.
I'd appreciated any thoughts or corrections from those more knowledgeable on this subject.
Stephen Schumacher (OCA-DOW)
#18 Stephen Schumacher on 2007-12-12 19:58
Good point--I have never been comfortable with this terminology. "Father bless" certainly works for both priests and bishops and doesn't have the authoritarian aura of "master."
I would go one step further and even question the master/slave imagery used to designate our relationship to God/Christ. Since we are endowed with free will by our Creator, we are hardly slaves in any traditional sense of that word.
#18.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-12-14 06:09
Regarding 'slave' -- Scriptures and the Fathers use this word (doulos) constantly to describe our relationship with God. The Holy Virgin Mary said to the Angel Gabriel "Behold the female slave of the Lord" -- not "handmaiden", not "servant." We are all slaves of God in that we strive to give up our own will and to do the will of God, or unite our own will to that of God, as Jesus did before His arrest. The terminology of 'slave' is unpalatable to us moderns, living in a culture that values 'independence,' 'freedom' , 'individual rights,' and the concept of the individual itself. We elevate these terms almost to the level of idolatry. We need to realize that true (i.e. Orthodox) Christianity sets us apart from the norm of secular society. We need to accept the Church's teachings even when they go against the grain of modern society, the tenets of which we have all too willingly adopted across the board.
#18.1.1 AnonPriest(A.ofC.) on 2007-12-14 11:44
A slave has no will of its own, at least in theory. It does not conform its will voluntarily. Compulsion is the order of the day.
This is NOT how God or Jesus Christ operate. I agree this word is often used, but I find it unfortunate and confusing, at least in a modern context.
#18.104.22.168 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-12-14 15:01
For a while in the Diocese of Alaska, +Nikolai had himself referred to at "the Lord Nikolai." And references to him, in stead of Master, were "Lord."
#18.2 anonymous on 2007-12-14 13:19
You have got to be kidding! Or maybe not. Malignant narcissism knows no limits. If Nikolai feared God, he would be trembling on his knees in repentance. Nikolai, however, neither fears God nor loves his neighbor. Nikolai is apostate from Christ. Nikolai needs to be gone. Hoiy Synod, is there any faint hope that you will act to depose this sick and twisted man? Anyone? Will the lot of you please, for Christ's sake, act like bishops? Do none of you have compassion for the suffering faithful of Alaska? Job can't be the only honorable man there, can he? Do you have the faintest idea of what a trial to faith the bishops of our Church represent to many of us? I'm nobody special, bishops, but I urge you to reflect upon what Christ has to say about those who cause one (just one, mind, let alone thousands) of his little ones to stumble. Reflect on just how big and heavy a millstone around the neck really is, and how swiftly it drags one down into the sea.
Meanwhile, God save us from our bishops. St. Herman of Alaska, pray to God for us.
#18.2.1 Scott Walker on 2007-12-17 12:37
Hey +Nikolai and +Herman, this one's for you:
Discord in the Church and Freedom of Conscience
#19 Moses on 2007-12-13 11:47
Ken, I agree with you...
Yes, it's not about compulsion; it's about love. Jesus said (John 15:15) to his disciples No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends...
In the previous verse he defines His friends as those who do what He commands. A friend obeys because of love, never because of compulsion. Jesus also said If you love Me, you will keep my commandments If we are in a state of loving Jesus, it will follow that we obey His commandments. We often twist this to say we must obey to prove we love. No we love in order that obedience to Jesus' commandments will follow as night follows day.
Whom do we love then? Whom do our leaders love? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life? Loving Him above all then is the only direction to the Father, the only way to defeat the father of lies, the only resurrection for our dying souls. If we love Him, [it then will follow], we WILL keep His commandments.
#20 Karen Jermyn on 2007-12-18 08:57
Beautifully said, thank you.
#20.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-12-19 14:04
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