The Voice of the Church [1-…3]

1) Prolegomena to local and Western local Church
In this year dedicated to the memorial of the 2,000th birthday of Apostle Saint Paul of Tarsus, it maybe interesting to point out some events that make sense in a special way. The recent election of Metropolitan Jonah as head the Orthodox Church of America and Canada (O.C.A.) is a remarkable moment in the development of the Churches, i.a. in North America. This happened nearly two weeks after the ordination of the new hierarch who was made a bishop on November 1, 2008. Whatever troubles and turbulences affect the O.C.A., the point is that it underscores many of the specific traditional and theological aspects of the existence of local and universal Church, conciliarityсоборность, with regards to the ancient rules governing the Church.

The O.C.A. is going through “ordinary” turmoil. I call that “ordinary” because money and sex, power, might, distortion, corruption are the current devils and tempters of all religious movements. King David had it, his son Solomon collapsed because of that and somehow lost his wisdom in the venture. King Herod was so pious that his definitely illegal kingship led him to lie and pretend he wanted to visit the Child in Bethlehem. Indeed, he was ready to kill him. And he killed the innocent children in the royal city while the Baby had left the manger.

North America is the traditional Western place of “We have a dream” or where “dreams come true”. All over the year, as most Israeli citizens and inhabitants of the country, I get on line proposals to settle in the United States or in Canada. The Green card invites tons of people all over the planet to join American society. This shows that the Us is based on some dynamics and that people can join and make their lives there. Israel is also a unique country that constantly calls people to come and join the building of the “return of the exiled”. The other European countries, Western and Eastern states do not ask their citizens to stay. Unemployment or the development of new political and economic structures – ongoing wars or inter-tribal conflicts – oblige many workers to emigrate and their homeland would hardly award them with some exceptional “colorful and/or permanent resident card”.

As the Stock Exchange places break down and collapse, nationals are ruined by easy credits and totally irrational wasting of time and money. The United States continue to integrate the cream of the crops: brains, skills, talented people. At times there are a lot of “chilly” half frozen candidates to American style of living. The country is fascinating, people are nice and wild, open-minded and selfish, self-centered, conquering and losing the planet. Still, there are the “invariants” that I love to describe, because they compel to take our roots into account.

Russia and the former Soviet Union are not of that kind of dreamy territories. It was a framed country and area for centuries. It has been embattled in facing the invaders that showed from the Far-East and from the West. The Slavs did protect themselves and often saved the Westerners, the Europeans. At this point, a lot of former Soviets have wandered through the world over the passed century and after the collapse of communism. It started with the victims of the pogroms and the political refugees/рефюзники-refuzniki toward the end of the 19th century. It continued with the Bolshevik Revolution, the various local wars or revolutions (Ukraine, Caucasus). The collapse of the Ottoman empire led to mass human flows to North and South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe.

It is a simple statement, but still… Paris remained a special place. There was Berlin before the Nazis. There was Vienna – today some areas are definitely signoficant for implementing the new patterns of societies on the move: The Ottomans were stopped in Vienna and “die Wiener Stimmung” got some “Kuchen und Tee – tea time with delicatessen” with a new international pastry: the Turkish croissants and the so-called “Turkish – Arab – Greek – Serbian – Ethiopian Kafa – coffee – café -koffie – kawa”.

The Syrian Orthodox are numerous in Scandinavia and Germany, Pakistanis are British citizens by birthright. Germany collected their inmates from the Volga and the French had the “décolonisation”. Just as Surinam and Indonesia are present in the Netherlands. Today, the Russians “take over” or redeem Iceland financially. In the 1970s, Vladimir Ashkenazi (the pianist) could meet with a Latvian refuznik, an expelled protester who worked in the cemetery at Reykjavik. We were but three or a bit more and could hardly have a Jewish minyan or cook kosher, whatsoever… Intriguingly, when I was sailing on board Danish ships to Greenland up to Nuuk/Godthaab as a student to make some money, it was evident that Groenland would one day get self-ruled and maybe independent… A revenge? or a desperate conquest? Or this and that? The Danes have always been “et barneligt lille folk” [a nice childlike nation of “nice people”].

Is is a series of bizarre broken views? Some other were arriving in Israel while other “others” were leaving [going down, descending as we say in Hebrew “yordimיורדים] from the country. They were living “on hold” in Vienna or Berlin, expecting some improbable Soviet pardon and permit to return to the former republics of comradeship. Those who ever coped wit the Slavic Russian and Soviet style know that slaves are slaves. Even when they are freed they are ready to lose their souls in trusting blood-sucking power-obsessed tyrants that will keep them low gear and low profile. I am really not judgmental, but the “Russkaia dusha – Pусская душа” envisions freedom and faith with patterns that foreigners often misunderstand. A blend made out of fear and wild, bloody killings and love, compassion, tenderness, forgiveness, cries and pangs of birth. The Russian Church may be given at the presence the opportunity to breathe in. Awe and fright can panic them anew and huddle them up. They will crouch again in the wide spaces and winter frameworks.

Paris? This is Eliezer Perlman Ben Yehudah who met with an Algerian Jew at the Butte Montmartre. They had a drink and spoke Hebrew. He never gave up. Today the language is like a true sign of resurrection, even if the 150th anniversary of the birth of the reviver was not that kind of a feast we love to celebrate in the Holy Land. Hebrew revives and this is not a linguistic prodigy. It is a sign of a Divine act but it should be considered with insights and adequately.

Now, look: The Greek, Bulgarians, Russians came to Western Europe and there again they met in Paris. They brought, for the first time in Modern history, a renewal of theological views about Eastern Orthodoxy and Christianity along with other creeds. At this point, Paris and some remarkable Christian Orthodox thinkers and clergy had the nerve to appeal the Western Churches. This is also true for the Armenians, the Georgians and today the Iraqi’s and the rescued Assyrian Church believers sheltered in the vicinity of the capital… also in Moscow…

Look: today Strasbourg/Strasburg-Brussels, Aachen, Maastricht, Liège/Luik, Luxemburg/Luxembourg and the inter-bordering region of the Three countries border / Gebiet der Drei Laender. The same shows in Strasburg – Basel – Zurich – Munchen.

By the time of the 1920s, the continents were culturally estranged. They could be challenged and defy splits and breaches. They often did someway, somehow. There is the Western pride and self-centered stiffness. But, at least, from Vienna, Berlin, Paris, London, Brussels, Rome many opened up the minds for a free dialog. At the present, the dialog seems to be on stand-by… we fell asleep as people sleep when they get scary. It is special sleep: the sleep or the napping mood of people who can travel through the world within a few hours only by plane. The world is small. High tech can make it narrow and terribly selective.

There are these invariants: humans forget they have a mask. Latin “Persona = masked [face]” and the word entered the Aramaic and Talmudic plus Christian Assyrian lexicon: “parshuna – פרשונא”. These means that we love replacing the aliens by some invented second nature or physis, additional soul elements and mix it up till authentic identities drowns. I daily meet with true foreigners who, out of a sudden and the blue and even the green cheese, pretend to be more Jewish than the Jews, more Catholics than any Catholic, more Christian Orthodox than any Eastern Byzantine or Oriental believer, more Japanese Master Deshimaru Zen or universal Tibetan Boen. It is a kind of spiritual disease, discomfort. As if “conversion” would mean more than simply pivot on our seat and face the light of the Divine Presence and humble down.

This does not mean that people or believers are fake. It is worse: identity, when you reach who you are, death cannot kill you till the right time. Françoise Dolto, the famous French psycho-analyst and Christian (Catholic) believer made once a very exact statement about babes. When a baby is facing death and overcome, nothing can stop his or her in life. Unbeatable, incapable of being subdued. She had a son, Carlos, a pop signer who passed away recently. Interestingly, he had been the first child that had been baptized in the Russian Catholic Byzantine parish in Paris and their then-new basin…

Let’s summarize: tremendous changes and human flows, high tech and high speed; back-laid people, traditions and mentalities, new and old diseases, creeds and reflections have been shaking the planet and its inhabitants like permanent breaking news and flashes. We need time. A lot of time.

* * * * * * * * * *

2) Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in memoriam – вечная память: envisioning the future

On December 13th, 2008, the Christian Orthodox Church shall commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passing away of late Fr. Alexander Schmemann.

His brother Andrei Schmemann recently died in Paris (France) on November 7, 2008 in his 88th. He had spend his life in total faithfulness to Russia. Born in Reval/Tallinn, he became a member of the Russian Cadets and lived in France as the prestigious heir of the first Russian Orthodox émigrés with a “Nansen passport – of a stateless” till President V. Putin officially returned him his Russian passport in 2004, in Cannes. He had been a mindful supporter of the Russian Orthodox tradition in his parish of “The Mother of the Sign” and the “St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral”. The two brothers are now united in God as we reach the 25th anniversary of the repose of the famous theologian. This joining together in the faith of the Resurrected marks a point in the way we can envision the future of the Church.

In 1951, Fr. Alexander Schmemann left St. Sergius Institute of theology in Paris and settled in the United States, firstly in New York. The St. Vladimir Seminary was then located in Broadway and moved to the suburb (Crestwood) in 1962. Fr. Alexander Schememann has been teaching for decades at the St. Vladimir’s theological Institute, the renown Eastern Orthodox theological for the training of clergy and lay people.He became the dean of the Seminary in the same year. Under his influence and the active presence of late Fr. John Meyendorff, this theological Center developed and got more and more prestige. The two priests brought the “memory and living tradition of the Russian Orthodox faith”, opposed to whatever religion. In some ways, the two men also shared the very insightful views of late Metropolitan Evlogyi who had been assigned in Western Europe by the first new patriarch of Moscow, St. Tikhon. The exceptional patriarch had been a metropolitan in North America and Alaska [he had blessed the translation of the Divine Liturgy into Aleutian language] and had also served in Vilnius (Lithuania). Something happened and started at St. Sergius: Russian priests and theologians – as well as pastors like Metropolitan Anthony [Bloom] later appointed in London – paved the way for renewed though very traditional topics of the Catholic Orthodox Church.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann had experienced the “seemingly émigré-like” strong impact of the Russian Byzantine faith on the Western reconsidering work that led to building up new and revised theological behaviors based on Faith and Liturgy. This “émigré-like” aspect is definitely not negative. He might have felt in depths the repeatedly reminded verse of Deuteronomy: “And you will say: my father was a wandering Aramean – arami oved aviארמי אבד אבי” (Deut. 26:5: exact meaning while King James version translates: “A Syrian ready to perish was my father” (Abraham)”.

The verse is not mentioned as a focus by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, but it developed in many aspects of his spiritual and pastoral teachings and actions, in particular in the United States. Based on Faith and Divine Activity (which is the true meaning of “Liturgy”) exercised by the Church in the Presence and by the breathing in creativity of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Alexander developed the specific view of the Russian Orthodox and also Christian Orthodox call to holiness. The Church is not nationalistic, ethnic, linguistic. The Church lives of the reinvigorating life-giving and reviving Presence of the Resurrection in our midst. This sacramental aspect is based on the profundity of the Trishagion as received during the Divine Liturgy.

This view was definitely inspired by the shared views that Fr. Alexander Schmemann and Fr. John Meyendorff got from the French and West-European Catholic theologians like Fr. Louis Bouyer (a former Lutheran pastor), Cardinal Jean Danielou. Interestingly, both men of God focused on the Eucharist that it at the heart of the Orthodox faith and existing. It should be noted that they also joined in other matters that are definitely significant for our generation nd the future of the Church. For example, Fr. Alexander Schmemann felt the important of Canon law in the life of the Church through the spiritual guidance of Nicholas Afanassiev. Fr. Nichoas linked Canon laws to an “en route” line and not only rules of government. Indeed, Canon laws are esential at the present because they show how the Church moves ahead and progressively grows in the face of the Living Trinity. This is exactly the same way shared and taught in Jewish “Halachahהלכה = legal principles and articles”.

Christian Orthodoxy relies upon ongoing lines that envision the future with much hope and faith in the Resurrection; it moves ahead to the future. This is why the Russian Orthodox way of connecting Baptism, Chrismation AND Eucharist-Communion is a vital element of the Christian true way of living. Fr. Alexander Schmemann rediscovered this fundamental with much insights of freedom. The same had been developed by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger via “Communio International”, at a time when Fr. Schmemann was already active in New York.

Fr. Alexander was born in 1921. By comparison, I was incidentally born 28 years later. The point is – and I just mention that in my humble stand – that we shared the same views and cultural experience at many levels. It is maybe a question of historical memory that tracks back my Jewish cultural, spiritual and linguistic backgrounds back to the way and lifestyles of the 1880s in the Jewishness/Yiddishkayt, though I never lived in a any similar then-existing Jewish village/shtet’l. Fr. Alexander Schmemann never lived or visited Russia. Still, we met the same theologians at a time when they had enlarged their researches in the field of spirituality. They all were very open-minded men of faith.

Fr. Alexander made a statement “à la Pythia” to Fr. Thomas Hopko, who became the dean of the St. Vladimir Seminary and was his son-in-law. He had a special but very meaningful personal “in memoriam epitaph”: “You just have to say that my whole world view, my whole life, could be summed up in one little sentence: two ‘nos,’ one ‘yes,’ and eschatology-two ‘nos,’ one ‘yes,’ and the Kingdom to come” (1984). In short, he meant that a definite “no” to secularism and stiff ritual religion as systematic tools. The two “yes” were connected with the activity of proclaiming the Kingdom of the Living God, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the Church as the living One Body that is permanently renewed and nurtured, nourished by the life-giving Sacraments.

This corresponds to the Hebrew tradition as Hebrew “lo/לא = no, the ‘lamed and alef deny God = El/אל = being alef and lamed = on the move, dynamic”. In fact, the theological teachings and ecclesiastical views developed by Fr. Alexander Schmemann and the school of St. Sergius Institute always showed a real linking to the authentic Orthodox and Catholic Church. Thus, the local Church is wider than any ethnicity. It basically encompasses the Whole of the Plenitude in situ and all over the world. It is both the meaning of the “Ecclesia universa” and the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing extended from any territorial Church or “city community” to all the nations of the globe. The Usual Roman definition has a restricted meaning that is considered as a deployment within the Oriental tradition of service.

The Evlogian movement has been immense for the understanding of the Church reality. Metropolitan Evlogyi made it a manner of enculturation that is evident in the Gospel. It should be noted that the Jewish Noahide laws reach out in the present to the same universal and “beyond-ethnic” identity and redemption. The work is still developing with much contrasts. It would be useless to oppose the tendencies that are present in the Eastern Orthodox Church or the other Churches. It is beyond intra- or interfaith or Church vs. Church pretence or conflict.

Let’s take another example: In 1964, with the strong local assistance of late Patriarch Benediktos of Jerusalem, Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI met in Jerusalem. They took a decision and lifted the anathemas pronounced after the Schism of 1054 that formally cut down the communion among the five Western and Oriental Patriarchates. True, it isolated Rome though the Roman Church developed separately. On the other hand, the Baptism of the Kievan Rus took place at at time when East and West were still united… Subsequently, the partition got in force rather lately in other Christian regions, such as Jerusalem, i.a.

Still, the Second Vatican Council could not really come to some kind of decisional document without the presence and dialogue of Christian Orthodox heads, in particular Patriarch Athenagoras. It declared that “the Body of Christ is larger than the Catholic [Roman Catholic] Church” (Lumen Gentium 48). Such a statement – compared to the cancellation of the anathemas, among other things, show the measure and distance that remains and obliges the Church to carry out the huge task of historical and spiritual duty to get united. It cannot be a formal and administrative, “religious, systematic, non-inspirited” dogma or rule.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann had to consider it in view of the “unachieved” Council of Florence (Basel, Ferrata, Florence, 1431-1445). Mainly a Western Latin Roman Catholic convention that ended as the Roman Catholic Church affirmed the superiority of the Pope, some years before the fall of Constantinople (1453).Our memories are still bearing the scars and wounds of the split thought it somehow remained loose and uncertain. The theologians of the 20th centuries faced the exceptional task to encounter with each other and to convey this “impossible dialogue”. It is still pending today, roughly showing the same wounds and problems.

The Church of Paris and in Western Europe was questioned by “local and universal” in a special way and Metropolitan Evlogyi responded with a rare sense of common sense and ture faith, a spirit of tradition and courageous daring. It led both to the split of the Church Abroad movement and the continuation of the Patriarchate of Moscow. Whatever parameters concerned the relationships have always been kept and duly maintained. This is more important than any specious and negative judgmental attitude. Indeed, the forthcoming 25th anniversary conference at the St. Sergius Institute insists on the specific theological views “transcending national and ideological boundaries”.

* * * * * * * * * *

3) Heritage: Newness and “native local Church” in America for Nativity 2008

A third part for a rather long note. Still the reader will be kind enough to break it down and quietly accept it as a prelude to Nativity and the expectation of the Coming of the Lord. A Lenten breathing in marching in through the Eastern Orthodox calendar that remains “Pentecostal”.

With regards to the historic development of Orthodox Churches in “Western” countries, territories, regions and linguistic areas, the St. Sergius Institute of Theology showed very active and creative over the past decades. It spread to all Orthodox communities and local congregations. One of the most significant basis is and remains the St. Vladimir Seminary at Crestwood, under the authority of the O.C.A.

The “Orthodox Church in America” is a very interesting example of the present “cultural shaking” remodeling that shows in North and South America, with some extension in Mexico and Australia. It started as a Russian post-tsarist rule birthing point (1794, firstly in the Kurile and Aleutian islands (Kodiak) that followed the taking over of Alaska by the United States (purchased in 1867). It is, from the very beginning, a mission that will defend the identity of the natives while growing by the arrival of numerous faithful from Russia and East-European countries.

In short, the O.C.A. developed along the different jurisdictions that appeared before and after the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of autonomous or self-ruled Greek Catholic and Greek
Orthodox communities. The historic link tracks back to the immigration of the Ruthenians, Carpatho-Ruthenians and Ukrainian workers who settled in North America. To begin with, the forefathers of the present Orthodox Church in America were definitely Russian Orthodox. They got mixed with other denominations or trends that crossed in these immense and new territories.

The Greek Catholic elements have to be taken into consideration. While in the 1920s, Metropolitan Evlogyi acquired the St. Sergius compound from a Protestant Alsacian congregation and installed the Institute of theology, it should be noted – even in some backlaid subconscient manner – that a great part of the Orthodox clergy was trained as youths and students among the Byzantine Greek Catholic schools and lycée especially created by the Oriental rite Jesuits in Constantinople, Namur and Meudon for the Russian Orthodox émigrés. Their competences and activities turned in favor of a better understanding of the Eastern Orthodox traditions in the Russian Orthodox immense territories. There were strong misunderstandings, in particular in Alaska… But in the West and in Europe, they “structured” and trained the youths and were wise enough to allow them becoming true and open-minded Russian Orthodox priests and deacons. Many groups, until now and also in the former Soviet Union, are grateful for the teachings and money provided by the Catholic Church and the abilities of some “border” clergy who, often along with the Namur and Meudon Jesuits backed the pastoral skills of modern Slavic clergy and may people.

Mgr Georges Rochcau [Георгий Рошко] who was the Apostolic Visitor for the Russian Byzantine Catholic in the world and headed the Refugees Department of Caritas Internationalis, was for years the an active supporter and member of the St. Sergius Institute. He definitely knew how to get finacial support from the French State and other organizations. His brother Vsevolod was also a member of the same Russian Byzantine Catholic Church and had spent 40 years in Alaska, preventing many misunderstandings between the Catholic and the Orthodox believers. His brother appointed him in Jerusalem by the time of the communists to head the House of Abraham. He mainly worked among all the Russian denominations and believers at a moment when the first newcomers came from Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. It is worth mentioning them because they did a real pioneering work with much humbleness and wit.

Similarly, it would definitely be unfair not to take into account the role played by Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in L’viv from 1900 til his death in 1944. I wrote a note about him [Last November 1 for memorial day]. He showed to be a out of the standard man of faith with regards to his own flock scattered throughout the world, in partiular in North America. He got the permission from the Pope to organize his communities in North and South America, with much insights into the spiritual and social situation that still develops there at the present. In Canada and many American states, the Ukrainian and Ruthenian communities were about to pass to Roman Latin rite or to some Protestant congregations. In the present, we see that the move reversed and a lot of Anglican/Episcopalian clergy and lay people entered in the past twenty years to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Many joined the now self-ruled Antiochian Archdiocese of America, built up Ukrainian and Ruthenian Greek Orthodox Churches and also became the members of the O.C.A.

In America, the Russian Church took care of the natives. The immigrants became the “new natives” of a new local Church entity that co-exists along with many other jurisdictions though they all confess the same Eastern Orthodox faith with regards to the various extant traditional to more liberal trends that spread over this wide continent-sized territory. North America is but an immense “local and new native Church”. It shows new trends that would not exist as in the ancient five initial patriarchates bordering the Mediterranean “Rum – Roman Empire” Area.

The interesting point is that in 1970, the Moscow Patriarchate granted the OCA with the full autocephaly, i.e. that it received the recognition of being autonomous from the Moscow Patriarchate. There are lot of disputes about this decision and the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America is still on hold for many other Orthodox Churches, to begin with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Slavic independent or autocephalous Churches (Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Lands and Slovakia) do recognize the total sovereignty of this North American Church. On the other hand, it is also intriguing that the Church was granted this status under the strong influence of late Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). This hierarch, who headed in 1968 the Moscow Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem was also a very ecumenical man, open-minded and he incidentally died in the arms of Pope John Paul I in Rome (09/05/1978, i.e. exactly 30 years ago).

The Saint Vladimir’s theological Seminary is headed by the metropolitan in charge of the OCA and this is also special and meaningful with regards to the historic backgrounds of the Eastern Orthodox presence in North America. I don’t want to argue or discuss about the way the Orthodox Churches are able or not to adapt to some relationship agreements. True, the Ecumenical Patriarch is and remains the “primus inter pares”. Living tradition firstly corresponds to authentic recognition of century-long deployment of all Church entity insomuch each Church is inhabited by the Sacraments and not human power. This is what Fr. Alexander Schmemann taught for decades at St. Sergius and at St. Vladimir Seminary tiil his death.

This seminary is known as a place of encounter for all the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions. They all share the same training and educational system. Antiochian, Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, but also and above all locally born, native clergy and lay people of any tongue and ethnicity have been sharing a very serious and widely open cursus. It is very important for the coming out of the native American Eastern Orthodox Church.

In the months that preceded the election of Metropolitan Jonah, some members of the St. Vladimir Theological Seminary favorably viewed the opportunity of assigning as the head of the O.C.A. H.E. Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna (Austria and Hungary) who is also the representative of the Russian Moscow Patriarchate at the European Communities. He has spent some time in America, is a brilliant linguistic, theologian and talented musician. He is also reflecting with wisdom and insights about the enculturation of the local Churches, in particular in Hungary. Metropolitan Hilarion gave some interviews and did not accept the proposal.

In the meanwhile, Fr. Jonah Paffhausen had been for years the respected abbot of the St. John Monastery, Manton Ca. James Paffhausen was born in the United States (Chicago, IL) to an Episcopalian family. He moved to San Diego and became Orthodox in the Kazan Moscow Patriarchal Church of San Diego in 1978. He accomplished different missions (Orthodox Christian Fellowship) and graduated in 1985 and 1988 at the St. Vladimir Seminary. He spent a year in Moscow, working for the Moscow patriarchal “Russkii Polomnik – Russian pilgrim” journal, traveled to the famous Valaam Monastery. He was ordained a priest in 1994. he was tonsured a monk, with the blessing of the Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra Elder, at the St. Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan (PA) in 1995, receiving the name of Jonah.

He was then allowed to establish a monastery under the patronage of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco (Manton, CA). This life path is indeed very meaningful as it is totally on line with the views and spirit developed by Fr. Alexander Schmemann in North America. Abbot Jonah is a priestmonk while the traditional Eastern Orthodox Churches have a lot of problems to sustain an authentic monastic lifestyle in North American jurisdictions.

He is a “native”, i.e. a born American, also with regards to his personal Episcopalian backgrounds: as many Americans he decided to join the Eastern Orthodox Faith and he did it in California where, historically speaking, the first bishop was a Russian and not even a Catholic. He established a monastery that follows the rules of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, i.e. a very traditional Church Abroad rooted place for the development of American monasticism. This is very significant. He was made an archimandrite only in the spring of 2008 and then was credited some missions usually given to auxiliary bishops. He was consecrated bishop of Forth Worth on November 1, 2008 and elected metropolitan on November 12, 2008. This also shows the great flexibility of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The new metropolitan said upon his pastoral visit to St. Vladimir’s Seminary: “All leaders of the Church, who take up the yoke of Christ, must have a clear vision of theological education, which consists in four things: first, we must present the gospel of Jesus Christ; second, we have a mission to evangelize all people, regardless of color, ethnicity, or socio-economic status; third, we must bring integrity to the gospel message; and fourth, we must take up the task of bearing the presence of Jesus Christ to those around us.”

These words are deeply rooted in the teachings of Fr. Alexander Schmemann and track back to the very core of the Church experience as the Body of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Curiously enough, Pope Benedikt XVI made the same statement in Paris and in Lourdes. It should be noted that, whatever distance, Faith is at the heart of making new and living the Good Tidings.

Metropolitan Jonah reiterated the need: “To become the living presence of God, the living temple of God, requires us to crush our ego and shatter our will, so that we might conceive God within us and become his presence in this world.” Then he added a major element: “Seminarians do not come to theological schools to become ‘professionals’ and to be ‘respected,’ but rather to be crucified and thereby shine forth the light of Christ.”

These are the “normal words” that should be pronounced by any bishop. In this particular case, the new metropolitan knows everything about the hardships of his task. He will be installed on December 28, 2008, just a few days before the new president of the United States. The whole thing appears like some awesome “We shall overcome” challenge. This does not come right out of the blue: it shows a red thread and memorizes the reflections conducted and taught since the Early Church down to the 20th century establishment of Orthodox teachings in the West line from Moscow-Berlin-Paris to New York.

It continues the lines written by the fathers. Still, the Western societies are going through a tremendous crisis, reversing moves. The Church is in the pangs of birth. It is a singular and multi-faceted situation for a Body that is One in the Face of the Living Lord. In his anniversary year, it makes sense to cite Paul of Tarsus: “I am persuaded, that neither deathm nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor tings to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

December 4/November 21, 2008 – 7 Kislev 5769 – ז’ דכסלו תשס”ט

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