And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords!” Jesus said to them, “It is enough.” – Luke 22:38
Americans, especially American Christians, have a fixation on their so-called “God-given Second Amendment Right” to arm themselves to the hilt. I know many Orthodox, even some clergy, who own and hunt with firearms and eat what they kill. But the weapons-mania of the so-called “Christian” Right is not about food and not about recreation. It’s not even about decorating their hunting lodges. It’s about personal survival at the expense of others. There’s a basic question here: is it our vocation as Christians to be prepared to kill other human beings in the name of clinging to this world?
We have “Christian” Congressional Representatives sauntering around the halls of the Capitol with pistols strapped to their legs (or in their purses), like some Hollywood tableau of the Wild West. Weapons, ammo, and the ridiculous misappropriation of Spartan heroism have insinuated themselves into the Christian story. What does the Gospel say about a weaponized response at the darkest hour?
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
QAnon and “Trumplicals” (I just can’t use the lovely word “Evangel” to reference them anymore.) They both seem to have come out of nowhere, unleashed on the nation’s consciousness by the presidency of Donald Trump. But they were there all along, hiding in plain sight in the history of American Christianity.
I wish the “Qs” could find their way to the Second Apology of Justin Martyr or the Embassy for the Christians of Athenagoras of Athens. If they had any understanding of the past, they might see how charges of perversion and cannibalism were used against the early Christians. But, they’ve jumped right in, spurred on by their hatreds and fears, throwing in the “blood libel” against Jews for grotesque measure. All of this dread of being devoured from the new cult of “Q.” They still can’t figure out what to do with John 6. Don’t they get that Orthodox and Catholic are “munching” on the Body of God at every Eucharist? Should we be prepared for our churches and synagogues to be invaded like pizza parlors, by armed fanatics searching for an abattoir of horrors?
For many years now, the word “hierarch” has become a catch-all when referring to bishops with differing titles (e.g. Archbishop, Metropolitan, Auxiliary Bishop). Many of us have had that moment of discomfort when we address a “hierarch” and get their salutation or title wrong! The reactions can range from neutral indifference to a hurtful scolding. “Hierarch” has become a safe alternative, especially when in doubt. But it would be a mistake to leave “hierarch” as a mere synonym for any member of the Episcopacy.
All bishops, regardless of their titles, jurisdictions, antiquity, are hierarchs, or at least are called to function as hierarchs. As bishops, they ἐπισκοπεύειν, they “oversee” (literally) their flocks, hopefully in imitation of our Great Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. In all the Divine Services the bishops preside, and in the Divine Liturgy—the central and chief liturgy of the Church—they preside in the full complement of the signs of their episcopal dignity. The omophorion—the episcopal stole that represents the lost sheep carried home (Luke 15: 4-6). The crown—a late accretion but a referent of the Kingship of Christ. The sakkos—a vestment of the Byzantine Emperor shared first with the Ecumenical Patriarch and then with all bishops to honor their position. The staff—a wonderful mash-up of the Ascelpian staff and the brass snake that Moses raised in the desert (Numbers 21:9)—both symbols of healing. The dikērotríkēra—the set of candles in two (δίκηρον) and three (τρίκηρον) with which bishops bless the faithful. And there are others as well, some shared with presbyters and deacons. These vestments are not worn or used outside the celebration of the Sacred Services. Although these signs belong to the bishop, their symbolic value goes much deeper. Continue Reading…
As the last General Secretary of SCOBA (the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) and the first Secretary (albeit for less than an hour) of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, I have always marveled at the ‘Golden Age’ syndrome around “Ligonier” of many Orthodox Christians when it comes to Orthodox unity in the Western Hemisphere.
There are still many who believe that the Ligonier gathering in 1994 of most of the Orthodox Bishops in America (represented by SCOBA primates) was an inflection point for Orthodoxy in the New World, subsequently squashed by Mother Churches overseas. Let’s consider for a moment. SCOBA, founded by and presided over by the late Archbishop Iakovos, was never a complete representation of canonical Orthodox presence in America. In fact, it was never a formal component of the the international movement to prepare a Great and Holy Council which could regularize the canonical arrangements of the Diaspora communities. However, SCOBA did work in concert with the international process, guided by the local primates in North America (all of whom were located in the United States).
However, as soon as the Metropolia was transformed into the OCA and there was no universal Orthodox acceptance of this action of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), things became complicated. Continue Reading…