The Rite of Mutual Forgiveness

Sunday, February 22, 2015: Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheese Fare); Uncovering of the Seven Martyrs’ relics at Gate of Eugenios in Constantinople; Martyr Anthusa and her twelve servants.

St Ignatius Orthodox Church
Madison, WI

Epistle: Romans 13:11-14:4
Gospel: Matthew 6:14-21

detail-from-altar-doorOn the last Sunday before the beginning of the Great and Holy Fast, in parish churches, cathedrals and monasteries chapels, Orthodox Christian formally ask each other for forgiveness. We do this formally in the Rite of Forgiveness: “Forgive me a sinner! God forgives!” Most of the people from who we ask forgiveness today haven’t caused us any real harm. And even in those few cases where offense was given—or taken—the harm is almost always slight given unintentionally and without malice. In the Rite of Forgiveness we have simultaneously two roles to fulfill.

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Homily for Christmas Eve, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014: Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

St. Ignatius Orthodox Church
Madison, WI

 

OLD TESTAMENT READINGS
Genesis 1:1-13
Numbers 24:2-3, 5-9, 17-18
Micah 4:6-7, 5:2-4
Isaiah 11:1-10
Jeremiah (Baruch) 3:36-4:4
Daniel 2:31-36, 44-45
Isaiah 9:6-7
Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 9-10

NEW TESTAMENT READINGS
Hebrews 1:1-12
Luke 2:1-20

The Old Testament readings at Vespers take us—quickly—through salvation history. From the first moments of Creation, through the trails of the Jewish People, to the promise of a savior. And throughout this time the coming of a redeemer is always there. Sometimes in the background, other times in the foreground, but the promise of forgiveness and redemption is always there. God will not abandon His People because God cannot betray Himself.

God however doesn’t simply shape the history of the Jewish People.

Again as we see in the Old Testament, not only does God guide His people, He directs the actions of the pagans. No matter how powerful in the eyes of the world, in their own, to God the great and powerful of this life are nothing more than “dust on the scales” (Isaiah 40:15). Even the self-confident and arrogant Roman Empire will play its role in God’s plan of salvation. Even mighty Rome, “in the dispensation of the fullness of the times” will serve God’s plan to “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth” (Ephesians 1:10, NKJV). Continue reading

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Nativity and Theophany Encyclical 2014

Be glad, you just, heavens rejoice, mountains leap for joy; Christ is born and the Virgin sits like the Cherubim throne carrying in her bosom God the Word made flesh. Shepherds glorify the one that is born; Magi offer gifts to the Master; Angels sing praises, saying: Lord beyond understanding, glory to you! (Lauds of Christmas Matins)


To the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of Parish Councils, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Members of Philanthropic Organizations, the Youth and Youth Workers, and the entire Orthodox Christian Family of the United States of America.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we gather in our communities to celebrate the Great Feasts of the Nativity and Theophany, we offer praise, honor and worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who has rendered us worthy once again to rejoice with the Shepherds, pay homage with the Magi, and to exclaim with the Angelic Powers, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all!

During this time, each of us looks forward to experiencing our local customs and traditions, which we have received from our ancestors. We adorn our homes and our churches with lights, garland and tinsel; we sing carols together and exchange gifts with each other; and we crown our celebration by receiving the Holy Eucharist. Continue reading

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Homily for the Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch

December 20, 2014: First Day of Fore-feast of Nativity of Christ; Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer, bishop of Antioch; New-martyr John of Thasos; Daniel II of Serbia.

 St Ignatius Orthodox Church, Madison, WI

Epistle: Galatians 3:8-12
Gospel: Luke 13:19-29

The Eucharistic allusions in today’s Gospel are hard to miss. The followers of Jesus ask admission to the Kingdom of God because, as they say to Jesus, “We ate and drank in your presence.” It is likewise hard to not feel the shock and dread these same disciples heard when Christ responds to them by saying “I do not know where you come from; depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity!”

Let those to whom Jesus refers in the Gospel, I can easily fall into spiritual complacency; I can come to assume that my faith, my intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity, and my salvation are somehow secure because I have a right to them. As well I’m prone to complacency because I forget that all that I have, I have as God’s free gift to me. Even to call God’s gift free reflects my lack of faith, my misunderstanding of the Gospel. What gift isn’t freely given? A thing freely given is in the very definition of the word “gift”; if it’s not given freely it’s not a gift.

St Ignatius of Antioch whose memory we celebrate and under whose patronage we work, understood that all that he had, including his life, was a gift from the hand of an All-Loving God. And if I don’t understand this about him—and indeed all the martyrs, the fathers and the saints—I will likewise misunderstand the eagerness with which he went to his death. Continue reading

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A Letter to A Friend-Part II

2014-badge-300x300Dear …,

Thank you for an excellent—and challenging—set of questions! I have thought long and hard about them and I hope I can offer you in return a reasonable answer. Let me say upfront, I also understand that (for whatever reason) you might not find what I have to say convincing. This I think is ok as long as we can disagree in a way that is respectful of each other. Too often we take disagreement as evidence of bad will. While sometimes this is the case, I prefer we not start assuming that the other person is wicked.

There are I think three things I think we need to keep in mind.

  1. We need to respect the conscience of the same-sex couple.
  2. We need to respect the conscience of the Church.
  3. We need to respect the conscience of the parish community.

Let’s look at the first of these, the couple themselves (you can find the whole of this post here: 12.9-12.14.A letter to a friend). Continue reading

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Respecting the Conscience of the Parish Community

2014-badge-300x300Finally, there is one other actor in all this: the parish.

As a layperson, as a parishioner, you have right to expect form me or any priest that we will faithfully and to the best of our ability teach and uphold the tradition of the Church. And you have a right to expect this from me (or any priest) even if that causes tension between us.

If I were to give Holy Communion to one or both members of a same-sex couple, I would be failing in my obligations not only to the parish but to the couple as well. It would be a lack of integrity and honesty on my part to, as I said above, behave as if the Church has changed her moral teaching and pastoral discipline when no such change has taken place. Bad as this is, the Church has always had priests who’ve made bad decisions.

The more serious matter is the disrespect my actions demonstrate both toward the parish and the couple. Continue reading

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Respecting the Conscience of the Church

2014-badge-300x300Yes, I must respect the couple’s decision because—whether or not I agree with it in all its particulars—it’s their decision to make and not mine to make for them. I must respect their conscience even, and maybe even especially, when we disagree.

But I also have to respect the conscience of the Church which says that some actions place us outside of communion. This isn’t to suggest that anyone is worthy of Holy Communion or that those who receive are not sinners. They, and I, are still sinners and still unworthy of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

However, being unworthy to receive the Eucharist and being a sinner are two different things. Yes, they are related but they aren’t the same. Continue reading

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