Monday, December 22, 2014

All who love the Day

Not that I would ever become a Roman Catholic. I would gladly die a thousand deaths after unlimited, excruciating torture, being stretched on the rack, or branded all over with red hot irons, or having my flesh torn with hooks, or my hair and finger nails pulled out, or even, worst of all, being made to watch Christian TV—yes, I would endure all of these and more before I would submit to popish slavery.

But there is something uncannily Christian about the current Roman pope. I almost feel that he is a special Godsend to his church, and maybe to the Church at large, a final pope who may very well end not only the corruption rampant in his church, but in every church. How can you sit still knowing there are skeletons in your closet, when you see your blood-sucking enemy cleaning the ones out of his?

After all, if you’re an ‘evangelical’ who claims to put the Word of God first, and believes in salvation ‘by faith alone in Christ alone’ and righteously separates yourself from the ‘whore of Babylon’ as Halley’s Bible Handbook calls the papacy, how much longer can you hide behind your scripturally-based excuses for hating sin but not sinner officially, while in private doing quite the opposite?

As for us Orthodox, especially us Greeks, especially us fanatically deranged luminaries of the holy fathers with our guilt-tripping lisps elevating elders above God Himself and making monasteries gateways to Paradise while scorning the local parish as too worldly—that’s a mouthful!—well, we had better pray that Pope Francis keeps his hands off us! Look how he’s treating his own church’s leadership, the curia!

He issued a blistering critique of the Vatican bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing how some people lust for power at all costs, live hypocritical double lives and suffer from spiritual Alzheimer’s that has made them forget they’re supposed to be joyful men of God. He dished them a sobering catalog of fifteen sins that he hoped would be atoned for and cured in the New Year.

What kinds of sins? The terrorism of gossip that can kill the reputation of brothers in cold blood. Cliques that can enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and eventually kill it by friendly fire. Living hypocritical double lives that are typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that no academic degree can fill. Oh my gosh! Holy Father, lay off!

Now, none of this kind of thing happens in our Holy Church—I am speaking now as an Orthodox Christian—I mean, it can’t, can it? Surely our holy hierarchs would never put up with it. That’s why they, and we, are not Roman Catholics, right? Who wants to be part of an ingrown toenail kind of church? One that would rather look like the True Church than be it. I mean, let’s be honest, if we can.

The cardinals, who heard the Pope’s scathing remarks during what in the past has been a lovey-dovey pat-on-the-back at Christmastime for them, were not amused. The speech was met with tepid applause, and few were smiling as Francis listed one by one the fifteen ‘Ailments of the Curia’ that he had drawn up, complete with footnotes and Bible verses. Wow, bible-believers! Maybe he’s a closet protestant!

I had to approach this topic in a joking, tongue-in-cheek way because the truth is, something wonderful and unexpected is happening in the Church of Jesus Christ. We never really believed, did we? when we say our prayers and ask, ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ What would we do with ourselves if what we prayed for actually began coming true? And if it didn’t look like what we were expecting?

It’s time now, once again, to settle into the final cycle of the Advent/Christmas preparations and activities. Meanwhile, above us the angels along with the planets, suns and stars are migrating toward the Day of the Lord, when He who was made man in time and reigns outside will enter this universe once and for all, undisguised and unopposed. ‘Lo, He comes with clouds descending’ will be sung for the last time, because the Reality will be here. And the good Pope along with all those whose lives, sanctified through ascetic labors mixed with love, will arise in the splendor of the Kingdom of our Father.

And so may it be with us, with you, and me, and all the brethren, all who love the Day of His Coming.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

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