Saturday, July 18, 2015

Light of the world

I wrote the following almost exactly four years ago to the day, and I think it deserves another hearing…

For some reason I wanted to wear white clothes to church this morning. I have a very nice white shirt with white embroidery, but I have no white pants—ah! my workout pants which are half of a martial arts outfit, without pockets, and a draw string for a belt! Perfect! No pockets in a shroud! So that’s what I wore today, standing out in the crowd for all that whiteness. It turned out to be a metaphor for the gospel I heard today,

The Lord said to his disciples, ‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’
Matthew 5:14-19

How I hate church politics! Notice, I did not capitalize the word ‘Church’. That’s because church politics has nothing at all to do with the real Church, though it does its best to write history with big and loud letters, to make sure we know who’s in charge. But in spite of it all, it is the living God, the Christ, who makes His home in the praises of His people, as from olden times till now. He is the King, the Only.

So a former priest who like a wild boar let loose in a vineyard wrought havoc in my local community before he was finally shown the door, he writes a letter in a local newspaper publicly challenging an article published there, written by the learned and sanctimonious (but very correct) deacon who once supported him in everything and told us, told me, to do the same—though I would not.

I did not read the letter of the man now called ‘Mister’ instead of ‘Father’ and whose marriage and family morphed into irreconcilable strangeness, crossing too many lines of conventional gender and sexuality to be of any further use to the Orthodox community. I did read a declaration by the Orthodox episcopate in America opposing same-sex ‘marriage’ in the parish newsletter, but didn’t know why it was there. It seemed to me unnecessary rhetoric.

Everyone, Orthodox or not, who opposes same-sex marriage, and everyone who approves of it, well, there’s few who ever cross over to the other side, and as for the Church, we don’t need to be blasted by hot words issuing from the throat of hell either pro or con, even when church leaders issue them, because that is in fact where such words come from. The splitter, diábolos, keeps doing his work, but only One is worthy to clear the threshing floor, separate wheat from chaff, and put each in its proper place.

What I saw and heard thundering with carnal authority and the triumph of flesh over spirit from the steps of the soléa today was not the Righteousness of God. Yes, ‘not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished,’ as the Word declares, but that Law and Righteousness is not served by wounded pride lashing out against an offense. When will people understand it is in their power to not take offense or give it? When will we learn that the Righteousness and even the Law of God is empowered for Truth in mercy?

Praise God! and again I say, praise God! that our humble but courageous presbyter revealed to us in his homily earlier in the service that we are the light of the world, and focused our attention on the truth that living the faith, and only living it, has any real effect on ourselves and those around us. Rather than preaching to them, arguing or trying to convince them, our witness, our best witness, is the work of silence, silence and faithfulness.

Yes, ‘not an iota, not even a dot, of the Law is removed’ by the one who follows the commandments in meekness and charity, because that is the purpose of the Law, not only to tell us what is forbidden, but to open the gates of repentance to us, reconciliation, salvation, imitation of Christ and the saints, the Law is for those who obey it in themselves, though it sometimes tastes bitter at first, the sweetness of the Lord.

When we look back at our futile struggles and fighting, if we endure to the end and hear the Lord saying to us, ‘good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord,’ we will see how much time, how many opportunities we wasted, how weak we were in our strength, how sinful in our righteousness, how much we hated when we said we loved, and how mercy was shown us all the same. While there is still time, brothers, let us show mercy to one another, and leave thundering to the Lord of thunder. Let us seek salvation while it is near.

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