Only Love Reveals God

Below is a homily delivered by His Grace Bishop Ignjatije of Branicevo, pictured above with me and my little kum Nikolaj Krsic at the Diocesan Days in California. The sermon was loosely translated:

“…Today’s story, or today’s event, transcribed by the Holy Apostle and Evengelist Luke, a meeting between Christ and, as it is says there, a Jew who was truly for the law and that things be done according to the old way and that nothing changes. And he wanted to test the Lord, to see whether He, too, respects the Law of Moses. The Lord, knowing this, asks him what does it say in that Law of Moses.

Of course, the man replied that its written that we love the Lord God with all of one’s soul, strength, mind, but also one’s neighbor as oneself. Yet, that which is not written in the Law of Moses – and what the Lord now wants to tell this man, and in that manner He wants to tell us – and that is that it does not say in the Law of Moses that the Jewish man love a Samaritan, to love those who are, in any way, sinful and who are not of the same Jewish nationality.

And the Lord tells this story and He chooses these people [characters], among other things, He shows that this martyr who was beaten and brought to near death by theives was not helped by neither a Jew, the Jewish priest, nor that Levite, who is also Jewish but he was helped by a regular, ordinary person who was a Samaritan; for the Samaritans and Jews didn’t really get along as that usually occurs in life. Not only among nations but also people; people don’t get along because it’s a result of sin to not be able to stand the other person. The first thing that man did as a sin is that he hated God, as that other, or he didn’t want Him and only then every other person, after that first sin, he hates and considers his enemy. And the Lord speaks of this now as a virtue, in relation to the Old Law, according to the old way, the way this man thought the law is to be kept, and the Lord tells him something which the man didn’t even anticipate. And which always happens when something new appears, it affects us and we don’t desire anything new. In that way the Jewish people didn’t want Christ who, in fact, brought something new. He brought grace, as the Apostle Paul says, He brought love and not the law. And so this Samaritan who showed love is the neighbor and the Lord tells him, go and do likewise.

But something I wanted to especially point out from this morning’s gospel story is that this commandment – to love God, contains also the commandment to love our neighbors. And that love for our neighbors, to love them as they are. We usually love our own. And so when the other person is not related to us or our neighbor we like them but somehow we want them to be like us, to be similar to us, to be how we think they should be. However, being that every person is an unrepeatable being; and such love, which implies that you love someone and make them into what you are, that’s not love that’s egoism. When in that person you, in fact, love yourself.  True love is to love someone as they are. For this reason the Lord stresses that, when He says that love for our enemies is divine love, pure love. Because our enemy is neither similar to us, nor does he do what we want to do …. that’s an enemy. And he calls us to the Lord. Our love must be free, because you want to love someone not because they are like this or that. That’s how the Lord loves us. He doesn’t love us because of what good we have done to Him, we crucified His Son. But He loves us because He wants to love us. And with that free love of His He makes us unrepeatable, singular beings, He makes us so precious that He gives His life for us. Just as when we love someone so much, so deeply that we could give our lives for them, when, in fact, in that person we see God. That’s why the Holy Fathers say, only love reveals God. And so the great Apostle John says we can’t know God through knowledge, only through love….To love someone sincerely means to reveal God among us, for God is love. To Him be glory and honor. Amen.

Clergy Double Bookings

H/T: Theology and Society (here)

Priest Books Wedding and Funeral at Same Time; Apologizes for “Bride and Gloom” Ritual in Serbia

Serbian Orthodox priest Father Jefrem Ratkovic was forced to apologize, after he recently scheduled a wedding at the same time as a funeral in the central Serbian town of Ljig, the Austrian Times website reports exclusively today (November 26, 2012).

When bride Dragana Jovic, 23, arrived at the church dressed in white, she found dozens of mourners dressed in black together with a coffin containing the body of a local man, Nemanja Petrovic, 86.

Both the brightly-dressed wedding guests and the dark-clothed mourners had started to take their places in the church by the time the priest arrived.

After he realized that he had scheduled a wedding and a funeral at the same time, Father Ratkovic asked the mourners — and their coffin — to wait outside while he carried out the wedding, and then the funeral was allowed to go ahead. He told the local media, “Double bookings can happen in anything, the Church is no different. I have apologized though, and both sides were fine about it.”

Real Face of the Hague

H/T: B92 (here)

Hague Tribunal showed it real face, patriarch says

BELGRADE — Serbian Patriarch Irinej said on Sunday that the Hague Tribunal had finally showed its true face by acquitting Croat Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač

He added that the Tribunal also proved that it was a political court.

“With this verdict the Tribunal removed a mask from its face and finally showed that this is a political court that lacks basic legal and ethical norms and whose goals is to find those who are guilty innocent and innocent victims declare perpetrators,” the patriarch said at a memorial service to Serb victims of the 90s wars on Sunday.

According to him, the Hague Tribunal’s decision compromised the right to justice and confirmed “that it is not founded on legal norms but on interests of great powers”.

He added that thanks to the Hague Tribunal nobody was held responsible for 200,000 expelled Serbs, torched homes of Serbs, their churches and thousands of killed.

“It is obvious that the Hague Tribunal is covering up the crimes against the Serbs,” Irinej stressed, adding that “it turns out that Serbs committed crimes against themselves”.

“We ask the unjust judges, whose fault is it then,” the patriarch said.

He called on the Serbs to remain united and ask for Russia’s support.

The patriarch noted that Serbia should join the EU if the member states “accept us for who we are, with our holy land, culture, religion and language” but “if they condition us with Kosovo, we should not accept the invitation”.

“We have to know who our friends are. We want to be in Europe but not at a price of renouncing our holy land, our homes and cemeteries. If they do not want us the way we are, we will continue to live our difficult lives, just like we did 500 years ago,” Irinej added.

“The message from this holy gathering should be our determination to cooperate with everybody, especially with our Slavic brothers from whom we expect support, protection and hope,” he stressed.

Members of refugee associations, PM Ivica Dačić, First Deputy PM Aleksandar Vučić, parliament Speaker Nebojša Stefanović and ministers attended the memorial service.

After the memorial service, a protest march was held. Several thousands of citizens took part in it, demanding justice for Serb victims.

Days of Thanksgiving

This day of Thanksgiving, although deeply rooted in English traditions from the Protestant Reformation of days of fasting and days of thanksgiving, is a holiday loved by all I think.  Probably because of it’s simplicity: no pressure to find the right present, no candies or stuffed teddy bears. It’s a national family reunion of sorts – everyone’s invited, many places of business are closed, everyone knows when it’ll be. But each Thanksgiving is different, some years we’re all together some years not.

Thanksgiving was not always on the fourth Thursday in November. On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt  signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.

The modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is commonly, but not universally, traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest.

In later years, religious thanksgiving services were declared by civil leaders such as Governor Bradford who planned a thanksgiving celebration and fast in 1623. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival like this did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.

Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. Several days of Thanksgiving were held in early New England history that have been identified as the “First Thanksgiving”, including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631.

Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682, and then by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, political influences affected the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations. Various proclamations were made by royal governors, John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress, each giving thanks to God for events favorable to their causes. As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.*