Theologian of Surprises

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H/T: Istocnik.ca (here)

Fr Justin is a theologian of surprise

The festivities in honor of our Holy Father Justin in Chelije Monastery is an opportunity to liturgically come together with pastors of our Church from communities geographically far from us. Bishop of Western America, His Grace Dr. Maxim (Vasiljevic), one of the most educated hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church today,  gave a beautiful homily of Chelije’s spiritual giant, calling this beautiful feast at the calendar summer’s dawn, Justinday.

As we are having this conversation at the Chelije monastery, on the feast of our Holy Father Justin, our topic – in a way – comes on its own. What does Father Justin mean to you as a theologian and pastor of God’s Church?  

Bishop Maxim: Saint Father Justin is a representative of the “theology of surprise” because at every one of our encounters with him, in reading his works, eternals truths are given to us, but in a new manner. This is a characteristic of truly great theologians and Bishop Atanasije (Jevtic) rightfully calls him a “new theologian”. His language is crystal clean and clear and doxologically rich. He has enriched the Serbian language, theology and philosophy. It is known that he was one of the founders of the Serbian philosophical society (with Branislav Petronijevic, 1938, in Belgrade). Also, the translation of Father’s books into Greek brought about the coining of new words : “охристовљење“, “христопис“, “еклисиопис“… Father Justin always opens new horizons of theology.

The social environment during Fr. Justin’s life was accompanied by unbelief and an open persecution of the Church. Today, the faithful are faced with other temptations. What can we learn from his example that is important our own endurance on the path of faith?

Bishop Maxim: Fr. Justin was a  man of love and truth. He theologized in love, revealing the misconceptions of this world. He was the one to enlighten, who is in the truth and rejoices, and gives incentive to the one in error to leave it, to “sober up” and return to the path of Christ.

Father Justin is a reliable guide for bishops, a reminder for pastoral interaction with the faithful. Not out of our authority, but love, humility …. As we notice, he calls every man. He has gathered us today at Chelije at the Divine Liturgy and calls us to great councils. Next year, in 2016, the Great pan-Orthodox Council will be held in Constantinople (Istanbul). With his sharp language and pen Father Justin has “branded” certain “deviations”, or the approach to the preparation of the council during his time. Today, his disciples (Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands and Bishop Irinej of Backa) are among the participants of the preparations of the Ecumenical council.

What do you specifically mean by “deviations”?

Bishop Maxim: At that time the approach to the tradition of the Church was very “rigid”. The themes for the council were the calendar, marriage, and similar items instead of witnessing Orthodoxy today in the world. “We don’t want cabinet (office; management), bureaucratic topics at the council, but the living ones,” Fr. Justin would say. He was able to wake the conscious. Besides Father’s disciples, among the participants of the council are those who were not his disciples directly, but they grew in his example. For instance, the president of the Committee for Preparing Topics for the Council, Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon highly respected Fr. Justin.

Father Justin is always the moderator for he speaks to us of the themes of the Gospels and the Saints.

Holiness is a timeless theme and challenge for all of us to live by the example of God’s people, right?

Bishop Maxim: Father Justin used to say that the lives of the Saints show us how a plowman becomes a saint. Or a shoemaker, mailman… In recent times, for example, a model or a web designer. Of course, also a newsman. We are all in need of the seventh force as a corrective.

You are Bishop of Western America, far from the homeland. What is the spiritual life and life in general in that part of the diaspora?

Bishop Maxim: The Diaspora lives in the spirit of that old adage “I’m not here, and there is no there”. It’s as if we have one foot in one boat and the other in another. But, this is a blessing. Someone had said that the people in the diaspora can do something people in the homeland cannot – to witness Orthodoxy among the heterodox, open horizons for new people and bring them to the faith. We see this in the exemplary marriages of Serbs and Americans. Of course, for all of this prayer is necessary!

Your Grace, thank you very much for the conversation and relay our prayers and greetings and blessings to your spiritual children!

Bishop Maxim: To God be thanks! Gladly!

Conversation: Jadranka Jankovic

 

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The Holy Apostles

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A happy Feast of the Foremost of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, celebrated today according to the Gregorian Calendar. The following is from Fr. Ted:

H/T: Fr. Ted’s Blog (here)

As our parish community celebrates its heavenly Patron, St. Paul the Apostle, here are two quotes with some thoughts about St. Paul.   First biblical scholar Peter Ellis notes that St. Paul’s faith deepened with experience.  The original Twelve Apostles didn’t like Jesus discussing his own death, but wanted to sit at His right hand in His triumph.  They learned that Christ’s death and triumph were the same event, and they were called to share in it!  So too St. Paul had his own lesson about this to learn.

“Paul’s close brush with death at Ephesus, reflected in Phil. 1:12-26 and 2 Cor. 1:8-11, had a double effect on him: it made him realize that he might not be alive for the Parousia and that following Christ meant more than sharing in his victory – it also means sharing in his sufferings and death. This latter realization was the more significant. It led Paul to a more profound conception of Christian existence and its relationship to the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Growth in Christ meant sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” (Seven Pauline Letters, p 7)

As St. Paul himself wrote about this in Romans 6:3-11:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Scripture scholar N.T. Wright points out that St. Paul is consistent in all his thinking about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

“According to Paul’s view of creation, the one God was responsible for the whole world and would one day put it to rights. According to his covenant theology, this God would rescue his people from pagan oppression. His messianic theology hailed Jesus as King, Lord and Savior, the one at whose name every knee would bow. His apocalyptic theology saw God unveiling his own saving justice in the death and resurrection of the Messiah. At every point, therefore, we should expect what we in fact find: that, for Paul, Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.” (Paul, p 69)

Nothing Has Changed

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Wedding rings

Statement from Bishop Paul, Diocese of the Midwest (OCA) here

CHICAGO, IL [MW Diocese Communications] — His Grace, Bishop Paul, issued the following statement, dated June 26, 2015, in response to the US Supreme Court’s decision with regard to same-sex marriage.

The text reads as follows.

“As many of you are aware, on Friday, June 26, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, issued a 5-4 decision to overturn all bans of same-sex marriage by states and affirmed this union as being a constitutional right.  In effect, the court has ruled that same-sex marriages can be legally performed by all states in our country.

“As your bishop — and from the perspective of the Church — nothing has changed.  Even though same-sex marriage is ‘legal,’ no blessings will be given to any priests to conduct same sex-marriages in our parishes.  Those who are in same-sex marriages conducted by their respective states, who are unrepentant, will not be communed.

“I would encourage our clergy and faithful to re-read the ‘Synodal Affirmation on the Mystery of Marriage’, issued by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America exactly two years ago, on June 26, 2013.  Likewise, I would urge our clergy and faithful to re-read the 2013 Statement from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, ‘On Marriage’.

“There is much more I would like to say on this issue, but it seemed good to at least release this brief statement at this time.  Meanwhile, I urge our Midwest Diocesan clergy to read and/or distribute the Synodal Affirmation and Assembly Statement in their parishes.”

A Sacred Institution

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Archbishop Demetrios: “Marriage is a Sacred Institution Between Man and Woman”

H/T: Pravmir (here)

A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the rights of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, more than 30 religious leaders representing tens of millions of US citizens from diverse faith communities throughout the United States have reaffirmed their shared commitment to marriage and religious freedom. An open letter entitled “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness” was issued to all in positions of public service on April 23.

Archbishop Demetrios of America, Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, signed the open letter on behalf of the Holy Eparchial Synod. He was joined by other religious leaders, including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; and Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA).

“The Orthodox Church firmly believes that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman and that the protection of religious freedom helps advance a stable and free society. It is our hope and prayer that this letter will inspire others, especially those in public service, to embrace these principles,” said Archbishop Demetrios. “Unfortunately, while not all circumstances make it possible for children to be raised by both a loving mother and father, we uphold that marriage as the union of one man and one woman offers the optimal environment for the birth and raising of children. For this reason, we strongly feel that both Church and society ought to labor together to strengthen the unique bond between husband and wife.”

The religious leaders stressed the need for civility and mutual respect, writing, “Government should protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage to express their beliefs and convictions without fear of intimidation, marginalization or unwarranted charges that their values imply hostility, animosity, or hatred of others.”

The leaders close with a statement of their duty and love towards all: “In this and in all that we do, we are motivated by our duty to love God and neighbor. This love extends to all those who disagree with us on this issue. The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as between one man and one woman.”

Here’s the full letter that was signed and released by the members of the Holy Eparchial Synod:

The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness

An Open Letter from Religious Leaders to All in Positions of Public Service Released, April 23, 2015

Dear Friends:

At this significant time in our nation’s history with the institution of marriage before the United States Supreme Court, we reaffirm our commitment to promote and defend marriage—the union of one man and one woman. As religious leaders from various faith communities, we acknowledge that marriage is the foundation of the family where children are raised by a mother and a father together. Our commitment to marriage has been expressed on previous occasions, including the Letter of Shared Commitment and Letter on Marriage and Religious Liberty. This commitment is inseparable from affirming the equal dignity of all people and the necessity of protecting their basic rights.

The state has a compelling interest in maintaining marriage as it has been understood across faiths and cultures for millennia because it has a compelling interest in the well-being of children. Every child has a mother and a father, and every child deserves the opportunity, whenever possible, to be raised by his or her own married mother and father in a stable, loving home. Marriage as the union of a man and a woman is the only institution that encourages and safeguards the connection between children and their mother and father. Although this connection cannot always be realized and sustained—and many single parents, for example, are heroic in their efforts to raise their children—it is in the best interests of the state to encourage and uphold the family founded on marriage and to afford the union of husband and wife unique legal protection and reinforcement.

The redefinition of legal marriage to include any other type of relationship has serious consequences, especially for religious freedom. It changes every law involving marital status, requiring that other such relationships be treated as if they were the same as the marital relationship of a man and a woman. No person or community, including religious organizations and individuals of faith, should be forced to accept this redefinition. For many people, accepting a redefinition of marriage would be to act against their conscience and to deny their religious beliefs and moral convictions. Government should protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage to express their beliefs and convictions without fear of intimidation, marginalization or unwarranted charges that their values imply hostility, animosity, or hatred of others.

In this and in all that we do, we are motivated by our duty to love God and neighbor. This love extends to all those who disagree with us on this issue. The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We call for the preservation of the unique meaning of marriage in the law, and for renewed respect for religious freedom and for the conscience rights of all in accord with the common good.

Is PB & J Racist?

roadpicIs this a joke? What will my kids pack when they’re fasting?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Deemed Racist

Source: Conservativ Post (here)

Oh the times we live in where food can be deemed racist.  In a move Oprah would be proud of, Principal Verenice Gutierrez, of the Harvey Scott K-8 School in Portland, has labeled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as racist.

Apparently, in a move distinguished by the superintendant of the school, an effort was made to, “improve education for students of color.”

Tell me, how does the lunch selection improve the implementation of education?

This is so far beyond politically correct it’s dumfounding. Gutierrez has determined that the fact that the PB&J is on bread, it leads to cultural sensitivity.

Now let’s break that down.

The principal states that certain students that belong to minorities, take for example, “Somali or Hispanic students,” may not have culturally eaten bread, but instead used things like torta, or pitas.

She says that the school must, “change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance,” in order to cancel out all the “white privilege.”

I’ve about had it with the accusations of racism from the left, and frankly, this is taking it too far.

So now this school has to spend MORE money to buy a product suitable for the minority in order to accommodate political correctness?

It’s bread.

It can’t use racial slurs, it can’t discriminate and it’s crucial in making a PB&J.

I guess I have to go to the store and pick up some wheat bread now to promote loaf diversity in my kitchen.

We wouldn’t want anyone feeling left out, would we?