December 5, 2008

Metropolitan Jonah

Over these recent days I've been, like many I think, amazed by what I've read about Metropolitan Jonah, the newly elected primate of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. It's partly because we're both college-age converts, and there are other similarities in our stories as well. But it's also because those statements I've read so far are so striking:

To those at St. Vladimir's Seminary here in Yonkers, he gives this vision of ministry:

[He] particularly reiterated the need to imitate the sacrificial path of Christ and his mother, the Virgin Mary. “To become the living presence of God, the living temple of God, requires us to crush our ego and shatter our will,” he said, “so that we might conceive God within us and become his presence in this world.

“Seminarians,” he noted, “do not come to theological schools to become ‘professionals’ and to be ‘respected,’ but rather to be crucified and thereby shine forth the light of Christ.” His Beatitude reminded the seminarians that his own title of “episkopos” means not “master of the house,” but “slave of slaves.”

On the topic of being an autocephalous church he said:

“Hierarchy is only about responsibility, it’s not all of this imperial nonsense,” he said. “Thank God that we’re Americans and we have cast that off. We don’t need foreign despots. We are the only non-state Orthodox Church. In other words, we are the only Orthodox Church that does not exist under the thumb of a state — either friendly or hostile.

“So the church is our responsibility, personally and collectively, individually and corporately. What are you going to do with it?”

I love that because it captures a shift in my own self-understanding as an American. The public education I received as a child (which was very good) left the subtle message that the so-called separation of church and state was for the protection of the state. I know realize that it is just as much for the protection of the integrity of faith.

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit as you take up your ministry, Metropolitan Jonah.


ben in denver said...

I'm not too familiar with the OCA. I know it is one of sevearl church to arise outside Russia after the 1917 revolution.

Rod Drehr, columnist for the Dallas Morning News and member of the OCA had many good things their new metropolitan.

We have a priest in the Archdiocese of Denver, Fr. Chrysostom Frank, who was formerly and OCA priest. He is now teaching in the seminary here and runs a bi-ritual parish with the Roman Rite at 9:00 and the Byzantine Rite (in English) at 11:00 on Sundays.

The larger presence in Denver is the Greek Archdiocese of America, which is not an autocephalus church, but retains the Patriarch of Constantiople as its head. When Athens became autocephalus in the 19th century, the Greek missions in America stayed united to the Mother Chruch in Constantinople. As you might imagine, the Greek Metropolitan here is on very good terms with Abp. Chaput, and they have on occaision attended each others liturgies in chior.

As far as religious freedom goes, you might be interested in checking out the work of William Cavanaugh, who teaches theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. He gives an anaysis of the prostestant reformation and the reilgious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries as really having been about subordinating the activity of the church to the activity of the state, which casts lutheranism and anglicanism as a sort of autocephaly of the west.

Under this sort of analysis, the ultimately successful resistance of the Chruch in France to State-sponsored protestantism, lead to the extreme secularism of 1789, which of course remains with us today as the Enemy's preferred method of limiting the authority of the Church to act publicly in the world, and has lead to the subordination of the free exercise clause of the first amendment to the anti-establishment clause to the extent that most Americans don't even know it is there.

Don said...

Amen. I love your last paragraph because the separation of church and state does protect the church more than the state. Churches that become aligned with the state lose their prophetic ministry in my opinion. The early church though highly persecuted was perhaps more prophetic because of this. Just my opinion of course. :-D Don

4narnia said...

thank you for sharing this, Fr. C! it's nice to discover similarities we have with others, like you and Metropolitan Jonah both being college-age converts. i like the quote you share: "so the church is our responsibility, personally and collectively, individually and corporately. what are you going to do with it?" this is something for all of us to really think about and find the answer to deep within our heart & soul.
tata t