Later this week, I will finish my series on confession. This week, that is Monday 10 November through Thursday 13 November I am in Pittsburgh, PA (our old adopted hometown) for the 15th Annual All-American Council (AAC) of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
Our agenda here this week is three-fold.
First, we have the general business of the Church—spiritual, administrative and financial. To borrow from Heidegger’s discussion of Dasein, these matters are the part of the facticity of the human. While our attitude or approach to them may change, the life of any human person or community involves these three. Again, what changes is not the presence or absence of spiritual, administrative or financial concerns, but whether we respond to them well, that is in a manner that allows the mystery of the human, and thus the Light of the Triune God in Whose image we are created, to shine through. To the degree that this light is manifest, then to that degree we have become a bit more who we are already.
Second, we are concerned with the election of a new Metropolitan. It will be this man’s task to serve as first among equals on the Holy Synod of Bishops. He will also be responsible for leading and guiding the OCA as we strive as a community to be a faithful witness to the Gospel and a source of unity for the various Orthodox Churches here in America.
Third, and what is maybe most focal in people’s awareness here is the need to resolve the recent financial crisis and its attendant matters.
In his opening address last evening the locum tenum of the Metropolitan See of the OCA, Archbishop Dimiti, bishop of Dallas, TX, pointed out that the OCA is a young Church—albeit a young Church that stands within an old tradition. The financial misdealing, how people have responded to this matter, the lack of trust that this has engendered in the Church is (potentially at least) a moment of purification for the Church and an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-commit ourselves communal and personally to what God would have from us.
Placing the discernment of our vocation at the center of the AAC is I think a wise choice. Yes, it is certainly not without its own risks—chief among them that we leave unexamined and unresolved our administrative and financial shortcomings in preference for inspiring, but ultimately fruitless, reflection on the spiritual dimension. And for many, this flight from the more mundane aspects of life is the great attraction not simply of the Orthodox Church but religion. Again to return to Heidegger, the human is always fleeing from itself, from the limits of its own life.
But when we flee our limits, we flee also our potential and the in the end the great and good gift of our own humanity.
Listening to people talk about how many in the Church have suffered a loss of trust in bishops, how we have at times seen each others as opponents and enemies of each other and of Christ and His Church, I find myself returning to the thought, from whence have mistrust and animosity come if not from the human heart?
While not wishing to deny that each man’s sin is his own, it seems to me this mistrust, this animosity, is not something that was caused by misconduct in the Church. Rather misconduct is the means by which my own lack of trust, my own negative feelings and fear of others, has been made manifest. These feelings are not caused by external events—external events are (and to borrow from Heidegger) the condition of possibility that allows for the revelation of my own lack of trust.
It is from the mistrust in my own heart, my own lack of faith that allows me—though does not cause me—to see you not as a gift of God for my salvation and the salvation of the world, but as an obstacle and enemy bent on my harm.
Again, each man’s sin is his own. But my response to your sin is also mine. The manifest sinfulness of others is for me a challenge. Will I despair, will I give myself over to the lack of faith, hope and charity that lies silently within my own heart. Or will I instead acknowledge before God and you that for me to be human is impossible without you by my side? I cannot be who I am without you, since after God I am dependent on my neighbor and the whole web of human and social relationships that we strive to live under the form of our administrative and financial lives.
We have, O Lord, not lost our way, but have lost Your Way substituting our own will for Yours. Through Your great mercy and love for us, You have allowed us to stumble and fall and so see our need not only for You but for one another. Grant us in these coming days to find the humility, the strength and courage not only to reach out a helping hand to each other, but also to grasp that hand humility, the strength and courage to take the hand that is offered.