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Archive for May, 2011

This past weekend, the 27th through the 29th of May, 2011, the St. Nicholas Synaxis of the Fellowship of New Skete, based in Portland, Oregon, met with New Skete Chapel members and Boston area inquirers on the grounds of the Monastic Communities of New Skete to discuss the potential formation of a Northeast Synaxis of the Fellowship. In preparation for the Fellowship Encounter, those who were planning to attend received and were asked to look over a number of documents from the St. Nicholas Synaxis.

Following vespers and dinner on Friday, the members of the Fellowship from Oregon and the inquirers from Massachusetts and New York met at Emmaus House and told the stories of their faith journeys and how they each came to be drawn to New Skete.  A common theme emerged in this discussion of a sense of being called and led by the Spirit to associate more closely with New Skete.

Saturday was a full day of meetings and discussions, punctuated by the hours of daily monastic prayer and meals and socializing. The morning session consisted of an overview of the Fellowship moderated by Br. Stavros and Sr. Rebecca. The focus of this session was on relationships between the St. Nicholas and Northeast Synaxes with New Skete and each other. Following a short break, the St. Nicholas Synaxis gave a presentation of their history and a review of their foundational documents, answering questions as they arose. The members of the St. Nicholas Synaxis stressed that it took years for them to get where they are now and counseled patience and a slow beginning of discernment for the northeastern inquirers. After lunch, the retreatants met in the little church for the midday office of Tersext, led by Br. Luke. Fellowship members and inquirers took turns chanting various psalms and troparia. Br. Luke described the service as the most festive Tersext that has been celebrated in a very long time.

Later in the afternoon, the two groups held separate meetings. The group of people from the Boston area and from the New Skete Chapel community met with Br. Stavros and looked at the possibility of a core group emerging in the northeastern region and what this would entail in practical terms. The group decided to tentatively call themselves the Northeast Synaxis for the time being. The St. Nicholas Synaxis met with Sr. Rebecca for a discussion of a future with new members. The discussions on Saturday were concluded with vespers and dinner.

The retreatants, along with the Monks, Nuns and Companions of New Skete and the members of the New Skete Chapel community, attended the Matins and Divine Liturgy of the Sunday of the Man Born Blind. Br. David gave a rousing sermon that spoke to many if not most in the congregation. Following the Liturgy, coffee hour and lunch, the two groups said their goodbyes to each other and to New Skete, making a commitment to stay in touch and keep the lines of communication open.

For more information, consult http://www.newskete.org/index.html and http://www.facebook.com/newskete.

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This is more in the vein of current events, than anything specifically to do with Orthodox Christianity per se. It is true that Osama was a sworn enemy of all who did not subscribe to his brand of extremist militant Islam, non-Muslim and moderate Muslim alike, so Orthodox Christians, particularly in the Middle East, are among the many who had much to fear from this dangerous man and his followers.  I have noticed that the very understandable temptation for most (me included) is to rejoice over the demise of a mass murderer, but of course, even the most hardened of sinners bear the Divine image, no matter how tarnished. I’m sure Osama will have to face the throne of judgement for his misdeeds, but to God belongs justice and mercy, and we can only trust in the infinite wisdom of God in the face of the events, terrifying beyond our comprehension, that this man has wrought during his lifetime.

I would like to share some thoughts from a friend who is an independent Catholic clergyman:

“During the Passover Seder, it is customary for each participant to pour off wine from the wineglass into a saucer as each of the Ten Plagues is mentioned.   Usually, the spoon is dipped into the wine, and a drop or two is placed in the saucer.   This practice has been explained as an expression of our unhappiness over the misfortune suffered by the Egyptians.

In very poetic language the Talmud puts it this way: “When the Egyptians were drowning, the Angels wished to sing but God said, ‘My handiwork is drowning and you wish to sing?!?’”   The thought of rejoicing over the suffering of others is alien to Judaism (and by extension, Christianity), even where the punishment may be justified.

Osama bin Laden now faces God, the same as we all will, may God have mercy as we pray he will on all of us …”

I am sure that quite a few people have been having complex emotional reactions to the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. Indeed, he was a dangerous and evil man who had to be stopped before he wrought further terror upon innocent civilians. Some would say without further ado that justice was served and that Osama got what was coming to him. But rejoicing over the death of a man, even a truly evil man, is not, I believe, what Jesus would have us do.

From Fr. Federico Lombardi, a spokesperson at the Vatican:

“Osama bin Laden – as we all know – was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the end of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end.

Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.”

These are challenging sentiments, especially for those of us who have been waiting nearly a decade to see some form of justice done, but we as Christians know that hatred and vengeance only breeds more of the same. So the challenge for us as Christians is to move beyond the hatred that Osama showed towards those who did not share his agenda, and beyond the hatred and loathing that he inspired in turn, and begin the long, hard work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and in the world as a whole.

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