July 24, 2014

Met. Jonah’s 2009 Lenten message

On Feb. 28, Metropolitan Jonah, the head of the Orthodox Church in America, posted the following message:

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics
and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in the Lord:

Christ is in our midst!

Our Church has gone through a tragic and bitter episode in her history. Many souls suffered shipwreck, demoralized by the sins of a few. That is over. But the lingering bitterness and mistrust, resentment and desire for retribution, hang over us. We must heal this, both on an individual as well as corporate level. The only way to do this is repentance, using this season of repentance to make changes in our lives, cleanse our hearts and minds, and embrace the hope that can only be grasped by forgiveness. Unless we forgive others from our hearts, we cannot accept God’s forgiveness for our own sins.

Every time we criticize, judge, condemn or despise another person, no matter how gravely he or she may have sinned, we sin equally ourselves. All our self-righteous indignation is all hypocrisy that blinds us to our own sins. The resentment we allow to fester in our hearts gives us over to corruption and evil. We allow ourselves to gossip, and talk about other people, and forget that we condemn ourselves by doing so. It does not matter what another person has done; that is his or her sin. Why do I need to make his sin my own, by my judgment and criticism, and destroy my own life by resentment of someone else?

If I fast from foods, St John Chrysostom said, how can I devour my brother by gossip and slander? If we don’t eat things that have been slaughtered, why do I murder my brother by character assassination? If I abstain from wine, how can I allow myself to be drunk on my passions of resentment and bitterness? It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but rather what comes out of the mouth and the heart. It is these things, judgment and criticism, which reveal our piety to be a hypocritical sham. All our self-righteousness is as filthy rags before God, and we only condemn ourselves.

The only way of life for us, as Christians, is repentance and forgiveness. We must be “transformed in the renewal of our minds,” (the real meaning of “repentance”) and forgive those who have offended and sinned against us. Only then can we be free from our resentments, and our souls and lives–and our Church–can be healed. In short, we have to change our behavior, our words and our thoughts.

Let our fasting be accompanied by the refusal to indulge in judgment and criticism of others: gossip, slander, suspicion and innuendo, all that is hateful to God. Let us fast from meat, as we fast from the carnality of hatred and resentment of others, which is the source of our passions, pain and addictions. Let us fast from cheese, as we cut out the bitterness that curdles the joy in our lives, the pure milk of love. Let us fast from eggs, so that the seeds of corruption do not hatch in our souls. Let us fast from oil, so that we do not grease our lips to slander and fry our neighbor. Let us fast from wine, that we might remain sober and watchful, to maintain the purity of our souls, minds and hearts.

Let us make this Lent a spiritual fast, so that purified in mind and heart, as well as in body, we might behold the radiant Resurrection of Christ in the reception of the Holy Mysteries at Pascha, but most especially, in the resurrection of our souls. Let corruption be abolished, and let us be loosed from the sins that keep us enslaved. The only place to start is in our own souls, mindful of our sins, and in a spirit of love and compassion towards our neighbor. Only by the purification of our souls, freed from the guilt of sin and pain of resentment, will we be able to feast with Christ at His Messianic Banquet, illumined by His grace, being made partakers of the eternal Joy of His Kingdom.

With love in Christ,

+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Comments

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Let our fasting be accompanied by the refusal to indulge in judgment and criticism of others: gossip, slander, suspicion and innuendo, all that is hateful to God

    .

    I committed the above sins and many others.

    To love your enemies is a commandment not a
    recommendation … Help me Lord for I am weak!

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Here’s my problem with Met. Jonah’s exhortation. Yes, everything he says is true, but framing it in terms of the recent scandal in the OCA seems to preclude any further discussion of the scandal whatsoever. Is it wrong to ask for an accounting of the missed moneys? Is it wrong to examine how the funds were privately appropriated and where it went? Is it wrong to ask for restitution where the money went for personal items? He seems to imply it is, since any examination of wrong doing would necessarily name some as wrong doers and thereby fall under the criticism he says should be avoided.

    It seems to me that these exhortations skirt dangerously close to the old OCA problem: cover practical issues with misapplied moral exhortations so that necessary distinctions are blurred and accountability blows away with the wind. Again, everything Met. Jonah says is true, generally speaking. But the implied conclusion, or so it reads, that any further inquiry into the nature and structure of the malfeasance is spiritually suspect, strikes me as off the mark.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Fr. Johannes Jacobse:

    “Yes, everything he says is true, but framing it in terms of the recent scandal in the OCA seems to preclude any further discussion of the scandal whatsoever. Is it wrong to ask for an accounting of the missed moneys?”

    Father, forgive my ignorance: I do not know anything about the recent OCA scandal. How recent it is, or what happened …

    What St. Abp John Maximivitch did when a money related scandal occurred while he was in charge and got blamed for it? He blamed the devil for everything! Why make publicity to the devil? Those who did that are certainly not God-fearing people. They might wear special vestments but they fear God not. Who are they then? Maybe this is what they wanted: a scandal in the Church!

    Of course those in charge should follow up on the case. Was Met. Jonah in charge when this happened?

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    John Couretas says:

    Eliot: Please go to the Orthodox Christians for Accountability site and background yourself. You missed a big story: http://ocanews.org/

    While you’re at it, you might want to see the March 5 press release from the OCA on the “evidence of financial mismanagement and possible wrongdoing” at St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary. Link here: http://www.oca.org/news/1784

    The story goes on …

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    John Couretas: Thank you for the links.
    I found this:

    Metropolitan Jonah said in a recent interview with Ecumenical News International[] ‘Very honestly, I put little time in thinking about myself,’ Jonah said.

    ‘I see my ultimate task as not discerning my vision, but discerning what is God’s will for the church.’

    We should pray for Met Jonah. He has a very
    difficult job!

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    Andrew says:

    One has to love Metropolitan Jonah. He truly has the opportunity to become America’s bishop but the “do not judge” tone when placed in the wrong hands can easily lead to a form of nihilism that does more harm than good. It also poses the risks of living in a emotional feel good fantasyland where how we feel about an issue is more important than being right about an issue.

    We all make judgments every day as christians, parents, sons, daughters, leaders, workers etc. The truths that form the foundations of these judgments is what matters most. Judgment and responsibility go hand in hand.

    There really is no neutrality in our present circumstances.

  7. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Eliot Ryan says:

    Met. Jonah said:
    “We are also notifying law enforcement authorities in Pennsylvania, whose offices will be able to do a full investigation beyond our capabilities.”

    He did not turn a blind eye to it. The bottom line is that this scandal harms the reputation of the Church. What if those
    who are guilty wanted exactly this: to harm the Church!

    Looks like Met. Jonah is the only one who means
    American Orthodox unity. All the others were only talking about it. This scandal makes the matter worse and it is certainly not Met Jonah’s fault.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 7.

    Met. Jonah said: “We are also notifying law enforcement authorities in Pennsylvania, whose offices will be able to do a full investigation beyond our capabilities.”

    This is a development that I am very glad to see. It provides a clearer context to Met. Jonah’s encyclical and indicates that my concern that talk about forgiveness was cloaking clear thinking about real malfeasance (a tactic employed by the old regime as a way to shut down discussion) may be unwarranted.

    It appears that Met. Jonah is following through on his promises about transparency and concrete accountability. This will help rebuild the trust that was lost.

Care to comment?

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