Metropolitan Jonah’s Vision of Orthodoxy in America

OCAnews.org | Met. Jonah | Nov. 21, 2008

Being Orthodox is not about what we do in church, that’s maybe 5%. Being an Orthodox Christian is how we live. It’s how we treat one another. It’s our self-denial and our self-giving. It’s our self-transcendence. And, ultimately, what does that lead to, but the complete fulfillment of our personhood in Christ, so that we become who God made us to be in a communion of love with one another.

One of the most important things, so far as tasks go that I think it’s a vision that we can embrace as a community. It’s going to be something that will help us in our mission, it will help us in our outreach. One of the things that’s convicted me, very much, is where are the Orthodox hospitals? Where are the Orthodox schools? Where are the Orthodox institutions of charity?

It’s a beautiful thing, a beautiful thing, to build a medical clinic in a remote village in Ethiopia, but it’s also a beautiful thing to build a medical clinic in a remote village in Kansas.

If we look around us, so much of traditional American Christianity is dissolving. It’s dissolving in immorality. It’s so tragic. These fundamental institutions of our culture are falling apart.

I had the blessing over the summer to be a participant at the St. Alban and St.Sergius Fellowship meeting at St.Vladimir’s Seminary, where there were a number of priests from the Episcopal church. Now this is a special interest of mine, because I grew up Episcopalian.

Of course, that was 30 years ago, but, these people are crying out in pain. They see their church as having abandoned Christianity. And, truly it has if it endorses gay marriage, if it endorses homosexuality, if it endorses abortion, if it endorses euthanasia!

This is the abandonment of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. And, it’s no wonder those people are so hurting. We need to reach our to them. We need to open our doors, not only our doors, but open our hearts, and embrace them with love and help them to find a place where they can heal their souls, which have been grievously wounded.

Another thing that is extremely dear to my heart is the Orthodox Christian Fellowships on university campuses. This is a critical ministry of our church. […]

The OCF’s are one of the foremost opportunities for evangelical outreaches to people who are at a point where they are making radical decisions about their lives and who are looking to change their lives. (Applause) There are so many kids who are living in university campuses as in “Animal House”. It’s sex, and drugs, and alcohol. In despair. It’s all from despair, and it’s bitter, We, by reaching out to them, can give them hope in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

And, it’s nice to you know, to say that: “Oh, we should sponsor these things”, “We should kind of encourage these things”, but we need to do something more. I would like to see an Orthodox campus housing facility at every major university in this country with an Orthodox chapel and a campus minister who is a priest of the Orthodox Church.

[…]

We need to have spiritual discipline. And the disciplines (are) not in ends in themselves, but are facilitating the spiritual awareness and transformation and conversion of our souls, in order to do the act of ministries. Otherwise what are we doing with the act of ministries, they become some kind of projection of our own egos. And that’s not going to help much, if anybody, least of all myself.

And so our task is twofold, our work is twofold. It’s the inner work on our souls: prayer, fasting, alms-giving, giving to the poor. It’s great to write a check to good things; you can send it to IOCC, OCMC, these are tremendous organizations. But how about buying a sandwich for someone and handing it to them? This is the kind of hands-on charity that we need to do. Because it is this, more than writing a check, that even when it hurts, that it is going to affect our souls, because it’s a personal relationship, even if we don’t know the guy’s name. (When) we do something personally for somebody else as an act of self-denial and an extension of love, that is the real core of the asceticism to which each one of us is called.

This country needs to hear the message of the Gospel. This country needs to hear the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. And it is only going to hear it when that repentance and that acceptance of God’s forgiveness underlies every word that we say.

Transcription of Metropolitan Jonah’s Statement at the AAC Dinner in November 2008.

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2 thoughts on “Metropolitan Jonah’s Vision of Orthodoxy in America

  1. The editor on the OCANEWS site wrote the following about the hierarchical “trappings” that are apparently icons of despotism:

    “Editor’s note: I will agree the eagle rugs have little meaning or even symbolic value these days – even in the Old World. As an urban phenomena, and an imperial official, standing over the’city’ once had meaning for Chrsitians. In this age, sans empire and when most of the world is in urban centers, it is simply an anachronism, the bane of altar boys.

    “Nor am I alone in this opinion: a most senior cleric, looking at the row of nine orlets in front of the Bishop’s chairs pointed them out to me as ‘Episcopal Pizzas’, from the point of view that they were ‘expected to be delivered on time…’ But others will disagree, fearful that to dispense some symbols might mean a re-examination of more…. I imagine that the practice will simply fade as more and more Bishops dispense with it, and fewer and fewer churches even have rugs.”
    I think that Stokoe&Co. are happy with a fresh, untainted monastic as their new Metropolitan (read: figurehead). My impression is that they are happy to have gotten an unworldly naif who will stand as a Master of Ceremonies while they run the OCA as powers behind the throne. With this “Editor’s Comment”, I’m a little worried about the new OCA Metropolitant, though only time will tell who will pull the rug out from underneath the other.

  2. I think that Stokoe&Co. are happy with a fresh, untainted monastic as their new Metropolitan (read: figurehead). My impression is that they are happy to have gotten an unworldly naif who will stand as a Master of Ceremonies while they run the OCA as powers behind the throne. With this “Editor’s Comment”, I’m a little worried about the new OCA Metropolitant, though only time will tell who will pull the rug out from underneath the other.

    I would prefer to not dispense with anything in the liturgy. If it is part of the traditional liturgy, I see no reason to part with it unless there is a really compelling case.

    Opening the royal doors for a greater part of the liturgy? I think that is a great idea given who we are as Americans. Dispensing with the symbolic rugs? Why? Why not keep them? What would be the point of getting rid of them? What would it accomplish?

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