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Living in God’s Time

by Fr. John Oliver

In our family, there is a fine line between two stages of toddler-hood - the generally-easy and the almost-unbearable.  Over eight years and four children, I have come to know exactly where that line is:  it is found in the family mini-van, and it marks the difference between a peaceful road trip and a road trip that, with every passing mile, grows increasingly tense, suffocating, and loud.

The glorious space on this side of the threshold looks exactly like this:  "Daddy, when will we get there?"  "Sweetheart, we'll get there as soon as we arrive."  Time passes.  "Daddy, when will we arrive?"  "Sweetheart, we'll arrive as soon as we get there."  Silence.

That circular conversation has been loaded with benefit.  For the child, her curiosity is humbled before the dark mountain of parental knowledge.  Since daddy "knoweth" all things she is satisfied with my answers to her questions, and can once again sink agreeably into the cocoon of her car seat.  For the parent, it buys me precious time and sanity on long car rides, and I can more easily put the miles behind us.

Sometimes, however, when knowledge is gained innocence is lost...or naiveté, at least.  Eventually we cross over into that side of the threshold, where the circular conversation no longer works.  The children grow wise to the time-space continuum.  They no longer live wholly in the present moment, but get a feel for past and future.  They develop expectations about them, especially about the future.  "Arriving" begins to matter more than simply "being."

The Modern Pastorate

On March 10, 2008,  His Grace Bishop Joseph addressed the faculty and seminarians at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York.

Father John Behr, Dean, Father Chad Hatfield, Chancellor, Reverend Presbyters and Deacons, Seminarians and Distinguished Guests:

Over the ages, the practices of the Church have evolved in the ever-more difficult quest to save mankind from spiritual death. While our Lord, Jesus Christ, through His Resurrection, has saved us from the consequences of humanity's fall, i.e., death and tyranny of the evil one, the devil's temptations have remained relentless.

Although religion has played a major factor in shaping the identity of the American Culture, the secularization of the society is inflicting evil on the American mindset. The attempts of de-Christianizing the American culture are ruthless. These malicious attacks are driving the new generation to forsake their centuries-old culture for the sake of self-gratification and alleged compensations.

Whereas the American population is still manifesting religious observances, the genuine characters of these observances are not for the most part worthy of acceptance. Many Churches are undergoing the worst predicament of Faith and Morals in their History. The fragmentation of American Churches into conflicting bodies has uprooted the Christian ethos from the Churches.

For this reason, many individuals and groups are changing their religions and their denominations, inasmuch as they are changing their jobs, their habitation, and their spouses. Many adults leave their cradle faith for another one. Becoming a highly competitive marketplace, religion is a buyer's market where many groups dilute their traditional beliefs in order to compete.

On the Holy Icons

On February 25, 2007, His Grace Bishop Joseph gave the Sunday of Orthodoxy Address in Worcester, MA.

Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Reverend Deacons, and brethren in Christ:

On this first Sunday of the Holy Fast, we commemorate our Holy Fathers who struggled, suffered and, in some cases, perished for the sake of the Holy Icons. Since 843 AD, the Church has celebrated this day in honor of those martyrs and confessors whose faithfulness to the theology of icons was upheld at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and the holy Empress Theodora, who ended decades of persecuting the Church, and restored the Icons.

The question many ask is why would a man or woman suffer and choose death for the sake of mere works of art? The truth is that icons are not simply works of art, but they are something more.

The icon is a type and an image of spiritual reality which constitutes the highest truth. It is a testimony of what exists, showing in itself what it depicts. The icon is a depiction of real people transformed by real grace. The icon bears testimony to the existence of both holy people and the Living God who has true relationships with these people. Icons express the hope for us all, that God has not abandoned mankind.

In the icon, we see that God is not some abstract concept. He is real because we can see His marvelous works in the faces of the saints depicted in iconography. Icons bring all of the truth of God and the saints into us as we gaze upon them, kiss them, and venerate them.

The second council of Nicea (7th Ecumenical council) clearly states: “I venerate the icons and the relics with honor (τιμητικῶς), hoping to have a share in their holiness.”

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