Extracts from the Parish Newsletter, November 2006
FATHER DAVID’S LETTER:
Feast of the Protecting Veil of the Most Holy Mother of God,
14th October, 2006
I had the privilege this year, of staying on the Island of Skye in the Western Isles of Scotland for the whole month of September. Skye is known as the island of mists and the cloud formations are magnificent and a photographer's dream world. The light and the scenery is changing from hour to hour or even minute to minute as the Atlantic weather rolls in. The very dark thick clouds cast a dark shadow everywhere whilst the thin clouds allow varying degrees of light to brighten the sea, the mountains and scattered villages beneath them. Sometimes, there is a complete clearing and the sun beams through in all its radiance like a spotlight picking out individual houses and portions of land and sea. All this makes one think of its likeness to our human situation.
When our lives seem dark, thick with the pre-occupations of life and all that keeps us self-focused, then the light of God can barely penetrate into us and certainly cannot impact on those around us. A lighter heart and a greater openness to God not only give inner peace but a radiation of God's love into the lives of others. St Seraphim famously said that if we have peace in our hearts, a thousand around us will be saved. He might easily have said that God's light penetrating into us and through us will bring illumination to all around us. And when life is completely transparent, like clear blue sky, as in the Saints and sometimes in each of us, the brightness of God's glory transforms every situation.
Mary, the Holy Mother of God, gives the finest example. Her fiat of obedience: ‘Let it be done’, ‘be it unto me according to Thy Word,’ has never been matched. With such obedience and complete openness, God can work out His purposes unhindered by human obstruction and in human frailty is His strength. But maybe we, in our present situation, have to start at a different point. Our Lord Jesus, in his ‘Sermon on the Plain’ (Luke 6: 22-42), speaks of love of enemies: ‘But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you... pray for those who spitefully use you… give to everyone who asks of you and just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful.’ St Paul takes up this theme in his letter to the Ephesians (chap. 4: 26-31). He says, ‘Let not the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.’ ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of your redemption... let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.’
We can do none of this by our own will power. Our human passions are too strong and our self determination and self will are too embedded within us, but where we fail in our human weakness, God can succeed. ‘Let go and let God’ can be our only watchword in any difficult situation in which we find ourselves. Then, and only then, the thick dark clouds of our making will begin to yield to those which let in God’s light and one day, his full glory will illuminate and bring wholeness to every situation. St Paul, again: ‘Be imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love.’
Let us pray that all that divides us may be put in this perspective of God’s love. Let us earnestly desire the greatest of mutual respect and love for each other that we may indeed become more worthy imitators of Christ and more worthy of His great sacrifice made once for all and for all of us.
NEWS AND NOTES
By Father David
It seems that we must acknowledge that our community is now very sorely divided. Many have chosen to set up an alternative place for worship in the Lenton Abbey church. They have decided that their loyalty to the Patriarchate of Moscow requires them to have their own community under the priestly leadership of Father Gregory Butler and a clear separation from the rest of us who continue to worship in the church in Carlton.
This is sad and upsetting, but, as I said in the September newsletter, it may be the necessary impetus for new growth, new location, and new opportunity. Above all, we must remember that our primary identity is as Christians faithfully trying to follow our Lord Jesus Christ. As Orthodox Christians, we are fully united and in communion with each other. Jurisdictions are important for administrative, national, and cultural reasons, but as the local church develops, jursdiction should be less important and less evident.
We must work for restoration of temporal unity on earth, remembering always that ‘human divisions do not reach to heaven’ (Metropolitan Anthony) and even if they are necessary to cope with a particular situation or crisis, they should be as short-lived and transient as is humanly possible. We must hope and pray that broken relationships may soon be healed and our good life together restored, even as we keep our loyalties intact. All, of whatever Orthodox jurisdiction, should know that it is their privilege to worship freely in any Orthodox church throughout the world. All, of whatever patriarchate, will always be welcome in Carlton.