Thursday, July 02, 2009

Morning Thoughts

Mar 11:12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.
Mar 11:13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
Mar 11:14 In response Jesus said to it, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again." And His disciples heard it.
Mar 11:15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
Mar 11:16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.
Mar 11:17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'?[fn5] But you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"[fn6]
Mar 11:18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.
Mar 11:19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.
Mar 11:20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
Mar 11:21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."
Mar 11:22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.
Mar 11:23 "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Mar 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Mar 11:25 "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
Mar 11:26 "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."

This morning I woke quite tired and lay in bed with my eyes still shut. As I did so for a few moments a couple of strong thoughts spread through my mind, one of which was - "Start walking by faith, stop walking by sight!" (2 Cor 5:7) I had, upon this thought, an image that in all that I do and say there is, in fact, an angel standing next to me and that we walk about together, as it were. I had not been acting this way at all - not walking in the faith of the truth of that matter - that around us is the invisible presence of witnesses (martyrs) (Heb. 12:1) and ministers that are a 'flame of fire.' (Heb. 1:7; Ps. 103:4 [LXX; Ps 104:4 in MT]). I had that distinct feeling that one reason I do not 'see' is that I do not walk in faith that things are as I claim to believe. Not that if I believe, I will see this physically, for blessed is the man who believes without seeing (John 20:29), and faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

Walk by faith, not by sight.


Today is a beautiful day here. Our summer squash is growing nicely, our broccoli is on the second tender harvest, and the onions are doing well. I think we may have a good grape harvest if the deer or birds don't wreak havoc at the last moment, and tomatoes are setting on. Blueberries are now on and will be for a couple of weeks yet, I think. I paced off the rows for a future vineyard, if we are so blessed to be able to afford to put it in. It was nice to spend a few minutes this morning looking over the valley and watching the flock nip the tops of dandelions. Morning and evening I like to get at least 10 minutes to watch the growing (or fading) light and hear the wind sigh in the trees.


The Antiochian embroglio has heated up considerably with lots of skullduggery going on - multiple signed documents, translations, etc. For those of you who don't read Arabic, while I am not a native speaker I can assure you that the Synod's decision [the one posted on the Patriarchal website as the only authorized version] plainly reads "[The Holy Synod] affirms that Bishops in the Antiochian Eparchy in North America are Bishops [who] assist [or aid] the Metropolitan." There is no adjectival form used that could correspond to a meaning of "Auxiliary." Indeed, not only is it a verbal form, but it is not even derived from the same verbal roots that were used in the original February 24, 2009 decision. That certainly can be attributed to word choice rather than significant intent, in that Arabic is rich with different words with shades of meaning that may be translated to English the same way. However, I think that if the Synod had intended to reaffirm its decision it would have used the same words to describe the N.A. bishops' role.

That said, the next point, that (and here I am gisting the bracketed material because the literal Arabic would read stilted and in the interest of time) "[this does not mean at any time], that any [diocese, bishopric, episcopacy] from among the dioceses [or bishoprics] of this one [or - single] Eparchy can consider itself a distinct [or different] Eparchy because the decision [to establish Eparchies resides with the Antiochian Holy Synod]."

I don't really know where that leaves us, but I think a reasonable interpretation, given the rejection of the alternative documents by the Patriarch, is that, for North America only, the Bishops are diocesan bishops who assist the Metropolitan, but who are nevertheless not auxiliaries. Otherwise there needn't have been a distinction for North America at all and the Synod could have simply reaffirmed the earlier decision in all respects and use the words used in the original decision.

I think it is telling to use the term Eparchy (أبرشية) [nominally translatable to Diocese] and أسقفية - bishopric [also nominally tranlatable to Diocese] in contradistinction to one another - with أسقفية not being a term used in the February 24 decision. It introduces, to North America only, a distinction not found elsewhere in the Antiochian Patriarchate. Generally I believe one would simply use the term Eparchy to denote either an Archdiocese or Diocese in Arabic, but I'm willing to be corrected on this point. It's rather meaningless to make such distinctions where Bishops are either Auxiliary Bishops to Metropolitans or are, indeed, Metropolitans and where, in the old world, virtually all the major cities have Metropolitans and not just diocesan bishops (unlike North America).

Moreover, the distinction must have a purpose else it is surplusage.

Anyway - His Grace Metropolitan Philip seems to have overplayed his hand in several ways and makes one wonder (a) why is he so resistant to more transparency in Archdiocesan finances; (b) why is he trying to stack the Trustee selection process; (c) why on earth would he want to associate with Walid Khalife and use him as part of the delegation to Damascus - even if he is a reformed character after his brush with the full power of the US Federal Government [I will leave off any commentary on Khalife's very bizarre e-mails that appear to have been floating the ether]?

I hope that he has not, over the years, become beholden to a criminal or corrupt element such that he has no way out of a dilemma, for I cannot see why else he is trying to make the moves he is making. My beloved, being a charitable woman, wondered if he is, in his age, becoming susceptible to dementia or Alzheimer's, which can cause abberant behaviors. I must confess that while this would be an appealing revelation if true, the machinations we are witnessing are still too artful, even if not artful enough to be succesful, to allow such a conclusion at this time.

Unfortunately for the Bishops in the Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America, all eyes will be on them at the Convention to see how they stand (or fall) to the various camps that will be demanding something - will they speak firmly with love? Will they speak at all? And what will they say? Will they unite as one? Will they also become divided? God forbid it!

Pray for the Churches as Satan sifts us like wheat from chaff. I think Fr. Jonathan Tobias is right to suggest that we need to focus very small and close to home in these times - our parish and our families and keep our Orthodox Christian faith and simply preach Christ Crucified and remain fools for Christ not hope for grand schemes of Orthodox unity in North America right now.


On the Economic front some pundits say that the infusion of money by fiat into the country is going to lead to inflationary pressures or falling value of the dollar and that we are in for further bumpy rides as a result. Some predict that gold and silver values will bump towards the end of summer, and we have already seen a lot of international talk about moving to a different sort of reserve currency - possibly even a new international currency for reserve purposes. I don't know . . . but I can't imagine that the huge deficits we are now racking up will be good in the long run and I don't see fundamental consumer behavioral change that would set things 'aright.'


If anyone is looking for a milch goat - Wise Susan is thinking about selling a good one that she has had at St Brigid Farm.


Blogger Samn! said...

Eric John,

Honestly, I don't know what the synod is getting at with usqufiyya other than that it is used in opposition to abrashiya. Mostly, because there's no example of such a thing in non-American Antioch other than a couple auxiliary bishops and the bishop of Australia who is neither directly under any metropolitan that I know of nor himself a metropolitan. While abrashiya definitely has a territorial sense, linguistically usqufiyya is, as you point out, just 'bishopric' or 'episcopate'. It's a rare word, and not one often seen in the Middle East because what are functionally dioceses there are technically eparchies. In spoken Arabic, usquf isn't ever really used.. any bishop is 'mutran'. I don't think we can figure out the function of an usqufiyya from either the word itself or even from the statements given by the Holy Synod. We're probably going to just have to wait and see what all of that meant in practice--- after the American Archdiocese and the Synod approved different constitutions, this kind of confusion was inevitable... especially given that the structure of the eparchies in Lebanon and Syria aren't really suited to the American situation.....

2:01 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

Samn! Thank you very much - I hope my gist/translation of the document did not go too far astray in any material defect.

One day I would like to visit some monasteries in Syria or Lebanon. I have been to Bahrain, and to Iraq, and I have been to Cyprus, but not to the Levant, alas.

One day, God willing.

3:25 PM  

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