Sunday, October 17, 2010

Letter from my Grandmother

This is a letter from my Nana, sent to my mother after my mother had a miscarriage and was despairing of ever having children. I often think of the generations of praying women from whom I came, and what an impact that had on me--the firstborn who, after four miscarriages (one, my twin), finally arrived.

February 16, 1960

Darling daughter—

Your precious personal letter is here and I appreciate your confidence in me. Right now I feel like I’m more in a position than ever to offer you encouragement drawn from vital experience. Coping with near-tragedy and the incidental problems—plus anxiety over you, Tom, Dave and Dad nearly “got me down.” But once more, and more truly than ever before, having obeyed the Lord (as hard for me) and having “cast my burdens” upon Him—help and restoration has been coming in from every hand.

I was shown, in a most emphatic way (in the night-watches) that there is no substitute for plain, old-fashioned courage and that if we have little of that by nature, we may have all we need by simply asking for it and believing it will be given…..

I read, somewhere, such a good slant on the verse “ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” The writer said that asking is primary, simple, effective only so far; seeking is asking plus effort; knocking is asking plus effort plus persistence. “Pay without ceasing,” St. Paul said. And I like to remember that he, too, had to be literally thrown, prostrated, knocked down before he could say “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do” and later that wonderful “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content”…..

Dear one, do not despair of receiving answers to your problems. The answers are all there, just tune in on them. This is not Pollyanna stuff. It is tried and true. Remember we are not promised “joy without sorrow, peace without pain.” Even our Lord Himself was not given that. Be we are promised comfort, sympathy, courage, and the “peace which passeth understanding”—if we believe and obey.

Never be ashamed of your tears and tensions, dear—only if you hang on to them as I’ve seen many do. Even our Lord was “agitated” (Moffat…) at Gethsemane, and in anguish. But after the cross, the resurrection!

I couldn’t offer a person like you pious platitudes. These are truths—the “word made flesh”…

P.S. Do not worry about the $500. Don’t need it now, anyway. The “way did not open” (Quaker) for the apt…..Glad you are going to get part-time job. You need to get out of house and be active.

PSS I’m so proud of you how you have taken your “low blow” and anxiety. It pears you have already “tuned in” or whatever analogy you like!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

For Christian Unity

Tonight I am filled with emotion. Tonight my daughter received her first communion as an Orthodox Christian, after having been in the Orthodox Church for eight years. And tonight a bishop who is beloved to me received his last communion for the forseeable future.

This will be incomprehensible for my friends who are not Orthodox, and I have tried to avoid this kind of controversy in my writings. But the fact remains that Orthodox Christians, particularly in the United States, use the denial of communion as a weapon against each other. This beloved bishop has had enough. He feels that, as a bishop, if he is not taking a stand against this kind of disunity, he is part the problem.

I have never understood the Orthodox Communion Litmus Test, but it goes something like this: An Orthodox Christian visiting another Orthodox church approaches the chalice for communion. The priest has been instructed by his bishop to stop the communicant and ask, "What church do you go to?" By this he means, "What jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church are you a part of?" If the communicant answers with the "right" jurisdiction -- that is, one whose bishop his bishop likes and approves of, the communicant is allowed to receive. If not, the communicant is denied.

For a group of Christians that calls itself the True Church, this is pretty disappointing. The True Church can't even share communion with other members of the True Church? What can the "heretics" be thinking about us?

The word "canonical" is often bandied about and this has always left me even more confused. "Canonical," as far as I've always understood, means "according to canon." And we do have canons in the Church -- ancient traditions that bind us together (or at least, are supposed to.) After 2,000 years, none of us is completely "canonical." In the United States, we violate the canons by, for example, having two Orthodox bishops in the same city. Nevertheless, this word "canonical" is used to mean "my bishop doesn't like your bishop." The "canonicity" of said bishop is not actually in question. It's not about how scrupulously his group follows Church Tradition. It's about whether said bishop is on the approved "list" put together by the bishops with the most money, turf and power.

I will anger people by saying these things. And to be honest, this makes me nervous. But, as this beloved bishop pointed out, just before receiving his last communion, Jesus was scourged and mocked and crucified, while modern Christians tend to dislike being inconvenienced or made unpopular for the sake of speaking out.

This does not mean that I have courage. I don't. I grieve every day about the rift between me and many of my Orthodox friends. We don't talk about it because we do care about each other, and it hurts to talk about. Saying these things will create even more distance between us.

But watching this bishop, who is beloved to me, (and has been since I was a troubled teenager), receive his last communion broke my heart. I know how to write. And it is not for me to remain silent any more.

And even amid all the sorrow and disunity,


Friday, April 2, 2010

Holy Week

Thomas and his dad, Fr. Andrew.
A blessed Holy Week and Pascha to all!