(AOB) The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America has consistently and unequivocally recognized the full humanity of every person beginning at the moment of conception. This position is informed by Scripture and Holy Tradition and is validated by modern science, which confirms that a new, distinct human organism comes into existence at conception.
The United States Supreme Court will soon hear a major case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenges the precedent set by Roe v. Wade that legalized the abortion of unborn children nationwide. The Assembly of Bishops is pleased to announce that, together with other Christians, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, it is joining an amicus (“friend of the Court”) brief advocating on behalf of these unborn children before the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief argues that, among other things, these unborn children “are our family, our brothers and sisters. Like all members of the human family, they should be treasured and loved.”
Beloved Clergy and Faithful of our United States of America:CHRIST IS AMONG US!
(UOC-USA) 245 years ago in 1776, when the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they were also living under incredibly tense and volatile circumstances. As in the present day, major challenges affected everyone in society, in particular the absolute necessity of separating from the oppression of foreign control of a society that had no real concept of what life in “the colonies” was really like. During that tension, however, the founding fathers of our United States of America declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It was a profound and lofty goal and one not to be achieved overnight. From the beginning, imperfections existed, but the Declaration was a starting point creating a land of opportunity where, ideally, everyone would be given equal opportunity to achieve the best life possible based on their own talents and effort. The hope that this opportunity offered has ever since attracted wave after wave of imigration since. Ours is a country built by immigrants, and each of our Ukrainian Orthodox families has a migration story – some recent and others in the distant past – each integrating into our nation’s social structure. The true national identity of our nation, however, develops from the beliefs outlined so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence itself.
All the generations of USA history have faced real challenges to those principles and basic beliefs and to our self-concept as a nation. “We the People” not only survived the Revolution brought on by the Declaration of Independence, but also Civil War, pandemics, Great Depressions and recessions, World Wars, regional wars, racism and its consequences, terrorist attacks, vast inequalities at all levels of society – and the list could go on and on. As a nation we have consistently overcome the darkness of such challenges – sometimes taking generations to do so. Our ability to do this arises from a common bond of civic and social responsibility to each other.
We are still far from being the ideal nation as called for in the Declaration of Independence, but we have always taken the steps necessary in moments of crises to push ourselves a bit closer to the ideal. Much depends upon the desire of individuals – not government, institutions or any other “structure”– to live up to their own responsibilities, thus influencing the whole of society. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has provided the two most fundamental commandments for living up to our individual responsibilities: First, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Our nation will survive and thrive even during today’s societal turmoil and a multitude of inequality if, and only if, we adhere to these two commandments. Unfortunately, the incredible misuse of social media with its proliferation of shaming, abusing and scapegoating serves as proof that even some of the most prominent “leaders” at all levels of society exhibit little self-control and responsibility. This is a lack of common civility which breeds contempt, hatred and unrest. These lead to protests, marches and demonstrations – all of which are the rights of any member of society. Such rights do not, however, justify violence, rioting, looting, abuse, slander or defamation. We must always seek to ensure that the definitive line between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable does not become blurred. We must utilize the tools of modern society to build that society, to build one another, which can be accomplished only through the Grace of God inspired into our lives by the Holy Spirit through each of the Holy Mysteries-Sacraments and shared by us in relationship with one another. Let us build upon the bold words of the Declaration of Independence by each of our words, deeds and thoughts. This is how we reach our full potential!
Open your hearts to the needs of others today, rather than just your own, to see the opportunities in front of us, to accompany those in difficult situations and to stand in solidarity in order to live up to the sacred words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
May the Grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all! GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
What this Episode is About: After weeks of learning about forgiveness and pride and judgment, we begin Great Lent with a Sunday dedicated to icons. Why? On one level, this is the anniversary of the triumph over Iconoclasm in 843 AD. But there’s more to this triumph than meets the eye. So we’ll take a deep dive into the theology of icons to learn that God made a promise to His saints. That He would unite heaven and earth. That we could look upon the face of the Lord and live. And this promise is fulfilled in us. We hold up icons as proof of this promise, the treasures we display in the Triumph of Orthodoxy. As always, we’ve prepared a FREE downloadable workbook to help you act on what you’ll learn. ***CLICK HERE*** https://mailchi.mp/goarch/bethebee169
Later this afternoon, I will get vaccinated against COVID-19. I won’t know until I get to the county health department whether it will be the first of two or a single injection.
The manufacturers use of cells from aborted children has raised ethical reservation about the vaccine itself. As you may have seen in various media reports, several Catholic bishops have discouraged their faithful from receiving the various vaccines for this reason. This has lead some to question the morality of getting the vaccine even when doing so would likely mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and life of both the recipient and others.
On these points, a group of Catholic Pro-Life scholars have published a statement addressing the moral acceptability of all the different COVID-19 vaccines. The analysis is excellent. While too technical for general distribution, it address with clarity and charity, the manufacturers’ use of cells from an aborted child and the concerns this raises in the hearts of many.
Acknowledging this concern they statement goes on to say write that
While there is a technical causal linkage between each of the current vaccines and prior abortions of human persons, we are all agreed, that connection does not mean that vaccine use contributes to the evil of abortion or shows disrespect for the remains of unborn human beings. Accordingly, Catholics, and indeed, all persons of good will who embrace a culture of life for the whole human family, born and unborn, can use these vaccines without fear of moral culpability.
The authors go on to say that while there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated, those who don’t “must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.” You can find the statement here.
Sunday, July 26 (OS July 13), 2020: 7th Sunday after Pentecost; Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Councils; Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel; St. Stephen of St. Sabbas’ Monastery (794); St. Julian, bishop of Cenomanis (1st c.); Martyr Serapion, under Severus (193); Martyr Marcian of Iconium (258).
Epistle: Romans 15:1-7/Hebrews 13:7-16 Gospel: Matthew 9:27-35/John 17:1-13
Glory to Jesus Christ!
St Paul tells us that we “who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.”
The standard here is demanding.
I’m not simply to tolerate those with whom I disagree but, as he says in other places (Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:2) bear within them “in love.” His use of the word “scruples” reminds me that I am to work for the salvation (“his good” and “edification”) of those who I will likely find annoying consumed as they are by irrational concerns and fears.
All this I am to do for you because God in Jesus Christ has done this for me.
Today the Church commemorates the fathers of the first six ecumenical councils. Taken together, these concerned articulating and defending the mysteries of both the Incarnation and the Holy Trinty.
And this was done not out of an abstract concern for the truth but to proclaim the Good News that not only did God takes on our life in Jesus Christ. He also in Jesus Christ lifts us up and make us “partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
It isn’t, in other words, that God shares our life as one of us. It is also that by grace we have come to share in His life. Jesus has drawn us into the life He shares with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
We see this not only in the faith the council proclaims but how they do this.
Unlike what we see around us, the Church gathered together both sides of the disagreements that threatened to tear the Church apart. Arius sits down with Athanasius not only to discuss and debate but to stand together in prayer and seek the Face of God.
To bear with one another means to exhaust every possibility of reconciliation. Again we see this in the Councils. The great tragedy of the councils is that the heretics’ last act as members of the Church is to remove themselves from communion with the Body of Christ. They excommunicate themselves.
We see something similar to this in this morning’s first Gospel.
Seeing the power Jesus has over demons, the Pharisees refuse to believe or even consider, that what He does, He does by the power of God. Instead, they condemn themselves by condemning Jesus and say “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
To avoid the fate of the Pharisees and the heretics of the first centuries we must, as St Paul tells us, glorify God. The other feast we celebrate today, the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel, gives us a hint as to how we do this,
Like all the angels, the Archangel Gabriel continually praises God. Gabriel does this not to flatter God or to win some advantage from Him over the other angels. This is something that happens in the world where praise is calculating and in the service of acquiring authority over others (see Matthew 20:24-26).
For the angels, to praise God means to contemplate continually not just the beauty or power of God but God Himself. This what St Gregory Palamas means when he tells us what we experience are not qualities or characteristics of God but God Himself.
Like the angels, we are called not to contemplate abstracts about God but to encounter God Himself. It is in only this encounter that I can come to bear with others in their weakness; I can only do for you, what Jesus has done for me by becoming myself another Christ (alter Christus).
This requires that I be transformed, transfigured, and made new by grace.
Building on the grace of the sacraments, that is to say, God’s actions in my life, I must first cultivate silence. Not only physical, external silence but inner silence. I also need to still my incessant, inner monologue that deafens me to the voice of God in the depth of my heart.
It is only in this way that I can know what it means, concretely and in the moment, to bear with my neighbor in his weakness.
It is only in this way that I can know what it means, concretely and in the moment, that I can know what it means to love my enemy and change him into my neighbor.
It is only in this way that I can know what it means, concretely and in the moment, that I can experience the joy that Jesus promises us.
My brothers and sisters in Christ! We are surrounded by many who are fearful and even angry. The temptation we face is to turn our backs on them, to withdraw from society, to close our hearts to others in their weakness.
But this isn’t the life to which Jesus has called us. We are to bear with others in their weakness as Jesus bears with us in our own.
And we do this because Jesus has called us to work for not only our salvation but the salvation of others whether they are friends or enemies; neighbors or antagonists.
None of this, however, can be done unless we draw near to Christ in prayer and inner silence.