Blessed Are They Who Mourn

Perhaps it is the time of year (Great Lent), or the recent comments about the impending loss of the Kursk Icon to the Moscow Patriarchate, that have caused me to contemplate the plight of ROCOR refugees from the confiscation of our former parishes by the MP and our beloved former hierarchs. For many of us much has been lost during this process--our parishes, brothers, sisters, and even Fathers in Christ. I perceive much recrimination and bitterness about this, a disturbing admixture of sadness and anger, which results naturally from such loss and exile. I, myself, have been tormented by similar feelings during the past two years.

This bitterness is, I believe, merely a phase of unresolved grief. Yet, many "refugees" of all kinds remained fixated in this "anger" stage of a mourning process, even unto the grave. It is, perhaps, easier for aggrieved people to remain angry, than it is for us to experience the oppressive sorrow of loss and exile, to enter into a "dark night of the soul," where we may genuinely find ourselves asking, "Eli, Eli, Lama Sabach Thani" ("My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken me?") Things are particularly difficult, I suspect, for those ROCOR refugees who have no parish to call home during the Feast of Feasts now approaching.

One thinks of the Babylonian captivity, and the destruction of Solomon's Temple. "If I ever forget Thee, O Jerusalem..." Jerusalem was, for us, the holy ROCOR of old, especially on Pascha, when we would all sing, "Christos Voskrese," until the wee hours of the morning, and experience the joyful opening of the Kingdom of Heaven to those of us still struggling and sojourning upon the barren earth.

So, we must carry on, now, like St. Mary of Egypt in the Trans Jordan wilderness. We are wandering in a very dry desert. I do not know when or how this journey will end, but I do know, from personal experience, that the end of any mourning process is not bitterness, but rather peace and acceptance of the reality that we brought nothing into this world, and can take nothing from it. What is more, we have it on good authority that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, regardless of what happens to mere buildings and communities of people. In this love may we always maintain faith and hope!

And may we all, through faith and hope in Our Lord Jesus Christ, meet again, some day, in Jerusalem.


Joanna Higginbotham said...

There is another kind of ROCOR Refugee. Those who have made a decision to go with the union, but their conscience gives them doubts. One example I know is a clergy member who lashes out at everyone and blames everyone. It is impossible to have a decent conversation with him. The other extreme is a layman I know who has no anger and blames no one. But he suffers and might be resigned to a lifetime of never knowing for sure. It is interesting that both these men believe that many of those who decided against the union, also agonize over whether they made the right decision.

This is not just a case of "projection." It is more an indication of their confusion and pain.

My observation has been, that those who did not go with the union and then waver about that decision, are those who made their decision based on something other than truth and love for the Church. By God's providence they leave us.

Joanna Higginbotham said...

When I was at the convent in Etna earlier this week, one of the nuns reminded me of a bit of history about the Fall of Constantinople. After the Moslems had taken all the Churches and enslaved the faithful, the Moslem leader went to the Bishop (Gennadios?) and said something like,

"We have won. Your Church is gone. Now submit to us."

The Bishop said, "You are mistaken. Our Church is not gone. Our Church is safe and sound in our hearts and in heaven."

If a reader could please find this account and exactly the conversation between the Moslem leader and the Bishop, I would like to post this in the blog. To encourage us to "carry on" while outwardly it appears we have lost everything.

Unprofitable Servant said...

There are many parallels between the Babylonian captivity of Israel, the fall of Byzantium to the Moslems, and the fall of Holy Russia to the Bolsheviks. In all of these historical situations, there was active mockery of the religious refugees by the conquerors. I know that Suleiman turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople, and that the great Church of the Holy Apostles was destroyed. I could find no trace of it on a visit to Istanbul some years ago. Some of the magnificent mosaic icons of Hagia Sophia are now being slowly restored through removal of the Turkish plaster which has covered them for centuries.
As for those from the old ROCOR who appear to accept the union placidly, my hunch is that they are still in a VERY early phase of unresolved grief; denial. Such people have not yet even recognized or acknowledged what has been lost. They are attuned primarily to the superficial appearance of the former Church-- the vestments, mitres, buildings, etc., which have always been the primary focus and concern of the Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs and lawyers.