Friday, September 26, 2014
Today the church celebrates the feast of the living giving cross! The following is a sermon by Father Matthew the Poor said on the feast of the cross in 1976. It is taken from the book, "Words for our Time".
Hail to the Cross! Hail to the life-giving Wood!" A strong objection arises in the mind of each of us at times which asks, "How can we say, 'Hail to the Cross'? Is the Cross a person: How can I be so materialistic as to say, 'Hail to the wood of the Cross'? Do we worship idols, as the Protestants say of us?” But in truth, we thank God for the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for that marvelous Wood, upon which were proclaimed the inner mercies hidden before all ages in the Father's bosom.
I was speaking with some of the abbas about the disciples who followed the Lord, how they didn't realize they were following God. They rather liked Christ because He was a healer and a feeder. "Ah, we will never hunger or thirst again!" they said. Then followed that strange act when the people attempted to raise Him up to make Him a king.2 At least they saw in the healings and signs an indication that He would lead Israel to an earthly salvation. They felt their situation with Him to be better than that of the Israelites in the wilderness with the manna; and Christ saw this as a kind of gain. It was a measure of truth. And then the mother of James and John asked of Christ, "Grant my sons to sit one on your right and one on your left in the kingdom.' But she meant a kingdom that would appear on earth, a type of Davidic kingdom, without any thought of death or eternal life. All minds were centered on an earthly reign!
This manner of materialistic thinking and earthly ambition were not overcome until the Cross. Oh, hail to the Cross! It overthrows every type of ambition and aim at worldly profit. The day a person begins to feel he is something important in the world is the day the Lord reminds him of the Cross; and he immediately forgets all his false hopes and clings to it. Hail to the Cross, which is capable of cleansing our thoughts and consciences from every earthly hope and temporal aim!
When the Cross first made its appearance, Peter, who considered himself 'prime minister" of the disciples, fled. He stood watching from afar; then John (as I imagine it) asked him, "Would you like me to speak to the high priest for you?”
He said, "No, no, I'd rather follow events from a distance. You go inside.' So he just stood outside with the servants-but they exposed him.
See how grace pursues the believer! Hide under a different name, and the name gets exposed; hide behind a mask, and the mask is exposed; hide behind dishonest talk, and the talk is exposed. Grace pursues us to the very end. For when God loves a person, He chastens him.
Hail to the Cross, for it brought an end to all the false bonds that tied the disciples to the Lord. As we said, the Cross exposes every false ambition, just as it abolished the disciples' aims when they all fled. Christ had told them, "This night you will all leave Me, but I am not alone.”
Blessed is the Cross, which reveals every pretense of the heart, the conscience, and the tongue! "Though all the disciples forsake You, I never forsake You"-thanks be to the Cross, 0 Peter, for it brought an end to this false pretense and false supremacy!
How often I see this in people who say to me, "O Abba, because of what you've done for me, I will support you until the day of my death!" At that moment I laugh inside and think to myself, "Crucify Him, crucify Him.'?
In truth, my beloved, our discussion on the Cross can extend to considerable length, and I don't know if you or I have the energy to last long enough; but let us continue our vigil. The mystery of the Father, the mystery of love, was hidden from all ages before the Cross. The promises of the Father to man were consistently doubted-as His promise to Abraham that he would have a son-for man was incapable of feeling the Father's love. The love, the faithfulness, and the promises of the Father cannot be revealed to man just by word or thought; there must be tangible proof. Christ Himself came, the very image of the Father, and the icon of His essence-but neither then did man believe. He told them, "If you do not believe My words, then believe for the sake of the works”; but they believed neither words nor works.
The tragic events surrounding the Cross caused every last hope Christ could have had in man to be extinguished. Even the disciples of Emmaus told with sorrow of their failed hopes in the One they thought was the Savior. But on the day of the Resurrection, the truth of the Cross was declared; and the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and threw light on all the works of Christ. They saw the Cross as the revelation of the Father's compassion. It needed neither wisdom nor philosophy. They proclaimed that Cross on which the Lord of glory was crucified, and people responded, "Does the Father love us so much that He would give His only Son?" Yes!
The Cross made all of God's doings a touchable reality, whereas wonders, contemplation, and philosophy are all impotent in comparison. St. Paul said that the Cross was considered foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, but to us it is power.11 Tell me, then, is this a "contemplative" power? Can the power of God be a mere thought? A philosophy? What is power, Abbas? Power is an active or working energy. Electricity is an active energy: light is an active energy; wind is an active energy. Every type of power is an energy at work. And now-would you believe it-our spiritual life has entered into this realm of power! Spirituality has become dunamis12 for human life, an energy that can do things. Remember how Christ healed the bedridden man by just saying, "Get up"13-how is that for working energy!
The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has entered into human life as a touchable reality and as a working, acting energy and power. Don’t I have the right then to say, "Hail to the wood of the Cross"? I don’t mean the literal wood of the Cross: for even if you brought that to me today, it wouldn't raise anyone from the dead. "How can you say that, Abba?" you'll respond.
Let me tell you. Which is greater, the wood or Christ Himself?
"Christ;” you say. Well, Christ was not able to perform signs in Capernaum. Can you explain to me the meaning of "was not able"? I don’t want to analyze the meaning too minutely, to avoid offending sensitive consciences. But the mind stalls at such words; they will vex and fatigue your brain. But He was not able to perform signs in Capernaum-which means He tried. Did He try or not? And was He able or not? Do not respond. Now that was Christ. So neither is the wood of the Cross able, of itself to effect anything. But what is able?
"Do you believe that I am able to heal you?” "Yes, Lord!" and they worshipped Him. So when I say, "Hail to the wood of the Cross;' I'm expressing my faith in this wood, upon which was crucified-my goodness!-the Son of God.
The Church's hymn of salvation is expressed in the Song of Songs, a book which carnal man will never understand. The Fathers used to forbid any person with an impure mind from hearing a sermon on the Song of Songs. When Gregory of Nyssa would come to speak on this book, he would say, "All you unstable youth, who have not yet been confirmed in purity and love, depart! These words are not for you:' He wanted no one with a mind distorted by the world to stumble.
So today, when we say, "Hail to the life” giving wood of the Cross;' I ask (forgive me) all the Protestants to depart, along with all such who look unfavorably upon our Orthodox worship. We express our worship in words and hymns that are indiscernible to anyone not steeped in the depths of divine mystery. So we refuse to surrender for an hour, not even for ten minutes, to those who enter in to spy on our freedom in Christ Jesus. The divine love, hidden from all ages, hidden from the great and wise, was nailed to the wood. How wonderful give me that wood!
"Here, take this piece, which has been preserved for almost two thousand years:' No! My friend, I speak about the wood in the mystical sense. I praise that wood in a spiritual, exalted sense.
I wish for the Cross to be held before my eyes from the dawn of my youth till the dusk of my old age, that I might meditate on it every day as it bears the Blood. No passing of time can erase it from my mind; no hand can lift it from my sight; no thief can steal it from me. Other religious relics can be stolen; they stole the head of St. Mark and sold it from place to place for years, as you all know the story. But I don't want what thieves can take. I desire a treasure that can neither be stolen nor decay.
The base of the Cross is planted on earth and in my heart. How both, you ask? I don't know; but so it is. Its base is on earth (and in my heart), while its height touches heaven; and upon it hangs the Son of Man, as the angels of God ascend and descend upon Him. In this wood I see my salvation, my sanctification, and my righteousness, which I would not have been able to achieve by my own arm, nor by the arm of a prophet or even an angel I embrace this wood in my soul during my troubles, my injustices, and my tears; and I find incredible comfort.
Hail to the wood that purges me from every thought that is not pleasing to Your goodness! Hail to the wood that fortifies me against every assault of the enemy, whether by wrong thoughts, by jealousy, by pride, by forgetfulness, by anxiety, by laziness, or by the decay of a bad life. Hail to the life-giving Cross, which if I enter the eternal sleep, will be to me not a grave but wings, by which I will soar. Hail to the wood that is a rod and staff to help me along my way, even when every person has forsaken me and I have nothing left in the world, until I reach life's end and arrive at the open door of heaven, bearing the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such, my beloved, is the doxology of the Church on the day she sings "Hosanna!" If only the song of the Feast of the Cross would become the song of our entire lives! As you go and come, and move here and there, say, "Hail to the life-giving Cross!" 0 Cross of the Lord Jesus, grant me the Lord's peace!
The Bible says, “And He went out bearing His cross to the place called 'Place of a Skull.’" Bearing His cross. Think of the Lord's words, "He who does not take up his cross cannot be My disciple.” "Lord, is my cross other than Yours?" Yes, My son, I have My Cross and you have your cross.” What's the difference-I'll tell you. The Lord's own self was crucified upon His Cross. An astonishing miracle! Even if we sat here till morning, even if my brain could organize every thought, I still couldn't express the miracle.
It was impossible that Christ bear the condemnation of sinful man unless He first emptied Himself. Even before He came down to earth, He subjected Himself to a very strange and incredible self-emptying; for God could not take unto Himself a body from the earth's dust, and unite eternally with such a weak element, without self-emptying. For absolute weakness to unite with absolute strength is an event incomprehensible to the mind-but it occurred by an ability in God's nature unknown to man. We may say that in God's nature there is an attribute called “self-emptying," by which He can take unto Himself something completely incompatible with His honor and power. He took a part of His creation and made it a part of Himself. Now, this divine attribute is not found in us; but in His mercy He placed in us an image or reflection of it. He gave us the ability to partake of a divine attribute called humility. We call it "humility,” but in actuality it's the act of self-emptying.
Christ emptied Himself in order to be incarnate and in order to be crucified. But to be crucified meant that He made no claim to "self' This was made very clear during His trial He didn't defend Himself; for if He had defended Himself, He would not have been crucified. His refusal to defend Himself was an integral part of the Cross. Thus He acted before Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas. With one word He could have shaken up and repelled His judges and adversaries. Paul, on the contrary, appealed to Caesar; but they still executed him. The appeal was simply a hidden intention of the Holy Spirit to allow Paul to carry the Gospel to the household of Caesar. But to bring ones case before Caesar is a lost cause-what can Caesar do for you? They said to Christ, "Defend Yourself!" but He wouldn't, because then He would not have been crucified. So the self-emptying that occurred at the Incarnation was revealed also at the Cross, but in a violent way. He endured the violence of slaps, insults, spitting in the face, strikes to the head, thirty-nine lashes, and blood falling everywhere-but never did He speak.
Let me give you a kind of strange analogy, Abbas. Imagine I'm walking toward you from afar, and a rough worker comes up to me, deals me a couple of fierce blows, and I fall to the ground. He hits me so hard in the stomach that my organs come out, and I writhe in pain on the ground; but none of you can come near me. Then he hits me in the head with his boot and breaks it. What would be your feelings? Even if you happen not to like me, imagine this happening to someone you love. Imagine this happening to a beloved family member, while he opens not his mouth; and the perpetrator is even a weakling, a young boy. You would say, "Why isn't Abba doing anything? Why doesn't he hit him back? Abba is strong, but this kid is weak; he can knock the kid out with a single hit! Abba, do something!" But the kid keeps hitting me till he exposes my organs and steps on my neck and kills me.
The Cross is nothing less, Abbas! What heroism, O Jesus, what greatness, O God! It twists and confounds the mind! This can make one go mad thinking about it! If a human saint had done this, we would make statues of gold and write thousands of poems about him. Consider Joan of Arc, who just for leading an army had statues made of her and poems written about her. Consider the saintly monk Bonaventure, and all the poetry and acclamation he received for being burned alive while confined in prison. The saints give us a small picture of the Cross, but Christ is the ultimate hero.
When Christ died on the Cross, He paid the price for all those who died and who would die. Life itself died; and thus life was granted to all those who die in Christ Jesus. Death reached its end on the Cross. This was the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are blessed to receive and put on this Cross-without any pain or suffering on our part-by the Spirit in baptism. We are signed by the Cross, receiving redemption, and salvation, and righteousness, and eternal life.
One may ask, "Is there a price that I pay for this Cross?"
"Any labor or work?”
"So the Cross that caused our Lord violence and abuse is given me for free?"
“And His death is given freely?"
Freely! By the Cross the Father was pleased to reveal, from within the depths of His being, the fullness of His love toward all generations; it was a sacrifice given for humanity, that we might receive the sonship and divine image through Christ Jesus. All who have been baptized have put on Christ; this "putting on" means receiving His complete image-in death and resurrection. This gives us, therefore, the image of the slaughtered Son before the Father; and thus we receive favor and acceptance. All these blessings are dependent upon the transferal of the Son's image to us. We are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.
Christ gave us this image and said, "Now I want you to carry your cross.” What is our cross? I will explain it simply and briefly. Our cross is to suffer pain, and to sacrifice our lives, and to deny ourselves for the sake of others. It is not for any advantage to yourself, All the advantages that accrue to you are derived from Christ's Cross. It's by Christ's Cross that you die to the world and the world to you. All your lusts and desires, along with the flesh of the old man, are crucified, not on your cross, but on the Cross of Christ. The cross you carry on your back cannot forgive your sins or crucify you to the world. All such things-salvation, redemption, righteousness, and the death of the old man's desires-are accomplished by Christ's Cross. Then what is my cross? You cannot approach Christ, or be united with Him, or take His image, without bearing your cross. "Take up your cross and follow Me" means to be always ready to abandon the self for the sake of others.
Let's dwell upon this idea a while because it's not a small matter. We saw that Christ suffered beatings and pain, not for Himself, but for the sake of others. This is the cross we are called to bear in this generation, in order to fill up the sufferings of Christ in our bodies. My cross is not that I should suffer for myself, or endure trials for my own salvation. Would my enduring all injustice or persecution grant me salvation? Not at all-what saves me is Christ's Cross. But I accept injustice and persecution primarily for the sake of him who persecutes me and for the sake of my message to the world. Herein I take up the image of Christ and the Cross.
You might say, "This is a hard saying, Abba! You mean that if I don’t endure the insults and attacks of people, I am deprived of the cross?"
"Then prove it by a verse.”
Fortunately a verse just came to me now while I was speaking: "If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Imagine if the Father withheld forgiveness from me; would I then have salvation? Would I have anything in Christ's Cross? Nothing. I am deprived of the Cross if I refuse to forgive my brother. So the cross that I must bear is to sacrifice, to renounce myself, and to endure tribulations unto death, for the sake of my brother and for the world. A very strange and astounding thing! Hail to the Cross, which by the mystery of Christ hidden in it is able to grant me endurance of pain for the sake of others! It teaches me to endure persecution with thanksgiving, to endure injustice and humiliation without defending myself.
"Abba Matta, they're saying such-and-such about you!"
I can only respond," Hallelujah.” What a bitter cross I once endured when they informed me of malicious things said against me! A bitter cross indeed; but I persisted in swallowing up the words until they finally passed through my system, and the conclusion was praise. I gained strength. I gained joy, health, and resilience from that cross.
Hail-I am insistent on this point-hail to the wood of the life-giving Cross! From the Cross we may receive strength upon strength, by the mystery of Christ, who was able to pass over the abyss of death without complaining or defending Himself. This is strength, Abbas, when a human is accused and does not defend himself. It is strength, Abbas, when someone insults and mistreats you, and you remain silent while you are swallowing up all the words, until they pass and their effect dies.
Hail to the wood of the life-giving Cross! Hail to the unbreakable power that issues from the wood of insult and injury! This was the power planted on the earth on the day of Golgotha. And from that day till the end of time, that power enters in to comfort every soul grieving, sorrowing, and persecuted. May God make you a people who take pleasure in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; a people who take pleasure in defending the poor and the victims of injustice. May God allow you to participate in that wondrous picture of a lamb led to the slaughter, with the knife placed at its throat while it is calm and silent. It is silent because its owner is the one slaughtering it; it trusts him, because he was the one who fed it. How incredible that we learn from lambs and sheep! 0 Lord, what is this amazing example that You have placed in animals for us? Can you believe that Christ was symbolized as a lamb led to the slaughter? I myself have many times seen a lamb being prepared for slaughter: it exhibits the utmost calmness. You tie its legs, but it doesn't move; you place the knife, and it doesn't move. It trusts the person who is its owner, and feeder, and caretaker.
Ah, beloved, let us trust exceedingly that the One who shepherds us is the One who will "slaughter" us. It is not at all the work of our adversary; for as He said, "You would have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” The knife descends from above. The nails were driven by a heavenly hand, and the hammer was sanctioned by the Father, who permitted the Crucified One to be hung on the Cross. Man himself can never bring you to be slaughtered, or harm your reputation, or steal your rights, unless it be allowed from above. Step forward, therefore, and fear not, but accept the cross and the knife-just like your Lord.
"He who desires to be My disciple must take up his cross and follow Me.” And the disciple will be crucified every day. The bitter is very bitter; don't ever think that your cross is an easy matter. The cross has in it the sting of death. When once the cross passes, you might feel relief and say, "Oh, thank God it's past!" but the next one soon follows! The cross is not a pleasurable thing in the least; God knows, it has not a thousandth fraction of pleasure in it. A person only rejoices after he has survived his cross. Remember Christ, who pushed through moment by moment, being severely oppressed by sufferings, though He refused to murmur a single complaint until the very end, when He finally cried out with a loud voice and gave up the spirit. Man similarly remains oppressed by trials and suffering until they pass and he says, "Thank You, O God!"
I once underwent an extremely bitter experience. Someone once went abroad and, without an ounce of right, spread the most loathsome rumors about me. The blow dazed me; so I ran to my cell and cried out in the name of Jesus Christ. This saved me, because I was on the verge of losing myself and reacting in an irrecoverable way. I cried out to Christ from my cell in a tremendously loud voice; it was the cry of someone on the verge of death. I found divine aid come upon me the same moment. But I could not bear it long. I went out of my cell after five minutes looking like a dizzy, ill, injured man. I suffered from that blow for years. For years I suffered from the injury, until it partially subsided; but it never completely disappeared.
This is a new message for us, Abbas, a very new understanding, and if we seize it, we will advance incredibly. The Cross of Christ will be transfigured in us. Abundant power, full of blessing and grace, will come upon us; and that power will lift us above this world, above all its straits, grief’s, and needs. We are in urgent need of God's power. And there is no way of obtaining this power except by entering into the mystery of Christ's Cross. Let him take up his cross and follow Me.
Father Matthew the Poor, Words for our Time, Pages 155-168.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
|St. Ignatius of Antioch|
The one term that is used-and misused-among the Orthodox people more often than the Arabic word tux (right order or right practice). The term implies that a practice being conducted in the church today has lost its meaning or canonicity because a “newer” practice has taken its place. This type of language is common amongst the people. “This is the tux…this is not tux”, is the language used whenever one observes the movements and actions of the priests and bishops. This is an indication that a canonical problem exists within the church and a solution needs to be proposed by the synod of the church. Unfortunately the existence of such a problem is seldom admitted. The opinions of the laity have been forgotten and the clericalization of the church has taken over the mind of the individual. We have let the clergy and bishops make decisions divorcing the work of the church into two groups-laity and clergy. Everyone simply claims the fullness of canonicity of his own position and, in the name of it, condemns and denounces as uncanonical the ecclesiastical status of others. The concern for both parties is not for truth, but for victories in the form of church building projects, new creation of bishoprics, ordination of a priest “against the will” of the people. The opinions of the people matter in so much when voicing the opinion of the majority. We live in a society that breeds and teaches the majority wins-taking shape in our governments and in the system that governs our economy; capitalism. How can this poisoned atmosphere change the minds of the laity towards the clergy? How can we respect the hierarchy and its decisions? In Toronto we are living at a time when Orthodoxy is coming of age. A 50 year history has been established and growing quickly. Yet the constant cry for a bishop has taken over the minds of the individuals mostly amongst the youth. We teach our children to be “proud” of the Orthodox faith, we constantly congratulate each other on our achievements about different historic events, yet, if we were true to the spirit we ought to repent in sackcloth and we ought to cry day and night for the sad state of the church finds itself in today. The idea of having a bishop or not having a bishop in Toronto we cannot deny or nothing can justify the fact: our church is divided. To be sure, there have always been divisions and conflicts amongst Christians, but for the first time-in a long time-division belongs to the very structure of the entire church, both in Canada and Egypt. We must wake up and be horrified by the situation the people of the church finds itself in. We must own up to our mistakes and find the courage to re-think it in the light of the Orthodox doctrine and tradition, no matter what it will cost to repair the damage that has been created by the canonical problem. The problem of wanting a bishop in Toronto has grown in the past few years and it has come to the fore-front of the dialogues in recent months (July and August 2014) prior to the visit of the Pope of Alexandria (Pope Tawadros the 2nd). Unless, we admit the existence of the canonical problem, and secondly, put all our thoughts and energies into finding a solution, the façade we have created with million dollar churches and magnificent facilities hinges on the brink of extinction if we cannot find a solution. St. Peter taught us that judgement must first begin with us in order to progress in the knowledge of God: “For the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God: and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4.17).
In order to demonstrate the need and importance of the bishop we shall look to the writings of Ignatius of Antioch-a second century bishop who was martyred in the city of Rome. On his way to Rome he wrote a series of letters to different churches in different cities. The letters of Ignatius are one of the most important early witnesses, outside the New Testament, to the development of both the church structure and theological reflection. The emphasizes of his letters focuses on the centrality of the bishop, surrounded by his presbyters (priests) and deacons, for the composition of the church; without these three orders the community cannot be called a church as he wrote to the Trallians (3.1). He urges the Smyrneans, for example, to follow the bishop as Christ follows the Father, and do nothing pertaining to the church without the consent and knowledge of the bishop; without him, they are neither to baptize nor hold an agape meal, and only that Eucharist which he, or the priests, celebrates is to be considered certain; in sum, “whenever the bishop appears, let the congregation be present, just as wherever Christ is, there is the catholic Church” (Smyrneans 8). That there is only one Christ means that there can only be one Eucharist, one altar, one bishop (Philadelphians 4). The importance of the bishop and the need of a bishop to this city were understood early on as representing the unity of the church through the priests, deacons and laity. The body of Christ made this union happen as long as “all the pieces” were present in the work of the church. However, this emphasis Ignatius places on the bishop should not be misunderstood as a mono-episcopacy. The obedience that the Smyrneans owe to their bishop, for instance is also due to the presbyters (priests) [Smyrneans 8.1]. This is only made possible first and fore-most with the presence of the bishop. Ignatius likewise, writing to the Magnesians and the Ephesians urges them to do nothing without the bishop and priests as they are to obey and subject to one another (Magnesians 7.1; 13.2; Ephesians 2.2; 20.2). This is again only possible with the presences of the bishop in the city. As such, the unity of Christians with their one bishop, in the one Eucharist celebrated on the one altar, is dependent upon a prior unity in the apostolic faith established by Christ. If the bishop ceases to be present then the church is divided and broken. Based on this understanding of the bishop according to Ignatius it is important for every city in the world to have a bishop present working with his priests and deacons to unite the church in the body of Christ.
This then takes us back to the city of Toronto. Pope Tawadros has announced that he plans on making the city of Toronto the archdiocese. Much confusion has been brought out in the form of many questions by the laity. Is this archdiocese the main hub to all of North America? Is this archdiocese connected with Cairo? If so will Toronto then, being an archdiocese, be getting a metropolitan? Will it be getting a general bishop? These questions and more have been going around about the news of Toronto becoming an archdiocese. The role of the archdiocese is set around as the main city for the metropolitan who has other cities under his jurisdiction. For example the metropolitan of Jerusalem has the UAE as part of his diocese but still remains the metropolitan of Jerusalem. Clarification is needed in order for the people to understand the status of Toronto. However, what is clear is that many believe the Pope to be the bishop of Toronto and this is incorrect. According to the canons of the church the Pope only has jurisdiction in Alexandria (and now Cairo). Canon 2 of Constantinople says, “The bishops are not to go beyond their dioceses to churches lying outside of their bounds, nor bring confusion on the churches; but let the Bishop of Alexandria, according to the canons, alone administer the affairs of Egypt; and let the bishops of the East manage the East alone…” The canonical problem present in Toronto needs to admitted to and corrected by the synod of the church. The church, as Ignatius has pointed out previously, needs a pastor to take care of its people. As long as there is a Coptic presence in any city in the world a bishop must be present. If the bishop is not present how then are the priests given authority to celebrate the Eucharist? Is there a way out of this?
There is no denial that the unity of the church, as expressed in the canons, is expressed, through the unity of the Episcopate (bishopric). St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote in the third century, episcopatus unus est. This means that each local church is united to all other churches, revealing her ontological identity with them, in its bishop. Just as every bishop receives the fullness of his episcopate from the oneness of the episcopate (the entire synod of bishops) which is expressed in the plurality of those who have consecrated him, this fullness includes the unity of the entire church. This unity is given its lived reality in the body of Christ (the Eucharist). The unity of the church is formed in the parish which gives the authority to the bishop. It is the bishop who unites all in the body of Christ. If the bishop is not present then the church ceases to exist. Lastly, the requirements of our Orthodox canonical tradition, the solution of our canonical problem coincides, strange as it may seem, with the most practical solution, with common sense. By looking back to the history and tradition of the church we are to see life and truth as the source that governs our lives today. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free-free to follow the glorious truth to fulfill in this great country the mission of Orthodoxy.