Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DEATH OF A PATRIARCH: some thoughts.

I don't really know a lot about the Russian Orthodox Church though I've read some of her theologians, Ouspensky, Lossky and Bulgakov. I remember how I felt when John Paul II died (may the Lord have mercy on him). It really was like losing a father. I kept asking myself why I was so upset, why I was crying. I had never met him, never gone to see him when he came to Ireland. Yet he was the Pope when I rediscovered my faith or rather grace brought my faith alive. He led the Church all the years of my searching, my formation and committment as a Capuchin, ordination and early ministry. He was the earthly reminder of the Saviour's care, the Shepherd at the head of the flock. Losing him after watching his long battle was both a relief and a loss. His sufferings were over but I was left without a guide, a benchmark, a centre. I knew something of the sorrow of the monks that wept over St. Martin of Tours and the friars who begged St. Francis to stay. Who would look after us when the saint was gone? But God the ever-merciful and utterly compassionate sent us Benedict, man of peace. I laughed when he was elected, I just did not see it coming (no political savvy whatever).
I know people who were outraged. I was delighted. I had read and loved some of his books. More even that John Paul Benedict was a man whose heart and mind matched my own. So I empathize with my Orthodox brothers and sisters in their grief. Not all will miss Patriach Alexy. Some will hope for a change, a new generation untainted by accusations, hungry to forge a more independent Russian Church and pehaps forge new bonds with Constantinople and maybe even Rome. In the meantime is the grey time, the waiting and mourning, praying and hoping go on while all around there is noisy speculation. This time passes. Let us pray that the Synod which gathers to elect Alexy's successor will be led by the Spirit to choose a man truly filled with the Holy Spirit, a man who will shepherd Russia, build on the good Alexy did and led his Church to true and deeper holiness.

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