Sunday, April 30, 2006

praying for the sobor

Less than a week from now the Fourth All-Diaspora Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad will commence. The hot item on the agenda is to discuss normalization of relations between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. As you may know, the Russian Church has suffered deep division ever since the Communist Revolution nearly a century ago, with the exile church maintaining its autonomy over against the Patriarchate, which was viewed as compromised and even enslaved to the Communist government that sought to destroy it. Favorable changes in the MP since the collapse of the Soviet Union have led to serious talks between the two, and now the leadership on both sides seems favorably disposed to restoration of communion. The Sobor will be an opportunity for the exile community at large to weigh in on the issue, to be followed immediately by a council of the hierarchs to decide how they will go.

At this point, I'm not part of any particular Orthodox jurisdiction. I have frequented different parishes, including a small assembly belonging to the Russian Church Abroad. I also look to the Russian Church as having the greatest potential for influence throughout the world right now and as one of the most actively growing jurisdictions. In addition, it seems to me that a resolution between these two groups could only be a positive step for Orthodoxy in America, since the Russian Church Abroad has had problematic relations with so many other groups, and such a move would help to heal the divisions. I realize that some may see it as a step backward--a strengthening of ethnic, old-world jurisdictions over against more America-centered movements, like the OCA. But the other side to this concern is that the existence of the OCA has not done that much to further unity among American Orthodox. Anyway, my point is not to hash through all the arguments for the various approaches being taken in America right now--only to point out that this looks to be a positive trend in the Russian Church as a whole, and one that will likely have positive effects on the American scene as well.

It is in this spirit that I join with ROCOR in praying for what lies ahead:

O all-good Master, watch over Thy flock and all the children of the Russian Church Abroad, that we may bring about the structuring of our Church in a manner well-pleasing to Thee. Grant us the spirit of wisdom and understanding; instill in our hearts the spirit of the fear of God, the spirit of piety and zeal for the glory of Thy holy name. Guard us against all temptations, stumbling-blocks and divisions, that being bound together, one to another, by the bond of love for Thee, our Master, we may without hindrance perform the work of our ministry for the edification of the Holy Church as the one Body of Christ. We pray Thee, O greatly Merciful One: Hearken and have mercy!

O good Shepherd, Who hast promised to gather Thy scattered sheep into a single flock, put down scandal and division within the Church; all who have strayed from Thy path do Thou lead to repentance and a knowledge of the Truth, and return them to Thy fold; and confirm us all in the Orthodox Faith and the doing of Thy commandments. We pray Thee: Hearken and have mercy!

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