God placed Moses in the “cleft of a rock” and His “glory passed by” and Moses was granted a vision of God. The great protestant hymn, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for me,” makes reference to this story, understanding in proper patristic fashion that the story points to Christ, who is our Rock, standing within Whom we may see the glory of God.
These, of course, are the most wonderful of things. There are other experiences of the Rock, particularly when winds blow strong or storms rage about us. I think of the Orthodox faith as such a Rock. Its doctrine, in the words of the late Fr. Georges Florovsky, is “a verbal icon of Christ.” To stand in the faith while the world continues to either forget or morph the essentials of Christian doctrine is indeed a place of safety. But the Orthodox faith, though stated in Creeds and Conciliar Decrees and the Canons and Liturgies of the Church, would be only words were they not somewhere lived and embodied. The Body of Christ, after all, is composed of living believers.
I am hosting a visit from my Archbishop, DMITRI, of Dallas and the South, this weekend. Having already spent an afternoon and evening with him, I am reminded of the living Rock of the faith that God places in the midst of our lives. No man, no Bishop, is what we may attribute to God alone. And yet, St. Ignatius of Antioch taught, “Where the Bishop is, there also is Christ.” A man may fail to embody that charism identified by St. Ignatius – but this has not been my experience of my Archbishop.
Tonight, at the end of Vespers, he addressed the assembled faithful with simple words of faith – of the constancy of God and the unrelenting attacks the Church endures from the adversary (both from within the Church and from without). And he stood as a rock, reminding us that such has always been the case and will always be the case so long as the Church is in this world. He made no suggestions that we avoid accountability or any such thing – but encouraged us that regardless of events to remain faithful to Christ and not to lose heart.
These were words from one of the rocks God has placed in the Church – a rock because he stands in The Rock and will not turn aside. I have no naivete about the humanity and failings of any Bishop or Priest. I know myself too well and have seen too much to profess such innocence. But I have also seen the charism of ordination and the truth of the gift of God. And I know what it is to stand in the presence of a Bishop whose faith challenges and bolsters my own. Such was the rock with whom I have spent the day and with whom I will share the next two days.
O Lord, let me hide myself in Thee.
I am reminded of the chorus of “He Hideth My Soul” by Fanny J. Crosby, William J. Kirkpatrick:
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock that shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of Hi love, and covers me there with His hand, and covers me there with His hand.
Many years to you and to Archbishop Dmitri! I thank God for you both!
I am very excited to meet him. Now I wish I could have made it last night, too! 🙂
The glory of God is no longer a vision that passes by, though to the unbelieving world, we must surely be as men and women chasing the wind.
I still love this picture of Vladyko. It puts me in mind of when the bishop prays: O Lord, visit this vineyard which thou has planted with thy right hand and establish it. Vladyko stands in a field surrounded by blossoms, just as he stands in the midst of his diocese and the blossoming churches and missions which God has established through Vladyko’s dedication and steadfastness.
And it was joy itself to serve in the altar with him this weekend. Would that we had more than two days at a time, but it’s just as he said in his homily at Liturgy: we must come down the mountain. May the good Lord grant you and Vladyko many more years. Axios, by the way.