Open Wide the Doors

Open wide the doors of the Church to everyone

The subject came up among clergy of our diocese as to whether it was proper to allow a man to attend services while wearing an earring. The point, as it seems to me, is to make him feel welcomed enough to want to be in church to begin with. Requiring the removal of earrings would be counter productive, as styles are constantly changing, and unless it is causing undo distraction for other worshipers, the Church needs to accommodate variations in style.

It was a custom among the Cossacks to wear earrings in the military, as a way of letting commanders know whether the soldier was the only son of his mother, or even the last man in his family. If he was wearing an earring in his left ear, he was the only son of his mother, but if he were wearing an earring in his right ear it meant he was the last man in his family, or the only son of his parents. Wearing earrings in both ears meant he was the sole man in his family line. By Cossack traditions the chieftain or captain was obliged to protect such a special person, and had no right to place the soldier in grave risk, nor send him to certain death in battle.

Style is style, and as such, is ever changing. My own generation were the first long hairs in more than a century (yes, I was a hippie), and sported paisley bell bottoms, tie die shirts and beads. The young have always experimented with their own generational style. Although the priest has a duty to ask those participating in the divine services to dress modestly, so as not to distract other worshipers, he should not allow his personal taste to be a barrier preventing another from worshiping.

Statistics demonstrate our young are leaving the Church, so do we really want to make their departure easier by placing demands on them that are, ultimately, not that important. I have worked with youth my entire adult life, and they respond to me (both when they come to the monastery and when I visit college campuses) because they sense I accept them JUST AS THEY ARE.

I once met a monk whose neck and hands where all tattooed with a barbed wire design. He is now living in monastic repentance because somewhere along the way he was made to feel welcome in a church. When I met him, I told him he would be a great example to other youth, for the door of repentance is open to all.

The great elder, Archimandrite Sophrony of Saint John the Baptist Monastery in Essex, England, once greeted the visiting daughter of a monk with much joy and sweetness, even though she was wearing a large purple Mohawk. In his deep relationship with God, the elder knew the importance of loving everyone, and making sure each person visiting his monastery experienced the love of Christ.

We must love everyone into the Church, JUST AS THEY ARE.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Wednesday May 15, 2019 / May 2, 2019
Third Week of Pascha. Tone two.
Fast. Fish Allowed
St. Athanasius the Great, archbishop of Alexandria (373).
Translation of the relics (1072 and 1115) of the Holy Passion-bearers Boris and Gleb of Russia, in holy baptism Romanus and David (1015).
St. Athanasius III, patriarch of Constantinople and wonderworker of Lubny (1654).
Martyrs Hesperus, Zoe, and their sons Cyriacus and Theodulus, at Attalia (2nd c.).
St. Boris-Michael, prince of Bulgaria (907).
“Putivl’sk” (1635) and “Vutivansk” Icons of the Mother of God.
St. Athanasius of Syandem and Valaam (1550).
Blessed Basil of Kadom (1848).
St. Jordan the Wonderworker (Greek).

The Scripture Readings

Acts 8:18-25

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

John 6:35-39

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall neverthirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will [a]by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

5 comments:

  1. Today’s Offering beautifully demonstrates the power of love to overcome preconceived notions and to unite rather than divide us. We are all one in Christ.

    1. Thank you for this, Abbot Tryphon! It’s so wonderful to have this guidance so we can remember to welcome all who seek the Lord whether they look “right “ or not. God alone sees the hearts of men. Who am I to judge a man/woman based on his/her appearance? Better that I should pray for them when they seek God.

      It brought a smile to my face to learn that you were a hippie. So was I! See how God has chosen from all sorts of people those to “follow Him.”

  2. Christ is Risen!

    Very salient point, Abbot. My wife and I were received into the Church last August and had been attending services for almost a year before that. She and I both have tattoos on our arms and back. There’s actually a pagan star on her back just below her neck (a remnant of having been raised in a new-agey, you-are-your-own-god type “cult,” for lack of a better word). On my first visit to the Church I wondered how the people and the priest would react to our appearance and was a little worried, until I saw a guy with tattoos on his neck and head standing with his child during the Divine Liturgy.

    But the ink on our skin was nothing compared to the other sin in our lives at the time; both my wife and I had struggled with substance abuse since our early teens, and when we first walked into the Church, we weren’t TOO intent on changing our behavior, although that’s not to say that we weren’t open to the idea of repentance. When we communicated these ideas to our priest, he was sure to let us know that we were welcomed AS WE ARE. He knew we were sinners, but more importantly, he knew that God’s grace would work in our lives and that the sin could and would be weeded out, root by root. When we decided to begin the journey as catechumens, I communicated to him just how flawed we were and I was worried that we weren’t worthy to stand there in the presence of the Lord and the Saints during Liturgy due to the sin in our lives. He replied that we were icons of Christ which had been desecrated with years of mold and dirt. But with time, work, and with Love, these disfigurements would be stripped away. “Don’t worry; all that stuff will fall off.” Indeed, that’s exactly what has happened as is still happening today.

    Our priest has said over and over again that “we are to meet people where they are.” I know he’s mentioned it, and I’m not sure if this was a directive of our Metropolis or Archdiocese or whatever (indeed it sounds like a directive from much, much Higher), but this policy played a part in our ongoing salvation. Knowing myself, my short temper, and my pride I think that we easily could have been turned off by the Church if we had been received poorly due only to our outward appearance; an appearance which was the mark of a lifetime of sin. We would have turned away and never looked back if our priest had said something like, “you’re not welcome here until you X and Y,” instead of saying “X and Y will come by grace and love. You’re welcome as you are.” We were lucky (blessed) and we thank the Lord that we found a parish which, seemingly, has it written on their hearts that those who are well are in no need of a Physician, and who embraced this sick couple.

    By God’s grace my wife and I are different people today than we were when we first walked through the doors of the Orthodox Church. I can’t imagine life without Her (indeed, it wasn’t Life we were living at all). We were, as you put it, “loved into the Church.” Thank you, Father, for your prayers, for your Morning Offering, and for urging us Christians to practice a life of non-judgement and love. Glory to God!

    My wife and I have kept you and all the Vashon monks in our daily prayers since your attack.

    Yours in Christ,
    Justin Paul

    1. Your story sounds familiar to me. When I approached the Church for the first time three years ago I was worried about all the personal stuff, including some outrages sins, that I would have to face. God by his own hand took away some grave behavior, and forgave one onerous sin before I even became a catechumen, and left the rest of mess to be worked out in time.

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