The importance of preserving our common history
Ridding a country of every memorial to the past is utter foolishness. Watching the news of the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson being pulled down in Portland, Oregon recently, made me sick. Erasing the past does not make the future better, but only obscures history, making it more probable we will repeat the very history we find so appalling. Rather than ridding all memory of our past, let’s learn from it.
It is from this vantage point that I find it understandable why images of the hammer and sickle appear in some of the frescoes of soldiers depicted on the walls of the new Christ Cathedral just outside of Moscow, in remembrance of the Soviet soldiers who fought against the Nazis. This is why I rejoice that a military once aligned with Communism is now aligning itself with the Orthodox Church, and worshiping together in a newly constructed cathedral dedicated as a military chapel.
Civil War heroes existed on both sides, and it is therefore important that we not allow history to be taught from only the winning side. Many on the Rebel side were stronger, more committed Christians than were found on the Union side, yet, like all Christians, there were aspects in them that were against God’s law, and called for repentance. Slavery was a terrible sin, not only for the South, but previously part of the culture of our whole nation. To my mind, the removal of all signs and symbols of the Confederacy will only lead to the repeat of our fathers sins, since it is the memory of the errors in our history that helps us not repeat that history. The removal of all signs of the Civil War from either side simply deprives us of our history as a people. That George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves is appalling, but it is still a part of our national history. The memory of this most horrid past must never be forgotten, lest we repeat the sins of our fathers.
It is obvious to me that, as a nation, we have much work to do. Police Departments should make stronger efforts to purge themselves of racist cops, and all our businesses and corporations need to weed out every vestige of discrimination, both based on race and gender. But purging our historical memory is not the answer. All we accomplish as Americans when we rid every memory of our past, will only guarantee the repeat of mistakes of the past. Banning the Confederate flag, and toppling the statues of Confederate war heroes will, ultimately, do nothing to erase the sins of the racism that led to the institution of slavery.
For all the energy that is being spent on ending racism in the United States, as most assuredly needs to be done, does nothing to end the slavery that is still being practiced in Sub-Sahara Africa, parts of Asia, and the Middle East. It is not only the United States that has much to be ashamed of, but much of our world. It is not just Western Civilization that has a tainted past, for we must not forget that the West bought their slaves from Arab slave traders. It was often black Africans who enslaved other black Africans, and sold them to European slave traders, just as some Indiginous tribes of North America enslaved their enemies from neighboring tribes. Even the word Slavs has its historical roots in the slave trade, as Arabs enslaved white Eastern Europeans.
We humans have all fallen short of the image and likeness of our Creator God, and we are all in need of repentance. Years ago a psychological study was done with college students, where they were divided into two groups, with one given the power over the other group. The cruelty that took over the minds of the group in power spoke volumes, and was a wakeup call for all of us. Everyone of us needs to take a close look at just what we are doing with our lives. We all need to root out the racism that reigns within our core. We also all need to look at how we view those of the oposite sex as somehow beneath us (this can be a view held by both men and women). Young people need to see if they are holding to ageist views, and are discounting older members of society as simply “boomers”.
Racism needs to be expunged from our human consciousness in all its evil forms, and it is only by refusing to forget the evil of our common human history, that all this evil will finally be put aside. Watching a news video of a statue of a Confederate soldier being dragged through the streets of Washington D.C. by an angry mob, and hung by the neck from a tree, brought to mind a flood of images of Orthodox priests being hung by the neck by Croacian Nazi sympathizers during World War II, with Catholic clergy standing with Nazi officers, all with smiles on their faces.
These film clips reminded me of all the thousands of innocent people, including bishops, priests, and monastics, who lost their lives under the Soviet horror. Seeing the historical memorials of our fellow Americans in the South trashed by a “politically correct” mindset, reminded me of the desecration of Orthodox churches in Russia by Marxist dogs who had no sense of justice, or trace of humanity within their darkened hearts. The hanging of that statue reminded me of the sordid history of lynchings that took place of innocent black people in our American cities.
It is the remembrance of our history that will serve as one of the strongest deterrents from further inhuman behavior, not the expulsion of all memories. Removing statues of the Founding Fathers on the grounds that they were slave holders makes us destined to repeat the same sins as our forefathers, for it removes all memory that these historical individuals were products of their age, and that many of them repented, and worked to perminently end slavery.
I am grateful that my own father was a man who respected Native Americans, and who had a whole library on Native American history. That childhood instruction I received from my father contributed to the joy I experienced earlier this year when I had the privilege of accepting the invitation of Archbishop David of Alaska, to deliver the Alaskan Diocesan Clergy Retreat. I found myself bound in love and respect for those clergy, the vast majority of which were indigenous peoples of Alaska.
I feel blessed that I count among my relatives members of the Jewish community, the black community, and the Asian community. I am fortunate to have Father Moses Berry as a close friend, a black man whose own ancestors were slaves, and whose home borders on his ancestral cemetery of slaves.
As a former Marxist (back in the 70’s), I look on at the radical movement sweeping our nation, and fear what may be coming. As a police chaplain, I admit that I removed the police and fire chaplain logo from my vehicle, for fear of being attacked during my recent sojourn into Seattle. I fear for a land whose young people, unemployed because of the pandemic lockdown, are flooding the streets of our American cities, demonstrating for a righteous cause (the end of racism and police brutality), all the while as I witness what looks strongly as an attempt at a radical takeover by those espousing Marxist ideology, and who ultimately are only using racism as a way to destroy our democracy, and replace it with a Marxist-inspired political system that would become an even more terrible slavemaster.
I fear for a nation that has long ago turned away from her common Judeo-Christian foundations, and is desperately trying to reinvent herself on a foundation devoid of Christ, and appears to be increasingly heading toward the brink of civil war. My heart grieves that I am unable to move about our society with a smile, ministering to a populace so in need of Christian love and mercy, all the while forced to wear a mask that hides the joyful smile I have for the love of Christ. I grieve for the fact that I’ve had to cancel so many speaking engagements across the country and in Canada, during the coming months, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, for my missionary heart is happiest when I am sharing the Orthodox faith with others.
So, what am I to do? I pray every day for this country, and for her people. I pray every hour for our world, that the Lord will spare us from that which we all are bringing upon ourselves through our thoughts, feelings and actions. I pray that we will all repent, and turn our common gaze to the Father of Lights. I pray for the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God, and all the saints, our heavenly friends who watch in sadness and horror at a world gone mad, and ever beseech the Lord to turn His wrath from us, and have mercy on us all. I pray that we all repent before our Christ, the Son of the Living God and our loving Saviour and Lord, Who despite all of our largely unexamined weakness, frailty, small-minded, selfish and self-centered ways of living is waiting for us to permit Him to come into our hearts.
With love in Christ,
Sunday June 21, 2020 / June 8, 2020
2nd Sunday after Pentecost. All Russian Saints. Tone one.
Apostles’ (Peter & Paul) Fast. Fish Allowed
All venerable and holy Fathers of the Holy Mount Athos (movable holiday on the 2nd Sunday of Pentecost).
All venerable and holy Fathers of Bulgaria (movable holiday on the 2nd Sunday of Pentecost).
“Kaluga” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (1771) (movable holiday on the first Sunday of the Apostles’ Fast).
Translation of the relics of Great-martyr Theodore Stratelates (319).
St. Theodore, bishop of Rostov and Suzdal (1023).
Finding of the relics (1501) of Sts. Basil (1249) and Constantine(1257), princes of Yaroslavl.
Venerable Ephraim, patriarch of Antioch (546).
Venerable Zosimas, monk, of Phoenicia (Syria) (6th c.).
“Yaroslavl” (13th c.) and “Uriupinsk” (1827) Icons of the Mother of God.
New Martyr Theophanes at Constantinople (1559) (Greek).
Venerable Atre (Athre) of Nitria (Egypt).
Venerable Naucratius, abbot of the Studion (848).
Venerable Theophilus of Luga and Omutch (1412), disciple of St. Arsenius of Konevits (Valaam).
Martyrs Nicander and Marcian at Dorostulum in Moesia (303) (Romania).
St. Medardus, bishop of Noyon (560) (Neth.).
Translation of the relics of Hieromartyr Alphege, abbot of Canterbury.
Martyr Callopia (Greek).
Venerable Melania the Elder, of Palladius’ Lausiac History (Greek).
Martyr Nicander (Greek).
Martyr Mark (Greek).
New Hieromartyrs Barlaam (1942) and his brother Herman (1937) (Riaschentsov) (1937).
St. Paul the Confessor, of Kaiuma in Constantinople (766).
Holy Hieromartyr Tevdore of Kvelta (1609) (Georgia).
Synaxis of the Church of the Cross at Mtskheta, Georgia (Georgia).
Venerable Naucratius, brother of St. Basil the Great (4th c.).
Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there!
The Scripture Readings
He Is Risen
16 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
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Four Fishermen Called as Disciples
18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Jesus Heals a Great Multitude
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.