Dear Father Gregory,
Ah but what it is to be reminded of what one has so often said unto others! How many, many times I have said to others that thereâs no such thing as âjustâ something or other. Even that scraggy old grass growing alongside the A34 is not âjustâ a load of weeds and grass. The A34 is one of the South of Englandâs notorious car parks that occasionally passes for what it was designed to be, a major highway with flowing traffic. But what joyous moments I have spent stuck there in traffic jams admiring the astonishing beauty of that grass being rippled like waves by the wind. It is, of course, no more âjustâ grass and weeds than the trees that so delight me when their leaves are moved by the wind and the sunlight shimmers through them â or those wondrous sunsets the Divine Artist paints so many evenings or the beauty of the star strewn heaven He displays night after nightâ¦ They are of course all manifestation of the Creator. âEvery visible or invisible creature is a theophany or appearance of God.â (John Scotus Eriugena).
So yes I have often corrected those who told me that something or other was âjustâ whatever it was. And then there was that expression used so frequently in the prayer tradition of the Christianity of my teenage years, âLord we just want to ask youâ¦â I still want to ask Him of course and much and often but rarely these days do I âjustâ want to ask God for whatever it may be.
And after all that I manage to come out with such a faux pass as apparently belittling my calling and ordination (which I fought against and resisted so long, having some concept, however inadequate, of how awesome a thing it was) by saying âI am just a pastorâ. Mea culpa! Your correction is as well deserved as it is well intentioned and I assure you it is equally well received. Thank you Father Gregory.
So many thoughts and memories crowd in â hearing the words read at my ordination as a priest about the seraphim standing along side me at holy communionâ¦ or then the day I became an hegumenos, as Abba Seraphim prayed one of the prayers referring to my being elevated to hegumenos, he turned to face east and there right in front of my eyes, on the back of his Episcopal crown, was an icon of our Lord elevated on the cross: âAnd I, if I be lifted upâ¦â Just a pastor indeed!!! Yes, truly I thank you my friend for it is good to be corrected and reminded.
On the matter of your tribunal decision and my previous posting in which I wrote about struggling towards some concept of the spirit rather than the letter of the law I was feeling my way towards what you have so clearly expressed when you write about âthe intention of the legislators when enacting what was supposed to be beneficent lawâ. And this reflects my appreciation of the canons, which interestingly enough I hardly ever refer to as canon law because I prefer to think of them as canons, intended to help and guide me as a pastor in my ministry of healing, of salvation â not as law in that âharshâ sense. The verse you quote is undoubtedly one of my favourite verses in the Bible and is my guiding principle as a pastor, not to break that bruised reed nor snuff out that smouldering wick but to breathe life into it.
I sometimes do get concerned with some of the discussions in the Forum whether they can be confusing for newcomers (which is, I concede, a bit rich coming from one who writes âI am just a pastorâ thereby risking confusing any enquirer or new member into thinking that the whole pastor business is of little consequence!) and so I am really thankful that you have written such a helpful posting here on the canons and why we have them and what they are for. For they are not to be dismissed or thought lightly of (any more than being a pastor is to be dismissed or thought lightly of) or ignored because I should simply do what Jesus would do but rather the canons are there to hopefully help me do what Jesus would do. Yes I may apply them with economy and yes I must apply them with love and yes I must ever remember the bruised reed and smouldering wick and remember what it is that I am about when I am guided by the canons but nonetheless guided by them I must be as a spiritual doctor or physician responsible for peopleâs spiritual health and well being rather than âjustâ (!) making it up as I go along as the fancy takes me.
Thank you again,