Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sharing in God's Serenity: Sr. Gabriella's Reflection on the General Assembly

Our previous post included the witness videos from our eparchy's General Assembly which took place last month.  The Assembly was a powerful experience for each of us and for the eparchy; therefore we would like to reflect on it, especially during this time when the parishes are holding follow-up sessions.  We hope that our reflections will also benefit those outside the Eparchy of Parma!

In his book Courage to Pray, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom writes:
“Often we are in tumult… That is why our prayer is trembling and hesitant, a prayer of tumult, uncertainty and incoherence.  Isn’t this the story of the storm on the lake of Galilee?  The Lord and his disciples are on the lake.  A tempest comes up when they are out to sea.  Death threatens them, the waves are huge, the winds beat against them.  They fight for their lives as hard as they can, and all this while the Lord is asleep on a cushion at the prow.  He looks comfortable to them.  They can’t bear him looking so comfortable, his indifference.  In their wretchedness they turn to him, wake him up, try to force him to realize what is happening.  ‘Lord, do you not see that we perish?’  But what are they doing by asking this question?  Are they appealing to the Lord to control the storm?  Yes and no.  First of all they want him to share their suffering.  They want him to be as anxious as they are.  They think he will not help them unless he shares their anxiety.  The Lord gets up, he refuses to share their panic.  He keeps his own serenity.  First he turns to them, ‘How long must I be with you, men of little faith?’  And then he turns towards the storm, and casts his own serenity onto it.  He orders the waves to be still and the wind to be silent, and his own peace to come down on everything about him.  The storm is still and the disciples fall at his feet.  Who is he?  They are still doubtful.  We often make the same mistake.  Instead of seeking to share God’s serenity, we ask God to share our tumult.  Of course he does share it, but with his own serenity.”

While reflecting on the Assembly, I read this excerpt from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom’s book, Courage to Pray, and I saw a few things that made a lot of sense to me.  First of all, I saw myself – in my own sinfulness, restless in the tumult of my own life, seeking Christ to calm the storm – instead of curling up with Him in the helm and realizing the God who I love can conquer all and has all under control.  I am the problem.  How often I am the small child yelling for my Father to “Fix it!” instead of the trusting child, curled up in His lap, assured that He is in control.

Next I saw our Byzantine Church, scared about what is coming next: “How will everything turn out, how will we keep this or that church open, where are the young people?!”  I saw our Church rushing to Jesus asleep in the boat, shaking Him, demanding Him to share in our anxiety – seeing only our fears of the future, not His insurmountable wisdom and power at work – the work that needs both death and resurrection in order to be complete.

Then I looked at myself and our Church in light of the Assembly and I felt a sense of peace.  Serenity.  Trust.  Openness.  After experiencing such a weekend of prayer, opportunities for forgiveness, times of personal and communal reflection, talks on Jesus, Mary and prayer, witnesses of Christ working in the lives of people – my heart is moved.  I felt on a personal level what I would venture to say everyone present on group level experienced, which is a true revival of faith, hope and trust in God and in prayer and a greater appreciation for our shepherd and father, Bishop John, who valiantly led all of us through the experience.

What a weekend it was!  I dare to say we and future generations will look back at this Assembly and see it as a decisive moment in the history of the Eparchy of Parma.  Now it’s up to each one of us – clergy, monastics, and laity – to embody the fervor, to enflesh the zeal, to incarnate the Gospel of Jesus Christ we received at the Assembly or that we will receive through the subsequent meetings.  We need to see the Church in a new light – one of hope, one of trust, one of expectation.  We need to act now not as one dead but as one truly alive.  As St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  Let us make St. Paul’s words to the Galatians our own:  “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (2:19-20).

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