Sunday of Thomas and Conversion

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+ Sunday of Thomas

The Assurance of Thomas – Believing not Doubting and Three Conversion Narratives

 

John 20:19-31

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him,“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

We live in a labyrinthine catastrophe of coronavirus. We seek desperately to discover the way out, an exit strategy. In Greek myth Ariadne had a thread to follow, in our holy faith and in truth we have the Risen Christ to rescue us from the caves of Hades. He is the Resurrection and the Life. We see in the icon of the Resurrection how the Risen Lord reaches down into the labyrinth of Hades to raise Adam and all the rest of humanity from death to life. Because of Christ we are able to live, to sleep and to live again in Victory! Jesus Christ has abolished death and the fear of death.

In order to escape the insecurity of our mortality, the fear of death, some seek power and wealth, without success. Others seek to lose themselves in earthly pleasures without satisfaction. The T.V. tries to ameliorate the suffering with a proliferation of food programmes, it offers distractions of comedy, whilst at the same time delivering the grim statistics. The human “panaceas” are to no avail because human aspirations alone do not address the soul, the spirit.

We read in the gospel how Thomas was not there on the first appearance of Christ to His Apostles- he arrives eight days later and his sceptical/ doubting nature is replaced by belief when he sees the wounds of Christ. He sees the wounds!  Christ invites Thomas to place his fingers in the place where the nails were and to place his hand in the wound in His side. The Resurrected Christ bears the marks of the Crucifixion. Thomas is reduced to humble faith“ My Lord and my God!” Often we need to be stripped of our scepticism, arrogance and sophistication and this can only be done by revelation when we meet Christ and experience His power and love.

Beyond the Bible accounts and the Apostolic Era, we can find countless examples of people who have met the Living Lord, who like Thomas arrived at the point of faith in their life, stripping themselves of their pretensions and intellectual pride.

 

metropolitan anthony

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom whom I was privileged to met in the 1980’s was such a person. As a young man, frustrated with his life, he sat down more in anger and challenge towards God, than in hope, to read St Mark’s Gospel. Before reaching the end of the third chapter of the Gospel, he suddenly became aware that, on the other side of his desk there was a presence and the certainty that it was Christ was overwhelming which never left him. It was a turning point in his life, like the experience that St Paul had on the road to Damascus. Because he encountered the Living Christ he knew from that point onward that he would give his life to Christ. Like St Thomas, Anthony was able to confess there and then “My Lord and my God.”

CS-Lewis

The account of C.S. Lewis’ conversion is equally amazing:

“You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalene( College, Oxford), night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England” (Surprised By Joy, ch.14, p.266).

C. S. Lewis felt embraced by the love of God and experienced an abiding joy:

“I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?… The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation”.

alexander-solzhenitsyn

Christ appeared to Alexander Sozhenitsyn who was one of Russia’s finest authors and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Critical of the athesistic Godless state of the USSR in which he was brought up, he was sent to the Gulags but in 1971 he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. During his long eight years spent in the labour camp and during his struggle with cancer, Christ appeared to him. Christ gave him the power and perseverance to stand up to and expose the violence of state persecution.

All three 20th century Christians were able to say: “Christ is Risen!” because they had encountered the Living Lord Jesus. The risen Christ appeared in the upper room with His wounds and gave the Apostles His peace and He gives the same to us today who live behind locked doors. This is not all. Christ bestows upon us Life. We may not have seen the Lord Jesus but we are blessed and we experience His suffering, love and joy. The signs that Jesus did, the appearances that He has made down the centuries are records of witnesses that we may believe.

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

He is Risen Indeed!

FJH

Memory Eternal to a Pioneer

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“On Friday July 12, Dr. Edward Hartley died in a nursing home after a week-long decline, ending a long a fruitful life in Christ. I lost a friend and parishioner, and many people lost someone who was a great gift to them from God.

Dr. Edward Hartley, with his wife Vivian, was the founder of St. Herman of Alaska mission in Surrey, B.C. He was an Anglican, born in Nova Scotia, Canada, who came out to British Columbia to begin a medical practice here. He met and eventually married Vivian Robertson, and together they had three children. More significantly, over the years they had many more spiritual children. I have lost count of their godchildren. Dr. Hartley and Vivian decided that they should join the Orthodox Church in a time when such a course of action was so difficult as to look a bit crazy. There were no English-speaking Orthodox missions in the Vancouver area in that time, and so they joined the local OCA church which worshipped in Slavonic and spoke Russian. A far-sighted bishop in the parish welcomed them, and they learned to cope with Slavonic, becoming members of the Russian OCA parish. Vivian learned to sing in Slavonic as part of the choir, and Dr. Ed (as he was known) read the Epistle in English after it had been read in Slavonic.

They had the sense and foresight to see that raising their children in a Russian church in the Vancouver area was not the path of wisdom, and so they received the blessing from their bishop to begin a mission in English, worshipping in a chapel they built in their backyard. Those were difficult years, with one step forward and one step back. I came to their little backyard mission in 1987 when there were about fifteen people there on a Sunday. They had no stipend available for a priest, and no other building. Their priest would have to find a secular job to support himself and his family while the mission grew. But they all had enthusiasm and commitment, and the parish slowly grew.

Dr. Ed was a man of humour, zeal, and effervescence. He was always ready with a joke and a smile. When I would phone his house he answered the phone often by saying, “Greetings and hallucinations—I mean greetings and salutations!” In all the years I was his parish priest I never recall him frowning or being in a bad mood. He wanted to convert absolutely everybody to Orthodoxy, and his home was an open house, a place of welcome and kindness. I may add that his wife Vivian and his children shared in his kind and zealous spirit. Vivian reposed in 2013, but his children are still faithfully serving the Lord, being wonderful chips off the old paternal block.

Dr. Hartley breathed his last at 2.28 p.m. this last Friday, and stepped into the Kingdom, doubtless escorted by a multitude of angels. The following Sunday at St. Herman’s was a busy one. We baptized an infant, a child of South Asian and East Indian-Caribbean descent. We baptized the Anglo-Canadian husband of one of our Russian ladies. We baptized another adult North European/Canadian convert. We also received by chrismation the Armenian mother-in-law of one of our Romanian immigrants.  Before the baptisms, a lady who was a longtime friend of the Hartleys was finally entered into the catechumenate, joining a young Ethiopian catechumen.  Dr. Hartley would have been pleased by all this, since he wanted everyone to become Orthodox, regardless of their upbringing or national identity. I would like to think that the Lord allowed him to peak down into the nave of his old parish, and rejoice in the work in which he and Vivian had been so instrumental in bringing to birth.

Dr. Ed will be missed by all who had been privileged to know him. He was one a pivotal generation who was prepared to work and sacrifice to join the Orthodox Church in a day when the cost for doing so was very high. If conversion to Orthodoxy is now somewhat easier, this owes much to Dr. Ed and those of his generation who were prepared to pay the price and hold the door open for us. Our debt of gratitude to him and those like him is very great.”

By Fr. Lawrence Farley

No Other Foundation

 

 

Archimandrite John Maitland Moir A documentary

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Here is a brief Vimeo documentary — An observational portrait exploring the bonds between an elderly Greek Orthodox priest and the woman who tirelessly takes care of him and offering rare video footage of a truly exceptional priest. Anybody who met him, especially in his last decade, experienced the otherworldliness, radiance and holiness he emanated. I had the blessing to meet him at a friend’s house. I believe this rare documentary allows us insights into his holiness, even at the frailty of his old age. +Memory Eternal

Born: 18 June, 1924, in Currie. Died: 17 April, 2013, in Edinburgh, aged 88

 

Father John Maitland Moir, priest of the Orthodox Church of St Andrew in Edinburgh, founder of many smaller Orthodox communities throughout Scotland and Orthodox chaplain to the University of Edinburgh, died peacefully in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 17 April, 2013.

 

A man of profound holiness and bedazzling eccentricity, of boundless compassion and canny wisdom, utterly selfless and stubbornly self-willed, serenely prayerful and fiercely self-disciplined, Father John will surely earn a place as a unique and outstanding figure in the ecclesiastical annals of Scotland.

 

He was born in 1924 in the village of Currie where his father was the local doctor; his fondness for his mother was always mingled with quiet pride in the fact that she was a member of the lesser aristocracy. The privileged but somewhat severe upbringing of an only child in this household together with a chronic weakness in his knees kept him apart from the hurly-burly of boyhood and directed him from an early age to more spiritual and intellectual pursuits.

 

After his schooling at Edinburgh Academy, he went on to study Classics at Edinburgh University during the war years, his never robust health precluding any active military service. After the war, and a short spell as Classics Master at Cargilfield School in Perthshire, he moved to Oxford to continue classical studies at Christ Church and theological studies at Cuddesdon Theological College.

 

His interest in Eastern Christendom was awakened in Oxford and he eagerly seized the opportunity to study at the famous Halki Theological Academy in Istanbul in 1950-51. During this year he also travelled in the Holy Land and Middle East and forged friendships in the Eastern churches which he maintained throughout his life.

 

On his return to Scotland he was ordained in the Scottish Episcopalian Church, which he was to serve faithfully for the next 30 years. His first charge was as curate at St Mary’s in Broughty Ferry, then for a period of six years he taught at St Chad’s College, Durham. He returned to Scotland in 1962 as curate in charge of the Edinburgh Parish of St Barnabas and as honorary chaplain at St Mary’s Cathedral, then in 1967 he moved north to the Diocese of Moray where he served as chaplain to the Bishop of Moray and latterly as Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Inverness.

 

His devotion to his pastoral and liturgical duties as well as his personal holiness and prayerfulness inspired a sense of awe in his loyal parishioners. Only his habit of wearing the kilt beneath his cassock provoked a reprimand from his Bishop, who was more than somewhat bewildered by Father John’s fervent and unbending Scottish patriotism.

 

The Scottish Episcopalian Church which Father John loved and served was, he believed, a church with special affinities with the Eastern churches: his eyes would light up when explaining how the Liturgy of Scottish Episcopalian Church, like those of the East, contained an epiclesis.

 

With the passing of the years, however, he became convinced that the Scottish Episcopalian Church was moving ever further away in faith and in practice from that common ground with the Orthodox Church which he had also come to know and love and whose prayer he had made his own.

 

 In 1981, he resigned from his position in the Diocese of Moray and travelled to Mount Athos where he was received into the Orthodox Church at the Monastery of Simonopetra. He returned to Britain to serve now as an Orthodox priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain with utter devotion for a further full 30 years.

 

After three years in Coventry, Father John returned to Scotland where he united the two small Orthodox communities in Edinburgh, one Slavonic and one Greek, into the single Orthodox Community of St Andrew. At the same time, he travelled tirelessly around the country by bus, serving often tiny groups of Orthodox Christians in Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth, Dundee, St Andrews, Stirling and elsewhere.

 

For Father John, the Orthodox Church was what his beloved C S Lewis would call “mere Christianity” transcending the bounds of nationality and language and embracing all who seek to live a Christian life – the scandal of the cross and the glory of the resurrection. It also embraced for him the most precious elements in the Christian history of Scotland, especially that 
vision of Christianity expressed in figures such as St Columba and St Cuthbert.

 

An ascetic by nature, his interest was in a practical Christianity nourished by prayer and tradition, rather than in the aesthetic refinements and intellectual gymnastics that attract many Westerners to the Orthodox Church. Not without opposition from members of his flock, Father John introduced English as the common language of worship and succeeded in creating a truly international community reflecting the many nationalities of the Orthodox students studying at the Scottish Universities and of the Orthodox families living and working in Scotland.

 

As the Orthodox Church in Scotland grew in numbers through migration from traditionally Orthodox countries, so did the proportion of Scottish members who found themselves at home in the community. His role as chaplain to the University of Edinburgh was one he took very seriously.

 

The Chapel of St Andrew, set up at first in his house in George Square and then transferred to the former Buccleuch Parish School by the Meadows, lay at the heart of the university complex; the daily services held there with unfailing regularity and its ever open door provided and continues to provide a firm point of reference for countless students.

 

The Chapel of St Andrew, however, was also the base for his work at the other Edinburgh universities and throughout Scotland – work now being continued with equal zeal and selflessness by two gifted priests, Father Avraamy and Father Raphael. Father John subjected himself to an almost unbelievably austere ascetic regime of fasting and prayer, while at the same making himself available to everyone who sought his assistance, spiritual or material, at all times of day and night.

 

His care for down-and-out people in Edinburgh provoked admiration and no little concern in many parishioners who would come to the church, which was also his home, only to find him calmly serving coffee with aristocratic gentility to a bevy of homeless alcoholics or to find a tramp asleep on his sofa. He was tireless in his efforts to help the victims of torture and Christians throughout the world who were persecuted.

 

Few days would pass without him writing a letter of support for someone in prison or in mortal danger. He had inherited a comfortable fortune but he died penniless, having dispersed all his worldly assets to the deserving and undeserving in equal measure. His habits of life would have marked him as a caricature of Scottish parsimony had they not been joined to an extraordinary generosity of spirit.

 

All his voluminous correspondence was meticulously hand-written on scraps of recycled paper and dispatched by second-class mail in re-used envelopes, whether he was writing to dukes and prelates or to the indigent and distressed. For many years, he was a familiar sight on the streets of Edinburgh as he passed by on his vintage electric bicycle, his black cassock and long white beard furling in the wind.

 

As his physical strength ebbed away, he was comforted by the love and care of those who looked to him as their spiritual father and by the ministrations and devotion of his fellow clergy. He was also tended by the medical expertise of the Greek doctors of the community towards whom he never ceased to express his gratitude.

 

The last year of his remarkable life was perhaps the most remarkable of all. Completely bed-ridden, nearly blind and almost totally deaf, he devoted himself even more fully to prayer, especially to prayer for the continued unity, harmony, well-being and advancement of the Orthodox communities in Scotland.

 

On the day he died, an anonymous benefactor finally sealed the purchase of the former Buccleuch Parish Church for the Orthodox Community of St Andrew in Edinburgh thus securing a material basis for the realisation of the spiritual vision that had inspired Father John throughout his life.May his memory be eternal!

 

Read more insights into the delightful Father John Maitland-Moir, the beloved octogenarian founding priest of the Edinburgh at Orthodox in the District

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/obituary-archimandrite-john-maitland-moir-priest-1-2911536