Living in a Time of Uncertainty

[Spring/Summer, 2002]

by Fr. John Shimchick

"I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me." - Terence (Roman playwright (185—159 BC)

   Before September of last year it would have been referred to as the "site directly below, directly above, or at the point of detonation of a nuclear weapon." Since then it is known as the place where the World Trade towers collapsed – the site of destruction and horror. In April, some who had lost loved ones and friends in New York attended the anniversary of the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City in solidarity with the people of Oklahoma - because it was "their ground zero." Perhaps as the definition of "ground zero" expands it will simply be known as "an experience or event which results in one’s life never being the same again."

   Some of us already understand what this means. But no doubt, all of us will come to know it, one way or another, eventually. It will be an experience alien to none of us. Humanly speaking, it will most likely take place through some profound loss or change: the loss of loved ones, or of a job, the breakdown in relationships, knowing someone whose memory is disappearing.

   But whether we have known it through human experience, all of us have already undergone this experience spiritually. All of us, having been baptized, have undergone something which, if we would allow it, would prevent us from living our lives in the same old way. "We were buried with Him through baptism into death," wrote St. Paul in the text read on Holy Saturday and during the Baptism Service," that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).

   Those of us baptized as children may forgot about the implications which this "newness of life" was meant to bring about. But for those baptized as adults, especially for those in the early Church, the significance of Baptism was profound. Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his classic study, Of Water and the Spirit, wrote: "A Christian of the past knew not only intellectually but with his entire being that through Baptism he was placed into a radically new relationship with all aspects of life and with the ‘world’ itself; that he received, along with his faith, a radically new understanding of life."

   In this issue and during this time of uncertainty, we are concerned with the theme of how are we to understand our life, when we can no longer – or should no longer - live it the same old way.

   Our response begins with certain "rediscoveries." We look again at the "Sacraments of Entry" – Baptism, Chrismation, and the Eucharist – as the means by which God gives us life, purpose, and nourishment. Fr. Michael Plekon introduces us to Paul Evdokimov, an Orthodox theologian whose life and work encompassed many of the key moments of the 20th century. Dr. Daniel Gottlieb responds to the questions of where is God in the moments of suffering and what is the value of intercessory prayer. Dennise Krause offers some suggestions for consoling those who have suffered pregnancy or new born loss.

   We offer an interview with our new Chancellor, Fr. Yaroslav Sudick, who has been working diligently to improve many areas of Diocesan life. Fr. Alexander Garklavs looks at the legacy of Fr. Alexander Warnecke – on the first year anniversary of his death. There are reviews of lectures, liturgical music workshops, and other parish activities. We also have book and movie reviews, poetry, and other features related to Diocesan reactions to the events of September 11.

   Fr. Vasileios of Mt. Athos wrote that the life of a monk, but as well that of any Christian, is "a losing and a finding." May the sense of loss which has changed so many lives, result in the finding of the One whose suffering "has set us free from suffering," Jesus Christ, "the light which shines in the darkness."

 

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