The End of Reason
The end of year holiday season is stressful enough on its own, but Metropolitan Methodios made sure that this festive and holy season remained a period of anxiety, pain and spiritual numbness for hundreds of St. Athanasius parishioners. The Metropolitan stubbornly continued to be heartless, blind and deaf to the pleas of the Arlington Orthodox Christian community now in true turmoil and in need of pastoral tenderness and healing.
The cacophony of the Metropolis actions, arguments, announcements, letter-writing, web-postings, accusations and sermons reached a crescendo in December of 2017. Realizing that mud-slinging accusations of 'financial improprieties' against Fr. Nicholas Kastanas on the Metropolis web-site, did not persuade anyone, the Metropolitan resorted to acts that can only be described as pure intimidation!
The Metropolitan invited (read, ordered) as many priests as he could find at St. Athanasius, on December 3rd, for a vesper service for the feast of St. Barbara, where he would be presiding.
|Area priests gathered for the feast of St. Barbara's vespers at St. Athanasius.|
At the end of the service, priests and lay people were subjected to an 'awe-inspiring', well rehearsed (1) sermon by Fr. Panteleimon Manoussakis. Fr. Manoussakis reading from a prepared script said: 'When our devotion is centered on the person of the priest instead of Christ, of whom the priest is only a sign and reminder, then the priest has failed. Such a priest becomes an obstruction that hides Christ from his parishioners. In short, he becomes a "Christ" instead of Christ, that is an "anti-Christ".
The 'sermon' was promptly published in it entirety on the Facebook page of St. Athanasius. For all of those that heard and read these words, the 'anti-Christ' label was an unmistakable accusation against Fr. Kastanas. The signs of love and respect of the St. Athanasius parishioners for their priest of 30 years, were now twisted and labelled an 'anti-Christian' devotion.
These shameless accusations certainly did no sit well with Fr. Kastanas's parishioners and supporters, and continued to promote alienation, turmoil and disappointment towards the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston. Any hope that Metropolitan Methodios was interested in finding a path to reconciliation and unity with the St. Athanasius community was dashed.
On December 20th, it was time for the Metropolitan's special emissary, Fr. Andrew Demotses, to come back with his 'final letter to the parishioners'. The 6 page letter not once offered a Christmas greeting of hope and reconciliation, but instead proceeded to repeat tired accusations against Fr. Kastanas and the parishioners that support him.
His message of 'unity' was essentially this:
"We are not obliged to carry on endless arguments that are futile and unforgiving. Rather, we are called upon to confront the truth. Should people persist in denying the truth we are obliged to move on without them".
In sorter form, 'If you can't accept our version of the 'truth' get lost!'
Fr. Demotses's letter was again posted on the Metropolis web site, demonstrating once again that this was not a pastoral message to St. Athanasius parishioners, but pure propaganda by the Metropolis of Boston to impose its will and squelch any descending voices.
How can Fr. Demotses reason (2) that a community can 'move on' without 90% of it members? And when did Christ ever gave up on anyone that did not accepted him immediately? Does he forget how and when St. Paul finally accepted Christ?
Two days after Christmas, M. Methodios announced that he was ready to appoint a new parish priest. His letter, in addition to 'admiration and gratitude' for Fr. Demotses, included the following:
'In the New Year before us lies more opportunity for spiritual growth and renewal. Here at St. Athanasius, let us move ahead with a reinvigorated community environment that embodies the teachings of the Gospel. In unity, I pray that each of us will carry this message forward.'
How can Metropolitan Methodios reason that after the community fabric of St. Athanasius had been torn to pieces from his inattention, actions and refusal to listen and understand, that the parish is now ready for re-invigoration in unity? Did he simply reason that after the passage of five months, during which he hid from the people that were asking for his pastoral attention, now unity and vigor would be restored by simply exhorting for spiritual growth and renewal?
In reality, Metropolitan Methodios should have reflected on the so carefully crafted words of Fr. Manoussakis. As the events of the last five months have demonstrated (both at the Archdiocese as well as the local level), Church hierarchs can just as easily become an obstruction that hides Christ from their flock.
For now, I will ignore the deep problems of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and it hierarchy, and focus at the ones facing the St. Athanasius parish and the Metropolis of Boston.
The future of our beloved St. Athanasius parish is bleak. Increasingly, we have witnessed many faithful families and stewards of St. Athanasius, young and old, 'Easter bunnies' and regular attendees, those of much faith and doubters, Orthodox born and converts to the faith so disillusioned with the Church leadership, that they are not attending Church services, directing their stewardship of time and talent elsewhere, not bringing their children and grandchildren to Church! The flock so attentively gathered in the safety of Christ's Church is scattering!
Fr. Manussakis sermon, heavy on our need to obey the bishop, also included this: 'This is the salvific role of the Bishop: to gather the scattered members of the Church into the unity of the one bread and the one chalice of the Eucharist which he has the right to celebrate. He alone is the celebrant. He alone is the unifying principle'
And again, I ask how can Metropolitan Methodios reason that he has accomplished his 'salvific' role? Where are the actions and courage that demonstrate his willingness and capacity to fulfill his role?
The Metropolitan may publicly put the blame on 'anti-Christ' priests, faithful that don't understand what they are worshiping, children that are played by their parents, Church factions of various kinds, and many other eloquently crafted reasons, but when he is alone in the altar, facing the crucified Christ, preparing to invoke the Holy Spirit to change the offerings of bread and wine to the body and blood of the Lamb of God, do those eloquent excuses hold enough truth, remorse and understanding?
We hope and pray for him in every Divine Liturgy that God keeps him 'ορθοτομούντα τον λόγον της Σης αληθείας ' (i.e that God makes him capable to discern the truth) and make the right decisions for our beloved Greek Orthodox Church.
Can Metropolitan Methodios reason with us how his handling of the events at St. Athanasius and his decisions along the way will bring unity, faith in Christ, and spiritual vigor to the parishioners and the Greek Orthodox of the Metropolis of Boston, or is this the end of reason?
- Apparently the same sermon had been delivered at St. Nektarios, in Roslindale by Fr. Manoussakis
- Reasoning: the action of thinking about something in a logical, sensible way