As Meat Loves Salt:
A Plea to our Holy Synod
by Mat. Donna Farley, Surrey, BC
You have three children.
One of them declares, "I love you like sugar!"
The second hastens to assure you, "And I love you like honey!"
But the third child is reticent to speak until you prod her, and at last she says, "I love you like meat loves salt!"
This is an old and widespread story(see some examples of folk variants of many nations at http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/salt.html#lear).
Perhaps it is most familiar in the West today as Shakespeare's re-telling of the legend of King Lear. The details differ, but in most variants the youngest daughter is banished for her refusal to flatter the father who has the power of life and death over her. In her wanderings, the banished daughter has the good fortune to marry a prince. Her ungrateful father is among those invited to the wedding feast, but he does not recognize her in her bridal finery.
As each course is brought to the table, bland and unappetizing, the father is forced to admit what is missing - salt! Struck to the heart, he bemoans his unjust treatment of his youngest daughter. The royal bride reveals her true identity to him, and there is a joyful reconciliation.
This tale harks back to Our Lord's saying "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its savour, what is it good for?" (Matthew 5:13)
Our call as the people of God is to be the salt of the earth, and so to live like the third daughter in the folk tale. As the crisis in the OCA has unfolded, first a very few, then steadily growing numbers of her true and loyal children have dared to offer salty words instead of sweet, and as a result many have suffered a fall from favour. Deacon Eric Wheeler has perhaps spent the longest period in
'exile'; but now, as many other clergy and laity join their voices, perhaps we can dare hope that our parental figures, the members of the Holy Synod, will have their eyes opened to the meaning of true filial affection.
Saint Paul tells us: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18) In our present crisis, how far does this peace and reconciliation depend on the clergy and faithful of the OCA?
I believe that nearly everyone in the OCA, even those who make stinging comments on this site and elsewhere, nearly everyone wants reconciliation. What we do not want is a band-aid of good feelings covering up the wounds that are still festering beneath the surface. We do not want the conclusion to this council to be "They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14) We do not want sweet words that mask a lack of real affection.
Can we be at peace with our bishops (I ask this sadly) when they are not the first to model for us humility, repentance, changed behaviour, complete openness, simplicity and vulnerability? We have been patient. It hurts when we are preached at about reconciliation and forgiveness, while the hierarchs do not demonstrate clearly and constantly that they have changed their behaviour.
Please, please, Vladikas, before pointing out any little splinters we may have in our eyes as we simply try in conscience to be honest and do our part toward taking responsibility for the future of the OCA-- please take the logs out of your own eyes. Perhaps some critics put too much sting in their words ..but better that than honey-coated flattery.
If you wish us to forgive the dishonesty, theft, coverups, indecision and injustice then please begin by being the example of forgiveness, and forgive your loyal critics who may sometimes put more sting in their salty words than you think just.
If you wish us to be patient with you while you are in the process of repairing past harmsÑthen take the lead and show us that you are patient also with us as we are in the process of trying to trust again.
We are told to look at the good that is happening - and so it is, to some extent, but meanwhile we see, to give only one recent example, Met. Herman giving a clergy award to a priest who is being sued for breaching pastoral confidentiality. Actions speak much louder than words- what good is it asserting that things are being "reorganized", when we have such overt examples of pastoral carelessness? Would it not have been wise, let alone right and fitting, to at least postpone the giving of this award until this case was settled?
When our Metropolitan continues to behave without good sense, treating the sheep and tender lambs so callously, and his fellow shepherds do not teach him better, what are the people to say but reorganization does not bring reconciliation! These are not sweet words - but they come from genuine love. Please let us not try to leapfrog over the repentance and reparation as quickly as possible in our desire to have peace, peace, when there is no peace. Metropolitan Herman must resign, and our Holy Synod must begin anew to rebuild trust. There must be a real public and formal apology and reparation made to Eric Wheeler and any others who have been 'exiled' because of their salty words.
As for the rest of us - dare we hope this All-American Council can be a bridal feast that leads to reconciliation? Perhaps we should contact the caterers for the council venue, and instruct them to withold salt from every dish on the menu. It would certainly make an impression on all participants. But in the meetings I think we had best not go without the salty talk of truth. The message of resulting blandness, I fear, would be too subtle as we try to right the wrongs that brought us to this place.
Dear hierarchs - lead us by godly example, and you may be surprised at how willingly and joyously you are followed, even by those who have voiced strong criticism! Please remember King Lear, and how the daughter who refused to flatter him was the one whose love proved truest.
Mat. Donna Farley
St. Herman of Alaska Church, Langley BC