A World of Speculation

Soon after becoming Orthodox, I learned that we are 13 days out of step and 15 minutes late, and it didn’t take all that long to learn to like it.

Now that I’m a pajama-clad blogger, I move Orthodox time into the news business, where this Sept. 5 article about a July event is news to me. But good news.

It’s a Greek layman talking about joint meetings of the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Orthodox Church, moving toward Church unity in North America. If you’re Orthodox, you know how important such talks are. If you’re not, here’s a parable that might explain it.

Once upon a time there were three brothers that lived next door to each other in a village in Never Never Land. They were 10 years apart in age, so they weren’t as close as they might have been, but it was a loving family, and they lived happily with their parents.

One day a local lord rode by, taking conscripts for the army, and the oldest one was drug away, never to return.

Ten years later, the lord’s son rode by, taking conscripts for a different war, and the older of the two remaining brothers was drug away, never to return.

Finally, ten years later, the lord who had defeated the prior lord came by, taking conscripts for yet another war, and dragged away the last of the three sons, leaving mother and father impoverished and longing for their children, who never returned.

The three sons didn’t die in the wars. They survived honorably, fell in love, settled down, and when opportunity arose, they took their wives and families to another place where they could live in peace and their children not be kidnapped into servitude.

They contacted their parents, who begged them to come home, but the sons replied that they were at home now and couldn’t come back.

In the meantime they had all settled in the same city. But the brothers had never really known each other, and a resentment had grown among them through the years, with the younger ones feeling abandoned by the older and the older feeling that the younger didn’t know how they had suffered. They were all struggling to get along in the new land and all tried to preserve the customs they had learned from their parents, as they remembered them, modified by the countries where they’d lived during their long exile.

But their children and grandchildren began to discover each other and find that they had more in common than differences. Others in the city also became members of the family, through marriage and friendship, and they had interest in, but no attachment to the customs that the family had acquired during the patriarchs’ exile; they wanted to be part of the original family, from the old, old country.

So by small steps and slow persuasion, the children and grandchildren closed the gap among the brothers, and finally brought them all together into one family, of blood relations and the new kind of kin, acknowledging the original parents as their ancestors and celebrating the courageous journeys of the three brothers. They finally gathered in one house at one table and proclaimed themselves brothers again.

This is a parable, not an allegory. It doesn’t faithfully portray the history of the divisions among American Orthodox, which is long and complicated and better detailed in many other elsewheres. But if you imagine this as a movie and the audience’s emotion as the credits rolled over the joyful, tear-stained faces of the aged men, then you know how we Orthodox look at prospects of reunion among our scattered jurisdictions.

UPDATE: I cross-posted this to the Conciliar Press blog.