Monday, February 4, 2013

On Tuesday night I received a call from the 911 dispatcher, asking me to respond to a traffic fatality. As I left the monastery I prayed that whomever had been killed was not a young person, and that it was not someone I knew. When I arrived at the accident scene, I immediately recognized my neighbors, and knew the fatal accident had taken the life of their seventeen year old son, Ryan Krug. The following was my address to over one thousand people who attended the memorial service that took place Sunday afternoon, in the Vashon High School gym.
Abbot Tryphon

Bound Together in a Community of Sorrow

Many years, ago, I met Richard, Rose, Savannah, and Ryan on a forest trail, where we discovered to our joy, we have many connections: we are connected in very general ways as people who live on Vashon Island. We are connected more intimately in that we live quite close to one another in the Dockton neighborhood. Even more intimately, we share a religious and ethnic link to Russian Orthodoxy. And now, quite tragically, we are connected and forever bound to one another in our grief at the untimely death of young Ryan Krug, beloved son, brother and friend. Four people, now bound together in mourning. And even further still, the intimacy of grief that I share with Rose, Richard and Savannah envelops all of us here today in the most intimate of relationship. We are now bound together in a community of sorrow.

And we need to mourn. One of the most tremendously rewarding and challenging aspects of the priesthood is comforting people in their darkest moments of sorrow. Do not be mistaken, and think that priests, monks and chaplains are exempt from the pain of those whom they try to comfort, or that we have magical words that somehow ease the pain or bring order to the chaos of grief. Platitudes are useless in dark days of mourning. Ryan may very well be “in a better place,” but it is oddly of little comfort to say those words. In a powerful witness of human behavior, Christ “does not say, ‘Well, now he is in heaven, everything is well; he is separated from this difficult and tormented life.’ Christ does not say all those things we do in our pathetic and uncomforting attempts to console. In fact he says nothing—he weeps.”

In like fashion, we need to embrace the grief that we feel at the loss of Ryan in our lives. We need to honor the bereavement process, because just as God gave Ryan to us for seventeen wonderful years, so too God has blessed us with the grief that we feel at Ryan’s leaving. Grief is confirmation that Ryan was a person of value, a beloved son, a cherished brother, a treasured friend. Grief is how we honor a well-lived life. His death is grief-worthy, and all the more so because of his tender age. In grieving, we do his memory justice, and follow in the example of Jesus, who wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Like martyrs of the ancient church, like Lazarus in the New Testament, that Ryan departed from this world before his time was up makes his death particularly galling for those of us left behind to wonder how we are going to the fill the space that he once occupied. The mystery of a future without Ryan is a daunting, right now, as the mystery of death itself.

As a priest and monk of the Russian Orthodox Church, I am comfortable with this mystery, as all Christians should be. Death can be a mystery precisely because the triumph over death is not a mystery. As the Russian Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann wrote, “in essence, Christianity is not concerned with coming to terms with death, but rather with the victory over it.” In the light of everlasting life, in the name of Jesus Christ, the dreadful threat and dark mystery that is death is transformed into a happy and victorious event for the believer, and “Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Cor. 15:54)

So mourning is an ancient ritual, one in which Jesus participated, and those of his faith before him. For all of us, all people, death is a common element of humanity, the common trait that we share, and the common enemy of our loved ones. And like grief, victory over death binds people together in a larger, more powerful community, the community that is found in the Christian faith. People accuse Christians of being members of a “death cult,” obsessed with a dying savior and focused on the afterlife to the exclusion of the present; but they are wrong. Christianity does not deny life, Christianity affirms life. Christianity affirms life even in death, because for Christians, death does not remove the relationship that exists. In death, as in life, Ryan is our son, Ryan is our brother, Ryan is our friend. In death, as in life, we love and honor Ryan, and death cannot take him from us. Death has taken Ryan, but it has also provided us with the opportunity to live with the hope of one day joining him. And a life with hope is a good life.

So for us, Ryan’s death is the beginning of the true life that also awaits us beyond the grave, if indeed we have begun to live it here. Christ, “the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25) transformed death. Christ assumed human flesh, Christ was crucified, resurrected, ascended to heaven and waits for us there, and Christ ushers us into new life both now and after our death. Therefore, even as death exposes our frailty and our grief, death does not reveal our finiteness; instead it reveals our infiniteness, our eternity. To this end, the Christian does not ponder the mystery of death in a way that is paralyzing, negative and apathetic, but in a way that is productive, positive and dynamic.

God, to whom you have entrusted your soul, is a good and perfect God. This God will do what is right with your child, what is just with your brother, and what is honorable with your friend. There is no saying, no claim, no scripture that will give us peace in our loss right now or even calm our troubled souls; but we can find comfort and peace in God who is present with us, and in us and through us today as we gather in the intimacy of grief, to mourn the death of Ryan.

Monday February 4, 2013 / January 22, 2013

36th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.

Apostle Timothy of the Seventy (ca. 96).
Monk-martyr Anastasius the Persian (628).
Venerable Macarius, abbot of Zhabyn (1623).
New Hieromartyrs John, Nicholas, Jacob, Peter, John, John, John and Euthymius priest (1938).
Martyr Anastasius the Deacon of the Kiev Caves (12th c.).
Martyrs Manuel, George, Peter, Leontius, bishops; Sionius, Gabriel, John, Leontus, Parodus, presbyters; and 377 companions in Bulgaria (814).
St. Joseph Samakus the Sanctified of Crete (1511) (Greek).
St. Brithwald of Wilton (1045) (Celtic & British).
St. Wendreda, virgin of March.

You can read the life of the saint in green, by click on the name.

THANK YOU, to all of you who have been able to contribute towards the support of the monastery. These difficult times of economic hardship have impacted the monastery, and those of you who have been able to donate, have been our lifeline. May God bless you for your generosity, and kindness.
With love in Christ,  
Abbot Tryphon

Donations can be made directly to the monastery through PayPal, or you may send donations to:

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA

Ephesians 1:22-2:3

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

By Grace Through Faith

2 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Mark 10:46-52

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

46 Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.
Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”
50 And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.
51 So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.

I invite my readers to listen to my Ancient Faith Radio podcasts.

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