Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Prison Ministry
Reaching Out to Prisoners with Forgiveness

"I was in prison and you came to Me (Matthew 25:36)."
I served eight years as a volunteer Orthodox chaplain within three Washington State Prisons in Monroe, WA. With the goal of bringing the love of Christ to those, who, for whatever reason, found themselves serving hard time, I found my eyes opened to the importance of truly believing in the biblical concept of forgiveness.

Among the three prisons, I particularly remember Twin Rivers Correctional. With well over two thousand prisoners, these were the sex offenders who were deemed too dangerous to be in our communities, but possible candidates for therapy. I came away from Twin Rivers with little hope there would ever be a cure for pedophiles, but I did learn that even these people where worthy of God's forgiveness. I also came to believe that even the worst of offenders were redeemable in the eyes of God.

Many, if not most, of these sexual predators, had themselves been violated as children, so how could we simply abandon them to their perversion without making any attempt to reach out with the saving grace that comes with a relationship with Christ. Although I was blessed to baptize a number of these offenders into the life of the Church, I still remain convinced they should not be allowed to have contact with children, following their release. Nor do I believe they should be free from supervision when attending services in our parishes. That said, I do believe they can receive Christ's forgiveness, and that they are worthy of my love, as their brother in Christ.

Most men and women who are incarcerated in our nation's prisons are there for economic or drug crimes, and, if given the chance, can live productive lives in society, once released. The possibility of entering into society as truly reformed men and women, can only come about if we provide encouragement, material support, transition and reintegration services, while they are in prison, and when they are released. A solid Christian education, couched with spiritual guidance and the sacramental life of the Church, are essential for the prisoner, for, just like the rest of us, transformation of the self comes only with the grace of God, through the life of His Church.

We cannot leave these men and women to fend for themselves, for without Christ, they will be lost. It is not our place to judge them, for the courts have already done that. Once they have been sentenced, it becomes the Christ commanded role of the Church to reach out to them. The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, sponsored by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, is doing just that. They are always in need of volunteers, and the impact of such ministry can be life altering for any one of us.

I remember the very first words I would offer to new prisoners when they would come into the prison chapel, meeting me for the first time. "You reside in an all male institution (the prison), and I reside in an all male institution (the monastery). You live in a cell, and I live in a cell (monastic cell). You are in this prison because of your sins, and I am in the monastery because of my sins. You must live a life in repentance, just as I am living a life in repentance."

It is also imperative that we make every effort, both as individuals, and as parish communities, to help find jobs and housing for Orthodox prisoners, once they have been released. It makes no sense to expect them to live a respectable and godly lives on the outside, if they are broke and homeless. We cannot call ourselves Christians if we judge them for their past, and refuse to let them be an integral part of our parish life. As followers of Christ, we can do nothing less, then to love them, just as Christ loves them.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Tuesday December 3, 2013 / November 20, 2013
24th Week after Pentecost. Tone six.
Nativity (St. Philip's Fast). Fish Allowed

Forefeast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.
Venerable Gregory Decapolites (816).
St. Proclus, archbishop of Constantinople (447).
New Hieromartyrs Macarius bishop of Ecaterinoslav, Alexis, Alexander, Vladimir, John, Alexis, Basil, Nicholas, John, Emilian, Nocolos priests and Hieromartyrs Arsenius, Eutihius and Hillarion, Woman Hieromartyr Ioanicus hegumen (1937).
New Woman Hieromartyr Tatiana (after 1937).
Venerable Diodorus of George Hill (Solovki) (1633).
Martyr Dasius of Dorostolum (Romania) (303).
Martyrs Eustace, Thespesius, and Anatolius of Nicaea (312).
Hieromartyrs Nerses and Joseph; and John, Saverius, Isaac, and Hypatius, bishops of Persia; Martyrs Azades, Sasonius, Thecla, and Anna (343).
Martyrs Bautha and Denachis, who suffered with Hieromartyr Nerses of Persia (343). St. Isaac, bishop of Armenia (440). Venerable Theoctistus the Confessor (855). St. Edmund, king of England and martyr (869) (Celtic & British).
St. Sozomen of Cyprus (12th c.).

You can read the life of the saint by clicking on the highlighted name.

THANKS 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

The Scripture Readings for the Day

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?

Prayer for the Church

11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

Luke 17:26-37

26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
37 And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?”
So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

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

No comments:

Post a Comment