January 9, 2021

The Scandal of (Divine?) Revenge

By Metropolitan Joseph of Buenos Aires

To my surprise I read a transcript of an interview with the Patriarch of Moscow on the Russian channel Россия-1 on the occasion of the recent Christmas celebration according to the Old Calendar. In this interview, His Holiness assures that "the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque last July is a punishment from God to Patriarch Bartholomew for granting the autocephalous tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."*

I re-read this sentence, which summarizes the whole interview, and the surprise turned into frustration and discomfort.

And I wonder: How is it possible that the head of a local Orthodox Church has expressed such a crisis so lightly? On what oracle is the reality of this interpretation of the Russian primate based, attributing it to divine activity? And finally, what is the theological justification - not religious, of course - that justifies divine punishment and revenge against human deeds, according to the context in which the Patriarch claims?

It is unfathomable at this point in history to deal in the Orthodox Church with religious beliefs that have always been foreign to the Tradition of our Church. And even more: to formulate such theological conjectures, and to adapt and identify them with the reality we live in.

The interpretation of reality expressed in this interview is extreme even for a simple Christian.

How is it possible to relate-identify the human will with the Divine Providence, with the judgment, with the anger, with the revenge of God? Obviously, from the point of view of an extremely institutionalized, structured and nationalized religion, it is possible, as in this context all the mechanisms of manipulation-distortion of the illuminating Revelation of God are created, which make it more functional in terms of the interests and propaganda of a purely introverted institution.

In the Orthodox Church this is nowhere to be found.

I was offended. And I am very saddened, as in addition to the existing administrative-institutional dispute between two local Churches, proposals and decisions declared as "ex cathedra" - like today - confuse and scandalize ordinary believers - such as the writer - who try to promote through the Church the message of love, devotion and the glory of our resurrected Christ, in order to bring comfort in this way to the lives of all people, especially at this time.

Today, humanity is living in a time of unprecedented ordeal, desolation and uncertainty. It is unfathomable for people, ordinary believers, to read or listen to such explosive accusations, which underestimate the tradition of watchfulness and prayer.

What the religious managers interpret as the wrath, revenge and punishment of God, the Orthodox identify with His Providence, which is His condescension, His justice, as a crisis of repentance and expectation and, of course, His infinite and unwavering love for the whole world, for all people, sinners and the weak.

* https://infovaticana.com/2021/01/07/patriarca-de-rusia-la-conversion-de-santa-sofia-un-castigo-divino-a-bartolome/

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.