Source: Diocese of Alaska (OCA)
October 30, 2015
Tonight, as I flew back from Kodiak and the trial of the man who did the vandalism at Holy Resurrection Cathedral there, I began to think about what it is that the church exists for in that city. In every community, there are houses of worship of many varieties, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, as well as a plethora of other and sundry forms of religious expression. Our culture has truly become a melting pot of spiritual idealism. Our independent nature as Americans calls us to find our own path, seek our own version of God, and then be able to practice that belief unencumbered by the rules of government interference.
The trial gave me several insights into the manner that matters of faith get articulated in the arena of public dissertation. The modern “Agora”, if you will, of our discussion becomes the court room where the ideas and concepts of faith are tested not for their religious content, but for their “value” to the community. Here, whatever was held Sacred to the Orthodox Christians of Kodiak, was put to the test against the backdrop of destruction and how that destruction should be measured and valued in terms of the extent the perpetrator was guilty of a Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, and what was the actual “dollar and cents” value of what was destroyed. It mattered not what we believed, our Creed was not on trial here; but what was on trial was the level of spiritual content of the items that had been desecrated.
Questions came asking what was broken in the Cathedral? Were there windows that were damaged? Was the floor damaged? Did he take any money from the Cathedral? Can the items he destroyed be replaced? If so, how much are they worth? Are there items that cannot be repaired or replaced and can you give them a value? I sat there wondering was it only about the equivalent cash value to them? Did they not, could they not, see that what was truly damaged was the Sacred Space we hold so dear, the place where we bring our babies for Baptism, the place we bring our spouses for marriage, the place we bring our departed loved ones for burial? It was that violation of the holiness of Holy Resurrection Cathedral that was violated, and that very idea, holiness itself, that was damaged in the vicious attack.
This question of damage was answered most succinctly by Fr. Innocent in his direct testimony to the court under questioning by District Attorney Stephen Wallace. During his questioning, DA Wallace asked Fr. Innocent what was the most valuable item damaged by the perpetrator. Fr. Innocent thought for a while before he answered and then gave a most profound statement. One would have thought that he would have said St. Herman’s Cross, or perhaps the Holy Gospel, or the Tabernacle. He didn’t say any of those things. When he spoke, he said the most severe damage was to the Reserve Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Yes, he was right, it wasn’t a material thing, not golden or wooden, or old or large or small, it was that one thing that brings all of us to this church to worship God, it was His Holy Body and Blood, strewn across the floor, mixed with the broken glass, cloth, Holy Chrism Oil, and whatever else was on that floor, which he had to consume, and leave the Parish without its presence. That was the highest and most valuable item lost in the senseless destruction.
One of the hymns we sing as we come forward to receive the Holy Eucharist has the line, “Receive the Body of Christ, taste the Fountain of Immortality”. In essence, then, in this vicious attack on the church, what the church nearly lost was that “Fountain of Immortality” that is at the heart of our relationship to God. It cannot have a price put on it, it cannot be measured in worldly terms, nor can it be compared to any other earthly things, no matter how important they may be to us, as in the case of St. Herman’s Hand Cross. There is no comparison to a life of immortality promised to us by a loving God, and even the person who sought to destroy that fountain can repent and receive that precious gift of immortality, and we should all pray that he does.