Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ash Wednesday Address and Letter of H.H. the Papa-Prince


The following is the Ash Wednesday address of H.H. the Papa-Prince of Rome-Ruthenia.

Grace and peace as we begin this Lenten season during the 15th modern anniversary of the Imperial Roman Church. Established in ancient origins, we carry the Pontifical Orthodox Old Catholic faith forward today. Orthodoxy – right believing. Catholic – universal. Old – the continual faith of the Apostles and Church Fathers. Pontifical – linked to the historic Roman empire, both eastern and western. We are of several rites, but one faith.

     This day, Ash Wednesday, is an ancient tradition of the Church – one of a variety of such traditions that have different variations throughout Christendom. Its annual observation not only serves to begin this season of penance in preparation for the coming Paschal feast, but helps to tie us together with the Christian people who went before us over the last 2000 years and with the Christian people in different parts of the world, which God created in beautiful diversity. This, among our other traditions, speaks to the fact that the Church of Christ knows neither time nor space. Indeed, traditions may vary in different parts of the world, but at their core, they represent a common belief. Even these differences in tradition should unite rather than divide.

     Yet, it seems that the Christian people would prefer self-righteous bickering to humble, authentic unity. Some Christian communities are so arrogant that they demand complete and total assimilation and subjugation, wanting to absorb one and all like an amoeba. This is certainly a shame, for such communities are denied by their own actions the joys of fellowship with other Christians. If they think this is what Christ wanted, then I suggest that they are sadly mistaken.

     In Our See and in its affiliated organisations, I expect all people to promote an authentic unity. This does not mean one must compromise on elements of doctrine and tradition. Those matters will be resolved in God’s own time. Rather, we can be reconciled with one another by finding common ground and in seeking to cooperate and come together, in fellowship and service if in nothing else. That alone would be a major step, and it has been the cornerstone of Our pontificate.

     This division within the church is mirrored in the division in the world today. Just as we see certain branches of the church, so too do we see certain countries, bloated with blind, self-righteous arrogance, attempt to force assimilation of other countries around the world into their beliefs and customs, and ultimately under their dominion. This is promoted both by governments and by corporate interests. Neither government nor corporations are inherently evil but are only as good or evil as the people managing them and the philosophies that they promote. Much of the world has lost its values, which we can only hope is temporary. A society without values is as a ship without a compass, floating aimlessly to be taken wherever the waves take it or wherever another vessel directs it. Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope, a beacon of light, in those who are willing to fight and risk all to preserve traditional Christian values. Let them be our inspiration as we begin this Lenten season.

     And, I will remind each of you as I frequently do that penance and denial need not be what you eat or what you do not eat. There are those who are hypocrites who make great show of fasting and abstinence, but harbour hatred and egotism inside. Culinary denial can be beneficial spiritually if done with the right mindset and intent. Yet, it is not the only way. My favourite method of penance and self-denial is to give of yourself to others, quietly serving through small acts of charity, expecting nothing in return. Ultimately let God be your guide in penance through this Lenten season, and do not be judgmental of others whose path of penance in preparation may be different from your own.

     Lastly, may God bless each of you through this Lenten journey, that we may be entirely ready to receive and experience fully the joys of Paschal feast and season.