by Mary Ann Bulko
“This is My Body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” [Luke 22:19].
Ah yes, remembrance – in the biblical sense it means a “reliving” — not simply recalling — of a particular event. When we are receiving the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ is actually present with us – it is not a mere recollection of Him and His words. A memory, however, is a wonderful gift that God has given us. True, there are occasions or events that we might prefer to forget – a traumatic or disastrous situation such as war or some calamity, for example. Yet even in these circumstances, there is a possibility or potential for healing, be it physical or emotional; and with God’s help and mediation, spiritual healing can occur.
In anticipation of this year’s 18th All-American Council, I pondered the archival summaries of councils and sobors from decades ago, so conveniently available through technology. For me, it became a walk down memory lane. In the late 1970s, the subject of “women delegates” to the AAC was a matter of much debate. At the Fifth AAC in 1977, “observers” were permitted to take part, including women. It wasn’t until November 1980 that the issue was finally resolved with the passage of a Statute amendment allowing women to represent their respective parishes as AAC “delegates.” Later in the 1980s, I was called upon to actually address the AAC on a serious issue concerning clergy widows. It was a matter that deserved particular attention before the entire Church body.
On another matter which I discovered in a personal archive, I found this simple yet delightful excerpt from a letter written in December 1974. “I have begun publishing ___’s articles. I believe she’s one of your ‘finds.’ Can you get her to produce a photograph of herself so that I might give her the same ‘visual’ coverage that I give all our male columnists?” That request was made by Father John Meyendorff, then Editor of The Orthodox Church newspaper, to a young priest named Father Thomas Hopko. Father John was referring to a 28-year-old “writer” who was a fairly new member of Father Thomas’ parish of Saint Gregory the Theologian in Wappingers Falls, NY.
In a truly insightful article published in TOC in 1999 titled “Finding One’s Calling in Life,” Father Thomas makes several key points. “Everyone is called to serve God and his fellow human beings in some form of life which God wills. This ‘form of life’ is not necessarily a job or profession.” He continues by citing those with disease or affliction or being an object of another’s care or disdain. “This is their vocation, and they are particularly blessed by God and loved by Christ in its acceptance and fulfillment.” He goes on saying we are called to love, know, serve and live as God does. Each person has his or her own life to sanctify and will answer for what he or she has done. And each must discover one’s own way, and thereby glorify God. All one needs to discover God’s will is “the pure desire to see, to hear, to understand and to obey. God does the rest.”
“We also need His help as it comes to us through others,” Father Thomas continued. It is here that I share my personal remembrance of him, as he was instrumental in showing me that by being “faithful in the little things of life,” one inherits much more. “Accepting who we are, where we are, how we are… struggling to sanctify our state of existence by the grace of God” is what he prescribes for all.
On the 20th anniversary of Father John’s repose in 2012, Father Leonid Kishkovsky, TOC Editor, wrote, “He knew that an educated and informed clergy and laity were necessary for a healthy Church.” Father John valued the possibilities of an experience in American Orthodoxy, having come to the United States from France. In truly appreciating the universality of the Orthodox Church, he without hesitation agreed to accept a woman’s view or perspective on Church and contemporary matters. It was because of both Fathers John and Thomas that I was given a blessed opportunity to express my love for the Church with observations on life in commentaries through a column titled “A Layperson’s View” for 30-plus years.
I’ll always remember with gratitude and humility their example as mentors and conduits to help others discover a way to serve in the name of Christ. May their memories be eternal!