Why our churches are losing members
Over the years I have heard many grief stricken parents and grandparents lament the loss of their children and grandchildren from the Church. Sad as it may be, I’m not usually surprised, for over and over I’ve heard the sad truth behind this exodus from the Church. More often than not, these parents did not raise their children to be practicing Orthodox Christians. They may have had their infant baptized, but the frequency of church attendance was not important, other than the need to keep those ethnic links to the “old country”.
Parents, unless they are serious about their faith, often look upon baptism as the moment when their child is made Orthodox, but fail to realize the Mystery of Baptism is only the beginning of a life in Christ. These same parents know childhood inoculations against diseases are important, and they understand their child’s long term health requires sound nutritional planning, exercise, and loving support for good mental health. Being loving parents, they wouldn’t think good parenting ends with that one inoculation, yet they treat baptism as though it is a magical formula that assures their child is forever connected to the ethnic heritage of the family tree.
Orthodoxy can not be seen as the ethnic link to a family’s history, anymore than ethnic dancing and ethnic food, makes one Orthodox. It is fine to be proud of one’s ethnic heritage, and want to preserve one’s ethnic language and ethnic traditions. But our ethnicity does not save us. Only Christ saves us! Being Greek or Russian will not save us, for there is no grace in one’s ethnicity. It is only putting on Christ, and becoming One Body in Christ, that will bring about salvation. We must not link ethnic preservation to our Orthodox Faith, for in Christ there is “neither Greek nor Jew…”, for in Christ, we are but ONE NATION.
It is always sad to witness churches that are packed with Sunday worshipers who are only there because they want their cultural hit for the week. Getting together with people who are from the “old country”, and who speak the language of their former country, is not what makes one Orthodox. Knowing the traditional dances from the old country, and eating ethnic foods that connect them with the old country, is fine. Yet, if these ethnic bastions only serve up cultural hits for the week, they are in danger of becoming barriers to knowing Christ. As well, if these parishes place so much emphasis on cultural and linguistic links to the old country, they are in danger of becoming nothing more than walled citadels of ethnic purity, keeping “outsiders” from entering into the Gates of Paradise. If visitors (potential seekers) to our Orthodox parishes find themselves outsiders in their own country, Orthodoxy will be seen as an ethnic club that is close off to them.
This is the reason I so strongly believe Serbs, Greeks, Russians, Bulgarians, and all other immigrants, coming into the United States to better their economic life, should be welcomed by Orthodox parishes that instruct them in the Orthodox Faith, encourage them to worship in the language of their adopted nation, and help them to become pious American Orthodox believers.
If we are not to repeat the mistakes of the past, that led to the exodus of the children and grandchildren of the last mass immigration, we must not repeat the same mistakes. If our children and grandchildren do not understand the language of worship, the faith will not become their own. And, if their friends are not made welcome in our churches, our children and grandchildren will eventually leave the Faith of their Ancestors, and we will stand, alone, wondering why our churches are empty, yet again.
With love and blessings,
Thursday March 15, 2018 / March 2, 2018
Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Adoration of Cross. Tone seven.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil
Appearance of the Kolomenskoye Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, “Reigning” (1917).
Hieromartyr Theodotus, bishop of Cyrenia (315).
St. Arsenius, bishop of Tver (1409).
Virgin-martyr Euthalia of Sicily (257).
Martyr Troadius of Neo-Caesarea (3rd c.).
Venerable Agatho of Egypt, monk (5th c.).
440 Martyrs slain by the Lombards (579).
St. Sabbatius, monk, of Tver (1434), and his disciple St. Euphrosynus (1460).
Sts. Barsanuphius (1459) and Sabbas (1467), abbots, of Tver.
St. Chad, bishop of Lichtfield, England (672) (Celtic & British).
St. Quintus of Phrygia, confessor and wonderworker (283) (Greek).
Martyr Andronicus and the virgin Athanasia (Greek).
Hieromartyrs Nestor the bishop and Tribimius the deacon of Perga in Pamphylia (250).
Martyr Hesychius the Palatine of Antioch (304).
New Martyr Theodore Sladich of Komogovina (1788).
St. Joachim (Papoulakis) of Vatopedi, Mt. Athos and Ithaca (1868).
The Scripture Readings
14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men,
Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,
15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
And with Sheol we are in agreement.
When the overflowing scourge passes through,
It will not come to us,
For we have made lies our refuge,
And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”
A Cornerstone in Zion
16 Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.
17 Also I will make justice the measuring line,
And righteousness the plummet;
The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
And the waters will overflow the hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled,
And your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
When the overflowing scourge passes through,
Then you will be trampled down by it.
19 As often as it goes out it will take you;
For morning by morning it will pass over,
And by day and by night;
It will be a terror just to understand the report.”
20 For the bed is too short to stretch out on,
And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it.
21 For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim,
He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon—
That He may do His work, His awesome work,
And bring to pass His act, His unusual act.
22 Now therefore, do not be mockers,
Lest your bonds be made strong;
For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts,
A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.
32 These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.
The Tower of Babel
11 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake themthoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people areone and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lordscattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
19 A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul,
But it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil.
20 He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
21 Evil pursues sinners,
But to the righteous, good shall be repaid.
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
23 Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
And for lack of justice there is waste.
24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
25 The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul,
But the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.
14 The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.
2 He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.
3 In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
But the lips of the wise will preserve them.
4 Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.
5 A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it,
But knowledge is easy to him who understands