Representing Orthodoxy

On being ambassadors for the Faith

It was relatively late in my life when I embraced Orthodoxy. Having wandered in a spiritual wasteland, and knowing I was drying up spiritually, I found myself looking for something that would fill the void. Orthodoxy had not been in my scope, seeming, as it were, to be some exotic, eastern form of a Christian faith that had become stagnant for me.

I was aware of the Orthodox claims to being the very Church founded by Christ.  I had witnessed the majesty of her divine services, and the beauty of her temples. I’d tasted a small portion of the sublime mystical theology that seemed to be intuitive in nature, rather based in the logic and reason that had formed much of Western Christianity.

Yet the seemingly splintered nature of American Orthodoxy put me off, what with the myriad of ethnic expressions of a faith that claimed to be the One True Church, and the strong nationalistic nature of some parishes. Yet, as I think back, American Lutheranism was much the same when I was young, with the Norwegians, Germans, Danes, Finns, Swedes, and Latvians, all separated into difference denominations, with independent administrations.

As a man who held religious and politically liberal views, I found the Orthodox Church’s positions to be backward looking, devoid of charity, and downright medieval to my mind. Her clergy, at least the ones I’d met, seemed unfriendly and standoffish. Sadly, I made sweeping judgements of the whole of Orthodoxy while standing from the vantage point of looking from the outside. I judged the Orthodox Church after having met but a few of her clergy. This seems particularly sad to me in hindsight, but this seems to be a common observation by many outsiders.

Now that I am within the walls of the Orthodox Church, and a priest myself, I try to be open, friendly, and approachable at all times, lest I, too, serve as a barrier for others. We clergy are the most visible ambassadors of the faith, and often the first to represent Orthodoxy to outsiders. If we are closed off, aloof, and unapproachable, we will be nothing but an obstacle to others, and they will not come close enough to Orthodoxy to be able to “taste and see”.

If we are unloving and worldly, we will have hidden Christ’s Church from view, and others will not be drawn into the Life Giving Faith. As Christ’s priests, we are called to show forth His light in the way we live our lives, and the way we love others, all the while ushering the Light of Christ into a darken world that needs Orthodoxy, now more than ever.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Saturday August 11, 2018 / July 29, 2018
11th Week after Pentecost. Tone one.
St. Olaf, king of Norway (1030) (Celtic & British).
Martyr Callinicus of Gangra in Asia Minor (250).
New Hieromartyrs Venerables Seraphim (Bogoslovsky) and Theognost (1921).
New Hieromartyr Anatole (1930-1935).
New Hieromartyr Alexis priest, and Martyr Pachomius (1938).
Venerables Constantine and Cosmas, abbots of Kosinsk (Pskov) (13th c.).
Virgin-martyr Seraphima (Serapia) of Antioch (2nd c.).
Martyr Theodota and her three sons, in Bithynia (304).
Martyr Michael (9th c.).
Martyr Eustathius of Mtskheta in Georgia (589) (Georgia).
St. Constantine, patriarch of Constantinople (676).
The Nativity of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker from Myra in Lycia (4th c.)
Venerable Romanus, abbot of Kirzhach (1392), disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh.
Translation of Velikoretsky Icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker from Viatka to Moscow (1555).
St. Theodosius the New, emperor (450).
St. Lupus the Confessor, bishop of Troyes (479).
Martyr Mamas in Darii.
Martyrs Benjamin and Berius of Constantinople (Greek).
Martyr Basiliscus the Elder (Greek).
Hieromartyr Bessarion of Smolyan, Bulgaria (1670).

The Scripture Readings

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Gifts at Corinth

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may beblameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 19:3-12

3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus Teaches on Celibacy

11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

14 comments:

  1. I have been taught by my catechist, who continues to be my friend, to not disregard or disrespect my religious past, which was not Orthodox. Meaning that it has some grace, and is not the totally bad opposite of good Orthodox faith. With that appreciation in mind, it is easier for me to feel that the postmodern world and the U.S.A. in particular are “good enough” places in which to be happily Orthodox, not a spiritual wasteland. And the Church is Heaven on earth, but we still have a physical and social presence in this world, so it seems wise to be somewhat unconditionally happy with wherever God situates us on earth. I wouldn’t want to be picky, given that God, not anyone else, is ultimately in charge of the world, and He expects gratitude.

    If ~70% of Americans self-identify as Christians on official surveys, why not carefully agree with their collective faith-intention, even though many of them are in heretical and schismatic denominations? I also think things could be far worse in terms of a spiritual wasteland, as in past times of governmental persecution of Christians that generally oppressed everyone in those societies.

    The West and America are sick, and can appear collectively reluctant to repent in Christ and return to His Kingdom and warm embrace, but these entities are still lovable and enjoyable, like any sinner is, so I intend to see the good in our challenged civilization and nation. This choice is about gratitude and ecumenical cooperation with other kinds of self-described Christians and various spiritual seekers, not nationalism or naively pretending nothing’s wrong (much of contemporary life is wrong and thus upsetting, but this painful experience encourages us to rely on God alone).

    I think the canonical Orthodox churches located in America would benefit from greater dialogue with other religions and Christian denominations, to together communicate with secular and/or unbelieving people and non-Orthodox society at large. It would surely be easier for us and our great representatives, the clergy, to express Orthodoxy, despite barriers such as nationalism and unfriendliness, if we had more positive ecumenical experience. I find studying other churches and religions, which could seem to be part of a wasteland, a fun way to get perspective and further value the unique truth of Orthodoxy.

    I hope we can both keep strong, ecclesial Orthodox boundaries and be happily inclusive as Americans and Westerners.

      1. Thank you for such a laconic reply and warning. After briefly watching some immoral television yesterday, I remembered some of the reasons why many Americans are dissatisfied with our nation.

        This quote is an enlightening prophecy as is, but also very short and simple, without context, so it’s hard to understand.

        Did Schema-Monk Ignatius mean that revolution and apostasy would come to America? That already happened in the 19th century, and the nation survived a Civil war, by God’s grave and forgiveness. Sp I really am not sure what he meant “began in Russia”. The quasi-regicidal assassinations of several American presidents began before the Russian Revolution and martyrdom of the Russian czar and ruling class, and apostasy from traditional religions is a global phenomenon in modernity, not only in the Christian West or Russia and America. Revolutions and atheism are sadly consistent parts of modern life, seemingly everywhere. I whimsically don’t expect this era called modernity to last any longer than God wants it to.

        I also see that American-style free markets and consumerist culture have a substantial place in today’s Russia. So I ultimately suppose that the social currents of history travel across national borders, and human sins and problems are not so national in origin. I do not like to assign origination of America’s problems to Russia’s past, or vice versa. I think we suffer together, as one human race, across space and time.

      1. On a Sunday morning, Americans who identify with being Christian (but have left the Church of their past or never quite joined Her) are stuck in an artificially atheistic lifestyle that they are ashamed of and want to change – they wish they had the grace to come back to Church and Christian living, and we have the God-given opportunity to welcome them. They often yearn to get back to the Church of their childhood, for which they have mostly legitimate nostalgia; they struggle to forgive and submit to God, who they have confused grievances towards, as if He is not perfect (it is difficult to worship a perfect being while trying to understand His nature and ways, because He is ineffable and hidden, but they really don’t know what ineffable means or why God would hide His essence); they fear the clergy and other Christians, because they lack the courage to commune with other sinners or humility to admire official elders; and so on.

        It’s a challenge to sympathetically understand American mass psychology, but they tend to watch television and sleep in on a Sunday morning, apparently avoiding Jesus, His Holy Will, and the instinctive need to repent and serve a Higher Power and spiritual purpose through acedia and mind-numbing distraction. So I think you and I mostly agree on what nominally self-identified American Christians do wrong. But I have sometimes been encouraged to make excuses for others, rather than to allow anger to tempt me into judging them. So I try to appreciate the God-given goodness of Americans, even though they are obviously sinners, much like other peoples worldwide.

        As for the hypocrisy of Americans claiming to be Christian but not walking the talk with actual church attendance and disciplined prayer and fasting, that is a national embarrassment, and an intriguing mystery to me. I suppose what one dear friend vaguely but with great sincerity said recently, that a good God must be accepting of people even when they forget or ignore Him, means that Americans do not feel personally responsible for (or spiritually potent to participate in) their relationship with Jesus Christ or organized religion.

        To cure this malaise, I believe Americans need the contemporary leadership and historical examples of meek saints, who warm our hearts and inspire us to pray with them (and be altruistic) by serving God in both the Church and secular community settings. Meaning that they need to observe and cooperate with role models who integrate piety and charity, and the range of formal and casual expressions of cheerful obedience to God.

        The big philosophical gaps are the anti-Christian ideas that charity and just behavior, which I hope all of us at least dream of doing, are not expressly attached to the Person of Jesus Christ, as if His love is only one of many worthwhile options on the love market (I say that tongue in cheek), and that traditional piety is not necessary to please God or be saved. They are deceived by anti-Church lies, and relatedly, my spiritual father said in his wonderful sermon today that Orthodox Christians consistently leave the Church or fight to change Her when they do not regularly come to confession. So an extension of that, to answer your very pertinent question further, is that Americans are avoiding confession on Sunday morning out of what feels like unbearable guilt and shame (and what was said in the sermon – people even bear pride about their sins). Americans tend to blame themselves for their typically human weaknesses, and despair over how they are sure they have disappointed God and those who represent Him, not realizing He can and already has forgiven them.

        I don’t claim that we live in a consistently upright or delightful country. Just that the people are decent, and quietly wait to encounter and follow strong, safe Christian leaders while struggling for years or decades with a heavy cultural load of theological mistakes and injurious grief that spiritually disables them.

        Finally, It’s like they think that because the 21st Century is visibly post-Christian, that’s how many must live, to fit in with the times – to conform to the world’s momentum. But when God mercifully reminds them of His love, especially in the immediately tangible person of a gentle, brave clergyman like you, they reliably return from their prodigal wandering. So hope is the positive answer – on Sunday morning, Americans are at home, imperfectly hoping to have a good, fun day.

        1. In short, the home-bound Christians are in a rut, and depending where they are attending Church, could also be very tired of the scandals and corruption, seeing it as another daily battleground instead of a place of peace, friendship and spiritual upliftment. One should come back home feeling fed and strengthened to continue the race – not depleted even more than when they arrived. Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters to receive the grace to return to their faith and endure the troubled times we are in.

  2. Thank you Father!

    I was interested in Orthodoxy 10 years before I even set foot in a parish church. I always assumed they spoke only Greek or Russian and an English speaker would be entirely out of place there. Forgive me, everyone, for this. It is the way the world sees the Church…a foreign experience. But once I had enough courage to go to a divine liturgy, I have always felt at home. What people assume and what they experience first hand are different. How do we overcome assumptions?

  3. Abbot Tryphon,
    Thank-you for being a loving light of Christ in this darkened world, embracing God’s calling in your life, and inviting others to see what you see in that calling. Jesus, Light of the world, God, in your mercy, help us to embrace the calling you have given each one of your followers, in what ever capacity we have, to be light for each other and for the ones who are still lost. Amen

  4. There were many reasons I became Orthodox. However, what really helped me know my decision was ultimately correct was Matushka of our parish, who reposed a few years ago.
    She was the most loving, kind, caring, compassionate, joyful, and gentle woman I had ever met and reminded me of my grandmother.
    During my catechumen phase and my first year or two of Orthodoxy, whenever I felt despair or sadness, Matushka just seemed to know exactly what to say to me to cheer my heart or to remind me of God’s love and compassion. She was a woman who lived God’s compassion to others and was one of the reasons I became Orthodox.

  5. Question please and thanks! Regarding the Great Blessing of the Water – I understand this is done at the Epiphany and when one is permitted to “drink” the Holy Water – is the Holy Water for drinking on that one day – Epiphany? or used for drinking during the remainder of the year until the next Epiphany? (perhaps during illness etc.) Thankyou…..

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