Living as Orthodox Christians in a non-Christian world
In this pluralistic society there are many Orthodox individuals who’ve found themselves sharing their lives with non-Orthodox family members. Sometimes these families are not even practicing Christians, so the struggle to keep to the traditions and practices of the Orthodox Faith can be difficult. The lenten periods can be especially hard when the whole family is eating meat, eggs and dairy, while the Orthodox member is required by the Church to fast.
Even the blessing prayers before each meal can be awkward when other members of one’s household are not believers. There are also those Sunday mornings or feast days when other members of one’s family want to head for the beach, but you’re needing to be in church for the Divine Liturgy. The difficulty of being true to one’s faith can be even more difficult if your family members hold to anti-religious sentiments.
I remember an uncle who was so hostile towards religion that he forbade my aunt and cousins to attend church. Although he was an extreme example, there are many Orthodox Christians who struggle to live their faith in an environment that is not conducive to the spiritual life. This hostility towards our Orthodox Christian faith can also even carry over into the workplace. A goodly number of employers do not let Orthodox Christians take time off for holy days, or even major feast days such as the Nativity of Christ.
When we are committed to Christ we must not allow others to keep us from practicing our faith. Although it is not necessary to be in their face about our faith, it is important that we remember the example of the early Christians. They were so committed to Christ that they willingly faced martyrdom rather than deny their faith, or compromise Christian principles.
It has been my experience that many individuals who deny the importance of religion in their lives have, in reality, simply been turned off to religiosity. They’ve seen a form of Christianity that is disingenuous and have therefore discounted Christianity all together. Others see Christians as judgmental and self-righteous, and are therefore turned off to any religious expression.
What to do! First of all we must not hide our faith under any circumstances. This does not mean that we are preachy or self-righteous. A Christian who is grateful for their faith is also compassionate toward those who have no faith. Giving a loving witness to Christ while following the dictates of our Orthodox traditions is a good starting point.
If we are seated at the dinner table with unbelievers, it is important that we not be showy about our faith, but also important that we not hide the fact that we are Orthodox Christians. Making a simple sign of the cross over ourselves before we eat expresses not only our gratitude towards God for our food, but gives quiet witness to our willingness to truly live our lives in open love of our Saviour. The Lord said if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father. Keeping the traditions of our faith, staying true to the fast periods and making an effort to attend Liturgy on a weekly basis is absolutely necessary if we are to grow spiritually.
Most important, our dedication to our faith and a willingness to give witness to our love of Christ can have a huge impact on those around us. If our love of the Saviour translates into love of family and neighbor, those around us will see that our God is real, and our Orthodox faith is truly a way of life, one that actually transforms our nature. When people see that we are filled with joyous living and not judging others, they in turn will want what we have. The Pearl of Great Price can be theirs as well!
With love in Christ,
Photo: Waiting in the rain for the ferry at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA. Vashon Island is off in the distance.
Monday December 3, 2018 / November 20, 2018
28th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.
Nativity (St. Philip’s Fast). By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Forefeast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.
Venerable Gregory Decapolites (816).
St. Proclus, archbishop of Constantinople (447).
New Hieromartyrs Macarius bishop of Ecaterinoslav, Alexis, Alexander, Vladimir, John, Alexis, Basil, Nicholas, John, Emilian, Nocolos priests and Hieromartyrs Arsenius, Eutihius and Hillarion, Woman Hieromartyr Ioanicus hegumen (1937).
New Woman Hieromartyr Tatiana (after 1937).
Venerable Diodorus of George Hill (Solovki) (1633).
Martyr Dasius of Dorostolum (Romania) (303).
Martyrs Eustace, Thespesius, and Anatolius of Nicaea (312).
Hieromartyrs Nerses and Joseph; and John, Saverius, Isaac, and Hypatius, bishops of Persia; Martyrs Azades, Sasonius, Thecla, and Anna (343).
Martyrs Bautha and Denachis, who suffered with Hieromartyr Nerses of Persia (343). St. Isaac, bishop of Armenia (440). Venerable Theoctistus the Confessor (855). St. Edmund, king of England and martyr (869) (Celtic & British).
St. Sozomen of Cyprus (12th c.).
The Scripture Readings
2 Timothy 2:20-26
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
The Coming of the Kingdom
20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
22 Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24 For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.