On the importance of representing the Orthodox Church to the world
It was relatively late in my life when I embraced Orthodoxy. Already forty-one, I found myself wandering in a spiritual wasteland, knowing I was drying up spiritually, but hoping there was something out there that would fill the void. Orthodoxy had not been in my scope, seeming, as it were, an 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, and I had witnessed the majesty of her divine services. I’d tasted a small portion of the sublime mystical theology that seemed to be intuitive in nature, rather grounded in the logic and reason that had formed much of Western Christianity. I was aware of her ancient history, and the astounding beauty of her temples.
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 different 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. Her clergy, at least the ones I’d met, seemed unfriendly and standoffish. Sadly, I made sweeping judgements concerning 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 priests. 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, be 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 masked 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, all the while ushering the Light of Christ into a darkened world that needs Orthodoxy, now more than ever.
Love in Christ,
Tuesday December 3, 2019 / November 20, 2019
25th Week after Pentecost. Tone seven.
Nativity (St. Philip’s Fast). Food with Oil
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 Thessalonians 1:10-2:2
10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.
11 Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Great Apostasy
2 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
37 And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?”
So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”