If Orthodox Christians should understand anything, it is this: Salvation is a concrete, existential encounter with the living God.
Moreover, this Lord gives gifts, including wisdom, knowledge, insight, and courage—all the elements needed to confront the maelstrom of confusion in which our culture finds itself, and all meant to be applied
in the work of daily life, whether as mother, researcher, mechanic, priest—whatever our vocation
Salvation is not understanding the correct theological concepts;
it is not nostalgia for civilizations past;
it is not formal membership in a long-standing parish;
it is not social activism;
it is not morally appropriate behavior;
it is not mastery of the moral vocabulary.
Further, it is not enough to recall the certainty of the past.
Nostalgic impulses, as comforting as they may be (including the Orthodox variants, such as the longings for Hellenistic Greece or Holy Russia), simply won’t meet the challenge.
Orthodox leadership today requires great courage.
Courage, said Winston Churchill, is the one quality that lets all other virtues flourish.
When Solzhenitsyn delivered his address three decades ago, he spoke not as a philosopher, but as a voice crying in the wilderness. He cried out against the dehumanization of men he experienced in the East and saw advancing in the West. Only people with moral clarity and courage could successfully challenge it, he exhorted. What the world needs is not more philosophers, but moralists.
The exhortation drew from a supreme confidence in the power of truth. Solzhenitsyn believed that truth is self-verifying. When the truth is spoken, its veracity is self-evident to the hearer. This is a profoundly Christian notion rooted in the teaching of the apostle Paul: When the Gospel is preached, Christ (who is Truth) is revealed.
Any Orthodox response to the cultural challenge must first presume a recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The wisdom of the Fathers, the artistry of the poets, the healings of the miracle workers, the courage of the martyrs, the knowledge of the scholars, the patience of the teachers, the foresight of the bishops, the faithfulness of the priests—all the elements that shaped and forged the moral tradition that founded Western civilization and must renew it today—start with the recovery of the Gospel.
As Jesus said, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).