Saturday, November 30, 2013

The faith of the Apostles

There's a lot going on in ‘church’ in America these days, and even in the rest of the ‘first world’ (is there such a place, the ‘developed’ countries?). From inside the doors of Orthodoxy, the outer courts are looking pretty chaotic, buying and selling, of religion, of blessing, of comfort, of self-realization, of culture, of anything that the world sells, only dressed up in a ‘Christian’ cover.

Sadly, even holy Orthodoxy is being slowly but subtly lifted onto the bandwagon of ‘successful’ programs and outreach ‘strategies,’ hoping to become as ‘relevant’ as everybody else. Convert priests are foisted on kindly, welcoming and naïve congregations, convert priests who have no Orthodox root, no understanding of what a priest is. Do the hierarchs do this to test us, or do they hope we'll train these enthusiasts?

Orthodoxy fights back without striking a blow, the sheer intransigence of the flock, and the unchangeable liturgical forms, adding drag to the hasty, impatient boys. But they still have their way with us, for the time being.

What's happening, from another perspective, is the transformation of the Bride of Christ into a mystical business, of priests into businessmen in black, of pastors into administrators, of preachers into entertainers and, worse yet, of confessors into gurus, ‘I will be your spiritual father only if you do everything I tell you to do.’ This has been rampant outside of Orthodoxy; now it's seeping in. The words of holy Apostle John ring true now as always, ‘Children, be on your guard against false gods.’ (1 John 5:21 JB)

If the church where you live is experiencing any of these things, here's some good words written not long ago (1983) by Fr. George Papademetriou, a Greek Orthodox theologian, that I hope will encourage you to remember that the truth of Orthodoxy is the Truth of the Word of God, which Christ has told us ‘will never pass away’ (Matthew 24:35). Even when the local church, for a time, is ravaged by wolves in sheep's clothing, we have to remember, THAT is not the Church; THIS is…

Today, especially when great confusion exists about the ministry of the Church in the world, Orthodoxy must reinforce age-long values and the faith of the Apostles. ‘And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:11)

This verse gives the true objective of the clergy; that is, the ordained priests have the unique function to equip all members for the apostolate or ministry.

The apostolate is not the monopoly of the clergy, it is the responsibility of all, and the role of the clergy is to help all to fulfill it.

There is always a danger of clericalism, and this we ought to avoid. Since the time of Saint Paul, the Church avoided clericalism with its emphasis on defining the Church as ‘the Body of Christ.’

In the Church the promised unity of all things in Christ is foreshadowed (Ephesians 2:1-22), and for this reason the Church must be the place where God's plan is made known to the whole kósmos (Ephesians 3:7-10). In the Church the people of God must grow up into full maturity as the embodiment of the love of God for His whole creation (Ephesians 3:14-21). Within this context we can understand the task of training the whole membership of the Church to share in God's purpose for the whole creation. Only then will we be doing Christ's work as the people of God—both clergy and laity.

No comments: