The Orthodox Christian Way of Life
by V. Rev. Vladimir S. Borichevsky
Table of Contents
Is Orthodoxy Practical Today
Is Orthodoxy Practical Today?
If anyone of us were to ask this question here today, we would without hesitation answer, “Yes, Orthodoxy is practical today!” But if we were asked to explain our answer, most of us would be unable to give convincing details. As a result some of us would go away with a seed of great doubt in our heart and mind. We would have come to realize that we had nursed a suspicion in our secret heart that Orthodoxy was impractical because it seemed to be unrelated to the sort of life that is lived outside the worshipping experience in the Orthodox Catholic Church.
Every Orthodox believer enters the Church with the feeling, whether it be expressed or hidden, that he is entering into another world; one which is in this world yet not of it. Everything about the Church conspires to bring the Orthodox believer closer to this other world of spiritual peace and serenity.
The majestic cadence of the chants by their timeless formlessness moves one imperceptibly towards this other world. The Byzantine icons by their warm hues of red, blue and gold present an image of the heavenly world populated by men and women living in God who having fought the good fight have received their crowns. There one beholds a sea of candles of all sizes and shapes, some in precise rows like soldiers of Christ on dress parade, others in concentric circles like guests gathered at the great marriage feast of the parables, all reflecting the Glory of Christ, the Light of the World, mirrored in the hearts and souls of countless Christians of all times. The light cast by the galaxy of candles is not harsh, but it has a softness and mellowness which disperses the shadows of life. The fragrance of sweet-smelling incense acts to remind us of another time. The cloudy haze of smoke symbolizes the holiness of God, and His transcendence as the Prophet Isaiah writes, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” ( Isaiah 55: 8-9). The religious drama of the Divine Liturgy speaks of things eternal. We are called together to offer ourselves in a unity of love to God in order that we may receive in return the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit.
We enter into this spiritual world, which is so dear to the Orthodox believer, and lose all sense of time and space. We come back again and again as to a heavenly oasis in a worldly desert in order to refresh ourselves with food and drink for our souls. Many never quite know why they return, yet they ever yearn to come back once again to that place where they once knew peace and serenity. This is the reason why once a person has participated as a faithful believer in the worship experience of the Orthodox Church, he is forever haunted by the memory of that spiritual experience. Many non-Orthodox who have attended the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church have come away describing essentially this same attraction upon their souls. Some have rejected it as an experience of aesthetic beauty, but others have become Orthodox Christians just because of the impact of the Orthodox worshipping life on their own lives.
That this experience of liturgical beauty has had a great effect on great masses of people, as well as on single individuals, has been proven in the history of the Church. Certainly one of the most important of these events in terms of historical and spiritual impact is that incident which eventually resulted in the conversion of the Russian people. We remember that the representatives of the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev witnessed the religious rites of the Latin Christians, of the Moslems and of the Jews, and finally they attended the liturgical services at Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. When they described this incident to Prince Vladimir they said that they were so moved by the sight and experience of the Byzantine liturgy that they knew not whether they were on earth or in heaven. The arguments from reason and scripture came later, but the experience of the Orthodox worship of praise and glory of God was first and most important. And the Russian people were converted to the Orthodox Faith, and they in turn expressed their faith in God through their creative artistic genius in music, ritual, symbolism and art; for not only were the Russian people baptized in the Name of Christ, but their pagan culture too was transformed and became a servant of Christ, glorifying God through His Son.
At this point you might well say, “What does all this have to do with Orthodoxy being practical today?” It does seem that I have set about to prove that Orthodoxy is practical by showing how impractical it really is. This is the judgment that is often passed on Orthodoxy by the practical person who will say, “Yes, it’s beautiful, but what does this have to do with the teachings of Jesus?”-or, “Fine, but what about the Social Gospel?”-or, “It may be beautiful, but it isn’t practical.”
There are many reasons why this is the usual reaction of the average practical American or European. Not the least important of these is that they have in fact isolated man’s destiny from the destiny of the whole of God’s creation. They see the world as a thing that is to be manipulated and used for man’s own personal satisfaction and pleasure. Orthodoxy sees the world as a creation of God which is to be transformed by man’s God-given creative genius into a thing of beauty and perfection in order to praise and glorify the Creator.
The Orthodox believer has always felt a close relationship between himself and all of God’s creation. He can never forget that man was formed “of dust from the ground” and that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2: 7). Man remembers that when he fell, the created world suffered with him, for God said, “cursed is the ground because of you ... thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you.” (Genesis 3: 17). He also remembers that the Son of God took on flesh and became man in order to save man from sin and death, and that in His Redemption our Lord redeemed not only the nature of man, but of all creation. This is often expressed in the prayers and songs of the Orthodox Church in which there is a constant repetition of the theme, “Heaven and earth and all Creation rejoices, for Christ has come to redeem all.”
The Orthodox believer is always reminded that there is an essential unity in all of God’s Creation, for all that God made was created out of nothingness. All was made that God might be glorified through His Creation. When man fell, the world over which he had been given dominion by God also suffered. Thus when Christ came, writes St. Athanasius,
The Lord touched all parts of Creation, and freed and undeceived them all from every deceit. As St. Paul says, ‘having put of from Himself the principalities and the powers, He triumphed on the Cross,’ so that no one could possibly be any longer deceived, but everywhere might find the very Word of God. For thus man, enclosed on every side by the works of creation and everywhere-in Heaven, in Hades, in men and on the earth, beholding the unfolded Godhead of the Word, is no longer deceived concerning God, but worships Christ alone, and through Him rightly knows the Father 1
Orthodoxy witnesses to the truth that all of God’s Creation serves to witness to the Glory of God; that in his fall man turned away from God and perverted the use of God’s creation to glorify and worship himself.
They defiled their own soul so completely that they not only lost their apprehension of God, but invented for themselves other gods of various kinds ... and ended, as St. Paul says, ‘worshipping the creature rather than the Creator 2
What did God do in the face of the loss of His image in mankind?
The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image ... Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to His Image 3
Not only man, but the whole of Creation must be recreated into the original beauty which it lost after man’s fall. The work of Redemption was done by God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and man has been called to cooperate in this work of redemption in which the world itself must be transformed. The work was begun in each of us in the new life we received in Christ’s Body, and we must continue His work for we have become partners with God the Creator in this work of transformation. As St. Ireneus writes, “the Son of God became the Son of Man to the end that man might become the Son of God.”4 This power to transform the world is available to man only within the Body of Christ, for outside that Body where man is isolated by his pride from God, the work that man can do will only lead to destruction and death.
All things, whatsoever God made, are very good, so far as they are made: if, therefore, they remain just as they were created, they are very good, but when they voluntarily depart from what is natural and turn to what is unnatural, they slip into evil. By nature, therefore, all things are servants of the Creator and obey Him. Whenever, then, any of His creatures voluntarily rebels and becomes disobedient to his Maker, he introduces evil into himself. 5
The world today is in willful rebellion against God, and has expressed its disobedience by striving to transform the world into the image of man, and for his own glory and end. Nathan A. Scott characterizes this rebellion thus:
The basic impulses of modern industrial society have been toward a way of life and a hierarchy of values which have robbed the life of the spirit, the life of the mind, of its traditional dignity and usefulness to the community.... Our business, our industry, our economics have been so absolutized, have been so autonomous, have been so radically divorced from the spiritually creative forces of modern culture that the man who imagines and has visions has come to be looked upon as freakish and effeminate and superfluous to the major operations of our common life. This whole process of atomization within the modern community has been comprehended by religious critics of culture as of one and the same piece with the more general problem of modern secularism.... They point to the absence of a unitive spiritual force in our recent cultural history as being the basic reason for the cleft between the practical reason and the imagination in modern times 6
Man has become a stranger in God’s world, because he has become estranged form God. Man has desired independence. He has proclaimed himself as self-reliant, and modern man has come to agree with John Dewey, the philosopher of pragmatism, that “man is capable, if he will but exercise the required courage, intelligence and effort of shaping his own fate ... for knowledge is power and knowledge is achieved by sending the mind to school to nature to learn her processes of change.”7 And modern man has also discovered that knowledge is power which can be used to destroy, as well as to transform the world. Whether the power is used to destroy or to transform depends on whether man has acknowledged the supreme source of all power and life, Almighty God, his Creator.
The Church, which is the Body of Christ, is the means through which divine grace is given to men, and through men to all creation. The Church gives to each of us the power to destroy our selfishness without destroying the personality and freedom with which each of us was endowed by the Creator. It is in the Church that we receive through our love of God the power to love others, and to treat God’s Creation with respect and understanding. We are no longer strangers in the world but responsible stewards of the Creator’s world. The task of the Church is to restore the individual and the whole of creation to its original beauty and harmony. It is only by obeying the Creator in love and by loving all that He has created that we can achieve perfection, by organizing cultural, social and economic life as a moral life under God. It is through the Sacraments of the Church that we and the world in which we live is recreated. As St. John Damascene writes:
He Himself is existence to all, since all things that are, are in Him, not only because it was He that brought them out of nothingness into being, but because His energy preserves and maintains all that He made, and especially the living creatures....
Through His Birth, that is His Incarnation, and Baptism and Passion and Resurrection, He delivered our nature from the sin of our first parent and death and corruption, and became the first-fruits of the Resurrection, and made Himself the way and image and the pattern, in order that we too, following in His footsteps, may become by adoption what He is Himself by nature, sons and heirs of God and joint heirs with Him....
We are therefore given a birth by water and Spirit ... by Holy Baptism: and the food is the very Bread of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came down from Heaven.... The Bread of the Communion is not plain bread, but bread united with divinity. But a body united with divinity is not one nature, but has one nature belonging to the body, and another belonging to the divinity that is united to it, so that the compound is not one nature but two.... We partake of the divinity of Jesus ... we have communion with Christ and share in His flesh and His divinity ... we have communion and are united with one another through it. 8
It is through the Sacraments of the Church which culminate in the Holy Eucharist that we are united with God and with one another and with all of Creation. The Church, the Body of Christ, is the instrument of man’s redemption. In it are established the original relations of love and freedom between the Creator and His Creation. It is only through the Church of Christ that man and his world can be recreated into their original beauty and perfection.
This then is what makes Orthodoxy practical-not in the immediate transitory sense of that word, but in that which is essential for real practicality-in the eternal sense. In Orthodoxy mankind is ever aware that the only worthy destiny is to achieve the perfection, harmony and beauty which exists in loving and knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ. To become sons of God and heirs of His Kingdom is the only destiny worthy for man-the highest of God’s Creation. Any destiny which is less than this is a poor counterfeit unworthy of the dignity we received when God created us in His Likeness and Image.
Orthodoxy reminds us that our individual destiny is inextricably united with the destiny of all men and of all Creation. Any attempt to transform the world into its original beauty and harmony must be done within the love and freedom of God. Men must begin with faith in God and labor in love of God and man, otherwise the very courage, energy, intelligence and effort with which man can transform the world under God can become isolated from God, and become a power of destruction. Man cannot deny God’s Lordship over His Creation and do His work. Those attempts made by men isolated from God, and thus inevitably from their fellow men and the rest of the world, to transform the world are doomed to failure. We all live under God and His Laws, even those who deny Him. We must acknowledge this truth and act according to its demands. Thus, for a world which has come to acknowledge its alienation from God, from His Creation, from its true destiny, Orthodoxy gives not an answer, but the only answer because it is God’s answer through Jesus Christ His Son. Mankind must come to acknowledge in faith and love the task of stewardship of God’s world. We must act, follow, live in the pattern and the way which has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ, and we can do this only in unity with Christ.
Now we have come from the subject of “why Orthodoxy is practical today” to the problem of how Orthodoxy must be practiced if it is to be practical for us. It is axiomatic that Orthodoxy is an active way of life, and as such, it requires action on the part of those who wish to become a part of that life. In the parable of the True Vine, Jesus says,
I am the True Vine, and my Father is the hus- bandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit ... As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. (John 15: 1-5)
Here we have an unmistakable revelation of the nature of the Christian life. Such a life is possible only in Christ. We must give in order to receive. Outside of this life we can do nothing-not a little bit or a fair amount-but nothing. It is a life of continual activity, and it is to be measured by the fruits we bear, that is, the results of our life.
In Orthodox Christianity there is no such thing as a part-time Christian or a Sunday Christian. You must give all of yourself, at all times, to God. You must give yourself not out of fear or convention, but because you have come to understand the meaning of the words, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16). Having revealed His love for us, we are asked to love Him in return.
The unity of God with man is a unity of love, for “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” (John 14: 21). St. Paul writes that God had put all things under Christ’ feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
St. John Chrysostom explains the words of St. Paul that the fullness of Christ is the Church in the following passage:
The complement, that is the head, is ... filled up by the body, because the body is composed and made up of all its several parts, and he introduces ‘Christ’ as having need of each single part, not only of all in common and together; for unless we be many, and one be the hand ... and another some other member, the whole body is not filled up. It is by all that His Body is filled up. Then is the head filled up, then is the body rendered perfect, when we are all knit together and united.9
This then is the call that is made to us all who are members of the Church, for the Body will be made perfect only when we are all knit together and united. The essential unity of the Church is in Christ, but it is only slowly that mankind enters into this unity with Christ.
The Church is completeness itself; it is the continuation and the fulfillment of the Theanthropic (God-Man) union. The Church is transfigured and regenerated mankind. The meaning of this regeneration and transfiguration is that in the Church mankind becomes one unity, ‘in one body.’ The life of the Church is unity and union. This unity is not only ... one and unique; it is a unity first of all, because its very being consists in reuniting separated and divided mankind. It is this unity which is the ‘sobornost' or catholicity of the church. In the Church humanity ... begins a new manner of existence. A new life becomes possible, a true, whole, and complete life; a catholic life, ‘in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace.’10
The answer to the question “Is Orthodoxy practical today?” is Yes, for Orthodoxy offers the only hope for uniting an atomized, disintegrated, fragmented and broken-up humanity which yearns for unity, fulfillment and perfection. Orthodoxy offers it not in some man-made scheme, system or utopia, but it points out to God’s prodigal humanity that it has sinned before the Father in Heaven, and that it must arise and return in repentance and contrition to the Father’s house. There it must ask to be accepted as the least of the servants in God’s household. This unity is not built on the sand of human hope, but on the Rock that is Jesus Christ. The unity is not one of authority, temporal, or spiritual-but is a unity of love and freedom which is a reflection of the Unity of the Holy Trinity.
Orthodoxy alone has kept these Truths paramount in its life. It alone has avoided the temptation to create a temporal spiritual authority, whether lodged in one person, or in all persons, as a substitute for the unity of love in Christ. It has successfully resisted throughout its history the countless temptations of this world to substitute for this divine principle, a lesser human principle of authority which would limit or destroy man’s dependence on God alone, and worship of Him alone.
Orthodoxy reminds us that in order to know the truth we must first commit ourselves to God as His disciples, for He said to His Disciples:
If ye continue in My word, then are ye My Disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. ( John 8: 31-32)
We have been called in freedom and love to strive for perfection, for you must be perfect “even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” ( Matt 5: 48.) We become free in the measure in which we have attained to the worship of God, for it is only in the Body of Christ that imperfect men can hope to achieve the perfection of God.
The immediate action which we can perform this day and in the days to follow, is to strive for the unity within the Church as a manifestation and witness of our spiritual unity in Christ. We can begin to strive for this unity by searching for unity within ourselves, for we cannot serve both God and mammon. It is not sufficient to be a baptized member of His Body. We must activate our whole life according to the precepts of Christ our Lord. We must strive for unity within the family, accepting the full responsibility of parenthood, not being merely satisfied to feed, nurture and clothe the physical child, but also to feed, nurture and clothe the spiritual soul within, which alone can make the child a full member of God’s Church. We must strive for unity within our parishes, and within the larger units of the Church body.
Finally, we must realize that in this country the Orthodox Church has a unique responsibility and mission to witness to the Orthodox Faith. It is not an accident of human history that has brought us all together in this land, the representatives of all the national churches of the One Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church. We were not brought together here to live in our isolated national shells. Certainly Divine Providence intended that we should grow together into the perfection of unity which is in the fullness of Christ. Neither does unity mean that we should destroy our differences, for Orthodoxy has always stood for unity in diversity through Love of God.
God’s Abiding Providence
How simply and beautifully our Lord portrays God’s love and abiding care for us, His children. Jesus Christ, His Eternal Son, tells us to look at “the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.” (Mat 6: 26) If you would pause for a moment and look about you, you would see many more of the inexhaustible marvels of God’s world. Just as an example, stoop down to look a little more closely at the earth beneath your feet. You will find hundreds of various forms of life within your range of vision. But there is even more. If you would study one cubic inch of soil under a microscope, you would find that it was actually teeming with millions of forms of life with thousands of different varieties. Now each of these serves a purpose, and without them life itself would be impossible. A few thoughtful moments spent pondering on God’s Nature, and you cannot help being moved by the tremendous beauty, grandeur and order which is visible everywhere in God’s world.
Now, “if God so clothes the grass of the field, which blooms today and is cast into the oven tomorrow, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Mat 6: 30) Indeed, if God does take such great care of even the most minute living thing, how much more love and abiding care He must have for mankind, His crowning creation! And how pitifully true are those accusing words of His Son, “O men, how little do you really trust Him!”
If you had a choice this day between God’s eternal security or the false security of some politician or economist, which would you choose?
There are many people in our time who place all their faith in these men, though at their best they can only guess what can happen ... and the security they claim to offer is only of this world. God offers us security, joy, happiness and peace in the eternal world. All we have to do is believe. “For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mat 6: 32-33) In order to be happy in this world, we must place God, His Kingdom and His Eternal Goodness first, in our hearts, our minds and our lives.
June 18, 1950
Saintly-living is Practical Living
The Saints of God are ever-present reminders and living examples of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church of Christ. It is the Grace of the Holy Spirit which transformed Saul into Saint Paul and made the fishermen of Galilee into the fishers of men for Christ throughout the world, or the millions of simple, devout believers into willing and real martyrs for the Faith whether in Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople or Siberia. We know by name and deed only a relatively few Saints, and for these, specific days of remembrance are set aside. But on All Saints Sunday we also remember millions upon millions of Saints of all ages, whose names and deeds are known but to God. Their devotion, loyalty and courage were supported by their Faith in Christ and moved into the paths of Sainthood by the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
We commemorate the memory of all the Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost, for it is in the Saints that the Church of Christ has an ever-present assurance and evidence of the work of the grace of the Spirit. The Saints are the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit within the Church. We look to them as worthy examples for all followers in the Way of Christ. We study their lives in order to find in them help and guidance in our own journey in the Way. We turn to them in our prayers as friends and fellow members of the Church of Christ. We ask that they will pray that we too will be found worthy of Christ.
And what does this remembrance of All Saints mean to us in our daily Christian living? First of all, it means that Sainthood is an attainable ideal towards which all members of the Church must strive. It reminds us that Sainthood is a state attainable by all, whether they be men, women, children, deacons, priests or bishops. One only has to read a list of the known Saints of the Church to realize that Sainthood is not for monks and ascetics alone. Our own time has given more saintly Martyrs for the Faith of Christ than any other time in the Life of the Church. During the time of the Revolution and even to our own day millions in Russia were martyred for their Faith in Christ, and of these the greatest number were of the laity. None of these Martyrs planned or hoped to attain Sainthood. Yet, actually every moment of their Christian lives was a step in the preparation for the day of their Martyrdom. From the time they first accepted Christ in the Font of Baptism, as they learned their prayers at the knees of their parents, as they partook of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and even as they lived their last moments before being martyred for Christ, they were preparing for the crown of Sainthood.
Saintly-living is practical living. Practical not from the point of view of the material world, but practical from the point of view of God’s world. Saintly-living means living consciously in the presence of God. It means to live as though God were always looking into one’s heart-as indeed He is. It means to do no thing which one would be ashamed before Jesus Christ. It means to do everything in the Name of God, even the most menial and lowly task, and doing it with Christian humility and love. It means to pray for God’s forgiveness, when we have strayed from His Way, and it means to forgive as quickly and generously as God Himself forgives. It means to follow in the Way of Christ, not only when it is easy-as it rarely is-but at all times, even when the sacrifice is the very life one values so dearly. It means to be Christ-like in one’s daily routine living, as well as in the great and important moments of one’s life.
The Martyrs of the Early Church waited with anticipation and impatience their moment of martyrdom. They looked into the eyes of death and saw life, and had no fear other than that they might be found wanting at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This attitude is beautifully summed up in the petition of the Augmented Litany when we pray that the Lord will grant us “a Christian ending to our life, painless, without shame, peaceful and a good defense before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ.” We must prepare our defense for that day now, while we still journey in the way of Christ. And if we live today and every day in such a way as not to shame Christ, then on that day of Judgment we will not be found wanting before Him. That is why Saintly-living is practical living-because its fruits and benefits have eternal value.
Sunday of All Saints, 1949
Bring in the Bees
The Queen of Sheba thought that she was entitled to be considered the wisest of women, and King Solomon was considered by many to be the wisest man in the world. It is inevitable when two such people meet that some very interesting stories should result. When the Queen of Sheba came to meet King Solomon-and it is said that she came to visit him just so she could show him up-this is the story that is told.
The Queen of Sheba had the greatest artist in her realm paint some artificial flowers. He produced a great work of art, and the flowers looked almost real. She brought these flowers with her when she came to visit King Solomon. She also gathered flowers of the same variety as those she had painted and placed them in vases. There were an equal number of vases of real flowers as there were of artificial flowers. These vases she placed at a distance from the King and made the following conditions: the King was not to touch or to smell the flowers but standing away from them, he must decide which flowers were real and which were not.
The King had a real problem on his hands. His reputation was at stake and the whole situation looked hopeless. Indeed, the Queen began to enjoy the sweet fruits of victory until the King gave an order to his servants, “Bring in the bees!” The bees were brought in and placed before the King, and when they were released from the hive, the King watched them alight on the real flowers. In their search for honey they ignored the artificial flowers. Then the King merely pointed to the flowers which the bees had chosen saying that these were the real flowers. The Queen of Sheba had to admit that King Solomon had bested her in this test and that he was wiser than she.
Every day we are asked to decide what are the real and valuable things in life. We are also given the task of detecting that which is false and artificial. We must be like the bee, or King Solomon who knew how to use the bee, quick to know what is not real but only an imitation. King Solomon knew that he was at a disadvantage, and that he could not detect the false from the artificial. But he knew who could do it for him, and so he called for the bees. We too must often time turn to others for help and we must never be ashamed or too proud to “call for the bees.”
A person who tries to doctor himself for a headache with an aspirin is safe, but only up to a point. If the headache persists and becomes more painful, then he turns to a doctor. If our car stops, we don’t call for a repairman immediately. First we check for the obvious things, such as an empty gas tank. But after we have made a check of the things we know how to fix and the car still does not start, then we call for a mechanic.
The same is also true of spiritual and religious matters. We say our daily prayers and we attend the Divine Services of the Church regularly if we are serious about our spiritual life. We also know that there are times when we need the help of others. The Church is a fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ. In our own prayers we ask everything in His Name, but we also ask that others participate with us in our prayers. We ask that the priest pray for us. We also ask that our friends pray for us, too. Why? Because the task before us, or the problem with which we are wrestling is more than any one person can handle. The Church of Christ is called a community of the faithful, and like any community everyone must help his fellow if the community is to grow and prosper. This community extends beyond the local parish, and even beyond the Diocese or the Metropolinate. It extends beyond the limitations of physical life itself. This is why the walls of the Church and the Ikonostasis, and our prayers are decorated and embellished with the faces and the names of the Saints and of all who have died in the Faith. The Church of Christ is here at our call with its myriad of expert Christians. All we have to do is call upon them for help.
First of all we must call upon Christ our Lord. He above all can help us choose the real from the fake. Then we can call upon the woman who gave Him birth, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. And then there is the whole fellowship of Saints. Every one of them has lived and experienced life, and they can help us daily as we grope through life trying to choose between the real and the worthless imitation.
September 16, 1951
God’s Judgment begins with the Righteous
There is a feeling in our time of smugness and self-satisfaction among the people of our nation as a whole, and among the Orthodox Catholic people in particular. It is a feeling of self-righteousness; for are we not members of the Orthodox Catholic Faith? Are we not a living part of the Very Body of Jesus Christ? We look about us and see the sins of others and our own sins are forgotten. As a nation we look at the ungodly nation which has conquered more than half of the world and has demanded and received the allegiance of many other nations; we look at the communists and we know that in comparison we as a nation and a people are as white as snow. We begin to feel smug and self- satisfied.
But it is precisely at such a time that Christian people should be careful, for God and Truth are not relative. We must turn away from sin and evil and turn to the Perfection of God. When we do this our clothes which seemed so pure and white in the darkness of evil, will become dark and streaked in the light of His Truth. We will then see our evil and fall upon our faces before God and beg that He will forgive us for our presumption.
The Prophet Amos was a simple sheep herder and he lived in Israel in a time of peace and prosperity. The people of Israel were enjoying their well-being and were beginning to feel smug and self-satisfied. Were they not the Chosen People? Did not God Himself choose them? They began to feel as though they had chosen God and the He could not do without them. Amos appeared to these people and preached a remarkable sermon to them.
Amos told the people of Judah that God was going to destroy their wicked neighbors, the Syrians, the Edomites, the Philistines and the others including the people of the southern kingdom of Judah. God would destroy them because they had sinned against Him. About this time the Israelites were feeling even more smug and self-satisfied. “God,” the said, “will destroy them and He will again prove to be our God, for are we not His Chosen People?”
But just at this time, after proclaiming the end and destruction of their neighbors for their sins, Amos said, “After crime upon crime of Israel, I will not relent ... therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 2: 6, 3: 2) God will destroy Israel, the Chosen People. The Israelites sat up and took notice. It was not possible! How could God destroy them? Did He not bring them out of the land of Egypt? But they had forgotten that God told Moses how He could create a new nation out of the rocks?
The people had forgotten God. They fulfilled the Laws, but only with their lips and their hands. But deep inside their hearts they cheated, lied and deceived. God would not be deceived. They would have to pay for their sins, or they would be destroyed. God is righteous and He demands Justice. Amos thus could only see the end of Israel.
For them their judgment began at home. The manner in which they behaved was a clear indication of the destruction that they had created for themselves. Thus, judgment and destruction was inevitable and it was what Amos told Israel to expect. But Israel did not heed Amos’ warning, though the end was near.
We too, must look to ourselves before we pass judgment on others. It is the easiest thing in the world to criticize another, to take others apart mentally and then put them back together again. But it is the most difficult thing in the world for a person to criticize himself, and to see himself as others see him.
God will judge us on our own merits, and we will be found wanting. But God in His Great Mercy will find room to forgive those who deserve and ask for forgiveness, and He will help those who are in need. He will extend His helping hand through His Son Jesus Christ to save us from the destruction which we so richly deserve; for all of us have been found wanting save His Son, Jesus Christ.
In trying to see ourselves as God sees us, we must turn to the full and powerful light of His Truth, which will immediately reveal every spot and wrinkle on our wedding clothes, for we must all be prepared when God will call us to His Heavenly Feast. We must come prepared. God has given to us more than He has to others. In return He will expect more from us, and He will see us in the light of His own Perfection. Those who do not know Christ, the Son of God, will be less liable for their sins than we who have been entrusted His great Inheritance.
December 11, 1949
Love your Enemies
Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you; Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; And him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do you also to him likewise. (Luke 6: 27-31)
These are hard words. For many who read them they are a stumbling block in their faith. Others ignore these words as the words of an “ideal,” and completely lacking in any practical application. Still others say that these words are proof that the Christ taught a pacifism which required a complete subjugation, even to Evil forces. However, it is never possible to correctly interpret individual phrases of the Gospel as though they were written in a vacuum. All that is written in the Gospels must be interpreted in the light of the full Gospel, and in the light of the full revelation of Christ in His Church. We do know that Christ did not teach a complete subjugation to the forces of Evil, for we remember well that Christ took up the rope to drive the money-changers out of the Temple. We also know that Christ said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” when Peter expressed the human desire that the death and Resurrection of Christ would not happen. We also remember the temptation of Christ by the Devil, and His rejection of the Devil’s words tempting Him away from His Mission in the world.
In loving our enemies we must remember that the love of our enemies is extended only to them as men created in the image and likeness of God, and having in them all the potential of spiritual Good that all men have. But in loving Good in all men, and that includes our enemies, we must hate with an equal passion that Evil which has perverted and obscured the Image and Likeness of God in them. For to love our enemies means to hate all Evil and Sin in them, for if we were to love Evil and sin in men, we could not love our Fellow Man. We could not love him because he is a creation of God and as such, a product of Good, and that means a complete exclusion of evil, indeed hate of Evil in any form.
To “love our enemies” is the only means left for us to return them to God. When our enemies see our expression of love, which is a reflection of the Love that God has for all men, they will be touched to the very depths of their soul. They will be reminded of the fact that they too are made in the Image and Likeness of God, and as such they should rightly reflect the Good and the Perfection of God. They will then realize that in reflecting the hate instilled in them by the Devil, they have perverted the Image and Likeness of God in them. Once their souls have been reached, their conversion back to God has begun. It is thus that many have been returned to their God and Eternal Father.
Love is the most powerful weapon in the world of the spirit and in the world of the flesh. It is love that lifts mankind above the animal state. It is love of God and love of fellow man that is the basis of all peace, harmony, and perfection in the world. God’s world can not live without the spirit of Love. Inasmuch as we individually reflect God’s Love in our own lives, in so much we reflect God, for “God is Love.”
Thus it is apparent to all men that love of our enemies is not an impossible ideal, but rather a very practical way of life. It is an ideal, and like all ideals will never be fully realized by men. But it will be fully realized, and has been fully realized by God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, “for God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16) It is through Christ alone that men can realize the ideal of Love of God and Fellow Man. In Christ men become more than men, they become the sons of God.
Those in the world who preach hatred of men are doing the work of the Devil. The only things in the world that we must hate are the Devil, and Evil in all its forms. It is impossible for men to love God and his fellow man, unless he hates the Devil and Evil, which contradict and oppose God and all Good. Love your enemies and conquer them for God.
October 8, 1950
The Spiritual Nature of Man
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (Cor 3: 16)
Man is a creature of God. Some say man is but an animal. We say yes, he is an animal but he is also created in the Image of God, and is filled with His Spirit. There are people in this world who are but animals because their animal nature and instincts alone regulate their lives. They live for their stomach and other purely animal instincts. They have completely forgotten that another, and very important part of their nature is the Image and Likeness of God in them. It has been and still is the mission of the Church to lift mankind up and out of its animal nature. The Church offers an opportunity for sinners to repent of their sins and leave them, and to put on righteousness.
Some people criticize the Church because it admits sinners. That is just as foolish as it would be to criticize a hospital because it admits the sick. The Church is a place for spiritually sick people to find health and salvation. Christ Himself said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5: 32) The Church of Christ has as its first and greatest task the lifting of man out of sin and building on the foundation which is Christ, a personality for the glory of God and the good of man. This personality is to be an immortal one-one that death will not terminate-built of the indestructible materials of spiritual love and fellowship in the Image and Likeness of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
August 22, 1948
The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit
When a child or an adult receives the Holy Mystery of Chrismation, he is anointed by the priest with the Holy Chrism on the forehead, the nostrils, the ears, the eyes, the mouth, the hands and the feet. The priest places Holy Chrism in the form of the Cross and says with each anointing, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” to which the one Chrismated says, “Amen.” For the person being Chrismated it is the day of Pentecost-it is his day of the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is his day of Pentecost.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are inexhaustible for they are the eternal energies of God which are without number or limitation. Indeed, all human activities that are Good are both motivated and activated by the Holy Spirit, for all that is Good is of God. The activity of the Holy Spirit cannot be confined, nor can it be restricted or limited in any way. The Spirit moves where It wills.
All persons created in the Image and Likeness of God thus have the capacity to be moved by the Holy Spirit. No one is excluded. God bestows life on all-both the good and the evil. However, those who have been committed to God by the Sign of the Cross and Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit have, in addition, the capacity to receive and to be moved by the abundant outpouring of God’s Grace sufficient to make the impossible possible. That is to say, Orthodox Christians are able to attain the perfection to which they have been called-to be perfect, even as God is Perfect. Therefore, the Church is called the Holy Community of the redeemed and the sanctified. Redemption has come to us through Jesus Christ the Redeemer; sanctification comes to us through the intercession of Jesus Christ who prayed the Father to send the Comforter to guide us in the Way of truth.
We who are members of the Body of Christ are called “sons,” “sons of God” and “inheritors of the Kingdom.” This does not mean that all we have to do is sit back and inherit the inheritance. For a son of a king can lose his sonship, and the inheritor of wealth can waste his inheritance. God gives His gifts in great abundance. Let us open our hearts to receive them, and let us labor with heart, mind and spirit to be moved and transformed to become indeed, the sons of God and the inheritors of His Kingdom.
The Likeness of Christ
Saint Paul points out clearly that each and every one of us has his or her appointed task in the work of the building of the Body of Christ:
...To every one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.’ (Now what does ‘He ascended’ mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edification of the Body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4: 7-13)
Our work is that of service to each other, for in serving others we are also serving ourselves being members of the one Body of Christ. Saint Paul knew then, as we know now, that one of the ultimate goals of this service is the unity of the faith, which would be attained only after much struggle. The unity of the faith was but an ultimate goal in the time of Saint Paul, and it still remains one of the ultimate goals of the Church today.
Just as the unity of the faith is a goal, so is the “knowledge of the Son of God.” The life of the Church is not a static and set thing, for as man grows and matures in the faith, he also reaches a fuller and richer knowledge of God. Thus eventually, all of mankind will reach the maturity of its spiritual and religious life-a mystical life of the members of the One Body of Jesus Christ. As Saint Paul points out, we may eventually hope to reach the full measure of the stature of the fullness found in Christ. That indeed is the end of our life in Christ-becoming like Christ.
January 25, 1948
He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his Cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. (Mat 10: 37-38)
This Gospel Lesson speaks about the basic principles upon which humanity, society, and all divisions of society -especially the family-are founded. And very confusing to some is the beginning statement of these principles: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me...”
We now live in a time and in a society that has become self-centered. People live complete lives-so they think- without God. Men and women sacrifice, scrimp and hoard their material wealth and material gains as though (despite all the facts to the contrary) they can take it all with them. Others sacrifice all, including moral and religious values for “security,” or for the sake of their children, or for the sake of their family. And all these sacrifices are in vain, for they are tied up in the material world and in the material world alone. Having gained this life, they have lost their life-the complete life in God-and just as all material things deteriorate and disappear, so their lives deteriorate and are lost forever to God and God’s world.
The Church teaches and believes in a God-centered world. All our lives and all our devotion, duty and love belong to God the Father first of all and above all. No life is complete without this first and basic principle. It is more important than anyone or anything else in the world. A love for a wife and child is not a complete and good love unless this love is given purpose and infinity by a love for God and God’s Law. No nation, no society, no family can exist for a useful and purposeful end unless it acknowledges this supreme devotion, love and duty to God. No law is a good law unless it acknowledges the supreme Law of God.
The strength of our American democracy is that in the Declaration of Independence we state our dependence on God. The independence of all men, whether as a nation, people, or as an individual is possible only if there is first of all an acknowledgment of dependence upon God.
June 19, 1949
Look to Our Father in Heaven for Guidance
We live in a time when the role of the father in the family has been pushed into the background or even completely ignored. The role of father is equally as important as that of the mother in the life of a Christian family. The father is the head of the family, not as a tyrant or dictator, but as one having authority which is tempered with love and understanding, as one having a sense of justice, tempered with a forgiving heart.
Jesus Christ taught us to pray to Our Father in Heaven. He told us of His abiding love and care for His children. He told us about His great mercy in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He reminded us of His eternal justice in the Parable of the Wicked Servant who could find no room in his heart to forgive a small debt, even though his Master had forgiven him a far greater debt. Jesus Christ revealed to mankind the Fatherhood of God in all its great simplicity and beauty.
All fathers can find in the Fatherhood of God a divine example for them to follow. A father must give to his own children that same abiding love and care that God gives to His children. He must have the same full heart, ready to forgive and to be merciful to others as his Father in Heaven is to him. He must be just in his authority tempering his anger with love and understanding. He must love the weakest and the smallest even more than the strong and the great. He must give his children selfless love, security, guidance and hope. Yet, he must know when to be severe and demanding. At all times he should remember that his child can grow into a mature Christian if that child has Christian guidance and care.
The father as head of the family must work to create an atmosphere of Christian Faith, Hope and Charity. In all the father must remember that God’s great blessing of fatherhood bestowed upon him is a great privilege and has with it the duties and responsibilities which cannot be shirked and passed off to others. In all he will be answerable to God Himself, his Father in Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ.
June 18, 1950
A Jewish proverb states the “God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers.” As this proverb implies, mothers are God’s first helpers and the gift of Motherhood is one of God’s greatest gifts. Nevertheless, we find in our time many women unhappy with the role of Motherhood because with it one has to expend a certain amount of menial labor, monotony and routine. This indicates faulty thinking, for there is nothing in life worth having which can be had without labor, sweat and tears. This is also true of Motherhood.
Henry C. Link, a modern psychologist writes, “Man has concocted many theories and notions about marriage, among them the theory that each couple has the right to decide whether to have children. Regardless of theories, the chief purpose of sex and marriage is children. This is a law of human nature which cannot be defied with impunity. A couple who enter marriage without planning to have children soon, are courting disaster from the very beginning.” That is to say in religious terms, one of the great sins of women (and men) is to ignore or to pervert God’s greatest gift to mankind. No career that a woman can ever choose can ever compare with that of being a mother. Yet, it is a sad commentary on our age that many women ignore their natural career in search of one more important or more satisfying; often learning too late that they had lost their opportunity to participate in a career God had chosen for them. What has just been said of women and Motherhood is also true of men and Fatherhood, for the two go together and are inseparable one from the other.
Being parents is the final and greatest pledge of a couple’s love for each other. It makes a marriage complete, lifting it above selfish love and physical pleasure to that of devotion and love centered around a new life. Self-sacrifice replaces self-indulgence. It is a mutual participation in the process of creation, in which the highest spiritual gifts are gained. And the most intimate role in the creation of a new life was given to the mother. God chose His helper well.
May 13, 1951
Training Champions for Christ
For the guidance of Christian parents in the training of their children, St. John Chrysostom wrote a small educational work entitled, “The Soul of a Child.” This book has been described by many as a “Golden Book.” In it he says nothing specific about schools but it is nevertheless a work of considerable value on the subject of education. If we believe that education is defined as the training of the “whole” person, then this book is certainly about education, for St. John’s purpose in writing this book was to indicate to the Christian parents how children can be trained to become good Christians themselves. Chrysostom writes on this subject with wisdom, love and understanding giving this book great charm and making it a valuable guide. It shows that he had a deep love for children and a real understanding of the child’s mind.
St. John Chrysostom complains that many Christian parents were too worldly in their outlook (this remains a very accurate analysis of the situation today) and that many of them infect their own children with their passion for success and luxurious living. They are more concerned with providing their children with expensive clothes and accessories than with giving them the true riches of the soul. Compare for example, the time, effort, energy and money which many parents spend on taking care of the material needs of their child with that which they spend on his or her spiritual needs. St. John begins his work thus:
So soon as ever a child is born the father bestirs himself, not that he may rightly take order about his education, but that he may magnificently set him forth, and adorn him with jewels and rich apparel. O vain man, where- fore do you do this? Be it that you yourself are clothed with all these things, why do you instruct your child, as yet free from this madness, in these trifles? For what purpose do you put that ornament about his neck? He needs the care of a diligent tutor who may compare and regulate his manners; he has no need for gold.
A child’s secular education is regarded by him as essential by most parents, but many of them do not show the same concern for those things which are of even greater importance.
Now indeed that their children may be interested in the arts, letters and eloquence, every one does seriously contend; but that they may cultivate their minds, few or none are at all solicitous. I will never desist to beseech, to entreat, and to beg of you, that before all things else whatsoever, you would now compose the manners of your children. For if you will be truly indulgent to your child, declare it in this, that you shall not lose your reward.... And though you are conscious to yourself of never so many evils, then rather seek out some consolation for them. Make a Champion for Christ ... Bring him up a Champion, I say, for Christ while he remains in this world; instruct him from his very cradle. If while he is yet young you imprint good principles in him, nobody shall ever be able to efface them when he becomes more firm; being then as wax which has received the impression.
This does not mean that St. John despised secular learning. But he knew only too well the weakness and limitations of ordinary education-and education which often did great damage to the character of an individual because of its artificiality and emptiness. That is why he insists on a new and true attitude towards education on the part of parents. It is not the parents’ primary concern to provide their children with social advantages or academic adornments, or financial security. These all have their place, but they are unimportant when compared to the responsibility which every parent has for the training of a child’s character, or as St. John calls it, the training of a Champion for Christ.
He urges parents to consider their children as the most cherished possession which they can possibly obtain-a possession which they must be prepared to offer to the Lord even as Samuel was dedicated to the divine service by Hanna. This care and training of those who are a sacred trust from God should be regarded by the parents as a most sacred vocation. He asks, “What could be greater than to temper their minds, than to regulate the manners of the young?” No greater task than this could be entrusted to man.
Let every one of us [who are parents], as we behold painters adorning their pictures and statues with so much exactness, be diligently studious about these wonderful statues. For when painters have once designed a picture, they work every day about it to bring it to perfection; the same do sculptors, abating what is superfluous and adding whatsoever is deficient. So you also, like so many sculptors, bend all your endeavors as preparing those admirable statues for God, take away that which is superfluous, add that which you find wanting; consider every day how they abound in natural endowments, that you may timely augment them, what natural defects you note, that you may accordingly abate them; but with all care, and above all things, be very careful to exterminate unseemly speeches, for this custom begins extremely to infect the minds of youth. Yea, and before he has essayed it, teach him to be sober, to be vigilant and diligent, in his devotions, and upon whatsoever he says or does, to put your seal upon it.
The father is told by Chrysostom that he should regard himself as a vassal-king to whom the care of a city is committed. That city is the soul of the child which is ruled for the King who created it.
The mind of a child is therefore a city; a city newly built and furnished; a city full of new inhabitants, and as yet wholly unexperienced. It is an easy matter to instruct and model such; for those which have been at first possessed and grown up with evil principles, such as are many older persons, are truly with great difficulty reformed ... but such as are totally ignorant will embrace with ease the laws you enjoin them.
The body of the child represents the city walls, and the senses are the gates of the city.
Now these gates are the eyes, the tongue, the ears, and the nose, and (if you please) the touch. Through these ... our thoughts are corrupted or amended.
St. John Chrysostom then examines the dangers and opportunities related to each sense. On occasion fools, criminals and madmen enter to endanger the city. They must be restrained or expelled to insure the well-being of the city, and thus for the sake of continued stability and growth of the city discipline must be maintained, laws and regulations made and enforced.
The tongue is the most important gate. Its doors should be made out of the gold of “the Laws of God” which should be continuously on the lips of every Christian.
Nor is it sufficient that the doors be overlaid with gold, but they must be framed altogether of solid gold; having precious stones fixed one against another without. Let the Cross of our Lord be the bars of these gates, which it is indeed, everywhere incased with stones of price: let this be placed against the middle of the gates.
Each gate is treated in a similar way. When discussing the ear, we get a model Scriptural Lesson during which this wise observation is made, “Sweeten your discourse with some pretty diversion, that the child delight in what you say, lest it become tedious.” Next he considers the manner of dealing with unruly citizens, and finally he deals with the methods of inculcating certain specifically Christian virtues.
Throughout his work St. John’s main concern is with the moral training of the child. He says parents must educate their children for eternity, not for a limited time, and teach them that true riches are to be won through contempt for worldly values. He insists that instruction should be adapted to a child’s capacity; that steady progress will only be made if provision is made for relaxation, and he does not consider corporal punishment with favor. This approach to education is revealed as being thoroughly Christian. St. John took the cultural, social and moral pagan approach prevalent in his own day and transformed it through the Gospel of Jesus Christ
A Second Look at the Youth Revolt
Youth Revolt is a current term, but the problem is as old as mankind. Indeed it is part and parcel of the human condition. Mankind shares the problem with the animal kingdom. However, for man it is a more complex and many faceted problem with great dimensions and depth. Furthermore, we can discuss our problem, and communicate our findings to others.
The Evolutionary Theory indicates that the revolt of youth is one price we must pay for our more complex physical, mental and psychological nature. Mankind inherits the problem, at least its physical and psychological aspects, together with a larger brain, a longer period of gestation and especially the longer period of infancy and adolescence.
Today we share with our forbears the normal dimensions of the youth revolt as a phenomenon of human development. No one moves from infancy to childhood, to adolescence, to youth and finally to adulthood without resistance. Every transition is accompanied by friction, rough passage, crisis, and sometimes tragedy. The total experience becomes a part of our inheritance. The proverb states the negative, “The sins of youth are paid for in old age.” In the inexorable writing on the balance sheet of life our error and our steps forward are inscribed side by side. Man does learn from his errors, and some of his steps forward are made only after stumbling and falling flat on his face several times. “Show me a man who makes no mistakes, and I’ll show you a man who does nothing.” Ancient writings usually agree on the subject of youth and the future which depends on them. They are usually pessimistic about both. However, the youth of one generation invariably becomes the adult of the next. It is then that the new adult reaches the long sought agreement with the parents; just about the time that the youth of a new generation takes its place on the stage. This is the “generation gap” which is always with us. It is so much a part of the human condition that the description of the problem in one generation can be used with minor editing to describe the problem of youth revolt in any age. The youth is described by the adult as slovenly, disreputable, dissolute, immoral, disrespectful of long cherished traditions, customs, morals; given to drunkenness and laziness. No doubt this is descriptive of a segment of the youth of all generations, and especially of our own time.
Individuals will always experiment with styles of living, just as they do with styles of clothing and manners. It is normal for the “status quo” in all phases of human life to be questioned: no one is excluded; all social groups, political, educational, religious are subject to continuing criticism. This is usually accepted without question unless the individual who puts the question or levels the criticism is a youth. The adult establishment does not accept the criticism of youth gracefully or seriously, and often as not simply dismisses it as lacking validity.
Adults with oddities in dress, or behavior are dismissed by other adults as eccentrics or “strange.” The youth in revolt, on the other hand, is called a delinquent, revolutionist or abnormal. He elicits little charity, and less understanding from the adult. Yet there is a certain aspect of the youth revolt that is generally understood to be the normal behavior of a person undergoing the strain and stress of adjustment to a new stage of life. When the infant makes his first attempts to walk or talk, he is encouraged by doting parents and relatives. The same child going through the growing pains of adjustment to adolescence is the subject of concern and is excused for his awkwardness. Then the adolescent becomes a youth and enters the period of preparation for adulthood. The initiation to which the youth is subjected to has always been formidable. Some excuse it as a necessity. How else is one to separate the children from the adults? However, we are concerned about the “rough hazing” that seems to verge on sadism. Indeed it is surprising that more of the youth do not express their revolt by more violent means more often.
Every period of adjustment in the normal development of a person should be the subject of concern of the adult. And the final period of adjustment, in many ways the most crucial, as the youth moves into the full responsibility of adulthood, should have our greatest concern, study and consideration. At best, it is a rough period in the life of an individual. Many of the difficulties of adjustment are unavoidable, and the best way to handle them is face them. The adult must also face the fact that adjustment is a two way street, and that he must be flexible in his attitude towards the new adult who is preparing to shoulder his share of the burden. The golden rule should be applied at all times.
There is one aspect of the present youth revolt which seems to give it its own unique mark. It is the remarkable degree to which youth has captured the imagination of the adult, and in some ways has been taken over by the adult establishment. To some degree this is the usual problem of arrested development, and as always, it is a pathetic sight. It is difficult to accept a full-grown child behaving like an infant, or a young man acting like an adolescent. But far more tragic and comic is the adult who tries to capture “eternal youth.” This is the fairy-tale-world of the advertiser who angles his advertising to promise the buyer of his product a map to the “fountain of youth.” All that one has to do is to gas-up one’s “youth-mobile” and drive at supersonic speeds to the secret destination. He is sure to get there faster than ever before; arriving at the “grave-site” looking younger than ever in real life. The survivor gazing upon the face of the departed prepared by the best make-up artist, is expected to put on an appropriate sad mien, and to respond to the “work of art” with the usual, “He never looked better.” As a matter of fact, he never looked worse. The commentary of the living is as often as not a judgment of the living. This is a perverted form of the Christian message of Immortality and Eternal Life. “There is a feeling of Eternity in youth which makes amends for everything. To be young is to be as one of the Immortals.”
The search for change which is expressed in the youth revolt is not necessarily evil. Indeed when it is seen in the light of the Christian gospel, and if it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it can be a very positive and valuable contribution to the human aspiration for a better world. The young person discovers that his or her attempt to adjust to the adult world is manifested in a questioning of the very foundations and presuppositions on which this world is built. The adult accepted this world in much the same way, and should have a deep empathy for the youth who faces the same testing.
In the novel Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgeneff, Bazarov is the young man in revolt. He is a nihilist and expresses the extreme position of the youth revolt in these words, “Once you have decided to make a clean sweep-include the ground you are standing on.” This can only lead to chaos. The Christian in revolt searches for the “True ground” on which to stand, and if this means to reject the “false ground” of a particular time, it must be rejected. These are the idols and the false gods that must give way to the True Living God whom all must worship.
The Apostles were accused in their time of being revolutionists who were turning the world upside down. This is precisely what they did, and in doing it, they followed the teachings of Jesus Christ, “Love not the world; neither the things that are in the world.” (1 John 2:15) “They, [the Disciples] do not belong to the world, as I, too, do not. (John 17:16) The world that Jesus Christ and His Disciples rejected is the world that the youth and all mankind must reject. It is the world of false values, of false ideals, of false goals, and of false loyalties. These do not deserve our energy nor our support. They must be rejected, for they keep us from the “knowledge of God” which is necessary to salvation.
Jesus Christ came into the world to save it, to redeem it, and to transform it. Therefore, before one rejects anything, he must first consider whether it is salvageable, redeemable and transformable in Christ Jesus. This is the task of the Church, and of all who are members of the Body of Christ. If the youth considers that the world is in need of reformation, he is correct. The purpose of the Church is to continuously reform the world, so that it may be all taken up into the Life of Christ, the Holy Church. God created man for Immortality. Man chose mortality, and was in danger of total destruction. God chose to save man. He sends His Son into the world, and He takes on the nature of man, the same nature that has been wounded by the sins of man. This “Son of Man and Son of God” is the One who is crucified on the Cross, who dies. He rises from the dead on the Third Day. He ascends into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father. On the day of Pentecost, through the intercessions of Jesus Christ, the Glorified Son of Man, God sends the Holy Spirit into the world. The Comforter lives in the world, and keeps it in perpetual turmoil, for He is the Giver of Life. He is forever reconciling the World to God through Christ. He is continuously transforming mankind and the world.
The young person who feels the rejection of this world as he strives to adjust to it, must come to know and accept that he was never destined to be at home in this world. His home is the Kingdom of Heaven. Even now it is in him, “for the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) This rejection is in one dimension the testing for the ultimate end, the Kingdom of God. It brings the young person to the realization that if he wants to follow in the path of Christ, he can never be of this world, though he may be in it. If it is the Truth that he wants to capture, then he must recognize that the first step is to become a disciple of Christ. Having made that ultimate commitment, and having continued in His Word, then he truly becomes His Disciple; for he “find[s] the Truth, and the Truth will make [him] free.” (John 8: 31-32)
Having discovered that the world has rejected him, the youth must search out his Father, as did the Prodigal Son. He must then make that commitment which will give him not only the knowledge of the Truth, but also the Way, and that Way will give him the Life, not mere physical existence, but Life Eternal. The youth having revolted must search to be reconciled. It is in Jesus Christ that all mankind becomes reconciled to the Father. Then the Father’s home becomes our home. The True Home is man’s now. When he enters the Church, he enters that Home, which shall one day be the Ark of Salvation for him. It will lift him out of this mundane limited world, and into an Eternal Living New World. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:17) “We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. ” (2 Peter 3:13)
Turgeneff writes of this world in the final words of the novel Fathers and Sons, when he describes the grave of Bazarov and the flowers growing on it, “they speak of that supreme peace of the ‘impassive universe.’ They also speak of eternal reconciliation and eternal life.” The Bazarovs of this world cut themselves out of this world. They are the dropouts who have nowhere to “drop in.” They are eternally estranged. The world testifies in its every atom to a world of unity, of oneness, of harmony, that is, of Love. This can be seen with whatever eyes one chooses to see, be they the eyes of the scientist, the philosopher, the believer, the child, or the youth. The message is written there for all to understand; if they will.
T. Dobzhansky, in his book The Biology of Ultimate Concern 1 looking at the world through the eyes of a scientist writes, “In progressive evolutions we find a competition for cooperativeness. There is also an evolution of love; love ascends from sexual love, to brotherly love, to love of mankind, to love of God. Love unites without casting off diversity. On the human level it is the means whereby a person as well as the species achieves self-transcendence. The mega-synthesis is a ‘gigantic psychobiological operation’ in which love is the main agent, and which leads to unity in diversity.” The Church of Christ has long ago been described by theologians as a “unity of love in diversity,” a “unity of love in God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.” The Lord Jesus Christ reminded His Disciples, “ By this shall all men know that ye are My Disciples, if ye have love one for another.” (John 13:35) The limited truth that the scientist is dedicated to discover, can lead him toward that all-embracing Truth that has already been revealed to us through Jesus Christ, who described Himself as Friend of man, and who manifested in His Life, Death and Resurrection, His own description of that perfect, eternal, cosmic, all-embracing Love of the True Friend of man, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Originally published in The Orthodox Way of Life, VIII, No. 4 (Winter 1968-69), pp 6-10.
1 Dobzhansky, Theodosius Grigorievich, The Biology of Ultimate Concern (New York: New American Library, 1967)
Where are we going?
It is certainly trite to say that we are living in critical times. Only a truly callous and indifferent person could live in these days and not be affected by what is happening in the world around him. As members of the Body of Christ we must also be aware that the Church is living through a time which is also very critical, but here we have one saving grace-the knowledge that the promise of our Lord will be fulfilled; that His Church will never be overcome but will complete its mission in the world to bring all to God through Christ. Living in this hour of crisis we instinctively feel uncomfortable and unhappy when we find ourselves using most of our time, our energy and our talents, as well as our resources, in wasteful and superfluous activities. It reminds one of the old saw that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” Are we as members of the Church not doing just that? What will our grandchildren’s comments be when they read the activities and programs of the average parish meeting, youth convention or Church Council? Yet this is precisely what we must consider if we take seriously the mission and purpose of the Church and try to the best of our ability to fulfill that mission.
The time has come for us to accept the responsibility of mature membership in the Church. We can no longer indulge in the luxury of criticizing or merely commenting on the situation. In the colloquial phrase, “the time has come to put up or shut up.” Nor can we indulge in fund raising projects without first committing ourselves as persons to work in and for the Church. It is true that money is necessary for much of the work that the Church does but what is needed far more than money is the individual’s time, energy, concern and sacrifice.
Our Lord, when He began His ministry in this world began with a sermon, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1: 15) Any work that we can do in the Church must begin with the acknowledgment of our failures in the past. Soon after the initial sermon our Lord said, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mat 4: 19) The next step in our work in the Church is really to commit ourselves, as individuals, to follow the Way of Christ and of His Disciples and of His Church. To do this we must know what the Church is and what our mission is, in the world, in this country, in our community, in our families, and finally, and possibly most important of all, in ourselves.
Arrayed against us and the Church are tremendous powers of Evil that are determined to destroy God and God’s Truth. These forces have a program; they have volunteers who have committed themselves to that program, and they are determined to fulfill their mission. We who are committed to Christ must have equal determination, and equal understanding of our mission which is to conquer the world for Truth and Goodness as revealed to us by the Son of God. We must also know that the price that must be paid if this victory is to be won must in some way be measured by the price which He paid for the same victory for us. In short, none of this is possible without sacrifice -not just sacrifice of time, or of energy, or of resources, or of talents, but the sacrifice of ourselves. In the words of our Lord, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mat 16: 24-26)
September 23, 1961
Selections from the works of Father Vladimir Borichevsky; Number 3.