The Lay Apostolate
An Introduction To It's Basic Commitments
Source: The New England Diocese of The Orthodox Church in America
The contemporary non-church use of terms borrowed from the Christian
vocabulary tends to obscure for us the real and technical Christian meaning of such
terms. The word 'layman' is one of the best cases in point. It is defined in the
dictionary as 'one of the laity' or 'one not belonging to some particular profession.'
So it is possible to speak of laymen insofar as medicine or law are concerned. They may
have their non-expert or 'lay' opinions, but they, not being especially trained, are not
expected to be experts in those fields.
The English adjective lay comes from the Greek laos, which became the
technical or theological word in the early Christian vocabulary to describe the whole
people of God, the people with a particular calling, in other words, the Church of the
people with whom God had made His new pact or testament, they royal priesthood.
The laos includes all Christians, ordained and unordained, those with
a special teaching, ministerial, sacramental and liturgical function, and those of the
mass of the assembly of believers. The laos is the ecclesia, and never was there to be
a difference within it in degree of commitment. No one is expected to be more Christian
or less Christian within the laos, for the vocation is the same, and Christ's demands on
all are the same. Still, for the sake of convenience, we shall use both layman and laity
in this paper to refer to the unordained member or members of the Church.
In order to emphasize to the layman that the clergy is not the sole
bearer of the good news, a number of theologians, preachers and writers have begun to
use the expression 'lay apostolate.' Far from intending to create for the laity some
new role in the life of the Church, the purpose of the call to the lay apostolate is
primarily to remind all the faithful of something that is basic to their vocation as
Christians. Just as our Lord told the man out of whom lie had cast the devils, when he
was "clothed and in his right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus," to go to his own
house and to show all the wonderful things God had done unto him, so He tells each person
who has been redeemed, made an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven, a member of the Body of
Christ, and a "partaker of the glory of God," to go and to declare by his life, his
actions, and his words that he is a Christian, that there is no part of his life that is
unrelated to the new life he has as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and that he obeys
the divine imperative to spread the Gospel of reconciliation.
It is evident that the layman has not been expected to know very
much about his faith and that the Church has come to be synonymous with the
clergy, and that the layman's role is reduced to almost complete passivity. He is not
expected to be even knowledgeable, and much less an expert, about matters of his
salvation. Consequently, he is often unable to defend the faith or even to speak
intelligently about it. lie usually knows much more about hobbies and other side
interests such as lodges and clubs. Except for a few lay theologians in the seminaries
and a few Church-school teachers, the possibility of laymen's being spokesmen for the
Gospel seems remote indeed. This was undoubtedly not the case in the early Church or
in the Church at other times of spiritual greatness.
The conditions of contemporary life and the situation in which the average layman is
called to live, in the face of an unrelenting attack by the modem world on every
Christian dogma and moral principle, make it imperative that this state of things be
corrected, that something so essential to the Christian vocation as the personal
apostolate be recaptured and restored. In other words, for the Christian to remain
unassailed and strong in faith in the pagan society of today, and to be the messenger of
Christ that He calls him to be, the consciousness of his having a mission must be given
back to him.
The Church's mission demands the creation of a program specifically
designed to foster a teal lay apostolate. in which the 0niy acceptable goal would be total
commitment to the Christian life and to the evangelization of the world, and especially
that part of the world that is the particular responsibility of the Orthodox Church in
America. The initiative for this program belongs to the hierarchy, the clergy and the lay
leaders of our Church, and it is they who must realize its urgency. It is a question of
a call to maximalism, the only way in which we can heed the call "to redeem the time,
because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5: 16)
KNOWLEDGE OF THE FAITH
Faith is the means to the knowledge of the revelation of truth in Jesus
Christ. "Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10: 17) As
Christians, we can recognize only "One Faith," that which is founded upon the teachings
of the Incarnate God and handed down to us by the Apostles and Fathers of the Church
and defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
From this brief statement, we can see, very quickly, that our
knowledge of the faith has two sources--Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition.
For those committed to the four points of the Lay Apostolate,
knowledge of the faith requires study of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. These two
sources are joined together in what can be called the "Christian experience." Through
this experience, man's soul is made receptive to the truth of Jesus Christ.
In our present age, "Christian experience" of Holy Scripture is quite
distorted. "Modern man" has on the whole a superficial acquaintance with Holy Scripture.
Although the Bible still ranks high on the best seller list, the context and spirit of the
Bible remains far from the Christian experience of our society. All too many times we
hear Christians say "the Bible is a difficult book to understand!" The main reason for
this common outcry is that man is not willing to make the context and spirit of the
Bible a real experience in his life.
Holy Scripture was not written for the common reader. Holy Scripture
is given to those who have chosen to commit themselves to Christ. Once a commitment to
Christ has been made, together with a desire for repentance, then there will be a real
Christian experience of knowledge of faith as is contained in Holy Scripture. In short,
Scripture must be applied to every aspect of Christian living.
Holy Tradition has, for the most part, been denied by many Christians
of today. Some have chosen to keep only the 'essentials, while others have disregarded
Holy Tradition altogether. For the Christian, Holy Tradition is equal in authority to
Holy Scripture. The Church teaches us that Holy Tradition is the on-going revelation of
God to man. This does not imply that our Lord did not complete His divine mission while
on earth; rather it implies that the salutary work of Christ is made alive in us by Holy
Tradition in every age.
For the Lay Apostolate, the study of Holy Tradition is imperative.
Knowledge of our faith is dependent upon our Christian experience and 'the" Christian
experience is. in fact, the 1-loly Tradition of the Church. Holy Tradition encompasses
the writings of the Fathers, the canons and dogmas of the Ecumenical Councils and the
liturgical life of the Church.
If the Lay Apostolate is to have an impact on the life of those
committed to it, then it is certain that a study of the Fathers of the Church should be
seen as a link between the Apostolic Age and the period of the Great and Holy Ecumenical
Councils. The conciliar period must be studied so that the canons and dogmas of the Church
can become part of the total "Christian experience" so vital to the knowledge of the
Finally, there can be no knowledge of the faith without the Christian
experience of the Liturgy of the Church. The liturgical life of the Church is the apex of
all Christian experiences. It is through the Liturgy of the Church that Holy Scripture
and Holy Tradition come alive. The drama of Scripture is 'played out' in the liturgical
worship of the Church. The hidden mysteries of the sacraments take on the "fullness of
grace," only in the liturgical action. Prayer, fasting, and the celebration of the
Feasts of Christ and His elect are transformed and sanctified by liturgical worship. The
whole of creation is touched by the liturgical life of the Church. Of all the
"experiences" that have been enumerated, the "experience" of liturgical life is
paramount for the acquisition of knowledge of the faith, for it is through the Liturgy
of the Church that the Kingdom of God is made attainable to man; and the sole purpose
for the knowledge of the faith is to enable man to become an inheritor of that Kingdom.
-The Reverend Father Peter Tutko
THE SACRMENAL NATURE OF THE LAY APOSTOLATE
In February, 1972, the Holy Synod Published and released a booklet
entitled Confession and Communion. Included in that booklet were two documents: the
first contained a number of resolutions of the Bishops, who blessed the practice of
general confession (giving specific instructions how this should be celebrated) and who blessed and
encouraged the practice of regular and frequent co-union Concerning that practice, the
resolution said, "the idea of renewal in the Eucharistic life in the Church is not only
desirable but indispensable.
The second document was a report prepared by
Father Alexander Schmemann and presented to the
Holy Synod at its request. In that report, Father
Schmemann spoke about the need for the restoration of the Eucharist as the 'focus of
Christian life,' Particularly in view of the rapid secularization
of the Orthodox mind. This secularized understanding of the Church has led to decay--and
sometimes to disintegration - in parish life and to the consequent
loss of hundreds of Young people who have discerned the parish as being little more than
a 'human, all too human' institution. The report Pointed out that a great many problems
destroying the peace of our parishes stern from the fact that-in fact--our laity has
been spiritually and psychologically 'excommunicated' from the saving Mystery of Christ's
Presence and has--in fact--been disconnected from the Altar, and from that which it
'stands for' and belongs to all by right of inheritance as baptized men and women.
Finally, the report touched upon the sacrament of confession, about its original
understanding and function in Orthodox Tradition and about the mutilation of that
understanding, because of (among other reasons) the "western captivity" of the
Orthodox mind. (The painful overcoming of that captivity comprises the bulk of
twentieth century Russian Orthodox thought and effort, including in my Opinion, the
booklet Confession and Communion itself). Included in that discussion was a discussion
about the relation of confession to communion a relation which is a peculiarly 'Russian'
problem more than it is an Orthodox one.
That report was carefully read by all the bishops, who received it
with 'gratitude and approbation.' We have no reason to suspect that our Orthodox
Bishops--none of whom are illiterate--were flippant or careless about so vital an issue
as Holy Communion. Indeed, the booklet was issued under the series entitled Documents of
the Orthodox Church in America. This series has come to include those documents which
are 'position papers' of our Church, expressing her official teaching and position.
By now (1977) every member of the Church should have received and read
the document and every priest busily implementing it. It is clear and self-evident. If
its implications are not recognized by everyone at the present time, they undoubtedly
will be--even if that means by the generations who come after us. The implications of
the booklet are far- ranging, affecting the life of the Church on all her levels. The
die is cast.' In the following short presentation on the relation of the lay apostolate
to the sacraments that booklet will be the ultimate 'point of reference,' for already
in it, the Vision of a lay apostolate is implied. Since a fundamental premise of the
booklet is that, through Communion, each member of the Church real-izes or actualizes
his membership in the Church of Christ, I would touch upon two fundamental aspects of
the lay apostolate: the Eucharist and the Church, and the Eucharist and membership in
THE EUCHARIST AND THE CHURCH
As a biblical reality, the Church as a whole and as that for which
Christ was nailed to the Cross is sometimes called the 'Sacrament of the Kingdom of
God.' That means that the Church--both as a whole and as she is manifested in all of
her various aspects--exists in order that she might give to us, so that we might
make our own--the new life of the Resurrection of Christ in the Kingdom of God.
In relation to the Church, the Eucharist is sometimes called the 'Sacrament of
the Church." This means that the Eucharist fulfills what the Church is. Putting it in
other words: what the Church is is fulfilled and manifested in the Liturgy. "In the
Liturgy," says one Orthodox writer, "the 'world' assembles as 'Church' to become the
Kingdom of God."
Holy Scripture ends on a note of expectation; "I am Coming soon. Amen.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus." Christ Is coming! He is yet to come and the expectation of His
Coming re-echoes in the Church as she moves through the ages to her destined consummation.
Scripture expresses the thirst of Christians for the return of the Master, for then we
will have perfect union and communion with God the Father, in the Son by the power of
the Holy Spirit; only then will we have--in God-_perfect union and communion with
each other in a sinless and transfigured Universe.
But the paradoxical nature of Orthodox Christian life consists of
this: there where--from time to time--the Bread is broken, then there Christ is not only
yet to come, but also comes in a mysterious way. The radiant Presence of Christ is
manifested, celebrated and 'actualized' every time the Eucharistic Liturgy is celebrated,
and His nearness is discerned by those who, out of love for Him, are obedient in His
very obedience and purified by prayer, repentance and love for the neighbor. And in the
radiance of His meek glory He brings with Him and in Him the new life of the Resurrection
whose content is the Kingdom of God. An early, scriptural icon of the Liturgy is the
appearance of Christ to His disciples in Emmaus in the breaking of Bread. His radiance
appeared to them in that Eucharist; thus, the breaking of the Bread of our Eucharist is
our sure sign, our hope, pledge, guarantee, proof, affirmation and celebration that
Christ--risen from the dead--Is with us and in us. In Him, we can truly say, "Thou hast
endowed us with thy Kingdom which is to come," for in Him we are become partakers and
communicants of His divine radiance and life.
Christ came, was rejected, 'cast out,' and killed. Therefore, 'this
age' in its structures and attitudes rejects communion with Him, becoming external to Him. Thus, what is
given to us as union and communion with God, is, necessarily, “from the other side of the grave,’ so to speak. It is
already of the ‘age to come.’ Therefore, Baptism stands as the entrance into the life of the Church for through Baptism
it is given to us to ‘die before death’ in Christ’s death and to ‘rise before the resurrection’ in His Resurrection. Baptism
is the proclamation that we are made citizens of the Kingdom of God, partakers of the new life of Christ’s Resurrection
already hidden in the Church. Through Baptism, the general resurrection of the dead already begins; it begins as an
internal certitude, it grows as we “put on Christ,” the Only Sinless One, and comes to a certain fruition as we discern
that the “lame walk, the blind see and the sick are being healed,” all ‘signs’ of the Kingdom of God. The Liturgy and the
Eucharist are what people do who have been baptized in Christ’s death and resurrection.
This fundamental ‘fact’ of the Church’s nature is celebrated every time the Liturgy is
celebrated. And I would propose that this understanding of the connection between the Church and the Kingdom of
God is absolutely crucial to a proper understanding both of the nature
of the Church and of life in the Church. To the degree that this
connection has been lost, then to the same degree has the Orthodox
mind and spirit been seduced by the ‘western captivity,’ for I believe
that the lack of this connection comprises one of the essential
differences between Orthodoxy and that which lies outside of it.
Regarding parish life--its administration, its meetings,
financial structures and difficulties--it has been written that the
Liturgy has become an “engine not connected to the wheels, producing
an energy which nowhere becomes motion, light or warmth.” That means
that the Liturgy, where baptized Christians assemble as ‘Church’ to
become the Kingdom of God has spiritually and psychologically become
disconnected from all other aspects of Church life in much the same
way we Orthodox have become ‘excommunicated’ from the Eucharist in our own
personal lives. These aspects, in turn, become activated by a dynamic
other than that of the Kingdom of God, a dynamic necessarily of ‘this
age’ and therefore alien and often hostile to that Kingdom--even if
that hostility is expressed in a negative way or cloaked in religious
rhetoric. But where the Church is not transparent to Christ and the
new life He gives us in the resurrection, then there the Church becomes
boring. When she ceases to be consciously expressive of the Presence
of Christ on all her levels, then either she is of interest to no one
or the reality of her life can become a real block to communion with
Relating all that to a lay apostolate: it seems to me
that, before it is anything else, that apostolate must certainly be a
witness to the coming resurrection already illumining the Church from within. A lay
apostolate is that which is created, shaped and inspired by the Liturgy, by what has
been ‘seen and received.’ Its primary function is to evaluate all action and opinion
in the light of the Church as the beginning of the new life in Christ’s Resurrection,
creating, if necessary, new modes of expression for that new life. A lay apostolate are
those people who, according to their talents and interests, are the belts and wheels’
of the Liturgy, and who put into motion the energy of the Liturgy, creating ‘light and
warmth’ in dead and boring parish structures. From that point of view, the lay
apostolate is a profound sacramental reality. The laity of God is not defined here as
the absence of anything, but rather as those who positively and concretely make present
the positive Presence of Christ, reconnecting, as it were, the ‘parish’ to the ‘Church’
and, through the Church, to the Kingdom of God on all levels of parish life. On this
level, the function of the priest and the layman is exactly the same.
THE EUCHARIST AND CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
If in relation to the Church, the Eucharist fulfills what the Church
is by celebrating her as the presence and availability of the new life of the
Resurrection, whose content is the Kingdom of God, then--in relation to
membership in that Church--Holy Communion is our actualization and our
appropriation of that new life. In other terms, before it is an action
done for ‘private’ needs, communion is first of all the celebration of
one’s membership in the Church and--through the Church--of one’s
communion with the new life of Christ’s Resurrection. One is not a
member of the Church of Christ just because one’s parents were
Orthodox, or one has paid all his dues or simply considers himself to
be Orthodox. If I am Orthodox, I am not Orthodox unless I actualize my
membership in the Church by partaking of Holy Communion. No one can be
a member of any Orthodox parish who is not a communicant of the Body
and Blood of Christ; and, being a member of the Church means that I
am in communion with that Body. There is a direct inter-relationship
between Communion and Church membership. One is not possible without
the other. Here there can be no disagreement, for this teaching comes
from Christ Himself: “Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and
drink His blood, ye have no life in you.”
Thus Communion and Church membership are inseparable.
But they are inseparable not only because Christ said so. Rather, He
said so because it is the very nature of life in His Church to be in
union and communion with God. Period. Salvation is communion; without
communion, there is no salvation for if we are made to be perfect human
beings we can be perfect only to the extent we put on Christ, sharing and
appropriating to ourselves His very own perfection, His own death and resurrection, His
very own divine life, humility, wisdom and knowledge. He is our salvation. If we are
forgiven of our sins by God, we are forgiven only to the extent that we enter into union
and communion with Christ Who, Himself, is the very Forgiveness of God. Christ forgives
because He is Forgiveness Himself.
In releasing the encyclical on Confession and Communion, we can and
ought to assume that the Bishops were fully aware of the difficulties and questions which
would inevitably arise. One of the chief dangers, already foreseen in the documents,
is that frequent communion would degenerate into an empty ‘fad,’ as
bad as, if not worse, than ‘infrequent communion;’ that Communion would
cease to be a ‘spiritual high,’ or would cease to be ‘meaningful,’ I
would point out that those who are partisans of ‘frequent communion’
are perfectly aware that the real nexus of the issue is not ‘frequent’
or ‘infrequent’ communion as such. The real nexus is communion. Period. The real
nexus touches upon the very nature both of the Church and one’s membership in that
Church. “Christianity,” said St. Seraphim, “is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit;”
Christianity is the acquisition of union and communion with God every day and in every
activity. St. Paul said that he would not unite himself to a prostitute because to do so
would amount to uniting the Body of Christ with her. Out of an awareness of this profound
intimacy and interpenetration between God and man in the Communion which the Church is, the Apostle cries
out, “God forbid.” For him the Eucharist is the ultimate focus of his life,
defining not only the very nature of his membership in the Church--the
Body of Christ--but defining and judging as well everything he does,
says or thinks.
That there could be some aspect of parish life
independent or autonomous of the Chalice in which the parish fulfills
its existence is inconceivable. That there could be--and very often
is--some aspect of the parish’s or each person’s life not rooted in
and expressive of the radiant Presence of Christ is the very source
of the problem. Behind every reason given for not approaching the
Chalice regularly and sincerely (and sometimes these reasons are very
‘pious’), lurks an assumption that it is normal or acceptable not to be in
full communion with Christ, sometimes, or in some ways. This is the real heresy, for
this attitude in fact raises and celebrates de facto excommunication as being of the
very nature of Christian life! We ought not be surprised, then, when this de facto
excommunication finds expression in various by-laws. But I would submit that not only
does this assumption put to nought most of the Gospel, but, like a fatal cancer, it
would destroy the whole life and fabric of the Church as well. I would
submit, also, that it was this assumption that our Orthodox Fathers
also discerned in the rise of ‘Western Christianity,’ and why communion
was broken with that. To the extent our own minds have been
‘westernized’ on that level, then to that extent has our understanding
of Christian life been secularized and ravaged and our parishes and
Church weakened, and ‘desalinated’ (having lost their salt: “If the salt
have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it?” Mark 9: 50; also Matthew 5: 13) It
is clear to me that it is the discernment of this, primary, danger that is behind the
encyclical on Confession and Communion to begin with.
A recent book published by Alexander Solzhenitzen is entitled From
Under the Rubble. In a way, that title aptly describes contemporary life and work
in the Church as well. With reference to a lay apostolate, it is not conceivable that
that apostolate would not be, first of all, among that core group of ‘regular
communicants.’ who, through prayer, effort and study, seek to rediscover the Truth of
authentic Tradition, that Truth that-~alone--makes us free men and women. In that
movement of restoration and ‘digging out from under,’ the Eucharist will necessarily be
the focus of Christian life and the fulfillment and criterion of everything done, said
and thought in the Church. In a word, the vocation of the lay apostolate is simply to
recover the ‘high calling’ of being Orthodox laymen so that others might also be free
with the freedom Christ gives and with the freedom ~~~~the Church--simply is. And that
freedom is not a freedom of ‘this age,’ which so many of our by-laws seek so hopelessly
to defend and promote it is, already, a foretaste of the freedom in God of the ‘age to
come,’ of which the Church as a whole is the Sacrament.
- The Reverend Father Michael Koblosh
MONEY AND ITS RELATION TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Giving as practiced in our Churches
Even a cursory glance at the system of giving in our Church, the
difficulties and ill-will arising from finances, in short, the very crisis, the near
bankruptcy of the National Church, would lead one to believe that indeed money is the
root of evils, and that insofar as the Church is concerned, it is simply an evil that
has to be endured. In fact, there is little evidence that any thought is ever given to
the possibility of money’s being sanctified or to its being an integral part of worship.
Nor has there been any sustained or general interest in trying to discern the meaning of
money from the theological point of view. Almost always, when the various organs of the
Church, the National Church, the Diocese and the parish appeal for contributions or gifts
or for the fulfillment of the several assessments, it is invariably in terms of the
needs of those organs. The practical is almost the only consideration, and that every
member must give, even sacrifice, of his possessions and wealth for his own spiritual
well-being and ultimately for his salvation will strike most of our people not only as a
daring innovation, but as a completely non-Orthodox scheme.
It is also true that many of our people think in terms of giving only
what they can spare, when everything else is taken care of and no sacrifice would be
required. Any suggestion that he give a regular part of his income, a certain percentage,
making it a part of his personal or family budget, is looked upon as an attempt to
encroach upon his freedom, to coerce him, and to destroy the element of freewill in his
Our parishes have usually supported themselves through the payment of
dues and fund-raising, this last either for the general fund or for improvements
and building programs, in the form of bazaars, raffles, foodsales, dances, and even
gambling. We have been trained to think that except for the minimal
amount required for membership, any other donation to the Church is to
be made only after clear evidence of the need has been presented.
Further, these extra gifts have to be made in exchange for something,
food, entertainment, or even the chance for personal profit.
Money, then, in this environment, is the principal
temporal business of the parish, and any idea of relating it to the
spiritual life is regarded as unorthodox and anti-traditional. The
priest thus is not to concern himself with money at all, except to act
sometimes as a kind of salesman whose personal persuasiveness may be
put to use by and for the parish council, the proper agency for dealing
with this necessary, but still dirty business.
Money as Worship
It may be startling to hear that the giving of money is an
integral part of worship and can in no way be divorced from the
spiritual life. But such is the case, for there is no worship without
giving or offering. The Christian’s life demands a total consecration
to God, and this means that every aspect of his life must be
sanctified. No one part of his life can be reserved and kept as a
purely material, this-worldly concern, for when one refuses to let
his wealth be sanctified, then it can become the root of all evils,
and stand between him and God. In commenting on I Timothy 6:10, St.
John Chrysostom says, “but this root is from us, and not from the
nature of the things.” The young man thought he was just because he
kept all the commandments, but went away sad when he learned that
the one thing needful for him was to part with his wealth.
(Matthew 19: 22)
The Theology of Giving
The offering acceptable to God is nothing less than the offering of oneself. In speaking of the gift
of the Macedonians, St. Paul says, “First they gave their own selves
to the Lord.” (II Corinthians 8: 5) And, “yield yourselves unto God,
as those that are alive from the dead.’ (Romans 6: 13)
In the Eucharist, the meaning of the offertory is that
each member offers himself to God, all that he is and all that he has.
His offering is accepted, and is returned to him so that he may be a
member of the Body of Christ through communion.
Throughout the Old Testament, the sign of man’s offering
of himself was his offering from what he produced. Such offering,
regularly the tithe or the tenth (Leviticus 27: 30-32), was holy and in
turn sanctified the rest of his possessions. So when man produced
things, the works of his hands, it was the tenth part of those things
that he offered. In modern society, the only thing that man produces is
money. He usually works for a salary or he invests money and increases
his holdings by way of interests and dividends. To this pursuit of
making money he dedicates most of his time and energy, that is, he
devotes himself. Unless a certain part of his modern product is
consciously and premeditatedly dedicated to God, to His work, and to
the extension of His kingdom among men, then donations, gifts and
dues are merely token amounts. The amount of one’s gift and the spirit
in which it is made indicate the relative importance God and His Church
hold in the heart of the giver.
The eighth and ninth chapters of St. Paul’s Second
Epistle to the Corinthians contain the whole theology of Christian
giving. Although he is here speaking specifically about a collection
for the relief of the Christians at Jerusalem, he reveals a number of
universal truths about giving.
Giving represents the degree of a Christian’s devotion,
and is a means of grace. (8:1 and 8:8) It is a part of the Christian
life and even proof of one’s love. (8:24 and 8:7) Christian giving is
sacrificial (Mark 12: 43-44), and our Lord’s emptying Himself and
becoming poor for our sakes is the basis for the call to Christians to
sacrifice. (8:9) Giving must be in proportion to what one has, though
the Macedonians had given even more than they were able. (8:3) It must
be voluntary (8:12) and cheerful (9:7) Giving provides a good example
to others and is the occasion for thanksgiving.
Truly if each Christian followed the Principles of giving as Outlined
by St. Paul, there would be no need for any kind of fund-raising events or assessments.
In the light of the clear teaching of the Gospel each Christian must give according to his means.
This implies that he must dedicate regularly a part of his income to God’s work (ideally a tithe, or even more if he is
especially blessed materially). It would be appropriate for the Church to be a real item in the budget of each family and
each individual. The concept of total commitment which is the only acceptable way of life for a Christian1 means that we
must begin, as indeed a few parishes have already done, to encourage the people to consider seriously the urgency of
adopting the pledge system or any other system in which they could give freely and generously to God’s work to
respond to the responsibility of fission to complete the work of Sanctification of their whole lives.
Further, when real Christian giving becomes general in our Church, the
necessity for the parishes to depend on money-making schemes will automatically diminish.
Then so much of the energy and tine of the parish can be given over to knowing the saving
faith of Christ. to preaching the Gospel, and to deepening the spiritual life.
Parishes in their turn, rather than being selfishly turned in upon
themselves, must make the work of the whole Church and the carrying out of it’s mission
their own concern. This means that parish budgets should include regular
and generous contributions and allotments to work Outside their own boundaries--to
mission to education (particularly to the seminaries) and to works of
Finally, it should be understood that there is a close
relationship between the spiritual life and one’s financial commitment
to the Church. Over and over again in the Bible, it is made clear that
one’s willingness to give of his possessions to God's work is the measure
of his willingmess to give himself, and one's self is the only acceptable
offering. "For where your tresure is, there will your heart be also."
(Luke 12: 34)
Bishop Dmitri, Working Paper, Section II, The Parish, Third
An area of Christian mission to which the people readily respond if offered the opportunity is in
doing good works or deeds of charity. In the New Testament this activity is usually called alms giving, and it often
characterized the devout members of the Christian Church. Dorcas was “full of good works and alms deeds.”
(Acts 9:36) Giving help to people in need is not only an integral part of the spiritual life, but is even a manifestation
and proof of one’s love of God. (II Corinthians 8:8 and 24) The familiar story of the Good
Samaritan and St. Paul’s call to the Corinthians to relieve the
suffering and the material needs of the Christians at Jerusalem are
evidence enough that it is God1s will that His people do good works
on behalf of others.
The Individual Christian should have sufficient motivation to do good
in Christ’s name on his own initiative, responding to the opportunity to feed, to clothe,
to visit and to minister to the hungry, the naked, and those in prison and in any other
need, for in so doing he ministers to Christ Himself. (Matthew 25:40) It is likewise a
part of the life of the community or parish to organize and direct projects in which the
people may participate. (II Corinthians 8 and 9) The two New Testament examples cited
above represent the two types of charitable work, the individual and the parochial.
It must also be shown to the people that not only are they encouraged
to give of their means, their money and their possessions. but also their time and
energy for others. Recently, the people were asked to contribute money to the relief of
the flood victims in Pennsylvania and New York. In the New York-New Jersey Diocese, the
Good Samaritan Society regularly works among the hospitalized and handicapped Orthodox
in the New York area.
Dioceses and parishes should organize activities to work among those
who are in need, not just among members of the Church, but among all those who are
deprived and must suffer. It is too easy to abuse the idea of “charity begins at home.”
There is no area without its hospitals where there are many neglected and forgotten
patients, no area without its poor and hungry.
Groups like the Good Samaritan Society could be
organized in every area of the several dioceses. Parishes and groups
within parishes could be called upon to help in these activities.
Regular contributions of food, medicines and other supplies could be
given to the needy, and if there is any difficulty in finding outlets
for these contributions, they could be given to service organizations
that regularly help the needy.
Unless, however, the Church, through her hierarchy,
priests and lay leaders, issues the call to do good works, it is
probable that the average member of the Church will neglect to
participate in this form of mission, Parishes are sometimes
self-centered institutions, but they should be encouraged to make
charitable work a part of their programs, even a part of their annual
budgets. If they have not already responded to this kind of planning,
it might be because they have not heard a call to which to
Finally, whatever one gives or does for others, he must
do it out of love for God and his neighbor. One of the real diseases
of parish life today that is in need of radical cure, if all that has
been said above about almsgiving as a part of the spiritual life is to
be taken seriously, is that of expecting credit or recognition for
things that should be done in response to God’s love. Our people have
been congratulated and encouraged to be proud of everything they have
done for God, for their neighbor, and for the Church. Regular lists
of credits and thanks are published in some parish bulletins.
Clergymen and laymen receive awards for their work, their
contributions. Our Lord spoke directly on this matter and every
Christian or Christian group that undertakes to help others must
take His words very seriously:
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be
seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in
heaven. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet
before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets,
that they may have the glory of men. Verily, I say unto you, They
have their reward. (Matthew 6:1-2)
For the ‘lay apostle’ a commitment to ministering to
others is as essential as all his other commitments, that of knowing
the faith, of participating in the sacraments and of meaningful
Bishop Dmitri, Working Paper, Section II, The
Parish, Third All-American Council.
On Knowledge of the Faith (I John 5: 2-13)
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God:
and every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love
God, and keep His corn1fland~nts
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments:
and His commandments are not grievous.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this
is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that
Jesus is the Son of God?
This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ;
not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth
witness, because the Spirit is truth.
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father,
the Word and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one.
And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit,
and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is
greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified in His Son.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in
himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth
not the record that God gave of His Son.
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal
life, and this life is in His Son.
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son
of God hath not life.
These things I have written unto you that believe on the name
of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye
may believe on the name of the Son of God.
II Timothy 2: 15
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth.
II Thessalonians 2: 15
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the
traditions which ye have been taught, whether by Word, or our epistle
II John 7-9
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who
confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.
This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things
which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of
Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both t
he Father and the Son.
On Participation in the Sacraments (John 6: 47-59)
Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth
on me hath everlasting life.
I am that Bread of life.
Your fathers did eat manna in the Wilderness, and are dead.
This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, that
a man may eat thereof and not die.
I am the living Bread Which came down from heaven: if any man
eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is
my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can
this man give us his flesh to eat?
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto
you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have
no life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal
life; and I will raise him up in the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth
in me, and I in him.
As the living Father bath sent me, and I live by the Father:
so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
This is that Bread which came down from heaven: not as your
fathers did eat manna, and are dead:he that eateth of this Bread shall live for
These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in
I Corinthians II: 23-29
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered
unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take,
eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had
supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft
as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do
show the Lord’s death till He come.
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup
of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that
bread, and drink of that cup.
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and d
rinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
James 5: 16
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another,
that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
I John 1: 9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Stewardship and Giving (I Peter 4: 10)
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same
one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
II Corinthians 8: 1-9
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God
which bath been given in the churches of Macedonia;
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of
their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power
they were willing of themselves;
Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift,
and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own
selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he
would also finish in you the same grace also.
Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and
utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see
that ye abound in this grace also.
I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the
forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though
He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty
might be rich.
II Corinthians 9: 6-8
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also
sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him
give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all
sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
On Ministering to Others in Need (Matthew 26: 31-46)
When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the
holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory:
And before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall
separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the
And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats
on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come,
ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty,
and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I
was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw
we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw
we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw
we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and day unto them, verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye
have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto
Then shall He say unto them on the left hand, Depart from
me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat1 I was thirsty,
and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison,
and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer Him, saying Lord, when saw we
thee an hungered or athirst or a stranger or naked, or sick, or in prison and
did not minister unto thee?
Then shall He answer them, saying Verily I say
unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it
not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.