We must be joyful and loving ambassadors for the Faith
Some forty years ago I’d found myself wandering in a spiritual wasteland, knowing I was drying up, spiritually, and hoping there was something out there that would fill the void. Orthodoxy had not been in my scope, seeming, as it were, to be some exotic, eastern form of a Christian faith that had become stagnant, for me.
I was aware of the Orthodox claims to being the very Church founded by Christ, and I had witnessed the majesty of her divine services. I’d tasted a small portion of the sublime mystical theology that seemed to be intuitive in nature, rather than grounded in the logic and reason that had formed much of Western Christianity. I was aware of her ancient history, and the astounding beauty of her temples.
Yet the seemingly splintered nature of American Orthodoxy put me off, what with the myriad of ethnic expressions of a faith that claimed to be the One True Church. The strong nationalistic nature of some parishes I’d visited only confirmed that Orthodoxy could not possibly fill the void. Yet, as I think back, American Lutheranism was much the same when I was young, with the Norwegians, Germans, Danes, Finns, Swedes, and Latvians, all separated into difference denominations, with independent administrations.
As a man who held religious and politically liberal views, I found the Orthodox Church’s positions to be backward looking, devoid of charity, and downright medieval. Her clergy, at least the ones I’d met, seemed unfriendly and standoffish. Sadly, I made sweeping judgements of the whole of Orthodoxy while standing from the vantage point of looking from the outside. I judged the Orthodox Church after having met but a few of her clergy. This seems particularly sad to me in hindsight, but this seems to be a common observation by many outsiders.
Now that I am within the walls of the Orthodox Church, and a priest myself, I try to be open, friendly, and approachable at all times, lest I, too, be a barrier for others. We clergy are the most visible ambassadors of the faith, and often the first to represent Orthodoxy to outsiders. If we are closed off, aloof, and unapproachable, we will be nothing but an obstacle to others, and they will not come close enough to Orthodoxy to be able to “taste and see”.
If we are unloving and worldly, we will have masked Christ’s Church from view, and others will not be drawn into the Life Giving Faith. As Christ’s priests, we are called to show forth His light in the way we live our lives, and the way we love, all the while ushering the Light of Christ into a darken world that needs Orthodoxy, now more than ever.
Love in Christ,