Reflections On The Scandal
Anthousa the Martyr
To the faithful Clergy, Monastics and Laity of the Diocese of the Midwest
Beloved in the Lord,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Ayear has passed since we were afforded the privilege and blessings to benefit from the"School of Repentance" and we continue to find our beloved Orthodox Church in America in a state of crisis and uncertainty. Once again the School of Repentance - the
holy season of Great Lent - is open and our holy Mother, the Church urges us to enroll inearnest and with sincerity. Much has been spoken, much has been written; we still awai tmuch to be revealed, that we may know the truth about that which has plagued theChurch and continues to plague the Church. In the midst of debates, denials, meetings, resolutions, investigations we see an increase of tension between rendering to God and rendering to Caesar. In the midst of the fray,
we, the Church, the Body of Christ, in the confusion of the past year, may have lost our understanding of who we are, what we are, and how we are to live, to discern, to judge with righteous judgment and to fulfill our mission to preach and to live the Gospel of new
My brothers and sisters, I recently ran across an essay entitled, "Worship and the Church: The Foundation of Christian Life'' by Archpriest Robert M. Arida, Rector
and Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Boston, Massachusetts. With his permission I am
pleased to share it with you as an important "lesson" for us on our lenten journey to Pascha.
WORSHIP AND THE CHURCH:
THE FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIAN LIFE
Living in a pluralistic culture poses many challenges for the Orthodox Christian.Not the least of these challenges is the need to know and live the Christian life. Like the Christians of the first three centuries we Orthodox living in America are faced with seemingly endless patths and opinions that demand a response formed by our relationship to the Church and therefore our relationship to Christ.
It is the Church's relationship to Christ, honed and nutrtured by mutual love lived out in prayer, asceticism, study and Sacramental life that provides the foundation upon which it can stand as a witness to the transfiguring truth of the Gospel. Tragically, however, and in spite of what some sociologists refer to as aninformed Christian population, many Christians in America - including the Orthodox - are informed by a message that often conforms to a particular ideology or ethic not necessarily in harmony with the living Word of God. By subordinatimg the Word of God to the words of ideologues and pundits, there emerges a new alliance between Church and State or perhaps more precisely between the cross and worldly power.
While the concept of separation of Church and State offers the Orthodox Church opportunities it did not have wih the emperors, sultans and dictators the growing tendency to ally the Church with political parties clouds the understanding of who a Christian is and what the mission of the Church to the world entails.
If the Church is to be Christ and to reveal Christ in and for the life of the world the Orthodox Christians must be opened to the Holy Spirit who enlivens, sanctifies and edifies. Unless the Church is comprised of those committed to knowing and living the faith, the Spirit of God has no place to dwell, the work of Christ is restrained and Christianity is reduced to a gathering of those living beneath the shadow of the Law, rather that those living and growing by grace and faith as they contend in the fray of the ascetic arena.
As the body of Christ, as the temple of the HoIy Spirit, the Church cannot be reduced to a bureaucratic institution comprised of clergy and laity. The Church is
a divine and human reality that offers humanity and all of creation new and eternal life. "One can say that the Church is the recapitulation of all Christ's work. Christianity is the Church. It is not only a true doctrine, a rule of life, but the new life in Christ, the totality of new existence, the reunion of man with God,
the true and intimate communion with him by grace and truth" (Father Georges Florovosky)
But to experience this reality the Orthodox Christian is compelled to join in the corporate worship of the Church culminating in the celebration of the Eucharist.
It is not unusual for Christians to think that following Christ is a private affair. American individualism certainly supports this understanding. Yet, Christianity is an ecclesial and therefore a communal reality. (Unus Christianus - nullus Christianus, one Christian - no Christian.)
Incorporating all the elements of creation the Church manifests the new life made possible in Christ. It is the Iiturgical worship of the Church that forms the mind
and heart of the Christian. Before the scriptures there was the worshipping community. Scripture, doctrine, iconography and the writing of holy men and women are not only related to but derive and develop from within liturgical worship.
The new life of Christ is offered to the world through the worshipping community. But if there is no commitment or only minimal commitment on the part of Orthodox Christians to worship communally how will the work of Christ continue'? How will new life be proclaimed, revealed and shared? Indeed, how
will Christians be able to live in the world if they do not pray together?
The liturgical worship of the Church provides the foundation upon which a Christia ethos emerges - an ethos of the Kingdom which does not turn away
from the world but gleans from it all that will enhance and clarify the Church's word and mission."
My dear spiritual children, please accept my best wishes for a spiritually edifying Great Lent. I ask your forgiveness for my failings and inadequacies; I ask your prayers for strength. wisdom and fortitude as I struggle with commissions and investigations - that I
also may benefit from the healing power of the Great Fast. May we always cherish the gift and treasure of our liturgical life, that we may always worship together, that together we may behold the glory of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection.
With much love in Christ:
Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest