By Bishop Paul
Jesus began His public ministry proclaiming, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” These words lie at the heart of living our Orthodox Christian Faith. The call to “repent” is not a one-time event we experience, or had experienced, at one point in our life. It is a call to change our minds, to turn from how we had previously understood our life. It is an ongoing call that challenges us to embrace a reality that is beyond what we see, hear, smell, feel, or touch. Rather, it is the challenge to rethink how these five senses, through which we learn about the world in which we live, can be reoriented to point us to a world beyond. It is the challenge to bring something of that world beyond and to manifest it in the here and now. The words of the Lord’s Prayer are indicative of this: “…Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” This is what it means to be a saint; by the grace of the All-holy Spirit, we sanctify and make something of heaven present in the place where we live.
The idea of building bridges of which I spoke last week is fulfilled in this Gospel call of Christ to “repent.” This is the bridge that calls our attention to another reality and dimension that all of us seek; many do so without realizing it. Until we cross that bridge, there is little we can say about how people should live their lives. But once we cross that bridge, we meet and are confronted with Jesus of Nazareth. He is the game changer. He is the God-Man Who comes to make Himself known to us. He is the icon of what it means to be a true human being. To stand in the presence of Christ is to stand in His light. Light reveals what has been hidden in the darkness. What does that do to us? Read Luke 5:1-11 and Mark 10:17-27. These readings will be the focus of my upcoming notes to you.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you.
I welcome comments on the above; I don’t claim to be infallible here.
Yes, the God-Man Christ–as the true Pontifex–allows us, in His image, to build bridges as well. In a world that is post-modern and bristling with a new wave of nationalism as well as identity politics, we are faced with the challenge and opportunity to be all things to all men. Within the scope of the Little Church, I believe we must always see one aspect of true repentance as conforming ourselves to a worldview of extreme humility. In the face of argument and arrogance, the Church has many examples of Saints who would, for instance, prostrate in contrition to the offender, or on behalf of the offender to authorities: “taking the blame”, as it were. Being humble with regard to how the people of our society define themselves allows us to be Christ to them. Teaching our children to become wise in the worldview of others allows them, like many of the great Fathers of the Church, to harness the philosophies of society and take them captive for the sake of presenting the Gospel. We are transitioning little by little from a western hemisphere often indoctrinated in misunderstandings of Christianity to one that is often nominally anti-Christian. We have to meet them where they are. This is non-negotiable. Christ Himself did this in becoming Man, reaching us in our low estate. His was a bridge built from God to Man. Our bridges must be between a heavenly perspective, that of the Church, and one that is still affected by the brokenness of modern life. And just as the Lord does everything to bring us up to heaven (Anaphora of Saint Basil), we must do everything within our power to show the goodness of the Savior to a world in need of Him. Though this certainly includes courageous preaching, especially to those in power, it includes a loving and extreme humility to those impoverished in any way. We have to be willing to be hurt, even to be killed–emotionally, if not physically–if we want to be witnesses to Christ’s own selfless love. This is kenosis. Christianity spreads most rapidly when it offers itself in full, not in wars of conquest. The Washer of the feet is the Christ desired by the barbarian and feared by the devil and his hosts. Humility, selflessness, kenosis: I really believe that if we can mold our families into a worldview that prioritizes these virtues, we will be healthy Christians despite everything else. Repenting away from a family culture of arrogance, stubbornness, and self-aggrandizement, away from vanity, pride, and ego… this is the path children, in their innocence, must be shown. Anyway, these are just some of my own opinions. Thank you for the reflections, Your Grace.
Christ is Risen! Very grateful to have found this site and so happy to be part of this Diocese. 🙂
Thank you Michael. What parish are you from again? +Paul
Truly He is risen!
My wife and I moved in August from the Archdiocese of Western PA when we came from Steubenville; now, in Cincinnati, we are Fr Stephen Kostoff’s at Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit.
I’m the odd case of also being a Benedictine Oblate of a Western Rite Monastery in ROCOR (Christminster in Niagara Falls).
Sub deacon Peter
As you will see in my next few reflections, the previous ones were not meant to be presented as 4 easy steps to unconditional love. Despite this unconditional love it is not always accepted as such; which I will address in my upcoming weekly notes. Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! +Paul