by Anna Bee
Sometimes I’m a bit nutty. When I see Evangelical Protestant groups in my area that are active in the community I get the strong urge to ask them “why aren’t you Orthodox??” I know, I know, I should just go to liturgy, say my prayers and mind my own business, but it irritates me.
I mean, they are passionate Christians looking for a genuine, dynamic faith experience and I want to grab them by the shoulders, stare into their eyes and say
“follow me, I know the Church you are seeking.”
I would then thrust a copy of “The Orthodox Way” by Kallistos Ware into their hands and whisk them off to liturgy. Alas, this is just not socially acceptable behaviour.
This week my social decorum, well, shall we say, waned slightly? I went ahead and did something a bit nutty. I emailed the pastor of a local “post-modern” church, a Baptist off-shoot doing the whole inner-city-we-call-ourselves-a-tribe-and-meet-in-a-hotel thing. And yes, they inspired my previous post.
The pastor, a very nice young guy, replied right away, inviting me to meet him for a chat over coffee. I may take him up, but I will more likely attend their discussion group called “Pub Theology” in the fall…and see if my husband and priest want to tag along too.
And Hipster Christian, if you are reading this, seriously, why aren’t you Orthodox? Orthodoxy is so obscure, heck, when I say I’m Orthodox most people think that means I’m Jewish. Then they look at my head scarf and think I’m a Muslim, but do a double take when they see the gold crucifix around my neck. The opportunities for smugness are endless!
We do tons of obscure things like carry pussy willows on Palm Sunday, we don’t paint icons we “write” icons, (oh yes and we have icons. Have you heard of Nicea II? We have), we read the Septuagint, or should I say the LXX, we get to pick a new name when we are baptised, preferably something archaic such as Polycarp, Xenophon, Photini or Thekla, we call Easter “Pascha” and much like your children, Hipster Christian, our churches have old-fashioned names, such as “St. Sophia’s” or “The Prophet Elias.”
But for much more than the desire to avoid the mainstream, you should ask yourself why you are not Orthodox because there must be a good reason for it. Why is that? Because there is a Church today that was founded by Christ through his Apostles and has carried His teachings by the power of the Holy Spirit for over 2000 years. You maybe hadn’t heard of it before because you lived in the West and it was in the East. In fact it was greatly oppressed, persecuted first by the Ottomans for 500 years and later by the Communists for 70. Meanwhile in the West, Roman Catholics and Protestants were duking it out over control of Europe. By the time of the Renaissance, the Roman Catholics had evolved to be utterly incompatible with their cousins in the East and the Protestants had already started their exponential dividing into a multitude of sects and sub-sects. Yet the Orthodox Church held its line.
- Does your church accept the Nicene Creed as authoritative? (Many Evangelicals today [have] never heard of the Nicene Creed.)
- Does your church celebrate the historic Liturgy or is your order of worship something recently concocted? (Most Protestant churches do not celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday. Those who celebrate the Eucharist regularly do not have a received liturgical tradition that goes back to the Apostles, e.g., the Liturgy of St. James, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Mark.)
- Does your church accept the doctrine of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood as taught by the early church fathers and the ancient liturgies? (Most Protestants today believe that the bread and wine are just symbols. The Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation and the Reformed doctrine of the spiritual feeding in the Lord’s Supper have no counterpart in the teachings of the early Church.)
- Who is your bishop? What is his line of succession? (Virtually all Protestants lack bishops in the historic sense.)
- Does your church accept the Seventh Ecumenical Council’s decision about the veneration of icons? (No Protestant denominations and none of the Reformers venerated icons as decreed by Nicea II.)
- Does your church reject the novel doctrines of sola fide (justification by faith alone) and sola scriptura (the Bible alone)? (None of the early church fathers taught these Protestant doctrines.
Our icons are painted not written. Someone came up with the phrase writing icons to try to heighten their importance, etc., and also because they relate a narrative of the saint and Christ.
Fr. John says
Either designation is fine with me, and I understand both sides of it. Written/painted – I’m fine as long as the icon isn’t poorly executed – there are too many cruddy or mopey icons out there, with good technique, but no talent.
That’s just my opinion, but I think an icon should be beauty which attracts, not crappy art with meaning.
Gad Shubeita says
I remember that the term used by my teacher in school was writing icons (of course it was in Arabic). He explined the term by explaining the purpose of icons. I do not remember tge details, but it had something to do with the icons are Bibles.
Daniel Maher says
I must admit that I found this post to be smug and irritating. I am Orthodox myself, having converted from Roman Catholicism nine years ago. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side of the fence,and while I do not plan to ever leave Orthodoxy, I have experienced moments of disillusionment since my initial enthusiasm of the early 2000s.
Many people WOULD be Orthodox if they weren’t convinced that it was only a church for Russians, Greeks, Eastern Europeans, etc. Now, of course, that ethnocentrism is far from being the whole picture of the Church in the United States, but it would be foolish to deny that is still a factor in the way people perceive the church today. Even my sister, a Catholic,has asked me if the liturgy is in English at the OCA church in Seattle I attend. A former co-worker of mine, who is a Mormon, said that he couldn’t understand why all the Orthodox churches were called Russian, Greek, Serbian,etc. To him they seemed like different churches,with different practices.I don’t believe in Mormonism,but I must admit that it has been able to attract new converts of different races around the world without being ethnically divided. Roman Catholicism,much closer to Orthodoxy than Mormonism, is a world wide communion that is also free from ethnic divisions. The Catholic on the other side of the world, however different he.she may be from you,is still your brother in the faith.The Italians and the Spanish, the Mexicans and the French,the Irish and the Filipino-while they may not always get along,they are united in their faith.
Compare that to the remarks of a Russian Orthodox parishioner when he was told that a Seattle cemetery was starting a new pan-Orthodox section of the memorial park and asked what the people gathered thought. The middle-aged Russian gentleman said, “I object! I do NOT want to be laid to rest alongside the Serbs!”
The parish I belong to has become more militantly Russian, and the priest in his sermons has made disparaging remarks about Jews and Roman Catholics,which really rubs me the wrong way since I WAS once Catholic myself and tend to take such remarks very personally (I also have great respect for the Jewish faith and find it ironic that Orthodoxy can be so anti-Semitic when so much of it’s liturgy is derived from the Jewish temple and synagogue worship).
The Eastern Orthodox Church IS Catholic-but more often than not, it seems to be more Catholic in theory than in practice.
You are not wrong in trying to convert protestants. Who told you that you should mind your own business? This is false. You have an obligation to call Christians of other sects in to the Church of Christ.
You seem generally irritated, brother.
A lot of older people have prejudices. If you thought
crotchety old folks were particular to your parish you thought wrong! 😉
Try to love them anyway. They’re there to refine you by
grinding your gears.
Perhaps you should look for an Orthodox home in another parish if the one you are in does not meet your spiritual needs.
Yes, there are ethnic parishes that are not exactly welcoming, even to the second generation of their own people (if they weren’t taught the mother tongue) however; the majority of Orthodox parishes in the United States are now more than 50% non-ethnic/not-married-to-a ethnic-Orthodox converts. The only Orthodox parishes that are growing are the ones that have started celebrating the Divine Liturgy in English — and they are growing! This is an exciting time for me, because I am watching people of devout faith coming from Protestant and Roman Catholicism become a part of my parish, and this dynamic of faithful people seeking a home is changing the character of the ethnic/social club parishes. Some ethnic parishioners are resentful, but the massive influx of converts is, I anticipate, going to bring a flowering of Orthodox ministries, a parish that knows it’s Orthodoxy because they’ve been catechized, and a growth of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ. Glory to God!
I believe that Orthodoxy in America is at a tipping point of exponential growth as those seeking Christ find the ancient Church. Let’s welcome our brothers and sisters, and build the Body of Christ!
I have a great amount of interest in the Orthodox Church and have been studying the two popular books that Mr. Ware wrote.
However, like Daniel said above, I do find they can be a bit smug. The emphasis seems to be on their history and that they are the original church, that they do all of the right things during their liturgy, etc, etc. But I think sometimes all of this emphasis on themselves pulls the focus off of Jesus, which if I’m not mistaken, should be the very foundation of the church.
It honestly reminds me of this group called the Pharisees who bragged about how they were doing everything right, they had the rituals down to an art, and they were descended from Abraham.
Orthodoxy brags about all of the same things except they say Peter instead of Abraham. It makes me think of Jesus response that God could raise up descendants of Abraham from stones (Mt 3:9)…the point being that there is no bragging in tracing ones lineage back to Peter because God can and will raise up people who have no proper worldly lineage. I suppose we could call these bastard children of God Protestants?
I tend to agree with Daniel. This article is a bit irritating not because of the content but because of the approach. Had I have seen this article twelve years ago when I first began reading about Orthodoxy I would have been turned off by the argumentative attitude that seems prevalent throughout this piece. If anyone reading this piece then asks himself why he is not Orthodox and the answer is because there is no Orthodox parish near his home then what should his response be to an article like this? Perhaps this non-Orthodox person is more Orthodox is in his love for God and neighbor than either you or me despite our all-knowing God placing him in a town where there is no Orthodox parish in it or even remotely near it.
Anna Bee, I believe that we would all do better to love God, love our neighbor, and live the Beatitudes with more deeds, more prayers uplifted to the Almighty and His Saints and fewer words in our interactions with those around us. I am seeing firsthand how being as loving as I can to my parents is drawing one of them home to the ancient Church. And, the amazing thing is that this parent who first became interested in the Church did so without one word of proselytizing from me just as I came home to the Church without anyone proselytizing directly to me. Love your neighbor and if you must use words then let them be few. Our God who dwells in clouds and darkness and who walks on the sea as on firm ground is mighty enough to arrange for his servants as is pleasing to Him.
Don’t go about seeking arguments and debates. Love and let God move.
I have been involved in Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Catholic and now Orthodox parishes. Smugness is everywhere. Some Orthodox parishes have more of this unfortunate aspect than others. I’ve found it to be most prevalent among recent converts who wish to shout from the rooftops about what they’ve found. While their deepest desire is admirable – not so much to be right but for others to know the healing that they are finding – their approach, and I was a victim of this early on, can be disheartening. But, thanks be to God, I saw the error of my ways. Regarding your comment about Protestants being God’s bastard children, well, the Orthodox response, according to my priest is, “We know who is in the Church but we don’t know who isn’t.” In other words, be humble because God is judge and Lord of all.
I pray God blesses your studies. And, if I may add this, Orthodoxy is best experienced instead of studied. See the altar in all of its beauty and the priests bowing reverently before it. Hear the Beatitudes sung and the Lord’s Prayer prayed in unison. Smell the incense as our prayers are lifted up to heaven. Touch the robe of the priest as he enters the altar and carries your prayers with him. Visit a monastery and pray with our monastics. Behold the icons and the cloud of witnesses that surround you. Watch the faces of the most innocent among us as they dine from our Lord’s table. When you want the Cup, the journey has begun. And, it is a life-changing, beautiful experience. There’s a new rhythm to life. The days take on new and special meanings. It truly is beyond words.
I pray you read these words with all the humility in which they were written and that God blesses your journey wherever it may lead you.
“The Lord is the accomplishment of everything good that I think, feel and do.” St John of Kronstadt.
In our Risen Lord,
Thank you for the gracious response, Juliana. I would agree that smugness and pride abound everywhere, Christian or not, Orthodox or not. It seems none of us are immune.
I would also say that just about anything is better experienced rather than studied. I plan to visit a local Orthodox congregation that I noticed about a year ago and just never got around to visiting. I know the Orthodox are very attached to their rituals and traditions, which is a turnoff for me since the way I have always experienced the best and most intimate times with God and my brothers and sisters is when things are low key and there is no show to put on. I take to heart Jesus’ words about where two or more are gathered, “there I am in the midst of them.”
With all of that said, the theology of Orthodoxy and their appreciation for history and the writings of church fathers are some of the things that greatly attract me to the Orthodox faith. I have a hard time finding anyone who is a Protestant who has an appreciation for church history and the lessons learned therein.
I I once felt the same way about rituals and traditions. Why so much show?! But, the opposite question could also be asked about the majority of Protestantism: why so plain when all of creation entrusted to us by God is so extravagant? Does God do anything that is not extravagant? Isn’t the whole earth an icon of the face of God? After all, our lives are built on tradition and ritual: sunrise, sunset, spring, summer, fall, winter, eat in the morning, at noon, at night, work, sleep, routine, routine, routine. These are merely question for you to ponder. No debate, of course. 🙂
You reminded me of a program I watched on PBS several months ago. It was about the construction of the great cathedrals of France. Two things stood out to me:
1-The great cathedrals could take up to 100 years to build. Men, fathers and sons, dedicated their whole lives to building a house for God, carefully chiseling one stone after another and laboriously lifting it up to where it belonged.
2-The hierarchs of the Roman church said they wanted the buildings to be ornate because God’s house should beckon us to Him, it should be a house of beauty and respite that man will long for. The majority of the folks who built those cathedrals and worshiped in them lived in what we would call extreme poverty. Yet, they labored tirelessly not to adorn their bodies and homes with the finest gold and paintings but for the house of God for all to share together. And, many of those great cathedrals are still standing and visited by believers and non-believers alike.
Rituals and traditions say a lot about our priorities. Are we still shopping on Christmas Eve or are we at church thanking God for the miracle of His Incarnation that we are about to remember again for the 2,000th time? Have we become so business-minded that we disdain the traditions of our Christian ancestors that sustained them? Which saint’s day shares your birthday? What happened to that saintly member of your spiritual family on the day you remember your birth? I would presume that most of us know our work or school calendar, especially me, better than the calendar the Church has so carefully created for us for our spiritual benefit.
There’s a freedom within those rituals and traditions. We are free to grow together, to experience our Lord’s life over and over every year together, rising and falling together and rising again as one visible body in Christ. And, there’s a freedom in those memorized prayers such as the Lord’s prayer, the Jesus prayer, and the prayers from our beloved Saints who give us words when our minds and hearts fail to find the words we need. However, we are also free to speak with God throughout our days and nights with whatever words we need to say.
I remember the first time I visited the Orthodox parish of which I now am a member. I came home stunned and didn’t know if I could go back. I had glimpsed Orthodoxy in Catholicism but nothing to the level which I had just seen. But, I knew I had come that far for a reason. Don’t be surprised if some folks are a bit aloof during whatever service you visit. They are focused on prayer. Some may come over and help you with the service book; some won’t. If you can’t follow along in the book, then don’t think twice about it. Neither can the babes held in their mothers’ arms yet our Lord said “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God has perfected praise.” The Orthodox services are meant to engage our senses and quiet our thoughts. We must learn as infants: see our Lord’s face, hear His words and know His voice, touch Him in the icons and the priests’ robes, smell our prayers uplifted to the heavens, taste the Fount of Immortality. See through the simplicity of your senses the extravagance of our God’s love for us.
Saints that share our birthday? I hadn’t even heard of such a thing, though it does sound interesting.
I’m a bit torn regarding the great cathedrals and any modern constructed church that is crazy expensive. I’ve been to Spain and seen breathtaking cathedrals there. I have a high appreciation for architecture and art. I found the cathedrals to be quite moving. But at the same time, I just have to wonder: at what cost do these things come?
Protestant churches here in America build multi-million dollar facilities quite frequently. In fact, I bet they’d argue with you about their churches not being plain. But I don’t think they’re plain enough. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on sound systems, flashy lights, and other eye candy. All of it I find quite dull. Besides it giving no life or meaning I can’t help but wonder how many people could have gone to bed with a full stomach if that money had been spent on being the hands and feet of Jesus in the community.
I hang out a good bit with the homeless and impoverished in my community. I guess it has turned me into a bit of a liberal at times 😀 But I do wonder: where is the line between building a beautiful, artistic cathedral/church and saying “Alright, we’ve spent enough ourselves and our building, let’s go actually take care of people who are hungry and hurting.”
Thank you for giving me some advice on what to expect when going to an Orthodox service/liturgy. I really like this that you said: “The Orthodox services are meant to engage our senses and quiet our thoughts.” My thoughts need to be quieted much more frequently. And as far as finding freedom in traditions and rituals goes, I guess I’ll just have to wait to experience those things and see.
Jeremy, if those truly are your heartfelt beliefs, you’d probably be very happy in the Quaker community. I wouldn’t want to disparage their beliefs; the Quakers are lovely people.
At the same time, you admit that the cathedrals are quite moving. Yes, we are physical beings, God becomes Eucharist to come to us and in that way shows approval of, blesses, our physical dimension.
In my wanderings I got so tired of ugliness. Deliberately chosen ugliness, such as occurred in Catholic churches after Vatican II. Barrenness — making the worship space into a gymnasium because, after all, what he does for us humans is the important thing, not what we do for him. And the only true way to reach out to God is not to reach up, horizontally, but to reach sideways, vertically, to other people. There’s one short step from that stance to conclude that God doesn’t really exist.
Do the people who say this, choose ugliness in their own homes, clothing, cars?
“Crazy expensive” — but we’re not paying for the cathedrals now, are we?
Would you have the cathedrals be liquidated to feed the poor? First, that’s a slap in the face to the decisions made by those who chose to sacrifice for those cathedrals and made them their life’s work; it implies that you know better than them. Second, I am pretty sure that very shortly those bellies temporarily filled by this would be empty again … to face an even emptier, grayer, more horizontal world.
I could see how this essay might be irritating if it stood by itself.
I see it as only slightly less tongue-in-cheek than the prior essay in the series. In that one, she’s writing to “Hipster Christians” — those who, knowingly or unknowingly, are following fads. “Hey, our church is so dorky it’s cool! So behind-the-times, it’s retro and thus hip! Follow us and be on the cutting-edge of fashion!” The dart finds its target.
Here, she gets a little more serious, grapples with theology, and issues a few challenges, but the lighthearted, breezy tone is still there.
This was originally published in the author’s personal blog, which is a rather steep step down in formality and seriousness of purpose from this one. I think this should be kept in mind.
Your comment about giving to the poor reminds me of John 12:3-11. Read the lives of St John Maximovitch and St Mary of Egypt. In their lives you will see people of extraordinary faith who were what the modern world might call plain.
Regarding expensive Protestant churches, note how many lack any visible sign that they are anything more than an auditorium for concerts.
Every Orthodox parish is different. Just because there is a hierarchy does not make them all the same with the same budget. Some spend more on iconography while others may spend more on outreach. To each his own according to what God has revealed to him. Personally, I am happy to see my parish adorn every space in our building with icons. Physical nourishment is temporary but spiritual is eternal. Read the life of St Mary of Egypt and you’ll see a woman who despite lack of physical food was fed by spiritual communion with our God.
It is not merely liberal to give to the poor. Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, conservatives, and so on give to the poor. It is the motive behind our giving that matters. There are many people who give to the poor merely to puff themselves up, as Judas attempted to do. Then there are Saints who give everything they have to the poor and the Church for the building up of God’s Kingdom on Earth.
God be with you Jeremy. When you are ready, attend a few Orthodox services and visit a monastery (for balance) and quiet your thoughts. God will help you.
Interesting conversation. I do think the author’s brash tone was more tongue-in-cheek than anything and yes, we do need to consider the original context and her audience. As a later life convert, I can relate to her enthusiasm to tell the good news to those left behind in one’s previous tradition as well, and I confess I have used far too little action and way too many words at times.
That said, my observation for Jeremy is that I find my previous “seeker sensitive” Evangelical tradition with its relatively plain auditorium and no liturgical pageantry ends up putting far more performance pressure on its members (both those on stage and off) than Orthodox liturgy does on its own members and clergy. (I say this besides the fact that I do find many things to admire about those in my former tradition.) There is so much more riding in Evangelical worship on the execution and “creativity” of the pastors and worship team to come up with new things from week to week and to “move” the audience to worship and teach them. With the lack, for the most part, of any liturgical pattern from week to week, and year to year, those in the audience also have to work harder to track with and digest what is being offered, in song and in prayer, etc. There is a lot more riding on the quality of the sermon. The quality of the theology being offered in the music can be wildly varying too, but is generally nowhere nearly as truly orthodox or profound as the historic hymnody of the faith. This can tempt those in the audience to get caught up in discerning and judging what is being offered in worship rather than just being able to comfortably enter into the offering of it to God.
The basics of Orthodox liturgy and the dogma it expresses, in contrast, have been worked out for centuries. Everyone just has to fall into the same, familiar repeating ritual expressions of profound scriptural truth and their exposition in Orthodox hymnody. Because everyone is basically doing the same thing (with acceptable variations and adaptations to individual circumstances), there is little temptation to try to look more “spiritual” than someone else. There is no pressure to be creative. One can actually meditatively focus on the prayers being offered and even enter deeply into a steady worshipful awareness of God’s Presence. Juliana already said this in better words than me.
Men, especially, often are relieved to find in an Orthodox service, they can be much more at ease with what amounts to a total independence of anyone else’s emotional manipulation of them in the corporate worship setting. Orthodox worship has a much greater focus and dependence upon the objective meaning of what is being sung and done than the quality of its execution (even though we all love the sound of a good chanter or choir). Of course, at first when one is unfamiliar, this “comfort, like sliding into an old shoe” of the Church’s liturgy (as C,S. Lewis, I believe, described it), is not readily apparent. But even after a few weeks or months, one discovers it is not as difficult to begin to follow and appreciate as one might initially think.
I think it unlikely that Orthodox Churches spend much more money on their worship spaces and vestments, etc., than similar size churches in other traditions do on all their worship-related expenses (visual and sound equipment, bulletins, Bibles, hymnals, special worship events, etc.). The largest expenses of the Icons and objects used in worship are the up-front costs, and these are designed to be permanent, and even vestments last for several years. The beauty benefits everyone who comes and is especially appropriate to the worship of God, Who Himself is the Author of Beauty. Historically, it is most often been the poorest members who have most adamantly insisted on the beautification of God’s house and made contributions to that end. Where else in their lives could they come and experience such a thing? I think there is a human yearning for beauty that transcends material needs. Likely, it is for the most part a false dichotomy pitting the beauty of the worship space against the outreach of its members to the poor. The two likely are more often directly corollated than inversely. But that’s just my hunch.
Well said, all of your comments.
This will be my last comment. It is precisely the tongue-in-cheek attitude that bothers me. If this were the only article a seeker ever read about Orthodoxy, what would that person think? With the Internet, the world is your audience. And, on the Internet, our words never die. Libraries can be burned but the Internet, well, that’s different. To tell someone that because they are not a member of the Orthodox Church they are not orthodox is harsh, judgmental, and untrue. We know who is in the Church; we don’t know who isn’t. If instead of words on a screen someone said in front of you to your non-Orthodox parent, spouse, sibling, or friend that they are not a true believer, how would you feel? Would you interpret it as tongue-in-cheek? These words on these screens speak to searching hearts and should, I think, contain the mercy that we pray for at every liturgy. If this article, which was first on this homepage for a little while, were the only article my father clicked on about Orthodoxy I’m confident he would close the screen, walk away, say he has heard enough and try to convert me again back to his denomination. Let us keep our words sweet lest one day we have to eat them. I Samuel 2:3.
“Let us keep our words sweet lest one day we have to eat them.” Yep, I’ve eaten mine so many times. And at this point in time, you’re right, it doesn’t look like the internet is going anywhere, which is all the more reason I try to be careful.
Juliana, Karen, and Rosemary: I do want to thank all three of you for graciously taking the time to answer the questions, doubts, and frustrations of this Jesus-loving punk 😉 Now that I am back in town and not traveling on business, I plan to visit a local Greek Orthodox church.
The conversation did center around buildings a good bit. My opinion, at least for Protestant congregations (since that’s all I’ve ever been a part of) is that we should seek modesty over flashiness. You were right, Juliana, the primary purpose of a Protestant auditorium is to essentially be a “holy” concert hall.
It was mentioned how people would spend their entire lives building a cathedral. I personally find that to be awesome. I find that the fact that early houses of worship were built by the congregants brings a whole new sense of purpose and worship to the place. The church can then not only build something beautiful for God, but they can meet the needs of those in their community at the same time.
I don’t believe the churches should sell all of their buildings and beautiful cathedrals so that they can feed the poor; I just don’t want to see them neglect the poor because of their buildings. Anything can become an idol (not that I’m saying the churches are). But if we value our buildings over the greatest icon of all (our neighbor who is made in God’s image), than do we not commit idolatry?
Out of everything said, one of the things I most agree with is what Juliana said a couple of times, “We know who is in the Church; we don’t know who isn’t.”
Fr. John says
Some things are more important than feeding the poor (I’m sure I’ll get some hate for saying that), but feeding the soul tops it.
I am not saying that all our resources should be taken from charity and given to a building committee. The Lord himself told us we will always have the poor with us – for our salvation! We must indeed help every soul, but man does not live by bread alone. Never forget it.
Juliana, truly all your points are well-taken. Thank you for reiterating them. I do agree with you very strongly about any harsh and judgmental spirit being foreign to Orthodoxy (one of the reasons I’m so grateful for our faith), and about the permanence of the Internet and words we cannot take back. That is indeed a reason to take extreme care in our words, and an area where I, too, have frequently failed.
I’m reminded of the words of Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos regarding our witness to “the heterodox,” that we should seek to instill in them a “good uneasiness” about what errors they have been taught so that they might not become complacent where they are and miss out on the blessings of full Orthodoxy.
This is so great for Western Christians! Thank you for writing this. Keep writing this amazing material!!!