We offer you an article written by Fr. Geoffrey Korz, Managing Editor of Orthodox Canada and the Dean of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church in Hamilton ON, Canada.
Some years ago, I had the pleasure of dining in Toronto’s “Greek Town” with a sister in Christ, a Greek grandmother who had been around the Church all her life, and who was a true realist. As we walked through the warm summer streets, surrounded by mobs of young people – many of them Greek, and presumably Orthodox Christians – my friend let out an audible exclamation.
“Look at them, Father – they don’t even know what an Orthodox priest is! Why aren’t they at Church?! They should be ashamed of themselves!”
Of course hearing this, all these young people heard the voice of their own yia-yia, or grandmother, confronting them with their own lack of piety, spiritual observance, and care for their Faith.
About a year later, a young friend – also Greek – was confessing her frustration that the Church didn’t provide answers for her life and the lives of those she knows – answers on questions about marital life, family finances, the news we see on television, and how to answer the pointed questions of her atheist co-workers.
“But the Orthodox Church does provide those answers,” I protested.
“Then why have I never heard them?” she asked, poignantly.
She had an excellent point. Where had the breakdown occurred between the zeal of the grandmother, and the yearning for answers of the young woman?
I should note here, that both women were and are regular churchgoers, and both have family members who all but ignore their Orthodox faith. The two women are not related; I don’t believe they have ever met. Yet in a very real way, their questions reflected two sides of the same coin.
Politicians sometimes talk about the divisions that exist between “Bay Street”, the centre of economic life, and “Main Street”, the centre of real life. Perhaps it is a result of a generation gap, or growing secularism, immigration patterns or the popular media, but somewhere in the last fifty years, Canada’s “Main Street” stopped hearing the answers given by the Church. In many cases, Canadians had never heard the eternal answers offered by the Orthodox Church, of course, but they at least had some share of Christian truth from the society around them. Orthodox efforts in this area appeared to be safe to take a generation-long time out.
This is no longer the case. The issues facing “Main Street” Canadians, particularly those under 30 years of age, leave many people spinning in the storm of western relativism: many simply do not know where to find the truth, or even if truth exists.
There has never been a time when the hunger for the Truth has been stronger and more needed than it is today. The fact that this Truth is not an idea, but a Person – God Himself – makes the answers His Body the Church has to offer so much more fitting to fill the emptiness in the lives of many “Main Street” Canadians, Orthodox ones included.
The same eternal Truth, expressed in the words of the saints and the prayers of the Church, that sustained grandmothers in generations past, can and should sustain the disappointed relativists, truth-searching activists, and recovering Emo kids of our time.
Christ died and conquered Death in order to achieve the salvation of the world, including those on “Main Street”. It is to that large segment of our nation’s family that this issue, its questions, and the answers it offers, is dedicated.
May God bless us all to carry on God’s work in our own hearts, and on Main Street as well.
Source: Orthodox Canada
James Stockdill says
May we never feel safe to take a time out, let alone a generational timeout. There is a powerful lesson for the church to learn here. We can never take a timeout the eternal impact and cost is too great. We must always be vigilant to focus on the needs of every generation and age group. Our enemy will never rest, thus neither can we. The harvest is plentiful, we are the workers who must endeavor to bring it into the fold. Lord have mercy.
Anthony Mahon says
Nice try, but Orthodoxy HAS no answers, at least none that actually mean something. Just the same tired old Bible and Patristic quotes you’ve all heard before ad nauseam. Nothing that actually helps you get through this life..at least that was my experience of the Faith, and that’s why I left. When I needed someone to help, there was nothing -or no-one- there.
Hi Anthony, I converted this past autumn to Orthodoxy. You might try going to a monastery for services, you will be amazed. Like me, and many at the Russian Orthodox monastery where I attend, I was converted by a great holy modern man and hieromonk, FR. SERAPHIM ROSE. You can get all his books on Amazon. You will definitely find a soul you can relate to in him.Good luck and many blessings, Anthony.
Fr. John says
Anthony, I’m sorry about your experience, but even you have to admit, it was not “Orthodoxy” that failed you, but a few Orthodox Christians. If I abandoned every friend I had every time they did not fulfill my wishes – even when I felt I really needed them – then I would have no friends at all. We are all human, but you must judge the Church based on the facts, and not on the foibles of members. You will find flawed sinners everywhere, and you’ll be very lonely if that is how you judge things. Don’t worry though – the Church will be here for you! As will I. Don’t forget to ask! 🙂
George K says
Anthony, I am sorry to say that I am far from being a religious person. I am Greek so of course I was also baptized and raised as a Orthodox Christian. I served in the altar from when I was 5 years old until I turned 16. But even though I went to church every Sunday, I wasn’t getting the answers I wanted or the answers that I felt I needed. Towards the end of my serving in the alter I was getting out of control which could be said of all teenagers but my being out of control was on a different scale. I joined a gang and beat people up for no reason other than they looked at me. I also got involved with drugs in all ways. And I thought having many girlfriends would make me feel better. By 22 years old I had been in the hospital many times with all kinds of surgeries being performed on me such as a 8 hour head surgery, shoulder, hip, knee and hand. All from fighting in the streets and clubs. By 22 I had been arrested many times for different things. I didn’t care anymore. This was all from my life at home being messed up which I won’t get into. I believe if it wasn’t for my mother and grandmother praying for me the whole time, I would be dead today. Twice in my life someone pulled a gun on me and I told them to go ahead and shoot right before I took them down. By 20 years old, I was telling myself this can’t be it to life. What are we here for? What am I suppose to be doing? I wanted answers and I didn’t want to go to a quack doctor so he can put me on pills so I went to see many different Orthodox priests and I felt that they also did not understand me. So I continued my out of control life until one day that my mother told me to go see Father Joseph. He was from a Greek Orthodox monastery in Roscoe NY. I told her I wouldn’t go but eventually went to see him without telling her I was going. The love this man had was something I had never seen before ever in my life. I can’t explain exactly but I didn’t want to leave when I got there. I confessed my sins and he told me that if I make one step towards Jesus, He will make 2 steps towards me. He wanted me to start saying the Jesus prayer and told me to let my hair grow back because I used to shave my head back then and to start dressing normal and to just try a little to get closer to Jesus and that he guarantees me my life will change. So I did all he said and my life did change. I found a job and saved my money for a year which wasn’t much but another opportunity came to me to buy my own business and the little money I had was just enough. Sales went 5 times up in the 1st year. And not 2 years later I met my wife. A year after that I started another business and have made millions since then and have 3 beautiful children. This is what it’s all about. These are the answers I wanted. I’m happy because of all of these things that have happened in my life. I lost my millions in the real estate crash and am trying to come back from it but I really don’t care about that. I have everything I really want. My wife and children love me. I am also surrounded by good friends and people that care which is also important. We go much further in life if we are kind, caring, considerate. We must have empathy and integrity. We must have a soft heart. And last but not least is to try to be close to Jesus. Being close to him and remembering Him throughout the day will get you all these things. Even though I know all this I still do not go to church as often as I should. But when I have a problem, I run there immediately. I think that’s normal. But as for you, you say you left the Orthodox faith but something deep down must not be letting you go too far because you are still here posting on a Orthodox Website. If you can’t find what you are looking for you must keep searching. My grandmother once told me that a priest is like a doctor and that if your eye hurts, will you go to any eye doctor or will you try to find the best eye doctor? Of course the best so same goes when looking for a priest or spiritual father. Hope this helps a little.
Fr. David Belden says
St. Joseph of Arimathea Orthodox parish was born out of the Orthodox Campus Ministry at the University of Toronto in 1985. It remains the only all-English language parish (of 30) in the Greater Toronto Area. The fact that we have experienced unprecedented growth, moving twice to larger quarters proves that people are hungry for the Faith in a language they can understand.. not in ethnic cooking, dancing, etc.
St. Joseph’s has now had to move out of town to find quarters large enough and affordable enough to accommodate membership. St. Theodore of Canterbury has been operative for the past year to pick up where St. Joseph’s left off.. we now have an all-English language parish for Toronto once again. Glorfy to God for all things!
Fr. David +
I wonder if the following perspective helps… I like to think that nothing happens in this age that didn’t happen in ages past. Canada – ‘main street’ Canada included – provides its citizens a reasonably comfortable worldly life. As in past ages and as the Fathers and Scriptures show, a comfortable life is a strong temptation away from God. So we might be able to say that our clergy today face similar challenges to what St John Chrysostom faced in his day. But as He was then God is with us today!
…but Judas the transgressor was unwilling to understand.
Anthony, I feel your pain. I’ve felt the same frustration, and while looking at various churches found that, no matter the denomination, platitudes flow faster than Niagara, just as our desire for something akin to, “this is the exact, precise, correct answer to your question” looms so large for us. Life is filled with a failing of precision coming from other fellow humans, for none of us always know the exact, precise, correct answers to questions. A wise friend gave me a step by step procedure to follow, with insistence I do the steps as given. I was assured I didn’t need absolute belief that my actions would result in answers, as it made no difference whether I was skeptical. Doubt was not to deter my actions, and doubts I was assured, would be resolved one way or the other.
Please don’t repeat my mistake, throw a label on it, and move on. I lost valuable time that way. When I did what was recommended, I got the very answers I had been convinced I’d never receive. At the time, struggling with doubt, I didn’t believe the following program would yield results by me doing three things, even though I was doubting as I went along. Finally, I gave it a month. No answers after that meant little old doubting me could go on complaining about never having answers. So, here’s what I did.
I set up the regular times for prayer. The instructions were set an appointment on the calendar each and every day, morning and night. Second, I read some Psalms every day — roughly ten in the morning and ten in the evening. I started over after reading all. Psalms were to be read right before I began to pray, and I soon found I was praying the very words of those Psalms in my own prayers. Finally, I was required to pray for wisdom. The instructions to me were to ask for wisdom to discern the answers to my questions, and to acknowledge my doubts and such, even though I couldn’t precisely define what was causing my doubts. I was assured my prayers would be met with some sort of resolution. I didn’t believe a bit of it. Back then. If you have doubts, you might as well admit them in your prayers, because God knows you have doubts even though you might not want to admit that you’re filled up to overflowing with them.
An almost immediate result was a sense that I could understand stuff, most of which I couldn’t bet a straight answer on asking religious professionals or the regular folks inside a church. Sure, I continue to have new and different questions. I don’t know it all, nor will I ever know it all. I became able to figure things out, ask better questions that got me better answers. Eventually I was able to answer questions from others. I found I was able to formulate questions which, when answered, actually came pretty close to providing me a clear definition of what I was wondering about in the first place. Often, lack of something makes asking questions frustrating because we don’t know what we don’t know, or what we should be asking to get a clear answer regarding what we are unclear about. As is true in music, fake it ’til you make it. The more you try, even if you’ve not got it perfect, the more chance you allow for answers to your questions and for doubts to diminish as your own knowledge increases.
The unexpected benefits were largely reflected in my own confidence and calm. For example, I know that I have the daily experience of walking through the day with the risen Christ. I know that God is closer than my own hands. I know that as I receive wisdom (and I have gotten a bit of that). I will have new questions, and answers will arrive, often from unexpected sources ranging from bus drivers, to fellow workers, to clients, to friends, to news articles to …you get the idea. I know that when I was told to do those three things, I thought they were ridiculous, corny, and sure to fail. I found that after only one week, positive results knocked out most of my objections. I was astounded. And very pleased with results. Later on, practice improved results. Your mileage may vary, as may your results. It’s worth a try.