Being Orthodox in an unorthodox World

To come home to ‘the church’ means that people won’t understand you.   You’ll be ‘different’, ‘odd’, some would say ‘weird’ and at worst you’ll be called ‘wrong’.  Sadly most Americans have amnesia when it comes to any understanding of church history prior to Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to a Wittenburg door in October 1517 initiating the so-called Reformation.  It’s like the apostles had it right, then all hell broke loose, and bad theology corrupted everything from  300 AD until former monk Martin,  in all of his agnst fixed it with a single swing of a hammer.  Thus goes a Protestant Church history class.  (To be fair to the reformers they did have much to rail about when they viewed what the Roman Catholic Church was adding to the received apostolic truth.  In many ways Rome itself was the first of many protestant breakaways from Orthodoxy, excluding themselves from the church in 1054AD by excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople.)

But this amnesia driven worldview of modern evangelicals does injustice to both history and the truth.  The undisputed testimony of time, history, saints, martyrs and Church Tradition speaks of another way of understanding, and that in a nutshell  is  the challenge to living in the West as converts from Protestantism, to the Orthodox way of the East: simply put we wish people would understand and discover the beauty and fullness of faith  that we have discovered.  And thus our spiritual challenge is this: patience and humility.  “How do we live our Orthodox faith in a world that is decidedly unorthodox, or better yet, anti-orthodox?”  Here is a wonderful quote from an Orthodox Abbot from a monastery on the Island of Patmos, spoken to Timothy Ware, a convert from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy when he asked “How hard will it be to live an Orthodox life in the West,  when it  knows nothing, or very little of Orthodoxy the ancient Church?”   Timothy Ware is now Bishop Kallistos a hierarch in the Orthodox Church in Great Britain. 

The words and advice of his spiritual father are profound and very wise.

Do not be afraid. 

Do not be afraid because of your Orthodox faith. 

Do not be afraid because as an Orthodox Christian in the West you will be often isolated and always in the small minority.   Do not make compromises, but do not attack other Christians, do not be either defensive or aggressive, simply be yourself.    

  – Father Amphilochios – Abbott of Patmos – Spiritual Father of Bishop Kallistos.


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