Monday, December 10, 2012

Bastions of
Ethnic Heritage
Seattle as seen from the Water Taxi

The Problem of Ethnic Purity Within the Life of the Church

We Orthodox Christians, as a whole, are guilty of abandoning our Christ directed mission of making disciples of every nation, by preserving the needs of ethic groups (Russians, Greeks, Arabs, Serbs), often at the expense of welcoming our non-Orthodox neighbors. Although we can lay claim to having our doors wide open, we often make no effort whatsoever, to actually reach out with a welcoming smile, inviting others to "taste and see". We fear the influx of non-ethnics, lest they change the parish, taking over as it were.
I personally understand this mentality, for I grew up in a time when Lutherans were divided in much the same way. My home town had Swedish, Norwegian, German, Danish, and Finish, Lutheran churches. Never did they interact with one another, nor share joint services. If you were not a member of one of these traditional ethnic groups, you would be hard pressed to find a church where you'd be able to understand the sermon, or sing the hymns. The Lutherans eventually adopted English as the language of their worship, and the ethnic divisions between their churches disappeared.
The problem with ethnic purity within parish life, can be found in the drastic loss of their youth. When young people start dating, they are unlikely to choose someone from within the parish, since most of the social networking takes place within their high schools or colleges. Bringing a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, for a Sunday Liturgy, where the service (and sometimes homily) are in a language that is often not even understood by the young Orthodox Christian, can leave the visitor feeling like an alien. If Russian or Greek are spoken in trapeza, as well, a return visit is highly unlikely.
In a nation where recent polls have found that ninety-five percent of youth do not remain in their churches, once they've left their parents home, we Orthodox have an even poorer record. One jurisdiction has even reported a retention of their youth into adulthood, at an astonishingly low two and a half percent. This translates into the eventual disappearance of whole parishes.
Many protestant denominations have already awakened to the fact that "youth programs" do not work. Young people, whose church experience has been within such programs, do not stay once out on their own. A Greek priest friend told me the same has been experienced within many Greek parishes, where Ethnic dance groups, and Greek language classes, have ultimately failed to keep their youth in church.
Faith, if it is to become a permanent part of a persons life, must take root in the heart, and must become an integral part of one's whole experience, integrated in one's everyday life. We must not allow our Orthodox Christian faith to be compartmentalized in the lives of our children, but to become part of an integrated whole. There can not be a Russian, Greek, or Arab self on Sundays, with the American self relegated to the weekdays. As long as we continue to treat our parishes as preservation societies, and bastions of ethnic heritage, we will to lose our youth.
With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Monday December 10, 2012 / November 27, 2012
28th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.
Nativity (St. Philip's Fast). By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil

Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos named "Znamenie".
Commemoration of the miracle of the Weeping Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Of the Sign" at Novgorod in 1170.
Great-martyr James the Persian (421).
Venerable Palladius of Thessalonica (6th-7th c.).
St. James, bishop and wonderworker of Rostov (1392).
Uncovering of the relics (1192) of St. Vsevolod (Gabriel), prince and wonderworker of Pskov (1138).
Blessed Andrew of Symbirsk (1841).
New Hieromartyrs Nicholas archbishop of Vladimir, Basil, Boris, Theodore, Nicholas, Alexis, John, Sergius, John, Sergius, Nicholas priests, New Hieromartyrs Ioasaf, Cronides, Nicholas, Xenophon, Alexis, Appolos, Seraphim, Nicholas and Martyr John (1937).
17 Monk-martyrs in India (4th c.).
Venerable Romanus the Wonderworker of Cilicia (5th c.).
Znamenie-Sign Icons of the Mother of God: "Kursk-Root" (1295), "Abalatsk" (1637), "Tsarskotsel'sk" and "Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk" (1879), Verkhnetagilsk (1753) and named "Korchemnaia" (18 c.).
Venerable Pinuphrius of Egypt (4th c.).
Venerable Nathaniel of Nitria (6th c.).
Venerable Diodorus of George Hill (Solovki) (1633).
St. Maximus of Riez (460).
Venerable Theodosius of Trnovo (1363).
St. Virgil, bishop of Salzburg (748).
St. Congar, bishop of Somerset.
St. Fergus, bishop of Glamis.

You can read the life of the saint in green, by click on the name.

THANK YOU, to all of you who have been able to contribute towards the support of the monastery. These difficult times of economic hardship have impacted the monastery, and those of you who have been able to donate, have been our lifeline. May God bless you for your generosity, and kindness.
With love in Christ,  
Abbot Tryphon

Donations can be made directly to the monastery through PayPal, or you may send donations to:

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA

2 Timothy 2:20-26

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Luke 19:37-44

37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying:
“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

I invite my readers to listen to my Ancient Faith Radio podcasts.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Amen! Amen! I have been singing this same tune for the past thirty years (since I was ordained Deacon)and then Priest. People coming to Orthodoxy from the West are interesting in the theology/spirituality and history of the Church, they don't come to be turned into Russians, Greeks, Arabs, Ethiopians, Syrians, Indians, etc...

    Of course some who say that the main reason for the youth leaving is that you can't give what you don't possess...I can't see into the hearts of those who attend the Divine Liturgy but there rings a truth.

    Abba Yohannes Gebre Selassie