In an age when many Christian denominations are trying to appear relevant and modern, I am finding that large numbers of people are drawn to the Ancient Faith by the beard and robe. I am constantly thanked for dressing as I do by people who appreciate symbols of faith in the midst of a secular world. Many Orthodox jurisdictions that previously wanted to blend in with their Catholic and Protestant neighbors by having our clergy put off the traditional "look" of Orthodoxy, are now rediscovering the wisdom of these traditions. Now that large numbers of the clean shaven, and modern attired, heterodox clergy have been discredited in the minds of the world, due to theological and moral lapses, is there any logical reason we Orthodox would really want to imitate them?
Like so many other Orthodox clergy, I can also attest to the fact that my beard, and my way of dress, are a great aid in keeping me, sinner that I am, constantly attuned to my vocation as a monk, and as a priest. It is hard to forget your high calling when you "dress for work" each and every hour of every day. Our appearance is a constant reminder that we, as priests, have been set apart as Guardians of the Mysteries, and Servants of the Most High.
From my personal observations, I have come to believe that Orthodoxy, if it is to thrive into the next century, must adhere to the ancient traditions and roots of the faith that have set her apart from the religions. The Church must proclaim the Good News of Christ in all its purity, so that the mystical and sacramental core of her very being be clearly seen by a world that so needs this ancient, unchanging faith. The world must see by our differences that Orthodoxy offers the transformational healing that comes through the life of Christ's Church. By clinging to her ancient, God inspired Tradition, the Church takes seriously the mystical and sacramental roots of her divinely founded self.
As we Orthodox look in amazement at the phenomenal resurrection of our Church following the fall of communism, what with the thousands of new churches being reopened, new ones built, and monasteries growing at a phenomenal rate, we will see that the twenty-first century could well be the Age of Orthodoxy. And for this to happen, we must put off everything that has brought down Western Christianity.
Accountability must be foremost in how we operate as religious institutions. Bishops and priests must be accountable to one another, transgressions against the Body of Christ must be rooted out, and the clergy (including our bishops) must serve others as humble servants of Christ, and as living icons of the Gospel message. Our co-suffering Saviour must be seen in how we serve, and in how we live, and in how we love. The transformational power of Orthodoxy must be allowed to change the world, as the "institutional" church is replaced with the gospel vision of the Church as Hospital of the Soul.
The Orthodox Church will thrive in the twenty-first century only if we commit to being the otherworldly people we are called to be, living in the world, but not being of the world. The Church will thrive, not because she adapts to modern styles of dress, and modern trends of moral and theological thought, but because of her willingness to serve the world in imitation of the holy fathers of the Church who have gone on before us, and who refused to conform to the styles and fashions of a world that has always been in need of the unchanging Faith that has the power to transform lives, and usher the human race into communion with the Most High God.
Love in Christ,
Saturday September 6, 2014 / August 24, 2014
13th Week after Pentecost. Tone three.
Hieromartyr Eutychius (1st c.), disciple of St. John the Theologian.
Translation of the relics of St. Peter, metropolitan of Kiev (1479).
New Hieromartyr Seraphim (1946).
Venerable Aristoclius elder of Moscow (1918).
Venerable Arsenius, abbot of Komel (Vologda) (1550).
Martyr Tation at Claudiopolis (305).
Virgin-martyr Cyra of Persia (558).
Venerable George Limniotes the Confessor of Mt. Olympus (716).
Equal-to-the-Apostles Cosmas of Aitolia (1779).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Petrovskaya" ("of St. Peter of Moscow") (1306).
St. Martyrius, ArchBishop of Novgorod (1199).
Commemorating the appearance of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary to Venerable Sergius, abbot, of Radonezh (1385).
St. Dionysius of Zakynthos, archbishop of Aegina (1622).
St. Serapion the Wonderworker, abbot of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist at Garesja, Georgia (1747) (Georgia).
New Hieromartyr Cosmas of Aitolia, Equal-to-the-Apostles (1779).
St. Maxim (Sandovich), martyr of the Lemkos, Poland (1914).
The Scripture Readings for the Day
1 Corinthians 2:6-9
Spiritual Wisdom6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”
So they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.
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