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- Orthodox Church in America discovers an evangelical soul
Sunday, September 05, 1999
By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
LIGONIER -- Orthodox Christians in North America "are now going through our own Great Awakening," the Serbian Orthodox primate of the United States told 100 people at a conference on Orthodox missions and evangelism.
For the first time in 100 years, there is a growing vision for a truly American expression of Orthodoxy, said Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Church of Midwestern America. Beyond that, he said, an unexpected influx of evangelical Protestant converts to Orthodoxy has enabled its churches to look beyond their own ethnic communities and preach the gospel to all who need to hear it.
"After 100 years ... that evangelical group was summoned by the Holy Spirit to make contributions to the Orthodox Church in this society," Christopher said.
The conference, which met at the Antiochian Village retreat center, was founded by the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, a church with Middle Eastern roots to which many of the converts have flocked. But it is now sponsored by the pan-ethnic Orthodox Christian Mission Center.
In the past decade the Antiochian archdiocese has started 65 new churches, bringing its total to 250. Active membership has increased from 225,000 to 250,000, said the Rev. Peter Gillquist, archdiocesan director of missions and evangelism and one of the original evangelical converts.
Gillquist had expected that most clergy converts who followed his group into Orthodoxy would be Episcopalians and Lutherans with an affinity for Orthodox liturgy. But 80 percent are evangelicals and charismatics seeking a deeper experience of worship, roots in Christian history and a relationship with the saints, Gillquist said. The remaining 20 percent are mainline Protestants who believe their denominations have lost their biblical moorings.
A century ago, North America presented a new situation for Orthodoxy, Christopher said. Apart from pioneering work by Russian monks in Alaska and California, missionaries did not bring the faith to a unified, unevangelized culture. Rather, Orthodox laity of many cultures brought their faith to a largely Christianized land of many more cultures. They goal was to worship in the faith as they had known it, care for new immigrants and preserve their customs.
In the 19th century the Russian Orthodox Archbishop Tikhon had a vision for a united American Orthodox Church. But it had barely begun to organize when World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution undid his work. Today's Orthodox Americans need to learn from great missionary saints of the past to discover ways to spread the faith, Christopher said.
Early Orthodox missionaries did not spread nationalism; the concept was unknown to them, Christopher said. They tried to bring Orthodoxy to each national culture they encountered. When the church tried to impose one culture upon another, its message often failed to take root.
The 12th century Serbian patriarch St. Sava grew up in Serbia when its clergy and bishops were Greeks who had failed to communicate the faith to the people. When the patriarch of Constantinople granted independence to the Serbian Orthodox Church, St. Sava became its first archbishop. He recruited native Serbian monks to become its first bishops and set about educating the people in their own language.
"His preaching, teaching, opening of schools and copying of scriptures became the golden age of Serbia's commitment to Christ," Christopher said.
In a workshop on campus ministry, the Rev. John Reeves, a former Episcopal priest who is a campus priest at Penn State and director of missions and evangelism for the Orthodox Church in America, explained how such missionary work is done in State College. When he was called to become pastor of a new parish near campus four years ago, only two students regularly attended Liturgy there. Now more than 40 attend and 60 are involved in a chapter of Orthodox Christian Fellowship.
A hierarchy of human needs used by psychologists -- survival, security, belonging, creativity and self-actualization -- is a helpful guide to evangelism, he said. Survival means a place to eat when the cafeterias are closed. Security and belonging come from participating in a group where people feel safe to be themselves. Creativity and self-actualization are secular terms for manifesting the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Reeves said.
Students don't arrive on campus looking for a place to study the desert fathers, but for a place to get a cheap meal, he said. So his parish first meets that basic survival need with a monthly supper. There is no Bible study and "if you eat there, you will never be put down for not going to church," he said.
Along with the student leaders, he uses that time to build friendships with the new students.
"We give them a semester to feed their bodies. By springtime they are in church and we get to feed their souls," he said.
The church has a weekly student Bible study and two other Bible studies meet in the dormitories. The students actively reach out to lapsed Orthodox students and to those with no Orthodox background.
One of the students began a friendly dialogue and literature exchange with a Protestant street preacher who had been evangelizing on the Penn State campus for 17 years, Reeves said. Eventually, the street preacher turned to Orthodoxy. On Easter, Reeves received nine adult converts into the church, eight of whom had been converted by the street preacher even before his own baptism.
"That's creativity. That's self-actualization," Reeves said.
http://vip.gr - The best things in life are FREE !
> Paternal Counsels Vol. 1 by Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos:About Slander
"Slander is false accusation. The slanderer is called a devil and is a devil,
because just as the Devil falsely slandered God to the first-formed people and
deceived them, so also the envious man, the slanderer, falsely accuses his
brothers and convinces many to believe him. The slanderer harms himself, the one
who is slandered and those listening as well All those who are slandered,
however, and have patience, and welcome and forgive slanderers, are worthy of
blessing. 'Blessed are you when men shall hate you and say all manner of evil
against you falsely ' However, slanderers harm many of those who are slandered,
because slander has sundered lawful marriages and beloved couples, caused enmity
towards beloved friends, relatives and brothers, thrown innocent people into
jails, and sent some into exile and others to death. For this reason slander is
the greatest sin and the spiritual father should canonize [give a penance to]
slanderers as murderers "
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"A Child's Lent Remembered"
An excerpt from Ivan Shmelyov's "Anno Domini", a wistful recollection of life
in his pious, old-fashioned, well-to-do home in pre-Revolutionary Moscow.
translated from the Russian by Maria Belaeff and published in "Orthodox
America", v5, #7, February 1985. Posted with permission of the editors.
I waken from harsh light in my room: a bare kind of light,
cold dismal. Yes, it's Great Lent today. The pink curtains, with
their hunters and their ducks, have already been taken down while
I slept, and that's why it's so bare and dismal in the room. It's
Clean Monday today for us, and everything in our house is being
Greyish weather, the thaw. The dripping beyond the window is
like weeping. Our old carpenter - Gorkin, "the panel man" - said
yesterday that when Lady Shrovetide leaves, she'll weep. And so
she is - drip...drip...drip... There she goes!
I look at the paper flowers reduced to shreds, at the gold-
glazed "Shrovetide" sweetcake - a toy, brought back from the baths
yesterday; gone are the little bears, gone are the little hills -
vanished, the joy. And a joyous something begins to fuss in my
heart; now everything is new, different. Now it'll be "the soul
beginning" - Gorkin told me all about it yesterday. "It's time to
ready the soul." To prepare for Communion, to keep the fast, to
make ready for the Bright Day.
"Send One-eye in to see me!" I hear Father's angry shouting.
Father has not gone out on business; it's a special day today,
very strict. Father rarely shouts. Something important has
happened. But after all, he forgave the man for drinking; he
cancelled all his sins; yesterday was the day of Forgiveness. And
Vasil-Vasillich forgave us all too, that's exactly what he said in
the dining room, kneeling: "I forgive you all!" So why is father
The door opens, Gorkin comes in with a gleaming copper basin.
Oh, yes, to smoke out Lady Shrovetide! There's a hot brick in the
basin, and mint, and they pour vinegar over them. My old nurse,
Domnushka, follows Gorkin around and does the pouring; it hisses in
the basin and a tart steam rises - a sacred steam. I can smell it
even now, across the distance of the years. Sacred... that's what
Gorkin calls it. He goes to all the corners and gently swirls the
basin. And then he swirls it over me.
"Get up dearie, don't pamper yourself," he speaks lovingly to
me, sliding the basin under the skirt of the bed. "Where's she hid
herself in your room, fat old Lady Shrovetide... We'll drive her
out! Lent has arrived... We'll be going to the Lenten market, the
choir from St. Basil's will be singing 'My soul, my soul arise;'
you won't be able to tear yourself away."
That unforgettable, that sacred smell. The smell of Great
Lent. And Gorkin himself, completely special - as if he were kind
of sacred too. Way before light, he had already gone to the bath,
steamed himself thouroughly, put on everything clean. Clean Monday
today! Only the kazakin is old; today only the most workaday
clothes may be worn, that's "the law."
And it's a sin to laugh, and you have to rub a bit of oil on
your head, like Gorkin. He'll be eating without oil now, but you
have to oil the head, it's the law, "for the prayer's sake."
There's a glow about him, from his little grey beard, all silver
really, from the neatly combed head. I know for a fact that he's
a saint. They're like that, God's people, that please Him. And
his face is pink, like a cherubim's, from the cleanness. I know
that he's dried himself bits of black braed with salt, and all Lent
long he'll take them with his tea, "instead of sugar."
But why is Daddy angry... with Vasil-Vasillich, like that?
"Oh, sinfulness..." says Gorkin with a sigh. "It's hard to
break habits, and now everything is strict, Lent. And, well, they
get angry. But you hold fast now, think about your soul. It's the
season, all the same as if the latter days were come... that's the
law! You just recite, "O Lord and Master of my life..." and be
And I begin silently reciting the recently memorized Lenten
The rooms are quiet and deserted, full of that sacred smell.
In the front room, before the reddish icon of the Crucifixion, a
very old one, from our sainted great-grandmother who was an Old
Believer; a "lenten" lampada of clear glass has been lit, and now
it will burn unextinguished until Pascha. When Father lights it -
on Saturdays he lights all the lampadas himself - he always sings
softly, in a pleasant-sad way: "Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O
Master," and I would sing softly after him, that wonderful refrain:
"And Thy ho-ly.. Re-sur-re-e-ec-tion, we glo-ri-fy!"
A joy-to-tears beats inside my soul, shining from these words.
And I behold it, behind the long file of lenten days - the Holy
Resurrection, in lights. A joyful little prayer! It casts a
kindly beam of light upon these sad days of Lent.
I begin to imagine that now the old life is coming to an end,
and it's time to prepare for that other life, which will be...
where? Somewhere, in the heavens. You have to cleanse the soul of
all sinfulness, and that's why everything around you is different.
And something special is at our side, invisible and fearful.
Gorkin told me that now, "it's like when the soul is parting from
the body." THEY keep watch, to snatch away the soul, and all the
while the soul trembles and wails: "Woe is me, I am cursed!" They
read about it in church now, at the Standings.
"Because they can sense that their end is coming near, that
Christ will rise! And that's why we're a-given Lent for, to keep
close to church, to live to see the Bright Day. And not to
reflect, you understand. About earthly things, do not reflect!
And they'll be ringing everywhere: 'Think back!... Think back!..."
He made the words boom inside him nicely.
Throughout the house the window vents are open, and you can
hear the mournful cry and summons of the bells, ringing before the
services: think-back.. think-back. That's the piteous bell, crying
for the soul. It's called the Lenten peal.
They've taken the shutters down from the widows, and it'll be
that way, poor-looking, clear until Pascha. In the drawing-room
there are grey slip-covers on the furniture; the lamps are bundled
up into cocoons, and even the one painting, "The Beauty at the
Feast," is draped over with a sheet. That was the suggestion of
His Eminence. Shook his head sadly and said: "A sinful and
tempting picture!" But Father likes it a lot - such class! Also
draped is the engraving which Father for some reason calls "the
sweetcake one", it shows a little old man dancing, and an old woman
hitting him with a broom. That one His Eminence liked a great
deal, even laughed.
All the housefolk are very serious, in workday clothes with
patches, and I was told also to put on the jacket with the worn-
through elbows. The rugs have been taken out; it's such a lark now
to skate across the parquet. Only it's scary to try - Great Lent:
skate hard and you'll break a leg. Not a crumb left over from
Shrovetide, mustn't be so much as a trace of it in the air. Even
the sturgeon in aspic was passed down to the kitchen yesterday.
Only the very plainest dishes are left in the sideboard, the ones
with the dun spots and the cracks... for Great Lent.
In the front room there are bowls of yellow pickles, little
umbrellas of dill sticking out of them, and chopped cabbage, tart
and thickly dusted with anise - a delight. I grab pinches of it -
how it crunches! And I vow to myself to eat only lenten foods for
the duration of the fast. Why send my soul to perdition, since
everything tastes so good anyway! There'll be stewed fruit, potato
pancakes with prunes, "crosses" on the Week of the Cross... frozen
cranberries with sugar, candied nuts... And what about roast
buckwheat kasha with onions, washed down with kvass! And then
lenten pasties with milk-mushrooms, and then buckwheat pancakes
with onions on Saturdays... and the boiled wheat with marmalade on
the first Saturday... and almond milk with white kissel, and the
cranberry one with vanilla, and the grand kuliebiak on
Annunciation... Can it be that THERE, where everyone goes to from
this life, ther will be such lenten fare!
And why is everyone so dull-looking? Why, everything is so...
so different, and there is much, so much that is joyous. Today
they'll bring the first ice and begin to line the cellars - the
whole yard will be stacked with it. We'll go to the "Lenten
Market," where I've never been... I begin jumping up and down with
joy, but they stop me: "It's Lent, don't dare! Just wait and see,
you'll break your leg!"
Fear comes over me. I look at the Crucifixion. He suffers,
the Son of God! But how is it that God... How did He allow it?...
I have the sense that herein lies the great mystery itself -
- Eulogia Kupiou!
I thank Apostolos for the invitation to the list. At this time, we are
seeking to develop Taxiarchis House a center for at-risk youth and are in
need of prayers ans support. You can find our proposal at
May God grant us all a blessed and frutiful Lent.
Fr. Dionysios +
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>>> IC XC + NI KA <<<From: Apostolos Koutsimbos <vip@...>
Sent: Sunday, April 02, 2000 11:53 PM
Subject: Re: No Subject
> Please, IERA MONH ARXANGELWN & AG. DHMHTRIOU, write subjects to yourposts!