Orthodox America

 Independent Orthodox Workers 

by Abbot Herman

Then saith He unto His disciples: The harvest truly is plenteous, but the workers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth workers into His harvest. (Matt. 9:37-38)

When our Lord Jesus Christ began to serve the people, He called upon simple-hearted men to follow him. Sensing with their hearts the Divine nature of the new Teacher, they abandoned everything and followed Him, becoming then, and for two thousand years to come, witnesses of His Divinity before the entire world. Born again of the Spirit, they began to reflect the heavenly qualities of that other world to which Christ had called them.

Like a holy fire, Christ's love wounded their hearts, and they could not but exuberantly proclaim His teaching of the new birth. I am come to send fire on the earth (Luke 12:49), said our Lord – and His followers cut themselves off from the world that lies in evil (I John 5:19) to become partakers of Heaven which  still in the flesh, they had already begun to experience. Follow Me, said our Lord-and His disciples followed, calling to others: Come and see our Divine Master (John 1:43, 46), And they too went and became new beings, charged with heavenly energy to transfigure the world.

For nearly two thousand years, these words of Christ, Follow Me, have echoed in the hearts of men. Those who answer this call and have become true disciples of Christ, have a great work set before them, not only to proclaim the Good Tidings to the ends of the earth, but also to make sure that it takes root in the hearts of men and brings forth fruit, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:221. This task requires the u t m o 5 t effort on the part of sober Christians willing to endure and to sacrifice themselves for the sake of Christ and His mission on earth. This is the supreme labor of love.

The work of preparing oneself-and helping others to prepare- for the kingdom of Heaven, is the very meaning of man's existence on earth. It is, however, a constant battle with the world which lies in evil. Our Lord, therefore, founded His Church, thus pro viding a safe bastion against the destructive spirit of worldliness to which man's fallen nature too often falls prey. Within this saving enclosure of the Church, Christians can grow in faith and mature according to the measure of their talents. Such is the nature of the Orthodox Mission which has always been a prominent part of Orthodox life, a life in Christ. The Apostles began this mission, the Martyrs strengthened it, the Church Fathers defended it, and all Orthodox Christians throughout the centuries continue it by loving and witnessing Christ.

The purpose of mission is to generate Christian activity out of which can come Orthodox workers to till the fields white with a harvest of souls thirsting for the true God. These workers must be filled with noble aspirations, y e t their feet must be firmly planted on the ground. unfortunately, over the centuries Orthodox missionary activity gradually became linked to the Church organization, and much of the apostolic fervor was stifled by an ecclesiastical worldliness. Today the orthodox mission still suffers from an overemphasis on the earthly organization and the mistaken opinion that missionary workers must be members of the clergy. Without a living missionary activity, churches are in danger of becoming merely beautiful settings for festive rituals. Such exclusive worldly organizations have no room for the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing. And yet, is it not for their sakes that Christ came to earth and founded His Church? The world is full of those wandering along the dangerous highways and byways of life, but there is no room for them in churches which prefer to cater to their own ethnic needs rather than to reach out with the basic Gospel message of love to those less fortunate, those still outside the saving enclosure of the Orthodox Faith.

Today the world is in need of true Orthodox missionaries, self- sacrificing, Christ-loving workers, who seek to gain not earthly goods, but to gain souls for Christ. The contemporary world is tired of narrow-minded rationalistic sectarianism which deadens the ever-inspiring Gospel message. The English speaking people of America and Australia are thirsting for the fullness of the Orthodox spirit of other-worldliness and are ready for it, if only God would send His workers into their over-ripening fields...

The time has come for independent Orthodox workers to step forward as they have done so gloriously in the past! The modern world needs new missionaries such as Sts. Cyril and Methodius, or Sts. Herman and Innocent of Alaska, men inspired by deep and fervent faith which they were impelled to share with those still in the darkness of unbelief. The vast new territories gave them ample ground for their holy labors.

Missionary activity, however, is not limited to pioneer work in foreign lands. Every Christ-oriented activity is missionary in nature. But where are the w or k e r s? Where are the Orthodox Christian reading rooms, the rescue missions, telephone hot-lines whereby needy souls be given Orthodox advice; or Orthodox day- care centers and nursing homes, Orthodox family counselors, Orthodox youth centers, high schools, colleges, universities...??

The Orthodox mission is to open a door into the other world, to manifest the right (ortho) belief (dox) first of all in one's own life, and then to invite those who stand outside to come and see and, if they have the heart to accept the new birth in Christ, to partake of the life of grace within the Church that is the only preparation here below for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. "My joy," says St. Seraphim of Sarov, "acquire the Spirit of Peace (the Holy Spirit), and thousands around you will be saved."

Tell me, my friend, what hinders you from becoming an independent Orthodox worker?