Orthodox America

  How One Can and Ought to Serve the Church

by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazanaky

If we love the Church, if she is dear to us, then how can each of us serve her? And if someone were to ask you: "How have you served her?. what activities can you glory in?

When this question was put to the holy Apostle Paul and he had to defend his authority before the Corinthian Christians, he answered in this way: I glory in it in my infirmities (II Cor. 11:30). Glory in infirmities? Without question, the humble realization of our infirmities is beneficial for each of us, but how can we serve the Church in this way? At the same time, the holy Apostle insists on his answer and explains: For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Cor. 12:10).

Then, this is no paradox, no play on words, no contradiction. The Apostle shows no trace of being "imaginative" or 'witty". He writes from the fullness of his heart, from a deep conviction. His meaning is direct. He speaks of the Christian principle of life.

Christianity upset the usual concepts dominant in the word, and in particular the concept or power. In Christianity, power is what "seems to the world to be impotence, what appears to its short-sighted view to be a contemptible weakness. Christian power is meekness. Meekness is the law of the new life and action, under whose banner the Gospel declared war on the world: "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are they that weep. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

And so, two contradictory laws of life stand one against the other, two kingdoms:

the kingdom of the meek and the kingdom of power. The kingdom of the meek is forced to wage war against the kingdom of power, while located in its midst and surrounded on all sides by the kingdom of power and force.

The Church is meek. For this reason she is in need of protection and defense, Only they must be good means for her defense. In the past, both the Byzantine and Russian Churches had external defenders: a government system, the emperors, the tsars.... Times have changed. Now the care or the Church is entrusted by the Lord to the people of the Church herself and so, to each orthodox Christian. In this regard, we are returning to the times. of the first Christians. Our times call us all to a conscious, constant sacrificial stand for the Church," each with his talents and means. However the principal power of service lies not in this and not in our knowledge, abilities and callings  The principal power is in that "infirmity  through which the power of Christ comes to abide. It is in our morality, in  our hiving according to the law of the Gospel, according to the law of the Church...

Each of us has a place in the ranks of the soldiers of the Church, and the forms of participation in service to the Church are varied. The Aposlle writes: Let every. man abide in the same calling where in he was called CI Cor. 7:20). Translating this quotation into contemporary concepts, we can say that there does not exist a constructive, good profession and a social position where a good person could not at some time or other contribute his good mite to the work of the Church...

One mast see the Church as the one body of Christ, a single, organism, a. single substance. Each person’s individuality is the plot entrusted to him, for him to labor over, clean up, and produce fruit on. In working on ourselves, we work for the whole, for the entire Church, for its Head, the selfless Saviour. In letting one's plot become overgrown, in neglecting it, condemning it, we bring harm not only to ourselves but also to the Church. By not gathering for our own soul, we scatter what belongs to the Church.

Our service to the Church consists in this: that through our personal Christian life the spirit of the values of the Gospel flow into the life of the world, thus putting the enemies of the Church to shame. In our personal qualities lies the pledge or the internal unity of the Church as a whole and of the parish in particular; it is from this source that there come mutual understanding, obedience, unanimity in goals, friendly labor for the glory of God and the glory of the Church. Thus a completely special Church atmosphere is established. in such an atmosphere a. person feels that he is in a special world, which gives rest and joy to the soul, refreshing and renewing it. One strives to come to it as if to a new earth, the earth of the meek. In it one feels the beneficial power of the Church within oneself. It is easier in such circumstances for the soul to open up for the reception of the breath of the. grace of God that abides in the Church. But if this spirit is absent; if within the groups of the Church there are divisions, discord, the struggle of ambitions and self-love, then can one, in such circumstances, speak of the power of the Church?

Therefore, to the question of how can we serve the Church, the answer is simple: by active obedience to her. Active obedience to her is a life according to the rules of the Church, with observation of the moral laws with zealous attendance to the services in church, with prayer at home and a Christian foundation of and direction in home life. We can say, then, in general, that for us it consists in the joy of belonging to the Russian Church Abroad as a true confessor of the Catholic Orthodox faith and a herald of righteousness, and in the peace in our personal life, corresponding with that membership. 

(From "Orthodox Life," January-February, 1976)