Orthodox America

  Give them Bread

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever. (John 6:51)

 Fr. Alexey Young

Not long after my conversion, I began publication of "Nikedemos," a small bi-monthly periodical of Orthodox thought. This was largely an individual effort which necessarily limited its scope. With my ordination to the priesthood in 1979, pastoral obligations made the carrying on of such a work increasingly difficult. At the same time, the need for Orthodox materials in English was growing. At the inspiration of the Fathers at the St. Herman Monastery, it was decided to expand our efforts with the help of a few additional laborers--in a new direction, Recognizing that indeed the fields were white with harvest and that the time was ripe For a missionary publication, the first issue of "Orthodox America” was sent to press. Now, five years later, it is a good time to re-examine the principles upon which this paper was founded.

      In these years of working on Orthodox America, we have tried to remain faithful to our statement of purpose: "to proclaim the living and glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, and His path to salvation." Originally, it was envisioned that the paper would find most of its appeal among converts. Over the years, however, it has proven to have found an equally positive reception among "cradle Orthodox" (those born in the Faith), indicating an extensive need and a serious interest in the basic teachings of the Faith, And it is this we have endeavored to keep in mind, hearing constantly in the depths of our hearts the admonition of the Lord: "Give them bread."

     Although the problems of converts in this society are not necessarily the same as for those born in the Faith, all have the same fallen nature, all suffer the same consequences of sin, all have the same basic spiritual needs. In other words, all stand in need of the same Salvation. which means that all are in need of Christ, the "true bread,..which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world so that a man may eat thereof, and not die" (John 6:32, 33, 50).

    Thus, if there is no essential difference between converts and those born into Orthodoxy, then all priests (whether converts like myself or not) must be missionaries, if not to the non-Orthodox society in which we all live, then at least to those who are already in the Saving Church but still stand in need of regeneration, reformation, spiritual nourishment, and conversion of heart. "Go ye, Go ye!" the Gospel calls out. Dare we hold back, hiding behind the beautiful facades of our churches and gorgeous vestments? This is why the late Fr. Nicholas Deputatov (+1982) wrote that 'the Apostles did not hide the treasure of Christ. They spread it about, through the whole world. In torments, in sufferings, before the face of death, they told the good news of Truth. of Life, of Light, of the fount of salvation and Kingdom of God.

These days we hear much about the mass starvation in Africa. Many good people in this country and abroad are working very hard to bring food and medical supplies to these people, and this is a noble and merciful work, surely pleasing in the sight of God, But why are there not as many working to feed the spiritually starving all around us?

In the Gospel the Lord asks: "What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" Yet the whole world cries out for spiritual bread! Therefore we must give it, and quickly. To those already in the saving enclosure of Orthodoxy we must continue to give the strong wine of ascetic struggle joined to unswerving repentance. To those still outside we must preach Christ, and we must do this peacefully, in all love and

meekness, especially by the example of our own lives, leading them as swiftly and surely as possible--while there is still time-- into the One Fold with its One Shepherd. To all we must give Bread.

     Unfortunately, without being aware of it. we are not always faithful in carrying out this commission. We may be filled with zeal but without a proper understanding it may easily be misplaced In introducing the Faith to someone, we must be careful to present

Christ and His Bride – the Church, and not some exotic facet of culture or the attractions of some ethnic group, The external features of Orthodoxy are an integral part of the Church, but without the gospel of Christ they are powerless to save. If we ourselves are not centered upon the “one thing needful" we may unwittingly give someone a stone in place of that Bread of Life for which they are seeking.

   Our task is made more difficult by the natural complexity of the Western mind which is at times impatient with the Gospel simplicity. Orthodoxy is so rich, so profound, that it appears to invite intellectual curiosity--especially among converts, and some Orthodox publications today seem to cater to this insistent demand for knowledge. But unless it is tempered by spiritual labors , such knowledge will prove fruitless and even harmful. We must be very cautious to steer clear of this, and also to avoid leading others into this pitfall.

    Soon “cometh the end" when, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye...the last trumpet shall sound" (I Cor. 15:24, 25) and we shall be called to account. Have we invited all and sundry to the banquet of the Faith, or merely supped at it alone, in lazy selfishness? Have we spent our life walking through this world as though empty-handed when, in fact, our hands overflow with spiritual riches? Thousands of souls are perishing from spiritual hunger. Hierarchs Priests all ranks of clergy and lay men and women of all ages and states of life: Give this spiritually dying world the antidote of death, the medicine of immortality. Give them the bread of life, which is Christ God, for "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men. and He will dwell with them, and they shall be H i s people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God," (Rev. 21:3). Amen.