Recently, whilst reading my daily list of blogs, I came across the website of All Saints of North America Russian Orthodox Church.On this site were two posts of interest on revitalization of an Orthodox parish.The pastor of the parish writes about an encounter with a Protestant minister who asks why the Orthodox Church does not have revival meetings.The priest responds that the Orthodox Church does not need revitalization.He goes on to say this because as Orthodox we are challenged daily to revitalize ourselves.
This set my mind to thinking so I read on in the article This is a great little piece on how we can get our spiritual life back on track.I sometimes feel that those of us involved in Church work as so consumed with numbers.How many people did we get at Liturgy on Sunday?How many come to Bible Study etc. In the last few months I have tried to shift beyond this and focus more on quality rather than quantity. We Orthodox do a wonderful job educating our children about the faith but a lousy job at educating the adults in our Churches. All one needs to do is read some of the so called Orthodox Blogs to find that theology is all over the map especially regarding morals.
The author of the previously mentioned article summarizes a report by Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The report itself is from 1985 but still has some teeth today.
If we ever hope to revitalize our churches and our people they need to get back to reading the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers of the Church. The article quotes St. Ignaty Brianchaninov: “All the holy ascetic writers of the recent centuries of Christianity affirm that… the study of the Sacred Scriptures… and the writing of the Fathers, and careful and steadfast direction according to them is the only path to spiritual success.” He goes on to say that frequent confession is also necessary for salvation. We have lost the spirit of frequent confession and I for one hope we get it back, and soon.
It is no mistake that the Archbishop quotes from St. Ignaty. The saint was placed in charge of four monasteries that were in decline. We placed these monasteries under a rule of study of Sacred Scriptures and the fathers as well as frequent confession. The number of monks increased in all of the monasteries, a large flow of pilgrims began to arrive, and buildings had to be built to accommodate all of those who were coming. We need to get our parishioners excited about Scripture and the fathers and then we will see the quality, as well as the quantity of the people start to improve.
But what say you to a parishioner who claims to not have time to dedicate to Holy Readings? St. John Chrysostom has this to say,
“I have always suggested and will not stop suggesting that you not only heed what is said in church, but also constantly occupy yourself in reading the Divine Scriptures at home. I have always suggested this also to those who are with me in private. Let no one say to me those words, cold and worthy of all condemnation: I am busy with public matters, I practice my trade, I have a wife, I am raising children, I manage a household, I am a layman; it is not my job to read the Scriptures, but that of those who have renounced the world. No, it is your job more than theirs; because they do not have as much need of the help the Divine Scriptures as do those who turn to them in the midst of many tasks. Monks, who have distanced themselves from commotions, enjoy great safety, while we, excited as if in the midst of the sea and falling into a multitude of sins, we always need constant and uninterrupted consolation from the Scriptures. It is not possible, it is not possible for anyone to be saved who does not constantly practice spiritual reading; for if, receiving wounds every day, we will not constantly practice spiritual reading, then what hope have we of salvation? Let us begin collecting a treasury of spiritual books for ourselves. Even merely seeing such books makes us more restrained from sin. Physical beauty often arouses lack of control, but spiritual beauty disposes God Himself to love it. Let us develop this beauty through the daily washing away of every impurity by reading the Scriptures.”
There are many more examples of this type but suffice it to say that we have work to do. If we hope to bring Orthodoxy to America, dare I say we must first bring Orthodoxy to the Orthodox?
Get them back into Holy Scripture and the Fathers, and we need to get the people back to confession this is very important.I think if we are able to do the hard work necessary we will be blessed with the outcome.