Orthodox Life in Western Countries
Some truths about Orthodox life for Converts
(source: Orthodox England Journal Vol 11, Number 1 and used with permission)
- The Orthodox Church contains the fullness of divine revelation to mankind.
- Forms of Christianity, such as Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, are only partial expressions of the the Christian Truth.
- This statement does not imply hostility towards heterodox Christians - the Gospel requires peaceful co-existence with all mankind.
- The Orthodox Church is for everyone in the world who is striving towards God.
- During the first centuries of the Orthodox era, Greek more than any other language was used to fulfill Christ’s commandment to spread the Gospel across the then known world. In addition, the New Testament appeared in Greek and several of the Church Fathers wrote in Greek.
- After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Russian Church took over responsibility for spreading the Faith across Asia and into Alaska and for defending the Orthodox peoples in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Since 1917 this activity has providentially been extended to Western Europe and other parts of the world.
- During the second half of the 20th century, valuable contributions were also made by the Churches of Serbia and Romania and the Patriachates of Constantinople and Antioch in establishing an Orthodox presence in the Western world.
- Both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church should be given credit for their enormous contribution to the Kingdom of God in the face of immense suffering. Neither it nor any other Orthodox Church should be referred to in derogatory terms as ’ethnic’, etc.
- ‘Western Orthodoxy’ does not exist, but there are native Orthodox in the West.
- Since the Western world has been cut off from the fullness of the Orthodox Church for a millennium, the Orthodox Faith can only be planted in the West in one of its existing forms, for example, Russian, Romanian, Greek, Serbian or Syrian.
- Attempts to create an English, Irish, French or other Western form of Orthodox Church without being grounded in one of the existing Orthodox Churches are at present premature, even if well-intentioned.
- The transplantation of the Tradition of the Orthodox Church to the West does not imply a precedence of culture over faith. Orthodox Christians are first and foremost Orthodox and only then Russian, Greek, English, Irish etc.
- The Orthodox Church and Faith do not conform to Western cultural influences - instead they strive to nurture Christian values and the Christian way of life among Western people who have solemnly accepted the teachings and way of life in the Church.
- Modern Western society is based on the urge for the instant satisfaction of needs, hence the rampant consumerism of our time.
- The Orthodox Tradition does not adapt to make entry into it by Western people easier or quicker. Thus services are not abbreviated or rushed through to accommodate heterodox, standing during worship is normal, men and woman who accept the Orthodox Faith learn to dress modestly and women and girls cover their heads in church.
- The Orthodox Faith is naturally a liturgical faith - the Church therefore requires regular services wherever there is a resident priest.
- As a minimum, a parish should have Saturday Vespers to prepare for the Sunday Liturgy, as well as Vespers and Liturgies for all major feasts, providing that the priest is available and not forced to work in secular employment.
- If Orthodox new to the Church wanted to have more social meetings than services, this would be a clear sign of a lack of Orthodox consciousness.
- Orthodoxy is an episcopal faith - the role of the bishop is of vital importance in the Church, as St. Ignatius of Antioch and all the other Fathers emphasized in their writings. ‘He who does not have a bishop for his father, does not have the Church for his mother.’
- In accordance with the Tradition inherited from the Apostles and the practices of the first centuries, contemporary Orthodox parish life can only function properly where there is an active bishop overseeing his parishes.
- Where a parish or parishes do not have a bishop actively overseeing them, their life inevitably suffers.
- The Orthodox Church is characterized by Eucharistic communion between its bishops.
- If a ‘bishop’ is not in Eucharistic communion with a least one of the canonical Orthodox Churches, then his jurisdiction is not recognized as Orthodox.
- It is precisely the rejection of this requirement that has led to the emergence of a plethora of tiny non-canonical groups, especially in Western countries, claiming to be Orthodox, but in reality consisting of politicians, nationalists, careerist, adventurers and sectarians.