Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Friday, 7 July 2017

Orthodox mission?

'You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.' (Acts 1:8)

The Biblical understanding of mission (Αποστολή) means to go out, leave ones environment, and share the Apostolic faith. Thus, even in todays context, we should distinguish between the ongoing pastoral ministry taking place within our parishes, and the Apostolic mission we are also simultaneously called to carry out. Atheistic, secular influences prevail in societies today, and so our witness (Μαρτυρία) should be an important part of the Church' work.

However, as Archbishop Anastasios of Albania highlights, proselytism on the other hand 'contravenes the dignity of the human person and of the Gospel' and is thus 'not sincere.' 'What is not sincere' he writes, ' both in purpose and in ways of acting, cannot be Orthodox.' Proselytism begins with other means, such as gifts, leaflets, food, or money in order to gain followers; means which are very much contrary to the Orthodox Church' tradition of sharing the Faith. As members of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, we have no concerns over statistics or the number of converts. Our 'martyria' must be a witness based on the respect of ones freedom - indeed sharing the experiential and eternal joy of salvation found within Christ's Church, transmitting the tradition of the Gospel yet remaining free from any anxiety to convert or impose on anyone's freedom. This martyria however does often not entail preaching, theological discussions or even words at all, but simply acting as a candle of hope, lit by Paschal joy. If our neighbour wishes to partake of this flame, then that is entirely their free decision.

This ministry, stemming from the Eucharistic and prayerful life of the Church, is a ministry all the faithful can carry out: in their workplace, university, neighbourhood and circle of friends, as an example and testimony of life in Christ. It is our responsibility as Orthodox Christians, being called to 'go forth in peace' from the Liturgy, to share with those around us, offering the Risen Christ's uniting, light-giving presence and joy, especially needed in a broken world and epoch.

Every human being desires the Truth, and the eternal salvation offered by Christ to all. With respect and sincerity, we are thus called to offer this authentic, full and experiential life in Christ to those in our personal context: with unconditional charity, understanding, and vitally love.