This article was originally published in the Orthodox Observer, a monthly publication of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and addresses Greek Orthodox Christians. We re-post it here on our site because we think that the problem raised by the author can be met not only among Greeks, but among orther Orthodox Christians as well. – Pravmir’s Staff
As you read this article, Pascha 2011 is becoming a pleasant and comforting memory. You’ve probably kept the palm cross you received in church on Palm Sunday and put it near your home icons. In your home icon corner you may have saved some holy oil from Holy Wednesday service and a flower from the Epitaphio. It’s possible that buried in your refrigerator are one or two red Easter eggs, left over memories of the first moments you wished a friend or relative Christos Anesti.
These simple yet tangible connections to the most holy of days on our Orthodox Calendar have meaning, not only in themselves, but because they were received by you and your family in the context of our Orthodox Christian community. Community – our connections to God and to one another – is another way to define our ancient faith. It is in the context of community, the family of God that we worship, pray and participate in the sacraments. Together on an ongoing participating basis we can experience the sense of Church.
Another word for Heaven is the word “connected.” Another word for Hell is the word “disconnected.” The Church connects us to God. St. Ignatius the Martyr says, “Where Christ is, there is His Church.” Sometimes our own apathy and ignorance disconnects us from God and isolates us from our fellowship in God’s family…the Church.
So many disconnected Greek Orthodox people unfortunately treat the church the way they treat the Department of Motor Vehicles. Their focus is “how do I get what I need, pay for it and move on.” In other words, what does it cost to register my car, renew my driver’s license or transfer my car title. Once the transaction is completed we don’t think about the DMV until the next time we need them. In like manner, the Church becomes for many a “hatch, match, patch and dispatch operation” in our life.
“How do I baptize my child and what does it cost?”
“What’s the process of getting my daughter married and what does it cost?”
“My marriage is falling apart – Father help!” or “My Aunt Mary passed away two her and what does it cost?” The question often is not only what does it cost but can I get a break on the price because Aunt Mary was a member of Philoptochos in the 80’s. From 40-day children’s blessings to home blessings, many people who are disconnected from the total life of the church see it as a religious retail store where we buy a religious commodity. This is a sad but real commentary.
Even Holy Week and Pascha itself is treated by some as a visit to a charming religious Disneyland that is visited once a year. I got phone calls during Holy Week such as:
“What day is the Holy ‘lubrication’ service this year?”
“How long is the ‘Curcifi-cation’ service this year?”
“How long does it take to take the ‘Wooden flower box’ around the church on Friday night?”
“What time ‘exactly’ is communion at Easter Liturgy?”
The people calling with their questions are not trying to be funny or strange. They just don’t know. They are disconnected from the daily life of the Orthodox family of God. They are on the outside, occasionally looking in. If Easter tells us anything, it is to call us to life in Christ, to life and involvement in His Church.
When we say “Christos Anesti” and respond with “Alithos Anesti,” it is a witness to on-going faith in our truly risen Christ. Pascha calls us to community and communion with the death-defeating, life-giving God. He calls us to a new consciousness and awareness. As you visit and meet with disconnected Greek Orthodox Christians and exchange the greeting of Christos Anesti, invite them to be a part of the community of saints.
Tell them what St. Cyprian says, “Do not think that you maintain the true Gospel of Christ, if you separate yourself from the flock of Christ.”
Encourage their on-going participation in the Church which was purchased for them by the blood of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Fr. Bakas is dean of St. Sophia Cathedral, Los Angeles and a faculty member of Loyola Marymount University, School of Theology.
Source: Orthodox Observer, May 2011