Friday, September 14, 2012

On How Orthodox Christians Can Be of Genuine Help to their Non-Orthodox Friends

I am borrowing this from Macrina Walker and her well-worth-the-read blog A Vow of Conversation.  We Orthodox, especially new converts, tend towards a black and white, in or out view of religion.  So this is a useful reminder of a more generous, Christ-like posture.

Elder Sophronius Sakharov relates the following story:

I remember a conversation [Staretz Silouan] had with a certain Archimandrite who was engaged in missionary work.  This Archimandrite thought highly of the Staretz and many a time went to see him during his visits to the Holy Mountain.  The Staretz asked him what sort of sermons he preached to people.  The Archimandrite, who was still young and inexperienced, gesticulated with his hands and swayed his whole body, and replied excitedly, I tell them, “Your raith is all wrong, perverted.  There is nothing right, and if you don’t repent, there will be no salvation for you.”

The Staretz heard him out, then asked, “Tell me, Father Archimandrite, do they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the true God?”

“Yes, that they do believe.”

“And do they revere the Mother of God?”

Yes, but they are not taught properly about her.”

“And what of the Saints?”

“Yes, they honour them but since they have fallen away from the Church, what saints can they have?”

“Do the celebrate the Divine Office in their churches?  Do they read the Gospels?”

“Yes, they do have churches and services but if you were to compare their services withi ours how cold and lifeless theirs are!”

“Father Archimandrite, people feel in their souls when they are doing the proper thing, believing in Jesus Christ, revering the Mother of God and the Saints, whom they call upon in prayer, so if you condemn their faith they will not listen to you…  But if you were to confirm that they were doing well to believe in God and honour the Mother of God and the Saints; that they are right to go to church, and say their prayers at home, read the Divine Word, and so on; and then gently point out their mistakes and show them what they ought to amend, then they would listen to you, and the Lord would rejoice over them.  And this way by God’s mercy we shall all find salvation….  God is love, and therefore the preaching of His word must always proceed from love.  Then both preacher and listener will profit.  But if you do nothing but condemn, the soul of the people will not heed you, and no good will come of it.”

This  excerpt is taken from Archimandrite Sophronius Sakharov’s book Saint Silouan the Athonite 

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