February 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Fr. Antony PortraitGlory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Orthodox Christianity is all about living in God. It is about knowing Him and loving Him not because we have to, but because He is Love itself. Therefore, Orthodoxy is not about rules and rituals and obligations. The Orthodox Faith is about life. If we believe the Faith is irrelevant to our daily lives, then I suggest it is because our perceptions are wrong.

To so many the practice of the Orthodox Faith is little more than drudgery. We go to Church because we "have" to go! Our parents made us because their parents made them. Sometimes there was little explanation of why or if someone did make an attempt to explain it was not convincing. The "ethnic" argument might have seemed most compelling to an older generation, but it does not hold the same force for newer ones. In our heterogeneous, multicultural society there is a search for reasons beyond heritage and for meaning that is universally relevant. Even the pull of family ties does not suffice. Independence is now the overarching concern. I have been asked many times, "Why do our children no longer come to Church?" I think the answer is simple. The reasons they were given were not compelling. In other words, they did not learn that the reason we attend Church is for the love of God. Truthfully, there is no other reason that stands up.

We devote ourselves to the Orthodox Faith because it is the pathway to God. The result of our devotion brings peace, joy, love, light, and truth into our daily lives. We come because God who loves us without condition or limit calls us to come. If we feel pushed or coerced into the Church, then know for certain that the compulsion we feel is not from God. The Lord is not behind driving us like slaves. He is always ahead calling like a Friend and a Lover. The "narrow gate that leads to life" is a beautiful gate. We follow Christ because we know that His beauty is able to make our lives beautiful.

We need to speak to our loved ones and to the world the "Good News" of the Gospel rather than the dead words of human tradition. To do so we must come to know and believe in this "Good News" so that we can communicate it. We must live the Gospel so that others may see the light that for so long has been hidden under a bushel of ethnicity, obligation, and tribalism. Only the words of Life bring life and we know that our Lord Jesus alone is "the Way, the Truth and the Life." Orthodoxy is not irrelevant at all! If we make it seem that way, then clearly we are missing the point somewhere. We may need to change our own perceptions so that our misperceptions do not become a cause of stumbling to the people around us.

"Come," says the Lord, "for the table is richly laden." "Come," He says again, "all ye that labor and are heavy laden...and ye shall find rest unto your souls." "Come," He says to the children, to the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the sick, the possessed, the needy, the rich. In this universally relevant message there is neither drudgery nor coercion.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Antony