From The Blog

Mission Monthly – May 2007

“What are Christians? Christians are Christ-bearers Who is a Christian? A Christian is a man who lives by Christ and in Christ.”

St. Justin Popovich

Beloved! Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

As we continue to proceed through this beautiful season of Holy Pascha my prayer for each of you is for an enduring sense of our Lord’s Resurrection in your lives! Whatever burdens you may be carrying, may they be lightened by the easy yoke of Christ! Whatever joys you may be welcoming may you ever see their source in the eternal love of God for His creation! It is also my prayer that each of us continue to grow in understanding the serious nature of bearing the name, “Christian!”

I received an e-mail recently which included graphic details of three Christian men in Turkey who were brutally tortured for simply leading bible studies. Reading the grueling details of the inhumane acts of disembowelment, dismemberment—slow deaths where they were forced even to watch their own gruesome ends—and eventual decapitations, left me sick to my stomach, to say the least, and broken hearted over the senseless brutality that can dwell in the hearts of men.

I share this with you, not to cast a shadow over our current celebrations of Pascha, our Bishop’s visit and our parish’s tenth anniversary, but rather to give these celebrations an even greater context in defining who we really are as Orthodox Christians! What does it mean to be a Christ-bearer? This question may best be answered “apophatically,” meaning to answer the question by saying what a Christ-bearer is not. A few things a Christ-bearer is not: one who openly sins and does not repent; one who denies that the pathway to heaven is through the carrying of the cross; one who mocks basic Christian virtues such as modesty and chastity by practicing just the opposite; one who worships God “his own way” and rejects the rich heritage of Christian Tradition which has clearly revealed “right worship”; one who legalistically holds to the teachings of the Church but neglects the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith;”; one whodoes not show love for God and for his neighbor.

It is just as difficult, in this context, to then answer the question, “Who is a Christian?” There are many people in the world today who call themselves Christian, and in our case, “Orthodox Christian.” But dare we say that everyone who calls themselves such actually is? The truth of the matter is—and this is something that each of us should and must be concerned about if we are to ever take seriously this very personal claim—that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is in truth a Christian. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21). Unfortunately many churches today are filled with people who do not really want to follow the way of life of the Gospel. And why? Because it requires an uncompromising zeal for self-denial. Simply put, way too often people want the comfort of knowing that God is there for them without the personal dedication of being there for God.

Who, therefore, is a Christian? St. Justin defines a Christian as, “One who lives ‘worthily of God’ (Col. 1:10) by living according to the Gospel of Christ.” He goes on further to say, “Life according to the Gospel, holy life, Divine life, that is the natural and normal life for Christians. For Christians, according to their vocation, are holy: That good tiding and commandment resounds throughout the whole Gospel of the New Testament. To become completely holy, both in soul and in body, that is our vocation. This is not a miracle, but rather the norm, the rule of faith. The commandment of the Holy Gospel is clear, ‘As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct’ (1 Peter 1: 15).”

I am deeply challenged by these words as I’m sure you are as well. As we continue through this holy season of Pascha let us set out each day not only to remember the words, “Christ is Risen,” but also to embody their meaning. “Christ is Risen!” leads men to the faithful enduranceof unspeakable torture as described above. “Christos Anesti!” leads men to the faithful seeking of the way of the Cross in the midst of a society that teaches and promotes virtually everything contrary thereto. “Christos Voskrese!” leads men in the active pursuit of all the virtues, but especially to the virtues of chastity and modesty in a sexually charged society where adultery, fornication, pornography, deviant sexuality and sexual addictions are horrifically common. “Al-Maseeh Qam!” leads men to honesty and integrity in all things, and the humility to be corrected when necessary. “Christ is Risen!” leads men away from the base, material existence in which our world is mired and towards a heavenly existence where, in the words of St. Justin, “a man knows that a true man is true only in God, when on earth he lives by heaven that our task is to make ourselves heavenly and to fill ourselves with the Risen Christ.” Beloved, let us seek to be the bearers of the Risen Christ, authentic and sincere, remembering the words of our holy patron,

St. Ignatius of Antioch, “We have not only to be called Christians, but to be Christians.” Beloved,

Christ is Risen!