Mission Monthly – November 1996

“…for those whose professed aim is the enjoyment of eternal blessings to be seen groveling in the dust of worldly things is disgraceful and a shame to their vocation… When those who travel by sea are overtaken by a storm, they do not worry about their merchandise but throw it into the waters with their own hands, considering their property less important than their life. Why, then, do we not follow their example, and for the sake of the higher life despise whatever drags our soul down to the depths.”

St. Neilos the Ascetic

As the national election approaches and issue debates intensify, I find myself hoping, wishing, merely for a dignified and fair outcome. We are a nation crying out for tolerance and cooperation, yet once again we seem to find ourselves entrenched in intolerant posturing. Agendas and labels rather than right and moral policy dominate the public forum: Conservative, Liberal, Management, Labor, Male, Female, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Environmentalitst, Sexual Preference, Race, Age, and yes, even Creed. As an Orthodox Christian I find all of this strange and foreign. Yes, every person needs to feel a sense of belonging and have a place to share one’s uniquness, but “our life is hid with Christ in God,”(Col. 3.3) not with our position, polity, possessions, pastimes, or our personal opinions. Our life in the Body of Christ, the Church, gives us a standard of living and belief, as well as a place in the community to love and be loved. The “identity crisis” for us, therefore, is a non-issue including the raging struggle for a consistent understanding of Truth and values.

Beginning November 15 we enter the Advent Fast to prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord. This is a time to consider the awesome action of the Lord in His incarnation. Identity to Him was of NO account. “Though he was in the form of God, [He] did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (Phil. 2.6) “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” (Mt. 20.28). This humility or “kenosis” (self-emptying) of God is so powerful an example to a world endlessly caught up in partisan agendas, the very partisan spirit which St. Paul condemns (Gal. 5.20). Jesus Christ “emptied himself, and took the form of a servant” (Phil. 2.7). This is the example of our Master who calls us simply to follow, “for no servant is greater than his master” (Jn. 13.16). Emptied of self and our worldly reasoning we can be filled with the Holy Spirit and become truly nurtured vessels of the right thinking mind of the Church. This is our true identity. This is our only identity fulfilled in the image of Christ.

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