St Justin Popovich, recently glorified by the Church of Serbia, is one of my favorite authors. He would not be among the favorites of many Orthodox, because he is blunt and truthful. He addresses here Missionary work. I have had discussions about this in the parish before, and I present his words here because they are provocative, and TRUE. So much that passes for missionary work and its sister "ecumenical dialogue" is insipid and lifeless because it is not ascetical (and therefore, cannot be truthful, because it cannot not know the truth).
Like any quote, it cannot address all aspects of a subject, but every word St Justin speaks should be taken to heart. I hope that some dialogue will result because of this post.
The Ascetics are Orthodoxy’s only missionaries.
Asceticism is her only missionary school.
Orthodoxy is ascetic effort and it is life, and it is thus by effort and by life that her mission is broadcast and brought about.
The development of asceticism . . . this ought to be the inward mission of our Church amongst our people. The parish must become an ascetic focal point. But this can only be achieved by an ascetic priest.
Prayer and fasting, the Church-oriented life of the parish, a life of liturgy: Orthodoxy holds these as the primary ways of effecting rebirth in its people. The parish, the parish community must be regenerated and in Christ-like and brotherly love must minister humbly to Him and to all people, meek and lowly and in a spirit of sacrifice and self-denial. And such service must be imbued and nourished by prayer and the liturgical life. This much is groundwork and indispensable.
But to this end there exists one prerequisite: that our Bishops, priests, and our monks become ascetics themselves. That this might be, then: Let us beseech the Lord. (St Justin (Popovi?), Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, ed. Fr Asterios Gerostergios (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, 1994), p. 30,31)
Taken from a great Article:
from the Blog "Logismoi"
A missionary who does not love the services, the Psalter, the Gospels, fasting and ascetical effort is not a missionary. The same goes for a priest. We cannot give what we do not have, and we cannot have God without struggle – all with ourselves. God gives Himself freely, but we cannot bear Him in our souls without ascetical struggle. The Orthodox world does not readily acknowledge this truth – one only need look at our churches on Saturday night to know something is terribly wrong.
This is why I talk so much about fasting and the services. They are not missionary work (although there are many stories, including mine, of how the holy services caused a person to be joined to the church) – but such work cannot be done without them, except (in the latter instance only) among the truly exceptional – and those are they who have noetic prayer.
I am not an ascetic priest, because my passions burden me – but I can say without lying that I aspire to be. At least, God helping us, we have two liturgies a week, and proper services on the weekend. With God helping us, there will be more. Perhaps in time more of my flock will see the great importance of prayer together, and with it, more frequent confession and communion, and effort in everything!