Orthodox and Heterodoxy during the Season of Advent
The Holy Spirit outside the church
Why baptism? Why the Church? Why “Right Worship”?
The Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God
I  have been thinking a lot about the relationship between the Orthodox and their non-Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ. I have witnessed, experienced and read countless accounts of the abundant grace of God, the transforming power and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit outside of the walls of the Orthodox Church. Even in the midst of much error, ignorance and confusion, Christ is clearly present. Just as God poured out the Holy Spirit on Gentiles not long after Pentecost, sometimes even before they were baptized, so He pours out His Holy Spirit on all who call on his name and desire pure hearts.
So what then is the necessity of the Orthodox, of Orthodox baptism and worship, some might ask?
I think the Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God, as well as the preservers of the fullness of the Church given to us by Christ.
Looking at the structure of our temple has led me to think about these things. Before Christ, the temple was the place where the children of God gathered to pray to the Lord–and their prayers sustained the world. In the outer area, the children of Israel gathered to worship and pray. Then there was the altar where the Levites served and priests offered sacrifices for the people – and the Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter.
Today, it is the followers of Christ who are God's people. All can stand in the narthex to pray and worship our God and pray for the world, just as the children of Israel once did in the courtyard of the temple. The Orthodox in the nave then represent the priests, standing in the altar, offering up our sacrifice of prayer and fasting, keepers of the sacred tradition handed to us by Christ. The altar where the Orthodox priest enters on our behalf is, of course, the new Holy of Holies.
Like monastics, the Orthodox pray, fast and asceticize more than other Christians.
They are the intercessors before the Lord and His saints on behalf of their brothers and sisters that live more in the world.
Without the mighty prayers of those who answered the monastic call of God, the Church would likely have failed.
Without the Orthodox having preserved the fullness of the teachings of Christ and of His Church, Christianity would not have survived, either.
The rest of Christendom, along with the whole world, survives off of the intercession and labor of the Orthodox Church of Christ on their behalf.
So at Christmastime, while some celebrate Christmas as a time of feasting and exchanging gifts, others withdraw into the cell of their souls to pray and fast. Even the Enemy's attempt to spoil the beautiful picture with his garish threads of commercialism and dark threads of secularism cannot diminish this picture—the glory of the world preparing to receive her King.
It will be a beautiful and wonderful thing when all the people of God, all those that love Christ, all those to whom and through whom the Lord is ministering, are one – when all who love and follow Him are finally 'Orthodox', is another way of putting it – even if this is not until after His return .
To these words, I add some things, which I thought of when I read my email.
I have a theory – the less monastic and "struggling" a church is, and therefore the more secular – the more the lines are blurred between where the church is and where it is not.
We see this secularism in drastically reduced and omitted services, either very infrequent communion, or frequent communion with no preparation, a hatred and distrust of monasticism or even little or no knowledge of it, bishops who do not live openly ascetical, monastic lives, and other symptoms.
I believe that one of the worst things the calendar change did was bring many Orthodox closer to secular Christianity (an oxymoron, really), and decreased their spiritual life in numerous ways.
Of course, not everyone following the Pope’s calendar are secular, and many who follow the Julian calendar are barely Christian, but, at least in this country, in many places the church has lost its way. We need more asceticism – not less, and this must be personal asceticism, where we fast and pray, and give alms, and look to the mind of the church and not secular life for inspiration. We also need bishops who truly live and act as bishops – that is, inspirations to the faithful, because they live a sober and monastic life. We have too many administrators and not enough spiritual men.
I wonder sometimes – what am I doing! – when I finish a vigil with myself and one or two other people present – but I always know in my heart that I cannot be what I am not, and I cannot be other than what I am. I am a sinner, but also a Christian priest, and my service, whether almost alone, or in a crowded church, (especially my service outside of Sunday, which seems to be the only “traditional” day when the majority of Orthodox Christians think they should go to church) is part of what was written above: Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God, as well as the preservers of the fullness of the Church given to us by Christ.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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 A recent email from a correspondent to Priest Seraphim, posted with permission, and a few editorial changes. I have added the Headers.