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Go forth - Missionary issues

Who practices the work of mission?

The mission of the non missionaries

A one-way street is abolished

The Church prays for its
missionary project

Al. Karyotoglou

«The head priests and Pharisees summoned a congress, in which they discussed : What should we do? This man is performing many miracles. If we leave him be, everyone will believe in him... One of them, Caiafas, said to them : You are all ignorant and you do not realize that it is to our benefit, if one person dies for the people, rather than the entire nation be lost. He did not say this of his own accord, but as High Priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation. And not only for the nation, but for the re-uniting into one body of all God's dispersed children». (John, 11΄ 47-52)

Caiafas, the High Priest of the Hebrews, was most probably entirely unaware that the death of Jesus would mean salvation not only for his nation, but for every person on earth. He did not desire the loss of his people (who indeed would?). It was imperative «that one person should die, so that an entire nation would not be lost».

John the Evangelist, formerly a simple fisherman and later a divinely inspired student of God's love for the universe, adds : « And not only for the nation, but for the re-uniting into one body of all God's dispersed children.».

It is obvious that John, one of Christ's first pupils, had comprehended the ecumenical character of the Christian truth. This is exactly what he reveals, with his discreet comment on the High Priest's words. The barricade of Hebrew nationalism was beginning to disintegrate.

«For the nation only»

Here is a veritable «one-way street»: the nation's best interest. For centuries, this had been the Hebrew mentality. To a certain extent, it was a good thing, given that, with their strong fixation on the meaning of "nation", they highlighted and preserved the Word of God, intact and unadulterated. As long as the one-way street was not an obsession, the voice of the prophets «Thus sayeth the Lord» resounded crystal-clear to Jahwe's beloved people. However, the moment came, when everyone - leaders and people together - eventually followed the monolithic path of self-indulgence and conceit for that which they possessed. It was almost a taboo : a living God of many robots, whose basic characteristic was selfishness and a splintering of their lives; Splinters, lost inside regulations of piety and legal stipulations.

They had something that many people also have today, who are similarly lost in the one-way street of their ideology, their political party, their association, their organization, and even their religion. Splintered people, members of a whole in which they participate, believing that they are offering something to it, when in fact the only thing acquired is an increase in their personal (spiritual or material) income, and investments in culture, business, recognition, respectability, titles and offices.

They claim to labour for society, but, on this one-way street that they have chosen - or were made to choose - they are led towards death. However, this death is strictly an individual one, and by no means for the nation. Because, in order to die for a nation, one must die for all the world, for all the people of the earth, just as Christ did. To die for the nation does not constitute an act of heroism, but an act of holiness. The Church does not recognize heroes, only saints, since the Leader of the faith is holy.

The missionary standard: «And not only for the nation»

This is how the one-way street is overcome. What we observe to be happening in the world, amongst nations, does not exist in the Orthodox Church of Christ. And this is attributed to the fact that our Church by nature is rooted on such foundations, that it is impossible for her to condone the principle of the one-way street, of one-sidedness, and generally speaking, of isolating herself within her own boundaries. These foundations are:

a) Through its missionary work, the Church seeks to create people, and not followers. Followers have debatable personalities. They seek refuge within any kind of religion or association or ideology etc., whereas the people who comprise the Church, practice the liberation of their entire being "in Christ", through repentance. This is a painstaking procedure aimed at the preservation of their individual nature - subsequently the nature of the entire world - and to sanctifying it. The Lord's words : "the believer who is baptized, is saved" represents a condensed description of experiences that may be expressed analytically as: exercises, exertion, struggle, repentance, sacrifice, love, self-knowledge, bearing on our shoulders many unpleasant situations which will however shape saints, and not just personalities. The divine-human element within us - a gift of God to man - from the moment of its appearance is evidence of the preservation of our nature.

b) The Church by nature unites the people of the earth in a universal society, regardless of sex, nationality, age, social standing etc. In this way, it does not express itself to people with nationalist or chauvinist tendencies, nor with the languages of various classes or sciences. It seeks to unite people so that they may feel as one soul, one heart, with common goals. It has its own language, the ecclesiastic language, where the ego gives way, and «we, the servants of the Lord» prevails. Her basic tools are: Repentance, but not as ordinary self-knowledge, instead, as a lifestyle which leads to maturity and freedom; Peace, as a condition of inner self-defence; Love, as a stance and a dynamic presence in the world; Simplicity, as the general appearance of every faithful, within the Church.

c) Finally, the Church is based on and terminates at the Triadic God, through the teachings of Christ. The Missionary goal is to create ecclesiastic societies, not as «cities of God», but as cities of free persons, whose sociability does not extend only as far as the exchange and enjoyment of the «fruits of civilization» or the «quality of life», but is a reflection of the sociability between the three Personae of the Holy Trinity.

When deciding to choose Missionary work

In such a case, our Church has specific proposals to make.

Initially, we must mention that the missionary work that awaits unlimited numbers of associates with youthful enthusiasm, may be located anywhere on the face of the earth. From our country to the third world, from countries which already have an orthodox Christian tradition, to the distant countries of Asia, i.e. Korea, Japan, and of the African Continent - i.e. Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Zaire etc.

People, young and old, hunger and thirst everywhere on earth. They hunger and thirst for spiritual and material water and bread. They do not ask for sympathy, but «philanthropy», i.e., the love of people. Which is missing from us also. The difference with us is that (perhaps through history's initiative) we hold the treasure of our Church, and therefore do not have the right to drag it through a one-way street, in the name of our omissions, however tragic they may be.

The necessary prerequisites are:

a) a personal opening or inner freedom «the freedom by which Christ freed us» (Galatians, 5.1).

b) an opening towards the world in a way that reveals ecclesiastic morality.

One goal is necessary: To reveal God's truth to all the world, isolating it from any possible connection with ideologies, pieties, naïve superstitional perceptions or arid scientific appearances.

Following all the above, it remains to ask ourselves what we would prefer: the one-way street, or the opening that our Orthodox Church and its missionary work guarantees? The one-way street, as we are all aware, expresses perceptions imposed by well-wishers of modern life who - more often behind the scenes - predefine the destinies of young children, students and older people. And this is the easy interpretation of life.

The missionary work that our Church daily builds amongst a multitude of adversities, is a matter of truth, which - nowadays at least - appears to be the hope of the Church; because it comprises one of the unique instances where we must transcend ourselves, «for the re-uniting into one body of all God's dispersed children.»

This is why it is so incredibly difficult. It is truly so, because it is a matter of freedom and not a one-way street.

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