Monastics are an integral part of the Church and should not be seen as independent of the Church Universal. Monks are bound by the same Gospel as other Christians and need to avail themselves to the missionary and pastoral needs of the Church, as needed. Although a primary role of monasticism is to be found in worship and contemplative prayer, monks also have a long history as missionaries.
1886 saw a terrible cholera epidemic in the city of Kolyvan, Siberia when young Pavel (Paul) Lasareff was 6 years old. Days passed while the family watched wagons carrying many bodies to be buried. From the Orthodox Church, the sound of the mournful bells rang out day after day. On Trinity Sunday, young Pavel clung to his mother in fear, and that evening, he refused to eat.
The Russian Orthodox Church requires anyone who desires to receive Holy Communion to have prepared themselves with confession, the pre-communion prayers, and having abstained from food or drink from midnight on. Most of the world’s Local Orthodox Churches hold to this standard, recognizing that the clergy, as guardians of the Mysteries, must make sure anyone who approaches the chalice is Orthodox, and properly prepared. The requirement that one be a member of the Orthodox Church before approaching the chalice relates to the fact that communion is the outward expression of having all things in common, in faith and worship. Receiving Holy Communion is the fruit of unity.
We’ve all read news reports of horrid cases of people being imprisoned for long periods of time by perverted individuals who have been later diagnosed as classic psychopaths. By definition, psychopaths are individuals who are hateful towards others, and incapable of empathy. Sometimes known as Dissocial Personality Disorder, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (alternate terms for sociopathic behaviour), these people are callous individuals, who are unconcerned for the feelings of others.
Growing up in Northern Idaho, I was surrounded by mountains and forests. I don’t remember a time when forests did not tug at my heart and fill my imagination with thoughts of adventure. As a small child my parents took my brother Dwayne, and me, on annual camping trips to a state park on the far northeast side of Lake Pend Oreille. There my dad would make us small toy canoes, complete with sails, out of bark. This state park is virtually unchanged since that time, and I try to visit the campground every summer, when I go fly fishing with my brother.
The Old Testament is filled with the image of God’s people being a holy people, set apart. The ancient Israelites were not like their neighbors. Their values and their faith impacted everything about them. They dressed differently than many of their neighboring pagan tribes. Their worship was centered on the God that had revealed himself to them and made them his chosen people. Their spiritual and moral views reflected this relationship with the One God that had entered into communion with them and who had revealed Divine Truth through the prophets.
We often become frustrated with ourselves, wanting to change bad behavior, but seemingly incapable of making the changes we desire. Each week we confess the same sins over and over. We know the priest has heard the same confession, week after week, and we’re aware that he could probably say our confession for us, having heard it that often. What we don’t seem to know is that there is a simple reason for our repetition. These bad behaviors only seem to be unchangeable because we don’t really struggle with the passions in a way that will bring about successful change.
My friends, if you are asked, “Who are you?” How would you answer? Answer in this way – a Christian! Yes – Christian – what an honorable name. For this name the first Christians did not spare even their own lives; for this name the martyrs received terrible sufferings, even unto death. What delineates a person with the title of Christian from everything else? [Communion in] the Life-creating Chalice. A Christian – out of all the peoples of the world – is one who receives of the Divine nature of Christ the Savior.((Cf. 2 Peter 1:4)) A Christian partakes of Communion at the Divine Liturgy – this is why he must treasure the Liturgy beyond measure. I tell you again, count the day as lost in which you were not able to be present at the Divine Service. For it is the Divine Lampada, lit by Christ the Savior Himself; it is the diamond purchased with His very Blood.