After following Christ during His earthly ministry, beholding Him after His resurrection, and receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, St. Andrew heeded Our Lord’s commandment to preach the Gospel in all the world and baptize the nations in a most literal and spectacular fashion.
A hermit saw someone laughing and said to him, ‘We have to render an account of our whole life before heaven and earth, and you can laugh?’While this probably strikes most as curmudgeonly, for us Christians, a reference to the Last Judgment ought to inspire sober reflection. How appropriate is frivolity given the desperate spiritual state within which we find ourselves—and the world at large?
When a faith is highly traditional—so traditional that her Tradition is seen as nothing less than the presence of God living and breathing in the life of the Church—it is sure to clash with the sensibilities of a modern, critical, and pluralistic culture such as our own.One of the many sources of friction between the Orthodox Church and contemporary culture is in the exercise of authority.
In baptism, we become partakers of Christ’s glorious victory over sin, death, and the devil. This is not incidental to what takes place in baptism; it is the very heart of what transpires. The candidate for baptism proceeds to “renounce Satan, and all his Angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his pride,” turns to the west, and literallyspits on the devil and his dominion.
To a culture whose core values are self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction, and self-sovereignty, Orthodox monastic life appears as an affront and a scandal. What could be more contrary to our individualistic society which prizes comfort, ease, and “freedom” above all other concerns than a life of utter self-abasement, strict obedience, and striving after Holy suffering for Christ’s sake?
For modern western Christians (who typically have very little exposure to Orthodox Christianity), it’s often difficult to grasp the nature of the divide between east and west. In my experience, most reflexively tend to reduce the differences in their mind to being relatively superficial or inessential. But the divide runs much deeper than most tend to realize.