Archpastoral Reflection "Imagine" by Metropolitan Methodios
A few weeks ago we closed our personal Book of 2011 and placed it in the library of eternity. Rather than make resolutions for the New Year - resolutions which more than likely I would not keep - I decided instead to reflect upon the past, observe more carefully the present, and try to envision the future, as these aspects of time bear upon the life of the Church and of her members.
I said to myself: Imagine how different the world would be if we lived each day as if it would be our last, as if at any given moment we would face Almighty God to give an accounting. After all, the Scriptures have warned us of the unpredictability of life, "The Master of the servant may come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know" (Mt. 25:50).
Imagine how different things would have been last year - how many mistakes we would have avoided - had we cherished every day as a God-given gift to make our world a better place. I bet our priorities would have changed dramatically, thereby altering both the course of our personal life and our role in the life of the Church.
I said to myself, "Imagine if in 2012 we would all learn to bridle our egos and "not be desirous of vain glory" (Gal. 5:26). If we would learn from Him who said, "I am meek and lowly in heart" (Mt. 11: 29). Imagine if in the New Year we were to set aside time each day to pray and to read the Holy Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers. Imagine if we lived each day according to the tenets of our Orthodox faith.
Imagine if we lived each day by the truth. If we had the courage to drop the masks of hypocrisy—to look straight into the mirror of reality to see ourselves as we really are—and then muster the courage and strength to change. To become more wholesome and less shallow. To become more self-effacing and less narcissistic. To become what God has willed us to be and be happy with what we achieve by the grace of God.
Imagine if we could replicate in our own lives the example of the tenth leper (Lk. 17:12) who returned to the One who healed him to express his gratitude. Imagine if we were able to shun the example of the nine lepers whose ingratitude and thoughtlessness easily turns them into poster children of what has come to be known as "the age of entitlement."
I also thought to myself, "Imagine what our Church would be like if we bishops, priests and deacons lived up to the expectations of our high calling." Imagine if we clergy and laity were imbued with a vibrant missionary spirit and worked diligently in response to the command of the Lord to "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19), starting right here at home in America!
Imagine if we clergy were ever-mindful of the fact that the Priesthood is a precious gift, a vocation and not a job. The Priesthood, its dignity and honor, cannot be bought. It cannot be sold for "a plate of lentils" (Gen. 25: 29-34).
Imagine for a moment if our liturgical services were as uplifting as those which long ago inspired the words of the Russian emissaries of Prince Vladimir who described their experience of the liturgy in the great cathedral church of St. Sophia in Constantinople in their initial encounter with Orthodoxy: "And the Greeks led us to the edifice where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty...We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty."
Imagine if everyone who is privileged to serve on the Parish Councils of our communities did so for unselfish reasons and not for self-projection or to satisfy some self-perceived importance and indispensability. Imagine if all Parish Council members were men and women of deep and abiding faith who live the sacramental life of the Church. People who are drawn to and love the beauty of the Lord's house wherein they experience Christ's transforming power and sanctifying presence. People who do not pride themselves in proclaiming that they “meditated on God when they walked by the ocean”!
Imagine how powerful the witness of our Church would be if we would invest more in things eternal and less in things transient. If we would devote as much time to our spiritual edification as we do to our business commitments and social calendars. Imagine if everyone, according to his/her means, was a cheerful giver providing the Church with the necessary financial resources to continue, improve and expand her ministries and services in fulfillment of her saving mission to the world. Imagine if some of us realized that we contribute less to the Church than it costs us daily to enjoy a fancy cup of coffee or to pay for our cable or satellite T.V. service
Imagine if the criticisms we sometimes hear or make on aspects of church life were less strident. Constructive and not destructive. Mean-spirited attacks are hurtful and divisive. We have been enjoined by the Lord to notice first the log in our own eye before we see the speck in our brother's eye (Mt. 7:3), and admonished by St. Paul “You have no excuses, O Man, whoever you are, when you judge another, for in passing judgment on him, you condemn yourself because you, the judge, are doing the very same things” (Rom. 2.1). Indeed, in imitation of God we are instructed to be "slow to anger and abounding in mercy" (Ps. 103:8).
Imagine if we parents and grandparents who fault the Church when our children are "not involved" exercised greater discernment, and realized that children learn more by example than by words. That we had to provide a loving environment that nurtures faith and the values of the Gospel. That children emulate the example provided by parents every day of the week, including the seventh. Staying home Sunday after Sunday for chores, recreation or rest is not what parents should do if we really want to inculcate the Orthodox ethos in our children to produce a living faith and a true Greek Orthodox identity.
Imagine, finally, if everyone - clergy and laity - worked together in harmony by sharing talents, bearing one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2), exchanging views, seeking advice, forgiving offences and overcoming misunderstandings (Mt. 6: 14-15), inspiring and supporting one another in the love of Christ. If we did, surely we would be successful in building stronger Greek Orthodox homes and vibrant communities of faith.
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