Concluding Response from the Orthodox Tradition
Dear Conversation Partners,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I’d like to thank each of you again for your very thoughtful, insightful, and appreciative responses to my attempt to provide at least a glimpse into the riches of Orthodox spiritual life in 1500 words! I’m very encouraged and inspired by your positive interest in Orthodoxy’s understanding of following Jesus through having heartfelt intimate communion with Him, as well as our cosmic sacramental world-view, which undergirds our great concern for environmental issues; our vibrant communion with the Saints, including our special love and gratitude for Mary the Theotokos; the Icons as windows into Heaven; the very deep historical grounding of the Orthodox tradition; and the constant calling and aspiration to live in holiness in thought and action, with the ultimate goal of theosis—participating in the very life of God Himself through His Uncreated Energies. To the extent that many of you indicated that you had been relatively unaware of these aspects of the Orthodox tradition as a whole, I am all the more motivated to try to make these treasures more widely known, so that more people may find benefit in them.
I’d also like to especially thank those of you who pointed out that my essay did not give much attention to the crucially important realm of self-sacrificial service to others—especially to those suffering from various forms of economic and/or social oppression and injustice. The particular emphasis that your traditions place on this aspect of following Jesus is certainly something that can and should inspire Orthodox Christians in general to take a more active role in—especially as we have the long historical experience of many centuries, going back to the Constantinian era, during which our Church has worked to alleviate suffering and poverty through establishing hospitals, almshouses, homes for destitute new mothers and repentant prostitutes, and so on, as well as providing charitable assistance for poor widows. The Church also gradually impacted the legal system of the Empire, as the State came to incorporate ecclesiastical canons into its legal code; the legal code promulgated by Emperor St. Justinian the Great (6th century) remains the foundation of nearly all of Western law. One example of Christian influence in this code is the equalizing of penalties for adultery for both men and women. The East Roman (Byzantine) Empire also had an outstanding health care system, in which doctors treated the poor for free, while charging those who were well-off.
So even though Orthodoxy is a small minority in North America, it’s certainly very important for us Orthodox Christians to keep trying to bring relief to those having material needs, as well as to influence the institutions, values, and spiritual well-being of our surrounding society as a whole. May we all be praying to our All-Compassionate Lord Jesus for His clear guidance concerning what He would have each of us do along these lines, and for His grace to empower and sustain our efforts.
Thanks again for your input. Looking forward to more conversation!
Sincerely yours, in Christ,