The Eternal Mission of Orthodoxy

Fr. Michael, Saint Petroc Journal, Vol. III, No. 3, September, 2000.

C.S. Lewis once observed that the primary task of the church a century ago, was to edify and enhance the faith of those born to the faith; whereas now the task is primarily one of instructing and converting infidels and unbelievers. To the extent that this is true, it is true of Orthodoxy which, especially in the west, often settles for mere self-preservation. The task given the Church from the beginning was to preach the Gospel to all nations. Our Lord assured His Church that she need not be anxious for self-preservation "I am with you always, even to the end of the world" and "on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." These promises should have the effect of liberating the Church to go out boldly to unbelievers preaching the good new of salvation without fear or hesitation. Standing firmly on the unchanging Rock of the Orthodox faith, one is able, like a spiritual Archimedes with his lever, to move the world.

We need to maintain the verities of the true faith, unswerving allegiance to Christ, flaming love for all human beings without exception, devotion to prayer and spiritual growth. These are the verities of the true faith, unwavering hope, and limitless charity for all those without the gift of faith and hope. These are the gifts that converted paganism to Christ in the first millennium. They retain their power to win the world to Christ.

Western Rite Orthodoxy, must play a vigorous role in recalling the Church to the catholicity - the universality - of her mission. The Church is called to be far more than a mere chaplaincy to the Orthodox exiles. The Anglican scholar H. A. Hodges pointed out this aspect of the Church's mission to the west, believing that the only healing for the west lies in a return to "a sound and healthy life, and that means to Orthodoxy." He observes in a passage worth pondering: "We suffer from the fact that, in present day experience, 'Orthodoxy' and 'Eastern' go together ... This state of affairs is of course accidental and should be transitory. The Orthodox Faith must be capable of expression in terms of the life and thought of Western peoples; and the elicitation of this western Orthodoxy, at present latent among us, is our great problem for the future. [Note: Hodges wrote this in 1955] True western Orthodoxy is to be found by bodies of Western people, members of the western nations, coming with their western background, their western habits and traditions, into the circle of the Orthodox Faith. Then we should have an Orthodoxy which was truly western because its memory was western - a memory of the Christian history of the West, not as the West now remembers it, but purged and set in perspective by the Orthodox Faith. If this were to come about, it would be an enhancement and liberation for the eastern Orthodox themselves, for it would set Orthodoxy free from its merely local associations and exhibit its universal and catholic character."