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Orthodox Missionary Work, Finding the Lost Sheep, Podcast airing early Feb. 2015


The Good Shepherd Mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy

The Good Shepherd Mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy

Orthodox Missionary Work, Finding the Lost Sheep

Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke begins with, “Then drew near to Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him… What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he should loose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine, and go after that which is lost until he find it? And when he hath found it, layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he cometh home, pulleth together all his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, rejoice with me; I have found my sheep which was lost. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:1-7)

Shortly after this statement our Lord tells the parable of the prodigal son.

In this time of preparation for Great Lent when we are called to start to look within ourselves more deeply, let us reflect upon the absolute necessity of missions and missionary work.

Why do we try to spread our Faith to people who have their own beliefs? A good question and one that is essential for us to answer, for our salvation and the salvation of others are dependent upon sharing the “Good News”. We were all lost sheep and prodigal children prior to someone leading us to our baptism or conversion. What then is the motivation of this underlying call we as Christians have to bring others to Christ?

My resources for this podcast are:

Fr. Martin Ritsi and Archbishop Anastasios speaking about The Purpose and Motive of Mission

The Letter of Yanovsky, November 22, 1865 concerning his conversion thanks to St. Herman

Fr. Martin Ritsi

“Why do we try to spread our Faith to people who have their own beliefs?

Somewhere along my journey toward the missionary vocation, I came across an Orthodox perspective presented by Archbishop Anastasios in a paper called, The Purpose and Motive of Mission. This paper became a watershed for me, since it seemed to encompass everything I had been learning and experiencing as a student and missionary….

Without question, the foundation for mission is the glory of God and the redemption of all creation. The Scriptures emphasize this theme over and over again, beginning with Creation itself, and leading us through the rejection of that glory and the subsequent entrance of death into the world. Jesus’ life, from this perspective, is a manifestation of the glory of God. In Christ, human nature is redeemed and the universal order restored. Finally, the Church becomes a participant in proclaiming this redemption until the Parousia, when the glory of God is fully revealed.

Participation in spreading the glory of God is so basic to the Christian spirit that it may be called an inner necessity. Archbishop Anastasios explains:

The question of the motive of mission can be studied from several angles: love of God and men, obedience to the Great Command of the Lord (Matthew 28:19), desire for the salvation of souls, longing for God’s glory. All these surely, are serious motives. . . . However, we think that the real motive of mission, for both the individual and the Church, is something deeper. It is not simply obedience, duty or altruism. It is an inner necessity. “Necessity is laid upon me,” said St. Paul, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). All other motives are aspects of this need, derivative motives. Mission is an inner necessity for the faithful and for the Church. If they refuse it, they do not merely omit a duty, they deny themselves.

This inner necessity is an outgrowth of our being made in God’s image. Throughout history, we can clearly see God’s purpose in the revelation of His glory, the drawing of all things to Himself, and the establishment of His Kingdom. In addition, we can see that God has shared this mission with humanity, from Abraham to Jesus’ disciples and on to the Church today.

Thus mission work is not a task, which is simply imposed upon us; nor is it rooted solely in our obedience, respect, or even love of God. Rather it is the actualization of our inherent nature to participate in the fulfillment, destiny, and direction of humanity and all creation as it is drawn back to God and towards the coming of His Kingdom.”

Veronica:

What Father Ritsi and Archbishop Anastasi have shared with us reminded me of my motivation when I wrote my book, The Pearl of Great Price, The Spiritual Journey of a New Age Seeker to the Light of Christ and the Orthodox Church. As soon as I was baptized I realized that I had to write a book about my experience – it was an inner necessity that I had to fulfill; in part due to gratitude, for I was saved; in part to bare my story to those as unconsciously lost as I was in the seductions of the New Age and Eastern religions. Writing my book was a calling I had to answer and fulfill. A calling that came from deep inside of me.

We as Christians are called to share the Gospel, but the expression of our calling is unique to each of us. Given I had spent more than 25 years seeking what I have now found in the Orthodox Church – how could I hide my ‘talent’ Christ had given me in the ground and not tell my story? My conversion was hard fought! It was a life changing experience for me to become Orthodox and yet another life changing experience for me to write my story.

I realized when I had finished my book that God works our salvation through our ministries and labors. I had lead so many people away from Christ during my years as a metaphysical teacher and spiritist, for which I have wept many tears. So you can only imagine how thrilled beyond words I was, when some fifteen years after my conversion, after 6 long years of work I published my book. Then a few months later I personally sold my book to a woman who then came to our church bazaar. A week later she came to church and is now a member of our faith! So true are the words of our Lord about the one lost sheep. There is not only rejoicing in heaven but in my heart and soul!

Back to Fr. Ritsi…

Conclusion

In this article, we have considered the longstanding and sometimes forgotten tradition of Orthodox missionary work. Space has not allowed us to explore in depth the loving characters, the powerful visions, the solid strategies, and the intensely sacrificial lives of so many Orthodox missionaries…

I have attempted to give a taste—if ever so faint—of the rich flavor of a vibrant history that continues in the present and which is at the very heart of our being. As Orthodox, we have been, and must be, involved in missionary work. We have a firm historical tradition and developed principles which tell us this.

Most importantly, we have an understanding that bringing God’s love, compassion, and message to the world, drawing people to Him and establishing worshiping communities among all nations and in all cultures is not merely an imposed command or a religious principle—it is a part of our own nature as we are created in the image and likeness of God.

Participation in missions, both as individuals and as a Church, is an action necessary to our fully being who we are. Without it something will be lacking. With two-thirds of our world still missing the love and joy of being in Jesus Christ, we have much to do. May the Lord guide us to actualize this dimension of ourselves so that His saving power may be known among all nations.”

As Fr. Ritsi and Archbishop Anastasios have so eloquently stated, each one of us has an inner call to share our life in Christ with others. Had it not been for the efforts of St. Herman, St. Innocent and so many others, would we have an Orthodox Church in America?

If you have not yet found your way to share support missionary work, then the first step is to pray for God to show you His will and calling for you. Let us not leave our ‘talent’ the Lord has given us buried in the ground.

The next quote I will read to you is from a letter written by one of St. Herman’s converts – I think this sums up the great task and necessity of sharing the gospel set before us by our Lord:

Letter of Yanovsky, November 22, 1865

I was thirty years old when I met Father Herman. Here it should be said that I was brought up in the naval corps, knew many sciences and read much, but unfortunately… I was only in name a Christian, while in soul and in deed I was a freethinker, a deist, as are nearly all who are brought up in the military corps and in public institutions. How unfortunate that no attention is given this: that God’s Law is everywhere taught superficially, even in the seminaries; yes, and even from the theological academies there come out students, even Masters, who are very learned, but do not have an active faith in their heart, and thus do not live in a Christian way.

All the more did I fail to recognize the godliness and sanctity of our religion, in that I had read many atheist writings of Voltaire and other philosophers of the 18th Century. Father Herman immediately noticed this and wished to convert me. But this was not easy! I had to be convinced, to be shown the sanctity of our religion; and, therefore, much time, knowledge, and the ability to speak well and convincing was required.

To my great amazement, the simple, uneducated monk, Father Herman, being inspired by grace, spoke and argued so wisely, powerfully, and convincingly that, it seems to me, no kind of learnedness and earthly wisdom could withstand his words. In actual fact Father Herman had a great innate intelligence and sound thinking, had read many spiritual patristic books; and most important, he had the grace of God!

But since in a short winter’s day I had no time at all to devote myself to him, he therefore came to me every day for evening tea, and sometimes also for dinner, and we conversed until midnight, and sometimes after; he never stayed the night. Neither rain nor snow nor storm kept the zealous Elder from visiting me and returning the half mile home alone at midnight! He came to me regularly every day in an old ryassa, without a coat; I warmed him with tea and I conversed with him without ceasing: on God’s Law, on eternity, on the salvation of the soul, on Christian life, and other things. A sweet discourse flowed from his mouth in an unceasing, enthralling torrent . . !

Then at midnight, or after, the Elder went home alone with his staff in every kind of storm and cold weather; no one accompanied him on the slippery rocky path; but angels accompanied him and supported him: “For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps. 90:11). And Christian love warmed him, with which he was penetrated for the salvation of his neighbor.

By such constant conversations and by the prayers of the holy Elder the Lord completely converted me to the true path, and I became a real Christian. For all this I am obliged to Father Herman. He is my true benefactor.

(Letter of Yanovsky, November 22, 1865)

By the prayers of St. Herman and all the saints – may we too share the “Good News”, pray for and help our missionaries.

For those of you that are interested in my book, The Pearl of Great Price, you can go to my author’s website: pearlofgreatpriceorthodox.com. For a Kindle copy – go to Amazon.

God bless you!

Veronica

Whatever prompted two people with fibromyalgia to move to a wilderness mountain top?


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This is one the exquisite mountains we gaze upon from our mountain home overlooking the “Valley of the Dancing Angels (My husband gave this valley that name. When it is a cloudy day wisps of clouds float and dance in the valley resembling dancing angels.) We moved here in May to retire and deepen our spiritual life. Both my husband and I suffer from fibromyalgia and are following a medical protocol that over time will hopefully reverse most of the chronic and limiting symptoms of this disease. (For info on this protocol read: What your doctor may not tell you about Fibromyalgia, by Dr. Paul St. Amand, 3 edition. Since beginning this protocol a year and a half ago, my husband and I have seen a 50% reduction in our large visible fibro nodules, many of the smaller ones are completely gone!)

In the mean time, while attempting to tame our land, integrate a more consistent prayer regime and prepare for winter, both of us have been pushing the limits of what we can do physically. Whatever possessed me to agree to move here at the age of 60 being disabled?

I look normal until I have to sit or stand for any length of time. Then out comes my portable zero gravity recliner or memory foam pillows! I did experience a grace when we arrived here to help us accomplish our move and get through our initial struggles to settle in. But now that grace has departed.

Moving here has been a blessing and tremendous struggle for me. There were times when I just could not understand how – given my health issues – this is where I would wind up? I would get really angry with God and my husband! Yet in my heart I truly love being here.

Since we moved, I have had repeated meltdowns as my knowledge of what I could deal with came up against my husband’s faith and the fact that we are here, for better or for worse. I had some faith or I would not have agreed to this move, but it was being trampled down by my knowledge of what was reasonable for someone my age and with my health issues. I also have a terrible case of Marthaism, I get caught up in doing too much and forget the one thing needful.

Then, after the worse meltdown yet last Monday, one that I committed never to experience again, in answer to my prayer, ‘Please Lord, help me to understand what has happened to the innocent child/woman within me that wanted to live a life in the world, but not be of the world? What is hardening my heart and causing me such pain and anger? How can I regain my zeal for our task here?’, my husband read this passage and more from Homily 52 by St. Issac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies of St. Issac the Syrian.

May this reading prove to change your life as much as it changed ours/mine! Knowledge will never be able to answer those questions, but faith will!

Glory to God for all things!

Veronica Hughes

Homily 52, Knowledge vs Faith, by St. Issac the Syrian

The soul that journeys by the pathways of discipline upon the road of faith, and has often made great progress therein, if she returns once more to the ways and means of knowledge, will straightway be crippled in her faith, and will be deprived of the noetic power of faith, which with diverse forms of (divine) assistance manifests itself in a pure soul that unquestionably has recourse to it with simplicity in all her concerns.

For the soul that once and for all has surrendered herself to God in faith, and has received through much experience the taste of His help, will not take thought for herself again, but rather, she is stilled in the awestruck wonder and silence, and has no power to return to the ways and means of her own knowledge and to be engaged in them. And this is so lest, on the contrary, she should be deprived of God’s providence, which secretly shelters her unceasingly, cares for her, and everywhere cleaves to her incessantly. For the soul would be foolish to suppose herself sufficient to provide for herself on the strength of her own knowledge.

Those upon whom the light of faith has dawned are no longer so audacious as to pray for themselves; nor do they entreat God, saying, ‘Give this to us’, or ‘Take that from us.’; nor do they in any wise care for themselves. For every moment, with the noetic eyes of faith, they see the fatherly providence which comes from the true Father to shelter them: He Who in His great and immeasurable love surpasses all in fraternal affection and Who, more than all, has the power and might help us exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask, or think, or conceive.

For knowledge as opposed to faith; and faith, in all that pertains to it, is the breaking of the laws of knowledge (we do not, however, speak here of spiritual knowledge). For such is the definition of knowledge–that without investigation and examination it has no authority to do anything, but it must investigate whether that which it considers and desires as possible. But as to faith, what shall we say? If yes and no approach it at the same time, it will not be persuaded to remain in such a position.

It is well known that knowledge cannot exist without investigation and the employment of its means of operations; and this is a sign of hesitation regarding truth. But faith requires a way of thinking that a single, limpidly pure and simple, far removed from any deviousness or invention of methods. See how faith and knowledge are opposed to one another! The home of faith is a childlike thought and a simple heart. ‘ In the simplicity of their hearts,’ it says, ‘they glorified God.’ And, ‘Except ye be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens.’ But knowledge conspires against and opposes both these qualities.

Knowledge keeps within the boundaries of nature in all its paths; but faith makes its journey above nature. Knowledge does not allow itself to experience anything that is ruinous to nature, and it keeps far away from it; but faith readily submits itself to this and says, ‘Upon the asp and the basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and the dragon.’ Fear accompanies knowledge; but confidence accompanies faith. The more a man journeys in the pathways of knowledge, the more he is shackled by fear and cannot be found worthy of freedom from it; but he who follows faith straightway becomes a free man and a ruler of himself, and as a son of God he freely wields all things with authority. The man who has found the keys of faith weilds all the natures of creation you can as God; for by faith comes the authority, after the likeness of God, to create a new creation.  ‘ Thou didst so well,’ it says, ‘and all things were present before Thee.’ And oftentimes, out of things that are not, faith can do all things.

But knowledge can do nothing without matter. Knowledge is not so bold as to attempt anything that has not been given to nature. How so? The liquid nature of water cannot support upon its back the footsteps of a body; the man who comes too close to fire burns himself; and whosoever should rashly oppose nature in this fashion brings himself into peril.

Knowledge watchfully guards itself from such things and will in no wise be persuaded to overstep their boundaries. But faith transgresses them with authority, saying: ‘If thou go through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, and the rivers shall not overflow thee.’ Faith has many times worked such things before the eyes of all creation. If knowledge were given the opportunity to attempt such things, it would in no wise be persuaded. For it is by faith that men have entered into the flames and bridle the burning power of the fire, walking unharmed as the midst thereof, and they have trodden upon the back of the sea as on dry land. All these are above nature and opposed to the ways and means of knowledge.

Do you see how faith has shaken the foundations of knowledge and proven it futile in all its ways and laws? Do you see how knowledge keeps within the limits of nature? Do you see how faith passes above nature in traveling on the pathway of its journey? The ways and means of knowledge governed the world for a little more or less than 5000 years, and man was in no wise able to raise his head from the earth and perceive the power of his Creator. For this was not until our faith shone forth and freed us from the gloom of earthly labors and futile slavery that seeks fruitless distraction. And now we have reached the unfathomable sea and the unfailing treasure, we desire once again to turn aside to miserable little brooks. There is no knowledge that is not needy, however rich it might be; but heaven and earth cannot contain the treasures of faith. The man whose heart is upheld by the confidence of faith will never be in want; and when he has nothing, by faith he possesses all, as it is written: ‘All things whatever you shall ask in prayer, ye shall receive’, and again, ‘The Lord is at hand, have care for nothing.’

Knowledge always seeks means to safeguard those who have acquired it. But what says faith?  ‘Except the Lord build the house and guard the city, in vain does he labor that buildeth it and watch that guardeth her.’ The man who takes refuge in faith never employs or is engaged in ways and means. For knowledge everywhere sings the praises of fear, as the man said, ‘He that feareth in his heart is blessed.’ But what says faith? ‘He was afraid and began to sink’; and again, ‘For ye have not received the spirit of bondage unto fear, but you have received the Spirit of Sonship unto the freedom of faith and trust in God; and again, ‘Fear then not, nor flee from before their face.’

Fear is always followed by doubt; doubt, by investigation; investigation, by ways and means; and ways and means, by knowledge. And in examination and investigation, fear and doubt are always made known–for knowledge does not always succeed everywhere, as we showed in the beginning. Often calamities, grievous adversities, and many occurrences filled with peril befall the soul, wherein knowledge and the devices of wisdom are utterly unable to provide help against these difficulties that defy the whole power and limit of human knowledge. But faith is never vanquished by anything. For what help can human knowledge offer in open conflicts or in war against invisible beings, against incorporeal powers, and many other things of this kind?

Do you see the feebleness of the power of knowledge and the strength of the power of faith? Knowledge prevents its disciples from approaching anything alien to nature. But see here the power of faith and what it commands its pupils: ‘In My Name,’ it says, ‘ye shall cast out demons, take up serpents, and if ye drink poison, it shall not hurt you.’

Knowledge enjoins all who journey in its path to investigate according to its laws, the end of anything before making a beginning, and thus to commence; lest the end of the thing proves unachievable by the limit of human ability, and labor be spent in vain, and lest the thing proved difficult and impossible to realize. But what says faith? ‘All things are possible to him that believeth,’ for to God nothing is impossible. O unspeakable wealth, O ocean rich in its billows and its marvelous treasures and mighty floods of power of faith! How filled with boldness, how replete with sweetness and hope is the journey accompanied by faith! How light our faith’s burdens, how sweet its labors!

Christian Conversion – Orthodox Women’s Ministry – my book/blog/author’s website can be a great resource!


Christian Conversion – Orthodox Women’s Ministry

My husband said to me last night as I was struggling with myself about how to reach others regarding my book, “The majority of folks that buy your book are women. Women like to read stories written by women. Orthodox women especially love your book! Your conversion to Christianity will touch the hearts of many who have been or are into New Age and Eastern religions and those who have strong issues with Christianity.  Your book inspires women, reaffirms their faith and can help them to help their family members and friends who are not Orthodox understand what Orthodoxy is all about.

At your book events men and women, but especially Orthodox women are so thrilled that they can pass a book on to their friends and family who are not practicing Christians – a book that can open their hearts newly to Christ and the peace you/they have found in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. 

That is why you wrote your book. Your book can help introduce Eastern Orthodoxy to those who are on a spiritual journey and are not aware of the mystical treasures available in Orthodoxy.  Your Pearl can aid women in Orthodox Christian ministry to make a bridge or plant a seed for Christ and Orthodoxy in the hearts of their family and friends.” Greg was right. I got all fire up after his pep talk!

If you are an Orthodox woman with an active desire to open the hearts of others to our faith – my book can help you!

I also have created a space on my website for Orthodox women in Christian ministries to network. Please email me, thepearlofgreatprice@yahoo.com, if you would like me to post a link on my website for other Orthodox women in ministry to use as a resource.

Your comments on my blog are greatly appreciated as well!

God bless you! I look forward to connecting and spreading The Word!

Veronica