by His Grace Bishop Joseph
Originally published in DIAKONIA, Summer 2008
To use a political phrase, the death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing short of a "revolution." It was the overthrowing of the "old" order of man's fallen state. It was the destruction of mankind's oppressor: death. And, those who held power over humanity found themselves cast down. The devil and ungodly men of earthly power lost their supremacy.
This same revolution must also occur within our hearts. Our Lord not only shares His Body and Blood with us through Divine Grace, but He also opens to us the opportunity to have a life-revolution. It is called "repentance," when we repudiate our sins and old ways. The Church sets aside Great Lent as a time of revolution, when we are offered the opportunity to be free from the bondage of sin.
Within our parishes, spiritual revolution is also necessary. No, I am not talking about expelling the priest or the parish council, but rather a revolution of repentance in which we cast off old ways and all God to work new things in and through us. We must see ourselves as being in need of renewal.
Too often, Antiochian Women groups within parishes become petrified. They get "stuck in a groove." Many women have spoken to me about how bored they are with doing the same things year after year. Consistency is a good thing when we are talking about something good. However, sometimes we become prisoners of consistency for its own sake.
When we are not making progress, then it is time for a revolution. We must break free from the bondage of old ways. The key to being a good revolutionary is to be without fear. We cannot allow fear of change to prevent us from making necessary and beneficial change. We must all take a hard look at the fruits of our labor.
Are we producing fruit? Or, are we simply going through the motions of what was productive twenty years ago? Each Antiochian Women board must periodically revise how and what it does. Each woman has a ministry, and ministry for its own sake is no ministry at all. Neither do the women minister only to themselves, but rather they share the joy of the Gospel with the entire community.
For your own benefit, I would like to see all of the Antiochian Women parish groups get together and spend time not having a meeting, but time in prayer. Come together and be silent, so that you may listen for the voice of God. Ask for His guidance, then stop talking and wait for God's word. Too often, we are so busy talking and complaining and admonishing that we do not actually hear what God is saying to us. The revolution of the spirit comes with silence.
The Tradition of the Church was built upon the revolutionary principle of repentance. Repentance is only possible if we practice silence. Then, we can hear God's directions for us and begin change according to His will, not just human opinion.
Ultimately, the spiritual revolution is one of love. If we love God and our neighbor, we will seek to do God's will and to serve others. We will, above all things, desire these things above "how we've always done it." If we are confident in God's love, then we will have the courage to change. The reverse is true: those who do not have confidence in God are too afraid to change. Such people need to get out of the way and let others lead, because one who is lazy and unloving cannot exercise Christian authority within such a ministry as the Antiochian Women.
Therefore, the first fruit of divine love is courage, and the absence of courage means that love for God and one's neighbor is also absent. Revolution is about throwing off those things which are not of love. Death and stagnation are not love, which is why our Lord Jesus Christ defeated them on His cross, freeing the souls trapped in Hades and bringing us new life in Him.
He sacrificed Himself for us, and now we sacrifice only a little for the sake of others. After all, none of us can do what our Lord Jesus Christ did, but we can be like Him in being loving revolutionaries. We can challenge ourselves through repentance and being silent before the Living God. We can show courage by desiring not to just follow old ways, but to explore new ones with courage.