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July 22, 2009 + Let Us Go Forth In Peace

by Fr. James C. Meena
From The Word Magazine, March 1974

Let us understand that when we, as Orthodox Christians, speak of missionary activities we do so in a context which differs substantially from the attitudes of other Christian groups. We do not conceive of missions as being, necessarily or exclusively, a localized attempt, on the part of a few Orthodox zealots to bring others to a knowledge of Christ which might cause them to foreswear their former religious ways of life in order to become Christians. Rather, our attitudes are more all inclusive, involving the whole Church in an effort to exemplify the transforming nature and power of life in Christ.

The missionary thrust of the Orthodox Church has never been so much in an appeal to “Receive Jesus” as it has been in the commendatory challenge to “Give yourself to Christ . . . and this giving begins at the core of the individual’s ability to believe and his willingness to grow and then to extend his influence upon others by the impact not of words of religiosity but by the witness of the example of his new and constantly renewed life in Christ.

Our Lord started at the center, with a chosen people, the Jewish nation who knew about God, from whom He selected His first and greatest disciples. He then extended the Good News of His Kingdom to the Gentiles. Later, the Apostles did the same and even those two great Apostles to the Gentiles, Paul and Barnabas, would start their work with the Jewish communities living in pagan lands to which they traveled, whenever possible, and then extended their message to the natives of those lands.

Even the Greek and Russian missions of a later time began with a nucleus of Orthodox Immigrants and then reached out to the non-Christian peoples of those countries.

Our concept is that the WHOLE CHURCH is in a missionary state and that every mission of the Church is the responsibility of all. Our missionary thrust starts at a center and expands to and beyond its own perimeters. We do a great injustice to ourselves and to our history when we conceive of missionary activities as being limited to a special segment within the Church whose unique job it is to convert as many as possible to the Orthodox Church.

Despite what we have heard and notwithstanding any pre­conceived notions, Hollywood inspired or otherwise, that we may have about missions and missionaries, the missionary drive of the Orthodox Church begins with the words, “GO FORTH IN PEACE,” and it involves not merely some committee or department, not simply a handful of highly dedicated and perceptive people, but, somehow, THE WHOLE CHURCH must be involved.

The missionary efforts of our Church, then, begin with the People of God wherever this is possible. They are used as yeast to leaven the whole loaf. The beginning, then, is us, all of us who are one with Christ . . . you and me . . . your parish and mine . . . , all and each ought to be the centers of our missionary dimension. But a beginning is only a beginning. More is required.

After the resurrection, when Jesus met with His eleven disciples for the last earthly time, he said to them . . . and subsequently to the Church . . . “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all the things I have commanded you . . .” (MATT: 28:19)

In the Gospel of St. Mark He commands them, saying: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.” (16:15)

It is, therefore, in the context of the Orthodox Missionary dimension that we GO . . . and PREACH . . . and TEACH . . . and PROCLAIM . . . and BAPTIZE. This means action and not passivity. It means work, not rhetoric. It means now, not later.

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Repose of Righteous Anna, Mother of Theotokos — July 25

Troparion of St. Anna, Tone 4:
O godly, ever-blessed Anna, thou didst bear the pure Mother of God who conceived Him Who is our life. Thou hast now passed to heaven and art rejoicing in glory, asking forgiveness for those who faithfully honour thee.

Kontakion of St. Anna, Tone 2:
We celebrate the memory of the ancestors of Christ and faithfully ask their help; that all may be delivered from every affliction who cry:  Be with us, O God, for it pleased Thee to glorify them.