Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Pan-Orthodox Vespers

15 April 1980
Theme: Orthodoxy, The Church   Place: Churches, religious bodies   Period: 1976-1980   Genre: Sermon

15 April 1980

It is not easy to add anything useful to what was said; only I would like to express our gratitude to Bishop Timotheos for the way in which he spoke to us with such directness and such simplicity. Concerning these panorthodox meetings I have heard from time to time people say: But what is the point in meeting the Russian Church; they speak Russian, and we are Greek-speaking or speak so many other languages. Do you remember what happened in the first generation of Christians? People who belonged to all nationalities, who spoke in a variety of languages, who did not understand one another from a worldly point of view, who belonged to different classes of society, people who would not mix together otherwise – met i n C h r i s t; they did not look for anything they might have in common, either social class, or standing in society, or language, or a n y t h i n g else. What they had in common, was their common God, their common Lord Jesus Christ. And this made them into a community much more vigorously (nick) (?) together than any national, ethnic or social group: n o t h i n g but God. But God in a sense in which perhaps many of us have not an experience of Him. In those early days one became a Christian by discovering Who Christ was, one became a Christian by discovering God as one had never known Him before and one became a Christian at the risk of one’s life, of one’s freedom. This is something that is happening all the time now in Eastern Europe and in many other countries. We are running no risk, Christianity is given us easily and freely and this is why we do no stand with daring, with courage and with passion for it. But isn’t it possible to each of us to ask himself or herself a direct question: What has Christ brought into my life? What has God given me? And if Christ has given new life, if God has given new life to us, then -Why not share it? When we read a book that entrances us, when we hear of something that entrances us, do we simply keep it to ourselves? We become unbearable to our friends because we go round saying: Have you read it, have you heard it, have you seen it?

Why is it then that only Christianity is a thing which does not force us to speak because our hearts are too full to keep quiet? But it is not enough to speak, because we all speak: I speak every Sunday, and I give talks, and probably people ask themselves: Well, what is a different thing his life! The early Chris­tians were profoundly different from their neighbours. People said about them: Look: How they love one another!.. People said about them: But they m u s t know something which we do not know, if they are prepared to be killed, tortured, imprisoned for the sake of their faith… We must ask ourselves, what does this faith means to us; and if it is the most important thing in the world for us, then we must share it, share it generously, share it passionately, share it for others to enter into the miracle and the joy of the Christian faith and of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy was de­fined to me once as the knowledge of God as He is, a worship of God worthy of His holiness. We are i n f i n i t e l y far from having achieved that, but we must be on the way, other­wise we are not Christian, we are no Orthodox. We must pass a judgement upon ourselves, and be passionate about our faith, about our God, about our Church, as we have been just now advised to do with such sincerity and such passion… And now you are free of speeches, and it will be a time for refreshment.

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