Τρίτη 24 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Gregory, Orthodox Bishop of Cameroon: A small echo of the commandment “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation….”

At the end of John’s Gospel there is a clarification for the recipients of the epistle-gospel: “…and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21,25)
A lot of people might think that the Evangelist exaggerates at this point…Is that an exaggeration, though? According to the Orthodox tradition and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, the Gospel is God-inspired from one end to the other. The Gospels are a written record of some points of the Oral tradition of the Apostles towards the newly formed at the time Ecclesiastical Communities and are written according to the reminders of the Holy Spirit in the words of the Lord: “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John, 14, 25-26) Moreover, in all four Gospels there are plenty of seemingly “insignificant” testimonies of a large number of miraculous healings.
Therefore, due to the fact that man is prone to forgetfulness, the Father sends the Comforter, Who reminds us of everything that Christ commanded “by His word and actions” in his earthly life and action. Of course, this task of the Holy Ghost, that is, “the reminder” of the Lord’s commands, does not stop at the Apostolic age, but goes on throughout the centuries by means of the daily sanctification of the members of the ecclesiastical communities and by bringing into prominence holy male and female figures from all social classes and from the whole Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. This way, we have Apostles, Equal to the Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Holy Fathers and Mothers, Hierarchs, the Righteous and Pious. We also have holy Kings, Generals, soldiers, fishermen, slaves and freed men, women saints out of prostitutes, stylites or dendrites (tree-dwelling monks), fools for Christ’s sake, holy male and female suicides…
All these categories of virtuous people, through their life and the exceptional way in which they were led to holiness, “remind” us truly and substantially in actions and in words of one and the same thing: “the person of Jesus Christ”.
We could also say that through their life, their example and many times their teaching, they pull up in the memory of the ecclesiastical communities -as well as of the Church as a whole-many of the things that Jesus Christ did and were not recorded, which were so numerous that if they should be written down one by one, the world itself could not contain so many books.
This is the special value of studying and projecting the synaxaria of the Orthodox Saints and the rendering of due honor and veneration to the Saints.
At the same time, this is the struggle of the contemporary Orthodox Mission among the nations, that is, the formation of ecclesiastical Communities in unknown and pretty often primitive societies and the creation of the “memory of Christ”, which will be cultivated through “His continuous remembrance” and will create the bases that will pull up in the memory of the ecclesiastical communities all the things said and done by Christ that were not recorded “one by one”, that is, the daily sanctification…
This way we comprehend that the Mission is a basic requirement for every Church to exist, and woe to the Church that has cut its bonds with the Mission; it is like the tree that cuts off its roots on its own…
It should be understood that the efforts of all the Missionaries are efforts of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and not personal pursuits on their part in order to obtain the title of the Missionary.
I am not here because I love unknown and disconsolate places, or the adventurous life and action… I am not here because I love unknown and disconsolate places, or the adventurous life and action… I am here to continue and partake in the ministry of Apostles Mark and Luke…
And it is truly difficult for me to speak of Christ after two thousand years, but I think of the Apostles who spoke of the Prophets of Israel and their Prophecies despite the fact that it had been centuries since their time…”Brothers, God fulfilled His promise which he had given through His servants, the Prophets, and sent forth His own Son…”….. I think of Christ Himself who interpreted the prophecies at the Synagogues and led the people of Israel and His Disciples to seeing, touching, living, partaking in life and death and in the Resurrection of the fulfillment of these Prophecies…And I say “this Word is not mine and I have no right to deprive It of anyone”, and I speak of Christ, about the hope of Resurrection in a world that is daily experiencing the impasse of a cheap and senseless death which “covers vast expanses of human beings” destined to live eternally…
I believe that if some of the ancient Tragic writers were raised from the dead today and had the information we all have about Africa, they would continuously write new tragedies about it, in order to stigmatize and cure our criminal indifference!
Of course, could a world like ours, which lacks the education of tragedy that could cultivate it, that is, the tendency for “imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude”, be cultivated this way nowadays? This is a question that needs extensive discussion, because the Church actually presents a tragedy in every Eucharist Assembly: “Christ incarnated, suffering, dying, rising, ascending and coming back in glory judging the World…”
Nevertheless, how many people truly experience through tragedy the eschatological dimension of the Eucharist Assembly in every liturgy? And how many accept this dimension of the Church the way it is taught by the Church itself?
This is exactly the distance of all those who regard the Mission as “a utopia and a lost cause” from the reality of the Church, τwhich they probably serve for some sort of personal and emotional fulfillment, and the distance from the Mission itself, which they have neither experienced nor practiced.It is important that everyone understands what a completely different situation it is to speak and make known:
  • to people who have never heard about Christ after 2000 years, and sow in their hearts the seeds of faith in Him
  • it is a different thing to speak of Christ to people who have very little knowledge of Him and something completely different,
  • to try to arouse the interest for the ecclesiastical way of life in people who carry in their DNA the remembrance of the experience of the ecclesiastical way of life…
Let us assume that the Missionaries deal with the first and the second reality and those not involved in the Mission with the second and mainly with the third reality.
The word of the Missionaries should not merely state historical events, but it should have this quality and potential to “incarnate, give birth” to Christ in human beings… and make people follow the Lord’s earthly life and have their faith certified “through the accompanying signs” of Christ’s presence in their life, and also conduce to the creation of a “memory” which will be reborn through the Mystery of Remembrance.
The word of the Shepherds in the Ancient Churches relies on the fact that “the memory” already exists…The human beings have, long for, already grow a relationship with Christ even when they appear indifferent to Him.

This substantial difference between the two functions of the One and Only Ecclesiastical Word describes in the most obvious way the difficulties and the problems of the Missionaries, but also the necessity for the existence of the Missionary word in the contemporary reality of the Ancient Churches, which are characterized by complete lack of vitality….
My word may sound harsh and strictly critical… However, I think our self-criticism should be applied daily to some other theological levels as well, which will help us improve our position as Church Shepherds, and this can only be achieved through the continuous and thorough analysis of our shortcomings…
The embrace of faith unto all our brothers from the insignificant brothers of our Lord in Africa….

Gregory, Orthodox Bishop of Cameroon


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