Diocese of Zambia & Malawi
Since all of us have tasted the sweetness and uniqueness of the Orthodox Church, it is only natural as well as our duty to want to pull into the Orthodox Church those who are currently out of it, regardless of whether they are idolaters or heretics! How then will we draw the heterodox into the Church of Christ?
The answer is given by Christ Himself on the Cross with His sacrifice. The sacrifice of the leader of our faith is His only sermon against worldly logic/reason since the early Christian period. The sacrifice of the contemporary priest, who is duty bound to perform the bloodless sacrifice of Christ again and again in the history of the world, gives the opportunity for salvation to each one of our fellow human beings by enabling them to have a personal relationship with Christ, which makes him a beacon in the darkness of our time…
When we priests live a pure and holy life, when we know and respect the rules, teachings and doctrines of our Church as well as the commandments of God, when we shed tears of repentance and we humbly call for the mercy of God, when we are suffering for our brothers in other confessions that live in error, then holding the prayer rope, we fervently pray that all the people of the earth will know our Faith, which is the only true faith!
Great and true missionary is not the one who conveys faith with words, but the one who lives it. The one who prays with tears in front of the icon of Christ and the Virgin Mary that God will enlighten all people to return to the Mother Church. The Orthodox Church is open to all people. It embraces and expects everyone to move forward and respond to the call of Christ Himself, thus becoming partakers of this heavenly calling: «Come and see!»
If we pray to Christ this way every day, our churches will be full. It is through repentance and a mighty warm prayer that we will bring them all to Christ. If we live our life partaking of the Holy Mysteries, with sincere confession and Holy Communion, then we will achieve our purpose: to help all people know the true Church.
Unless we have a spiritual father, we will not be able to succeed pure prayer and repentance. We will lose the path that leads to Christ and salvation. It is absolutely necessary for us to go to our spiritual father quite often and honestly confess our sins, our mistakes and our queries. The spiritual father has a threefold role: to hear our sins, to solve our questions and to give advice, guidance and counsel as well as his blessing for what we do in our lives.
Next I will refer to the priest’s duty to his parishioners. It is our big responsibility to keep those who have shown interest in Orthodoxy and to do everything in our power so that those who are inside the Church and are lukewarm, will acquire a living spiritual consciousness.
How, then, can we win souls from the world’s tempest and lead them to the safe harbor of the Church? All the Orthodox priests in our parishes must be active. The morning and evening services (the Matins, the Vespers, the Supplication Canon) should be conducted every day if we want to attract the grace of God. Every night, if every one of us, each one according to their own penance, dedicates two hours praying the rope and making prostrations, this will draw the grace of God. It is this very Grace that will help us and provide solutions to our problems, not our mind or our actions!
Another very important thing is for the priest to have a strong interest in the parish. He should run to the sick, read Orthodox books and have a steady seminar attendance every month. He should neither improvise in his sermons, nor express divergent new opinions that sound good and modern. He should only preach what is confirmed in the conscience of the Orthodox Church and comes from the Holy Fathers; only this can be taught by the Orthodox priests.
Finally, a priest should preach in catechetical schools, organize sports events, games with children as well as various activities, show love and affection to children, be close to the people, comfort and help his flock, and then, the miracle will come and our parish will be full of conscious Orthodox Christians! Amen.
Fr. Ermolaos Iatrou