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An Orthodox Handbook

by Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos


Chapter 27 - Our current homeland

1. The foretaste of God's Kingdom

Our true homeland is the one that we "seek" (Hebr.13:14). However, for the time being we are called upon to live on this earth. So, what kind of association do we have with this world ?

The Lord, Who is the eternal life (1 John 1:2), with His Incarnation revealed Himself to us as God incarnated.(John 1:14; 1 Tim.3:16). 

In this way, the Logos of God - the second Person of the Holy Trinity - enters into the world and sanctifies it. In this way, a new era arises for mankind and for the entire world - a period that inducts us into the Kingdom of God.  The Lord Himself reassures us that the Kingdom of God does not belong exclusively to the future, but that it has already begun for every Christian from this very lifetime (Luke 17:21).  The commencement of this Kingdom is revealed through Christ's actions against the powers of evil that dominate the world. (Matth.12:28, Luke 11:20)

However, the present time is not per se the Kingdom of God fulfilled... or finalized.  It is only an image, an indicator, a prelude to the Kingdom of God, which will be revealed in all its radiance in End Times, with the presence of the Lord (Revel.20:11-22, 5; Isaiah 60:1-22).

Christians however live within the light of the Kingdom, even if they aren't as yet bathed whole in that light; even if they do not appear or are not always "wholly light" and "wholly fire", as we often notice in the lives of the Saints of our Church.


2. Christians' association to the world

"You are the light of the world" (Matth.5:14; cmp.Philip.2:15-16); "you are the salt of the earth" (Matth.5:13). These words by Christ determine Christians' relationship to the world.  Christians are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the spiritual leaven of the world (Matth.13:33; Luke 13:21; 1 Cor.5:6 e.a.).  In other words, for the world, Christians are the heart and the ones who re-give the world its true meaning, so that it might "be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom.8:21).

"What the soul is to the body, that is what Christians are to the world", says an ancient Christian text: the Epistle to Diognetus.  "The soul is enclosed in the body, but it holds the body together. Christians are likewise contained by the world as if inside a garrison, however it is they who keep the world together."

This is the reason that Christ does not ask the Father to remove Christians from the world, but rather to guard them from the evil one (John 17:15), who, after the Fall, had become "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31, 14:30).

Christians cannot remain unconcerned before the daily toils of man confronting the needs of life: "Go to the ant, O lazybones,and zealously observe its ways, and become wiser than it;  for without having any cultivated land nor anyone that forces it nor being under any master, it prepares its food in summer, and it makes its provision plentiful in harvest time. Or go to the bee, and learn how industrious she is and how seriously she performs her work..." (Prov.6:6-8. Cmp.10:4, 20:4, 21:25).

However, Christians' duty does not finish with their persistent toil for confronting of their own needs and their fellow-men's problems.  Christians' missionary labour in the world is to expel the demonic element with Christ's presence and to restore the entire world once again as a glorification to God.  Prior to the Fall, man had been placed in Paradise by God Himself, "to till it and keep it" (Gen.2:15), so that he could be the master over all of Creation (Gen.1:28. Cmp.Wisd.Sirach 17:2-4; Wisd.Solom.10:2; Psal.8:1-10).  But man did not keep his regal and hieratic place in the world; he ceased to have God as his point of orientation and thus led all of Creation to the Fall.

This Mission, from which Adam fell away, is now given once again to the man of the new Creation and is characterized in the Holy Bible as a "ministry of reconciliation" between the world and God (2 Cor.5:18).  The entire world must be transformed, and in fact in a dual sense. Man is called upon to labour, in order to discover the mystical powers of the world; to transform them and to effectively confront the problems of his daily living.  In this point, man's potentials are incomparable, because he is an image of God and he partakes to a certain measure in the divine omnipotence.  This fact therefore -of his being an image of God- elevates man to a degree incomparably higher than any philosophical and humanitarian system. Consequently, there is no issue of boundaries and barriers -either with regard to man's degree of development, or to the immense responsibility that he bears for the vindication and the awarding of his own person, his own works, and of the entire world (cmp.Psal.8:1-10).

Once, man had dragged all of Creation down with him to the Fall and to corruption, because he had ceased to offer it as a glorification of God and to ask God's blessing for its use (Gen.2:16-17).  In this manner, the man of the new Creation is called upon to also transform himself in this sense, as well as his works and the entire world, and to place it properly in relation to God (cmp.Deuter.8:12-18; 1 Suppl.29:14-16).

Christ's disciples are called upon to descend from Mount Tabor, after having acquired the certainty of transformation (transfiguration). They must travel into the world in order to transform the world, so that everything can become "new" (Matth.17:1-8; 2 Cor.5:17).

How, then, is it possible for Christians to separate their responsibilities towards the world? How can they abandon the world, if they had received the specific instruction to remain in the world (John17:15), especially when given such a huge Mission?


3. Christians' social responsibility

Each Christian's purpose is to live "triadically" : their life has to actually become the image of the life of the Holy Trinity. In other words, each Christian's purpose is to live together with his brethren, or, better still, "within his brother", because the Father is likewise "in the Son" and the Son is "in the Father", just as the Holy Spirit is "in the Father and in the Son" (cmp. John 17:21).  This is the reality that the faithful are called upon to live during the Divine Liturgy, and to transform that reality in practice during their everyday lives (cmp.1 Cor.10:16-17).  During the Divine Liturgy, man and all of Creation re-live that forsaken unity, because everything is assumed in the resurrected Body of Christ; everything is once again offered to God as a thanksgiving (cmp.Zechar.14:20-21). "Our selves and each other and our entire life let us appose to Christ the Lord!" is a prayer that is repeated often during the Divine Liturgy.  There are no margins here for selfishness. The centre once again becomes "Christ our God" - ou centre, and our brother's, and our entire life's.

We thus know that Christ presents Himself daily to us, in a very specific manner: in the person of a brother, who awaits the fruits of our labors and our toil so that he may receive relief and be able to breathe. Our entire life, all our might and our potentials should be "in Christ", and this, through our brethren (Matth.25:40) - in the service of our brethren.  And these potentials are unlimited, because man is -as we mentioned- an image of the All-wise and Omnipotent God, and as such, he also participates in His All-wisdom and His Omnipotence (cmp.Gen.1:28; Psal.8:1-10; Wisd.Sirach 17:2-4; Wisd.Solom.10:2).

Who can now no longer show concern for this life? For the wounds of mankind and of the world?

Of course a Christian is invited to a freedom and a superior position opposite the world; the Apostle Paul goes as far as characterizing everything as "chaff" (rubbish) when compared to the unique treasure, which is Christ (Philip.3:8. However this does not give us the right to separate our responsibilities for the fate of the world and the scorching problems of our brethren.

If the word of God calls us to weep with those who weep (Rom.12:15), then our attempts for effectively helping our brethren should be an even more imperative.  Let us recall at this point the words of James: "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"  (James 2:15-16. cmp.Isaiah 58:1-14).


4. The vindication of Monasticism

However, if things are indeed thus, then how is monasticism -one's departure from the world- justified?

Monasticism is not outside the purpose that we just mentioned, because a true monk does not live internally segregated from the world, nor has he abandoned his responsibility towards the world. He lives for the entire world, which he feels deeply connected to. His Mission and his gift are found in his being a prophet and a herald of the Kingdom that is to come : a living image and proof of the life to come.

In the life of the world a monk is an indicator which is orientated towards the heavens, revealing to the world another reality: the reality of heaven. That is his most significant offering to the world.  And this offering is truly a great one, especially in our day and age, where everything is orientated towards the earth and as such, destined to be condemned to die!


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Article published in English on: 6-3-2014.

Last update: 6-3-2014.