It appears that not all Christians, even of our Orthodox persuasion, perceive quite clearly the nature and essence of Orthodox Christianity. They do not realize that it is not indifferent whether one belongs to the Orthodox or any other form of Christianity.
Some simply say that all creeds are alike; that all lead in the end to the One God ; that if a man but be good and honest, and forget not to do kind deeds, he shall be saved, no matter in what creed he .abides.
But all creeds are not alike, and it is not indifferent to which of them a Christian belongs.
As God is ONE and TRUTH is one, so the FAITH should be only ONE (Ephes. 4, 4-6). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness,’’ (Rom. 1, 18).
Therefore, if, according to the Scripture, there is only ONE FAITH, not several, so there can be only ONE TRUE CHURCH, but not several or many.
This ONE CHURCH, as we know from church history, is the Eastern Orthodox Apostolic Church.
To this church we have the happiness of belonging. Her faith we profess.
We profess the ORTHODOX religion, i.e. the doctrine which was taught by Christ the Saviour Himself and His holy Apostles, which was expounded to us by Apostolic men, the holy Fathers and teachers of the Church; pre-eminently by such men as Basil the Great, Gregory Theologian. John Chrisistom, and many others, which defined the Creed on the seven Oecumenic Councils which took place in the East during the first eight centuries of our Christian era.
To this ORTHODOX religion belong the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antiochea and Alexandria; the Churches of Russia and their smaller branches in other countries of the world.
ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY is the right way of gloryfying God; consequently the right doctrine, the right way of serving Him, not only in spirit, but in truth, i.e., that we shall have correct scriptural views on matters of faith.
Salvation outside of the Church is impossible, as it was impossible, while the Deluge lasted, to be saved outside of Noah’s Ark, which has accordingly been taken as the prototype of Christ’s Church. (Peter 1, 3, 20, 21.) For why else—if salvation could be obtained outside of the Church—should He, the Son of God. have descended to earth, whу should He have suffered, died, and risen from the dead.—why should a Church have been instituted on earth at all?
Rev. Peter Kohanik.
God’s Temple is an institution which is full of life and of truly, universal import.
Only there is comfort for the living and for the dead alike.
There every soul, from the humblest to the greatest, rejoices and disports itself and finds rest from overburdening labor; there is room for all alike, for the poor and the wealthy, the well-groomed and the roughly-clad. It is more gorgeously fitted out than a royal palace, this house of God, yet every one of the lowly and the poor, as he stands there, feels at home; every one may well call his church his own, for it is built and kept up with the people's dollars, or rather with the people's pennies. There is shelter there for all, prayer and consolation, and that teaching which the Orthodox believer holds dear above all things. This is the way a Russian feels about his church, consciously or unconsciously; this is what impels him to give to the church, without arguing or counting what he gives. He feels that in doing so, he cannot go wrong, because he gives for a worthy and holy cause.
Only those who are Orthodox to the core—in spirit and manner of life, can realize what God’s temple, the church, means to the Russian. One must live the life of the people, pray with them, as one of the same congregation, feel one's heart beat in unison with the people’s heart, stirred by the same solemn service, the same words and the same singing. This is why many, who know the church only from private chapel, in which only a select and fashionably dressed public congregate, have no real comprehension or appreciation of it, and sometimes look with indifference or perverted judgment on the very things in the church usages and services which are especially dear to the people and which, in the people’s eyes, make the beauty of the church.
It is the attendance which makes the beauty of an Orthodox church. The moment you enter it, you feel that the church and people are one, a whole in which everything takes its meaning from the people and is held together by the people.
Enter any other church—and see how everything in it will strike an Orthodox believer as empty, cold, artificial.
Ноw different things are with us!
Here is beauty unspeakable, the beauty which appeals to the true Orthodox believer, for which he would lay down his life, he loves it so.
Russian church singing—like our own folk-songs—flows in a broad, free wave of harmony out of the people’s breasts, and the freer it is, the more powerfully it speaks to the heart.
It is singing from “ jedinych ust і jedinoho serdca. ” The melodies are the same as those of the Greeks, but our people sing them in a different wау, because they have laid into them their own national soul. Whoever would hear how that soul expresses itself should not go where voices are manipulated by famous quires, where music of modern composers is sung, and the office is performed after new official adaptations, but should go to hear the singing in one of those parish churches where choral singing has been cultivated after the best traditions. There he will hear in what a broad, rich torrent the feast-day irmos rushes out of Russian breasts, what a grand poem the dogmatikon becomes in the singing, what inspiring joy pervades the canon of the Resurrection!
We can see how every word of the singing is reflected in the audience, shining brightly in the upturned gaze, hovering over the down-bent heads, echoed in the voices which join in here and there and everywhere—all because every churchgoer is familiar from infancy with both words and tunes, and his soul sings within him whenever he hears them. Divine service performed harmoniously, with genuine fervor, is indeed a treat to a Russian, and after he has left the church his soul retains the deep emotion which thrills it at the mere recollection of this or that particular moment—his Russian soul, to which the church is a sweet habit and which is ready to be lifted up whenever it inwardly hears the song of the Resurrection or of the Nativity, associated as they are with thoughts of the glorious matin-service, or the feast day anthem (irmos), or the “Glory Universal“ with its stirring challenge to “Dare!” Truly those are the very sounds of which the poet says: “To hear them unmoved is impossible. . . In the midst of the world’s turmoil, the word born of light and flame, may meet no response, but wherever I may hear it, be it in church or in battle, I shall know it forthwith. . . ”
And he, to whom these words and sounds have been thus familiar from infancy, what hosts of memories and images they stir up within him out of that great poem of the past which each of us has lived through and carries within himself . . . Happy is he who is thus familiar with these words, sounds and images and who has found in them the beauty for which he ever longs and which he cannot live without—he for whom everything in them is as a piece of himself, lifting his soul out of the dust and mire of everyday life—who finds in them and gathers together by bits his own spiritual life, shattered and scattered in all sorts of nooks and crannies, the fragments of his happiness, lost along highways and byways! Happy is he whom pious parents have, from infancy, trained to seek the church of God, there to stand in the midst of the people, and to pray the same prayers with the people, to celebrate the same feast days! Such parents have garnered up for their child a treasure that will enrich him for life; verily they have initiated him into the sense and meaning of the national spirit; they have taught him to love with the people’s heart; they have made of the church a home for him, a place of full and true fusion with the people.
Rev. Peter Kohanik.
The Lord’s Day
All over the world, among all nations, there is no religion without social worship, combined with special religious customs and ceremonies.
No one who believes sincerely does exclude himself from common Divine worship.
Why then is there negligence in church attendance among the Orthodox Christians of our days?
Is our belief not as holy and beneficial as the beliefs of other nations? Are our churches not capable to excite our highest feelings?
Let every one, who often fails to attend his church, examine himself. Does he think rightly? Is his reasoning wise and humane?
Many say nowadays: “I can pray at home on Sunday as well as in any church.’’
Yes, you are right—you can. But do you really pray?
Are you always inclined to such thinking? Don’t you know that your home affairs mostly always divert you from saying your prayers at home?
Sunday is a holy day for all Christians. Millions of people, in hundreds of languages, praise the Lord this day before His altar, in their churches.
The institution of divine worship in churches on Sunday is worthy of every respect. A Mohammedan counts holy every Friday, the Jew respects Saturday, and the duty of every Christian is to respect Sunday with his attendance at church services.
Sunday is the Lord's Day. It is a day of rest not only for the body, but for the soul and mind as well. Abolish the Lord’s Day and the church Divine worship and you will see how inhuman the people will become.
At a glance, the external signs of respect toward the Lord’s Day seem unimportant, but nevertheless, they act very strongly on the feelings of a man. Spiritually he becomes more cheerful, contented, and the rest from his weekly toil leads him to God. The daily business diverts his feelings, but Sunday gathers them together again. Even if a person is not dispoed to pious meditation, on Sunday, in a large assemblage of Christians in church, he involuntarily will be allured by the force of an example. We all stand here before the Lord as members of one large family. Nothing separates us here; a person high in the community humbly prays alongside with one who is in low standing; the poor pray side by side with the rich; here, in church, we are all children of our heavenly Father.
The Christians of the first centuries of the Christian era left us an instructive example of their Divine worship on the Lord’s day; for them it was a day preeminently defined for divine worship in a specially designated place where they could feel the beneficial presence of God on earth.
St. Matthew, the evangelist, informs us what Jesus said about the temple: “It is written: My house shall be called the House of Prayers. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple; and he healed them.” (Mat, 21, 13-14.)
This is why the first Christians usually remained in the Temple on Sunday, nearly all day, in common worship.
The acts of the Apostles remind us that on one Sunday the Christians of Troada, when Apostle Paul visited them, assembled as usual for Divine worship and the Apostle preached to them. As his preaching continued up to midnight, the lights were lighted and the Apostle continued his preaching.
One young man, Eutichius, while sitting in an open window, unattentively listening to the word of God, had fallen into a deep sleep and fell down from the third loft, and became as dead. Apostle Paul went down and fell on him and, embracing him, said: ‘‘Trouble not yourselves, for his life is in him.” After that the Apostle talked a long while, even till break of the day. And they brought the young man alive, and they were not a little comforted. (Acts: 20, 7-12.)
Even the inhuman persecutions of the early Christians for their devotion to the Lord and His holy word could not cool their zeal toward the church Divine worship on Sundays.
When Emperor Walent, a passionate follower of the Arian sect, ordered that all Christian churches of Edessa, Mesopotamia, should be closed for divine worship, the Christians decided to worship the Lord on the outskirts of Edessa, in the open field. When Walent was informed about this, he decreed a death penalty for all those who would dare to assemble in the field for divine worship. The Christians, informed about the decree of the emperor, did not abolish their innovation for divine worship in the open field, and on the following Sunday assembled in even greater number than previously. When the commisioner of police, Modest, was inspecting the streets of the city on the following Sunday, he saw one neatly dressed woman hastily leaving her house without even closing its door, and was leading her child by the hand. The commissioner questioned her:
“Where are you hurrying, woman?”
“To the assemblage of Christians in the field,” said she.
“But don’t you know this means death for you and every one who will worship there?”
“I know this, and that is why I am hurrying, that I be not late in receiving the martyr’s crown.”
“But why are you leading your child with you?”
“For the same reason, that he may also participate in the same blissfulness.“
Those were the days of real Christian devotion and faithfulness to the Lord's day observance! We know from experience that Sunday church attendance inclines the haughty man to humility, the oppressed to courage. The sinner will obtain rest only in church.. Here the word of God is preached. May it be so that the sermon does not always agree with your present needs, nor does it produce upon you the desired edification which you expected, but it did have its effect on others; it was useful for others.
Why then are you not satisfied with this ? Remember, a day will come when there will be a word to your soul also. If the sermon was not useful for you, don't forget that you did some good with your example. You were in church—that means you did not seduce anybody.
And so, let us say with the Psalmist: “I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.”—(122 Psalm 1.)
Rev. Peter Kohanik.