Why being Orthodox? Because it is not enough to simply say that we are Orthodox. What good does it do us - or anyone else - if we are not what we claim to be? What does it mean to be an Orthodox Christian?
I can repeat that which moat of us - in all likelihood - know. Orthodoxy comes from two Greek words: orthos and doxia. The first means correct, true or straight, and from the second we derive two words: dogma (teaching) and glorifying or worship. Orthodox Christianity has preserved the fullness of the Gospel and the true way to worship. Thus we worship as we believe and we believe as we worship. The two are in separable. But what does this mean to us practically? How do true belief and true worship affect our every day life? Perhaps we should ask whether true belief and worship affect the way we live? They certainly should. Why? Because Orthodoxy is not a religion or just an old form of Christianity. Orthodoxy is a way of life. Orthodoxy is life in Christ. Orthodoxy reveals to us how we are relate to God, creation, those around us. Orthodoxy teaches us about ourselves, who God is, what it means to live, what it means to die. Orthodoxy teaches us what sin is, how destructive it is and, what is more important, how to be healed from it. Orthodoxy is about repentance, rebirth, resurrection, ascension. Orthodoxy is eternity here and now.
So Orthodox is more than a name we call ourselves, Orthodox is how we try to live our lives. It’s about our struggle with our sins and passions. It’s about learning to see ourselves as I truly am. No easy task for most of us as we usually imagine ourselves to be more or other than what we are. The enemy is a deceiver, a trickster, and he’s always creating false images of just about everything (especailly God). To see ourselves as we are is no easy task. It’s scary, unpleasant, so shocking that it is usually a very long process as one can only endure so much. Yet we don’t despair as God’s love and mercy is greater than all the sin, corruption and death abiding in us.
Some may say that God loves us just as we are. This is true! But it is precisely because He loves us that God does not leave us as we are.
We are all created in the image and likeness of God. What does this mean? It means that we are all icons of God created to become by grace that which God is by nature. Yes, we are to become like God, share in the life of God and all that that means (even though we cannot possibly imagine what that means because it is beyond our comprehension). The problem is sin. Sin damages - does not destroy - the image of God in us. It does, however, separate us from God, for He is holy and the sinful can have no part in Him. It also results in death because if we are separated from God we are separated from Life, for God is Life. Thus St. Paul says that the wages of sin is death.
So God sent His only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world might be saved through Him. How? First He was born. He entered into time, became one with his own creature. God became a man. He became all that we are - except for sin - so that we can become as He is. He was baptized, transfigured, and suffered for us, ascending the Cross in the flesh so that He could descend into Hades and destroy the power of death. He rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father - in the flesh. He sent the Holy Spirit and founded His Church. It is in the Church that we once again have that same communion with Him which we were created to have in the beginning. Thus we are to abide in communion with God and one another for, as the Apostle says: How can we love God whom we do not see and not love our brother whom we do see? Is not the person next to us an icon of God as we are? Did not Christ die for him, regardless of who he is or what he looks like? Of course He did. So we have to learn to live in love. We have to learn to love as God loves: to love God, which means to put Him first - and not just when we remember or when it’s convenient - and we need to learn to love our neighbor as ourselves. We have to put others first? Yes we do. Just look at Christ. This is exactly the example He provides for us.
So, so hard for me to do because of my self love, sinfulness, fleshliness, worldliness. So hard, yet this is precisely what it means to be Orthodox: to abide in love, which means to abide in God, who is love, and as we grow in the love of God we inevitably grow to truly love one another. What is the biggest obstacle? The self. Yet it is overcome by the Cross, the most perfect manifestation of love. The Cross reveals to us a great and terrifying mystery: If you want to live you have to die.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of His most pure Mother and all the saints, have mercy upon us and save us.