Monday, October 29, 2012

Simply Byzantine

     We as Byzantines celebrate our faith in some of the most profound ways. However, sometimes in expressing what we have to others we lose the simplicity of our faith. So much so that we often find ourselves at a loss when we want communicate what we believe. As a result, sharing our faith is often reduced to a come and see our church method. This method of itself can be beneficial but without a real substantial communication of our faith the results are often less than life changing. Sharing our faith should not be a task where we hope that others will find our faith when they visit our churches. Rather, at that moment of sharing our faith we should "always be ready to explain"(1peter 3:15)" what we believe. This is only possible by discovering the simplicity that makes our Byzantine tradition great.
     The Melkite Patriarch recently expressed the need for us to discover our simplicity. He spoke of how our faith is beautiful but we have made it difficult at times to communicate. He points out the following as compared to other religions: "The proclamation of the faith in Islam can be summarized by this dual witness: “There is no other god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet". For the Jews, the substance of the Faith is expressed by the double commandment: “I am your God! You have no other but me. You will love your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself!”Our beautiful Christian faith is too complicated: the terms, their content and their explanation. We bathe in an ensemble of dogmas, of mysteries: the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, Redemption, the Sacraments (called mysteries by the Greeks)". He goes on to express the need for a more simple message by saying, "These dogmas must be interpreted in a form capable of touching upon daily life, human aspirations, happiness and prosperity, the daily realities of our faithful". What his Beatitude expresses is serious for us to consider if we want to be effective in reaching others with our faith.
     When Christ sent his Apostles out with His message it was simple. In fact, it was so simple that the apostolic preaching was considered "foolishness"(1cor.1:18) by some. In addition, it was so simple that the Apostles took their message and adapted it to whatever situation they found themselves in. You can even say that the diversity that we have in our churches today is built upon this adaption along with everything that we hold dear. For it is in this same diversity that we Byzantines have inherited our simple message. The message that many of our Fathers like St. Athanasius have proclaimed time and time again , "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."A message that is still foolishness for many but to us it is the power of God. It is in this simple message that all of what we celebrate as Byzantines finds a foundation, which would include even our most 'complex' traditions.
     In addition to the statements from the Patriarch that I mentioned he also shared the need to "create a concise, precise and clear text on our Faith". A need I think that we have the answer to in the proclamation that I shared from our Fathers, which is something we should all become more familiar with. It should be the basis for the proclamation of our faith and the foundation for the formation of those involved in our churches. It is so simple a child could understand and at the same time allows for a more complex understanding. As I stated everything that we have as Byzantines has its foundation in it. For example, because God gives Himself freely to us: the sacraments give us the power to become what God is, in prayer we can become what He is, in reading scripture we can become what He is, and when we share our faith with others we give them the same chance we have. The list goes on and on.
     Sharing our faith should be as simple as talking about our favorite sports team. By telling someone that God became one of us so that we could become what He is we find one of the most simplest presentations of our tradition. It is simple and at the same time open to how we choose to present it. Also, for us it shows the rich intimacy that God has for us. He hides nothing of Himself from us and has designed us for all of what He is. In no way has He made access to Him complex. Children, the infirm, the Impaired, all have the chance to share in what He is. It is up to us to know this and to help all experince this gift.

The full text of the Patriarch's statements can be found (here)

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