ORTHODOXY AND AMERICAHome > Christian Education > ORTHODOXY AND AMERICA
Word Magazine September 1966 Page 13/28
ORTHODOXY AND AMERICA
By Very Rev. Alexander Schmemann
Dean, Saint Vladimir Theological Seminary
We may now return to Orthodoxy in America. All that I tried to say, ultimately, amounts to this: we should stop thinking of Orthodoxy in terms of America and begin to think of America in terms of Orthodoxy. And, first of all, we should remember that in these terms, “America” means at least three things, three levels of our life as Orthodox.
It is, first, the personal destiny and the daily life of each one of us; it is my job, the people whom I meet, the papers I read, the innumerable decisions I have to take. It is my “personal” America and it is exactly what I make of it. America, in fact, requires nothing for me except that I be myself and to be myself for me, as Orthodox, is to live by my faith and to live by it as fully as possible. All “problems” are reduced to this one: Do I want to be myself? And if I invent all kinds of major and minor obstacles, all sorts of “idols” and call them the “American way of life,” the guilt is mine — not America’s. For I was told: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free”— free from all idols, free to make decisions, free to please God and not men. This problem thus is fully mine and only I can solve it by a daily effort, a constant effort to “stand fast” in the freedom in which Christ has set me (Gal. 5:1).
In the second place, “America” is a culture, i.e., a complex of habits, customs, thought forms many of which are either new or alien to Orthodoxy, to its history and tradition and it is impossible simply to “transpose” Orthodoxy into the American cultural categories. To become the “fourth major faith” by decree and proclamation is a poor solution of this difficult problem and the day Orthodoxy will feel completely at home in this culture and give up her alienation she will inescapably lose something essential, something crucially Orthodox. There is, however, in American culture, a basic element which makes it possible for Orthodoxy not simply to exist in America but to exist truly within American culture and in a creative co-relation with it. This element is again freedom. In a deep sense it is freedom that constitutes the only truly “American way of life” and not the superficial and oppressive conformities which have been consistently denounced and castigated by the best Americans of all generations as a betrayal of the American ideal. And freedom means the possibility — even the duty of choice and critique, of dissent and search. Superficial conformity, so strong on the surface of American life, may make the essentially American value — the possibility given everyone to be himself, and thus Orthodoxy to be Orthodox look “un-American.” This possibility nevertheless remains fundamentally American. Therefore, if one moves from the personal level to a corporate one, there is nothing in the American culture which could prevent the Church from being fully the Church — a parish; and it is only by being fully Orthodox that American Orthodoxy becomes fully American.
And finally “America,” as every other nation, world, culture, society, is a great search and a great confusion, a great hope and a great tragedy, a thirst and a hunger. And, as every other nation or culture, it desperately needs Truth and Redemption. This means — and I write these words knowing how foolish they sound — that it needs Orthodoxy. If only Orthodoxy is what we believe and confess it to be, all men need it whether they know it or not or else our confession and the very word Orthodoxy means nothing. And if my words sound as an impossible foolishness, it is only because of us, Orthodox. It is our betrayal of Orthodoxy, our reduction of it to our own petty selfish “national identities,” “cultural values,” “parochial interests” that makes it look like another “denomination” with limited scope and doubtful relevance. It is looking at us, Orthodox, that America cannot see Orthodoxy and discern any Truth and Redemption.
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Word Magazine September 1966 Page 13/28
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
By Adma Shakhashiri
Commission on THE WORD, Department of Religions Education
When Jesus Christ, the Son of God lived on this earth, He went about doing kind deeds. He cured the sick, and made the blind see. He raised the dead, fed the hungry and performed many miracles. Jesus, above all, was the Great Teacher of all the Christians. He spent a great deal of His life teaching His disciples and the big crowds who came to listen to Him. He taught them how to be good, and what they should do to please God at all times.
His disciples and listeners were mostly simple unlearned people. In order to make His teachings easier for them to understand, Jesus very often explained them in “parables.” A parable is a simple story from every day life with a hidden spiritual meaning. Jesus used the parables to show His listeners what was meant by His words of instructions.
One day when Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacle, many people came to listen to Him and learn from Him. Jesus told them of Himself: “I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd walks at the head of his sheep. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will not follow a stranger and will run from him because they do not recognize his voice. I am the good shepherd and know my sheep, and my sheep know me, just as my Father knows me and I know my Father.
Among the people were the Pharisees and Scribes who listened to Jesus, but did not believe in Him and refused to accept Him as their Good Shepherd. But Jesus read all their thoughts and kept teaching and explaining to them the Parable of The Good Shepherd.
He told them that once there was a good shepherd, who had a hundred sheep. He loved them and knew every one of them by name. He tried always to lead his Sheep into green pastures and beside cool streams. They followed him every where He went over the hills, grazing and resting in the shades of trees.
The sheep loved and obeyed their shepherd and would immediately come at his call. In the evening when they would hear his call, they would go down over the hills and cross the fields until they came to the sheepfold. The shepherd would stand at the door of the fold with his long rod in his hand, counting the sheep one by one as they came in. If one of them were missing, he would not rest until it was found.
One day on a grassy hillside a little lamb strayed away from the flock. It kept nibbling grass here and there and was left far behind and could not find its way back. That evening, as usual, the shepherd called his sheep and led them home to the fold. When he counted them, he found only ninety-nine. He knew that one sheep was missing. In the dark rainy night, he started out calling all the time the lamb by its name. But there was no answer. At last the little lamb heard its master calling it, and answered him with a fearful trembling voice. The shepherd got down on his knees to reach the little lost lamb and rescued it. He was glad and happy to find the lost sheep. He picked it up and carried it on his shoulder. When he came home, he called together his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him at this occasion.
Jesus told this “parable” to the people, so that they would understand how important and dear is every man and woman or little child to the Father in Heaven. God our Father loves and cares for every one in the Church, just as the good shepherd cares for his sheep. God wants us all to believe in Him and love Him. He loves us and demands that we love Him and obey Him. He wants those of us who do not obey Him to be sorry for what they did so that He would forgive them.
“Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me,
Bless Thy little lamb tonight;
Through the darkness be Thou near me,
Keep me safe till morning light.
All this day Thy hand has led me,
And I thank Thee for Thy care;
Thou hast clothed me, warmed, and fed me,
Listen to my evening prayer.”
To the Teenager
The Shepherd knows what pastures are best for His sheep, and they must not question nor doubt, but trustingly follow Him. Perhaps He sees that the best pastures for some of us are to be found in the midst of opposition or of earthly trials. If He leads you there, you may be sure they are green for you, and you will grow and be made strong by feeding there. Perhaps He sees that the best waters for you to walk beside will be raging waves of trouble and sorrow. If this should be the case, He will make them still waters for you, and you must go and lie down beside them, and let them have all their blessed influences upon you.