Recently, a young man from the ancestral lands of my church contacted me. He shared with me that he is a Greek catholic and in the past year he became aware of the presence of Jesus Christ. His spiritual experience came to him while attending an Eastern Orthodox liturgy and caused him to seek more of Christ in the Byzantine tradition. Unfortunately, he told me that in his family and local Greek church most of what is Byzantine has been lost to Latinization. He feels isolated because even among his family and friends there are no traditional byzantine roots that can nourish his spirituality. He shared that even his parents ,not really seeing a difference in spirituality, have pretty much abandoned the byzantine church because the Roman Catholic church is more convenient for them. In the situation he finds himself in he asks for advice. He wants to do the right thing by trying to bring his experience to his ancestral church. On the other hand, he feels spiritually malnourished and has considered joining the Orthodox church.
|Cathedral church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Bratislava|
The spiritual path we take at times is an isolating experience but we are never alone. As I told the young man Jesus Christ is always with us and nothing can separate us from his love. Ultimately, when the world falls apart around us or our spiritual traditions become distorted by others what we have in Christ will go unchallenged. If our Byzantine tradition all together disappears from the face of the world it will continue in our hearts. No one can rob us of the traditions of our fathers. We have seen in the past the erosion of the traditions of our fathers but we have also seen the gentle push of those who remain faithful to the gift of the Spirit. There will always be a Byzantine Christ for this is God's gift to the world.
One final thing the young man shared with me is that he is involved in iconography. He felt it important to be in the proper spiritual atmosphere to write his icons, something he believes he does not have now. I do not write icons but my advice to him is that the best things we do for God come from our struggles we share with Him. In his isolation I believe he will discover something beautiful to translate in this gift he shares with his church.
In essence, I think we all seek a Golden age of our traditions. However, even if we achieved complete independence from what we believe holds us back we will never be without struggle. Following Christ and being faithful to the path does not guarantee us a comfortable spiritual atmosphere. Some of our spiritual Fathers that have gone before us demonstrated this when they lived in caves. For them there was no icons, incense, or philokalia but only the name of Christ. We need to keep this in mind and remember that the real enemy of our traditions is not Rome but our own lack of faithfulness to discover intimacy with Jesus Christ.
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