Sunday, October 3, 2004

Another great day

Everything is a gift (禮物). The basis for everything is a Giver. The key to life (生命) is giving.

I got the sleep last night that I so sorely needed and then I woke up (late-ish) this morning to pray. I ate a small (小) breakfast and then FINALLY got back on the Chinese (中文) learning horse (馬). Then I sent out a few important emails. Did a couple loads of laundry and have them hanging and/or folded. (Breakthrough!) It was dinner at Salut after a long time away and then I watched *Mystic River*. A haunting and brutally human film. It was very well plotted and the acting was outstanding. Clint Eastwood, the director of this movie and *The Unforgiven* (another one of my favorites), really is one of the greatest personages in cinematic history (歷史). I say personage because he is not (不) just an actor; and he is (是) certainly not just a personality. He has irresistible on-screen charisma as well as a mature off-screen artistry.

At Salut, I chatted with an Orthodox friend (東正教的 朋友) of my Orthodox friend here. The latter has been Orthodox for two or maybe four years. The former had a long path to Orthodoxy, beginning as a Methodist, then a charismatic, then an Anglican and finally Orthodox, which he's been for eighteen years. He obviously "has a heart" for missions, but he made an interesting offhand admission to me. "Missions are not really... in the mainstream of Orthodoxy. There's something like 1% of 1% of people involved in them." He went on to mention he had asked some years earlier for statistics about USAmerican Orthodox mission work. "Do you know how many priests were [or are -- EBB] involved in overseas missions from the USA?" I shook my head. "One," he said, holding up his finger. "One," he repeated. Such candor gave me pause, to say the least.

Soon after I had announced my intention to become Catholic or Orthodox, a reader sent me an email with the following consideration (my quoted paraphrase):

The commission Christ gave His Church [in Matthew 28] go into all the nations as missionaries. So it stands to reason His Church will be marked by a special missionary activity. There's no denying the incredible missionary work of the Catholic Church. But there is a curious lack of such missionary zeal, on such a grand scale, in the Orthodox Church. You should consider why this is.

When I first read them, my reader's words seemed perfunctory. Sure, yes, missions are good sign -- but what about X, Y, and Z? Yet now, after the brief conversation I had tonight, I see the wisdom of my reader's consideration. Christ's Church must by its very nature be missionary (cf. Andrew F. Wall's _The Missionary Movement in Christian History_)[1] since God in Christ is by His very nature the Missionary God (cf. John Stott's famous 1970 Urbana message with that very point).

Now, I am NOT about to impugn the missiological dimensions of the Orthodox Church. The name of this blog honors St. Innocent (Veniaminov) himself, a dynamic Russian missionary to Alaska! Where did the Russian Cyrilic alphabet come from (not to mention major roots of the Russian Orthodox Church)? From the work of Sts. Methodius and Cyril. Think also of St. Herman of Alaska and Archbishop Nicholas of Japan, Orthodoxy's St. Francis Xavier (as it were). Obviously, there are great missionaries in the Orthodox tradition -- but I am still left wondering if missions is a huge and LIVING aspect of Orthodoxy. One experience Orthodox man seems to think its not. This requires more reflection. Missions are so very important to me.[2]

I close with this quote:

Both Orthodox people and Jews came to Western Europe from the East, often as refugees. They came to societies that were culturally different from, even alien to, their own. So they have tended to develop an enclosed mentality. They have had to struggle against the temptation and pressure to lose their identity and become absorbed into the society and culture of the West. This has been the main reason why there has been a lack of sense of mission in the Orthodox Church in the West. They have seen their role as preservative rather than evangelistic.

(from the book "A Faith Fulfilled" by Fr. Michael Harper in *Again Magazine* Vol 21 No.1)

[1] Yes, that is my review of the book. No more need to be anonymous! 

[2] Hence, in part, my big interest in the Jesuits and my serious consideration of getting a degree in missiology.

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