How Do We Pass On The Faith?

Unfortunately, for many Orthodox Christians, knowledge of their faith is limited to what they learned in Sunday School. This is especially true when it comes to Holy Scripture.

Our devoted teachers do a tremendous job. However, they have no choice but to bring down the level of biblical stories to what a child can comprehend.

The problem is that few of our people continue to study Holy Scripture and their faith as grown-ups.

As most Russian emigres, my parents closely followed everything that developed in the Soviet Union, and I was privy to what was discussed at home. I remember that I was always intrigued by the faith of the Russian people, living in an atheistic state. They had no church schools, religious literature was almost impossible to obtain, and yet Orthodoxy was not only alive, but these people knew their faith.

What was the source of this knowledge?

It was only at Holy Trinity Seminary, when our rector, the late Archbishop Averky, once stated in class that our divine services contain everything we need to know about Orthodoxy, that I understood what “schools” the faithful of the Soviet Union attended.

In communist Russia many churches were closed or destroyed, but in those few that remained, divine services were conducted zealously and diligently, often for hours. These services were the source of knowledge about Orthodoxy.

Our services tell us the entire history of our salvation, taken both from the Old and New Testaments. The forefathers, the great leaders of the chosen people, the prophets, events of the New Testament from the Nativity of St John the Baptist to our Lord’s Ascension, the apostles and their missionary work, all come alive and pass be-fore us in our minds. And how much is opened to us in the hymns and canons of the church. Everything is there: dogmatic theology, moral theology, comparative theology, patristics, the history of the Holy Church, the lives of saints…

And finally, the services of Great Lent tell us about man’s fate, the last days, the end of the world, and the second coming of Christ. A classic in this respect is the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete.

We all are concerned how best to preserve our precious Orthodox faith, being sur-rounded by an ever more secularized world, and to pass it on to the next generation.

What better way is there, than through our divine services, performing them the way they were written, and in the way they were meant to be served.

Yes, living in America we sometimes have no choice and must make sacrifices. This can mean shortening our services. However, in doing so, let us be careful and not go too far. Let us not throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. If we lose the beauty and deep spiritual meaning of our services, we will lose our “schools”, and the next generation could become “Protestants of the Eastern-Rite”.
+Bishop Peter of Cleveland

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