My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
According to some sociologists today "except for the occasional ancient ceremony, such as a coronation - the Church has ceased to preside over national life. That the mass media has virtually eclipsed the pulpit as a source of information and guidance; that armies of specialists offer education, counseling and pastoral functions, and that the workplace, in particular, is alien to religious values. We conclude that the Church today is merely involved in symbolic rites of passages - hatching, matching and dispatching..."
It is said that "the Ecumenical movement is regarded by Wilson as evidence of the process of secularization. Ecumenism, he suggests, developed out of the weakness of the Church. Ecumenism involves the smoothing out of doctrinal differences between Churches in the hope of attracting people back to the Church, and, as such, is a tacit admission of the impact of secularization."
"Thus, Hersberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, (1955), claims that the Church in the USA has become obsessed with secular concerns, and most major denominations have compromised their religious principles to make them "fit in" with society...."
Furthermore, "American churches echo the American dream, religion has been subordinated to the American way of life.- Churches place little emphasis on theology (belief) but stress the values of democracy, freedom, attainment and success." As Scharf notes: 'Being American includes being religious, and finding in religion a sanction for the American values of individualist, activist efficiency and self-improvement.'
However, the problem of secularization of society is global, i.e., "religion is largely irrelevant to the lives of most English people nowadays 'marriage, death, and to a lesser extent birth, are now the only contact point the Church of England has with parishioners'. Some might attend a service at Christmas, and even smaller number at Easter, but for most, church attendance is limited to weddings, funeral, and perhaps baptisms.'"
Hatchings, matchings, and dispatchings. In practice only about 15% of those in England calling themselves Christians actually go to church on a regular basis."
When removing God from society and doing everything possible to make a country and its society, secular, the downward spiral begins affecting every segment of life and society. As Nietzsche said, "if there is no God everything is permissible." It is evident that our society is declining from within. Everything is permissible today and of course it is deliberate and calculated by atheists, radicals, and anti-Christian, anti-traditional family attitudes. A society devoid of belief in God, a society without morals, ethics, values, dignity, etc., Historically, the world has witnessed great empires that have fallen from within because of decadence, Godlessness and moral decay.
My personal concern, as the parish priest, is to encourage all of you to strengthen your commitment to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to strengthen your commitment to the Church, to be more consistent with your attendance and participation in the divine services and sacraments, to raise your children in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith, to strengthen your knowledge of our Faith, to make every possible effort to strengthen God's presence in your home ('the domestic church'), to teach your children our Christian values and morality.
Any break from communion with the Church inevitably leads to an erosion of her grace-filled life. The Orthodox Church is the True (Authentic) Church of Christ in which the Holy Tradition and the fullness of God's saving grace are preserved intact. She has preserved the heritage of the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers in its integrity and purity. She is aware that her teaching, liturgical structures and spiritual practice are the same as those of the Apostolic proclamation and the Tradition of the Early Church. The Orthodox Church, through the mouths of the Holy Fathers, affirms that salvation can be attained only in the Church of Christ.
In the spirit of the Apostolic Church, I prefer to use the term Holy Scripture to refer to the written Tradition of the Church. Written Holy Scripture came from the oral traditions canonized by the Holy Spirit inspired Church centuries after Pentecost. Only the Church can "interpret" Holy Scripture. Written Holy Scripture is not authoritative in and of itself. The authority is the Church.
Let us not become spiritually complacent and lazy, instead, let us be engaged in prayer and worship. We must not fall victims to our secular society by turning to the Church only when we need something from her, i.e., Hatching (birth), Matching (marriage), Dispatching (death). We must identify with our Christian faith and not identify with the secular society and world which may be heading to destruction.
With sincere agape,