My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
We are taught by Our Holy Church that "the ultimate commitment of the Orthodox Christian is a commitment to Christ our Lord, Who is known in and through the Church." This is expressed by the litanies of the Church which call upon us to "commit ourselves, one another, and our whole life unto Christ our God." And, prior to receiving Holy Communion, we pray: "O Master Who loves mankind, unto you we commit our whole life and our hope."
Each of us is unique and blessed by the Holy Spirit with different gifts and vocations in life; therefore, our personal commitments to Christ will be expressed differently. Yet, Orthodoxy firmly believes that this commitment will always be built upon a worship of God and a loving concern for others. As worship is central to the Church as a whole, worship, personal prayer, and especially participation in the Holy Eucharist are central to the life of the individual Orthodox Christian. Through these actions, we grow closer to God and we are blessed with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which enable us to be of loving and responsible service to others in Christ's Name. Orthodoxy avoids any tendency which seeks to separate love of God from love of neighbor. The two are inseparable. This conviction is expressed during the Divine Liturgy in the dialogue between the priest and the people which says, "Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess...The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: The Trinity, consubstantial and undivided."
Although Orthodoxy highly extols the value of worship, this does not imply that it in any way minimizes the importance of a life lived according to the Gospel. Therefore, as the Liturgy reminds us, only those with faith and love may draw near to receive Holy Communion. Our participation in the Body and Blood of the Lord also provides each with the opportunity to be Christ-bearers in the world in which we live."
According to our Church there are other commitments, i.e., Liturgical Commitment, Stewardship Commitment and Canonical Commitment.
The fulfillment of our liturgical commitment to the Church requires our regular participation in the divine services and Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church. Without such a commitment to participation in the Church's life, one cannot be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. As our Lord said, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you...he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (St. John 6:54:56). It is therefore essential that each person commit themselves to frequent participation in the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion), as well as regular participation in the Sacrament of Repentance/Confession.
Fulfillment of our commitment to our Lord Christ and to the Holy Church also requires the stewardship of our resources in a manner which follows with the precepts of the Gospel. This includes a commitment on our part to support the local church through the offering of our financial resources as well as of our own unique gifts and talents. In order to be a "member in good standing" of Saint Andrew Greek Orthodox Church, each person or family must make a financial commitment (pledge) to the church on an annual basis, and fulfill that commitment throughout the year. It should be emphasized, moreover, that our stewardship commitment goes far beyond financial matters; it is rather a commitment of the totality of life to God. Stewardship, therefore, also includes volunteering to serve on parish councils, helping to organize and execute church functions, singing, teaching our Faith, cleaning and maintaining the church, and other forms of parish ministries; it is engagement in the total life of the church.
The fulfillment of our commitment to our Holy Church last includes our commitment to live within the canonical standards which the Church has established as normative for the life of every Orthodox Christian. Such standards are not intended as limits upon our freedom, but should rather be understood as constituting the very basis for the communal life of the Orthodox Church. These include the following:
- Each person must have been baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox Church; in the case of one converting to the Orthodox Church from another Christian tradition or confession, he/she must have been baptized in a manner acceptable to the Orthodox Church (generally defined as baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit within the context of a church which confesses the doctrine of the Holy Trinity), and have been chrismated in the Orthodox Church.
- If married, the couple must have been married within the Orthodox Church.
- If a divorce occurs between a couple married within the Orthodox Church, an official ecclesiastical divorce must be procured from the Metropolis of Chicago.
The Church's canonical regulations are closely linked to its liturgical and sacramental life; it is therefore essential to note that any person who does not fulfill the above canonical requirements is not eligible to receive the sacraments of the Orthodox Church, to serve as either a godparent (nounos/nouna) at a baptism or a sponsor (koumbaros/koumbara) at a wedding, or to receive an Orthodox Christian funeral.
Those of you, who are not in "good standing" with the Church, please, contact the church office, and let us correct your standing, as soon as possible. If you have any questions contact me directly.
With agape in His Diakonia,