Orthodoxy and other Denominations, 2

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SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE

The first spiritual leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky (1863-1936), saw the church's emphasis on spiritual struggle as the point which most distinguished her from the heterodox denominations of the West. It is simply not enough to belong to the Church, or to attend services. The true Christian must necessarily engage in a spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness and against his own passions. Our Saviour says, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God". But purity of heart is not achieved without a struggle. In practice this struggle is carried out under the guidance of an Elder (if one lives in a Monastery) or a spiritual father (in a parish). It consists in fasting, praying, almsgiving, in resisting temptations, in guarding one's thoughts and in trying to follow the commandments. This warfare is waged at every moment of our lives and under whatever circumstances we find ourselves: in the family, at work or school, in church, when on holiday and when alone. In this struggle the Church daily helps us by bringing to our remembrance the struggles of the saints who have gone before us, by appointing Scripture readings and prayers, by fasting disciplines, and by the daily round of services in the church.

THE NEW ISRAEL

We have noted how the services of the Orthodox Church trace their beginnings to the ancient rites of the Hebrews of the Old Testament. The Orthodox Christian's consciousness of being the Chosen People of God, the New Israel, is very deep-rooted, and is manifest in the life of the Church. In the Western denominations one often finds a strong emphasis on the administrative structure of the denomination. The Roman Catholic Church is essentially papal. With many of the Protestant sects their raison d'être is administration, and they take their names from their form of administration: Episcopalian, Presbyterian etc. In doctrine they differ very little one from another. Perhaps this emphasis on structure harks back to their Roman antecedents and the old Roman genius for administration. Although the Orthodox Church has a hierarchy of bishops, presbyters and deacons as the New Testament Church had, in the first instance she does not see herself as an administrative structure. Rather she sees herself in those Old Testament terms as the community of the children of Abraham, the family within the Ark of Noah, the tribes of the Lord, or as the holy Apostle Peter put it so beautifully in his epistle, "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people for His own possession". For this reason, as we read in many of the ancient martyrologies, Christians brought before the authorities when asked from which country they came, or from which town, or from which citizenship, would often answer. "I am a Christian". Thus they confessed that they considered that they belonged to no nation other than the "new nation named after Thee”.

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