From Time to Eternity, the Internal Mission of Our Church
by St. Justin Popovich of Celije
Our Church’s mission is to infuse these God-human virtues and ascetic exertions into the people’s way of living; to have their life and soul knit firm with the Christ-like God-human virtues. For therein lies salvation from the world and from all those soul-destroying, death-dealing, and Godless organizations of the world. In response to the “erudite” atheism and refined cannibalism of contemporary civilization we must give place to those Christ-bearing personalities, who with the meekness of sheep will put down the roused lust of wolves, and with the harmlessness of doves will save the soul of the people from cultural and political putrefaction. We must execute ascetic effort in Christ’s name in response to the cultural exercising which is performed in the name of the decayed and disfigured European being, in the name of atheism, civilization, or the Antichrist. Which is why the major task of our Church is the creation of such Christ-bearing ascetics. The watchword which should be heard within our Church today is: Let us return to the Christ-bearing ascetics and to the Holy Fathers! To resume the virtues of Saint Anthony, Saint Athanasios, Saint Basil, and Saint Gregory, of Saints Sergios and Seraphim of the Russians, of Saints Savva, Prochios, and Gabriel of the Serbs, and others like them because it was these God-human virtues which brought about Saint Anthony, Saint Gregory and Saint Savva. And today only Orthodox ascetic efforts and virtues can bring about sanctity in every soul, in the soul of all our people—seeing that the God-human objective of the Church is unalterable and its means are likewise so, since Christ is the same yesterday, today and unto all ages (Heb. 13:8). Herein lies the difference between the world of men and the one in Christ: the human world is transient and time-bound, whilst that of Christ is ever whole, for evermore…
The ascetics are Orthodoxy’s only missionaries. Asceticism is her only missionary school. Orthodoxy is ascetic effort and it is life, and it is thus by effort and by life that her mission is broadcast and brought about. The development of asceticism…this ought to be the inward mission of our Church amongst our people. The parish must become an ascetic focal point. But this can only be achieved by an ascetic priest. Prayer and fasting, the Church-oriented life of the parish, a life of liturgy: Orthodoxy holds these as the primary ways of effecting rebirth in its people.The parish, the parish community, must be regenerated and in Christ-like and brotherly love must minister humbly to Him and to all people, meek and lowly and in a spirit of sacrifice and self-denial. And such service must be imbued and nourished by prayers and the liturgical life. This much is groundwork and indispensible. But to this end there exists one prerequisite: that our bishops, priests, and our monks become ascetics themselves. That this might be, then: Let us beseech the Lord.
From Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, (Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1994)