2. Signs of the Times
2. THE SIGNS GIVEN US BY CHRIST
We Orthodox Christians have already recognized and accepted the signs of Christ's First Coming. The very fact that we're Orthodox Christians means that we've done this. We know what these signs mean: for example, the sign of Jonah, the 490 years of Daniel, and many other things which our Lord fulfilled. Our Orthodox Divine services are filled with Old Testament prophecies which were fulfilled in the coming of Christ. These we all see and recognize—it all seems clear. But now we have to look for different kinds of signs, that is, the signs of the Second Coming of Christ. The whole teaching about the Second Coming of Christ and the signs which will precede it is set forth in several places in the Gospels, especially in the 24th chapter of St. Matthew. St. Mark and St. Luke also have chapters about this.
This chapter of St. Matthew tells of how our Lord departed from the Temple, and how his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the Temple. Of course, in those days the Temple was the center of worship. Every Jew had to come to the Temple at least at Pascha, the Passover, for this alone was where God could be worshipped in the right way.
1. Signs of the Times
THE SUBJECT of this talk is watching for the signs of the times. First of all, we have to know what it is meant by the phrase "signs of the times." This expression comes straight from the Gospel, from the words of our Saviour in Matthew 16:3. Christ tells the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Him, "Ye can discern the face of the sky," that is, tell what the weather will be; "but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" In other words, He's telling them that this has nothing to do with science, or with knowing our place in the world, or anything of the sort. It's a religious question. We study the signs of the times in order to be able to recognize Christ.
During the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees did not study the signs of the times in order to see that Christ had come, that the Son of God was already on earth. There were already signs that they should have recognized. For example, in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, there is a prophecy concerning the seventy weeks of years, which means that the Messiah was to come about 490 years from the time of Daniel. Those Jews who read their books very carefully knew exactly what this was all about, and at about the time that Christ came they knew that it was time for the messiah.
But this is an outward sign. More importantly, the Pharisees and Sadducees should have been watching for the inward signs. If their hearts had been right with God, and if they had not been merely trying to fulfill the outward commandment of the law, their hearts would have responded and recognized God in the flesh when He came. And many of the Jews did—the apostles, the disciples, and many others. Next...
Life Today Has Become Abnormal
Life Today Has Become Abnormal
Before beginning my talk, a word or two on why it is important to have an Orthodox world-view, and why it is more difficult to build one today than in past centuries.
In past centuries—for example, in 19th century Russia—the Orthodox world-view was an important part of Orthodox life and was supported by the life around it. There was no need even to speak of it as a separate thing—you lived Orthodoxy in harmony with the Orthodox society around you, and you had an Orthodox world-view provided by the Church and society. In many countries the government itself confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of public functions and the king or ruler himself was historically the first Orthodox layman with a responsibility to give a Christian example to all his subjects. Every city had Orthodox churches, and many of them had services every day, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the great cities, in many cities, outside the cities, and in the countryside, in deserts and wildernesses. In Russia there were more than 1000 officially organized monasteries, in addition to other more unofficial groups. Monasticism was an accepted part of life. Most families, in fact, had somewhere in them a sister or brother, uncle, grandfather, cousin or someone who was a monk or a nun, in addition to all the other examples of Orthodox life: people who wandered from monastery to monastery, and fools for Christ. The whole way of life was permeated with Orthodox kinds of people, of which, of course, monasticism is the center. Orthodox customs were a part of daily life. Most books that were commonly read were Orthodox. Daily life itself was difficult for most people: they had to work hard to survive, life expectancy was not great, death was a frequent reality—all of which reinforced the Church's teaching on the reality and nearness of the other world. Living an Orthodox life in such circumstances was really the same thing as having an Orthodox world-view, and there was little need to talk of such a thing. Next...
Two False Approaches to Spiritual Life
Two False Approaches to Spiritual Life
But what, one might ask, does all this have to do with us, who are trying to lead, as best we can, a sober Orthodox Christian life? It has a lot to do with it. We have to realize that the life around us, abnormal though it is, is the place where we begin our own Christian life. Whatever we make of our life, whatever truly Christian content we give it, is still has something of the stamp of the "me generation" on it, and we have to be humble enough to see this. This is where we begin.
There are two false approaches to the life around us that many often make today, thinking that somehow this is what Orthodox Christians should be doing. One approach—the most common one—is simply to go along with the times: adapt yourself to rock music, modern fashions and tastes, and the whole rhythm of our jazzed-up modern life. Often the more old-fashioned parents will have little contact with this life and will live their own life more or less separately, but they will smile to see their children follow after its latest craze and think that this is something harmless.
This path is total disaster for the Christian life; it is the death of the soul. Some can still lead an outwardly respectable life without struggling against the spirit of the times, but inwardly they are dead or dying; and— the saddest thing of all—their children will pay the price in various psychic and spiritual disorders and sicknesses which become more and more common. One of the leading members of the suicide cult that ended so spectacularly in Jonestown four years ago was the young daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest; satanic rock groups like Kiss—"Kids in Satan's Service"—are made up of ax-Russian Orthodox young people; the largest part of the membership of the temple of satan in San Francisco, according to a recent sociological survey—is made up of Orthodox boys. These are only a few striking cases; most Orthodox young people don't go so far astray—they just blend in with the anti-Christian world around them and cease to be examples of any kind of Christianity for those around them. Next...
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