“A witness to the truth of the Holy Orthodoxy is an objective of inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogues, and the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t accept any attempts to mix confessions, [and] to hold joint prayer services that artificially combine confessional or religious traditions.” (Source)
I think then that the one great end of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the Churches now
at sundry times and in various manners divided from one another. In attempting myself to effect this, I cannot fairly be blamed as a busybody, for nothing is so characteristically Christian as the being a peacemaker, and for this reason our Lord has promised us peacemakers a very high reward. (Letter 114)
[O]ur attitude must be not self-centered but reaching out to those who are seeking for God and for a godly life. Nowadays, wherever there is a good-sized Orthodox community, the temptation is to make it into a society for self-congratulation and for taking delight in our Orthodox virtues and achievements: the beauty of our church buildings and furnishings, the splendor of our services, even the purity of our doctrine. But the true Christian life, even since the time of the Apostles, has always been inseparable from communicating it to others. An Orthodoxy that is alive by this very fact shines forth to others—and there is no need to open a “department of missions” to do this; the fire of true Christianity communicates itself without this. If our Orthodoxy is only something we keep for ourselves, and boast about it, then we are the dead burying the dead—which is precisely the state of many of our Orthodox parishes today, even those that have a large number of young people, if they are not going deeply into their Faith. It is not enough to say that the young people are going to church. We need to ask what they are getting in church, what they are taking away from church, and, if they are not making Orthodoxy a part of their whole life, then it really is not sufficient to say that they are going to church. (Living the Orthodox Worldview)
Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th cent.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, states, “Or is God the God of Jews only and not also of Gentiles? Yes, of Gentiles also.” (Rom. 3:29) At any rate, those who are Orthodox in all things, even if they might be wholly bereft of Greek speech, shall celebrate in their own language with precise copies of the customary holy prayers translated from liturgical books with well-copied Greek letters. (The Sixty-Six Canonical Questions, Response to Question 6)
Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina 1934-1982
One big mistake we can make about our Orthodoxy is being too loose, too “liberal” about it. This comes from ignorance. Some Orthodox people think that the Orthodox Church is nothing more than the Russian or Greek equivalent of the Episcopalian Church; with such an idea of course, one is not going to try very hard to bring anyone to the Orthodox Faith. This is the error of the ecumenical movement, which arranges meetings and conferences with non-Orthodox Churches, not with the aim of bringing them to the true Faith of Orthodoxy, but on a basis of worldly friendship, in order to speak of the secondary things which we have common with them, and to gloss over the differences which separate us and an awareness of which make them eager to accept the Orthodox Faith. This is not to say that all meetings between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, even on an official level, are wrong — but only that as ordinarily practiced these meetings are not an Orthodox witness to the non-Orthodox, as they should be.
With all respect to the views of the non-Orthodox, we are not living our Orthodox Faith rightly if we do not make others somehow aware of of the differentness of Orthodoxy. This does not need to mean arguments and polemics about aspects of the Faith, although these might arise after others have become interested in Orthodoxy. The very way one leads one’s Orthodox life, if one is serious about fulfilling the commitment of being an Orthodox Christian, is already a witness to others…
Yet another mistake made by contemporary Orthodox is what one might call the “fortress mentality”: we have the truth of Orthodoxy, and the times are so bad that our chief activity now is to defend it against the enemies on every side. Often this mentality goes overboard in finding “betrayers” and “heretics” in the midst of Orthodox Christians themselves, and very often it is so concerned with its own “correctness” and the “incorrectness” of others that is has very little strength left to preach the Gospel of salvation even to the Orthodox, let alone to those outside the Church.
Now, Orthodoxy is indeed the correct teaching and the correct worship of God, and this is why this temptation is so easy to fall into. But we must remember that Christ Himself was constantly accused of being “incorrect” by the chief priests and pharisees of His time, and we have to remember that correctness in itself is nothing, and can even cause us to lose our soul, if we do not have first of all something much more fundamental and deep — the “one thing needful” for or salvation. This “one thing” might be called “living faith,” and it is inseparable from something which is all too lacking in the Church today — evangelical fervor. If we have found the true Faith after our own often arduous search, we cannot help but want others to share it. (The Orthodox Word 2002 no. 226 p. 247-248, 250-251)
The one and only way out of the dead end of this ecumenistic ecclesiology and mission – which has done more to split the Orthodox Church than unite Her – is the path of Orthodox mission.
If Protestant mission led us into ecumenism, Orthodox mission will lead us out: tried and tested apostolic and patristic mission, true, uncompromising, ascetic, otherworldly, and sacrificial, which aims at heavenly, not temporal, ends. Mission in the spirit and tradition of Apostles Peter and Paul, Ss. Cyril and Methodios, St. Stephen of Perm, St. Kosmas Aitolos, St. Innocent of Alaska, and, in our own times, Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou and Zaire and the ever‐memorable Bishop Nectarios of Madagascar.
To such Orthodox witness there can be no objection on the part of anyone. Such an Orthodox witness can unite all Orthodox in the realization of an authentic catholic vision of mission, where we all, according to the words of the Apostle Peter, will be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).
With such a spiritual and authentically ecclesiastical Mission we will be able to call all – heterodox and all religious believers – into the unique Ark of salvation, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is in truth the very Body of the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. (The Missionary Origins of Modern Ecumenism: Milestones leading up to 1920)
His [St. Nikolai Velimirovich] sense of apostolic responsibility for all people and all nations can be explained. It is a fact that he was nearly the first [Orthodox] Christian bishop who preached Christ, in English, in the 20s of the twentieth century, to African Americans in Manhattan, New York.* (The Theanthropic Ethos of Holy Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich. [kindle version])
* St. Philip’s Church in Harlem, New York
Vladimir was visited by Bulgars of Mohammedan faith, who said, “Though you are a wise and prudent prince, you have no religion. Adopt our faith, and revere Mahomet.” Vladimir inquired what was the nature of their religion. They replied that they believed in God, and that Mahomet instructed them to practice circumcision, to eat no pork, to drink no wine, and, after death promised them complete fulfillment of their carnal desires. “Mahomet,” they asserted, “will give each man seventy fair women. He may choose one fair one, and upon that woman will Mahomet confer the charms of them all, and she shall be his wife. Mahomet promises that one may then satisfy every desire, but whoever is poor in this world will be no different in the next.” They also spoke other false things which out of modesty may not be written down. Vladimir listened to them, for he was fond of women and indulgence, regarding which he heard with pleasure. But circumcision and abstinence from pork and wine were disagreeable to him. “Drinking,” said he, “is the joy of the Russes. We cannot exist without that pleasure.”
Then came the Germans, asserting that they came as emissaries of the Pope. “Thus says the Pope: ‘Your country is like our country, but your faith is not ours. For our faith is the light. We worship God, who has made heaven and earth, the stars, the moon, and every creature, while your gods are only wood.’ ” Vladimir inquired what their teaching was. They replied, “Fasting according to one’s strength. But whatever one eats or drinks is all to the glory of God, as our teacher Paul has said.” Then Vladimir answered, “Depart hence; our fathers accepted no such principle.”
The Jewish Khazars heard of these missions, and came themselves saying, “We have learned that Bulgars and Christians came hither to instruct you in their faiths. The Christians believe in him whom we crucified, but we believe in the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Then Vladimir inquired what their religion was. They replied that its tenets included circumcision, not eating pork or hare, and observing the Sabbath. The Prince then asked where their native land was, and they replied that it was in Jerusalem. When Vladimir inquired where that was, they made answer, “God was angry at our forefathers, and scattered us among the Gentiles on account of our sins. Our land was then given to the Christians.” The Prince then demanded, “How can you hope to teach others while you yourselves are cast out and scattered abroad by the hand of God? If God loved you and your faith, you would not be thus dispersed in foreign lands. Do you expect us to accept that fate also?”
Then the Greeks sent Vladimir a scholar, who spoke thus: “We have heard that Bulgarians came and urged you to adopt their faith, which pollutes heaven and earth. They are accursed above all men, like Sodom and Gomorrah, upon which the Lord let fall burning stones, and which he buried and submerged. The day of destruction likewise awaits these men, on which the Lord will come to judge the earth, and destroy all those who do evil and abomination… The women also perform this same abomination and worse ones.” Vladimir, upon hearing these statements, spat upon the earth, saying, “This is a vile thing.”
Then the scholar said, “We have likewise heard how men came from Rome to convert you to their faith. It differs but little from ours, for they commune with wafers, called oplatki, which God did not give them, for he ordained that we should commune with bread. For when he had taken bread, the Lord gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘This is my body broken for you.’ Likewise, he took the cup, and said, ‘This is my blood of the New Testament.’ They do not so act, for they have modified the faith.” Then Vladimir remarked that the Jews had come into his presence and stated that the Germans and the Greeks believed in him whom they crucified. To this the scholar replied, “Of a truth we believe in him. For some of the prophets foretold that God should be incarnate, and others that he should be crucified and buried, but arise on the third day and ascend into heaven. For the the Jews killed the prophets, and still others they persecuted. When their prophecy was fulfilled, our Lord came down to earth, was crucified, arose again, and ascended into heaven. He awaited their repentance for forty-six years, but they did not repent, so that the Lord let loose the Romans upon them. Their cities were destroyed, and they were scattered among the gentiles, under whom they are now in servitude.”
Vladimir then inquired why God should have descended to earth and should have endured such pain. The scholar then answered and said, “If you are desirous of hearing the story, I shall tell you from the beginning why God descended to earth.” Vladimir replied, “Gladly I would hear it.” Whereupon the scholar began his narrative… (The Russian Primary Chronicle)
The rest is history…
You have raised many questions and asked my opinion on various issues; whole books can be written on each of them; therefore, I have to be very brief, as brief as possible.
The attitude towards the non-orthodox Christian world, first and foremost, one must establish oneself in Orthodoxy with one’s mind and heart and life: in it’s Holy Mysteries and holy virtues; thereby catholicizing oneself, one’s mind and heart and life; living constantly with “all the saints” for this is only way to know divine-human depths and heights and breadth of everything belonging to Christ: to live “with all the saints” = to think “with all the saints” = to feel “with all the saints” = to pray “with all the saints” = to love “with all the saints”. Only in this way the holy and infallible criterion of Truth is provided = of the Church of Christ which invariably is the Hypostatic Truth of Christ the God-man, neither anyone or anything other than Him: “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
…”Ecumenisms” are in fashion. But, it seems to me, the most important thing therein is being overlooked: Ecumenism of the Theanthropic Truth is heart of Theanthropic Orthodox ecumenism, which invariably is the Hypostasis of the God-man Christ, in its cosmic, pan-cosmic, above-cosmic and all-embracing omneity as well as in its historical concreteness. On no account can man, or anything human, be a criterion, a symbol, or a concretum of ecumenism. Man, whoever he may be, can never be a criterion, for this but only and always the God-man. The entire tragedy of the West resides in its rejection of Christ’s God-manhood, both as modus vivendi and modus cognoscendi, through various kinds of hominisms and humanisms. (Letter Dec. 25, 1964)
Orthodox people must care for the dissemination of the Orthodox faith among the heterodox. Christ the Savior said that men lighting a lamp do not put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house (Mat. 5:15). The light of Orthodoxy also is not lit for a small circle of people. No, the Orthodox faith is catholic; it remembers the commandment of its Founder: ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. Make disciples of all nations’ (Mk. 16:15, Mat. 28:19). It is our obligation to share our spiritual treasures, our truth, our light and our joy with those who do not have these gifts. And this duty lies not only on pastors and missionaries, but also on lay people, for the Church of Christ, in wise comparison of St. Paul, is a body, and in the life of the body every member takes part.
For each of us the dissemination of the Christian faith must be a favorite task, close to our hearts and precious to us; in this task each member of the Church must take an active part — some by personal missionary effort, some by monetary support and service to the ‘needs of the saints’, and some by prayer to the Lord that He might ‘establish and increase His Church’ and that He might ‘teach the word of truth’ to those who do not know Christ, might ‘reveal to them the Gospel of righteousness, unite them to His Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. (Sunday March 17, 1907 Farewell Sermon)
Fanaticism has nothing to do with Christ. Be a true Christian. Then you won’t leap to conclusions about anybody, but your love will ‘cover all things’ (1 Cor. 13:7). Even to a person of another religion you will always act as a Christian. That is to say, you will show respect for him in a gracious manner irrespective of his religion. You will care for a Muslim when he is in need, speak to him and keep company with him. There must be respect for the freedom of the other person. Just as Christ stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20) and does not force an entry, but waits for the soul to accept Him freely on its own, so we should stand in the same way in relation to every soul.
In our missionary endeavor we need to employ a very delicate manner so that people accept what we are offering, whether it be words, books, whatever, without reacting negatively. And something else: use few words. Words often provoke irritation. Prayer and living example find resonance. Living faith moves people, regenerates them and changes them, whereas words alone remain fruitless. The best form of mission is through our good example, our love and meekness. (Wounded by Love, pg. 187)
Tell me, do you behold this venerable constitution of the Church? Do you view her order and discipline, the reading of Scriptures, the presence of the ordained, the course of instruction? Be abashed at the place, and be taught by what you see. Go out opportunely now, and enter most opportunely tomorrow…Possibly, too you have come on another pretext. It is possible that a man is wishing to pay court to a woman, and came hither on that account. The remark applies in like manner to women also in their turn. A slave also perhaps wishes to please his master, and a friend his friend. I accept this bait for the hook, and welcome you, though you came with an evil purpose, yet as one to be saved by a good hope. Perhaps you knew not whither you were coming, nor in what kind of net you are taken. You have come within the Church’s nets : be taken alive, flee not: for Jesus is angling for you, not in order to kill, but by killing to make alive: for you must die and rise again. For you have heard the Apostle say, Dead indeed unto sin, but living unto righteousness . Die to your sins, and live to righteousness, live from this very day. (Procatechesis, 3-5)
Striving for unification [in faith] is the obligation of all those who have a zeal for the Word of God. Such unification should be expressed first of all in freeing our souls not only from all feelings of ill-will toward those not of a like mind, but also from efforts in our own minds to prove them wrong. On the contrary, he among us will be more pleasing to God who put forward an effort to clarify everything that unites us and that will strive not to reduce the number of such truths, but possibly to increase them, and especially in relation to those Christian bodies and confessions that come to meet our Church in friendship. (Zhizneopisanie Blazheneishego Antoniia (…) 7 (New York, 1961), 85.)
…[S]ome zealots began to condemn the Slavic books, contending that it was not right for any other nation to have its own alphabet apart from the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Latins, according to Pilate’s superscription, which he composed for the Lord’s Cross. When the Pope at Rome heard of this situation, he rebuked those who murmured against Slavic books, saying:
“Let the word of Scripture be fulfilled that ‘all nations shall praise God’ (Ps. 71:17), and likewise that ‘all nations shall declare the majesty of God according as the Holy Spirit shall grant them to speak’ (Acts 2:4). Whosoever condemns the Slavic writing shall be excluded from the Church until he mend his ways. For such men are not sheep but wolves; by their fruits ye shall know them and guard aginst them. Children of God, hearken unto His teachings, and depart not from the ecclesiastical rule which Methodius your teacher has appointed to you.” (The Russian Primary Chronicle, 25)
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 prayer and liturgical life. This much is ground-work 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. (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ: The Inward Mission of Our Church pp. 30-31)
The Gospel of Christ must be preached throughout the world in an Orthodox context. Only then will the end come. (Blessed John Wonder-worker of San Francisco, Again Magazine December 1993 Page 27-31 Source)
Our salvation does not depend merely on faith of the heart. The Lord teaches, Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Which is in heaven. Furthermore, the divine Apostle tells us, With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. If God and the Prophets and Apostles command that the mystery of faith which is the salvation of the whole world be confessed openly, then our salvation is hindered when its proclamation is forbidden. (St. Dimitri Rostov: Life of St. Maximus)
Nor is the account of St. Gregory, which has been handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, to be passed by in silence, in relation to his motives for taking such interest in the salvation of our nation. It is reported, that some merchants, having just arrived at Rome on a certain day, exposed many things for sale in the marketplace, and abundance of people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and, among other things, some boys were set to sale, their bodies white, their countenances beautiful, and their hair very fine. Having viewed them, he asked, as is said, from what country or nation they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were of such personal appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism? and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness is possessed of men of such fair countenances; and that being remarkable for such graceful aspects, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, for they have an Angelic face, and it becomes such to be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name,” proceeded he, “of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “withdrawn from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?” They told him his name was Ælla: and he, alluding to the name said, “Hallelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.”
Then repairing to the bishop of the Roman apostolical see (for he was not himself then made pope), he entreated him to send some ministers of the word into Britain to the nation of the English, by whom it might be converted to Christ; declaring himself ready to undertake that work, by the assistance of God, if the apostolic pope should think fit to have it so done. Which not being then able to perform, because, though the pope was willing to grant his request, yet the citizens of Rome could not be brought to consent that so noble, so renowned, and so learned a man should depart the city; as soon as he was himself made pope, he perfected the long-desired work, sending other preachers, but himself by his prayers and exhortations assisting the preaching, that it might be successful. This account, as we have received it from the ancients, we have thought fit to insert in our Ecclesiastical History. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 2.1)