"Theology-Mission and Pastoral Care"


By Archbishop Anastasios Tirana, Durrës and All Albania

From The Second International Conference of Orthodox Theological Schools (1976)

Theological thought gives expression and direction to the practice of the Church, whereas direct contact with life and specific problems that are of immediate concern to the Church militant constantly brings to light new matters for, and inspires new forms of, theological investigation. But although this would seem to be self-evident, it is not always clearly felt to be so in day to day reality. In many local Orthodox Churches there is a veiled separation between these two aspects of Church life and theological thought. Many theologians pursue their work without reference to the Church, while even more clergy hasten to exert their influence in a variety of directions with­out adequate theological thought or taking due account of the fact that the problems with which they are dealing are not as simple as they might seem. It is now time that we cease stop­ping short at the simple diagnosis of a lack of co-ordination between theological research and pastoral and missionary activity and move on rapidly to achieving their not only har­monious but also fruitful co-operation. Furthermore, with regard to academic theology, its traditional division into four distinct fields (those of biblical, historical, systematic, and pas­toral theology), and its presentation through various specialized courses, tend to create the impression that missionary and pas­toral work fall only into the exclusive domains of certain university departments, whereas, in the Orthodox tradition, the whole of theology is, and must be, orientated towards the "expression of the self-awareness of the Church as a whole as she seeks to achieve a more perfect fulfillment of her mission in the world.

The subject of this introduction is not Orthodox missionary and pastoral work in general, but an attempt to explore the main theme of our conference (and more especially its second section: "Theology as a manifestation of the presence of the Church in the world"), as it is related to missionary and pas­toral work. I shall, therefore, endeavor to examine some cru­cial aspects of the problem, and to stress their practical impli­cations, with a view to: a) clarifying the significance and the unity of missionary and pastoral tasks of the Church as they confront us today, b) the pin-pointing of certain sensitive and painful areas in the reality of the life of the Church today, and c) the stressing of the basic characteristics of Orthodox presence and witness.





1. In the past, the boundaries between “Christian” and “non-Christian” worlds were relatively well defined. Hence, we had the classical distinction between missionary work and pastoral care. The former referred to the 'non-Christian world' and involved preaching and conversion, whereas the latter was concerned with the spiritual edification and sanc­tification of the members of the Church. In our times, these simple patterns have been profoundly altered by new factors. The frontiers between ‘Christian’ and ‘non-Christian’ can no longer be represented by lines drawn across geographical maps. Moreover the boundaries between the presence and absence of the Faith are no longer permanent. Indeed, they even bisect so-called ‘Christian’ communities, in which one may find in­different and faithless souls. There are even boundaries divid­ing the heart of the individual Christian and his personal history and evolution. Many a ‘believer’ of yesterday today wavers between faith and faithlessness, while others, considered 'un­believers,' struggle on in hope between faithlessness and faith. The cry of the possessed child's father in the Gospel, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mk 9:24), is the typical cry of many Christians today.

The religious forms of the modern world are complex. For the sake of clarity in this presentation and to facilitate discus­sion, I have chosen to stress the broader forms, sometimes at the expense of finer distinction. From the Christian view­point we can distinguish diagrammatically a number of layers:

(a) The multitudes who have long belonged to other religious systems and whose cultures and consciences have been influenced by them. These are the hundreds of millions of people who live by the standards dictated by great religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Shintoism, etc. This composite body displays a number of important phenomenological dif­ferences, particularly between monotheistic, Prophetic religions, and the great Hindu systems.

(b) The vast number of people who reject all religious experience as something useless or harmful. Here again we can easily distinguish fanatical and aggressive groups who hate and fight every form of religious expression, as distinct from the larger masses who simply despise religion as occult and even anachronistic.

(c) A par­ticularly numerous group is made up of those who have broken away from their old religious beliefs and adopted the pace of the modern technological era with ever lessening reference to, or relationship with, religious ideas. This group also includes a variety of those holding attitudes dependent on the origin, form, and intensity of their religious subconscious. A major group among the religiously indifferent includes those with a Christian heritage. They are not seriously interested in any other faith. They still enjoy some Christian customs from a folklore point of view.

(d) Further, and not to be overlooked, is a group of people who have accepted the Gospel and are struggling (with frequent failures) to abide by it. The general crisis and confusion of the modern world extends into the Christian camp, giving rise to a peculiar ‘faithlessness of the faithful.’

The Church is “under an obligation to all these categories of people” (Rom. 1:14), to "testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). The significant problems connected with the dialectic relationship between faith and lack of faith in each of the above cases call of course for different frames of reference, methods and approaches in regard to missionary activity. The correct understanding of man's universal religious experience, as well as the interpretation of the great religious systems which still influence nearly half of mankind, are of basic importance. The attitude adopted by Christians towards non-Christian religious systems has varied greatly. It ranges from the entirely positive to the totally negative. To most Orthodox, religions represent mankind's persistent search for the highest reality and the profound mystery of his exis­tence. They bear some traces of God's manifestations (Theo­phania), along with traces of many modifications, changes and demonic influences. They are, to my mind, akin to accumula­tors of vital experience, intuitions, sublime inspirations, and charged with the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. They have helped to have light, or at least brought a reflection of the light, to shine upon the pathway of many nations.

But the most crucial subject for modern Orthodox theology is the phenomenon of secularization. Geocentric anthropocen­trism, by ignoring all transcendental values, draws down as into a whirlpool all thought and consciousness, all criteria for evaluating life, and all social, political, economic and cultural structures. This is a new type of `heresy' which radically al­ters the whole meaning of the world and the whole meaning of man, and which requires most thorough analysis and evaluation.

2. Orthodox theological thought of recent years has point­ed out and underlined some basic truths regarding the duty of Christians to bear witness "to all nations," i.e.:

(a) Mission is an essential part of the nature of the Church, and is the exten­sion in time and space of the work of Christ. It is the offering of Salvation to mankind, the continuous transfusion of a new quality of life into human society, "that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

(b) The Gospel is addressed to all peoples, and therefore the work of the Church remains incomplete as long as it is restricted to certain geographical areas or social classes. Its field of action is universal and is ac­tive in both the sectors that welcome the good tidings and those which at first may reject them.

(c) Mission was not the duty of only the first generations of Christians. It is the duty of Christians of all ages. The Church continues its mission des­pite the injuries inflicted upon her by heresies and the hard­ships imposed by persecutions. Witness is the expression of the vitality of the Church as well as a source of renewal and re­newed vigor.

(d) Even though missionary work in its most absolute form is undertaken by only some especially charis­matic people and those so authorized by the Church, it remains the duty of all members of the body of Christ. Everyone should contribute to and participate in it, whether it be directly or in­directly. It is an essential expression of the Orthodox ethos, whose main poles are the Resurrection and Pentecost.

(e) The purpose of mission is not to conquer the world or to impose the existence of a Christian state which exercises control over all men and all things, but the transmission to this world of the Word and grace of God by the power of the Spirit, and the revealing to the world of His glory which, in Christ, ‘is and is to come.’ Its aim is not to increase the power of an established Church, but to constitute a ministry offered to the world in all humility and aiming at `its salvation.' Its aim is the realiza­tion of the presence of God (Who is love).

(f) Since the end of history is the coming of the kingdom of God, and a prere­quisite of His Parousia is the preaching of the Gospel "through­out the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (Mt 24:14), mission constitutes a basic function of history and one that has eschatological dimensions.

3. The continuous offering of the Gospel, however, refers not only to external dimensions of the earth but also to the inner depths of each human existence and to the transforma­tion of each human soul. The Church grows both by acquiring new members and by enabling those already baptized to acquire a deeper experience of the mysteries of life and love. If in the first case there is a type of growth that is quantitative, in the second the growth could be called ‘qualitative.’ It is also with this ‘qualitative’ type of growth that the pastoral responsibilities of the Church is concerned, "for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:12). Without pastoral care, the early life of the believer in Christianity, although born through the acceptance of the Gospel and baptism, remains anemic and languishes away. Like every form of life, life in Christ must conquer death daily. Grace and sin, progress upwards alternating with tragic backslidings are conditions familiar to us all. The character of Christian life is dynamic, with a continuous overcoming of the profane elements within us by means of the adhering of the soul to the Holy of Holies and by the sacramental participation in the Death and the Resurrection of Christ, and by our con­stant commendation of ourselves to Him. In the words of St. Basil: "The definition of Christianity is the imitation of Christ to the depths of His incarnation and in accordance with each man's vocation."7 With the specific aim of the continuous transformation in Christ of the faithful, "from one degree of glory to the other" (2 Cor 3:18), of their acquisition of the Holy Spirit, and finally of their ‘theosis.’ pastoral care constitutes the vertical dimension, in both height and depth, of the Christian struggle.

The `qualitative' growth of the local Church has immediate missionary implications. Not only because it is conducive to the creation of that healthy and dynamic body which transmits the Gospel spontaneously to its environment, but also because the genuine faith and love of one man has beneficial effects on the whole of mankind. This is the case because all men partake of a common human nature. In the characteristic expression of Seraphim of Sarov, "achieve peace within yourself, and thou­sands around you will find salvation."

The increase and strengthening of the Orthodox community are two parallel and concurrent activities. St. Paul epigram­matically told the elders of Ephesus that he "testified to both Jews and Greeks of repentance to God, and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," and at the same time "for three years" he "did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears" (Acts 20:21, 3 l ).

It is noteworthy that ‘pastoral’ terminology and imagery are also used in the New Testament with missionary overtones: "And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (Jn 10:16; cf. 1 Pet 2:25). These other sheep, men imprisoned in other systems and other `folds' of thought, already belong to the Lord of all; and they must `return' to His fold, which is the Church. Words like `return' or `turn to' are often used to designate conversion (Acts 15:3, 15:19). The categories `lost' and `gone astray' (Mt 18:12-13) include not only those who once came to the Church and then rejected it, but also those wandering in the dark woods of instinctive religion. The basic duty of the Church, there­fore, remains firstly to `seek' souls in each and every direction, and secondly to "save that which was lost."

The interdependence and mutually complementary charac­ter of mission and pastoral care is now evident. They both constitute one and the same task. Polarizations such as ‘inside,’ ‘outside,’ ‘we first, and others afterwards,’ between mission and pastoral care are especially today totally unjustifiable. It is not possible to overlook the need for serious internal pastoral care, but neither is it possible to allow immediate pastoral tasks to paralyze Christian witness all over the world, nor thereby to justify missionary inactivity. The correct formulation of the problem is not `either this or that,' but `both this and that.' "And you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).




When, however, after taking account of all theological con­siderations and analyses, we come to present-day reality, we find that our Church life displays many extremely painful and traumatic situations which dangerously inhibit both her mission and her pastoral activity. At ecumenical meetings many Ortho­dox theologians often tend to gloss over these situations, in silence, and to idealize conditions within the Orthodox Church. In a Pan-Orthodox theological conference like this, however, self-criticism and a solar view of realities should prevail. What follows does not necessarily apply to every one. There are, fortunately, some blessed exceptions. Naturally I do not propose to go into any of the root causes of our troubles in the few brief paragraphs of this presentation. This would require a long historical and sociological analysis. I shall, there­fore, limit myself to a few broad issues.

1. A certain weakness of sickliness can be detected in the body of the clergy, principal bearers of the Message. There is usually an enormous gap between descriptions of the great­ness of the sacerdotal mission and the reality we live with. Many of the clergy seem able to preach about one way of life and to live another. They appear as if they maintained a superficial, ceremonial-type of religiousness, without any real climate of love, spiritual sensitivity, or freedom. Critical ques­tions are anxiously awaiting responsible theological investiga­tion. What is it that prevents many workers in the Church from blossoming as personalities? What leads others to discourage­ment and despair? Why do serious people shrink from the priesthood? It is a common secret that many priests live under conditions where they suffer oppression and lack of freedom. Despite the sacramental character of the Church, some purely secular elements and a number of power factors are active with­in its organizational structures, and these sometimes transform the relationships between bishops and priests into something more like the relationships between feudal lords and serfs. My point is not to level charges against group A or group B (for, indeed, we bishops are ourselves the products of an estab­lished mentality), but to review the situation in the light of the true Orthodox tradition. The most painful aspect of the matter is that although many causes of the malady in question have long since been identified, the situation with regard to the clergy instead of improving is deteriorating. It is essential that we should investigate the possibility of adopting daring solu­tions, so that we may no longer be left with no alternative but the ordination of persons of low educational" and, unfor­tunately, not only of education standing.

As a springboard for discussion, a few ideas suggest them­selves: (a) The making possible of continuous and systematic education for the clergy to help them keep abreast of both new developments in the world and the unlimited experience of the Church, in an effort to prevent their becoming mere celebrants. (b) Careful preparation of clergy and laity for mis­sionary work in difficult areas within and outside their own countries. (c) The introduction of new structures that would permit priests to exercise other activities (such as those of doctor) alongside their priestly activities, and with freedom from obligations regarding their external appearance. (d) The ordination of deacons at a younger age with the possibility of marriage later on. The 20-35 year old age group might then be used freely for missionary work under the more difficult conditions. (e) The re-activation of some of the lower ranks of the clergy such as were active during the early centuries in order to help meet the contemporary pastoral requirements of mission areas.

Finally, it is wrong to overlook the human nature of the priest and the natural frailty of his character. We know what society expects of the priesthood and we know its severe judgments. In addition to giving descriptions of ideal models, theology should treat each member of the clergy with love, see him as a human being who has his personal struggles and is subject to weakness and disappointment, and concern itself seriously, with the problem of how he may be supported and assisted. Pastoral care for pastors is the most neglected area of pastoral activitv.

2. Further, our modern theology is often characterized by a certain spiritual slackness. It is often embodied in sterile academic forms and over-technical language. It fails to go very deep into the problems posed by science, by various currents of thought, by politics, or by the philosophies of Asiatic peoples and cultures which in our time exercise a peculiar charm and enchantment. At other times we are un­consciously held back by a fear of waking sleeping dogs, lest we incur the displeasure of the high and mighty, lest we jeo­pardize established privileges. Obsessions and personal con­flicts sometimes lead to polarizations. These become stumbling blocks to fruitful dialogue in which subjective opinions are set on one side in the interests of a higher synthesis. We often express views on subjects not sufficiently studied, views that have not been allowed to mature through protracted medi­tation and under the influence of silent worship in the Holy Spirit. Too often “we talk in a technical language instead of in that of a living theology.” We forget that the verbosity of rationalistic theology does not touch the people of God. Finally, an important question arises. From where stems the right and the possibility of theologians to theologize? Does it come from our theological degree or from our stud­ies? The implacable words of the psalmist "But to the wicked, God says: What right have you to recite my statutes," (Ps 49/50:16). These words, which induced Origen to descend in contrition from the pulpit, are of particular significance for many of us, who so easily pronounce theological judgments, without awe and with a most naive self-confidence. In the patristic tradition, purification (katharsis) is defined as a ne­cessary prerequisite of serious theology, of the "speaking of divine things."'-' Our theological thinking would undoubt­edly be of a quite different depth, quality, and warmth, if it developed in a climate of continuous metanoia, which is a transformation of the mind, a liberation from prejudice, a purification of the heart, sobriety (nepsis), and a sharing in (methexis) the universal experience of the Church.

3. Local and international living conditions plus the pace of life in large cities, coupled with world-wide communica­tions and mass media networks, and the close interdepend­ence among cities and nations have long since transformed the presuppositions upon which various organizational eccle­siastical patterns were based. Thus many administrative struc­tures prove insufficient and are unable to meet present-day requirements. I will refer to only two examples. Firstly, to the structure and the equipment of the parishes in the ‘dias­pora’ and in the big cities. In the former case, a parish ex­tends over dozens of square kilometers. In the latter case, a parish in a big city, for example in Athens, may include 30,000-50,000 inhabitants and make possible, in effect, no pastoral care. It is not only a problem of excessive numbers. The main difficulty arises from the pace of life, from our great mobility, from the possibility of forming relationships irres­pective of one's place of residence. The `parishioners' remain strangers to one another, and unknown to the priests. The character of the Eucharistic community has been radically altered and only a few symbolic rituals recall the idea of family life and communion in Christ.

Secondly, the problem of different jurisdictional areas sometimes has an inhibiting effect on missionary initiatives. The Churches with the largest numbers of Orthodox believers and, undoubtedly too, those most wealthy financially and in personnel, often regard the duty of mission as something not quite their business. They prefer to remain discreetly silent, rather than interfere with `alien' affairs. This, how­ever, gives rise to a theological problem: Is world-wide mis­sion the exclusive obligation of certain local Orthodox Church­es alone? Is it not necessary for all in the Orthodox Church to seek essential and effective co-operation? And what is the meaning of ‘jurisdiction?’ Do the Buddhists or the Moslems ‘belong’ to the jurisdiction of Church A or Church B? Or will they belong to these only as and when they are converted to Orthodoxy? Is indifference as to whether or not they be­come Christians to be construed as respect for another 'juris­diction'? I hasten to state that I am at present unable to sug­gest a satisfactory solution to these questions. Every `solution' in fact creates a new series of problems. It is just as unthink­able that national Orthodox Churches should intervene arbi­trarily in any part of the world as it is to consider the cre­ation of autonomous missionary societies in accordance with Western models. What is now imperative is that we should realize that solutions do not turn up of their own accord and that many possible opportunities are missed or bypassed. Solutions must be sought by means of systematic theological work and clear ecclesiastical planning. Under the leadership e.g. of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other competent Patriarchates such as those of Alexandria and Antioch, an all-Orthodox Committee for Mission might be set up. Its duty would be to study, plan and promote efforts in favor of Or­thodox witness on a world-wide scale, through realistic proposals, and that would make full use of Orthodox potential­ities. It is an established fact that each local Church contri­butes more willingly and more generously to any missionary work when it sees itself as a responsible participant, rather than as the financial sponsor of some distant, unknown and isolated parish.

4. There is a tendency for members of the Church as a whole to display a kind of somnolence, and this leads to inertia and passivity. It is very doubtful whether the faithful are in the main aware that the Church saves and transforms lives in the Holy Spirit. Their religious feelings often include elements of primitive awe when confronted with that which is mys­terious, with the numenous. Their religious psychology in re­lationship with the Divine is reminiscent of “do ut des.” The widespread conception that the clergy alone (and indeed only the clergy of a certain rank) are supposed to be the Church, creates one of the most dangerous of misconceptions. This leads to indifference in ecclesiastical matters and to irrespon­sibility. Thus, laymen who represent the overwhelming majority within the Church, instead of becoming co-workers in Christ in the common task of mission and edification, assume the role of spectators, judges and critics. Theology is called upon again and again” to proclaim and clarify the fact that all be­lievers are responsible for the life of the Church. They par­ticipate in its work, are limbs of the body that continues the work of Christ-the salvation of the whole world. The pres­ence of faithful laymen within the social structures of the life of the world offers inexhaustible opportunities for wit­ness, ministry, and the glorification of God.

A matter of resurgent interest today is the participation of women in the life of society (and women represent more than half the members of the Church and more than three quarters of those who attend church regularly). In certain aspects of Church life possibilities open to us in this field include the revival of the institution of deaconesses and a more extensive utilization of social workers, nuns, etc. The enormous con­tribution of women is particularly noticeable in areas under regimes hostile to the Church. The position of the Virgin Mary in the work of divine Economy, and the multi-faceted role of women saints in the life of the Church may open up vital new horizons for both reflection and action.

5. The limited time allotted to this presentation precludes any lengthy analysis. I must confess that I have not had the courage to touch on serious, hidden or very sensitive, wounds that exist in the life of the Church, and that in what I have said I have tried to use mild expressions. (Perhaps this kind of mildness is in itself a sign of a post-traumatic theological at­titude) At any rate, the fact remains that there are still many aspects of Church reality which might be considered `traumatic.' Such traumas include: (a) The various small or large comprom­ises in matters of conscience with those in power, with the economic, political, or other `establishment' of this world. (b) The use or abuse of the material resources and possibili­ties that are at the disposal of the Church. (c) The mistrust and difficulty of co-operation between those working for the Gospel. (d) Our inability to predict and to plan, our failures to understand the new conditions of human life, our slug­gishness and carelessness in implementing decisions. (e) The negative attitude of young people who regard the Church as slow in thought and slow to act, as being a religious 'estab­lishment' lacking inspiration, sensitivity or hope. (f) Excessive inconsistency in the behavior of ‘devout Christians,’ which causes `outsiders' seriously to doubt the effectiveness of the Gospel. (g) The divisions which have become a permanent characteristic of the Christian world and include not only the broad confessional clashes, but also antipathy and obsti­nacy between smaller groups within one confession. (h) The arbitrary and ' high handed administrative practices, on various pretexts, of some Church authorities. We are frequently heard to speak of the conciliarity of Orthodoxy, but in effect there is usually no such conciliarity either on the level of the `people of God,' or among the clergy, or even on the level of the Epis­copate. With our words we praise personal freedom and the `democratic' nature of the institutions and traditions of our Church, while in fact we choke in an atmosphere of a peculi­ar lack of freedom.

It is far healthier to make a courageous and sincere con­fession of the wounds and errors that in reality afflict our ecclesiastical history than to adopt the attitude that currently prevails among us, namely that of embellishing and idealizing that reality in order to justify ourselves in our own eyes as well as in the eyes of others.

Naturally there is also a risk that the recognition of these regrettable facts may well lead to intense open or latent gloom and all kinds of inhibitions. Over and above the diagnosis of the illnesses and the inhibitions, our theological thinking is called upon further to interpret their significance, to make suggestions as to how to heal the wounds we suffer from, and to lay powerful and hopeful emphasis on the fact that the body of the Church is given inexhaustible inner powers that can cure all her wounds. The struggle of the Church is of a nature that goes beyond the social and physical spheres and involves meta­physical dimensions: "For we are not contending against flesh and blood . . ." (Eph 6:12). As history proceeds towards its eschatological fulfillment, the confrontation between the powers of `darkness' and the disciples of Christ grows more dramatic. In our apocalyptic age, the powers of evil appear to be in the ascendant and it is no wonder that their actions strike at especially sensitive, neuralgic areas of the body of the Church. This tragedy element is a constant dimension of history, and the Cross pin-points and manifests its poignancy. It is the Cross that will remain till the end of time as the symbol and source of power of the Church. There is, of course, the ever present possibility of a failure of faith: "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Lk 18:8). Yet this thought must not lead us to "discouragement" but rather to vigilance-"Watch therefore" (Mk 13:35,37). The final word is God's, not His opponents' nor His betrayers': "And the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen, and faithful" (Rev 17:14).


III. Dynamic Presence and Witness in the World


The eschatological insight and certainty that are underlined again and again in Orthodox worship lend tranquility, power to resist, and spiritual equilibrium to the faithful, and in parti­cular to those who take an active part in the missionary and pastoral work of the Church, sustaining them in their course and ministry to the world. In this final section I will attempt to outline some basic characteristics of what would be a dyn­amic Orthodox presence and witness. Naturally, it is evident that the considerations here put forward will not cover the whole spectrum of relevant problems. They will simply throw a few rays of light on the most crucial aspects of the subject, that may eventually facilitate further investigation.

1. In the terrible confusion of ideas which marks our age, Christian preaching should be conceived of as the offering of a message of good tidings to each individual in the specific circumstances of his life, a message that meets his personal and immediate existential needs and experiences. If the mes­sage itself is one, universal and eternal, each man or woman who receives it lives in a specific situation and has different associations of ideas. In the past, in order that the mystery of salvation in Christ should be made available to the men and women of the early Christian era, it was necessary, for the presentation of the Gospel, to assimilate and make use of the categories of thought that were at that time familiar to all. This was accomplished mainly through theology. Today's city dweller, with his experience of the broad horizons opened up by the rapid advances of science and the possibilities prov­ided by technology and be recent social and political structures, is faced with incomparably wider and more intricate problems than the citizen of the Graeco-Roman or the Byzantine worlds. His sensitivities have changed. The old symbols have lost their immediate significance, e.g., to men familiar with religious sacrifices, such as were the ancient Jews, Greeks and Romans, the concept of expiation was existentially relevant. It is no longer so today.

Theology today, then, is faced with the old problem of how to express the eternal in terms of the temporal, but with the new problem of how to do so in terms comprehensible to modern man. But in order to tune into the wavelength of modern thinking, it is essential to comprehend the depths of the changes brought about by science, and to gain an under­standing of many newly created dimensions. Of most immediate importance are the sciences which deal with man and his history, and which reveal significant aspects of his psychosom­atic structure, i.e. sociology, anthropology, medicine with its various branches, and most important of all, psychology and psychotherapy. A serious evaluation and utilization of the find­ings of modern science (God's gift to man as seeker) is an obligation of missionary and pastoral workers and theology. But a sober evaluation and use of modern knowledge cannot be achieved by fragmentary or individual work. This will necessitate collective seeking and critical examination (think­ing `in ecclesia'), and not only this, but also the spreading of the work involved (e.g., the creation of specialized research centers in the various theological schools). Our schools will need to furnish a major effort so that we may study the most basic outstanding issues in common with scientists and special­ists in other fields. We will also need to organize inter-school co-operation, in order that our studies may acquire a world­wide perspective and may benefit from the experiences of mankind throughout the world.

There are certain `bridges' that can be used to help us ap­proach people of different religious customs and ideas, referred to in a preceding paragraph. These include: (a) Sensitivity to the existence of a transcendental reality, the vibration of our res­ponse to the tremors of man's religious experience in worship, of man's spiritual introspection, of his desire for salvation, of his encounters with the supra-rational and the Holy. (b) We can ‘get on to the same wave-length' as modern man by concerning ourselves with those problems of secularized man that deal with issues such as social justice, equality and free­dom, the transcending of individualism through a sense of social responsibility, the problem of world peace, the control of pollution of the physical-and spiritual-environment. (c) Finally, the search for fullness of life, sensitivity to man's trembling before the eternal riddle of death, and to the infin­itely broad theme of love which fills the foreground of man's interest, in spite of all the deviations, misconceptions and perversions to which it is subject.

Yet, any effort to understand `other' men remains nebulous and doomed to failure unless it be implanted in a specific, localized, and particular life situation. There is a revealing passage regarding the missionary and pastoral approach used by St. Paul: "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more " (1 Cor 9: 19-23; cf. 10:33). The rendering specific of the Gospel mes­sage and its `incarnation' in a local situation are basic elements of Christian witness. Worldwide mission cannot be successful unless it become highly specific, i.e. adapted to topical cir­cumstances.

Furthermore, the Christian message can retain both its eternal significance and its full, current relevance only when it is set forth "in the power of God" (l Cor 2:5), when it is pres­ented as a call to repentance and as judgment in a specific situation, as a bold protest against any illegitimate situation of injustice that conflicts with the will of God, and "His righ­teousness" (Mt 6:33). A message of good tidings which ignores suffering and sin in personal and social life and refers to the sal­vation of the world in general terms only is of questionable sincerity and credibility. "For the word of God is living and active" and penetrates the deepest roots of evil, "piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:12).

2. The term Gospel (good tidings) also means word of comfort. At the beginning of His activity the Lord stated, in the words of the messianic prophecy: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Lk 4:18; cf. Is 61:1). Later, as He went about preaching "the Gospel of the kingdom," Christ also relieved human suffering, both physical and mental, "healing every disease and every infirmity" (Mt 4:23). He thus revealed by His acts that the quintessence of His teach­ing and life is LOVE. The giving of comfort, consolation, and the support of souls became unto all time the task of the Holy Spirit, of the "Comforter."

The giving of comfort to people, both in times of great upheaval and in everyday circumstances and difficulties, has always been one of the main tasks of pastoral care (a task that reveals in concrete fact the charity and love of God which is thus manifest in the Church). All the great personalities of our Church, the christomimetoi (the imitators of Christ), the pneumatemphoroi (the bearers of the Holy Spirit), in addition to their prophetic preaching aiming at an overall change in society, have taken pains to comfort specific individuals, to relieve the distressed, the humble, and victims of injustice.

The oppression of and contempt for man continue in our days on various pretexts by unjust social structures. There are situations inherent in the nature of man, i.e. sickness, death, failure, passions of the soul. Wherever we look, we find hunger and thirst for a word of mercy, an act of comfort: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jeru­salem, and cry to her" (Is 40:1-2). No amount of government initiatives and expenditure in the area of social welfare will ever eliminate human problems and suffering. Every kind of sadness and grief, inner conflicts, feelings of guilt following on the intricate circuits of sin, will always afflict the human condition in various forms and due to various causes. If the poor are deprived and bitter, there are also many rich men starved of truth, and crying out for love and meaning in their life; and there is always the need of all men for balance and for liberation from the tyranny of the ‘ego.’

So, whoever truly wants to follow Him, who "went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil" (Acts 10:38), must keep continuous vigil, so that he may al­ways be ready to offer comfort and help to any person permanently or accidentally set on his path, and to plan for broad­er action against any open or concealed sickness that afflicts society. Such an active attitude towards contemporary life will give new impulses towards the radical revision of our theolog­ical concerns.

3. The work of Christ, which is continued by the Church, has always been the dissolution and destruction of the work of the devil (1 Jn 3:8). Kenosis and the Cross have always been prerequisites for this elimination of evil. The willing and patient acceptance of pain and the cross (Mk 8:34), in complete obedience to the will of God, in love and the hope of Resurrec­tion, is consistently emphasized in the Orthodox tradition and is the secret of any profound knowledge of Christ: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" (Phil 3:10). This kind of ‘knowledge,' ‘power;' ‘sharing,' and- 'likeness has always been at the base of a life of sobriety, temperance, spiritual hesychia, humility, love, and freedom. It is true that the ascetic ideal and experience culminated in monasticism, but it had a wider effect, in that it impregnated the conscience of the members of the Orthodox Church, ensuring their power of resistance in time of adversity, and their spiritual balance. It was not the product of any dualistic concept which holds the body in contempt, nor of any reservations concerning the value of present day life such as we find in Hinduism or Bud­dhism; nor was it moralistic in nature. It has remained deeply theological, radically based on continuous reference to the facts of Kenosis, Crucifixion, Resurrection, expectation of the End, contemplation of the One. The diminishing of the ascetic spirit in the everyday life of the Church, the very superficial guidance of the faithful by .the use of  the byproducts of moralistically edifying writings, "the ignoring of the experience of the saints which often remains unmentioned and unreferred to by theologians; are undoubtedly some of the more serious weaknesses of our times. The full wisdom of- the Orthodox Church needs to be more closely incorporated in every way in the everyday thought and life of the Church. This wisdom contains treasures of the highest psychological significance for modern man.

The ascetic ideal of Orthodoxy is of extreme relevance also in this age. Alongside the current strong tendencies towards hedonism, there is a marked awareness of the value of ascesis in many other areas of life. Spectacular achievements in the sciences, sports, the arts, etc. have been the result of systematic, persistent, and well-planned ascetic self-discipline. The multi­fold importance of monasteries is very evident in this connec­tion. Monasteries have always been beacons of missionary en­lightenment, invaluable power-houses of pastoral care. If people in general, and pastors and theologians in particular, made a regular practice of retiring every now and then into silent retreat, meditation, ascetic practice and prayer, to re­fresh their thinking and renew their mental and spiritual health, the results would certainly be of great benefit. All those who ever made a significant contribution to mission and the pastoral ministry of the Church lived in ascetic vigilance, compunction and penitence, in unceasing struggle against the dark abysses of the human ego. Some pursued their ascetic struggle in the desert, others in the cities. Continuous, relentless, persistent personal struggle `in the Holy Spirit' has always been the source of the spiritual impact of men of God.

4. The culmination of the dynamic, transfiguring presence of the Church in the world lies in the fact that it mysteriously and sacramentally raises human life to the point where it becomes an offering and sacrifice to God. The liturgical ex­perience of Orthodoxy has immediate and direct pastoral and missionary implications. It liberates the believer from his narrow patterns of thought, from his passions, and most of all from his suffocating egoism. It unites him with Christ, and with the whole Ecclesia of the faithful, with all those who have lived and conquered, who live now and who will live in the future; in other words, with all those whom He, "who is, who was and who is to come" holds and enfolds in His love. It transfigures him until he becomes a living member of the body of Christ, ready and able to envisage the world and to act in the way in which He did.

Orthodox theology, if we can once achieve the co-opera­tion of all clergy in positions of responsibility, can contribute to increasing the expressiveness of the Church's forms of wor­ship and this with a view to achieving a direct existential relationship between worship and the Word, to safeguarding wor­ship as logike latreia (Rom 12:1) that is preserving its exis­tential relationship with the Logos. For our aim must be to prevent worship from degenerating into mere religious emo­tionality or nostalgic escapism into the past, so as to enable it instead to foster our doxological uplifting of today and to sus­tain us in our waiting upon the morrow-that is already nearer to the eschaton.

Above all, theology is called upon to complement Orthodox worship by highlighting the ultimate bond that exists between the liturgical experience of the Christian and his dynamic presence in the world. Any separation between the experience of worship and everyday life leads, in effect, to a falsification of Christianity and to schizophrenic tendencies in the faithful. Since conscious participation in the life of worship of the Church constitutes a participation in that specific act which liberates man through the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ from the powers of the Evil One, a prolongation of the efficacy of the divine liturgy into the everyday life of the Christian implies a continuing struggle against those negative powers that are always active within us as well as within society. That which is experienced during worship should find its ex­pression in everyday personal and social life. Thus, the liturgy is transfigured into life, and life becomes worship, hymn, doxol­ogy, and the glorification of God.

In the periods of especial difficulty for Orthodoxy (such as that of the Turkish occupation, or that of the pressures of atheistic regimes), the liturgical life of the faithful has strength­ened their powers of resistance and ensured the survival and increasing vigor of local Churches. Through the Eucharist the faithful experience the `Passover of the Lord' and enter into a continuing passing over and exodus from their state of weak­ness into an experience of the power given in Christ. It is a Passover from disillusionment to joy and `the expectation of hope,' from inactivity and irresponsibility to responsible wit­ness and a dynamic presence in the world.

The classical definition of Vincent of Lerins states that that which is 'catholic’ – that which we may call orthodox ­is that "quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditumest." Basing ourselves on this definition, we may say that, ideally, missionary activity is the task of "all, always and everywhere." The local Church is of course mainly responsible for bearing living witness to the faith in its own area. But it must not overlook the injustice perpetrated when so many other parts of the world remain starving for the word of God. It is an elementary principle of justice that all men have equal rights to all good things, and this includes the spiritual. Mis­sion and pastoral care are closely interrelated functions of the ministry of the Church which has as its essential aim the "seek­ing and saving the lost." Since the Church is carrying on the work of Christ, it cannot confine its `saving' to circumscribed areas and structures. It must seek all those who have `gone astray.' And `seeking' involves an exodus, a `passing over' (based on the experience of the `Passover' of the Lord), from the static patterns and inhibitions of conventional situations and attitudes, into a patient advance towards a meeting with the infinitely varied situations and activities of the world. The perennial task of the Church remains its duty to be present and to bear witness in every `here' and in every `now,' and always in the power of God, thus constituting in herself, as it were, an incarnate `paraclesis,' an incarnate Eucharistic hymn, constantly chanted among men, with sobriety and ascetic vigilance. and on behalf of the whole universe.





1. For a historical outline of various Christian approaches to other religions and a detailed bibliography see: A. Yannoulatos, Various Christian Approaches to Other Religions. A Historical Outline. (Athens, 1971). There is ,a more general theological consideration of the matter by the same author and in the light of present day discussions in "Towards World Community" (paper presented at the Multilateral Dialogue between Men of Living Faiths, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 17-24 April, 1974, see Ecumenical Review 26(1974), 619-36; see also the enlarged edition of "Towards a `Koinonia Agapes"'. S.J. Samartha, Tovxrds World Community; the Colombo Papers (Geneva, 1975), 45-64. For other characteristic Orthodox views see N. Arseniev, Revelation of Life Eternal (New York, 1965), esp. pp. 27-29. L. Philippidis, Religionsgeschichte als Heilsgeschichte in der Weltgeschichte (Athens, 1953); Idem, Contemporary Religious Movements Towards the Unity of All Men (Athens, 1966) in Greek; G. Khodre, "Christianity in a Pluralistic World-The Eco­nomy of the Holy Spirit," Ecumenical Review 23(1971), 118-28. E. Vasilescu, "La thëologie orthodox roumaine dans ses rapports avec les religions non-chr6­tiennes," De la thëologie orthodox roumaine des origines a nos jours, ed. par 1'Eglise Orthodox Roumaine (Bucarest, 1974), 376-91


2. For an analysis of the meaning and character of secularization from a Western viewpoint see ff. Cox, The Secular City. Secularization and Urbanization in Theo­logical Perspective (New York, 1965) and symposia: J.F. Children-D.B. Harned (eds.), Secularization and the Protestant Prospect (Philadelphia, 1970). J. Morel (ed.), Glaube and Sakularisierung (Innsbruck-Vienna-Munich, Wien, 1972). For Orthodox essays on various aspects of the issue see: S. Agourides, The Gospel and the Modern World (Thessalonike, 1970) in Greek. K. Papapetrou, "Die Sakulari­cation and die Orthodoxe Kirche Griechenlands,"Kyrios 3(1963), 193-205. O Clem­t, Theology after the 'death of God' (Athens, 1973) in Greek.


3. In our generation, to revive Orthodox Overseas Mission efforts and relevant the-' ological research commenced within the Orthodox Youth movement and more specifically within the international organization "Syndesmos" (1959), and with the establishment of the Inter-Orthodox Centre "Porefthendes"(1961) as well as the publication of a periodical under the same name in Greek and English. This was followed by missionary work undertaken by a few members of the clergy in Africa, and by a general increase in activity oil the part of the Patriarchate of Alexan­dria (the establishment of new metropolitan dioceses, etc.). Later on, some new basic institutions were also introduced into the formal administrative structure of the Church of Greece (This was largely the result of the work of the leading members of "Pore fthendes"). These include the Department for Mission of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece and an "Overseas Mission Week" (since (1968), the Insti­tute of Missionary Studies at the Theological School of Athens University (1969)). In other Greek cities associations were formed to provide support for overseas mission (e.g., "The Friends of Uganda" (later: society of Orthodox Foreign Missions in Thessalonike, the Association of Orthodox External Mission "Piotokletos" (1975) in Patras; both of which publish their own periodicals).


4. See articles published in "Pore fthendes-Go Ye"     1959-1969. See also A. Schmemann, "The Missionary Imperative in the Orthodox Tradition," The Theol­ogy of the Christian Mission, ed. G.H. Anderson (New York, 1961), 250-57; N. Nissiotis, "The Ecclesiological Foundation of Mission," The Creek Orthodox Theo­logical Review, 8 (1962), 22-52. A. Yannoulatos, "Orthodoxy and Mission," St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly 8(1964), 139-48. Idem, "The Purpose and Motive of Mission-From an Orthodox Point of View." International Review of Missions 54(1965), 298-307. Idems, "Missions orthodoxes," Parole et Mission 8(1965), 5­18. Idem, "Reflexions d'un Orthodoxy sur la coop6ration interconfessionnelle dans la Mission," Oecumenisme en Mission, 40e Semaine de Missiologie de Louvain (1970), 101-10. Idem, "Les Missions des Eglises d'orient," Encyclopaedia Universalis 11 (1972), 99-102. Idem, Considerations on Orthodox Foreign Mission (Athens, 1969). Idem, Indifference to Mission isa Denial of Orthodoxy (Athens, 1972, 1973) in Greek. H. Voulgarakes, Mission According to the Greek Texts From 1821 to 1917 (Athens, 1971) in Greek. See also presentations to "The Second International Con­ference of Orthodoxy Theology: `The Catholicity of the Church,' St. Vladimir's Seminary, September, 1972," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 17(1973), Nos. 1-2. Basic views on mission are summarized in the conclusions of various Orthodox theological conferences organized by the W.C.C.; Athens-Pendeli, May 1972, "Sal­vation in Orthodox Theology," Bucharest -Cernica, June, 1974, "Confessing Jesus Christ Today" in Orthodox Theology, cf. International Review of' Missions 64 (1975), 67-94. Etchmiadzine-Armenia, Sptember 1975, "Confessing Christ through Liturgical Life of the Church Today." For the former two cf. also Orthodox Contri­butions to Nairobi (Papers Compiled and Presented by The Orthodox Task Force of the WCC-Geneva 1975). The three texts have been recently published in French in Contacts 27(1975), No. 92. For a concise presentation of views regarding mission and Christian witness generally in ecumenical circles see Reports of the Bangkok Conference oil Salvation Today: Bangkok Assembly 1973 (Geneva, 1973). "Sym­posium on Evangelism," International Review of Mission 63(1974), No. 249. D.M­Paton (ed.), Breaking Barriers (Nairobi, 1975): The Official Report of the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Nairobi, 23 November---10 December, 1975 (London, Grand Rapids, 1976), esp. pp. 41-57, 70-85. "The Nairobi Assembly; Implication for Mission," International Review of Mission 65(1976), No. 257.


5. Among general works on pastoral care see K. Mouratides, Christocentric Pastoral Care in the Ascetic Treatises of St Basil the Great (Athens, 1969) in Greek. In the area of pastoral psychology see J. Kornarakes, The Problem of the Rela­tionship between Pastoral Care and Psychotherapy from the Orthodox Viewpoint (Athens, 1957) in Greek. Idem, Elements of the Psychology of mystical Spirituality (Thessalonike, 1963) in Greek. For specific subjects see G. Kapsanes, The Church's Pastoral Care of the Imprisoned (Athens, 1969) in Greek. Idem, Pastoral Care Ac­cording to the Holy Canons (Piraeus, 1976) in Greek. A. Stavropoulos, Pastoral Care for Fiances (Athens, 1973) in Greek. For tendencies in Roumanian Theology see Al. Moisiu, "Problëms de thëologie pastorale dans la litt6rature th6ologique de ces derniëres d6cennies," De la thëologie orthodox roumaine des origines a nos fours (Bucharest, 1974),440-52.

6. The text of Eph 4:11-15 expresses in a clear and deeply moving manner the orientation of the 'apostolic,' 'evangelistic,' 'pastoral' task.

7. St. Basil, Regulas fusius tractatae (Detailed Rules), PG 31:1028 BC. For a relevant analysis see: K. Mouratides, op. cit., p. 96 ff.

8. Among other works on the subject see: L.Lossky, 7Aëologie mystique de 1 Fglise d'Orient (Paris, 1944). J. Gross, La divination du chrëtien d'apres les Përes grecs (Paris, 1938). A. Theodorou, 7heosis in the Teachings of the Greek Fathers of the Church up to John Damascene (Athens, 1956) in Greek. P. Bratsiotes,Die Lehre der orthodoxen Kirche uber die Theosis des Menschen (Brussels, 1961). M. Lot-der orthodoxen Kirche uber die Theosis des Menschen (Brussels, 1961), M. Lot­Borodine, La dëification de 1'hornme scion la doctrine des Përes grecs (Paris, 1970). G. Mantzarides, 77re Doctrine of the 7heosis of Mar: according to Gregory Mamas (T'hessalonike, 1963) in Greek.

9. Irene Gorainoff, St. Seraphim of Sarov, transl. P.K. Skouteris (Athens, 1975) in Greek, 255.

12. Cf. Hindrances to Marriage. Suggestions of the Church of Greece to the Pan-Orthodox Synod (Athens, 1971) in Greek, 88.

13. "in the Holy Spirit (are found) the riches of the knowledge of God, the con­templation (of the divine) and wisdom. For in Him (the Holy Spirit) the Word reveals all dogmas concerning the Father" (Theodore Studites, Gradual Antiphons, Paracletike, Sunday Matins, 3rd Gradual Antiphon, 4th tone.


14. St. Basil, Epistle 90, PG 32: 473B. With regard to the patristic view in general, see K. Souteres, The Meaning of the Terms 'Theology,' 'theologize'and 'theologian' in the Doctrine of the Greek lathers and Ecclesiastical Writers up to the Cappado