Archpastoral Reflections - April 2008
Apr 15, 2008
As we continue our series of reflections on the topic of renewal, we encounter a specific area that is in certain need of constant renewal. This is the area of our everyday life, of the manner by which we lead our lives. Practically, this is the issue of what is called “lifestyle.” In this case a pertinent, two-fold question arises, “What is our lifestyle, and how can it be renewed?”
Today, we are presented with many choices that we can make in terms of how we may lead our lives and define our lifestyle. In many respects, we are engulfed by social influences and socially constructed value systems that pressure us. For example, there are lifestyles centered around and determined by the desire to acquire, by all means, as much money and property as is possible, or even impossible. Here, greed is the dominant motivation behind this lifestyle.
There are lifestyles characterized by the pursuit of personal power. Here, we concern ourselves with anything in terms of social position, physical condition, the usage of force and even violence, or any other element that contributes to the increase of power and dominion over others. These are the basic characteristics of lifestyles focused on acquiring control by force and power.
There are also lifestyles oriented towards pleasure as the basic principle and supreme value for human beings. This lifestyle frequently involves acts of corruption, immorality, and, ultimately, a slavery to one’s senses and to their immediate and absolute satisfaction.
In view of the above mentioned lifestyles, where do we stand? Is our lifestyle a mixture, to a certain degree, of lifestyles based on greed, power, and pleasure; with the addition of some Christian elements that, when all is considered, cannot constitute determining values that guide our lives? This is a question worth serious consideration.
In addressing this and other related questions pertaining to lifestyle, it is essential to stress that the model lifestyle for us to emulate as Orthodox Christians is offered by Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Saints, and the Martyrs. Upon closer examination, the Christian lifestyle is characterized by three central characteristics.
The first of these characteristics is a deep and genuine love for God. This is manifested by freely submitting to following the will of God. It is also exhibited through the genuine worship of God. The second of these characteristics is a profound love for our fellow human beings. This is demonstrated by the rendering of assistance to those who are in need and by recognizing the importance of promoting peaceful relationships among others. A third characteristic of the Christian lifestyle is the projection of the Truth of God. This is done through a genuine witness to the Holy Gospel through the vocal proclamation of God’s Word, and through the inclusion of the message of the Gospel in everyday conversations with others.
The adoption of the Christian lifestyle is by no means an easy task, due to the various societal influences and pressures previously mentioned. As difficult as it may be to live an authentic Christian lifestyle, however, we may take great comfort in knowing that we are always assisted by the grace of God, by the sacraments of the Church, and by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit as we strive to be more and more like Christ, His Apostles, the Saints, and the Martyrs.
Finally, the development of a truly Orthodox Christian lifestyle is never a task that is complete; rather, it is an ongoing metamorphosis of mind that requires our state of being in constant renewal. Here, the words of Saint Paul to the Romans continue to speak with striking relevance to the realities of our contemporary society, and they artfully serve as a fitting conclusion to the core intent of this brief reflection: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). This is a beautiful, precise, and eloquent call describing the challenges and responsibilities of living the Christian lifestyle. We can, and we should, embrace these words as we work toward the ongoing renewal of our own lifestyles.
Archbishop of America