At his recent enthronement Metropolitan William addressed an important question that he was asked. He was asked what is the most serious problem that his church faces. His response was the following:"We need to present Jesus Christ in a way that touches the lives of our people..in the same way our beautiful liturgy has been translated in the many languages of the people of many different countries we need a new method for teaching the faith that opens the mind to a deeper understanding of the spiritual life... God has not changed but..the world has radically changed....the cool things that we have received from technology have chilled and dulled our ability to see God" he then speaks about the his plans for renewal and states "the work begins today".
The question we need ask ourselves now is how can we contribute to the work the Metropolitan spoke of. It is obvious that what might have worked in the past in our churches might not work in our modern time or in our current circumstances. Metropolitan William suggested looking for new ways to discover Christ and finding new methods in which to present him to others. Even though the gospel never changes our God is always presenting new ways for us to encounter him. It's up to us to look for these moments in which God makes himself known or even be open to him letting others discover him by our actions. The spirituality of our Byzantine tradition must be open and ready to speak to the experiences of the everyday man.
Do to various circumstances and sin we tend to forget what our tradition is all about. This is why our new chief shepherd Metropolitan William has called for renewal. In his words you can hear what many other shepherds have been saying, which is a call to a New Evangelization of the Church. As Metropolitan William said "God has not changed " but pointed out that the world has. This why our shepherds refer to a "NEW" evangelization. It not new in content but its new its approach and application or methods. In this regard I have a few suggestions, which are based in Blessed John Paul the Great's teachings from Novo Millenno Ineunte.
Before any Evangelization or Renewal takes place it's important that we first become honest with ourselves.Our Byzantine tradition teaches us that we are called to become everything that God is by grace and make this grace available to others. In many ways we often fall short of this call and even at times we have failed to make this call known to others. After an honest estimation of our spirituality we can then ask God for the help to change. In a prayer such as this you will find that God is more than eager to forgive us and give us not only the power to change but also the power to change the world.
Even though we might take that first step of honesty we must expect that God wants actions. Desire and a simple prayer is not enough to change ourselves let alone our churches. God will respond to your desire but in turn he gives you power to facilitate an ongoing encounter with himself. In response, it's important that we set special times of each day aside, while learning to pray continuously, where we invoke God in more focused way. For some this daily experience is known as a prayer time or holy hour. Its during this time with God that a person develops in intimacy in a similar way that we do by spending individual time with a friend or a loved one.
In addition to having a time in prayer each day its important to become acquainted with the mind of Christ. Many fathers of our Church have expressed in great detail that the only way to really known God's identity is by the Sacred Scriptures. As our Pope has been known for saying on many occasions echoing many other saints, "ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ". You don't have to be a bible scholar to understand some of the fundamental concepts of Holy Scripture. There are many translations and even bible studies that make knowing the fundamentals of Holy Scripture easy to grasp. Also, it's even possible to read with ease the scriptures that are used with our liturgical cycles that often have a special theme for each day. In studying the bible you will begin to see the identity of God and of his plans that he might have for you personally.
Also, its important that if we really want to see changes that we learn to "reconnect with the mystical tradition of the Church". Blessed John Paul the Great shared this idea with the Church but when he first did this he only had the Latin tradition in mind naming a few saints of the West for sources. As someone knowledgeable with the Byzantine tradition I suggest the following four saints who I believe will facilitate the spiritual renewal that we are looking for. They are St. Seraphim or Sarov, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, and Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov).It is through these holy men of God that we will discover new ways to develop our spirituality and also the spirituality of our churches.
Next, in utilizing all the wonderful resources that we have it's important to remember that submission to Jesus Christ is a continual action. In gospel the Lord teaches us the following "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate.". There will never be a time when we can say that we finished. It takes continual effort to bring about change in our lives. It's in this effort that we establish a testimony for others to see God working in us. Holiness is a gift of God but it is a gift that shapes all our actions. It is this type of holiness that many are seeking for themselves. Those around us need to see that there is more to life than the daily grind. They need to see that they can have purpose and meaning and you might be the only one that can show it to them.
Furthermore, we must realize that in establishing a testimony that the gift of holiness is not something just for ourselves. Its important that we become involved in our communities, workplaces, schools, and especially our parishes. Whatever circumstances that we find ourselves in we need to realize that we have a mission and this involves being open to personal relationships with others. Most often this fact is neglected at the level of the local church. The local church is place where Christian love needs to witness to the world.If this does not happen we miss out on a vital aspect of our spirituality. As the heathens used to say in the past, "look how they love each other". This love that we were known for in the past can only be recovered by learning to see the value of those in our churches.
Finally, the most important aspect of any change that we wish to see is in our effort to proclaim the gospel. The proclamation of the gospel is not for a select few in the Church but is in essence the focal point of our identity as Christians. In the time of the foundation of the Church the apostles looked for every opportunity to share their faith with others. If they didn't' our churches would not exist. Likewise, we need to be open to the Holy Spirit giving us the same opportunity. This can be as simple as saying Jesus loves you or that you will be praying for that person. We don't have to go around quoting the bible or the priest's homily. We need to be real to the people that we encounter sharing with them our own experience of Jesus Christ. Likewise, we need to remember that those people who visit our parishes might be looking for a deeper experience with Christ. We need to learn to see this need and be ready to lead them deeper into Jesus Christ.God is looking to meet people and he wants to meet them through you.
To conclude, I would like to express my gratitude in our new Metropolitan's vision. Under his leadership I hope to see a new spring time of the Byzantine Catholic church. As he said, "the work begins today". As for the future God is not waiting to work. Rather, he is waiting for each one of us to respond to his call for renewal. We need to work and we are each responsible for the direction of our churches and the future of them depends on our actions now.