By Mihail Markasev
The answer to this question, as it is to so many questions, is to engage the idea of communion.
Communion is a word that is entirely familiar to any Orthodox Christian. It is one of the many ways we come face to face with our God in this world and, as anyone who has navigated the multiple jurisdictions in the diaspora could attest to, there are almost as many ways to prepare for communion as there are parishes. All of these various means of preparation have only goal, though. The last exclamation before the celebrant leaves the altar with the chalice is “With the fear of God and faith and love draw near” and all of these preparations are an attempt to bring us to the point where we can come with the fear of God, faith, and love.
How does that help our current predicament, though? Communion means to have active participation in the grace of God. Through the act of Communion we touch the divine and allow it within ourselves, and yet this great miracle only refreshes the divine within us. Every single one of us is created in the image and likeness of God. We are all icons of Christ. Every interaction is another opportunity to step up with fear of God, faith, and love and show reverence for the divine grace we all receive.
That is the first step toward reconciliation within the church.
We must look at whether our words, thoughts, and actions have embraced a spirit of “chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love” as the Prayer of St. Ephraim implores us. We must ask, as the prayer continues, whether we have chosen to “see [our] own failings and not condemn [our] brother.” If not, we must face the truth. Every angry, impatient, dismissive, or condescending word, thought, or action we directed at another was a smear upon a living icon of Christ, and we must repent.
Bear in mind that this doesn’t mean that you must agree with someone to keep the peace. Our entire tradition is based upon the idea of discussion. We have roughly 2,000 years of tradition where people discuss everything and anything in their lives. We have staunch traditionalists and we have people who flaunt almost every convention and people along every point in between. The reason there are Saints from everywhere in that continuum is because even though they may have been glorified, or ridiculed, or condemned for how they lived their lives, they chose to humbly seek out and nurture the image of Christ to be found within themselves and those around them.
I understand that, especially as one who has contributed to this failure, my words may not mean much. My hope, in that case, is that instead of reading my words and discarding them you might draw something from the Sermon on the Mount as recounted in the Gospel of St. Luke. In it Jesus says to His followers:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in Heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.