|Restored icon of Abbot Menas and Christ|
"And as we have received the soul as a deposit, let us preserve it for the Lord, that He may recognize His work as being the same as He made it" - St Athanasius, Life of St Antony
Recently, and throughout Church history, people have been getting caught up on words. Words are important. In our Orthodox Church, we were at odds with each other because of a single letter that changed what we believed. You know what’s just as important? The meaning behind those words. If someone uses a toothbrush to clean their tires, does that change the original purpose of the toothbrush? It works for them, but it’s original purpose was to clean teeth. Just because someone uses it for something else, does that mean you will stop using it? No. So why do we do this when it comes to the Church. Don’t be afraid and put the toothbrush away. Use it for its purpose and reaffirm it.
Grace - Growing up, I have not heard about the grace of God nearly as much as the 'works' part. Yes, St James says "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). It's true, faith without works IS dead, but does that mean we ignore the faith part? Let's use his example, the body without the spirit is dead, but can the spirit (not soul, but the spirit which gives the body actual life and movement) do anything without the body? No. Why are we scared to talk about God's grace?! We're so scared of how other religions or people have used the term, that sadly we are afraid to speak on it. Yes, we need works, but as Acts 15:11 says "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Don't be afraid, talk about God's Grace.
Praise and Worship - If you attend an orthodox church in America, you probably get a few eye rolls if you use this term. Again, just like 'grace', it doesn't matter how other people or religions use the term. PRAISE AND WORSHIP IS A GOOD THING! What Christian does not offer up praise to God? We talk about "a mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise"
Fr Thomas Hopko writes:
In addition to being the perfect peace offering, Jesus is also the only adequate sacrifice of praise that men can offer to God. There is nothing comparable in men to the graciousness of God. There is nothing with which men can worthily thank and praise the Creator. This is so even if men would not be sinners. Thus God himself provides men with their own most perfect sacrifice of praise. The Son of God becomes genuinely human so that human persons could have one of their own nature sufficiently adequate to the holiness and graciousness of God. Again this is Christ, the sacrifice of praise.
Praise is God-centric. Worship is God-centric.
Also, Fr Alexander Schmemmann refers to humans as 'doxological and eucharistic beings'. It's an innate character of us to offer 'doxa' or 'praise'. What is a eucharistic being? Coming directly from the Eucharist, and the table of thanksgiving where the Lord shows us that true worship is Eucharistic, from the sacrament of the Eucharist. We are called to live sacramentally, how are we to do this if we separate worship from everything we do? Yes our primary worship is in the Eucharist, but once we partake of it, it fills our whole being and then we, through the Eucharist, are able to go into the world and express our worship to God in everything that we do.
Don't be afraid, we all offer up praise and worship God.
Theosis - Now really, if you even think of this word in our church, you better pack your bags because you're outta here! Again, the common problem we have today is how other people may have started to use and define the word, and we forget what it originally meant.
St Athanasius writes:
...but rather let him recognize the fact and marvel that things divine have been revealed to us by such humble means, that through death deathlessness has been made known to us, and through the Incarnation of the Word the mind whence all things proceed has been declared, and its Agent an Ordainer, the Word of God Himself. He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God.
At first, as Coptic Christians, we have a tendency to just dismiss this because of how it was used. I am not taking a stance. I am no scholar, have no formal Christian education, and I'm not trying to make any statements - but I was taught from a young age that the Christian life is a process of restoration. We are to be restored to God's image. This is why the initial quote from St Athanasius is very important. Let's look back at the meaning of what our fathers have taught us, rather than what some may make of it.
Let us preserve it, he writes, so that God may recognize it as being the same as He made it.
Let's not be so quick to dismiss an idea or terminology just because it's used a different way. Let's use everything as God had intended it and created it. Don't let the world or others take away what is ours. Take back what is yours. Terminology, phrases, art, music, whatever it may be. But know this, God's grace is for us. He took flesh and suffered death in the flesh for us, and we offer up praise and worship that is due to Him. All this so that one day we may reunite with Him.
Don't be afraid, God wants us to commune with Him and be one with Him.