As many of you no doubt read, my dear friend Imran inquired about the Charismatic movement – specifically whether there was such a movement within the Orthodox Church and in general what the Orthodox Church thinks of it.
As far as I know, there is not any sort of charismatic renewel movement within the bounds of canonical Orthodoxy in the same sense that one can find in the Anglican or Catholic faiths. Now, certainly one can find “charismatic” groups who claim to be, sound like, and even look like the Eastern Orthodox Church, but alas…
I believe it was Elder Cleopas of Romania, who when asked about the Charismatic movement said in essence: “Well, it has only been around for a hundred years or so, let us wait and see if it will produce good fruit.” I think this speaks a lot about Orthodoxy – there are no quick fixes. The Orthodox Religion can certainly never be accused of being a “fast-food” faith.
Why is there no charismatic renewal in the Orthodox Church? Well, most people will tell you that there is no need for such a “renewal” because the Gifts of the Spirit have never gone stagnant in the Church. The rub is, though, that these gifts are often used, portrayed, and expressed in ways that are different than are usually seen in the modern charismatic movement. The Church does not magnify and emphasize the “miraculous” gifts, but like St. Paul urges Christians to pursue the greater gifts of faith, hope, and love – along with all the other virtues. What good is speaking in tongues if I am perfectly willing and able to slay my children with angry words?
But this is not to say that we do not see some amazing and miraculous gifts being utilized by the Church…just usually we do not make show of such things. As we know, humility is the key virtue in Orthodox spirituality, and so in the Orthodox Church “words of knowledge” or “prophecies” and such often take place with little of no publicity. Furthermore, such gifts are perceived as a sign of great spiritual maturity – much too dangerous a thing to be thrown around to just anybody (like me) who would so easily be tempted toward vain-glory. We abstain from seeing the gifts as an goal in and of themselves (which was to a large extent the unwritten attitude of our former denomination Imran), rather they are a natural manifestation to be found in a life lived in holiness, humility, and self-denial.
All one need do is read some of the stories of the Fathers (both modern and ancient) to see that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are alive and well in the Orthodox Church…we just don’t center our lives around them. The gifts are tools to move us along toward Theosis. Here is a very personal example.
My first very "deep" conversation with an Orthodox Priest was in regards to a particular sin with which I was struggling. I was not Orthodox at the time and it was difficult for me to discuss the matter, but I pressed on hoping to gain some insights on how to overcome the sin. As we talked, the priest said, “You know, sometimes people who struggle with this sin, also struggle with _________ and __________ as well.”
I thought I was going to fall out of my chair…I literally got dizzy because this man seemed to have looked into and pierced my soul. I am sparing you the ugly details (of course), but believe me, I just could not see the rational connection between the sin I had come to him about and these other two. I had to admit, they were also big issues in my life. Was this a word of knowledge? I don’t know…but it was a powerful and humbling experience for me.
Read Mountain of Silence for many other much more amazing examples as well. As people drain themselves of self, God can REALLY move in those people. Miracles abound in the Orthodox Church…but, shhhhh, let’s just keep it between you and me.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:37 PM [+]