Metropolitan Jonah, leader of American Orthodox Christians, greeting local children.Lisa Deluca
Orthodox Christianity is about the "transformation of peoples' consciousness, a term that most people leave to the Buddhists. But transforming consciouness is our [Christian] terminology too," Metropolitan Jonah, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church in America told this author during an exclusive interview on September 25th at St. John the Theologian Orthodox Church in Shirley, New York.
The Metropolitan quoted St. Isaac the Syrian of Ninevah, who, when asked, "What is eternal life?" replied, "It's consciousness in God."
People confuse religion and spirituality, Metropolitan Jonah said. Practicing the Orthodox faith is not about going to church though the liturgy and fellowship with others certainly has its place. "Personal transformation is the goal," he said.
How exactly does this personal transformation occur? A regular practice of inner stillness and silence is essential, according to the Metropolitan. It's not, he says, like a Buddhist meditation practice, where one has a complete and open perceoption of the world. "There is one important difference. It is a completely conscious focus to the presence of God. And a surrendering to the presence of God."
This is the spiritual practice that is at the core of the Orthodox faith. Once this practice deepens, the Metropolitan says, "We can remain in a state of deep inner stillness." When this occurs, he said, the services take on a new meaning. "Then we hunger and thirst for communion.Then the services aren't long enough," he said of services that are known to be quite lengthy.
In society, Metropolitan Jonah said, "We are so full of instant gratification, but that is shallow and leaves you feeling empty. It's never enough and you are never fulfilled.". But the Orthodox spiritual path "is a path that leads to true joy. It actualizes the reality of our personhood...it purges from us our ego and leads to total joy."
When asked how the Orthodox Church in America could make itself more well known to Americans, the Metropolitan's response was very typically Orthodox. He said that the Orthodox should "Practice it ourselves." He said that Orthodox Christians should take their spiritual practice of Orthodoxy as deep as possible in their everyday lives. It is then, he said, that lives can be transformed. That, he said, is when God "does what He does."
Read about Metropolitan Jonah's view of Orthodoxy in the world, as told to the parishioners of St. John's
Read about Metropolitan Jonah's view of why parenthood will sanctify you, a continuation of this interview
Read about Orthodox churches in eastern Long Island and a description of Orthodoxy
Visit the Orthodox Church in America website.
Here's a good blog post about Orthodox Christianity in everyday life
Readers may also like the writings of the Long Island Eastern Orthodox Examiner