St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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A Little Bit of History and an Invitation

In the beginning…well, what was the beginning?  Is it the year one, or is it earlier?  Let us say that is it earlier because the movement that got under way with Jesus of Nazareth rested solidly on the way of life that characterized his people, the Jews.  Over the course of the early centuries, however, but slowly, the movement associated with Jesus as Messiah separated from the movement associated with other leaders of the people who survived the destruction of the Temple, defeat in the second Jewish War, and exile among the nations.  Depending on where you look, a lot of interplay remained between the two movements as late as the fifth century.  But eventually one became known as “Christianity” and the other as “Judaism.”

Christianity grew, with a lot of help from its friends and supporters, until it was the dominant religion throughout the Byzantine Roman Empire.  There were two headquarter cities: Rome and Constantinople, one the western and one the eastern capitals of Empire.  The church was then united except for those groups that remained outside what became known simply as Catholic Orthodoxy.

Protestants, who arose in the 16th Century, have tended to think that not much happened between zero and 1500 when suddenly the church is re-invented in a pure form by people like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and John Knox.

The Orthodox Church and what would later become Roman Catholicism “happened between zero and 1500.”  In the 11th Century the eastern and western churches suffered a tragic split, with the eastern church represented by Constantinople and three other major jurisdictions, the west represented by Rome.  Over the course of the centuries between 700-1500, successive events placed Rome in a strategic position and Constantinople in a compromised position.  The end for the Constantinople came in 1453 when the Ottoman Empire overtook the remnants of the Byzantine Empire.

We have, however, never gone away.  Orthodox lands suffered restrictions and persecution even into the 20th Century under Communism.  Nonetheless people found their way to America and built onion-domed churches you see in cities and towns especially in the eastern USA where industry and mining flourished.  We in the Orthodox Catholic Church are still here.  We are not the Roman Church but we are Catholic.  We have no historic relationship to the Protestant churches, which are an outgrowth of the division in the western church that stems from the time of the Reformation.  Our long tradition dates from the very beginning of the church.  We believe that history matters, that it is important to be in the flow of that history, and that in this church we fully experience the meaning of God.  Many people have joined us, particularly in the last thirty years.

So here’s the invitation:

The people of St Anthony of the Desert Orthodox Mission, 518 North Alameda, Las Cruces, invite the community to an open house Introduction to Orthodoxy along with a simple soup supper on Friday, February 28th, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.  Please park in the lot at the corner of Hadley and Alameda.

Friends who have been reading Father Gabriel’s columns for years and listen to his podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio are invited.  Those who don’t know anything about the Orthodox Church are especially invited.  Those who have come to our annual Pet Blessing in January are invited.  We are especially interested in people who might be willing to give Christianity one more look.  We promise not to insult your intelligence or your taste buds.  All we ask is that you register in advance by calling 524-2296.