The Church is Different
Everything is different in the Church. It all looks different, sounds different, it even smells different. There are icons, there is a priest who wears special clothes, the singing is different from the songs I hear on my mobile phone, there are some special words in the service that I don’t always understand, people talk about prayer and fasting, confession and communion (you never hear that at school) and there is incense. There are people from many countries who speak different languages, people have different names from those at school (no Kyle, Wayne, Shelly and Jenny, but Peter, Joseph, Sophia and Alexandra), most people wear special clothes for Church, most men make a special effort to dress better than usual, most women put on dresses or skirts and cover their heads for church.
Why is it Different?
We live in two different worlds: the world of the Church and ‘the world’. And the Church does not begin to resemble the world, the world must begin to resemble the Church. This is because the Church believes in the God Who rose from the dead, the world does not believe in Him but faces only one prospect: death. That is why it tries to distract us from death with ‘stuff’, that is, everything you can buy in the shops. We believe in the values that the Risen God gives us, not in the values that the world gives us.
The world says: Let’s have wars, drop bombs on each other, be cruel, hurt each other, steal each other’s money and things, making sure people are unhappy by telling them that stuff from the shops will make them happy, which it will not, and not telling them that one day they will die.
The Church says: Let’s LIVE and in peace, be kind to each other, respect each other and each other’s property and help people to be happy by talking about the real problems, the things that can really make people happy, about life and death and what comes after death.
We are Different
Today this difference between the Church and the world, between Life and Death, is getting even bigger. It means that we can see some very strange fashions around us, that no-one ever thought possible even ten years ago. For example:
The world says that everybody can do whatever they want. For example, if you are a boy and want to become a girl, then you can do that. If you are a girl and want to become a boy, then you can do that. And if you are unhappy afterwards, then you can change back again.
The Church says, of course, you can do whatever you want, but there are certain things you can do that will make you very, very unhappy. If you want to be happy, follow what the Church advises, as far as you can.
For example, if you have feelings that you want to be different from what you are, the Church can help you to understand yourself, to find yourself, to accept yourself and, above all, to improve yourself so you can avoid that unhappiness.
So changing genders will not help you – it will just give you another set of problems, even worse than the first. In the Church we reinforce the differences between boys and girls, men and women, so we can avoid such unhappiness.
Why we Dress Differently and Have Different Roles
So, for example, in the Church we dress modestly but nicely. Men and boys should not dress in shorts; the Church is not the beach! We have not come to church to suntan! They would dress modestly but nicely for the theatre or some special occasion, so why not in church? They should put on something nice for church, shoes not trainers, a shirt not a T-shirt with an advertising slogan. We have not come to the gym, we have come to pray!
Women and girls should not dress in jeans and trousers, but in a skirt or a dress. They have not come to church to distract men and boys from prayer with their shapes! They cover their heads for the same reason: everyone knows that men and boys get distracted by women’s hair and that women distract them with their hair. Not in church, please! We have come to pray!
Boys can, if asked because they are good enough, go in the altar and help; girls can, if asked because they are good enough, go in the choir and help. Boys could one day become deacons or priests; girls could one day become choir directors. We each have different things to do in church, different roles, different tasks because we are different. Different does not mean we are not equal, it means that we cannot do without each other.
Different but Together
This is why children need a father and a mother. It is very difficult when one is missing. People grow up with many problems when they do not have both. This is not a case of one being superior or better than another. Quite simply, if there were no more men and no more women, the world would stop. Everyone would die out. We need each other. Again we see how the way of the world is Death and the way of the Church is Life. Yes, the Church is different; different because heaven is different from the earth and the Church is the foretaste of heaven.
(This first appeared in the Orthodox youth magazine Searchlight, Issue No 7)