WHERE DID EVERYBODY GO?
Some time ago, a brother in Christ asked me if I had noticed a decline in church attendance. I replied that perhaps this was true. I was reminded, however, of something that every Orthodox Christian must bear in mind, especially when confronted with the fact that we are a minority, or on those days when few people seem interested in the historic Orthodox Faith.
When Our Lord preached the Sermon on the Mount, crowds listened. When He did miracles, curing the sick or raising the dead, throngs of people pressed in to view. And when the Lord spoke of His impending arrest, His apostles shouted that they would never leave Him alone.
Yet on the Cross, Christ was alone. Only a few faithful women, with the young Apostle John, stood nearby. His Passion was faced with only the company of those who hated Him. The Lord had no funeral per se: His holy Body was taken away by two faithful men, and buried in a borrowed tomb.
The martyrs faced similar conditions to those the Lord faced: isolation in times of persecution, and a sense of being one of a minority in the midst of the greatest struggles.
The truth being told, the Orthodox life - the fully Christian life - will never be a path that draws crowds of people. It never has. Struggles and sacrifices and humility will never "sell" as well as bread and circuses. Yet this is as it should be. The Way of Christ is narrow, and few find it - indeed, few want to find it. For those who do, the company will be limited in number, but great in joy, and very often, great in love.
This has always been the nature of the path of Christ, a path which always comes down to our choice alone - at least alone on a human level. Real love and unity can only come out of struggle. People do not find such love and unity in the mobs - that's the reason they keep on moving, looking for more.
Our struggle in the Orthodox Christian life - many or few, or alone if we must - is the very thing that unites us with Christ and His struggle, as well as with His Resurrection. And no crowd can top that.