December 18, 2012 by Orthodox Whitehorse
What’s in a name? Officially, the name of our Orthodox community in Whitehorse is the “St. Nikolai, Bishop of Zhitsa Mission.” So… we are a “Mission.” But what does that really mean?
On a purely administrative level, “Mission” refers to the status of our community within the Archdiocese of Canada of the Orthodox Church in America, which we belong to. When an Orthodox Christian community is first established, it is referred to as a “Mission Station.” After a period of time, if the Mission Station shows some potential, it is blessed by the Bishop, dedicated to a particular patron saint, and is given the status of “Mission.” After demonstrating stability for some time after that, once the Mission becomes self-sustaining, usually having a resident priest of its own, it receives full-fledged Church status, becoming a “Parish.”
But that description only represents part of what it means to be “a Mission.”
The English word “mission” is derived from the Latin words missio and mittere, which mean “to send.” This corresponds to the Greek word apostelo, meaning “I send,” from which we also derive our words “apostle” and “apostolic.” In short, one could say that it is the essential characteristic of the Church to be sent out on a mission. As the Body of Christ, our mission is to carry on the work of Jesus Christ, making present the Kingdom of God through teaching, healing, blessing, and sanctifying.
Similarly, the Church, according to the Symbol of Faith, is “One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic” – sent out. The Apostolic Church is by nature a missionary Church! Every Orthodox Christian, through Baptism and Chrismation, has been ordained by Jesus Christ as a missionary and every Orthodox community is, in its essence, a Mission.
The final instructions of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ to his holy Apostles defines our mission in the world:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20).
Whitehorse is a long way from Jerusalem, where the Lord spoke these words. The Yukon River may feel unlike the Jordan, and the day-to-day routines we have may sometimes feel utterly un-apostolic. Nevertheless, the reality is that our humble “Mission” community is the continuation of the work of the Lord’s Incarnation in the world. God has called us here; He has brought us here, to embody His Divine Love to the people of Whitehorse. Through His grace and mercy, by His Holy Spirit, He will give us wisdom and strength for each day.
May God bless and strengthen you, my fellow missionaries!