Orthodoxy Today
Zeal: Among the First of Virtues of our Missionary Apostolate

It may not have occurred to some SSJC members and supporters that our association is actually a missionary society. Our apostolate is to convert the Christians who make up the Apostolic Churches -the Latin and Eastern Catholic, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox -to the complete fulfillment of the priestly prayer that Christ gave to His Apostles at the Last Supper: "Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as weare one" (Jn 17: 11). Those we have to missionize are all those whomake up these Churches: the Royal Priesthood of the baptized, the monastics, the deacons, the priests, the bishops and even the Patriarchs. The epitome of this oneness will be evident when all can share in Christ's Body and Blood together.

To be effective missionaries we have to cultivate, in cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the virtue of zeal, that is to say, intensely passionate spiritual fervor for our apostolate. Let us examine how St. Paul’s instructions to the Romans (12: 9-12) can be a model for our own zealous commitment to Church reunion:

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Indeed, we must have “a zeal for God.” (Rm 10: 2). Indeed, as part of this we must have a zeal for full re-union of the Apostolic Churches that is so strong that we are motivated to do all we can to make known the sin of disunion and our fervent desire for reunion of our Churches, even to the highest levels of our various hierarchies. St. Isaac of Syria1 tells us the outcome when zeal lags. St. Isaac considers zeal a weapon that guides action. "[When someone] casts away the weapon of zeal and becomes as a house without a guardian ... the serene flame of holy knowledge in the soul becomes dark."

In the spirit of Christ's words to His Apostles (Mt 28: 19) let us zealously go forth ". . .and make disciples" - for church unity - "of all nations. . . ." St. Luke (Acts 18: 24-26) tells us about Apollos' fervent and zealous love for Christ. "He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. . . .” Can we do otherwise?


Wensinck, A. J. (ed., trans.) (1923). Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh. Amsterdam, Holland: Koninklijke Akademie Van Wetenschappen.

Fr. George Morelli

V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.

Be sure to visit Fr. Morelli's new site Orthodox Healing  for the latest essays and information.

Published: May 17, 2011

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