The Gospel reading read in churches on the first Sunday in Lent, on 5 March 2023, is John 1, 44-52. Jesus is in Judea, where three of his later disciples and Philip, another later disciple, have just met him. Jesus tells Philip to accompany him on his return to Galilee and the latter joyfully hurries off to find his friend, Nathaniel, to inform him that they’ve found the Messiah, Jesus from Nazareth. To Nathaniel’s question as to whether anything good can come from Nazareth, Philip replies ‘Come and see’. As they approach him Jesus says that Nathaniel is a person in whom there’s no guile; and when Nathaniel asks the Lord where he knows him from, Christ says that he saw him under a fig tree before Philip had even gone to call him. Nathaniel realizes the supernatural power of Christ and recognizes him as the Son of God, while Christ promises that, thereafter, Nathaniel, will see great miracles: that the heavens will open and he’ll see God’s angels ascending and descending upon Jesus.
The invitation to ‘come and see’ always stands, for each person. Our faith isn’t a theory, a philosophy, or a set of rules. It’s life, it’s experience. People have to taste it and that can happen only with their active participation in the life of the Church. Whenever people are far away from the Church, God waits for the time to come for them to return. They’ll feel a ‘click’ inside them and will want to know and experience the life of the Church, that is, of Christ, (since, according to the Fathers, the Church is Christ extended over the centuries).
Finally, what I wrote, that ‘come and see’, should probably be the central meaning, the rallying-cry, of all active Christians to all those who have reservations about the work of the Orthodox Church. We need a careful policy so that we don’t go all out against those who are far away from the Church. My own advice would be ‘As few words as possible’, and just as basic, ‘Stop when you’re tiring out the other person’. Because, unless we understand that, it’s all a lot of wasted effort.