Orthodox faith and life16 November 2022
Faith isn’t some vague and abstract theory, a nice ideology or a self-serving religious view. The Orthodox faith is an experience, an ethos, a way of life and being.
Faith means the life of Christ becomes my own. Let me set out my thoughts, as an ordinary believer, a humble monk and a sincere person.
Association with Christ brings us to the whole truth. Our great God becomes small, well-loved and familiar so that he can fit into our mind and heart. From being individuals, people become persons who love unselfishly and sacrificially. The moral life consists of the free observance of the Gospel virtues. Of doing good works and mortifying the passions.
Every human person, irrespective of whether they’ve strayed and are in thrall, retains the uniqueness and sacredness of being made in the image of God. Through our conscience, we all have the breath of God within us and are therefore worthy of honor, respect and attention. We should be fond of everyone. Honor and love are not the due only of the great, the rich, the young, the beautiful, the clever and the moral, but also of the mentally and bodily impaired, the very old, the incapacitated and the overlooked poor.
The Orthodox faith ensures that people never despair. Indeed, it leads them to giving, doing good, and practicing philanthropy, and support and relief for others. When the faithful see Christ in the face of another person, they become more tolerant, more understanding, more friendly, more magnanimous, more forgiving and more indulgent. There’s no conflict between the Orthodox faith and science, but it does require scientists to be unassuming, humble, mild and good-hearted. It doesn’t want to see them brash, arbitrary, impious and in denial as regards God. We shouldn’t spare a glance for those who don’t believe. They’ve got some great pain, some reaction which stops them expressing themselves.
True Orthodox believers should be strangers to pride, which brings mental disorders, stress, sorrows, disappointments, suspiciousness, imaginings, isolation and agitation. People with pride are dissatisfied and unbalanced; they’re a menace to themselves and to others. True Christians have the sweet joy of humility and are satisfied everywhere and always. Embracing once-neglected holy humility will bring balance and recovery to people who have fallen.
Should the Orthodox faith be adapted and updated to satisfy people today? We firmly believe not. Were Christ to come back into the world, he’d say the same things. People’s hearts always seek the truth. We’re called upon to present this truth with an abundance of love. Neither concessions nor heavy burdens are of any benefit here. We shan’t increase our followers by pandering to them. Our aim isn’t to gain supporters who will praise and applaud us. Our prime concern is sanctity, because sanctity is what will save the world. The Orthodox Church alone is continuing to produce saints today.
We’re called upon, my friends, to experience, glorify and inspire sanctity. We should acquire holiness not in order to increase our stock as regards public acclaim, but to show our great love for God and his glory. It should come from self-respect and the struggle to lead a virtuous, pleasing, calm and free life. The source of sanctity is our all-good God, who alone is holy by nature. We can achieve sanctity only by the grace of God; there is no independent self-deification in the Orthodox spiritual life. As we’ve said before, the main reason for our existence is to encounter God. Our path to sanctification isn’t a purely personal matter. It lies within the body of the Church and in Orthodox tradition. Our progress also affects those around us, whom we help more by example. We become more understanding, easier to get along with and pleasant to be with. Truth should always be confessed without fear, but softly, gently and supported with evidence.
Our Orthodox faith encourages us to pray for others, to give rather than to receive, to rejoice in the happiness of others, to grieve in their sorrows, to reflect on our eternal destination, to learn to be patient, to show restraint and to be satisfied with simplicity and frugality.