Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What Orthodox Christianity Is and Isn't

By Monk Moses the Athonite

I will not repeat passages from books, but speak from my heart. Orthodoxy is the only truth. It is an invitation to a moving and amazing adventure. It requires daring and there is risk. It does not rest on its past laurels. I agree with what Dostoevsky says: "I believe there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, more enticing, more reasonable, more courageous, more perfect than Christ."

Orthodoxy wants us strictly pure and innocent. It has great expectations from us. Without God we would certainly be worse scoundrels. It is true that we are not saints. The worst thing is to make ourselves out to be saints. God does not like this at all. Orthodoxy wants us unhypocritical, unalloyed, genuinely humble and lenient with others. As well as unsuspicious, non-envious, resigned.

The Christ of Orthodoxy is approachable, friendly, kind, forgiving and sympathetic. He never spoke harshly to sinners nor ever disdained them. He understands our weaknesses. He does not get infuriated, does not berate, does not punish, does not avenge. He forgives, loves and sacrifices for us.

A Hebrew-Romanian, Nicolae Steinhardt, who became Orthodox in prison, writes in his Diary of Happiness: God "in no way is an abstract sense, a cold creator, an uncontainable and immutable Brahman, the divinization of knowledge that unfolds over the centuries." Orthodoxy is not a nice religion among others. It is a way, an attitude, a style and ethos of life. It is sacrificial love without return. It is the love for enemies and the forgiveness for all. Orthodoxy is a scandal and folly to those who are very logical.

Orthodox teaching is not vague, confusing, difficult or impossible. It is not for the gullible and fanatical religionists. It is for those with challenging spirits, for the optimistic and the militant. It gives genuine freedom and blessedness. It shows the peace, the tranquility and the sweetness of the saints. Orthodoxy is not a painkiller and narcotic. It is continuous jeopardy, alertness, standing, wakefulness, exhilaration.

Orthodoxy is not Greek, but universal. It is not hidden in Mount Athos or Jerusalem, but in the hearts of those who are truly humble.

Those who believe that Orthodoxy is for the naive and gullible are lingering in deplorable error. If someone thinks that the Orthodox Church fosters slackers and whiners, they are mistaken. The Orthodox fight for integrity, transparency and authenticity. They are not snobbish and cold. The futility of the world does not depress us, but gives us vital understanding. Our God is not a magician, a fakir, a palm reader or a strange illusionist. He does not like ambiguous things, the melancholic, the hasty, the impatient, the lukewarm. He mainly loves the true, the pure and the humble.

In Orthodoxy we always hope, we secretly rejoice, we cannot be but optimistic. We live to love. Whoever thinks Orthodoxy wants enemies, only battles, dominates and condemns, seriously lacks understanding. To be resurrected we must first be crucified. Crucifixion requires preparation. Crucifixion requires its time. Orthodoxy is crucified, humbled and resurrected.

Orthodoxy means orthopraxis. Correct and true knowledge and a pure life. Orthodoxy is misunderstood. Perhaps it is our fault for presenting it incorrectly. Orthodoxy is more about being experienced than being taught. Orthodoxy is the embrace of a loving mother, who knows how to give exquisite rest to her children.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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