November 13, 2015

The Criterion for Whether or Not the Church is in a Good State

By Protopresbyter Fr. John Romanides

Let us imagine that the Church ever since its foundation has been a clinic, a hospital, which people enter to be treated, and this treatment was purification of the nous, then illumination of the nous, then the glorification of man, so that he may reach a natural condition. Man's natural condition is to love without self-interest, to have the love that "does not seek its own" (1 Cor. 13:5).

The Church has diagnosis and treatment. You have to do this, that and the other to be cured. Why is treatment needed? Because you will see the glory of God, and if you have not undergone a change in your personality, so that selfish love is changed into unselfish love, if your heart is hardened, instead of seeing God as glory you will see Him as a consuming fire, outer darkness and so on.

We shall all see God, but one will see Him in one way and the other in another way. If you are not cured, you will see Him in this way, and the Day of Judgment dawns. What is repentance? Repentance (Gr. metanoia) means "changing the nous." The nous must change, must be cleansed.

Instead of being a therapeutic center, the Church has ended up being a place of magical ceremonies. And Orthodoxy, devoid of this therapeutic aspect and method, which is purification, illumination and glorification, is in danger of ending up as nothing but superstition.

The only thing that saves us is all our ceremonial, which was inherited from people who were in a state of illumination or glorification. So our liturgical books are completely all right, the mould is all right, but its filling, the inner life of the Church, is something that needs to be studied.

This is the work of the Church. But the way the Church has developed, instead of being a group of spiritual fathers, like a hospital that has, say, fifty doctors, two thousand years have passed and the hospital is without doctors, rather those who are unable to cure anything are called doctors. We are in danger of reaching this point, and the only thing that will save us is returning to the Fathers of the Church.

The basic criterion for whether or not the Church is in a good state is success. If we have thousands of glorified people in a century, the Church is doing well. If we have a shortage, then something is gone wrong. This is how one is to judge the history of the Church. In eras where there are large numbers of people who have been cured, that is to say, illumined, the Church is in a good state.

Whether we are under persecution or whether Constantinople has fallen is not a criterion. The criterion is how many people reach illumination and glorification, regardless of the state of the nation. Modern Greeks have identified the fortunes of the Church with the fortune of the state. They attempt to explain the destruction of the Byzantine Empire by holding the Church responsible.

One has to bear these things in mind, because nowadays the history of the Church is usually reduced to a history of exciting events, such as Ecumenical Synods, scandals involving a Pope of Rome, wars and persecutions. The real history of the Church is the energy of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the faithful, and the fact that the faithful pass from one stage of perfection to another. This is the history of the Church.

The great celebration of the Church is the calendar of saints, the calendar of feasts, when we celebrate the memory of the saints, because every saint of the Church represents the triumph of faith over the powers of the devil.

Apart from the fact that through the Mysteries we all share together in the Body of Christ and are all on our way to the Day of Judgment, we undertake this struggle to be right with God on the Day of Judgment.

On the Church's journey, its great triumphs are when human beings become saints. For that reason, after the Body and Blood of Christ, we have the icons of Christ, the All-Holy Virgin and so on, but also the holy relics. These are the signs that provide proof that the Church is on the right path, because it has these people as leaders and spiritual guides.

The purpose of the Church is to make holy relics. It has no other aim. Holy relics include the whole dogmatic structure of the Church.

This is spirituality. We call it "spirituality", which is a modern term. Spirituality and such things do not exist in the Fathers of the Church.

Now another strange terminology is being created. We say "Neptic Fathers of the Church". Why do we talk about Neptic Fathers of the Church? All Christians in the early Church were neptic (watchful), because if you were not spiritually vigilant, how could you become a temple of the Holy Spirit? How would you attain to "varieties of tongues"? These "varieties of tongues" were the first stage of being a member of the Church.

The experience of glorification includes the whole human being, the body as well as the soul. After someone has departed to the Lord, we know from the relics that they were glorified, and they are automatically numbered among the saints of the Church.

We do not have a tradition, like the Papal Christians, of making saints, but God reveals the saints to us, usually by means of their relics and miracles.

Excerpted from Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides, vol. 2, pp. 252-258.