The Uniqueness of Orthodoxy
“He Himself came, revealed Himself to me and told me to resemble Him.”(Archpriest Theodore Gignadze)
One of the greatest achievements of Orthodoxy, one of the greatest achievements of Christianity is that it transcended the concept of religion.
And what is a religion?
It is an attempt of a human being to establish connection with God and for this, he uses legal norms and rules. In other words, I, a human being, know that God exists and in order to be well, I keep His commandments and obey His laws. And so, if I do this correctly, then I deserve a reward from Him, and if I don’t do this correctly, then I deserve a punishment.
Entire Judaism and Islam are based on this concept. Unfortunately, this has become the basis of Catholicism and Protestantism as well.
Orthodoxy completely turns this position upside down.
In the Holy Gospel, Christ Himself turns this position upside down.
We see that people who live in the right way from a religious and moral standpoint – kill Christ. They judge and condemn Him. They tell Him: adulterers and publicans follow You, You eat and drink together with the sinners.
When Christ is dying on the cross, He, as the Judge – delivers the verdict for mankind, and this verdict is astonishing. The very worst human beings, the greatest sinners – the people who are killing Christ… they are standing next to His cross, they are not repenting (at least not until that point in time), in other words, these people who are filled with an unrepentant, cynical, and murderous spirit are killing Christ, and Christ, as the Chief Priest, intercedes for them and asks the Heavenly Father: “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
This kind of love moved to the core a person who had done nothing but evil all his life.
This all-encompassing, infinite love softened and melted the heart of a thief, and he became the first person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
One of the Holy Fathers (St. Isaac the Syrian, if I’m not mistaken) says:
“God is not just. He is Love.”
This Holy Father continues and says: “if God was just, I would be the first one to end up in hell, without Him.”
This is very important to remember. The legalistic spirit opposes Christianity. The legalistic spirit prevails with us today, in the Orthodox Church, and it is very damaging. The legalistic spirit means that if I behave well, I will gain points before God and be rewarded, and if I behave badly, I will be punished.
I live spiritually with the hope of heavenly luxury or the fear of hell.
With this kind of heart, with this spirit, you will never be able to see Christ, because like is known by like. Christ asks for something completely different from us. What does He ask for?
Apostle Paul says that a Christian becomes a new being, a new creation.
We often encounter this temptation. A person comes to the church and I ask him: “Why did you come?”
People come to church for many different reasons. Some come for personal gain, out of self-interest, out of physical self-interest, whether it be something health-related or some other problem they’re facing.
There is also spiritual self-interest: “I don’t have peace. I want to feel peaceful.” “This also is self-interest.” – I say to him. “Don’t you think that God will grant it to you? However, this is not the goal in and of itself. It is a byproduct and a consequence of you seeking God.”
Let’s take an example from this world: a young man falls in love with a young woman, and he asks her to marry him. “Why do you want to marry me?” – she asks. She expects him to say, ”Because I love you!” Instead, he tells her that he wants to have a son or a daughter. Can you imagine? It is good to have children. There is nothing wrong with it. Children are the fruit of marriage. However, when you tell a girl that you want to marry her for this reason and that she is just a means of achieving it… imagine how terrible this would be.
It is essential for us to know very well what is the correct attitude to have in spiritual life. We need to know this so we can stop being-self centered in spiritual life and so that we can break away from this form of relationship with God.
As long as a person continues to be self-centered, saying: “I want this, I want that. I want to have peace. I want my problems to be taken care of”. As long as this is the case, he will continue to have a problem in his spiritual life.
A person must break away from this. However, this is not very easy to do, unless he has the right perspective in the spiritual life.
(Archpriest Theodore Gignadze)