Monday, May 22, 2006

A New Life

Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov

Without faith in Christ we cannot even come close to the threshold of a new life. Faith is rooted in the heart, not from the words of human wisdom, but from the Word of God. (Rom.10:17) In the beginning, the will of the Creator was revealed through the patriarchs and the prophets, and then through the Son of God.

Now we must look for the source of the true faith in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. With His own words, it was Christ Himself who revealed the will of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit (John14:26) He put it in the minds and hearts of His apostles whom He sent to preach the Gospel (Mark16:15). Those who listen to them, listen to Christ, Himself (Luke 10:16).

The main purpose of the Savior’s coming on Earth, however, was not to teach, but to redeem. Humankind could not have been saved by teaching alone. Teaching in itself does not deliver from sins and to radically change anyone’s life. Changing their life was necessary for those people in whom sin had become deep rooted. Christ is the Savior of mankind. Through His incarnation He brought to human existence the beginning of a new, blessed life. Christianity is not a teaching, but a new life. One can study and become an expert in the Holy Scriptures, but not be a Christian. This blessed life, in accordance with the Savior’s promise, is found in the Church, which is vivified by the Holy Spirit. The Church of Christ predates the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures are not independent, but are only a stream in the current of the blessed church life. "We would not need the help of the Holy Scriptures, if we led a life so pure, that instead of books, the grace of the Holy Spirit would serve us instead" (St. John Chrysostom).

The fact that we rely on the guidance of the Scriptures is indicative of our imperfection. "When the power of the Holy Spirit enters a person’s soul, then instead of the law of the Scriptures, the commandments of the Holy Spirit take hold, and he who achieves perfection learns in secret from the Holy Spirit, and has no need of help from things of feeling" (St. Isaac Syrian).

The teachings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Isaac Syrian are understood by those who have gained correct understanding of the fact that the strength of the Church is not in teaching, but in a new blessed life.

Protestantism, having rejected the authority of the Church, has made the Bible a sort of fetish. Outside the Church there are only books, but there is no true Word of God. All heretics (and even Satan — Matt 4:6) found their basis from Biblical texts, because isolated excerpts can have different and even contradictory interpretations and misinterpretations. The true interpretation of the Bible is only found in the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit Who is the source of both the Church and the Holy Scriptures. Heretics, when interpreting the Holy Scriptures, want to replace the authority of the Church with logical reasoning, but reasoning can only be objective in mathematics. The actual structure of the Bible is determined by the Church. It is inconceivable to consider the teachings of the Holy Scriptures outside the Church. Any rationalistic criticisms of the origins and contents of the Holy Books unequivocally lead to contradictory conclusions.

Biased study of the Holy Scriptures outside the guidance of the Church, results in a single disputable choice of only one teaching, even to the rejection of all others. Thus from arbitrary interpretations of the Holy Scriptures many heresies arise. Such exponents of the Scriptures, consider themselves intelligent only because they do not believe and doubt many things. They are prepared to consider themselves "the chosen," only because they do not take part in the lives of ordinary parishioners and critically look at their lives. Conceit, envy, vanity, an improper heart — this is a well trodden path to any heresy…

The Orthodox Church is called to preserve and bring into life untainted, the teaching of the Gospel. We are the remnant, and the treasure of the Truth is guarded by our Church. Woe to the one, and God’s wrath upon anyone, who betrays the beloved Holy Tradition and joins those with emptiness of faith for the sake of self-gain. In his own folly a person scorns the inherited treasure delivered from the Heavens. St. Irinaeus exhorted: "Truth, which is only found in the holy Orthodox Church, should not be sought from others." St. John of Kronstadt wrote: "Christ came to renew the fallen nature of humanity, which fell through sin. The Holy Spirit, having come into the world and acting in the Church through the clergy, divine church services, sermons, the mysteries, still unceasingly continues this renewal. This renewing power remains only in the Church; it cannot be found outside the Church and it can never exist outside the Church." St. Nil of Sorsk expounds similar notions, saying that "the success of a person’s inner growth is the fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which lives in the Church."

Joyous is the person who embraced the spirit of the church, a spirit of sacredness and theology. This person is in a state of bliss. With all his heart he yearns for the Church, to this source of living water, flowing into eternal life. Here one finds great joy, joy in a new life in Jesus Christ. This joy is real, being the foretaste of the eternal bliss. And no-one can deprive one of this joy, as long as one is in the Church.

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