10 September 2007
KNOWN BY THEIR FRUITS
The true faith is Christianity.
The true Christianity is Orthodoxy.
And the best expression of Orthodoxy is the royal path.
To show that the true faith is Christianity , we point to the saints. These are the fruits of Christianity. Christ rose Himself up from the dead; nobody else has ever brought themselves back to life. Pagan religions can produce truly righteous men, for God created all men in His image. But even the height of human goodness is not meant to be a substitute for the sanctification/deification found in the Christian saints. The difference can be seen in their miracles. Christian saints, because of Christ, have power over death and over nature [animals, weather, time]. The pagan "miracles" are confined to the psychic realm.
To show that the true Christianity is Orthodoxy, again we point to the saints. Heterodox Christianity can produce exceedingly compassionate, loving, peaceful, devoted and self-sacrificing humans. But so can pagan religions produce such fruit. Sanctity is not simply righteousness which is earthly and which is good, sanctity has an otherworldliness which is not of this world and cannot be judged by earthly standards. Compare Mother Theresa with St. Seraphim of Sarov...
To show that the best expression of Orthodoxy is the royal path, again we point to the saints. While the saints are accessible to all Orthodox, it is the royal path that produces them. The royal path is not readily discerned, but it does exist. Fr. Seraphim Rose found it. He lived it and he wrote about it. He told us who was on it and who was not, so that we would know who to trust as our guides.
FRIENDS OF GOD
We meet the friends of God by reading lives of saints. Lives of saints are the "milk" and the "meat" of an Orthodox life. One of the holy people of Fr. Seraphim's time was Archbishop John Maximovitch, who was recognized as a miracle-working saint even during his lifetime by many. Archbishop John read lives of saints throughout his whole life. We never outgrow the need to read lives of saints.
We start by learning about their many different lives. God is not a respecter of persons, so we find saints from all walks and stations of life. Then next we start to love them. It is only natural to love somebody who loves who or what we love. We begin to love the saints because we see how they love God. Next we start to talk to them. Christ told us to love one another, He called us His friends. It is natural for friends to talk to one another. The idea here is not the Protestant idea that we need a go-between to pray to God, or that we "worship" the saints. The idea is more that we have joined, or desire to join, the "cloud of witnesses." We've been invited to the "banquet," and we do not ignore the other guests.
The saints are like our big brothers who have walked the path ahead of us. They are eager to help us. God provides us with heavenly helpers, just like He provides us with earthly helpers [parents, teachers]. They inspire us, they encourage us, and they pray for us - just like our friends in Christ who are still on earth.