The importance of religion and faith for the soul

Orthodox church

The shortest definition of Orthodoxy: Orthodoxy is Christ. Because Orthodoxy cannot be anything but love. And that would be the end of this text. But I think about the fact that there are also readers who would like to know why it is like this and not otherwise or how this idea is reached. I will address them further. The term "orthodox" is a Greek compound, like many other terms used in the Romanian language: "orto" = right and "doxa" = opinion, worship. It would therefore mean "right opinion" or "right-glory". However, the term appears in history as a reaction to deviations from a certain norm or a certain truth. From this perspective, there are many religious "orthodoxys" in the world: Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Islam, Orthodox Buddhism and, of course, Orthodox Christians. In order to better understand the philosophy behind the term, we could extend it to other domains of activity, where it would denote the certainty of compliance with specific norms: orthodox transport (not pirate), orthodox politics (not demagogic), orthodox justice (not functioning random and according to interests), orthodox constructions (with authorized companies, not with ear "craftsmen") and, why not, orthodox upbringing of the child (not through abandonment, mistreatment or other negative practices). In opposition to all this, we have the ubiquitous expression "unorthodox methods", which refers to various unnatural practices. Of course, in all these cases, the religious connotation of the term is excluded.

In Christianity, the term appears in the official names after the Great Schism, in the space of the Eastern Church in Byzantium, with a predominantly Greek culture, as an attempt to demarcate it from the Church of the West, later called the Catholic Church ("catoliki" in Greek means "universal") . Then, the term was also taken over by the Old Eastern Churches, which, practically, in the 5th century were the first to separate from the Primary Church, at the 4th Ecumenical Synod, and are also called Eastern Orthodox Churches (Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian, Armenian Apostolic, etc.). To preserve the distinction from the Eastern Orthodox Church and its believers, called Greek Orthodox, their believers are called Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, etc. Therefore, in the Eastern space, things are a bit more complicated, because these Old Eastern Churches recognize the first three Ecumenical Councils, but not the following ones, which modifies their teaching in relation to Greek Orthodoxy. In the Romanian space, the Greek Christian Orthodoxy is represented in a majority way by the Romanian Orthodox Church. There are other sister Orthodox Churches, of national minorities, belonging to other Patriarchates: Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Serbian. With certainty, however, we can observe that Romania is not only an important geo-strategic point between East and West, but also an area of interference between the Christian East and West: if Eastern minorities predominate in the East, Catholicism and Protestantism minorities predominate in the West. But the name only reflects the Church's principle of existence. Orthodoxy follows, throughout history, the words of Christ the Redeemer: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!". It is about a way of life that involves living the Truth-Christ, that is, divine Love. That is why Orthodoxy is essentially defined by the full living in truth of the communion of love both with God and with the neighbor. This is, in reality, the Church ("ecclesia" = the gathering of the people), that is, a togetherness-gathering around the Living Christ in His Body and Blood, just like at the Last Supper. Therefore, there is no individualism or self-centeredness in Orthodoxy. However, as individualism, autonomism or egocentrism are permanent temptations in the existence of humanity, a way had to be found to avoid them. Thus, Orthodoxy has developed, since the era of the early Church, tools to help preserve the essential purpose. In general, they are divided into dogmas and canons. Some readers may dislike these terms. At the first meeting with them, I was also upset. In reality, they do not contain anything unpleasant, but you find that out after studying the matter a little. Perhaps dogmatism and legalism are the real nuisances, not dogma or law at all. So let's approach, without fear, to understand more. Dogma represents the teaching of the Church ("dogma" in Greek means opinion, opinion, point of view). As statements, dogmas arose from the need to clearly and synthetically express teachings regarding the Orthodox way of life, but, be careful, only as reactions to the distortions of the Truth revealed by Christ. Thus, dogmas are theses that formulate the "correct opinion" of the Church on matters of faith. Therefore, although some dislike the existence of this term, dogma cannot be attacked because it is nothing more than the Church's response to the tendency to distort the Truth.As it would appear, mathematically speaking, dogma is not the hypothesis from which we start a discussion, but is the conclusion in a process of clarifying the Truth, distinguishing it from falsity, distortion and lies. So, once a problem is clarified, wouldn't it be nonsense to try to bring it up again? This is not because it would not be useful to discuss it, but because we are dealing here with valuable principles of the existence of the divine, which cannot be generated or modified by humans, being universally valid and applicable. All that is in our power is either to recognize and accept them, or to ignore them. And here, dogma helps us essentially, naming these principles. Some examples: the existence of the Holy Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, the union of the two natures in Christ (not recognized by the Old Eastern Churches, mentioned previously), the being of the Church, the person of the Mother of God, honoring the saints, etc. But it is not enough to identify the value principle. It must be lived, because communion and love are not just theories on paper, but concrete facts of life. But, as I said, subjectivism lurks, so defining Love may seem difficult, but it is much more difficult to live Love correctly, in everyday life. Because of this difficulty, the Church was forced, starting from Christ's teachings, to show believers the authentic way of living the faith. This is how the canons appear ("kanon" in Greek means rule, guide, norm, model, type, principle, and in Hebrew "qane" means the measure with which the masons measured the constructions, so a physical standard). The idea of the canon is therefore a practical one: to stake out, to mark, to indicate the way to the right living, called Ortho-praxis ("praxis" = practice, performance, act). It is a situation similar to the existence of road signs on the side of the road, or even civil laws (the first civil laws are nothing more than canonical derivatives of some public principles). The importance of the canon resides in its spirit and less in its letter. The guiding principle matters more than the technical details of place, time, number, etc. This does not mean that we have to abolish these details, but it is also not useful to freeze them. As a result, the canons also have a dynamic aspect, adapting the principle to concrete living conditions. For example, exemptions from fasting: fasting is recommended for everyone, but there are categories of people who can be exempted (exempted): pregnant women, children, those who work in extreme conditions, the sick and the elderly who are on a diet, etc. As an idea, it is good to know that the first canons appeared in the Church during the time of the Apostles, around the year 50, following the Apostolic Synod in Jerusalem, described in the New Testament, in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15. So, summarizing, Orthodoxy is only the theoretical side of Orthopraxy, the full experience of Divine Truth and Love. Therefore, she is infallible. Let's explain. What does infallibility mean? We all know, according to DEX, the state of being infallible, that is, one who cannot err, who cannot be mistaken; perfect, complete, flawless. Therefore, if Orthodoxy is all that I have said above, it is, by its very nature, infallible. However, the question arises: if Orthodoxy is infallible, does the man who lives it become infallible? No, as long as he does not deny himself, his errors and mistakes. But if man gives up his autonomy, he can achieve what seems impossible: achieving infallibility. In Orthodoxy, this is translated as holiness. The saint is infallible, but not in himself, by himself or by his own power, because he could fall from holiness at any time, but because he renounced himself and accepted to live the infallible Truth of the Church. We have one more nuance to clarify. The church is infallible not through its people. Because people do not sanctify the Church, but vice versa. The source of the Church's infallibility/holiness is Christ the Truth, the Head of the Church. We can make an analogy with the distribution of electricity. The generator of the plant is the source, the wires carry the energy, and the lamp is the light bulb, the instrument that transforms the energy of the source into light. This is how the Christ-Church-saints relationship works. Christ is the source, the Church and Orthodoxy are the transport lines, and the saints are luminaries, not by themselves, but by the energy received from Christ (even Christ calls them luminaries). We will talk more about this energy, it being the subject of the second Sunday of this Great Lent. The Church and Orthodoxy therefore remain infallible as long as they transmit unaltered what the source generates.

Through this simplistic parable we can also understand another aspect of the Church: the decisions of its clergy. The purpose of the clergy is not to generate dogmas or canons according to their own interests, but through these, the clergy only recognize, explain and apply what was previously generated and revealed by Christ.This is how we explain how, in history, we have both Ecumenical Synods, normative for Orthodoxy, but we also have "robbery" synods, which failed to fulfill this purpose of the clergy, but failed in their own interests. But, paradoxically, the flip side of the "robbery" synods is the possibility that the entire Orthodoxy can be represented by one man. How wonderful: from a man subject to weakness and decay, Orthodoxy transforms him into a saint, infallible and representative, just because he renounced himself and became like God. In fact, he followed Him. One such example is Saint Mark Eugenicus, bishop of Ephesus. When at the synod of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) the reunification of Orthodoxy with Catholicism was attempted, he was the only bishop who opposed the signing of the documents, on the grounds that Orthodoxy could not accept the dogmatic and canonical innovations of Catholicism. Despite the fact that all the other Eastern bishops had signed for utilitarian interests, hoping for the military and political help of the West, for the defense against the Islamic invasion. When he found out, Pope Eugene IV exclaimed: "Then I didn't do anything!". Orthodoxy had survived in a single bishop, although there were several of its representatives there (the Greek delegation consisted of the Emperor, the Patriarch, 22 bishops and 6 theologians). In fact, we notice here a temptation for the clergy: to behave more like a politician than a man of God. But a synod cannot be reduced to a simple political Parliament. His dogmatic decisions must be validated by the entire Church. But what can we say about the Emperor (John VI Palaeologus) who, in his desire to achieve his political goals through the Church, demanded that even his chamberlain have the right to vote... Such temptations are the reason why Saint Vincent de Lerins wrote to heretics ("hairesis" in Greek means choosing or breaking something from a whole), since the 5th century, that the authenticity of the faith consists in what has been believed everywhere, always and by everyone. That is, the fullness of the Church. Even if this is limited, in extremis, to only one. In opposition to this, heresy is a misunderstanding of the whole or even the absolutization of a part of the whole. The theologian and philosopher Christos Yannaras (an Andrei Pleșu of Greek theology) will most profoundly define heresy as the absolutization of the relative and the relativization of the absolute. More popularly said, a theological error that causes schism (separation) within Orthodoxy. Notice to those who are insufficiently informed: Orthodoxy has never practiced the Inquisition which is, in essence, a heresy towards love of neighbor; we try to guide the lost one with good will, not with the force of the stake, the sword or the cross, because there is no such thing as love by force. But how can we, those of today, reach such a state of consciousness of faith, such purity or infallibility, when around us there is relativism and moral laxity, corruption, syncretism, debauchery and other such soul toxins? Or, if none of this tempts us, at least we have countless pleasant offers for spending time: hundreds of audio-visual channels and millions of written or web pages, or kilometers of shops with thousands of kinds of delicacies and objects that more "useful", where the essential rule is the pleasure of consumption. How do we fight back? We need not fear. Christ's first word after the Resurrection is "Peace be with you". Nothing around us has power over us, as long as we don't give it the chance. Christ teaches us that when we want to perfect ourselves, we have two tools at our disposal: fasting and prayer. Fasting rebalances us and prayer nourishes us. Of course, we don't forget the golden rule of the Christian life either: don't waste time, do something useful for yourself and your neighbor: pray, read, write. Arriving here, we understand why the Church ordained that this first Sunday of Great Lent be dedicated to Orthodoxy. We cannot walk the path of perfection if we do not know the goal. In ancient times, on this Sunday, all synodal decisions condemning the great heresies of history were recited in churches. With time, heresies and challenges multiplied, it was considered that it would take too much time to recall all the battles to which the Church was subjected on the part of heresies. Plus some of them are no longer current, being replaced by others, so to speak, more modern, in fact just relapses in a different form. But, beyond these, the Church no longer pronounces these anathemas as proof of the fact that it is open to the return of those who have strayed. An anathema is nothing more than the recognition of leaving the ecclesial communion. However, we are in the time when the contemporary man, haunted by worries and challenges, must be sought with love by the Church.Scolding him before calling him may not be the best parenting tactic. Anyway, those who remain opposed to Orthodoxy are in the situation of refusing their own salvation, so we have nothing else to do but wait for their return. But the Great Lent Way continues, each Sunday being an invitation to a spiritual stop clarifying life in Christ.

Orthodoxy will never perish, regardless of our errors, whether clerics or laymen. Because Christ the Truth, the Way and the Life cannot disappear. On the contrary. He remains the true Life, the Truth that can free us from the addiction of debauchery and the Path to holy love. Because He is holy love. But the choice is ours. Free, aware and assumed. Orthodoxy is Christ.