Christianity is so deep, and endlessly rich. So many churches, teachings, beliefs, practices – yet so many divisions, distortions, so much that has happened in history. And I ask, who will be saved? And is there a single true Church? I’ve journeyed through so many, it’s given me perspective on the mysterious nature of salvation and the Church I could not have gained otherwise.
My husband and I recently entered Western Rite Orthodoxy, a resurrection of Western Christianity as it was in the pre-schism united Church, in communion with the Eastern Orthodox, and it is a wonderful experience.
The gospel is simple. Trust in Christ and follow Him. But there’s a little more to it: allow Him to change us. And that’s the hard part.
God is serious about both sin and holiness, calls us into a deep transformation away from sin into holiness, because He loves us so much. Creation itself and all souls depend on us and our holiness, because God not only wants to work on or in us, but through us as part of His Body, grace, salvation, spiritual change flowing from Him through us into all creation. To be effective in the world, we must understand this.
One problem for Orthodoxy in the West is the tendency to use terms unknown in the West, which can make understanding difficult. One of those is hesychia, a prayer practice, or hesychast, a person who practices hesychia. It sounds esoteric – but the meaning is quite simple and biblical: silence, peace, sweetness of union with God. Let’s talk about hesychia.
Hear this: the Church, and you who lead in the Church, the positions you occupy, are not made for your own sake. You are made for the sake of the fruit you bear, nourish, and support: the fruit of souls for God. St. Irenaeus gives a stern warning about this.
Even in the 2nd century, Christians understood that departing from God, putting yourself above God, leads to madness. Is this not what is happening now? The key to be freed from it and be safe: repentance, and seeking the one thing necessary.
There is nothing new under the sun, the heresies of the 2nd century described by St. Irenaeus, rooted in pre-Christian paganism of the ancient world, have once again entered the Church: the attempt to make God like us so we can excuse and approve all manner of evil. But my friends, this is not what we Christians are called to. We are to become like God, not make God like us, and that is hard work.
In times like these, we need lives of deep repentance and prayer. For too long we’ve heard a gospel of “just feel good, be nice, God loves us,” while all sorts of sin abounded around us within the Church. Instead, we need a gospel of tears and suffering for the truth, as Jesus suffered. A gospel of love for truth that moves us to tears, as Jeremiah was moved. And then our tears may, as in the early days of sin and heresy from which the hermits fled, be the water that makes the desert bloom.
In an age of censorship, remember: The Jews thought they had gotten rid of Jesus. Then in one magnificent moment Peter encounters a paralyzed beggar, and proclaims, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). He does, and ever since more and more “other Christs” have risen up, no matter how they try to do away with us, and always will. Even the very stones will speak. So take heart!