Sunday of the Holy Fathers from the 4th Ecumenical Council - The Right Worship
And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (Joh 17:3)
It is written in a book called Paterikon, that has words and stories of spiritual wisdom form the monks of the desert of Egypt, that there was one father, named Abba Agathon, who was famous for his peaceful and moderate way of living. One day few people went to him and tried to provoke him to get angry by asking him :
"Are you Agathon? We heard you are full of lust and pride." "It is true", said Abba
"Are you the Agathon that speaks bad about other people?"" I am", he replied again
"Are you Agathon the Heretic?" Then he jumped on his feet and said with determination "I am no heretic!"
And they asked him saying "Why having heard so many incriminations you accepted them all and you couldn't bear the word heresy?"
And he said unto them "The first ones are useful for my soul to recognize them, because in a way or another I am doing all that, but heresy means separation from God and I do not want that!"
And wondering about the righteousness of his mind they went back home with a learnt lesson.
We live today in what the philosophers call a postmodern world; it is a world that does not talk anymore about absolute Truth, but about relative truth. A truth that is true for me and maybe for a few, my friends, but it may not be true for others. In this way everybody is right and wrong in the same time.
Working during the week in a corporate environment I see this happening everyday. It doesn't matter a lot of times what we do and what we say, but rather how we do and how we say. Our arguments are dependent many times not on content, but on presentation skills. And this cannot be right.
Starting from the First ecumenical council of Nicea in 318, the keepers of the true faith, the faith of the Apostles, started to be called them selves Orthodox. Orthodoxy comes from Greek, from the word ortho=straight, right, and doxa: glory, worship.
A very practical thing, not the right theology, not the right knowledge of God, not the right philosophy about life, but rather the right worship. Why is the right worship that important that we fought so many theological battles with the heretics, so many defenders of the pure faith were martyrized?
The Fathers of the Church had a very practical approach, they have not studied and debated anything for the sake of arguing, but rather they have looked only into the things that have a deep impact on our life in God.
The purpose of our lives is to get give back to God the gift of life He bestowed upon us by giving Him something back. But what can we give to Him that is not already His? As we say in the Liturgy "We offer to You these gifts from Your own gifts in all and for all". We can only give God our lives, and this is possible only through a life in which we put Him first and try to give him the due worship, the right worship.
The right worship is important because it is said in the Bible that „Not everyone who says to Me, Lord! Lord! shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven." (Mat 7:21) What is the will of the Father in Heaven we hear at the Epiphany: „And there was a cloud that overshadowed them. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son. Hear Him. (Mar 9:7)
Hear Him! This is what we are supposed to do, and He says :"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me." (Joh 14:6). He did not say there are many true things aut there, choose the one that fits your comunity, or gives you more time for leisure, or the one that is the most comfortable. He said I am the Truth and I am the way and I am the life. His way: the way of the Cross, His Truth, the Gospel, His life: spent on the cross for us!
There cannot be another truth and this Truth cannot be changed, because it exists before time existed.
But of course there will be people that will say yeah but we are following Christ in our own way, we read the Bible and we can make our own idea about what's going on there and live a life in Christ.
Nothing more wrong than that. This vain thoughts of pride and self sufficiency have lead to the fact that we have huge number of religious groups, from which a big part call them selves Christians. But their teachings are meny times conflicting with each other. So who's right? How can we tell the difference? Who's right and who's wrong?
Going back to the time of the Ecumenical councils we encounter the word ecumenical, ecumenical comes from Greek again, oicoumenos, and means the inhabited world. The whole point of these meetings was to cast in stone the teachings that were accepted by everybody, by the whole Church, with a Capital C.
One person can be wrong, we are afterall just humans, but as a whole we are the Church of God, and Christ is her head and He cannot be wrong. So as individuals we can jump to the wrong conclusions, but as a group we always fiind the right answer through the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells in these councils.
The Orthodox Church has acted always like this. Every Holy Father before publishing or saying something new, was checking the other before Him to see if there is no conflict. This is humility, this is understanding that we should act like a group not just as individuals, and everything we do should be done as a group, because where two or three will gather in my namenI will be there.
So the new teachings, that are outside the ecumenical councils cannot be accepted because they have not been verified bay the whole body of the Church. We are responsible for the right worhips that can only come from the right faith. We are fighting with the catholics for one word in the Creed for more than one 1000 years. Arius was anatemized for a iota, a simple letter „i".
This is how important our faith is. But again we should not let pride conquer us and say that we are orthodos and thank God like the pharisee, „thank you God that you made me right unlike the others", but we should rather humbly look into ourselves to realize the great gif we received form God and tha fact that we are unworthy recipients and that with with this gift comes a mission to show through our live that we are true orthodox. It is not enough to say that we are orthodox, we should be orthodox in every moment of our lives, and be like vigil lamps that can guide the others toward the magnificent life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amin!