On the Laws of the Church

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

We all sin, we all transgress Christ’s commandments and the laws of the holy Church, but some acknowledge themselves to be sinners and repent of their transgressions, while others, instead, reject the very laws and do not want to submit to them; they say that these laws are out-dated, that they are no longer needed; as if we are smarter than those who gave us the Church laws, which the Lord Himself gave through His Apostles and hierarchs. Here before you are two paths: the path of the wise thief, and the path of the one who was pulled down to hades by the weight of his blasphemy.

…Here, brethren, is the path of the two thieves. Some desire salvation, others desire only enjoyment in this world, and when they do not succeed in obtaining it they blaspheme those laws which are given for our salvation.

Even today various divisions can spring up among us. The laws of Christ’s Church are immutable; a Christian must submit to them irrespective of what others think, of how society regards these laws — whether favorably or unfavorably. Those faithful to Christ follow after Him along the path of those laws, those ordinances which the holy Church sacredly preserves. Those who desire unnecessary comforts and pleasures in this temporal world — which sooner or later will perish — these people prefer other laws, not the laws of the Church but those which allow them to live as they want, to think what they want, to place their own will above the spirit of the Church, that spirit given by the Lord God Himself; and they invite others to follow this same path.

It may be, brethren, that soon you will again experience a time of turmoil, and some of you will be called to take the path of denying those sacred laws and to submit to laws established by mere human authority. Beware of such a path! Beware of the path taken by the thief on the left, for by the weight of blasphemy, by the weight of reviling Christ he went to his eternal perdition. Those who revile the laws of the Church revile Christ Himself, Who is the Head of the Church, for the laws of the Church were given by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. And the laws of local Churches are based on those same laws and canons of the Church. Let us not consider ourselves wiser than those saints and hierarchs who established the rules of the Church; let us not imagine ourselves to be great sages. Rather, let us humbly call out together with the wise thief. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom!

Pray for the forgiveness of sins. If we transgress the laws of the Church, if we constantly violate them, pray that the Lord have mercy and lead us together with the wise thief into the Kingdom of Heaven. Then we will not follow the path taken by the ungodly thief, who remained ungodly to the end and descended into the nethermost depths. From which may the Lord deliver us all. Amen. (Sermon on the Sunday of Orthodoxy)

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