St. John of Kronstadt on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

St. John Kronstadt 1829-1908

But why on this Sunday, which is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, did the Church appoint the reading of this Gospel passage about the conversation between the Lord and Nathanael? Because, in the words of the Lord, Nathanael displayed the nature of a true, or Orthodox, Christian, and in general the nature of the true Orthodox Church of Christ. Behold, an Israelite indeed, said the Lord about Nathanael, in whom is no deceit; that is, behold a man who thinks, reasons, believes, hopes, speaks, and acts correctly, frankly, and firmly, just as Nathanael immediately and correctly believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and never again wavered in his faith and hope, did not change his mind regarding His divine Person. Is this not also how a true Christian must be? Is this not how the entire divinely established society of Orthodox Christians must be? Is it not how the Orthodox Church must, as it is, be? What high praise Nathanael received from Him, Who tries all hearts and reigns, in the words: Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit! What high praise for the Christian of whom the Lord says: behold, a true Christian, in whom is no deceit; as well as for the Church of which the Lord says: behold a Church, in which there is neither deceit nor the vain inventions of men; that is a Church that is true in all its teachings, mysteries, divine series, government, and throughout all of its structure. And these are precisely how all of our saints are, how our entire Orthodox Church is, since its beginning until our days, as evidenced by the objective history of the Church and by God Himself, through the various signs and miracles performed in the Church. It is, according to the Apostle, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15); a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Eph. 5:27). And with what sanguinary feats, what struggles with the enemies of truth, with how many deaths of those who were zealous for the purity, sanctity, and orthodoxy of the faith and the Church, my brethren, was the orthodoxy of our faith acquired for all of us, our guide toward eternal life! Just as rivers of blood were shed for the preservation and integrity of our nation, and in it Orthodox faith, by our ancestors, Russian soldiers and leaders, who fought against pagans, Muslims, and other Christians who were strangers to the Orthodox Church, so were rivers of blood also shed for the preservation of the Orthodox faith by apostles, prophets, and martyrs; much suffering was endured by revered fathers and other champions of the faith.

And what about us, children of the Orthodox Church? Do we preserve this most precious heritage, the Orthodox Faith? Do we follow its teachings, commandments, rules, statutes, advice? Do we love to offer this service to God, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15)? Are we renewed by it? Do we sanctify ourselves every day, do we perfect ourselves in our love for God and neighbor, do we cherish our faith, do we consider it the greatest mercy of God, the very first and greatest benefit of life the fact that we are fortunate to belong to the Orthodox Church, which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?

What is our answer to these questions, if we desire to answer honestly? To our shame we must confess that many, many Orthodox Christians not only do not have the Orthodox faith in their hearts and lives, but also do not have it even in their tongues, and faith has either completely disappeared from their lives or they have become completely indifferent toward any faith: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism, Islam, even paganism. We hear from many people that you can please God in every faith, that is, as if every faith is pleasing to God, and as if God is indifferent to truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Look at the consequences of ignoring one’s faith, of the ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, alienation from its life and divine services, the consequences of ignoring concepts of Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and other faiths!

…We must also mention, for the glory of the Orthodox faith, that no other religion except Orthodoxy can bring man to moral perfection or holiness and perfect agreeableness to God, as evidenced by the history of the Church and the incorrupt and wonderworking remains of the holy saints of God, and by the wonderful feats of the the saints of the Orthodox Church, through which they were perfectly pleasing to God, and who even while they were still alive were clairvoyant and wonderworkers. And so it should be, according to common sense: only the perfect faith can bring one to perfection, with all divine powers, all the spiritual armor of God against the passions of the flesh, the world and the devil!

If nowadays many Orthodox Christians live worse than Muslims and pagans, so much so that the head of all Muslims in Russia publicly proclaimed in St. Petersburg praise for his fellow Muslims for the fact that among them there are no people so wicked as among the Christians, who attempted to end the life of the Tsar. This truly impious life of Christians must not in the least, of course, be blamed on the Orthodox Faith, which is unwavering in its principles of truth and holiness, according to the promise of the Savior Himself and the testimony of history. Such people, even though they came from us, were never one of us in essence, but only in name. (Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt: Homily 16, On the Sunday of Orthodoxy)

Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of St. John of Kronstadt

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