Glory to God!!
“There is a temptation to reduce Orthodoxy, especially among young male converts, to a rational system of doctrines and dogmas, canons and rituals. We get all excited about the new things we are learning, and about how far superior they are to the Catholic and Protestant systems of Christian thought, or to secular and non-Christian philosophy. But because we are not mature in the Faith, we are off balance.
All these things, doctrines, dogmas, canons and so forth, are there in order to support one primary purpose: the transformation of our souls in theosis, in short, salvation. Just because you have the right doctrine, pure dogmas and strict observance of the canons does not mean that you are deified. In fact, the great spiritual fathers all say that knowledge puffs up, inflates our ego, and inflames our passions. These things will not save you. They are the context for the spiritual struggle but are not its content.
If we judge others, condemn others, criticize others and generally exalt ourselves, we are simply the new Pharisees. You can have perfect obedience to all the rules, and if you do not love your neighbor, they condemn you. You can fast perfectly, and if you judge and criticize your neighbor, you condemn yourself.
If you judge and criticize the Roman Catholics or the Protestants and their faith, and decide they are all going to hell, you have condemned yourself. It is not for us to judge anyone else’s faith or salvation. We need to worry about ourselves, and our own salvation. We must not only mercilessly persecute hypocrisy within ourselves, but any kind of arrogance, selfishness, self-centeredness, and egotism. Otherwise, we make the truth into a lie, because we take what is good and holy, and use it to not only destroy others, but inflate our own egos. If you don’t have love, St Paul says, you are a sounding gong or clanging cymbal.
The Fathers tell us, over and over, that until we have achieved a substantial degree of purification from the passions, we must not touch theology. In the early Church, the three year period of catechesis was primarily devoted to moral teaching from the Old Testament. You have to live Orthodox to understand the Faith.”
– Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen