For Orthodox Christians: A Guide to the Blessed Path to God

Andrii Zvorygin yN-PH2196 mtH2a1 & GPT4
attender of Glad Tidings Fellowship, Tara, ON

December 13, 2023


1 Disclaimer

This leaflet is intended as a spiritual guide for those on the Orthodox Christian path, drawing inspiration from Jesus’ declaration, ”I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). It aims to illuminate your journey with the teachings and parables of Christ, the ultimate beacon of divine wisdom. As we navigate this path, it’s important to heed the advice of the Apostle Paul to ”Test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), encouraging discernment and adherence to true Orthodoxy. While this document seeks to enrich your spiritual understanding, it does not replace the personal guidance of your spiritual father or active participation in the sacramental life of the Church. For deeper understanding and personal guidance, engaging with your parish priest or a trusted Orthodox spiritual advisor is recommended. May this leaflet serve as a resource to deepen your faith and commitment to a life in Christ.

2 Introduction:

In the rich tradition of Orthodox Christianity, we understand the call of Jesus Christ as a transformative journey towards theosis, or becoming one with God. When Jesus proclaimed, ”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), He was inviting us into a deep, continuous process of transformation, mirroring the path He embodied. This path is one of agape love, kenotic self-emptying, and humility. In the words of Jesus, ”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), we find the essence of the Orthodox faith — a call to a life transcending worldly divisions, welcoming all into the embrace of God’s love. This is a faith that manifests not just in belief, but in deeds of love and mercy, reflecting the words of Jesus: ”By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The Orthodox life is a journey towards the likeness of God, striving for spiritual perfection as Christ says, ”Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

3 Trusting in God’s Provision and Taking Active Faith:

In the Orthodox perspective, trusting in God combines deep faith with active participation in God’s plan. Jesus teaches, ”Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). This trust in God’s provision is echoed in the Divine Liturgy and the sacramental life of the Church. ”But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33) is a call to prioritize our spiritual journey, aligning our will with God’s. This active faith is a commitment to living out the Gospel, embracing the sacraments, and participating in the life of the Church. As Jesus says, ”Take my yoke upon you and learn from me... and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29), we are reminded of the peace and grace found in obedience to God’s will and the teachings of the Church.

4 Recognizing the Divine Within and Through Us:

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the divine is present in each of us, a concept rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the Church Fathers. Jesus said, ”The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), a powerful reminder of our potential for theosis, the process of becoming more like God. This inner divinity is nurtured through prayer, fasting, and participation in the sacraments. The humility and reliance on God that Jesus exemplified, as seen in ”For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken” (John 12:49) and ”The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), are central to the Orthodox understanding of a life lived in communion with God.

The Orthodox path is one where every action, every breath, can be a reflection of God’s presence. ”You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) speaks to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit within us. As bearers of this light, we are called to let the grace of God shine through us, exemplifying the living water that Jesus speaks of in ”Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38). In embracing this divine spark within us, we engage in a lifelong journey of spiritual growth, guided by the teachings of Jesus and the traditions of the Church.

Our pilgrimage through life is both a physical journey and a deep, inner exploration, guided by the greatest commandments as taught by Jesus: ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Recognizing the divine within ourselves and others is a call to see the image of God in everyone, serving as vessels of His love and mercy. Through humble submission to God’s will and the teachings of the Church, we emulate the example set by Christ, allowing the love and wisdom of God to flow through us, transforming our lives and the world around us.

5 Service, Respect, and Love: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

In the Orthodox Christian tradition, the teachings of Jesus Christ emphasize the importance of humble service and unconditional love as cornerstones of our faith. He instructs us, ”Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). This directive aligns with the Orthodox understanding of theosis, where becoming like God involves a path of selflessness, kindness, and humility, echoing the kenotic (self-emptying) love of Christ.

Respect for the divine image in every person is fundamental in Orthodox Christianity. As Jesus taught, ”So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). This golden rule is a reflection of the Orthodox belief in the inherent dignity and freedom of every individual, created in the image and likeness of God.

The sanctity of marriage is deeply revered in the Orthodox faith, seen as a sacred covenant reflecting Christ’s union with the Church. Jesus’ words, ”For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5), resonate with the Orthodox understanding of marriage as a journey of unity, mutual sacrifice, and spiritual growth.

Family relationships hold significant importance in Orthodox teachings. Jesus’ command to ”Honor your father and mother” (Matthew 15:4) is understood in the context of a broader spiritual family, extending love and respect beyond our immediate kin to the universal family of humankind.

The Orthodox Christian ethos extends love and kindness to all, including neighbors, strangers, and even enemies. As taught by Jesus, ”You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and ”Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), these principles underscore the call to universal love and forgiveness, central to the Orthodox way of life.

Compassion in Orthodoxy extends to all of God’s creation. Jesus’ teaching, ”Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29), highlights the Orthodox commitment to stewardship of the environment and care for all living beings. This reverence for life is a manifestation of seeing the divine presence in all of creation, encouraging Orthodox Christians to live in harmony with the world around them, reflecting God’s love in their interactions with both people and nature.

6 Embracing Forgiveness, Love, and Acceptance in Light of Jesus’ Teachings:

The Nature of Divine Love: In Orthodox Christianity, the nature of divine love is deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. He instructs us, ”As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love,” (John 15:9). This love, as exemplified in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter post-resurrection, is agape—selfless, sacrificial, unconditional. This is contrasted with phileo, a brotherly love, highlighting the profound nature of divine love that Christ calls us to embody. Agape love is an act of the will, a choice to love selflessly, prioritizing others’ needs, and loving without expectation. This reflects the love of the Father for the Son and the love of Christ for us. Orthodox Christians are called to immerse themselves in this agape love, making it the cornerstone of all relationships and interactions.

Seeking Forgiveness: The ultimate example of forgiveness in Orthodox thought is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His prayer, ”Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), is a powerful testament to the depth of forgiveness we are called to emulate. Forgiveness, even in suffering, is a central tenet of our faith.

Duty of Kindness: Christ’s commandment of love and kindness is paramount in Orthodox teachings. ”A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). This directive encourages Orthodox believers to exhibit kindness and love, even amidst adversity, reflecting the compassionate nature of Christ.

Love as a Divine Commandment: For Orthodox Christians, Jesus’ summary of the law emphasizes love as the foundation of our spiritual journey. ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). This encapsulates the essence of our faith and our relationship with God and others.

The Call to Forgive: Forgiveness is a core aspect of Jesus’ teachings and thus of the Orthodox Christian life. ”For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Embracing forgiveness allows us to reflect God’s mercy and grow closer to Him.

In our spiritual journey, the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25) holds significant importance. It speaks of the final judgment, where acts of kindness to the ”least of these” are seen as acts done unto Christ Himself. ”Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). This underscores the importance of seeing and serving Christ in others and reinforces our commitment to love, acceptance, and forgiveness. By living these teachings, we strive for a place at the right hand of God and delve deeper into the heart of the Orthodox Christian faith.

7 Embracing the Wisdom of Jesus: Navigating Through Divine Love and Understanding

The Gospel Above All: In Orthodox Christianity, the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels are the cornerstone of our faith. As He declared, ”Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35), it emphasizes the eternal truth and authority of His words. Every interpretation and teaching within the Orthodox Church is harmonized with Jesus’s teachings, holding them as the ultimate guide to our faith and life.

Continuous Search for Wisdom: Orthodox tradition upholds a personal connection with the Scriptures, as Jesus advised, ”You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). This encouragement for continuous engagement with the teachings of Jesus is a call for every believer to immerse themselves in the life and words of Christ, seeking deeper understanding and spiritual growth.

Apostles and Disciples: The Orthodox Church highly values the teachings of the Apostles and the early disciples. Jesus’ command, ”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations... and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20), is central to the Church’s mission. The respect for individual free will and choice in accepting the Gospel, as Jesus taught, ”And whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (Matthew 10:14), is a guiding principle in the Orthodox evangelistic approach.

Avoid Blind Allegiance: Jesus’ warning against blind adherence to religious rituals or human-made traditions is deeply ingrained in Orthodox thought. He cautioned, ”You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:8). The Orthodox Church emphasizes the importance of a genuine, heartfelt faith and relationship with God, transcending mere outward appearances and rituals.

Discerning the Spirits: The Orthodox Church takes seriously Jesus’ warnings against deceitful prophets. His assurance of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, ”and the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and remind you of all things that I said to you” (John 14:26), is foundational to Orthodox spirituality. The Church teaches the necessity of discerning spirits to ensure their alignment with Christ’s teachings and their origin from God.

Role of Church Leaders: In Orthodox Christianity, church leaders, guided by the Holy Spirit, serve as shepherds to their congregations. Their teachings, rooted in the Gospels, are vital in guiding the faithful. The Church reminds leaders that true greatness is found in service and humility, following the example of Christ Himself.

Unity in Christ: Jesus’ prayer for the unity of His followers, ”That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21), resonates deeply within the Orthodox Church. Despite various traditions and practices, the essential teachings of Jesus unite all believers in the Orthodox faith.

In conclusion, the wisdom and teachings of Jesus Christ, rich in divine love and understanding, are the guiding lights for Orthodox Christians. Grounding oneself in the Gospel and continually seeking to align with Christ’s teachings is essential for embracing the fullness of the Christian faith and journey.

8 Conclusion: Embracing Agape Love and Grace in Anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven

Awareness of Mortality: In Orthodox Christianity, the awareness of life’s transience is a fundamental aspect of spiritual growth. Jesus’ reminder, ”For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26), underscores the fleeting nature of earthly existence and the lasting value of the soul. Each day is a step closer to our ultimate meeting with Christ and the full revelation of the Kingdom of God.

Continuous Preparation: Orthodox tradition emphasizes living with an anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven, a concept deeply rooted in Jesus’ teachings. ”Watch therefore, for you do not know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13) calls us to constant vigilance and spiritual readiness. Jesus’ teaching that ”the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21) underscores the importance of inner transformation and maintaining a heart filled with God’s grace, love, and compassion.

Facing Our Personal Day of Reckoning: The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) is particularly poignant in Orthodox thought. It illustrates the importance of being perpetually prepared for the coming of Christ. The wise virgins, with their lamps filled with oil, symbolize individuals who maintain a deep, personal relationship with God. This oil, representing the grace of God and the Holy Spirit’s presence, is something each believer must personally seek from God. Orthodox spirituality encourages constant self-examination: Are we keeping our hearts lit with divine love and grace? Are we ready, at any moment, to enter into the presence of God with hearts full of agape love? The ultimate goal is to be greeted by Christ with the words, ”Well done, good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21), a testament to a life lived in faithfulness and love.

In Orthodox Christianity, embracing agape love and grace in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven is central to our spiritual journey. This preparation involves a deep, personal commitment to Christ, fostering a heart filled with love, grace, and readiness for the coming of God’s Kingdom.