You read here on more than one occasion my advice to allow the Church to guide your life. I often comment that the rhythm of the Church (read The Rhythm of Great Lent) is mean to bring us closer to Christ. The life of the Orthodox Church is a life of feasts and fasts, a life of cycles that creates a wonderful rhythm in our soul. But trusting the Church can be a cross.
I admit that for someone who has been living “solo” for many years, allowing the Church life to become his guide can be a bit daunting. For someone who has “proven himself” in the world, that he can survive or even thrive at his own discretion, allowing the Church to determine when to eat and not eat can be troubling. It isn’t at all surprising when someone demands, “Prove it!”
In today’s reading from Proverbs (you can read the entire passage below) it is clear that trusting the Church doesn’t mean blindly following. It doesn’t mean we don’t ask questions. It is good to question, not to argue, but to discern the way. For someone who has already proven himself in the world, this has been a routine pattern. He learns to look around for evidence that fish swim in the lake in which he is fishing. He learns to look twice, act once, before going a new direction. The same is true in the Church, but where do we look for the evidence?
The Holy Scriptures are great starting point, since the Scriptures reveal the life of those who have responded to God’s call to follow Him, both in the Old Testament and the New. They reveal that following Christ is a cross, but that the victor in the battle is blessed by God. The Church knows how beneficial reading the Scriptures is for our journey, which is why there are appointed readings for each day.
We also learn about the path by reading about the Saints, those holy men and women who chose the accept Christ’s invitation to follow Him. Where the Holy Scripture leave off, the lives of the Saints as part of Church history continue. We discover in the lives of the Saints that these men and women were not perfect. They sinned….some REALLY sinned, before discovering they could trust God’s path. By reading their lives we learn (like the experienced fisher) where to walk and where to run. Each day the Church offers us the lives of more than one Saint to inspire us.
The Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit from day one, and if you want to discern whether you can trust the Church, read about those who trusted her teachings. Learn from their experience. You don’t have to prove yourself in the war against evil. There is already a proven path. All that remains is trust, and that can be a cross during Great Lent.
The simple believes everything, but the prudent looks where he is going. A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is careless. A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient. The simple acquire folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous. The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. He who despises his neighbor is a sinner, but happy is he who is kind to the poor. Do they not err that devise evil? Those who devise good meet loyalty and faithfulness. In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to want. The crown of the wise is their wisdom, but folly is the garland of fools. A truthful witness saves lives, but one who utters lies is a betrayer. In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14.15-26