Some Notes on the Church for Beginners
What the Church is
1. The Church on earth is the spiritual hospital where sinners - all of us - stand before God and may gradually be cleansed through heartfelt repentance of the spiritual diseases from which we all suffer.
2. The Church can thus be defined as the place of the sick who become increasingly aware through revelation that they need healing and so seek and find it.
3. The Church is not heaven or paradise, but the place of desire for paradise. That is to say, this is the place of desire for salvation, that is, the place for the cleansing of our hearts through acquiring the Holy Spirit insofar as we are able to.
4. Those who try to find spiritual healing through the channels of the grace of God, the Holy Spirit, Who is present in the Church in the sacraments, and combine this with the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, will be tempted at every turn.
5. The more they try, the more they will be tempted. As the place of temptation, the Church is therefore the place for sobriety, which is how we resist temptation.
6. Those who do not try to find healing, for example, those outside the Church or who do not try to live a Church life, will not be tempted and will have an easy life.
7. This is because the devil does not need to tempt those who already belong to him by their laziness and negligence.
8. Indeed, the absence of temptation is a danger sign; the only sign of safety is the presence of humility.
What the Church is not
1. The Church is not a place of perfect people, who have already been fully healed of all their spiritual maladies.
2. The Church is not a club, social centre, social or national institution, a forum for expressing opinions, or a discussion group. God is not revealed through discussions but through revelation to the heart that is being cleansed through the disciplines of repentance.
3. The Church is not a self-serving ego-trip, in which all others are condemned by pompous, pretentious, self-appointed ‘experts’. It is about the humble service and support of all others.
4. The Church is not a place of boasting of one’s ‘spiritual father’, even if you actually have a genuine spiritual father and this is not self-delusion, as it often is. Such boasting comes from the spiritual disease and delusions of pride, not from humility.
5. The Church is not the place of philosophy. The philosophers are all dead, skeletons in their graves. Only Christ is Risen.
6. The Church is not the place of unChurched intellectuals. The latter confuse the reason (the brain) and the emotions (sentimentalism) with the spirit (the heart), which is the organ for perception of what is beyond the fallen reason and the illusions of emotions. Intellectuals idolise ‘culture’, but hate the ‘cult’ (worship) of the Church. This is why they do not attend Church services but only talk about the Church. This is why they always want to ‘reform’ or ‘modernise’ the Church, that is, to make it in their own sinful image, reducing it to the size of the tiny fallen, human reason. Thus, they are humanists, for they wish to humanise what is Divine.
7. The Church is not the place where we read of great ascetics like St Isaac the Syrian, St Symeon the New Theologian and St Gregory Palamas. All such reading does is induce dreaminess and fantasy; we do not cast such pearls before the swine of our souls. Our base souls are not ready for such high writings. Leave them to those who have spent thirty years and more in the disciplines and traditions of monasteries.
8. The Church is not a place of spiritual visions and exaltation. If we have such visions and exaltation, we must at once reject them because we are of course unworthy of them.