Searching for the truth

How is one convinced of the truth? That a certain religion, for instance, is the true one? I would think that besides the actual doctrine the religion must be able to prove it’s authenticity through miraculous occurrences of some sort to give proof that it  is not some man-made innovation but has otherworthly qualities.

I’ve been reading The Gurus, the Young Man and Elder Paisios and one of the interesting things about the book is that the author is not introduced to Elder Paisios at the end of the book but towards the beginning of it. What’s more, he has some out of this world experiences with the holy elder. At one point he lists the many things he’s witnessed occur to others through his prayers. He even notes how once he was walking and came across a very handsome young man, dressed in regal deacon’s robes. He didn’t think much of it until later the elder told him that that was his guardian angel he had seen. God had allowed him to see things which we who are caught up in the material world are too distracted to take note of.

And so after all these meetings with the elder on Mt. Athos, which lasted some time, he still had not given up on other religions.  He travels to India to meet some of the well known gurus that he had read about. I’m not finished with the book. In fact, I’m at the part he is traveling through India meeting the various famous religious men. He recognizes in each of them some power, though he admits it’s not as strong as what he experienced on Mt. Athos. For the most part he’s disappointed.

There is one interesting part of the story while they are still in India. He went with some friends who were also interested in different religions (they experimented in witchcraft, hypnosis, etc.). After visiting one of the famous gurus he writes:

“As we walked away from the ashram, one of my friends turned to me and said, ‘What was wrong with that fellow who ordered us to bow down and worship him [the guru]? There’s a certain sweetness about our religion, but he was downright savage.’ I could not be believe what she was saying. Both my friends were hostile towards Christianity and favorably inclined to yoga and witchcraft.”

Here is an example of someone who doesn’t recognize the treasure they have in their own tradition, their own proverbial back yard. It’s only after traveling across the globe that she recognizes ‘the sweetness of our religion’. Like I said, I’m not done yet but it’s my first read of 2011.

6 thoughts on “Searching for the truth

  1. Forgive me, Fr Milovan, for jumping the gun with an encouraging word to Darlene, as I am not a priest.

    Darlene, I know what you are talking about, as I began to meet Orthodox Christians like this almost immediately after I was joined to the Church 22 years ago. I was shocked, for example, when the wife of a prominent church member who was even on parish council told me point blank that she believed in ‘a woman’s choice’ to have or not have an abortion, and that it was a private matter. People like this have no knowledge of the scriptures and they consistently turn a deaf ear when our beloved priests and bishops try to teach us the truth as it is in Jesus and in the Church. To this day, I still encounter Orthodox who have no idea of who Jesus Christ is. I even work with one here in my company. It gives people a confused idea of what Orthodoxy is, to work with us and see how we each conduct our affairs. As for witness, I do and he wouldn’t think of it. And when I greet him as Greek to Greek at the holidays, he just rolls his eyes and smiles. I see him once in a while at church, but to him, the faith is something he practices at the level of ‘appearances.’

    So, what to do about this? The Church is both visible and invisible, and it shows up in various guises. The fact that both great saints and great sinners are there, that is enough to verify that it is what it claims to be, a hospital for the sick, who are ministered to and healed (if they let Him) by Christ our great Physician, assisted by the doctors and even by those patients who have made great progress and are willing to look past their own noses.

    The Orthodox faith is the faith that all Christians are trying to have and practice, at least those who really do want to be disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s why I do not distinguish non-Orthodox from Orthodox, but welcome them and love them all the same, inviting them always to come with me to the Temple and worship the living and only true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the divine liturgy. The sad thing is, as scripture prophesies, we live in an age ‘when the love of many will grow cold,’ and this applies to believers and unbelievers as well, and among Christians, Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

    That you are Orthodox and your husband has not yet accepted the Holy Church and been chrismated is an opportunity. To show him that Christ is all in all to you, that is all that matters, and by your simple love, the non-persuasive witness of your own meekness and submission to the Divine Word, that will bring him at last to the House of God—if he, too, really loves the Truth who is Jesus, and is seeking divine and undefiled joy.

    As for these others, whom we meet in the Church, who seem blinded by their passions, it is not for us to even notice them, but only to keep our eyes on Jesus. He alone transforms and converts the heart of man. No one, not even the doctors of the hospital, can make a man whole unless he wants to be made whole.

    As Jesus asked the man at the pool, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ so He asks all of us, every day, and only we can answer for ourselves, and take His medicine, which will heal us and bestow upon us salvation and life eternal.

  2. Amen, Romanos. I have a quote on my refrigerator, a most wise statement of truth from a holy priest now with our Lord Jesus:
    “Truth is not just an abstract idea, sought and known with the mind, but something personal – even a Person – sought and loved with the heart, Jesus Christ.” – Father Seraphim Rose

    And yet, since having become an Orthodox Christian I have met others who call themselves Orthodox Christians, yet the Truth of Who Jesus Christ is, our Lord and Savior, the Creator of All that is, seems to evade them. Christ almost seems to be hidden from them, someone who is one of many choices or truths from which humans can find some benefit – a “benefit” that can be found in any of the other great religions. After having met a number of these kind of Orthodox Christians, I have become increasingly hesitant to invite my Evangelical Protestant husband to attend worship with me at most any Orthodox parish. I do not say this with glee but deep sadness. How can one who has encountered the Living God in Jesus Christ be so lackadaisacal and casual? One who calls themselves a Christian and yet cannot see how Jesus Christ outshines and stands above every other earthly prophet, causing them to be in subjection to Him, is obscured from seeing the face of God in Jesus Christ.

    All others who call themselves the truth, or a way to God are misleading and indeed false prophets. No matter how many good things they may say, it is only our Lord Jesus that imparts true life and dispels the darkness in our souls.

    May God have mercy on me and all Orthodox Christians. May we return to our first love, a love that can only be found in Christ.

  3. Comparative religions can be an interesting pastime. I myself know a lot about non-Christian and Christian religions. In all these religions there is present the universal longing of the human soul for God, but only in Christianity is that longing fulfilled with certainty—that is, if you really do meet Christ, receive His call, and follow Him.

    It is impossible to compare Jesus Christ to any world teacher. Both Christ and the world teachers (gurus, prophets, swamis, whatever they call themselves) have teachings. Both Christ and many of the world teachers perform miracles. Both Christ and the world teachers as well as some of the pagan gods have disciples and worshipers who, like our holy elders, seem to have supernatural powers and gifts.

    But Elder Paisios is no guru, neither are any of our other holy elders and eldresses. They are just simple people who by faith have conquered themselves and found the royal road of Christ’s holy cross. I want to be like them, and not because of their miraculous powers, but because of their utter abandonment to the will of God.

    I too have met Orthodox Christians who have sought religious experiences and proofs of God in other religions. I admit that in my teenage years and early twenties I did too. But these other paths are just that, paths, treadmills actually. They are not the royal road of Christ’s holy Cross, nor are they the Way, which is not a thing but a Person, THE Person with whom, in whom, and by whom we live and move and have our being, our Lord Jesus Christ, who living on earth as a mere man, and accepting mortality, proved by His resurrection from the dead that He was no mortal, but the Eternal, living God of Israel and of the whole universe, and also its Creator and its Renewer.

    “Glory to You who have shown us the Light…”

  4. George > Yes, I agree but I was speaking in light of characters in the book. That is, people who are seeking the depth and mysticism of Christianity which some assume exists only in Eastern religions, new age, etc. All of that is very present in Christianity, in Orthodoxy. The characters in this book have sensed the power of the invisible world present in witchcraft and were later surprised to feel the same power but more powerful, more fulfilling, filled with more love – actually completely filled with love – which they never experienced anywhere else. Yet, they continued searching.

    Nektarios > I was writing from memory about the guardian angel and might have mistaken some of the details. Actually here is the excerpt from the book:

    “As I left the elder’s gate, near where the path to his cell passes through the cypress trees, I saw a young man, about sixteen or seventeen years old, standing about a yard in front of me. He was dressed in a costly robe that resembled a deacon’s vestment. He had a beauty about him that was as pure as a flower of the field, without any of the provocative or carnal features that are often found in beautiful people. I don’t remember how long we spoke or what we said. I only remember that while we spoke I knew in my soul that he was an angel, my guardian angel. Afterwards, I completely forgot about this meeting.

    When I did remember what happened, much later, I went to the elder and mentioned it to him. He laughed and told me, ‘You were a spiritual baby then, but now that you’ve matured a bit, God’s allowed you to remember it.”

  5. The “very handsome young man dressed in regal Deacon’s robes” is not his guardian angel, it is his longing for how he would see himself. Most of us have sensed the apparent, i.e. visible, grandeur of Orthodoxy, & many a convert has come in by the door of Liturgical, musical & practical beauty found in the Orthodox, Roman & Anglican rites; but it is only a door & not the destination. It is in fact one of several doors through which one must pass, the succeeding ones getting less spectacular & more difficult until one comes to the narrow one. It will be difficult if we are still carrying the wrong image of the Church. One cannot walk on both sides of the street at the same time, nor go through several doors at once.

  6. Christians need to accept Christianity as the true religion, without having to justify this belief by scientific or other analysis.

    The fact that Christ performed several miracles while He was on earth does reinforce credence that Christianity is indeed the true religion of the world.

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