From Archmandrite Sophrony

In its eternal essence Christian life is divine spirit and truth and therefore transcends all outward forms. But man comes into this world as tabula rasa, to ‘grow, wax strong in spirit, be filled with wisdom’ (cf. Luke 2.40), and so the necessity arises for some kind of organisation to discipline and co-ordinate the corporate life of human beings still far from perfect morally, intellectually and, more important, spiritually. Our fathers in the Church and the apostles who taught us to honour the true God were well aware that, though the life of the Divine Spirit excels all earthy institutions, this same Spirit still constructs for Himself a dwelling-place of a tangible nature to serve as a vessel for the preservation of His gifts. This habitation of the Holy Spirit is the Church, which through centuries of tempest and violence has watched over the precious treasure of Truth as revealed by God. (We need not be concerned at this point with zealots who value framework rather that content). ‘The Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty…Beholding….the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3.17-18)’. The Church’s function is to lead the faithful to the luminous sphere of Divine Being. The Church is the spiritual centre of our world, encompassing the whole history of man. Those who through long ascetic struggle to abide in the Gospel precepts have become conscious of their liberty as sons of God no longer feel impeded by formal traditions- they can take general customs and ordinances in their stride. They have the example of Christ Who kept His Father’s commandments without transgressing the law of Moses with all its ‘burdens grievous to be borne’ (Luke 11.46).
In Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit God gave us the full and final revelation of Himself. His Being now for us is the First Reality, incomparably more evident than all the transient phenomena of this world. We sense His divine presence both within us and without: in the supreme majesty of the universe, in the human face, in the lightning flash of thought. He opens our eyes that we may behold and delight in the beauty of His creation. He fills our souls with love towards all mankind. His indescribably gentle touch pierces our heart. And in the hours when His imperishable Light illumines our heart we know that we shall not die. We know this with knowledge impossible to prove in the ordinary way but which for us requires no proof, since the Spirit Himself bears witness within us.

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