Let us not pay heed to these people, let up stop up our hearing
against them, and let us believe the Divine Scripture, and following
what is said in it, let us strive to preserve in our souls sound
dogmas, and at the same time to lead also a right life, so that our
life would both testify of the dogmas, and the dogmas would give
firmness to our life… If we live well but will be negligent over
right dogmas, we can acquire nothing for our salvation.  If we wish to
be delivered from Gehenna and receive the Kingdom, we must be adorned
both with the one and with the other – both with rightness of dogmas,
and strictness of life.”  (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 13:4)
Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that right belief must be partnered firmly with right-living- Orthodoxia kai Orthopraxia. Rationality/reason cannot by itself teach us about divine things. Revelation – divine grace – is necessary for the “scales to fall from our eyes” that we may see things clearly, undisturbed and free from so-called worldly wisdom and bias. In the Service of Matins we hear in the Great Doxology, “In Thy light we shall see light.” We may understand this as by God’s grace, we will see grace and the mysteries of God. Our hearts will be unencumbered and able to soar aloft to behold wondrous things of God.

Ability to behold the Mysteries of God is not given to all. We have before us the holy and glorious Saints, who bear witness to the things of God and have thus become vessels of the holy Spirit to such an extent that their bodies. though they have reposed. are incorrupt, fragrant, and even warm to the touch. They have led God-pleasing lives by their acts in life and have been granted the grace to work wonders, even after their repose.  This sanctity is founded on correct belief and correctness in their manner of life. Some were teachers, illumining the world with their exhortations;  and some were martyrs, who died for their confession of faith.

Striving to live righteously sets us on the correct path. It breaks our pride and humbles us. The sophist, one seeking worldly knowledge,  is puffed up by their pride. They fool themselves into believing they are the source of understanding – that they did it on their own. This pride is dangerous in that it forces us away from godliness and opens the door to many temptations and false belief.

In spiritual matters, worldly knowledge (our rational abilities) does not lead us to our desired destination. As Saint Isaac of Syria would say in his description of the “Three Degrees of Knowledge:”

1.      In the First Degree (the sciences and the knowledge of the world), Rationalism works fine as this is the realm of observation and hypothesis.
2.      In the Second Degree (the life of piety and love for God), Rationalism CAN assist our understanding, so long as it has set aside bias and worldly cares.
3.      In the Third Degree (divine revelation, God’s grace), Rationalism clouds us and actually hinders us like a great weight preventing us to fly freely.

To quote our holy and God-bearing Father, Saint John Chrysostom, “If we wish to be delivered from Gehenna and receive the Kingdom, we must be adorned both with the one and with the other – both with rightness of dogmas, and strictness of life.”

 

(John 1:4)

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