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Beloved Orthodox Christians,

How often we hear in discussions with our brethren of the simple understanding of what it means to be Orthodox. Some say, “we are good people, we follow the Ten Commandments”. Is this truly the definition of the Orthodox Spiritual Life? Is there some simple formula for us to follow to be saved? Is morality the cornerstone of our beliefs?

When you read the following excerpt from a terrific essay by Prof. Serge S. Verhovskoy, consider the following:

  • What does it mean to “lay aside all earthly care”?
  • Why aren’t the Ten Commandments enough to save us?
  • What is the essence of Christianity and the Church?
  • What are some things that prevent us from truly loving God or our neighbor?
  • How is meant by “the spiritual life”?

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The moral Christian life does not consist merely participating in the services and keeping the 10 Commandments. Christianity is not mere “honesty”: Christians are called to union with God and to a life of faith, in peace and in a communion among themselves. Union with God and man, love, unity, peace, Cooperation in the faith in all this is the essence of Christianity and the church. This is what makes the church the church. If we are members of the body of Christ we must always be with Christ, live by his spirit, and stand before God.

We cannot love either God or our neighbors if our souls are not cleansed from all sinfulness and free from all concerns which stifle us, those petty feelings, passions and thoughts which are connected with the external world and external impressions.

The spiritual life is constant attention to that which occurs in our souls, to our internal relationship to God and man, to the interior light of men. Only if we ourselves live spiritually does the Church reveal itself to us us a spiritual organization, as the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Saints and sanctity, the kingdom in which truth and love constitute the essence of life.

What is the Church? 
by Professor Serge S. Verhovskoy

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