At times, the Orthodox way of life seems so difficult. The Orthodox Church even gets the blame for the path being so difficult and we might even be tempted to question why the Church demands so much.
I have to remember a few basic reality checks about God. God is holy and God is perfect. The scriptures teach us that God says, “Be ye holy, even as I am holy.” Moreover, “be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God’s standard is holiness and perfection and sinless. His standard is not because He is a “perfectionist” or a hard taskmaster. The reality is that God is Holy, God is perfect, and God is sinless and therefore because of Who He is, anything imperfect, impure, and with sin cannot be in the presence of God. This is because of the nature of God’s holiness is such that whatever is impure cannot abide, survive or live in God’s presence.
This is where the blessings and gifts of the Orthodox Church come to our aid. The Orthodox way of life and its sacraments help us to be holy, be perfect, and be without sin so we can be one with our Creator and be in His presence. It is through the way and life of the Orthodox Church that helps us to strive towards this perfect, pure, and sinless state of being, becoming like God, made in His image, and be with God for eternity. Without this perfection, holiness, and sinlessness, we are cast into outer darkness and torment eternally separated from all that is good, holy, perfect, and all that is God.
When we fail to achieve this perfection, holiness, when we fall short, and sin, once again there are the blessings and gifts of the Orthodox Church coming to our aid. The Orthodox way of life and its sacraments bring down grace and strength for the healing of both our soul and our body. The Orthodox way of life and its sacraments restore us to communion with God and His Holy Church.
Before joining the Orthodox Church as a Protestant, I would make the decisions on when and what to pray, when and how to fast, when and how to worship. These decisions were based on what I felt or believed or wanted to do at a particular moment or season in my life.
If I didn’t go to church, didn’t pray, didn’t fast, or when I would get caught up in sin, I could justify and rationalize it away with bumper sticker slogans like, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” I could also find the particular preacher or teacher that could give me bible verses to soothe my conscious with phrases like, “I don’t need to go to church to worship God, and I can worship Him anywhere.” I did not have to confess my sins to anyone only to God, He will forgive me for everything, and I do not have to be accountable to anyone. I could have communion whenever I wanted and however I wanted. This kind of faith is all about how “I” want to do things or “feel led” to do things.
The Orthodox Church gives us a different way of life to help us humble ourselves and let go of how “I” want to do or “feel led” to do things.
The cycle of prayers of when I am supposed to pray, help me to remember God throughout the entire day. All of the Church’s prayers I find prayers for everything in life. I do not have to search and find the right “formula” to get God to answer my prayers. The prayers of the Church remind me of who I am and who God is and show me that I am in need of mercy.
The Orthodox Church tells me when to fast, when NOT to fast, how to fast and for what reasons to fast. Fasting roots out the sin in me, draws me closer to God, helps me to remember to not be driven by my feelings or desires, which go up and down and fluctuate every moment.
The Orthodox Church gives me the gift of the sacrament of confession to help me further root out the sins in my life, to be accountable, to truly repent and become more like God, living a more perfect life. Through confession, I am able to get closer to God, because less of sin dwells in me and I find true healing, freedom and forgiveness.
The Orthodox Church gives me the sacraments of Communion, the sacraments of Holy Unction, the gifts of Holy Oil, Holy Water, Holy Antidoran, and Artos. Through these sacraments and gifts, I find healing for both soul and body. I receive grace and strength for all the times I have failed or am in need of God. I receive Christ God Himself living and dwelling and abiding in me and I am transformed into more of His likeness.
Therefore, the Orthodox Church and its sacraments help us to live and give us strength to live a holy, perfect, sinless life and the Orthodox Church and its sacraments give us grace for when we fail to obtain healing for both our body and soul.