split from a thread in Faith Issues - MK
Most religions and christian denominations have the goal to create good or perfect persons. But which one can really achieve that? By reading life of saints or virtuos persons in different religions/denominations, I discovered that in the orthodox church there're some saints, who are giants, who reached a top, which other non-orthodox believers can just dream about. These saints got the highest gift of the holy spirit: love.
Especially in the life of Saint Silouan, Elder Sophrony, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Saint Isaac the Syrian,... you read how they were able to pray day and night for the whole humankind(including enemies; and james 5.16: "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.") with such a pain, which is often comparable(or often even more) to the pain of a grieving widow who lost her only child. And there're other saints like Saint John of Kronstadt, Elder Porphyrios, Elder Paisios, etc. who, in addition to the prayer for the whole world, had been preaching and serving for the people day and night with love and with supernatural gifts (which you cannot find hardly anywhere else).
And one of my favourite conversion story is about Klaus Kenneth. In his book "born to hate, reborn to love" you can read who he began the journey in search of life but ended up in drugs excesses, Asian mysticism, became a Buddhist monk, lived for seven years as a Hindu, visited almost all Muslim countries and had encounters with yogis, famous buddhist "masters" and witchcraft. He had also several talks with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. And then as a christian he spent a lot of time with famous christian preachers. So he met and spent time with famous virtuous persons of different religions and denominations but nobodoy had such a deep impact on him like Elder Sophrony of Essex. Because of him he's now orthodox. And every time when he met Elder Sophrony, an incomparable tsunami of love came up to him. Klaus Kenneth also said that in comparison with Mother Theresa, Elder Sophrony had ten time more love than her; she had love but he was love incarnated.
So my conclusion: why to leave the orthodox church, when you can only find such incomparable saints in orthodoxy? Or why not to convert to orthodoxy, when only here you can find persons who fulfilled the commandments of our lord in such a deep, beautiful perfection? That they got such a perfection means that Christ is living in them. So the truth must be here! How could the truth be in a other religion or other denomination where people cannot achieve such a perfection? Christ himself convinced the people not by theology,but by his perfection , by his endless love. Theology without a perfect model is dead!
And my question: For whom were the saints a (main) reason to convert or to stay in the orthodox church? Or is it a reason to convert at all?
I would say that Saints like St. Padre Pio, St. John Vianny, St. Rita, fulfilled the commandments of god with beautiful perfection, had Christ living in them and had signs both during and after their death of how pleased God was with them.
Jesus Christ was God but also fully a man , and as a man, had various aspects. No one of us can fulfill all His aspects, because of our sinfulness. We have to choose an aspect and copy it as best we can. St Padre Pio chose one manner, and St. Isaac the Syrian chose another.
With that I would like to offer you this little section from the book the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, a western classic that has helped many a sinner become a Saint around the world.
"The man who thinks of the greatness of his own sins and the littleness of his virtues, and of the distance between himself and the perfection of the saints, acts much more acceptably to God than the one who argues about who is greater or who is less. It is better to invoke the saints with devout prayers and tears, and with a humble mind to beg their glorious aid, than to search with vain inquisitiveness into their secrets."
"Many ask who is the greater in the kingdom of heaven when they do not know whether they themselves shall be worthy of being numbered among
its least. It is a great thing to be even the least in heaven where all are great because all shall be called, and shall be, the children of God. The least shall be as a thousand, and the sinner of a hundred years shall die. For when the disciples asked who should be greater in the kingdom of heaven they heard this response: "Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven." The Imitation of Christ, Chapter 58, High Matters and the Hidden Judgments of God Are Not to Be Scrutinized