Adrift in the midst of this unrelenting spiritual tempest, I approached my father confessor and naively expressed to him my dilemma and concerns. My confessor, one of the most educated and seasoned hieromonks of the monastery, immediately realized that this involved a most serious and complex matter. He surrendered to some moments of silence while searching in vain for some satisfactory resolution to my predicament. He finally spoke, but he gave such a twist to this issue, that I was truly caught off guard.
The Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, he told me in the most nonchalant manner, have troubled you. Set both of them aside and confine yourself in strict adherence to the infallible teaching of our church, without delving into much questioning and examining. Do not permit some creatures of God, whosoever they may be, to scandalize your faith in His church.
This totally unexpected answer succeeded in increasing my spiritual confusion. I had always believed that the word of God was precisely one of the very things that one could not "set aside." According to my perception, the Holy Scripture was the determining factor of our orthodoxy [as Roman Catholics]1 and not vice versa. In more precise terms, Holy Scripture commands: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith."2
I don't need to hear 'your opinions' or 'my opinion' says the Blessed Augustine, but let us rather hear 'what the Lord says.' Undoubtedly, there are the Scriptures of the Lord to whose authority we must both obey and submit. Let us then seek to find the true Church in these [Scriptures] and let us base our conversation on these only.3
Without giving me the slightest chance to respond, my father confessor added:
Instead, I shall give you a list of our own authors in whose works you will regain your spiritual calmness. Through these books, you will perceive the clarity of the teaching of our church without any difficulty at all. Then, asking me whether I had anything "more important" to discuss, he terminated the conversation. A few days later, my father confessor departed from the monastery on a preaching tour to the other churches and monastic communities of our order. Having supplied me with the list of books he had mentioned, he asked me to promise that I would correspond with him on a regular basis to keep him informed on the voyage through my "spiritual unrest." Even though his arguments and input had left me completely unconvinced, I went ahead and collected all the books he had recommended with the decision to study them with the greatest objectivity and conscientiousness possible. The majority of these books were theological texts and manuals of papal decisions and papal ecumenical councils. I threw myself into studying them with genuine interest and without using any precautionary measures, with the exception of the Holy Scripture, which I kept open in front of me as a "lantern unto my feet and a light unto my path."4
I was not at all willing to permit either my father confessor or my church to turn me into somebody like the Jews whom the Lord had reproached as deluded because of their ignorance of the Scriptures.5 On the contrary, I was determined to stay faithful, following the example of those believers (in Veroia) who, after they had "received the word with all readiness of mind"6 were praised by the Apostle Paul because they "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."7 In doing this, they were safeguarded from the deception caused by "philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."8
As I continued reading and progressing in the study of the recommended texts, I began to suspect -only to become gradually convinced- that I was almost completely ignorant about the true nature and organic constitution of my church.
Having been introduced to Christianity and baptized, after the completion of my secondary education I took some courses in philosophy. At the time, I was still at the initial stage of comprehending Roman Catholic theology, a field of study quite new and unfamiliar to me. Until then, Christianity and the Roman Church had represented to me two ideas expressing one and the same reality. Cradled in the quietude and calmness of my monastic life, I had been only concerned with the mystical aspect of Christianity. Immersed in my philosophical studies, I had not had the opportunity to research in depth the reasons behind the organic structure of my church. Reading the official texts that my father confessor had shrewdly selected for my benefit, I gradually understood the true nature of the paradoxical religio-political monarchy that constitutes the contemporary Roman Church. At this point, I believe that a brief overview of its characteristics would be informative.
FOOTNOTES TO CHAPTER 21. St. Augustine, Epistola adversas Donatum, III, 5. 2. 2 Cor. 13:5. 3. St. Augustine, Epistola adversas Donatum, III, 5. 4. Ps. 118 (119):105. 5. Mark 12:24. 6. Acts 17:11. 7. Ibid. 8. Col. 2:8.
Page created: 20-5-2011.
Last update: 20-5-2011.