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The Treasure of the Truth.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 1:4).

Our Lord Jesus Christ defined the purpose of His coming into this world, saying, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John 18:37).

Consciousness ability to learn, think, contemplate and create, is the most precious faculty that the Maker endowed us with. It raises us above other living creatures and, to a certain extent, makes us similar to God. The most important capacity of consciousness is to recognize the truth, i.e. acquire the correct perception about an object or occurrence. Without this ability, consciousness would remain in a world of illusions, and would be absolutely useless. Consciousness, which is not enlightened with truth, is like a candle without fire, or river without water.

If cognition of the world and its physical laws is desirable, then cognition of spiritual truths is of even greater importance. They provide us with correct understanding of the God and His properties, cause and purpose of existence of universe and humans, reason of evil amongst people, nature and determination of man, spiritual world, goal of man's temporary life, the Savior and salvation of man, of what is good and what is evil, of death and resurrection, Judgment and eternal life, ways to overcome temptations, succeed in virtue, achieve perfection, and so on.

God, who granted humans with and honorable need of studying and learning, helps them to fulfill this wish. Thus, in the Old Testament patriarch's time, God revealed to His chosen the most elementary knowledge about Himself and about what is right and wrong. Later through Moses and other prophets God provided more details of the moral law, and also that the Messiah-to-come would save people from sin and death. Finally, in the New Testament time, through His Son, God revealed the truths of spiritual world in the fullest and most perfect degree. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," wrote the Evangelist John (John 1:17). In his current, physical condition, man is not able to perceive the truth deeper than it has been exposed by the Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles. It does not exclude the possibility that, when spiritual horizons of man extend in the future life, he will become capable of a deeper and fuller insight into truth. The Apostle Paul writes about it in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known [by God]."

Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ made the truth known to His contemporaries not exclusively for their sake but also for the sake of all future generations. By His care and the almighty power of the Holy Spirit, truth that at some point of time was opened to the Holy Apostles, has been preserved in the Church in its original purity, and will remain there until the end of time. Departing from His disciples, Jesus condoled with them, promising that soon the Holy Spirit would descend to strengthen them in truth. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive... he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you... Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 14:16,17, 26; 16:13). It is noteworthy that Christ calls the Holy Ghost the Spirit of truth, letting us understand that revelation of truth to believers is primarily an action of the Third Person of the Most-Holy Trinity in the business of salvation of humankind. As opposed to the Spirit of truth, the devil is called the seducing spirit and father of lies, because dissemination of false ideas is the main weapon he uses to ruin people.

Heterodox Christians reduce the religious truth to what is contained in the Holy Scripture and reject the apostolic tradition, preserved by the Church, which is the spiritual experience She has collected. Such delimitation of sources of truth is incorrect due to two reasons. First, the Apostles did not write their epistles with the objective of giving a coherent and exhaustive exposition of the Christian doctrine. In their epistles, they either laid the basics of the teaching of Christ, or addressed problems that one or another Christian community had faced. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able; For ye are yet carnal," wrote Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:2). The Apostles usually preferred to teach orally. "I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face" (3 John 13-14). Thus, the guidance of the Apostle John the Theologian and most of his conversations have not been recorded. But the Apostles exposed the Christian doctrine in its completeness and full detail to bishops who were their successors. The Apostle Paul instructed his disciple Timothy: "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 1:13, 2:2).

Much of what Paul taught Timothy and his other disciples, and also what other Apostles taught, was recorded by their successors. It was included in the Writings of the Apostolic Fathers (Polycarp of Smyrnae, Ignatius the Theophoros and others), in the ancient Creeds, the order (rule) of Liturgy, Baptism, Chrismation and other sacred acts. Making ourselves acquainted with these ancient documents of Christian literature, we become convinced that the Church, rather than the Scripture, contains fuller truth.

Second, the Holy Scripture contains the words of the Holy Ghost, truths from supreme, and even divine spheres of existence. Therefore, in order to understand the Scripture fully, one needs assistance and guidance of the Holy Ghost. Existence of a great number of sects proves that many of those, who undertake to interpret the Holy Scripture, do not comprehend it. And it is not so due to complexity of its language the Apostles usually preached to simple, illiterate people. This means that the cause of misunderstanding of the Scripture is in human inability to accept the inspirations of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 2:14). Such misunderstanding can be conscious, but even more often unconscious, caused by man's sinfulness, corporeality, passions or other reasons. Sectarian preachers often err by 'clipping' a verse from the Scriptures and interpreting it out of the context of other related verses. They chose exactly a text that seems to support their prejudice, and ignore other quotes that refute it.

Sectarians' voluntary handling of the Word of God resulted in skepticism of many modern people toward the very idea of truth. Pontius Pilate was first to express the mindset of these skeptics. Hearing Jesus speak about truth, he ironically asked, "What is truth?" and turned to another topic before He could answer. But we believe that truth exists in the Church, because in Her acts the same Holy Ghost that guided the Apostles.

History has shown that in the matters of faith, infallibility does not belong to individual bishops, councils, and in no case to any certain nation. Infallibility in the matters of faith and moral is granted to the Church in Her wholeness, Her synodal harmony of bishops, clergy and all Orthodox believers. The Church in Her entirety constitutes the body of Christ, and the Lord Jesus Christ is Her Head. The Holy Apostle Paul witnessed the impeccable purity of teaching of the Church: "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27). That is why the Church is called "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

Sometimes, heterodox preachers tell the right things. In this case they produce sparkles of the light, which glows its utmost in the Church. As physical light that lights the earth has only one source, the Sun, so all of the religious truth, irrespective of who uttered it, is a particle of the same spiritual light, which fully shines in the teaching of the Church. But the problem is that sectarians, who lure followers with these particles of light borrowed from the Church, mix them with particles of their own and sometimes satanic darkness.

So, in order to comprehend the words of the Holy Ghost correctly, one must ask for His guidance and assistance. It is also necessary to check that the truths we learn are in complete harmony with what the Church has always taught. The Holy Ghost cannot contradict Himself.

Truth remains in the Church not like a soulless treasure, inherited from ancient time, but as an eternally life-giving power. Different epoch, cultures and conditions of life pose specific problems to people. Guided by the Spirit of Truth, the Church addresses these problems and gives the right answers to Her children. Like a big tree that can change its appearance as it grows, still having the same nature, the teaching of the Church is always new and fresh in the visible form of its language, but it is essentially unchanged.

Cognition of truth in its fullness is not a one-off act of will but a process, which runs simultaneously with intellectual and spiritual development of an individual. The Gospel pronounced truth not merely for the enlightenment of mind, but for its spiritual improvement. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," orders the Savior (Matthew 6:33).

The teaching of Christ is extremely rich in contents and is actually inexhaustible. It is designed to guide one's thoughts and will at any step of spiritual development. It can be applied to slaves and freemen, monks and married people, academics and illiterates, workers and kings. It indicates the way toward penance and correction for sinners; it directs and strengthens up those who are burdened and oppressed with toils; it gives wisdom and sanctifying grace to those who strive to reach perfection. About the purpose of learning of truth, the Lord said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). Being free of darkness of delusion and serfdom of passions that is the genuine freedom granted to everyone who loves truth.

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