There is a commonly heard aphorism in the Orthodox Church which states that we do not change the church, but the church changes us. This concept, along with the injunction in scripture to be ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds’ (cf. Romans 12:2), influenced my decision to pick up and read, The Mind of the Orthodox Church, by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos.
The goal of the book is simple and straightforward, to convey clearly what exactly the mind of the Orthodox Church is—its historical origin and divine revelation, its definition and characteristics, how it has been clarified over time by the church fathers and ecumenical councils as well as by the lives of its martyrs and saints, and how it differs from the mind of the secular world and of other heretical tendencies.
The underlying hope, and secondary goal of the book, is that by knowing the mind of the church, and by understanding this mind with greater clarity, the members of the church can then go about attaining this mind for themselves, using this knowledge to guide their own thinking and actions. The reason this is important, as stated in the book, is that the church body is not merely an organization, but is a living organism, and as such all of its members should be animated by the same mind and life. As St Paul writes, we should all be of ‘one mind’ (cf. Philippians 2:2).
Because the book is intended to help us change our own minds, it is a challenging book to read but also very rewarding, for anyone that takes the faith seriously and sincerely wants to follow the commands given in scripture, and by the church traditions. Within the book’s introduction the author makes the following point, again in relation to St Paul’s epistles:
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). If this passage is associated with what the Apostle said before and after it—where he was speaking of the ‘perfect’ in relation to what is ‘in part’ and about seeing God ‘face to face’ in relation to ‘seeing in a mirror dimly’—then we can understand that the mind of the Church is connected with man’s spiritual fulfilment, which consists in partaking of the purifying, illuminating and deifying energy of God.
Acquiring the mind of the church is therefore about relinquishing the mind of the ‘world’ and growing up—leaving off the ‘childish’ things from our past, and putting on the new things that make us mature in the faith, and ‘adult’ followers of Christ.