Periodically in the coming months I will be utilizing a little book translated from Russian titled simply Three-Hundred Sayings of the Ascetics of the Orthodox Church. The purpose of the book is simple: to give short sayings from Orthodox saints on a variety of topics important to all of us. I have found this little collection helpful and I hope you do, too.
If someone wants to be protected from tricks and remain healthy in the faith, he must confine his faith first to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and secondly to the Tradition of the Church. But someone may ask, is not the canon of Scripture sufficient for everything, and why should we add thereto the authority of Tradition? This is because not everyone understands the Scriptures in the same way, but one explains them this way and another that way, so that it is possible to get there from as many thoughts as there are heads. Therefore, it is necessary to be guided by the understanding of the Church ... What is tradition? It is that which has been understood by everyone, everywhere and at all times ... that which you have received, and not that which you have thought up ... So then, our job is not to lead religion where we wish it to go, but to follow it where it leads, and not to give that which is our own to our heirs, but to guard that which has been given to us. (St. Vincent of Lerins)
Do not undertake to explain the Gospels or the other books of Holy Scripture yourself. The Scriptures were not expressed arbitrarily by the prophets and apostles, but by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How mindless then is it to explain them arbitrarily? The Holy Spirit, having expressed the Word of God through the prophets and apostles, explained it through the Holy Fathers. Both the Word of God and its explanation are a gift of the Holy Spirit. The holy Orthodox Church and its true children accept only this patristic interpretation! (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, On Reading the Gospel)
Sometimes Japanese Protestants come to me and ask me to clarify some place in the Holy Scriptures. "You have your own missionary teachers," I tell them, "Go ask them. What do they say?" "We have asked them. They say: understand as you know how. But I need to know the real thought of God, not my own personal opinion." ... It's not like that with us. Everything is clear, trustworthy and simple, since we accept Holy Tradition in addition to the Holy Scriptures. And Holy Tradition is a living, unbroken voice of our Church from the time of Christ and His Apostles until now, and which will exist until the end of the world. In it all the meaning of the Holy Scriptures is preserved. (St.Nicholas of Japan)
The Church of Christ
Brothers and Sisters! The all-merciful God desires happiness for us both in this life and in the life to come. To this end He established His Holy Church, so that she might cleanse us from sin, sanctify us, reconcile us with Him and give us a heavenly blessing. The embrace of the Church is always open to us. Let us all hasten their more quickly, we whose consciences are burdened. Let us hasten, and the Church will lift the weight of our burdens, give us boldness before God, and fill our hearts with happiness and blessedness. (St. Nectarius of Aegina).
The Church of Christ is One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic. She is herself a single spiritual body, whose head is Christ, and who has the one Holy Spirit abiding in her. The local parts of the Church are members of a single body of the Universal Church, and they, like branches of a single tree, are nourished by one and same sap from a single root. She is called holy because she is sanctified by the holy word, deeds, sacrifice and suffering of her founder, Jesus Christ, to which end He came in order to save human beings and lead them to holiness. The Church is called universal because she is not confined by place, not by time, nor by nation nor language. The communicates with all humanity. The Orthodox Church is called apostolic because the spirit, teaching and labors of the Apostles of Christ are entirely preserved in her. (St.Nicholas of Serbia)
We know and are convinced that falling away from the Church, whether into schism, heresy, or sectarianism, is complete perdition and spiritual death. For us there is no Christianity outside of the Church. If Christ established the Church, and the Church is His Body, then to be cut off from His Body is to die. (St. Hilarion Troitsky)
One should not seek among others the truth that can be easily gotten from the Church. For in her, as in a rich treasury, the apostles have placed all that pertains to truth, so that everyone can drink this beverage of life. She is the door of life. (St. Irenaeus of Lyons)
The Church is holy, although there are sinners within her. Those who sin, but who cleanse themselves with true repentance, do not keep the Church from being holy. But unrepentant sinners are cut off, whether visibly by Church authority, or invisible by the judgement of God, from the body of the Church. And so in this regard the Church remains holy. (St. Philaret of Moscow)