Orthodoxy and rigidity
HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - October 10, 2017 - 4:00pm

We just have to make sure that we do not fall into extremes. Let's always remember that virtue is located between two extremes -those of excess and defect.

In our effort to pursue the ideal of orthodoxy or correctness, something that we all should strive to do, we should avoid falling into what may be called as the pharisaical attitude, on the one hand, and laxity, on the other.

The pharisaical attitude can be characterized as being self-righteous, rigid, narrow and closed-minded, judgmental and often censorious. It can uphold the exclusivity of truth but miserably fails to live the inclusivity of charity. It gets entangled with the letter of the law but fails to discern the spirit behind that law. It can only spawn a lifestyle of hypocrisy and inconsistency.

This attitude was strongly condemned by Christ, as dramatized in the following passages among other similar ones in the gospel:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves." (Mt 23, 13ff)

We have to make sure that our effort to be doctrinal and theological in our faith and piety does not lead us to becoming a doctrinaire. This latter possibility can happen when our study of the doctrine is done outside of the required loving relation with God and others, and our obedience to the Church's magisterium.

When we are just too intellectual or emotional in our approach to the study of the doctrine, and devoid of genuine piety and devotion, the marks of self-righteousness will soon appear. Or when we depend simply on the social and other temporal criteria in understanding the doctrine of our faith, the same marks will surely emerge.

We need to see to it that our attitude to the doctrine of our faith is one of reverence, a product of our living faith, hope and charity. Whatever human means we use to study the doctrine, whether it be philosophy, theology, sociology, etc., should only play an instrumental role. They are meant to be servants, not masters.

We need to create an atmosphere, nay, a culture, where the proper approach to the study of the doctrine is always accompanied by charity. Sad to say, a quick look around can only reveal clear traces of tendencies toward a pharisaical attitude or toward laxity.

We need to make it clear to everyone that the true measure of one's progress in orthodoxy is when his growing conviction of the truths of our faith would make him more charitable to others, more compassionate, and even willing to bear the weaknesses, mistakes, and sins of the others.

This is how Christ, the fullness of truth and orthodoxy himself, has shown us. Besides, he did not go around lording it over all the others. Instead, he was self-effacing. He always tried to pass unnoticed, even if his disciples wanted to show him off to the world, etc.

It's clear that there is a direct relationship between orthodoxy on the one hand, and humility, willingness to obey and to serve, willingness to suffer for all people on the other.

Are we ready for this?

roycimagala@gmail.com.

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