Ignorance is Bliss?

Venerable Barlaam the Abbot of Khutyn, Novgorod

Venerable Barlaam the Abbot of Khutyn, Novgorod

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


It is true, and it is a fact, that the majority of our Orthodox Christian people never had a formal religious instruction on our Orthodox Christian Faith. The reasons are numerous and disturbing at the same time. Where, have we, your Orthodox Clergy, failed you? For it is our responsibility to educate all of you. But my next question is how much effort have you made, over the many years, to learn what you believe in? How can one practice the Faith without knowing what one believes? Is ignorance bliss?

The actual wording, however, comes from Thomas Gray's poem, "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College" (1742): "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." Another way that it is understood is 'what you don't know won't hurt you.'

It is because of the lack of knowledge and understanding of our Christian faith that our lay Orthodox Christian have treated the local parish as a 'business', 'secular corporation,' a 'club,' a 'social center, as an 'ethnic organization.' The parish priest as 'an employee' of the parish and someone that can be 'hired and fired.' The attitude has been almost one of 'a congregational (Protestant) system'. The hierarchical system of the Orthodox Church was either ignored or dismissed by the lay Christians. Because of the misunderstanding of what the Church stood for, we have the introduction of the very destructive and divisive 'church politics.'

With today's technology, the internet, one can learn almost everything one desires to learn from credible Orthodox Christian websites, i.e., goarch.org which is the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. One can be at home or at the office and can learn something more about the Orthodox Christian Faith on a daily basis. Also, most parishes offer Adult Catechism as well as parish libraries with an abundance of Orthodox Christian material.

What is Orthodox Christianity?

When learning about the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, it's important to get orthodox information from authentic Orthodox sources.

From the first days of her existence, the Holy Church of Christ has ceaselessly been concerned that her children, her members, should stand firm in the pure truth. "I have no greater joy than to bear that my children walk in truth," writes the Holy Apostle, John the Theologian (III John, 4).

"I have written briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand, says the Holy Apostle Peter in concluding his catholic epistle (I Peter 5:12). [Please note: "Catholic," meaning 'universal.' is the name applied to the New Testament Epistles (those of the Holy Apostles, James, Peter, Jude, and John) which were addressed, not to individual or local churches (as are all the Epistles of Saint Paul), but to the whole Church or to believers in general.)

"Instruct us in Thy path, that we may walk in Thy Truth"---is the first petition in the priestly prayers (the Prayers at Lamplighting) in the first Divine Service of the daily cycle, Vespers. Please note: The "Prayers at Lamplighting" are the silent prayers read by the priest before the Royal Doors (center doors of the iconostasis) while Psalm 103 is being read aloud by the Reader.)

The true path of faith which has always been carefully preserved in the history of the Church, from of old was called 'straight,' 'right,' in Greek 'orthos'--that is, "orthodoxy." In the Psalter--from which, as we know from the history of the Christian Divine services, the Church has been inseparable from the first moment of her existence--we find such phrases as the following: "my foot hath stood in uprightness" (Psalm 26:12); and there are others. The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to present himself before God "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing" (that is, rightly cutting with a chisel, from the Greek 'orthotomounta') 'the word of truth' (II Timothy 2:15). In early Christian literature there is constant mention of the keeping of "the rule of faith," the "rule of truth." The very term "orthodoxy" was widely used even in the epoch before the Ecumenical Councils, the in the terminology of the Ecumenical Councils themselves, and in the Fathers of the Church both of the East and of the West.

Side by side with the straight, or right, path of faith there have always been those who thought differently (heterodoxountes, or "heterodox," in the expression of Saint Ignatius the God-bearer), a world of greater or lesser errors among Christians, and sometimes even whole incorrect systems which attempted to burst into the midst of Orthodox Christians.

Becoming acquainted with the history of the Church, and likewise observing the contemporary world, we see that the errors which war against Orthodox Truth have appeared and do appear a) under the influence of other religions, b) under the influence of philosophy, and c) through the weakness and inclinations of fallen human nature, which seeks the rights and justification of these weaknesses and inclinations. (Something that we have witnessed happening to Christians of other Christian confession and traditions in recent years.)

Errors take root and become obstinate most frequently because of the pride of those who defend them, because of intellectual pride. (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky).



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George