by Fr Sergei Fudel (1901-77), married Russian Orthodox priest, bearer of light and love for the Church during and beyond his years in prison and exile at the hands of the Communist régime
People who believe in God in their own way, yet do not believe in the Church, often say, "Does God really need all this ritual? Why do we have to have all these formalities? We only need love, beauty, and humaneness." A man, on his way to the woman he loves, seeing flowers, buys them or picks them and brings them to her, never stopping to think whether this is a formality or not. Yet this is the very concept of church ritual.
Love for God gives birth to the beauty and humanity of the ritual, which we lay, like flowers, at the feet of God. Faith is love, and the essence of Christianity is to be in love with God and to feel that the Church is His body which has remained with us and lives with us on earth. This feeling expresses itself in actions which we call ritual.
However, if only external and dead action remains, then such action will be sterile and self-deceptive, not only in Christianity but in any sphere of human life, even in science. This truth should be clear to everyone.
Formalism and sanctimoniousness is not Christianity. Each one of us has to move along this long and narrow way from non-Christianity to Christianity, from artificial flowers to live ones.