The following are highlights from Daniel Sysoev’s The Law of God. In my estimation, it is the single most important book for the Orthodox layman or Christian inquirer other than the Bible. It should be required reading for every catechumen. It literally covers all Church practice, the liturgical calendar, the Bible, Church history, and the end times. You can buy the book by giving these friendly monks a call.
What follows are random quotations I simply find interesting. Other than the last, they are all insightful and helpful. The last quotation is the only difficult passage I have ever read in Sysoev. May we all be blessed through his prayers!
Faith has two forms. We call the first of these belief in God and the second–trust in God. The first…is not perfect and man cannot please God with this kind of faith alone. The second type of faith presumes trust in the Creator’s words and a rejection of self-reliance, an active increase in love. It is this kind of faith that is salvific (p. 6).
One can only come to know the Trinity through love from a pure heart (p. 8).
Even the pagans, who do not know the Scriptures, are not left without the knowledge of God that is placed into their hearts…For this reason they will have no excuse on the day of judgment (p. 9).
Scripture itself shows that without interpretation it is difficult or even impossible to understand…Understandst thou what thou readest?, the Eunuch replied, How can I, except some man should guide me (p. 11)?
[Lists a 66 book canon] In addition to these books, which are called canonical, i.e. standard, Scripture also has noncanonical books: [Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, 2 Ezra, 3 Ezra, 1-3 Maccabees]…These books contain all that is necessary for salvation. Someone asked Saint Anthony, ‘What should I do to please God?’ ‘What I command you, this keep faithfully,’ the elder replied. ‘Wherever you may go, always have God before you. Whatever you may do, have a witness to this in Holy Scripture’ (p. 14-15).
Faith here is by no means a blind act of rejecting reason…when a person begins to believe, first he recognizes the existence of invisible realities, and through his reason new horizons are revealed (p. 18).
[T]here is no man that lives and who does not sin, hence, all must be punished (p. 21).
[T]he immaculate conception of Christ was necessary. For in an ordinary conception ancient death is transmitted (p. 22).
[D]eath was necessary for life can only be bought with the price of death…He corrects Adam’s ancient disobedience by being obedient to the Father unto death, even the death of the cross (p. 22).
[S]uffering affected only His human nature (the Divine nature cannot suffer) (p. 23).
He is the eternal High Priest, Who is ever alive, in order to intercede for us before the Father, to be the sole Mediator between God and man (p. 25).
[During the judgement:]A flame will go before the face of Jesus, altering the universe (p. 25).
The Holy Spirit…is the Creator and abides forever in the Son (p. 26).
Only to those who are members of the Church is salvation promised…All heretics and schismatics…are outside her and have no salvation until the repent (p. 26-27).
The sacraments are special sacred rites established by God Himself in which through external rites the grace of the transfiguring Holy Spirit is imparted to the believers (p. 27).
Sinners and unbaptized go to Hades, where with dread they await punishment. During this time the baptized may yet receive relief by the prayers of the Church (p. 28).
Naturally, the Creator does not wish that His creation perish, and it is this reason that He forbids evil…it is not God who needs all good works, but we ourselves (p. 31-32).
If a person always heeds the voice of the conscience, believing rightly, he will be saved. Unfortunately, people frequently disobey the commands of the conscience…So that the terrible sickness of the spirit might not leave a person without direction, the Creator gave us not only the natural law–the conscience–but also the written Law, by which we may distinguish good from evil (p. 34).
For we do not consider the icons gods, we do not pay homage to them as divine and we do not look to them for salvation (p. 39).
After the Sunday service Christian refrain from work until evening, spending their time in studying the Word of God and doing good works. We may only labor on these days to help the poor, the orphans, the widows, the sick, or the Lord’s temple, but by no means ourselves (p. 41).
During the fast one must refrain from idle entertainments, instead abiding in the Bible and works of charity (p. 42).
Other sins against the fourth commandment include slacking at work, working on feasts, breaking the fasts, and spending feast days in unholy activities (p. 43).
The most terrible sin, however, is the suicide–the only unforgiveable sin (for after suicide repentance is impossible) (p. 46).
The fastest and surest path to poverty is to steal and to work on Sundays (p. 48).
In cases of violent robbery, resistance, even if the robber is killed in the process, is not a sin (p. 49).
The Gospel forbids not only lying and slandering, but even criticizing others for real vices, unless our post or clerical rank gives us this authority (p. 51).
It [Christian life] has its beginning in faith the unquestioningly accepts divine revelation, rejects sin, and through this draws us the justifying power of God, His grace bestowed through the sacraments (p. 55).
Blessedness, according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, is produced by participation in the blessedness if God Himself (p. 57).
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness…They do not trust in their good works, but in God alone, who gives righteousness to those who believe in the Lord’s sacrifice (p. 58).
God is angered by prayer that is mere gum-flapping (p. 66).
The widespread images of the Trinity depicting the Father as an old man, Christ, and a dove are contrary to the dogma of the 7th Ecumenical Council and were condemned at the Great Moscow Council of 1666-1667 (p. 74).
The celestial radiance is depicted on the icons in the form of a halo (a golden circlet about the head), symbolizing that the righteous will shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father (Matt 13:43; p. 75).
We ask the saints to intercede for us before God, as the friends of Job asked for his prayers (p. 77).
This Bread is not contained in the belly and does not go out into the cloaca (Matt 15:17), but rather it is distributed into your whole system (p. 88).
[T]he enemy is subject to God, though he apparently does resist by God’s permissive will (p. 89).
We believe that this [Last] Supper is continued at every liturgy (p. 103).
[W]e ask God to forgive us our sins, to purify the offences of those who have died, even those in hades, and to strengthen us in divine power (p. 134).
After death there is no repentance (p. 135).
[S]uffering endured with patience cleanses a persons sins (p. 136).
He [God] is able to free from darkness the souls of those who have not become frozen in evil. The Church prays only for its members, however, born in baptism unto God. For her prayer is able to help only those who have died Orthodox Christians, hoping in the resurrection and Eternal Life (p. 138).
The priest reads the prayer of absolution, and in it he forgives those sins of which the deceased has repented (p. 139).
One may have Orthodox faith, do good works, and pray but without participation in the sacramental life of the Church a person will never become a Christian and cannot achieve salvation (p. 140).
…holy baptism. Without it man’s salvation is impossible (p. 143).
[I]nfants do not have personal faith, but this deficiency is supplied by the faith of the parents and the sponsors, or godparents…Christ healed the paralytic and forgave his sins according to the faith of his friends (p. 144).
The wine also changes, becoming what it was not before–the Blood that was shed on Golgotha (p. 149).
As Saint Cyril of Jerusalem aptly stated, the visible bread is not bread, even if it is such to the taste, but the Body of Christ (p. 150).
[A]fter baptism there is no means of being called to salvation, by grace as a gift, other than feats and labors, other than repentance and tears, other than confession of transgressions and withdrawing from evil (p. 156).
In the Orthodox family there is neither democracy or tyranny. The husband is the image of Christ, the head of the family, the protector and guide of the wife, and the chief upbringer of children…the husband must honor his wife as a coheir of the life of grace. The wife is an image of the Church, the helper of the husband. She must honor her husband and be obedient to him…All issues must be resolved on the principle of Christ’s love (p. 159).
He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the God of philosophers and academics (p. 165).
The Holy Spirit, ever proceeding from the unknowable essence of the Father, abides upon the Son and experiences the depth of the Father (p. 167).
[Demons:]…they can do nothing if God forbids them…Hence, we should not fear the, (p. 171).
There will be eternal day for the blessed and for the damned–eternal night (p. 178).
His will is performed even when men and angels rebel against Him, for He aids all that is good, cutting of evil and causing it to result in good (p. 185).
[S]he [Eve} added her own words to the Lord’s command, which is a great sin (p. 188).
When the first people committed the first sin, their nature itself was subject to change. Whereas before man’s mind had contemplated God, the will and the feelings being submissive to the mind and the body subject to the soul, now this hierarchy collapsed. The mind began reflecting the will and the feelings, and as a result was filled with a multitude of thoughts. Instead of contemplating Divine truth the mind created an entire world of imaginings, called fantasies. The will weakened and began to vacillate between various imaginary good things, not knowing the truth from falsehood…Every person receives this state at the moment of his conception (p. 190).
Circumcision was a symbol of faith in the coming of the promised seed of Abraham, Christ (p. 201).
God shows that a person must never trust to his own righteousness (p. 204).
The sacrifice of Isaac foretold the Lord’s death on the cross. As here the father does not begrudge his son for God’s sake, so also God Himself does not spare His Son for the sake of men. Isaac humbly obeyed Abraham and Jesus Christ humbly obeyed the Father, even to death…Isaac himself carried the wood for his whole burning and Christ bore His Cross…On the third day Abraham saw the mountain and on the third day Christ saved us by His Resurrection. For this reason the Lord Himself said, ‘Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it and was glad’ (p. 206).
Onan married Tamar but he did not wish for the son to bear his brother’s name and so he committed the sin of masturbation which later came to bear his name (onanism) (p. 215).
True freedom will only enter a person when the Law of God has been written by the Holy Spirit upon the heart of each one who has believed, who like a son fulfills the will of the Heavenly Father. The need for the external observant of Moses’ Law then disappears (p. 235).
The home of Rahab, the only one saved in Jericho, signified the one Church, outside which one cannot be saved from eternal destruction (p. 249).
He [Saul] demanded she call up the soul of the deceased prophet Samuel from hades, in order to learn the future from him. She at first refused to do so, then summoned a demon, but God sent the soul of the prophet himself to the apostate (p. 266).
Absalom seized the holy city, but God destroyed his intentions, taking away his reason: he did not heed the wise counsel of Ahithophel (p. 269).
In this way the temple presented a likeness of the universe as God had intended it to be, but there were no depictions of people in the Temple, for our generation had fallen away from the Lord (p. 272).
One cannot wait for a convenient time but must obey God immediately when he calls (p. 280).
Only King Mesha escaped, who offered his son in sacrifice to demons. Frightened, the superstitious Israelites retreated (p. 283).
[F]rom the very moment of her [the Theotokos] conception she would be purified by the righteousness of her parents (p. 329).
The amount of fruits depends on the efforts of the person working out his salvation (p. 362).
[The wheat and the tares:]God does not allow them [the angels] to destroy sinners, for He knows that many of these will repent (p. 363).
God has given us everything we need in Holy Scripture and by following it we will not become lost on our lives’ paths (p. 383).
[T]he Church is infallible and cannot err (p. 434).
The Spirit of God does not enliven those who have not entered into the saving walss of the Church (p. 434)
We see that the [Ecumenical] Councils never create any new teachings…The faith has been given once and for all to the saints (Jude 2)…At its Councils the Chucrh preserves it and expresses it more precisely….it is for this same reason that no enactment of an Ecumenical Council can be abolished (p. 476).
[T]here arose the danger that the Kingdom of God would become mingled with the heathen world. In order to prevent this the Holy Spirit established a special service in the Church: monasticism (p. 481).
When people avow that monks are idle, they forget that the very existence of our universe depends on whether or not there are people in it who strive for heights of Godlikeness (p. 482).
Salvation is accomplished not by a person’s own merits but by the grace of God, which is given in the sacraments and assimilated through faith and good works (p. 500).
He [Satan] devised a plan to destroy the first among the world’s churches [Rome] in the same way that he, formerly among the angels, had himself fallen (p. 506).
Three kinds of torment await them: eternal fire, outer darkness, and the worm that does not die. The eternal fire is the manifestation in hardened sinners of the mighty power of God, which burns those that refuse to make peace with Him. For Scripture says our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29)…The outer darkness is the darkness of not knowing God…The worm of Gehenna will devour them. This is both an actual creature and a manifestation of the conscience, which devours a person’s soul with the torment of impotent remorse…These terrible torments will never end and there will be no salvation for those who rejected the grace of God in this life (p. 534).
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How does it compare to Fr Seraphim Slobodskoy’s “The Law of God” (that was done by Jordanville back when I was new)? Love to see a comparison https://www.amazon.com/Law-God-Study-Home-School/dp/0884650448
I think it has been compared as a modern update of sorts.
I enjoyed the sections you pulled. Out of curiosity, since this work seems rather comprehensive, does Sysoev have any sections on usury?
That’s a great question. I think he does mention in passing and extols the Muslims–which is somewhat of a trope in Russia, because the Muslims also use usary. But I may be confusing something with something else.
No mention of tollhouses? I figured he would.
Also, given the teaching in Luke 12 about the three different kinds of servants, do you know how the Orthodox understand the third and fourth servants?
They receive beatings from their master but they still are saved? Or perhaps Jesus is not saying that they are saved but only speaking of their punishment in the afterlife. I am probably reading 1 Cor 3:15 into that passage.