Before you change the church, change yourself

All of these quotes below demonstrate the key and universal Orthodox concept illustrated in the title. It can also be said as “be holy before seeking to make others holy” or to some words of that similar effect.

One must realize that to change ourselves and to become holy, pure and sanctified – is a life-long process and occurs gradually over the months/years through the regular reading of holy Orthodox texts and daily struggle in prayer. It just does not happen overnight or quickly!


Mother Theresa (1)

“A journalist asked Mother Teresa, “What do you think needs to be changed in the Church?” She answered, “It’s simple, me and you.


St Paisios of Mt Athos (-1994) (2)

If you want to help the Church, it is better to try to correct yourself, rather than be looking to correct others. If you manage to correct yourself, one small part of the Church is immediately corrected. Naturally, if everyone did the same, the body of the Church would be in good health. But, today, people concern themselves with anything but themselves. You see, judging others is easy, whereas working on yourself takes effort.

If we work to correct ourselves and look more intently towards our “inner” activity rather than our external, giving precedence to divine help, we can in turn be of greater and more positive help to others. We will also achieve an inner serenity that will quietly help the souls of the people we encounter because spiritual serenity reflects the virtue of the soul and transforms souls.

When someone applies himself to external activity before having polished his spiritual inner state, he may struggle spiritually, but he will be fraught with worry, anxiety, lack of confidence in God and frequent loss of serenity. If he does not improve himself, he cannot say that his interest for the common good is pure. When he is liberated from the old self and all things worldly, then he will receive divine Grace and be not only at peace with himself, but also able to bring peace to everyone else. But if he has not received the Grace of God, then he can neither govern himself nor help others in order to bring about a divine effect. He must first be immersed in divine Grace and then utilise his resulting sanctified powers for the salvation of others.


St John Chrysostom (3)

> “A good example is better than a thousand sermons”

> “If but ten among us lead a holy life, we shall kindle a fire which shall light up an entire city”


St Seraphim of Sarov (4)

Acquire a peaceful spirit and thousands around you will be saved.


St Gregory the Theologian (5)

Become clean before seeking to cleanse; become wise and thus teach wisdom; become light and so shine; having touched God, reach out to others; become holy in order thus to sanctify.


St Theophan the Recluse (6)

The Lord chose the apostles, that they should be with Him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.

Every Christian is chosen—chosen for similar deeds, namely: to be with the Lord, through unceasing remembrance of Him and awareness of His omnipresence, through the preaching and fulfillment of His commandments, and through a readiness to confess one’s faith in Him. In those circles where such a confession is made, it is a loud sermon for all to hear.

Every Christian has the power to heal infirmities—not of others, but his own, and not of the body, but of the soul—that is, sins and sinful habits—and to cast out devils, rejecting evil thoughts sown by them, and extinguishing the excitement of passions enflamed by them.

Do this and you will be an apostle, a fulfiller of what the Lord chose you for, an accomplisher of your calling as messenger. When at first you succeed in all this, then perhaps the Lord will appoint you as a special ambassador—to save others after you have saved yourself; and to help those who are tempted, after you yourself pass through all temptations, and through all experiences in good and evil.

But your job is to work upon yourself: for this you are chosen; the rest is in the hands of God. He who humbles himself shall be exalted.



  2. Spiritual Counsels II: Spiritual Awakening by St Paisios of Mt Athos
  3. Not sure
  5. Theological Oration 1, St Gregory the Theologian
  6. Thoughts for each day of the year by St Theophan the Recluse