“O foolish/mindless (“anoetoi”) Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish/mindless? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3: 1-3)
Here St. Paul is chastising the Galatians for focusing not on fostering their faith in the crucified Lord, in the Spirit, but slipping instead into a focus on “the flesh,” or adherence to the rules of the Old Testament “Law.” I think he would say something similar to us in the Orthodox Church(es) today, in a somewhat different yet similar situation, when some of our Churches are focused on matters of (Canon) Law, “canonical” territories and jurisdictions, as if these define us as “Church,” and not the Self-offering love of Christ crucified. “Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,” he would say, – meaning “bewitched” not literally, but in the sense that our thinking has become so clouded, so unbiblical, that it seems that some kind of spell has been cast over us.
As much as I love Canon Law, and have been studying it for years, today I’m grateful for St. Paul’s reminder to us, that it is not by it that we are “being made perfect” as Church. It is by “receiving the Spirit,” in Whose service we implement (or don’t implement, as pastoral “oikonomia” might require) the rules and regulations of Canon Law. One thing defines us as Church, and that is our cross-carrying love for one another: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13: 35)