My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
OUR LIFE IN CHRIST AND OUR DUTY TO
GOD AND OUR FELLOW MAN
"Then God said, Let us make man in Our image, according to Our image likeness." (Genesis 1:26).
"Man is the highest creation of God on earth. Recognizing this, man would belittle himself if he would not think and be exalted in thought, about His Creator, glorifying Him, granting thanks to Him striving to be worthy of His mercy."
In his book, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology Father Michael Pomazansky writes: "In the ladder of the earthly creation, man is placed on the highest rung, and in relationship to all earthly beings he occupies the reigning position. Being earthly, according to his gifts, he approaches the heavenly beings, for he is "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 8:5). And the Prophet Moses depicts, man’s origin in this way: After all the creatures of the earth had been created, "God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air… and over all the earth… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him" (Genesis 1:26-27).
Clearly, man was to be a special creation, distinct from the others, the highest, most perfect on earth, having also a higher purpose in the world. Furthermore, "God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became A LIVING SOUL" (Genesis 2:7). One of the great Holy Fathers of the Church, Saint John of Damascus wrote: "The body and the soul were formed at the same time–not one before and the other afterward.
Another great Holy Father of the Church Saint Gregory the Theologian states: "The soul is the breath of God, and while being heavenly, it endures being mixed with what is of the dust. It is a light enclosed in a cave, but still, it is divine and inextinguishable,… The Logos/Word spoke, and having taken a part of the newly created earth, with His immortal hands formed my image and imparted to it His life; because He sent into it the spirit, which is a ray of the invisible Divinity" (Homily 7, "One the Soul").
Our Lord God Jesus Christ frequently emphasized in His teachings the immortality of the soul as the foundation of a virtuous life. He clearly pointed to His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them so that they might be where He Himself would be" (John 14:2-3).
Our Holy Orthodox Church’s belief in the immortality of the soul occupies a central place in the life of the Church.
"The first purpose of man is the glory of God. Man is called to remain faithful to his bond with God, to strive towards Him with his soul, to acknowledge Him as his Creator, to glorify Him, to rejoice in union with Him, to live in Him… he is called to perfect himself, to guard his likeness to God, to restore and strengthen it; he is called to develop and perfect his moral powers by means of good deeds. This requires that a man take care of his own good, and his true good lies in blessedness in God. Therefore one must say that BLESSEDNESS in God is the aim of man’s existence."
We should always be willing to live in the blessedness of God, our Creator. "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus died for the forgiveness of our offenses. His death and Resurrection was our salvation. What more can we ask of God?
Our Creator had endowed us with everything that we need to be imitators of His Son Jesus Christ. It is imperative that we discover now our own spiritual potential as we progress spiritually in Christ. We must begin by looking within ourselves as though by looking in a mirror. We need to be truthful about what or whom we see within us. To be willing to change, to abide by His commandments, by our total obedience to His teachings, to be willing to be transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Following the Mystery (Sacrament of Baptism there is a most beautiful Troparion that is chanted: "Grant to me a garment of illumination, O Most Merciful Christ our God, Who wrappest Thyself with Light as with a cloak." We too are to share in the Light of Christ God, to be children of light and children of the day. At the Orthodox sacrament of Baptism the following hymn is chanted as the priest processes around the baptismal font with the sponsor and the child: "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ."
Like our Lord Jesus Christ we have the ability and the potential to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be compassionate, to be meek, to be humble, to be loving, to be righteous, to be truthful, to love our neighbor, to be kind, to avoid judging our fellow man, to seek peace, justice, seek reconciliation with our enemies, abide by His commandments, live in holiness and virtue, value all life, be willing to deny oneself, be willing to carry our cross and to follow Him.
By practicing our Christian faith daily, we can then use our talents to make a difference in the world. We should be willing to use our God-given gifts to help our fellow citizens in their struggle to find relief from pain and sorrow which they desperately need. We understand, of course, that the best way we teach others is by example. We have a duty to share the divine talent or talents that God has bestowed upon us for the good of all. It is necessary that we are patient, prayerful, truthful, humble, loving, and always place the one who is needful above ourselves.
The Saints of our Holy Church believed themselves to be the worst of all sinners.. They never placed themselves on a pedestal. They knew not what pride or arrogance is. They were the epitome of humility,virtue, and piety. They fought and overcame all passions and logismoi (evil thoughts). Their life was devoid of any anger, hatred, and malice of any kind. Their life was only one of prayer and piety.
Like our monastics, we too, can use our time on earth to live the same ‘angelic life’ which they practice. A life of asceticism, of prayer, and of worship. A life of chastity, holiness, and obedience. They sought communion with God and so must we. "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:4).
Made in God’s image and likeness, we are fulfilled by becoming "like Him," a process called sanctification or theosis (deification). Being "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) we are transformed in the same image, from glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
At Orthros (Matins) on Friday of the week before Great Lent, Orthodox Christians chant: "God has shown mercy to us. Let us in our turn show mercy : let us feed the poor, and with the divine water of fasting let us wash the defilement from our souls." Then we add, "O heavenly Angels, entreat the Giver of good to accept in His infinite mercy our poor repentance," for we know the weakness of our hearts.
The faith that saves is a complete faith: not just the mind believing and the tongue confessing, but the whole man trusting int he Living God. Saint James (Iakovos) states: "’What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or a sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed, for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith, BY ITSELF, IF IT DOES NOT HAVE WORKS, IS DEAD" (James 2:14-17).
Finally, "God is Light" and also "God is Love" (1 John 4:8). Throughout our life’s journey, our Loving Savior, and God, asks us, as He did the Holy Apostle Peter: "Do you love Me?" How do we answer Him? What do we reply? One thing we know that we cannot lie. He, as God, knows the truth. He says to us "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in Me LOVE (AGAPE) [John 15:10]. Also, He says to us: "You are My friends IF YOU do whatever I command you" (John 15:14).
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostom
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry)
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George