My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast,
immovable, always abounding in the work of
the Lord, knowing that your labor s not in vain
in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Persecution against Christ and the Church which He founded and is the Head of has never ceased. Faithful Christians with steadfast faith have been, tortured, imprisoned, and killed, by the millions, over the many centuries, by unbelievers, pagans, atheists, and heretics. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
"Not only did the Church begin under the teaching of the Holy Apostles, but she was also instructed to "STAND FAST AND HOLD THE TRADITIONS WHICH YOU WERE TAUGHT, WHETHER BY WORD OR OUR EPISTLE" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The Apostle Pual insisted that those matters delivered by I’m and his fellow Apostles, both in person and in writings that should come to be called the New Testament, be adhered to carefully. Thus followed such appropriate warnings as "in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ… withdrew from every brother who walks disorderly and according to the tradition which he received from us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). The Doctrine taught by Christ and His Disciples ARE TO BE SAFEGUARDED BY "THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH" (1 Timothy 3:15) AND ARE NOT OPEN FOR RENEGOTIATION. And the Church was still young when a way had to be found for providing this safeguard." (Introducing the Orthodox Church -Orthodox Study Bible, p. 785).
The Christian is also persecuted by the evil "principalities" which pursue him day and night to destroy his soul and prevent him from salvation and eternal life in God’s Kingdom. Every Christian believer has to contend with the constant temptations from the evil one who needs no rest, food, or sleep. Our adversary, the evil one, stirs up the passions within us to undermine all effort and ascesis to prevent our communion with the Almighty God. According to Saint Macarius the Confessor, "Some passions are bodily, other spiritual. Bodily passions have their sources in the body, while spiritual ones come from external things. But love and temperance out of both the one and the other: love cuts our spiritual passions and temperance bodily ones."
Saint Isaac the Syrian says, "The passions (τό πάθος or τά πάθη) are UPROOTED and turned to flight by constant occupation of the mind with God. This is a sword that puts them to death. Whoever always thinks about God drives the demons away from himself and pulls up the seeds of their malice."
We are reminded by Saint Caesarius of Arles that "the worst kind of sin is not to acknowledge that you are sinful."
Saint Silouan the Athonite advice the following: "Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, "You are a saint," and the other, "You won’t be saved." Both of these thoughts are from the enemy (devil), and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins."
Another great holy Father, Saint Mark the Ascetic writes: "The devil makes small sins seem smaller in our eyes, for otherwise, he can’t lead us to greater evil."
Spiritual warfare is very real and dangerous. Our enemy is real and employs all means of warfare to destroy us. The warfare is unseen and our enemy is in invisible. Our life both here and in heaven is at stake. We need God’s help, His guidance and mercy. It is very important not to rely on our own efforts in this unseen warfare but that we should feel the need, with our whole heart, that we have no one to rely on except God and that from Him and Him alone can we expect every manner of help.
"Orthodox Christians must steadfastly remain in Orthodoxy, preserve oneness of mind with one another and unhypocritical love, guard purity of soul and body, reject evil and unclean intententions, temeratly partake of food and drink, and above all adorn in themselves with humility, not neglect hospitality, refrain from conflicts and not give honor and glory in anything to earthly life, but instead await reward from God, the enjoyment of heavenly good" (Saint Sergius of Radonezh)
Prayer does not only bestows the blessing of the All-Merciful and All-Loving God but also, enlighens, inspires, protects, guides, strengthens, heals, unites, and renews the true believer and disciple. The Holy Fathers of the Church speak of "pure prayer" (καθαρά προσευχή) or "quitness" (ησυχία). "In the pure heart, such prayer becomes habitual, and so fuflfills the Apostolic command to "PRAY WITHOUT CEASING" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Saint Mark the Asceitic states: "Guard your mind from self-praise and flee a high opinion of yourself, so that God does not allow you to fall into the opposite (passion to the virtue for which you boast), for man does not accomplish virtue alone, but with the help of God Who sees all." Conceit and pride are detrimental to one’s salvation. It is not enough to acknowledge our pride and ego but we must repent of it with tears.
Tears of repentance are a true indication of our genuine repentance and are necessary for our spiritual cleansing. Commiting sins, or, as our Church refers to them, ‘crimes’; we commit them against God and our neighbor. Therefore, true repentance (metanoia) is accompanied with "a broken and a contrite heart…" (Psalm 51). Repentance and contrition are expected of every believer, before, he too, can participate in the power of redemption of the sins committed.
A life in Christ requires a true commitment, sacrifice, faith and mos of all, agape In other words we should, with a complete renunciation of ourselves first, and freely, submit to the will of God. "Thy will be done on earth is it is in heaven.." In everything by prayer and entreaty. "…Illumine our hearts with the True Sun of righteousness, , enlighten our senses, that walking uprightly as in the day in the way of Your commandment, we may attain eternal life."
"There are four weapons required to overcome the enemies in unseen warfare, namely NON-RELIANCE ON ONESELF, AN UNSHAKEABLE HOPE IN GOD, RESISTING AND STRUGGLING WITH SIN, AND PRAYER." However, there is another great weapon in this warfare, namely, the most holy Mystery (Sacrament) of the Divine Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Sacraments, and is the most powerful and effective of all spiritual weapons.
With faith, our Lord Jesus Christ comes into our heart, and with Christ comes agape and thus we are grounded in agape. The beginning is faith and the end is love. Our relationship with God is a relationship of agape (love). Our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the God of Agape. The Three Persons, the Holy Trinity is united in Divine Love. Our communion with God therefore is a communion of love. It is God’s unconditional love for us and our unconditional love for Him that creates this perfect union and grants opens for us the Kingdgom of heaven, salvation. The faithful Christian believer, with tears of joy, communes with Christ in his heart with the prayer of the heart: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner," and the heart is imperceptibly filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love. And, therefore, I can earnestly say, "For me, to live is Christ, and to die gain" (Philippians 1:23).
To remain steadfast in our faith until the end cannot be accomplished by us alone. We must never be afraid of suffering, "For you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. Suffering not only bears witness to others, but also serve to increase our faith. My beloved friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, suffering is a gift from Christ as is faith: it is participation in His grace" (Philippians 1:29). "Finally, my brethren," writes Saint Paul to the Ephesians, "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 5:10).
"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