My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE
One cannot begin thinking of life, a life without faith, hope, and love. These great virtues are united together and act as one. Furthermore, they are connected to deliberate and specific actions: Faith works, love labors, hope produces patience. FAITH: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:1-3). Also, "..having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but WE ALSO GLORY IN TRIBULATIONS, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character hope" (Romans 5:1-4). HOPE; "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). LOVE (AGAPE): "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass o a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I AM NOTHING…LOVE suffers long and is kind love does not envy, love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks NO EVIL; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS, HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS…AND NOW ABIDE FAITH, HOPE, LOVE, THESE THREE, BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE (AGAPE) (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
For the practicing Orthodox Christian faith, hope, and love, are not concepts and abstract ideas or theories. Rather, IT IS LIFE. The Christian faith cannot be marginalized and treated as simply traditions, rules, rituals, and events. As Orthodox Christian believers we have witnessed throughout the 2,000-year history of our Church, from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the Holy Apostles, Holy Martyrs, Holy Confessors, Holy Fathers, and Mothers, and of all the Saints, Christianity IS LIFE! NOT THEORY! When did we cease to be WITNESSES AND MARTYRS?
The Synaxarestis of Our Holy Church reveals the countless men, women, and children who gave their life for the sake of Christ God. As we read and study their life, one thing is very clear, that living the faith means much more than simply confessing or claiming to be a Christian. "And what more shall I say? …Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens… Still, others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were STONED, THEY WERE SAWN IN TWO, WERE TEMPTED, WERE SLAIN WITH THE SWORD. THEY WONDERED ABOUT IN SHEEPSKINS AND GOATSKINS, BEING DESTITUTE, AFFLICTED, TORMENTED–OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY. THEY WANDERED IN DESERTS AND MOUNTAINS, IN DENS AND CAVES OF THE EARTH" (Hebrews 11:32-38).
The faith of the contemporary Christian believer was never meant to be a caricature of a Christian with lukewarm faith. In the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) the Lord said to the Laodiceans: "I know your works, that you are neither COLD nor HOT. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because YOU ARE LUKEWARM AND NEITHER COLD NOR HOT, I WILL VOMIT OUUT OF My mouth" (Revelation 3:13-16). The Christian believers of Laodicea were lukewarm in spiritual fervor and works of mercy; their LACK OF COMMITMENT IS REVOLTING TO THE LORD. Is this what the modern Orthodox Christian strives for?
It is perfectly clear that the commitment to our Savior and to His Church today is lukewarm indeed. The attitude of the modern-day Christian proves that very fact by his actions or lack of. Along with Orthodoxia is what our Church calls for, Orthropraxia. In other words the RIGHT FAITH along with RIGHT LIVING. THE TWO ARE INSEPARABLE! It is absolutely necessary for the common or ordinary Orthodox Christian to have knowledge of his/her Christian faith. How else can anyone practice it? How can a parent teach his/her child the teaching and commandments and Gospel of Jesus Christ? How can have and live a virtuous life? How can we have a prayer and sacramental life? How can we be willing to die for the sake of Christ if we don’t know Who He is? How can we be willing to deny ourselves and be willing to take up our cross and follow Him? There can be no commitment for one who has no faith, no love, no hope, no commitment, no conviction, no fear of God.
The Greek Orthodox home today barely retains its Orthodox Christian identity. Why? because the Orthodox Christians do not treat it as "e-kat’ oikon ekklesia" "the home church." It seems to me, that many of the spiritual and religious traditions of our Orthodox Faith are NOT adhered to. Practicing our Faith is no longer a priority in the lives of our fellow-Christians, and all spiritual concerns are treated casually (lukewarm). Every religious tradition, including Sunday Divine Liturgy, has become ‘OPTIONAL’ not only by the parents but also for the children. When did this happen? Who decided?
Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church today, remains unchanged. The genuine Orthodox Christian remains faithful to the Divinity of Jesus Christ, to His virgin birth, to His Resurrection, to His Ascension into heaven, and to His Second Coming. The Church has and will never abandon the course that Christ Himself has set for her.
"And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest of these IS LOVE."
"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