My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
THE NEED TO REFINE OUR HEART FROM
In order for a miner or prospector to locate gold or other precious metals under the earth, he must be willing to invest both time and substantial funds to acquire it. It is an enormous challenge and of course, many a time, a gamble.
For thousands of years, the word gold has connoted something of beauty and great value. However, it takes sacrifice and laborious effort to discover gold, to excavate it from the earth, and then extract it. Sometimes, even with modern technology, in order to locate it and to extract it, miners must plunge deep in the earth for miles placing their very lives at risk. To refine the gold ore is a very expensive and complicated process. A characteristic that allows gold to be refined from less valuable metals by oxidizing the other metals and then separating them from the molten gold as a dross.
Over the many centuries, as man has been fascinated with gold, many lives have been lost. With the exception of coinage, virtually all uses of this precious metal were decorative e.g., for weapons, goblets, jewelry, and other ornaments.
Mankind is willing, as we can see, to sacrifice so much in order to obtain this precious metal mostly for vain and extravagant reasons. If one is willing to make such enormous efforts to extract and refine this precious metal, then what must we do as Orthodox Christian believers, to find the most precious image of God deep within us? As Orthodox Christians, you know that man was created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing has a greater value than this fact.
What are we willing to do in order to discover His Image in us? What are we willing to do in order to strive to be like Him? What kind of effort must we be willing to make and what kind of sacrifice?
Just like the gold ore is located deep in the earth, the image of God is found deep in the heart of man. It is up to man to seek it, to invest heavily to discover it, and then, to bring it to the surface. The image of God within us is much more valuable and more precious than gold ore or other precious metals or diamonds.
We must look from within our hearts and very souls to see it glowing and alight. However, due to our spiritual ignorance, and through our many human infirmities such as faithlessness, evil passions, sins, disobedience, rebelliousness, arrogance, pride, hate, jealousy, anger, stubbornness, resistance, etc. the image of God is buried so deep within us that we have lost sight of it. It is possible that we have forgotten that the image of God is there ready to be discovered by us. Once it is extracted we need to clean it, purify it, restore it, remove all the above infirmities from it, and let it shine brightly once again.
If we truly understand how precious and necessary it is to our salvation to discover the image of God within us, we must spend the rest of our lives to unearth it from where it is hidden for so many years. To bring it to the surface and to reclaim it as our own. Most of all, to allow the grace of God to envelop our whole being in the divine ray of God’s Light.
We must strive then to become like God as we were intended to be. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Ephesians 1:3-4). The image of God within us must never become distorted or marred by our lifestyles, sinfulness, and lack of faith. The greatest threat to the image of God within us is pride.
We are taught, as Orthodox Christian believers, to venerate the holy icons of our Lord Christ, our Theotokos, our Saints, and other venerable righteous men and women of God. To show reverence and respect to them and to place them in places of honor. What are we to do to the ‘eikona’ (holy icon or image) of God within us? Are we not to offer reverence to this most precious holy icon of God within us?
Saint Paul asks, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were brought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything that has been revealed to man by our Creator indicates that He made man to be holy as He is Holy. "Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our Image, according to Our likeness" (Genesis 1:1). Everything God made, especially man, is "VERY GOOD" because God is good. Nothing He made is evil in itself. As the "temple of the Holy Spirit" and since too we were created in" His Image" it is very clear that we were created to be holy. Therefore we are a living temple of God and nothing less.
Our infirmities, our sinful actions, and our behavior should be constantly refined through the Mysteries of the Church. Through the sacraments, we are purged and sanctified from all sinful actions. We are restored and cleansed through repentance and by the mercy of God. Our goal should be to retain our souls pure and undefiled and to remain faithful to God’s word. To spiritually avoid polluting our souls and burying them under our own sinful debris and dust.
Spiritual ascesis never ends until our earthly life is terminated. By the grace of God, as we see in the lives of the Saints, we can attain holiness. This is our true goal. How else can we enter the Kingdom of God? If our garment is ‘a wedding garment’ we will be expelled by the Angels of God. If our lamps are not trimmed and ready, as it happened to the five foolish virgins in the Gospel of Saint Matthew 25:10-12, the door to the Kingdom will be shut. The Lord’s voice, "the bridegroom" will be heard saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you" (vs. 12).
LORD JESUS CHRIST SON OF GOD AND SAVIOR HAVE MERCY ON US AND SAVE US. AMEN!
"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