My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
HOLY AND GREAT LENT: A TIME TO EXAMINE
"Do you believe in the Son of God? He answered and said, "Who
is He, Lord that I may believe in Him?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You
have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.’ Then he
said he said, "LORD I BELIEVE!’ and he worshipped Him" (St. John
Believing in God cannot be forced or coerced by anyone, but it must be a natural and sincere personal decision based on faith. Saint Gregory Palamas says, "How, I ask you, is it credible that someone believes in God if he does NOT aspire to what the Lord pronounces blessed, but to what He pronounces wretched? "Shew me," it says, "THY FAITH BY THEY WORKS" (St. James 2:18), "Who is a wise man? Let him shew out of good conduct his works" (St. James 3:13).
Any one of us can confess, ‘I believe,’ but how true are these words? Are we willing to show our faith in God by our good works and by our keeping of His Commandments? If we sincerely believe in God we will obediently conform to His will and reject all evil acts, thoughts, passions, and wicked pleasures. One who believes is willing to freely surrender himself to Christ God and say along with Saint Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; IT IS NO LONGER I WHO LIVE, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME; AND THE LIFE WHICH I LVE IN THE FLESH I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME" (Galatians 2:20).
"I have been crucified with Christ," is interpreted to mean that my sinful desires and passions have been crucified. In other words, to subdue the flesh and control its appetites for evil acts. In Galatians 5:16-17, Saint Paul writes, "I say then: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things you wish." By "flesh," here the holy Apostle does not mean the body, but evil actions, the depraved will of man i.e., adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, jealousies, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.." (Gal. 5:19-21).
The spiritual warfare is real and the war is on. Every Christian believer on earth is a member of the Church Militant, the Church which combats evil in the world. The Church Triumphant is the heavenly Church, which is victorious and rejoices in God’s bosom. As the military of the Church, we are engaged in a constant battle with the faith and determination to win and, by the grace of God, to destroy the evil powers that threaten us and the world that we live in. However, we believe that spiritual warfare does not take place only without, but also within. The dangers are true and our struggle against them is real. We also believe that we have spiritual help through the holy intercessions of the Theotokos, the holy Angels, the prayers of our Saints, and the prayers of God-fearing people who live according to God’s will.
According to Saint James (Iakovos), "faith without works is dead." Works without faith are empty and useless. It incumbent of us to pursue both faith and works of mercy (charity), along with living a pious and virtuous life. The life of the Orthodox Christian must strive for holiness, perfection, and a life that is constantly growing in Christ. This spiritual goal and ambition can only be accomplished if we humbly submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit our God. It is He who protects, guides, illumines, inspires, teaches, cleanses, forgives, heals, adopts, bestows wisdom, renews, and saves us.
"The person who has been deified (theosis) by grace will be in every respect as God is, for His very essence." To those who believe and are true disciples, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy (satan), and NOTHING BY ANY MEANS HURT YOU" (St. Luke 10:19). The evil one has no power over us, but Jesus has given us the power to defeat him and prevent him from hurting the innocent.
Rejoice! for God is with us. Christians are people who bring joy and hope to the people of the world. They are always confident and filled with courage and goodness. Christianity brought love and compassion for all throughout the world. Without Christ and His Gospel, the world would be a violent and evil place. There would be no kindness, no philanthropy, no justice, no peace, no future, no unity, no brotherhood, and no salvation. Christ has indeed saved the human race from evil and death. He is not only the Savior for His believers and followers, but of all mankind. Thanks be to God!
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George