My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"BLESSED IS THE LORD MY GOD, Who trains my hands for battle,
My fingers for war;
He is my mercy and my refuge,
My helper and my deliverer,
MY PROTECTOR IN WHOM I HOPE…" (Psalm 143:1-2)
Psalm 143 describes our war against Goliath, the giant who was arrogant and vainglorious against God. David slew him and cut off his head. This is an image of our war against powerful sinful passions as well as arrogance and vainglory (kenodoxia). In life, it is inescapable that we will face immense challenges of great odds but with God’s help, just like David, we can conquer anything that comes our way. David had faith in God and it was his faith in Him that won him the battle over the giant Goliath. Faith is much more than possessing a mental belief. Since neither faith nor righteousness originates in us but in our All-Merciful God, genuine faith transforms our lives, making us God-like, bearing the fruit of God the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul writes, "Therefore 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. Not only that, but WE ALSO GLORY IN TRIBULATIONS, KNOWING THAT TRIBULATION PRODUCES PERSEVERANCE; AND PERSEVERANCE, CHARACTER; AND CHARACTER, 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 5:1-5).
My father, God rest his soul, used to refer to life as ‘βιοπάλη’ (viopale) which means literally, ‘wrestling life’. Indeed this wrestling or struggling in life begins almost immediately following our birth and does not end until the day that we fall asleep in the Lord. Life is compared at times to a vast ocean or sea which at times is calm and peaceful and other times, without any warning, it turns into a raging and dangerous place threatening our very existence. The logical question, however, is how ready are we as Christians to face the unexpected in life? How strong and prepared are we to face, not only the good days, but also the stormy ones that inevitably will come? There is a Greek saying, ‘O kalos o capetanios stin fourtouna fenete’ which means, ‘the good or worthy captain proves his ability during a storm.’ Anyone one of us can make all kinds of claims on how strong we are, or how capable, but it is only during the unexpected challenges in life that we prove what we are truly made of.
Losing hope is not an option for anyone. We can’t cower before adversity and danger. We must stand tall and determined to win. Surrender to it is not an option. We have the potential to be courageous and to face life head-on no matter the threats. The good captain never gives up no matter how high the waves of a stormy sea are. God has not left us without the means to conquer life’s problems and obstacles. We are intelligent people with logic and wisdom to think things out and make the necessary decisions and solve what needs to be solved. As people of faith in God, we automatically and naturally turn always to Him for assistance and inspiration before we make any difficult decision. By not seeking His help, we reveal our arrogance and pride.
We need God more than you know. God awaits our invitation to Him to come to our aid. Our Lord Jesus Christ says to us, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and OPENS THE DOOR, I WILL COME IN TO HIM AND DINE WITH HIM, AND HE WITH ME" (Revelation 3:20). He does NOT break down the door or force Himself into your heart, but "KNOCKS" for you to let Him in. Oh God, how great You are! God does not force anyone to cooperte with Him. He keeps knockig, awaiting a response. The one who cooperates with our Lord OVERCOMES or CONQUERS.
Why am I saying all these things to you all? It is because we are all sharing the same concerns, challenges, dangers, and consequences of the pandemic. I am saying these things to you because I am troubled with all the sad news being reported of how men, women, and children have fallen into despondency and depression and are beginning to drink, take drugs, and commit suicide. People all over the world have faced many tragedies from war and natural catestrophies and have not resorted to these unfortuate and sad actions. These extreme actions are actions of hopelessness, of faithlessness, of irrational and emotional reactions to a temporary situation that all of us face together. It must end and must not continue to happen. We must come together and support each other emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, brotherly, and encourage one another to avoid making these dreadful mistakes.
This is not the end of the world. Mankind has confronted all kinds of disasters of enormous proportions over the many centuries. Who can predict what will happen in the future? Everything that happens in our life-time is a learning experience that prepares us to face the next big challenge. It is our hope and prayer that by the grace of God it will not be as destructive.
Stay close to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to our Thetotokos, the holy Angels, to the Saints and righteous men and women of God. As Orthodox Christians we always seek their holy intercessions to our Creator to protect and keeps us safe and in good health. We believe that our prayers are joined with theirs to keep the world free of evil and for the Angelic powers to guard us from the influence of the Evil One.
I am profoundly gratified and rejoice when I hear Christians encouraging other Christians to pray. I just heard recently an American General urge everyone to keep on praying for our country and emphasize that there is nothing greater than prayer to Almighty God and Savior. Prayer is our greatest weapon against any form of evil. Thanks be to God! There is hope indeed when believers practice unceasing prayer and not lose faith in our Redeemer under any circumstances.
Stay strong! Keep the faith! Keep on praying!
"Glory Be To GOD
–Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George