My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"THE ARENA OF THE VIRTUES"
If one was to open up the spiritual treasure chest of the Church he would discover in it a plethora of priceless jewels and stones. Every Orthodox Christian has access to this treasure chest and its contents. No one else outside the Orthodox Church can make a claim of it. In other words, it is the inheritance of all Orthodox Christians who remain loyal to the Faith and Holy Tradition. The spiritual wealth that has been inherited by us must never be either ignored or squandered aimlessly but must be used for the good of all of mankind.
Life can be described as a wrestling arena where the fight to win takes place. When one enters life’s arena the struggle and fight begins. The spiritual struggle is of course against evil and sin. First, we must overcome ourselves and our passions in order to crush our evil opponent and declare victory. There is a Church hymn that says, "The arena of the virtues has been opened. Let all who wish to struggle for the prize now enter." The victory, however, can only be accomplished with the help of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who reminds us that we can do nothing without Him.
Those of us who have lived a long life can attest that life is a constant battle. From the time that one is born until his death, the battle continues relentlessly. It is the reason that after decades of living one feels worn out and exhausted. However, no matter how tired one is the spiritual struggle must continue until the very end if we are to obtain eternal life.
By the grace of the Holy Spirit, the believer is transformed and his life is changed forever. At the Mysterion of Baptism the priest offers the following blessing: "… and grant that he who is baptized in it MAYBE CHANGED so as to put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, AND TO PUT THE NEW, WHICH RENEWETH HIM ACCORDING to THE IMAGE OF THE Creator; that as he is planted together in the likeness of Thy Death through Baptism, he may become also a partaker of Thy Resurrection; and as he hath guarded the gift of Thy Holy Spirit and increased his PORTION OF GRACE, may he RECEIVE THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING, AND BE NUMBERED AMONG THE FIRST-BORN WHO ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN IN THEE OUR GOD AND LORD JESUS CHRIST."
Our spiritual challenge is to live in Christ Jesus. It is to retain our inner communion and union with Him. As a Christian one must have unceasing remembrance of our Lord and Savior Christ. That the Cross of our Redeemer may be engraved in the heart of all Christian faithful that cannot ever be erased or discarded. My prayer with all my heart is that the Name of the Lord be written in the heart, the mind, and soul of all our brethren. As disciples of Christ God the Cross is the indispensable sign of all His true followers and friends.
The contemporary Orthodox Christian is experiencing an adentity crisis. The influence of the secular society upon the Christian is powerful and it has created confusion and often places the believer in a dilema. It creates uncertainty of what is true and genuine, or of what path to take. We rely on the Holy Church to guide each of us to "come and see" the eternal dwelling place of the Great Philanthropos and King. Just as the sun follows the same path, rising and setting, we too must be constant and consistent with the spiritual path which we follow daily. It is said that "our rising from sleep is actually a small resurrection, and from that perspective we behold each sunrise as something new, just as our nightly sleep is a small death, so we see each sunset differently."
The world which we live in is undboubtedly an arena in which our faith is tested. Just as the venerable Prophets of the Old Testament, we too ought to learn how to live a life dedicated to the service of Almighty God. A divinely enlighten person is a virtuous person. However, who today even knows what virtue is? The Holy Apostle Peter in his Second General Letter writes: "…as His divine letter given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory AND VIRTUE" (v. 3). "Virtue" (Gr. Arete) is translated as "excellence" or "power." It is spiritual and moral excellence attained by virgorous and courageous faith. Saint Peter also in the same letter says, "…add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love" (vs. 5-7).
In Orthodox Christian Catechism we learn of the Seven Capital Virtues: Humility, Liberality, Chastity, Mildness, Temperance, Happiness and Diligence. There are also the Seven Grievous Sins or Vices: Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy and Sloth. It is up to each Christian to know right from wrong, to know the difference between virtue and vice, and by prayer and faith to chose rightly and prudently. Our Savior has blessed us with the gift of discernment and therefore have the ability and wisdom to chose His Divine commandments and to always do His will and give thanks for all things.
"Glory Be To GOD