My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY" (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
The author of Ecclesiastes is the wise King Solomon, son of King David and builder of the Jerusalem Temple. In his old age King Solomon and according to some, left his palace and all his wealth, dressed in rags, took up his staff, and went wandering along the roads, contemplating the vanity of all material things.
Modern man has indeed fallen a victim in pursuing worldly things and material wealth. With so many billionaires today we have ample examples of man’s uncontained greed. None of the material or earthly wealth that man accrues brings any security, peace, or lasting happiness. Yet, it has become or developed into sickness or obsession. It is believed by some of them that wealth translates into power. Power not to only do what one desires but corrupt power that wishes to dominate and control the destiny of countries and people. Did not someone say that "absolute power, corrupts absolutely"?
The Christians of the 21st century must avoid making this foolish mistake. I recall my father’s advice as we were growing up that we should avoid making life-altering mistakes by observing others around us and learning from their mistakes instead. It is easy to fall prey to a materialistic secular world that literally replaced the Creator God with a "golden calf.’ Or, instead of worshipping the Creator, they worship the creation." A wise man ought to conduct a reexamination of his entire life. A man should come to his senses and think clearly without the influence and enticements of this earthly existence.
We know historically that our ascetics consciouisly gave up the world in its vain manifestations dominated by worldly things and pleasures. Saint John writes, "Do not love the world or the tings of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17). The ‘world’ here is the creation after the Fall and under the dominion of Satan. It is creation no longer oriented toward God, but dominated by inordinate passions and subject to death (see Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
The ‘world’ distorts every realm of God’s good creation (James 1:13-14). Then are 1) sensual pleasures of "the flesh" (physical passions), (2) lust of the eyes (the soul’s passions), 3) "the pride of life" power and honors ‘of life.’ The Christian combats all the above throug prayer, fasting, and philanthropy.
What one witness concerning King Solomon’s life are his humility, wisdom, and great love for God. The word "repentance" in the Greek sense: METANOIA, turnabout, change. There were a number of changes in King Solomon’s life: his great love for God and Divine wisdom in his youth. He fell into idolatry and polygamy and flirted with paganism in general. Therefore, King Solomon’s ‘repentance’ was his father David’s ‘repentance.’ His change was more of a philosophical exercise of his existence.
King Solomon says, "I did not withhold my heart from any merriment. For my heart was made glad in all my labor, and this was my portion from all my labor. Then, I looked on all the works my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled, and INDEED ALL IS VANITY and is the choice of one’s spirit. There was no profit under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Man can choose "wisdom" or "foolishness," "light" or "darkness," GOOD OR EVIL.
No matter whether we walk in the light of wisdom or in the darkness of folly, everyone suffers and dies without REMEMBRANCE. It is for this reason that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has come to trample down death by dying THAT WE MIGHT LIVE ETERNALLY WITH Him. Thus, we are bold to chant "Αιωνία η μνήμη" ("May your memory be eternal"). Everything earthly ends with death, i.e., food, drink, pleasure, etc. but the Eternal Food of the Divine Eucharist (John 6:55). "I know," he says, "that whatever things God does, they shall be forever" (Ecc. 3:14).
Saint John Chrysostom annwers the questione ‘What is the present life’? So let us listen to our Holy Father of the Church in order that we make the proper decision that will lead to salvation.
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" — it is always seasonable to utter this but more especially at the present time…
Where are now the brilliant surroundings of your consulship?
"Where are the gleaming torches? Where is the dancing, and the noise of dancers’ feet, and the banquets
and the festivals? Where are the garlands and the curtains of the theater?
Where is the applause whcih greeted you in the city, where the acclmation in the hippodrome and the
flatteries of spectators?
They are gone — all gone: a wind has blown uponn the tree shattering down all its leaves, and showing it to
us quite bare, and shaken from its very root…
And inasmuch as deceitful things, and maskings and pretence seem so manhy to be realities it behooves
each one every day both at supper and at breakfast, and is social assemblies to say tto his neighbor and
to hear his neighbor say in return "vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
Was I not continually telling you that wealth was a runaway? But you would not heed me…"
The Orthodox Christian is reminded in the funeral service that "ALL HUMAN THINGS ARE VANITY, which do not survive a person’s death…". Saint John of Damascus grafically expresses the philospy of life when he writes, "What pleasure of life ever remains unmixed with grief? What glory endures immovable on earth? All are feebler than shadows, all more illusive than dreams. In a single moment all are supplanted by death. But… "Like a flower it withers, and like a dream it vanishes and dissolves away…". The reality, for the believer, is that nothing worldly is as important as people believe it is. He or she is reminded by Prophet Ezekiel who cried I am earth and dust, our lifeless bodies will return back to earth and just like all matter it remains behind, for the heavenly world is a spiritual world. Our material bodies will, upon the resurrection, will take on a spiritual form and be reunited with our soul to be judged by God.
A genuine Christian, who lives in the Holy Spirit, is a person who lives by faith in Christ Jesus. His or her life is a Christ-centered life inspired by the Holy Spirit to abide by the commandments of God. A life of virtue and piety is not easily attained the faithful members of the Church seek help from above and the intercessions of the Mother of God and Saints. Who ever is satisfied with this world can only be deceived by the evil one or at least may be delusional. Man was NOT created for this world but for the Eternal Kingdom of God. The great ascetics of Christianity renounced this world and saw it as a spiritual desert and wasteland. However, many of them, including Saint Mary of Egypt, who found God in the desert and through Him holiness and salvation.
"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