My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE SPIRITUAL CROWN OF LIFE
"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has
been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord
has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).
The spiritual warfare against the Christian believer continues throughout life. The believer is constantly tempted by the evil one and is determined to prevent him or her from retaining his obedience to the Almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ. We know even in the Garden of Eden how he tempted and deceived Adam and Eve and convinced them to rebel against the Creator to commit the ancestral sin and their eventual expulsion. Satan even went as far as to tempt the Son of God immediately following His forty-day and night prayer and fasting in the wilderness.
Temptation is the tool used by Satan to attack the faithful and to use one’s own sinful passions to separate one from God. Satan manipulates man’s sinful passions to deceive him and lead him into sin. Our Lord God tries us, but He never tempts us. Every temptation originates with desires or lustful thoughts (logismoi). When one entertains these evil thoughts and finds satisfaction and pleasure in them ("when desire has conceived"), we readily end up acting upon them ("it gives birth to sin"). Truthfully one falls to temptation because he/she is weak and allows himself or herself to do so. Neither the Lord nor circumstances force one to give in. When we yield to evil temptation we must be honest enough to admit that we are at fault and to take the responsibility and not blame anyone else.
The Orthodox Christian must always be aware of Satan’s machinations and snares. No one should ever let his/her guard down and must remain vigilant and always alert. The enemy is cunning and ruthless and seeks our destruction and death. Saint Paul advises all to "abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). There is a constant need in the life of the Christian of discernment (diakrisis) and testing so as to avoid being misled. The holy Apostle Peter warns to "humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant, BECAUSE YOUR ADVERSARY THE DEVIL WALKS AOUT LIKE A ROARING LION, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR" (1 Peter 5:8). Satan has his demons (‘angels’) to evaluate us individually, looking for our weaknesses. The evil one will offer attractive visions to our eyes, music to our ears, to each of our senses triggering and stimulating them so that it leads to sin. He encourages the tongue to speak evil about our fellow man and to use our hands to hurt others. He plays on our vanity and ego to seek earthly honors and prestige. Therefore, we must always be vigilant for his many-faceted attacks ready to resist him at every turn.
The Christian’s battle against evil continues until his/her very last breath on earth. The enemies and adversaries are relentless and never tire. The harder the Christian struggles to strengthen his/her faith, to be more obedient to the Almighty God, to adhere and abide by His Commandments, the more he/she tries to become more righteous, the greater the effort to have a good prayer discipline, the greater the effort to have a more lasting communion with the Lord, the more fierce will be the attacks from the devil. The evil powers cannot and will not ever give up in their attempt to prevent the believer to win or succeed. Saint Anthony the Great was not only tempted by the devil and his demons but physically beaten by them.
Turning our attention to the Apocalypse written by the holy Apostle John Chapter 2:10 we read, "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you in prison, that you may be tested, and you have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and will give you the crown of life." The "crown of life" refers to the wreath awarded to a victor in an arena. It is very clear that "if anyone competes in athletics, he is NOT crowned (awarded) UNLESS HE COMPETES ACCORDING TO THE RULES" (2 Timothy 2:5).
Enduring the temptations and overcoming the various obstacles that the secular world lays upon the Orthodox Christian will bestow upon him/her the stephanon tis zoes ("crown of life"). We, as Orthodox Christians, are athletes and participate, as ancient Olympians, in a spiritual contest. We are competing with the evil one to win by overcoming his evil snares and temptations. The reward is the crown "of honor and glory" bestowed by the Lord our God. In the Greek Orthodox marriage ceremony the priest chants and invokes the Almighty God to "crown them (the man and woman) with honor and glory." This constitutes the coronation of the two Orthodox Christians as they begin their new life as husband and wife to be the king and queen of their Christian realm and household.
When "the Chief Shepherd" bestows on the believer "the crown of glory", the crown is eternal and "does not fade away" (1 Peter 5:4), unlike the earthly crown. The Orthodox Christian understands that he or she is never worthy of God’s grace or gift. If anything is accomplished by us here on earth is only because of the Lord’s unconditional love and mercy. As Jesus confronted fearlessly His tormentors, death, and hell, so we, through Him, can confidently face our evil tormentors and dispel all darkness by shining His Light upon them. This is made known to us in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts when the priest turning to the people and standing in the Royal Arch while holding a lit candle proclaims: "Φώς Χριστού φαίνει πάσι" ("The Light of Christ enlightens all").
"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