My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Father of mercies and God of all comfort…" (1 Cor. 1:3).
"… Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort" (1 Cor. 1:4-7).
It is indeed our task as Orthodox Christians to comfort those around us who are afflicted in relation to God’s comfort of us in Christ. We know and believe that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself is always present with us, consoling and rescuing us. Our very salvation is manifested clearly when we bear all things with dignity.
Reviewing our life we derive the conclusion that the suffering that we have endured would not have been possible or have been withstood if the Almighty God had not been with us all the way. Life is filled at times with immense anxiety, stress, and grave concern. Our patience and strength are constantly tested but by the grace of God we persevere. But who was the one who granted us the fortitude and ability to continue on with courage and determination? God, indeed.
The holy Apostle Paul reveals (1:3) the personhood of the Father and the Son, even though they are of one substance. He teaches us that "God is not just the Father of creation, but the Father of mercies as well." All of God’s Divine actions reveal God’s love and mercy for all. Even at times of distress and when we are not able to understand God’s actions and questions arise in our hearts we are assured of His forgiveness and compassion. When we sin against Him and we regret it, He, as a loving God, accepts our repentance.
The Greek word for repentance is metanoia. Our Holy Orthodox Church teaches us the great significance of repentance. Repentance is more than regret, grief, sorrow, or change of mind or heart. Through the Mysterion of repentance and confession not only are we forgiven of our sins but are being born again and made anew. It is not only pardon or forgiveness but a restoration of our former state of experience. Our Holy Orthodox Church sets out to console us in our grief on account of our mistakes and faults.
We, as Orthodox Christians, believe that God alone is Holy and Good, He alone is Blessed because He gives blessing and does not receive it from someone else. He is the Father of mercies by nature, because He is the Source of All Mercy. It is very important that we, as Christians, do not attempt to place human traits on Our Lord God as though He is one of us and feels, thinks, and acts as a fellow human being. He is the Creator and our Heavenly Father Who cannot be understood by man. What we know of Him is what He Himself has revealed to us over time and through His Only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit. Christianity is NOT a religion! Christianity is NOT a theory! Christianity is a REVELATION (APOCALYPSE).
Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote: "The Lord summons us through the activity of the Spirit to salvation THROUGH OUR AFFLICTION and to a sharing in the goods of the Spirit… For he says: ‘who comforts us in our afflictions, that we also may be able to comfort those who are in any distress.’" "As the sufferings of Christ abound for us, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." Those who share in suffering will share also in the comfort in proportion to the suffering they share with Christ.
Saint John Chrysostom says, "our salvation is demonstrated more clearly when we bear all things nobly. The work of salvation does not consist only of believing but OF ENDURING EVIL WHEN IT IS DONE T O US. " Looking and examining Christian history we clearly learn that being a follower of Christ means persecution, martyrdom, and suffering. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ suffered on the Cross and following Him the holy Apostles also suffered. For the first three hundred years of Christianity countless Christians also suffered. Their suffering, however, was so great that they would not have withstood it if God had not been with them. Afflictions as a Christian have never ceased from happening. But every Christian suffering by the disciples of the Savior is experienced for the sake of Christ.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our tribulation, taht we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation, and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer." (2 Corinthias 1:1-6).
The purpose of afflictions, if we use them wisely, may be our comfort and salvatio, as the Heavenly Father Himself preserves us through them. The means of confronting our suffering is a hope in God which allows us to enter into the suffering of others. The communion of the Saints, spiritual solidarity, is to begin now in the pains of this life. The godly suffer, in part, so that having experienced God’s comfort they in turn can comfort others. No Christian should ever be concerned only for himself and his own challenges. It is said that compassion for others means not only to feel sadness or sorrow for them, but for us to put ourselves in their situation and to feel the same pain and suffering that they experience and through it to aleviate their suffering by sharing in their agony. The holy Apostle Paul exhorts us to "bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks of himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Galatians 6:2-3).
When we petition our Heavenly Father to bless and comfort us, we petition Him not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but for all our fellow citizens. In the Divine Liturgy we pray and petition the Lord: "For the peace of the whole world, the stability of the holy Churches of God and for the union of all mankind, let us pray to the Lord." "For this city and for this Community, for every city and country, and for the Faithful who dwell therein, let us pray to the Lord." "For those who travel by water, by air, and land, for the sick, for the afflicted, for captives, and their salvation, let us pray to the Lord."
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father anad our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:3).
"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