Orthodoxy and love-hate relationship

… time is fulfilled, and
the Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent you and
believe the Gospel“.
Marc.1: 15

Repent you therefore
and be converted,
that your sins
may be blotted out…

                                                                                 Acts 3: 19

The memory of the righteous is blessed;
but the name of the wicked will rot
“.
Prov.10: 7

Salvation
Orthodox Christians hold that man was originally created in communion with God,
but through acting in a manner contrary to his own nature
[which is intrinsically ordered to communion with God], man disrupted that communion.
Because of man’s refusal to fulfil the “image and likeness of God” within him,
corruption and the sickness of sin whose consequence is death
entered man’s mode of existence.
But when Jesus came into the world
He Himself was Perfect Man [τέλειος Θεός] and
Perfect God [τέλειος άνθρωπος]
united in the divine Hypostasis of the Logos,
the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Through his assumption of human nature, human existence was restored,
enabling human beings, the fulfilment of creation,
through participation in divinity by incorporation into Jesus Christ.

“The Word of God came in His own Person,
because it was He alone, the Image of the Father,
Who could recreate man made after the Image.
In order to effect this re-creation, however,
He had first to do away with death and corruption.
Therefore He assumed a human body,
in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed and
that men might be renewed according to the Image
[of God]”
Saint Athanasius – “On the Incarnation

Salvation, or “being saved“, therefore,
refers to this process of being saved
from death and corruption and the fate of hell.
The Orthodox Church believes that its teachings and practices represent the true path to participation in the Grace [gifts] of God.
Yet, it should be understood that the
Orthodox do not believe that you ought be Orthodox to participate in Salvation.
God is merciful to all.
The Orthodox believe that there is nothing
that a person (Orthodox or non-Orthodox) can do to earn Salvation.
It is rather Grace [a gift] from God.
However, this gift of relationship has to be accepted by the believer,
since God will not force Salvation on humanity.
Man is free to reject the Grace [gift] of Salvation continually offered by God.
To be saved, man must work together with God in
a synergeia whereby his entire being, including his will, effort and actions,
are perfectly conformed with, and united to the Divine.

God becomes powerless before human freedom;
He cannot violate it since it flows from His own omnipotence.
Certainly man was created by the will of God alone;
but he cannot be deified [made Holy] by it alone.
A single will for creation, but two for deification.
A single will to raise up the image, but
two to make the image into a likeness.
The love of God for man is so great that it cannot constrain;
for there is no love without respect.
Divine will always will submit itself to groupings, to detours,
even to revolts of human will to bring it to a free consent
” .
Vladimir Lossky – “Introduction to Orthodox Theology

The ultimate goal of the Orthodox Christian is to achieve Theosis, or Union with God.
This is sometimes expressed thus:
“God became Man so that Man might become god”.
Some of the greatest Saints have achieved, in this life, a measure of this process.
The individual who achieves Theosis never realizes his accomplishment,
as his perfect humility keeps him blind to pride.
Salvation therefore is not merely
an escape from the eternal bondage of death,
but an entrance to life in Christ
here and now.

It is a signs of the end-time that worldwide Christians suffer for their faith in one way or another; November the 15th is promoted as an international Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in which all Christians participate.
But man and even Church needs to realize its performance in order to preserve their perfect humility what makes them blind to their pride.
It has to be strong legs that are enabled to transfer the wealth.

We see it in history again and again,
when Church is longing for the respect of
the established power
she is always losing her credibility.
Because of that reason alone it is necessary
that there is a separation between the Church and the State.
Money and power are the downfall of her own principles and that’s why Church should be vigilant.
When a community is dependent on other people’s money
she is in great risk and is no longer independent.
We test this in today’s way of doing things in
the Greek and Russian Church
which praise the politics in several meetings with great ceremonies [and gifts].
Political leaders prove at heydays their [feigned?] adherence to the Church,
they are received with great deference to others,
surrounded by surrounded by their peers [most military bobo’s].
Of course Church needs  support to pass the time,
but the support has to come from the simple in heart;
the little money of the widow.
In this way Church keeps her objectives, to stay simple as Christ Himself was.
When a new-chosen bishop is longing for his own new-built cathedral
something is totally wrong and he needs to reflect his duty.
When an old bishop needs to keep three shelters to survive
[one in the town, one at the see-site and one in his home-land]
something is totally wrong and he needs to reflect his duty.
When a Patriarchate is longing for more and more influence in the west
by supporting his own total number of communities as a replacement for
longing for the whole Church of Christ something is totally wrong.
Christ is not waiting for great church-buildings and splendour and ostentation.
Church is kept by the will of God alone;
it can be deified [made Holy] by God alone and
we have to pray for it, not to buy or force it.
God have mercy . . . . .?

“…there is one God, and one mediator
between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all,
to be testified in due time
“.
1Tim.2: 5-6

Orthodox church is holding
that man is originally created in communion with God.
Through acting in a manner contrary to
his own human nature
he disrupted that communion
and will even church not be able to
present the Body of Christ.

How much greater is the gladness in God the Father, when any one is so spiritually born that in his acts and praises
the divine eminence of race is announced!
Saint Cyprianos

Beginning of the Triodion – Who do you follow???

But you has fully known
my doctrine, manner of life,

purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured:
but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,
deceiving, and being deceived.
But continue you in the things
which you has learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom you has learned them;
And that from a child you has known the Holy Scriptures,  which are able to make you wise unto Salvation
through Faith which is in Christ Jesus“.
2Tim. 3: 10-15

The doctrine of the Apostle Paul
After describing the false teachers who hold to a form of religion, but deny its power in 2Tim.3: 1-9, Paul again exhorts Timothy to
remain faithful, even through persecution.
He reminds Timothy of his own example, which
Timothy has observed for many years now.
Paul was not boasting in himself, but rather was saying,
Timothy, my life is open to you.
You know my life and my teaching.
You’ve seen me under persecution of the worst sort,
including being stoned and left for dead in your home town of Lystra.
You’ve seen me go through imprisonment, beatings, shipwreck, and other hardships.
You know that my life backs up my message, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
So after I’m gone, remember my example and continue in it yourself

In this message the Apostle summed up:
-Spiritual faithfulness is not automatic, but
requires recognizing and following godly examples
who follow the Scriptures.
1.] Spiritual faithfulness in the past is not
an automatic guarantee of faithfulness in the future.

These verses fall into two sections, marked out in the Greek text by
two identical phrases [3:10, 14] that should be translated
identically, “But you“, or, “You, however. . . . . ”
– In 3:10, Paul draws a contrast between the character of the evil men [in 3:1-9] and
Timothy’s faithfulness up to this point.
– In 3:14, the contrast is between the evil men and impostors [in 3:13] and
Timothy’s needed faithfulness in the future.
Even though Timothy had followed Paul’s teaching and example thus far,
Paul felt it necessary to exhort him to continue doing so in the future,
especially when he encountered persecution, as he surely would [3:12].
In other words,
past faithfulness does not automatically guarantee future faithfulness.
The lives of these evil men that Paul has been describing [3:1-9, 13] serve as a warning.
– They were not atheists or outwardly opposed to religion.
– Rather, they made a profession of their faith.
– They had been leaders in the church.
– They held to a form of godliness, but
now their lives denied its power.
– They were impostors, or charlatans.

Proceed” [3: 13] means to make progress.
So Paul is sarcastically saying,
They will make progress all right,
from bad to worse,
deceiving and being deceived
“.

Whenever the Bible warns about deception [dishonesty], be careful,
because deception is always tricky.
It picks your pocket when you think everything is okay.
In the context here, the warning is,
just because you have been a faithful Church member for years or you have served faithfully for years, or you’ve been faithful in your marriage for years,
none of these things guarantee future faithfulness.
Long term spiritual faithfulness does not happen by accident.
You must be deliberate [thoughtful] about it.
So, recognizing the danger,
how can we remain faithful to the Lord in
the face of temptation and trials?

2.] Spiritual faithfulness in the future requires recognizing and
following godly examples who follow the Scriptures.
We all need examples to follow, which is why the
Good Message gives us  the stories of
so many faithful witnesses.
Although we see many that fall into sin,
thankfully there are many others,
such as Paul and Timothy, who finish well.
Next is shown
– both how to recognize and
– follow godly examples.
a.] To be spiritually faithful,
learn how to recognize godly examples.
Timothy had Paul as his example, but not as his only example.
The word “whom” [3: 14] is a plural [in the best manuscripts].
Beyond Paul were Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who
taught him the Scriptures from infancy [2Tim.1: 5; 3: 15].
It is not clear whether they led Timothy to salvation, or
whether their teaching him the Scriptures prepared him
to respond to the Gospel when he first heard Paul preach
[Paul calls him, “my true child in the faith” in 1Tim.1: 2; also in 2Tim.1: 2].
There were also probably many other godly examples in Timothy’s life.

There is an important lesson here, namely,
that we all need to be exposed to a number of godly examples.
Also, we should pray that our children would come
under the influence of many godly examples!!!
I have known parents that have tried to keep
their children exclusively under parental influence,
not allowing church youth leaders or anyone else
to get close to their children.
Their motive, no doubt, is to protect their children
from harmful influence, which is always a risk.
But it seems to me that it is to our children’s advantage
to be exposed to a number of godly adults
besides that of us as parents.
We needed all the help that we could get in rearing our children, and
if another godly adult could have an impact in their lives, I thanked God for it.

The same is the Truth of pastors.
Some pastors are afraid of having their people
listen to other pastors, perhaps out of fear
that the other pastor will say something
that undermines what the local pastor is saying.
But there is no corner on God’s truth!!!
I encourage you to benefit from other ‘God-fearing’ pastors
who are faithful to Scripture.
But, how do you discern whether or not a man is a godly example?
Let’s face it, there are a lot of religious charlatans out there!!!!!

Paul gives us three solid guidelines:
[-1-]. A godly example is known for his teaching [3: 10].
Paul writes [3: 10], “But you followed my teaching . . . . .“.
In 2Tim.4: 2, The Apostle will give Timothy a strong charge to preach the Word.
Paul put a premium on sound doctrine,
which is a frequent theme in the Pastoral Epistles.
1Tim.1: 3-5,10; 3: 3,15; 4: 6,13,16; 5: 17; 6: 1,3,20-21; 2 Tim.1: 13; 2: 2,15; 4: 3;
Titus 1: 9; 2: 1,10

So listen to what a man teaches.
It won’t take you long to discern whether he is teaching the Bible or
whether he is merely using the Good Message as
an inspirational springboard to launch off into his own ideas.
Some preachers use the Holy Bible like the Reader’s Digest or
like they are a populair teacher in a class-room:
It has some good quotes that support or illustrate their points,
but they don’t teach it as God’s authoritative Word that
we must understand and submit to.
When you listen to a sermon, ask yourself,
Did he explain and apply the text of Scripture so that
I come away understanding what it means and
how it applies to my life?
Also, a godly Good News teacher does not skip the difficult sections and doctrines.
He teaches the whole purpose of God.

Note also [3: 15] that a godly teacher uses the Scriptures to
lead people “to Salvation through Faith which is in Christ Jesus“.
Timothy’s mother and grandmother had taught him the “sacred writings
[a Jewish term for the Old Covenant] from infancy.
God’s Word is able to give even a child the wisdom that leads to Salvation,
which means, Salvation from God’s righteous Judgment on our sins.
That Salvation does not come by keeping the moral precepts of the Bible, or
even by believing the Bible.
Rather, Salvation comes through Faith in Christ Jesus alone.

As parents, pray for your children’s Salvation and
use the Good News to explain to them their need for the Saviour and
how to trust in Him to forgive their sins.
The popular idea of having your child
ask Jesus to come into his heart” is probably not the clearest way
to present the gospel [it’s too sweet].
A child needs to come under conviction for his sins, so
that he sees that he is guilty and deserves God’s judgment.
He also needs to know that on the Cross Jesus paid the penalty that he deserves,
if he will trust in Christ.
There should be evident signs of new life
if a child truly has been born of God.
Whether with children or adults,
use the Bible as the main tool
in leading people to Salvation.

[-2-]. A god-fearing preacher’s example is known for his character [3: 10].
He practices what he preaches!!!
So when a priest steals money from
the telephone-money-box or
when he promotes that he will even built a new church from criminal [black/stolen] money, leave him immediately!!!
His life backs up his teaching.
Paul mentions six areas of character:

·         Behaviour –

The word [used only here] means,
his way of life“.
You should be able to look at a person’s way of life and tell whether he or she is a godly example worth following.
This would include how he spends his time,
how he manages money and possessions, what kind of entertainment he enjoys, and
how he relates to his family, friends, fellow workers, and  even to strangers.
Is he rude [bad-mannered] or sensitive?
Is he oblivious to the needs of others or kind and caring?
Christianity is a way of life that affects all of life.
A godly example lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

·         Drive –
Paul was a man of drive.
– His drive was to help bring about God’s purpose [Eph.3: 9-11].
– He did everything for the Glory of God [1Cor.10: 31].
– He related every aspect of his life to
the supreme purpose of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord [Phil. 3:8-10] and
– making Him known to others [1 Cor. 9:23; 10:33].
– He disciplined himself for the purpose of godliness [1 Tim. 4:7].
– He made it his ambition to be pleasing to Christ [2 Cor. 5:9].
– He told the Ephesian elders [Acts 20: 24],
I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself,
so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus,
to testify solemnly of the Gospel of the Grace of God
“.
Godly examples will always be men and women
who live daily in the Light of God’s purpose.

·         Faith –
The word may mean “faithfulness“, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
Paul was certainly a faithful man [1 Cor. 4:1].
But it also may refer to trusting God to do what is humanly impossible,
so that God will get the Glory.
Refering to how God delivered him from the brink of death,
Paul said:
Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so
that we would not trust in ourselves,
but in God Who raises the dead
“.
2Cor.1: 9
So a pastor who doesn’t believe in the Resurrection
isn’t a pastor, but a wolf in sheepsclothes.
A man or woman of faith lives in light of eternity,
trusting that God will keep His promises beyond the grave [2Tim. 4:8].
Look for those examples that live by faith.

·         Patience –
This also is a fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
It comes from two Greek words that literally mean
to be long before passion or anger.
The patient man doesn’t have a short fuse [temper].
He can bear with difficult people without exploding in anger.
He doesn’t snap at his wife or children with angry words.
The supreme test of patience had not been invented
when Paul wrote, but a truly patient man is patient when he drives!

·         Love –
This leads the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
Love, above all other virtues, should mark believers in Jesus Christ.
John 13: 34-35; 1Cor.13
My definition is, “Biblical Love is a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in
seeking the highest good of the one loved
“.
Sometimes the highest good requires
confronting someone in sin and
holding him accountable.
The aim is to bring him under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, so that his life brings Glory to God.
Such Love should govern everything that we do.

 

·         Perseverance –
This word has the nuance of enduring difficult circumstances over the long haul.
It means trusting God when things aren’t the way
you want them to be and there is no immediate solution in sight.
Many Christians either imply or directly tell you that if you have enough faith,
God will instantly deliver you from your problems,
whether it is a serious health problem or
a difficult relational situation or whatever.
Just name it and claim it by faith“, they say.

Many years ago,
I was wondering what was wrong with my faith,
because I wasn’t experiencing many instant,
miraculous answers to my prayers.
Then I met the text, where Paul prays that we may be
strengthened with all power, according to His Glorious Might“.
Col.1: 11
I thought,
Yeah, that’s what I want.
Give me that Glorious, Mighty Power of God!“.
But read on:
for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience,
joyously giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified us
to share in the inheritance of the Saints in Light
Col.1: 11b-12
Steadfastness and patience” [Επιμονή και υπομονή] are
the same words in Greek
as “Perseverance and patience” in our text.

I thought,
Wait a minute!
If God’s Mighty Power delivers us instantly from our trials,
why would we need Steadfastness and Patience, with joy?“.
The only reason we need steadfastness and patience with joy is
that God has not yet delivered us from our trials.
It takes His Mighty Power to give us joy in the midst of
unanswered prayers and ongoing trials.
That leads to the third mark of a god-fearing example.
A godly example is known for the preacher’s teaching and his character.
Also,

[-3-]. A godly example is known for
his godly demeanour
[appearance] under trials [3: 11-12].
– How does a man respond when trials hit?
– Does he rail at God or submit to God?
– Does he drift into the world or draw near to the Lord?
A godly example trusts God and grows through trials.
Paul mentions the trials that he encountered at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra [Timothy’s city], three cities in the Galatian region of Asia Minor.
During the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas were driven from Antioch
because of intense persecution [Acts 13: 50].
At their next stop in Iconium, they had to flee to avoid being stoned [Acts 14:5-6].
In Lystra, Paul actually was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead.
He was probably unconscious, but God miraculously raised him up [Acts 14:19-20].
Rather than let such awful persecution deter him,
Paul went right on preaching the Gospel in that region [Acts 14:21-22].
Timothy had witnessed Paul’s courage and joy in the face of these terrible trials.
When Paul says that the Lord rescued him out of them,
he means that God brought him through them.
God did not always keep Paul from trials,
although at times He did [Acts 18: 9-10].

Don’t miss verse 12 –
it’s a promise for you to claim!
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted“.
While the type and intensity of the persecution will vary
from ridicule or rejection to physical violence or even death,
every true Christian who lives a godly life in this evil world
will experience persecution.
If you are honest at work,
your honesty will convict those who cheat, and
they will try to get you down again and again until they smile they bejewelled you down.
If you speak out about injustice or evil,
you will be ridiculed and attacked.
Saint Nectarios of Aegina put it plainly:
Those who wish to be exempt from persecutions
must necessarily renounce Christ“.

Thus spiritual faithfulness requires recognizing and following godly examples of those who
follow the Scriptures.
You can recognize them by their teaching, their character, and
their godly demeanour [behaviour] under trials.
But, once you recognize them,
you need to follow them.

b.] To be spiritually faithful,
learn how to follow godly examples.

Three things are involved here:
[-1-]. Follow closely so as to understand and embrace.
That’s the meaning of the Greek word, “followed” [“know all about”].
It means to follow closely in somebody’s footsteps.
Lucas uses [in Luc.1: 3] the word when he tells Theophilus
that he has investigated everything carefully.
He means that he has traced out the history and
carefully checked his sources.
In our text, Paul means that Timothy was thoroughly familiar with Paul’s teaching and
his life because he had spent so much time with him, watching how he lived.
The consequence is that we need examples whose lives are open and transparent.
They are not afraid to let us see how they relate to their families and
to share areas where they struggle.
It implies getting to know someone well enough
that you can tell whether he walks with Christ or is faking it.
If he’s the real deal, then follow his example.

[-2-]. Follow by learning so as to develop strong convictions.
Paul says [in 2Tim.3: 14] that Timothy has learned these things and
become convinced of them.
Christianity involves learning certain doctrinal truths and
developing convictions about them.
Some doctrines are not essential to the faith, and
god-fearing men may differ on them.
We need to hold our views on these matters
with tolerance towards those who differ.
But on core matters, we should not compromise at all.
It requires maturity to discern
where you should draw these lines.

[-3-]. Follow by continuing in your convictions, even when under fire.
Timothy had learned these things and was convinced of them, but Paul tells him to continue in them.
The context makes it clear that he must continue in them even if it means persecution.
With Saint Nectarios, we must say,
even under intense pressure to yield,
Here I stand!
Besides reading about Saint Nectariosof Aegina, St Nectarios Metropolitan of Pentapolis,
who risked his spiritual live to stand for the Gospel against Alexandria,
read the lives of others who stood for the Truth under fire.

I conclude by asking you two questions.
– First, who are the examples that you follow?
To be spiritually faithful, you need godly models who follow the Scriptures.
As I said, if you can’t know them personally,
read about their lives in the Good Message or in Saint biographies.
I have been strengthened greatly by reading
the lives of the God-fearing men who went before me.
Although I do not know them personally,
contemporaries like Saint Nectarios and others
who stand for God’s Truth
encourage me to do the same.

– Second, to whom are you an example?
If you are growing in Christ as you should be,
then you should pray that God will use
your teaching, your conduct, and your godly demeanour under trials
to impact the lives of younger believers.
While none of us may ever be well-known or as strong an example as Paul was,
we all should be faithful enough that our lives are worth imitating.

Beginning of the Triodion – Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee – Come ‘all’ to me

Two men went up into the temple to pray;
the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are,
extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or
even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week,
I give tithes of all that I possess
‘.

And the publican, standing afar off,
would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,
but smote upon his breast, saying,
‘God be merciful to me a sinner‘.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other:
for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted
“.
Luc.18: 10-14

Notice:
This Bible-story of Lucas follows at
the story of the widow who
is searching for Justice!!!
Why?
Because Christ calls us that we should
always pray and not to faint doing this!!
He will give us Justice speedily!!!
Christ Himself spoke these words with
the view to some, who trusted themselves
that they were righteous and despised others.
Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes,
shall He find faith on the earth?
Luc.18: 1-9

Jesus Christ shared the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee with us
to warn us of the great spiritual danger of arrogant self-confidence in our own righteousness, coupled with contempt for those whom we consider to be beneath us.
In this way Jesus sought to protect us from the terrible spiritual sickness of Pharissee-ism.

This disease of the soul first manifests itself as
absolute confidence and trust in the rightness of our own point of view and judgement;
it presupposes our personal superiority over others.
And this twisted expression of self-confidence quickly degenerates into
uncritical self-satisfaction and self-righteousness,
into a kind of mindless self-admiration.
It takes endless pleasure in the self, and
in all that it does.

Let us look at the Pharisee in today’s parable.
He goes into the Temple of God
to offer incense to his own self-idol [Gr. eidōλolatreíα].

He proclaims his saintliness and
enumerates his good works.
He admires and praises himself and
is standing before God in his best clothes;
big crown on his head and a
mozes-staff to show his importance.
He, after all, is not like other people
who are up to their necks in immorality and evil.
In the midst of his supposed prayer
he does not hesitate to spill
the poisonous bile of his hatred
for the Publican [sinner]
whom he sees praying off in a distant corner.

With exaggerated self-satisfaction
he refers to his careful fasting and
his generous support of the temple.
He is indeed, a fastidious observer of
the law of the [New] Covenant.

And even though we feel repulsed
by the attitude and behaviour of the Pharisee,
we need to be honest enough to
admit to ourselves
that there are more than a few times
when we astonishingly resemble him.
After all, who among us
does not want others to think
that we are better people than we actually are?
Which one of us does not suffer from some
lack of respect toward others?
Is there even one of us
who is very lenient in his judgement of others , and sterner in his own self-criticism?
I sincerely doubt it.
Every one of us, more or less, has something of that Pharisee inside of us.
Something of that self-adulation and righteousness.
And so to protect ourselves form infection by this disease
requires nothing less than constant struggle [praying] and
vigilant effort [works] on our part.

A truly Christian heart seeks to do what is just and right as
a simple and natural expression of
our responsibility as persons to the flock around us.
But even then we understand that
our good deeds do not reflect perfection and so
should not be the cause of weaning pride on our part.
That is why Saint Basilios,
who devoted his entire life to the loving service of others wrote,
Even if we were somehow able to do absolutely everything that is required of us,
we would still have to conclude that we are unworthy servants of the Lord.
And this is because after having done all this,
we will only have fulfilled our basic duty and
obligation and nothing more
“.
Even when we have to suffer martyrdom [μαρτύριο].

This condemnation of the smug self-satisfaction of the Pharisee, leads us to the justification of the Publican,
who keenly feels and readily acknowledges his personal inadequacies,
Because each of us has to carry his own human, sinners-status.
The Publican is admittedly burdened by a host of sins.
But he is acutely aware of his sinfulness and spiritual poverty.
And so he stands back, in the farthest corner of the temple.
He does not dare to even lift his eyes toward Heaven.
With heavy sighs, he whispers his short prayer,
God, have mercy on me, a sinner“.

His prayer is a request, a plea actually,
that is filled with contrition.
And this contrition, this acknowledgement and confession of personal imperfection,
is nothing less than the very cornerstone of the entire spiritual life.
And this is because it is inseparably bound with humility of the soul; and
it is humility that allows divine grace to transfigure and sanctify our lives.

Perhaps the attitude that we need to acquire if
we wish to offer prayer that is acceptable before God, is
summed up in the words of Jesus himself who said to us,
Come to Me, all you that are weary and
are carrying heavy burdens and
I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and
in Me you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light
“.
Matth.11: 28

May we too approach the altar of God with
that same gentleness of spirit, and
that same humility of heart and soul.
In that case the Son of man when He comes,
shall find real faith on the earth.

The desert of Zin
At the end of Moses’ song,
he reminds Israel
that these are not just idle words
to pass on to their children.
These words are their life!
In keeping with these words
they will live long in the land
that God is giving them.
As we continue with
the narrative of the Old Covenant
we’ll see that they choose not to hold on to life.

Moses is reminded a number of times
that he will die because he did not uphold
God’s holiness in the Desert of Zin.
Despite not getting to reap the reward of a long journey,
Moses concerns himself with the real needs of the people.
He makes sure that when he is gone
that they will continue to follow God.
This has been striking to me over and over again.
I pray that our Church-leaders will be as concerned with the lives of others.

 

Orthodoxy & the Ten Virgins – Christ is with with you always

I have been reading sermons about this subject from preachers whom started with a preconceived idea they learned in their college as taught by their western professors.
As a result many men in leading positions
who never took the time to study what is really recorded in the Good Message on this subject nor do they ask and answer the
most important questions necessary to understand what is meant concerning the ten virgins and
don’t get the points that Jesus, our Lord, was making.

Another reason many clerics miss the mark is
because they do not take into consideration that
the Bible was not broken down in chapter and verse
in the beginning of the writing of the Holy Scriptures.
With this knowledge and approach
we can get the True story flow and
intent of statements made in the Bible
by not taking verses out of their proper context.

The reason I bring this out here is
because we must go into the preceding chapter
that is now titled chapter 24 of the Evangelion of Matthew.
Jesus was asked in the beginning of this chapter
what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age.
In other words they were asking a very important question, which was
When will you bring in the Kingdom of God and
overpower
[or take over] the kingdoms of this world?“.
What’s truly ironic is that the Governments of this world
don’t believe the message Jesus brought brethren
because if they did than they would realize
that this Message is about putting them out of power!

Jesus gave many other warnings and
signs to look forthat we are not going to
cover in this scholarshipso you might want
to read this education titled Revelation six vs.
Matthew 24 as this education gets into the details of Matth. 24.

Now let’s take a look at the statement He made after He was asked “What would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age“.
In what is now titled chapter 24 that ties into the statements recorded in chapter 25 referring to
the Ten Virgins.

Let’s start with verse 42 of Matth. 24;
Watch therefore, for
you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
But know this that if the master of the house had known
what hour the thief would come,
he would have watched and not allowed his house
to be broken into.
Therefore you also be ready,
for the Son of Man is coming at an hour
you do not expect.
Who then is a faithful and wise servant,
whom his master made ruler over his household,
to give them food in due season?

Blessed is that servant whom his master,
when he comes, will find so doing.
Assuredly, I say to you that
He will make him ruler over all His goods
“.
Matth.24: 42-47

So we see that the very important point that
our Lord, the master of the world wants His servants to do is continue to be faithful
and continue in those things they were instructed by Jesusin the beginning of
the New Covenant.
What did Jesus instruct
the early Church to do?
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [Should be power of the Holy Spirit]
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age
“.
Matth.28: 19-20

Notice,
Teaching them to observe all things
that I have commanded you
“!!!
That covers a great deal of scriptures and instructions, including the Ten Commandments as well as the command to teach about the coming Kingdom of God that many clergy today have stopped doing.
It also covers the very important statements and commands that our Lord gave the Church after His Resurrection to feed the flock and that means with what Jesus delivered to them.
The Apostles did not go out teaching their own Gospel message but were faithful to teach all things that Jesus commanded them to teach.
If they had gotten off on other things they would have become unfaithful servants
so what does that make ministers today that just go along with what
they were taught by their professors?
So let’s note;
Who then is a faithful and wise servant?“.
And is a very important point to think about as
we study along here,
however, the main point is stated as . . . . .
Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at any time you do not expect“.
This is what I call the “focal point” of the parable of the Ten Virgins
because the points in Chapter 24 and 25 are warning us to be ready!!!

Now let’s get to the meat of this subject in
the scriptures down in what is numbered as
chapter 25 vs. One.
It states;
Then the Kingdom of Heaven shall be likened to
Ten Virgins who took their lamps and
went out to meet the Bridegroom.
Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
But while the bridegroom was delayed,
they all slumbered and slept and at midnight a cry was heard:
‘Behold, the Bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out’.

[This in the Greek is stated as “have gone out” not going out]
But the wise answered, saying,
‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you;
but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves’.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and
those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and
the door was shut
“.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying,
‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’
But He answered and said,
‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you’.
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in
which the Son of Man is coming”.
We see here that the Bridegroom [the Lord] was delayed and
as a result all ten Virgins slept.
We also see where at midnight [a time not expected] the Bridegroom came, and
those who were ready “went in”  like into a chamber and then the door was shut.
Now once again it’s very important to note here
that the reason the first five virgins were ready was
because they had “brought oil” with their lamps
but the others did not even bring oil.
The others that brought their oil
were prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom.

[The oil here may be
the representation of the Holy Spirit as some have taught
but I’m not sure about that at this time
because if you search the scriptures
you will not find one reference
that the Holy Spirit is represented by oil.
It is represented by “living waters” but
not oil as far as I have found.

Orthodox customs
The first thing that should be done when an Orthodox Christian family moves into a new apartment or house
is to determine which eastern wall or corner can be turned into the icon corner, with Christ in the Centre.
This should not be a non-conspicuous place
where the icons will be hidden from people’s eyes,
rather it should be a very prominent spot which
all can see.
The icon corner should have icons of Christ and the Theotokos as well as icons of the saints for whom the family has particular devotion.
Many times an Orthodox family chooses a particular Saint to whom they wish to dedicate their family church [in my family Saint Panteleimon], and
place it under his or her protection.
The icons in the icon corner of a family church dedicated to a saint will, of course,
have an icon of the saint together with those of Christ and the Theotokos.

The icon corner will either have a small table or a shelf upon which may be placed prayer books,
a [hand] censer, a bottle of holy water, a blessing-cross,
the candles that the husband and wife held at their wedding,
holy oil, palm branches and sometimes other religious objects.
In front of the icons an oil lamp should ‘perpetually burn.
Some families burn wax votive candles before the icons;
however, the tradition is to burn olive oil.
Electric lights are not appropriate for use as
the light to burn before icons.
The traditional oil lamps require an amount of attention
which electricity does not, thereby directing our physical services and
thoughts to God several times a day when
we are required to trim the wick and refill the lamp with oil.

The use of pure olive oil may be objected to because of its high cost;
however, God is beneficent to those who think first of spiritual matters and
then of themselves.
A family with which I am familiar had a multitude of problems,
one of which was not enough money to purchase food.
The head of the family placed the household
under the protection of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
As an offering of faith and love, the family’s head
promised that the lamp in the icon corner would burn only pure olive oil and
that it would be allowed to go out only after there was no more food on the table and
no money to buy either olive oil or food.
Because of the strong faith shown by the family head,
the Theotokos has miraculously provided the family with enough money
to purchase both olive oil and food for months on end.

There are a number of different kinds of utensils designed for burning oil before icons.
A very common one is the wick-float
which utilizes cork to keep the wick and
flame floating on the oil.

The meaning of oil
Let’s take a moment to address the point of oil
before going on with this assessment.
I had to contemplate a long time before stating that
the oil could be the representation of the Holy Spirit
because I could not find any reference to the Holy Spirit and oil.
The reason I did is because of scriptures like Exod 30:25-28.
And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil,
an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil.
With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and
the ark of the Testimony;
the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base
“.
Let’s look at some more . . . . .
He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother; nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the Sanctuary of his God;
for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him:
I am the Lord
“.
Lev 21:10-12
What else could this consecration of the anointing oil of his God be?

In 2Kings 9: 6 we find that oil is poured over the Kings head as
an anointing which seems to me that
this is giving the man power from God so
again it is like the power of the Holy Spirit.
It states . . . . .
Then he arose and went into the house.
And he poured the oil on his head, and said to him,
“Thus says the Lord God of Israel :
‘I have anointed you king over the people of the Lord, over Israël
“.
Lev.21: 10-12
Another example is.
Then You spoke in a vision to Your holy one, and said:
‘I have given help to one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
I have found My servant David
‘;
with My holy oil I have anointed him,
with whom My hand shall be established;
also My arm shall strengthen him
“.
Psalm 88: 19-21
Let’s also look at.
“And if you bring as an offering a grain offering baked in the oven,
it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or
unleavened wafers anointed with oil”.
Lev 2:4

Notice
The reference here to the unleavened cakes which we know
is not the body of our Lord Jesus but is a reference to Him.
The same can be true for the oil and the Holy Spirit.
And I’m sure many of you know this scripture in which states;
Is anyone among you sick?
Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and
the Lord will raise him up.
And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven
“.
James 5: 14-15
The point is that I could see more scriptures that [denoted]
the holy oil was like the power of God which
we know that the Holy Spirit is the power of God
that heals and works with those God has chosen.
I believe that we can’t always find scripture
that states some things exactly but
we can find examples that help us understand.
The oil used concerning the ten virgins denotes
being ready by the power of the oil.
Without it you can’t light the lamp.
Am I saying that I’m 100% correct about this?
Not at all; just that I could see the point in the above scriptures.
I can only know if I have the information and
God may tell me in the Resurrection that I was wrong and
then I will repent and ask Him what should have I written?

So to continue we see from what we have covered
that the parable Jesus gave concerning the Ten Virgins, and
the Kingdom of God is for us to understand that
we need to be much more diligent in what we are doing as Christians, and
even though some may think they are worshipping the correct way and
the correct God because their Church has Jesus on the door
many need to realize they may not have any oil.
Many will look at the other person and wonder if
they have oil but we all need to ask this of ourselves and
not be too concerned what another person is doing.

It is very important to know that we can become lax
if we just follow some church and not study or question
the sermons given for ourselves.
I understand that many believe the pagan ideas because they don’t know any better and
will not even look into it so God the Holy Father must call them and open their minds.
Their conversion is God’s business and we have no power over their will so
as I have stated many times I put out the information but I don’t get
into the conversion church-business.
There are a great deal of warnings about this time we live and
the people being deceived into another Gospel so
let’s look at a warning by Jesus Himself.

Jesus stated:
For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and
will deceive many
“.
Matth.24: 5
On into the discussion He stated that many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
There will be some in the future declaring that they are our saviour and as we read before we are warned from Jesus Himself not to go after them.
So make your own choices and choose that Christian community which offers you the best progress in being a good servant.

This could mean that the man of perdition will come as the saviour but if we think about this we can also see how men are using other in very clever ways to so say if you don’t keep the Sabbath
just the way they tell you too then you could be disobeying God.
Or men can state that if you don’t speak Jesus’ Name in the original Hebrew or Aramaic [Joshua] your prayers will not reach Him.
If that were true brethren Jesus would have made sure He instructed us and taught just how to pronounce His name.
And you also have to know that when you are entering the Kingdom of God
you will understand a language you have never heard before .
I think it will be the Langueage of ‘Love’; everybody understands it without words.
The apostles and his followers would have made sure
everyone has to be instructed on this as well
but we find no such teaching.
The statement “In My Name” as we read before means
“by My [Christ’s] authority” not that one must say the name Jesus in a certain way or
you want reach Jesus in prayer to even receive Salvation through repentance.
This would be preaching another gospel because Jesus, our Lord is the only way to
Salvation and into the Kingdom of God!!!

The language to educate
I have done a very detailed research on this subject on
what is called “sacred names” and
found that the original Hebrew can’t even be understood by anyone today.
It is a dead language and has been mixed with Aramaic just like
all languages have been mixed with other languages.
English is a good example as
it has been mixed with just about every language in the world.
So use [also in church] the language the people in that area are used to speak.
What I’m saying is many men use this kind of teaching
to so-say guide you to the real Saviour but
they are really holding you to things that
distract from the real Blood Sacrifice that
Jesus Himself stated and His Apostles taught is
the only way to enter the Kingdom.

Now it is very important for all of us to note the warnings
given in the Good Message and there is another warning we find,
that there will be a great falling away
from the True word of God in the end times [2Thess.2: 3,4].
Let no one deceive you by any means; for
that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and
the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition“.
These and other scriptures warn of a great Apostasy that
is predicted to come about in the last days and
this warning should cause people who
want to follow the True Messiah great concern because
we are in the time of this falling away.

Now please turn to Matt 7: 22-23 for more foundation to this fact . . . . .
You can see here that we find Scripture that state
Many will say to Me in that day,
‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and
done many wonders in Your name?”.

And then I will declare to them,
‘I never knew you; depart from Me,
you who practice lawlessness!’
“.
These people being judged in this story Jesus told were doing things during their lifetime in the Name Christian, but
Jesus will not accept them.
Notice
how this warning relates to what we read
that there will be a great falling away from the true word of God.
2Thess.2
We also read a warning from the apostle Paul
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;
but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers,
having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the Truth, and
shall be turned unto fables“.
2Tim.4: 3-4
Notice

that these people will heap to themselves teachers . . . . .
I would have to assume that these teachers are teaching scripture
from the bible because Paul is referring to the end time Church of God.
It would take many years for this to be put in place and
for it to deceive the masses into accepting another gospel so
the question is, can we see it in the Christian religion today and
if so where and how?

Acceptance of Pagan God’s:
So brethren how else is it that many are being deceived into
not following the true Messiah but appearing to be Christians
therefore not bringing their oil?
– We as in the West have gone into idolatry in a big way and most of the leaders of many thousands of churches don’t even speak out against these things.
The pyramids and other pagan gods of Egypt
are fast becoming part of our every-day life
in the wetsren nations.
The symbols are showing up on advertisements everywhere. People are buying Egyptian jewelry by the thousands.
Amusement parks are using Egyptian pyramids, Egyptian coffins, and objects of pagan worship as the main attraction.
Egypt and all her pagan gods and the magic witches use are being presented to the people of the world and
the West in the spirit of the carnival and
the sad thing is they are being accepted.

It’s even being taught to our children as good and acceptable in the schools.
It starts out as themes that are just fun things for people’s amusement,
but in time people will accept, and
are accepting Egypt’s pagan ways along with all the rest as if it’s just another way to worship the true Creator God.
Witchcraft is entering the Christian Church and home through the “Harry Potter books and movies” and
I hope that those that has eyes to see, and ears to hear understand that this world is fast being moved towards the ancient occult practice of sorcery.
It’s too bad that many Christians today fail
to be alarmed so they could see the importance of shunning this evil and all its ways.

The Truth is that we can’t afford to allow it in our personal lives even if it looks innocent.
We can’t allow the practice of sorcery in our children’s lives just because it is presented as
a fun educational tool in schools.
[a nice Greek, Latin or Russian sounding church-service, like we had in our formal homeland, instead of understanding what is sung and said during the service]
I compare the things in this amendment that
show how black magic is presented such as levitation,
like when they were riding on brooms as well as Astro-Projection
which is the method in which an individual can separate
his consciousness from his physical body.

When a seeker goes to the Path of Liberation, he is often unsure of what to do.
If he is able to empty his heart of all self, and
to surrender his whole being to his inner god,
his next few steps on the Path will be illuminated as a result of fervent prayer.
Now this inner god idea, brethren, is
directly from the teaching of the witches and Anti-Christ.
What will children think when looking to the True saviour
when they have grown up believing that they need to look to and
surrender their whole being to their inner god?
I hope you are seeing here how the now-a-days stories are
removing Jesus and God the Holy Father and
replacing them with self-power.

Now let’s look at the greatest deception in the world.
God’s people were slaves in Egypt several thousand years ago and
Beware” as Egypt is fast enslaving God’s people once more and
many will have to be delivered once more by God’s hand, but
this time, Jesus will take the throne from Satan and rule forever!
The question is…
Are we going to be ready;
are we going to have our oil
when the Bridegroom comes?

32nd Sunday after Pentecost – there raised another Priest after the similitude of Melchisedec

And without all contradiction
the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes;
but there he received them, of
Whom it is witnessed that He lived.
And as I may so say, Levi also,
who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and
not be called after the order of Aaron?

For the Priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For He of whom these things are spoken pertained to another tribe, of which
no man gave attendance at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe
Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec
there arose another Priest,
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment,
but after the power of an endless Life.
For He testified,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec
“.
Hebr. 7: 7-17

The feast today, the feast of the Meeting ,
surprisingly brings us back to the time of Christmas , the birth of the Lord.
We have the Baptism of the Lord fresh in our memory and it is important to realize that this festival goes back to Christmas,
this is the 40th day after the birth of Christ.
It is the day on which He is charged.
To the Temple as a new-born child , John the Baptist is only a half years old,
Christ Himself is a small baby being brought to the Temple.
Wherein lies the meeting
where this festival is dedicated to?

If we look closely, we see a lot of meetings .
We see the meeting – of course –
between the Old and New Testaments.
But that is an encounter that lasts the whole Gospel,
from the time of Christ’s birth to the moment when
He says, “It is finished” [John.19: 30]
We also see the meeting between
the legislature and the Law.
We see that Christ , the Lawgiver of both
the Old and New Covenant,
obediently adjusts to the Law of the Old Testament.

We see encounters with the Temple .
– the Temple within Himself so that
He would later say,
I will destroy the temple and in three days I will rebuilt it“.
John.2: 19, Marc.13: 1, Luc.21: 6, Marc. 14: 58
the Temple of His Body [John. 2:20]
the Temple in relation to the Holy Trinity
Although the Glory of the Father eternally in the Temple and before. . .,
has been in the Tabernacle  [Ex.40: 34, 2Cron.(O.S.B.)5: 13-14, Ez.9: 3],
although the Spirit of God has always been present
meets the Temple now the incarnate Son of God [John.1: 14].
And as the Trinity in Baptism has become public to all [Apolyticion Theophany],
it is now revealed to the Temple .

The priests of the temple are meeting the new Priesthood,
the Priesthood spoken of in the reading of
the Letter of the Apostle Paulus [Hebr.7: 11-12, 2Petr.2: 9] today.
The people of Israël, represented by Symeon and Anna,
are meeting Him Who is the Bridegroom of the Church of
the New Covenant [Matth.9: 15].

Still not quite explain all these encounters
why we have called today’s festivities “feast of the Meeting“.
After Christ was in the Temple and the sacrifice was made,
bringing him back to his parents Nazareth.
We then read that
He Grows up in Wisdom and
the Grace of God was upon Him
” [Luc.2: 40].
A time of preparation breaks, a time of preparation for several meetings.
Which encounters? With us, you and me.
And if you want a meeting is a meeting,
it must come from both sides .
Not the one who comes to the other more and more [from above] ,
but from two people who are coming together.

And therefore it is important that we are prepared for the meeting with Him .
About that meeting He spoke when He talked about
the foolish and the wise virgins.
Then He said,
What do we do as it sounds in
the middle of the night,
the Bridegroom comes,
Come meet Him . . . . . . ?
“[Matth.25: 1-13].
The biblical word for “meeting” in
Greek is the word “συνάντηση”.
What is our answer
when we are asked the question:
What do you do as the Bridegroom comes!
Is your lamp then ready?

The man-made lights – the candles – are blessed today.
But what about those inner lamp , ‘our eye [Matth.6: 22],
‘our soul, our heart must burn [Luc.24: 32]!!!
Let us, then , now that Lent arrives,
look after the inner lamps and
light the sources of our works,
so we Christians can go with a lighted lamp,
so that we can unite our light with His Light to meet
“.
Sophronios of Jerusalem
and then , as Saint Theophanos the Hermit says:
He will take his residence in us,
just as he took place in the arms of Saint Symeon
“.
homilies at the Meeting of the Lord

32e Sunday after Pentecost – meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished,
they brought Him to Jerusalem, to
present Him to the Lord;
As it is written in the Law of the Lord,
every male that opened the womb
shall be called Holy to the Lord;
and to offer a sacrifice according to
that which is said in the law of the Lord,
a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and
the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and
the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that
he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and
when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to
do for him after the custom of the law,

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Lord, now let You your servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen Your Salvation, Which
You have prepared before the face of all people;
a light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Your people Israel.
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother,
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and
for a sign which shall be spoken against;
[Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also],
that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
And there was one Anna, a prophetess,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser:
she was of a great age, and
had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years,
which departed not from the temple,
but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and
spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord,
they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and
the Grace of God was upon Him
“.
Luc.2:22-40

The enactment of religious rituals for children in the Jewish faith of Jesus’ time is the background of this only biblical glimpse we have of Jesus’ early infancy.
This luminous text of hope from Lucas’ Gospel is
pictorial in its rendering of Jesus presentation at the temple.
As a new-born, He is brought by His parents to be circumcised and officially named, following the custom of their faith.
This story of a baby’s first religious rituals prompts
the memories of many adults whose own parents involved them at an early age in the practices of their faith.
Lucas paints a touching and very typical picture of just such an occasion.
Today, even though obscured in the unknowingness of early infancy,
how many adults still cherish the pictures and artifacts from their own infancy rituals?
Caregivers of all sorts save a scrapbook of pictures, perhaps a special robe,
a candle, a signed guestbook or maybe a picture of the banquet table of well-wishers.
All of these are reminders which can still bear meaning for adults about the religious and personal commitments caregivers made for them as infants.

The child, Jesus, launched into the world,
through the faithful hopes and practices of his parents and others, prompts the Gospel writer to conclude:
The child grew and became strong …..
Paradoxically this text, while focused on Jesus throughout, also records the responses of the adults around him to the child.
In fact, this text poses a critical set of questions for adults who have anything to do with children, be they parents, members of religious communities or the general public.

What expectations do we have for our children
as they grow towards adulthood?
What are our hopes for them?
How do we utilize the resources of
our faith communities to support children?
What protection and guidance do we offer them so hopes and
expectations can be realized for their flourishing?
What responsibilities do all adults have for children,
regardless of whether or not
they are related to them by blood or marriage?

Lucas’ words portray a picture of hope,
innocence and adult concern for the infant Jesus.
His words foster nostalgia and loving sentiments.
This child, Jesus, has received
a strong start in life.
But in juxtaposing this text with some of today’s
facts and realities about children,
the Biblical passage slashes across
our lives with one harsh notice:
“Warning!.               

Lucas’ words have
at their centre a child:
surely a prompt to everyone to consider the treatment of children today.
—> What does it mean to cherish and value children?
Several years ago a proverbial phrase was popularized through a speech; “It takes a village to raise a child”.
How true in the best sense of that phrase.
And yet, there is ready and ugly evidence that communities of varied sorts
are devoted to the destruction of children,
[particularly through sexual trafficking].
One witnesses this in the print and electronic media and in the reports about those who have been caught vandalizing the souls and bodies of children.
Indeed, the incredible commodifying of children’s lives and bodies can be seen on
the streets and hidden rooms of both large urban centres and
smaller towns throughout the western countries.

This destruction of children through sexual trafficking stands in absolute contrast to
the Lucan story of the nourishing and flourishing of children.
Children’s bodies instead of being blessed and protected are bought and sold by adults.
These adults seek only to gain obscure and profit from them.
In the words and acts of the devout adults who bless Jesus,
Lucas offers an unsettling warning of his own about this child, Jesus.
Simeon notes to Mary, his mother, that her child will cause
“the rising and falling” of many.
What will happen to her son will cause her own heart
to be pierced as though by a sword.
Furthermore, Anna’s act of endurance involves fasting.
Fasting does not signify feasting.
To the contrary it signifies that there are things yet
to be accomplished and fulfilled.
Anna was also keenly aware of the need for the coming redemption.
The child, Jesus, exemplified that for her.

How we are caring for our children
Within this text of love and support for a child,
we unmistakably hear the note of justice sounded clearly.
Indeed the rising and falling of many has and
will occur in terms of their treatment of children.
Lucas’ words have set both the model of parental and adult love for children and they also challenge all adults to ask:
How are we caring for
our children today?

Are we educating our children in our communities or do we force them to come to a Church
in which they don’t understand any word and any background?
Are we educating our children in our churches to
Greek, Russian, Romanian, Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian nationalists
who are longing for a faraway, strange country?
Are we separating them from the
True Word by keeping them away
from an intelligible [understandable] words, written by the Holy Fathers?
Do we support them by forcing them
to attend hour-long services
in a language they do not understand?
Are we supporting their healthy development in relation to
their environment or
do we condemn them to be a continued stranger and guest-worker and to award themselves to make choices of open and free development.
 What responsibilities do all adults have for children,
regardless of whether or not
they are related to them by blood or marriage?

Lord have mercy“, for
they don’t understand what they are doing
and their leaders are missing any point of view.

31th Sunday after Pentecost – Let no man despise thy youth

This is a faithful saying and
worthy of all acceptation.
For therefore we both
labour and suffer reproach,
because we trust in the living God,
Who is the Saviour of all men,
specially of those that believe.
These things command and teach.
Let no man despise thy youth;
but be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy,
with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them;
that thy profiting may appear to all“.
1Tim.4: 9-15

The words you speak today should be soft and tender …..
for tomorrow you may have to eat them

Anonymous

Regardless of how old or young you are physically or spiritually,
soaring high or otherwise in your Christian life and
service is a matter of choice.
Let no man despise your youth.

As we go through life,
I hope many of us believe
we have grown or gained knowledge.
If we talk to a 20 year old,
he will readily admit he knows a lot more as a college student
than he did at 10 when he was in 8th grade.
When one talks to a person in their 40s,
many feel that they know more today
than they did when they were 20 and
if they had to do it over, they would do some things different.
I assume that as one reaches senior citizen age,
they have additional life experiences
that they can share with others.

Because of this the Bible instructs us wisely
to honour the elders.
While our society today teaches to put our older people away, and focus on the fleeting beauty of youth, it is stabbing us in the foot.  The society, advertisers, companies wish us to focus on youth so that the wisdom of the elders is gone and that the media is the one replacing the godly father’s leadership role
with their self for the purpose of influencing us
the way that benefits them.
The lie builds on our pride and
is nothing new.
It goes back to the Garden of Eden when the serpent told Eve, that she would be wiser than God and didn’t have to listen to Him or
respect His commandments.

Many youths through their lack of wisdom believe that they know everything and the adults know nothing, which is not true.
When I was in high school,
I noticed that there were people who applied them self. Some gained wisdom slowly,
some who worked hard to improve had learned more.
Those who didn’t try had less.

Regardless any age,
there are people who have more knowledge
or less knowledge.
A small part of it is genetics.
A big part of it is
what direction one desires to focus.
Whether they desire to grow in knowledge and maturity or
rather spend the time watching mindless entertainment or
playing video games that teach little knowledge to one.
Also, with the wide variety of knowledge out there
one can learn through their life,
everyone will know something a little different and
all can learn from them.
For example one who has a legal degree at 35
probably will know more about law
than an 65 year old physicist, yet
the physicist will know more about science.
Some may have years of experience
drawing closer and closer to God.
Others might have years of experience
being a criminal or a con artist, so
we need to be careful who we have influencing us, and
what knowledge we have entering our minds.

In our society because we have certain things revealed to us,
[ie sciences, technology, etc.] we have many pieces of knowledge
that were not known in the past.
Therefore in these areas of our current society,
we have knowledge which is greater than the past.
TV, computers, space travel are examples of this knowledge
that we have different.
Conversely, the nurturing environment is not as sheltered from sin as
it was 100 years ago in the Europe/ Middle East or the United States.
There are many negative influences on the lives of our society today
training their brains and becoming a part of their formative years.
Therefore, those who grew up in the past, where studying and learning the bible,
morality and other pieces of wisdom
isolated from the influences of our modern decadent culture
in their early schooling, grew much closer to God and
had greater wisdom in those saints than
we do today in our world.
So as I look at the Christian leaders of many denominations,
many appear be a blend of our current decadent/socialist values with Christian principles,
rather than those who were totally separated from that world and
didn’t have to be politically correct to pacify them.
I need to also point out that there were also areas of enlightenment
that they did not have.
Also, so the point being made here, is
that if one does not have spiritual leaders as role models,
one can also learn at the feet of the past saints
in their writings as well as our blessed Lord through the Holy Scriptures.

Because of the lack of wisdom of the elders in our modern environment,
many youths have less exposure to
gaining godly knowledge from the elders.
They are also not stimulated by their parents; many youths without the knowledge come across as
wreck less or carefree.
This may cause parents to think less of them. Yet at the same point, the way we overcome is not to merely brush it off
but to strive to know our weakness and go to improve ourselves.
And those who do, will reach greater heights and wisdom,
growing on the wisdom of the elders which they will appreciate.

Again what’s in a name:
what is the meaning of the name Timothy?
Τιμοθεος  [Timotheos] meaning “honouring God“,
derived from τιμαω [timao] “to honour
and derived from θεος [Theos] “God“.
Timothy had a similar situation and
Paul wrote to him the oft quoted phrase,
let no man despise thy youth“.
And I see so many youth quoting this as if it implied their youthfulness and
immaturity should be appreciated.
But what it is saying is that Paul’s goal was
for Timothy to be a youth that should not be despised.

To gain respect
How quick we forget the second half of the verse
where Paul gives the solution to being despised.
The way he says to gain respect is
to “be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity
“.
Notice Paul did not tell Timothy, go out and demand respect?
He showed him instead how to earn it.

Let’s go through each part of this verse.
“an example”
►  the Greek word here is toopos which means, a model for imitation, pattern, form.
So what this word is saying that instead of being despised,
we should strive to be the best in these following areas
where we will be one that others desire to copy.
► The word ‘word‘ here [logos] means something said,
by implication of topic, reasoning, computation.

The bible teaches us to beware of idle words.
Too often all of us at all ages speak frivolously, but
rather it is teaching we must strive to watch
what we say, that it is holy, godly and just and
that we are a proper example of the king of kings.
Let us not strive to justify our self,
but rather seek the Truth of God and
be able to have the verbal/logical skills
to communicate it wisely to others.
► Communication is talking and speaking with each other and
not blaming someone and smash another one totally down.
Conversation, the Greek word here is anastrophe
which basically means our behaviour.
We should strive to be a role model of perfect behaviour.
How sad in Christians of all ages
we see behaviour in our professing Christian communities
focused on the things of the world rather than on God.
As we do our tasks, we should ask our self,
is this what Jesus would do?
Is this bringing me or the other closer to Our beloved Lord?
Or is this action causing me to fall farther from Him.
Has my presence in this community been as a healthy development or
am I just a block to their bones.
When they really not accept me
I have to search for another possibility and
stay in my study room and far, far away from them.
Christ did it in the same way,
in these moments He went up to the mountain and
prayed to His Father in Heaven.
►in charity – the Greek word here is agapè,
which means the greatest Love.
The Love of sacrificing one’s self for another.
How true are the words in the Good Message which say,
Without Love I am nothing” and
when Jesus states, the greatest commandment is to
Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength“.
Paul is not saying that we should merely love others.
He is saying that our love should be a role model.
And the greatest source of love is
the One Who loved us the most,
our blessed Lord Jesus.
That when people see us,
– they see Jesus in us and His Love though us,
then we can truly be a Light to His Truth.
How sad when
many professing Christians say
– they do not love their brother or
– they do not love their neighbour.
Is God happy with that?
Is he not grieved like the ruler
who forgave so much to a man yet
the man refused to forgive something small of his neighbour?
As we grow closer to God, we will understand His Love,
the Truest and Greatest Love and
that Love will spread out to others.

►In spirit – this is the spirit or one’s rational soul.
It is our essence.
When people see us,
our essence and our spirit should be in line with God’s Spirit,
facing the same direction, desiring the same things.
As John the Baptist once said, not my will, but thine.
So should we have a heart seeking
the things of God so when people see us,
they know our heart is desiring the Lord.

” In faith – the greek word here is pistis,
which means our beliefs or moral convictions.
When people look at us, what do they say as we believe?
Do we ‘mouth‘ the things of God,
but by our actions we live a different life and
show a different belief system?
Faith in God, our belief in Him should be a centerpiece
in our life where our actions flow.
It is not following laws, but coming from a heart
who truly believes God, trusts God and
cannot be happy in any other path than serving God.
Let us look at our heart, and search out our beliefs truly are, and
then use that knowledge to resist the lies of the devil.

►In purity – the Greek word here is cleanliness specifically chastity. or physical purity.
The culture of our world is to sleep around outside of marriage.
Our society, not only doesn’t find it wrong, it glorifies it.
Many churches don’t desire to address this sin,
because it is so rampant in our society.
Yet God takes a firm stand against it throughout the old and new testaments.
Our youth today, many in our churches unfortunately
are committing fornication and think its fun.
Also we give our virgin children to men/women who have them
as one of many women in their life because they are pleasing to us, or
have things of the world, or are great seducers.
Yet we see here, that it makes the person dirty,
it isn’t pleasing to God yet they don’t care and commit deliberate sin
because they believe it will be forgiven,
yet they forget to realize that
deliberate sin perhaps is a sign of problems with
their relationship with God in the belief area.
How sad it is that we no longer aspire to seek the purity of Body.
The Good Message says that fornication is a sinning against our body, and
describes it as marriage when it says the two become one.
Let us not only remain pure for marriage,
let us also respect purity and not hold it as a nice extra
but rather a value that God desires of us, and
teaches us leads to the best relationships of this earth.

So to summarize, understand those who are older than us,
likely they have more wisdom than us.
That we should seek after godly elders for wisdom.
Whether we are younger, or older,
let us be willing to respect others, learn of others, and
respect the wisdom of those who are older, wiser and godly influenced.
Rather than despise others, let us love them.
Rather than defend ourselves,
let us strive to be more perfect and
pleasing our Master.

31e Sunday after Pentecost – Sunday of Zacchaeus

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus,
which was the chief among the publicans, and
he was rich.
And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and
could not for the press, because
he was little of stature.
And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him:
for he was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and
said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down;
for today I must abide at thy house.

And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying,
that he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord:
Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and
if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation,
I restore him fourfold.
And Jesus said unto him,
this day is salvation come to this house,
for somuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of man is come to seek and
to save that which was lost
“.
Luc.19: 1-10

One of the greatest advantages of our culture is
that its diverseness offers us choices and opportunities that have not existed before.
More and more believers are rejecting convention and finding their own way.

All these opportunities have created so many choices that there is little reliance on convention.
In former times limitations and expectations
generally made decision making rather easy.
But now, it has become more and more difficult to stay focused.
One man who found himself stuck between opportunity and convention found an unconventional way to find his own way to Salvation.
He allowed neither opportunity nor convention to be his flagship.
Rather, he used Christ as his gauge.
His name was Zacchaeus and
he has been immortalized in the Gospel for his efforts.

The story of Zacchaeus has a special appeal
because it describes a man with advantages.
The only difference between his time and ours, is
that we are an entire society or generation of people
living with all kinds of advantages.
Not too long ago, our ancestors were picking olives,
or tending sheep, hoping only to get enough firewood and
food to keep their families safe.
Now we became a community of leaders and opinion makers, and
the financial contributors to various institutions.
Within all this it has become very difficult to stay focused.

There is a phenomenon that the more successful one
becomes the less successful one actually feels.
Big people feel small inside.
Often they feel overwhelmed by their own importance.
Perhaps, they feel like David the Shepherd Boy
who tackled the scary giant, Goliath.
They are afraid that the giant will never really fall, so
they are forced to face him time and time again.

David, in his lifetime, discovered
what Zacchaeus seemed to know intuitively.
That it is really the power of God that slays the giant.
Zacchaeus knew that it was Christ
Who could change his focus and
make his life worthwhile and valuable.

Who was Zacchaeus?
What’s in a name?
The meaning of the name Zacchaeus is ‘untainted’; or
innocent, pure, spotless, unsoiled, undamaged, clean, pure, pristine, virgin, untouched, virginal, untouched, in mint condition.
He was pure, super-intendant of customs;
a chief tax-gather at Jericho as we read this Sunday.
The collection of customs at Jericho, which
at this time produced and exported a considerable quantity of balsam,
was undoubtedly an important post, and
would account for Zacchaeus being a rich man.

Who is Zacchaeus in church?
The pure, super-intendant of customs; the chief tax-gather;
the right hand of the bishop, who is collecting the money of the people?
It is the accomplice of the bishop, who obediently
over 20 years carrying out the bishops orders.
This story is about the rulers of the Church, who are sitting up in nice clothes
and have to come down from the high tree
not because they are ‘untainted‘,
but because they are the same as us,
just ‘sinners‘.
They need to interfere
with the actual needs of the Church.
Christ personally invites them to leave their high trees [ivory towers].
Of course, they immediately begin to explain what good things they have performed.
But Christ, Pantocrator look through them,
– He is not affected by fine clothes,
– He looks to the inside of the person,
– He wants to have meal with them, but how?

Christ , Pantocrator knows immediately how the mind is entirely engrossed by material considerations;
He knows immediately how they are joined the throng
which gathered to see Jesus on His entrance into the Kingdom.
Christ is not playing games, He is looking for the Truth, even when this is in bad circumstances.
He is open about it, He has come to speak about it.

And the people that stands out
[both inside and outside the Church],
these people, they make ‘gossip’.
They know exactly who the sinner,
as outsiders, they are well informed.
– They speak the words of the one who pays the bill.
– They don’t speak the Word of Christ.
– They speak the words of false accusation.

 “There are full many, sweet,
whose tongues are bland,
Who hide a poison phial in the hand”.
–> Vincenzos Kornaros[Sitia and Heraklio, 
† 1677]

– They hear, but are deaf.
– They are alive, but death.
– They are deaf, because
the Son of man has come to seek and
to save that which has lost but
the murmurings of the crowd
marred the happiness of neither.

Orthodoxy & going forth thus we shall have no enemy

If we have first made God propitious by
prayer and supplication,
going forth thus we shall have no enemy.
Or if you should, you will laugh him …..
having God propitious“.
Saint John Chrysostom

A truck driver had been driving quite a few hours straight, and was tired and hungry, so he pulled into a truck stop and went into the restaurant to eat.
While he was eating, a group of local Hell’s Angels motorcyclists came into the restaurant to eat. While waiting for their food to be prepared, the Hell’s Angels got bored.
They began to harass the truck driver just for entertainment.
They called him names, yelled at him, and so on.
Then they started throwing rolled-up napkins at him.
He just sat and ate quietly and totally ignored them.

This upset them – they just couldn’t get a rise out of him.
So, finally, one of them walked over and dumped a plate of food over the truck driver’s head.
He still didn’t react, other than to take some napkins and clean himself up as well as possible
– while the Hell’s Angels laughed at him.
He paid his bill and quietly left to go back to his truck.
The thugs joked around with the waitress after he left, saying, “You know, that fella sure was a wimp. He wasn’t much of a man!
The waitress, looking out the window at the parking lot, said,
You know, he’s not much of a truck driver, either.
He just ran over a bunch of motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot!

Another story [more close]:
A Dutch speaking reader got the duty to introduce Dutch in a Greek church, for the young generation would miss the essence of those lessons which the fathers educate during the Orthodox services.
This reader was during 9 years making progress – knowing that the Greek priest wouldn’t let him alone in this job.
Even the priest didn’t preach anymore after people of the church were talking about this behind his back [to the bishop].
By all kind of ways the reader tried to be friendly to these visitors of the church, who enjoyed going to church just because they were from Greek nationality, meeting their fellow citizens.
After services most of them went home and lived their common western life
without even knowing what was educated during their services.
It’s is common to have church visiting tradition and live your civil life on, only to be baptized, married and buried in the common Greek tradition; it would be all enough to be a good Orthodox Christian.
At the main feasts of the year the church-building is so over-crowded that every fire department chief should worry about the dangerous safety circumstances in this building.

After 9 years an new-born main-bishop made a speech in which he expressed that the communities of the Greek
should keep their original behaviour.  This was the sign for
the community court to make their stripes – they were floating the priest in distress – so that he would drop the reader in a zero position. The Church should give the people hope, love and progress instead of Nationalism and immutability
After 9 years committed to improving this reader couldn’t do otherwise than hang his coat on the coatrack and leave this narrow thinking community.
This group of Greeks who are domiciled in the Netherlands
are leaded by an archaic Greek bishop ordering for more than
20 years a board to arrange money by selling the candles and collecting just to arrange this community. It’s just banking.
People around them, even the priest don’t know the results of the yearly finances; it’s just the secret of Brussels.

We chuckle at how these stakeholders handled their situation and
probably can’t help but admire them some, but …..
that is not Jesus’ way to handle enemies!
How did our Lord say to respond to situations where enemies confront us?
In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ told us, “Love your enemies“.
It’s natural the choise one of these stakeholders did!
But as Christians we are called to a higher way of life.
The Lord Himself told us about this.
As He said in:
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High;
for He is kind to the ungrateful and selfish
“.
Luc.6: 32–35

A very radical idea! Loving friends? That’s usually not too hard.
But to love our enemies? Very unusual, very difficult.
And that’s what Christ wants us to do.
You don’t have to quarrel further with these guys; just go your way and
do what you have to do – just turn yourself to the Lord of Hosts;
leave these Greeks in their fat cooked braise.

As always, Jesus Christ practiced what He preached.
Jesus just didn’t say, “Love your enemies“; He really did it!
When He was put on the cross, did He curse out those who id it to Him?
Did He call down lightning or angry angels to “take out” those killing Him?
He certainly could have done that.
But He didn’t.
– Instead, He loved them and prayed for them –
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do“.
And the Lord is still forgiving His enemies today.
For every time we sin, we make ourselves enemies of Christ.
And what does He do? He forgives us and keeps on loving us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be like Him.
We should do the same: love our enemies, and
forgive those who have hurt us and pray for them.
And if we really do that, it will be the case that,
from our side anyway, we won’t have enemies.
They may still see us as enemies,
but we won’t see them as enemies.
If, as Christ commands, we love and forgive our enemies,
they really won’t be our enemies anymore.

Saint Ephraim of Syria wrote about this sixteen hundred years ago:
Do not have any enemies except for Satan himself“.
On Admonition and Repentance

There are different ways of achieving this goal of not having enemies.
Years ago, a mafia boss on the island of Sicily was on his death bed.
He called for the local priest to come see him and hear his confession.
He had decided he wanted to get right with God before he died.
The priest came and, before he began to administer the sacraments, said,
Part of getting ready to die is that you need to forgive all your enemies“.
The mafia boss said,
Father, I don’t have any enemies“.
The priest was surprised and said,
That’s amazing!
After all the years of your violent and criminal life,
you must have enemies!
The mafiosi replied,
No, Father, I really don’t have any enemies.
I killed them all“.

That’s not the right way to end up with no enemies!
We do need to take action, however,
to stop having enemies, even drastic action if necessary.
Saint John of Alexandria was the Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt,
many centuries ago.
One day he was serving the Divine Liturgy and
as he was lifting up the bread and wine at the altar to God,
he remembered something:
he had had a falling out with a priest in
a nearby parish that week.
Saint John felt that he himself was at least partly to blame for their argument.
He realized, too, that he hadn’t fixed the problem.
So he put the holy gifts down on the altar, bowed to the people saying,
I will return soon” and
walked right out of the church.
He left and found the priest and
talked with him and
apologized to him.
They were reconciled and all was well between them.
Then Saint John returned to his own church and
finished the liturgy.
Whatever it takes – do it.
Love your enemies enough so that
you won’t think of them as your enemies anymore.

The following are some ways to work on this:
Pray for your enemies
Back in the 600’s A.D. there were definitely some people who considered Saint Maximus the Confessor as their enemy.
They hated him because he stuck to the truth about Jesus Christ and
wouldn’t give in to the latest heresy.
They cut out his tongue and cut off his hands.
Saint Maximus’ response was to say this about enemies:
Pray for him sincerely to God“.
Do you, priests and bishops talk with those who you are hurting,
do you apologize yourselves and pray for them?
Or do you keep silence and live on in your nice admospheres.
I hope you realize that you are role models.

That person who is hard to get along with,
who irritates you, who has hurt you,
who you perhaps even think of as an enemy?
Put those persons at the top of your prayer list and
pray for them more than for anyone else.

Thank God for something good about your enemy
It may not be easy to think of something good about some people
if they’ve done bad things to us or talk between each other and said bad things about us.
But you can always think of at least one good thing about that person.
Focus on that one good thing.

Shift your anger
Is there someone who has angered you?
Saint Ambrose of Milan, back about 400 A.D., said that
you should shift that anger at other people to anger at yourself.
Instead of being angry at someone else,
be angry at yourself that you are so spiritually weak
that something about that other person caused you
to fall into the sin of anger.
Being angry at yourself will help
your anger at others to fade away.

Treat them kindly
Saint Barsanuphius lived in the deserts of the Gaza area of Palestine
about fourteen hundred years ago.
A very holy and wise man, he received many letters
seeking spiritual advice and he wrote many letters giving spiritual advice.
We still have some of them today and they are a good read.
One writer explained to the saint about an enemy he had, and
sought advice on how to deal with the hateful person.
Saint Barsanuphius’ advise was simple and brief:
Do good to him“.
Even if someone has hurt you badly and
you don’t feel kindly towards them, you can still act kindly towards them,
even if it’s just a matter of smiling and saying,
Hi, how are you?
As Saint Barsanuphius said,
Do good to them.
Act kindly, and who knows?
Maybe they’ll start to change a bit and
act a little more kindly to you.
If you both keep that up,
pretty soon you won’t be enemies anymore!
Enemies are turned into friends.
Why? Because of simple acts of kindness.

Do the same.
Remember the words we looked at earlier by Saint Ephraim:
Do not have any enemies except for Satan himself“.
Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, instructed us,
Love your enemies“.

It’s all hard, very hard.
We are Christians,
however and so are called by our Lord to do as He did,
even when it is hard.
The Lord said that He will reward us
if we obey Him in this regard.
He tells us that if we love our enemies,
Your reward will be great and
you will be children of the Most High
“.
Luc.6: 35
What a wonderful reward!
To be children of the Most High God!
That’s what He promises us.

They cried to You and
were delivered;
they trusted in You and
were not ashamed
“.
Psalm 22: 5

Pain of Salvation
If you’re tearing down my world
please just try to do it gently…
there is love inside‘.

Thank you Lord for my enemies.

God is glorious in His Saints

Yes, truly
“Glorious is God in His Saints”
Psalm 67: 35

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation;
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 26:1

The strength of the Lord in us
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.
2Cor. 10:3,4,5

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,
out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight
“.
Hebr. 11:33,34

And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God,
and the power of His Christ:
for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night
“.
Rev 12: 10

Let us call to mind the Martyrs’ superhuman struggles,
how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength,
disregarding pain and wounds as they struggled bodily against fire, sword,
all different kinds of deadly tortures, patiently resisting while their flesh was cut,
their joints dislocated and their bones crushed,
and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity,
complete, unharmed and unshaken.
As a result there were bestowed on them
the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit
and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women,
how they willingly endured long periods of fasting,
vigil and various other physical hardships
as though they were not in the body,
battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin,
in the invincible inner warfare against principalities,
powers and spiritual wickedness.
Eph. 6: 12

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless,
but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him
from whom they
also received gifts of healing and mighty works.
When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such Grace and Power.
For even if their intentions were good and noble,
without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature
and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.
That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared,
God is glorious in His Saints”, he went on to say,
He gives strength and power unto His people”.
Ps. 67: 35

Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words.
Whereas God, according to the psalmist,
gives all his people strength and power
– for He shows no partiality [cf. Acts 10: 34]
– He is glorified only in His saints.
The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes.
Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun,
not those whose vision is dimmed because illness,
mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes.
In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all,
for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and
saving fount of mercy and goodness.
But not everyone takes advantage of His Grace and Power
to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles,
only those with a good intent,
who demonstrate their love and faith towards God
by good works (cf. Jas. 2: 20– 26),
who turn away completely from everything base,
hold fast to God’s commandments and
lift up the eyes of their understanding to
Christ the Sun of righteousness [Mal. 4: 2].
He not only invisibly holds out a helping hand from above
to those who struggle, but we also hear Him speaking to us
and urging us on in His Gospel.
Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men”,
He says, “him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 32

Notice that we cannot boldly
proclaim our faith in Christ
and confess Him without
His strength and assistance.
Nor will our Lord Jesus Christ speak out on our behalf in the age to come,
recommend us to the heavenly Father and make us His kin,
unless we give Him reason to do so.
To make this clear, He does not say,
Whosoever shall confess Me before men”,
but

Whosoever shall make His confession in Me”, Matth.10: 32
that is to say, whoever is able, in Christ and with His help,
to declare his faith with boldness.
Likewise, again, He does not say,
I will confess Him”, but “I will acknowledge what is in Him”,
meaning that His confession will be in respect of the good fight
and patient endurance which such a person has shown
in the cause of godliness.
Take note, however, of what He goes on to say
about those who are cowardly and betray the faith:
But whosoever shall deny me before men,
him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 33

Here He does not say, “Whosoever shall deny in Me”,
since the person who denies God does so because
he is bereft of God’s help.
Why has he been abandoned and forsaken by God?
Because he first abandoned God by loving what is transitory and worldly
more than the Heavenly and everlasting good things promised by Him.
In His turn, Christ will not just disown what is in Him, but deny him Himself,
finding in him nothing at all that could be used in his defence.
Whoever loves according to God,
dwelleth in God, and God in him”,
as Christ’s beloved theologian tells us [1John 4: 16].
So he who truly loves God has God dwelling in him,
and naturally confesses his faith in God.
On the other hand, as he dwells in God,
God too will acknowledge him.

The words, “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me, him will I confess also” [cf. Matth. 10: 32],demonstrate the unbroken union between God and
those who acknowledge Him,
from which he who denies Him has distanced himself.
These mutual exchanges between God and man are divinely just,
and fairly reward like with like.
Although the prizes God gives us resemble our offerings to Him,
consider the overwhelming superiority of God’s recompense to those
who, in Him, confessed Him.
Each Saint, as a servant of God, boldly acknowledged Him
in this fleeting life before mortal men,
though actually just for a brief period of this present age
and in front of only a few.
By contrast, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who is God and Lord of heaven and earth,
will speak openly on their behalf in that eternal,
never-ending world before God the Father,
surrounded by angels, archangels and all the heavenly host,
and in the presence of all mankind from Adam onwards.
For all will rise and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.
Then, before everyone and in the sight of all, He will proclaim,
glorify and crown those who demonstrated their faith in Him to the end.
How can we attempt to tell of those extraordinary crowns and
the excellence of those future rewards,
which eyes like ours cannot see, nor ears hear,
nor hearts understand?
cf. 1 Cor. 2: 9, Isa. 64: 4