My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE OF SUFFERING FOR CHRIST’S SAKE
BY THE HOLY APOSTLE PAUL.
“Are they ministers of Christ? — I speak as a fool–I am more in labors
more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently,
in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus
one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned, three times
I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys
often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own
countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the
wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in
weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in
fastings often, in cold and nakedness– besides the other things, what
comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” [2 Corinthians
Saint John Chrysostom speaking of the Saint Paul says, “You see, desire for God and burning love elevated his thinking from material things to spiritual, from present to future, from visible to unseen. This is what faith is like, after all, and love of God. For proof of his sound attitude, see this man, with his great love for the Lord and his burning desire for him hunted, persecuted, chastised, suffering countless abuses and exclaiming, “In toils more frequently, n scourging beyond counting, at death’s door often; at the Jews’ hands I five times received forty lashes bar one; I was thrice beaten with rods; once I was stoned; a day and night I spent adrift at sea, always traveling, at peril from rivers, at eril from false brothers, in toil and hardship” — and while suffering such things he rejoiced and was glad. You see, he was quite convinced that the labors of the present life proved an occasion of great reward for him, and dangers were the source of a crown. After all, if out of love for Rachel Jacob regarded as a few days the period of seven years, much more did this blessed man count it all of no consequence, on fire as he was with love of God and prepared to endure everything for the Christ he loved. Let us too, therefore, I beseech you, be concerned to love Christ. Christ looks for nothing else from you, in fact, Scripture says, than loving Him with all your heart and carrying out His commands.” [Homily 55 on Genesis]
What is revealed through Saint Paul’s sufferings is the authentic Christian experience. The life of the Christian in our contemporary world has been reduced to almost a disingenuous form or type of Christianity. A Christianity devoid of any hardship and suffering. However, it has not always been so. Eastern Orthodox Christains suffered persecution and martyrdom, prison, tortures, deprivation of water and food, lack of freedom and human rights, kidnapping of Christian children and women, forced to deny their Christian faith, cut off from the world in concentration camps and inevitably killed. I am referring mostly to centuries of enslavement by the Ottoman Turks which in some countries lasted for four-hundred years and other countries for five-hundred years. And of course the brutal and barbaric and systematic annihilation of Christians under communism. We honor these Christian Martyrs as Neo-Martyrs of the Church.
Those who are confused about what it means to be a Christian need to look at the life of Saint Paul, and the countless Christian men, women and children who willingly gave up their life for Christ over the many centuries. Authentic Christianity is not a life of pleasure, comfort, leisure, material wealth, xafety, convenience, sinful, morally weak, without any danger, and luke-warm faith. The Church records, the Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church, reveal daily the numerous holy people of God who gave their life for the sake of Christ and who we honor and revere. So, as one can see, there is no shortage of good Christian examples of what it means to be a genuine Christian.
The concern of many practicing and good Christian people today is the attempt by unbelievers and some fake believers and heretics, to dilute the Gospel message and ethos of Christianity. To misinform the world of Who Chrst is and to slander the Christian Gospel and Faith. Even to go as far as to attempt to distort the Truth, to ridicule the Divine Founder and Head of the Church, The aim or threat from the enemies of Christ and His Church is not only to render it useless but to to destroy it once and for all. This attempt has been taking place from the day of Christ’s birth and for the last two-thousand years. I am sure, you fellow Christians, remember the killing of the Innocents by king Herod, with the hope that Jesus was among the children killed. Jesus Christ Himself was crucified and killed by His own people, and since then, the persecutions and killing of Christians has never ceased.
Saint Paul spoke about “false brothers” when he said: “Perils from FALSE BROTHERS.” how much more likely is it that there should be such men in our times. He considered these “false brothers” as a real threat because they betrayed his trust. We witness it today when we see the heterodox threatening the very fabric of Christianity with their heresies, blasphemies, and revisionisms and distortions of the Christian Gospel. So diluted and morally and theologically polluted are they that it is almost impossible to see even a small sign of authentic Christianity. They instead have become the enemy within.
Let us emulate the Christian example of Saint Paul and the millions of Orthodox Christian martyrs and protect, preserve and defend the True Faith in Christ. The threats are real and dangerous but the Christian believer should be prepared to fight the good fight and to spread the revealed Divine Truth to the world. The holy Apostle Paul was not deterred by the various tortures, beatings, abuses, and scourgings. His love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was unconditional and true to the end. He was eventually beheaded by the pagans but the impact of his divine epistles and writings live on for eternity. No power can ever extinguish our Savior’s Divine words and commandments. There is no greater power than God’s power and might. Those who are foolish enough to deliberately defy God will be judged by Him accordingly and swiftly.
Let us be inspired by Saint Paul’s example on how to bear all dangers, torments, sufferings and even sorrow with unyielding faith and gladness. A Christians faith is constantly tested by circumstances and human experiences created by our daily life. Are we prepared to endure everything for the Christ we profess to love? If we find ourselves in dire straits we ought to pray and seek God’s help. The strength which we need to confront these life producing experiences and challenges can be found within us. Our Merciful God has fortified us with the necessary divine gifts to triumph over all adversities and perils that come our way. “Dangers were the source of a crown” says Saint John Chrysostom for Saint Paul. Life’s storms pass and the sun reappears soon after. Nothing lasts forever! Saint Nicholas learnt to pray not in spite of the turmoil, but because of the turmoil, and because thes turmoil was a real danger. We must not ever allow anything to prevent us from praying but to pray unceasingly believing that our Heavenly Father hears our prayers. Lord Jesus Christ help me and save me. O God help me, and protect me. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, the sinner.” “O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, You are everywhere and fill all things. Treasury of blessings and Giver of life: come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!”
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God