Nominal Christians and Christianity

Martyr Stratonicus of Belgrade

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

Saint John Chrysostom

Glory to You, our God, glory to you. Glory to You, O Lord, our God, Who always overlooks ours sins. Glory to You, O Lord, our God, Who enabled me to see this day. Glory to You, O Most-Holy Trinity, our God. I venerate Your ineffable Goodness. I praise Your inexplorable forbearance. I thank and glorify Your Infinite mercy. For although I deserve every punishment and chastisement, You have mercy and do good to me with myriads of blessings. Glory to You, O Lord, my God, for everything. Amen.


On January 13th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyrs Hermylus and Stratonicos; our Righteous Father James, bishop of Nisibis, one of the 318 God-bearing Fathers of the Ecumenical Council in Nicaea; holy Martyr Athanasius, having been beaten with rods, was perfected in martyrdom; Saint Pachomius and Papyrinus were perfected in martyrdom in a river; our Righteous Father Maximus the Hut-burner of Kafsokalyvia; our Father among the Saints Leontius, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia; our Father among the Saints Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers; Saitn Remigius, Bishop of Rheims; our Righeteous Father Irenarchus the Recluse of Rostov; Saint Eleazar of Anzersk.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Fathers, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Ascetics, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

THE HOLY MARTYRS HERMYLAS AND STRATONICUS. The pagan Roman Emperor Licinius launched a violent persecution against the Christians. Saint Hermylas, a Christian and a deacon in on one of the churches, was arrested and condemned to death. When he was told that he was being taken out to martyrdom, he rejoiced greatly. The Emperor threatened him in vain; Saint Hermylas openly confessed his faith in Christ and, in reply to the Emperor's threats, said: "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man doeth unto me" (Psalm 117:6). After harsh torture, St. Hermylas was flung into prison. But the jailer was one Strotonicus, a secret Christian who was filled with whole-hearted compassion for St. Hermylas's sufferings. When he too appeared before the Emperor as a Christian, Licinius ordered that they both be thrown into the Danube River. So Saints Hermylas and Stratonicus were bound together in one net and cast into the river. After three days the river threw their bodies onto the bank, and fellow-Christians took them and buried them a little way outside Belgrade. These glorious martyrs suffered for Christ and entered into the glory in the year 315 A.D.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 6:10-17
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 20:1-8


Abba (Father) Poemen said, "If a man has sinned and denies it, saying: 'I have not sinned,' do not reprimand him; for that will discourage him. But say to him, 'Do not lose heart, brother, but be on guard in the future,' and you will stir his soul to repentance."


In an interview Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos speaking on "nominal Christians" said the following: "The "nominal Christians" or the "nominal clerics" is a basic problem for the Church, because they cause Church schisms with their various passions. They consider the Church a social institution, a social organization, a religion, even at best, a religious association or a national institution.

It has become clear, as I said before, that the Church is the "Body of Christ and a communion of deification (theosis)", according to the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas. It is the Body of Christ, because its Head, Christ, is closely tied with its members through the Mysteria (Sacraments) and the Doctrines. It is also a communion of deification, because its members participate, in various degrees, to purification, illumination and deification (theosis).

Those members of the Church that do not live within this perspective are gradually led to agnosticism and atheism and are secular members, ailing members of the Church, irrespective of whether they pretend to belong to the Church.

We have to realize that the Church is a spiritual hospital and not a competitive field for passions to dominate. The Saints are the physicians, and Christ is the Physician par excellence and the Shepherds who work in the Name of Christ and within the framework of the Saints performs a healing function. All Christians must be in the process of being healed.

In this context, the Church cannot be transformed to folklorism and nationalism. Saint Paul defines clearly the task of the Christians when he writes: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5)

In the end, however, the Church heals Christians with its pastoral care, regardless of their spiritual age. What is required is that clerics know the method of healing."

Understanding the spiritual advice of His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos it behooves us to make every possible effort as priests and laity to live a true and genuine life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church have much to teach us and continue to guide those who seek to grow spiritually.

Saint Paul says it clearly in his Holy Epistle to the Romans: "And do not be conformed in this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (12:2). "Faithful relationship to God changes our relationship to the world. (1) We renounce the pretenses of 'this present evil age' (Gal. 1:4). "Conformed to this world" is to be identified with and shaped by the world's values and pleasures. (2) We are "transformed", starting with the inward man, the "mind", by virtue, the keeping of God's Commandments. "Mind" here is more than the rational faculty; it is the highest faculty of human nature: "the eyes of your heart" (Eph. 1:18, literal translation), by which one sees and comprehends God." We of course understand it as "nous" in Orthodox Christian Tradition.

The statement from Saint Paul touches on the whole purpose of our lives as Orthodox Christians. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said: "I have chosen you out of the world" (St. John 15:19). We have been called, dear fellow Christians, out of this world in order to become citizens of another world, the New Jerusalem: the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom begins now, in this life, continues after we leave this world, and will reach its consummation at the Second and Glorious Coming of our Savior. In order to dwell in that Kingdom, to be its citizens, we must be transformed.

The purpose of our life is the unending union with God--deification, theosis. But deification is not a static spiritual condition: it is a never-ending growth, a process, an ascent toward God. We do not reach the end in this life, nor even in the life to come. Saint Symeon the New Theologian, who attained what might be called the highest possible degree of union with God in this life, said: "Over the ages the progress will be endless, for a cessation of this growing toward the end, without ending would be nothing but a grasping at the ungraspable."

Saint Tikhon writes: "For the Orthodox Church, salvation is more than the pardon of sins and transgressions. It is more than being justified or acquitted for offenses committed against God. According to Orthodox teaching, salvation certainly includes forgiveness and justification, but is by no means limited to them. For the Holy Fathers of the Church, "salvation is the acquisition of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. To be saved is to be sanctified and to participate in the life of God--indeed to become partakers of the Divine Nature" (2 Peter 1:4).

In Orthodox Christianity, salvation means not simply changing God's attitude, but changing ourselves and being changed by God. Salvation ultimately means deification (theosis) and deification, as we have seen, entails personal transformation. It is being united with God ever more fully through His Grace, His Uncreated Energy, in which He is fully present. As we participate ever more fully in God's life through His grace, we become ever more deified, ever more in the likeness of Christ."

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George