My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT
"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But the evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:12-15)
"Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses, and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will."(2 Timothy 2:22-26)
[The Church on earth is a mixture of wheat and tares sown together (vv. 19-21). Membership in the Church guarantees nothing--even the baptismal confession (quoted in v. 19) acknowledges the necessity of struggle.]
"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
[The "form" and "power" of "godliness" are intended to be inseparable. We normally do not have the "power" of "godliness" without the "form." Charismatic power, however, can be twisted for evil and greed (Acts 8:9-20). Outward forms, even of liturgical worship, can be carried on without "power" or conviction (see Matt. 7:15; 24:4, 5, 24). As faith without works is a "form" without substance (James 2:26), so is religion without "power."]
"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:19-24)
[The way of life in the Spirit, the way of faith and love, is expressed through service (diakonia) to God and "one another" (v. 13). We must avoid at all costs competitive comparisons of each other's deeds.]
"I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal?" [1 Corinthians 3:2-4)
"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another, just as Christ forgave you, so should you also forgive. And with all these things have love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ govern and be thankful to Christ" (Colossians 3:13-15).
Saint Theophan the Recluse writes:
"Of course, you need labor and effort, both mental and from the heart. Do not spare yourself. If you do, you will ruin yourself. Do not spare yourself, and you will have salvation. Abandon a certain wrongful activity that often strikes and afflicts almost everyone: That is, the fact that we spare no labor on any matter except when it comes to that of salvation. We want to think that we have only to contemplate salvation and desire it, and everything is all set. That is not how it happens in reality. The matter of salvation is the most important thing. Consequently it is the most difficult. This is by virtue of its importance and by the labor required. Labor then, for the Lord's sake! Very soon you will see the fruit. If you do not set to work, however, you will be left without anything and be unworthy. Deliver us, Lord, from this!"
IMPLEMENTING ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN BELIEFS INTO DAILY LIFE:
- Praying Daily: Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayers.
- Worshipping and Participation in Sacraments: Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession.
- Honoring the Liturgical Cycle of the Church: Follow the seasons of the Church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.
- Using the Jesus Prayer: (O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.) Repeat the "prayer of the heart" with faith, love, trust and reverence throughout the day and night.
- Slowing Down and ordering Your Life: Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction cause by a hurried and stressful life.
- Being Watchful and Vigilant: Use God's gift of discernment and give full attention to what you are doing and thoughts that enter your mind.
- Struggle With Your Bad Desires and Passions Daily: "As soon as you feel a passionate impulse, whether of lust or irritation, hasten to curb it by an effort of will."
- Putting Others First: Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others. "For the law is fulfilled in one word, even this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14).
- Spiritual Gathering: Spend time regularly with your Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ for spiritual support and inspiration. "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today', lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12-13).
- Study the Holy Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church: "We see Holy Scripture as inspired by God, and we approach it in a spirit of "obedience." "Christ Himself is speaking to you." "We interpret Scripture through and in the Church. It is the Church that tells us how Scripture is to be understood...We read the Bible personally, but not as isolated individuals. We say not "I" but "we." We read as the members of a family, the family of the Orthodox Body of Christ in all parts of the world and in all generations of time." (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware)
Be inspired by the Wisdom of God and the holy lives and writings of the Fathers of the Church. Saint Gregory of Nazianzos (330-390 AD) said about Saint Athanasius the following: "When I praise Athanasius, virtue itself is my theme: for I name every virtue as often as I mention him who was possessed of all virtues. He was the true pillar of the Church. His life and conduct were the rule of bishops, and his doctrine the rule of the orthodox faith." Indeed, the Holy Fathers were not only authors of Christian doctrine and spirituality, but were God-inspired and the epitome of Christian virtue.
Please note: The Biblical commentary was taken from the Orthodox Study Bible.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God