Dear friends in Christ our Lord and Savior,
Christ is in our midst!
"In Baptism man is mystically born into spiritual life. In Chrismation he receives grace which gives growth and strengthens. In Communion he is spiritually nourished. In Repentance/Confession he is healed of spiritual diseases (sins). In Priesthood he receives the grace spiritually to regenerate and nurture others, by means of teaching, prayer and the Mysteries (Sacraments). In Matrimony he receives the grace which sanctifies marriage and the natural birth-giving and upbringing of children. In Unction (Holy Oil) he is healed of disease of the body by means of a healing of spiritual diseases."
For the life of the Church itself as a whole, both of Body of Christ and as the "courtyard of the flock of Christ," the following are especially important and stand in the chief place:
a) the Mystery (Sacrament) of the Body and Blood of Christ, or the Eucharist;
b) the Mystery (Sacrament) of the sanctification of chosen persons to the service of the Church in the degrees of the hierarchy, or ordination, which gives indispensable structure of the Church; and together with these,
c) the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism, which sees to the increase of the number of the Church. But the other Mysteries (Sacraments) also, which are appointed for the giving of grace to individual believers, are indispensable for the fullness of the life and sanctity of the Church itself…
"...The Mysteries (Sacraments) are "means which unfailingly act by grace upon those who come to them."
"...The great attainments of sanctity, righteousness, the ranks of martyrs for the faith, confessors, ascetics, and wonderworkers, who even on earth became "earthly angels and heavenly men"--attainments unheard of outside the True Christianity--are the action of the invisible grace of God, received in Baptism and Chrismation, kept warm through Repentance and Communion of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), and preserved in the humble and trembling awareness that in every Christian "Christ is one Who fights and conquers, and he is one who calls on God and prays and gives thanks and is reverent, and seeks with entreaty and humility. All this Christ does, rejoicing and being glad when He sees that in each Christian there is and remains the conviction that Christ is He Who does all of this" (Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Homily 4).
(Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
Personal note: From my experience over my many years in the ministry of Our Holy Orthodox Church, I have observed that many of our Orthodox Christians take the Mysteria (Sacraments) for granted. In some cases they have marginalized them in their life. Other times they have the tendency to lose sight of what transpires during the sacrament.
Our prevailing attitudes towards the sacraments of the Church are offensive to Our Lord and God. What are the ways we offend the Almighty God?
- Through our lack faith;
- Through our lack of love for Him;
- Through our lack of trust in Him;
- Through our personal neglect of Him, i.e., lack of prayer, lack of worship, lack of obedience to Him and word, lack of participating in the sacraments, lack of repentance, etc.
- By not showing Him our gratitude and thanksgiving for the many blessing He bestows on us throughout our lives.
- By living as Gentiles (pagans) and not as His disciples and followers.
- By not preparing ourselves spiritually to receive His grace through the sacraments.
- Through our arrogance and open defiance to His Commandments.
- Through our pride or ego which blinds us
- By neglecting our fellow man, our neighbor i.e., "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me' ( Saint Matthew 25:45).
- To be unwilling to deny one self and to take ones cross and be willing to follow Him i.e., Discipleship is radical self-denial, a total offering of oneself to God.
- By treating Him as an errand boy every time we need something from Him.
- By relying on superstition and engaging mediums, palm readers, eastern religions and heretics for answers and help.
- By living an immoral and unethical life.
- By hating others and by not forgiving our enemies.
- By our greed and materialism. Orthodox Christians are to use their possessions according to God's purposes, above all to help the poor and needy.
There are of course many, many other ways of offending our Lord and Savior. All of you must realize that obedience to the Ten Commandments is an essential aspect of the quest for righteousness and eternal life.
I must remind all of you not to give more attention and preparation to the celebrations, festivities following the sacraments, rather than the Sacraments themselves. By respecting the Sacrament, you respect God the Holy Trinity Who is present and is conducting it. The Sacrament is not a time for amusement and entertainment for you and your guests. Our Orthodox Christian Mysteria (sacraments) are complete and beautiful. We do not need to improve them and to turn them into theater. We do not need to introduce practices or customs of a secular society and things that others do. It is everyone's responsibility to maintain the solemnity, dignity, holiness and sanctity of our divine services and sacraments.
Remember you are not the enemy of God but His obedient servant! A servant who is willing to give his/her life for Him.
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.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God