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.
"Theosis (Deification) means we are to become more like God through His grace or divine energies. In creation, humans were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26) according to human nature. In other words, humanity by nature is an icon or image of deity: The divine image is in all humanity. Through sin, however, this image and likeness of God was marred, and we fell.
When the Son of God assumed our humanity in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the process of our being renewed in God's image, and likeness was begun. Thus, those who are joined to Christ through faith in Holy Baptism begin a re-creation process, being renewed in God's image and likeness. We become, as Saint Peter writes, "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4)."
(Orthodox Study Bible, page 561)
I have come to the conclusion that there is definitely an identity crisis among Orthodox Christians. In other words, I feel, that the true identity of the contemporary Orthodox Christian is not clear to many of our faithful.
Let us turn to the New Testament and see who, according to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is a true follower. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me"(St. Matthew 16:24). "Self-denial is for the sake of Christ and the gospel, for a better life; it is not a punitive end in itself."
Is the contemporary Christian willing to "deny" himself and "to take up his cross," and follow Christ?
"He said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.' He said to Him, 'Which ones?' 'You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The young man said to Him, 'All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?' Jesus said to him, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.' But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (St. Matthew 19:17-23). How would the contemporary Christian who has become a capitalist (materialist) respond to Christ's call?
"But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet, it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (St. Matthew 20:25-28). Does the contemporary Christian have genuine humility to be willing to be a servant and a slave for Christ's sake?
"Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He Who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, because it is written, "be holy, as I am holy.' And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:13-19). How does the contemporary respond to Jesus' sacrifice to save us all? Are the contemporary Christians willing to be "obedient children" to the almighty God?
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:22-23). Are the contemporary Christians willing to "love one another with pure heart" when the contemporary Greek Orthodox Christian even considers his/her priest as an "enemy" as someone not to trust or respect?
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now obtained mercy" (1 Peter 1:9-10). Do the contemporary Christians think, feel and act, as "the people of God"?
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:6-10). How often have I heard Greek Orthodox Christians state, "I have not killed, I have not stolen, I have not committed adultery and therefore I am not a sinner." We ought to know our sins better than those of others. The "hypocrite" sees the sins (errors) of others, ignoring his own, because of his/her pride or ego and the fact that he/she loves himself above all else.
"For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (St. Matthew 4:17). "Christ's first word, like that of Saint John the Baptist, is "repent" because repentance is necessary to enter and continue in his new way of life. Repentance is man's turning from himself to God. Repentance, which always accompanies belief, is a total about face. It is a radical change of one's spirit, mine and heart. A complete reorientation of the whole of one's life and being. It is a necessary first step on "the way of the Lord" (v.3) and is followed by the confession of sins, the decisive act of baptism, and an actual change in one's life, the fruits worthy of repentance" (vv. 6, 8-12). Is the contemporary Christian willing to confess his sins and to repent? The Sacrament offered by Christ through the Church is the Sacrament of repentance and confession but where are the Greek Orthodox Christians to participate in it?
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment'. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother, without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment...therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift " (St. Matthew 5:21-24). How often I have known Greek Orthodox Christians who bear ill will to their fellow Christians and refuse to forgive their fellow brother or sister in Christ? And yet they all line up to receive Holy Communion without forgiveness and reconciliation.
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica writes, "Here on earth we are given the chance to conquer all evil with peace and stillness. We can have peace when we live in surroundings that are peaceful and quiet, but that peace is not as stable and as permanent as the peace we acquire while living in chaotic conditions. When you move from quiet surroundings to chaotic ones, your mood changes instantly and you become irritable--all of a sudden evil thoughts (logismoi) assail you, and your mind is in hell. That is the end of peace. This is why the Lord guides us through sufferings and sorrows--so that we may through them acquire real peace. Without Him we would not have the strength to overcome these things.
There is the example of the Holy Martyr Catherine, who suffered for Christ when she was very young, only eighteen years old. Her tormentors threw her into a dungeon all tortured and broken, and the Lord appeared to her. When she asked Him, 'Lord where have You been all this time?' He answered, "I was here all the time, in your heart." Are you, the contemporary Christian, willing to suffer for Christ and to acknowledge His presence in your heart? The Holy Fathers say, "We know that God loves us when He takes us through many sufferings and misfortunes."
If you, the contemporary and 21st Century Christian, wish to learn what it means to be a genuine Christian study the Holy Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church. Everything is there for those who believe and desire to be saved!
If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ (a Christian) then begin acting as one!
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