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.
HOMILIES ON THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION (Part V)
By Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios
Who was Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios? The blessed Elder Athanasios Mitilinaios was born in 1927 in Kifisia, a suburb of Athens, Greece. His devout parents operated a restaurant there, where he was employed during the years of his youth. He was drawn to a life of deep piety even before his adolescent years by the holiness and compunctionate liturgies of his childhood spiritual father and confessor, priest-monk Athanasios Hamakiotis. After he completed the requirements for two radio-electronics technical schools in Athens, he received a signal from above, the call for the Holy Priesthood. He obeyed and was assigned as an arch-hierarchical advisor to the Metropolis of Larisa.
His first love, however, was the sowing of the divine word. He established catechetical classes for all age groups in the cities and in the country, in churches and in army barracks. For ten years, he cultivated the entire country of Larisa, planting and weeding, confessing, praying, liturgizing, nourishing and serving the people of God. In November 1970, he gave into the holy desire of his closest disciples to become their Geronda [Elder] and reestablished the abandoned holy Monastery of Komnineiou in Stomion, a village thirty miles east of the city of Larisa, overlooking the Aegean coastline. However, even after his enthronement as an Elder, he did not abandon his flock in Larisa, but continued to teach five classes on Sunday afternoon and Mondays. This rigorous schedule, along with sleepless nights for over forty years, undermined the bodily health of the Elder.
His gift of preaching was such that scores of people, professionals, intellectuals, and otherwise, would drive from Athens and Thessaloniki to enjoy his atholon penevmatikion gala, that is, to be nourished by his pure spiritual milk (St. Peter 1:3). Dozens of tape recorders and video cameras recorded over 5,000 homilies, imbued with the Elder's Patristic, Ecclesiastical, Spiritual, and Orthodox phronema (mindset) given to hundreds of gathered faithful.
The Elder slept in the Lord on May 23, 2006.
Revelation 2:26-29 and 3:1-2
Salvation Belongs to the Remnant of the Faithful -- What is Meant by Paradosis (Tradition) of the Church
"But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay upon you any other burden, only hold fast what you have, until I come" (RSV).
At the end of last week's session, we saw that the Lord issued a number of threats for those that would disobey the instructions in His epistle to the bishop of Thyatira. Now He also announces the reward and the praise for all those who will prove victorious. "He who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him power over the nations, and he shall rule them with rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received power from my Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (2:26-29).
He who overcomes in the one who will stay firm in his faith; who will not be influenced by the falsehood of the "deep things of Satan;" who will adhere to the Commandments of the gospel; and who will do so until the end of his life. What is the crown? The crown is two things: it is the authority to rule over the nations and it is also the morning star. First, the "authority over the nations" is the deepest spiritual triumph of Christ over the nations. This triumph of Christ's becomes the triumph of all the faithful. Second, the morning star has to do with the participation of the faithful in the glory of Christ. The faithful will be glorified along with Christ. Christ calls Himself "the bright (and) morning star" (22:16). Consequently, when Scripture says that the Lord will give the victor "the morning star" and since Christ Himself is "the morning star", it means that Christ will give him Himself, meaning His glory and the theoria, the vision of His face in His Eternal Kingdom.
And here, my friends, this most important epistle of the Lord to the bishop of Thyatira comes to a close with the standard closing line, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches" (2:29). Again, the Lord reminds us constantly of the necessity of spiritual readiness, of spiritual ears, in order to hear and perceive His Divine will. This is a great necessity at all times--to have our spiritual "ears to hear" the word of God. This is something that our entire salvation is dependent upon.
Now, by the grace of God, we come to the Fifth Epistle (Letter), the one to the bishop of Sardis. We read in the third chapter. "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. 'I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead. Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.
Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his Angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:1-6).
Sardis, my friends, was the old capital of the kingdom of Lydia. It was south of Thyatira. At the time the Revelation was written, the city of Sardis was in decline and spiritual life of the bishop of the city. He was a spiritual vegetable, so to speak. He gave the impression that he existed, but he was spiritually dead. Now, the Lord says, "These things says he who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars". Here we have the book. It is an extremely important description in its content. In the book of the Revelation where Saint John sends a greeting to the Seven Churches from God we read: "John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from God who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His Throne and from Jesus Christ..." (1:4, 5). In this greeting, we see clearly recorded, the Holy Triune God, the evlogia (blessing) from God the Father, God the Son. Who became man, and from God the Holy Spirit. We also see quite clearly here that the Holy Spirit is called "the seven spirits" because the name "seven spirits" is used to declare the Holy Spirit in Its fullness.
Now, in this epistle to the bishop of Sardis, we read: "he who has the seven spirits"--meaning Jesus Christ Himself--is the One Who sends the Holy Spirit in Its fullness--with all Its gifts or graces. The Holy Spirit will be sent out only if the Lord Jesus Christ sends it. This is reminiscent of what we read in the Gospel of Saint John, "when the Paraklete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, Who proceeds from the Father" (St. John 15:26). From this, we see clearly that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. But the epistle writer also records that the same Jesus Christ Who has the seven spirits also holds the seven stars in His hands.
It was already pointed out in the beginning of the book during the introduction that Jesus Christ is the One Who holds the seven churches of Asia Minor in His hands. The number seven is allegorical; it symbolizes and represents the entire Church. So, my friends, Jesus Christ holds the Holy Spirit and the Churches. The mind of the entire verse is this: Jesus Christ sends His Holy Spirit to the seven Churches of Asia Minor, in other words, to the entire Church. There is something here that we should find impressive and that is that the Lord names and identifies His attribute--He holds the Holy Spirit. He has the Holy Spirit which He sends; and He specifically includes this inscriptional element in this epistle because it relates to the content of the epistle.
And the Lord said "to the Church in Sardis write: The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). And, in essence, He is saying to him I am the One Who gives the Holy Spirit, why then are you spiritually dead? Why aren't you benefiting from the presence of the Holy Spirit, so you and your Church can exercise the spiritual life? This is what the inscription of the epistle is insinuating...
"...This condition, according to Saint Paul, is a sign of the last days, He writes, "But know this that in the last days, perilous times will come. For people 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" (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-6). Having a form of godliness, but denying its power thereof, they will take the shape, the form, and they will pretend externally. The outward form will be godly: they will make the sign of the Cross; they will dress modestly; they will attend church; but they will have denied the power of godliness. I repeat; the Apostle Paul includes this as one of the signs of the Last Days.
In essence, the religious people, the pious people, those that are considered pious, will simply appear to be so. They will be superficial Christians at best. They will not have the power of true faith or godliness. If we take into account that the Greek word evsevia or godliness was used in the Apostolic times to include the entire mystery of Christianity, then the mystery of godliness or piety is Christianity. When a person lives a pious life, he has the spirit of God and he has power. He has much spiritual power. When a person does not live a true gospel, but limits Christianity to some external forms by merely going through the motions, then he is a superficial Christian. In this action, he has denied the power of the Holy Spirit. When a man denies the power of the Holy Spirit, he is dead below the surface. He is internally dead. Do not let this surprise you; he is dead.
(To be continued)
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!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God