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
By Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios
The Fifth Epistle to Sardis--the Meaning of Complete Works--the Power of Memory in Salvation--Virginity--Promises
"For I have not found your work complete before my God."
The Lord continues, my friends, to speak through His epistle to the bishop of Sardis. He tells him that He did not find the works of the bishop complete, or fulfilled, before His God. In addition to this statement is what we studied last week, "you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. I did not find your works complete," or fulfilled before my God. We need to pay close attention to this because many times it is possible for our works to appear adequate, or sufficient, even rich, before our community members, assuming that we exercise some relative piety, while being actively involved in our church.
This may impress some of our community members, and may be adequate in the eyes of men. However, only God can judge the fulfillment of works. It is significant that God seeks this fullness. Saint Andrew of Caesarea says, "The beginning of good works does not crown the worker but the completion of those work." Therefore, it is not enough to make a good start towards good deeds (works of charity) but we must strive to become complete and full of good deeds.
Where are those people who think that they will be saved just because they confess Christ at some point of their lives yet do not care about this fullness? They go along with a few of the commandments while ignoring the rest. What are the works that the Lord requires this fullness from? It is the way we live, our complete conduct and citizenship. We cannot claim, "I keep commandment A or B." Let us not forget that the keeping of all the commandments creates in us, a certain mindset: a way of thinking, a fullness of personality. A man who keeps the commandments of God is a complete human being, truly wholesome, intact.
Saint Paul says that "the man of God may be complete, (thoroughly) equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17). Elsewhere, the Apostle says "not lacking in anything" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:7; James 1:4) "so we should not fall short." We should not be inadequate in anything. We often hear that a person has some good qualities, but that he also has some little problem. He has certain flaws. This must not be. Many times, and this is irrational of course, we seem to get some satisfaction from, or we are somewhat proud of our flaws, which may get us some attention. Some people may even praise this defect of ours, "Oh, he's a good man, but he likes his liquor. He likes his wine." And even though it is one of the worst passions, one who has a great attachment to wine (alcoholism is a horrible passion), may actually boast about it. Unfortunately, there are a number of flaws that people are not only not ashamed of, but actually do boast about.
However, as we said, Christ expects a fullness of works: the keeping of all the commandments--which affects the way we think; the way we carry ourselves; how we live; how we walk; how we move; how we talk--everything about us. These things clearly show whether we have fullness of works. I must also tell you that this fullness varies greatly in depth. It is not enough to keep the commandments at a minimal level, to just get by. One must attempt to exercise these commandments in more depth. Allow me to say that each commandment has an unfathomable depth. We cannot say that we have exhausted a certain commandment, or we kept this or that commandment. Let us never say that we fully applied commandment A or B in our life, never.
Do not say that you keep the day of rest perfectly (the seventh day , the Sabbath, Sunday) simply by not working that day. There is a great depth in this commandment. How do you spend this day? What do you do? How is your conduct? How is your worship towards God? What kind of level has your worship reached? Are you getting close to a life of mysticism? Are you beginning to reach a certain vision of God? If you are getting close to these things, then you will be ready to admit that you are still at the surface and not at the depth of the commandment.
However, usually those that speak about reaching a depth are those who do not even suspect how great this depth may be. While they find it easy to speak about a depth, they always stay at the surface. Therefore, fullness of works has width and depth, and can be equated with rebirth, with becoming a new creation in Christ. So the meaning of the verse, "I did not find your works complete, or full, in front of my God" (cf. Rev. 3:26), can be this--you are not reborn yet; you are not a new creation. This is depressing. This is a depressing observation for the bishop of Sardis.
We continue, "Remember, therefore, how you have received and heard. So, remember and wake up" (cf. 3:3). The tone is one of a wakeup call. It serves to shake up and to remember the past, which is always a strict reproach. We can see here that the necessary element of this "remember" is a much-needed element in our life. We see this in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, when Abraham uses this awakening phrase: "Remember, my son." Woe to him, because this particular remember cannot rectify anything. It is exceedingly late for him. This, remember in Hell will only serve to increase the suffering. He tells him, remember, my son, that you have already received your reward in your earthly life" (cf. St. Luke 16:25). So, to remember can serve to rectify things here in this life (as in the case of the epistle to the bishop of Sardis) or to increase our suffering Hell (as in the case of the parable).
If we maintain this remembrance and it is not too late, this memory makes us return to the right path. It makes us get started again. If we must remember but we cannot correct ourselves, then this is not different from Hell. Let us not forget that memory will be in perfect state in the Kingdom of God. This perfect memory also exists in Hell. Moreover, as we said, this memory does not diminish with age. There is no age. There is no aging factor in the afterlife; so memory is always sharp there.
(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!"-St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God