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.
JESUS CHRIST, PAR EXCELLENCE EXAMPLE OF TRUE OBEDIENCE
"And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ became flesh (incarnate) for us and for our salvation out of obedience to the Father. "He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross", and therefore His name is exalted above every name, and He has become the Author of our salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9): "so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). Whereas the first Adam introduced sin and death into the world through disobedience, the Second Adam, Christ our God, grants life to the world through His perfect obedience. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not obedient to the Father out of any sense of slavery, but out of His unconditional love for the Father, and for mankind, who He laid down His life to save us.
It is clear, therefore, why obedience is so important and necessary in Orthodox Christian spirituality and eternal life. Saint Paul states: "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Romans 6:16). Our Lord's obedience restores the possibility of the communion with Him that Adam and Eve lost in the Garden, but we still have our free will -- God will not force us to accept the fruits of His obedience. And this is why obedience is so necessary for an authentic Christian spiritual life -- because humble obedience likens us unto Christ and grants participation in His obedience. The Holy Fathers of the Church tell us that the root of Adam's disobedience was self-love, but obedience is rooted not in slavery, but in love for God and others.
From our youth we are taught by our parents, our Church, our teachers and other civic authorities to be obedient. However, by definition, an Orthodox Christian is one who strives always to be obedient to the Divine Commandments of God, and, at the same time, obediently tries to fulfill the requirements at divine services, frequent reception of the Mysteries (Sacraments), observance of the seasonal fasts, the giving of alms (charity), etc. This holy obedience is, however, only the beginning for anyone who wishes to call himself Christian; these are the first steps in spiritual life, in keeping with what the Lord has taught us: "If ye love Me, ye will keep My Commandments. He that hath my Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me. He that loveth Me Not, keepeth not My words" (St. John 14:15, 21, 24). Saint Paisios Velichkovsky has written: "The keeping of God's Commandments and His words is nothing else than perfect obedience toward Christ the Lord." From this the Orthodox Christian believer quickly learns how utterly lacking he is in the spirit of obedience and love.
It is fundamental and very essential to be obedient and it must never be passed over lightly. "Obedience is good, but (only) if it is done for God's sake." In the Orthodox ascetic tradition, obedience is considered "the first of virtues." For monastics, in particular, perfect obedience, understood as "the mortification of the will" (cf. Phil. 2:8) is integral to all ascetic endeavor. The virtue of obedience occurs within the context of loving trust and personal relationship between two people in Christ, which in itself reveals the presence of Christ (cf. St. Matthew 18:20). Without this special relationship, one gains nothing from authority but pride, and nothing from obedience but guilt.
Now we see why obedience is so important for the Orthodox spiritual life. Disobedience leads to sin and death, but the obedience of Christ leads us to righteousness and eternal life. Obedience is a constant theme in the holy writings of the holy Apostle Paul. He writes that it is a centrality in the life in Christ. Children must be obedient to their parents (cf. Ephesians 6:1, 3; Col. 3:20). Wives to their husbands: Ephesians 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5. Servants to their masters (1 Timothy 6:1; cf. Ephesians 6:5, Titus 2:9). Citizens to the government (Romans 13:1; cf. Romans 13:2-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 3:1). Christians to the Church and the Gospel: This is one obvious! We are to humbly obey the teachings of Christ's Church and He authorities. (See 1 Cor. 11:1, 11:23, 15:3, 16:16; Galatians 5:7; 2 Thess. 1:8, 2:15; Hebrews 13:7, 13:17). And Christians to our Lord Jesus Christ: Christ is our Creator and Savior Who desires only the good things of salvation for us. To adhere to His Divine Will is to know His unconditional love and to be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:19). Also, 1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 10:5-6; Hebrews 2:8.
"Obedience born out of love, is the key to becoming like Christ." (References: Fr. Alexey [now Hieromonk Ambrose] Young, Jesse Dominick, Rev. John Chryssavgis)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God