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.
ON THE VENERATION OF THE HOLY RELICS AND REMAINS OF THE SAINTS (Part II)
By Archpriest Vasily Demidov
Man was created for Incorruption
"God made not death: neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living" (Wisdom 1:13). "God created man for incorruption and made him to an image of His own eternity" (Wisdom 2:23). Corruption appeared after the fall. "Through the hatred of the devil death entered the world" (Wisdom 2:24). "Righteousness is immortal, but injustice causeth death" (Wisdom 1:15). "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). As a result of the fall, the fate of man was altered. After death, his dust returned to the earth from which it had been taken, and his spirit returned to God Who has bestowed it (Eccl. 12:7). Therefore, the bodies of all men, both righteous and sinful, are interred in the earth. But the bodies of certain "friends of God," in accordance with His will, escape the universal corruption and remain, at times whole, at times partially intact. Death is the common rule for all that lives. However, the words of the Holy Bible point out to us the exceptions to this law. Enoch and Elias, born on earth and subject to the common law of death, did not die; but having conquered the law of death, they were transported to the Kingdom of Heaven while yet in the body. The accounts of their translation and present state are recorded in Genesis 5:4 and 3 Kings 2. In the course of so great a time, these righteous men have remained in that degree of growth in which they were taken up, in accordance with the special Providence of God. They have teeth, a stomach, reproductive members, even though they have no need for food of wives.
Who can comprehend or explain this mystery? The kingdom of death, the dominion of the Queen of terrors, was overcome by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the first-fruits from among the dead. And "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17) and incorruption is given unto him. "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord...Jesus Christ, Who hath abolished death. At the Resurrection of Christ "many bodies of the Saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His Resurrection, and went into the Holy City, and appeared unto many" (St. Matthew 7:52). Tradition bears witness that several of these resurrected Saints survived until the beginning of the Second Century and were known amongst the Christian societies as living witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ.
Those who deny God and who reduce everything to matter are in no position to understand the miracles of the Gospel. The majority of Protestants do not believe in the Resurrection of Christ and deny His divine nature.
Concerning Saint John the Theologian, the Beloved Disciple of Christ, the following mysterious words are recorded in the Gospel: "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Then went his speech abroad among the brethren, that the disciple should not die" (Saint John 21:22). From the life of Saint John, the Theologian Christians know the wondrous account of his repose. It is known that, exiled to the island of Patmos, Greece, "for the word of God and witnessing concerning Jesus," he wrote his final book, the "Revelation" or "Apocalypse," in which, under signs and symbols, he described the coming Judgment of the Church of Christ. According to the account of his life, he himself asked to be interred alive; but afterward, his disciples were unable to find his body in the grave. One may suppose that the mysterious statement of the Savior had indeed come to pass: John did not die, but according to the Church's belief, was translated like Enoch and Elias to a place beyond our knowledge, and will be preserved until the last days. In the lives of the Saints compiled by Metropolitan Makary, in the reading for the day commemorating the repose of Saint John the Theologian, following the account of his supposed death, we read: "And John the Theologian walketh amongst us, and no one knoweth him."
The ancient Apostolic Church of the first centuries of Christianity, in the person of its best instructors and interpreters of the sacred text of the Holy Bible (Sts. John Chrysostom, Ephraim the Syrian, etc.) concerning the two Prophets Enoch and Elias, saw them to be the two "witnesses" of whom the Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Theologian says: "And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy...clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified" (Rev. 11:3-4; 7-8). Further on, Saint John refers to them plainly as "prophets" (v. 10, "two prophets") who later will be brought back to life, will stand up and, at the command of God, ascend to Heaven on clouds (v. 12). These Prophets will be set in the Last Days as "assisters of human weakness" in the battle with the forces of antichrist (Saint Theodore the Studite, pt. 1, p. 236), and will be slain on the streets of the great city of Jerusalem.
Before our very eyes, the nation of Israel has risen again, and the city of Jerusalem has been made the capital of that land. For those that do not close their eyes to the events occurring in the world, it is quite plain that much foretold by "holy men of God...moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21), has clearly been fulfilled and is still being fulfilled.
1) The general, world-wide falling away from faith in God predicted by Saint Paul already come to pass, and at present the battle of faith with unbelief attains ever greater dimensions (1 Thess. 2:3);
2) the spirit of antichrist reigns throughout nearly all the world;
3) the persecution of Christians is an incontestable fact;
4) the restoration of the nation of Israel has taken place in our times.
Thus, a portion of what is foretold in the Holy Scripture has already taken place and is accomplished. A universal tragedy is unraveled in the scriptural revelation. There remains but to await the fulfillment of the second portion of the prophecy: the appearance of Enoch and Elias the two Prophets, witnesses and denouncers of the deception of Antichrist, their deaths, resurrection, and later, the Second Coming of Christ to judge mankind. "That all this must be, one ought to believe," says Augustine of Hippo, "but in what manner and in what order it shall be, it is better to leave to the actual experience of the events themselves: at present, human understanding is in no position to attain to full comprehension (thereof)". The terrible events of future world will show how correct were those that, inspired from on high, foretold these manifestations.
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God