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The veneration of the Theotokos according to the Bible

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment


Why we honour the Mother of the Lord?

By Elder Cleopa


We, Orthodox Christians honour the Theotokos Mary more than all the saints and angels of heaven for she was found worthy to give birth to Christ, the Saviour of the world by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The honour we render to the Mother of the Lord is exceptional, most honourable and most revered, for she is not only “a friend of His” same as the other Saints but she is Most Holy (Panagia) above all the saints and all the angels.

For this the angels as much as the people venerate and honour her with prayers, hymns, church services and eulogies. Similarly the Archangel Gabriel greeted her at the annunciation (Luke 1:28-29) as well as Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist (Luke 1:40-43).

The Most Holy Virgin herself prophesied through the Holy Spirit “for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for He that is mighty has done to me great things ….. (Luke 1:48-49). From these words we understand the exceptional honour accorded to the Mother of the Lord is intentional and appointed by God Himself. This exceptional honour that is accorded by the Orthodox Church to the Ever Virgin Mary forms the veneration of the Mother of the Lord.

In the framework of the veneration of the Most Holy Theotokos, we firstly mention the great feasts of the Mother of God, which are: The birth of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Entry, the Annunciation, and the Dormition of the Theotokos. Then the services done in the Churches and the monasteries in her honour, the salutations, the canons of supplications, the hagiographic icons decorated so beautifully, especially the miraculous ones, and many other prayers through which we ask the help of the Mother of the Lord every day of our lives.

We honour the Mother of God because she is the mother who gave birth to the Son of God and the first one who intercedes for the world in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. She helps us much more in the conquest of salvation by her holy prayers.

However in the long history, there appear some whom we call heretics or followers of other confessions (neoprotestants) who blasphemed her as much as they do the Saviour and His Bible.

The holy Apostle Paul in his epistles indicates that in the latter days will appear people who cannot tolerate the teaching of the true faith, but will place teachers agreeable to their works, the come close to fairy tales. Namely, while they see the true faith, they will deny her power, always preaching and not being able to reach the true faith; “Now, as Jannes and Jambes opposed Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds and reprobate of faith. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2Tim 3:8, 13).

We, since the creation of this nation that is how we are known, Romians and Orthodox Christians. That is how we were born and we are duty bound to maintain pure and complete whatever we inherited from our ancestors as from God Himself. For the Apostle Paul says: “therefore brethren stand fast and keep the traditions which you have been taught whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess 2:15).

The Protestants and with them the heretic  neoprotestants – followers of other contemporary confessions- of our day, the so called “the repented ones” among their many mind confusions and their false preaching, blaspheme far more the Most Holy Theotokos and the Ever Virgin Mary. These blasphemers of the Mother of the Lord say that we should not accord her great honour because her Son, Jesus Christ Himself did not render her any honour. Apparently from the words of the Saviour who said: “The one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, who is my mother? And who is my brethren? And He stretched forth his hand toward the disciples and said, Behold My mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of the Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:47-50).The fact then that the Virgin Mary was His mother had no significance to Him, His blood relationship or physical relation had no value or preference against His spiritual relationships with those who do the will of the Father, whosoever they may be.

Furthermore, they add that this is obvious from the way the Lord addressed her and during some other occasions He called her woman, which means she was married, namely not a virgin, for in this way the word of the Bible is verified “When Jesus therefore saw His mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son” (John 19:26). Moreover He contemptuously calls her at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? …. (John 2:4). Thus therefore in such a case we cannot consider her above all (Most Holy) and we cannot accord her a special veneration.

However, it is not like this as all those deceived of the truth believe, which they interpret according to their sick mind, full of egoism, for in the first instance it concerns something else and specifically, apart from the physical relationship, there is another relationship with Christ, much greater and important, which is the spiritual relationship, which involves doing of the will of God. This relationship however, does not cancel or diminish the physical one. The difference consists on the fact that the spiritual relationship anyone can acquire by doing the will of God. Relationship means not only the physical relationship but also a relationship of love and spiritual union. The one that does the will of God becomes a spiritual relative of God. Similarly through the above, the Saviour not only did not set aside His physical relationship with His Mother, nor did He diminish the honour that is due to a mother from her son but He only tried to stress the other relationship with Him. The spiritual, although of great value, can even be achieved by any faithful.

Consequently it was an instigating and encouraging saying towards the crowd and not contemptuous towards His Mother. Our Saviour Jesus Christ as long as He was with His Mother on earth, He always listened to her, loved her and submitted to her (Luke 2:51) and when she would ask for something He never disobeyed her. Thus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, on the request of His Mother, He did the first miracle, turning the water into wine (John 2:3-10). Then He cared greatly for His Mother and even while He hang upon the Cross, he acted with care and gave her to His most beloved among His disciples – Saint John the Evangelist- to be taken care of, according to the scriptures: “When Jesus therefore saw His Mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, he saith unto His Mother, Woman behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26-27). Do you see here how the Saviour even during the time of His great ordeal on the Cross, He did not neglect to show care towards the person of His Mother, who gave birth to Him and brought Him up. And how could it be possible to neglect His Mother, when God Himself commanded us to honour our parents as it is written: “Honour your father and your mother…. (Deut 5:16)

Secondly there is no cause for scorn but instead, it appears that He looked after her by trusting her in the care of the Apostle John- knowing that He would no longer be on earth to care for her to the end of her life, as we showed above. This fact is not dishonesty but truly, a great honour and respect towards the person of His Mother, whom even during His torments upon the Cross, He did not forget to care for her, showing the great love He had on the person of His Mother. If He however calls her “woman”, under no circumstance does it have the meaning of a married woman or for the purpose of scorning her, but only with the meaning of her sex. For in the same way the two angels at the tomb also addressed Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why do you weep?” (John 20: 12-13). While the two men who were present during the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven, said to the Apostles: “Men of Galilee why do you stand looking at the heavens?” (Acts 1:11). Neither the angels nor the two men used the words “woman” or “men” contemptuously but in the contrary in a flattering manner.

They even ask us, where in the Holy Bible it says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was Virgin and Ever Virgin, as we call her. That she gave birth being virgin, our Holy Bible shows it this way: When the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth and announced to her that she will bear the Son of God (Luke 1:35) coming to her he called her “full of grace” and “blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28). It appears that the Archangel venerated (honoured) the Virgin Mary, calling her “full of grace” and “blessed are you among women” and that she received great grace from God, that the power of the Almighty had overshadowed her, and that she conceived through the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the Son of God. Even though she was a Virgin, not having known a man, the angel of the Lord did not tell her “blessed are you among the virgins” but blessed are you among “women” and through this he does not show contempt towards the Most Holy Theotokos who is “full of grace” but reveals an old mystery: “the crashing of the head of the snake by the woman” (Gen 3:15) and that she will be the mystical and spiritual Eve who will bear the new Adam, Christ, who will bring life to the world.

The Godbearing Fathers of the church tell us that Christ was called the seed of a woman (Gen 3:15) as he was not born of the seed of a man but of the Holy Spirit and the undefiled blood of the Most Holy Virgin and received Body.

On the day of the great judgment (2nd coming) this Queen and Virgin Mary, will be sitting to the right of the throne of her Son, in great and indescribable glory, as the psalm indicates by saying: “…….Upon Thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir” (Ps 45:9). Because the Archangel Gabriel also called her woman, when he said: “blessed are you among women” does it mean that the Virgin Mary was a married woman?

Why then did she respond to the greeting of the angel “I know not a man” (namely I am a Virgin)?

Or when God created Eve from the side of Adam (Gen 2:21-22) and he brought her toward him and he called he called her “woman” was it perhaps that Eve was a married woman, since Adam called her woman? Is it possible that Eve was not created virgin from the side of the pure Adam who had not known a woman?

Consequently if Eve was created by God and while God Himself with Adam, called this virgin “woman” and would they later call her woman with the meaning of a married woman? – How falsely do all these neoprotestants and heretics understand? For as Eve was a virgin, then when he called her woman, likewise, the mystical and spiritual Eve, the immaculate Virgin Mary who gave birth to the New Adam, Christ , is Virgin for ever and ever, even though the Holy Bible calls her woman, while referring only to her sex, the feminine sex.

Then Adam through the energy of God bore from his virgin body, without a woman (namely, without having knowledge of a woman), while during the fulfillment of time, the feminine nature by the energies of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to a man without a man, in virginity she gave birth and remained virgin as in the beginning Adam gave birth while a virgin. So God was pleased, as through the Virgin Mary to lend the nature of the Old Adam through the New Adam who was born of the Virgin and who came to the world and wore our nature through His infinite mercy and kindness, to save the Old Adam with all his descendents from the sentence of death. For as through Adam we all died, through Christ all are resurrected (Rom 6:5; John 3:16; 5:24 etc)

Therefore consider, deceived man -you and your likes- that the Holy Bible does not call the Mother of God “woman” meaning married as you understand but through the word “woman” the Holy Bible refers only to the feminine sex of the Holy Virgin Mary and at the same time it shows in a shadowy and mystical way that it is the woman whose descendent (Christ) will crash the head of the snake and through Him will come salvation to the people.

To the above we should add:

–  Being the Mother of the Saviour, the Virgin Mary was accorded the highest honour that any creature can have.

–  By Conceiving the Saviour through the Holy Spirit, she was cleansed completely from sin more than any other human, no matter how holy he/she may have been.

–  Because her exceptional honour was pre-accorded – like no other honour on a person- the Most Holy Virgin Mary must be considered the first among the saints, just like Saint John the Baptist is considered the greatest among the prophets (Malachi 3, Isaiah 40:3).

For all these the Most Holy Virgin Mary is worthy of an honour greater than the other Saints (exceptional honour) because she is the queen and the crown of all the Saints. For how after the birth she remained virgin, read and observe the prophesied sayings of the prophet Ezekiel (44:1-3).

The deceived ones moreover add that we should not give too much honour to the Virgin Mary and not even call her “Ever Virgin”, for she had more children, which were named in the Holy Bible “brothers and sisters” of Jesus while Jesus is called “first born” (Matt 1:35) which then follows that she later had other children.

It is true that the Holy Bible talks about some brothers of the Lord as well as sisters of His, and from the words of the Jews, who amazed by the miraculous person of the Lord said: “Is He not the son of the carpenter? Is His mother not called Mariam and His brothers James and Joses and Simon and Judas? And His sisters….” (Matt 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). However in this instance by the phrase “first born” does not mean that we have to presume the existence of other born later (second, third….etc). This was a way of speech in the Old Testament “first born” is called the one who opens the womb first, independent if he has other brothers or not (Exodus13:2) and where many times the absolute numbering (1,2,3,….) is substituted or used mixed together with the tactical way (first, second ..etc).

This Judaism entered use in the language of the New Testament. At present “first born” means “single born” with the meaning the “only one born”. Any other meaning is declined because if it were true that Jesus had other blood brothers (children of Mary) he would not have left His Mother in the care of some Apostle but in the care of one of her sons.

To the second point an argument is made about the “brothers” of the Lord. The brothers are mentioned even by name and are four, while the sisters must have been at least two. They however under no circumstances could be natural brothers/sisters of Jesus Christ and children of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, because:

-According to an old and accepted tradition, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, remained virgin after the birth according the way she appeared in the vision of Prophet Ezekiel (44:1-3).

-The mother of those so called brothers/sisters of the Lord is another person from that of the Virgin Mary, because in the Holy Bible she is called “Mary” or “the other Mary” or “the sister of His mother, Mary of Klopa” being mentioned even at the side of the Mother of the Lord and near her (Matt27:55-56; 28:1; Mark 15:40-47; John 19:25).

– The “brothers of the Lord not even they are called brothers but “slaves” (James 1:1) and “slaves-servants” (Jud 1:1) of the Lord, the authors of the two universal epistles or there they are called “slaves” (James 1:1; Jude1:1) of the Lord and not brothers.

-If they were His brothers, Christ would have made them apostles. Even though some suggest that these two of the “brothers of the Lord”, called James and Judas, are the same to the apostles who bear the name (James indeed is the same with the younger “brother of the Lord”

– in all the listings of the Apostles – while Judas “the brother of the Lord” is perhaps Judas Taddeus). All the same, this is a simple case, an adequately founded one, especially that they do not call themselves apostles as they also do not call themselves “brothers of the Lord”. About James

– “the brother of God” we know only that he was the first bishop of Jerusalem and enjoyed the greatest honour of the faithful as well as the apostles (Acts 12:17; 15:13) since James Zebedeous  was murdered (Acts 12:2).

– Christ would have trusted the Virgin Mary in his care, and not of the apostle John, who would certainly have been more distant than a son or a daughter of hers.

– Taking into consideration the fact that in all the East, and especially in Judea the meaning “brother” is used in a broader sense, for a cousin or other relatives both close and distant ones as for example in Genesis (13:8) where Abraham calls Lot brother even though he was his nephew, son of his brother (Gen 11:27) we must accept that “brothers of the Lord” were cousins of Jesus. But not first cousins, for even if their mother is called sister of the Mother of the Lord (John 19:25) she could not have been sister from the same father because she had the same name Mary but the word sister, here must have the meaning of sister-in-law for the Virgin Mary was a single child. It could have meant sister-in-law by Joseph, who is not excluded from having some sister who was married. In this case her boys, called the brothers of the Lord, could have been at most second cousins of Jesus Christ.

As if they had nothing to add (to say) on the virginity of the Mother of God and after the birth, they add even this passage of the Holy Bible: “And knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus” (Matt 1:25) explaining it that after the birth Virgin Mary could have other children.

Let us take into consideration and understand that in the Holy Bible the phrase “until then” means eternity. Because the Lord said “……And lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the century” (Matt 28:20). Is it possible this means that He will depart from us after the end of that century?” Doesn’t the divine Apostle Paul say “…. And so (after the common resurrection) shall we ever be with the Lord” (1Thess 4:17). At another passage of the Holy Bible it is written “The Lord said to my Lord sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool (Ps 110:1). Does this perhaps mean that after this our Saviour Jesus Christ will not sit at the right of His Father to govern with Him through the ages, even though we know very well that “…… and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).

Again in another passage of the Holy Bible it is said that Noah sent the crow and the crow did not return until the earth dried from the water (Gen 8:7), does this mean that it returned to the ship sometime later?

Again it is written in the Holy Bible that Melhol, the daughter of Saul, the wife of David did not bear a child “until the day she die” (2Sam: 6:23). Does this perhaps mean that she bore children after she died, since it says “until the…”?

Therefore, let them open the eyes of their souls all these blasphemers of truth, against these testimonies that most were taken from the Holy Bible and understand the phrase “until the” in the Holy Bible means eternity as the Saviour will exist eternally with the apostles and with all these that fulfill His commandments, as He will also eternally be seated at the right of the Father reigning in His Kingdom which has no end, like the crow never returned to Noah’s ark, and as Melhol, the daughter of Saul eternally never bore children after the day of her death and in the same way the righteous and God- fearing Joseph, eternally did not come to know her, who was virgin before the birth, the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Theotokos and Mother of Light, the queen of the angels and of the people remained virgin during birth and for ever after birth.

After all this the hostile leaning persons against the Mother of God say that we should not direct our prayers to her with the supplications: “not having other protection- we have no other helper but you” and “Most holy Theotokos save us”, being a great mistake because we place the Mother of God at par with the Saviour, as mediatrix to our salvation, since one is our mediator, Jesus Christ.

Regarding our supplication to the Mother of God in the following way: “not having other protection” through this we do not deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the mediator of our objective salvation, but neither do we neglect the benefit of every help for our subjective salvation. The significance of this supplication is the following: “You can give us the greatest help to our subjective salvation, for any other greater help we cannot find in any saint or we do not have anyone else who can help us as much as you can help us, being the Mother of our Saviour”. While the words of our supplication that we direct at her, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us” mean “Intercede to your Son to save us” or “redeem us”. In the Greek language in which almost all the books of the New Testament were written, such as the books of the Orthodox worship, the verb “to save” also means “to redeem” (deliver, absolve etc) from the evil, from temptation, from sins, from worry, from financial difficulties. So: “Most Holy Theotokos save us” means “help us with your supplications to be redeemed from evil, upset, from the activities of the devil, from our passions”.

At the same time through the “save us” we do not mean “forgive our sins” but “intercede to your Son for our salvation”. It is impossible to sadden her Son because through the devotion (meaning rendering honour) of the Mother of God, for in this way the worship owing to Him is not diminished in any way but to the contrary, all the great devotion “particularly” to the Mother of God passes over to her Son, who chose her and sanctified her to become His Mother.

Concerning what was said, we showed through testimonies from the Holy Bible, the honour, the glory and the gifts that God gave to His Most Holy Mother, because:

God, one more time since the fall of Adam and Eve, foretold about the Mother of God that she will be that woman – virgin who shall through her Son crash the head of the snake (Gen 3:15). Later, it was prophesied about her that will be the Virgin who will be the intercessor for the entry to the world of the Saviour Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:2-23), to her the Archangel Gabriel came to honour and called her “full of grace” and “blessed among women” and “Mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:40-45), blessed her womb and breasts for they held and fed the Saviour of the world, Christ (Luke 11:27-28). The Saviour as her Son, obeyed her and submitted to her (Luke 2:51), the first miracle the Saviour made was at the wedding at Cana of Galilee through her supplication (John 2:3-10), the Saviour took care of her even then when He suffered excruciating pains on the Cross, trusting to His most beloved of all His Apostles the care of His Mother, and herself through the Holy Spirit prophesied that all the generations will call her blessed and will sing in glory that God made her worthy due to her humility (Luke 1:48-49), while the same name of the Mother of God in the Hebrew language is translated as “Lady Virgin”.

This Lady and Virgin Queen will sit to the right of the throne of her Son on the day of the Second Appearance (Ps 45:9). She conceived and gave birth by the Holy Spirit to the Son of God (Luke 1:35) having been overshadowed by the power of the Almighty and remained virgin even after the birth (Ezekiel 44:13) she is most honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, having no other children but only Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. The mother of the so called “brothers” of the Lord is not the Theotokos but Mary Klopa (Matt 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-47; John 19:25) while the “brothers” of the Lord are just relatives of Him and not His natural brothers, for in the early years to the Hebrews, the close relatives were called “brothers” (Gen 13:8). The mother of the brothers of the Lord, Mary Klopa, is called sister of the Mother of the Lord, according to the meaning of being close relatives (John 19:25 etc).

Having seen testimonies of the Holy Bible for these truths that refer to the mother of the Lord, if you had a clear mind from the darkness of heresies and sins, you would have been able to understand very clearly (enlightened) why we Orthodox Christians of the Church of Christ accord the Super-devotion (exceptional honour) to the Most Holy Theotokos Mary. By asking her, we set her as intercessor to her Son and our God, to help us through her intercessory mediations which she always presents to God for the whole human race and especially for the devout Christians.

Why don’t you honour the Mother of the Lord when the Holy Bible itself reveals to you that the Archangel Gabriel honoured her with the greeting (Luke 1:29).

What is the reason you do not honour the Mother of the Lord, who according to the testimony of the Holy Bible and of the evangelist Archangel Gabriel, she is “full of grace”? (Luke 1:28-30). Why are you so hard hearted and blind that you do not comprehend  you do not honour the Mother of the Lord even though by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth confessed that she was the Mother of the Lord and blessed among women? (Luke 1:40-43).

If you say that you believe in the writing of the Holy Bible, why then don’t you honour and respect the Mother of the Lord, when the Bible reveals to you she will be blessed by all generations, for the honour that God granted her?

What is the reason you reached such great ignorance, where instead of you honouring and respecting the Mother of the Lord, you blaspheme her and in your disorder (foolishness) you consider her as a common woman? The Holy Spirit has presented her in the psalms as queen of the angels and of all creation, sitting to the right of her Son, clothed in gold and adorned (Ps 45:13) and you name her as a common woman like all the rest?

The Holy Spirit reveals in the Holy Bible that she will be commemorated from generation to generation and all the nations will hymn her incessantly through the ages (Ps 45:17) while you do not want to glorify and honour the Mother of the Lord. The Holy Spirit reveals the “King’s daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold (Ps 45:13). By the inner glory it shows that it is a temple of the Holy Spirit, immaculate, while you blaspheme the Mother of the Lord and do not honour her.

The Mother of the Lord is that Virgin who gave birth to Emmanuel God (Isaiah 7:14) and you say she is any woman as all the other women. The Holy Spirit through the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel depicts the Mother of the Lord as “a closed gate” through which no one will enter but only the God of Israel and after the passage, she will remain closed (Ezekiel 44:13), namely she will be virgin before the birth, during the birth and ever virgin she will remain after the birth, and you say that the Mother of the Lord had other children apart from the Son of God, whom she bore.

It would be better to hang a rock round your neck and jump in the sea (Matt 18:6-7; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1-2) than scandalize the souls of innocent Christians with your lies and your satanic and cursed blasphemies. How could the just and God fearing Joseph (Matt 1:19) dare to touch the Most Holy Virgin after the birth, especially after he received the revelation – by the angel “for in her will be born by the Holy Spirit, is Holy (Matt 1:20) and the conceived by the grace of the Holy Spirit will be the Saviour of the world, Christ (Matt 1:21).

Would perhaps the righteous and God fearing Joseph -to whom God revealed that the Virgin Mary, his betrothed, conceived by the Holy Spirit and understood that through her God would work the salvation of the human race, by crashing the head of the snake (Gen 3:15) and that she is the Virgin, prophesied by the Holy Spirit through the Prophet Isaiah, who will give birth to Emmanuel, God and Saviour of the world (Isaiah 7:14)- be capable of entertaining human thoughts on her? Exactly because of this the righteous and God fearing Joseph proved to be such a zealot and obedient and served with such toil the divine Child, from birth to escape to Egypt and then return (Luke 2:4-5; Matt 2:13; 20:21-23) as well as the rest of the time of his life, until the age of the Saviour of 30 years, for he could understand completely the calling to serve the Most Holy Virgin through whom God came to the world, to redeem the human race.

Therefore, let the mouths of all the heretics and neoprotestants remain silent, from blaspheming against the Queen of the angels and Mother of God and of the righteous and God fearing Joseph concerning the evil and foolish thoughts that the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the “full of grace” could have other children.

Denying all the dumb blasphemies of the heretics, we, the children of the Church of Christ, let us always have the Mother of God our continuous supplicator and intercessor for our salvation in front of God. Let us incessantly honour her name as Mother of the Son of God. Let the virgins glorify her as an Ever Virgin mother. The priest and the monastics as the mother of the Great Arch-Priest Jesus Christ, while we, the pious Christians, together with the angels and the saints let us sing daily the Akathist and the canon of the Paraclete to the Mother of God, repeating all together the holy hymn (obedience): “Rejoice, Bride, Unwedded”.


Source : here


Categories: Biblical Studies

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

June 27, 2010 Leave a comment

At that time, as Jesus arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, there met him a man from the city who had demons; for a long time he had worn no clothes and he lived not in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him; he was kept under guard, and bound with chains and fetters, but he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them leave. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. When the herdsmen saw what happened, they fled, and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how he who had been possessed with demons was healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gadarenes asked him to depart from them; for they were seized with great fear; so he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but he sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:26-39)


One of the topics from today’s Gospel is about demonocracy, undgadareneoubtedly, colossal and maybe truly unique topic of our time. The demonism, from the very beginning is worn in clothing of the angel of light. Its medium are credulous. In this moment, my dears, comes to my mind the great French poet Baudelaire.

In his book Flowers of evil, led by the poetic intuition, he signifies the morbid truth: the greatest triumphs of Satan to convince people that not God, but it – the devil – does not exist. The uncovered evil and violence always hide behind the mask of goodness and freedom. My beloved, the biggest witness is the age we live in.  The evil is the ingenious virtuoso of the fashion and fashion designer.

In the Egyptian pathericon is said how abba Makarios the Great had seen Satan in the desert, carrying innumerable pumpkins hanged around its neck. Abba Makarios asked it: “What are you carrying?” It replied: “Various food, for every man according to his desire and taste”. Therefore, our people rightfully say: “better to be alone than in bad company“.

Beloved brothers and sisters, Christ is always with us. Christ is always with us as a parent, better said as a mother, who is always beside her child. Equally mother watches over the life of her child, growing him from her womb till the majority, her eye and all her senses follow every sigh, every step of her child, as Christ the God stands beside us, following us, following watchfully, guarding over our hearts.

Sometime probably in the childhood, all of us were lonely and frightened of solitude provoked by the absence of our mother. Thus lonely, it happened to fall, to injure our self and disconsolately to devote our selves to weeping. Yet, always when we felt presence of our mother and her wonderful, warm, maternal words: do not be afraid, my son, I am with you, – the weep disappeared, and the fears were expelled. Exactly, Christ the God, present always in our life, stands by consoling us: “Do not be afraid, I am with you”.
Amen.


Father Stefan Sandjakoski, SERMONS FROM KALISTA

Categories: Biblical Studies, Homilies

In the Hands of God

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Gospel:


The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew [§ 18].

The Lord said:

6 22“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore thine eye be sound, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee is darkness, how great is the darkness? 24“No one is able to serve two lords; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye are not able to serve God and mammon. 25“On this account I say to you, cease being anxious for your soul, what ye shall eat and what ye shall drink; nor for your body, what ye shall put on. The soul is more than food and the body is more than raiment, is it not? 26“Look at the birds of the heaven, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor do they gather into storehouses; and yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Ye much more excel them, do ye not? 27“And which of you, by being anxious, is able to add one cubit onto his stature? 28“And why are ye anxious about raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, nor do they spin. 29“And I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself as one of these. 30“But if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into an oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31“Therefore do not become anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ 32“For all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye need all of these things. 33“But be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Here Bishop Theophan the Recluse counsels a young woman on arranging her life

May the mercy of God be upon you.

You are still burdened by worldly cares. Tell me, what is the cause of this? All is well with your life externally; inwardly you have examined and put things in order, and your decision has strengthened all this. So what cause is there to be upset? It is all the devil’s work, straight from him. Nothing else.

And what else could it be? Do not think that you can determine the course of your life yourself, by your own strength and wisdom, even in accordance with what has been planned. Think about this, and if there is even a grain of truth in this, make haste to remedy it. With such an attitude there will be no end of confusion.

Let us, if you will, examine or mentally review all that was prescribed and all that you experienced inwardly, and how finally you came to a decision concerning your course of life–and direct this examination in such a way that there will come from it a firm resolve, to give your life over unconditionally into the hands of God. Then pray fervently, crying to the Lord from your heart:

“I place myself in Thy hands, O Lord. Direct my life and all that touches upon it as it is pleasing to Thee. From henceforth I am relinquishing all care for myself, having only one concern –always to do what is pleasing in Thy sight.”

Say it in this way and in very deed commit yourself entirely into God’s hands, being anxious for nothing, peacefully accepting all situations–whether pleasant or unpleasant-as being deliberately arranged for you by God. Your only concern must be to act in all situation s according to God’s commandments. For you, this is the one thing needful.

As soon as you do this, there will be an end to all your unrest. Now you are concerned about yourself, and every situation you want to arrange and turn around according to your good pleasure. When everything doesn’t go just so, you get upset that this isn’t right or that’s wrong. But when you give everything over to the Lord and accept all as coming from Him for your benefit, then you will be free from all earthly cares. You will look around only to see what lesson the Lord is sending so as to act in accordance with it. The commandments can be brought to bear on any situation. Do this and act in accord with the commandments, striving to please God rather than pushing to satisfy your own self-will. Think well on what I have said and make it your aim to attain such a state.

I pray that the Lord deliver you from that situation which you consider unpleasant-insofar, I would add, as this is in keeping with God’s will and for your salvation, And He will deliver you–in His good time, of course. Arm yourself with this faith and have patience. Just looking at the course of events, we see that they are constantly changing; nothing lasts. That which troubles you will likewise change. The days will come when you will breathe freely, and not only breathe, but like a butterfly flit from one flower to another; you need only patiently to await the trouble’s end. The housewife puts the pie into the oven and does not remove it from there until she is sure it is properly baked. The Ruler of the world has placed you into the oven–and is holding you there, waiting until you are done. Have patience and wait. As soon as you are baked through, you won’t sit there an extra minute. You will be immediately taken out. If you try to break loose yourself, you will be like an underdone pie. Arm yourself with patience. I will add this: according to our faith, he who graciously endures various trials that come his way, accepting them as from the hand of the Lord, such a man partakes of martyrdom.

It is impossible to live without feelings, but to give oneself over to one’s feelings is unlawful. They must be controlled and given proper direction. You are very impressionable and your heart rules your head. Act as I have already written you: first determine under what conditions certain feelings are aroused and then proceed by guarding yourself from any agitation of the heart, or by taking a firm hold upon your heart. This requires practice and with practice one can advance to complete control of oneself.

But everything comes from God. And one must run to Him. You write, however, that you don’t pray. That’s smart! What did you do, enlist with the pagans? How can one not pray? Don’t just read from the prayer book –tell Him in your own words what is on your heart, and ask for help: “Lord, you see what is bothering me–this and this… I cannot straighten myself out. Help me, O Merciful One !” And relate all the particulars of your need, asking for help in accordance with all this. This will be the most genuine prayer. You can always pray in your own words, not reading the written prayers, so long as you do not indulge in laziness.

But why do you listen to him who suggests that you stop praying? Or don’t you realize that it’ s the enemy? It’ s obviously the enemy. He whispers into your ear: “Give it up;” and sometimes as though seizing the body itself, he hurriedly drags it into bed. These are all his tricks. But he is doing his business, trying to d i s t r a c t you from what is good. However, we must do our work, not abandoning it until we have finished. In this way I beg you to arm yourself with courage, and don’t listen to the enemy, and don’t pay any attention to his whisperings. Getting angry at the enemy is even better. He will immediately flee.

From all my heart I pray that you will at last be able to calm down.

May the Lord bless you.


(Excerpt translated from What Is the Spiritual Life and How to Attune Oneself to It; Jordanville, 19 )



The Holy Myrrhbearers

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark [§ 69]. At that time:

15 43Joseph, a noble counselor, who was from Arimathea, and who himself also was waiting for the kingdom of God, came; and having become bold, he went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus for himself. 44And Pilate wondered if He were already dead; and having summoned the centurion, he questioned him if He died not long ago. 45And having come to know it from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46And he bought a linen cloth, and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the sepulcher. 47And Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joses were beholding where He was laid.

16 1And the sabbath having passed, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Iakovos, and Salome bought aromatic spices, that they might come and anoint Him.2And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they came to the sepulcher, after the sun rose. 3And they were saying among themselves, “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher for us?” 4And they looked up and saw that the stone had been rolled away, for it was exceedingly great. 5And after they entered into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe, and they were amazed. 6And he saith to them, “Cease being amazed. Ye are seeking Jesus the Nazarene Who hath been crucified. He was raised, He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. 7“But go and say to His disciples, and to Peter, that He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, even as He told you.” 8And they went out and fled from the sepulcher. And trembling and ecstasy held them fast, and to no one did they say anything, for they were afraid.

Troparion, tone II:

Standing before the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb, the angel cried: “Myrrh is meet for the dead, yet Christ hath shown Himself to be a stranger to corruption! But cry aloud: The Lord hath risen, granting the world great mercy!”

Kontakion, tone II:

Thou didst command the myrrh-bearers to rejoice, and didst console the lamentation of our first mother, Eve, by Thy resurrection, O Christ God; and didst command Thine apostles to preach: The Savior hath risen from the tomb!


+++


On the second Sunday after the Resurrection, the Church celebrates the first witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection — the women who came to anoint His body with fragrant oils, the “Myrrhbearers” — and the men who buried Him, St. Joseph of Arimathea & St. Nicodemus.

Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday — the day before the Sabbath (Saturday) and the day before the Old Testament Passover feast. When He died, it was imperative that He be buried before the Sabbath, because it was against the Law to work on the Sabbath. SS. Joseph & Nicodemus took His Body down from the cross, hastily anointed the Lord with aloe and myrrh, and wrapped Him is a sheer strip of linen. They placed Him the newly-completed tomb — dug out of solid rock! — that was intended for the wealthy St. Joseph when he died, and sealed the tomb with a massive stone.

While St. Peter and the other male disciples slept, the women disciples of the Lord bought more expensive, fragrant oils and myrrh. They went to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath-day ended — in the middle of the night — to anoint His body properly. As they walked, they discussed how they could even get into the tomb, sealed by the huge stone that was too big for them to move.

When they arrived, the tomb was open, and He was gone! They made several trips back and forth to Jerusalem, telling the disciples the good news, leading them back to the tomb, and searching for His Body to confirm the Resurrection the angels proclaimed.

The faithful women who visited the tomb of Jesus Christ on the morning of the Resurrection included:

Mary Magdalene, from whom the Lord cast out seven devils — she was the first witness to the Resurrection
the Theotokos, referred to as “Mary the mother of Joses” (Joses was one of the sons of St. Joseph the Bethrothed by his first wife; Mary was his step-mother)
Joanna, the wife of Chouza, the steward/administrator of King Herod Antipas
Salome, a daughter of St. Joseph the Betrothed by his first wife, who was also the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the Apostles James and John

After the Resurrection, St. Mary Magdalene went to Rome. Tradition teaches that when Mary first met the Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar, she held a plain egg in her hand and greeted him with the words, “Christ is risen!” Tiberius exclaimed: “How can someone rise from the dead? This is hard to believe. It is just as likely that Christ rose from the dead as it is that the egg you are holding will turn red.” Even as he spoke, the egg turned a brilliant red! She then preached the good news of Jesus Christ to the emperor and the imperial household.

Mary Magdalene told Tiberius all that Pontius Pilate and the leaders of the Jews had done to the Savior. Her testimony was enough to condemn them to death.

St. Mary Magdalene left Rome for the city of Ephesus, where she died and was buried by the Bishop there, the Apostle John (the Theologian)! Emperor Leo the Wise later moved her relics to Constantinople.

Paraphrased from the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Penetcostarion, pp. 184-187.

The Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast. Commemoration of Saint Mary of Egypt

March 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Scripture Readings


Epistle:

The Reading is from the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Hebrews[§ mid 321]. Brethren:

9 11Christ, Who came as High Priest of the coming good things, by means of the greater and more perfect tabernacle-not made by hand, that is, not of this creation,12nor by blood of goats and of calves, but by His own blood-entered once for all into the Holies, having Himself obtained eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of bulls and of goats and ashes of a heifer, sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctifieth to the purity of the flesh, 14how much more shall the blood of the Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works in order to worship the living God?

COMMEMORATION OF SAINT MARY OF EGYPT

The Reading is from the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Galatians [§§ 208, 209]. Brethren:

3 23Before faith came, we were being guarded under the law, having been closed up to the faith about to be revealed. 24Therefore the law hath become our tutor until Christ, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But faith having come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26For all are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many as were baptized into Christ, ye put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male and female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.

4 1Now I say, as long as the heir is an infant, he differeth nothing from a slave, though he is lord of all; 2but he is under guardians and stewards until the appointed time of the father. 3So we also, when we were infants, were enslaved under the elements of the world. 4But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5in order that He might redeem those under the law, that we might receive what is our due, the adoption as sons.

Gospel:

The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark [§ 47]. At that time:

10 32 Jesus took aside His twelve disciples, and began to tell them the things that were about to happen to Him, 33saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered up to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death and deliver Him up to the Gentiles. 34“And they shall mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit upon Him, and kill Him. And on the third day He shall raise Himself.”

35And Iakovos and John, the sons of Zebedee, go to Him, saying, “Teacher, we wish that Thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask.” 36And He said to them, “What do ye wish for Me to do for you?” 37And they said to Him, “Grant to us that we might sit, one on Thy right and one on Thy left, in Thy glory.” 38But Jesus said to them, “Ye know not what ye ask for yourselves. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink, and to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup indeed that I drink, ye shall drink, and the baptism with which I am baptized, ye shall be baptized; 40“but to sit on My right and on My left is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to those for whom it hath been prepared.” 41And after the ten heard it, they began to be indignant on account of Iakovos and John. 42But Jesus called them to Himself, and saith to them, “Ye know that those who are accounted to rule over the nations exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43“Yet it shall not be so among you. But whosoever doth wish to become great among you shall be your servant; 44“and whosoever doth wish to become first among you shall be slave of all. 45“For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Commemoration of Saint Mary of Egypt

The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke [§ 33]. At that time:

7 36 A certain one of the Pharisees was asking Jesus that He would eat with him. And He entered into the house of the Pharisee, and reclined at table. 37And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she found out that He was reclining at table in the house of the Pharisee, brought an alabaster flask of perfumed ointment,38and she stood beside His feet behind Him, weeping; and she began to wet His feet with tears, and was wiping them off with the hairs of her head; and she was kissing His feet ardently and anointing them with the perfumed ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who invited Him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, “This One, if He were a prophet, would know who and of what sort the woman is who toucheth Him, for she is a sinner.” 40And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to thee.” And he saith, “Teacher, say it.” 41“There were two debtors to a certain creditor: the one was owing five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42“But when they had nothing to pay back the debt, he showed himself gracious to both. Say which of them then will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose that he, to whom he showed himself the more gracious.” And He said to him, “Rightly thou didst judge.” 44And He turned to the woman, and said to Simon, “Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house; water thou gavest Me not for My feet, but she with tears did wet My feet, and with the hairs of her head wiped themoff. 45“A kiss thou gavest Me not, but she from the time that I entered did not cease from ardently kissing My feet. 46“With oil thou didst not anoint My head, but she anointed My feet with perfumed ointment. 47“For which reason I say to thee, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” 48And He said to her, “Thy sins have been forgiven.” 49And those reclining at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this Who even forgiveth sins?” 50And He said to the woman, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go thy way in peace.”

Synaxarion Readings


On this day, the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of our holy and venerable Mother, Mary of Egypt.

The recorder of the life of this wonderful saint is St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. A hieromonk, the elder Zossima, had gone off at one time during the Great Fast on a twenty-days’ walk into the wilderness across the Jordan. He suddenly caught sight of a human being with a withered and naked body and with hair as white as snow, who fled in its nakedness from Zossima’s sight. The elder ran a long way, until this figure stopped at a stream and called, “Father Zossima, forgive me for the Lord’s sake. I cannot turn around to you, for I am a naked woman.” Then Zossima threw her his outer cloak, and she wrapped herself in it and turned around to him. The elder was amazed at hearing his name from the lips of this unknown woman. After considerable pressure on his part, she told him the story of her life.

She had been born in Egypt and had lived as a prostitute in Alexandria from the age of twelve, spending seventeen years in this way of life. Urged by the lustful fire of the flesh, she one day boarded a ship that was sailing for Jerusalem. Arriving at the Holy City, she attempted to go into one of the churches to venerate the Precious Cross, but some unseen power prevented her from entering. In great fear, she turned to an icon of the Mother of God that was in the entrance and begged her to let her go in and venerate the Cross, confessing her sin and impurity and promising that she would then go wherever the Most Pure One led her. She was then allowed to enter the church. After venerating the Cross, she went out again to the entrance and, standing in front of the icon, thanked the Mother of God. Then she heard a voice saying, “If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace.” She immediately bought three loaves of bread and set off for the Jordan, arriving there the same evening. She received Holy Communion the following morning in the monastery of St. John the Baptist, and then crossed the river. She spent the next forty-eight years in the wilderness in the greatest torments, in terror, in struggles with passionate thoughts like gigantic beasts, feeding only on plants.

Later, when she was standing in prayer, Zossima saw her lifted up in the air. She begged him to bring her Holy Communion the next year on the bank of the Jordan, and she would come to receive it. The following year, Zossima came with the Holy Gifts to the bank of the Jordan in the evening and stood in amazement as he saw her cross the river. He saw her coming in the moonlight and, arriving on the further bank, make the sign of the Cross over the river. She then walked across it as though it were dry land. When she had received Holy Communion, she begged him to come again the following year to the same stream by which they had first met. The next year Zossima went and found her dead body there on that spot. Above her head in the sand was written: “Abba Zossima, bury in this place the body of the humble Mary. Give dust to dust. I passed away on April 1, on the very night of Christ’s Passion, after Communion of the Divine Mysteries.” For the first time, Zossima learned her name and also the awe-inspiring marvel that she had arrived at that stream the previous year on the night of the same day on which she had received Holy Communion – a place that he had taken twenty days to reach. And thus Zossima buried the body of the wonderful saint, Mary of Egypt. When he returned to the monastery, he recounted the whole story of her life and the wonders to which he had been an eyewitness. Thus the Lord glorifies repentant sinners. She entered into rest in about the year 530.

St. Mary is remembered today, as we reach the end of the Great Fast, to arouse the energy of the slothful and to urge sinners to repentance, imitating her example. She is also commemorated on April 1. The Righteous Zossima, who buried St. Mary, is commemorated on April 4.

O Christ our God, through the intercessions of our venerable Mother Mary of Egypt, have mercy on us and save us. Amen

Prologue

FOR CONSIDERATION

Have more confidence in God than in your mother; confess everything to Him, and He will not betray you; receive all His commandments as good, and He will not deceive you. For insofar as you have confidence in God, so far will you be cautious towards your enemies, towards the world, the flesh and the devil. St Ephraim the Syrian expressed all this better: ‘In receiving God’s commandments, have simplicity, but in the rejection of hostile plots, have cunning (the dove and the serpent).’

Sunday of Zacchaeus

January 17, 2010 Leave a comment


The paschal season of the Church is preceded by the season of Great Lent, which is also preceded by its own liturgical preparation. The first sign of the approach of Great Lent comes five Sundays before its beginning. On this Sunday the Gospel reading is about Zacchaeus the tax-collector. It tells how Christ brought salvation to the sinful man, and how his life was changed simply because he “sought to see who Jesus was” (Luke 19:3). The desire and effort to see Jesus begins the entire movement through Lent towards Pascha. It is the first movement of salvation.

Our lenten journey begins with a recognition of our own sinfulness, just as Zacchaeus recognized his. He promised to make restitution by giving half of his wealth to the poor, and by paying to those he had falsely accused four times as much as they had lost. In this, he went beyond the requirements of the Law (Ex. 22:3-12).

The example of Zacchaeus teaches us that we should turn away from our sins, and atone for them. The real proof of our sorrow and repentance is not just a verbal apology, but when we correct ourselves and try to make amends for the consequences of our evil actions.

We are also assured of God’s mercy and compassion by Christ’s words to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation is come to this house” (Luke 19:9).

Zacchaeus was short, so he climbed a tree in order to see the Lord. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). We are also short in our spiritual stature, therefore we must climb the ladder of the virtues. In other words, we must prepare for spiritual effort and growth.

St Zacchaeus is also commemorated on April 20. After the Great Doxology at Sunday Matins (when the Tone of the week is Tone 1, 3, 5, 7) we sing the Dismissal Hymn of the Resurrection “Today salvation has come to the world,” which echoes the Lord’s words to Zacchaeus.

Categories: Biblical Studies

Jesus Christ—the Model of Moral Life

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

By Professor M. Olesnitsky, Doctor of Theology (Professor of the Kiev Divinity Academy), St. Petersburg 1907

For our success in the pursuit of a moral life, abstract law by itself is insufficient; a concrete example is necessary for the attainment of such life.

We have this model in God: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Mt 5:48); but still, we need an example that is closer to our nature, which would in turn satisfy the requirements and carry out the moral ideal, under the same conditions in which we live. This model moves into us the faith in the possibility of the true-moral life on the earth; it attracts us to virtues and paves the way to such life. Having lived on earth, we have such a model in the Incarnated, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Holy Scripture there are numerous places which call us to the resemblance to Christ. For example, in the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Peter we read: Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps (1Pet 2:21). He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked (1Jn 2:6). St. Paul calls the Christians to have the same sensations, which were in Christ: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5), not to please ourselves… for even Christ pleased not himself (Rom 15:1-3), walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us (Eph 5:2), looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). The Lord said to his disciples after washing their feet: I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (Jn 13:15); and pointed at his love as to the example of their mutual love: Love one another, as I have loved you (Jn 15:12).

Looking closer at the model presented to us through the life of Jesus Christ, we find that He carried out His earthly life exemplifying the highest level of moral freedom, combined with perfect love. This freedom was manifested in the absence of any sin as well as any other sensation of the sinful burden, in the harmony of His nature, which excludes passions and any fascinations, and in the powerful and independent attitude to the world. Understanding the complete freedom from sin he says: which of you convinceth me of sin? (Jn 8:46) or the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me (Jn 14:30). As the One, Who is sinless (although tempted), the conscience did not burden Him and it did not arise in Him the feeling of separation with the divine will.

The harmonious nature of the Lord Jesus excluded the one-sided predominance in Him of any side of the human personality. For example, we distinguish male and female natures, with the predominance of distinctive qualities. However, in Christ the Savior we see the harmonious combination of male perfections, precisely—incomparable struggle, conquering the world heroism, and female—kindness, limitless devotion, extreme patience, infinite obedience. We distinguish reserved and contemplative, open and active, or practical characters.

However, in Christ the Savior we see the harmonious combination of the contemplation and practical activity. But the absence of fascinations and passions in our Lord the Savior, we see that in Him any emotional state never overcomes the others and the others do not predominate. For example, deep grief is soon changed in Him for sincere happiness, happiness is immediately dissolved by grief (Mk 14:8-9); anger is mitigated by compassion, and compassion passes into anger (Mt 23:39); in humiliation the Lord never forgets His royal sublimity; and possessing it He always remembers that He accepted the image of a slave and came not so that they would serve Him, but in order for Him to serve others. Denying the presence of passions in the Lord, we assert that there was only animation and the strong desire to carry out His destination on the earth in Him. Therefore he says: I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? (Lk 12:49).

Possessing moral freedom, the Lord Jesus Christ is so free in all his relations with the surrounding world. For example, he was fasting, but he “is eating and drinking” when He finds this necessary. He is out of the family relations, but He accepts the invitation to the marriage. The Son of man hath not where to lay his head, but never asked anybody for alms. He considers Himself free from the payment of tax to the temple; however, He pays tax, finding this necessary for His goal. The Pharisees tempt Him, they want to catch him in the violation of Moses’ law, in the disturbance against the royal authority, but He with a single word exposes all their intrigues and comes out of the temptation as the victory-bearer. People are enraptured with Him and want to proclaim Him the King, but He is higher than any terrestrial honor.

But love the Lord Jesus Christ expressed by leaving the quiet dwelling in Nazareth and stepping onto the thorny way of life, by the fact that He with incredible selflessness and patience worked for the good and salvation of people, He carried their weaknesses and their contradictions and abuse, accepted those despised by everybody publicans and sinners, blessed children, selected the disciples, loved by Him, He was close to His native Israeli people, embraced at the same time the entire world with love and finally voluntarily gave His life for the people. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us (1Jn 3:16). Love of Jesus does not arrange touching scenes, it does not invent refined expressions; however, how much inimitable tenderness is manifested in the farewell conversation of the Savior with His Disciples, or in the restoration after the Resurrection of fallen Peter!

The Lord Jesus Christ expressed love for the Heavenly Father by unconditional obedience, complete devotion, accurate performance of the will of the Father, by the internal unity with the Father and sincere prayer, which frequently lasted for the entire night. Even in those hours, in which the Father apparently leaves him (on the cross), His love remains invariably faithful, appealing to the Father.

Imitating Christ: The Grace of the Holy Spirit

Following Christ must not be copying of Christ, not the literal reproduction of all His actions; otherwise we must accomplish all the miracles performed by Him. Jesus is our Savior; our task is in using the fruits of salvation under those conditions, in which we are placed to live on the earth. On the word of the apostle, we must possess the same sensations, the same direction of the will that was in Jesus Christ, the same image or modus operandi that was in Him. Although Jesus Christ was the begotten Son of God among people, He expressed in His life and left to us the specific example of the man, which we must imitate and reproduce in ourselves.

The second inaccuracy in the study about the imitation to Christ, characteristic of the rationalists, consists of the statement, that we (as if) can be the true imitators of Jesus Christ and carry out a truly God-pleasing life without being in the internal, spiritual unity with Him and having Him only as an external model. No, the relation between the personality of Christ the Savior and the personalities of the Christians is not as external as it is between the teacher and his students. It cannot be said that the students must only be taught by the teacher, but they should also derive the example for themselves from his life. Meanwhile the Christians, being taught from the words of the Lord and imitating His example, must at the same time derive the completeness of life from His personality, live His life. This requirement is clearly expressed by the Lord Jesus Christ in the words: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:4-5). It is evident from these words that the Lord is not only the teacher and model for us, but also the source of moral life.

The force, which opens to us this exemplary source and helping us to derive from it and to live on the doctrine and model of Jesus Christ, is the Holy Spirit, His Divine Grace. By the grace of God I am what I am, says the apostle (1Cor 15:10). Has there ever existed a true Christian, who would thank himself for his moral Christian state, but not the Lord Jesus Christ, abundantly sending to him grace through the Holy Spirit? Grace is necessary both for the beginning of the Christian life and for its continuation. The apostle says that without grace not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves (2Cor 3:5), and even we know not what we should pray for as we ought (Rom. 8:26). However, in the Holy Scripture all the Christian virtues are called the fruits of grace (love, joy, peace, long-suffering… Gal 5:22-23), whole blameless spirit and soul (1Thess 5:23).

Have not any Christians experienced that the grace of the Holy Spirit was necessary not only for the first floating of the soul to God, but also later, when emptiness and weakness will begin to overwhelm the soul again?


Categories: Biblical Studies