By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
Saints who lived earlier than the incarnation of the Son and Word of God are additionally listed within the Church’s checklist of Saints. These are the Patriarchs, the Prophets and the Righteous of the Old Testament, who had been keepers of God’s regulation and confessors of the true religion. In reality, lots of them sealed their confession with the blood of their martyrdom. All of them had communion with God the Word, they accepted the Divine revelation, due to this fact their religion was a residing, genuine, experiential religion, which is linked with confession and martyrdom and unites folks with God, remodeling them from being weak and cowards to robust and courageous, and from small and insignificant to necessary and actually nice.
The Apostle Paul speaks of those Saints of the Old Testament in his Epistle to the Hebrews and praises them, saying that these saints with the ability of religion “subdued kingdoms, labored righteousness, obtained guarantees, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fireplace, escaped the sting of the sword, out of weak spot had been made robust, turned valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women obtained their useless raised to life once more. Others had been tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they may get hold of a greater resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, sure, and of chains and imprisonment. They had been stoned, they had been sawn in two, had been tempted, had been slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, bothered, tormented — of whom the world was undeserving. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” And they achieved all this as a result of they believed God and believed in God. Because, as Saint Gregory Palamas says, “I imagine God” is one factor and “I imagine in God” is one other.
“I imagine God” signifies that I take into account His guarantees sure, that’s, that God is trustworthy to His guarantees, He doesn’t break them, He doesn’t repent, however He fulfills what He guarantees, as we sing within the “Entrance Hymn” of the feast of the Nativity of Christ: “I’ve begotten you from the womb earlier than the morning. The Lord has sworn, and won’t repent.” And “I imagine in God” signifies that “I believe accurately about Him”, not that I merely admit His existence, however that I’ve right religion. That is, religion is linked with the doctrines of the Church, with the reality as a revelation, as expressed by the Church via the Prophets, the Apostles and the Holy Fathers. It is linked with the Orthodox mindset and the Orthodox lifestyle, and due to this fact those that don’t possess each are in actuality unbelievers. Therefore, because the Saint emphasizes, an unbeliever isn’t solely the one who doesn’t imagine within the existence of God, but additionally the heretic is an unbeliever, as a result of he falsifies the religion and alters the Orthodox lifestyle, and an unbeliever can be the one who turned Orthodox via Baptism, nevertheless, he doesn’t have Orthodox morals and pondering, and his lifestyle isn’t in accordance with God’s will.
In different phrases, religion is an expertise and is linked to Orthodox doctrine, repentance, good works and obedience to the Church. Anyone who doesn’t possess the above traits is an unbeliever or has an empty, false religion, like that of demons. Because even the demons “imagine and concern”, however their religion doesn’t save them, due to their satisfaction they don’t repent, and their lifestyle isn’t in accordance with God’s will. Therefore, the religion that saves man is the one that is still pure, unadulterated and is linked to obedience to God’s will and absolute belief in His love and His guarantees.
Let us additionally hearken to the exhortation of the Apostle Paul: “Therefore we additionally, since we’re surrounded by so nice a cloud of witnesses, allow us to lay apart each weight, and the sin which so simply ensnares us, and allow us to run with endurance the race that’s set earlier than us, trying unto Jesus, the creator and finisher of our religion.” Let the Saints of our Church, previous and current, be for all of us a mannequin of religion, obedience, hope, persistence, self-denial and sacrificial love. Let us be impressed by their genuine religion and their self-sacrificing love, in order that we are able to all the time stay upright and steadfast, and particularly within the troublesome moments and circumstances of our lives.
When we name on them in religion, they’ll all the time be by our facet, to sweeten our ache, to dry our tears, to present us braveness, to consolation us and to help us, in order that we are able to endure to the top and stay trustworthy “unto dying”, in order that we could also be discovered to obtain “the crown of life”.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
of the Mystagogy Resource Center.