Saturday, October 31, 2009


"And this is life eternal, that we might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." In this verse is expressed the whole and entire purpose of the Incarnation, that we might know God--not as a mere philosophical concept or mental contruct, but personally. As our Lord said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." Likewise, only he who knows Christ truly knows the Father.

For it is a true and certain saying that the fullness of the Godhead is revealed bodily in the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who is the perfect image of the Father. This is the Gospel preached by the Holy Apostle Paul, the Gospel which "is not after man," but was made known "by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

This is why the veneration of icons upheld by the 7th Ecumenical Council is solemnly celebrated every year as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Because God took on human flesh and assumed visible form through Jesus Christ, it is not only lawful but indeed essential that we venerate Him through the holy icons.

Indeed, "God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us:" not in the indistinct shadows and images of the Old Testament, but face to face. As the holy Fathers say, "God became man that men might become gods"--through union with Christ, we become by grace everything that God is by nature.

This is what it means to know God: not by rumor or hearsay but first hand, through personal and intimate experience. This is eternal life and salvation and the reality proclaimed and safeguarded by the holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council. This is the true Orthodox Faith and the refutation of all heresies. This is the Faith that has established the universe.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


"And as ye would that men should do unto you, do ye also to them likewise." This so-called "Golden Rule" is unique to the Christian Faith. It is true that similar precepts can be found in other religions, but nowhere in this precise form.

For one thing, the context here is love for one's enemies. Now the Golden Rule is perhaps not so hard to follow (up to a point) in regards to one's friends and loved ones--so long as it does not become too inconvenient. Even so, our motives in following the commandment are usually mixed: either we expect the same treatment in return ("I'll rub your back if you rub mine") or else it becomes an occasion of pride and feeling good about ourselves.

However, it goes completely against the grain of our fallen human nature to behave in a loving, kind and compassionate way toward those who hate and abuse us, even if our behavior does not reflect our true feelings. After all, no one wants to be a door mat, and besides, "What's in it for us?"

The fact is, if we desire to succeed and to "get ahead" in this world, the Golden Rule can become a real obstacle. In any case, is any normal person real capable of truly loving one's enemies?

True enough if our Faith is a hoax and we are merely a higher form of animal struggling to get along in this world the best we can until death overtakes us and we cease to exist. But if we truly are beings created in God's image "a little lower than the angels" and destined for eternal life in the glory of God's heavenly Kingdom, it changes everything.

It is indeed this capacity to love even one's enemies that lifts us above the lower creatures and confers dignity and purpose to a life that would otherwise be meaningless and therefore not really worth living. Nor would God ever command us to do anything that we are inherently incapable of doing. Humanly speaking, it really is impossible to fulfill the Golden Rule, but truly all things are possible through the grace of God.

As God told St. Paul when the Apostle asked three times to remove his "thorn," "My grace is sufficient for thee: my power is made perfect in weakness." This grace, however, is not something somehow added on to our fallen human nature. To be fully human means to be united with God and to be filled with His grace, which is the uncreated energy of God Himself.

"Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful:" this is the true reason for fulfilling the commandment, because we are all in the truest sense the children of God, and God is love. This, then, is the path we must all strive to follow if we desire that peace, joy and fulfillment only God can give--both in this world and the next.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


"Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Here our Lord speaks of what it means to be a true Christian: it is not merely right belief, but practicing the Faith in concrete ways. Indeed, it is easy to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior while living what is essentially a self-centered and worldly life, behaving for all intents and purposes as though He does not exist.

Truly, as St. Paul says, we are saved by faith, but genuine faith requires sacrifice and the willingness and desire to suffer, if need be, all things whatsoever on His behalf. While it is true that Christ died for our sins, His death on the cross does not constitute an automatic guarantee of our salvation. There is no such thing as a free passport to heaven. It is a true saying, as Scripture says, that "the Kingdom of God suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." That is, we must do violence (not against our fellow man, God forbid!) but against our fallen human nature.

Christ's death does not somehow let us off the hook. Rather, He died that we ourselves might be crucified with Him and say with St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ livest in me." So long as our ego, with its selfish needs and desires, is the motivating force our our lives, we have not yet even begun to live a Christian life.

Of course we can, if we so choose, opt to pursue what the world considers to be the "good life," casting aside the burden and inconvenience of the cross. Yet even if we somehow succeed in gaining the whole world, there is a cost to be paid: the loss our our immortal soul. Truly, what gain is there in this? Who but a fool would prefer transitory pleasures and earthly treasures to the promise of eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom?

Truly our soul's salvation is the one thing needful, the pearl of great price. This salvation, however, is neither an entitlement nor a right: it is the fruit of sacrificial suffering and an ongoing struggle to subdue the passions and to cleanse our hearts of sinful thoughts and desires.
This is the spiritual warfare to which we have all been called by virtue of our Baptism. It is never easy to follow this straight and narrow path, but the only alternative is eternal separation from God in a hell of our own making.