St. Paul writes to the Hebrews, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first came to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him...." My friends, there can be no escape from the eternal separation from God in a hell of our own making, the natural consequence of our careless, self-willed neglect. One might reasonably ask, however: exactly what is the nature of this salvation the living God has so graciously bestowed upon His children? It is not merely (as many think) that Christ died on the Cross in order that our manifold sins might be forgiven. For the Orthodox Christian, salvation means much more than some sort of legal pardon, assuring us that we can go to heaven when we die.
When the man sick of the palsy was lowered through the roof into the house where our Lord was teaching, He beheld the faith of his friends and readily forgave the sins of the afflicted. Then--when certain scribes grumbled that only God can forgive sins--Jesus demanded to know which is easier, to say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed and walk?" He thereupon commanded the sick of the palsy to "Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." Jesus thus not only forgave the man his sins but restored him to wholeness--that he might henceforth walk in the way of holiness.
Jesus came to heal our sinful passions, that through sincere and heartfelt repentance we might become partakers of the Divine Nature, transformed by His grace into sons and daughters of God, heirs of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom. As the Good Shepherd, he proclaims, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
In the Fourteenth Century, St. Gregory Palamas struggled against the false theology of the monk Barlaam--one of the most prominent Western secularizers of his day--who taught that God is basically an abstraction, with Whom we can have no meaningful connection. He insisted that God's grace is created, and therefore we cannot through its action be united to God. If this were true, it would mean that the world itself cannot be considered a true Icon of God, and that there is, therefore, no real communion between our life in this world and the Kingdom of Heaven.
St. Gregory taught otherwise, as did all the Holy Fathers of the Church who preceded him: that while the essence of God is inaccessible, He sustains the whole created universe through His uncreated energies while uniting Himself in an intimate and personal union with fallen humanity. Thus every aspect of our lives in this world is permeated by grace--while God is closer to us than the very air we breathe. There can be, therefore, no compartmentalization of our lives into "religious" and "secular" spheres, for (as the Holy Apostle declares) "I live: yet it is not I who live, but Christ in me." Let us, therefore, strive to glorify God through our souls and bodies, that we might reflect in our lives the eternal Light of the Living God!