Grace-filled time of faithfulness, or Accept wedding garments from Christ

The choice between faithfulness and unfaithfulness to Christ can be faced by anyone. Photo: UOJ

​“Faithful” is not only the one who courageously stands for the truth of God but also the one who does not let evil into his heart under any, even plausible, pretext.

On February 22, priests and believers of the UOC communities, from whom the schismatics either took away their churches or keep attempting to do so, gathered at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. These people have suffered a lot over the past two years: persecution by local authorities, expulsion from the temple, and many priestly families – from their own homes. These people endure insults, ridicule and hatred of the "winners" from the OCU. From large ancient temples, they moved to pray in tents, sheds, garages and old rickety houses. One of the believers said: “Many priests come from our village. And when you watch someone serve in the cathedral, and you humble yourself and serve in the hut, it is difficult to describe this to you. Only the one who experienced it can understand this."

Each of these people has had a choice – one has only to go to the "patriotic church" and everything will change immediately – you will cease to be a "Muscovite" and a "traitor" and become the "right Ukrainian". But none of them hesitates. They are people, FAITHFUL to Christ. And there are not 350 of them in our Church who came to the Lavra for the congress called “The Faithful”. There are many more. Moreover, now the choice between faithfulness and unfaithfulness to Christ can be faced by anyone.

The grace-filled burden of faithfulness

In an amazingly grace-filled time, the Lord blessed us to live. We could go to church all our live, sincerely believing that we love God and in any life circumstances we will become faithful to Him. But the fact is that a warrior will never receive a combat award, living in a peaceful garrison, never having been in a single battle. This is how our life could have passed. Hundreds of thousands of people, who under some other circumstances could have been glorified as martyrs, lived calmly and measuredly on earth. They went to church, prayed and received communion, but they did not have the opportunity to show their faith and faithfulness in a situation that requires the main thing from us – sacrificial love for God. And not in words but in deeds.

Probably, there is nothing more beautiful than saying to God “I love” not in words but by life itself. There is nothing more joyful than enduring for Christ's sake. How gratifying it is to know and understand that the lies and slander, which we are so abundantly poured on us today, were given to us so that we could bear it for the sake of our beloved Saviour. What could be greater than shedding blood for the sake of the One who is dearer to you than anyone else in the world? Each of us has to go through the gates of death. Everyone, to one degree or another, has to be crucified with sickness and sorrow. But to be crucified to the right of the Saviour, next to Him and with Him, what could be more desirable? Praise God, the time is coming when the Saviour, in His grace, can grant such an honour to many of us.

Probably, there is nothing more beautiful than saying to God “I love” not in words but by life itself. There is nothing more joyful than enduring for Christ's sake.

It cannot be otherwise

Now many are confused and outraged by the fact that in our society "evil" is called "good", "hatred" – "heroism", "banditry" – "valour", "lie" – "truth". How could it be otherwise? The Holy Scripture has long warned us that all this must inevitably happen “because of the increase of wickedness” (Matt. 24:12). “See to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (Matt. 24: 6). What is happening in the world makes not only us feel outraged. We know from the Scriptures that even the saints in Heaven will one day be indignant and ask God: "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" But He will ask them to calm down for a while and wait until others (aren't you and me?) join their number (Rev. 6: 10-11). God gave people the opportunity “not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him” (Phil. 1: 28-29). “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” (John 15:20), the Savior warned. Moreover, we will be hated by everyone precisely because of Christ (Mark 13:13). Therefore, what is happening is what should happen, it cannot be otherwise. You just should remember what the Saviour said many times in the Gospel: "Do not be afraid!" (Luke 12: 4). Indeed, “rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4: 12-14).

You should remember what the Saviour said many times in the Gospel: "Do not be afraid!" (Luke 12: 4). Indeed, “rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4: 12-14).

The faithful – who are they?

The holy elders prophesied tens of years ago what our society and our Church are going through today: Lavrenty of Chernigov, Zosima (Sokur), Damian (Korneichuk), Kuksha of Odessa, Seraphim of Vyritsa, etc. The Providence of God leads us through the crucible of suffering and trials. This is the will of the Lord. What is left for us? Only one thing is to make the right choice, i.e. stay faithful to Christ.

In one of the lives of the ancient saints (unfortunately, I do not remember who exactly it is) I read about a righteous man who called on Christians to defend their church. At the same time, he gave simple arguments: “If we defend the temple, then we will have a place to pray together. If they kill us, then we will become martyrs and go to pray to God in Heaven. So, in any case, we will only gain." If a person is not killed but only maimed, then he will become a confessor, and this, in fact, is also martyrdom.

We cannot and must not respond to force with force. Our strength is in patience and courage to be with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, during interrogation by Pontius Pilate, during His scourging in the praetorium. Our strength lies in the fact that we can safely say our firm "no" to the satanic ideology of the new world order.

These arguments are still valid today. We cannot and must not respond to force with force. Our strength is in patience and courage to be with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, during interrogation by Pontius Pilate, during His scourging in the praetorium. Our strength lies in the fact that we can safely say our firm "no" to the satanic ideology of the new world order. Our strength lies in the fact that, just like the Savior, we can humbly accept our cross and go with it to our Calvary. You need to understand that confession or even martyrdom for Christ is a great privilege, and it is not given to everyone. Martyrdom still needs to be earned, it is a special gift of God, and it is bold to seek it without permission. Otherwise, it will be a manifestation of pride rather than faithfulness to God. People say: "Don't ask for the cross, but don't run from the cross."

For Christians during the period of persecution, there was a rule: “If you can hide from the executioners, it is better to hide. But if you are caught, die as a Christian." This principle of behaviour comes from the gospel ethics: “When they persecute you in one place, flee to another” (Matthew 10:23). But this applies to personal life. If we are talking about defending the faith, then the example of Montenegrin Christians defending their faith at mass cross processions is the answer to how we should react when they try to deprive us of the holiest – our Mother Church. You should never hide in the shadow when the Lord calls us to show our faithfulness. This call is an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb and standing in faith is giving the wedding garment by the Host of the Feast.

You should never hide in the shadow when the Lord calls us to show our faithfulness. This call is an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb and standing in faith is giving the wedding garment by the Host of the Feast.

St Alexy of Zosima, the elder, whom God granted the right to draw lots for the election of the Patriarch at the Local Council of 1917-1918, was very strict with those who became “ashamed” of their faith. The monk himself was of a very gentle and loving nature, but he treated those who, after revolutionary changes in the life of society, began to fear crossing oneself in public, wearing a cross, observing feasts and fasts, and generally openly recognizing themselves as Orthodox, as traitors to the faith and apostates.

About the most important thing ...

The entire series of events with all its emotional and other components pass through our thoughts. They are the link between the external and internal world of a person. The external world, together with our material body, which is only a case, where our soul lives, is just a temporary addition to our eternal "I". But it is our thoughts, feelings and desires that form the appearance or rather the face of our personality. All our attention should be focused on them.

“What your thoughts are, so is your life,” the elder Theodore Vitovnitsky teaches. The art of living a righteous life is to keep peace in the soul in any situation. “That which does not take you out of equilibrium no longer possesses you,” taught one ancient philosopher. The main task of the devil is to make us wicked in the confrontation between good and evil. He perfectly understands that we will not take the side of our offenders, we will never accept their false values and support their ideology. But we can hate our enemies for all the evil that comes from their rotten souls. And if Satan succeeds in stirring up this hatred and indignation in us, then his mission will be fulfilled.

The main task of the devil is to make us wicked in the confrontation between good and evil. He perfectly understands that we will not take the side of our offenders, we will never accept their false values. But we can hate our enemies for all the evil that comes from their rotten souls. And if Satan succeeds in stirring up this hatred and indignation in us, then his mission will be fulfilled.

We will become infected with the same virus as our opponents. It doesn't matter if our hatred is fair and our outrage is justified. The important thing is that in our mental structure we are no longer any different from our opponents. The desire for the punishment of God on our enemies, the dream that the Lord will take revenge on them make us enemies of God and equal in His eyes with those whom we hate and upon whom we ask for the punishment of the Lord. Therefore, the "faithful" is not only the one who courageously stands for the truth of God on earth but also the one who does not let evil into his own heart under any, even the most plausible, pretext.

St Porphyrios (Bairaktaris) of Kafsokalivia lived on earth as if the devil and his servants did not exist at all. In everything and everywhere he saw good: he lived with good, served good and breathed good. And demons are, according to St Isaac the Syrian, just runaway slaves who are hiding from their master. The only thing they can do is to scare. But to implement such an approach to life, you need to have a pure heart to be able to see only good in everything that happens. And not everyone can do this.

The "faithful" is not only the one who courageously stands for the truth of God on earth, but also the one who does not let evil into his own heart under any, even the most plausible, pretext.

An easier way is to simply ignore the evil. Do not reflect on it, do not react, and consider it non-existent, which, in fact, is true since evil itself does not have its own essence. We should feed our thoughts daily with the Word of God and the teaching of the Holy Fathers, live by prayer and contemplation, not letting our thoughts into the world and not allowing the shameless bird of the mind to fly through the forest of life, sitting on every branch, curious about what is happening there. This does not mean at all to be indifferent and not to stand up for the defence of the faith. Confessing our faith, if God calls us to do so, is necessary in humble endurance of sorrowful circumstances, and not in the fire of "holy war" and "noble hatred". Elder Simon the Bloodless says that a Christian is not the one who fights against evil but the one who fights for love to stay with it forever. May God help us with this!

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