Our precious and Orthodox Faith, which existed in the beginning and was delivered to the Saints is a faith like no other. Many are there today who claim to speak for Christians, and in doing so, do great harm and bring reproach upon our very Lord.
Our faith is an ascetical faith, teaching us that life is filled with struggles and sorrow. This life is the preparation for the life-to-come, that is, the return to our heavenly Father and God. Great is the ascesis of remaining a Christian in this life! To be a member of the Church and be blessed as a father or mother, a husband or wife, a brother or sister, or even just a friend is an incredible trial and worthy of praise.
We marvel at the great Ascetics and old and their great labors. Beloved, great are the labors in this day for Christians. Some mistakenly believe that such ascetics no longer exist. The struggle of Christians in this very day can not be underestimated. A man once asked St. John Climacus for his advice for those living in the world:
Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.’ (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus, pg 9.)
These words are understood for those in the Church. They do not supplant the Church’s teachings but rather show a practical manner in which we can apply them. The rule of the Saint is clear and simple yet profoundly difficult. The Ascetics practiced obedience and diligence and so must we. We must be obedient to the Word of God and the Church, maintaining her prescribed Fasts and attending the Services. We must be obedient to the needs of our families. We must fulfill our responsibilities with diligence. These things will help us to be better employees, neighbors, parents, friends, and so on. Though we are not dwelling in caves we do need to retreat to our prayer corner to recharge our souls daily.
The great Ascetics did battle with the passions and the demons. We who are in the world also contend with the passions and the demons. Their ferocity and audacity grows each day. Our sacred faith reminds us repeatedly through the lives of the Saints and sacred Scripture that the Evil-one seeks to devour us as a ravening wolf yet our precious Faith also provides us the weapons to defeat our foe. Our battle is waged in the heart. There are times for us to raise our voices and to come to the aid of others, but the battle is a noetic battle that each of us must fight.
Our faith teaches us to look inwardly, to accuse ourselves before laying accusations at the feet of others. It teaches us to forgive others, to be patient, kind, and longsuffering. As we would ask of our Lord toward us, He asks us to do the same to our brethren.
Our precious faith does not direct us to hurl hateful names and epithets, falsely in the name of Christ, at those who persecute us. Rather we are to love our enemy and forgive them as Christ forgave those at His feet while He was hanging on the Cross.
Our precious faith teaches us to flee from vain arguments and foolish ramblings. The Apostle of Christ, Saint Paul gives this advice to Timothy,
avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Timothy 2:23).
Our precious faith demands us to know the Spirit of the Law, not merely the letter. Even the demons know scripture for the Evil-one dared to quote from the Scripture in an effort to tempt God. So should we expect the folly of this world to tempt us with false understanding and quoting of scripture.
Our precious Faith is truly a faith like no other for it is gives us the keys to unlock the greatest of mysteries, the mystery of salvation and eternal life.