Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Become What You Are!



Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Come, O believers,
Let us celebrate in song today,
Glorifying the memory of all the saints:
Hail, O glorious apostles, prophets, martyrs, and bishops!
Hail, O company of all the just!
Hail, O ranks of holy women!
Pray that Christ will grant our souls great mercy!

(Sunday of All Saints, Aposticha, Vespers)

The Sunday of All Saints fittingly follows the Sunday of Pentecost, for the saints of the Church are the “fruit” and manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence among us.  They are the living icons that are transparent to the glory of God that shines in and through each of them as a gift of the Holy Spirit.  The saints (literally, the “holy ones”) have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of passion and become partakers of the divine nature” (II PET 1:4).  Created in the image of God, they “are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another”  (II COR 3:18).  In the Book of Revelation, St. John has recorded his incomparable vision of the saints in heaven:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all the tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!”  (REV. 7:9-10)

Since, in the one Church of Christ, the heavenly and earthly realms are united, the saints are “the great cloud of witnesses” that surround us and exhort us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (HEB. 12:1-2).  At the most basic level, the saints are the true friends of God:  “But to me, exceedingly honorable are Thy friends, O Lord” (PS. 138:16, LXX).  The saints put Christ above all else in the fulfillment of their Master’s words:

"He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."  (MATT. 10:37-39)

The words of the Scriptures are the seeds that nourish the life of sanctity which results in the slow transformation of a human being, made in God’s image, into the very likeness of God, so that this particular person becomes by grace what Christ is by nature.  The saint is thus a scriptural man or a scriptural woman, inasmuch as he/she hears the Word of God and keeps it – meaning acting upon and living out what is heard.  The saint has responded positively to the paradoxical admonition:  “Become what you are!”

Now, as we like to say today:  “No pain – no gain!”  If we were “bought with a price” (I COR. 6:20), then we could say that the saints “bought” their sanctity at “a price,” abandoning security, comfort and safety which, we acknowledge, are so central to our own understanding of life.  (It is rather easy, though it may go unnoticed, for Christians to be transformed in Epicureans over time:  avoid pain and seek pleasure).  Being “destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated” they “wandered over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”  As such, God has revealed that “the world was not worthy” of them. (HEB. 11:37-38)

The “diversity” of the saints is remarkable:  fathers (and mothers), patriarchs (and matriarchs), prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith,” culminating in “our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary” (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

On the Sunday of All Saints, we do not commemorate only the saints whose names have been included on our ecclesiastical calendars; those, in other words, who have been officially “glorified/canonized” by the Church and whom we remember and venerate by name. We remember all of the saints, that vast multitude, both known and unknown, (symbolically numbered at 144,000 in the Book of Revelation; a multiple of 12 that signifies an incalculable figure as well as wholeness and totality – much to the dismay, I would imagine, of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) “who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (REV. 21:27).  Perhaps this will include our own ancestors who lived modest and humble Christian lives.

All of the saints, therefore, intercede before the throne of God on our behalf.  They are with us and not cut off from us by death. Rather, they are now more alive than ever and being “in Christ” are present wherever Christ is present.  The earthly lives of the saints become sources of inspiration and models of emulation for us, teaching by examples of faith, hope and love; of long-suffering, perseverance and patience; of lives steeped in prayer, almsgiving and fasting.  They do not discourage us because they attained what may seem unattainable to us; but rather they encourage us to struggle to overcome our weaknesses as men and women who did precisely that in their own lives.  They were not born saints or privileged from birth.  They became saints by co-operating with the grace of God.  We, in turn, simply need to become what we already are:  saints of God through Baptism and Chrismation and membership in the Church!

Many of us are deeply impressed by the total dedication, perseverance, training, commitment and love of the sport exhibited by today’s athletes.  (Possible envy of their great wealth and fame is a different subject).  Many may shake their heads in disbelief or nod in admiration.  Hardly anyone will call these athletes “fanatics.”  But if someone is that single-minded and intent upon the life in God, that is a word that will inevitably ring out.  But the saints are not fanatics – they simply have a passion for God and put the Gospel and the Kingdom of God above all else.

To be inducted into any particular Hall of Fame – from baseball to Rock ‘n Roll – is considered to be a great human achievement and a goal only an elite few could even aspire to.  However, these Halls of Fame are the secular and rather pale – if not pitiful – reflections of an earlier age’s striving for the heavenly realm of the Kingdom of God.  The saints looked beyond the fleeting and temporal “glory of men” to the unchanging and eternal “glory of God.”  That seems to be the vocation of all Christians and the Lord’s desire for us.

1 comment:

  1. JOHN'S BAPTISM AND NEW COVENANT BAPTISM
    Why do men accept the Scriptures about John's Baptism but reject the Scriptures concerning New Covenant baptism?

    JOHN'S BAPTISM

    Matthew 3:13-15....14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. (NKJV)

    Matthew 3:13-15.......15 Jesus answered him, "This is the way it has to be now. This is the proper way to do everything that God requires of us." Then John gave in to him. (God's Word-Translation)

    Jesus was required to be baptized in water by John the Baptist in order to fulfill all righteousness. Had Jesus rejected John's baptism He would have been disqualified as a perfect sacrifice for mankind. Jesus was without sin, however, He still had to do all that God required Him to do.

    You will notice Jesus did not say I was baptized by John as a simple act of obedience, but it really was not essential in order for me to fulfill all righteousness.

    Luke 7:29-30 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God for themselves not having been baptized by him. (NKJV)

    Luke 7:29-30 And all who heard John preach---even the most wicked of them---agreed that God's requirements were right, and they were baptized by him. 30 All, that is, except the Pharisees and teachers of Moses' Law. They rejected God's plan for them and refused John's baptism. (The Living Bible--Paraphrased)

    When men today claim that Christian water baptism is either not essential to salvation or they outright refused to be immersed in water, are they rejecting God's counsel? Are they rejecting God's required for forgiveness of their sins?

    Mark 1:4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.(NKJV)

    Why do men believe that John the Baptist baptized in water for the remission of sins and then disbelieve the apostle Peter when he told the three thousands, (Who were baptized under the New Covenant) to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins? (Acts 2:38)

    Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come.(NKJV)

    John the baptist said men have to be baptized to escape the wrath of God. Men today say Christian baptism is simply a way to demonstrate their faith.


    Why do men believe what God said about the baptism of John and rejected what God said about New Covenant baptism.

    CHRISTIAN BAPTISM IN WATER

    1. Mark 16:16 ....and is baptized will be saved...(NKJV)

    2. Acts 2:38...be baptized...for the remission of sin...(NKJV)

    3. Acts 22:16...Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins...(NKJV)

    4. 1 Peter 3:21 ..which now saves us, namely baptism..(NKJV)

    5. Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (NKJV)


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