Orthodox America


  Stand Fast in the Faith


Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all things be done with charity. (I Cor. 16:13-14)

     With these words the holy Apostle Paul encouraged the early Christians, Such encouragement was sorely needed at a time when there seemed to be a mere handful of Christians as compared to the overwhelming number of pagans. This was, however, only a beginning. The Christians burned with faith, and with this faith they conquered the world.

     We, too, need this apostolic encouragement, for we are also are greatly outnumbered; today, true Christians are all too few. Already we are witnessing the apostasy of the last days, the falling away from Christianity.

     The days are evil. According to St. John the Theologian, the world in which we live lies in sin; it is evil and is always holding out to us empty promises.

    The power of the world lies in riches, in glory, in pleasures. But this is an illusive power. Those who trust in the power of riches are sadly deceived. We have the example of the rich man in the Gospel, whose wealth of stores prompted the thought: "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry. But God said unto him: Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (Luke 12:19-20)

    Glory is no less deceptive. Those who pursue glory often end their days in dishonor. A good illustration was given by Napoleon who said: "When one is ascending, it is always possible to stop; but one can never do this if one is failing down." His aphorism was confirmed by the example of his own life,

    And what can be said about pleasure? This is the scourge of our un godly age. It is a particularly strong temptation for youth, many of whom today seek gratification in drugs and thereby cripple themselves for life.

    Two world wars have shaken institutions and traditions built up over centuries. At first the religious and then even the moral instruction was eliminated from the schools. Instead, business competition forced the general course of life onto a level of materialism. Television supported this trend. it is not surprising, therefore, that our age is characterized by such a casual, unthinking attitude towards religion, by spiritual emptiness and moral insensitivity. To think that such a state exists at a time when man boasts of "progress" !

    This age has seen great strides in the fields of science and technology. The wonders achieved by modern technology have captivated the minds of many shallow-thinking people, flattering their prideful imaginings. Having forgotten God, they steer the course of their lives along the channel of materialism, buoyed up by the waves of so-called progress. There seem to be such high expectations, such hope in the achievements of science and technology. But is such a reliance justified? Even today we are seeing these hopes shatter before our very eyes. Many of these wonders of technology have been turned against man--to such a degree that we are now confronted by the threat of a world-wide catastrophe the apocalypse

     "Stand fast in the faith..." How is this possible? Only through faith in Christ and His promises will we be able to withstand the pressures of this technologically biased age. There is no part of society from which religion has not been driven out. In its stead we see prevailing a philosophy of self-gratification and pleasure-seeking. All this has brought about a widespread attitude of careless insensibility towards religion which in turn has allowed the proliferation of various sects and false prophets, who brazenly offer their quick and easy methods of salvation. The Lord specifically cautioned us against this when He said that in the last days there would appear false Christs and false prophets who would deceive many (Mark 13:6). Thus forewarned we should not be deceived but stand firmly in the true faith of holy Orthodoxy. Because this is difficult, we are told to take heart and be manful, that is, to act like mature men--with boldness, sobriety and courage. What is needed here most of all is patience and zeal; patience works in us steadfastness, and zeal safeguards against careless-

ness.

    "Be strong..." The strength of our steadfastness depends on our moral state. We must act according to our faith; that is, we must actively participate in the life of the Church and not be mere Sunday visitors; we must fulfill Christ's commandments--not just listen to them.

    "Let all your things be done with charity." Ali our actions must proceed from love for God and neighbor. This is the foundation of any progress--whether in faith or in moral perfection.

     Living examples most clearly indicate how our faith should manifest itself in life. The Holy Apostle Paul gives the example of the house of Stephanas (I Cer. 16). But where should we look for such an example? We would be hard-pressed to find one in our immediate surroundings. We have, however, a wealth of examples in the recent history of the much-suffering Russian land--in the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Faith. Confronted by the militant atheist regime, these New Martyrs and Confessors were prepared to show in word and deed that they preferred to accept all manner of deprivations, tortures and death, rather than to forsake the Faith. For over 60 years the Church behind the Iron Curtain ha s experienced constant persecution. The list of martyrs and confessors continues to grow--even to this very day. Let us follow their example and be inspired to stand fast against all the enticements which this age of technology is so ready to offer. 

Bishop Alypy of Chicago and Detroit

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