Faith and the Knowledge of God
A collection of Homilies of Father Vladimir Borichevsky
Table of Contents
Introduction by Fr. Theodore Heckman
The homilies included in this collection are from Fr. Vladimir’s early period when he was fulfilling his pastoral duties in his first parishes. Having completed service as the first Eastern Orthodox Chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, he was assigned to St. Nicholas Church in Joliet, Illinois (remaining there until 1955) and then St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis. During this time he initiated the practice of writing short homilies on Gospel lessons and related themes. These were not only intended for the edification of his parishioners, but were also made available to other clergy. At this time many Orthodox clergy in this country were not American-born; many had only a limited facility in the English language. The printed homilies were enormously useful and gratefully appreciated as ready sources for Sunday sermons. Fr. Vladimir offered the texts through subscription at an extremely modest cost which barely covered the postage.
Fr. Vladimir’s concern was to provide homilies which were brief, simply expressed, devoid of clichés and platitudes, and revealing of the deep truths of the Faith as a outlined by Orthodox Tradition. He had a particular genius for doing exactly that. Even when he later became a seminary instructor and could justifiably have become pedantic or more complex, he continued to express the teachings of the Church with a profound and moving simplicity, though his knowledge was vast and comprehensive and ever deepening. There was a decided honesty in this approach, an honesty which marked both his teaching as well as his personal life.
Today these homilies read just as well as they did when first penned. They are both timely and timeless. Orthodox truth does not grow old or require updating or modification to be “relevant.” True teachers of the Christian Faith in any age do not seek to express the “spirit of the times” or momentary human preoccupations. Orthodox teaching is always an expression of the eternal verities of God, God’s revelation, which addresses not man’s ephemeral situation but his perennial condition. One can find in Fr. Vladimir’s sermons as in the writings of the Holy Fathers universal principles of the Christian life, applicable to an infinity of situations.
The basic themes treated in the homilies in this volume are faith and knowledge. In fact these two are really one since they are not separated or opposed in Orthodox thought. Faith cannot be “blind” or uninformed, and knowledge without faith becomes ultimately useless, fragmentary abstractions. Following the venerable procession of Fathers, tracing back to the Holy Apostles themselves, Fr. Vladimir presents Christian truth marked by a unity of faith and knowledge, the first fully informed, the second fully reverent. His approach unites also the highest apprehension of the knowledge of God (Theology) with the lower perceptions of the knowledge of man and the world (economy). He shows that these also are not dichotomous or opposed but complementary, forming a harmonious unity. - Fr. Theodore Heckman
Knowledge of Christ is Eternal Life
...Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee, since Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, to give Eternal Life to all whom Thou hast given Him. And this is Eternal Life, that they know Thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. (John 17: 1-3)
Irmos of Ode 3, Tone 6-Matins of the 7th Sunday of Pascha
There is none Holy as Thou, O Lord, my God Who has exalted the horn of Thy faithful, O Blessed One, And hast established us on the rock of Thy Confession.
Our Lord in the Prayer of the Great High-Priest which He uttered in the presence of His Disciples at the Great Mystical Supper said, “these things I speak in the world, that they may have My Joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17: 13) What is the Joy of Christ, which Christ prayed that they might have fulfilled in themselves? Was it not the knowledge of Him as Lord and God? And is not this knowledge the way which opens unto Eternal Life? To know God Almighty as the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent is the very essence of Eternal Life. For to know this is to believe it, and to believe it is to obtain the fruit of faith, our rightful inheritance in God’s Kingdom.
Thus it was that the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, gathered in the city of Nicaea in the year 325 A.D., proclaimed the Orthodox Catholic Faith and condemned the teachings of Arius. For to allow the teaching of Arius to remain in the Church would be to deny the very rock of Confession in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Very God of Very God. To deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ would be to close the door to Eternal Life in God’s Kingdom. To know God, the only True God and Jesus Christ as the Son of God, is the only way to Eternal Life. There is no other way to salvation except by Jesus Christ for He alone is the Way, and the Truth and the Life. If we know Him, we know the Father also. (John 14: 6-7) The knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ is open to all who believe in Him.
Today, as in the time of the First Ecumenical Council, there are those who claim that this knowledge of God revealed to us by Jesus Christ is not sufficient for Salvation, the Eternal Life. They claim to have a higher knowledge, a secret knowledge available only to the initiated few. Such teachers are known in the history of theology as “gnostics.” The name is derived from the Greek word for knowledge, ______ As often as false prophets and teachers have appeared with-in or with-out the Church of Christ, His Body, they have been rejected, as our Lord has spoken through the Angel to the Church in Laodicéa, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3: 15-16) In matters of faith, there can be no lukewarm position; either we accept Jesus Christ, and confess Him to be the Son of God Almighty: “Very God, of Very God, Begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men, and for our Salvation came down from Heaven; and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man...” or we reject Him. To reject Christ is to deny God, and to lose forever our rightful inheritance in God’s Kingdom. Christ said, “he who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.” (Mat 12: 20)
For the modern day “gnostic” who lives on the surface of His Holy Orthodox Catholic Faith, as well as, on the surface of his newly found “gnosis,” there is no hope for salvation. As an Orthodox Catholic, he confesses Jesus Christ as a the Son of God with his lips, but as a “gnostic” he confesses in the name of another god a secret way of salvation which is achieved by a way other than that of Christ. Jesus Christ alone can give eternal life to man. There is no way of salvation other than through Jesus Christ, for “no one comes to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14: 7) One cannot confess Christ on Sunday, and abandon Him on Wednesday. The Orthodox Catholic Faith knows no other source of knowledge than that which we have in and through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Church of Christ knows no way of salvation but the Way of the Cross of Christ. His Church does not believe or teach the deceptive notion that there are many ways of salvation, and that the Way of Christ is but one of many. The Church teaches of Christ: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 12)
The Truth of Christ was revealed openly to all men. It is preached, taught and lived in the light of day. The Light of Christ needs no secret darkened rooms in which to be revealed to a few initiates chosen by men. It was Christ who scattered the darkness of the world which had become a great labyrinth of secret darkened rooms, for “In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 4-5) The Light of Christ penetrates the darkest recesses of life revealing their emptiness, falseness and evil for all to see. Let us not fear those who teach from the darkness, “for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops ... do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10: 26)
The only Way of Salvation and Eternal Life is in Christ. Therefore, let us “grow in the Grace and Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” (2 Pet 3: 18) Remember that those who seek knowledge in the world separated from Christ, “live ... in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Eph 4: 17-18) If we wish to know God, we must give ourselves to His Son. In the words of St. Paul, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the Saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the Love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3: 17-19)
7th Sunday of Pascha (Holy Fathers), 1956
Confession of Christ, the Son of God
In the Gospels there are many incidents in which Christ forbade either His Disciples, or those He had healed, or even demons to speak. On most of these occasions He forbade them to speak concerning the fact that He was the Christ, the Son of God. For example, in Luke, Chapter 4, we read that after Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law, He went forth and laid His hands on the ill and diseased brought to Him, and cured them. And as the demons were coming out of many of the people, crying, “Thou art Christ, the Son of God,” Christ reproved them and forbade them to speak. Why? Because they knew He was the Christ.
Then, there is that very well known incident in the Gospel of St. Matthew when Christ asked His Disciples, “And who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” Then Jesus charged the Disciples that they should tell no man that He was he Christ. (Matt.6)
After James, John and Peter had witnessed the Transfiguration on the Mount and they were coming down, Jesus again commanded them, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of God be risen from the dead.” (Matt.7) We might ask, “and did not Jesus Christ come into the world in order to reveal the Word of His Father, and did not this require that the world know that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God?” The answer to both of these questions is, “Yes.” Nevertheless, there was a reason why Jesus Christ at one time forbade anyone to reveal openly that He was the Christ the Son of God. The reason can be found in these words spoken by Christ at the Mystical Supper,
...and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you ... Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you ... The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send down in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14)
From these words it is clear that the full revelation of Christ the Son of the Living God is not completed, and cannot be understood until the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. It is on that day, that all the isolated incidents and events in the life of Christ which made no sense to the human mind will be understood. And they will be understood only because of the Living and Abiding Grace of the Holy Spirit which entered into the Church to guide it in the Way of Christ.
The demons knew and admitted that Christ was the Son of the Living God, but the admission of the fact was not enough. Peter confessed in Christ, and Jesus clearly stated that this was revealed to him by God. t was only a few moments later that Christ said to Peter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art a stumbling block unto Me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men.” On the first occasion Peter had minded the things of God, on the second he expressed a wish that Christ’s Death and Resurrection would not be, and he was thinking in human terms.
The Confession of Christ the Son of the Living God is not a full and valid confession unless it is done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that can be understood by purely intellectual and logical thinking. It is something which is of the spiritual world, and therefore cannot be understood or expressed in purely human terms. The Twelve Disciples followed Christ, but their belief in Him was primarily human. Witness Peter’s gamut of human reactions during one day-at one moment he lifts the sword to defend Christ after avowing that he would never abandon Him, and within a few hours, he denies Christ three times. Nor was this true of Peter alone. It was only with the Coming of the Promised Comforter on the Day of Pentecost that a radical change occurred, and the Confession of Christ, the Son of the Living God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit became the Rock upon which Christ built His Church against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail.
October 1, 1950
The Stone Which the Builders Rejected
Jesus said unto them, ‘Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’ (Mat 21: 42)
Who is this stone which the builders rejected, and which became the cornerstone? It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God Who became the Cornerstone of our Faith and of our Church. Despite the fact that some have insisted on building their church on an individual, even though it be a Saint or a Prophet, and others have built their church on the Holy Bible, we know that the Church of Christ has only one foundation, it has only one cornerstone, it has only one builder-that is Jesus Christ. Yet, though Christ Himself clearly pointed out the danger of building His Church on anything but the Only Cornerstone or Foundation, many have tried to build the Church on man’s reason, or man’s interpretation of the Bible; on Saint Peter, Christ’s humble servant and Apostle; or on one of the many individuals who have interpreted God’s Holy Word in their own unique way. The Orthodox Catholic Church teaches us that the Cornerstone and Foundation of our Church is Jesus Christ, and that inasmuch as we are True Followers of Christ, insomuch we are living and active members of His Body, the Church. The Head of the Church is Jesus Christ-there are no vicars, for He Himself is both the Visible and the Invisible head of the Church. Did He not say that He would be with us always? If so, is our faith so weak that we must have a substitute, a representative? And who among men is worthy of that?
August 31, 1947
“Lord I believe, Help Thou Mine Unbelief...”
Thus cried the father of the child convulsed by a spirit, when Christ told him that everything is possible for one who has faith. The same man had taken the child to the Disciples of Christ, but they failed to drive out the spirit. (Mark 9: 17-24)
Faith can be divided into four essential ingredients:
The father wanted above all a child free from the tormenting spirit. His need was real and vital. He went forth in search of a solution to his problem. A person in need has been given an opportunity for faith. It could be the first step in the great stairway that leads to God. But the man’s faith in the ability of the Disciples of Christ suffers a great setback. They had failed.
This is a great obstacle, but he turns to Christ, the Master. His faith is not completely destroyed. When Christ tells him that faith is essential, he cries out in great despair, “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.” He has faith, but he feels instinctively that the doubt in his heart is a barrier. But with this prayer, a prayer acknowledging the limitations of his faith, he made a real contact with God through His Son. Christ answers his prayer and drives out the spirit from the child. This man had successfully gone up to the very top of the stairway to God. His prayer was answered.
When the Disciples turned to Christ and asked Him why they had not succeeded, He answered, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” Prayer and fasting are the ways in which we can reach the very throne of God Almighty with our needs. Prayer is the spiritual contact with God, and fasting the placing of the physical in its proper place-subject to man’s will-in order that the spirit might better approach God.
If we could only approach Christ in our prayers with the same humility and sincerity as did the father of the sick child, our doubts and fears would be rapidly dispelled. Unbelief is the great stumbling block to mans material and spiritual progress. A humble and sincere faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ is the light that can dispel and destroy this stumbling block for us and for all mankind.
March 23, 1947
The father of the child was a man of faith. We know that from the fact that he brought his son first to the Disciples of Jesus, and then when they failed to cure him, he did not despair completely but brought the child to Jesus Himself. Yet when Christ told him that everything was possible to one who believed, he realized that in his heart there was a gnawing doubt, and he cried out in honest and sincere prayer, “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.” Nor was he alone in having room for doubt in an essentially believing heart. The Disciples also displayed a doubt, or lack or faith, so that Jesus characterized them all as a “faithless generation.” In the hearts of the greatest men of faith there has always been room for doubt and temptation. Such doubt comes especially when men put their faith in themselves alone.
There are frequent occasions in life when one’s resources, spiritual and physical, are extended to their greatest limits. At such a time man has one of two paths to follow: either he can extend his hand out in faith to God, or he can slip down the easy path of doubt and despair. The path of faith is not an easy one, for it requires an acknowledgment of ones own limitations and dependence on God. The path of doubt is much easier for it is the quick and easy answer to think cynically: “What’s the difference, if I have failed there is no hope.” The man of faith chooses to acknowledge that God the Creator is the source of ultimate spiritual strength and power, and he turns to Him. The man of doubt sees no power beyond that which he possesses. He does not acknowledge the spiritual truth that he can call upon a far greater power.
Thus, we cannot say of the father that he was a man of doubt. He was a man of faith, but he acknowledged his own need, and every-one’s need of far more faith, and he placed his faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And his prayer was answered. The Disciples had found that a test of their faith had revealed they were wanting in faith. It is then that the Gospel Lesson turns to what seems to be a wholly unrelated saying of Jesus to His Disciples, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days He will rise.”
This was to be, as the Disciples were to learn, the greatest test of their faith, and it was yet to come. They had just failed in one test of their faith, and yet Jesus immediately tells them of a far greater test of their faith. But they did not understand the saying and they were afraid to ask Him what it meant. In time the Disciples would be scattered by doubt and fear at the very time when Jesus Christ needed them most. He was to face His trial, suffering and death with His most faithful Disciple, His Mother, and the other Women Disciples. Peter, who was most vehement in his confession of faith and promise of faithfulness, was to deny his Master three times. Judas was to become the victim of doubt.
Again the Disciples would find it necessary to appeal to Christ the Master in their moments of extreme doubt and despair. Now their Lord, Savior and Master was to give them the living witness and everlasting assurance of His Resurrected Presence. Even then, doubt was to linger in the heart of one, who would henceforth be called “Doubting Thomas.” It was thus that the Disciples met the great test of their faith until all their doubts disappeared and their souls were filled with the abiding and real presence of Jesus Christ, the Resurrected Lord and Savior.
What began sometime before as a mysterious saying, became the very cornerstone of their faith in the Risen Lord.
April 8, 1951
Their Faith was Rewarded
The reader of the Gospels finds the Woman Disciples in the background until the very end of the story of the Life of Jesus, and then suddenly during His Passion, Death and Resurrection they come into their own. It is on the Morn of the Resurrection that the Women Disciples become very important to the Gospel, for they are given the great honor of first hearing and announcing the Good News of the Resurrection of Christ to the rest of His Disciples and to the whole world.
The Women Disciples had been rewarded for their undying and persevering faith in Jesus Christ. We must remember that while the other Disciples followed Him and listened to His Word, it was the Women Disciples that took care of all their needs. They prepared the food, they repaired the torn clothes, they searched out a place of rest and prepared it for all that they might rest. Their tasks were the menial tasks, never spectacular nor newsworthy, yet they had to be done. They did them with humility, patience and understanding. When the darkest hours came to Jesus Christ, when the other Disciples abandoned Him, they remained loyal and true to Him.
They followed and wept as He bore His Cross. At the foot of the Cross they awaited His death with heavy hearts and tried to comfort Him. In Death they remained, and when Joseph of Arimathea came they took down His Body, anointed it with ointments, and carried Him to His resting place in Joseph’s new tomb. Even in Death they remained loyal. During the night they purchased more ointments, and made plans to go to the Tomb in the morning to anoint His Body once more.
Faith consists of many qualities; some of the most important of these are commitment, trust and dedication. The Women who followed Jesus the Master made a full and unconditional commitment to Jesus their Master. The Women Disciples put their whole trust in Christ and it remained constant even through His death. What greater example of a life dedicated to Jesus can we find to compare with that of Mary of Magdala? Her dedication was complete, and it remained true in monotony, true in despair and true in death.
The Women Disciples received their just reward for their loyalty and faith in Jesus. In the early morn they gathered the ointments they had purchased and made their way to the Tomb. Their mission was a sorrowful one. They could not bring back life to the Body; they could but anoint It. Little did they know that they were to be the first to hear the Good News that was to electrify and transform the whole of humanity. It was to set off a chain of joyous announcements which were to ring through the ages, the past, present and future.
Christ had Risen from the Dead as He had promised! He brought New Hope to those in despair, a New Life to the sleeping and the dead! And this, the greatest of all announcements was to be first heard and made by the least of the followers of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. What a great reward for their faithfulness to the very end!
The Myrrh-Bearing Women remain for all an example of faith and faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Even as He had been faithful and obedient to His Father to the end so had they been faithful to Him to the very end. It is only proper that the second Sunday after the Resurrection should be dedicated to them. Let us keep alive their memory in our hearts and lives, and let us follow their good example.
For us today who are sometimes unhappy with our lot because life seems to be full of dull routine and monotonous repetition, their example is especially important. Their humble service to Jesus the Master was important because the One Who was served was very important. This means that we should all consider the goal, the purpose and the end toward which we work.
If that end is great, then none of the work that we do to help towards that great purpose, or goal, or end can be but important.
Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women, 1951
The Leap from Doubt to Faith
The Disciples being doubtful. The Savior after eight days came to where they were gathered and granted them peace. Then He cried unto Thomas, ‘Come, O Apostle, and probe the two palms which were pierced by nails.’O, the delicacy of the beautiful unbelief of Thomas, As coming with the heart of an unbeliever to knowledge, he called out with fear, My Lord and my God, Glory to Thee. (4th Stikhera-Vespers of the 2nd Sunday of Pascha)
Is it most strange to hear the Church refer to the “beautiful unbelief of Thomas?” Can unbelief be beautiful? In another hymn, the Church gives us the answer:
The unbelief of Thomas was the mother of Thy Church’s most unshakable Creed: Thou, O Savior, Wise above all other, had before the world was, thus decreed! (Ode 5-Matins of 2nd Sunday of Pascha)
Thus the one passage explains the other. It is not unbelief that is in itself beautiful. Rather it is Faith in Jesus Christ which is drawn from the depth of unbelief which illuminates and makes beautiful the unbelief. The shadows in a Rembrandt portrait act to focus our attention upon those portions that the artist wants us to see. The confession of St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” is intensified by the words of doubt and unbelief which tormented Thomas before he saw Jesus in the flesh. St. Thomas’ confession is indeed the mother of the Church’s “most unshakable Creed.” The confession of St. Thomas was the result of a leap of spiritual faith, a leap taken from the other side of the chasm-from unbelief to Belief.
The leap to faith from doubt is not unique in the history of the Church, or even in the story of the Gospel. One of the earliest confessions of faith in Christ, the Son of God, is recorded in John 1: 49. Nathaniel doubted that anything good could come out of Nazareth. Yet with Philip he went to see. When Jesus was revealed to him that which was in his heart, he made a tremendous leap from doubt to faith. Jesus promised that he would see even greater things, “...you will see Heaven opened, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
There is also the well-known confession by the Apostle Peter. Jesus had asked His Disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” To this they answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremaiah or on of the Prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” To this Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 16: 13-17)
Man does not discover God or His Truth, rather it is God Who reveals Himself and His Truth to men-to those who sincerely search for Him.
The great chasm between unbelief and belief cannot be bridged by man save through the Grace of God. The man who doubts has a far better chance of bridging that gap than the man who is indifferent-for to doubt is to search actively for an answer to one’s dilemma.
Saul on the road to Damascus was a doubter who expressed his doubt and unbelief by actively working to destroy those who believed; not realizing that to destroy those who believed is not to destroy the Spirit of Faith in Christ by which they lived and were willing to die. When Christ appeared to Saul and asked him why he was persecuting Him, Saul was faced with the choice of continuing in his doubt and unbelief or to make that tremendous leap into faith. Paul did make that leap and in time became a great Apostle of the Church.
The faith once gained by the Disciples of Christ was often tested. They lived through many moments and periods of doubt. But in and through it all they remained triumphant save for Judas who fell into despair and ended his own life. But Peter who denied Christ three times repented and was forgiven. Faith did not come easily for the Disciples. Even when others told them of the Empty Tomb and of the Risen Christ “some did not believe.” But finally after many doubts and temptations their faith once more bridged the chasm and they believed.
The confession of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, is only the beginning of our life in Him. From that moment on we are continually finding that our faith in Him is being tested. We are presented by the Evil One with many temptations, and among the greatest of these is to fall back into unbelief and indifference. The experienced Christian Believer knows that his faith is being continuously tested; in his personal life, in his family life, in his work, in his studies or in his contacts with other people. Everywhere and in every way his faith in God and in Jesus Christ His Son is undergoing the testing of doubt and indifference. The struggle to believe is an ongoing battle, and every time that one is able to overcome a temptation or to bridge a moment of doubt, his faith is strengthened and made more capable of meeting the stress of even the most serious crisis in his spiritual life.
In his moment of doubt, Thomas gave the condition in which he would believe, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 25) Yet when Christ did appear and spoke to Thomas, he was so moved that he forgot the conditions he himself laid down for belief. He made the leap from doubt into faith crying, “My Lord and My God!”
In our moments of doubt and even despair, we are incapable of realizing the tremendous power of the Presence of Christ in our midst. He need but appear to us and say, “Peace be unto thee” and we will fall down before Him in Faith and Love, confessing Him as our Savior and Redeemer. The chasm has been bridged but only through the power of Him Who gave us life, creating us in the very Image and Likeness of God.
In order to be spiritually strong and to wage a battle in the continuous struggle for faith, we must be strengthened in the Spirit of the Risen Christ Who raises all men who believe in His Name, and believing, live and walk in His Way. There is no easy way to faith. Not all of us must face Martyrdom; but all must enter in courage and hope the struggle against temptation and doubt. To live is to struggle for life. To die is to refuse to fight.
St. Thomas Sunday, 1956
You Shall Have What Your Faith Expects
...and when Jesus departed, two blind men followed him, saying, ‘Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.’ And when He was come into the house, the blind men came to Him: and Jesus said unto them, ‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ They said unto him, ‘Yea, Lord.’ Then touched He their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it unto you.’ And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, ‘See that no man know it.’ But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country ... And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Mat 9: 27-35)
In this Gospel Lesson there are many great sermons, but probably the greatest of all could be based on the Words of Christ to the two blind men, “You shall have what your faith expects!” For in these words we find the best answer to the agnostic and the atheist, as well as the person who says, “I believe in God, but....” This person may call himself a Christian, but with reservations. Usually he finds the miracles of Christ just a little bit too difficult to accept. Where does his difficulty lie? In his faith in God. For if he believed in God, that God created the world and all that is in it, then he would never doubt that Christ performed the miracles we read about in the Gospels. His lack of faith in miracles is based on his inability to understand them. He wants a reasonable explanation.
That reasonable explanation is God.
This same person usually accepts the miracles of science and knowledge without the need of reasonable explanations. How many of us, for example, understand what electricity really is, though we use it many times each day. The answer is that no one knows; even the experts in the field of electrical sciences. Yes, they know it is composed of electrons, they know how to use it; how to control it; and some of the laws under which it behaves. But as to exactly what it is, what makes it behave as it does, what its nature and origin really are, no one really knows, though there are many theories. In a real sense we accept electricity on faith, and we benefit greatly from it.
So the Christian accepts on faith God and all His Laws, as well as Christ, and all His Teachings and His miracles. For if God created the world and all that is in it, as well as the whole universe in its tremendous magnificence and mystery, then is it so difficult to accept the miracles of His Son, Who as the second Person of the Holy Trinity participated in the act of Creation? If God created man, then certainly He can bring health to the sick, sight to the blind, and life to the dead.
Those who have faith in God and His miracles can have them and can see them, and those who have no faith cannot benefit from them nor can they see them, though they surround them on every side. A person of faith sees God’s miracles in the mystery of birth, in the growth of grass and trees, in the movement of the moon, stars, sun and the earth, and in everything about him and within him. A person of faith sees God’s miracles in his mind which seeks to comprehend them, and in his heart which accepts them-all on faith in God. So although we may not understand the Inner Mystery of God, yet like electricity, we can try to reach an understanding of it, and above all, we can try to benefit from His Divine Goodness and His Everlasting Love for us all.
July 20, 1947
Nothing will be Impossible for you
... Afterward, when He was alone, the Disciples went to Jesus and said to Him, “Why could we not drive [the demon] out?” He said to them, “Because you have so little faith. For I tell you, if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here over to there,’ and it shall move, and nothing will be impossible for you.’ (Mat 17: 19-20)
Too often we think of the Disciples as great Saints and Apostles, and fail to remember that they were from the ordinary walks of life. Saint Luke, not one of the Twelve, was a physician, but most of the others were plain fishermen. They reached full Sainthood and Apostleship only after many tests and trials of their spirits and especially, their faith. Even a superficial reading of the Gospels reveals that these men were beset by all of the usual faults and shortcomings of ordinary men.
So, in this Gospel Lesson from St. Matthew, we find that despite the fact that previously the Disciples had been able to cure the ill and to perform many other miracles, here they failed to cure a young man suffering from epilepsy. They had tried to cure him, but they had failed. The father of the boy appealed to Jesus, and it is then that we discover the reason for their failure. They lacked Faith! For Jesus said that if they had the faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, they could have moved mountains. They could have done the impossible.
This is the Gospel Lesson that each of us should read on those occasions when we find our faith weakened. We can gather courage and encouragement in the knowledge that the Disciples of Christ went through the same moments of which we have had, that did not stop them from becoming True Saints and Apostles in Christ. If we find our faith weakening, we should not despair but rather, take this expereience as a challenge.
How can we strengthen our faith? By prayer to God, and His Son, the source of the Divine Power of Faith with which we can do the impossible. Of course, providing the impossible is for the Glory of God.
Faith is not limited to religion; it is very often used in all aspects of human knowledge and living. We have faith in the bus driver, or we wouldn’t ride in his bus. We have faith in a road map given to us by a total stranger. We have faith in the usefulness of a new gadget sold by a salesman in a store. And we could go on and on.... A man who had no faith in his fellow man would be totally incapacitated in the modern world. He would not be able to live for he would starve to death. Why do we have faith in our fellow men? Because, for the most part, they have proven reliable. In religion we are expected to have faith in God. On what basis? In that He has proven to be just, and reliable in everything.
A man who does not have faith is fighting against the Eternal and Perfect God. He has no chance of becoming victorious. No chance at all. With God everything is possible. Without God, nothing is possible. What easier choice can man make?
August 10, 1947
Man with his limited abilities is very often able to do the impossible. Now let us imagine in our minds’ eye, God, Who created the world and all that is within it, including the laws by which it all operates. It is then that we can understand why “Anything is possible for God!” (Mat 19: 26) What we call “the unknown” is not existent for God-to Him it is “the known.”
When Christ told His Disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God,” they were astounded and asked, “Who then can be saved?” (Mat 19: 24-25) From their question it is easy to see that they understood a “rich man” to be not necessarily a man with a large amount of wealth, but as any man who was attached to the material things of this world. Some who are poor have such an attachment for the little amount of wealth that they do posses, that they are far worse than others who do have great wealth, but who also have a good sense of the limited and relative value of their material wealth.
A person who wants to be a True Follower of Jesus Christ must learn to place the values of this world in their proper perspective. We will be judged not on the amount of wealth we have accumulated, but on what we did with it. The person who hoards his wealth for his selfish needs, but sacrifices in the process some of the better things in life, spiritual and moral, has been wasting his time and effort. His heart and soul are with his wealth, and since he never bothered to exchange it into the medium of exchange of God’s Kingdom, in his time he will stand before God naked and empty-handed. It is as though a man were preparing to migrate to another land. He could take all of his wealth and possessions with him, providing he exchanged them into the currency or medium of exchange of the new land before he left-and only then. Material wealth must be transformed by man into spiritual wealth while he lives on this earth-if it is to have an eternal and lasting value to him.
Thus, with God the impossible has become possible; for it is said that “You can’t take it with you!” Yet through God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, man can do the impossible and take his wealth with him-providing he has taken the precaution of exchanging it into spiritual wealth by becoming a True Follower of Christ, the Good Shepherd, and doing Good with it.
August 24, 1947
The Power Given by God
“And when they saw it-the miraculous healing of the paralytic-they were filled with awe and praised God for giving such power to men.” (Mat 9: 8) Of whom is St. Matthew thinking when he writes that the crowd “praised God for giving such power....” What is the power that is given to men? To whom is this power given?
In answer to the first question we turn to the first part of today’s Gospel. When Jesus saw the faith of the men who brought the paralytic on his bed He said to him, “Courage my son! Thy sins be forgiven thee!” That the faith of these men was great we know from both St. Mark and St. Luke-for there we learn that when these men could not get through to Christ because of the great crowd that was gathered around Him, they did not become discouraged and dismayed-they carried their burden to the roof of the house in which Christ was staying and tore off part of the roof and let down the paralytic on his bed before Christ.
It was then that Jesus spoke of their great faith and healed the man of his long illness. The power given to men is Faith; Faith like that of the friends of the paralytic. It was so strong that it overcame many obstacles, both physical and spiritual. Above all, their faith was rooted in Love, love for their paralyzed friend whom they carried on a bed, and brought to Jesus Christ. This love in turn was rooted deep in their love of God.
Thus, it is the “Power of Faith in God” which is given to men. True, it is a power that often lays unused because some men refuse to turn to faith in God and in spiritual things. They exercise a faith in other men, in books, in knowledge, and many other things of this world which have but a temporary life at best. But when it comes to exercising their faith in that which is the foundation of all other faith, namely their faith in God, they let it lie dormant. They doubt its power, and for them it remains useless. Like a seed which is placed in a tin can, its potential power is of no avail. The seed of faith implanted in the heart of every man can never hope to call forth the power of God unless it finds the nourishing soul of Love of God and the love of man in order to give it life and sustenance.
Who are the men to whom the Power of Faith is given?
This question has already been answered. First of all, the Power of Faith is given to all men, but through Christ, and through Christ alone. Though the faith of the friends of the paralytic was great, it was only when it came into contact with the Son of God, that the power of healing was released and he was cured. In reality, the “power given to men” is given only through Christ.
Christ came into the world and as a sign of His Messianic role, He told the Disciples of John the Baptist to note that the sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind could see, and the dumb could understand. The great healing power of Christ was only revealed by the faith of men in Christ and through Christ in the Father Who had sent Him. Thus, we know and we believe that the faith of men as expressed in their prayers has great power to do wonders and miracles.
The Church of Christ which is His Body has within itself the selfsame power to release. But it can be released only if men of faith exercise their faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The miracle of healing the sick, and the raising of the dead is not impossible now, even as it was not impossible when Christ walked on the face of the earth. But the miracle is only possible for men of faith now, even as it was then.
The companions of the paralyzed man viewed with awe the great miracle of healing as did the many other people who were gathered there, and they all praised God. However, some of the Scribes who were also there silently accused Christ of blasphemy. Jesus knew what they were thinking and He said, “Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts” For which is easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Get up and walk?’ But I would have you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.” Then as now, there are those who saw no miracle, they were blind and could not see it for they had no faith.
July 9, 1950
A Child’s Faith
Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mat 16: 2)
Did you ever look into the face of a little boy as he asked a question in complete faith that you know and will give the right answer? Did you ever see a little girl’s frightened face standing on a busy street corner waiting to cross to the other side? And did you ever see the complete confidence and trust which this little girl crosses the street when her mother takes her by the hand and leads her across? A child learns to trust her parents. It isn’t until later that a child learns to mistrust some people. But as long as a child is loved, and has a feeling of being wanted, its devotion, trust and faith in its parents is a strong and invincible bond.
The child’s devotion, trust and faith depend on love for its life and strength; for a child that is loved, loves in return. It soon learns that the parents’ demands of obedience are based on their love and devotion to the child. The child knows instinctively that it can trust and have faith in its parents. Even after the child matures to adulthood it may not be able to explain or understand the reason or the basis of its faith, trust and devotion. But the child knows, as a result of experience, that it the parents are dependable.
Our relationship to God is that of a child to its parent. Jesus Christ taught us to pray, “Our Father,” and to turn to Him with trust, confidence and faith. That God loves us has been proven, “for God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life.” (John 3:16) When God demands obedience, devotion and faith from us, we must remember that it is based on His Love for us. We in turn must express our trust, devotion and faith in His Love. God loves us and we in turn must love Him. At first our love for God is based on blind devotion, but as we mature spiritually, our love finds a new basis in our knowledge of God and God’s Providence. Man will never know God completely, and therefore much of our love, devotion and trust will be the result of a child-like faith in our Father in Heaven.
April 3, 1949
Christ-The Destroyer of Fear
...and when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, ‘Master, save me.’ And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly thou art the Son of God.’ (Mat 14: 15-33)
We are beset by many fears, great and small, but the fear of the unknown is one of the most primitive and the most terrifying fear that has ever gripped the heart of man. From time immemorial this fear has been the motivating emotion of man’s religion, his philosophy and almost every aspect of his knowledge. In the modern world this fear has driven men forward to search and to pry out the innermost secrets of science. Though there are many men in the world who are most optimistic in man’s ability to grasp even the most arcane secrets of the world, actually they are whistling in the dark and trying to build up courage. The best example of this is the sudden rash of religion that appeared among men of science when the Atomic Bomb first burst upon an innocent world. Yes, they had discovered something about releasing atomic energy, but at the same time they feared what unscrupulous men would do with this great discovery. It is then they turned to religion and many of them said that the only hope left was in lifting man up spiritually and morally to the point where he could learn to live in peace with his fellow man. There is no need to point out that this is precisely what Christ taught.
Peter’s fear was of the unknown, for suddenly unexplained to himself, he could walk on the water, and then just as suddenly, he finds himself sinking. Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you waver? You have so little faith....” Suddenly Peter and the Disciples realized that the unknown had been revealed to them, and they fell down and adored Christ saying, “You are certainly the Son of God!”
So we must turn to Jesus and see revealed to us the Unknown which has terrified mankind from the beginning, and having seen Him we must have faith and believe in Him. Then the greatest of all fears will have been conquered by and through Christ. With Faith Peter could walk on the waters, and with Faith we too can do the impossible ... only if we do not waver and let fear again grip our souls and our lives.
August 3, 1947
How often have you found yourself standing on the threshold of a darkened room with a feeling of fear, dread and doubt? Yes, you are familiar with every nook and cranny of the room but that is only when the room is bathed with bright light, and now it is dark and all the familiarity is hidden. Then with a flick of your wrist you switch on the electric light and suddenly all fear, doubt and dread is gone for the light has revealed your old familiar room. As you sit down in your chair you laugh at your moment of fear and doubt and you wonder why you behaved so foolishly.
This little incident which is repeated many times in each of our lives is a modern parable of Peter walking on the waters, but only to sink the moment his faith in Christ wavered. Peter sinks in the depth of his own lack of faith in Christ.
Why is it that faithful and believing Christians-and that includes everyone, even the Disciples-stand on the threshold of new experiences or crises in their lives and are overcome with dread, doubt and fear? For a brief moment or more we waver in our faith in God only to sink into the depths of human hopelessness and helplessness.
Peter wavered in his faith in Christ and he was left on his own. When left thus, man’s abilities are limited by the frailties of the human condition. There is no need for us to expect that in such a state man will sink deeper and deeper until he reaches an animal state. Humanity abandoned by Divinity is helpless because humanity cannot live in God’s world without God. It is only the outstretched Hand of Jesus Christ which can steady man and bring him out of his helpless state.
In our lives when we waver at the moment of some critical decision; when we fear to step into a dark room of a new experience or some new situation, we can dispel all fear and dread by lighting up the darkness with the Light of Christ. None of us need fear today or tomorrow as long as we are willing to put our faith in Jesus Christ. He will always guide, direct and lighten our way.
No experience, no crisis, no situation which we have to face any day of our life need be faced alone, for we can always have Christ with us. Even when we falter and waver we can cry out to Christ as did Peter, “Master, save me!” and He will always extend to us a helping and strengthening hand. Human frailty combined with a faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, is an unbeatable combination in man’s continuous struggle with fear and doubts. All human problems, from the greatest, such as war, to the most insignificant, like that of fear of a dark room, are basically spiritual problems.
Many are constantly struggling with these problems as though they were purely physical or mechanical problems. Whereas in fact, these problems are all problems of the spirit and soul. Everything in life that affects man affects his spirit and soul. But these problems cannot be solved piecemeal.
All problems must be seen as a part of the great problem of human existence, namely the relation between God and man, and between man and man through Jesus Christ the Son of God. When we have come to peace with God and with our fellow man through God, we will have settled virtually every problem that we have ever to face in life before it even confronts us.
The link by which humanity unites itself with the world of God is faith in Jesus Christ. Without this living link, (which is better described as a living branch like that of the Parable of the Vine) every man finds himself a stranger in God’s world. The man who knows of this branch but has refused to make use of its powers, soon finds himself in Peter’s desperate plight and his only salvation is to cry out, “Master, save me!”
July 30, 1950
Man is Merciful - God is All-Merciful
God, is so rich in Mercy, for because of the great Love He had for us, even when we were dead in sins, He made us live again with Christ. It is by His Mercy that you have been saved ... For by Grace are you saved through Faith. It is not by your own action: it is the Gift of God. (Eph 2: 4-8)
A vicious criminal about to be executed for a series of brutal murders turned to the consolation of his faith. He asked his priest, ‘Father, how can God have mercy on me? I never had mercy for anyone-even those who loved me.’
The wise old priest said, ‘If the mother of your own victim could forgive you and ask for mercy on your behalf, and she is a human being with all the human limitations, how much more is God’s Mercy ... God is not only Merciful-He is All-Merciful.’
The condemned man said, ‘How do we know that God is All-Merciful? When did God show His Mercy for all to see?’
‘What greater Mercy could there be, then the fact that all men-without exclusion-men who have sinned even greater than you, can be certain of being saved. Saved not from temporal punishment and physical death, but from something infinitely worse-eternal spiritual punishment and spiritual death.
‘When Christ died an innocent death on the Cross, He crucified with Himself all the sins of humanity; and all mankind can benefit by having faith in Christ, the Son of God and the Savior. This victory through the Cross has been given to us as a gift of God, for no matter how much we do, we can never be worthy of such a great sacrifice.’
The prisoner looked about his empty and dreary cell and said, ‘Father, I can’t even understand that old woman’s mercy, let alone that of God for me. I know that I am unworthy of her mercy, and even more so, that of God’s.’
The priest said, ‘Love is as powerful as it is difficult to understand. God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son. The old woman so loved God that she could find no place in her heart to hate you-you who are a child of God. It is not necessary for you to understand this, but it is necessary that you accept it, and have faith in God’s Mercy. Certainly you can see God’s Mercy in the love and action of the old mother?’
The condemned man’s face became quiet and peaceful. ‘Yes, Father. I saw love and faith in her eyes when she pleaded before the court for me-the murderer of her own son. I have found God’s Mercy. Yes, I have faith. May God have mercy on me.’
November 9, 1947
For the Orthodox believer there is no expression, no word, no song more familiar than this, “Lord, have mercy.” In his letter to Timothy, Saint Paul prays for the Lord’s mercy for the family of one of his benefactors, Onesiphórus, who went through the trouble of finding Paul even though he had been imprisoned. (2 Tim 1: 16-18) Mercy is one thing that all men who have transgressed the Law of God or the law of man can appreciate. Yet, real mercy is a very rare feeling among men. Usually, when we hear of a criminal act committed by another, we rarely consider the possibility of being merciful, especially when we ourselves have been the victims. Yet, Christ Himself from the Cross prayed for His persecutors, and asked that God forgive them for they knew not what they had done.
This is an example for all of us, one that we should never forget. Mercy is a truly divine characteristic, and we know that God is All-Merciful. We must constantly pray that He show mercy upon us, who have sinned against Him. For if we expect God to be merciful to us, we must be merciful to our fellow men, especially those in difficulty who need our understanding.
When we know or hear of another in distress, let us contemplate for a moment-what would we want most of all from our fellow man, if we were in distress? The answer would be mercy and understanding. Therefore, let us be merciful towards others, so that when we pray “Lord, have mercy,” our prayer will not be an empty plea-for how can we expect Mercy from God when we ourselves have not been merciful.
February 1, 1948
We repeat several times each day the Lord’s Prayer saying, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” These words present in one short sentence the whole Gospel Lesson of the king who resolved to settle his accounts with his slaves. When he set about doing so, a man was brought in who owed him 10 million dollars. And as he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all he had in payment of the debt. So the slave threw himself down before him and implored him, “Give me time, and I will pay you all of it.” And his master’s heart was touched, and he let the slave go and canceled his debt. But when the slave went out he met a fellow-slave who owed him twenty dollars. He caught him by the throat and began to choke him saying, “Pay me what you owe me!” So the fellow slave threw himself before him begging, “Give me time, and I will pay you.” But he refused and ordered him put in prison until he should pay the debt.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were upset and went to the king and reported the whole matter to him, and in his anger, the king handed the unforgiving slave over to the jailers until he should pay all that which he owed him. Christ ended this parable with the words, “So likewise shall My Heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Mat 18: 23-35)
Forgiveness is the key to Christian action in this world. It does not mean indiscriminate forgiveness, but forgiveness as the beginning of a new life, of a new chance for another. It also means forgiveness based on sincerity, and forgiveness that is sincerely taken and shared with others.
The slave was interested in being forgiven for his great debt, but he was not interested in sharing this with his fellow slave. In reality the forgiveness which he earned was not for him the great opportunity to a new life, but rather an opportunity for him to continue in his old ways.
As in every other aspect of Christian morality we are expected to come to a full realization that our actions toward God are meaningless unless they are coupled with Christian action toward our fellow man. We are told to love our God, and to love our fellow man as ourselves. We are reminded that when asking God to forgive us our debts, that this is dependent on our own ability to forgive. This pattern continues throughout all the precepts of Christian morality.
Visualize a large triangle with God at the very top. We are at the bottom and our fellow man is across from us at the opposite bottom of the triangle. To leave out God in our Christian Life is to have no life, and to leave out our fellow man is to make life just as meaningless. We cannot love God and at the same time hate our fellow man, neither can we ask for forgiveness of our sins unless we too, forgive.
August 17, 1947
Faith is the Foundation of Life
In the beginning of the 11th chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews St. Paul wrote, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Then Paul proceeds to summarize the history of the Christian Faith which began in the Old Testament with Adam and Abel and enumerates some of the victories of faith that were accomplished by the Prophets. Yet all these Prophets, though well attested by their faith, did not receive everything that was promised them since God had provided something better for us...
that they without us should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race hat is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our Faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the Right Hand of the Throne of God. (Heb 11: 40-12: 2)
Faith is the foundation of life, yet it is much more than that. It is a dynamic and moving thing. Paul describes the life of faith as a race. Faith in each of our lives undergoes a continuous testing, and we persevere because we have the assurance of hope and the conviction of spiritual things unseen, yet real.
For us the test of faith is strengthened in that it has been authored and perfected by Jesus Christ. We can see before us the ultimate victory. We know the victory of the Cross and the Resurrection, and we believe in the final victory of His Coming-Again for now He sits at the Right Hand of God.
The greatness of the faith of man has been measured by the greatness of the object of their faith. If we follow this measure, our faith in God through Jesus Christ must be the greatest. Alone we can build nothing, but on our Foundation of Faith, we can see the ultimate building of the Eternal Kingdom of God through Christ.
March 18, 1951
Life is Faith in Christ Jesus
...Man is not justified by the works of the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ ... For if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died in vain. (Gal 2: 16-21)
The Law was intended to show man the way to prepare himself for the coming of the Messiah who would bring Salvation-who would restore the unity between God the Creator, and man, the created. But mankind forgot the purpose of the Law, and made the law sacred forgetting both its spirit and purpose.
Thus, when the Messiah did come in the Person of Jesus Christ those that were the best versed in the Law did not recognize Him. But those who knew the Law, and also knew their limitations and their shortcomings and sinfulness, recognized the goodness and righteousness of the Man, Jesus Christ-and eventually accepted Him as their Savior. The basic fault and mistake of the Pharisees and Saducees, learned men of the Law, was that they placed Moral Law in the place of God, the Creator of the Law.
When a person says that the Christian religion is all contained in the Sermon on the Mount or in the Golden Rule, he is making that same error which blinded the spiritual eyes of many of our Savior’s contemporaries. They had eyes but they did not see Him; they had ears but they did not hear Him. The moral law of Christianity is not independent of the Christian Faith. Christianity is much more than a set of moral precepts. Christianity is Christ.
Christianity is not only the teaching of Christ, or the Imitation of Christ; but it is Christ Himself-His Person; His Teaching; His Life; His Self-Sacrifice on the Cross; His Resurrection; His Ascension into Heaven; and His continued Life within us who make up His Body, the Church. Indeed, it is all that all of mankind has ever thought of, thinks of, and will ever think of when it hears His Name. It is only when we, as did the Apostles in their time, grasp this and the meaning of all this, that we will really know the implications of the Christian Faith.
We can never deserve all this by our works, as Saint Paul points out, but we can receive it as a Gift. We can only accept Him. We can only receive Him. All that we seek and obtain from Him-Pardon, Power, Peace, Grace, Joy, and every other blessing-is not of ourselves. If God did not give them, we could not receive them. But in order to take them, we must reach out of our own free-will and strive to touch Him.... This we can only do with the heart and hand of faith. It is Faith which is the Reason and Logic of the spiritual world; for where man’s intellect is not able to reach, the faith of his heart and spirit spans the unknown and touches the hem of God’s flowing robe. For from His robe flow the Grace and Strength which is the food that keeps men alive spiritually, and thus fills our present existence with purpose and meaning.
October 26, 1947
Selections from the works of Father Vladimir Borichevsky; Number 2. Edited by V. Rev. Theodore C. Heckman and Sergei Arhipov. Copyright © 1995 Aorist, Inc., 123 Winfield Court, Fairless Hills, Pa. All rights reserved by Aorist, Inc., and the Estate of V.S. Borichevsky. Published and distributed by St. Mark’s Press, 452 Durham Road, Wrightstown, Pa. Printed in the United States of America First St. Mark’s Press Printing: October 1995