By Stergios N. Sakkos
It is the law of nature, which human ingenuity has made a law of mechanics: The height to which the top can reach, depends on the stability of the base. The roots go deep into the soil, so that the tree can grow and bear fruit. The builder digs deep into the ground in order to raise the building. How could the building possibly stand without a foundation? Similarly in the spiritual life, the inner holiness results in growth and progress. For this reason, the Holy Bible persistently emphasizes the necessity of inner purity, and the saints of the Church had as a goal of their lives to "dig inside".
In our times, seeming good externally and impressing others are priorities. A lot of attention and prayer is needed, so that the Christian does not lose the sailing course, does not "drift away", as the apostle Paul writes (Heb 2:1), and does not deviate from the right path. It is precisely in this need that our holy Church comes to help with its entire program. The Church exhorts and leads its children to a renewal of the inner man, to reach a spiritual "depth".
"Be on your guard", the apostle Peter exhorts the "beloved brothers" of his time but also of every era "so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:17-18). With the Baptism and the Anointing, we entered the area of "steadfastness", we were placed as "living stones" in the unshakeable foundation of the Church, which is Christ himself, and monopolizes salvation on earth. Our steady course within the Church ensures and guarantees our growth. It is our duty not to be left behind, fruitless; not to lose our steadfastness.
Undoubtedly, the ship of the Church is sailing safely to its heavenly destination. It will surely reach the serene port no matter how many storms it encounters. Our only anxiety is whether we, its members, will be on board, in the holy ark of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church until the end. And this anxiety is well-founded and justified, because serious dangers and powerful enemies threaten to us take us away from the Church, to snatch us from her arms, to uproot us from her vineyard! Some of them come from the outside; they are declared enemies of the Church while others spring from its bowels. Some of them are well-known, overt and powerful and others are insidious and camouflaged. How, then, will we remain steadfast, stable and growing in the ark of salvation? The centuries-long history of faith highlights the proven means that every believer must use for their steadfastness:
♦ The name of the Lord. “Jesus’ name scourges the enemies. There is truly no stronger weapon on earth nor in heaven”, stresses St. John of the “Kλίμαξ”. The simple prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me", is the umbrella, the lightning rod that neutralizes the passions. With its help, we are immersed deeper in grace and stabilized in the Church, on the ground of our salvation.
♦ The memory of death grounds us in reality as it reminds us of our transience and perishability. In this way it kindles the desire for the incorruptibility of eternity and the perfect reality of heaven. "For our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil 3:20), emphasizes the apostle Paul. There, in heaven, our desires come true and our destiny is fulfilled. This certainty gives meaning and direction to our life here.
♦ Waiting for the Lord. "For you I keep myself chaste, and holding my shining lamps I run to meet You, my Spouse", chanted the Christians of the first centuries, as the saint and martyr Methodius, Bishop of Olympus reports. They waited daily for the Lord, and this feeling made their love warm, their faith alive, their hope immovable,
their repentance constant and overwhelming, their lives bright. And if the Second Coming of Christ does not take place in our days, who can assure us that death won’t come sooner than expected?
♦ Divine worship with the experience of prayer and the holy sacraments keeps open the communication with the reality of heaven and sanctifies our being.
♦ The word of God, the lives of saints and martyrs, the writings of the fathers of our Church are also proven helpers in the struggle of spiritual life.
♦ The example of the holy members of the Church is still a great support. There are still today, thank God, the good examples around us. Let them be our inspiration.
"If you have seen your brother, you have seen God," say the saints. The salvation of each one of us is a personal but also a collective affair, in the sense that within the body of the Church we walk along with our brothers. I cannot remain indifferent to their own salvation. I must stand as a brother in the need of the others. To feel them as brothers and to run alongside them. Here is the diamond foundation for the true progress of our world. This is the foundation for true spiritual fruitfulness.
Nowadays the enemies of the Church are organized against it, seeking to eradicate piety and wither faith. Every day we witness the relentless and merciless attack against faith. Don't let this alienate us or scare us! It should only remind us of our duty as members of Christ’s Church. Not only the saints who have passed from this world but also the faithful, who today are struggling and with the grace of God remain firm and rooted in the Orthodox faith, call us to stay alert. Let's stay steady and keep growing. In this way, our brothers stay steady and grow along with us, too. This is how the kingdom of God is spreading on Earth and our society prospers and becomes sweet.