Today, we heard from Holy Gospel the prayer which our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ addressed to His Father before His sufferings and crucifixion. This prayer is known as the Prayer of Christ. Being the Archpriest, Who offered the unique Sacrifice on the Cross, He reconciled man to God the Father through His obedience.
In this prayer Christ reveals that eternal life is achieved only when man comes to the true knowledge of God. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John l7:3). This knowledge of the Holy Trinity must be in the truth of what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ had taught us. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matth. 28:l9-20). To know God is to know everything concerning His Divine Will. When man comes to the knowledge of the truth, then he is able to walk in new life offered by Christ. He is the Way of Life for all those who accept Him in this world, and he who follows Him never walks in the darkness, but has eternal life.
Christ our Lord and Saviour invites all of us to separate ourselves from the way of the world. The world is always contrary to God, because it seeks worldly pleasures, riches and pride. Whereas Christ invites us to renounce the old and sinful man within us, take up our crosses daily and follow His example. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also” (John l2:25-26). He who wishes to save his soul and achieve salvation is called to separate himself from sin and all sinful passions, which enslave him to death.
As Orthodox Christians we are called to practice the Word of God in our lives. If we confess, that we love God, then let us reflect His life in our lives. If we proclaim that we love God, let us practice His Commandments.
Man is formed in the “image and likeness” of God. This is the original state which God had created him, but because of sin, he was estranged from his original state. Man became an instrument of evilness and the “image” of God became a dark figure.
With Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection man finds his way towards eternal life. Through the Holy Sacraments of the Church man is sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Through the Sacrament of Baptism man becomes a new creation, where the illumination of the Holy Spirit shines and guides him to the Way of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus. This is the second birth about which Christ spoke to Nicodemus. This regenaration or second birth is accomplished only within the Church and through the Holy Sacraments in which the Holy Spirit acts. There can be no true renewal outside the Body of the original Church.
Today, many religious organizations and groups misuse the terms “renewal”, “regeneration”, “reborn” to serve their own material benefits and wrong way of teachings. They misinterpret the words of our Lord and thus lead many astray from the true Christian Way of Life and Beliefs.
Christ established One and Only Church. He gave to no one any authority to open their own groups of churches, because in some cases they are not Christ’s Church, but human organizations. This must be strictly understood by all. No one can overrule Christ Himself. They prove to be false teachers, false preachers, false apostles, false prophets, who proclaim that they speak about Christ, but in reality they mislead people away from the flock of the Church and true Faith in Christ.
Orthodoxy stands well, here and two thousand years, on the original Teachings and Holy Traditions passed down to us by the Holy Apostles. The Orthodox Christian Faith through the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers of our Church interpreted correctly Holy Scriptures throughout the twenty centuries of its history. Even the word “Orthodoxy” means the True Way of Believing, the True Way of Life and the True Way of Worshipping. Throughout its history Orthodoxy defended the true interpretations of Holy Scriptures against all false teachings and heresies, who dared to change Christ’s Teachings in order to fit their own ways.
Christ in many biblical verses warns us about these false teachers and prophets, who come in His name. They proclaim that they wish to speak to us about the Bible and the different problems which the world is facing, but their true aim is to take away from the flock the faithful, to follow their way of self spiritual destruction and condemnation. Christ says: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matth. 24:24, Mark l3:22).
You see, my beloved friends, what Christ says? They will come with great signs and wonders; they will come performing miracles; they will come with kindness and care; they will come holding the Bible; they will come saying, that you will be saved; they come in sheep’s clothing to deceive you, your children and friends in their wrong way of faith. For this reason St. Paul, the Apostle of the Nations strictly instructs us to be always alert and to stand firm in the true Faith saying: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:l5), and he also commands us saying: “We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6).
Today, our Holy Orthodox Church dedicates this Sunday to the memory of the Holy Fathers of our Church. There are all those Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests and Monks who through their teachings clarified the true interpretations and teachings of Holy Scriptures. They practiced in their personal lives the word of God. They proved, that if one follows and practices Christ’s Teachings he will achieve sanctification and salvation.
These holy men in Christ’s name stood up defending the Truths of Orthodoxy against all false teachings. They proclaimed Christ to be the Son of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father through whom all things were made.
Let us glorify our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by practicing His Divine Will in our daily life. Let us make the effort to learn about our Orthodox Faith in order to be able to give an account to all those who will ask about our Faith.
By His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes