By St. Theodore the Studite
CATECHESIS 51: On Being Confident and Courageous in the Present Persecution
Delivered on Wednesday of Cheese Week
Brethren and fathers, the question for us to discuss today should be self-mastery, because the holy Lent is at our doors. However the common talk does not allow us to do this, as our thought and our talk is preoccupied with something else. For I have already told you in the previous instruction that the Emperor is commanding things against us, and now, so they say, is making threats against us through Nikomedes. If we were to meet them in a manner fitting God, he would not endure at all, but do what occurred to him. What more is to be said then? That to be persecuted again is to be crowned again; and that where sufferings are multiplied, there too the consolations of the Holy Spirit are multiplied; for the Apostle says, "For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering, and our hope for you is sure; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation and salvation, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation." See how by these words he showed that we are partakers with one another in sufferings and in consolations, "as being one body and one spirit, as we have also been called in one hope of our calling." So then, brethren, let us not fall, let us not lose heart, but let us all stand together, as good soldiers of Christ, bearing our arms, not physical ones, but ones empowered by God, for the destruction of strongholds, that is to say: prudence, courage, temperance and justice; and with them fulfilling that which was said by God, "When they persecute you in one city, flee to another." And as we depart there, let us not worry what we shall eat, or what we shall drink, or how we shall be clothed. For he himself has said, "I shall not leave you, or desert you." So that there too he would be opening a door for us and helping us in all ways. Do we not rejoice then, having such promises? Are we not leaping for joy that we are the Lord's disciples. Thus they persecuted the holy apostles also, to whom the Lord said, "Blessed are you, when they revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; rejoice and leap for joy on that day." So the present situation is one for joy and gladness; for it is for us the cause of inexpressible joy and eternal life and the kingdom which has no end. "Do not go into the way of the nations," he says, "and do not enter a city of the Samaritans." This is to be understood of the heretics; then let us not enter their churches, nor their houses; but where the son of peace is, the seed of true religion, there let us stay, and there let us pass our time, as in times past. Let us guard ourselves from those who counterfeit the truth, from those who call themselves guides and are not guides, but deceivers who both "deceive and are deceived", mislead and are misled, "whose condemnation is deserved". Let us guard the faith unswerving and our way of life intact, not maltreating the one by the other, but being safe and perfect on either hand. The subject of the confession is about the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore one who does not confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is portrayed in picture is one who does not confess that he appeared in flesh; for it is the same to appear in flesh and to be portrayed in picture. One who does not worship his holy image, does not worship the Lord; for the prototype is revealed and worshipped in the image, and the image in the prototype of each person that is depicted. And if the Iconoclasts say that they worship, they lie; "for they profess," he says, "to know God, but by their deeds they deny him." We then worship Christ and his image, we worship the Mother of God and her image, the saints and their images. And this is the apostolic teaching, which we have received from our holy fathers; and this is the deposit which I entrust to you to guard unharmed and unperverted. For the rest pray for our humble selves, "that on opening our mouth the Lord may give us utterance," to answer according to reason; and that we may not be ashamed of our expectation and that we may without condemnation accomplish with you the contest now proposed and that we may all reach the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.