Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Holy Prophet Azariah as a Model for our Lives

Holy Prophet Azariah (Feast Day - February 3)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Azariah was the son of Oded and lived during the reign of Asa (908-867 B.C.). His name and prophecies are recorded in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles in the 15th chapter. Asa was the son and successor of Abijam of the kingdom of Judah. Asa supported the worship of the true God and fortified Judah well. According to 2 Chronicles 14, Zerah the Ethiopian marched against Judea having an army of a million men and 300 chariots, while Asa had at his disposal only 500,000 warriors. With the power of the true God, however, he was victorious. When Asa saw the numerous army of the enemy, he prayed fervently to God and beseeched for His help. Indeed, with the help of the true God he was victorious, verifying once again the words of the sacred Psalmist: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!" (Ps. 19(20):7-9).

After this miraculous victory, the Prophet Azariah, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, said to the King and the people: "The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (2 Chron. 15:2). These words are important for us all.

The end of his life was peaceful and his relics were buried in his field.

His life and conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, man's life on earth is a constant struggle; the struggle for survival and for the achievement of various objectives. For those who want to live according to God's will, there is the struggle for survival of the life in Christ and to rebut the attacks of the devil. The devil, "the unseen patron of wickedness", as Saint Gregory Palamas calls him, continuously battles against man with the purpose of making him sin, to distance him from God, Who is the source of Life and Light, and thus darken and lose his orientation and the true meaning of life. Believers, however, through asceticism, prayer and the sacramental life, are shielded spiritually so they could resist the attacks, which is why he attacks them with fury. Conversely, those living recklessly, without obedience to God and the Church, he has them under his thumb without too much effort.

In his Epistle to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul stresses this truth, that the life of the faithful is a constant struggle, a constant battle against the devil. He says: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). And then he encourages them to face him with the spiritual weapons, especially prayer: "With all prayer and petition praying at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be vigilant with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

The name of Christ is a whip against the devil, because he cannot resist its sound, and he is powerless in harming the person who pronounces it with faith and humility. This is why Saint John of Sinai, the author of the Ladder, urges: "The name of Jesus whips enemies."

Second, each one of us daily faces various problems, sometimes small and insignificant, which are faced with ease, sometimes large and serious, finding them difficult to impossible to address. In this case we find that human strength is limited and we are unable to solve our large and difficult problems, which are mainly those related to human existence, with life and death. For example, when someone is approaching the end of their biological life, then - no matter how strong a person thinks they are - they feel weak, insignificant and powerless to do anything to avoid it. Thus the futility and impermanence of all things is realized, and that glory and power and wealth do not have the power to defeat death, which is an irreversible event. Of course, the same is found when because of death they lack the presence of friends and persons close to them.

Therefore, those who are confident only in their own strength are truly pathetic, because they are found to be unable to address the serious problems of life, their regrets are disproportionate, and they reach hopelessness and despair, or even self-destruction. Conversely, one who has learned to pray, and in general struggles to live in accordance with God's will, does not despair, because they know that "what is impossible with men, is possible with God", that "no word from God will ever fail", and that "all things are possible for those who believe." This is why in all their difficulties they resort to God, communicating with Him through prayer, and deriving from Him strength, aid and consolation. Thus, they can properly face all their difficulties, even their death, which, with the Grace of God, exceed the limits of their personal life.

The suggestion of the Prophet Azariah is relevant for the nations, but also for each of us individually. Those who remain close to God by implementing all His commandments, they will know the way to face all their difficulties and serious problems that present themselves, and so maintain their internal peace.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Προφήτης Ἀζαρίας", January 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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