May 30, 2010

On the Mystery of the Faith of the Saints (Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi)

By Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi

You see what a great thing is faith? This is precisely what God asks of humanity. And we continuously hear that beautiful hymn of the Apostle Paul. For it is not simply an epistle, or a letter, which was written by an illumined man. This is a God-revealed hymn: "[All the Saints] through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the mouth of the sword, were made powerful out of infirmities, became strong in battle. Women received by a rising again their dead, and others were tortured, not accepting the redemption, that a better rising again they might receive, and others of mockings and scourgings did receive trial, and yet of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tried; in the killing of the sword they died; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins -- being destitute, afflicted, injuriously treated..."(Heb. 11:33-37). And as you know, the splendid hymn continues.

All these prizes, all these triumphs which renew and complete the relationship of the human race with God, were born from faith. This is what saves us. Faith is what extends to each of us, the choir of the faithful, and is what justifies everything.

We now come to a deeper mystery. All these Forefathers were those who were inclined towards revelation and hence to these people it was granted to be given the blessing; for God pre-ordained them and called them and dwelled among them, that He may boast of being their God. These also received the immediate promises and spoke face to face with God. And still all of these despite the certainty of the promises which were effectively revealed from above, won their divine reverence, their piety, and in general their turning to God, with a comprehensive cross, that is to say, with sadness, with grief, with persecution, with discomfort, and nearly expired from this world without seeing anything of all that which was promised by God, except for symbols and periods of various experiences. Do you see the mystery? In this valley of lamentations, the divine promises are partly seen, partly known, and partly revealed. This is precisely where we apply the following: "Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the mercy of the Lord" (Ps. 106:43 LXX).

This is the way by which we the chosen through faith abide in and keep our relationship with God and His promises. Again, interpreting through faith, in the midst of immense long-suffering, patience and endurance, in the midst of the trials of temptations, we will be perfected like all the saints.