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July 23, 2014

Holy Prophet Ezekiel as a Model for our Lives

Holy Prophet Ezekiel (Feast Day - July 23)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Ezekiel belongs to the chorus of the four major Prophets. The other three Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel. He was born in 620 B.C. and his father was a priest. According to others he also was a priest. He was taken captive to Babylon after the first seizure of Jerusalem in 598 B.C. The same year, while in exile, he was called to the prophetic office, and he was active among his exiled compatriots. His name means: "God is strong" or "He who is strengthened by God".

The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel is divided into three parts: The first part (chapters 1-24) contains warnings about the certain destruction of Jerusalem. The second part (chapters 25-32) contains prophecies of condemnation for various pagan nations, and the third part (chapters 33-48) consists of prophecies which relate to various issues. The third part includes the prophecy of the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel related to the miraculous vivification of bare bones, where they become living people by the command of God (33:1-14). This prophecy is read in churches during Matins on Great Saturday, which takes place in the evening of Great Friday after the procession of the Epitaphios, because it foretells the resurrection of the dead which will take place at the Second Coming of Christ. It is a prophecy that is good to study constantly, because we will only reap benefits.

His life and disposition gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, what the Church teaches it assesses and demonstrates in practice. That's why, as the late Professor Fr. John Romanides would say, Orthodox theology is closely related to the positive sciences and not with philosophy, because it uses experiment and verification. For example, the teaching of the resurrection of the dead and the existence of eternal life is proved by the incorrupt relics of the saints, as well as by the relics that are fragrant. While dead bodies emit odors, the bodies of the saints are fragrant after the departure of the soul. This fragrance does not come from material fragrances or perfumes, but they are an inner fragrance, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills the soul and body of a saint, and He continues to reside in the body after the departure of the soul. Therefore, the incorrupt bodies of saints and their fragrant relics are a testament to the resurrection of the dead and the existence of eternal life.

After biological death, which is the separation of the soul from the body, all will see God, but this vision will be different for each person, in accordance with the spiritual state they will be found in at the time of their death. This means that for some God will be Light that will illumine, while for others He will be Fire that will burn. Whoever has internal purity, they will experience the presence of God as Light, otherwise they will experience it as Fire. Just as fire has two properties, to illumine and burn, so also is God who is Light (Paradise) and Fire (Hell), that is, He illumines and burns. What will take place is something akin to what takes place during Divine Communion, which for those who commune with the appropriate conditions is light that illumines, while for those who commune unworthily it is a fire that burns:

"Behold, I approach for Divine Communion. O Creator, sear me not as I participate. For You are fire which burns the unworthy. Wherefore, do You purify me from every stain."

In other words, Paradise and Hell do not exist from God's viewpoint, rather they exist from man's point of view, since each of us will experience the presence of God and His love in a different way.

Therefore, before our departure from this vain world, it is necessary for us to care for our spiritual therapy, for our inner purification, because we should not play with our eternal future.

Second, our faith in the Resurrection of Christ, in the resurrection of dead bodies at His Second Coming, in the existence of the Kingdom of God and eternal life, gives meaning to our lives and puts value in our humanity. If our lives are limited to the narrow context of this life, then they would be intolerable and would not make any sense. It would be like living in prison (the prison of the sensible and senses) and will be suffocating. We would be really pathetic, since nothing would satisfy us, because we were made for eternity. Man is too big to fit into the "here and now". He can live in the "here and now" - this present life - but he must, as Saint Gregory the Theologian says, be a citizen "elsewhere", namely heaven, and join into the perspective of deification, which is the purpose of our lives. For the Apostle Paul says: "Our citizenship exists in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). Also, in the Epistle to Diognetus, which is an amazing text from the second century, it refers among other things to the following characteristics: Christians "dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign ... They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven."

Our life will be more human and enjoyable if we are used to seeing all that takes place in our daily lives through the perspective of eternity. We were not made to live a few years in this present life and then perish, but we were made to live for eternity with our Creator in his Kingdom, where there is the "pure sound of those who celebrate" and "life without end".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Προφήτης Ιεζεκιήλ", June 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.