August 13, 2020

On Self-Examination (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk)

By St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (+ 1783)

"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves" (2 Cor. 13:5).

Glory to God! We are all called Christians; we all confess the one God in Three Persons, the living and immortal God; we were all baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity of One Essence: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; we all believe in Him Who was crucified and rose from the dead, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and, as a sign of this, sign ourselves with the Cross; we all enter the holy Church, and we pray and we entreat, we sing and we praise the holy name of God; we all listen to the holy word of God; we all commune Life and the Heavenly Kingdom, and we say in the holy Symbol of Faith: "I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come."

Glory to God for all this and everything else! In truth, my readers, the mysteries of Christianity are most glorious and magnificent! It is great and glorious to be a Christian! But let us examine ourselves and prove ourselves -- are we truly Christians? As the Apostle exhorts us: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5).

For without the faith, a Christian cannot exist. We bear the signs of Christianity, as was said above, but do we have true Christianity within us? For all external things are nothing without that which is inside, and outward signs without the actual and true thing itself are a lie and hypocrisy. We all boast of the faith, but do we do the works which correspond to faith, as the Apostle says to everyone: "Show me thy faith in thy works" (Jam. 2:18)? We have the name "Christians" from Christ; but have we crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, as is proper for Christians who believe in the crucified Christ, as the Apostle says: "Those that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24)? Do we sense within ourselves the spiritual joy of the anointing of oil (1 Jn. 2:27)?

We believe in the Gospel, but do we live in a way that is worthy of the Gospel? We confess and we call on the true God; but do we please Him with the faith and pure conscience that He requires of us? We listen to the holy word of God; but do we heed it, and do we correct ourselves according to its rules? We commune the holy and life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ; but are we renewed by Holy Communion and do we progress towards a new spiritual personality?

Let us examine these things and the rest, and let us look at how we live, how we conduct ourselves, how we think, how we talk, how we act, with what kind of heart we go about before the God Who sees all things, how we treat one another.

And after examining ourselves in this way, let us be Christians not in name only but in truth. We became Christians by the grace of God; let us strive to have true Christianity within ourselves. We were baptized into the God-of-Three-Persons, and received the gift of sanctity and righteousness; let us strive to keep this heavenly treasure to the end.

We believe in Jesus Christ crucified; let us strive through faith to follow Him also, and to follow Him after each of us has taken up their cross.

We confess and we call upon the heavenly God; let us strive also to please Him with heavenly ways of life. We listen to the word of God; let us strive also to live as it teaches us. We expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. When we have turned away from this vain world, let us strive only for the eternal goods.

We approach the holy and heavenly Table of the Mysteries of Christ; let us strive that this heavenly and life-creating Bread might become for us life, sanctification, illumination, renewal, joy, and spiritual consolation. So, let us demonstrate our faith by our deeds; then we will be Christians not only in name, but in reality. O God! be gracious unto us and bless us, cause Thy face to shine upon us, and have mercy on us: "that we may know upon the earth Thy way, among all the nations Thy salvation" (Ps. 66:2-3). Amen.