Reasons to Study the Bible

reasons to study the bible

by St. Justin Popovich

The biography of every man – everyone without exception – is found in the Bible. In it each of us can find himself portrayed and thoroughly described in detail; all those virtues and vices which you have and can have and cannot have.

You will find the paths on which your own soul and everyone else’s journey from sin to sinlessness, and the entire path from man to God and from man to Satan. You will find the means to free yourself from sin. In short, you will find the complete history of sin and sinfulness, and the complete history of righteousness and the righteous.

If you are mournful, you will find consolation in the Bible; if you are sad, you will find joy; if you are angry – tranquility; if you are lustful – continence; if you are foolish – wisdom; if you are bad – goodness; if you are a criminal – mercy and righteousness; if you hate your fellow man – love.

You will find a remedy for all your vices and weak points, and nourishment for all your virtues and accomplishments. If you are good, the Bible will teach you how to become better and best; if you are kind, it will teach you angelic tenderness; if you are intelligent, it will teach you wisdom.

If you appreciate the beauty and music of literary style, there is nothing more beautiful or more moving than what is contained in Job, Isaiah, Solomon, David, John the Theologian and the Apostle Paul. Here music – the angelic music of the eternal truth of God – is clothed in human words.

The more one reads and studies the Bible, the more he finds reasons to study it as often and as frequently as he can. According to St. John Chrysostom, it is like an aromatic root, which produces more and more aroma the more it is rubbed.

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Reasons to Study the Bible

 

What the Lives of the Saints Actually Show Us

Lives of the Saints

by St. Justin Popovich

“In the Lives of the Saints are shown numerous but always certain ways of salvation, enlightenment, sanctification, transfiguration, ‘christification,’ deification; all the ways are shown by which man conquers sin, every sin; conquers passion, every passion; conquers death; conquers the devil, every devil.

There is a remedy there for every sin: from every passion?healing, from every death?resurrection from every devil?deliverance; from all evils?salvation.

There is no passion, no sin for which the Lives of the Saints do not show how the passion or sin in question in conquered, mortified, and uprooted.”

Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, “Introduction to the Lives of the Saints”

 

Homily on the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

by St. Justin Popovich

john-the-baptist-1Today is a little Great Friday, a second Great Friday. For today the greatest man among those born of women, John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptiser of the Lord, is murdered. On Great Friday, people murdered God, crucified God. On today’s holy great feast, people murdered the greatest of all men. It is not I who chose to use the expression “the greatest.” What are my praises of the great and glorious Forerunner of the Lord, whom the Lord praised more than anyone among men, more than any of the apostles, the Angels, the Prophets, the Righteous Ones, the Sages? For the Lord declared of him:

Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist… (?atthew 11: 11).

In all Creation, there exists no greater praise.

This is why today is a little Great Friday. Consider: senseless people murder the greatest of the righteous. Is he getting in their way? Yes, he gets between the perverse King Herod and the dissolute Herodias. God’s Truth, God’s immutable Truth gets in the way of the lawless, gets in the way of poor sinners, gets in the way of everyone stupefied by the various passions. Consider: do not Christ’s opponents even today still shout “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!?” Even today, do not those who oppose Christ still demand the head of Jesus of Nazareth? They call for His head, not to mention calling for the head of John the Baptist.

What is this? Could it be that this world has become a madhouse? People do not want God, they do not want the greatest Righteous One in the whole world. Whom do you want? Whom would you prefer? Whom would you set in Christ’s stead? With whom would you replace St. John the Baptist? With yourselves?! ? moth! ?, tiny mortal insects! Yes, when people become maddened by pride, when out of egotistical pride they lose their reason, they have no need of God, they have no need of God’s Truth. They declare themselves to be gods. They present their petty, shallow, false likeness of truth as the great and salvific Truth. They declare their shallow, earthly, perishable images of truth to be the greatest of truths: they posit that we do not need Christ’s Truth, that we do not want God’s Truth. Yes, people blind in intellect and spirit do not see, and do not want to see, that man, true man, cannot manage without God. Why? Because this world is full of Herods, full of Pharisees. Herods demand the head of John the Baptist, Herods demand the heads of all of the righteous of the world, and Pharisees, the lying scribes, lying sophists of this world, demand the death of Christ, the Incarnate God.

Yes, today’s Feast is a second Great Friday. Why? Because there is no greater transgression than that committed on Great Friday and that committed now, when Herod destroys the greatest among those born of women. Why did the Savior exalt the great Saint John the Baptist, as He did no one else? Why? Because, brethren, the Holy Forerunner encompassed within himself, within his person, all of the virtues of Heaven, all of the virtues in all of the Prophets, all of the Apostles, all of the Martyrs, all of the Angels of Heaven, all of the Confessors. Regard: today we glorify the destruction, the beheading of the first Apostle among the Holy Apostles, for the Forerunner of the Lord was the first sent by God to see and to herald to the world the Savior of the world. Long before the Apostle Peter, before the Apostle Nathaniel, before anyone else, he bore witness to and announced God to the world, God Incarnate in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first Apostle to see the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven onto the Lord Jesus, when he baptized Him in the Jordan, announces Him to be the Son of God, the Savior of the world. [John] is also the first Evangelist among the Evangelists. He first announced to the world, and pointed out, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bearer of all Good News for mankind.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Good News of Heaven and earth, God’s Gospel for men in this world.

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

In those few words, the Holy Forerunner expressed the fullness of the Gospels.

Looking toward the East, he said to the entire human race, from Adam to our days, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom of Heaven? Here it is: the Lord Jesus [come] from Heaven. In Him is the Kingdom of Heaven. Looking toward the West, and seeing people drowning in sins and death, he called to them as well, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He looked to the North and to the South [and saw] – the same people, all slaves to sin, slaves to death, slaves to the devil. To all he announced the glorious, holy and salvific Gospel,

“People, repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

He was such an Evangelist, someone possessed of great power!

When the Lord set out to preach His Gospel, to preach with power, He took those words as the beginning and end of His Gospel. From that moment, Jesus began to preach and to declare,

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17).

This is why the Holy Forerunner is the first Evangelist among Christ’s Evangelists.

Today, people have come into contact with an Angel in the flesh, an earthly Angel, and a Heavenly man—St. John the Baptist. It was not only the Old Testament prophet who called the Forerunner the Angel of the Lord, but the Lord Himself said this was an Angel sent to go before Him to prepare the way for Him (cf. Isaiah 40: 3; Matthew 11: 10). Not only a prophet, said the Lord regarding the Baptist, but greater than a prophet—the Angel of the Lord. And people do not want him, and people drive him from this world! Thus, the Holy Forerunner is truly the first Angel in the flesh, the first among those who became the multitude of Angels in the flesh, lamps bringing God’s Light, who lived on earth like Angels of Heaven, and were Angels on earth, and in Heaven remained God’s people, holy people.

Today we glorify the great feast of the first among the Prophets of the New Testament. He announced to men that the Lord Jesus Christ had appeared to the world not only as the Savior, but as the Enlightener and as the Judge of the world. In his hands were both the hatchet and the spade: on the day of the Dread Judgement, the Lord would clean off the earth’s threshing-floor, and would separate the wheat from the chaff, the righteous from the sinners. All of this the great and glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord had foreseen. Therefore, today we also praise him as the holy New Testament Prophet, killed by the impious, criminal, King Herod.

The Holy Forerunner also received the Lord’s witness to the fact that he was the greatest of those born of woman, because he had become the first of all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament. See how he suffered for God’s truth in this world! He suffered joyously! In today’s principal hymn and prayer to him it is said that he went to his death rejoicing, and that he suffered rejoicing. Thus, he became the first example and inspiration to all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament, beginning with St. Stephen the Protomartyr and through today. All of the Holy Martyrs go to their death rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ, go to their deaths, knowing that death cannot hold them in its bonds, knowing that death is merely a gate, an open gate through which their holy souls enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. How else, brothers and sisters, can we explain the joy of Holy Great Martyr George’s joy while having his body broken: his bones were being broken on the wheel, and he shouted with joy in the Lord, for he could see Him, could see the Angels of God, standing around Him, and the Angels stopping the wheel. See what joy [he experienced] during those awful tortures! And the Holy Great Martyr stands up whole and unharmed before the godless Emperor Diocletian. The first one to reveal that holy joy of martyrdom had been St. John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord.

Today we also specifically glorify the first Evangelist and Christian Confessor, the first to Confess God in this New Testament world. Consider how fearlessly, openly and directly he confessed God’s Truth: O King, it is not right for you to have your brother’s wife, your living brother’s wife. You have taken your brother’s wife away from him. All of the laws of Heaven and earth are against you, and I, I recite these laws of Heaven and earth to you, for it was to do so that I was sent. O King, you cannot have your brother’s wife. Fearless and undaunted, like an immortal lion, like one of the Cherubim in the flesh, he was the first Confessor of Christ’s Faith, and he has been followed by multitudes of faces—the world’s glorious Confessors of Christ’s Faith, Confessors who bear witness and confess before the entire world, before East and West, before North and South, that the Lord Christ is the Sole True God in Heaven and on earth. And this they—the countless multitudes of fearless and undaunted all-conquerors, beginning with the Holy Forerunner and continuing through the present day—do, despite all of the persecution, despite all of the lies of those who strive to rise up against Christ in this world, despite all the heresies, all of the theomachists, and all of the persecutors of Christ. They bear witness to and announce to all the world this Truth: Christ is before all and above all! He is the Sole True God. You, false gods, masks, vile and repulsive masks of false gods, begone! The true God is essential to the human soul in this earthly realm. Who are you self-proclaimed ones? Who? In the graves, in thousands of nets you cast yourselves, and you want to supplant the Lord Christ? How lowly, how impoverished you are! Alas, all of Hell laughs at nothing more than it laughs at you. The demons laugh out loud at you, and you do not hear them; yet we Christians—we hear them.

Yes, the Holy Baptist, was the first Christian Confessor, and there streamed after him, following as after a helmsman, thousands and thousands of glorious Confessors of Christ in this world.

My brethren, a great Mystery is taking place through this Feast, a Mystery like unto threads stretching through and making up a piece of cloth. In today’s Gospel reading, you heard the disciples announce to the Savior that the Forerunner has been beheaded. The mouth that announced You to the world has fallen silent, O Lord! What now? Who are we in comparison to Your great Baptist? The Savior is silent. Then something unusual happens. He calls His disciples together, and with them, He goes out to a place in the desert. What is this? Can it be that the Lord is running away, can it be that he is fleeing from Herod? Consider: He, the All-merciful Miracle Worker, looks upon the unfortunate widowed mother, and resurrects her son, someone unknown to anyone but the mother and Himself. Yet here, Lord, Your Forerunner lies dead, destroyed. Why don’t You resurrect him? You resurrected the daughter of Jairus, head of the synagogue. Yet here is the one whom You called the greatest among those born of women, beheaded by the malefactor- king. Lord, guard Your Truth, defend Your first Apostle, Your first Martyr, Your first Evangelist, Your first Angel in the flesh, Your first Prophet, Your first Confessor. Resurrect him! Yet the Savior remains silent, and retreats to a desert place to pray to God. Why, O Lord?

Because the Holy Forerunner must also become the first Apostle to Hades, to death’s kingdom – to which had departed the souls of all people from Adam to the time of the coming of the Savior into this world. In that kingdom of death called Hades, i.e. the impenetrable place, where no one can see anything, in that kingdom was to be found everyone: the righteous and the sinners, all of the people of the Old Testament, up to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin had brought death into the earthly realm, into the world of men, and the kingdom of death became the sole abode for human souls in this world. The Forerunner had to become the Forerunner in Hades as well, in death’s kingdom, so that he might preach there as well to the souls of all human beings: Lo, the One whom you have been awaiting, Whom all you Righteous Ones: Moses, Abraham, David, all of the Holy Prophets and Righteous Ones, have been thirsting to see, has come to earth. Lo, He has come to earth as a man, as the Savior, and he is working such signs and wonders as you, all of you taken together, have never seen. His glance heals people of all diseases, His word resurrects everyone from death, His voice drives demons out of those possessed. Truly the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ has come to earth. And lo, I go before Him to preach to you as well this best of news: He will come down here to us as well. In a little while He will come down, and you will see Him. You will be able to see what kind of human soul He has, One filled with God and shining with infinite light.

The Holy Forerunner appeared in death’s kingdom as the first Evangelist, in order to preach the Good News of Christ to all of the souls in the kingdom of death. He appeared as well to all of them as the first Martyr, to show that people will joyously go to their deaths for True God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, until death is defeated and destroyed. They will not fear death, for they will be more powerful than death. Through his bodily Resurrection, the Lord grants the body victory over death. The glorious Forerunner also entered into the kingdom of death as the Forerunner of all of the true Confessors of Christ in the world, all of the true Prophets in the world, to announce to all of the souls in the kingdom of death: Lo, death is defeated, the demons destroyed, the kingdom of death will be destroyed when, in a little while, the Lord appears here, and you will be led out of this horror and into heavenly joy, into the Kingdom On High.

This was why the Lord remained silent, why he did not resurrect the greatest man among those born of women, for that man was to complete his apostolic, evangelistic, martyric, confessor’s spiritual struggle in Hades, in the kingdom of death.

Thus, for us Christians today is like unto Great Friday. Just as for the Savior, the Resurrection follows Great Friday, so the Forerunner joyously dies and enters into death, for he sees the victory over death, and knows that the Lord has prepared for him as well eternal life and resurrection from the dead on the day of the Great Judgment.

When the Lord was crucified, He descended into the nether regions, into Hades, into the kingdom of death, with His human Soul. His Body lay in the tomb, but His Soul, the fullness of his Divinity, descended into death’s kingdom. And how astonished must have been all of the human souls in Hades, on seeing God in a human soul, shining with ineffable light, light impossible for a human being to imagine. Who would not come to believe in Him? Who, when He appears in the kingdom of death so filled with Eternal Truth, Eternal Life, Eternal Justice? He appears as conqueror over death. And as death’s kingdom could not hold God Who was in Jesus’ soul, as it could not hold God in its hands, it fell apart because of Christ’s Divinity, because of His Most-holy Soul, in which was the fullness of God. And the Lord led out of death’s kingdom all those who had earlier come to believe the Forerunner, and those who had come to believe in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, to believe that in truth, He was True God in Heaven and on earth.

The Lord led them out, and led them into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why the Lord Jesus Christ did not resurrect St. John the Forerunner and Baptizer of Jesus.

Today, in glorifying that great and glorious first Apostle, first Martyr, first Evangelist, Precursor to all true Christians of all time, we bow down before his joyous suffering for Christ’s Truth and His Holy Gospel, before him as Apostle and Martyr. Consider, that for already 2,000 years, the One who allowed the lawless king to behead him, has been working countless miracles in the earthly realm, living in it alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years he has been ceaselessly working miracles for all those who turn to him in prayer.

Brothers and sisters, whenever you are in great sorrow, turn to that first Apostle of Christ, and he will help you with all of your burdens. And should some kind of misfortune happen, turn to that first Evangelist. No matter what bitterness might fill your soul, he will sweeten it with Christ’s grace, which he will mystically send down to your tortured soul from the World on High. And when you find yourself in temptations and horrors of this earthly life, run to him, to the Holy Confessor; tell him what is in your heart, pour out your sorrows and spiritual needs and rest assured that in a mystical, divine manner, he will come down into your soul and will save you, and will deliver you from all temptations and woes. But should you need to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ in this world: should others attack you on all sides, should atheists and those who oppose Christ want to swallow you up, to destroy you for belonging to Christ, should they want to silence your voice, to stop it from speaking of Christ, then remember that first Martyr, and call out to him: O Holy Martyr, first Martyr of Christ in the Gospels, hurry to my aid! Grant that may I die for the Lord Jesus Christ, leave my body like temporary clothing, and by the path of the Holy Martyrs move to Christ’s Kingdom! He will entreat the Lord that you might also join the host of Luminaries. Thus, today’s little Great Friday becomes for us the great joy of the Resurrection. Friday is small, but Sunday, the Resurrection, is great—resurrection for all Christians of all time. And for us today: for me, for you, for every Christian living today, today’s Great Friday is at the same time the Resurrection, for today we glorify the St. John the Baptist who is eternally alive in the Heavens; [we glorify] his victory over the death appointed to him by Herod, his soaring up into the Heavenly Realm, to be the first after the Mother of God, to stand beside the Lord Jesus Christ. You have seen the icon known as the “Deisis” i.e. “Prayer” icon. In it, the Lord sits on the Throne of Glory, as King of Heaven. On His right is the Most-holy Mother of God, and on His left, the Holy Forerunner. They pray to Him for the human race.

?h! May his holy prayers be raised up today and tomorrow, and always, and may they be raised up for us Christians-Serbs, and for all the people on this earth, that the Lord lead all to repentance, that He have mercy upon all, that He save all, that all people brought [to Him] by the glorious Forerunner, might forever glorify the One True God in Heaven and on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all honor and glory, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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On Ecumenism

by St. Justin Popovich

JustinPopovichEcumenism is the common name for the pseudo-Christianity of the pseudo-Churches of Western Europe. Within it is the heart of European humanism, with Papism as its head. All of pseudo-Christianity, all of those pseudo-Churches, are nothing more than one heresy after another. Their common evangelical name is: Pan-heresy. Why? This is because through the course of history various heresies denied or deformed certain aspects of the God-man and Lord Jesus Christ; these European heresies remove Him altogether and put European man in His place. In this there is no essential difference between Papism, Protestantism, Ecumenism, and other heresies, whose name is “Legion.”

Orthodox dogma, that is to say the overriding dogma of the Church, is rejected by them and replaced by the Latin heretical overriding dogma of the primacy and infallibility of the Pope, that is to say of man. From this pan-heresy heresies were born and continue to be born: the Filioque, the rejection of the invocation of the Holy Spirit, unleavened bread, the introduction of created grace, cleansing fire, superfluous works of the saints, mechanized teachings about salvation, and from this sprang mechanized teachings about life, Papocaesarism, the Inquisition, indulgences, the murder of sinners because of their sins, Jesuitism, the scholastics, the casuists, Monarchianism, and social individualism of different kinds…

From the chapter “Humanistic Ecumenism” in Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, by Father Justin Popovich, trans. by Asterios Gerostergios (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1994), p. 169.

The Oldest Protestantism

By St. Justin Popovich

St Justin PopovichWhat are, on the other hand, the fruits of the God-Man society [the Church]?—Saints, Martyrs, and Confessors. That is its goal, that is its meaning and design, that is the proof of its indestructible strength. Not books and libraries, systems and cities—all things that are here today and gone tomorrow. The various pseudo-Christian humanisms fill the world with books, while Orthodoxy fills it with the hallowed.

In the European West, Christianity has gradually transformed into humanism. For a long time and arduously, the God-Man diminished, and has been changed, narrowed, and finally reduced to a man: to the infallible man in Rome and the equally “infallible” man in London and Berlin. Thus did papism come into being, taking everything from Christ, along with Protestantism, which asks the least from Christ, and often nothing. Both in papism and in Protestantism, man has been put in the place of the God-Man, both as the highest value and as the highest criterion. A painful and sad correction of the God-Man’s work and teaching has been accomplished. Steadily and stubbornly papism has tried to substitute the God-Man with man, until in the dogma about the infallibility of the pope—a man, the God-Man was once and for all replaced with ephemeral, “infallible” man; because with this dogma, the pope was decisively and clearly declared as something higher than not only man, but the holy Apostles, the holy Fathers, and the holy Ecumenical councils. With this kind of a departure from the God-Man, from the ecumenical Church as the God-Man organism, papism surpassed Luther, the founder of Protestantism. Thus, the first radical protest in the name of humanism against the God-Man Christ, and his God-Man organism—the Church—should be looked for in papism, not in Lutheranism. Papism is actually the first and the oldest Protestantism.

We should not do this ourselves. Papism indeed is the most radical Protestantism, because it has transferred the foundation of Christianity from the eternal God-Man to ephemeral man. And it has proclaimed this as the paramount dogma, which means: the paramount value, the paramount measure of all beings and things in the world. And the Protestants merely accepted this dogma in its essence, and worked it out in terrifying magnitude and detail. Essentially, Protestantism is nothing other than a generally applied papism. For in Protestantism, the fundamental principle of papism is brought to life by each man individually. After the example of the infallible man in Rome, each Protestant is a cloned infallible man, because he pretends to personal infallibility in matters of faith.

It can be said: Protestantism is a vulgarized papism, only stripped of mystery (i.e., sacramentality), authority and power.

Through the reduction of Christianity, with all its eternal God-Man qualities, to man, Western Christianity has been turned into humanism. This may seem paradoxical, but it is true in its irresistible and unerasable historical reality. Because Western Christianity is, in its essence, the most decisive humanism; and because it has proclaimed man as infallible, and has turned the God-Man religion into a humanist religion. And that this is so is shown by the fact that the God-Man has been driven to the heavens, while his place on earth has been filled with his replacement, Vicarius Christi—the pope. What a tragic piece of illogic: to establish a replacement for the everywhere-present God and the Lord Christ! But this piece of illogic has been incarnated in Western Christianity: the Church has been transformed into a state, the pope has become a ruler, bishops have been proclaimed princes, priests have become leaders of clerical parties, the faithful have been proclaimed papal subjects. The Gospel has been replaced with the Vatican’s compilation of canon law; Evangelical ethic and methods of love have been replaced with casuistry, Jesuitry and the “holy” Inquisition. What does all this mean? With the systematic removal and destruction of everything that does not bow to the pope, even with forced conversions to the papal faith, and the burning of sinners for the glory of the meek and the mild Lord Jesus!

There is no doubt that all these facts converge into one irresistibly logical conclusion: in the West there is no Church and no God-Man, which is why there is no true God-Man society in which men are mortal brothers and immortal fellows. Humanistic Christianity is actually the most decisive protest and uprising against the God-Man Christ and all the Evangelical, God-Man values and norms. And even here is evident European man’s favored tendency, to reduce everything to man as the fundamental value and the fundamental measure. And behind that stands one idol: Menschliches Allzumenschliches. With the reduction of Christianity to humanism, Christianity has been no doubt, simplified, but also at the same time—destroyed! Now that the “gleischaltung” of Christianity with humanism has been accomplished, some in Europe are seeking a return to the God-Man Christ. However, the cries of individuals in the Protestant world—

Zuruck zum Jesus! Back to Jesus!”

—are empty cries in the dark night of humanistic Christianity, which has abandoned the values and the measures of God-Man and is now suffocating in desperation and impotence. While from the depths of centuries past reverberate the bitter words of the melancholic prophet of God, Jeremiah: “Accursed is the man who puts his confidence in man!…”

In a broader historical perspective, the Western dogma about man’s infallibility is nothing other than an attempt to revive and immortalize dying humanism. It is the last transformation and final glorification of humanism. After the rationalistic Enlightenment of the 18th century and the shortsighted positivism of the 19th century, nothing else was left to European humanism than to fall apart in its own impotence and contradictions. But in that tragic moment, religious humanism came to its aid with its dogma about the infallibility of man saved European humanism from imminent death. And, although dogmatized, Western Christian humanism could not help absorbing all the fatal contradictions of European humanism, which are united in one single desire: to exile God-Man from the earth. Because the most important thing for humanism is for man to be the highest value and the highest measure. Man, not God-Man.

According to our own Orthodox feeling: Christianity is only Christianity through the God-Man, through His God-Man ideology and God-Man methods. That is the fundamental truth for the sake of which no compromises can be made. Only as the God-Man is Christ the highest value and the highest measure. One should be truthful and consistent to the end: if Christ is not the God-Man, then he is the most impudent fraud, because he proclaimed himself as God and the Lord. But the Evangelical historical reality irrefutably shows and proves that Jesus Christ is in everything and in all things the perfect God-Man.

Therefore, one cannot be a Christian without a belief in Christ as God-Man and in the Church as His God-Man Body, in which He left His entire Miraculous Person. The saving and life-giving power of Christ’s Church lays in the eternally-living and all-present personality of the God-Man. Any substitution of the God-Man with a man, and any winnowing of Christianity in order to pick out only that which pleases a man’s individual preference and reason, turns Christianity into shallow and impotent humanism.

The outstanding importance of Christianity for making lies in its life-giving and unchangeable God-Manhood, by which it models humanity as a whole, bringing it from the darkness of non-being to the light of Pan-being. Only by its God-Man power is Christianity the salt of the earth, the salt that saves man from rotting in sin and evil. If it dissolves into various humanisms, Christianity becomes bland, becomes salt that has turned flat, useless, fit to be tossed out and trod on.

Any tendency or attempt at a “gleischaltung” of Christianity with the spirit of the times, with ephemeral movements and regimes of certain historical periods, takes away from Christianity that specific worth which makes it the singular God-Man religion in the world. In the Orthodox philosophy of society, the rule above all rules is this: do not accommodate the God-Man Christ to the spirit of the times, but rather accommodate the spirit of the times to the spirit of Christ’s eternity—Christ’s God-Manhood. Only in this way can the Church preserve the life-giving and irreplaceable personality of the God-Man Christ and remain a God-Man society, in which people fraternize and live with the help of Divine love and justice, prayer and fasting, meekness and humbleness, goodness and wisdom, charity and faith, love of God and love of one’s brother, and all the other Evangelical virtues.

According to the God-Man philosophy of life and the world, man, society, nation, and state are to accommodate themselves to the Church as the eternal ideal, but the Church must never accommodate itself to them—much less submit to them. A nation has true worth only inasmuch as it lives the Evangelical virtues and incarnates in its history the God-Man values. What applies to the nation, applies to the state as well. The goal of the nation as a whole is the same as the goal of the individual: to incarnate in one’s self Evangelical justice, love, sanctity; to become a “holy people”—”God’s people”—which in its history proclaims the Divine values and virtues (1 Peter 2:9-10; 1:15-16).

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They will ask us: where are the concrete fruits of this God-Man society? How was it that precisely on the field of Orthodoxy’s radiation came about the appearance of “the most radical secularism in human history?” (Joseph Piper) Does there not also exist an Eastern “Humanism” (for ex. Caesaro-papism, etc.)? The success of atheistic social humanism on the soil of Orthodoxy: is that not proof of the “inability of Orthodoxy” to solve the most elementary social problems?

It is a fact that this world lies in evil and sin. The reduction of everything to man is in fact the atmosphere in which sinful human nature and man in general—no matter where he is located—lives and breathes, and something toward which they strive. It is, therefore, no wonder that the tides of this sinfulness, just like the tides of European pseudo-Christian poisons, from time to time wash over the Orthodox peoples as well. However, one thing is irrefutably true: the Orthodox church has never ecclesiologically dogmatized any sort of humanism, whether we are talking about Caesaro-papism or any other “ism.” With the strength of its genuine and uncorrupted God-Manhood and Evangelical truthfulness, and through its constant call for repentance regarding everything that is not from God-Man, it has preserved, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom and the chastity of its heart and its soul. And by this it has remained and continues to be the “salt” of the earth, man and society.

On the other hand, the tragedy of Western Christianity lies precisely in the fact that it, either by correcting the image of the God-Man, or by denying it, has attempted to once again introduce demonized humanism, so characteristic of sinful human nature, to—where? Into the heart of the God-Man organism itself—the Church, whose essence lies precisely in the freeing of man from it. And through it into all regions of life, person and society, proclaiming it as the supreme dogma, as the universal dogma. With this, the demonized intellectual pridefulness of man, hidden under the cloak of the Church, becomes the dogma of a faith without which there is no salvation! It is horrible to think it, much less say it: with this, the sole “workshop of salvation” and graduation to God-Manhood in this world, is gradually turned into a demonized “workshop” of violence over consciousness and dehumanization! A workshop of the disfigurement of God and man through the disfigurement of the God-Man!

The Orthodox Church has proclaimed no poison, no sin, no humanism, no earthly social system as dogma—neither through Councils, nor through the “Body” of the Ecumenical Church. While the west, alas, does nothing but that. The latest proof: the Second Vatican Council.

The Orthodox Faith: in it, repentance is a necessary holy virtue; and it always calls for repentance. In the West: the pseudo-Christian faith in man does not call for repentance; on the contrary, it “clerically” obligates a maintaining of its fatal-to-man homo-idolization, its pseudo-Christian humanisms, infallibilities, heresies, and it pridefully considers that in no case are these things for which one should repent.

Contemporary atheistic social humanism—ideologically and methodologically—is in everything a fruit and an invention of pseudo-Christian Europe, wed with our own sinfulness. They ask us: how did it arrive on the soil of Orthodoxy? It is God trying the endurance of the righteous, visiting the children for the sins of their fathers, and announcing the strength of His Church by taking it through fire and water. Because, according to the words of the wise-in-God Macarius of Egypt, that is the only path of true Christianity: “Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there follows, like a shadow, persecution and battle… It is necessary that the truth be persecuted.” What are, on the other hand, the fruits of the God-Man society?—Saints, Martyrs, and Confessors. That is its goal, that is its meaning and design, that is the proof of its indestructible strength.

Not books and libraries, systems and cities—all things that are here today and gone tomorrow. The various pseudo-Christian humanisms fill the world with books, while Orthodoxy fills it with the hallowed. Thousands and hundreds of thousands, even millions of martyrs and newly martyred, fallen for the Orthodox faith—there is the fruit of God-Man society. Thus does the famous Francois Mauriac, a Roman Catholic, on the dark horizon of the contemporary world, with each day more and more pushed into the darkness of born-in-Europe, soul-losing homo-idolatry, see only one bright spot, that gives hope for the future of this world: the bathed in the blood of the martyred and newly-martyred faith. The Orthodox faith.

But in the West? They neither know the Church, nor the path, nor the way out of the hopelessness; all is sunk in soul-losing idolatry, in love of pleasure, love of self, and love of lust. Hence in Europe we see the renaissance of polytheism. The “False Christs,” false gods that have flooded Europe and are exported from it to all the marketplaces of the world, have for their main assignment the killing of the soul in man—that unique treasure of man in all the worlds, and in that way make impossible the very possibility of a genuine society.

In writing this, we are not writing the history of Europe, its virtues and faults, nor the history of the European pseudo-churches. We are merely laying out the entelechy of its ontology, descending into the pith of European intellectual pridefulness, into its demonic underground, where its black sources are, whose water threatens to poison the world. This is not a judgment of Europe but a heartfelt prayerful call to the solitary path of salvation, through repentance.

From the book The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism, by Archimandrite Justin Popovich.

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On the Feast of the Beheading of St John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord

by St.Justin Popovich 

john-the-baptist-1 Today is a little Great Friday, a second Great Friday. For today the greatest man among those born of women, John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptiser of the Lord, is murdered. On Great Friday, people murdered God, crucified God. On today’s holy great feast, people murdered the greatest of all men. It is not I who chose to use the expression “the greatest.” What are my praises of the great and glorious Forerunner of the Lord, whom the Lord praised more than anyone among men, more than any of the apostles, the Angels, the Prophets, the Righteous Ones, the Sages? For the Lord declared of him:

“Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” (?atthew 11: 11). In all Creation, there exists no greater praise.

This is why today is a little Great Friday. Consider: senseless people murder the greatest of the righteous. Is he getting in their way? Yes, he gets between the perverse King Herod and the dissolute Herodias. God’s Truth, God’s immutable Truth gets in the way of the lawless, gets in the way of poor sinners, gets in the way of everyone stupefied by the various passions. Consider: do not Christ’s opponents even today still shout “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!?” Even today, do not those who oppose Christ still demand the head of Jesus of Nazareth? They call for His head, not to mention calling for the head of John the Baptist.

What is this? Could it be that this world has become a madhouse? People do not want God, they do not want the greatest Righteous One in the whole world. Whom do you want? Whom would you prefer? Whom would you set in Christ’s stead? With whom would you replace St. John the Baptist? With yourselves?! ? moth! ?, tiny mortal insects! Yes, when people become maddened by pride, when out of egotistical pride they lose their reason, they have no need of God, they have no need of God’s Truth. They declare themselves to be gods. They present their petty, shallow, false likeness of truth as the great and salvific Truth. They declare their shallow, earthly, perishable images of truth to be the greatest of truths: they posit that we do not need Christ’s Truth, that we do not want God’s Truth. Yes, people blind in intellect and spirit do not see, and do not want to see, that man, true man, cannot manage without God. Why? Because this world is full of Herods, full of Pharisees. Herods demand the head of John the Baptist, Herods demand the heads of all of the righteous of the world, and Pharisees, the lying scribes, lying sophists of this world, demand the death of Christ, the Incarnate God.

Yes, today’s Feast is a second Great Friday. Why? Because there is no greater transgression than that committed on Great Friday and that committed now, when Herod destroys the greatest among those born of women. Why did the Savior exalt the great Saint John the Baptist, as He did no one else? Why? Because, brethren, the Holy Forerunner encompassed within himself, within his person, all of the virtues of Heaven, all of the virtues in all of the Prophets, all of the Apostles, all of the Martyrs, all of the Angels of Heaven, all of the Confessors. Regard: today we glorify the destruction, the beheading of the first Apostle among the Holy Apostles, for the Forerunner of the Lord was the first sent by God to see and to herald to the world the Savior of the world. Long before the Apostle Peter, before the Apostle Nathaniel, before anyone else, he bore witness to and announced God to the world, God Incarnate in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first Apostle to see the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven onto the Lord Jesus, when he baptized Him in the Jordan, announces Him to be the Son of God, the Savior of the world. [John] is also the first Evangelist among the Evangelists. He first announced to the world, and pointed out, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bearer of all Good News for mankind.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Good News of Heaven and earth, God’s Gospel for men in this world. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” In those few words, the Holy Forerunner expressed the fullness of the Gospels.

Looking toward the East, he said to the entire human race, from Adam to our days,

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

The Kingdom of Heaven? Here it is: the Lord Jesus [come] from Heaven. In Him is the Kingdom of Heaven. Looking toward the West, and seeing people drowning in sins and death, he called to them as well,

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

He looked to the North and to the South [and saw] – the same people, all slaves to sin, slaves to death, slaves to the devil. To all he announced the glorious, holy and salvific Gospel,

“People, repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He was such an Evangelist, someone possessed of great power!

When the Lord set out to preach His Gospel, to preach with power, He took those words as the beginning and end of His Gospel. From that moment, Jesus began to preach and to declare,

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).

This is why the Holy Forerunner is the first Evangelist among Christ’s Evangelists.

Today, people have come into contact with an Angel in the flesh, an earthly Angel, and a Heavenly person, St. John the Baptist. It was not only the Old Testament prophet who called the Forerunner the Angel of the Lord, but the Lord Himself said this was an Angel sent to go before Him to prepare the way for Him. (Isaiah 40: 3; Matthew 11: 10). Not only a prophet, said the Lord regarding the Baptist, but greater than a prophet – the Angel of the Lord. And people do not want him, and people drive him from this world! Thus, the Holy Forerunner is truly the first Angel in the flesh, the first among those who became the multitude of Angels in the flesh, lamps bringing God’s Light, who lived on earth like Angels of Heaven, and were Angels on earth, and in Heaven remained God’s people, holy people.

St Justin PopovichToday we glorify the great feast of the first among the Prophets of the New Testament. He announced to men that the Lord Jesus Christ had appeared to the world not only as the Savior, but as the Enlightener and as the Judge of the world. In his hands were both the hatchet and the spade: on the day of the Dread Judgement, the Lord would clean off the earth’s threshing-floor, and would separate the wheat from the chaff, the righteous from the sinners. All of this the great and glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord had foreseen. Therefore, today we also praise him as the holy New Testament Prophet, killed by the impious, criminal, King Herod.

The Holy Forerunner also received the Lord’s witness to the fact that he was the greatest of those born of woman, because he had become the first of all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament. See how he suffered for God’s truth in this world! He suffered joyously! In today’s principal hymn and prayer to him it is said that he went to his death rejoicing, and that he suffered rejoicing. Thus, he became the first example and inspiration to all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament, beginning with St. Stephen the Protomartyr and through today.

All of the Holy Martyrs go to their death rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ, go to their deaths, knowing that death cannot hold them in its bonds, knowing that death is merely a gate, an open gate through which their holy souls enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. How else, brothers and sisters, can we explain the joy of Holy Great Martyr George’s joy while having his body broken: his bones were being broken on the wheel, and he shouted with joy in the Lord, for he could see Him, could see the Angels of God, standing around Him, and the Angels stopping the wheel. See what joy [he experienced] during those awful tortures! And the Holy Great Martyr stands up whole and unharmed before the godless Emperor Diocletian. The first one to reveal that holy joy of martyrdom had been St. John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord.

Today we also specifically glorify the first Evangelist and Christian Confessor, the first to Confess God in this New Testament world. Consider how fearlessly, openly and directly he confessed God’s Truth: O King, it is not right for you to have your brother’s wife, your living brother’s wife. You have taken your brother’s wife away from him. All of the laws of Heaven and earth are against you, and I, I recite these laws of Heaven and earth to you, for it was to do so that I was sent. O King, you cannot have your brother’s wife. Fearless and uncowable, like an immortal lion, like one of the Cherubim in the flesh, he was the first Confessor of Christ’s Faith, and he has been followed by multitudes of faces – the world’s glorious Confessors of Christ’s Faith, Confessors who bear witness and confess before the entire world, before East and West, before North and South, that the Lord Christ is the Sole True God in Heaven and on earth. And this they, countless multitudes of fearless and uncowable all-conquerors, beginning with the Holy Forerunner and continuing through the present day, do despite all of the persecution, despite all of the lies of those who strive to rise up against Christ in this world, despite all the heresies, all of the theomachists, and all of the persecutors of Christ. They bear witness to, and announce to all the world, this Truth: Christ is before all and above all! He is the Sole True God. You, false gods, masks, vile and repulsive masks of false gods, begone! True God is essential to the human soul in this earthly realm. Who are you self-proclaimed ones? Who? In the graves, in thousands of nets you cast yourselves, and you want to supplant the Lord Christ? How lowly, how impoverished you are! Alas, all of Hell laughs at nothing more than it laughs at you. The demons laugh out loud at you, and you do not hear them; yet we Christians – we hear them.

Yes, the Holy Baptist, was the first Christian Confessor, and there streamed after him, following as after a helmsman, thousands and thousands of glorious Confessors of Christ in this world.

My brethren, a great Mystery is taking place through this Feast, a Mystery like unto threads stretching through and making up a piece of cloth. In today’s Gospel reading, you heard the disciples announce to the Savior that the Forerunner has been beheaded. The mouth that announced You to the world has fallen silent, O Lord! What now? Who are we in comparison to Your great Baptist? The Savior is silent. Then something unusual happens. He calls His disciples together, and with them, He goes out to a place in the desert. What is this? Can it be that the Lord is running away, can it be that he is fleeing from Herod? Consider: He, the All-merciful Miracle Worker, looks upon the unfortunate widowed mother, and resurrects her son, someone unknown to anyone but the mother and Himself. Yet here, Lord, Your Forerunner lies dead, destroyed. Why don’t You resurrect him? You resurrected the daughter of Jairus, head of the synagogue. Yet here is the one whom You called the greatest among those born of women, beheaded by the malefactor- king. Lord, guard Your Truth, defend Your first Apostle, Your first Martyr, Your first Evangelist, Your first Angel in the flesh, Your first Prophet, Your first Confessor. Resurrect him! Yet the Savior remains silent, and retreats to a desert place to pray to God. Why, O Lord?

Because the Holy Forerunner must also become the first Apostle to Hades, to death’s kingdom – to which had departed the souls of all people from Adam to the time of the coming of the Savior into this world. In that kingdom of death called Hades, i.e. the impenetrable place, where no one can see anything, in that kingdom was to be found everyone: the righteous and the sinners, all of the people of the Old Testament, up to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin had brought death into the earthly realm, into the world of men, and the kingdom of death became the sole abode for human souls in this world. The Forerunner had to become the Forerunner in Hades as well, in death’s kingdom, so that he might preach there as well to the souls of all human beings: Lo, the One whom you have been awaiting, Whom all you Righteous Ones: Moses, Abraham, David, all of the Holy Prophets and Righteous Ones, have been thirsting to see, has come to earth. Lo, He has come to earth as a man, as the Savior, and he is working such signs and wonders as you, all of you taken together, have never seen. His glance heals people of all diseases, His word resurrects everyone from death, His voice drives demons out of those possessed. Truly the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ has come to earth. And lo, I go before Him to preach to you as well this best of news: He will come down here to us as well. In a little while He will come down, and you will see Him. You will be able to see what kind of human soul He has, One filled with God and shining with infinite light.

The Holy Forerunner appeared death’s kingdom as the first Evangelist, in order to preach the Good News of Christ to all of the souls in the kingdom of death. He appeared as well to all of them as the first Martyr, to show that people will joyously go to their deaths for True God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, until death is defeated and destroyed. They will not fear death, for they will be more powerful than death. Through his bodily Resurrection, the Lord grants the body victory over death. The glorious Forerunner also entered into the kingdom of death as the Forerunner of all of the true Confessors of Christ in the world, all of the true Prophets in the world, to announce to all of the souls in the kingdom of death: Lo, death is defeated, the demons destroyed, the kingdom of death will be destroyed when, in a little while, the Lord appears here, and you will be led out of this horror and into heavenly joy, into the Kingdom On High.

This was why the Lord remained silent, why he did not resurrect the greatest man among those born of women, for that man was to complete his apostolic, evangelistic, martyric, confessor’s spiritual struggle in Hades, in the kingdom of death.

And so, today for us Christians is like unto Great Friday. Just as, for the Savior, after Great Friday, the Resurrection approaches, so the Forerunner joyously dies and enters into death, for he sees the victory over death and knows that the Lord has prepared for him as well eternal life and resurrection from the dead on the day of the Great Judgment.

When the Lord was crucified, He descended into the nether regions, into Hades, into the kingdom of death, with His human Soul. His Body lay in the tomb, but His Soul, the fullness of his Divinity, descended into death’s kingdom. And how astonished must have been all of the human souls in Hades, on seeing God in a human soul, shining with ineffable light, light impossible for a human being to imagine. Who would not come to believe in Him? Who? When He appears in the kingdom of death so filled with Eternal Truth, Eternal Life, Eternal Justice. He appears as conqueror over death. And as death’s kingdom could not hold God, Who was in Jesus’ soul, could not hold God in its hands, it fell apart because of Christ’s Divinity, because of His Most-holy Soul, in which was the fullness of God. And the Lord led out of death’s kingdom all those who had earlier come to believe the Forerunner, and those who had come to believe in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, to believe that in truth, He was True God in Heaven and on earth.

The Lord led them out, and led them into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why the Lord Jesus Christ did not resurrect St. John the Forerunner and Baptizer of Jesus.

Today, in glorifying that great and glorious first Apostle, first Martyr, first Evangelist, Precursor to all true Christians of all time, we bow down before his joyous suffering for Christ’s Truth and His Holy Gospel, before him as Apostle and Martyr. Consider, already for 2,000 years, the One who allowed the lawless king to behead him, has been working countless miracles in the earthly realm, living in it alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. For 2000 years, he has been ceaselessly working miracles for all those who turn to him in prayer.

Brothers and sisters, whenever you are in great sorrow, turn to that first Apostle of Christ, and he will help you with all of your burdens. And should some kind of misfortune happen, turn to that first Evangelist. No matter what bitterness might fill your soul, he will sweeten it with Christ’s grace, which he will mystically send down to your tortured soul from the World on High. And when you find yourself in temptations and horrors of this earthly life, run to him, to the Holy Confessor; tell him what is in your heart, pour out your sorrows and spiritual needs and rest assured that in a mystical, divine manner, he will come down into your soul and will save you, and will deliver you from all temptations and woes.

But should need to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ in this world: should others attack you on all sides, should atheists and those who oppose Christ want to swallow you up, to destroy you for belonging to Christ, want to silence your voice, to stop it from speaking of Christ, then remember that first Martyr, and call out to him: O Holy Martyr, first Martyr of Christ in the Gospels, hurry to my aid! Grant that may I die for the Lord Jesus Christ, leave my body like temporary clothing, and by the path of the Holy Martyrs move to Christ’s Kingdom! He will enteat the Lord that you might also join the host of Luminaries. Thus, today’s little Great Friday becomes for us the great joy of the Resurrection. Friday is small, but Sunday, the Resurrection, is great – resurrection for all Christians of all time. And for us today: for me, for you, for every Christian living today, today’s Great Friday is at the same time the Resurrection, for today we glorify the St. John the Baptist who is eternally alive in the Heavens; [we glorify] his victory over the death appointed to him by Herod, his soaring up into the Heavenly Realm, to be the first after the Mother of God, to stand beside the Lord Jesus Christ.

You have seen the icon known as the “Deisis” i.e. “Prayer” Icon. In it, the Lord sits on the Throne of Glory, as King of Heaven. On His right is the Most-holy Mother of God, and on His left, the Holy Forerunner. They pray to Him for the human race.

?h, may his holy prayers be raised up today and tomorrow, and always, and may they be raised up for us Christians-Serbs, and for all the people on this earth, that the Lord lead all to repentance, that He have mercy upon all, that He save all, that all people, brought [to Him] by the glorious Forerunner, might forever glorify the One True God in Heaven and on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all honor and glory, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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The Place of Holy Relics in Christianity

By St. Justin Popovich

Without doubt, matter is represented in the human body in a manner which is most puzzling, most mysterious, and most complex. The brain: What wondrous mysteries pass between its physical and spiritual parts! How vast is the experience of the human race. In no manner can one ever fully comprehend or grasp these mysteries. Indeed, little of this is accessible to the human senses or intellectual investigation. So it is also with the heart of man, formed as it is entirely and solely from cosmic mysteries. So formed, too, are every cell, every molecule, every atom. Everyone and all are set on their mystical path toward God, toward the God-Man.

Inasmuch as it was created by God, the Logos, matter possesses this same theocentricity. Moreover, by His advent into our earthly world, by His all-embracing condescension as God and Man for the redemption of the world, the Lord Christ clearly demonstrated that not only the soul, but matter also was created by God and for God, and that He is God and Man; and for it, matter, He is all and everything in the same manner as for the soul. Being created by God, the Logos, matter is, in its innermost core, God-longing and Christ-longing.

The most obvious proof of this is the fact that God the Word has become Incarnate, has become man (St. John 1:14). By His Incarnation, matter has been magnified with Divine glory and has entered into the grace- and virtue-bestowing, ascetic aim of deification, or union with Christ. God has become flesh, has become human, so that the entire man, the entire body, might be filled with God and with His miracle-working forces and powers. In the God-Man, the Lord Christ, and His Body, all matter has been set on a path toward Christ —the path of deification, transfiguration, sanctification, resurrection, and ascent to an eternal glory surpassing that of the Cherubim. And all of this takes place and will continue to take place through the Divine and human Body of the Church, which is truly the God-Man Christ in the total fullness of His Divine and Human Person, the fullness

“that fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).

Through its Divine and human existence in the Church, the human body, as matter, as substance, is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and in this way participates in the life of the Trinity. Matter thus attains its transcendent, divine meaning and goal, its eternal blessedness and its immortal joy in the God-Man.

The holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace- and virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man. In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body. The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified.

Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body. Our pious veneration of the Saints’ relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints.

All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint. Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace- and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues. It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God’s grace. When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety. By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father. Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Corinthians 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints. And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics.

Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.

The pious veneration of holy relics, based on their miraculous nature, originated from Divine Revelation. Even in the Old Testament God deigned to celebrate with miracles the holy relics of certain of those who were well-pleasing to Him. Thus, by the touch of the holy relics of the Prophet Elisea, a dead man was resurrected. The tomb and bones of this Prophet, who had prophesied to Jeroboam the destruction of idolatrous altars, were greatly revered in Judea. The Patriarch Joseph also left a testament to the sons of Israel to preserve his bones in Egypt and, during their exodus, to carry them to the promised land (Genesis 50:25).

The New Testament raised the human body to the sublime and divine heights, endowing it with a glory which the Cherubim and Seraphim do not possess. The Good News of the New Testament concerning the body—the significance and goal of the human body—is that, together with the soul, it achieves and inherits immortal life in Divine eternity. The Lord Christ has come to deify, to make Christ-like, the entire man, that is, the soul and body, and this by the resurrection, insuring thereby victory over death and eternal life. No one ever elevated the human body as did the Lord Christ by His bodily resurrection, the ascension of His body into heaven, and its eternal session at the right hand of God the Father. In this way, the Resurrected Christ extended the promise of resurrection to the nature of the human body—

”having made for all flesh a path to eternal life.”

Thus man now knows that the body is created for eternity through union with the God-Man and that his divine work on earth is to struggle, with the soul, for eternal life; to struggle, with all those means that convey grace and virtue, to make himself grace-filled, fulfilled by Divine grace, and created anew as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Living God.

Bearing in mind that this New Testamental notion of the human body has been achieved and realized in the persons of the Saints, Christians show a pious veneration for the bodies of the Saints, towards holy relics, the temples of the Holy Spirit, Who by God’s grace abides within them. But Holy Revelation indicates that by God’s immeasurable love for man, the Holy Spirit abides through His grace not only in the bodies of the Saints, but also in their clothing.

So it is that the handkerchiefs of the holy apostle Paul healed the ill and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 19:12).

With his mantle the Prophet Elias struck the water, separating the waters of the Jordan, and along the dry bed of the river crossed the Jordan with his disciple Elisea (IV Kings 2:8).

The prophet Elisea did the very same thing, himself, with the same mantle, after the taking-up of Elias into heaven (IV Kings 2:14).

All this has its verification and source in the Divine power that rested in the garments of the Savior, which encompassed His most pure and Divine body. Moreover, by His inexpressible love for man, the Divine Lord allows the servants of His Divinity to work miracles not only through their bodies and clothing, but even with the shadow of their bodies, which is evident in an occurrence with the holy apostle Peter: his shadow healed an ill man and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 5:15-16).

The eternal good news of Holy Revelation about sacred relics and their pious veneration is proved, and is continually being proved, by Holy Tradition from Apostolic times to the present day. Innumerable are the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God throughout the Orthodox world. Their miracles are innumerable. The pious veneration of these relics by Orthodox Christians is everywhere to be found. And without doubt this is because the holy relics, through their miracles, incite the Orthodox toward their pious veneration. From the very beginning, in Apostolic times, Christians piously preserved the honored relics of the Holy Forerunner and the holy Apostles, so that these could be preserved even for us. As well, during the times of persecution the sacred remains of the bodies of the holy Martyrs were taken away by Christians and hidden in their homes. From that time until now, the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God have, by their miracles, poured forth the immortal joy of our faith into the hearts of Orthodox Christians. The proofs concerning this are countless. We shall cite only several.

The way that the holy relics of the Saints were translated and greeted is in a touching manner described by St. Chrysostomos in a eulogy on St. Ignatios:

“You, inhabitants of Antioch, have sent forth a bishop and received a martyr; you sent him forth with prayers, and received him back with crowns; and not only you, but all the cities which lay between. For how do you think that they behaved when they saw his remains being brought back? What pleasure was produced! How they rejoiced! With what laudations on all sides did they beset the crowned one! For as with a noble athlete, who has wrestled down all his antagonists, and who comes forth with radiant glory from the arena, the spectators receive him, and do not suffer him to tread the earth, bringing him home on their shoulders and according him countless praises. So also every city in turn received this Saint from Rome, and bearing him upon their shoulders as far as this city, escorted the crowned one with praises, hymning the champion…. At this time the holy Martyr bestows grace to the very same cities, establishing them in piety, and from that time to this day he enriches this city.”

Speaking of the miraculous power of holy relics, Saint Ephraim the Syrian relates the following concerning the holy Martyrs:

“Even after death they act as if alive, healing the sick, expelling demons, and by the power of the Lord rejecting every evil influence of the demons. This is because the miraculous grace of the Holy Spirit is always present in the holy relics.”

During the finding of the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius, St. Ambrose, in speaking to his listeners, relates this with pious enthusiasm:

“You know—indeed, you have yourselves seen—that many are cleansed from evil spirits, that very many also, having touched with their hands the robe of the Saints, are freed from those ailments which oppressed them. You see that the miracles of old times are renewed, when through the coming of the Lord Jesus grace was more abundantly shed forth upon the earth, and that many bodies are healed as it were by the shadow of the holy bodies. How many napkins are passed about! How many garments, laid upon the holy relics and endowed with the power of healing, are claimed! All are glad to touch even the outside thread, and whosoever touches it will be made whole.”

Speaking of the miracles produced by holy relics, the blessed Augustine says:

“To what do these miracles witness, but to this faith which preaches Christ risen in the flesh and ascended with the same flesh into heaven? For the martyrs themselves were martyrs, that is to say, were witnesses of this faith…. For this faith they gave their lives, and can now ask these benefits from the Lord in whose name they were slain. For this faith their extraordinary constancy was exercised, so that in these miracles great power was manifested as the result. For if the resurrection of the flesh to eternal life had not taken place in Christ, and were not to be accomplished in His people, as predicted by Christ…, why do the martyrs who were slain for this faith which proclaims the resurrection possess such power? …These miracles attest this faith which preaches the resurrection of the flesh unto eternal life.”

Saint Damascene, summarizing the life-giving teaching of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition concerning the pious veneration of holy relics, preaches in a Cherubic manner from the altar of his God-bearing and Christ-like soul:

“The Saints have become according to grace that which the Lord Christ is according to nature. That is, they have become gods according to grace: pure and living habitations of God. For God says: ‘I will dwell in them, walk in them, and I will be their God’ (II Corinthians 6:16; Leviticus 16:12). The Holy Scriptures likewise say: ‘the souls of the righteous are in God’s hand, and death cannot lay hold of them’ (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1). For death is rather the sleep of Saints than their death. Further: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints’ (Psalm 119:6). What, then, is more precious than to be in the hand of God? For God is life and light, and those who are in God’s hand are in life and light. Further, that God dwells even in their bodies in a spiritual manner the all-divine Apostle attests: ‘Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you?’ (I Corinthians 3:16). And, ‘the Lord is Spirit’ (II Corinthians 3:17). Thus, the evangelical truth: ‘If anyone destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy—for the temple of God is holy, and ye are that temple’ (I Corinthians 3:17). Surely, then, we must ascribe honor to the living temples of God, the living dwelling-places of God. These, while they lived, stood with boldness before God. The Lord Christ granted us the relics of the Saints to be fountains of salvation unto us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in sweetly fragrant oil. Let no one disbelieve this! For if water burst in the desert from the steep and solid rock according to God’s will (Exodus 17:6), and from the jawbone of an ass to quench Samson’s thirst (Judges 15:14-19), is it then unbelievable that fragrant oil should spring forth from relics of the holy Martyrs? By no means, at least to those who know the omnipotence of God and the honor which He accords to His Saints. According to the Old Testament law, everyone who touched a dead body was considered impure (Numbers 19:11). However, the Saints are not dead. For from the time when He Who is Himself Life and the Author of life was counted among the dead, we do not call those dead who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and with faith in Him. For how could a dead body work miracles? And how, through the holy relics, are demons driven off, diseases dispelled, the sick made well, the blind restored to sight, lepers cleansed, temptations and tribulations overcome; and how does every good gift come down from the Father of lights (St. James 1:17) to those who pray with sure faith?”

The universal faith of the Church concerning the pious veneration of holy relics was confirmed by the God-bearing Fathers of the Seventh Œcumenical Synod in its decrees:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ granted to us the relics of Saints as a salvation-bearing source which pours forth varied benefits on the infirm. Consequently, those who presume to abandon the relics of the Martyrs: if they be hierarchs, let them be deposed; if however monastics or laymen, let them merely be excommunicated.”

….That a pious veneration of the holy relics is a constituent part of the salvation rendered by the God-Man is also evidenced by the following facts: from the depths of sacred antiquity, churches were built on the graves and relics of Saints, and the holy Liturgy is performed only on antimensia, in which are placed parts of the holy relics. Moreover, the divine service books, especially the Menaion, are replete with prayers and hymns which refer to the pious veneration of holy relics….

All in all, the mystery of holy relics is at the heart of the universal mystery of the New Testament: the incarnation of God. The full mystery of the human body is explained by the incarnation, the embodiment of God in the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, then, the Gospel message concerning the body:

“The body for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (I Corinthians 6:13).

And through a human body also the entire creation, all of matter, received its divine significance, the universal meaning of the God-Man. By man, who is sanctified in the Church by the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, the creation and even matter are sanctified, united to Christ. There accrues to this also a joy—the myrrh-streaming property of many relics. This wonder of myrrh has been given to the holy relics in order to indicate that Christians are truly

“a sweet-savour of Christ unto God” (II Corinthians 2:15),

sweet-smelling to God and to heaven. The truth of the Gospel is that the sin of man is a foul odor before God and every sin pleases the devil. Through the holy mysteries and holy virtues, Christians become

“a sweet-savour of Christ unto God.”

For this reason, then, the holy relics of the Saints pour forth myrrh.

HT: Mystagogy

Source: Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9.

From Time to Eternity, the Internal Mission of Our Church: Part 2

by St. Justin Popovich

Fr. Justin Popovich, was a renowned Serbian theologian. A patristic scholar, poet and true philosopher, who had command of several languages, he devoted his many talents to defending the Faith against ecumenism-for which he was called “the conscience of the Serbian Church”-and unmasking the true face of humanism as a regression to ancient paganism. As an antidote he vigorously preached the eternal truth of Christ the God-man. Appropriately, this “holy messenger of glad tidings” was born and died on the Feast of Annunciation.

The theanthropic means are none other than the theanthropic asceses-virtues. Only the theanthropic virtues exist among them in an organic relation. The one springs from the other, the one completes the other.

The first among the asceses-virtues is the ascesis of faith. Through this ascesis the soul of our people must pass and constantly pass: that is, this soul must be given up to Christ without reservations and compromises, must go deeply into the theanthropic depths, and be elevated to the theanthropic heights. The awareness must be created in our people that the faith of Christ is a supranational, ecumenical and catholic, trinitarian virtue, and that for one to believe in Christ means to serve Christ and only Christ, in all aspects of one’s life.

The second is: the theanthropic virtue of prayer and fasting. This virtue must become a method of life for our Orthodox people; it must become the soul of its soul, because prayer and fasting are the almighty means given by Christ for purification from every impurity-not only of the human being, but also of society and of the people, and of humanity. Prayer and fasting are able to cleanse the soul of our people from our impurities and from our sins. (Matt. 17:19-21); Luke 9:17-29). The soul of our people must be identified with the Orthodox life of prayer. Prayer and fasting must be performed not only for individuals, not only for the people, but for everyone and for everything (“in all and for all”): for friends and enemies, those who persecute and kill us, because this is what distinguishes Christians from pagans (Matt. 5:44-45).

The third theanthropic virtue is the theanthropic virtue of love. This love has no boundaries. It does not ask who is worthy and who is not; it loves everyone: it loves friends and enemies, it loves sinners and criminals (but it does not love their sins and crimes); it blesses those who curse, and like the sun it enlightens both the wicked and the good (Matt. 5:45-46). This theanthropic love must be cultivated in our people, because by this catholicity Christian love is distinguished from the love of the other self-styled and relative loves: from pharisaical, humanistic, altruistic, ethnic, anim al love. The love of Christ is always total love. This love is acquired through prayer, because it is a gift of Christ. And the Orthodox heart prays with intensity: O Lord of love, give me Thy love for all people and for all things!

The fourth is: the theanthropic virtue of meekness and humility. Only he “who is meek in heart” makes rebellious and wild hearts meek. Only he who is humble in heart humble proud and haughty souls. To

“show meekness towards all people”

is the obligation of every true Christian (Titus 3:2). But man becomes truly meek and hum ble when he makes the meek and humble Lord Jesus the heart of his heart, He who alone is truly meek and humble of heart (Matt. 11:29). The soul of the people must be made meek with the meekness of Christ. Every man must learn to pray: O most meek Lord, make my wild soul meek! The Lord humbled Himself with the greatest humility: He became incarnate, He became man. If you are Christ’s, humble yourself to the utmost, to a worm; incarnate yourself in the pain of every pained person, in the affliction of every afflicted person, in the sufferings of every tortured person, in the grief of every animal and bird. Humble yourself below everyone: be everything to everyone-through Christ and according to Christ. When you are alone, pray:

O Humble Lord, humble me through Thy humility!

The fifth is: the theanthropic virtue of patience and humility. That is, to forbear evil, not to return evil for evil, to forgive with total compassion the curses, the slanders, the wounds. This is Christ’s: constantly to feel crucified in the world, persecuted by the world, cursed and spat upon. The world cannot bear Christ-bearing people, just as it could not bear Christ. Martyrdom is the atmosphere in which the Christian bears fruit. We must teach this to our people. For Orthodox, martyrdom is purification. It is Christian not only to bear sufferings with joy, but also to forgive with total compassion those who cause them, to pray for them to God, just as did Christ and the Archdeacon Stephen. For this reason, pray: O long-suffering Lord, give me long-suffering, magnanimity and meekness!

The mission of our Church is: to make these theandric virtues-asceses the methods of life for the people, to weave the Christ-like theanthrophic virtues into the soul and life of the people. In this lies the salvation of the soul from the world and from all soul-corrupting, homicidal, atheistic movements and worldly organizations. Against the “educated” atheism and the gentlemanly cannibalism of contemporary civilization, we must array Christ-bearing personalities, which with the meekness of a sheep will be victorious over the excited passions of the wolves, and with the innocence of doves will save the soul of the people from the cultural and political stench. We must counteract cultural asceticism-which takes place in the name of the rotted and deformed European man, in the name of atheism, of civilization, of the antichrist-with ascesis in the name of Christ.

For this reason the main obligation of our Church is to create Christ-bearing ascetics. The voice which must be heard in it today is: Go back to the Christ-bearing ascetics, towards the Holy Fathers! Go back to the asceses and virtues of the Holy Fathers! Go back to the virtues of Saints Anthony and Athanasios, of Saints Basil and Gregory, of Saints John Chrysostom and Damascene, of Saints Sergei and Seraphim (the Russians), of Saints Savva, Prochor and Gabriel (the Serbs), and others! Because these theanthropic asceses-virtues created Saint Anthony, Saint Gregory and Saint Savva. And today, only the Orthodox asceses-virtues are capable of sanctifying every soul and the soul of our whole people, because the theanthropic purpose is eternal and unalterable, and its means are also eternal and unalterable, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). Here is the difference between the human world and the world of Christ: the human one is finite and temporal, while Christ’s is unalterable and eternal. Orthodoxy, as the unique bearer and guardian of the perfect and all-radiant Person of the God-man Christ, is realized exclusively with the theanthropic-Orthodox means, the ascetical virtues in grace, not with means lent by Roman Catholicism or

Protestantism, because these are Christianities according to the version of the proud European man, and not of the humble God-man. God Himself facilita tes this mission of our Church, because in our people there exists a spirit of asceticism, as Orthodoxy created it through the ages. The Orthodox soul of our people inclines towards the Holy Fathers, towards the Orthodox Ascetics. The personal, familial, and parochial ascesis-especially in prayer and fasting-is characteristic of Orthodoxy. Our people, the Orthodox people, are the people of Christ because, like Christ, they summarize the Gospel in these two virtues: prayer and fasting. They are convinced that every impurity, every impure thought, every impure desire, every impure spirit, can be chased out of man only by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21). In the depths of their hearts our people know Christ, they know Orthodoxy, know what it is that makes the Orthodox man Orthodox. Orthodoxy always creates ascetical rebirths; it does not recognize other rebirths.

The ascetics are the only missionaries of Orthodoxy. Asceticism is the only missionary school of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is ascesis and life, for this reason only with ascesis and life does she reach and realize her mission. Asceticism-personal and ecclesiastical-must be developed; this must be the internal mission of our Church towards our people. The parish must become an ascetical center. But this can only be done by an ascetic parish priest. Prayer and fasting, the ecclesiastical life of the parish, the liturgical life-these are the chief means by which Orthodoxy brings about rebirth in people.

The parish, the parish community must be reborn, and in Christ-loving and brother-loving love humbly serve Christ and all people with meekness and humility, with sacrifice and self-denial. This service ought to be saturated and nourished by prayer and a liturgical life. This is fundamental and absolutely essential. But all of these demand as a prerequisite that our hierarchs, our priests, our monastics become ascetics, and for this: Let us beseech the Lord.