CONFESSORS OF THE FAITH
AND MARTYRS FOR CHRIST
Rev.Metropol. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos & Saint Vlassios
It is a fact that we are living in apocalyptic times, given that we are witnessing the prevalence of an epic apostasy by people from God’s will - and of course from the living God. The problem however is how one should confront this situation.
As we can see in the teachings of the Fathers and the Saints, the Church has always exercised anti-heretic tactics and has confronted heretics by debunking their arguments, but She also proceeded to yet another, more basic point; that is, She demarcated the Orthodox faith and assisted the faithful to experience it and to attain unity with Christ.
In other words, She helped the Christians to live within the Church with Her theology and the Sacraments, so that they would be able to confront every heresy, but also the actions of the antichrist.
From the works of the Fathers it is a well-known fact that when heresies arise and when the antichrist arrives, those who do not have a personal experience of the truths of the Faith shall be deluded – those who are not true children of God and are unable to discern between created and uncreated, between the energies of God and the energies of the devil.
That is why I believe the opus of the Church is not exclusively to battle with heretics, but also to train the faithful so that at the appropriate moment they might become confessors of Christ and martyrs out of their love for Him. And we know full well, that to confess Christ and to be martyred for Him is not a human-centered opus, nor the result of extracurricular lessons on anti-heresy struggles, but the partaking of the Grace of God.
Christ had said: “Whosoever confesses in me before men…” (Matth.10:32). Confession is done in Christ - when a person is united with Christ. Elsewhere, he had said: “Place it therefore in your hearts, to not meditate beforehand how to answer; for I shall give you a mouth and wisdom, which all those opposing you will not be able to contradict or resist.” (Luke 21:13-14).
Thus, a Christian prepares himself, by cleansing his heart, by acquiring an ecclesiastic conscience and way of life, and all the rest will come on their own. There will always be enemies, heretics and opposers.
Christ had said: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…” (Matth.10:16). The Disciples became Apostles, and were sent forth among wolves. Christ does not profess to pulverize the wolves, nor to abolish the power of Satan at the present time; that will happen after Hs Second Coming, in the age to come. What He does promise however, is to train disciples, to create His own sheep and to send them out to the wolves in order to confront them.
Finally, the Church must not expend all of Her potential in the battle against heretics nor alarm people, but instead prepare Christians with all the means at Her disposal – that is, with Orthodox Theology, the Jesus Prayer, sacramental life etc. – so that at the appropriate time, they might become confessors of Christ and martyrs for His glory’s sake.
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