New Picture

Saint Paul described faith as ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen’ (Heb. 11:1). His life, work and martyrdom are a testament to his Orthodox faith. He had the unshakeable conviction that, as a believer in Christ’s Word, he would enjoy future blessings in those things hoped for that did not exist in the present; the freedom from the tyranny of sin, the resurrection of the dead, the second coming of Jesus Christ, the future judgement and the inheritance of eternal life. Whatever he suffered in the present life was of no consequence in comparison to being eternally united with his Lord.

New Picture (1)

St John Chrysostom, centuries later, reaffirmed this living faith through his writings and also in the way he lived his life. He wrote that ‘Faith is the very hypostasis and essence of things hoped for’, and ‘these become knowable in the soul of the believer…because faith grants them substance; nay it does not grant, but is their very substance.’

[1] When he was exiled in his final days, and challenged with extreme physical weakness and abandonment from all human comfort, he glorified God and praised His beloved Christ. Death was an entry to eternal blessedness because of Christ’s Resurrection, and this was the Feast of Faith he refers to in his sermon on Pascha.[2] There, beyond the grave, those who believe and love Christ will receive the riches of God’s goodness. For this reason he proclaims in his sermon: ‘Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free’. These words were not mere rhetoric since he verified such faith in the way he lived and died.

Throughout our troubled human history we have seen the living faith of the Orthodox Christians, from all walks of life, living their faith sincerely in the footprints of our Apostles, Saints and Holy Fathers. Even though so many had been caught up in exceptionally trying circumstances, they continued to witness their faith and their lives were proof of  Christ’s words, despite  brutal persecutions, social pressure to conform to ungodly regimes, temptations from without and from within to become worldly. Whether they lived as free citizens in cities, in monasteries, or whether they had been sentenced by unjust regimes to exile in Soviet labour camps, we have eye witness reports that refer to the saintliness of   ascetics like Saint Paisios, Saint Porphyrios and other less known priests, such as Father Arseny (1893-1973) who conquered their own hunger in order to feed the hungry with their own rations. They comforted the weak and dying, they protected the vulnerable, they forgave their persecutors, and in this way they drew many unbelieving souls to Christ’s love and light, despite the ubiquity of evil and sin. Their living Orthodox faith transformed those who met them, and their unconditional love and their humility touched and transformed so many lives because they believed, as St Paul did, in things not seen but hoped for.

[1] On the Epistle to the Hebrews 21.4.

[2] As read in churches on Holy Pascha evening.



Lychnos Edition: February-March 2016