When a teacher returns school work back to the student, often the assignment will have the teacher’s markings within the margins. Although important, those markings make no sense unless someone has read the material on that page. So it is with books: there are those people who mark notes along the margins of the pages. However, unless you actually read what was originally written on those pages, you are never certain if you understood the text.
Our spiritual life can be seen in a similar way: A Christian can hear about Christ, but that is no guarantee that they have Christ in them. To be an Orthodox Christian is not simply having a Bible, hearing about the saints and teachers of the Church, and submitting to the sacraments. One who is truly Orthodox reads their Bible with interest, follows the teachings and examples of the saints, and lives a sacramental life. Being Orthodox does not require our perfection, but it does require dedication and commitment to our Lord and His teachings. We cannot simply sit around the ‘margins’ of life, staying behind the perimeter, as if we were spectators in a stadium.
In fact, we must actually step beyond the margins and enter into the competition that is our spiritual warfare. To remain in the stands as an observer appears easy, yet doing so is to conform to the desires and machinations of the evil one. We are called to let the Logos, the Word of God, not only be in our life, but actually guide our life and give our life the meaning for which we were created. We are to let Him, according to His will, guide us around, or over, or help us to cope with whatever snares are along our path.
One who truly loves God cannot simply be a wanderer in His Vineyard, but desires to be a trustworthy laborer in His field; to be a good steward with the gifts from above placed in our care. Let no angry thoughts, no slothfulness, no ill-advised comments, foolish actions, or bruised egos, stemming from actual or perceived affronts, become your obstacle.
“Being Orthodox does not require our perfection, but it does require dedication and commitment to our Lord…”
We are called to embrace Christ with fear, faith, and love. We cannot afford to take our relationship with Him for granted. According to the venerable Elder Amphilochios of Patmos, “Christ often comes and knocks at your door and you invite Him to sit in the living-room of your soul. Then, absorbed in your own business you forget the Great Visitor. He waits for you to appear and when you are too long in returning, he gets up and leaves. At other times, you are so busy that you answer him from the window. You don’t even have time to open the door.”
Therefore, let us walk with Christ throughout each day. It is only when we are within the Body of the Logos, active in a positive and constructive way, that we show ourselves to be true followers of Christ. As Orthodox Christians, we are to live with Christ within, enthroned on our hearts and encamped in our souls, reining over our thoughts and words. As reflected upon by Saint John of Kronstadt, “The human mind is given the rational power of God – we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), says the Holy Apostle Paul. To the human heart, the heart of Christ is given. The perish able is made immortal. Those naked and wounded by sin and by passions are adorned in Divine glory. Those who hunger and thirst are stated and assuaged by the nourishing and soul-strengthening Word of God and by the most pure Body and Divine Blood of Christ. The inconsolable are consoled. Those ravaged by the devil have been – and continue to be – delivered.”
Being removed from the sidelines, having stepped beyond the margins of life and completely engaged in the fullness of Christ, may we (to paraphrase Saint Maximos the Confessor) cleanse our minds from anger, the remembrance of evil, and shameful thoughts, that we might witness how Christ dwells within us; and may His mercy and compassion and love shelter us from the snares of the enemy, receiving his blessings.
† Rev. Anthony Stratis Protopresbyter
Saint George, Knoxville Tennessee
Rev. Anthony Stratis Bio: Father Anthony Stratis is the Protopresbyter of the Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Knoxville, Tenessee.