‘People of Great Faith’ is the theme for this month’s column.
In my initial drafts, I focused on the Mother of God, highlighting her complete obedience to the Holy Spirit and the will of God. Her faith, even more than that of Abraham and Moses, carried humanity from slavery and death to the Promised Land, to the New Jerusalem. Modeling her life in the Church inspires chastity and modesty, motherly tenderness and protection.
In another draft, I wrote about the Apostolic Fathers. Here, I examined St. Ignatius — third bishop after St. Peter in Antioch — martyred in Rome by lions. More than producing famous epistles, the great faith of St. Ignatius inspires us to follow our bishops and priests in the Church’s Holy Tradition toward Eucharistic communion and vision of Paradise.
I also thought St. Basil the Great would make for a good column. He constructed the first hospital and orphanage, in Caesarea, and during a crippling famine inspired faithful to embrace their Creator, not lose faith in him.
One draft examined St. John Chrysostom, the great third-century bishop and theologian whose Divine Liturgy we celebrate. I connected this Divine Liturgy to a map of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and how the liturgical cycle of the Church is, in fact, an icon of salvation history. His commentaries on the New Testament make the heart bright for God, directing us toward the sweet ‘perfume’ hidden through Holy Scripture.
But we could also talk about the New Martyrs of Russia and Eastern Europe, those 70 million Christians tortured and martyred for their Orthodox faith. Churches and monasteries that weren’t blown up were desecrated, turned into brothels and bathrooms. Faithful clergy were kidnapped, shaved, stripped and shot under the same ideology promoted by many of our school and job curriculums, media and political machines. What does our faith say? We have our own methods for fighting evil: prayer, repentance, patience, humility before God and one another — these are the powerful weapons that destroy evil.
There is no resurrection without crucifixion. True Christians have lived, live and will live only by Christ and the Gospels. Of course, you can slander us, erase our words and jobs, you can fine or throw us in prison, as has happened many times in history, but we will continue to love God and the Church. We obey laws but in our private lives we strive to transcend them, we forgive all and yet remain persecuted and misunderstood.
As I write this column, we move through Great Lent, from slavery under Pharoah to the Promised Land, to Christ resurrected. We have so many examples, guides, intercessors. We have the pattern of the Church, the Logos and Incarnate Word of God. We have the Great Faith. But we must believe it and live by it.