Montag, 13. Januar 2014

On Christian Hope

Christian hope is our hope in Christ and the eternal bliss promised to us by Christ. He is the pinnacle of our desires: He shall save His people from their sins. “I would love to go to paradise, but my sins are keeping me back,” – say many Christians who have no understanding of Christian hope, as though sins are some kind of indestructible barrier. No, I tell you, it is precisely the barrier which Jesus Christ, our Saviour, destroyed by His death on the cross, and opened the gates of paradise to repenting sinners. Let us believe in that, in order to learn how to have hope in Christ, because not all hope is Christian, genuine, leading to salvation. 
We will show you the qualities of Christian hope: its soundness, steadfastedness, fullness, and the signs by which we can determine whether we are full of Christian hope or not; we will show you that Christian hope breathes in prayer like air, and is supported and strengthened by the life-giving Mysteries, the reading and hearing of the word of God and the writings of the Holy Fathers, and by the good deeds of each individual. We will reveal to you that since a Christian is a free and rational being, made in the image and likeness of God, but fallen by his own will or alienated from God due to iniquity, he must of his own accord, through faith, hope and charity, approach his Creator. We will advise every Christian to carefully examine that part of him which constitutes a God-like and immortal being; we will ask him to pay attention to his heart and to its demands, which often reveal themselves to man’s consciousness, and to fulfill these demands without delay. Our heart demands faith in God and union with the One in Whom it finds peace and contentment, but the heart is also seduced, through the actions of the evil spirit and its own innate corruption, by worldly material goods that do not constitute its peace, life and contentment, but only bring sorrow and misfortune. To unite this heart with Christ by means of faith and hope – such is our final desire when talking to you about hope; to wean you away from the hope you place in worldly attributes – in people, rewards, wealth, sensual pleasures – such is our sole desire. We drown in our sins, and we often despair and perish from such a multitude of them; so let us turn our gaze towards our Hope – Christ the Saviour – in all our sins, all our sorrows, all life’s trials, in fortune and misfortune, to show that He is the God of penitents and the Saviour of sinners – such is our desire. To show that only in Christ lies our life, our bliss, our light, our wealth, food, drink, everything in life, to teach everyone to aspire towards Him as the pinnacle of all our desires – such is our greatest wish. Jesus Christ is the source of eternal life. I would like to lead you to the point where each one of you, from the bottom of your hearts, would call Jesus Christ your own Jesus, your own Saviour.
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To place one’s hope in God means to submit to Him one’s life, one’s fate, all one’s future, and to confidently await the fulfillment of His promises. Hope springs from faith like a plant from a seed, like a stream from a source. We believe that the Lord is benevolent and merciful, that He loves us like a Father: consequently, He wishes us all good things and true happiness. He is all-wise and all- knowing: therefore, He knows better than we ourselves what is needful and beneficial for us. He is all-powerful: and thus He can always grant us whatever He wishes, fulfill any promise He may make. He is holy and righteous: and for this reason all His words are truthful, all His promises are immutable. We see the supreme proof of God’s love for man in that for our sake He has not spared even His only-begotten Son, but gave Him over to suffering and death. Having fortified our souls with thoughts of the boundless benevolence, wisdom, omnipotence and holiness of our Creator and Caretaker, we can pass the course of our earthly life without fear or trepidation, like a child in its mother’s arms, like a ship with a secure anchor. Nevertheless, our hope should not cause us to be carefree and idle. Christian hope is essentially a lively, active and constant striving towards the highest good and towards the source of goodness – the Lord God, with an insatiable desire to draw near to Him, and to receive from Him and through Him the heavenly kingdom that had been prepared for us even before the world was born. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God (Psalm 42:1-2).

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