Thursday, November 12, 2009


Our Lord assures us, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you....If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." This is another one of those "hard sayings" of the Gospel which so many would be Christians choose to ignore. Rather than courageously bearing witness to Christ before the powers of this world, these lukewarm Christians instead take the easier path, making friends with this world and accomodating their faith to worldly standards.

After all, we certainly do not wish to step on anyone's toes or to "offend" those who may feel uncomfortable with our convictions. In this relativistic society of ours, one of the gravest sins is to speak the truth as we see it, whatever the consequences. So what we are left with in the end is a watered down faith that is powerless to save ourselves or anyone else.

We would all prefer to have our cake and to eat it too. Why not enjoy all the benefits of a worldly life while still retaining the image of a "good Christian?" So it is we can faithfully attend church and go through all the motions of a pious life, all the while lacking the courage of our convictions.

The fact is, though, our faith is not meant to be a crutch to help us "get through" life, but rather a weapon to be used against the principalities and powers that rule this world. St. Dimitrios is an example for us all of what it means to bear witness to Christ in this fallen world. As the military governor of Thessalonica, he had attained a position of authority and power that most men would envy. Yet when the emperor ordered him to exterminate all the Christians in the city, he refused point blank. Instead, he chose the much harder path of obeying the King of Heaven. For this, he was stripped of his military rank, cast into prison and subjected to the most brutal torture. In the end, he was run through with spears and breathed his last as a true and faithful witness. Yet for this witness, he received the incomparable riches of eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom.

It is true that we in this country no longer face literal martyrdom, though our turn may well be coming. As Blessed Seraphim Rose of Platina once stated, "What began in Russia will end in America." And for that matter, there are places in this world today where literal martyrdom is still a real and present danger. In any case, whatever the circumstances, a genuine Christian life must in some sense be martyric.

Self denial, accepting ridicule and abuse from those who hate us, striving to put Christ at the center of our lives--all of this and more is true martyrdom. But how is it possible for us fallen and sinful creatures to live such a life? St. Paul gives the answer: we must "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," all the while enduring "hardness, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." This was the path chosen by St. Dimitrios. May we all, through his holy prayers, do likewise.

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