Religion is dead, but Christ in me is alive!
We are not compelled to love God, having been created with free will. God does not, nor can He, compel His creatures to love Him. Mutual love requires, by its very nature, freedom to either respond in love, or not. Yet when we respond to God’s love with love His mercy leads us into holiness, for entering into this relationship with our Creator transforms us, and changes us. When we respond to God’s offer to commune with Him, He changes us into His likeness. We were meant from the beginning to be in His image and likeness, and our positive response to the invitation to enter into divine communion leads to holiness.
We can do nothing good without God’s grace, which is why Saint John Chrysostom tells us, “faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast.” No man can call Jesus the Christ but by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of faith implants in us the grace to do good works. Can good works save us? No! God’s mercy and grace saves us. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 1:17).”
Our Christian vocation is to acquire holiness (become whole), something that can only take place by the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith by itself, without good works, is indeed dead. Yet good works can only be done with God’s grace. It is Christ in us that gives us the power to do good works.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:14-17)”.
If we claim Christ to be our Saviour yet have no love in us and do no good works, we delude ourselves, thinking we have Christ when in reality we simply have religion. Religion is dead, but Christ in us is alive! Works don’t save us, Christ saves us. Good works are a sign that we are being transformed, made holy, because Christ dwells in our hearts. As Saint Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).”
With love in Christ,
Photo: My dear friend and confessor, Archpriest Nicholas Letten of Portland, Oregon, is spending a few days with us. He is a great blessing and consolation to me.
Wednesday March 11, 2020 / February 27, 2020
Second Week of the Great Lent. Tone five.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Venerable Procopius the Confessor of Decapolis (ca. 750).
New Hieromartyr Sergius priest (1932).
New Hieromartyr Peter priest, Martyr Michael (1938).
Venerable Titus, presbyter of the Kiev Caves (1190).
Venerable Titus the Soldier, monk of the Kiev Caves (14th c.).
Venerable Thalelaeus, hermit of Syria (460).
Martyr Gelasius the Actor of Heliopolis (297).
Venerable Stephen, monk of Constantinople (614) (Greek).
Venerables Asclepius and James of Syria, monks (5th c.) (Greek).
Venerable Timothy of Caesarea, monk (Greek).
Martyr Nesius (Greek).
Martyrs Julian and his disciple Chroniun at Alexandria (250-252).
St. Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem (333).
St. Pitirim, bishop of Tambov (1698).
New Martyr Elias of Trebizond (1749).
St. Herefrith, bishop of Lincolnshire.
The Scripture Readings
16 But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment,
And God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness.
17 Then the lambs shall feed in their pasture,
And in the waste places of the fat ones strangers shall eat.
18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of vanity,
And sin as if with a cart rope;
19 That say, “Let Him make speed and hasten His work,
That we may see it;
And let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come,
That we may know it.”
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!
22 Woe to men mighty at drinking wine,
Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink,
23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away justice from the righteous man!
24 Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble,
And the flame consumes the chaff,
So their root will be as rottenness,
And their blossom will ascend like dust;
Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people;
He has stretched out His hand against them
And stricken them,
And the hills trembled.
Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets.
For all this His anger is not turned away,
But His hand is stretched out still.
The Family of Cain
16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.
19 Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. 20 And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. 22 And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.
23 Then Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!
For I have killed a man for wounding me,
Even a young man for hurting me.
24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
A New Son
25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” 26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
And running water from your own well.
16 Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be only your own,
And not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love.
20 For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman,
And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He ponders all his paths.
22 His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
23 He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
6 My son, if you become surety for your friend,
If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
2 You are snared by the words of your mouth;
You are taken by the words of your mouth.
3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself;
For you have come into the hand of your friend:
Go and humble yourself;
Plead with your friend.
4 Give no sleep to your eyes,
Nor slumber to your eyelids.