• on August 23, 2016

Witness and Revelation

The word martyr is often used by people today in a rather loose fashion and conjures up images of a person who has gone to extreme lengths for some ideal or cause usually at great cost and sacrifice to themselves. It is a word that is often used in a joking way to describe people who are perceived to have ‘gone over-board’ with their public display as ‘sufferers’. In the Church we associate the word with persons who have given their life over to Christ even unto death. The origin of this word is Greek, and that helps us explain its literal meaning which is ‘witness’. What is it that these people have witnessed and what is it that has transformed their lives to such an extent?
In the most obvious sense, one cannot be a witness without some kind of personal experience. This experience to be sure, is not one which is initiated by the self, because to be a witness of the Divine requires first of all the experience of revelation. God reveals Himself to us continually in our life but our life can at times be so over cast and pre-occupied with vain things that we lose all sense of the invitational light and knowledge of Him who is ever present. Simply put, revelation is the way by which God reveals Himself to man. Revelation can take many different forms but it is God communicating with His creation out of love. Biblical texts are rich with the experience of God’s revelation to man culminating in the coming of Christ for our salvation. This revelation is the ultimate expression of God’s Love to the world in which all our hope and faith is founded. This Love opened Heaven for us here on earth. As Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) God allowed it for us to be joined to Him in order for human nature to be raised into Heaven. Jesus is man’s access to God.

No More Fear of Death

St Athanasios observed “Ever since the God-Man was resurrected and ascended, all the faithful (can) trample death as if it did not exist. They prefer to die than to deny their faith in Christ. Now there are no dead. Now the only dead one is the devil, who in the past used to boast about the death of men. The devil is the only truly dead, since the ‘pangs of death have been loosed’. (Acts 2:24)
St Agnatios the Great while going to his martyrdom with joy wrote to the early Christians in Rome: “Come fire and cross and grapplings with wild beasts, cuttings and manglings, wrenching of bones, hacking of limbs, crushings of my whole body, come cruel tortures of the devil to assail me. None of these frighten me. One thing alone I want and desire: Only be it mine to attain unto Jesus Christ.” (Ref: “The Mystery of Death” by Nikolaos Vassiliadis, pp. 226-7, 1993).

Only when we come to the inner understanding of these miraculous events do we realize the meaning of our life, the role of suffering and significantly, our death.

The final and fullest revelation of God was the coming of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If we come to understand these things and house them in our hearts it will change all the meaning and purpose of our life and our death.

The world has great difficulty understanding the lives of our Saints many of whom were inspired by Divine revelation to deny themselves of all sensory pleasure, to live a life of silence and obedience, when they could have enjoyed all that was on offer in the world.
These persons who have been granted a ‘vision of God’ though they are regarded as the least among men carry the highest rank before God, because of their uncompromising witness to the Truth. The world cannot fathom the continuous preparation and anticipation of the Christians for the heavenly citizenship promised to them. Witness, Truth and Faith are inseparable where all hope is placed on those things unseen.

God Chooses Us

Whereas people may search and long for God, it is God who chooses to reveal Himself to us; we do not choose God. In addressing His disciples Our Lord said to them “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16) It is God therefore who reveals Himself to us and in this respect we are told to be ever ready to receive Him. Our life, when joined to Christ, should be a continuous witness to the Truth. Our choice is whether of our own free will we receive the invitation of Our Lord. “For many are called, but few are chosen”
(Mat 22:14)

Why All These Things

The cheerful Christian sings the following because of the Cross: “Lord Christ, I no longer fear when through physical death I return to the earth. For when I was low, entangled in pain and mourning, as someone forgotten and captive in the dark abysses of Hades, You raised me, out of love and compassion, toward the height of heaven through Your holy Resurrection, and You adorned me with the splendor of incorruptibility and eternity.” (Ref: The Joyous Pentikostarion-Sunday of the Fathers, Canon Ode 5, vs2)

Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou

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