In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we remember Holy Martyr St Eudocia of Heliopolis today. St Eudocia, pray for us!
The holy monastic and martyr St Eudocia was at first a pagan who led a sinful life. But one late night, she woke and heard the prayers of the elder St Germanos and woke up from her sins. She called on the saint and learned from him, and she repented from her sins with confession, fasting, and prayer. She was baptized by St Theodotos, Bishop of Iliopolis, and she gave away all her wealth to the poor, and withdrew to a monastery with a life of strict penitence. God forgave her sins and gifted her with spiritual gifts. St Eudocia, pray for us!
Life towards Theosis is like choosing a means of transport to God. For example, when we choose to travel to a destination far away, we can choose an airplane and some kind of bridging land transport; we can choose the rail complemented by other land transport; or we can choose to go by sea complemented by some land transport; and so on.
Life as a Christian is also about transportation and travel. It is as we reflect upon Proverbs 15:1-9, where we have a glimpse of just what we need to begin with.
If we compare our journey to God as travel, there are very few who can travel by rail to God, where the path to God seems straight and narrow. These we call holy saints, whose life in Christ are illumined by the Gospel, and their journeys are manifest in selfless deeds out of Christian love for others, and they spend their entire lives in repentance and prayers unto God. They are not persuaded or distracted by the colorful and materialistic manifestations of the secular world. They remain faithful to God and wants nothing except to reconcile with God throughout their lives.
And most of us who profess our faith unto God, it will not be a path by rail to God. We will spend our whole lives in many different means of transportation, and sometimes, stopping, or even lapsing. But, we are to always remind ourselves to be hopeful, and to always remember to return to repentance and prayers to God. Our journeys may seem like a meandering by sea, by air, by car, on foot, and seldom on rail, and yet, do we wish for anything less than traveling to God? So, therefore, we repent, we pray, we hope in God, and we keep traveling, however we struggle, we keep our eyes unto God.
When we experience pains and suffering, even sometimes when we render selfless love, it is not unusual. The writer Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
And do we stop thinking for the sake of others in our lives? No! We travel on, keeping our eyes unto God, remembering that we are to do more for the sake of others, and that our hopes, our prayers, are to be centered unto God and not merely existing in the world. Our lives are blessed simply by the filling of God’s tender mercies, wherever we have a moment to even reflect, He has always been there with us. We hope, to be better people, not just be labeled as Christians, but to be better people. We will hardly be the “best” people, but we are children of God, believing in the Gospel of Christ, and through His Mercy and His Holy Hands, we hope, we pray, that He will grant us His gifts to love others as we profess to love Him also.
St Parthenios of Chios gave us a resounding battle cry unto the evils and the passions that we afflict ourselves. He said:
“Our life is a battle. This is how it is, my brother of Christ by adoption. We walk on earth but we keep our eyes towards Heaven. This life as a battle is repeated until God’s Grace covers us and we emerge as victors. When we face battles, God’s Voice says, ‘Did you fall? Arise!’ We remember that to fall is human, but to remain fallen is satanic. Our life is a battle, a struggle. Do not despair, as a victor only emerges after completing the struggle. A Christian’s despair is the devil’s joy, and our repentance is the angel’s joy. We struggle as much as we can to gain the crown of life. Do not give up the weapons of struggling against our passions. Struggle to make the angels joyous.”
St Barsanuphius of Optina reminded us of one of the most powerful weapons we can have in our hands as Christians, other than prayers – repentance:
“When the devil knows that a man has sinned gravely, he belittles the severity of the sin by suggesting that God will forgive and hope that the man will forget the severity of his sins. And when a man tries to confess his sins to his spiritual father or confessor, the devil then tries the reverse, by suggesting that this sin is so grave God will never forgive it, hoping to sink the man into depression and despair. This is how cunning the devil is, because the devil knows that sins are washed away by confession, and so he tries to dissuade people from confession, and even tries to embarrass people when they confess their sins.”
And yet more arsenal we can hold on to, as we confront our own passions, are in Proverbs 15 and Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, that of gentility, wholesome speech, obedience, and prayers.
We live in a complex world, full of distractions, full of pretensions, full of illusions (Jude 1:11-25). Our eyes need to be kept steadfast unto God, and we live our days of our lives in repentance, in prayers, and in spreading the Gospel of Christ through deeds, especially deeds, and gentle and humble speech.
In the face of mortal humiliation, danger, and even death, our Lord and Christ showed us, when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” and “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit,” as we reflect on St Luke 23:1-34, 44-56, that we are first to forgive others who may wrong us, for our Father in Heaven is the final arbiter, and that in our profession of faith, we believe and hope only in Him.
Life is a great battle for us. We each have our battles to wrestle with, and no one is exempt. Do not have envy for another, nor belittle another, for everyone will have terrible battles to contend with. Hold on to our weapons of penance, of prayers, of forgiveness, and love, and cry out to our Lord and Savior with the Sign of the Cross, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St Luke 23:1-34, 44-56