In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Great Martyr St Nicetas the Goth, may the saint pray for us.
The great martyr St Nicetas the Goth (a Germanic tribe), was a great witness for Christ and the Gospel, and evangelized to the pagan Goths. However, he caused the wrath of the pagan Athanarik, who tortured the saint, and threw the saint into a fire. The saint was martyred in 372. Marianus, a friend of the saint, retrieved the body of the saint, and found the body unharmed by the fire and gave a miraculous light.
If we read the media today, we know that the Church is under siege. Everywhere, we have communities and people who would sneer, belittle, malign, and even harm the faithful, even unto the point of death. And the enemies are many – they are not just the obvious charlatans, heretics, and opposers to Christ, but also kings, princes, and those with evil agendas to topple the righteous and the rightful ways of life (Matthew 10:16-22).
And to that, Apostle Paul reminded us in 2 Timothy 2:1-10 we are to be strong as soldiers and witnesses of Christ.
To be a soldier of Christ is not to wage war against anyone else, but to war against our own demons, and to defend the Faith. If we are maligned or laughed at, we must soldier on as soldiers of Christ, brave to all ridicule, even unto death. If evil doers threaten us with death unless we renounce our faith in Christ, we are to defend our faith as witnesses and solders of Christ, and face death with prayers and calm. For God is with us even in the darkest of days and nights (Isaiah 42:1-4).
How do we become these pilgrim soldiers of Christ?
St Paisios the Athonite related the example of St. Gideon the New Righteous Martyr of Karakallou (Mt Athos), who reposed in 1818, who said to his executioners, “Take my hand, take my leg, take my nose.” St Paisios then said that St Gideon was ready to part with everything he had, and would not denounced God like his executioners wanted. For that to happen, St Paisios said that one must not love himself, but love God. St Paisios added that if we cannot begin to sacrifice things, or give up desires or selfishness, how would we be able to sacrifice our lives for God?
At the crux of all these is about endurance. We have to endure not just events in life that get us down, such as families, friends, jobs, businesses, failures, illnesses, and so on, but also our spiritual lapses and setbacks.
One of the great contemporary Russian saints, St Seraphim of Sarov, whom we commemorate, was attacked by robbers and left for dead in 1804. Our beloved Theotokos, together with Apostles Peter and John the Theologian, appeared to the elderly saint and said, “This is one of our kind”. The saint did not die, and went on living under the Grace of God, hunched and with a walking stick. That is endurance and what we are asked to do as Christians.
And the journey towards God may be lonely, for we know that Matthew 10:16-22 says that even our loved and trusted ones may turn against us when we profess the Name of Christ, as those who profess themselves as the faithful of Christ our Lord, will be hated by the world. And yet we know Christ is the Way, the only Way, for us to reconcile with God.
And we are assured that as long as we keep God throughout our pilgrimage, He will command His angels to guard us in all our ways and lift us up in their hands, so that we will not be hurt (Psalm 91:9-13).
Let us pray, “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.
2 Timothy 2:1-10