“Each saint, as a servant of God, boldly acknowledged Him in this fleeting life before mortal men”

Truly “God is glorious in his saints” (Ps. 68:35 Lxx). Let us call to mind the martyrs’ superhuman struggles, how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength, disregarding pain and wounds as they struggled bodily against fire, sword, all different kinds of deadly tortures, patiently resisting while their flesh was cut, their joints dislocated and their bones crushed, and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity, complete, unharmed and unshaken. As a result there were bestowed on them the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit and the power to work miracles. Let us consider the patience of holy men and women, how they willingly endured long periods of fasting, vigil and various other physical hardships as though they were not in the body, battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin, in the invincible inner warfare against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12). They wore away their outer selves and made them useless, but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him from Whom they also received gifts of healing and mighty works. When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such grace and power. For even if their intentions were good and noble, without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.

That is why, when the Psalmist and Prophet declared, “God is glorious in his saints”, he went on to say, “he giveth strength and power unto his people” (Ps. 68:35 Lxx). Carefully consider the force of these Prophetic words. Whereas God, according to the Psalmist, gives all his people strength and power — for He shows no partiality (cf. Acts 10:34) — He is glorified only in His saints. The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes. Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun, not those whose vision is dimmed because illness, mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes. In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all, for He is the everflowing, enlightening and saving Fount of mercy and goodness. But not everyone takes advantage of His grace and power to practice and perfect virtue or show forth miracles, only those with a good intent, who demonstrate their love and faith towards God by good works (cf. Jas. 2:20-26), who turn away completely from everything base, hold fast to God’s commandments and lift up the eyes of their understanding to Christ the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2). He not only invisibly holds out a helping hand from above to those who struggle, but we also hear Him speaking to us and urging us on in today’s Gospel. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men”, He says, “him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32).

Notice that we cannot boldly proclaim our faith in Christ and confess Him without His strength and assistance. Nor will Our Lord Jesus Christ speak out on our behalf in the age to come, recommend us to the heavenly Father and make us His kin, unless we give Him reason to do so. To make this clear, He does not say, “Whosoever shall confess me before men”, but “Whosoever shall make his confession in Me” (Matt. 10:32), that is to say, whoever is able, in Christ and with His help, to declare his faith with boldness. Likewise, again, He does not say, “I will confess him” “but “I will acknowledge what is in him”, meaning that His confession will be in respect of the good fight and patient endurance which such a person has shown in the cause of godliness. Take note, however, of what He goes on to say about those who are cowardly and betray the Faith: “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). Here He does not say, “Whosoever shall deny in Me”, since the person who denies God does so because he is bereft of God’s help. Why has he been abandoned and forsaken by God? Because he first abandoned God by loving what is transitory and worldly more than the heavenly and everlasting good things promised by Him. In His turn, Christ will not just disown what is in him, but deny him himself, finding in him nothing at all that could be used in his defense.

Whoever loves according to God, “dwelleth in God, and God in him”, as Christ’s beloved Theologian tells us (1 John 4:16). So he who truly loves God has God dwelling in him, and naturally confesses his faith in God. On the other hand, as he dwells in God, God too will acknowledge him. The words, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me, him will I confess also” (cf. Matt. 10:32), demonstrate the unbroken union between God and those who acknowledge Him, from which he who denies Him has distanced himself. These mutual exchanges between God and man are divinely just, arid fairly reward like with like.

Although the prizes God gives us resemble our offerings to Him, consider the overwhelming superiority of God’s recompense to those who, in Him, confessed Him. Each saint, as a servant of God, boldly acknowledged Him in this fleeting life before mortal men, though actually just for a brief period of this present age and in front of only a few. By contrast, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is God and Lord of heaven and earth, will speak openly on their behalf in that eternal, never-ending world before God the Father, surrounded by Angels, Archangels and all the heavenly host, and in the presence of all mankind from Adam onwards. For all will rise and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. Then, before everyone and in the sight of all, He will proclaim, glorify and crown those who demonstrated their faith in Him to the end. . . .

In a time of religious peace, we take up our cross and follow Christ by putting our evil passions and desires to death through virtuous living. But when persecutions come, we must despise our own life, give up our soul for the sake of our faith, and thus take up our cross and follow the Lord, so as to inherit eternal life. “He that findeth his soul”, says the Scripture, “shall lose it; and he that loseth his soul for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39). What does this mean? Man is twofold: the outer man, that is, the body, and the inner man, the soul. When someone delivers up his outer self to death, he loses his soul, which becomes separated from him. Anyone who loses his soul in this way for the sake of Christ and the Gospel will certainly find it again, having procured for it heavenly, eternal life. He will recover it at the Resurrection in this new state, and through it his body will become as heavenly and eternal as his soul. To crucify the flesh with its passions and desires; to be ready for extreme dishonour and the greatest possible disgrace for the sake of a noble death; to lose your soul for the Gospel: these are difficult, great and, it could be said, Apostolic matters, only for the perfect. So the Lord goes on to say something both for the encouragement of those waging this supernatural struggle, and for the salvation of those less perfect. “He that receiveth you”, that is to say, the Apostles and the Fathers and religious teachers after them, “receiveth me”, He tells us, “and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (Matt. 10:40).

St Gregory Palamas

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