Men that seem worthy of confidence, yet teach strange doctrines, must not upset you. Stand firm, like an anvil under the hammer. It is like a great athlete to take blows and yet win the fight. For God’s sake above all we must endure everything, so that God, in turn, may endure us. Increase your zeal. Read the signs of the times. Look for Him Who is above all time – the Timeless, the Invisible, Who for our sake became visible, the Impassible, Who became subject to suffering on our account and for our sake endured everything. -St. Ignatius of Antioch
It’s amazing how little can change over 2,000 years. St. Ignatius was a Bishop of Antioch, likely the second, who was martyred by wild beasts in Rome somewhere between 90 and 110 A.D. Even so, his words, his call to vigilance, is just as acute and just as relevant today.
The Christian of today, at least here in America, does not have to worry about taking physical blows. Our martyrdom occurs in the intellectual sphere. Our aggressors attack not with boiling oil, red hot furnaces, or packs of starving animals. Our aggressors attack with scientific theories, which sociological explanations, and with charges of draconian and outdated thinking.
My priest pointed something out this past Sunday that is relevant here; especially around the holy days of Christmas and Easter, we presented with an increase in these attacks from our television. It is during these times that specials on the “real Jesus” are presented to us, shows that attempt to describe what life was like in the Middle East during the time of Christ and what sociological factors might have led to the formation of the religion which sprung up around him.
As Orthodox Christians we know that Jesus was more than just a mere mortal man. We know that the real story of Christmas is nothing less than a miracle, the joining of the divine with mortal, of God Himself submitting to be born, to grow up as a human child, to experience the world as we experience it, and ultimately to once again show us the road to perfection, heal our souls and to destroy the hold which death has over us. We know that the “real Jesus” was born incarnate miraculously from a virgin but that He has existed from the beginning of time, co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We know that while he was born in the flesh and did indeed have a human nature, he also remained fully God and had a divine nature as well.
Every year Christmas comes earlier and earlier; more time for those fueled by their passions of materiality and greed to make money, more time for those who have been brainwashed to feel like they must give things to show their gratitude and love for others, and more and more time for our faith to be undermined, marginalized, and attacked from numerous angles.
Stand firm, fellow Christians, like an anvil under the hammer. If anything, history has proven that the Christian can be placed under fire for his or her belief, that the Christian can be pounded by other world-views and ideologies, but that all this serves to do is refine, shape and strengthen us.
The anvil is not us, but God, and on it we are crafted to be the swords of truth.
IC | XC
NI | KA