St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

Orthodox Christian Hope

July 21/August 3, 2003. The Holy Prophet Ezekiel.

by Fr. Rodney Torbic


I Peter 3:15 - But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

Orthodox Christians maintain an abiding hope. This hope is founded in the Resurrected Christ. Earthly circumstances arising in life will not extinguish the hope founded in the Resurrected Christ.
The First Great and Holy Friday when Jesus ascended the Cross and darkness covered the earth serves as a measuring point for the foundation of Christian hope (Lk. 23:44-45).
This was no ordinary darkness upon the land. This was darkness in direct result of Jesus Christ being crucified. This was a darkness transforming history. This is a darkness remembered throughout every year.
Orthodox Christians remember the suffering of Christ upon the Cross. Orthodox Christians know that Jesus Christ went to the Cross voluntarily. Orthodox Christians know that Jesus Christ had the power to prevent His death upon the Cross.
We know that death by crucifixion is a painful death. We know that Jesus' death by crucifixion was a public death. We know that Jesus' crucifixion carried with it the connotation that he was a criminal.
St. Lukes' Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ hung between two criminals. One was on His right. One was on His left. (Lk. 23:33).
The First Great and Holy Friday is preserved in words in the Holy Gospel. The First Great and Holy Friday is preserved in the Divine Services of the Holy Orthodox Church. The First Great and Holy Friday is preserved in the iconography of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Christians relive that First Great and Holy Friday every year during Holy Week. Serious Orthodox Christians think about that First Great and Holy Friday every Friday of the year and even more frequently.
Orthodox Christians have the benefit of knowing that Jesus rose from the grave. Orthodox Christians have the benefit of experiencing Jesus's Resurrection at Holy Baptism. Orthodox Christians have the benefit of experiencing Christ's Resurrection at each Divine Liturgy, at each and every Pascha celebration.
The joy emanating from experiencing the Risen Christ is the foundation and strength for the hope in each Orthodox Christian in the face of adversity.
Life can never be as dark as that First Great and Holy Friday. Nothing we face in life can be so strong as to defeat Him who defeated death, Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Resurrected Christ.
On Lazarus Saturday we get a foretaste of Jesus Christ's Resurrection when He calls Lazarus forth from the tomb. Lazarus was dead. The Holy Scriptures tell us graphically of the account of Lazarus death. The Holy Scriptures tell us clearly of Jesus' calling Lazarus forth from the tomb (Jn. ll:1-45)
Orthodox Christian hope is founded in the Resurrected Christ. Orthodox Christian hope is founded in the Christ who demonstrated His power over death not only in His own Resurrection but in His calling Lazarus forth from the tomb.
At Baptism and at each Divine Liturgy, Orthodox Christians profess belief in the resurrection of the dead. This profession of faith codified in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is rooted in the experience of serious Orthodox Christians.
The hope resting in the Resurrected Christ is a tested hope. It is a hope known from experience. The only way to know Christ is to know Christ. The only way to experience Christ is to experience Christ. The only way to live in Christ is to live in Christ.
If we turn to the Old Testament, we know of the hope in God that rested with Abraham. Here was a serious believer willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. Abraham's vision of God as a good and caring God was so strong that Abraham was completely obedient to God.
This hope, this faith, this obedience to God was rewarded by God. When God witnessed the faith, the hope, the obedience of Abraham, the sacrifice of Abraham's son was not necessary. God provided and alternative. God also told Abraham: "...in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."( Gen.22:1-19)
Every year on the Sunday before the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Divine Liturgy we read the genealogy of Jesus Christ. We hear the words from the Gospel of St.Matthew: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham..." (Mt. 1:1)
The words of God are true. The promises of God are true. God is in control of the world. Events may take place that cause consternation. Events may take place that are disturbing.
Believers rooted in Christ maintain an abiding optimism. Believers rooted in Christ maintain a certain confidence rooted in Christ.
The Holy Prophet Elijah stood before four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Elijah was confident in God (I Kings 18:22). Elijah had an abiding faith in God. Elijah maintained an abiding hope that God would prevail in the showdown that was taking place.
Elijah prayed with conviction: "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word." (I Kings 18:36)
In the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the God of Elijah prevailed. Onlookers cried the words: "The Lord, he is god; the Lord, he is God."(I Kings 18:39)
Orthodox believers know "The Lord, He is God.) Orthodox believers know from experience. The hope of Elijah is the hope in Orthodox believers.
The hope of Abraham is the hope in Orthodox believers.
The Holy Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter Eleven, recounts the essence of faith and hope. The Holy Apostle Paul tells of the many believers through the centuries who maintained a vision of God that was hopeful in the face of seemingly overwhelming circumstances.
We are reminded of Noah. We are reminded of Joseph. We are reminded of Moses. We are reminded of Gideon. We are reminded of David.
The account in the Epistle to the Hebrews is not simply a historical account. The account connects the past with the present. We find a hope in these words: "God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us." (Heb. ll:40)
Most everyone experiences a hardship in life sooner of later. The death or serious illness of a loved one, a child who is wayward, a marriage that is in difficulty, all can be very threatening.
When we build our lives in Christ, when Christ is the foundation of our life and the reason for our living, then we can deal with the trials of life.
We have witnesses through the centuries who have shown us the way to God. We have witnesses through the centuries who have shown us the victories of God.
The Holy Apostle Paul speaks of the interconnection of faith, hope and love in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (Chapter 13). We do well when we familiarize ourselves with his words. We do well when we contemplate his words.
It is essential that the love of which St. Paul speaks has a place in our Christian hope. It is essential that our Christian hope is accompanied by the humility and meekness mentioned by St. Peter.
Jesus Christ went to the Cross out of the greatness of His love for each person of each century. We may be overwhelmed by the magnitude of Christ's love. We should be. We never will be able to fully comprehend it.
We are beneficiaries of Christ's love. We have a responsibility to share His love. We have a responsibility to be grateful for His love. We have every reason to hope because of His love.

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