Serbian Orthodox Church
Reflections On Faith
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Deuteronomy 32:20 And He said: "I will hide My face from them. I will see what their
end will be. For they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith.
How is faith to be measured in the current generation of Orthodox Christians? Is the
faith of current Orthodox Christians to be measured by the amount of times church services
are attended each week and throughout the year?
Is the faith of current Orthodox Christians to be measured by the amount of times each
believer comes to Holy Confession and Communion? Will the contents of his or her heart be
a factor in this consideration?
Will God look at the age of the person and also the culture and environment in which he
or she was raised and lived? Some Orthodox Christians are raised in Orthodox countries.
Some Orthodox Christians are raised in communities where Orthodoxy is the prevailing
religion. Some Orthodox Christians are raised in families where Orthodoxy has been practiced
For some Orthodox believers, Orthodoxy is a choice of faith and this group of believers
is the first of their families known to be Orthodox. Other family members and friends are
of totally different beliefs.
What are the family dynamics when an Orthodox believer begins to practice Orthodoxy with
great seriousness? What are the family dynamics when the believer begins to fast and pray
according to the teachings of the Church?
Will God consider the time frame in which one is an Orthodox believer? Certainly
differences exist between newly baptized infants and men and women in their eighties
and nineties who have been exposed to Orthodoxy for almost a century.
Certainly differences exist between mature adults who consciously embrace Orthodoxy
or consciously reject Orthodoxy and young infants for whom Godparents (Kumovi) confess the
Nicene-Contantinopolitan Creed and answer the fundamental questions regarding the Faith.
The Lord Jesus Christ speaks about his Second Coming.1
Orthodox Christians confess belief in Jesus Second Coming at each
Divine Liturgy when The Creed is recited.
How many believers of the current generation of Orthodox Christians consciously believe
in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? How many current Orthodox Christians daily prepare for
Christ's Second Coming?
Is God satisfied with the current generation of Orthodox Christians?
HABAKKUK 2:4 Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live
by his faith.
How many are just in the current generation? What actions are required of the just?
How many heed the words of Lord in the Holy Prophet Micah: "To do justly, to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.?" (Micah 6:8).
How many see their sinfulness? How many of the current generation of believers looks
to God in thankfulness and appreciation? How many are zealous for the Lord and look to the
Lord with love and awareness of the Sacrifice upon the Cross?
How many shed tears daily for the commission of sins and for being distant from the Lord?
Each person must reconcile him or herself with God. Each person comes before God individually
in the final judgment.
The faith of the just is the faith of God revealed by the Holy Prophet Elijah in the
contest with the prophets of Baal. On Mt. Carmel Elijah prayed to the Lord God of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob.
The prophets of Baal prayed to their gods. In this dramatic showdown between the Holy
Prophet Elijah and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, the truth was revealed when
the fire of the Lord descended. The people fell on their faces and said: "The Lord, He is God!
The Lord, He is God! (I Kings 18:20-39)
Believers do well to immerse themselves in the words of the Holy Prophets. The value of
the Holy Prophets was expressed by Abraham to the rich man. Jesus' account of Lazarus and
the rich man was recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke (Lk. 16:19-31).
In the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, Abraham told the rich man if his brothers did not
"hear Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded though one rise from the dead."
Believers are to look to the Lord God for guidance and direction. Believers are to look
to the Lord God in prayer for the wisdom of life. Believers are to look to the Lord God for
the strength and nourishment of life.
Placing faith in God is never a disappointment. Heeding the words and ways of God is
never a disappointment. Following the path to God's Kingdom is never a disappointment.
The value of the soul was expressed in the Gospel of St. Matthew. The Lord Jesus Christ
said: "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or
what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mt. 16:26)
The just person will care about the soul. The just person will value the soul and do
required to keep the soul in purity and in faith.
Matthew 21:21-So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have
faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you
say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done."
Take Jesus' words to heart. Mull them over and make them a part of your life. With full
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, doubt has no place. When doubt occurs, the believer has an
experience like the Apostle Peter did when he stepped out onto the water to come to Jesus.
As long as the Holy Apostle Peter maintained his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus,
Peter was able to walk upon the water. When doubt set in and Peter became fearful, Peter
began to sink. (Mt. 14:24-33)
With faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, believers can progress well beyond the
human imagination. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "If you can believe, all things are possible
to him who believes." (Mk.9:23)
When the believer draws near to the Holy Chalice, when the believer draws near to receive
the Precious Body and Blood of Christ, the believer is united with Christ. The believer is
strengthened and renewed in Christ. The person becomes new in Christ.
Individuals fallen away from the Church, individuals never a part of the Holy Church can
come to the Church for instruction. Individuals not a part of the Church desiring unity with
Christ and the fullness of Christ present in Christ's Holy Church can cross the chasm of
separation and draw near to Christ in the Church.
With proper order and instruction and confession of faith, non-believers can become
believers in good standing. Separated believers can return to full unity with Christ with
repentance and renewal in Christ.
The Holy Mysteries of the Church, Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation, Holy Confession and
Holy Communion enable souls distant from Christ to be united and/or reunited with Christ.
Faith in Christ empowers the person. Faith in Christ gives the person reason to hope
and exert the self for the purpose of the glory of God and salvation of the soul.
The Eleventh Chapter of Hebrews is the classic summary of faith through the centuries.
The Eleventh Chapter of Hebrews documents the common theme of "faith" uniting believers in
God in successive periods of history.
Present day believers have a responsibility to be true in faith. Present day believers
reviewing the Eleventh Chapter of Hebrews can take note of the examples of faith surviving
centuries of criticism.
Faith in the face of adversity is for the serious in Christ, the true believers.
Noah and Abraham and Moses and Stephen stayed the course with faith in God.
And the apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith.' (Lk. 17:5)
The Holy Apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith. Men and women on death row can
ask the Lord for an increase in faith. Men, women and children in hospital beds and rehab
centers can ask the Lord for an increase in faith.
Elderly citizens in nursing and personal care homes and the homebound can ask the Lord
for an increase in faith. Individuals of all ages, all ethnic backgrounds and in all nations
can ask the Lord for an increase in faith.
The ability to ask for an increase in faith is not limited to the Holy Apostles of
centuries ago. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
(Heb. 13:8) Individuals desiring a better life in
Christ must take the initiative to reach out in faith to Christ.
Christ is ever-present. Individuals must be willing to acknowledge and turn to Christ
for help. Individuals informed about Christ and advanced in knowledge and religious faith
will still commit sins and are required to repent.
Repentance is necessary throughout life. Faith in God is required throughout life.
As one grows in Christ, one has a history of Christ's faithfulness to draw on in times
when repentance is necessary.
Until one departs this life, sin will occur. Repentance, Confession and Holy Communion
are necessary. When a person turns to Christ for an increase in faith, the person takes on
the responsibility to live in faithfulness to Christ.
One cannot turn to Jesus as if Jesus were a fireman only to be used in times of emergency.
Jesus Christ is to be the goal of each believer each day. Jesus Christ is to be the source of
nourishment and joy each day.
Knowing that our faith is limited is important. Knowing that an increase in faith is
necessary is important. Being aware of our own lack of knowledge regarding Christ and the
Church is a good starting point.
When we know we do not know much, then we can open our hearts and minds for more learning.
While our minds function, we can continue to learn. We should continue to learn about Christ.
We deny ourselves the fullness of life if we do not seek to learn.
Young children will remember their teachings about Christ when they are much older.
Older people will recall lessons of youth even after they think they are long forgotten.
Investing in a child is an investment in God's Kingdom. God loves children and wants
them to come to Him.. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Let the little children come to Me, and
do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 19:14)
Acts 20: 18-21 - And when they had come to him, he said to them: You know, from the first
day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all
humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how
I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and
from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks repentance toward God and faith
toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Believers are expected to place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems obvious
that Jesus Christ is where believers are to direct and place their faith.
Believers need to be aware that when faith is discussed or mentioned, not everyone places
faith in Christ. Not everyone maintains the same degree of faith in Christ.
Not everyone takes repentance seriously. Not everyone takes faith in Jesus Christ seriously.
Becoming and remaining an Orthodox Christian is an important action. Benefiting from being
a practicing Orthodox Christian is directly proportional to the investment made of faith in
the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ said: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with
all your soul, and with all your mind." (Mt. 22:37) When a believer is
baptized, the whole body is immersed. When a believer is Chrismated, the body is sealed with
the gift of the Holy Spirit from head to toe.
The full person is expected to be a person of faith. Faith is expected to be complete.
When doubts and skepticism challenge the faith of the believer, the believer can return to
the profession of faith at Holy Baptism. The believer can draw strength from the Lord
Skepticism and doubt are to be cast aside. Believers are expected to focus on the
triumphant Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ defeated death and rose from the tomb.
The defeat of death through the Resurrection established hope. The defeat of death is
an inspiration capable of triumphing in times of despair. The defeat of death and the
Resurrection can help individuals grieving for beloved family or friends.
The Holy Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians read at the Funeral Service states:
"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest
you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even
so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus." (I Thess. 7:13-14).
The joy that comes from faith in Christ is evident at the celebration of the Resurrection
on Pascha each year. The joy is present at the Paschal celebration is sufficient to
strengthen the faith of believers throughout the year.
I Corinthians 13:2 - And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, sot that I could remove mountains, but have
not love, I am nothing.
The importance of faith is indisputable. Faith is necessary for the believer.
Faith is necessary to sustain the believer particularly in times of darkness or travail.
Faith is necessary to proceed toward the Kingdom when the path is difficult
and visibility is blurred.
Faith needs to be understood in context. St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians
in the Thirteenth Chapter addresses faith, hope and love. St. John Climacus, in
The Ladder of Divine Ascent2 identifies faith, hope and love as the
supreme trinity among the virtues.
The believer must think about faith, hope and love and the way each is part of
believer's life. The believer's faith deserves careful self-consideration as a
matter of personal integrity.
At Baptism the believer professes Jesus Christ as King and as God. The believer is
expected to live in ways consistent with the profession of faith. If the believer continues
to identify his or herself as a Christian consistent with the baptismal experience,
the way the believer lives should leave no doubt about the profession of faith and identity
of the person.
Personal integrity and faith are intended to be inseparable. Seeking God's kingdom as
the path of faith reflects and contributes to the believer's integrity.
The perception of faith for the believer may change as the believer matures from a newly
baptized infant to a mature adult.
The common elements of unity with Christ, faith in Christ, and resolution to follow
Christ should remain fundamental from Baptism to departure from this life.
Faith does not stand alone. Faith does entail power for the believer. Faith does give
confidence to the believer. Faith does energize the believer.
The absence of faith can have disturbing effects. The absence of faith can be paralyzing.
The absence of faith can result in failure in reaching the Kingdom of God. Jesus said to His
disciples: "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" The He arose and rebuked the winds
and the sea, and there was a great calm."
Faith can help the individual experience the calm that comes with Christ.
Faith can help the individual reach the intended goal with God. Faith can bring rest.
Faith is not physical but has an effect upon the physical. Faith is not physical by may
be expressed through physical actions.
Ephesians 6:14-16 - Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on
the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel
of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the
fiery darts of the wicked one."
When facing adversaries and temptations, firmness of faith is necessary. Confidence is
necessary that faith in God does not fail. Trusting in God is a matter of faith in God.
The more one perceives the blessings of God, the more one perceives the presence of God
and the way of God, the more one can act definitively. While having confidence in faith,
each person is subject to trials that can derail the journey to the Kingdom.
Pride and carelessness can cause downfall. Being careful is required. Being close to
God is required. Being informed about faith is important. Individuals have different degrees
of knowledge about faith.
It would be interesting to see what forms each person's perception of faith. It would be
interesting to see how many different sources contribute to a person's vision of faith...and
what or who the sources are.
Have scientific studies been completed that deal with a person's faith in God and what
contributes the strengthening or weakening of faith? Have scientific studies been done that
compare the productivity of people with faith with those who proclaim to be non-believers?
Have scientific studies been done on the ability of individuals to withstand pain based
upon faith in God verses those who claim to non-believers? Have studies been done isolating
the factor of faith in God and comparing individuals committing crimes with law-abiding
When children grow up in a household with parents having a strong faith in God, what
has the greatest influence on the children that they adopt a similar degree of faith?
What reasons exist for the wide range of faith existing among baptized Christians?
Not every child growing up in a household of strong believing adults ends up as a strong
believing adult. Not every child growing up in a family of professed non-believers grows
to adulthood as a non-believer.
What are the best steps to take to strengthen a person's faith in God? What are the
best steps a parent can take to increase the likelihood a child will mature as a strong
How do scientific studies of faith compare in terms of quantity of research conducted
as opposed to scientific studies of other behavioral disciplines? Are more psychological
studies done on motivation than studies of a person's belief in God and the influence the
faith has in being a productive person?
Philippians 1:25 - And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue
with you all for your progress and joy of faith.
Faith and joy go together. The Risen Christ brings joy to the hearts of believers.
The celebration of the Feasts of the Church brings joy to believers.
The Holy Spirit brings joy to believers
The Holy Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Believers can assess their own spiritual development by the extent the fruit of the Spirit
in present in their lives. Believers can be motivated to repent and seek the Kingdom of God.
Temptations, disturbances, distractions will challenge the internal peace and joy of a
believer. Keeping focused on Christ is essential. Reading the lives of the saints gives
believers sources of inspiration particularly in the cases of martyrs facing death with
the peace of Christ and the joy of the Kingdom.
On Holy Saturday believers read about Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the fiery furnace.
"The angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azariah and his companions,
and drove the fiery flame out of the furnace, and made the midst of the furnace like a moist
whistling wind, so that the fire did not touch them at all or hurt or trouble them." 3
On Great and Holy Saturday, the joy of Pascha is distinctly in the air. The readings
of Great and Holy Saturday morning prepare the faithful for the Resurrection.
The long journey through Great Lent culminating in Holy Week is finally at the gates of
joy on Great and Holy Saturday. God's love and care for His people is shown on the Cross. God's
love and care for His people is evident in the readings on Great and Holy Saturday morning.
Believers taking the Lenten journey seriously come to sense the joy on Great and Holy
Saturday. Writing about Great and Holy Saturday morning Vespers and the Liturgy of St. Basil
the Great, Father Aleksandar Schmemann said: "If one opens one's heart and mind to it and
accepts it meaning and its light, the very truth of Orthodoxy is given by it, the taste and
the joy of that new life which shown forth from the grave." 4
Faith for contemporary Orthodox Christians grows out of knowledge of the Resurrection.
Faith for contemporary Orthodox Christians grows out of centuries of witness to the
Joy in the Risen Lord is an ever-renewed joy.
I Timothy 1:5 Whereas the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a
good conscience and sincere faith.
The Holy Apostle Paul references sincere faith. He combines the reference to faith with
love and a good conscience. Believers are expected to live lives of purity.When sin occurs,
repentance, Holy Confession and Holy Communion enable the believer to return to the unity
Maintaining a clean heart, a clean mind and a clear conscience certainly is a desirable
goal for every Orthodox Christian. Temptations, weakness, passions, get in the road and are
obstacles capable of corrupting and detracting the believer.
Everyday is an opportunity to live in purity and in unity with Christ. Everyday is a day
to be with God, to glorify God, to give thanks to God. Everyday is a day to experience the
love of God and to share love for God with others.
Everyday is a day to do Christian good. Everyday is a day to learn more about God and
ways to please God. Everyday is a day to please God.
Within the home, within the parish community, at the workplace, school or community social
organization. living in since faith is desired and expected. Individuals known to be Christians
are observed by others. When a Christian person acts in ways contrary to the teachings and
principles of Christianity, he or she is not a good model.
When a person violates the commitment to honor Jesus Christ as King and God, the believer
breeches the commitment made at Holy Baptism. When a believer honors Christ as King and as God,
the belief is reflected in the person's lifestyle.
The Holy Apostle Paul speaks about love issuing forth from a pure heart, good conscience
and sincere faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "You will know them by their fruits."
When love is manifested in the life of a believer, presumably a pure heart, a good
conscience and sincere faith are also part of the believer's characteristics. Achieving
and maintaining a pure heart, clear conscience and sincere faith requires constant vigilance.
It is easy to go astray. Faithfulness is required in small matters as well as in large.
The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and
teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and
teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt.5:19)
A resolute faith is necessary. A focused mind and heart are necessary to please God.
Discipline is necessary in the Christian life. The person manifesting love experiences
love in Christ and is nourished by the love of Christ.
The love of Christ is inexhaustible and the person of faith knows this. A person of
faith seeks the love of God and to share the love of God.
Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let
us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with
perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter
of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and
is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Our faith emanates from Christ. Our faith rests in Christ. Our faith is nourished and
sustained by Christ. We cannot be faithful without Christ and still be Christian.
We cannot be Christian in the truest sense without faith. We need to assess our faith.
We need to assess our faithfulness as Christians. We need to always be willing to learn and
be willing to acknowledge how little we really know.
Pride that will result in our downfall has no place in lives of faith. Hunger for
Christ will be satisfied only by Christ. Anything less that faithfulness to Christ will
be recognized for what it is.
To learn about faith requires placing a value on faith. The investment of time and
thought required to learn about faith has a value to be counted. The mind is challenged
in considering the dimensions of faith.
The mind is challenged in placing faith in the proper perspective. Some would simplify
the understanding of faith. Some would overcomplicate the understanding of faith.
Finding an understanding of faith that goes to the essence of faith is what is desired.
Coming to know faith that will enable the person to be a better person of faith is what is
Faith is described in the Eleventh Chapter of Hebrews as: "the assurance o things hoped
for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb.11:1)
Believers studying the lives of Noah, braham, Joseph, Moses, Sampson, David and others
mentioned in the Eleventh Chapter of Hebrews will be inspired and experience a sense of faith.
The believer's relationship with God is defined by the practice of faith.
The believer's relationship with God improves as the believer grows in faith.
God knows what is needed in each life. God knows the thoughts of each person. Earthly
life is finite and compared to the age of the world, the length of a life is miniscule.
The search to learn more about faith has value to the extent the knowledge is put to use
in the love and following of Christ. Learning about faith is not to be simply an intellectual
Learning about faith is intended to be beneficial.
St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pa.
September 1/14, 2006.
Draft Document for Adult Class.
1See the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 25.
2St. John Climacus. The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Masssachusettes, 2001, p. 225
3Great and Holy Saturday. Prepared by Rev. Paul Lazor,
Department of Religious Education, Orthodox Church in America, pp. 52-54.
3Ibid., p. 7
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