15 September 2009

The Holy Great Martyr Nikita the Goth

The Holy GreatMartyr Nikita was a Goth (a Germanic tribe). He was born and lived on the banks of the Danube River, and suffered for Christ in the year 372. The Christian faith was then already widely spread throughout the territory of the Goths. Saint Nikita believed in Christ and accepted Baptism from the Gothic bishop Theophilus, a participant in the First OEcumenical Council. Pagan Goths began to oppose the spread of Christianity, which resulted in internecine strife.

After the victory of Fritigern, -- heading a Christian army and inflicting defeat on the pagan Athanarik, the Christian faith began to spread increasingly among the Goths. Bishop Wulfil, the successor to Bishop Theophilus, created a Gothic alphabet and translated into the Gothic language many priestly books. Saint Nikita worked intensely among his fellow Goths at spreading Christianity. By his personal example and inspired words he brought many pagans to the Christian faith. However, Athanarik after his defeat again contrived to gather his own forces, return to his own country and reestablish his former power. Having remained a pagan, he continued to hate Christians and persecute them. Saint Nikita, having undergone many tortures, was thrown into a fire, where he died in the year 372. The friend of Saint Nikita, a Christian named Marianus, by night retrieved the body of the martyr, -- unharmed by the fire and illumined by a miraculous light, and gave it over to burial in Cilicia. Afterwards it was transferred to Constantinople. Part of the relics of the GreatMartyr Nikita were later transferred to the monastery of Vysokie Dechany in Serbia.

07 September 2009

Will I Forever Wear the Chains?

Everyone carries a cross--at least, ever Christian does. We learn that from the Lord Himself in St. Matthew's Gospel (16:24). That cross is the struggle to deal with our passions, our sins...all those things which the Orthodox Christian tradition identifies as "the world," by St. Isaac the Syrian's definition. And we must die to the world, on that cross, before we can be raised to the heavens with Christ. St. Dismas (aka 'the good thief') found salvation in an instant of repentance, suffering next to the Lord; some people think of his salvation as an extra-ordinary event (I have even advanced that understanding once or twice), but the truth is, it is still according to the Orthodox understanding of salvation. He worked out his salvation with fear and trembling--and physical suffering of the same kind as the Lord Himself. The world within him was crucified with his true repentance and holy fear at the same time that his body was being crucified for his crimes.

The thing is...even though I see this, and understand it, and, heck, even believe it, I have come to this weird place spiritually. Deliverance and salvation at once seem near at hand, and impossibly far away. The truth is, I am still chained by the weight of sins that I commit continually...repent of, confess...and then commit again. The Lord is longsuffering and of great goodness, and his mercy endures forever--but my patience with myself has none of those things. I do love Christ, but I love my sins far more.

A friend tells me that Elder Paisios said that the goal of our life was to learn to love the Lord more than we love sin. I am far, far from the goal, it seems. And those dark hours before the dawn, there every evil thought assaults my imagination, consciously and unconsciously, make me begin to feel that I will never be able to shed the chains of my sins. Even taking things a day at a time proves too much for me. Hour by hour, minute by minute.

Psalm LXIX
O God, be attentive unto helping me; O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be shamed and confounded that seek after my soul. Let them be turned back and brought to shame that desire evils against me. Let them be turned back straightway in shame that say unto me: Well done! Well done! Let them be glad and rejoice in Thee all that seek after Thee, O God, and let them that love Thy salvation say continually: The Lord be magnified. But as for me, I am poor and needy; O God, come unto mine aid. My helper and my deliverer art Thou, O Lord; make no long tarrying.