Complete Audio Library (USB) Epistles of St. John the Theologian Summer 2015 Kyriakatika The Book of Daniel The Mystery of Marriage The Apocalypse The Ten Commandments Spiritual Combat 20th Century Greek Elders Tribute to Saint Paul Essence of Christianity Holy Theotokos
The Most Holy Theotokos according to Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain Contextual or Post Patristic Theology Love In Truth Christian Martyrdom - The 40 Virgin Martyrs The Apocalypse The Contribution of St. Gregory Palamas to Hesychasm Sunday of Orthodoxy Spiritual Examination The Three Friends The Second Coming
Apocalypse Chapter 6
The patience and the Kingdom— About (Sunday) the day of the Lord.
I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance. Here we have three characteristics that John uses to show that the Church is advancing on her journey. These three elements will always exist in the Church, even at peaceful times: suffering, patience, and kingdom. However, we must note that the Evangelist here is not referring to the everyday sufferings and patience that even the worldly people need to have. We often hear the statement, “Boy, life is tough, and full of problems.” but this is not what St. John is referring to, as we will see in this lesson.
Previously, we mentioned a number of things about thlipsis, or distress. Again different translators translate thlipsis as suffering, or tribulation, or distress. We need to look at patience and kingdom. Patience is the second subject of the Revelation which is indispensably connected to the element of distress. Many times when a brother is suffering, there is nothing we can do for him or her. We cannot do much, let us say, when a person has a physical illness. We often find ourselves telling that person “Have patience.” Or, we may be unable to solve someone’s financial problems. In any event when we cannot come up with a solution to someone’s needs, we tell that person to be patient, to hang in there. Oftentimes this may be, or may sound like, a way out because of our helplessness and our inability to offer our services in a constructive and positive manner. Moreover, usually the person that hears this repeatedly - is told to be patient; that something will happen; that you never know - to this person this begins to sound like advice with no substance—simply rhetoric. How many times do we tell people in distress to have patience, and, they usually bite their lips and repeat, “Yeah, patience,” like “thanks for nothing.” However, my friends, this very simple expression that people take for granted, if placed in its right context, would be the best advice; nothing could be better than this.
Our times lack this element of patience. Today patience is considered a virtue, but not necessarily a dynamic quality. It is something rather passive and unimpressive. The patient person who holds back and exercises control may be considered weak. I do not know what to say, but the people of our days are terribly impatient. People are busy today, always running, always chasing after something. Our civilization today is one of fast food, convenience stores, and three-minute microwave dinners; everything is quick, fast, in a hurry. We’re all running, all of us, and since we’re always looking at our watch to make time, to do more, to cover more ground; this eliminates the element of patience. We have difficulty coping with the everyday adversities of life due to this lack of patience. However, I will maintain my position and tell you that patience is the best medicine for suffering. With patience, we carry the cross of suffering and finally win the battle. Christ tells us, the one who will stay patient until the very end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22) However, every distress that visits us in our daily life and every display of patience need to be connected to Christ. Otherwise, there is no value or meaning, and this patience does not hold water in the afterlife; it is useless.
Granted, a few things can be accomplished in this life if someone handles his life’s challenges with patience. The first one, which is not of small importance, is to avoid nerve pills, to avoid treatment from nervous breakdowns. This is not insignificant, you know. Many times, I cross myself and pray, “My God, protect me, so I don’t end up in a neurological clinic at some point.” Our times are horrible. Sometimes, disasters strike in the family one after another and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so practicing patience is definitely to our advantage even in the mundane sense. However, this does not carry any weight in eternity if these things are not related and connected to Jesus Christ. So both the suffering and the patience which is the stretcher that carries us through our suffering, need to be connected with Christ.
St. John the Evangelist says, …in the suffering, and kingdom, and patience, in Jesus Christ. Here, the King James uses “Jesus Christ” while the NIV, which is more prone to evangelicalism, says only “Jesus.” Moreover, Jesus Christ means that the cause of my hardship is because I persist and insist on living a life of the Gospel. Please tell me, what is the value of suffering if I went to the casino and lost my life’s savings? Or I lived a life of sin and now I am sick or now I am hurting, or I lost some opportunities in life due to my foolishness or laziness? All these sufferings not only will not be rewarded in eternity, but on the contrary, Christ will reproach and judge people who acted like this and wasted their God-given talents. If we were prodigal, foolish, and unworthy servants, we will be judged. My tribulations must be due to my spiritual life, the result of living a life of the Gospel. If I am scorned, or if I lose an opportunity, or if I am not included, or if I am ignored due to my Christian identity; or if someone loses a promotion, loses an opportunity, because he refuses to become a Freemason, isn’t this a form of financial sanction? Sure, it is, and in the days of the Antichrist, this will be strictly enforced; Christians will either worship the beast or go hungry. This goes on behind the scenes now but in the future, this will become increasingly overt. So, when I am facing persecution, when I suffer in my life, because I’m holding on to the true Gospel, when I am holding on to my Christian identity, then this suffering will be posted in my eternal report card, so to speak. This is suffering in Jesus Christ; the patience that I must endure must be in Jesus Christ. As we know even the thief, the robber, the criminal, employs a great deal of patience. He waits for hours until the homeowner drives away so he can break in. Needless to say, this patience has no value, and is highly punishable.
The third element is the kingdom. Hence, we have suffering, patience, and kingdom in Jesus Christ. What is this kingdom? It is the mystical sharing of the faithful, throughout history, in the sufferings of Christ. The genuine Christian shares in the sufferings of Christ. These three, which have a social, ethical consequence, are characteristics of the genuine Christian. These three form an unbreakable chain: suffering, patience, and kingdom. To persist in the suffering, patience is needed. The suffering and the patience in Christ will lead us to the Kingdom of God. When we advise someone to be patient, we said earlier that this advice often is ignored. There is a reason for this, because when we offer this advice to the other person, we offer it and suggest it by its own merit, and not in the context of its fruit, which is the Kingdom. I believe we are all very guilty of this. When we advise our friends, neighbors, relatives, to hold on and be patient, do we ever tell them that the kingdom of God awaits them? We go to the hospital or visit a sick person at their home. We tell them and encourage them to be patient. However, we leave the kingdom of God out of the picture. Since we don’t mention the very purpose of this patience, and the purpose is the kingdom of God, the other person will be left dry, and he will be left with a sigh and repeat, “Yeah, I know, patience.” We need to mention what our saints always write about these adversities, worries, and troubles, that they are holy visitations preparing us for the kingdom of God.
This is the second time the word kingdom is mentioned in this chapter. The entire New Testament is full of this term “kingdom”, “kingdom of God”. We see this so often and truly my friends, Christianity is a kingdom and not a religion. A kingdom and a typology of Christianity as kingdom is the God-governed kingdom of Israel of the Old Testament. As you know, when the Jews inhabited the Promised Land, they did not have a leader. They did not have a king or a president. They had the so-called Judges, people who governed by the statutes of God, and God would make His will known to them. God was their Lord and King. The King of Israel was God, the Almighty. When Nathaniel first came face to face with Christ, and Christ told him, I saw you under the fig tree, Nathaniel said, You are the Son of God, the king of Israel. (John 1:48-50) This king of Israel is something that echoes the spirit of the Old Testament, how the Jews could look at the king, for them their king was their God; the two were intertwined. God asked Moses to record this because later the Jews asked for a king from the last judge, Samuel. And the cause for this was that the neighboring nations were having kings and the Jews began to become jealous.
So, the kings of the neighboring nations influenced the Jews, who started asking for a king. Samuel asked them, “Isn’t God enough for you?” God even told them the same thing. “Where did I let you down? Where did I fail you? So, you want a king? Very well then, I will give you a king, but a king will sit on the shoulders of your sons and your daughters.” (1 Samuel 8-9) Nevertheless, they insisted anyway. The first king was Saul; then came David, and then Solomon. Solomon was the peaceful king. He reigned for forty years with no war, and he taxed the Jews so heavily, so heavily that the Jews were groaning under this pressure of immense taxes. God had warned them ahead of time. At any rate, these details about the kings of Israel are not of interest to us at this time. What is of interest to us is the fact that historical Israel had God as its king, but the existing kings of Israel were enthroned under a certain term. They could not act on their own. They could not act on anything unless they asked God through the archpriest. If a king exercised his own authority, he would be punished. That is why Saul was dethroned, because he was acting independently, ignoring the commandments of God. Thus, the human king was a representative of God who was always the king of Israel. All this serves as a historical typology to this great truth, the great truth that Christianity is a kingdom and the King is Christ.
As we said, Christianity is not a religion. Moreover, religion means the worship of the divine for expiation, or to have some petition satisfied and some needs fulfilled, without necessarily having man take part in God’s life. We all need to understand this. Again, what is religion? It is to petition God for a number of things - my needs, whether God would give them to me or not, but it does not mean that I have to necessarily particpate ) in the life of God. This is the definition of religion, and this meaning corresponds to all religions on the face of the earth—all religions. Now, what is the meaning of kingdom? It means that God governs every aspect of the life of the Christian. There is nothing in the life of the Christian that excludes God. God is all-inclusive and the Christian enjoys all the good things of God. The ancient Greeks, for instance, felt that they were in good standing with their gods as long as they offered them a sacrifice. They assumed that that was all their gods wanted. Now, what was the lifestyle of the person offering the sacrifice? This did not matter much. They thought that this was not really any of the gods’ concern. That is why certain people would offer great and massive sacrifices—something like one hundred bulls, an entire estate. Now this person could have been a murderer, an adulterer, a fornicator, a thief, and a criminal. This did not matter much. At least, this is how they perceived things. This is how the ancient Greeks imagined things to be, that their gods were not interested in their lifestyle, as long as a sacrifice was offered. The gods would look favorably on this human offering and sacrifice. The gods would grant what was requested. This is the meaning of religion, but Christianity is a kingdom, and in this kingdom we are called to participate in the life of God.
When we talk about theosis, being God-like, Christ-like, becoming one with Christ, it means that we enter the life of God, and this is what God wants us to do, how He wants us to be. That is why there is a vast difference between Christianity and the average religion. Unfortunately, today most of us live Christianity as a religion and not as a kingdom, and this presents a number of problematic consequences. First, we have separated ethics from doctrine, or the faith from the lifestyle, thereby reducing our faith to a sense of duty. Moreover, here we can have people totally un-churched, not even Christians in some cases. They may be Buddhists, spiritists, Masons, agnostics, and these people call upon and utilize the moral teachings of the Gospel. These people consider Christianity as a religion with good morality, and they think that morality is the central core of Christianity. By doing this we separate and we divorce the doctrine from morality. We often hear women say, “You know, my husband doesn’t come to Church. However, he is a much better Christian than I could ever be. He is more patient, gentler, calm, he keeps the Commandments, and he does not get angry. He may remind his wife for example; with all your churching you are still less calm than me. After the husband repeats this a number of times, the wife, who obviously does not know too many things, agrees with him. She even advertises about the goodness of her husband or her children. “Oh, my children are the best, they really love God. The only thing is, they never step inside a Church, but they love Jesus.” However, the issue is not if people are good, better, or best. There is no salvation under these circumstances. The wife cannot go to church in the place of her husband. The wife cannot perform the religious duty of the entire family. We often hear, “Mom goes to Church often enough for all of us.” Well, this is problematic and what this does, is it actually separates doctrine from morality. It reduces Christianity to a sense of religious duty.
Is there any wonder why Christianity today does not attract many converts? It is because it is presented as a religion of rules and regulations, and a performance of duty. Today’s man hates and despises the idea of duty. He is on duty enough with his work and with all his preoccupation. People also try to separate worship from their lifestyle. Some people may think, “Well, I go to church Sunday morning, I give my morning to God; at nighttime I can have the freedom to go to any nightclub I want to.” In doing this we fall into the area of form worship, or, to put it in everyday language, we’re just going through the motions. Our heart, our mind is not really involved. We are simply going through the motions. The motions are necessary, but once inside I must concentrate on the substance, because the substance behind all these forms and motions is what we need to get at. Now, if I do not discover the substance because my life is separated from this substance, then I will be left with a shell. Then I will be saying, “I must go to Church because my mother went to church. I must light my candle, and I must do these things, and so on” then I end up being a form worshipper, going through the motions without understanding the essence of these things.
The second setback stemming from this consequence of reducing Christianity to a religion from a kingdom, is that of syncretism, or the tendency to compare Christianity with other religions, even though we may consider Christianity as a higher and a better form of faith. This is a very basic mistake – comparing our faith with other forms of faith. For example, when a young man begins to look at Buddhism, we try to convince him that Christianity is a much better religion, much better than Buddhism or Mohammedanism. And this is the serious mistake—the minute we begin to say Christianity is better. We cannot compare. There is no comparison. All the things offered by other religions do not deliver. Nor do they save. They are all of this world and they are the product of human imagination, a product of the human intellect.
Accordingly, let us understand this once and for all; Christianity does not come to complete and measure up to the other religions. This is a very timely subject, especially in our days where syncretism and ecumenism are on the front burner of many religious conferences and meetings. Christianity did not come to measure up and take a stand above the other religions, but to neutralize them and replace them. True Christianity does not come to say, “Well, there’s something good in every religion.” If we look at things that way, then there are probably some very good verses in the satanic bible! No, the truth is that all the religions of the world are works and inspirations of the Devil. Do not tell me that Buddhism is not a work of the Devil. At least Buddha lived before Christ and he has some type of an excuse. However, now that the light came into the world, isn’t it a shame for Buddhism to exist? What is worse than this? This is a great and miserable shame for baptized Orthodox Christians in Europe and in the West to become Buddhists, to leave Orthodox spirituality for Eastern philosophy. Christ came to destroy all these things, to destroy the works of the Devil.
Christ said something, which may seem a bit heavy. We find it in the Gospel of John, “All those who came before me are thieves and robbers.” (10:8) —All of them. He did not make any distinctions or any exceptions. He did not say, “Oh, the philosophy of Plato was valuable and nice.” Or, “Buddhism and Confucianism have some wise sayings. True, they are not perfect, but they have some wonderful teachings.” Or “Yoga and T’ai Chi are helpful spiritual exercises,” Or, “TM (Transcendental Meditation) can be of some help.” Let us understand how far this type of thinking is from the Truth of Christ. Everyone, everyone that came before me are thieves and robbers. What did they steal? What did they rob? They stole the human soul, which is a possession of the living and true God, and its place is in the kingdom of God. This is Christianity.
Try to remember the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, who saw a great statue with bands of various materials: gold, silver, copper, iron, and clay. These are the kingdoms of the earth and, if you will, the religions of the earth as well. Daniel saw a rock uncut by human hand, but this rock was self-cut, self-hewn, from an unhewn mountain. In the Salutations to the Mother of God (read each Friday during Lent and for other purposes), one of the Salutations says, “Rejoice, unhewn mountain.” The Most Holy Theotokos is this unhewn mountain in the vision of Daniel. The self-cut rock signifies the virgin birth, and this rock is Christ. This is how Daniel interpreted this dream of Nebuchadnezzar. A heavenly king came and fell upon this statue and he pulverized and turned the statue to dust, and the dust was blown by the wind, and the statue was nowhere to be found. This is Christianity. It did not come to travel and journey along with the other religions or to coexist peacefully with them, and to learn to get along. It came to dissolve the false faiths once and for all. Now, after acknowledging all these truths, all these correct positions of Christianity, how can we compare Christianity to other religions? How can we possibly compare it with the false religions of this age? How can we talk about syncretism? Christianity is a kingdom and an inheritance. A Christian is not the religious man, the man who stays at a ritualistic worship or a habitual worship. A Christian is a citizen of a kingdom. A Christian is the person who keeps calling upon the Lord. He is the disciple. He is the Christian. He is the holy one.
So, we have tribulation, patience and then, the kingdom. Along the way, we do have companionship or koinonia.This companionship not only exists between the faithful in the form of fellowship, but also between the faithful and Christ because Christ is the one who suffered. St. Paul captures this very beautifully, The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:11)This living, enduring and reigning is what St. John writes about using: tribulation, patience and kingdom.
Now St. John writes to his brothers and companions, to the Christians, On the Lord’s Day, I was in the Spirit. I was in a state of ecstasy. The Evangelist with much simplicity notes that he entered into a state of ecstasy. This “being in the Spirit” is an isolation of the man of the spiritual world from his normal external environment. He does this in order to encounter the supernatural world. However, there are two possible cases here. A person can be subjected to the active and the passive type of ecstasy. The second one, the passive, which a man can be subjected to, is demonic. It is a demonic ecstasy. Does this mean the Devil can create an ecstasy or a trance? Certainly. We need to be careful. There is much talk these days about out-of-body experiences. These are mostly demonic. This means to be in an ecstasy, but to be outside of oneself, to be in a place where I lose awareness or consciousness of my external environment. In this case, the subject has no clue where he is. Someone can be talking to him and he sees nothing, hears nothing; and the Devil can do this. Again, this passive state is demonic. And when a person is subjected to this type of ecstasy, this person is isolated; his consciousness is inactive; and his subconsciousness is inactive. He cannot perceive, and at times this is all erased from his memory. What is the significance of all this? We bring this up because this is the method used by all mediums or psychics. Mediums or psychics are mediators. They go between the external environment and the world of the spirits or the demons. The medium goes into ecstasy and gives us fantastic information and when he comes out of this trance, the medium remembers nothing. Not only does he not remember anything, he does not know anything, nothing at all. This is because in a demonic trance we have isolation of the consciousness. The consciousness is pushed aside.
On the contrary, during divine ecstasy we have complete control of all the powers of our soul. Another example of an ecstasy outside of St. John here in the book of the Revelation, who sees, talks, listens, is the one of St. Peter when he saw the screen with the animals being lowered. The Apostle not only sees, knows, feels, but he also reacts. When he hears, Peter, kill and eat, he says, Never, Lord. I will never kill and eat something unclean. Before all this, the book of the Acts of the Apostles says that he “fell into a trance” or an “ecstasy.” (Acts 10:10) He sees the sky open and unclean animals are lowered on a screen. Peter, kill and eat. “No, never Lord would I eat anything unclean.” He reacts. He is in complete control, he remembers the Law of Moses. He did not have any memory loss. This is significant because this is what we have in a divine ecstasy. This is divine ecstasy.
Therefore, St. John the Evangelist was in the Spirit. He says, I was in the Spirit. In other words, the powers of his body were somehow inactivated, subdued. Much like when we concentrate our mind on something, something intense, we may lose our perception of noise, hunger, thirst, or even danger. A snake could crawl right next to us if we are outdoors and we would have no clue because our mind was in a state of deep concentration. This is the meaning of the statement, “I was in the Spirit.” He goes on to tell us the time. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, (Rev. 1:10) or Kyriaki. In addition, this is the only verse in the entire New Testament that refers to the name of the first day of the week. In the Gospels, the Holy Evangelists refer to the day of the Lord, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, as “Mia ton sabbaton” or simply “the first day of the week.” However, here in the book of the Revelation we have the first instance where the day of the Resurrection took its name from the Tradition of the Church, “Kyriaki,” or Sunday, the Lord’s Day. As we know, in the Old Testament, the Sabbath was the day of the Lord, but in the New Testament, Sunday is also called the day of the Lord, or Kyriaki in Greek. It was on this day, the first day of the week that the Lord resurrected from the dead. He created light on the first day. He said let there be light. On this day, he sent his Holy Spirit to establish the Church on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and the Church on the first day of the week, on Sunday. (In the Old Testament, by the Sabbath, or the seventh day, the entire visible creation was completed. The entire creation was completed in six days and on the seventh day we have the completion of the entire creation when the Lord rested.
Now from the first Christian century we have the institution of the Lord’s day, or Kyriaki, which is the first day of the week, not the seventh day, but, being the first day after the seventh, and the Church Fathers use a special term for this; they call it the first day after the seventh, the Eighth Day. Thus, the eighth day represents the day of the second creation or the re-creation, or the renewal of nature, since the old nature became just that—it became old from corruption and death. So on this day we have the Resurrection of Christ, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the belief also exists that the Second Presence of Christ will be on Sunday as well. Now you may disagree with this and say, well, the Lord said, No one knows the day or the hour of the coming of the Lord. (Mark 13:32) Now this is true according to the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, but no one knows which Sunday it will be. Therefore, this belief of the Church does not contradict the written word of God about not knowing the day or the hour. However, is it not interesting that St. John also received the book of the Revelation on the Lord’s Day! The Resurrection, Pentecost, the book of Revelation, all this occurred on the Lord’s Day, and quite possibly the Second Presence of Christ will also take place on a Sunday.
We must also add that our Church celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord every week, every Sunday, and for Christians this is the specific meaning of a holiday. Sunday is a true holiday, a real feast day. The service of the Matins centers around the reading of the Gospel, or eothina, sections of the Gospel read during Matins, which are always referring to the Resurrection. All this makes Sunday a great day for Christians. In addition, the Epistle of Barnabas tells us in the fifteenth chapter, “This is why we must make the eighth day a day of great spiritual joy, in which day Jesus resurrected from the dead.” But in the ancient book of the Teachings of the Apostles, in the fourteenth chapter we read, “When you come together on the Lord’s Day, break bread.” or, “when you congregate on Sunday, celebrate the Holy Eucharist,” or “celebrate the Liturgy,” more simply. Receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. Here someone can ask how did some Christians get the bright idea that unless they fast from oil they should not receive Holy Communion? Unfortunately, they maintain some erroneous positions and people do not receive Holy Communion on Sunday because they cannot fast from oil on Saturday, or because they cannot fast for two, three, or five days from oil. The Canons of the Church forbid fasting from oil on Saturdays. These are heretical positions that keep the faithful from the medicine of immortality. So, for the sake of fasting, which is great in itself and necessary in our Christian discipline, no doubt, but due to lack of knowledge and much confusion we have lost the substance of the Day of the Lord, which is the most ideal day for being partakers of our Lord’s Body and Blood.
[Translator’s note: This is one extreme that we see in people from the old country. On one of my trips to the Midwest, we visited a very sick, elderly person in the hospital, and the parish priest offered the gentleman Holy Communion. A very pious and dear older man indeed; his response, “When I come out of the hospital, I must fast from oil for three weeks. Then I will come and take Holy Communion.” The latest I heard, and thank God for this, the gentleman did come out of the hospital alive and took Holy Communion. Again, this is the one extreme. We also have another extreme with some of our knowledgeable American Christians, who will be at a parish dance Saturday night or at a festival, sometimes even past midnight, drinking and eating everything in sight, and the next day they will line up for Holy Communion, in most cases totally unprepared. We need much help in these areas. We need Spiritual Fathers.] So, on the Lord’s day, the Book of Didache, (the teachings of the Apostles) says, “On the Lord’s Day, celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Take Holy Communion; not just the priest. With the fear of God and faith and love; draw near. Everyone draw near, all the Orthodox faithful who are eager and properly prepared to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ.” Therefore, the Lord’s Day, or Kyriaki, for the Christian is a day of the Resurrection, a day of celebration, a feast day, a day of rest, but also a day of good works.
The Holy Evangelist now continues, I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me, this tells us that this was something sudden. When something appears in front of us, in our visual spectrum, there is no element of surprise, but this noise was sudden and loud, very loud; it startled St. John. Somewhere else he will tell us the noise was loud, like the thundering of waterfalls. If you have ever been to Niagara Falls you can understand the thundering noise of falling waters. Thus, the voice of God is compared to the sound of water that falls from very high. A voice such as this will be heard at the final moment of history, at the last trumpet, when the tombs will be opened and the dead bodies will resurrect. St. Paul says in Thessalonians, For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangels call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; (1 Thess, 4:16) These are great mysteries. Generally, the voice or the noise of the trumpet is the voice of God. Remember Mt. Sinai, how God spoke—it was a noise of a trumpet call, a noise of thunder, and the people trembled while hearing this voice. What did the voice tell St. John? Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven Churches, So, write this entire vision, everything you see in a book, and send it to the seven Churches. Does this mean send the same book? No, it means write everything in a book and make seven copies. In the Old Testament there was one book in the temple and everyone went to the temple to hear the word of God. Not too long ago in some of our villages in Greece and some other Orthodox countries, no doubt, the only Gospel would be on the holy altar. This is unfortunate. The Word of God clearly tells us, Write this book and send it to the seven churches, meaning, copy it over and over again. Spread it all over. Yes. We need to print books and pamphlets and spread our faith to every corner of the earth. This is the will of God. Now we have printing shops, tapes, CD’s, computers, the web, everything. Let us use everything to spread the word of God all over the earth.
Here the Evangelist uses the words “heard” and “saw”. One time he’ll say, I heard the voice and then he will say, I saw the voice. Both of the senses of seeing and hearing are at a high level of excitement. St. Andrew says, “In spiritual matters, hearing and seeing are the same thing, because vision and hearing show the dynamics and the power of the revealed images. When we tell someone “I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes,” this shows the seriousness of these revealed events. The Evangelist wants to stress here that he is an eyewitness. He is an eyewitness of all these events that he will write. Not only did he see them with his eyes, but he heard them as well. Thus, write all this in a book is a command, but not only this; if the writing of the book is a command then the reading and studying of this book is also a command. Of course, books are written to be read and studied and not to be displayed and decorate our shelves in our libraries. My friends, we must study the word of God. Day and night we must study the word of God. However, let us expand on this book writing that St. John was instructed to do. Here we must mention that according to our Tradition, John could not write! We need to remind ourselves of this in our title-hungry days. John did not have a degree in theology from any of the Divinity schools. John’s writer was Prochoros, one of the seven deacons. In our holy iconography, John is depicted in a cave receiving the vision of the Revelation and next to him is deacon St. Prochoros acting as his stenographer. St. John is not the writer, but St. Prochoros is, so the original copy of this book was written in Patmos in the cave of the Revelation, which is perfectly preserved to this day.
Now whatever happened to that original book written by Prochoros? Did we ever wonder if it is still in existence? The very first book, is it still around? Can we find it in the archives of the Holy Mountain or Patmos? My friends, even though we have an abundance of many ancient manuscripts, nothing has been preserved from that original book which was in a form of a scroll, not even a tiny piece, not even a tiny piece of paper or membrane on which the original book was written. If you will, there is not a speck left from the Gospels, or the Epistles of Peter and Paul; there is not a single piece of paper from the entire New Testament. The original books written by the very hands of the Apostles have all vanished. This is not of great significance. The same thing happens with the virtue of almsgiving. We give someone a glass of water or a loaf of bread and these actions do not carry much weight in the course of someone’s life. The person that we helped will thirst again and go hungry again in a few hours. But the Lord said, He who gives a glass of water in my name will not lose his reward. I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. (Matthew 25: 35,36) This action, or rather the energy of this action, this insignificant action, will take eternal dimensions. It will stand forever, because it was connected with the will of God as a virtue. The virtue will stand. The spirit of this action will stay even though the material thing will disappear. The material is the carrier, the vehicle of this virtue. This applies to the original books of the New Testament as well. It does not matter that the material carrier was not preserved. Yes, it would be awesome and monumental to have a few pages from the handwriting of Sts. Paul, Peter, or Luke. This would be very exciting, but it is not significant. The important thing is that the word of God is not bound to a few pages. The word of God is alive. We have the word of God.
We have millions of books of the word of God. However, I want to add something more to this thought. We try to build certain things in our lives that will stand forever. We build a great house. We build a church. We buy things that last. We want them to last forever. We buy clothes, for instance, that will last an entire lifetime. We are tempted in this way. This is a great temptation, to build a monastery, let us say, in such a way to last until the end of time. We build a church to last until the end of history. Again, God is not bound to material elements. The important thing is to preserve the spirit of Orthodoxy. We have built hundreds, if not thousands, of Orthodox churches in this hemisphere. This is not a guarantee that the Spirit of God will be bound to them. The Spirit of God is not bound to stones and walls. Each generation must work to preserve and keep the spirit of Orthodoxy ablaze. Today, we do not have the hermitages of Sts. Anthony and Makarios, the hermits of Egypt and Sinai, the hut dwellers, and the stylites, or pole dwellers and tree dwellers. These are all gone. However, the ascetic spirit has not left the Orthodox Church. The true members of the Orthodox Church dwell in a spirit of asceticism and this spirit will always be in the Church. So let us not get caught up in the schemes of the material forms. But let us stay at the spirit. We have the book of the Revelation. It does not matter if it is the first book or the zillionth copy. We have the Revelation of God in front of us, which will give us the message of God, the message of our salvation.