Dearly beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ:
We live in a time, an age when it becomes ever more important for all of us, clergy and faithful alike, to know scripture, what scriptural faith is really all about and how to employee it in our daily lives, along our Christian path and walk, day by day.
We believe, as Orthodox Catholics that faith is the foundation of Christian life. It is the fundamental virtue of Abraham, the forefather of Israel and the Christian Church. "Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen 15:6).
Jesus begins his ministry with the same command -- for faith.
Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God and saying, "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
All through his life Jesus was calling for faith; faith in himself, faith in God his Father, faith in the Gospel, faith in the Kingdom of God. The fundamental condition of the Christian life is faith, for with faith come hope and love and every good work and every good gift and power of the Holy Spirit. This is the doctrine of Christ, the apostles, and the Church.
In the Scriptures faith is classically defined as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
There are basically two aspects to faith; one might even say two meanings of faith.
In the first place one cannot believe anything which he does not already somehow know. A person cannot possibly believe in something he knows nothing about. Secondly, what one believes in and trusts must be reasonable. If asked to believe in the divinity of a cow, or to place one's trust in a wooden idol, one would refuse on the basis that it is not reasonable to do so. Thus, faith must have its reasons, it must be built upon knowledge, it must never be blind. Thirdly, knowledge itself is often built upon faith. One cannot come to knowledge through absolute skepticism. If anything is known at all, it is because there exists a certain faith in man's knowing possibilities and a real trust that the objects of knowledge are really "showing themselves" and that the mind and the senses are not acting deceitfully. Also, in relation to almost all written words, particularly those which relate to history, the reader is called to an act of faith. He must believe that the author is telling the truth; and, therefore, he must have certain knowledge and certain reasons for giving his trust.
Very often it is only when one does give his trust and does believe something that one is able to "go further," so to speak, and to come finally to knowledge of his own and to the understanding of things he would never have understood before. It is true to say that certain things always remain obscure and meaningless unless they are viewed in the light of faith which then provides a way of explaining and understanding their existence and meaning. Thus, for example, the phenomena of suffering and death would be understood differently by one who believes in Christ than by one who believes in some other religion or philosophy or in none at all.
Faith is always personal. Each person must believe for himself. No one can believe for another. Many people may believe and trust the same things because of a unity of their knowledge, reason, experience and convictions. There can be a community of faith and a unity of faith. But this community and unity necessarily begins and rests upon the confession of personal faith.
For this reason the Symbol of Faith in the Orthodox Catholic Church -- not only at baptisms and official rituals of joining the Church, but also in common prayers and in the Divine Liturgy -- always remains in the first person. If we can pray, offer, sing, praise, ask, bless, rejoice, and commend ourselves and each other to God in the Church and as the Church, it is only because each one of us can say honestly, sincerely, and with prayerful conviction: "Lord, I believe..." -- adding, as one must, the words of the man in the gospel -- "... help thou my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).
In order for our faith to be genuine, we must express it in everyday life. We must act according to our faith and prove it by the goodness and power of God acting in our lives. This does not mean that we "tempt God" or "put God to the test" by doing foolish and unnecessary things just for the sake of seeing if God will participate in our foolishness. But it does mean that if we live by faith in our pursuit of righteousness, we can demonstrate the fact that God will be with us, helping and guiding us in every way.
For faith to grow and become stronger, it must be used. Each person should live according to the measure of faith which he has, however small, weak and imperfect it might be. By acting according to one's faith, trust in God and the certitude of God's presence is given, and with the help of God many things which were never before imagined become possible.
We advise all of you, to take at least on scripture verse per day or week to learn it, memorize it, pray with it, meditate upon it, use it in your daily walk with our Lord, Savior and God, Jesus Christ.
Blessings and the inner peace of God to each of you,
+Perry (Joseph Benedict) Sills, S.T.D.
The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church in America
San Jose, California
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