Archpastoral Reflections of Archbishop Demetrios for September 2007
Sep 10, 2007
Over the past few months we have given attention to the topic of “security” as it is understood within our Orthodox faith. From our rich spiritual heritage and the beautiful liturgical life of the Church, we have affirmed the role of the Theotokos, the Saints, and the Angels as agents of divine aid and protection. In doing so we acknowledge that the ultimate source of providence and enduring security is God. It is the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Who is our refuge and our help in time of need.
In the book of Psalms we find numerous hymns that express the deepest levels of human anxiety and fear, juxtaposed with the eternal truth of God’s presence and protection. One of these hymns is Psalm 22, the first verse of which was quoted by Jesus Himself on the Cross:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (1) …All those who see me ridicule me (7)…My heart is like wax; it has melted within me…(14) … The congregation of the wicked has enclosed me." (16)
These are cries of great struggle, suffering, and pain that could come from any number of afflictions or tragedies that are a part of our life in this world. They reflect the loneliness, alienation, and lack of security that one can feel when the circumstances around us become so challenging and oppressive.
In considering these cries, serious questions arise within our hearts and minds: Who can help me? Where can I find peace and healing? Where can I find strength to endure? In answer to these questions the Psalmist once again turns to God. The opening verses of Psalm 18 are illustrative:
"I will love You O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies." (1-3)
This presents an affirmation of the constant and loving presence of God in our lives. It offers also a clear indication that our souls and our lives are forever secure with Him, and at the same time a recognition of our need to cry out to Him in love and in faith. The Lord God is the one who can help, who will come to our aid, who will deliver us from destruction and death. Through His presence, our trust in His divine help, and our praise of Him, we are led away from despair into the confidence and joy of salvation and victory. Once again, consider the manner by which this was plainly evident for the Psalmist as expressed in the verses of Psalm 34:
"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth…(1) I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…(4) This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles…"(6)
God’s presence and the security that we find in Him lead us to praise Him and to offer a witness of His salvation. This is a witness both to other believers who are united with us in the Church and to all of humankind, a testimony of faith in God, of what is true, of what will stand forever. It is a proclamation of confidence and trust in God that rests upon promises of life more powerful than anything in the universe. Experiencing this security in God changes our lives, and gives hope to others in our world who are longing for the sense of security that the Psalmist so eloquently articulated in his 23rd Psalm, likening the Lord’s pastoral care and guidance to that of a good shepherd:
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (4-6)
What has God done? What will He uphold until we are secured eternally in heaven? He has delivered us. He has placed us upon the rock of faith. He has given us a refuge of peace. He has built around us an impenetrable wall of holiness that repels evil and even death itself. He leads us to still waters. He has sacrificed himself so that we might be free to enter into the marvelous life and light of his glory. He offers us constant peace and assurance in the midst of a very complex and challenging world.
May the words of the Psalmist become your words. When you find yourself in despair, turn in faith to the One who loves you and who will save you. God loves you, and His Kingdom is at hand. He will deliver you and come to your aid. In Him you will find peace, security, and the assurance that comes from knowing that He is offering you life, forever.
Archbishop of America