Living Temporary LivesFr. Barnabas Powell
Orthodox Christianity is an eschatological religion! O, Mr. Fancypants with your big words! 🙂
Ok, Orthodoxy is the Faith that keeps eternity in mind and the ultimate victory of Christ over all darkness. Is that better? Ok, let me add more: Orthodoxy is the Faith, the Way of Life, that always reorients me and my life towards Eternity and not enslaved to the temporary.
Orthodoxy insists I stretch my perspective and focus to take in all God wants me to be!
In fact, the reality that eternity is more real than these temporary events is seen in how we worship, how we pray, how we deal with suffering, and how we live our lives. The power of a Faith that keeps eternal reality in mind is that this makes every moment of my life meaningful. And this eternal perspective actually forms and shaped me to deal with temporary things in the proper perspective.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 2:2-10:
Brethren, if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will. For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou carest for him? Thou didst make him for a little while lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.
St. Paul mentions “the message declared by angels” in the first part of our pericope today. And he mentions this specifically because he’s writing to Jews who have embraced Christianity and are now thinking of abandoning Christianity and returning to Judaism. He’s trying to tell these persecuted brethren not to give up, and he uses their confidence in the reality of the unseen world as a way to show them they are better off staying with Christ.
The whole of the Law was delivered to Moses by God Himself. But the Hebrew scriptures are filled with accounts of angels bringing messages to people like Abraham and the 3 angels visiting him before the destruction of Sodom; Jacob wrestles an angel and he sees angels in his dream at Bethel; the prophet Daniel is visited by angels, and even the Archangel Gabriel appears to the Theotokos to announce the coming of Christ. The Jews believed in the unseen world and that meant that they had to be reminded of this when they were considering leaving the Faith due to persecution.
You see, persecution of the physical body is temporary. Troubles are temporary. Our lives are temporary. But we were created to be the eternal companions of our Creator, so being able to discern between the temporary and the eternal is absolutely necessary if I am ever going to enjoy the eternal life that has already been given to me because of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. If I put my best energies into temporary things, I show the whole universe I am foolish and short-sighted. But, if I embrace the timeless wisdom of the Orthodox Way of Life, then my perspective towards the temporary will change. I won’t be captured by the shallow temptations of momentary gratification or lust or greed or selfish narcissism. No, the Way of Orthodoxy will acclimate me to the atmosphere of eternity and I will make choices, and set priorities, based on eternal wisdom.
Paul reminds these Hebrews that Jesus was made “a little lower” than the angels “for a little while” so that He could come and fill up and repair a broken and fallen humanity with Himself and restore us to the place we were created to inhabit in the first place! And the powerful miracle is He did this through His TEMPORARY suffering!
Just to prove to you that Orthodoxy focuses us on Eternity and away from the merely Temporary, today we remember all the miracles of the great Archangel Gabriel. Imagine that, in the Church calendar we don’t just celebrate the lives of the human heroes of the Faith but also be “bodiless powers” as the Church calls the heavenly hosts. The Archangel Gabriel is busy serving and ministering to the Body of Christ from ancient times to even today. This great Archangel and servant of God uses his God-given power and authority to announce the coming of the Messiah to the Blessed Theotokos. But this great servant and friend of the Church shows up many times after the Ascension of Jesus to ministry miracles for the Church. If the Church calendar celebrates both earthly and heavenly beings for the Grace of God shown through them, then we can’t forget that eternity is our natural home, not some timebound troubles that come and go!
Today, are you living your life based on temporary things? Do you find yourself gripped by worry and concern for things that won’t last forever? The key to freedom from this depressing focus on the temporary is to look up and see that Christ has called you to eternal life! By being Orthodox on Purpose you will be made able to think from an eternal perspective. And that’s better!
P.S. O Commanders of the Heavenly Host, we the unworthy beseech you, that through your entreaties you will fortify us, guarding us in the shelter of the wings of your ethereal glory, even as we fervently bow before you crying: “Deliver us from all danger, as Commanders of the Powers on high! “