19 August OS 2016 – Thursday of the Eleventh Week of St. Matthew; Afterfeast of the Dormition; Holy Martyr Andrew the Commander and the 2,593 Soldiers with Him
In the Gospel today, the Lord encourages us with very plain words, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
The Lord said to His disciples, he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. – Matthew 24: 13-28
St. Theophan the Recluse points out that everyone has to endure something anyway; we may as well endure for the Lord and for our salvation!
…not everyone who endures will be saved, but only he who endures on the Lord’s path. This life is given to us for that reason – to endure. Everyone endures something, even through to the very end. But enduring does not lead to benefit if it is not for the sake of the Lord and His Holy Gospel. Step onto the path of faith and the Gospel commandments; occasions to endure will multiply, but from that moment endurance will begin to bring forth crowns. That endurance which before was empty, will be made fruitful. The enemy brings such blindness upon us that the endurance which is encountered on the path of good seems heavy and unbearable, while what he inflicts on those who serve the passions seem light and free, although it is actually heavier and more dismal than what people bear in struggling against the passions and opposing the enemy! But we are blind and do not see this. We labor, endure, and strain ourselves to the breaking point for the sake of the enemy, unto our own perdition. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 171-172
We say this all the time: “Everyone has problems.” “Everyone has something to deal with in their lives.” And so forth. This is true, manifestly true, and no one will escape it. Therefore, since we have to endure something anyway, why not endure the light yoke of Christ instead of the exhausting, anxiety producing, and frustrating yoke of worldliness? Why not endure unto salvation and not damnation? St. John Chrysostom points out that people exhaust themselves and spend their whole lives in tremendous anxiety to acquire the things that lead to hell – luxuries, pleasures, entertainment, the admiration of others, social status, etc. – while the things that lead to salvation – poverty, illness, the hatred of men, loneliness, etc. – are free and require no laborious pursuit. They knock at your door uninvited and bestow themselves un-bought!
We do not “go looking for trouble,” of course, in order to find our salvation – that would be a form of spiritual vanity. But we do not resent troubles when they come our way, as if we did not need them or deserve them. We remember the Lord’s words: “He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved.” What matters is that we endure for the Lord, to please Him, and in the way that God desires, that is, according to His commandments. The trouble itself, the particular thing we have to endure, is not important. It is but a means, an instrument, to acquire grace and find our salvation.
Let us, then, take up the light yoke of God’s commandments, pray to be delivered from temptation, and say with all the sincerity we can muster, “Thy will be done.” The rest is in God’s hands. This thought, in itself, should give us lasting peace.