11 March OS 2017: Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent; S. Sophronios of Jerusalem
The first reading at Vespers, Genesis 12: 1-7, relates how God called Abram, whom later He will rename Abraham.
After the scattering of the peoples from Babel, the true knowledge of God remains intact among one family only, and their lineage produces Abraham, who will become the Father in the Faith for all true worshippers of God until the end of the world.
As with Noah, the LORD chooses a particular person to carry out His plan, and the choice of this one man to have faith and to obey affects the salvation of uncounted souls. As with Noah, the LORD gives him a difficult task that he cannot fulfill without great faith and obedience. As does Noah, Abram offers sacrifice unto the LORD.
So too our lives, if we are indeed heirs of the Promise, will bear these marks of particularity, faith coupled with obedience, and sacrifice.
Particularity – When we see that few share our convictions, we must not be shaken. There have been many and critical times in history when almost everyone had fallen away, and God called the few – sometimes just one person and his family – to carry on the true knowledge of Him and the true worship of Him. These few were never distinguished by superior wealth or power or cleverness, but only by this sheer fact, that God had called them.
Faith and obedience – Faith is a free gift, a grace from God: He reveals Himself, giving us the true knowledge of Who He is. It is also our assent to this knowledge, but even the ability to assent is God’s gracious gift to us. In return, God demands obedience: “All right, Noah, I have given you the gift of Faith. Now build the Ark.” “All right, Abram, I have given you the gift of Faith. Now risk everyone and everything dear to you, and go off with them to a place you have never been before and know nothing about, trusting Me to take care of you.” When God gives us our appointed task, it is clear that we have to do it or we will perish, spiritually if not physically. It is also clear that without Him we cannot do it, but with Him success is never in doubt.
Sacrifice – Abram, upon arriving in the Promised Land, immediately built an altar to the LORD. The true worship of God always accompanies the true faith in God, and true worship, from the beginning of our race, has always centered on sacrifice, culminating in the One True Sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world, that of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. So, in our particular and humanly impossible adventure of faith and obedience, we struggle in every way possible to ensure that we and ours will have access to the True Sacrifice that takes place only on Orthodox altars at the Divine Liturgy, at which the One Paschal Sacrifice of the Lamb of God is made present again and again until the end of the world, “for the remission of sins and life everlasting.” Even if it turns out that we have to live in a cave somewhere, let us make sure that the cave has a true altar and a true priest. With God helping us, it can be done.
A simple program, really, if you think about it.