December 10, 2023
On construction sites the governing municipalities require many safety rules and regulations to be followed. Depending on the work environment, you may be required to wear hearing and eye protection, a mask, bright colored safety vests, steel toe shoes and of course a hard hat. There are even safety employees that regulate some construction sites and help protect us humans from injury. These items although may be awkward at times, are employed to protect our human bodies from injuries obtained while at work. We have even used them here at Holy Myrrhbearers as we raised this beautiful temple dedicated to the Glory of God!
I wore a skull bucket or hard hat during the steel erection of this building. Although as my wife can enthusiastically testify, I have a really thick and hard head, an injury to a head can be very serious! However, normally throughout the rest of my day at home and everywhere else I traveled; I didn’t wear this fashion statement, as I was not concerned about falling debris and such.
At my active Christian worksite, I need safety protection all the time. I am always at risk of certain injury. We are reminded in the Epistle reading this morning that we should: “Put on the full armor of God, for you to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” [Eph. 6:11] St. Isaiah of Gaza cautions us: “The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues.” (Sayings of the Desert Fathers)
A Christian is always in battle, wrestling with temptations of earthly decay. That is why we must always be prepared. Each battle we fight is a very small piece of the life-long war we are engaged in. Each victory moves us closer to triumph! In the Path to Happiness, St. Nectarios of Aegina reveals this: “We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This can not all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong because they have received the force of habit. Only with the passage of time and with fervor will they be conquered. Don't let anything deprive you of hope.” (St. Nectarios of Aegina, Path to Happiness, 3)
Blessed Jerome states that: “The Savior Himself is He Whom we are asked to put on. It is one and the same thing to say, ‘Put on the full armor of God,’ and ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Our belt is truth and our breastplate is righteousness. The Savior is also called both ‘truth’ and ‘righteousness.’ On this principle He is also to be understood as the ‘Gospel of peace.’ He is Himself the ‘shield of faith’ and ‘the helmet of salvation.’ He is ‘the sword of the Spirit,’ because He is the Word of God, living and efficacious (effic-ious), the utterance of which is stronger than any helmet and sharp on both sides [cf. Heb. 4:12].” [“Epistle to the Ephesians,” 3.6.11, P.L. 26:543AB (669), in ACC, VIII:208.] [Eph. 6:17.]
And Saint Chrysostom writes: “Stand therefore, having girded (perizwsavmenoi) your loins with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Having girded your loins, says he, with truth. What can be the meaning of this? I have stated in the preceding discourse, that he ought to be lightly accoutered, in order that there should be no impediment whatever to his running. And having on, he continues, the breastplate of righteousness. As the breastplate (qwvrax) is impenetrable, so also is righteousness, and by righteousness here he means a life of universal virtue. Such a life no one shall ever be able to overthrow; it is true, many wound him, but no one cuts through him, no, not the devil himself. It is as though one were to say, having righteous deeds fixed in the breast; of these it is that Christ says, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6) Thus is he firm and strong like a breastplate. Such a man will never be put out of temper. [Hom. 24, P.G. 62:179 (col. 167).]
And having shod (uJpodhsavmenoi) your feet with the preparation (eJtoimasiva/) of the Gospel (eujaggelivou) of peace. It is more uncertain in what sense this was said. What then is its meaning? They are noble greaves, doubtless, with which he invests us. Either then he means this, that we should be prepared for the Gospel, and should make use of our feet for this, and should prepare and make ready its way before it; or if not this, at least that we ourselves should be prepared for our departure (from this life). The preparation, then, of the gospel of peace, is nothing else than a most virtuous life; [Hom. 24, P.G. 62:179 (col. 168).] according to what the Prophet says. You will prepare their heart, you will cause your ear to hear. (Psalm 10:17) Of the gospel, he says, of peace, and with reason; for inasmuch as he had made mention of warfare and fighting, he shows us that this conflict with the evil spirits we must need to have: for the gospel is the gospel of peace; this war which we have against them, puts an end to another war, that, namely, which is between us and God; if we are at war with the devil, we are at peace with God. Fear not therefore, beloved; it is a Gospel, that is, a word of good news; already is the victory won.” [Hom. 24, P.G. 62:180 (col. 169).]
And of course every good Christian soldier knows, that all of this life-saving armor is no good unless we keep it oiled and polished. And rest assured, that every inch of your armor will be fully tested in battle, be ready! May God have mercy on us, and bless us: may He cause the light of his countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us. That we may know thy way upon earth: Thy salvation in all nations. (Psalm 66:2-3)
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-10-2023
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