Christmas Message 2008
This year, more than most, we must be on alert and usher in righteousness, or otherwise face the consequences of Theological anger and the end of the Age of Grace. When the word Theological is used in this context, we are not refering to a council of theological experts, but to the LOGOS (Word) of GOD Himself.
All we are like sheep. In our midst, we have a ravening wolf who hungers and thirsts after us. What are our options? It appears we have but two options. We could turn and fight the wolf on his own turf and on his terms, or we could run towards our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then our burden is made light. Our Lord will defend us from temptations, put our sins into remission, heal us of our ills, forgive us of our sins, and keep us as members of His Holy Body.
Shall we, being like sheep, walk into the darkness, when we have seen the light and witnessed the light? The end of those wretched souls will be worse than if they had never ever heard the Good News of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is fitting therefore, among the prudent sheep to follow Christ our Lord and continually walk in the Light, celebrating the victory of His Birth, Resurrection, and Life. We do so by continally partaking of all the Mysteries of the Holy Spirit Who guides us into all Truth.
The following is an excerpt from the First Epistle to the Corinthians written by the Blessed St. Clement of Rome.
Chapter VII.-An Exhortation to Repentance.
These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling.40 Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look stedfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God41 which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world.42 Let us turn to43 every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved.44 Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites;45 but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God.
Chapter VIII.-Continuation Respecting Repentance.
The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance; and the Lord of all things has himself declared with an oath regarding it, "As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance; "46 adding, moreover, this gracious declaration, "Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity."47 Say to the children of my people, Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, and though they be redder48 than scarlet, and blacker than sack-cloth, yet if ye turn to me with your whole heart, and say, Father! I will listen to you, as to a holy49 people. And in another place He speaks thus: "Wash you and become clean; put away the wickedness of your souls from before mine eyes; cease from your evil ways, and learn to do well; seek out judgment, deliver the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and see that justice is done to the widow; and come, and let us reason together. He declares, Though your sins be like crimson, I will make them white as snow; though they be like scarlet, I will whiten them like wool. And if ye be willing and obey me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse, and will not hearken unto me, the sword shall devour you, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things."50 Desiring, therefore, that all His beloved should be partakers of repentance, He has, by His almighty will, established [these declarations].
Chapter IX.-Examples of the Saints.
Wherefore, let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will; and imploring His mercy and loving-kindness, while we forsake all fruitless labours51 and strife, and envy, which leads to death, let us turn and have recourse to His compassions. Let us stedfastly contemplate those who have perfectly ministered to his excellent glory. Let us take (for instance) Enoch, who, being found righteous in obedience, was translated, and death was never known to happen to him.52 Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark.
Chapter X.-Continuation of the Above.
Abraham, styled "the friend,"53 was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God. He, in the exercise of obedience, went out from his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father's house, in order that, by forsaking a small territory, and a weak family, and an insignificant house, he might inherit the promises of God. For God said to him, "Get thee out from thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, into the land which I shall show thee. And I will make thee a great nation, and will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be blessed. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed."54 And again, on his departing from Lot, God said to him, "Lift up thine eyes, and look from the place where thou now art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, [so that] if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered."55 And again [the Scripture] saith, "God brought forth Abram, and spake unto him, Look up now to heaven, and count the stars if thou be able to number them; so shall thy seed be. And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness."56 On account of his faith and hospitality, a son was given him in his old age; and in the exercise of obedience, he offered him as a sacrifice to God on one of the mountains which He showed him.57
Chapter XI.-Continuation. Lot.
On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodom when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture.58 For Lot's wife, who went forth with him, being of a different mind from himself, and not continuing in agreement with him [as to the command which had been given them], was made an example of, so as to be a pillar of salt unto this day.59 This was done that all might know that those who are of a double mind, and who distrust the power of God, bring down judgment on themselves60 and become a sign to all succeeding generations.
Chapter XII.-The Rewards of Faith and Hospitality. Rahab.
On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved. For when spies were sent by Joshua, the son of Nun, to Jericho, the king of the country ascertained that they were come to spy out their land, and sent men to seize them, in order that, when taken, they might be put to death. But the hospitable Rahab receiving them, concealed them on the roof of her house under some stalks of flax. And when the men sent by the king arrived and said, "There came men unto thee who are to spy out our land; bring them forth, for so the king commands" she answered them, "The two men whom ye seek came unto me, but quickly departed again and are gone," thus not discovering the spies to them. Then she said to the men, "I know assuredly that the Lord your God hath given you this city, for the fear and dread of you have fallen on its inhabitants. When therefore ye shall have taken it, keep ye me and the house of my father in safety." And they said to her, "It shall be as thou hast spoken to us. As soon, therefore, as thou knowest that we are at hand, thou shalt gather all thy family under thy roof, and they shall be preserved, but all that are found outside of thy dwelling shall perish."61 Moreover, they gave her a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God.62 Ye see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman.
Chapter XIII.-An Exhortation to Humility.
Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking Him, and doing judgment and righteousness"63 ), being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: "Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you; as ye do, so shall it be done unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you."64 By this precept and by these rules let us stablish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words. For the holy word saith, "On whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembleth at my words? "65
Chapter XIV.-We Should Obey God Rather Than the Authors of Sedition.
It is right and holy therefore, men and brethren, rather to obey God than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a detestable emulation. For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and tumults,66 so as to draw us away from what is good. Let us be kind one to another after the pattern of the tender mercy and benignity of our Creator. For it is written, "The kind-hearted shall inhabit the land, and the guiltless shall be left upon it, but transgressors shall be destroyed from off the face of it."67 And again [the Scripture] saith, "I saw the ungodly highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Lebanon: I passed by, and, behold, he was not; and I diligently sought his place, and could not find it. Preserve innocence, and look on equity: for there shall be a remnant to the peaceable man.68
Chapter XV.-We Must Adhere to Those Who Cultivate Peace, Not to Those Who Merely Pretend to Do So.
Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it. For [the Scripture] saith in a certain place, "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."69 And again: "They bless with their mouth, but curse with their heart."70 And again it saith, "They loved Him with their month, and lied71 to Him with their tongue; but their heart was not right with Him, neither were they faithful in His covenant."72 "Let the deceitful lips become silent,73 [and "let the Lord destroy all the lying lips,74 ] and the boastful tongue of those who have said, Let us magnify our tongue: our lips are our own; who is lord over us? For the oppression of the poor, and for the sighing of the needy, will I now arise, saith the Lord: I will place him in safety; I will deal confidently with him."75
Chapter XVI.-Christ as an Example of Humility.
For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him. For He says, "Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We have declared [our message] in His presence: He is, as it were, a child, and like a root in thirsty ground; He has no form nor glory, yea, we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness; but His form was without eminence, yea, deficient in comparison with the [ordinary] form of men. He is a man exposed to stripes and suffering, and acquainted with the endurance of grief: for His countenance was turned away; He was despised, and not esteemed. He bears our iniquities, and is in sorrow for our sakes; yet we supposed that ion His own account] He was exposed to labour, and stripes, and affliction. But He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we were healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; [every] man has wandered in his own way; and the Lord has delivered Him up for our sins, while He in the midst of His sufferings openeth not His mouth. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before her shearer is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away; who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth. For the transgressions of my people was He brought down to death. And I will give the wicked for His sepulchre, and the rich for His death,76 because He did no iniquity, neither was guile found in His mouth. And the Lord is pleased to purify him by stripes.77 If ye make78 an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed. And the Lord is pleased to relieve Him of the affliction of His soul, to show Him light, and to form Him with understanding,79 to justify the Just One who ministereth well to many; and He Himself shall carry their sins. On this account He shall inherit many, and shall divide the spoil of the strong; because His soul was delivered to death, and He was reckoned among the transgressors, and He bare the sins of many, and for their sins was He delivered."80 And again He saith, "I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see me have derided me; they have spoken with their lips; they have wagged their head, [saying] He hoped in God, let Him deliver Him, let Him save Him, since He delighteth in Him."81 Ye see, beloved, what is the example which has been given us; for if the Lord thus humbled Himself, what shall we do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace?
Chapter XVII.-The Saints as Examples of Humility.
Let us be imitators also of those who in goat-skins and sheep-skins82 went about proclaiming the coming of Christ; I mean Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel among the prophets, with those ethers to whom a like testimony is borne [in Scripture]. Abraham was specially honoured, and was called the friend of God; yet he, earnestly regarding the glory of God, humbly declared, "I am but dust and ashes."83 Moreover, it is thus written of Job, "Job was a righteous man, and blameless, truthful, God-fearing, and one that kept himself from all evil."84 But bringing an accusation against himself, he said, "No man is free from defilement, even if his life be but of one day.85 Moses was called faithful in all God's house;86 and through his instrumentality,87 God punished Egypt with plagues and tortures. Yet he, though thus greatly honoured, did not adopt lofty language, but said, when the divine oracle came to him out of the bush, "Who am I, that Thou sendest me? I am a man of a feeble voice and a slow tongue."88 And again he said, "I am but as the smoke of a pot."89
Chapter XVIII.-David as an Example of Humility.
But what shall we say concerning David, to whom such testimony was borne, and of whom90 God said, "I have found a man after mine own heart, David the son of Jesse; and in everlasting mercy have I anointed him? "91 Yet this very man saith to God, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgression.92 Wash me still more from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge mine iniquity, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight; that Thou mayest be justified in Thy sayings, and mayest overcome when Thou93 art judged. For, behold, I was conceived in transgressions, and in sins did my mother conceive me. For, behold, Thou hast loved truth; the secret and hidden things of wisdom hast Thou shown me. Thou shall sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shall wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness; my bones, which have been humbled, shall exult. Turn away Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.94 Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and establish me by Thy governing Spirit. I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall be converted unto Thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness,95 O God, the God of my salvation: y tongue shall exult in Thy righteousness. O Lord, Thou shalt open my mouth, and my lips shall show forth Thy praise. For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would have given it; Thou wilt not delight in burnt-offerings. The sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a bruised spirit; a broken and a contrite heart God will not despise."96
Chapter XIX.-Imitating These Examples, Let Us Seek After Peace.
Thus the humility and godly submission of so great and illustrious men have rendered not only us, but also all the generations before us, better; even as many as have received His oracles in fear and truth. Wherefore, having so many great and glorious examples set before us, let us turn again to the practice of that peace which from the beginning was the mark set before us;97 and let us look stedfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassingly great gifts and benefactions of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from the wrath He is towards all His creation.
Chapter XX.-The Peace and Harmony of the Universe.
The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no wise hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed. The unsearchable places of abysses, and the indescribable arrangements of the lower world, are restrained by the same laws. The vast unmeasurable sea, gathered together by His working into various basins,98 never passes beyond the bounds placed around it, but does as He has commanded. For He said, "Thus far shalt thou come, and thy waves shall be broken within thee."99 The ocean, impassable to man and the worlds beyond it, are regulated by the same enactments of the Lord. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place100 to one another. The winds in their several quarters101 fulfil, at the proper time, their service without hindrance. The ever-flowing fountains, formed both for enjoyment and health, furnish without fail their breasts for the life of men. The very smallest of living beings meet together in peace and concord. All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen.
Chapter XXI.-Let Us Obey God, and Not the Authors of Sedition.
Take heed, beloved, lest His many kindnesses lead to the condemnation of us all. [For thus it must be] unless we walk worthy of Him, and with one mind do those things which are good and well-pleasing in His sight. For [the Scripture] saith in a certain place, "The Spirit of the Lord is a candle searching the secret parts of the belly."102 Let us reflect how near He is, and that none of the thoughts or reasonings in which we engage are hid from Him. It is right, therefore, that we should not leave the post which His will has assigned us. Let us rather offend those men who are foolish, and inconsiderate, and lifted up, and who glory in the pride of their speech, than [offend] God. Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ,103 whose blood was given for us; let us esteem those who have the rule over us;104 let us honour the aged105 among us; let us train up the young men in the fear of God; let us direct our wives to that which is good. Let them exhibit the lovely habit of purity [in all their conduct]; let them show forth the sincere disposition of meekness; let them make manifest the command which they have of their tongue, by their manner106 of speaking; let them display their love, not by preferring107 one to another, but by showing equal affection to all that piously fear God. Let your children be partakers of true Christian training; let them learn of how great avail humility is with God-how much the spirit of pure affection can prevail with Him-how excellent and great His fear is, and how it saves all those who walk in108 it with a pure mind. For He is a Searcher of the thoughts and desires [of the heart]: His breath is in us; and when He pleases, He will take it away.
Chapter XXII.-These Exhortations are Confirmed by the Christian Faith, Which Proclaims the Misery of Sinful Conduct.
Now the faith which is in Christ confirms all these [admonitions]. For He Himself by the Holy Ghost thus addresses us: "Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.109 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth to see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are [open] unto their prayers. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles."110 "Many are the stripes [appointed for] the wicked; but mercy shall compass those about who hope in the Lord."111
Chapter XXIII.-Be Humble, and Believe that Christ Will Come Again.
The all-merciful and beneficent Father has bowels [of compassion] towards those that fear Him, and kindly and lovingly bestows His favours upon those who come to Him with a simple mind. Wherefore let us not be double-minded; neither let our soul be lifted112 up on account of His exceedingly great and glorious gifts. Far from us be that which is written, "Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened unto us; "113 Ye foolish ones! compare yourselves to a tree; take [for instance] the vine. First of all, it sheds its leaves,114 then it buds, next it puts forth leaves, and then it flowers; after that comes the sour grape, and then follows the ripened fruit. Ye perceive how in a little time the fruit of a tree comes to maturity. Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, "Speedily will He come, and will not tarry;115 and, "The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look."116
Chapter XXIV.-God Continually Shows Us in Nature that There Will Be a Resurrection.
Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ117 the first-fruits118 by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times119 taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold120 the fruits [of the earth], how the sowing of grain takes place. The sower121 goes forth, and casts it into the ground,122 and the seed being thus scattered, though dry and naked when it fell upon the earth, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its dissolution the mighty power of the providence of the Lord raises it up again, and from one seed many arise and bring forth fruit.
Chapter XXV.-The Phoenix an Emblem of Our Resurrection.
Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the deed bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes123 from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying124 in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.125
Chapter XXVI.-We Shall Rise Again, Then, as the Scripture, Also Testifies.
Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird He shows us the mightiness of His power to fulfil His promise?126 For [the Scripture] saith in a certain place, "Thou shalt raise me up, and I shall confess unto Thee";127 and again, "I laid me down, and slept"; "I awaked, because Thou art with me; "128 and again, Job says, "Thou shalt raise up this flesh of mine, which has suffered all these things."129
Chapter XXVII.-In the Hope of the Resurrection, Let Us Cleave to the Omnipotent and Omniscient God.
Having then this hope, let our souls be bound to Him who is faithful in His promises, and just in His judgments. He who has commanded us not to lie, shall much more Himself not lie; for nothing is impossible with God, except to lie.130 Let His faith therefore be stirred up again within us, and let us consider that all things are nigh unto Him. By the word of His might131 He established all things, and by His word He can overthrow them. "Who shall say unto Him, What hast thou done? or, Who shall resist the power of His strength? "132 When, and as He pleases, He will do all things, and none of the things determined by Him shall pass away.133 All things are open before Him, and nothing can be hidden from His counsel. "The heavens134 declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy-work.135 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. And there are no words or speeches of which the voices are not heard."136
Chapter XXVIII.-God Sees All Things: Therefore Let Us Avoid Transgression.
Since then all things are seen and heard [by God], let us fear Him, and forsake those wicked works which proceed from evil137 desires;138 so that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. For whither can any of us flee from His mighty hand? Or what world will receive any of those who run away from Him? For the Scripture saith in a certain place, "Whither shall I go, and where shall I be hid from Thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I go away even to the uttermost parts of the earth, there is Thy right hand;139 if I make my bed in the abyss, there is Thy Spirit."140 Whither, then, shall anyone go, or where shall he escape from Him who comprehends all things?
Chapter XXIX.-Let Us Also Draw Near to God in Purity of Heart.
Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessings of His elect.141 For thus it is written, "When the Most High divided the nations, when He scattered142 the sons of Adam, He fixed the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, and Israel the lot of His inheritance.143 And in another place [the Scripture] saith, "Behold, the Lord taketh unto Himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man takes the first-fruits of his threshing-floor; and from that nation shall come forth the Most Holy."144
Chapter XXX.-Let Us Do Those Things that Please God, and Flee from Those He Hates, that We May Be Blessed.
Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One,145 let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change,146 all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. "For God," [saith the Scripture], "resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble."147 Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. For [the Scripture] saith, "He that speaketh much, shall also hear much in answer. And does he that is ready in speech deem himself righteous? Blessed148 is he that is born of woman, who liveth but a short time: be not given to much speaking."149 Let our praise be in God, and not of ourselves; for God hateth those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good150 deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, and arrogance, and audacity belong to151 those that are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness to such as are blessed by Him.
Chapter XXXI.-Let Us See by What Means We May Obtain the Divine Blessing.
Let us cleave then to His blessing, and consider what are the means152 of possessing it. Let us think153 over the things which have taken place from the beginning. For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? Isaac,154 with perfect confidence, as if knowing what was to happen,155 cheerfully yielded himself as a sacrifice.156 Jacob, through reason157 of his brother, went forth with humility from his own land, and came to Laban and served him; and there was given to him the sceptre of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Chapter XXXII.-We are Justified Not by Our Own Works, But by Faith.
Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him.158 For from him159 have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.160 From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory,161 inasmuch as God had promised, "Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven."162 All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will163 in Christ Jesus, are not Justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Chapter XXXIII.-But Let Us Not Give Up the Practice of Good Works and Love. God Himself is an Example to Us of Good Works.
What shall we do,164 then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works. For by His infinitely great power He established the heavens, and by His incomprehensible wisdom He adorned them. He also divided the earth from the water which surrounds it, and fixed it upon the immovable foundation of His own will. The animals also which are upon it He commanded by His own word165 into existence. So likewise, when He had formed166 the sea, and the living creatures which are in it, He enclosed them [within their proper bounds] by His own power. Above all,167 with His holy and undefiled hands He formed man, the most excellent [of His creatures], and truly great through the understanding given him-the express likeness of His own image. For thus says God: "Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness. So God made man; male and female He created theme,"168 Having thus finished all these things, He approved them, and blessed them, and said, "Increase and multiply."169 We see,170 then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.
Chapter XXXIV.-Great is the Reward of Good Works with God. Joined Together in Harmony, Let Us Implore that Reward from Him.
The good servant171 receives the bread of his labour with confidence; the lazy and slothful cannot look his employer in the face. It is requisite, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of well-doing; for of Him are all things. And thus He forewarns us: "Behold, the Lord [cometh], and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work."172 He exhorts us, therefore,173 with our whole heart to attend to this,174 that we be not lazy or slothful in any good work. Let our boasting and our confidence be in Him. Let us submit ourselves to His will. Let us consider the whole multitude of His angels, how they stand ever ready to minister to His will. For the Scripture saith, "Ten thousand times ten thousand stood around Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him,175 and cried, Holy, holy, holy, [is] the Lord of Sabaoth; the whole creation176 is full of His glory."177 And let us therefore, conscientiously gathering together in harmony, cry to Him earnestly, as with one mouth, that we may be made partakers of His great and glorious promises. For [the Scripture] saith, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which He hath prepared for them that wait for178 Him."179
Chapter XXXV.-Immense is This Reward. How Shall We Obtain It?
How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendour in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence,180 faith in assurance, self-control in holiness! And all these fall under the cognizance of our understandings [now]; what then shall those things be which are prepared for such as wait for Him? The Creator and Father of all worlds,181 the Most Holy,182 alone knows their amount and their beauty. Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things183 which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and inquity,184 along with all covetousness,185 strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vain glory and ambition.186 For they that do such things are hateful to God; and not only they that do them, but also those that take pleasure in them that do them.187 For the Scripture saith, "But to the sinner God said, Wherefore dost thou declare my statutes, and take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee? When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with188 him, and didst make thy portion with adulterers. Thy month has abounded with wickedness, and thy tongue contrived189 deceit. Thou sittest, and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest190 thine own mother's son. These things thou hast done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest, wicked one, that I should be like to thyself. But I will reprove thee, and set thyself before thee. Consider now these things, ye that forget God, lest He tear you in pieces, like a lion, and there be none to deliver.191 The sacrifice of praise will glorify me, and a way is there by which I will show him the salvation of God."192
Chapter XXXVI.-All Blessings are Given to Us Through Christ.
This is the way, beloved, in which we find our Saviour,193 even Jesus Christ, the High Priest of all our offerings, the defender and helper of our infirmity. By Him we look up to the heights of heaven. By Him we behold, as in a glass, His immaculate and most excellent visage. By Him are the eyes of our hearts opened. By Him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms194 up anew towards His marvellous light. By Him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge,195 "who, being the brightness of His majesty, is by so much greater than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."196 For it is thus written, "Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire."197 But concerning His Son198 the Lord spoke thus: "Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession."199 And again He saith to Him, "Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool."200 But who are His enemies? All the wicked, and those who set themselves to oppose the will of God.201
Chapter XXXVII.-Christ is Our Leader, and We His Soldiers.
Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy act the part of soldiers, in accordance with His holy commandments. Let us consider those who serve under our generals, with what order, obedience,202 and submissiveness they perform the things which are commanded them. All are not prefects, nor commanders of a thousand, nor of a hundred, nor of fifty, nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage.203 Let us take our body for an example.204 The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But all work205 harmoniously together, and are under one common rule206 for the preservation of the whole body.
Chapter XXXVIII.-Let the Members of the Church Submit Themselves, and No One Exalt Himself Above Another.
Let our whole body, then, be preserved in Christ Jesus;207 and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift208 bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise209 the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another.210 Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud211 of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence. Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made,-who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness.212 He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Chapter XXXIX.-There is No Reason for Self-Conceit.
Foolish and inconsiderate213 men, who have neither wisdom214 nor instruction, mock and deride us, being eager to exalt themselves in their own conceits. For what can a mortal man do, or what strength is there in one made out of the dust? For it is written, "There was no shape before mine eyes, only I heard a sound,215 and a voice [saying], What then? Shall a man be pure before the Lord? Or shall such an one be [counted] blameless in his deeds, seeing He does not confide in His servants, and has charged216 even His angels with perversity? The heaven is not clean in His sight: how much less they that dwell in houses of clay, of which also we ourselves were made! He smote them as a moth; and from morning even until evening they endure not. Because they could furnish no assistance to themselves, they perished. He breathed upon them, and they died, because they had no wisdom. But call now, if any one will answer thee, or if thou wilt look to any of the holy angels; for wrath destroys the foolish man, and envy killeth him that is in error. I have seen the foolish taking root, but their habitation was presently consumed. Let their sons be far from safety; let them be despised217 before the gates of those less than themselves, and there shall be none to deliver. For what was prepared for them, the righteous shall eat; and they shall not be delivered from evil."218
Chapter XL.-Let Us Preserve in the Church the Order Appointed by God.
These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behoves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times.219 He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things, being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him.220 Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.
Chapter XLI.-Continuation of the Same Subject.
Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks221 to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. Ye see,222 brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed.
Chapter XLII.-The Order of Ministers in the Church.
The apostles have preached the gospel to us from223 the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus224 Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God,225 and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments,226 then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established227 in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit,228 to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops229 in righteousness, and their deacons230 in faith."231
Chapter XLIII.-Moses of Old Stilled the Contention Which Arose Concerning the Priestly Dignity.
And what wonder is it if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by God, appointed those [ministers] before mentioned, when the blessed Moses also, "a faithful servant in all his house,"232 noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him, bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed? For, when rivalry arose concerning the priesthood, and the tribes were contending among themselves as to which of them should be adorned with that glorious title, he commanded the twelve princes of the tribes to bring him their rods, each one being inscribed with the name233 of the tribe. And he took them and bound them [together], and sealed them with the rings of the princes of the tribes, and laid them up in the tabernacle of witness on the table of God. And having shut the doors of the tabernacle, he sealed the keys, as he had done the rods, and said to them, Men and brethren, the tribe whose rod shall blossom has God chosen to fulfil the office of the priesthood, and to minister unto Him. And when the morning was come, he assembled all Israel, six hundred thousand men, and showed the seals to the princes of the tribes, and opened the tabernacle of witness, and brought forth the rods. And the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but to bear fruit upon it.234 What think ye, beloved? Did not Moses know beforehand that this would happen? Undoubtedly he knew; but he acted thus, that there might be no sedition in Israel, and that the name of the true and only God might be glorified; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Chapter XLIV.-The Ordinances of the Apostles, that There Might Be No Contention Respecting the Priestly Office.
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office235 of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions,236 that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them,237 or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate238 those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.239 Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.
End of excerpted text from the First Epistle to the Corinthians by the Blessed St. Clement of Rome.
Biography of St. Clement of Rome - Commemorated on November 25.
The Hieromartyr Clement, Pope of Rome, was born at Rome into a rich and illustrious family. Separated from his parents from childhood by force of circumstances, Clement was raised by strangers. Living in Rome, the youth received a fine education, he was surrounded by luxury, and had access to the imperial court. But these comforts brought him no joy, and pagan wisdom failed to attract him. He began to ponder the meaning of life.
When the news of Christ and His teaching began to reach the capital, St Clement left his home and estate and went to the lands where the Apostles were preaching. At Alexandria St Clement met the holy Apostle Barnabas, listening to his words with deep attention, and perceiving the power and truth of the Word of God. Arriving in Palestine, St Clement was baptized by the holy Apostle Peter and became his zealous disciple and constant companion, sharing his toil and sufferings with him. Shortly before his own sufferings and death, St Peter consecrated St Clement as Bishop of Rome. After the death of the Apostle Peter, St Linus (67-79) was the next Bishop of Rome, succeeded by St Anacletus (79-91), and then St Clement (92-101).
The virtuous life, charitable works and prayerful activity of St Clement converted many to Christ. He once baptized 424 people on the day of Pascha. Among the baptized were people of all social classes: slaves, officials, and even members of the imperial family.
The pagans, seeing the success of his apostolic preaching, denounced St Clement to the emperor Trajan (98-117), accusing the saint of insulting the pagan gods. The emperor banished St Clement from the capital, sending him to the Crimea, to work at a stone quarry near the city of Cherson. Many of the saint's disciples followed after him voluntarily, preferring to go into exile rather than live without their spiritual Father.
When he arrived at the place of exile, St Clement found many Christian believers there, sentenced to labor under harsh conditions amidst a scarcity of water. He prayed together with the condemned, and the Lord appeared to him in the form of a lamb and revealed the location of a spring, from which gushed forth a veritable river of water. This miracle attracted a multitude of people to St Clement. Hearing the zealous preacher, hundreds of pagans were converted to Christ. Each day 500 or more men were baptized. And there in the stone quarry, a church was built, in which he served as priest.
The apostolic activity of the saint aroused the wrath of the emperor Trajan, and he ordered that St Clement be drowned. They threw the martyr into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck. This occurred in the year 101.
The saint's faithful disciples Cornelius and Fibius asked the people to pray that the Lord would permit them to see the martyr's body. The sea drew back a distance of three miles from the shore and the people walked out on the seabed until they found a marble cave shaped like a church. There they found the incorrupt body of their archpastor in this "Angelic Church" formed by God. After this, each year on the anniversary of St Clement's martyric death the sea receded, and for seven days Christians were able to venerate his holy relics.
During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus (802-811), by divine providence, the sea failed to withdraw, and the relics of St Clement became inaccessible for fifty years. In the time of the emperor Michael and his mother Theodora (855-867), Sts Cyril and Methodius visited Cherson. When they learned of the concealed relics of St Clement, they asked Bishop George of Cherson to pray that the Lord would show them the relics of the hieromartyr.
Sts Cyril and Methodius walked along the shore in procession with the clergy who came with them from Constantinople. Through the fervent prayers of everyone gathered there, the holy relics of St Clement miraculously appeared on the surface of the sea at midnight. They solemnly took them to the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople. A portion of the relics were then brought to Rome by Sts Cyril and Methodius, but a large portion of the relics was later brought to Kiev by the holy Prince Vladimir (July 15) and placed in the Desyatin-Tithe church, together with the relics of St Fibius, where a chapel dedicated to St Clement had been built. The hieromartyr Clement is widely venerated in Russia. From ancient times, many churches have been dedicated to him.
St Clement, who belongs to the Apostolic Fathers, has left to us a spiritual legacy (two Epistles to the Corinthians) the first written examples of Christian teaching after the writings of the holy Apostles.
It is my prayer that you will find great inspiration and spiritual direction from the words of St. Clement of Rome as we progress towards the Day of our Lord, which shall come when we least expect it. So, be ready, my beloved, and found to be counted among those who are indeed ready when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
Grace and Peace be with you in Christ Jesus, now and forever, and from all Ages to all Ages. Amen.
Love in Christ,
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