February 9, 2016
Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9, especially vss. 8-9: “The Lord shall reign over them unto the ages. Those who trust in Him will understand truth, and the faithful shall continue with Him in love, because grace and mercy are upon His elect.” The faithful are deemed saints or holy ones no less than sixty times in the New Testament. But the exemplary witness of some Christians led to their being called saints with a capital “S” – a recognition that God’s “grace and mercy are upon” them (vs. 9). In the Old Testament, Solomon calls such authentic witnesses the righteous (vs. 1), but even in the ages before Christ’s birth their bond to Him is clearly visible. Solomon gives us seven marks by which to recognize a saint: constancy, peace, hope, faith, resoluteness in truth, love, graciousness, and mercy. These are virtues worthy of seeking as we grow in Christ.
Constancy conveys firm and unswerving adherence to a person or community to which one is united. The saints, of course, are bonded to Christ, to His Gospel and His Church, with unwavering devotion even in times of torture (vs. 1). When asked, because of the miracles that occurred during his sufferings, if he were Christ, Saint Haralampos, ever constant, simply said, “I am your servant and Christ’s slave. I do everything in His name.”
Peace with Christ-haters, acquiescence to excessive demands, and the social observance of degrading amenities are not hallmarks of the saints (vs. 2). True peace lies in a noetic union with Christ and wells up from deep inside the center of one’s being. It is a peace arising from oneness of heart with Him who said, “My peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27).
Hope found in Christ’s people is a spiritual gift, an awareness “full of immortality” (vs. 4). This rich promise is refined by Christ’s Resurrection and becomes confidence in the face of every sort of loss that may assail us in this life, including physical death. After all, death comes to everyone born of Adam, but hope knows that “in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).
Faith is less concerned with belief, doctrine, and dogmatic teaching than it is with trusting in Christ. When making decisions, the faithful sort alternatives before the Lord Jesus and take His guidance. All decisions lead to outcomes that are either painful or pleasant. Should the Lord point toward accepting what is painful, faith trusts, takes the risk, and opts for godly right.
Resoluteness in truth helps put an end to quibbling over words and details. It enables us to stay close to God in all we say and do. We seek to please Him and to verify our words and actions based on the truth radiating from the Nicene Creed and the prayers of the Church. Remember, faith leads to Christ, the ground of all genuine truth (Wis 3:9); everything else is just a matter of probability.
Love comes ever more easily, naturally, and openly as we keep our heart and mind fixed on Christ our God (vs. 9). It need not be forced, gushy, or contrived. As we consider this cardinal Christian virtue, we heed the advice of Saint Makarios of Egypt: love is expressed not in order “to obtain the kingdom, as though . . . engaged in commerce for the sake of gain,” but because we have learned by God’s compassion what is “the proper hierarchy of things.”
Graciousness manifests itself in the speech and manner of prayerful Christians, for God kindly bestows grace upon His elect (vs. 9), never withholding from us what we need. Could we ever believe that He is miserly after considering the rich favor He manifests toward us in Christ?
Mercy is thoroughly woven into the fabric of love and graciousness so as to be hardly distinguishable from them at times. Like God’s gifts of grace and love, mercy enriches, heals, and gives life. Saint Ilias the Presbyter asserts that mercy, when coupled with truth, actually brings about the purification of the soul; it is never indulgent, but always considerate.
O Christ our God, through ascesis and prayer help us to acquire virtues worthy of Thee.