Today the Church commemorates an important testimony from ancient history. This event took place in the fourth century in the ancient city of Chonae, which during the time of the apostle Paul was called Colossi (in Phrygia, not far from Hierapolis). In that city was a church dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It was built through the zealous efforts of one inhabitant of Laodicea—his mute daughter was healed and received the gift of speech after drinking water from the healing spring located near where the church was later built, after an appearance of the Archangel Michael. The Archangel Michael showed his intercessions many times to Christians in that place from then on. In that church there was a pious Christian named Archippus who served as a sexton for sixty years. One day some angry pagans, who had seen how the blessed Archippus’s preaching was converting many people to Christianity, decided to destroy the church and kill Archippus. To do this they united the streams of two mountain rivers into one and directed their waters toward the church. But by Archippus’s prayers, Archangel Michael appeared and struck the earth with his staff, opening a wide crevasse in the mountainside. The waters of the river flowed into the earth, and the church was saved…
This event reminds us of the important thought that we very often loose amidst everyday cares and when faced with the threatening situations of modern life. The Church calls us again and again to remember that in our world, besides the tangible laws and visible reality there exist spiritual laws as well. And they are of no small importance even for this age; they are at work not only in eternity, but even now, in our temporal life, they are powerful to change the laws of reality. Amongst the many laws of spiritual reality there is one that is most important to us. It sounds simple and understandable: Christ conquered the world! And it is very important to recognize that He conquered not only the spiritual world but also the material world, that His victory is meaningful for both eternity and temporal reality. This is what we often forget, what we lose sight of when we are frightened by the global world around us, when we worry about how our life will be arranged, about our careers, our future, and the future of our children. We are somehow unaccustomed in these circumstances to remembering Christ’s victory over the world, how He rules the life not only of Christians but of all people. All the powerful of this world are under His authority.
Productivity of thought, logic and calculation, economic and ideological relevance, time management and other means of making our life more effective, safe, and successful have swallowed up the thought in us of Christ’s victory over the world. We have become too self-reliant and logical to allow the Savior into our lives. The victory of our minds, our habits, and abilities continually separate us from Christ’s victory. We try to judge and change too much by ourselves, without giving place in our lives to God’s power—and this is the tragedy of modernity.
“The world today is guarded by various kinds of ‘safeties’, but because it’s separated from Christ, it’s absolutely defenseless,’ said St. Paisios the Hagiorite. And that means that we have no other path—we must return to the Gospel, look into it and see there the triumph of powerless in God over temporal powers. God will not be mocked; His values have no need of proof through arguments of a transitory reality. He conquered the world by His almighty powerlessness and gave us the ability to acquire the same victory through trust in His holy will.
And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged Him, to be crucified… And they smote Him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshipped Him. And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple from Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him (Mk. 15:15, 19–20). How much humiliating suffering, sorrows, and despair there are in these words for the outsider! But this testimony sounds different to the faithful. We see here not shame or desperation, but victory and triumph of Life over death. It is the reality of Christ. It is based upon other laws. Here guilelessness conquers strength, meekness preserves the Motherland, humility exalts over calculation and effectiveness. Here it’s all different—everything is real, everything is truly important; here there is nothing accidental or transitory. Here everything breathes love and eternity, everything is filled with victory over the world.
“The reigning tranquility troubles me. Something is brewing. We’ve neither fully understood yet what years we are living in, nor that we will die. What will come of it I don’t know; it’s a very complicated situation… The whole world is headed for one thing. General collapse… The whole house is collapsing. The world has become a ruined village,” Elder Paisios expressed his uneasiness over modern times. But at the same time he saw another world—more real and meaningful than the one in which we try to build our lives. He lived with the awareness of Christ’s victory over the world, and therefore encouraged that faithful: “The years we are living through are very difficult and very dangerous; but Christ will win in the end… God will in the end put everything in its place, but each of us will give an answer for what we did in these difficult years with our prayer and kindness…”
We must remember Christ’s victory over the world and return to faith in the truth and power of everything written in the Gospel. Christ must conquer in our lives also, and then we will conquer the world. That is why St. Paisios called us to return to thoughts of God and His will and strength in every moment of our lives: “Be with Christ, live according to His commandments, and pray that you might be able to fight back against difficulties. Abandon the passions so that divine grace would come. And if a good concern enters into us (where we are and what awaits us), then this will help us greatly to take the necessary measures and prepare ourselves. Let our lives be more temperate. Let’s live more spiritually, be more friendly, help those who are in pain, help the poor with love, with pain, and with kindness.”
Quotes used from: Words of St. Paisios the Hagiorite, vol I: With Pain and Love for Modern Man; vol II. Spiritual Awakening.
On the miracle of the Archangel Michael in Chonae (Colossi): http://www.angelologia.ru/prazdniki/75chudo.htm