It can be frustrating living as a Christian in today’s America. While we still have our freedom to come to Church for Divine Liturgy, and ‘go through the motions’ of Orthodoxy, when we leave the Church to interact with other members of society, just admitting we are Christian can cause arguments. It is what it, but sometimes it helps to admit it can be frustrating, but that does not change the fact the Church still calls us to witness our faith to others.
Brethren, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain that resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. – Philippians 3.8-19
Since today is a fasting day, and a day we remember the death of Christ on the Holy Cross, I thought we should remind ourselves it could ALWAYS be worse. St Paul was a leader in the Jewish Community, a respected elder among his own people. He gave it all up to follow Christ and to publicly share his faith with others. He was ultimately jailed and exiled for his faith, but he considered, “everything as loss because of the surpassing worthy of knowing Christ.” It didn’t matter to St Paul that he lost everything, simply because he knew Christ.
Saint Galaktion was from Emesa, the son of Cleitophon and Leucippe, pagans who had been instructed in piety by a certain Christian named Onuphrius and received holy Baptism. Saint Episteme, born of unbelieving parents, was baptized before she was wedded to Galaktion. After their marriage they remained in virginity and lived in separate monastic houses. Betrayed as Christians, they suffered martyrdom during the reign of Decius, about the year 250. – from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website for November 5th ‘Saints of the Day’
Today, following the advice of St Paul to “mark those who so live as you have an example in us,” the Church commemorates two martyrs. Galaktion and Epistmeme were married in secret, lived as Christians in secret, and still martyred ‘just because’ they were Christians.
We may not lose everything, and for now we are not being murdered ‘just because’ we are Christians in America. But the Church wants us to remember those who are a constant example to us, that living for Christ is rewarded by God in heaven, if not by society. Those who live for society’s praises, “Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame.”
So, fast today for Christ. Fast, to remember His death on the Cross. Fast, to remind yourself that life can always be worse than it is. When you find it difficult to let go of the worldly praises, fast to remind yourself it isn’t about you. It is about God.