In the Orthodox Church we have just completed two long weeks of Church, beginning with the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and culminating with the Feast of Theophany. We knew this would be a long two weeks, but we were prepared by the Church. We began on Christmas Eve with the words, “We venerate your Nativity O Lord, show us also your Theophany.” We knew the Church would ask us to go the distance these past two weeks. So…. we did. Now can we rest?
At that time, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again, it is written, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! for it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. – Matthew 4.1-11
As soon as Christ came up from the water at Theophany, also called Epiphany, He was tempted by Satan. This was nothing new, He was attacked by Satan just days after His birth. Why would His Theophany be any different? Christ had come to defeat Satan, and He didn’t waste any time. Neither of course did Satan, who tried without hesitation to become victor of the war he had begun against God before the world. Satan has always wanted to be at the top, so Christ Who had now been revealed as God to the world, engaged the battle without one moment of rest.
The same is true for our lives. Satan will never stop trying to draw us away from God. We cannot afford to step away from the battle, lest we like Judas Iscariot let our guard down and fall to temptation. Yes, we are tired from the long celebration of Nativity and Theophany. Yes, there were many hours spent in Church over the past few weeks. Yes, it would be nice to have a moment to relax, but when we are at war, even when we rest we must be alert to the enemy.
The enemy will come for us when we are at the most vulnerable moments, tired and weary from the world. It is in those moments, moments like today, that we must be the most vigilant against Satan and his demons. We WILL BE temped, just as Christ was tempted. We WILL BE victorious, just as Christ was victorious. The only thing standing between the enemy and victory is our willingness to engage the battle without hesitation. The enemy will never hesitate and neither can we.
So, plan to be in Church tomorrow, and every Sunday this year. Don’t fall for Satan’s lies that you don’t need to be in Church. It is IN the Church that we are able to receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ, the sustenance of our life. If you want rest, come to God in His House rather than in the world. The war is raging against us. We may become tired, but there is no rest for the weary.