Archimandrite Varnavas Lambropoulos


Today’s Gospel certainly has nothing to say to those who embrace the modern ‘gospels’ of self-salvation, which derive from the demonic ‘gospel of the serpent’: ‘You can become gods without God’. The words of the reading will be heard with even greater indifference by those who espouse the lyrics of a modern Greek song: ‘Let me make a mistake; I don’t feel like being saved’. Self-centered, smug people strive to feel secure about themselves in artificial ways. In the end, they wind up telling lies not only to other people but also to themselves, in an effort to persuade all and sundry that they have no need of any savior.

Do you want to be saved?
Philip not only wanted to be saved, but, having studied the Mosaic Law and the Prophets, was awaiting the true Savior of the world Whom they proclaimed. He was able to meet and get to know this God and Messiah through his fellow-townsmen, Peter and Andrew. Seeing his genuine desire for salvation, Christ called on him to follow Him. As Saint Teofylakt of Bulgaria remarks, Christ’s voice sparked such a flame of love towards Him in Philip’s heart that he ran off to pass on the message to his friend Nathaniel.

In bowing to the pressing request of his friend- ‘Come and see’- Nathaniel overcame his reservations concerning the ill repute of Christ’s home town and was startled to hear Christ receive him with the words: ‘Here’s a true Israelite in whose heart there is no guile’. ‘How do you know me?’ he blurted. Christ revealed that, before Philip had called to him, He’d seen him sitting under a fig tree. Nathaniel was astonished that Christ had seen him in a place where the human eye couldn’t have travelled. He confessed Him to be the Son of God and King of Israel. Christ replied: ‘If you believe in me just because of what I’ve told you, you should know that you’ll see much greater signs than that’. He reminded him of the vision seen by another Israelite without guile, the Patriarch Jacob, who is called ‘plain’ [or ‘mild’] in the Old Testament: the heavens opened and a ladder appeared upon which angels ascended and descended, praising God.

Faith without guile
It’s no coincidence that it’s today, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, when the Church reminds us of this event, the meeting and acquaintance of Philip and Nathaniel with Christ. The extract reveals the fundamental requirements for our entry into the Orthodox Church. People aren’t Orthodox because they know the Creed by heart or they observe certain external formalities of piety which they’ve simply inherited from their grandmother. You’re Orthodox if you strive steadfastly, with a guileless and sincere heart, to build a conscious relationship with Christ, through His One Holy Church, constantly examining your life and words and humbly implementing His will. Once God had assumed human flesh and became describable and tangible, this relationship was not restricted merely to visual contact through His holy image, but culminated in the partaking of His most pure Body and precious Blood at the Holy Eucharist.

The heavens open for us, too, at least at every Divine Liturgy. At the time of the Small Entrance, when the priest enters the sanctuary with the Gospel, he prays to the Lord of Glory that the angels may come to the altar and celebrate with him.

Open Heavens
There are more than a few occasions when God manifests the ‘open’ heavens, even to those of other religions, not, of course, to justify their delusion, but to reward their genuine search and to call them to recognition of the One Truth.

At the beginning of the 16th century, there was a Turk in Constantinople who took his possessed wife to the holy Patriarch Nifon. When Nifon began reading the prayers, the Turk saw the roof of the church open and light descending from on high. His wife was cured. He revealed what had happened to a friend of his, a Greek merchant, a certain Iakovos, from Kastoria: ‘You Christians really do have great faith’. We don’t know whether the Turk became Christian or not. What we do know, however, is that, because of this theophany experienced by a non-Christian, Iakovos, who had until then been lukewarm in his faith, became a monk and was later martyred for the sake of Christ. We honor his memory on 1 November.

For us, it’s enough to envy Nathaniel’s guileless faith and true thirst for salvation in Christ and imitate it. Before he saw the heavens opened, he confessed Christ as God and followed Him with all his heart.




Pemptousia Partnership

Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person ­– the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.


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