Faith

“What is faith?”  Saint John of Kronstadt suggests that it is the “sureness of spiritual truth, of that which is, or of, God.  To believe means to be as sure of the reality of the spiritual world as of the material world.” In another instance, he suggests, that “Faith gives rest and joy; unbelief troubles wounds.” When Abba Poemen asked to define “faith”, he answered, “Faith is to live humbly and to give alms.” “Faith, according to the teaching of St. Antioch, is the beginning of our union with God.” For Saint Augustine, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

“What is faith?”  Saint John of Kronstadt suggests that it is the “sureness of spiritual truth, of that which is, or of, God.  To believe means to be as sure of the reality of the spiritual world as of the material world.” In another instance, he suggests, that “Faith gives rest and joy; unbelief troubles wounds.” When Abba Poemen asked to define “faith”, he answered, “Faith is to live humbly and to give alms.” “Faith, according to the teaching of St. Antioch, is the beginning of our union with God.” For Saint Augustine, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

Although the definition of “faith” may vary slightly from saint to saint, which suggests a much needed, personal dimension of this corporate ideal, faith is super-essential if one desires to be in communion with God.  The question that I must then ask myself and the question that you must ask yourself is: “To what extent do I have faith in God?” If we are honest with ourselves – and with God – the answer will reveal much about our standing with and relation to God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. 

St. Maximos the Confessor concludes that to whatever degree I possess faith in Christ, this will be the measure of my blessings and the extent to which I am able to commune with God.  He writes:

In each of us the energy of the Spirit is made manifest according to the measure of his faith (Rom. 12:6) Therefore each of us is the steward of his own grace and, if we think logically, we should never envy another person the enjoyment of his gifts, since the disposition which makes us capable of receiving divine blessings depends on ourselves.  In other words, divine blessings are bestowed according to the measure of faith in each man.  Similarly, the strength of our faith is revealed by the zeal with which we act.  Thus our actions disclose the measure of faith, and the strength of our faith determines the measure of grace that we receive.  Conversely, the extent to which we fail to act reveals the measure of our lack of faith, and our lack of faith in turn determines the degree to which we are deprived of grace.  Hence the person who out of jealousy envies those who practices the virtues is more than misguided, for the choice of believing and acting, and of receiving grace according to the measure of his faith, clearly depends on him and not on anybody else. 

If this is in fact the case, then we must heed the warning of St. John of Kronstadt.  “If from time to time we do not stir up the fervor of faith in our heart, eventually faith may become entirely extinct in us.  The enemy takes pains to attain this end, which is why we see men who are Christian only in name, while their actions are quite heathen.” 

How do we know if we lack faith? One telltale sign is that we lack works.  St. Seraphim of Sarov explains:  “Faith without works is dead , and the works of faith are: love, peace, long-suffering, mercy, humility, rest from all works, bearing the Cross, and life in the Spirit.  Only such faith can be considered true.  True faith cannot be without works; one who truly believes will unfailing have works as well.”

Similarly,  “without living faith and the fear of God it is impossible to live in a godly way.  Living faith” according to St. Theophan the Recluse, “is inspired in the human heart by contemplation of the word of God and by the Holy Spirit.  For this reason we should read and heed the word of God and pray that God Himself ignite the lamp of faith in our heart.”

If we choose not to read Scripture, to offer prayers, nor to reflect upon the lives of the saints, we remain ignorant of God.  Ignorance is to Saint Kosmas Aitolos “the first among all evils…” which is logically followed by a lack of faith.” Sadly, if any of us finds ourselves at this place of disbelief, the words of Bishop Nikolai remind us of our folly as they also warn us of the spiritual Russian roulette we are playing: “Not to believe in the power of God, as Elijah did, is spiritual obtuseness, and that obtuseness is equivalent to spiritual death.”

Fortunately, “while there are many things that prevent us from achieving humility, there is nothing that hinders us from finding faith.” Saint Symeon the New Theologian continues, “If we heartily desire it, faith at once becomes active.  It is a gift of our Master and a quality of nature, even though it remains subject to our own freedom of choice, for even the Scythians and barbarians have faith in each other’s words.” 

“Real faith,” according to St. Maximos the Confessor, which each of us must then labor to realize in our lives, “…is truth which is all-embracing, all-sustaining and free from all falsehood.  A good conscience confers on us the power of love, since it is not guilty of any transgression of the commandments.”  Real faith is what was possessed by the sixth century Saint Patrick, counted equal to the Apostles, who’s Feast we celebrated this past week. 

As remarkable as this may seem, his real faith witnessed upon Mount Cruachan on which he fasted like Moses for forty days and forty nights has positioned Ireland to be spared the persecution of the Antichrist.  His real faith has caused the Lord to seat him as judge of both the living and the dead of Ireland at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming.  And, his real faith has allowed those who daily pray St. Patrick’s “Breastplate” to become his spiritual children who will receive his fervent and powerful intercession throughout their lives and on the Day of Judgment.

With faith, the Lord has assured us that all things are possible.  If it is His will that Saint Patrick be granted these blessings, then, it will be on account of his great faith realized through love – for God, for His neighbor and himself. 

Although a bit lengthy, I close with the Breastplate of St. Patrick, a prayer of undeniable faith in the truth of God, His Kingdom and the Age to Come:


I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.  I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism, through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension, through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels, in hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets, in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors, in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven: light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendor of Fire, speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea, stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to secure me: against snares of devils, against temptations of vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and a near, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils): against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of heathenry, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of women [any witch] and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today against poison, against burning, against drowning, against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Amen!