Monday, December 9, 2013

Meditations on the Winter Pascha - The Faith of the Three Young Men

This chapter of The Winter Pascha is about the faith of the three young men who were thrown in the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. (If you aren't familiar with this story, found in chapter 3 of the book of Daniel, you can read a summary here).

When they are thrown into the fire, they are saved by God, who "turns the flame into a dewy breeze" and is present with them in the fire itself. This in itself is remarkable, to be sure, but Fr. Hopko's focus here is not so much the miracle that occurred, but the faith of the young men.

The three young men who were confronted by the wicked king of Babylon did not claim that the true God would save them from death in the flames. They surely believed that He could, but they did not insist that He would! 

They bore witness to the fact that their God does whatever He wants. It was none of their business what he would or would not do... matter what God did, they still, under whatever circumstances, would not worship the idol that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 

This kind of faith is the kind of faith that I want to have. It is the kind of faith that says Thy will be done, in spite of what I might think is best. This is the kind of faith that is ready to endure suffering, horrific torture, and even death in order to remain true to the True God.

...real faith and genuine trust in God makes no deals and no claims. It is completely and totally ready, as was shown supremely in Jesus, to accept whatever the Father wills and provides, knowing that His faithful ones will never be put to shame. 

Sometimes, when I read the lives of the saints and I read about those martyrs who died horrible deaths for the sake of Christ, my pride whispers to me that I would be the same as they were; that I would not deny Christ for any reason; that I would be willing to die for Him. Then I wake up and look at myself and see the sorry truth: I don't even have faith enough to keep me from worrying about small things or to accept the little trials that I face. I certainly would not have the faith to stand and submit to torture and death!

But what if I could have faith like that? What would change if I could get rid of my own greatness and allow myself to accept with gladness anything that comes my way? What would life look like if I could be like the three youths and know with my whole being that what God wants is always, always better than anything I could ever dream up - even if it means pain and suffering for the time being? This kind of faith trusts Him always, no matter what He decides.

This is what Christ did when he came. With all His power and His might, He submitted to the Father's will and allowed Himself to die a horrible and shameful death. He came to us, in order to die for us, in spite of the pain and humiliation. And after submitting and passing through the awfulness He was raised up and glorified. He was not shamed any longer, but ascended to sit in glory at the right hand of the Father.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  (Romans 10:11)

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