“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.”
What a call to action these words are! We are given the example of the Israelites who were led out of Egypt by a series of great miracles — from the plagues to the turning back of the Red Sea — but who nevertheless forgot the Lord, preferring to pine over the good things of Egypt while conveniently forgetting the slavery to which they had been subject there. As a result, these men and women were found unworthy of the promised land, and instead wandered for forty years in the desert until every one had died, and their children were led by Aaron into the “land of milk and honey.” This history can be found in the book of Exodus.
We, in our turn, have been partakers of an even greater miracle — united to the Holy Church by God’s abundant grace, anointed with the grace of the Holy Spirit to preserve us in all truth, and fed with Christ’s Most Pure Body and Blood, we may abide with Him in our every action, if we so choose. We can say with the apostle Paul, “for it is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” — He gives us this grace, if only we choose to accept it, if only we set aside our own sinful desires and allow Him to act in us, if only we take advantage of the Holy Sacraments which He offers to us, if only we continue to encourage each other, “singing to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”
This is why we gather in church as often as possible. This is why the church has services for every hour of every day, so that whenever our lives allow, we may come together and “exhort one another daily, while it is called To day” — because we are forgetful and lazy, and we need constant reminders of the Grace that had been given us, of the great Goodness of our God, so that we may fulfill our calling, give thanks with out ceasing, and allow Him to live and work in us, now and forever.
This evening, we will celebrate the memory of St. Gregory Palamas. This fourteenth century father taught with clarity the Orthodox truth that we can truly become deified by Grace — we can live with and in God — if we set aside our sinful desires and allow Him to act with an in us through the means He has appointed.