Word Magazine December 1963 Page 8
KEEP THE. . . .FAITH
Text of the address of Fr. Michael Stott, speaking in behalf of the clergy at the Grand Banquet of the 18th Annual Archdiocese Convention, Washington, D.C., Aug. 11, 1963.
I once conducted a Bible class in which we were studying the miracles of Jesus. A young man in the group asked, “Father, why don’t miracles happen today?”
I am sure that this young man voiced a question which bothers many people. There are so many today who doubt the possibility of miracles. But MIRACLES ARE REAL! Many miracles occur which we might see, but not really recognize as such. I think that today we are witnesses to one of the greatest miracles of God — and that is This very convention. Here we have Syrian Orthodox faithful witnessing for their faith in the capitol city of this God-protected land. This is miraculous. It was no small task transplanting Orthodoxy from Syria and Lebanon into American soil. The obstacles of language, culture, and prejudice must have seemed almost insurmountable to the first Arabic pioneers. But, nevertheless, God has showered this transplanted faith so abundantly that today we miraculously stand as witness for Christ and his Orthodox Church.
I am quite sure God doesn’t work miracles for no purpose. We have a great responsibility placed upon us by this very blessing. We must fully appreciate this Faith which God has seen fit to preserve — not I must say because of us, but truly in spite of us. The greatest single contribution of the Syrian and Lebanese people to America is the Orthodox faith.
You know, we hear people say, “Well, it really doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you lead a good life.”
But it most certainly does matter what you believe. A correct life is necessary. But so too is a correct faith.
St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Cathedral in Brooklyn, and of my own parish in Bridgeport, was a great Bishop of the Orthodox Church. He is most remembered for his acts of kindness, generosity and love. He lived a correct life. But, St. Nicholas also held to a correct faith. Very early in the history of the Church there were people, like today, who taught that it really didn’t matter what you believed. One such man was Arius. Arius introduced a teaching which denied that Christ was God. To get support for his case, he composed little songs to the popular music of the day — which he sang before the bishops of the 1st Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325 A.D. While Arius was singing these blasphemous ditties the Bishops held their hands over their ears so as not to hear, ‘til St. Nicholas rose, walked to Arius, and gave him a stout blow with his pastoral staff, saying:
“Where the word faileth,
the rod falleth.”
This phrase is still used in many parts of the world by parents reprimanding their children.
Now, of course, I don’t advocate that we demonstrate our faith quite this way. Our effectiveness will not be measured by the number of bruised skulls. But I do charge you to continue steadfast in the Orthodox Faith of your fathers and continue to participate in God’s miracle of letting the life-giving light of His Church quicken this very nation.