Word Magazine March 1963 Page 7-8
VIGILANCE IS THE
PRICE OF VICTORY
By Rev. Father Michael Baroudy
One of the most difficult things about a priest’s life is to choose a subject and discuss a theme relevant to the time in which we live. The pastor’s vocation is not an easy one. Only the person who occupies such a high calling can realize the tremendous responsibilities that go with the ministry. There is perhaps no other profession which requires more rectitude, sincerity and purity of life, efforts, and motive than the ministry. The earnest minister, who knows beyond any shadow of doubt that he is called of God, exercises eternal vigilance, self-control and self-examination every day. He feels answerable to God for the kind of life and example he should manifest. His words carry weight with people only as they are backed by actions and deeds. Otherwise, his words are meaningless platitudes, sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.
The Orthodox Christian faith which you and I profess is not a collection of rules, a system of theology and dogma only, but also a way of life and practice. It concerns itself with what concerns man’s ultimate goal, seeks to liberate people from the fetters of sin and selfishness and so makes them sons and daughters of God. Yes, the Christian religion is Christ’s challenge to human beings to live a life at its best, and to do no less than one’s best in any situation.
It should always be borne in mind that to be Christian is to be Christlike, infused by His spirit, gripped by His love, rejoicing in the knowledge and hope that it is well with one’s soul. Life is looked upon as a pilgrimage from the cradle to the grave, preparation for the life beyond. Therefore, for the Christian the will of God is the predominant factor in every day’s life, that is to say, no matter how trying the times and how difficult the circumstances, ours must be an unswerving loyalty to His blessed will. This is not easy to follow out in practice but it is the only way that we should tread, and there is no middle ground, no compromise.
There is no denying the fact that the time in which we live is crucial, crucial because man feels that he has attained to a top-flight wisdom. But our vaunted wisdom, great as it is in many respects, does not seem to provide an adequate answer to our problems. Rather than solving our problems, we are being led instead into the very brink of another world-wide conflict of greater proportion than any previous conflict in history. There are in our world today two contrasting philosophies of life, two conflicting ideologies which can never be reconciled. In such a situation the law of the sword rather than the law of the Lord is in the saddle. This being the case a gigantic, titanic struggle may be unleashed upon the world which conceivably might wipe out our present-day civilization. We are complacent about the whole matter, complacent in the sense that we are just as unconcerned about our soul’s salvation and conduct as we have ever been. I have never seen people careless, insofar as living a life that accords with God’s will is concerned, as we are today. God is so obscured from our vision that He does not figure at all in our affairs. Though this is a crucial period in the life of mankind, we are supposed to search our hearts, repent of our sins and evil deeds. Yes, we are supposed to seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near, yet we are following the same sinful pattern even on the Lord’s Day.
I am pained to know that the average Orthodox person, though a professing Christian, is leading a life that is anything but Christian. What will happen to Orthodoxy if we still persist in our present practices, I would hate to think! Having the welfare of Orthodox people at heart, I can’t help but warn them of the dire consequences because they are playing with fire, because God can neither be side-stepped nor mocked! History, the Bible and every day experiences teach us that it is disastrous as well as suicidal to ignore God and His blessed claim upon our lives. It is our sacred duty to lead lives in keeping with His divine will, and consider Him as the Master of our lives and destinies, else we would have lived in vain!
Not many years ago, an unknown young man was peddling cheese in Chicago with a one-horse wagon. He was having trouble earning enough to care for himself and his faithful horse. “Paddy, what’s the matter with us?” he asked his horse one evening. “You are trying to get along without God.” The answer came as clearly as if the horse had been able to reply. “If God can do better with this cheese business, then we’ll let Him.” That day he determined that God would be a partner in his business. Today, the name of James L. Kraft is known wherever people buy cheese around the world.
What is more important is that Mr. Kraft has given a life time of devoted service to his church, sharing generously of his time, talent and money. God makes a good partner for any life. Often we overlook the unlimited power that is available when we take God at His word.
One of the straight-forward warnings we have in the Bible is, “Conform not to the world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind to know what is that good and acceptable will of God.” But despite this warning, we discover that here in Christian America crimes are taking greater tolls than ever before in the history of the United States, more than two million crimes are committed per year, an average of a crime in every fifteen and half seconds. One who is sensitive to God’s blessed will, and realizes the dire consequences, can’t help but feel horrified and ask, “Whither are you going, America?” This tendency, this trend, unless it is checked by arousing the people’s consciences will lead to an inevitable disaster. That means that we are morally weaker now than we have ever been; that means that the average American, and that includes all of us, has, like Esau in the Bible, sold his birthright for a mass of pottage, that means the homes of America, the parents are not letting God’s light shine in the homes, that means our lives don’t reflect the fear, the love and the righteousness of God. Say what you will about the enemies outside of our borders, our greatest enemies are unbelief, godless, unconcerned lives, lives steeped in vice. If we as Christian Americans are to follow in the footsteps of the Master, we should indulge in nothing which weakens us morally, and of which we shall be ashamed. We should keep ourselves in hand, as the saying goes, having power under God to keep ourselves under control.
Eternal vigilance should be exercised by each of us because we are the trustees of the citadel of our souls, the custodians to whom is entrusted the keeping of our personalities, pure and undefiled. There are two silent witnesses whom we cannot deceive— God and conscience. We may not be detected by any human being when doing wrong, but God and conscience are there — vocal, though silent witnesses, speaking in the innermost of our souls. Vigilance is the price of victory!