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Let Us Take Delight in the Fruit of the Divine Commandments of Christ

St. Justin of Ufa and Menzelinsk was ordained to the priesthood in September 1853. His wife died in 1862, and he was tonsured into monasticism in June 1863. He served at various monasteries and seminaries, and on January 27, 1885, he was consecrated Bishop of Mikhailovsk, vicar of the Ryazan Diocese. He served in a number of dioceses, and on October 14, 1896, he was appointed Bishop of Ufa and Menzelinsk. He retired in 1900 and spent the rest of his life until his peaceful repose on September 26, 1903, in monastic reclusion. In 1988, he was glorified as a locally venerated saint in the Synaxis of Crimean Saints.

Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch (1877). Photo: Wikipedia     

“Christ, the True Light!… Guide our footsteps in the keeping of Thy commandments” (1st Hour).

Preface

In his last touching conversation with His disciples, our Lord and God Jesus Christ told them: If ye love Me, keep My commandments (Jn. 14:15). He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him (Jn. 14:21). If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (Jn. 14:23). The Lord also spoke so definitively about how the fulfillment of His commandments is an indispensable condition for loving Him! So, my friend, do you want to love your Lord, God, and Savior with all your heart and soul? Try with all your might to fulfill His every word, and this will lead you to eternal life, blessed in God.

“It’s evident from the word of the Lord that we must study the Gospel commandments in such a way that they become an inheritance—the property of the mind; that they might ever be in mind, and that with every moral step, with every thought, with every feeling and desire, with every action, we might keep the Gospel instruction in our memory. Only then will it be possible to fulfill them precisely, constantly—such fulfillment as the Lord requires. Such a study of the Gospel commandments and life according to them is the first and most essential requirement and the most sacred duty of every true Christian who desires salvation” (Thoughts of | Let Us Take Delight in the Fruit of the Divine Commandments of Christ | The Paradise NewsSt. Ignatius Brianchaninov

“>St. Ignatius [Brianchaninov]).

The Commandments of Christ

“Let us take delight in the fruit of the divine commandments of Christ” (Clean Week, Matins Canon, Ode 3).

On love for God and neighbor

In order to internalize and fulfill the commandments of Christ, we have to know exactly what these commandments are and how many there are. Hardly anyone can give an exact and definite answer to this question. Our catechisms talk in detail only about the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament; and of the commandments of the New Testament, only the nine promises of the Beatitudes are mentioned. Meanwhile, there are many New Testament commandments of Christ, as can be seen throughout the Gospel. There are many commandments given by example and spoken by the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ; but for some reason, they’ve never been gathered together—for a more convenient and constant remembrance of them. To see them all, you have to constantly read the entire Gospel, but obviously this isn’t always possible for everyone. And the commandments are forgotten!

Of the Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church, it seems that only | Let Us Take Delight in the Fruit of the Divine Commandments of Christ | The Paradise NewsSt. Maximus the ConfessorSaint Maximus the Confessor was born in Constantinople around 580 and raised in a pious Christian family.

“>St. Maximus the Confessor said something about this to his collocutor: “Although,” he said, “there are many commandments, but they’re all summed up in one word: Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself (Lk. 10:27). The brother asked the Confessor: “If there are many commandments, what are they, and who can fulfill them all?” St. Maximus replied: “All the commandments can be fulfilled by those who imitate the Lord and follow Him step by step. Whoever follows the Lord step by step will see all of His commandments, given by Him in word and example; and whoever imitates the Lord also fulfills all His commandments.” To the question: “Who can imitate the Lord?” St. Maximus said: “Of those who are enslaved to the world and its vanities, none can imitate the Lord; those who can say: Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee (Mt. 19:27), will receive the strength to imitate the Lord, and follow all His commandments.”

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings (Lk. 1:19). Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (Phil. 3:17). There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1). And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24). But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14). He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Mt. 10:37). But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Lk. 19:27).

Thus, let us follow the Lord step by step, first mentally, according to the instructions of the sacred Gospel history, in order to see and list all the commandments of Christ; and then let us take care to fulfill them in deed as well, that we might love our Lord, God, and Savior with all our heart and soul, and thus inherit eternal, blessed life. Without sincere love for the Lord and the fulfillment of His commandments, it’s impossible to be saved.

The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength (Mk. 12:29–30, Lk. 10:27). This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Mt. 22:38-39). There is none other commandment greater than these (Mk. 12:31). On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 22:40). Thus, the main, foundational, universal, and eternally unchanging divine commandment of the Old and New Testaments is the commandment to love God and neighbor.

The purpose of the commandment on love for God and neighbor is to implant in us the seed of a new life, holy and God-pleasing, and to bring us into the bond of perfectness (Col. 3:14). According to the teaching of the Gospel, love for God must be the most sincere, complete, and perfect (cf. Lk. 10:27), and therefore can’t be combined in any way with love for the world (cf. Mt. 6:24); it should be expressed in obedience to the will of God, in fulfillment of the commandments (cf. Jn. 14:15, 21, 1 Jn. 5:3); it must strive to imitate the perfections of the highest Being and His glory as its goal (cf. Eph. 5:1-2; Mt. 5:10); finally, it must be so deep and unshakable that we might be ready for all sacrifices for the sake of the name of God (cf. Rom. 8:35, 38–39, Mk. 8:35).

| Let Us Take Delight in the Fruit of the Divine Commandments of Christ | The Paradise NewsWho is Our Neighbor?Love of neighbor is a clear test of our Christian life. But in order to understand what the love of our neighbor is, it would be good to first clarify who in fact is our neighbor?

“>Love for neighbor, inextricably connected to love for God (cf. 1 Jn. 4:20), embraces all people, whether friends or foes (cf. Mt. 5:44-45). It’s everywhere unfeigned, fervent, from a pure heart (cf. 1 Pt. 1:22), and is certainly expressed in deeds (cf. 1 Jn. 3:18, Rom. 13:8–10). He who is imbued with Christian love doesn’t offend his neighbor, not only in deed, but also in word and thought (cf. Mt. 5:22, 7:1-2, 12); on the contrary, he himself graciously endures all insults and forgives all offenses (cf. Mt. 5:39, 6:14, 18:22). He’s ever merciful and bountiful to his neighbors (cf. Mt. 5:42, Lk. 6:35); he cares not only for their external well-being, but also for the salvation of their souls (cf. 1 Cor. 5:14-15, Heb. 10:24), and in general, he’s so devoted to his neighbor that he’s ready to lay down his very life for him (cf. Jn. 15:12–13). How can we acquire such complete love for God and neighbor? The universal commandment of love for God and neighbor is, as it were, a solar center, in which all the commandments of Christ convene, and from which they proceed.

On abiding in God and in all things Divine

How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business? (Lk. 2:49). This is the answer of the Savior to His Most Pure Mother and her holy Betrothed—Joseph, who sought and found Him conversing with the Jewish elders in the Jerusalem Temple when He was just twelve years old. In these first words of the Lord recorded in the Gospel of Luke is clearly contained the commandment of Christ, given to us by His example, about how every Christian, as His follower, must be entirely dedicated to God, and constantly abide in God and in all things Divine throughout his entire life—ever thinking about God, ever learning from His law, ever seeking to fulfill His will. In a word, it’s complete and perfect devotion to the will of God, for which to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).

It has neither its own will nor its own wisdom; it seeks nothing, fears nothing, and grieves over nothing; it neither fears any disasters nor mourns over any loss, but rejoices and thanks God in its sufferings. The Lord Himself magnified this virtue in His own Person when He said: For I came down from Heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me (Jn. 6:38); and to do the will of God He considered His most desired food. All the saints were wholly devoted to the will of God; and no true Christians can find a more desired and calming virtue, for he who is wholly devoted to God rests in God’s arms, like a babe in his mother’s arms; and the vexations of life prove to be not so terrible for him: He’s in a quiet haven. But how can we find devotion to the will of God? We must be firmly assured that we are wholly dependent upon God, and that He cares for us more than the most compassionate parents for their children. Be assured and pray: “Thou knowest, O Lord, what is unto my benefit. Do unto me according to Thy will! I am Thine, O Savior, save me!”

On the fulfillment of all righteousness

It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:15). These words were spoken by the Lord to St. John the Baptist during His Baptism in the Jordan, when the Baptist feared to baptize the Lord, as he knew Who He was, and himself asked Him for Baptism.

In these words we find a new, great commandment, given by the example of the Savior to His followers. According to this commandment, every true Christian must always, in his life and actions, fulfill all righteousness. For if we allow ourselves to lie and deceive, we’re no longer sons of light, but we become sons of darkness—sons of the devil, who is the father of lies.

The commandment to fulfill all righteousness is nothing other than a sincere, heartfelt obedience, united with the fear of God, and submission to the Law of God; for in the law is righteousness, and in lawlessness—a lie.

Assured that righteousness is in the Law of God, a Christian must no longer test why this or that is commanded, and why something is forbidden; but with the unconditional submission of his mind and heart, he must fulfill what is commanded and flee what is forbidden. This great virtue draws the gaze of the Lord Himself to the one who possesses it: But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit (Is. 66:2). What a great mercy of God to the Christian who is devoted to God and obedience to His Law!

But acquiring this beautiful virtue is a slow and difficult process. Our inquisitive self-love wants to know everything: Why and what for this or that is required or prohibited—it wants to solve and define everything in its own way. Meanwhile, due to its limitations and weakness, it often gets entangled in untruth and lies. And how many of these fake autonomous people there are among us! Therefore, we must fervently sigh to the Lord: “Grant me obedience, O Lord; grant me unconditional obedience to Thy Law, that I might not stray from the path of righteousness onto false paths!”

To be continued…

Source: Orthodox Christianity