THE JOY OF ORTHODOX LIFE IN CHRIST
Joyful life in Christ begins when we are attracted and become interested in our faith to try to follow Christ in His Church, keeping the four fasts of the year and Wednesdays and Fridays, and strive to keep all His commandments. Prayer life begins when, using a prayer book, we offer morning and evening prayers, prayers before Holy Communion and prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion. These are a few of the activities which will make a wonderful change in our lives. They are usually accompanied by a distinct change in our attitude, such as less talking and more listening, watching our language speaking only worthwhile things without oaths or swearing. The Lord himself will teach you things if your intentions are sincere, for He seeks to unite with us and desires that we unite with Him. For He is our Creator, the author of our lives and it is to Him that we owe faithfulness, honor and glory forever.
The difference of life without Christ and life in Christ are like light and darkness, like happiness and misery, and being filled with the resultant hope causes despondency and misery to disappear from our lives. Truly this present world offers nothing but some pleasures, some joys, difficulties and sorrows, suffering and eventual death. But life in Christ is truly Paradise, for we are living and enjoying His kingdom in this present world. Our true faith which is always followed by fervent hope which heralds the most important virtue of all which is love. We offer our sincere belief to God and He requites this by increasing our faith, This is utterly delightful and fills our hearts with hope, the hope is for everlasting life and true happiness. Then realizing all that He has given to us we begin to develop feelings of love for Him, especially because He is God our Creator, He is good and compassionate, and the Lover of man, and alone is worthy of our fervent love.
If we wake up at night, let the very first thing we ought to do is make the sign of the Cross to raise our minds and hearts to Christ our beloved in the middle of the night. When we begin a task it is good to begin with the sign of the Cross. If we drive or ride in an automobile, as soon as we sit in the seat, our first action should be to make the sign of the Cross, the same upon arrival back from a trip. Every time possible our souls must ascend to Christ. And this will start to arouse great joy in our hearts, soothing us with calm and peace which are invaluable to the welfare of man.
If we struggle to live this type of life, gradually we will feel its effects by a pleasant calmness and sweetness that only can come from Christ. In addition, we especially worship Him in Church at the Divine Liturgy, preparation for this being of utmost necessity. That is why there are prayers before Holy Communion for the night before the Liturgy, and prayers for preparation on the morning of the Divine Liturgy. Standing in Church we stand before our Creator and God, who extends mercy and love to all who sincerely call upon Him in faith. He is not far but is present everywhere and awaits all those who call upon Him. Angels and heavenly beings attend Divine Liturgy with us even though they are not visible.
Struggling to live a Christian life causes many changes to take place within us, among them is the joy that only thinking of Him and loving Him can bring, then the even greater joy of partaking of God Himself in Holy Communion/, where we are assured that He has entered our bodies and souls. Also, we must often reflect on the fact that we are sinners and that Christ came into the world to save sinners like ourselves. Turning away from sin is possible when we have Christ within us. He has conquered the evil one who assaults us seeking only our destruction. But Christ has defeated Him and as long as we remain faithful He will never conquer our souls but will retreat in shame before the Conqueror who vanquished him..
As we advance in prayer, church attendance, and life in fear of God, then faith, hope and love will fill us with divine thoughts? As we increase in the kingdom of God , the kingdom of this world will diminish, and everything will change dramatically. For the world and its turmoil are replaced with continuous peace accompanied by joy which knows no bounds, joy such as the world can never know, for our hearts will overflow in divine joy. Upon awakening each day by making the sign of the Cross and entering into another day of struggle and happiness experienced in the kingdom. If we confess Him before men, He will confess us before His Father in heaven. Christ is our Bridegroom and awaits our repentance and return to Him, which must take place during this life, for when we leave this world, we can take no material with us, but only our faithful or unfaithful souls.
This article, The Joy of Orthodox Life in Christ is meant to be introductory, not all inclusive. We ought to strive to read the Bible every day, for God speaks to us in the Bible, which is filled with His Spirit and divine grace. We need to remember that In prayer we speak to God and make requests from Him, but in reading the Bible we listen to Him and learn from Hm with every word we read. His authority, power, justice, compassion, and great mercy is shown in the pages of Holy Scripture.