St. Paul often seems to compress into just a few words a message so important and so powerful that we need to spend time paying close attention to those words in order to grasp their full impact. One such passage is the epistle reading for this past Wednesday. St. Paul begins by reminding the faithful at Colossae who Christ is: “the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). As Christians, we are led by Christ, and we follow His teachings and His example.
In order to encourage us, St. Paul reminds us, through his words to the Colossians, that Christ died “in order to present [us] holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that [we] continue in the fight, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which [we] heard” (Col 1:22-23). Indeed, our salvation comes through our struggle against the passions, through our continued journey towards holiness.
I am reminded of the story of the traveler who went to the monastery and asked the monks what they did there. The answer was: “we fall, we get up, we fall, we get up.” Our lives on earth are, as the monks said, a sequence of falling and getting up, and it is this latter part that is of utmost importance to St. Paul as well. He calls us to be steadfast in the faith, knowing that, as the Lord Himself warns in the parable of the sower, there are many ways in which the hope of the Gospel can be lost.
Let us therefore draw near to God every day so that we may strengthen our grip on the hope of the Gospel. One of the prayers in preparation for receiving Holy Communion says, “I do not approach You carelessly, Christ God; rather, I come trusting in Your unspeakable goodness so that I may not remain a stranger to communion with You, and be ensnared by the wolf of souls.” Receiving the Eucharist with the fear of God, faith, and love, is one way of holding on to our faith. Regular prayer is another, for in prayer we open our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to shape us in His likeness.
There are times when prayer is easy and comes from deep within our souls. There are others when our well seems dry. The good news is that the well of the Church is never dry. Her prayers, the prayers of the saints, become our prayers at those times, and these prayers draw us into the life of the Gospel, unto the path of salvation. It is at these times that our prayer books are most helpful, as they bring these prayers of the saints to us for our own use.
Our faith is beautiful and rich, and there is much more that can be said about the process of growing in faith. Indeed, this is but a brief exploration of what St. Paul is saying to us through his words to the Colossians. May we listen to his words and take them to heart, and may our Lord continue to help us and guide us towards His Kingdom.
With love in Christ,