In the epistle reading for this past Friday, St. Peter tells us that God’s “divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promise, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Pet. 1:3-7).
We see here St. Peter also mentioning the topic of the passions. He reminds us of what we have to look forward to in our daily struggles: we have been called to God’s glory and excellence and to become, by grace, partakers of the divine nature. Elsewhere, St. Peter says that we are to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). This is an amazingly high calling. It can be dizzying to the mind. It may be such a fantastic thing that we start doubting: “Who, me? Holy? Like God?”
Let us not doubt, for God is faithful in all things. He is the Truth, and in Him there is no falsehood. He is our Creator and knows that we are made in His image and likeness. Through His Son, He opened for us the gates of Paradise and is able to aid those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:18). Truly, St. Peter’s words are addressed to each one of us. He knows human weakness as well as anyone, having thrice denied his Teacher and God. But I would say that he knows God’s grace better than most of us having trusted God to lead Him to holiness and salvation. Having denied, he cried; having fallen away, he was brought back. He who feared for himself before the crucifixion of Christ was given courage to die on a cross himself.
From this knowledge of God’s grace, St. Peter shares with us a roadmap for becoming what we are called to be. He begins by saying that we should supplement our faith with virtue. This brings us back to our discussion of the passions, for virtues and passions are different sides of the same coin. Anger directed indiscriminately at our neighbor is a passion, yet anger directed at our sins is a virtue. Love of money is a sin, yet love of God and neighbor is a virtue.
It is in this context that we refer to the Church as a hospital of souls. In her rhythm of prayer, in her cycles of feast and fast, in her sacraments and the grace that dwells within her, we find what we need in order to heal our souls, to train our hearts to love what is good, to establish our minds in steadfastness of faith.
Today we begin the period known as the Triodion, a three week period leading us into Great Lent. Let us use this time to consider how we will partake of the Church’s offerings to us during this upcoming and most appropriate season of drawing near to God.