Last week, the Church commemorated St Charalambos, the martyr and wonder-worker. He was renowned for preaching the good news as a clergyman and for his bold faith in Christ, as he was arrested and brought to trial, refusing to offer sacrifices to idols. His name, in and of itself, radiates a great and inspiring truth – the truth of Christ. His name literally means ‘glowing with joy,’ which in a way, may seem paradoxical, in the sense that he suffered through martyrdom and was subjected to persecution and attacks because of his Christian faith.
However, St Charalambos’ name alone embodies and reflects much truth of the Christian’s life and witness in the world – the radiation of joy. Through our personal implementation of, and participation in, Christ’s crucifixion, in other words His act of self-sacrifice, of giving and of reconciliation we consequently participate in the great joy of His resurrection. Through our Lord’s resurrection, we somehow live out the defeat and the prevailing of life over death, of virtue over sin, of light over darkness, of communion over self-centredness. The joyous Resurrection is the source of our hope, the reason for our struggle and our continual repentance, for ‘if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.’ ( 1 Cor 15)
If we were to pinpoint the key characteristic of a Christian it would have to be that of joyful repentance. A daily struggle, fighting ‘the good fight’ (1 Tim 6)
If we learn to sacrifice our own will for the sake of our sisters and brothers, for the sake of the loving commandments of Christ, then His joy will prevail in our hearts and lives. Joy is a fruit of our faith – if we truly believe in God, Who, to put it simply, ‘will have the last say,’ that He guides, protects and fundamentally loves us, then there is no reason for us to live with misery, with jealousy, with hatred, bearing grudges or dwelling on the negative or sinful aspects of human life.
‘Christ is joy, the true light, happiness. Christ is our hope. Our relation to Christ is love, eros, passion, enthusiasm, longing for the divine. Christ is everything. He is our love. He is the object of our desire. This passionate longing for Christ is a love that cannot be taken away. This is where joy flows from.’ (St Porphyrios, Wounded by Love)
Let us therefore, through the transforming grace of the Risen Christ, and through the sacraments of His body, the Church, go forth in repentance, as we commence the ‘Lenten Triodion.’ Only then will we both experience and radiate His joy, for ‘happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God.’ (St Nektarios)