In the face of many trials and tribulations – especially in the modern era – it can be difficult for us to keep our zeal for the Christian faith. Sometimes we hear the voice of others, see their actions – even those we love, respect, admire and look up to – and like the Holy Martyrs Marcellinus and Mark we begin to feel ourselves being persuaded to turn away from the faith handed down to us (1 Corinthians 11: 2), to rear to the left, onto the easy path that leads to the wide gate (Mt. 7:13).
But then we read the lives of the saints and all of a sudden the clouds that had formed over our hearts dissipate and we remember “whereof we were made” (Ps. 103:14), for what purpose and goal, and we become convicted once again to hold firm to the traditions of our Fathers. We hearken to the words spoken by those who had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, whose words are written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15), and we say: Ah, yes. It is for this reason I struggle to live for Christ; it is for this reason I fast when the Church prescribes fasting; it is for this reason I confess my sins, do my prayers, attend the divine services; it is for this reason I strive to live in the world and not be of it: for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Lk. 18: 29).
I know there is much going on in the world that confuses us, but like Sts. Marcellinus and Mark we must listen to the voice of the saints, observe their actions and follow their example. We must watch and pray lest we fall into temptation. So, we can keep informed about current events if we so choose but we must never become despondent. We place our trust in Christ, Who governs the Church, and Who reassures us that “the gates of hell will not prevail against her” (Mt. 16:18). We read the lives of the saints and we pray to them for guidance, endurance, and enlightenment. Just reading the speech of St. Sebastian to the faltering martyrs (offered below) is enough to remember: It is for this that I cling to Christ and strive to “lay aside all earthly care” (Cherubic Hymn) in hopes of experiencing the unending joys of the heavenly kingdom.
(Source) The noble Christian brothers Marcellinus and Mark had been locked up in prison, and at first they firmly confessed the true Faith. But under the influence of the tearful entreaties of their pagan parents (Tranquillinus and Marcia), and also their own wives and children, they began to waver in their intent to suffer for Christ. St Sebastian went to the imperial treasurer, at whose house Marcellinus and Mark were held in confinement, and addressed the brothers who were on the verge of yielding to the entreaties of their family.
“O valiant warriors of Christ! Do not cast away your everlasting crowns of victory because of the tears of your relatives. Do not remove your feet from the necks of your enemies who lie prostrate before you, lest they regain their strength and attack you more fiercely than before. Raise your banner high over every earthly attachment. If those whom you see weeping knew that there is another life where there is neither sickness nor death, where there is unceasing gladness and everything is beautiful, then assuredly they would wish to enter it with you. Anyone who fears to exchange this brief earthly life for the unending joys of the heavenly Kingdom is foolish indeed. For he who rejects eternity wastes the brief time of his existence, and will be delivered to everlasting torment in Hades.”
Then St Sebastian said that if necessary, he would be willing to endure torment and death in order to show them how to give their lives for Christ.
May we follow the saint’s example and also be inspired to give our lives for Christ. Amen.