by Chris Banescu –
“If you never chase God out of your house, your soul, and your heart, it is the last and greatest martyrdom.” ~ Fr. Calistrat Chifan
We often think of Christian martyrs as men and women who lived long ago and courageously gave up their lives in defense of their faith. We think of saints and disciples who were fed to the lions, tortured, maimed, burned alive, dismembered, or slaughtered for proclaiming Christ as Lord and Savior or refusing to renounce Christianity. We also witness similar modern day martyrdom of Christians living in the Middle East. Like their ancient brethren these innocents are shot, decapitated, raped, tortured, blown up, burned alive, and murdered for simply being Christian or daring to publicly proclaim the Gospel.
Few of us would think of modern Christians living in North or South America, Europe, Russia, Asia, or other parts of the world, where there’s no official government persecution or widespread Islamic oppression of the faithful, as doing anything worthy of the title “martyr.” We have freedom and religious liberty to worship God as citizens or residents of secular democracies or constitutional republics, where Christianity is either protected (in Russia, Romania, and a few other Eastern European countries) or tolerated, at least for now (in other Western countries).
Yet, Father Calistrat Chifan, an Orthodox priest from the Vlădiceni Monastery in Iaşi, Romania, teaches that Christians living pious, chaste, and moral lives and staying faithful to God can also be considered martyrs. We are surrounded by so much corruption, filth, and immorality, that preserving our purity of heart, being virtuous, maintaining our faith in the True God, participating in the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church, staying faithful to our spouses, protecting our families, defending the sanctity of life, and raising God-fearing children, are just as much acts of martyrdom today as being tortured and killed for your Christian faith were centuries ago.
Fr. Calistrat explains (bolded headings added).
“Martyrdom is the hardest foundation. There are three ways to be a martyr in this day and age.
If you keep the fasts and follow the righteous order [worship, theology, and liturgical life] of the [Orthodox] Church, you are a spiritual martyr.
Preserve the Holiness of Your Family
If you preserve [protect] the holiness and beauty of your family [and] properly educate and raise your children in a manner pleasing to God, you are a spiritual benefactor of souls.
Be Chaste, Moral, and Faithful
And if you avoid being corrupted by the societal filth [wickedness and iniquity] surrounding us – we deserve the [corrupt] leaders we elect – then truly God has blessed you with spiritual grace. You are a martyr of our days.
Today martyrdom is no longer brought about with an axe [or a sword].
If a young lady remains a virgin [chaste] until she gets married, she’s greater than a martyr. If a young man remains chaste until he gets married, he’s greater than a martyr.
If a woman protects her womb from murder [abortion] and gives birth to babies and becomes an altar for life, it is a martyrdom.
If a husband doesn’t cheat on his wife [stays failthful], it is a martyrdom. If the family doesn’t break up, it is a martyrdom. If children grow up being God-fearing [knowing and learning about God], it is a martyrdom.
Have Faith in God Always
If you die of old age and remain faithful [and believing in Christ], pious, and God-fearing, it is a martyrdom.
And if you never chase God out of your house, your soul, and your heart, it is the last and greatest martyrdom.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:23).
Transcription of video clip and English translation of excerpts from Fr. Calistrat Chifan’s original sermon in Romanian done by Chris Banescu. Organizational edits, additional bolded headings, and additional clarifying phrases were included inside square brackets [ ] to insure a faithful and accurate translation that preserved the Orthodox Christian ethos and the original meaning intended by Fr. Calistrat as preached in Romanian.
Martyr – Witness
The word “martyr” comes from the Greek μάρτυς which means “witness.”
“The term “martys,” in plural “martyre,” is a witness. And it’s also translated, in modern language, as “martyr.” We’re going to see this: as “martyr.” But then you have the verb forms: “martys” would be the person who is the witness. Then when that person would be testifying or bearing witness, it would be “martyreō,” and then the testimony itself, the evidence, would be “martyria,” and then it could also be “martyrion,” as evidence, proof, or opportunity to testify.
But what we want to note here is that all these words, which in English could be “witness,” “bear witness,” “testify,” “testimony,” “make a testimony,” “testify,” these are all the same word in Greek. In the original language, you simply have “martyreō,” “martyria,” “martyrion,” and “martys.” They are all of the same term.” ~ Fr. Thomas Hopko
Chaste, Chastity – Purity of Body, Mind, and Soul
“Let us begin with an explanation of the word, chastity. In Russian, the word is tselomudrie, which means literally, “integrity of thought,” and consists not only in physical preservation (one can remain a virgin in body, but commit terrible acts of depravity in the mind; and to the contrary—one can live in a pious marriage and preserve his or her soul from sin), but also in a proper, wholesome, undisturbed view of the opposite sex, with purity of soul.
Fleshly, intimate relationships between a man and a woman are not a sin in and of themselves, and they are even blessed by God, but only if they are carried out within lawful marriage. All fleshly relationships outside of marriage are fornication, and violate the Divine order; that means that the fornicators are going against God. Fornication is a sin, an iniquity, and a violation of the commandment that tells us that fornicators shall not inherit the Kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6: 9–10). That is, of course, if they do not repent and abstain from this sin.” ~ Fr. Pavel Gumerov