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Faith

I believe…

Faith is the foun­da­tion of Chris­t­ian life. It is the fun­da­men­tal virtue of Abra­ham, the fore­fa­ther of Israel and the Chris­t­ian Church. “Abra­ham believed the Lord, and he count­ed it to him as right­eous­ness” (Gen 15:6).

Jesus begins his min­istry with the same com­mand for faith.

Jesus came into Galilee, preach­ing the gospel of God and say­ing, “The time is ful­filled, the king­dom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).

All through his life Jesus was call­ing for faith; faith in him­self, faith in God his Father, faith in the Gospel, faith in the King­dom of God. The fun­da­men­tal con­di­tion of the Chris­t­ian life is faith, for with faith come hope and love and every good work and every good gift and pow­er of the Holy Spir­it. This is the doc­trine of Christ, the apos­tles, and the Church.

In the Scrip­tures faith is clas­si­cal­ly defined as “the assur­ance of things hoped for, the con­vic­tion of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).

There are basi­cal­ly two aspects to faith; one might even say two mean­ings of faith. The first is faith “in” some­one or some­thing, faith as the recog­ni­tion of these per­sons or things as real, true, gen­uine, and valu­able; for exam­ple, faith in God, in Christ, in the Holy Trin­i­ty, in the Church. The sec­ond is faith in the sense of trust or reliance. In this sense, for exam­ple, one would not mere­ly believe in God, in his exis­tence, good­ness, and truth; but one would believe God, trust his word, rely upon his pres­ence, depend secure­ly and with con­vic­tion upon his promis­es. For Chris­tians both types of faith are nec­es­sary. One must believe in cer­tain things with mind, heart, and soul; and then live by them in the course of every­day life.

Faith is some­times opposed to rea­son, and belief to knowl­edge. Accord­ing to Ortho­doxy, faith and rea­son, belief and knowl­edge, are indeed two dif­fer­ent things. They are two dif­fer­ent things, how­ev­er, which always belong togeth­er and which may nev­er be opposed to each oth­er or sep­a­rat­ed from each other.

In the first place one can­not believe any­thing which he does not already some­how know. A per­son can­not pos­si­bly believe in some­thing he knows noth­ing about. Sec­ond­ly, what one believes in and trusts must be rea­son­able. If asked to believe in the divin­i­ty of a cow, or to place one’s trust in a wood­en idol, one would refuse on the basis that it is not rea­son­able to do so. Thus, faith must have its rea­sons, it must be built upon knowl­edge, it must nev­er be blind. Third­ly, knowl­edge itself is often built upon faith. One can­not come to knowl­edge through absolute skep­ti­cism. If any­thing is known at all, it is because there exists a cer­tain faith in man’s know­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties and a real trust that the objects of knowl­edge are real­ly “show­ing them­selves” and that the mind and the sens­es are not act­ing deceit­ful­ly. Also, in rela­tion to almost all writ­ten words, par­tic­u­lar­ly those which relate to his­to­ry, the read­er is called to an act of faith. He must believe that the author is telling the truth; and, there­fore, he must have cer­tain knowl­edge and cer­tain rea­sons for giv­ing his trust.

Very often it is only when one does give his trust and does believe some­thing that one is able to “go fur­ther,” so to speak, and to come final­ly to knowl­edge of his own and to the under­stand­ing of things he would nev­er have under­stood before. It is true to say that cer­tain things always remain obscure and mean­ing­less unless they are viewed in the light of faith which then pro­vides a way of explain­ing and under­stand­ing their exis­tence and mean­ing. Thus, for exam­ple, the phe­nom­e­na of suf­fer­ing and death would be under­stood dif­fer­ent­ly by one who believes in Christ than by one who believes in some oth­er reli­gion or phi­los­o­phy or in none at all.

Faith is always per­son­al. Each per­son must believe for him­self. No one can believe for anoth­er. Many peo­ple may believe and trust the same things because of a uni­ty of their knowl­edge, rea­son, expe­ri­ence and con­vic­tions. There can be a com­mu­ni­ty of faith and a uni­ty of faith. But this com­mu­ni­ty and uni­ty nec­es­sar­i­ly begins and rests upon the con­fes­sion of per­son­al faith.

For this rea­son the Sym­bol of Faith in the Ortho­dox Church—not only at bap­tisms and offi­cial rit­u­als of join­ing the Church, but also in com­mon prayers and in the Divine Liturgy—always remains in the first per­son. If we can pray, offer, sing, praise, ask, bless, rejoice, and com­mend our­selves and each oth­er to God in the Church and as the Church, it is only because each one of us can say hon­est­ly, sin­cere­ly, and with prayer­ful con­vic­tion: “Lord, I believe…”—adding, as one must, the words of the man in the gospel—”… help thou my unbe­lief” (Mk 9:24).

In order for our faith to be gen­uine, we must express it in every­day life. We must act accord­ing to our faith and prove it by the good­ness and pow­er of God act­ing in our lives. This does not mean that we “tempt God” or “put God to the test” by doing fool­ish and unnec­es­sary things just for the sake of see­ing if God will par­tic­i­pate in our fool­ish­ness. But it does mean that if we live by faith in our pur­suit of right­eous­ness, we can demon­strate the fact that God will be with us, help­ing and guid­ing us in every way.

For faith to grow and become stronger, it must be used. Each per­son should live accord­ing to the mea­sure of faith which he has, how­ev­er small, weak and imper­fect it might be. By act­ing accord­ing to one’s faith, trust in God and the cer­ti­tude of God’s pres­ence is giv­en, and with the help of God many things which were nev­er before imag­ined become possible.