Feast of Conception of St John the Forerunner and Baptist
HOW IS IT possible,” you ask, “for us to imitate martyrs now? After all, it isn’t a time of persecution.” Yes, I know. Yet while it isn’t a time of persecution, it is a time of martyrdom. It isn’t a time of wrestling matches of that sort, but it is a time of crowns. Human beings aren’t in pursuit, but demons are in pursuit. A tyrant isn’t in persecution mode, but the Devil’s in persecution mode, crueler than any tyrant. You don’t see burning coals lying in front of you, but you do see desire’s flame kindled. They trampled on burning coals; trample on nature’s pyre. They sparred with wild animals; bridle your anger, the savage and untamed wild animal. They stood fast against unbearable pains; subvert the unnatural and wicked thoughts that swell in your heart. It’s in this way you will imitate martyrs. “For our struggle now isn’t against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6.12). Nature’s desire is a fire, a fire that is inextinguishable and constant. It is a rabid and mad dog; no matter how many times you get rid of it, it leaps at you every time and doesn’t give up. The flame of the burning coals is savage, but this is crueler – that is, the flame of desire. We never have a cease-fire in this war, we never have a lull in hostilities throughout the present life; instead, the struggle is constant, so that the crown might be magnificent too. It is for this reason that Paul constantly arms us, since it’s always a time of war, since the enemy is always alert.
~St John Chrysostom, “On Saint Barlaam”