The mission of the Church is not merely to make "good" people, but the purpose of the Church is to make people holy and God-bearing. The Church is not a good philanthropic organisation or a cultural institution, but rather it is a divine foundation, that has our God and saviour at its centre, the cornerstone of its foundation, living and abiding within it. The church is also the meeting point of the heavenly with the earthly, namely, the angels and all the saints with all members of the Christian faith. Since then as baptised
Christians we belong to this Church, we must, and we are required to tread the path towards holiness, to struggle to become saints. This is what St Paul calls us to in his epistle to the Ephesians “beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Eph 4:1-5.
Let’s consider the means available to the Church to achieve our sanctification.
First of all, the Church has the Holy Sacraments, by which the church leads us to the “ways of Salvation” (Liturgy of St Basil) to the Grace of God because without the Grace of God we cannot achieve anything. Secondly, the Church also teaches us the divine-human means, the virtues, by which we can conquer our sinful passions and achieve our sanctification. These are obtained via virtues and spiritual exercises.
St Anthony summarises these virtues and spiritual exercises as follows:
The first exercise and virtue is faith. To have faith means to surrender wholeheartedly to our beloved Jesus Christ and to be ready to do anything for His love. "Faith" means to trust in our God completely. St Paul describes this faith to us as “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Heb 11:1-3
The second exercise and divine-human virtue is prayer and fasting. These virtues must become a method of life, a way of life for us as Christians. These two means, prayer and fasting, are necessary for our sanctification, given by our Lord Jesus Christ. They are described as "divine-human" because prayer and fasting, bring the Grace of God to the soul and they stimulate her and innervate her to be strong so she can fight against the enemy.
Another divine-human virtue, which we must have, by all means, is love. Love, should not have limits. Love does not ask who is a right person and who is not, who loves me and who hates me. The good Christian loves everyone: they love friends and enemies, they love sinners and criminals, without however loving their sins and crimes. Such love is a gift of God, and this is why we must ask for it from God in our prayers. Let us ask our Lord in our prayers supplicating and saying: "Lord Jesus Christ, God of love, give me Your love, that I may give it to everyone!"
The fourth virtue is meekness and humility. Only the meek in the heart can soothe the savage and rebellious hearts. Just the humble in the heart can humble the proud and arrogant souls. To become meek and lowly in heart we must put in our hearts the only true "meek and humble in heart" (Matt. 11:29), that is, our Lord Jesus Christ. He needs to become master over our hearts.
Finally, another divine-human virtue, which was given to us by our Christ, is the virtue of patience. In other words, to endure evil, to bear the slander and wounding’s of others, and do not want to repay evil for evil. The sinful world, cannot tolerate the people of God, just like it did not endure our Christ. Martyrdom accompanies the true Christian. But the Christian must endure the martyrdom of the ridicule of the world and not be angry.
May we all ask the Lord to help us apply these in our lives, that we may be sanctified.