By Theodore Shoebat
Every five five minutes, a Christian is killed for his faith in Christ, as we read in one study. This means that around 100,000 Christians are killed each year. Bishop John McAreavey, the chairman of the Council for Justice & Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, spoke of this study, as we read in report:
An estimated 100,000 Christians are killed each year around the world solely because of their faith, one bishop found. … Daily, 273 die for their Christian faith, which translates into 11 each hour, he said. And those numbers don’t even include those who are “tortured, imprisoned, exiled, threatened, excluded, attacked and discriminated against on a widespread scale,” McAreavey said.
A Christian is killed every five minutes. So why are we wasting time, the time to act is now. This is why we founded our organization, Rescue Christians, because we were so tired of watching our brothers and sisters get killed while feeling powerless. We have rescued thousands of Christians from Islamic persecution, and we can only continue on with your help.
AFTER READING, WATCH OUR SHORT DOCUMENTARY ON RESCUING CHRISTIANS FROM ISLAMIC PERSECUTION
All of these martyrs are icons of Christ, just like all of the martyrs of old who were depicted in Christendom’s paintings.
When I see the portraits of passed martyrs, and see them enduring with all zeal through the most excruciating of tortures, I do not see a reason for sadness, but instead I see an image of Christ, a window into Heaven, an icon of God. When we think of icons, we automatically think of paintings or statues, and while these are certainly icons, let us never forget that the greatest icon is the one who shines with the unseen light of God, so bright that it brings people to the One by Whom man knows the Father in Heaven.
The human icon is not only a hero for the Faith, but a preserver of Christian civilization. By him does man see the glory of God, by him does man thirst and seek for the eternal love of Paradise, by him does man look to the world, not with earthly eyes, but with the eyes of the soul. “You are the light of the world.” And so “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16) Christ tells this to His Church, to human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God. He said this to icons, icons that bring man to a contemplation on the heavenly, and constantly remind him of who he is in Christ. We have so many statues erected of men made famous for secular accomplishments, and many times of plainly evil men.
But where are the statues of the martyrs, where are the paintings of their contests, over which they conquered and for which they received their crowns of glory? Why do we have statues of presidents, politicians, feminists and explorers, yet we do not dare inundate the society with the images that would reminds us of the most important thing? that is, the realization that we are not here for our selves, that our “bodies are members of Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:15), that “you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19), that we are given a destiny that breaks through the physical, the beautiful purpose to stand in the midst of this capricious world, as a beacon of order, as an exemplifier of harmony, as a living candle that shines with the unseen light that repulses the infernal spirits naked to the eye, and pulls in those whose souls are parched by the waves of the watery abyss, into the bright rays of the Holy Cross, so that we can say with the Gospel, “people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16) It is that sublime purpose, to be an icon.
Christianity is the originator of civilization; the holy Faith calms the spirit, brings men away from what is disorderly and depraved, it cuts off the dried tree of apathy, it goes into the desert, and transforms it into a luscious field, so fecund and fertile, that when the seeds of the soul fall upon it, they yield “a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:8) Christianity drives savages away from their savagery; it has brought pagans away from cannibalism, it has compelled their spirits to no longer have the lust for human blood, it brings them away from the mindset of a creature lower than an animal, to the eternal love only unseen to the eyes, but desperately being sought out for by the thirsty mouth of the soul, and sung of by the choirs of angels in the boundless Heavens. For “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Christianity brings man back to that light that was placed in humanity, that lied in the mind of the Triune God when He said:
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26)
The Faith destroys savagery, for it brings man to his beginning, a beginning that has no end, but that leads one into eternity. This beginning is the likeness and image of God, it is what makes man an icon of his Creator. And it is the icon that men see on account of his brightness, for his good works, that make him a light to the world. The Christian is an icon that has men turn away from what his evil, and walk upon the path of life. When the Conquistadors destroyed the idols of the Indians and brought them to the Faith, they were icons of God, bringing those who were lost in darkness to the light that reinvigorated the eternal flame within them, so that they could throw away the likeness of demons and be in the likeness and image of God. To be an icon is to be as Christ, “To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79)
This is the truest form of worship, to be an icon, standing before God until we reach our eternal homes. For to be an icon is to emulate God, to “be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1), to be His likeness and His image. We love to make a separation between regular life and worship, but what most never realize is that life is worship. This is what is meant when St. Paul wrote: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). People read this and think that this means that we must be constantly mumbling. But what this means is that our entire lives must be an act of worship.
The entirety of our lives should be to continuously strive to be like God, to the point that being unto itself is a rite of worship. As St. Theophan the Recluse wrote in regards to prayer: “The principal thing is to stand before God with the mind in the heart and to go on standing before him unceasingly day and night until the end of life.”
Being made in God’s image and likeness means that we have within ourselves the creative nature of God. God creates, so we create. The creation is a living symphony, it is a harmonious melody that sings with silence, only to be heard in the Heavenly Mount Zion. But God wants us in the symphony, not being separate from His plan, but a part of it, to be the conductors and the musicians, to sing with the angels, to partake in the chorus of martyrs, to not only behold the beauty of creation’s harmony, but to be the harmony itself, so that when the world hears the unsurpassable sound, they will flock to hear the music of Heaven, emanating from God — the Eternal Composer — through you, as a ray of the sun beams so sharply through the a piece of transparent glass. To be like God is to be creative as God is creative, doing everything for His glory. As the Apostle says, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) God’s creation is beautiful, and let everything we do be beautiful, and let this beauty be a light to the world, as the stars guide the ships in the gloomy darkness.
God created us in His image, and thus do we, bearing His image, emulate God when we create things with beauty, harmony and order. Because God is the Creator, we, being made in His image, create.
And so, the greatest form of worship is to emulate God, doing everything that we do to partake in the creative nature of God, forming everything with beauty.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1)
Even when we cook, we can worship God by forming the dish with all our effort to make it beautiful and delicious, in order to imitate the beautiful creativity of God.
The Scripture says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
How does one worship God always? By exerting all our energy to make everything we do beautiful.
The greatest worship is to imitate God in action. Worship God, create beauty. As I write these words, I worship God, as I write these words I am praying. The greatest worship is to imitate God in action. Worship God, create beauty. This is what we learn from the readings of the holy Fathers, a teaching lost and forgotten to the mumblers of today.
This is why in Christendom, art was at its peak in beauty, be it music, paintings and agriculture; the standard of art was to be God’s standard, it was to have order as God has order, it was to be harmonious and awe inspiring. Why was this? Because the men of Christendom wanted to emulate God, they wanted to be sacred icons. The greatest form of worship is to be a holy icon, putting all vigor and tenacity into all that we do. To be an icon of God is to say with St. Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
As an icon of God, your body is not your own, the self has been denied and the Cross is being carried; all the good that you do is done for God’s glory, you are a ship and your sail is being guided by the hands of God, carried up over the waves to be above the oceans of the world, to cross the vicious floods and reach the top of the Ararat of theosis. And even if the ship crashes, it is done for Providence, for you will swim across the violent waters, and like St. Paul, reach Malta to seize the serpent and throw him into the flames.
The Italian mystic, Lorenzo Scupoli, once said:
I will tell you plainly: the greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell in union with Him. (The Unseen Warfare, ch. 1)
This is what it means to be an icon, for “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17) To be an icon of God is to be a part of the Lord’s army. God loved the icon of humanity so much, that He became an icon, “the image of the invisible God” (1 Colossians 1:15), to show us what it means to be an icon, that is, to “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) For this reason does Satan hate the icons of God, he wishes to destroy them through persecutions and oppressions; he influences his slaves to kill them and make them miserable. The slaves of the devil are not icons of God, but they are the idols of the abyss, who failed to listen to the command of Christ, “take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:35) Thus, the wicked — while they were created in the image of God — lose their image of God, and become idols. The war between good and evil, is therefore a war between the icons and the idols.
The icon of God leads the society to be reminded of Christian identity, and the idol of Satan brings a society to forgetfulness of this identity. As icons we constantly remind people of who they are to emulate — God — and who they are not to emulate — Satan. The idols do the exact opposite of this. The icons of Christ carry their cross, and so when men see them, they think of Christ, they think of His Cross and His zeal, His tenaciousness and valor, and learning from this, they deny the self. When people see somebody who is vile, who emulates the devil, and are influenced by this, they worship the self. This is why I do not like this idea that is constantly being touted today, the idea of “finding yourself.”
Why should we find ourselves, when Christ commanded us to deny the self? In Christ we forget the self, saying with St. Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), becoming an icon, conveying to the world that their identity is not to be in themselves, but in Christ, that this life is a constant war, and for victory we are to cleanse the earth of idols. As the Apostle says, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Corinthians 6:19), to have the Holy Spirit is to be an icon of God. Humanity unto itself is an icon, and it is to be a temple of God, made in God’s image, but now it is filled with idols, and what are we to do — as emulators of Christ –but to take a whip and drive the idols out of God’s Temple? The men who make themselves into idols, are sellers of the human soul, giving them away to the devil, and it is the icon of God who purges the world of them.
As icons, we fight the idols by creating beautiful art, art that teaches the Faith through wonder and majesty. Look to the Church, and you will see beautiful paintings and images of Crosses. Oh, how the devil’s hate such art, because they — with their immaculate imagery — instill in us a sense of Christian identity, and constantly remind us that we are in Christ, and are not to be dictated by the trends of this world. This is why the wicked and evil atheists and Muslims are always pushing for governments to censor any sort of Christian imagery and expression. They want us to be devoid of icons, to forget our hope, and to place our faith in idolatry of the self. I have heard people say that crosses, church bells, Christian paintings and statues, are idols.
But the hatred against the icons is the real idolatry. For to make a society devoid of Christian imagery, is to enable the enemy to replace the icons with true idols, with the worship of celebrities, of buildings, of politicians, of false prophets. Man, by his very nature, venerates. Take away the icons and he will venerate himself, he will venerate other men, he will venerate Mammon, he will venerate the devil. But restore the holy icons and you will see Christendom revive. The icons will be everywhere, and even the least religious person will see it and feel within himself a small measure of awe, enough to compel him to express his gratitude to the One Who died for Him. Embellish the earth with holy icons, and man will be reminded of what is sacred, man will come to contemplation, and with contemplation comes wonder and inspiration, and from this does the person know that he is but an icon himself, a window into Heaven, who is to shine so brightly that men will worship their Father in Heaven.
AFTER READING, WATCH OUR SHORT DOCUMENTARY ON RESCUING CHRISTIANS FROM ISLAMIC PERSECUTION