On the Sunday before the Baptism of the Lord, a very beautiful apostolic pericope was read in our churches, from the last chapter of the Second Epistle of Holy Apostle Paul to Timothy: “Timothy, my son, you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearance” (4.5–8). The ending is also the reason why this text is read today: “His appearance,” that is, the Appearance of the Lord.
In these lines the Holy Apostle appears as a candle of pure wax that has burned—a most pure sacrifice!—and now he knows he is nearing the end. He begins with four extraordinary exhortations, springing from his own experience. “You be watchful in all things!” This is how the Christian must be, like the Cherubim with many eyes, attentive to everything! Then, “endure afflictions!” What an exhortation!… And the Apostle was talking to a son. Our Savior elsewhere says, “Do not oppose the wicked” (Matthew 5.39). Very interesting. St. Paul urges Timothy not to be discouraged, not to be dismayed in the face of so many evils, but to suffer them and overcome them. “Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry!” These are four exhortations that apply to every Christian. That is, to do things as for God. This has remained the norm in our Orthodox culture. That is how we have to live in everything. Not just at church or at certain times. All must be done in full. Then everything we do is sanctified.
We wanted to emphasize these words of the Holy Apostle Paul, as we were impressed by his tenderness, he who had reached the end of the road, doing himself what he urged Timothy: he was awake, he suffered much evil, he preached the Gospel, which is why he remained the Apostle of the Gentiles, he did all things fully. And this he leaves as a testament to Timothy and us. It is his model.
We see in the Holy Apostle the fruits of the Lord’s Appearance. The visible beginning of salvation is now, at the Baptism of the Lord, at the Jordan, by the Appearance of the Lord to men, by the taking mankind’s sins upon Himself. And the end of this road is marked by the Epistle this Sunday, by the example of the life of the Holy Apostle Paul, who loved the beginning, that is, the Lord’s Appearance, the Lord, and was faithful to Him all his life, to the end.
Let us be akin to those who love the Lord’s Appearance to the end. That we may also obtain the “crown of righteousness,” which the Lord giveth “to all that love His appearance.” Amen!