So you’ve chosen to live in the eternal Kingdom of God and commune with Him for all eternity. Congratulations, you’ve made a wise decision. You’re ready to live a life in Christ, to carry your Cross, and to love God above things of this world, but there is an obstacle in your path: Satan. You may have chosen for God, but Satan has chosen to own your soul, and you must overcome the crafty tricks of him and his legions before entering Paradise. Thankfully, there is a “dream team” that will help you in the face of attacks you can’t overcome with your own power and strength.
The dream team was the name for the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team. I was 13 years old at the time, and was able to marvel at the assemblage of the best players of basketball lore into one team. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen and others were destined to crush their enemies, take home the gold, and make the country proud. And they did just that. They defeated Venezuela in the gold medal game by 47 points. I experienced one or two minutes of bliss at their victory before my dopamine lowered and life returned to normal.
To ensure Satan does not take our soul, God the Father has assigned a dream team to each one of us. As part of his divine plan, He wants us to lean upon not just Himself and His Son for the salvation of our souls, but also saints and angelic beings. They all comprise the dream team of salvation, and the Christian who calls upon them will be rewarded with aid in the face of temptation and despair. Who is on the roster of this divine dream team?
Lord Jesus Christ – Our Savior, the Son of God, who lived on this earth as fully human while remaining fully divine. He did not use his divine powers to escape suffering, and all the physical pain he experienced was how we would experience pain, providing us an example of how we can take the Kingdom without remaining one with this world.
The Mother of God, the Theotokos – Ever-virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is the most pure and sinless human who has ever lived. She deserves honor because she could have sinned but didn’t, and for her incredible faith in God, and for her endurance to suffer beneath the cross as her beloved Son was crucified, God has assigned her an eminent role in the salvation of man. The Orthodox venerate her as the speedy intercessor of man who regularly answers our prayers through her Son. Without the powerful prayers of the Theotokos in such an evil age, can one even be saved?
Guardian angel – At baptism, an angel was assigned to watch over you and protect you. He prays beside you while you pray. He guards you against demonic attacks. He tells you to look to the right while driving to avoid a catastrophic accident. How many millions of car accidents alone have guardian angels prevented? Without them, so many souls would have perished before they were ready.
Patron saint – When we approach the chalice every Sunday, the priest addresses a prayer to us not in our worldly name but in our baptismal name, which derives from one of God’s saints, a holy ascetic, a teacher of the faith, a confessor, or a martyr, from someone who lived in this world like we did but has received glory from God and serves unquestionably at His right hand. Our patron saint prays for us, and may be one of the first persons we see when we enter Paradise.
Helper saint – There is a saint you may have developed a close relationship with that is not your patron saint. He or she may be a recent saint, one who lived in similar times as you, one who has experienced the problems you are going through and how to overcome them. You may even have access to the saint’s relics, and be able to feel the grace of his or her sanctified body. God assigns this saint as a helper or guardian, to keep a close watch over you, to give you help when you need it most, to open the floodgates of your eyes to shed the tears of repentance that are needed to purify your soul.
Other saints and angels – How many angels are busy working to save those who want to be saved? How many saints are there in heaven? There are a dozen saints I regularly venerate, who each time I ask them to pray for me, they humbly turn to God and exclaim, “Lord have mercy on your servant Darius!” And it’s this mercy I receive every day as I carry my cross, as I try to surmount the passion of my flesh and the attacks from the demons, to one day approach the Theotokos, the gate of salvation, and be greeted by all the saints to whom I prayed for assistance before being ushered to the throne of God.
In the Kingdom of Heaven the holy Saints look upon the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; but through the Holy Spirit they see too the sufferings of men on earth. The Lord gave them such great grace that they embrace the whole world with their love. They see and know how we languish in affliction, how our hearts have withered within us, how despondency has fettered our souls, and they never cease to intercede for us with God.
The Saints rejoice when we repent, and grieve when men forsake God and become like unto brute beasts. They grieve to see people living on earth and not knowing that if they were to love one another the world would know freedom from sin; and where sin is absent there is joy and gladness of the Holy Spirit, in such wise that on all side everything is pleasing, and the soul marvels that all is so well with her, and praises God. —Wisdom From Mount Athos by Archimandrite Sophrony
There is no need to despair in this life, because you have a dream team in heaven that is watching you every day, that is watching you right now, and their victory will not merely bring one minute of bliss like with a sportsball match, but an eternity of bliss as we behold the beautiful countenance of God. Saints in heaven exist in the Holy Spirit, and can see what God sees, and with God’s will they have the power to do what God can do, and they want you to be saved as they were saved. They won’t violate your freedom or manipulate you into performing the good, but if you give them consent to help save your soul, they will help save it, as they are helping me.
Three years ago I was in the pit of despair, and Lord Jesus Christ lifted me up, and the Theotokos dusted me off, and my guardian angel gave me new clothes, and my patron saint brushed my hair, and my helper saint gave me a detailed map of the path I must embark on, and the other saints gave me water and food and encouraged me, telling me that I can do it as long as I live in accordance with God’s will, and so with map in hand, armed with their prayers at each step I take, I continue the journey, knowing that I’m not alone. May God bless the dream teams of all his servants and handmaidens.
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