Summary: This is a message based on personal experience and on Psalm 43:4.

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"I come to the altar of the Lord, to the Lord who rejoices my youth" - Psalm 43:4

Faith for all of us is a pilgrimage, and oftentimes it helps to remember why we have that faith in the first place, as trials and temptations of life can and do sidetrack us. Often, one can gain strength by just remembering their testimony, and in doing so, the vision God originally birthed in us is rekindled.

I am a Syrian Orthodox subdeacon, and one of the first things we proclaim in our liturgy on Sundays as we begin to celebrate in the Lord’s house is this verse from Psalms, which in our tradition is called the "Wenobsugo." We are told in several areas of Scripture that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and in Syriac spirituality we take this a step further with a concept called ihidaya, or literally "single-mindedness." Our Greek and Russian Orthodox brothers call it Theosis, and what it entails is that we become a living icon of Jesus Christ to the world around us. That is why it is important to remember where we come from spiritually, for in the spiritual realm our bodies are not only the temple, but our hearts are an altar of the Holy Spirit as well, upon which the praises and prayers we offer to the Lord ascend to him like the sweet peal of bells and the fragrance of incense. The altar needs to be consecrated on a daily basis, and the best way we can remember to do that is by recalling our own spiritual pilgrimage. That is why coming to the altar of the Lord does renew our youth, because it rejuvenates our faith.

The personal testimony is a gift of great and infinite value given to us by the Lord Himself, and when we read Ephesians 6, it talks about the "sword of the Spirit." Growing up in a traditional Pentecostal church as I did, we were often taught that the sword was the Bible or something. However, after coming into Orthodoxy, and as I began to study things better, I came to realize that the Word of God is the "girdle of truth" it talks about in the same passage, and that the "sword" is our testimony, which MUST always rest upon the foundation of that Word; the rhema always proceeds from the Logos. That truth revolutionized my own spiritual walk, and I hope it will yours also.

"I come to the altar of the Lord" - as you say your next morning prayers before starting your day, think about your altar. Is it full of cobwebs because you have forgotten who you are spiritually and where you come from? Or, are you renewed each day by the knowledge that God has brought you this far for a purpose. Seek to renew that original enthusiasm for your faith, for indeed God does "rejoice in our youth." If you feel like you are down and out in your spiritual life, reflect on your Christian pilgrimage and ask yourself why God brought you to where you are, and remember where He brought you from. Then, acknowledge that you have far to go, but that you trust in Him to guide you, for His plan for us is always perfect. Finally, thank God for what He has done for you, and as you do, consecrate yourself anew to Him as His temple, and let your heart be a sacramental altar of His presence. If you do this, you will find that your outlook will change as a believer, and you will be able to think more clearly about your place in the kingdom.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all as you go forth on your life pilgrimage in His piece. Amen.

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