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HOMILY: Theophany - A day of illumination - January 19, 2020

Readings: Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6

Thus ends the twelve days of Christmas!  Having just celebrated the birth of Christ our Savior, our God and our King, here marks the beginning of Christ’s ministry on earth.  Today is a day of illumination, the revealing of God the Son incarnate in the flesh, and the revealing of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a day that predates our celebrations of Christmas, preserved from the second century.  It is also a public holiday in a number of European nations. If only we could be so lucky.

This is a feast which I find to be somewhat unique in the life of those Orthodox Churches who celebrate the western rite.  It is a multi faceted feast day, whose focus of celebration and remembrance differs depending on the direction you are facing.  In the western traditions, this particular feast day is referred to as the day of epiphany, where the day is identified with the visit of the Magi in Bethlehem to behold the Christ child, to which the star in the east had led them.  This is the event foretold in our lesson from Isaiah:

A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah;  all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.”

 Isaiah 60:6

On this day, through the visitation of the Magi, is celebrated the physical manifestation of God incarnate in the flesh, and His revelation to the Gentiles.  The Magi were the first Gentiles to whom He was revealed, but this is not a revelation they could have come to on their own, for they were teachers of a false faith.  They had been illumined by the grace of God overflowing from the birth of Christ. As Saint John Chrysostom has said, “The Magi are enlightened so that the goodness of God may be made manifest: so that no one need despair, doubting that salvation through faith will be given to him, seeing He bestowed it on the Magi. The Magi therefore were the first from the Gentiles chosen for salvation, so that through them a door might be opened to all the Gentiles.”


Today is a day of illumination, or more appropriately a celebration of illumination.  We remember the illumination of the Magi in the west, but we also remember our own illumination in the east, wherein the focus of this day - the Feast of Theophany - is centered on the Baptism of our Lord and God and savior Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan river.  This is the day that Christ made himself known to all mankind, for the people had not yet known him. It is also upon this day that  the Holy Church asserts its faith in the mystery – most noble and incomprehensible to the rational mind – of the Three Persons of the triune God. Jesus Christ ascended out of the waters of Baptism, the Holy Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove, with the voice of the Father echoing from above, unseen, “this is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus Christ, having no need of cleansing, having no sin to be cleansed of, and being born of a Virgin and without the corruption of Adam’s sin, was baptized in the waters of the Jordan not for His sake, but for our own.  Christ descended into the waters of the Jordan that all the waters of creation may be sanctified for our sake, for our own purification and cleansing of sin through our own baptism. His baptism is our baptism. His life is our life. His death is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection.

By our baptism, cleansed of our sin and joined to Jesus Christ, we renounce the world and live a new man.  So, it is not unreasonable for us to remember our own baptism on this day, remembering the vows we took, or were given on our behalf if one was blessed enough to be born into the Church.  It is within these vows, as Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) has said:

 “...in which a Christian has promised God to renounce Satan and all his works and to join himself, to unite himself with Christ, these vows are not only forgotten by people, but many in general know nothing about them or about the fact that these vows were pronounced for them and that they ought to think a little about how they must fulfill [them]... One thing is needful – only one thing is necessary – and to remember that we must join ourselves with Christ, that is, not only fulfill His commandments, but also endeavor to unite ourselves with Him.”

 Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesenksy) - Holy on Theophany.

He further exhorts us later in his Homily to think and remember what it means to each of us to renounce Satan and all his works; that we may join ourselves to Christ.  We do this through the process of theosis, which we began through our own baptisms, when we were purified of our sins, and purified of all the defilements of this world.  Having been cleansed, we began “the perfecting of Holiness in the fear of God,” just as Saint Paul exhorts in his second letter to the Corinthians.  Holiness is achieved through the path and process of Theosis, a path which begins in the Church, for the Church is Christ, and He is “the way and the Truth and the life.

The Church is humanity illumined; a humanity baptized in the grace of God; a humanity illumined by the beauty of its creator; a humanity illumined and healed by His dignity - our own dignity restored - God becoming man that we may become more like Him; a humanity illumined in His beauty, that we may incarnate His beauty into the world, becoming living icons of truth; and a humanity illumined by the Light of Life, that we may shine like morning stars, and lead others to the truth just as the Magi were led to Christ.

Theosis presupposes life within the Church, the body of Christ; the body of illumined humanity.  We enter it by following Christ through the waters of baptism, and together are illumined by the same Spirit that sanctified them.  It is within the Church that we become a part of, and partake of, the body of Christ. It is within the Church in which we partake of the sacraments, that which is necessary to acquire the sanctifying spirit and be transformed into the divine likeness of God.  It is within the Church that we come into communion with Christ, and so participate in the divine worship of the Church triumphant, the Church militant being the living icon of that Church in heaven, the living icon of Christ. It is within the Church that the meaning of the scriptures are revealed to us.  It is in the Church alone that the truth is revealed to us, and the means necessary to our salvation are provided to us. The Church is taught by the Holy Spirit, and there exists an indissoluble unity between God and His Church, for “The Church is the earthly heaven in which the heavenly God moves and dwells.”  We must choose to be where God is, in striving towards a unity of spirit.

Christ’s baptism on the Jordan River revealed this unity of spirit, the unity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The Theophany illumined all of creation with the revelation of the Triune God: God in three persons, yet one essence; three wills, and two natures; infinite and present in all things, yet udivided; ineffable, yet knowable through Jesus Christ, our King and our God.  Christ’s baptism opened the door to follow him into unity with Him as living stones within the Church provided by his honorable blood. This Church confesses and asserts our faith in the mystery of the Trinity. It teaches to confess and glorify with equal honor and divinity each person of the Godhead.  It reveals and renders impotent the teachings of those wherein finite and human terms attempted to describe the Creator of all things. It establishes for us the place, importance, and necessity for our own baptism, a gift and grace of God granted unto us by the Holy Spirit, for as many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ." 

The world changed when Christ rose from the waters of the Jordan: the waters of creation were sanctified, the divinity of Christ was revealed, the triunity of God was made manifest unto men, and Christ went forth to begin his ministry.  Christ left the waters the same as He entered into them: God the Son incarnate in the flesh; yet, everywhere he went, the fire of God’s love molded the very hearts of men. So, go and do likewise.

By the prayers of our holy fathers and mothers, and Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.

Amen.

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Icon of the Theophany




A Desire for tears - January 15th, 2019.

It is said, the Devil is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Does he not hunt?  Does he not prowl nor prey upon? He roars because he is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  He devours those who have given themselves over to him, caught in the subtle snares of temptation.  For he has no power over us except that which we give him. Yet, we can avoid such traps, but often our curiosity gets the best of us.  What is behind that door?  What if? What will happen? What does this feel like, taste like, or look like?  We already know the answers to these questions, but we open the door, or pursue the answer in hoping that it will be different this time.  We continue to do the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result; a different answer.  This is a basis for insanity.  The world is insanity.

I pray for the fortitude to avoid these temptations, but from time to time my imagination gets the best of me, haunting me from the edges of my own volition.  I try to look back upon my sins with contrition, and sometimes I may get a tear or two to shed from my wearied eyes in the midst of prayer.  Though, I am not an emotional person, and lament my own lack of tears.  I do find music to be a key to the heart, and so there is a song I play when I feel the need to cry, because for the lyrics alone, I cannot but help cry.  It is not even a Christian song, but the words reverberate in my very soul.

?Shine, shine your light on me
Illuminate me, make me complete
Lay me down, and wash this world from me
Open the skies, and burn it all away
'Cause I've been waiting, all my life just waiting
For you to shine, shine your light on me?

O Lord, that I would be purified from the stains of this world; that your all consuming love would burn away the superfluities of the flesh, and my soul would be free of the passions that plague me  May your light illumine me, that I may shine your light into every dark corner of this world you lead me into.

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Sketchbook entry from 8-10 years ago.



Sickness and death

In order for us to approach and understand the Church’s view towards sickness and death, I think it is important to first examine and understand how Christ approached and treated sickness and death.  Christ spent a good majority of his time ministering to the people by healing, raising people from the dead, forgiving sins, and the performing of miracles all towards that end. For Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, the healing of the body, the destruction of the devil, and also the raising of the dead are all one and the same act of salvation.  Jesus’ ministry of healing was a healing of the whole person, body and spirit. He showed us that death could be defeated. Jesus showed us that He is Christ the Messiah, the fulfillment of the prophets who brings the Kingdom of God into the world.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

 James 5:14-16

Death grows within us by means of physical illness and decay.  Our sufferings of sickness and illness are not normal, but are direct consequences of the ancestral sin, when Adam first rebelled against God, and thus rebelled against life, because God is life.  Adam’s rebellion against Life brought suffering, sickness, decay, and death upon himself and Eve, as well as all their progeny. As such, human nature is fallen and is subject to death, and “Death is the enemy to be destroyed.”   The one inescapable and unavoidable reality is that each and every human being born into this world, death is now before each and every person. 

Death is not a natural part of this life, but something abnormal and truly horrible, and it is something that humanity, the world, strives daily to overcome.  The world attempts to avoid death, to avoid the concept of death, even at funerals. Others choose to embrace death, developing a preoccupation with death in all its forms, some believing and treating death as the one true freedom; the one thing they can know with certainty.  This latter stance may be one reason that suicide has become so prevalent today. Yet, if death is the enemy, then each person must find a way to combat that enemy. Despite the fact that it is now an inevitable part of life, death is not natural, and is what humanity strives to overcome.  It is a endemic condition on humanity, one that is ever present and taking humanity in a way that was never intended.

“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 5But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Understanding that death is not a natural part of life, and is a plague upon this world, upon humanity, God offers us an answer to this plague of death through Christ.  Christ came to earth to redeem man, and to fully restore within us the image of God that we were fully intended to grow into, as witnessed in the Transfiguration of Christ upon Mount Tabor, which was to us a prefiguration of His resurrection.  The incarnation of Christ redeemed all of creation, for all of creation fell into disarray when man fell from grace. Christ took on death and overcame it victoriously. He gave himself up to death so that he could take death captive and free all of humanity from the grip death had upon it, and therefore removed the separation of humanity and God in our death.  It is for this reason that the Church proclaims in faith “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life,” all through the Paschal season. 

Christ has triumphed over death, but death still exists in this world.  Man is still subject to physical death. Christ “does not 'abolish' or 'destroy' the physical death because He does not 'abolish' the physical world...by abolishing death as a spiritual reality, by filling it with Himself...He makes death...into a shining and joyful passage”   So, Christ has destroyed the spiritual aspects of death, but we are not free from the bonds of a physical death.  “We all share the same fate, saint and sinner, young and old.

Recognizing Christ’s role in overcoming death, we can better understand the role the Church, the body of Christ, plays in dealing with sickness and death.  The Church must be properly seen as being a part of medicine, and her minsters and clergy its healers. The Church, in all reality, is a spiritual hospital. For Jesus said, ““Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”   Human beings, as sinners, are considered to be sick; as such, the Church is concerned with the ultimate fate of all human beings, which is their salvation through the forgiveness of sins, which can only be found within the Church, and sin being the root cause of all illness and suffering in the world.  Whereas Christ defeated death, the Church is here to reveal it, not reconcile it like so many religious and religions of this world. No, the Church reveals death because it is the revelation of Life.

The Church understand and approaches sickness and death in a holistic manner, healing the root of all illness, and not merely the symptoms.  While modern medicine has made many advances in technology and practice, it does not fill the need which are part of the whole of healing and health.  The human person requires a healing which does not merely address the physical needs and condition, but healing that deals with the whole human being, both body and spirit.  The Church realizes this need, and focuses on the entire person: mind, body, soul, and spirit. Disease may be temporarily addressed the modern medicines of this world, but it is only a temporary fix until the root cause of the problems are cured.  So, the Church approaches sickness, death, and healing within the context of sin and redemption.

When one falls ill, they must recognize that whatever illness they may have, it is caused by sin, their own sin or the sins of the whole world.  There is no blame for God for their ailment. God does not wish for his children to be sick. If God so wills it, one can be healed of his infirmities, allowing him more time to live in service to both God and man here on earth, fulfilling whatever He has planned.  The sickness as well can serve as a means towards serving God, and it should be accepted in this way, offering ones faith and love unconditionally, for there is no greater witness to one’s faith than enduring sickness in love and faith, courage and patience, hope, happiness, and joy.  Such a life lived, even to one’s death by such illness, is incomparable to any offering man can provide.

I myself have been witness to the healing mercies of our Father.  January 11th of 2016 would see me in the hospital, and slipping into full respiratory failure through pneumonia, and a culmination of other issues.  After I was put on life support, Holy Unction was administered. The only thing I can remember from that day was waking briefly two times throughout that day, and hearing the psalms being read to me.  The woman from the Church took turns, and sat in my room, reading the entirety of the Psalter to me. I eventually regained consciousness, and at the end of the week was the first person Chrismated into the Orthodox Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas, at my home parish.  I have witnessed, believe, and understand the healing power and need of the Church in its role as a spiritual hospital of sorts for the whole and holistic healing of man.

The sacrament of healing is performed for the healing of body and soul, and for the forgiveness of sins, though it is not performed for the sake of the sick alone, but also for the physically healthy.  While it may not have the focus importance equal to the rite of Baptism or the ongoing celebration of the Holy Eucharist within the life of the Church, it still addresses a fundamental need in human life.  “Healing is a sacrament, not healing as such, the restoration of health, but the entrance of man into the life of the kingdom, into the joy and peach of the Holy Spirit.”   As such, the prayers of the Sacrament of Healing are penitential in nature, asking for the forgiveness of one’s sins. The body is anointed, invoking the grace of God upon the ill and infirmed, because it is the grace of God that heals all illnesses, both body and soul.

Despite the importance of the Sacrament of Healing, this emphasis on spiritual healing and wellbeing does not mean that one should forgo any attempt at physical healing.  All things can be used to the glory of God. All healing, both spiritual and physical should be brought to God with prayer. Faith does not stand in opposition to science, nor science to faith, but science confirms what faith has already revealed.  God is the source of both, and all things, and as such the two are not in opposition to one another. Just as theosis is achieved through cooperation with God, so is healing a cooperation of human effort, and prayer, with God and His will.

Ultimately not all people are physically healed, some slipping from this life into the next through whatever illness was plaguing them.  It is here we transition from the rite of healing, into the funeral rites of the Orthodox Church. The service helps those in attendance develop a greater understanding of the meaning and purpose of life.  It assists us with the emotional response we develop at the time of death, as well as the time that passes after. It also places an emphasis on the fact that death is not the end, and helps to affirm our hope in salvation and life eternal.  The funeral rite, by the prayers, hymns, and readings that take place, is a dialogue between God and the people, as well as God and the dearly departed. The service also recognizes the realities of our human existence, our frailty and finite time in this world, and the vanity of this world and all the things in it.  We bless the departed and say goodbye with a final kiss of peace, with our pain of separation and the tragedy of death being acknowledged in the hymns that are sung. We pass from this life with both prayers and tears, but are soon welcomed into the joy and gladness of the Lord.

Our sins, our illnesses, and our eventual death are all related one to another.  By Adam’s sin both sickness and death were ushered into this world, and it is through Christ and his resurrection that humanity is redeemed and released from the grip of death.  The nature of sin and death are recognized within both the rites of healing and the funeral service, yet so is the fact that Christ has conquered all of these things for the redemption for the whole of mankind.  He is an offering of truth and life for those within the body of Christ, which is the Church, forgiving all of our sins to the betterment of all mankind. Christ, truly, is the life of the world.

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HOMILY: Rejoice in the Lord! - December 29th, 2019

Readings: Philippians 4:4-7, John 1:19-28

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; one God.  Amen.

As we come to the end of another calendar year, we approach this time with words of thanksgiving for all that we have and have endured, and also of expectation as we rejoice for what is yet to come.  We look at the past twelve months and we realize that most of us have much to be thankful for: we rejoice for our successes and triumphs; we rejoice for our health and wellbeing; we rejoice for our family and friends; and we rejoice that Christ is in our midst, where He is and ever shall be.  For all these things we give thanksgiving and praise, prayer and supplication always, for we remember that all things come from the Father.

 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

These are the words of Saint Paul in our Epistle reading this morning, and regrettably we recognize that it is not always easy to rejoice, for not all moments seem pleasant to those that endure them; to those that endure loss; to those that endure suffering; to those that endure heartache and hardship; to those that endure the darkness because it seems as though the light has left them.  Yet, even in times such as these we can find reasons to rejoice; for, in our sufferings we find strength; in our pain we find the power to endure; in the loss of all things we are freed from the world; in the loss of life we rejoice in hope, and look for an age yet to come. No matter the darkness and how cold it may seem, we hold onto the light of Christ, for the Light will dispel the darkness, or make longer the shadows and reveal the objects within our lives causing them.

Saint John Chrysostom also says similarly in his own Homily on the letter to the Philippians:

“It is comforting to know that the Lord is at hand…Here is a medicine to relieve grief and every bad circumstance and every pain. What is it? To pray and to give thanks in everything. He does not wish that a prayer be merely a petition but a thanksgiving for what we have received…How can one make petitions for the future without a thankful acknowledgment of past things?...So one ought to give thanks for everything, even what seems grievous. That is the mark of one who is truly thankful. Grief comes out of the circumstances with their demands. Thanksgiving comes from a soul that has true insight and a strong affection for God.”

We rejoice because He is with us, and we have much to be thankful for.  We look forward to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we rejoice, because he is our Lord God, and King.  Then, we look forward to and celebrate theophany, the revelation of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - on the waters of the Jordan, and rejoice because He is all merciful and compassionate toward His Children.  We endure the somber period of the Lenten season, and we rejoice because He is Risen, having endured His crucifixion upon a cross, dying that we may live. He ascended that the Holy Spirit might descend, and we rejoice that we were worthy to be recipients of God’s grace.  We endure the darkness of this world, just as the many saints who have gone before us, but we rejoice in the resurrection yet to come; we rejoice in God’s love and our healing of soul and body, the salvation of many, and the forgiveness of all.

We give praise and thanksgiving for the days that have come to pass, and look forward with joyful expectation at what is yet to come. Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything,“but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  We pray with thanksgiving, and we give voice to our thoughts, making them a tangible thing, making them real; for, even all of creation was spoken into existence.   So, we say our prayers, say our confessions, say our creeds, that all these things may become real within us; that they may manifest themselves in our lives.  Yet, this is only but a single reason why our prayers matter, not only to ourselves, but to the very world in which we live.  

Our prayer is an encounter and relationship with God.  It is through prayer that we anchor ourselves to the present moment, for indeed it is the only moment in which we can encounter God.  Yes, we look back with thanksgiving on the past, and we look forward to the future with hopeful and joyful expectation, but it is only the present moment that matters to us.  God is present to us at all times and in all places. He is present simultaneously in the past, present, and future, but it is only in the present moment in which we live, exist, and experience this life.  Christ himself exhorts us in the Gospel of Matthew to “not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” and there is little we can do about the past, so we pray always, offering up the present moment to God, so that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Tomorrow may remain a mystery, but today is a gift from God, and I jokingly say that this is why it is called the present.

It is only in the present moment that we can be still and know that He is God; but, the world provides no such peace. Far too often the world lives in a distracted state of mind, and with many, their focus of attention is divided between their mobile devices, tablets, and cell phones instead of the people and places around them in the present moment.  People would rather interact through an artificial glass wall, numbing any sense of true relationship and warmth we would experience with others.  We are often distracted by the advertisements and sales pitches of the world around us, telling us how the world should look - billboards, magazine racks, television commercials, radio commercials, gossip and opinion, and so forth - driving us to focus on that which we should have, instead of what we have right now.  Our attention is scattered on a vision of how the world tells us things should be, instead of how the world really is.  Our mind is often divided between our past and future concerns, but rarely on the importance of the present moment. Because of this, many people have no joy, cannot rejoice or be joyful, because this can only happen within our present moment. Prayer and thanksgiving can only happen where we are.

We are often so focused on doing, that we leave little time for the act of being, being Children of God, being Saints, being perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Though, one should not consider the act of doing, and the act of being, to be two separate things.  For, we have been exhorted to pray without ceasing, but this is not always an act of words. We become our prayer within our day to day lives; we incarnate Christ into the world; and we become that which we pray for, that for others and ourselves.  

Prayer is the beginning of all theology, as Vladimir Lossky says.  Prayer alone will give our soul the spiritual strength to endure all things.  So, without prayer, there is no spiritual life alive within us. Our faith, our prayer, should become a state of being - it is not enough to say prayers, but we must become our prayer, become a Christian, and incarnate our faith by word AND deed.  Our prayer life should be lived, and our prayers should be interwoven with our life, otherwise they become vestigial words and phrases that we simply offer in our short periods we turn towards God.  Our prayers and our actions should become two expressions of the same situation. Also, we must approach our prayer life as a mutual relationship of friendship. God must be the object of our prayer, our wanting, for the intensity and elation of our prayer is often about the object of our prayer rather than the one to whom our prayer is addressed.

“All of life, each and every act, every gesture, even the smile of the human face, must become a hymn of adoration, an offering, a prayer.  One should offer not what one has, but what one is.”  (Bishop Kallistos Ware)

This is the gift we give: our lives.  We do this because it is the only gift we can give which is reciprocal of itself, given in response to the gift which we have received ourselves:  eternal life. It is for this gift, and many other reasons we are exhorted not once, but twice by the Apostle Paul in the same passage to rejoice; to be thankful for everything in prayer and thanksgiving. So let us become joy; let us all become Joy to the world because Christ our King has come, and is coming.  It is a beautiful day our Lord God has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers and mothers, and Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.

Amen

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Virgin Mary "Rejoices in Thee" (All Creation Rejoice), Orthodox Icon




HOMILY: Christ the King - December 8, 2019

Readings: Daniel: 7:13-14, Colassians 1:12-20, John 18:33-37

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God.  Amen.

We have come to the end of our liturgical year, through the course of which we have celebrated the birth of Christ, and the joy and salvation that his coming promises to bring.  We have celebrated the theophanies of Christ our God, wherein the truth of God has been revealed to us. We have remembered the passion of Christ and repented of our own iniquities through the penitential season of Lent. We have celebrated Christ and the lives of the saints surrounding Him and following Him, that we may remember their lives and examples for each of us to follow.  We once and always look forward with expectation from the moment of Christ’s birth, from the moment of our present lives lived in Christ, to the coming of Christ our King and our God. He entered the world as a suckling child, from the womb into the care of the Theotokos; became the sacrifice for all men that the whole world might be redeemed; and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father.  He shall come again as a conquering king, who conquered death by death; who is the King of Kings; who is the Lord of all creation; He who is the head of the body, the Church, which is His Kingdom on earth. Within the Church, which Christ created with his own precious blood, we find the Truth, the Way, and the life. This is the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is life within him, and it is this Kingdom to which we all belong as citizens of heaven, for as Saint Paul says, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” our King and our God.  He also elucidates the kingdom of God as life in the Holy Spirit, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, we recognize the Kingdom as that which is already given to those of us who believe; to those of us who live and lead righteous lives under God our King; to those of us who incarnate the Kingdom of God into this world, and by whom this kingdom is created by the grace of God. We are Christ’s first and foremost, and if the first "flag" we fly is not Christ's, then one must ask if He is truly our King and our God? The flag of nations should never precede the flag of faith.  The flag of this world is not our own, for we are citizens of heaven first and only; for, we are but “sojourners and exiles in this world,” and should live as though we have no permanent part in it.  For there is nothing in this world that is worth our lives in Christ; nothing in this world that can give us true joy; and nothing in this world that will endure in this life or the next.  

Christ is our King, and the Kingdom over which he reigns has no place, it has no borders and holds no land; it has no end and begins in all places; it excludes no one, but includes only the faithful.  We know where the kingdom rests by the fruits of its people, for Christ himself has said the people “will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  This is also the same quality by which we know Christ loved us, for he sacrificed himself that we may live life eternally.  So then, what is a Christian life without sacrifice, but an empty and vestigial expression of a divine truth. True love engenders sacrifice, a sacrifice of self; of free will. It is through the sacrificial quality of love by which it is recognized.  It is within the sacrificial quality of love that the Kingdom of God is found, for God is Love. It is with Love that Christ reigns as King over all creation.

Christ as King permeates our prayers; is echoed throughout our scriptures; is made manifest within the liturgy and sacramental life of the Church; so, likewise it should be made apparent that Christ is our King in our day to day lives.  The culture in which we live reflects the contents of our inner being. If our culture is not changed, it is because we ourselves are not changed. This is why Saint Seraphim of Sarov exhorted that if we acquire the Spirit of Peace, a thousand souls around you will be saved.” So, it is within society that we will express the contents of our heart in word and in deed, wherein society becomes a mirror of what lies within.  It is where the Kingdom of God collides with the kingdom of this world that Christ’s love should manifest itself. How do we treat the homeless man or the mother in need?  How do we react to the myriad inconveniences throughout the day? How do we respond to those who are less than pleasant towards us or others? How do we speak to those who are seen as social outcasts: addicts, criminals, prostitutes, the poor and needy, the disabled, and all of the others who do not align with the image of worldly success?  We have already been given the answers to these questions by Christ our King, and he pulls us inexorably towards love.

Christ as King reigns over our very souls. It is by his grace alone that we are pulled godward; that every word we speak is one of praise or kindness; that every beat of our heart and every breath we take is done with thanksgiving; that our everyday and ordinary deeds are made extraordinary by their love and compassion for one another; that our own feelings and desires should be an echo of Christ the King, and that which His love desires.  Our will is not our own, but that of the King who reigns over all: Jesus Christ our Lord. We can be slaves to the sins of this world, or freedman following their King and their God.

Christ our King has freed us from the bondage and slavery of sin, the passions that compel us to do that which we ought not to do.  He commanded us to repent, and so we turn ourselves away from this world. He commanded us to baptize and be baptized, and so the faithful are made clean, “made whiter than snow.”   He commanded us to “do this in remembrance of me;” so, we celebrate and partake of his body and blood as often as we can through the Eucharist.  We are commanded to “be perfect,” just as the Father is perfect; a feat that can only be accomplished through theosis: our growth and exercise of virtue, and our cooperation with the graces of God.  Among these commands, and others like it, Christ tells us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Our Love for Him is known and is proven by what we do. Our love of God is made manifest by our willingness to obey him, and to serve him, and also those in his kingdom.  Christ came to serve, so we also serve. Christ came to heal, so let us be a healing presence to all. Christ came to forgive, so let us forgive one another. Christ came to reign over us, so let us always allow Him to reign in us.

Christ is King, and He is a just king, for the Justice of God is the restoration of all creation as God intended it from the beginning of time.  Christ is a righteous king for He is righteousness. Christ is a conquering king, for he has conquered and defeated death by death, and in doing so “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” just as Saint Paul exhorted in our epistle reading for today. Christ is our King, and in Him we have faith and find hope, for "to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,  which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed," just as Daniel prophesied.  Christ is our King, and Christ is our God, for in Christ alone was the fullness of God pleased to dwell among us. So, We look forward to the completion and perfection of all things in and through Christ the King, the ruler and redeemer of all things.  We adore the King of Kings as we bask in the countenance of his holiness and eternal glory, and pray always that we ourselves would be found worthy of the promises of Christ. Christ is the King of mercy, and may he have mercy on us all, and save us.

"Oh come let us worship and fall down before our God and our King.

Oh, come let us fall down before Christ our King and our God.

Oh, come let us worship and fall down before Christ himself, our King and our God."

Amen.

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