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Liberty and Virtue - December 4th, 2019
Does liberty exist without virtue?
Reading the histories of Greece and Rome, I find that the ancient histories of the Greeks and Romans bore great gifts of lessons learned through the mistakes and successes of the same, passed on to the founding fathers of our Republic. They learned from those great states and peoples who stood before them, and whose memories and lessons still echo through the annals of history: life, liberty, and a particular propriety of government. From the likes of Athens and the Roman Empire, they discovered those roads to be avoided. Through the heroic Spartans and the stalwart Roman Republic, they learned the importance of individual liberties, and the virtue that upholds it. Virtue, a morality that is simultaneously social and individual in nature, ensures a most effective defense against tyranny; for, “vice leads to tyranny, and tyranny leads to even greater vice.” So, it us such lessons that the founders were armed with the principles of revolution, a rebellion made right by its foundation of ideals, making the American Revolution paradoxical in nature: "a revolution fueled by tradition.” They took the best principles of those who came before us, using them to build the best Republic possible, a foundation for the continuity of liberty underpinned by virtue: One nation under God. Indeed, it is the moral fabric that ensures the continuity of a republic. A fabric so frayed and fettered with individual ideologies, so torn apart with divergent desires and subjectivity, so overpowered by feelings over objective truth, is the surety of a doomed republic. History shows us this, in Sparta, Athens, The Roman Republic turned Empire, and every great state and nation that has followed since.
We have not learned from history, so we shall be doomed to repeat it. So, we look forward to the horizon unseen, for insanity is partaking of the same thing repetitiously, and expecting a different result. The world wields nothing different from what it has already wrought, for there is nothing new under the sun. We look forward to the new day, the eighth day that dawns, under the light of which all shall be revealed, and all things shall be made new. So say we all.
Homily: Of Truth and gifts - November 9th, 2019
Readings: Epistle - Ephesians 4:7-13, Gospel - John 15:17-25
Today we remember and celebrate the Greater feast of Saints Simon and Jude. Two of the twelve apostles, their names mentioned in the synoptic gospels, and Saint Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. Yet, outside of these mentions in scripture, we know very little about them or their works following Pentecost. Even those extra biblical sources we have seem to disagree somewhat on their lives, and how they ended. Western tradition and martyrology dating from the sixth century holds that Saint Simon first preached in Egypt, and later joined Saint Jude to preach the gospel in Persia, where they both suffered martyrdom. On the other hand, The Monology of Saint Basil the Great tells us that Simon died a peaceful death at Edessa. Yet, no matter where they went, no matter the means by which they went to the Lord, we remember them nonetheless, because we are the Church. Disregarding all else about them, we know with certainty that they are counted among those - the Apostles of Christ - who constitutes the foundation of our Church, for indeed the Church was built upon the foundation of her prophets and Apostles. They hold up the Church, which itself exists as the pillar and foundation of truth, as well as being the body of Christ, who is Truth. It is only within this body, the Church, that the Truth is received, and so given to others “ to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” just as Saint Paul exhorts us in our Epistle reading for today.
It is to this body that is given the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Christ ascended that the Holy Spirit might descend and endow us with those gifts necessary to the building up of the Church in the fullness of Christ. We all possess those gifts of God’s grace common to all, as Saint John Chrysostom highlights in his own homilies on the letter to the Ephesians: “baptism, salvation by faith, having God as Father and partaking of the same Spirit.” We also possess diverse spiritual gifts in varying degrees; though, one must not allow one’s self to descend into arrogance at what they themselves possess, nor must one look at another's gifts and fall into despondency that they have not been so gifted. It is against this which Saint Paul fought in his letters to both the Ephesians and the Corinthians, and why he used the analogy of the Church as one body consisting of many members elsewhere in scripture. This is why Saint Paul did not say “to each one of us according to the measure of their faith,” lest one should fall into arrogance or pride. But this is also why Saint John Chrysostom also says “If someone has more in grace, feel no resentment, for his task is greater too.” For, if those who have been given do nothing with what they have received, they are just like the man who received the one talent, and buried it in the earth.
The Church is one in her essence; her essence of faith; her essence of spirit and the teaching received therein; but, she is diverse in both gifts and function. Despite what the world may try to force us to believe, unity does not mean uniformity; equality does not mean sameness. The Church is diversity in operation, not a diversity of faith nor truth, but of people. We are all living stones, just as Saint Peter exhorts, altogether comprising the Church. Look at the walls of any Church, the grain of the wood, the variations in stone, and no two are alike. Likewise, we are each unique in person, yet we all strive towards the same fullness of our humanity. It is towards this fullness of Christ that we are “guided by gifted people for the sake of maturity and stability of the body.” We are all living stones, and Christ is the cornerstone of the foundation upon which we stand, and the living mortar that binds us all together.
What Christ has given is a gift of immense price. This is why, Christ being both the Gift and the price paid for it, that our own lives are the only gift that is reciprocal of itself. I say of itself, for our very lives are a gift bestowed to us, saved from eternal death, healed from the wounds of sin that we might live fully. Every aspect of our Christian faith, every detail of our Christian life, is intertwined with that great gift to which we have been given. Christ is the great physician, the healer of our souls, and we follow those prescriptions He has given us through the Church: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Christ is the great medicine and food for our souls, that which we receive by the cup of salvation at the Holy Mysteries of our faith. Christ is the way, the Truth, and the life by which we find our way through the darkness of this world.
What Christ has given us is without distinction from Christ himself, and such are the gifts of the spirit we have received. Those gifts are given to each of us according to that which we need; it is given according to that which we desire; it is given according to that which we are capable of possessing by a measure distinctive to our love and character. We each possess a distinctiveness of spirit, a distinctiveness of person or character, a distinctiveness of individuality, but a unity of persons in one faith. This distinctiveness, the difference of persons does not place anyone above or below another, for we are all necessary. Just as the wall is weaker with stones removed, and a chain cannot hold with missing link, so is the Church when lacking unity, or missing those who belong. The Church grows stronger as each is added to it, according to their own faith, according to their own gifts, and the building up of one another.
There is a saying within the Orthodox Church that we grow and we rise together, but we fall alone. As such, no Christian should ever regard themselves as an isolated individual, for we are all part of the body of Christ. It is not only by our gifts that we labor to build and encourage the Church towards the fullness of Christ, but also our participation in the sacraments, and the sacramental rhythm of the Church. When we sin, we sin not against ourselves only, but against all those who stand with us. We go to confession that we may be absolved, that our sin does not erode the unity and stability of that body. We participate in the same cup, that we all may receive the eternal remedy; so that no one withers in spirit. We all practice those spiritual exercises - prayer, fasting, and almsgiving - that each of us may grow strong in our own faith, supporting one another as we march together towards the eschaton. We remember our dead, as we remember Saints Simon and Jude. Their souls are separated from their bodies, but we remain in communion with them and all others, for even in death the body of Christ is not divided. We remember one another, praying for one another always and in all things. We all study the same scriptures, adhering to the same teachings of the faith; for the unity of the faith cannot be separated from the knowledge of the Son of God.
The Truth, the knowledge of the Son of God, is the seed planted in each of us, and simultaneously the seed we have been given to plant in others. Those gifts of the spirit are the tools we have been given to work those fields once planted. We must not neglect the tools we have been given, for while iron may sharpen iron, it rusts when left in disuse. We must not neglect the labor at hand, for as Christ himself has said, the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. The gift of Christ was purchased for us at an immeasurable price. So, let us live worthily of such a sacrifice, that it be not in vain, and we be considered sons and daughters of the living God. May all truth abide in us and save us.
By the prayers of our holy Fathers and Mothers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.
HOMILY: Becoming Truth - October 20th, 2019.
Readings: Matthew 9:1-9
I would like to begin with the story of Sergios and Bakkhos, two martyrs of the Church whom we remember today.
The Holy Martyrs Sergios and Bakkhos were appointed to high positions in the army by the emperor Maximian (who ruled from the years 284-305), who did not know that they were Christians. Malevolent persons denounced them both to Maximian, that his two military-commanders did not honour the pagan gods, and this was considered a crime against the state.
The emperor, wanting to convince himself of the veracity of the denunciation, ordered Sergios and Bakkhos to offer sacrifice to the idols, but they answered, that they honored but the One God and Him only did they worship.
Maximian commanded that the martyrs be stripped of the insignia of military rank, and then having dressed them in feminine clothing to lead them through the city with an iron chain on the neck, for the mockery by the people. Then he again summoned Sergios and Bakkhos to him and in a friendly approach advised them not to be swayed by Christian fables and instead return to the Roman gods. But the saints remained steadfast. Then the emperor commanded that they be dispatched to the governor of the eastern part of Syria, Antiochus, a fierce hater of Christians. Antiochus had received his position with the help of Sergios and Bakkhos. "My fathers and benefactors! – he addressed the saints, – have pity not only upon yourself, but also on me: I do not want to condemn you to martyrdom". The holy martyrs replied, that for them life – is Christ, and death for Him – its acquisition. In a rage Antiochus ordered Bakkhos to be mercilessly beaten, and the holy martyr expired to the Lord. They put iron shoes on Sergios feet inset with nails and sent him off to another city, where he was beheaded with the sword. All this transpired in the year 300 A.D.
So, why do we remember such as these in the life of the Church?
We are the Church of remembering. We remember those who have gone before us, for they point us towards Christ; they show us what it means to be our faith; they show us how we should respond to the world around us. We remember those who walk beside us. We remember what lies ahead of us as we walk together in Christ towards the eschaton. The Church takes great care to maintain the hagiography of our saints, the stories of those who have passed into memory, for they represent the living witness of our faith. They represent the very essence in both word and in deed in what it means to be Christian. They have gone before us, but they march ever ahead of us, for they have paved the road we now walk on. It is yet another paradox of the Christian faith, like the first shall be last and the last shall be first, when I am weak, I am strong; or the meek shall inherit the earth. Those who have come before us, walk ahead of us, living icons of Christ, lamps unto our feet.
So what is the lesson we can learn from the story of Sergios and Bakkhos, those knights and martyrs of the Orthodox faith? Always speak truth to power. We must not be like the world who seeks to change the very definitions of truth within the world around us. Who changes truth simply to be acceptable to others. We must not be like the world who seeks to confuse and disorient, shifting like sand so no foundation can be laid for one to stand on, till one is left standing like Pilate before Christ and muttering those words of searching: what is truth? We know what truth is. Truth is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ. Truth is found in the Church, for the Church is the Body of Christ, who IS Truth. The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15), which was established upon the apostles and prophets as her foundation (Eph 2:20). We must never be afraid to speak Christ into the world, into the face of opposition, nor persecution. We must always stand to speak Truth in the face of lies, Truth against heresies, or Truth to those in power. Truth is the last great rebellion in a world imbued with falsity and fantasy. The world may threaten our lives, but we have life eternal. The world may take away our wealth, but it was never ours to begin with, and we have even greater treasures in the kingdom of God. The world might not kill us, but it will wound us. We will be wounded time and time again in both heart, mind, soul, and God forbid in body.
Lucky for us Christ is the Great Physician. The Church, as the body of Christ, who is the great physician, is the great hospital for our very souls. To the world we may seem like an asylum of sorts, and some very well may treat us as such. Remember the words of Saint Anthony the Great when he said “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, "You are mad; you are not like us." One could reasonably say such a time is upon us. Yet, also remember the words of scripture that tells us that truth, Christ, and the message of the Cross seems like insanity to the world, but to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God. To those of us who are being saved, it is the word of life. To those of use who are being saved, no other word matters.
Can we expect a blind man to know the sky is blue? Can we expect the deaf man to hear the words of truth? Can we expect one dying of cancer to know that he is dying, or what it is that afflicts him, unless a doctor tells him? We must be the truth to those who need it, in our words and in our lives. We become truth and take Christ into the world. We reveal their illness, talk about their wounds, and reveal the scars of our own wounds to give them hope. We seek out those in need of healing, and bring them to the great physician to be healed. The Church is the great hospital for our souls, and all are bidden. Yet, not all may come. Some cannot come on their own. Some may need the helping hands of another.
In our Gospel reading today we heard the tale of Jesus healing the paralytic. As soon as he had left his boat, and arrived into his own town, two men carried a parlyzed man to him, lying on a mat. This was a man that depended on others to be brought before Christ. When Christ set his eyes upon them, he saw not the faith of the paralyzed man, but the faith of those who brought him. It was by their faith that Jesus Christ healed the paralytic. And so he arose, healed of his infirmities of both body and soul, and carried himself back to his home.
The Church is our home. We who have been healed are the two men carrying the paralytic. Some of us, at one time, used to be the paralytic. Maybe some of us still are. Yet, we should be carrying others back to the Church in the fullness of our own faith, so that the other may be healed; that the other may find their own faith, and walk home to the Church on their own. One day, they too shall carry another back to the great Physician, for the healing of soul and body. For we are the Church, and we stand together. We are one body, brought together in one cup, one loaf, and one and the same belief and teaching. We fall alone.
Christ tells us that where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them. Sergios and Bakkhos stood together against the world, and Christ was with them both. Those two men stood with the paralytic, for the paralytic, and Christ was with them also. May we stand with one another always, to face the world in all that it shall bring. So, may we now stand together in one faith and one accord, for Christ is in our midst; he is and ever shall be.
HOMILY: Walking in mindfulness - September 22, 2019
Readings: Galatians 5:16-24, Matthew 6:24-33
If one studies the choice of language in the scriptures enough, preferably in the Greek, one begins to see a language of journey and transformation. It is a way of life that takes us from where we were, leading us in Christ likeness in this life, towards the completion of all things in the world to come. The Christian faith is a journey in which Christ is the path, Christ is the door, and simultaneously the prize and completion of the redemptive work of the cross. Ours is a journey of restoration and healing, to restore the dignity of our humanity to its Edenic and former glory.
We undertake this journey not as one alone, but we walk together as the body of Christ, being lead by Christ towards the end of all things: the eschaton. In this journey we must always ask ourselves if we are indeed following Christ, or if we are following something else as unfortunate yet willing slaves to sin. Do we follow the Holy Spirit of God, or are we enticed instead by the spirit of this age. It is a constant struggle being waged within us; though, no one can serve two masters, as Christ tells us in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. The word translated here as master is the word κύριος, or Lord. So, do we follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and God, becoming slaves to righteousness? Or, do we succumb to the temptations of the Evil One, seeking the passions and pleasures of this life over the rewards of the next? It is an ever present tension in which we live, choosing between the immediate gratifications of this world, or the delayed promises of the next. We should prefer to live our lives in constant expectation of the world to come, where those likewise who have gone before us look forward with equal expectation towards the resurrection. What expectations can be found in the things of this world but loss, suffering, and anguish born from our attachment to them, and our eventual loss of them; for, they are fleeting and all is vanity.
In this journey, Saint Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit” so that we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Elsewhere in the scriptures we are told likewise to live in the world, but not of it. We are instructed to live in the world as citizens of the Kingdom of God, adopted as sons and daughters of God the Father almighty. We are exhorted to live as aliens and sojourners in this world. We walk by the spirit, passing through this world without any attachment to the things of this world. We live in the world, but do not follow nor participate in the spirit of the age in which we live. We live in the world, but we do not acquiesce to the vagaries of this age, for the spirit of any age will always and invariably lead to death. The spirit of an age is impermanent and changes from generation to generation; but, the Spirit of God is eternal. The spirit of God is everlasting. The spirit of God is Truth, and life.
So, what does it mean by use of the word “spirit?” The word translated here is πνεῦμα, which by extension and context connotes the heart and mind of God. So, the spirit is in essence the mindset that has come down to us from God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; however, there is also another word with a similar meaning, and that is φρόνημα. This is the Orthodox mindset in which we live and understand our day to day lives, a mindset rooted in Christ and the sacramental life and rhythm of the Church. So, we follow the heart and mind of God, exhibiting the heart and mind of God in this world and in our day to day lives. We know that we are doing this by those fruits which Saint Paul has listed for us in his letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is by these that we may know that we are following a right spirit within us.
The spirit of this age is known by the other list of bitter fruits also given in the same letter to the Galatians: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and all things such as these. Many of these are easily made manifest in the world around us, for indeed we live in a fallen world, and we should have no participation with it. It would be better for the world to consume us, than to give in to such as these. Such is the life of a martyr.
There are many spirits for us to follow, but we can only be mindful of one. We cannot be of two minds. We cannot possess two hearts. We cannot take two paths, nor can we follow two masters leading us in opposite directions. We must be of one mind and one accord, both within ourselves and with all who surround us. For we rise together, but we fall alone. We must decide whether to be hot or cold, for a life of indecisive faith is lukewarm, and will lead to us being spit out of the mouth of the Holy One who spoke all things into existence.
We cannot hover indefinitely between the convictions of this world or those of the next. We cannot sit on the fence for the rest of our days. We cannot hold on to both lives, for we can only live one of them. We can only conform to one way or the other. We cannot - at the risk of sounding flippant - have our cake and eat it too. There is one Truth, one path, one way, and one spirit. God is not a God of many minds, so neither should we be likewise.
We are mindful of God and follow Him not for a reward of earthly things, but we follow Him for a reward of promise. For, we are promised no luxuries or comforts in this life, for indeed Christ had none. We are to pass through this world without any attachment to it. We are to have faith and trust in He who gave us life that all things - that which we receive, or those things which we lack - will be necessary to the salvation of ourselves and others. As our Gospel reading has exhorted to us today, we are not to be anxious about the things of this world,” for indeed the world has enough anxieties of its own. We are not to possess the world, nor are we to be possessed of the world. We are to be concerned with the things of God; for those things that are holy; for those things that are just; and for those things that are rooted in righteousness. Anything outside of this is superfluous vanity.
We must be mindful, developing an appropriate φρόνημα about our Orthodox faith. We must be mindful of our words; mindful of our actions; and mindful of that which we do before the watchful eyes of the world. We must be mindful of our thoughts, for as Elder Thaddeus has said, our thoughts determine our lives. Not least of these, we should be mindful of what spirit we follow, for there is only one Truth, but there are many spirits. There is only One way, but there are many roads that lead away from the present moment. There are many mindsets, but there is only one mind of God. We shall be known by the fruits that we bear, for we walk in the spirit, that we may have the spirit of God within us.
I close from an excerpt taken from Edler Thaddeus’ own writings, from a chapter titled “Repentance is a Change of Life:’
“Life on earth is manifested in our thoughts. Whatever our thoughts are occupied with , that reflects the kind of life we lead. If our thoughts are quiet and peaceful, kind and loving, there’s peace for us; and if they are negative, there’s disquiet and restlessness. We are small and helpless beings, and we must unceasingly ask our Heavenly Father for help in all things; we must pray to Him to give us strength and to give us of His Grace, the Divine energy that is present and works everywhere, most especially in those souls that have chosen to serve the Lord with their whole life, both in this world and in eternity. For God is peace; God is comfort and joy to all people, I therefore wish you peace and joy in the Lord.”
By the prayers of our holy fathers and mothers, Lord Jesus Christ our God have mercy upon us and save us
Homily: Be opened. - September 1, 2019
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God. Amen
I would like to open with a reading from the Old Testament today. It is not one we have heard read today, but it is wholly relevant to what we have heard so far, and what I have to say.
From Isaiah chapter 35, beginning at verse 3:
3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
7 And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The whole of the Old Testament points towards forwards towards the messianic promise, points forwards towards Christ, but this particular verse is a direct prophecy of Christ which we hear partially fulfilled in our Gospel reading for today (Mark 7:31-37). In this reading we hear of the man who was deaf and dumb, as they say, who was brought to Christ by others to be healed. Christ pulled him to the side, stuck his fingers in his ears, spitting on his finger and touching the man’s tongue, he looked to the heavens and said one of the few obscure Aramaic words we hear in the Gospels: Ephphatha.
This word means to be opened. In the Greek, which is given along side the Aramaic, the word is dianoigō (διανοίγω), which specifically in this case means to be opened, but more generally used it refers to an opening of the heart; an opening of the mind and the understanding; to open one’s self to the sense of a thing. Yet, why did Christ find it necessary to speak this word as part of this act of healing? Could He not have just healed the man through the spirit? Could He not have just willed his healing into existence? Of course the answer is yes, but he does this because words have power. Words have the power to heal, and the power to destroy. Words have the power to build up and encourage, as well as tear down. Words are important. In fact, in the chapter preceding our Epistle reading for today, Saint Paul speaks at length about the gift of speaking in tongues and prophesying. What we say matters.
The Son of God spoke all of creation into existence, for indeed He is the Word of God. Christ drove out evil spirits with but a word. Saint James warns us of the dangers of the tongue and the words we speak, with Christ corroborating this in the Gospel of Matthew by warning us that “those things which proceed out of the mouth comes from the heart,” and these are what defile a man. Those that came to Christ in His ministry - the man with leprosy, the Centurion, the paralytic, and others - when asked what they needed, though God knew regardless of the request, they spoke their needs to Christ that they may be heard and met likewise. We pray so that our needs might be heard, rising before the saints and the throne of God like incense that they might be heard (Psalm 141:2, Revelations 8:4) Even Saint John of Kronstadt places an importance upon the words we speak into this world, exhorting that “man, in all his words, does not die. He is immortal in them, and they speak after his death.” So, if we should be judged by that which we say, then surely we should be mindful of that which we say, and what manner of words we bring into the world. Do we speak slander, or do we speak praise? Do we speak Truth, or babble on endlessly about the things of this world. Be mindful.
Christ spoke words of healing, because He is the Great Physician. Christ spoke words of Truth, because he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Christ calls each of us to be opened, so that we can be healed of our spiritual deafness, so that we may receive the Truth. The healing of the deaf man is a metaphor for all men. It can be taken as an analogy of the Christian life, speaking of those outside the Church in the wilderness (of the world) alluded to in Isaiah chapter 35.
As those few of you who have attended my classes may have learned by now, I filter my theological viewpoint and my entire basis of understanding the Truth through the understanding of the Church, for the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Tim 3:15). So, with that being said, the deaf man is every man standing outside the Church. He cannot receive the Truth. He cannot speak the truth because he does not know it. But, Christ calls each of us to be opened, but it is not an opening that can be forced. He wills each of us to be opened to the Truth, but we must first turn towards Christ, and do so by our own volition. All are called, but not all respond. Christ came for all mankind, but not all will receive Him. Christ speaks, but not all hear his words. He meets everyone where they are in life, but not all will experience Him. So, how can a blind man see the sun? He cannot see it, but he can feel it. How can a deaf man hear the words of truth? He cannot hear it, but he can see it, or experience it. The Truth must be incarnated into the world, becoming all things to all people, so that all spiritual infirmities may be overcome for the receiving of the Truth. We must bring the Truth to all men, so that man may know and accept it; turning towards Christ; turning towards the Church; turning towards the Great Physician and the Hospital for our souls, so that we may be healed of our spiritual infirmities..
Most of us started in the world, living for the world. We encountered the Truth and accepted it, turning towards Christ, and subsequently the Church. We repented of our sins. We knocked on the door of the Church by our act of confession, where the wounds of our souls were healed with the absolution of forgiveness. We put on the garment of baptism, sealed with the oil of Chrismation, and were allowed into the Church, the body of Christ. We approached the Lord’s table to partake of the Holy Mysteries, becoming one with the Truth. We are now a living stone of the Church, the body of Christ. Our eyes are opened. Our ears are unstopped. Our tongues are loosed. It is now our responsibility to share this Truth we have received to those who would receive it. In word and in deed we must incarnate Christ in the world, for this is the way of Holiness mentioned in Isaiah chapter 35, and this is what we are called to be. We must preach the Gospel message to all mankind in both word and in deed; to all the spiritually deaf and blind who have yet to turn towards Christ amidst their clinging to the things of this world
Yet, what is the Truth? What is this Gospel message that we are so inclined to declare unto the world? We find the answer to this in our Epistle reading for today (1 Cor. 15:1-10). We hear Saint Paul making dogmatic statements which we are so familiar with, and hear every Sunday in the words of the Nicene Creed:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
We preach the resurrected Christ, for He is Risen! This is the pivotal and most important act of Christ’s ministry on earth. Even though Pascha is behind us, it is also simultaneously ever before us in the sacramental rhythm of the Church, and we must always remember the Risen Christ. We must always be willing to proclaim that He is risen, and do so with every fiber of our being, every moment of our daily lives in all that we say and do. He is risen, he who endured the death of the cross for all men, to open the gates of paradise. He is life because He is risen, trampling down death by death! He is Risen because He is God incarnate in the flesh, he who condescended to become one of us, that we may be able to become like him. If Christ had never risen from the grave, then we should never leave it. If Christ had never risen, then death would never have been defeated. If Christ had never risen, then his death upon the cross would have been in vain, and our entire Christian life an empty promise.
He died so that we may live in the presence of God. We live, so that others may die to this world and all that it may bring. We all die to the world so that we may all live in Christ. So let us speak the truth so that it may be heard. Let us incarnate the Truth, so that the Truth may be experienced; the truth may be seen; the truth may be felt; and the truth may be known. By the truth may all ears be opened, that all men may hear and know the Truth of the risen Christ, and turn towards Him to be healed of their infirmities of spirit, and to be healed of infirmities of mind, body, and soul. You were once deaf, but now you can hear. You were once mute, but now your mouth is opened to proclaim the truth. So then, we must ask ourselves, why aren’t we?
By the prayers of our holy Fathers and Mothers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.