Archive for July, 2008

5th Sunday after Pentecost, 2002“ This is eternal life”

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Next Sunday, July 7/20, 2008, we will read about the Gergesenes demoniacs. This homily touches on that reading, as well as the text of the Lord’s High Priestly prayer, which was read that year on the fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

5th Sunday after Pentecost, 2002

“This is eternal life”

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

What is eternal life? We should know this very well. The Lord came to the earth as a man in order to allow us to have eternal life, in order to make us capable of eternal life. Many people do not understand what eternal life is, what it is that the Lord wants us to be able to have. The Lord defines it in His high priestly prayer just before He was arrested to be crucified: “And this is eternal life: that they may know Thee, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou didst send.” To have eternal life is to know Christ.

But what is it to know Christ?

He says also in His high priestly prayer that “they have received the word.” The word that He received from His Father He faithfully transmitted to His apostles and disciples, and they received the word.

What is it to receive the word?

It means to do what He says! It means to live as He lived! It means to love the commandments as He loved them! It means to struggle for virtue! Receiving is not just believing. The devil believes! The devil knows more about Christ than we do. He knows the Scripture better than we know it. His intellect is far superior to ours. But he has not received the word because he does not want to follow it.

Many people, within the Church and outside of the Church, have not received the word. Yes, indeed, those in the Church too! Those tares, those weeds that grow up and at the end of the age will be gathered and made separate and burned, those people have not received the word. Receiving it is to obey. Receiving it is to know, and know intimately, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’ve just been teaching about the Creed in the past few Saturdays, and this passage, more than any other in the Scriptures, shows the utter equality of Jesus Christ with His Father. He says, “the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son might also glorify Thee: As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.” And then He goes on a little later and makes it very clear that He and the Father are One. He once said it in this way: “I and the Father are One.” He says, “Glorify Thou Me with Thine Own Self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”

This should call to mind the beginning of the Symbol of Faith: “begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, True God of True God; begotten, not made.” Our Lord was not made; our Lord proceeds from the Father eternally, and is Light of Light just as He is God and God the Father is God. And yet, with His glory which He had before the world, with all of His prerogatives and His magnificence, He obeyed His Father to come down, to be made a little lower than the angels, and to teach us – and most of the people that He taught did not want to hear; we hear this in another reading, with the Gergesene demoniac – and to die for us, and to make us capable of living.

In order to appropriate this eternal life, we must live as He has taught us, because otherwise we won’t know Him. People make great mistake when they define Christianity by things that they should do or not do, or membership, or the traditions they hold. Christianity is to be one as the Father and the Son are One.

Near the end of His prayer, He says, “Father, keep through Thine Own Name those whom Thou hast give Me, that they may be one, even as We are.” I was talking yesterday about how all dogma is moral. All of that which we believe about God has moral significance, it is not just facts that we should be able to recite. The Holy Trinity is the quintessential perfect example of love, and of unity, and of cooperation, and of humility, and of all of the virtues. And our Lord Jesus Christ came down to earth in order to make us capable of being one, even as He is One with His Father.

Can we imagine the immensity of this statement? We can only become one as His is One with His Father if we live with virtue, with purity. Only the pure in heart shall see God. The Lord has made us capable! Eternal life is not just that you are going to go to heaven or that you are not going to go to hell; eternal life is to be one with God! We’re just flesh, how can this be? No, we can never be in the Essence of God, but we will be sharing in all that He wishes to give.

And eternal life is joy, because the Lord says, “And now come I to Thee,” talking to His Father, “and these things I speak in the world, that they might have Me joy fulfilled in themselves.” Eternal life is joy, because it is perfect love, perfect obedience, perfect humility, perfect happiness. We’re so far from perfection. So much that goes on every day is so temporal, and will go away. But the Lord came so that we could have permanence. The only way to achieve this permanence is to enter into the life of virtue, to struggle to follow the Lord’s commandments.

This idea of unity – to be one with God – is the reason why we do such things as, as a Church, we fast together, we pray together, with the same kind of prayers all over the world. We have dogmas which it is imperative to believe — else we are not Christians — that are defined in our Symbol of Faith. And there are many other dogmas as well, that we must believe if we are to be one with God. For example, if we don’t forgive our brother, we will not be forgiven. That is a dogma as well. There are many, many dogmas, and all of them have moral significance. If we believe in the Trinity and if we dare to call God our Father, then we had best be His sons and daughters in how we live!

Our Lord Jesus Christ could dare to call God His Father, because He is perfect, and He has said, be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. He has commanded us to become perfect. Nothing that the Lord said was false. Nothing was hyperbole. Perfection is possible for us. If He said and commanded it, then certainly it is possible. He will provide us with the ability. We must struggle in the path of virtue, and then we’ll know Him. Eternal life is to know God.

I remember one time a person was talking to me who had fallen into serious sin, of fornication, and she was saying, “Well, I know it’s wrong, but he just doesn’t understand and we’re going to be married in a year or two, and then God will forgive us.” And then, in another conversation on the same day, we were talking about the end times – I think some book by Hal Lindsey had just come out; and she said: “Well, I’m not worried about becoming deluded or anything, because it says that if anyone says ‘He is there,’ or ‘He is there,’ it’s not the Christ. The Lord is going to come like a lightning flash, it’s going to be instantaneous, and so if anybody is reporting that ‘Here is Christ, there is Christ,’ as the days go by, that obviously can’t be Christ. I won’t be deluded.” And I remember thinking, “How foolish you are. Perhaps the Lord will allow you to be preserved, but delusion can come upon all of us if we don’t live a life of virtue.”

Eternal life is not just being able to know the dogmas. Eternal life is following the dogmas, so that we can have intimate knowledge of and participation with God, and His Grace. Eternal life is to know God intimately. You likely won’t gain eternal life on your deathbed by saying you’re sorry! It is possible for that to happen, but it is rare, very rare. And the reason it is rare is because at the time of death, a person who has not lived virtuously and struggled will be so taken up with the stuff of dying and the terror of it all that they won’t be able to turn to God! It isn’t that God would not receive them; it’s that they can’t turn to Him!

We read today, “The sheep follow Me because they know My voice.” The sheep know the voice of the shepherd because they are around the shepherd, and they listen to the shepherd, and when the shepherd speaks to them, they know that the shepherd is leading them to better pasture, to clear water, to good grass. They know by experience that every time the shepherd speaks, it is for their benefit – so they know his voice very well. But that’s from following the shepherd. If they don’t follow him, then they could get confused, they could hear another voice, and think it’s the shepherd, because they haven’t heard his voice in such a long time. They could be confused.

So this girl who thought that she could be able to discern things in the end was sadly mistaken. May the Lord preserve her and give her salvation, but she was in danger, because we can become deluded if we don’t follow the Lord in virtue every day. The idea that the Lord will forgive me for this sin later – later may not come for you! Salvation is the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God in those who have become pure is joy, but those who have not purified themselves – or shall I say (I always want to be careful to be clear here, so people do not misunderstand), those who attempt, those who desire, those who struggle to purify themselves – they, when they see God, will be glad.

I didn’t say those who have become pure. The Lord will make you pure, in His time, according to His will. For the most part, the reason why we who desire to no longer sin keep falling into sin is so that we don’t fall into the greatest of sins, pride and vainglory, which will cast us down to the abyss as surely as Satan was cast down by his pride. That’s why we often just continue in our sins: because of our pride.

Eternal life is the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God can only be gained by following the example Jesus Christ gave to us, and the example of all the saints who followed after Him. And then eternal life is unity, unity with God. What an amazing thing! Flesh, which would burn in the Fire of Divinity, will instead by glad and be full of joy.

Follow the Lord, brothers and sisters, in everything you do. Listen carefully for His voice. You’ll hear it in everything that happens! There is nothing that occurs in your life that the Lord does not either allow or cause. Everything is in His Providence, and everything according to His will is for your benefit. But you must learn to see His will, and His will is found by listening to His voice, and His voice is understood by following Him. To some, this might seem to be a circular argument, but not to a Christian. You follow the voice of the Lord, and He will with His Grace enlighten you and illuminate you, so that you cannot be deluded, so that you’ll know Him in all things.

Don’t be like those people of the Gergesenes. We like to think that we’re not like those people. We’re not swine-herders; we wouldn’t disobey the Lord’s Law that terribly, right? Keeping swine was against the Law of Moses. Eating swine, keeping them, touching them was against the Law of Moses. And these were Jews that were keeping swine. Well, just as it is today, people flock to anything that is sinful. So they loved their swine. And when the Lord delivered one of their members from a terrible affliction which had been visited upon this man because of their sins, they lost their source of income because the swine went and were drowned. So what do they do? They go to the Lord and they ask Him to leave. They didn’t hear His voice, they didn’t see Him as the shepherd, they saw Him as a frightening person who has incredible power and was ruining their business!

Don’t think you’re not like these swine-herders, because when we judge our brother, this is much worse than keeping swine. When we allow ourselves lustful thoughts, when we are angry, this is much worse than keeping swine. And many times, when we ask the Lord to depart from us – yes, we ask Him to depart from us – this is much worse than what these people did, because should live within us as Christians. How do we ask Him to depart from us? By not receiving His word, by not wanting to follow to the letter what He has told us to do.

Let’s not be like these Gergesene swine-herders. Let’s instead be like the saints. Let’s be like the sheep, the rational sheep. Let’s follow the Lord’s voice. Let’s equate what we believe with what we should do. St. James says, you show me a man’s faith, and I’ll show you his works. Faith without works is dead. Let our faith be alive, living, so that we will have joy, so that we will know the Lord intimately.

May God bless you and help you.

Priest Seraphim Holland

This, and other Orthodox materials are available from:


St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Mailing Address

2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

This and other sermons may be found at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons



Visit of sisters of Mercy from Minsk, Belarus to St Nicholas

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Our parish hosted the sisters from St Elizabeth Convent, Minsk, Belarus, Friday July 11 – Sunday July 13. The following is a video we took after the Liturgy on Sunday.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkPMMK-K-dk




4th Sunday after Pentecost 2008, How we think matters, Romans 6:18-23

Monday, July 14th, 2008

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Freedom and Slavery
Romans 6:18-23, Matthew 8:5-13
2002
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4th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
How we think matters
Romans 6:18-23
2008

Romans 6:18-23Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.



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My yoke is easy / ??? ??? ?????

Friday, July 11th, 2008

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:30)

St. Theophan the Recluse. Thoughts for every day of the year
(Translation from the Russian below)

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” O how divine, how loving, how sweet is Thy voice! Let us all follow in the footsteps of the Lord who calls us! But first, we must come to realize that which is very difficult to realize – namely, that we have many sins, and that those sins are very great. This feeling gives birth to the need to find relief for one’s self. Our faith then shows us that our only refuge is the Lord and Savior, and our steps direct themsleves toward Him. The soul which desires to be freed from sin knows to say to the Lord, “take from me this heavy burden of sin, and I will take up your easy yoke.” And thus it happens: the Lord forgives sins, and the soul begins to walk in His commandments. The commandments are a yoke, but sins are also a burden. But as it turns out, the soul learns that the yoke of the commandments is as light as a feather, while the burden of sins is as heavy as a mountain. Let us not fear, therefore, to willingly take on the Lord’s easy yoke and His light burden! In this way – and in this way only – we may find rest for our souls.

“??????? ?? ??? ??? ???????????? ? ????????????, ? ? ??????? ???; ???????? ??? ??? ?? ???? ? ????????? ?? ????, ??? ? ?????? ? ?????? ???????, ? ??????? ????? ????? ?????; ??? ??? ??? ?????, ? ????? ??? ?????.” (?? 11,30)

????????? ?????? ?????????. ????? ?? ?????? ???? ????

(days.pravoslavie.ru)

(???. 11, 13-24; ??. 11, 27-30). “??????? ?? ???, ??? ???????????? ? ????????????, ? ? ??????? ???”. ?, ?????????????, ? ?????????, ? ??????????? ?????? ?????! ???????? ?? ??? ????? ???????? ??? ???????! ?? ??????? ???? ??????????????, ??? ??? ?????? ? ?????? ??????????????, ?? ????, ??? ? ??? ?????? ?????, ? ????? ??? ?????. ?? ????? ??????? ??????? ??????????? ?????? ???? ??????????. ???? ?????? ????? ??? ???????????? ????????? ? ??????? ?????????, ? ???? ???? ???? ????? ?????????? ? ????. ????, ??????????? ?????????? ?? ??????, ?????, ??? ??????? ???????: “?????? ????? ?? ???? ??????, ?????????, ? ? ?????? ??? ???? ??????”. ? ?????? ???: ??????? ??????? ?????, ? ???? ???????? ?????? ? ????????? ???. ? ???????? – ???, ? ????? – ?????. ?? ?????? ?? ? ??????, ???? ???????, ??? ??? ????????? ?????, ??? ????, ? ????? ?????? ??????, ??? ????. ?? ??????? ?? ?????? ??????? ??? ???????? ?????? ? ????? ??? ??????! ??? ??????, ? ?? ?????, ????? ??????? ????? ????? ?????.

Nuns from Belarus to speak at St Nicholas this Sunday

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Sisters Olga and Natalia, two nuns from the Orthodox Monastery of St. Elizabeth in Minsk, Belarus, will speak at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, on Saturday July 29 , after Divine Liturgy (about 11 AM).

The monastery is situated on the premises of a state-supported psychiatric hospital that treats about 12,000 patients a year. The sisters offer spiritual help to the mentally disabled adults and children, alcoholics, drug addicts and other disadvantaged people. The monastery has also acquired a parcel of land where about 60 people — previously homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts, or prisoners — live and work. The sisters try to help them start a new life. Work has begun on the organization of an orphanage.

On the premises of the monastery are a variety of workshops producing religious items such as hand-painted and printed icons, ceramics, embroidery, beeswax candles, vestments, woodwork, and CDs.

The sisters will speak and show a film about their life and service and accept donations for their charitable work and for the further construction of the monastery.

The sisters should be arriving Friday, and celebrate the services for the Apostles Peter and Paul with us (Friday 6:30 PM, Sat liturgy 9:00 AM) and possibly vigil on Saturday.

Call 972 529-2754 for more information.

The icon was painted at St. Elizabeth’s of Soviet-era martyr Pavlin, Bishop of Mogilev (1879-1937)



4th Sun after Pentecost, Freedom and Slavery, Romans 6:18-23, Matthew 8:5-13

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008


4th Sunday after Pentecost, 2002

Freedom and Slavery

NOTE:

This coming Sunday, June 30/July 13th, 2008) is the 4th Sunday after Pentecost

See the bottom of this post for links to other homilies for this day


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

Freedom. The epistle today mentions freedom. Freedom is a favorite word in our society. So few know what freedom is. The Apostle says, “Being then made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.” Then he says, “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh.” He is speaking of an exalted topic that only can be understood with spiritual knowledge, and the only way to obtain this knowledge is by spiritual struggle. Our weak will, desiring to do works of righteousness, being joined to the Powerful Will, to the Everlasting Will of God to make us capable of doing those things which are righteous.

He’s going to give us a way of thinking, sort-of a mnemonic device that you should take to heart and use because it is a very useful device. He says, “as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants unto righteousness, unto holiness.” In other words, just as before you were enslaved to various sins, now consider yourself a slave to righteousness. Just as before – or even, God forgive us, even now perhaps – you have been a slave to a particular way of thinking or doing something, think of yourself now as being required to do works of righteousness, just as if you had a taskmaster behind you ordering you to do your work.

Now, he is speaking in the manner of men because of our infirmity.

Actually, the only way to understand how the heart is compelled to do righteousness is to compel yourself. Then you will understand how sweet the Lord is, how beautiful His doctrines are, and how there is nothing more perfect, and more holy, and more fulfilling than to follow God’s law.

So he says, “for when ye were servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” In other words, you didn’t do righteousness, you did sin, and you couldn’t stop yourself. But what Jesus Christ offers us is the power to become holy! Now He offers us that we would become, willingly, His servants. Now, at the end of the age, those who have been good servants He will call friends, no longer servants. But we, in the here and now with all of our sins and all of our forgetfulness and our intransigence, should consider ourselves to be servants – servants of a Benevolent Master, not having a choice whether we should do righteousness or not. Our Lord commands it so we do it.

“What fruit did we have in these things,” the Apostle asks, “wherein ye are now ashamed?” The things that were unrighteous only gave us pleasure for a season, and then we were unhappy. The end of these things is death. He is giving us another idea here, something we should call to mind often. He is saying, “The end of these things is death.”

In order to be able to think such a thought, we must be able to look towards the future. We must be able to see our actions not in the moment, but after the moment, perhaps even far after the moment. If we think of how unhappy we will be if we commit a sin, we will not commit many sins.

Think of your unhappiness after you have fallen into something that shames you. Think about your unhappiness about such a thing before you sin, and then you won’t sin. The end of such things is death. We know this!

We must learn to live for the future, not to live in the here and now, because after all, aren’t we supposed to be setting our eyes upon the heavenly Jerusalem? Isn’t that supposed to be our goal, our purpose: to become righteous so that we can be in the presence of God and not only not be ashamed, but be happy; to be completely free?

Imagine being completely free. Not freedom as the world defines it, to do what one chooses, choosing things that actually cause enslavement, but to be completely able to be righteous, to not be touched by any sin, to not have any wavering in our heart towards evil.

The Church thinks this is very important because in every service we say, “deliver us from tribulation, wrath, and necessity.” That necessity is enslavement to unrighteousness. People make excuses for their enslavements all the time. “Well, I smoke because it’s a bad habit I picked up and I haven’t been able to break it.” “I’m always so tired, so I oversleep.“ “You know, with all of the impure things all about, I just have so much trouble having pure thoughts.” These are all excuses. When you say such things, or even think such things, then you are saying, “I’m a slave to unrighteousness. My master is the evil one.”

How can we say such things? We are slaves to righteousness. Our Master is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lived the life that He requires us to live. And He made us capable of living such a life. So we must consider ourselves slaves to Him. So when it comes time that there is a temptation for you, you have to say, “I can’t do that, I’m a slave. I don’t deserve to do that. I don’t have any right to do that. My Lord has told me to do the other thing. I’m a slave. I don’t have a right. I only have a right to do righteousness.” If you think in such terms, you will be saved from many, many sins.

Let freedom be that which is in your heart, brothers and sisters, which allows you to always choose correctly, and not to be forced to do that which is unrighteous. That’s the freedom God offers. It’s not the freedom that society offers. Their definition of freedom is that you can indulge in pleasures as you wish. But pleasures have a price. Indeed, even good pleasures have a price. Even the happiness that we will have with God has its price—our Lord paid that price. We’ve been bought with a price. So since we’ve been bought with a price, we’re no longer our own. We’re not owned by the devil, nor do we own ourselves – our Lord is our Master, so we must do as He tells us to do. And it just so happens that everything He tells us to do – every single thing – is for our welfare, so that we would become completely free.

All of us have things in our life that we wish we could change. Don’t you hate those things? Don’t just despise that you fall into something again and again? You don’t want to, and yet you do? Well, start thinking of yourself as a slave to righteousness, and then act as a slave would act when considering doing something. You have no right to commit that sin. You have no right to become angry at someone, because your Lord said that you cannot do that. You have no right to have a lustful thought, because your Lord said, “He who looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart.” And adultery is forbidden. You have no right!

You do have a right to do works of righteousness, and your Lord has given you a blanket blessing to do righteousness in whatever you do. You need not ask Him for permission to do righteousness. But He will check with you; He will require of you works of righteousness. But He allows you to choose, so that you can learn what true freedom really is. Freedom is always to make choices for righteousness – that is what freedom is. Freedom is to have no regrets, no unhappiness, to be complete, whole, lacking nothing.

What a wonderful thing freedom is! And what a terrible thing that this word has been hijacked in our society, to mean something it isn’t, to mean slavery and not freedom. You’ve been made free from sin by your baptism. The Lord has bought you with a price, now we’d best act like we’ve been bought with a price. And he says, “being made free from sin” – that is, being made capable of being free from sin. We’re capable of it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, including the evil one in your ear. You’re capable of being free from sin because the Lord made you such. The Lord bought you with a price. And our Lord is a good trader; He doesn’t make foolish purchases. You’ve been bought with a price, so you’re capable of being free from sin. But you must give your will to the Lord, and give your struggles to the Lord, in order to realize this perfect freedom. Being made free from sin and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end – everlasting life!

So the Apostle teaches us, as it were, two ways of thinking, two mnemonic devices. One is that when you are presented with the possibility of sin or of righteousness, you say “I am a slave to righteousness. I have no right to commit that sin. I’ve been bought with a price. I’ve been made free as regarding sin. There is nothing compelling me to sin as long as I beg the Lord to help me.” And the other is that when you are presented with the possibility of sin, you think that the end of such things is death. “And if I endure but for a little while, I will have fruit unto holiness, and eternal life.

Every sin, every decision in your life, every fork in the road, you should be thinking these things. You have no right to sin. The Lord has told you. You don’t have a right to do it. He has told you that you must do righteousness. You must follow Him. You must desire to be righteous. And He will help you. But you are not a slave any more – not of unrighteousness. So don’t think of yourself as such. And if you fall into unrighteousness, then beg the Lord to forgive you, beg Him to strengthen your will, beg Him to bring to your mind your sadness in this moment so that in the next moment you will recall it and you won’t fall into sin.

This can only be understood by experience. Experience is the great teacher of the soul. The Lord, bit by bit, as we are capable, gives us enlightenment. But He only enlightens those who are struggling, only those who are trying, only those who know their position. And that is that they are slaves of Him. Now, He is a benevolent Master, and He doesn’t require of us anything, but we had best think that we are required! As soon as we turn towards righteousness even a little, He is there to help us. Let us turn to Him all the time, so that He will help us.

We have an example of experience in the Gospel. When I was thinking about the Epistle and the Gospel today, I thought I wanted to talk about both of them. Well, I can’t do that exactly, but I want to say something about Cornelius. A Centurion, he was a Roman. He was officially of a pagan religion. He couldn’t go into the synagogue. He couldn’t say that he was a Jew. But he had Jewish sacred writings, and he read them, and he loved the Jewish nation, and although he was an occupying soldier, the Jews loved him because he loved them. So when Jesus comes into Capernaum, Cornelius meets Him and says, “my servant lies at home sick of the palsy, paralyzed.” And Jesus says, “I’ll come and I’ll heal him.”

But Cornelius is a man with experience. Cornelius is a man who knows something about righteousness. He knows something about authority. He says, “I’m not worthy that you come under my roof,” partially because he is a pagan, and a Jew is not to go into a pagan’s household – it defiles him. “Only speak the word, and my servant shall be healed, for I am a man under authority, and I have soldiers under me. And I say to this soldier, ‘go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘do this,’ and he does it.” And the inference is, “I know how to do what I’m told, too.”

He was a righteous man – so righteous that the Lord said that He had not found so great faith, not in all of Israel. Now that must have made the Pharisees quite angry, don’t you think? Pointing to an occupying soldier, the hated enemy, of the army that they hoped the Messiah would annihilate, and have their blood flow in the streets, and say, “This man is more righteous than all of you put together.” Why was he righteous? Why did he have such faith? Because he knew about obedience. He expected those under him to be obedient because he was obedient to those over him. So let us know something about obedience, brothers and sisters; let us know something about authority. Let us realize that we are under the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Priest Seraphim Holland

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas.

Scripture for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 6:18-23 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 8:5-13 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.



Homilies on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost

4th Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)

Freedom and Slavery
Romans 6:18-23, Matthew 8:5-13
2002
Also in Format: Adobe PDF or RTF or Word DOC

4th Sunday after Pentecost (Word DOC format)

2003

4th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

2004

4th week after Pentecost – Tuesday – Matthew 11:16-20

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

4th Week After Pentecost – Tuesday

Matthew 11:16-20 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. 20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

Who is who?

“This generation” is the Jews who were not accepting Jesus’ preaching and way of life. They found excuses (with excuses in sins) to not follow the righteous way of life. They are also referred to as the “fellows” who would not listen to the rebuke of the “children sitting in the markets” (who are St John the Baptist and Jesus, and, by extension all righteous).

The righteous way of life “speaks” to the unrighteous, whether it be from St John or Jesus, or our poor efforts. They are hearing from their own conscience.

To make excuse with excuses in sins”

The unrighteous judged the Baptist, because his way of life was too severe for them. He is indicated as one who “mourned”. His dedication to righteousness was evident by the way he lived – and their judgment of him was a classic example of the judgment that people heap on others who are righteous because they are not righteous which the Lord described elsewhere: “Is thine eye evil because I am good?” (Mat 20:15) They were chastened by his way of life – it exposed the hypocrisy of their self-indulgence. Rather than repent, they used judgment of St John, with a fabricated charge (having a devil) to mollify their conscience.

They also judged Jesus, whose way of life did not appear to be as severe as St John’s, so He is indicated as one who has “piped”. This does not mean that Jesus way of life was frivolous merrymaking, but rather, that in the eyes of the Jews, his way of life was not as severe and physically self-mortifying as the Baptist’s. Amazingly, they considered Jesus to be guilty of their sins, which they did not recognize in themselves (gluttony and drunkenness).

The self-indulgent sinner will be inherently judgmental of others, and very often, judges another for the very sins they commit. Feeling superior to others keeps us from seeing our own sins. Their prejudice against publicans and “sinners” made it easier to take the focus off themselves. Seeing someone who epitomized the love of God by loving all men cut them to the quick and challenged their prejudices.

In essence, both righteous men were judged for the same reasons – their conduct pricked the conscience of the Jews, and an unrepentant person does not want to be reminded of his sins, so he manufactures reasons to reject the person who pricks his conscience.

“But Wisdom is justified of her children”

Wisdom is another title Christ uses for Himself. The OT uses this title extensively also. The children of Wisdom are those who follow His way of life.

Justified is a word that encompasses righteousness. We are justified when we become righteous. Jesus is saying that He, Wisdom, will have righteous children – Christians.

We have the wrong idea of “justice” in our culture, which thinks of it as something that is imposed as a punishment on someone who has done wrong, or when something is given to someone to correct a wrong. This is not justice, but fallen human nature looking out for its own interests. Justice does not involve revenge or punishment. It is to live in a certain way – the way which Wisdom has taught us.



3rd Sun after Pentecost – 2008. The Light of the Body is the Eye, and other homilies

Monday, July 7th, 2008

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All homilies for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost:

3rd Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)
2000
Also in Format: Word DOC

3rd Sunday after Pentecost (RTF format)
2002
Also in Format: Word DOC

3rd Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
2004

3rd Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
The light of the body is the eye.
Matthew 6:22-33
2008

Matthew 6:22-33 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you



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Independence Day

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (U.S. Declaration of Independence)

Like all human governments, ours is an institution of this world, established as a matter of expediency “in the course of human events.” And yet there is much that we have to be thankful for in this nation. Our nation acknowledges fundamental human rights, granted by God, which have often been denied in the course of history. We have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to worship as we wish — freedoms which many Orthodox Christians have not had during the Church’s 2000-year history.

Let us be thankful for this gift, and let us show our gratitude to God by using it properly. How do we properly use our life, our liberty, our right to pursue happiness? By pursuing true life, true liberty, and true happiness. Our Lord said, Happy are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the peacemakers, the merciful, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:1-12). Let us use the freedom given us, imitate the life of our Lord, and thus attain to the fullness of life, liberty, and happiness!

There is nothing hidden / ??? ?????? ????????????

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

St. Theophan the Recluse. Thoughts for every day of the year

Translated from the Russian text below. Corrections are welcome.

(Rom 8:22-27; Mt 10:23-31). “There is nothing hidden, that shall not be revealed; nothing secret, that shall not be made known”. It follows that no matter how much we hide our sins now, it will be of no use in the end. The time will come — and is it far away? — when everything will be made known. So what should we do? There is no need to hide anything. If you have sinned, go and disclose your sin to your spiritual father. When you receive absolution, the sin vanishes, as if it never existed. After that, nothing will ever be revealed or disclosed. But if you hide your sin and don’t repent, then you are storing it up within yourself, so that it may be revealed as your accuser in due time. God has revealed all of this to us in advance, so that we may even now eliminate the accusation against us sinners at His righteous and fearful judgment.

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