Archive for August, 2010

Dormition Troparion, Kontakion & Exapostilarion, sung at St Nicholas.

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I forgot about this one. We are still in the festal period, so have a listen.

LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtFHdVdHotE

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Parable Of The Wedding Feast It Is Always About Morality. 14th Sunday. Audio Homily.

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

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More homilies on the Parable of the Wedding Feast are HERE

The parable about the wedding feast has many layers of complex theology, and all of it is important, but as in any parable, there is something that is the most important. This is a parable about how to live the (only) way that leads to eternal life.

Matthew 22:1-14 1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.


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Feasts of the Theotokos – Dormition Explanation of the Dormition troparion.

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Feasts of the Theotokos – Dormition
Explanation of the Dormition troparion
2009

 

In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity; /

in thy dormition  thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. /

Thou wast translated unto life,  /

since thou art the Mother of Life, /

and by thine intercessions doest thou deliver our souls from death.

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

We can learn almost everything that we need to know from listening and praying in the services.

 

The Dormition troparion, “In giving birth Thou did preserve Thy virginity,” proclaims our belief, that the  Theotokos was a virgin before birth, during birth and after birth. And if you want to have this explained, then you do not understand. It is a mystery that we cannot understand, but the Church has been unanimous about this for well over a millennium, almost two millennia.

But of course we always look at the deeper meaning of things. Virginity is not just to not have intercourse with a man. Virginity is purity, it is holiness, and the Theotokos, above all human mortals that were born, preserved Her holiness and Her purity.

“In Thy dormition Thou did not forsake the world, 0 Theotokos.”

 

Dormition means “Falling asleep”. We believe and our services proclaim over and over again, that the Theotokos, being born of Adam, being of human stuff, died and was buried. And we know then that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to take Her soul with Her body to Heaven.

 
But She did die, because the services proclaimed very poetically at one point last night, that, if the Lord Jesus Christ must have gone to the Cross and died, why wouldn’t also the Theotokos also die?

So, “In Thy dormition Thou did not forsake the world, 0 Theotokos.” This also proclaims our belief not only about the Theotokos but about all the saints, about the Resurrection. She died but she has not forsaken us.

 

In this She is not unique. The saints have not forsaken us either. She is par excellence, the intercessor for the Church, but only one of many intercessors for the Church because God is the God of the living, not of the dead. So we proclaim that in Her dormition She has not forsaken us because She is not dead. And we say this emphatically.

“Thou was translated unto life, since Thou art the Mother of Life.”

 

I find it interesting in the service how it is said of her that she was “translated”, many times, but the mystery of Her being translated bodily by our Lord is sort of hinted at but not said explicitly. And I think this is because, for the mysteries of the Church, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Those who have eyes to see, let them see.” Those who do not really care about holy things will not understand this.

But those who love holy things, love the things of God, will treasure the Mother of God, Her Ever Virginity, Her holiness, Her special treatment by Her Son in which She alone, of all mortals, after Her death was escorted into the Heavenly Mansions, body and soul, by Her Savior and Her Son.

The services over and over speak about how this must be so, that She would be translated into life. She is the Mother of Life. God was within Her womb. We call Her “Platytera”  - More spacious than the Heavens. And we cannot understand this. And yet we speak of it and meditate about it in our services over and over again because it’s so magnificent, so wonderful, so terrible, that a human being, with human failings, with a need of a savior, would bear the very Savior that She and all of the human race needed. This is an amazing thing. Only those who have become holy can really understand it.

 

My namesake, Seraphim of Sarov, would pray before an icon of the Mother of God on his knees all the time. He had a great love for the Mother of God. The Mother of God visited him. He understood Her because they were of the same kind. They were holy. They had preserved their virginity, not the bodily virginity, but the spiritual virginity.

 

Alas, we must say that many times we are not preserving our virginity. Of course, with God’s help we can always regain it.

“Thou was translated unto life, since Thou art the Mother of Life, and by Thine intercessions Thou did save our souls from death.”

We believe that the Theotokos prays for us. Her intercessions to Her Savior are beneficial to us. We have a balanced view of the Mother of God.

Recently someone was asking me about differences in the services. All of the services about the Theotokos, are high feasts, highly ranked but not as highly ranked as Feasts of the Lord.

 

There are differences in Feasts of the Lord. Feasts of the Lord supersede everything. Only Feasts of the Lord have an entrance On Feasts of the Lord, all fasting is omitted on that day, with the exception of Transfiguration, but that’s during a fast. On Feasts of a Theotokos that fall on a fasting day, we can have fish, wine and oil. but we still fast from meat, cheese and eggs. This is because Her feast is of a lower rank because She is of a lower rank than God, and also highest rank of all humans. We have a balanced view of Her.

We believe  … Sometimes when I say “believe,” I remember that our society has a very poor definition of “belief.” For them, “belief” means, “I’m pretty sure this is the case.” For us, “belief” is, “We know and confess that this is true.”

 

We believe that the Mother of God prays for us, and by Her intercessions we are saved. She hears what we need. She brings our needs before Her Son. As the saints do. As the angels do. As our Guardian Angel does. But we are especially comforted that the Mother of our Lord would bring our petitions before Her Son, and we have great confidence in Her petitions, although not in our own.

The entire Dormition troparion teaches, in a nutshell, our understanding of the Theotokos. You can do this, by the way, with almost any troparion. You can see that the troparion, together with the kontakion, gives a summation of the theology of the feast.

 

She preserved Her virginity because She was pure and holy and loved God above all things. It is impossible to imagine that someone who had borne God would live a mundane life afterwards, would just be just a Jewish village woman having children and going to the market place to catch up on the latest gossip, living just a regular life. How can this be? Our services continually speak of how She was so changed that she no longer lived a mundane life.

 
Now, She was still a human being, completely human, not anything greater than human, just human. She was just like us, with failings, with misunderstandings. The Gospel shows that She did not completely understand everything all at once. But what caused Her to eventually have such profound understanding with Her Son is that She treasured everything in Her heart. So should we. We should be more like Her. We should emulate Her. We know that She preserved Her virginity. So should we.

We have confidence in the Resurrection. So we know that Her intercessions are heard by our Savior and help to save us.

May God, through the prayers of the Theotokos, save us, Amen.

 

Transcribed by the handmaiden Helen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.    

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·         Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

·         Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net

·         Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_2009-08-28+dormition+explanation-of-the-dormition-troparion.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_2009-08-28+dormition+explanation-of-the-dormition-troparion.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_2009-08-28+dormition+explanation-of-the-dormition-troparion.mp3

 

http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

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Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 

 

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Short talk on the Transfiguration

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

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We have been having short talks after Liturgy recently. The homily is after the Gospel, where it belongs, and after liturgy, I try to talk about something practical (usually), trying to keep it as short as possible.

I have talked about confession, oil, bows and prostrations, etc. Sometimes I cannot help myself and must talk about theological topic.

We just celebrated the Transfiguration, and as is usual for any "extra" services, most people were not in attendance. This is a very important feast, and I think the people should be taught about it at least every year, so I gave a short talk about the Transfiguration (or combination talk and homily) yesterday.

I am trying to get organized and have a handout for the talks. The way my brain works is just to scribble stuff down Sunday morning and go with it, but I am trying to mend my ways. Sunday, there was a handout:


Transfiguration. Aug 6/19

 

  1. The story, summarized.
  2. What does this teach us about Jesus Christ?
  3. What does this teach us about ourselves?
  4. Why did it occur when it did?
  5. Why were Moses and Elias present?
  6. What other event in our Lord's life has obvious similarities to the Transfiguration?
  7. Blessing of fruit, especially grapes.
  8. OT Scripture for the Feast
  9. The most important “take home message” scripture for the feast.

 

Troparion  Tone 7

 

Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, / Who didst show Thy glory unto Thy disciples as far as they could bear it. / May Thine ever-existing light / shine forth also upon us sinners / through the prayers of the Theotokos. // O Bestower of light, glory be to Thee!

 

Kontakion Tone 7


On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, / and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could bear it, O Christ God; / that when they would see Thee crucified, / they would comprehend that Thy suffering was voluntary, / and proclaim to the world that Thou art of a truth //
the Effulgence of the Father.

 

2 Peter 1:16-17 16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

 

2Pe 1:4  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

 

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·        Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·        Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·        Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

·        Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net

·        Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/

 

This handout accompanies a short talk given after liturgy concerning the Transfiguration.

 

Audio: http://www.orthodox.net/catechism//feasts-of-the-lord_2010-08-23+transfiguration+after-liturgy-short-talk.mp3

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 

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Parable of the Vineyard. We must bear fruit. Audio Homily 2010.

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

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SYNOPSIS: All parables have multiple meanings. Many, sucb as the one about the vineyard, had an immediate meaning intended for the original audience, and also contain instruction for all Christians. The immediate meaning and symbolism of the parable is discussed, then the most important "take home" point: we must bear fruit.

More homilies on the Parable of the Vineyard are HERE

Matthew 21:33-42 33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?


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Parable of the Evil Husbandmen in the Vineyard 13th Sunday after Pentecost Mat 21:33-44. Text Homily.

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Parable of the Evil Husbandmen in the Vineyard

13th Sunday after Pentecost

Mat 21:33-44

 


More homilies on this topic are here:

www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#13th_Sunday_of_Pentecost


 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. [1]

 

Today is the 13th Sunday after Pentecost.  We hear the parable of the vineyard on this day.  It is also the Church New Year, being September 1.  Also on this day we commemorate St. Symeon the Stylite and his mother, Martha, so we have many feasts today.

 

All Scripture helps us to learn about God.  It gives us promises.  It teaches us how to live.  It teaches us how not to live by giving us the opposite example.  It also gives us a pattern and a role for living. 

 

Today, in this parable about the vineyard, we can see all these things.  On the surface, there is a strong rebuke of the Jews, because of their rejection of the Messiah.  Some of the Jews were the ones, of course, that were the husbandmen who killed the Householder's servants and even His son.  The Jews understood this when He rebuked them.  Have no doubt about it.  This was one of the things that led them to plot to kill Him. 

 

We not only see the negative example of the Jews, but also a pattern for how to live.  If you look at how carefully God created the vineyard, and His continual entreating of the householders and what he required of them, you can see that this is, in microcosm, the Christian life. And you can see how to live and how not to live.  And then, with a little explanation, with an understanding of the mind of the Church of what fruits are and what some of the symbolism is, you can see how this parable doesn't just apply to  the wicked Jews who killed the Savior.  It applies to us, who are wicked if we do not do the work that we are called to do in the vineyard. 

 

Now, there's also a marvelous connection between this Gospel and the Gospel we say for St. Symeon who is a venerable Father [2].  We say this Gospel where at the end it says,

 

"My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." [3]

 

There is a connection between these words, "Take My yoke upon you" and what God told the householders to do.  It's quite simple.  God gave us everything we need for our salvation.  It is natural labor.  Not natural according to the natural man, but natural according to the heavenly man, which is who we are supposed to be becoming. 

 

Let's see a little bit about this parable – it is rich in symbolism – and then see how it applies to us. 

 

"There was a certain householder which planted a vineyard and hedged it round about and digged a wine press in it and built a tower and let it out to husbandmen and went into a far country." [4]  

 

If you read from the Fathers you can see what these things mean.  The Church has understood them for many, many hundreds of years now.  The Householder, of course, is Jesus Christ.  The vineyard is the Jewish people, and by extension, the New Israel -Christians, the Christian Church.  Blessed Theophylact says that everything described is spiritual.  He created a vineyard with everything necessary for our sustenance and for our salvation.  A vineyard bears sweet and juicy grapes that are not only tasty for the palate, but are good for the body and, by extension, this vineyard is good for the soul. 

 

There is a hedge round about the vineyard.  What does a hedge do?  It protects from marauders, from thieves and from wild animals.  It keeps that which is undesirable, and even evil, out.  The vineyard is the Church.  And the hedge that goes round the Church is just like the sides of a boat, which is another image of the Church – the Ark. This is the Law, the Law of God.  This is our tradition.  Our Holy Tradition: our fasting, our services, which are so full of meaning and beauty, our way of thinking, confession, the grace of baptism – all of these things and many more are the hedge that goes round about the Church. 

 

The winepress is the altar.  Sacrifices are offered on this altar.  The Jews would have thought of the sacrifices of bullocks, but we think of the sacrifice that the God-Man has given to us and of the Body and Blood of Christ offered on this altar.  And the tower within the hedge is the temple. It is high, to be seen by all, and to be a light for all.  And the temple, or course, must be within the hedge because the True Faith is only within the Church.  And it is hedged round about keeping away heresy and unclear ways of thinking and acting, no matter what they are. 

 

There are two meanings regarding the husbandmen.  First of all, the Jewish teachers were the first husbandmen all throughout the ages.  And there were good husbandmen, but there were a remarkable amount of bad ones.  Later, Christian bishops, priests, deacons and indeed, all of us, because we are a holy priesthood, a holy nation, and peculiar people, so says the Apostle Peter. [5]  We are like husbandmen now because if you see, later in the parable, the vineyard was taken away from the first husbandmen.  They were not worthy of it.  And it was given to other husbandmen, that is the universal Church, through the calling of the Gentiles. Now we are of that vine and of that body, if we choose to live according to the way God has taught us.

 

Now, God, the householder, went into a far country.  What does this mean?  It means God's long-suffering for us.  It means that He is slow to judge us and quick to hear our repentance.  He is not slack concerning our salvation, but He is patient with us, [6]  however, when a person goes on a long journey, they return from that journey eventually.  And when He returns that will be the end of the age.  That will be the judgement.  So God is patient.  And God might seem, occasionally, because of this patience, to be far away from us.  "He doesn't see", so we sometimes lie to ourselves.  Indeed, He sees all, and He is patient.  But there will come a time of reckoning.

 

So we must not be slack concerning what we have been told to do just because He is not on top of us as a taskmaster with a whip, telling us every moment what to do.  We must indeed be mature in Christ and live according to the Gospel without compulsion.  Remember some of the other things that are in the Gospels.  The prodigal son went into a far country and came back.  In that case the country means something different.  Remember the foolish virgins.  Their master went away and He was late, so they thought, in coming and five of them let their oil go out.  They did not have works of mercy and of devoutness and of desire and they were left out when the Bridegroom came to the great feast.

 

Be careful, brothers and sisters.  Life has a sort of narcotic quality to it.  We're so busy with living.  We're so busy with the things we need to do (or think we need to do). We forget so often, God is merciful and allows us time. Time to become like Him.  Time to repent of our sins.  Time to grow in knowledge of Him.  Time to grow in perfection. This is the purpose of our life.  Not time to acquire anything, or for pleasures, or for entertainment, or all the other things that are craved in our industrial society.  We must watch.  Jesus said it to us.  He said to His apostles and to us, "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour the Lord shall come." [7] 

 

So, the Master of the house is in a far country.  But He still sees all.  And He is patient.  And that patience should spur us to action knowing that we have a little bit of time to work out our salvation.  It should make us zealous.

 

Let us think for a minute of this image of the vineyard.  The Master of the house has given us everything necessary and he has hedged it off so that all which is evil cannot get in.  As long as you are within the vineyard you are safe.  As long as you are within the Ark you are safe.  All the things in the vineyard are there for a purpose: the altar, the tower, the trellises, the land, and the crops. We are given these things in order to work.  What are householders to do in the vineyard?  Are they to lie in the sun?  Are they to daydream their days away?  There is work to be done in the vineyard!  There is honest labor and growth to be accomplished in the vineyard, and gradual growth in the knowledge of God.   And as we grow in the knowledge of God, we grow in becoming like God in morality. 

 

"And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. {35} And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another." [8]

 

In fact this happened twice, and then He sent his Son.  The "time of the fruit" is the years of the prophets, according to the Fathers.  They announced the coming of the fruit many, many times.  And God sent His servants to receive the fruits of the vineyard, that is our obedience and growth.  That is all we are asked to do, to tend the vineyard.  We're given all the tools and everything necessary just to be obedient.  That is what we are asked to do and to grow in the knowledge of God.  God counts as His gain our gain and knowledge of Him. 

 

So these householders, these terrible wicked men, given all of these things for their salvation, thought of it as theirs instead and grasped it, and killed the prophets.  Isaiah was sawn in half.  Zachariah, father of St. John the Baptist, was killed between the temple and the altar. [9]  St Elias was hounded.  So many of the others were killed, tortured in various ways because the husbandmen would not be obedient to the Master of the house. 

 

"But last of all he sent unto them his son saying, 'They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son they said among themselves, 'This is the heir.  Come let us kill him.  Let us seize on his inheritance.'  And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard and slew him." [10]

 

The coming of the son is the Incarnation.  God comes to His own vineyard, which He had created for us.  And when He was cast out of the vineyard, this was a prophecy of how He was to be killed because, indeed, He was killed outside the gates of Jerusalem, cast outside the vineyard.  Jerusalem is a metaphor for the Church, and He was also cast outside the guileless will of the people.  He was killed by the wicked householders outside of the Law, outside of the vineyard, which was hedged round about.

 

Now, there is an important question which asked, "When the Lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?" [11]  He came looking for fruit, you know.  He came looking for obedience.  He came looking for someone who had used His gifts, the talents that He had given properly.  Some actively opposed Him, and perhaps there were other householders who were not so wicked, just misused the vineyard and did not work, but then again did not lift the hand to stop the killing of the prophets or of the Son of God.

 

The Jews hearing the parable did not yet that is was about was about them. We can see in St. Luke that they did understand eventually because they said,

 

"He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen which will render him the fruits in their seasons." [12]  

 

Then when Christ said something that made them understand, it was them – they said, "God forbid!"  Well, they had already said it.  They had prophesied what would happen to themselves and all those who do not labor in the vineyard with honest work. 

 

Let us look carefully at this phrase, "…render him the fruits in their seasons."  There is fruit to be rendered.  To be a Christian is to have an obligation.  You have accepted God's grace, and baptism.  You must work now in the vineyard.  Our Christian life is labor. 

 

I've said it a thousand times and I will say it a thousand more times if I have breath.  The great heresy of our age is that one can have belief without labor.  It is not true.  The Christian who laments his sins knows that he must labor to cease doing them. The Christian that loves God and is thankful for what has been given desires to labor in the vineyard and picks up his spade and digs, and a hoe and hoes away the weeds from his soul so that it will be bright and shiny and will be able to grow. 

 

We have everything we need in this vineyard and it is hedged round about and yet we, in our foolishness, sometimes cut through the hedge.  That's what we do when we sin, you know.  That's what we do especially when we have incorrect attitudes about the Christian life, because from incorrect attitudes comes sinful behavior and we open the hedge.  And if we open it wide enough, marauders will come in.  This is happening in our beloved Church, even as we speak, these days.  And it is something that should make a Christian lament.  We currently see so many opening the hedge to marauders by false doctrines, false ways of life, false practices that are being touted as Orthodox and we know that they are not. 

 

The fruit that the Lord wants is the knowledge of Him in our souls.  And a necessity – if the knowledge comes then the action will come too.  A man fools himself if he thinks he knows something about God and he doesn't live morally.  Do not mistake the time the Lord has given you for your own personal security. You must bear fruit.  It is a requirement.  Now, you need not bear fruit like St. Symeon did.  He would stand in prayer from sundown until the 9th hour (that's 3 in the afternoon).  And then he would counsel people until sundown from that time. And he did this for 80 years on a pillar.  He had clairvoyance and humility and all manner of spiritual gifts.  He bore fruit abundantly.  We must have humility and realize we cannot reach such heights.  But we must stay in the hedge to bear the fruit that God desires and requires of us. 

 

How do we do this?  It's simple.  The things I've told you over and over. And the things I tell myself over and over, because it is only possible to do spiritual works by making a beginning; keeping the fasts, accepting the Church's authority over you, in the way you live, even in the way you think, the way you act, going to the services, fasting, praying, giving (alms-giving) what is God's to God, and work in the vineyard. 

 

Know that your purpose is to know God.  It's to become perfected.  It's to ascend in knowledge and in action.  Those two swords, when Christ said it was enough, when someone said, 'here are two swords' [13], knowledge and action.  Those are the necessities for salvation.  Anytime you sin you break down the hedge.  So you must rebuild it as rapidly as possible.

 

May God help you in staying within the vineyard and in working out your salvation.  Now remember, in the vineyard, there is a product of a vineyard and it is grapes, and fruit.  Now, if you are in the vineyard and you do not participate in producing fruit then you will be cast off.  Have you ever seen grapevines burn?  It is mentioned when they tried to burn the Three Holy Children.  The wood that comes from a vine, like grapes, when it dries out, burns incredibly rapidly and with great heat and intensity.  This is what will happen to those who cast themselves off the vine by not laboring.  So now we see.  We come to the end of the meaning of this parable.  Apply it to your life.  Work in the vineyard, brothers and sisters, and struggle for your salvation and understand that every moment God requires of you fruit.  May God help you to attain salvation.  Amen.

 

Matthew 21:33-44

 

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: {34} And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. {35} And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. {36} Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. {37} But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. {38} But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. {39} And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. {40} When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? {41} They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. {42} Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? {43} Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. {44} And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

 

 

 

    



 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Mailing Address

Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

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This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-13_1998+the-parable-of-the-vineyard.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-13_1998+the-parable-of-the-vineyard.doc

 

 

New sermons, commentaries, etc  are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture

 

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

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All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 

 



[1] The following sermon was transcribed from one given Sept 1/14 1997, the 13th  Sunday after Pentecost, and also the  day of the commemoration of the Church /New Year St. Symeon the Stylite.

 

[2] The term "Venerable Father" is used in the Orthodox liturgical literature to denote a saintly monk.

[3] Matthew 11:30, 11:28 (The verses are in reversed order)

[4] Mat 21:33

 

[5] 1 Peter 2:9

[6] Cf. 2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

 

[7] Matthew 24:32

[8]  (Mat 21:34-35)

[9] Cf. Matthew 23:35

[10] Matthew 21:37-39

[11] Matthew 21:40

[12] Matthew 21:41

[13] Cf. Luke 22:38

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Transfiguration Human nature in the Midst of the Divine Luke 9:28-36. New Text Homily.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Transfiguration
Human nature in the Midst of the Divine
Luke 9:28-36
(The Gospel for Matins)
2008

 

http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/transfiguration-theophanes-01.jpg In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We say today, brothers and sisters, that humanity can meet Divinity; Humanity can see Divinity; Humanity can be part of Divinity.

In the Old Testament Moses, saw the back parts of God; he was hidden in the cleft of a rock; he didn’t see that much [1]. But now, face to face, man is with God. Jesus Christ showing He is fully God, shining as the light.

Did you notice something in this historic and prophetic event? Moses and Elias, were conversing with Him, speaking of His decease: That was for the disciples to remember so that they would overwhelmed by the upcoming passion of our Lord.

 

What were Apostles doing? They were sleeping because it was late at night and they were tired. Man was in the midst of Divinity, Jesus was white as the light, shining as the sun,  and they were asleep. This indicates how easily we “sleep”, even when God is among us! We are sleepy because of our passions – O Lord, what are we missing? Divinity is right with us right now. We partake of the Holy Mysteries and Divinity is present. Wherever we go, God is with us and yet we don’t see Him.

 

They woke up, and then the cloud came, signifying the Holy Spirit, and the voice from the cloud, the Father. So this is like a Theophany just like the baptism of the Lord, declaring the Trinity, declaring God.

But then Moses and Elias saw Him and spoke with Him, and they were not frightened by the light, or the sound, or the cloud. This tells us, that we will eventually, even though at this moment our flesh is filled with sins and weakness and foolishness, we will be able to be with Divinity and not be afraid.

 

But the Apostles were not ready to be fully in the presence of Divinity. They still needed more seasoning, more training. So they were in the midst of Divinity, and for some of it they were asleep. So it is with us. We are in the midst of Divinity and we’re asleep. We’re more troubled about what’s going to happen today and tomorrow and the next day than we are about God being with us.

And of course, the Transfiguration shows us the future for us, not the future for God because all things are as one for God, the past, the future, the present. Jesus was always God. This was nothing new for Him.

This was the first time in history that man was to be able to be face to face with the Uncreated Light of God. They were afraid. They were not like Moses and Elias. It was too much for them. So it will take time for you and me to be able to be in the presence of Divinity and not be afraid.

 

And how is this? We know: to follow Christ, to become like Him. Moses and Elias were like Him, and they were comfortable around Him and at peace and not afraid.

We are trying to become like Him. And if our Lord Jesus Christ were to come to us now and shine in His Divinity, His Uncreated Light, we would be terrified because we are not ready yet. So this time of this light is getting ready, getting ready to see Christ as He is, not with the covering of humanity, but to see Him, His Humanity shining with Divinity because, after all, He is God as well as Man.

So, brothers and sisters, when you look at this story, let it give you some hope. Yes, it is a promise that we will see God.

But just see that they were frail men there on the mountain. First they were asleep and then they were afraid. Does it remind you of anybody? Reminds me of me. It should remind you of you.

But after a time what happened to those men? Their sound went forth over all the world. So it will be with us. We will be changed. But we have to live in the flesh a little bit and struggle a little bit in order to become able to see Divinity.

We see what happens when impure men see Divinity, they’re afraid. But later on, Peter spoke of this event with great affection, great longing, because he knew that he was soon going to, as he said, put off this tabernacle and be with the Lord, and he was looking forward with great expectation to seeing the Uncreated Light again, this time without fear [2].

So there’s the blueprint for our lives. Yes, the promise is there. But the promise only becomes reality for us if we live as Christians, and then we will see Divinity and not be afraid. Amen.

 

 

Luke 9:28-36 28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31 Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. 33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34 While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2008.    

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·         Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

·         Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net

·         Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-transfiguration_2008-08-19.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-transfiguration_2008-08-19.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-transfiguration_2008-08-19.mp3

 

http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.

 

Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 



[1] Exodus 33:11-23; 34:4-6, 8, read as the second of three readings (also called “Parables”) at Vespers for the Transfiguration. Here is an excerpt: “20 And again he said: Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live. 21 And again he said: Behold there is a place with me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock. 22 And when my glory shall pass, I will set thee in a hole of the rock, and protect thee with my right hand, till I pass: 23 And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face thou canst not see”

[2] 2 Peter 1:10-19, read at the Liturgy on the Transfiguration.

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The Rich Young Ruler The main points are about hidden passions, ignorance About God and self and, yes, money too. New Text Homily.

Monday, August 16th, 2010

The Rich Young Ruler

The main points are about hidden passions, ignorance

About God and self and, yes, money too

12th Sunday of Pentecost

Matthew 19:16-26

2009

 

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

 

Brothers and sisters, we should take care. There might be some hidden passion in us that keeps us from the Kingdom of God.

We may try to follow the Commandments; we might fast; we might pray; we might do good works in many ways, in many things, but we might have something we hold onto that is ungodly that keeps us from the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

This is the main story here today, about the rich man when he asks the topic that involves money and commandments.

 

But the take-home story is that there might be something wrong with you that you are not aware of.

 

It is hard to be aware of our sins. The rich man was blinded to his great passion, which much of humanity shares with him. It is a rare person who does not have some touch of avarice, of clinging to money, perhaps of using money for things that are not so useful. Most of us, would shudder a little bit when we hear of this rich man’s passion because all of us struggle also with giving all things to God.

 

But this rich man, this young man — a ruler, he was called in another Gospel story, and in yet another Gospel, it was said that Jesus looked upon him and loved him — was a good man, by the definitions of “good” for people. But he had a hidden passion. He made two great mistakes when he spoke to the Lord. They showed he had two vast wells of disinformation in his soul that kept him from being perfect.

 

The first was when he went to the Lord and he says, “Good Master, what good thing should I do?” And the Lord rebukes him. “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.”

 

Why did the Lord say this? Because the man looked upon Jesus only as a good man. Jesus is not only a good man; Jesus is God and therefore He is good. But he saw Him as a man. Good indeed. But only God is good. All goodness comes from God. The young man did not see God as He is.

 

If we do not see God as He is, how can we be saved? That’s why the Church has so zealously guarded the good name of God,

the Holy Trinity and all aspects of the understanding of the God-Man Jesus Christ, Christology. That’s why there were arguments made over fine points and, in one case, even one Greek letter. Because we must believe God as He is. If we don’t believe in God as He is, then what are we believing in?

 

In addition to making dogmatic mistakes with God, such as not understanding the Trinity in the proper way, or God-Man Jesus Christ in the proper way, but we can make also mistakes in how we think of God.

 

The Psalms, and Proverbs, mention in several places that the sinner thinks God is far away. Just because we don’t see Him, it doesn’t mean He is far away. And which one of us finds it easier to sin when we are alone than when we are with someone? That shows that we do not have the proper view of God, Who is always present and always sees.

 

This young man did not have the proper view of God. Dogmatically, he was certainly correct. He followed the Commandments. He probably read the Law and knew it well. But he did not know God well, Because his passion kept him from Him. So that is the first great mistake the young man showed us, that he did not look at God as Who He is.

 

We should question ourselves, do we do this? I would have to say, knowing humanity as I do, since I am a human, knowing the weaknesses of the flesh, every one of us should resoundedly say, yes, I look at God in the wrong way.

 

And just that example I showed a minute ago — where we can sin when we are alone, but the same thing we would not do in the presence of someone else because of shame or because we don’t want them to think of us poorly or some other thing — shows us that we do not think of God in the right way.

 

So we share this mistake of this young man. If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit it. And by admitting it, we can start to fix it.

 

And then the young man made another great mistake. So the Lord says, Keep the Commandments. He says, Which? And the Lord gives him a subset of Commandments. And then the young man says, all of these I have kept from my youth up.

 

One of the commandments the Lord referred to was about loving your neighbor. The young man was rich; he must have seen poor people. Did he help these poor people? Perhaps to some extent, but he still kept his riches. Could he honestly say that he was concerned about God’s creatures more than his money? It does not appear that he kept the Commandments perfectly. And besides, just the first thing he said to the Lord showed that he did not keep the Commandment of “Loving the Lord your God, with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind”, because he did not even look at God correctly.

 

So this man did not keep the Commandments, and he thought he did. The Fathers say that this was a man who truly wanted to be saved, who truly was earnest in his questions. He wasn’t trying to trip up the Lord or anything by these questions. He wasn’t trying to be clever. He was truly seeking help, seeking knowledge for salvation. But he had a great abyss of ignorance in his heart that he didn’t know that he did not follow the Commandments. So he didn’t see himself honestly as he is. This is a common problem.

 

Which one of us would dare to say that we know ourselves as we are? Which one of us would dare to say that we are aware of all of our sins, all of our failings, all of our passions? Of course not. And yet in essence this is what the young man was saying and this is what, let’s be honest, we say to ourselves, not verbally, but in the way we live. There’s so much that we are unaware of. There’s so much that passes under our radar. We don’t see them because we are blind.

 

Our blindness comes from not following the Commandments. Intelligence comes from doing good. So the more good we do, the more we follow the Commandments, the more intelligent we become about good and about evil, about the good that is in God and about evil that is in us, and we make a change from that evil to becoming perfectly good.

 

Over the course of time, this young man had two very serious problems that we share with him. He didn’t look at God in the right way. And he didn’t look at himself in the right way.

 

All of Christianity, all of the exercises we do are so that we can look at God in the right way and ourselves in the right way. If you do not know what’s broken, you would not try to fix it. There’s a lot that is broken in us that we do not see so we do not try to fix it. And also, we do not look at God in such a way that we have enough fear in our heart that we would desire to do the Commandments at all times whether they are difficult or not, whether we are alone or in a crowd.

 

Now, this young man had a particular passion, though, that not everyone shares, although it is probably true that most of humanity struggles with the passion of dealing with money and dealing with God. The young man loved his possessions. He followed the Commandments as best he knew them, not knowing that he did not totally follow them, because he had a hidden passion.

 

So the Lord tells him something: “If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you have and give it to the poor.”

 

Sometimes this Gospel makes people uncomfortable because they’re thinking, then I guess I shouldn’t have a second car or I shouldn’t live in a house; I should live in a smaller house or I should do this or I should do that. That might be the case if you have this passion. But this is a commandment to the man because of his particular problem.

 

Now, let’s be careful now. It’s not like we don’t share in this problem to some extent. We might be able to say about some sins that we don’t share in the problem, but let’s be honest. This is about money. And sometimes money takes up much more of our efforts and our time and our priorities than it should. But this man particularly was enslaved by the passion of riches. And so the Lord gave him a very extreme measure: Sell everything, give it away.

 

This is like when the Lord says, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. It is better to go into the next life with one eye than into Heaven with one eye than into Hell with both.

 

If riches totally overpower you, pluck them out.

 

If you are consumed with becoming a certain position in your job and you find yourself walking all over people to do it and you find yourself lying and misrepresenting yourself and participating in the dirty politics and everything else, then it would be better for you if you were to quit and go and sweep the streets. Because you’re going to go to hell as you rise up the ladder if that is your passion.

 

If you’re full of pride and always want to speak out about things, then it would be better for you to become mute even if you have something good to say, if that is your passion.

 

Whatever your passion is, extreme measures must be taken to become rid of it. If it is riches, then do what the young man did. If it is pride, or lust, or laziness, then do something extreme to be rid of your passion.

 

I must give a caveat here. We must be careful. Sometimes we can do extreme things that are really nothing but foolishness because of our pride. You have to test yourself. You know, you have to seek counsel.

 

Here is a small example. Someone might say to me, ‘I want to fast on Mondays for the angels.’ I say, ‘Well, how are you fasting now? Do you fast from oil?’ ‘No, that’s really hard.’ ‘Okay, fast from oil first on Wednesdays and Fridays, not just olive oil but all oil, really do it strictly.’ And I find that usually I don’t get them asking me if they can fast on Monday, again. Because oftentimes we don’t even follow the Law as it stands, but we want to do more. So we have to be careful. We have to use wisdom and discretion.

 

But definitely root out of your soul ruthlessly your passions because this is what the Lord is saying to the young man and to us, but this is not the main story today.

 

The main story is that we don’t look at God in the right way, and we don’t know ourselves correctly.

 

We have hidden passions, and they might devour us if we don’t do something about it, and we might be unaware of what they are doing, like a cancer that grows within us and we’re not aware of it until finally it has grown to such an extent that we are near death. That is what our passions are like, brothers and sisters. And yes, you should consider yourself every day to be in a crisis. Every day is not like just every other one. It is not just Monday and then Tuesday and then Wednesday. Every day is a battle, a battle to become good, a battle to uproot your passions. It’s true.

 

I think it’s scary to people. That’s why it isn’t talked about enough. That’s why what passes for Christianity in the world, sin doesn’t get talked about anymore because it’s a scary subject. It’s the kind of subject that when you say something, then everybody is uncomfortable because they don’t want to talk about the kind of people they are.

 

But we Orthodox Christians, must have to have courage. We have to take the Lord at His word, at His brutal and honest word.

 

We must root out of our soul passions and give ourselves no quarter. Do it with counsel. Do it with help, with confession, with seeking wisdom from others. Don’t do it on your own. But do it ruthlessly. There are things inside you that want to kill you and they’re not resting. So we can’t rest either.

 

We must be as the young man should have been, as the Lord taught him. We must look at God in the right way. We must seek out to know ourselves in the right way, and we must seek out and destroy our passions.

 

Now, it’s a tall order. It’s difficult. It’s frightening. It’s not pleasant at all. But as we become good, as we change in our nature, then there is great joy. There is no greater joy than to have peace in your heart. And peace is only possible when we are like the One Who gives peace and we are good.

 

So let’s battle as the Lord taught us to battle. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.    

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·         Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

·         Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net

·         Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-12_2009-08-30+the-rich-young-ruler.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-12_2009-08-30+the-rich-young-ruler.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-12_2009-08-30+the-rich-young-ruler.mp3

 

 

http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.

 

Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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12th Sun of Pentecost. Grace And Labor. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Audio Homily 2010

Monday, August 16th, 2010

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11 1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.


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Parable of the Unmerciful Debtor A “Kingdom of Heaven” parable. Gratitude and self knowledge lead to forgiving others. Text Homily.

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Parable of the Unmerciful Debtor

A “Kingdom of Heaven” parable.
Gratitude and self knowledge lead to forgiving others.
11th Sunday of Pentecost
Matthew 18:23-35

2010

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

Brothers and sisters, today Gospels are about gratitude and about forgiveness. The first one is about the unmerciful debtor. I want to explain it to you, and then how do we apply it to our lives is really what’s most important. It doesn’t really matter if you understand something if you don’t do something about what you understand.

This is one of the Kingdom of Heaven parables. And whenever you hear that in the Scriptures, it is about how you need to live, the kind of person you need to be to obtain Heaven. Since it describes the Kingdom of Heaven, perhaps some think maybe it is referring the hereafter. No, the Kingdom of Heaven parables are primarily about how to live now.

And He says, the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto “something”, and then He describes some parable. Sometimes it’s long; sometimes it’s short, but it is always about how we should live. Sometimes there is an example also about how we should not live. But it’s always about how to obtain the Kingdom by applying the examples given to the way we live.

Our Lord begins the parable:

 

“The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a certain king who had taken account of his servants.”

 

The “king” is God, and the “servants” are us. One servant was called to judgment, which represents the final judgment of all men, and he owed ten thousand talents.

 

Those “ten thousand talents” are a large sum of money to represent our sins, or, it is more accurate to say: our sinful condition, our sinful nature. These talents are representing our imperfections. The impure cannot be in the presence of purity, whether or not their sins are forgiven! Our impure condition, the things that go on in our heart, our jealousies and our anger and our lust, and so many other things make us incapable of being in God’s presence without fear, without pain.

It is not so much our sins that keep us from God because we can be forgiven of our sins. It is our sinful condition. The purpose of the God-Man Jesus Christ becoming man is that we would be able to become purified out of our effort, our sweat, our desire also, but also with His Grace so that we would no longer be sinners.

This is the goal of your life, brothers and sisters.

 

You might consider it an unrealistic goal, but it is the goal of life, is to become purified, to become perfected such that we can be in the presence of Perfection.

The Lord says to the servant, you’re going to be judged, and he will be bound hand and foot and taken away. The Lord commanded him to be sold along with his wife and children. Sounds very cruel, doesn’t it? But the wife and the children represent something. The “wife” is our sinful condition, our passions. And from this condition come actions that are bad. So the “children” are the results of our sinful inclinations, our passions.

Whereas lust might be a “wife,” adultery or fornication would be a “child.” Whereas a tendency towards anger, or irritability, might be a “wife”; to hit someone or slander them would be the “child”, the result of that sinful condition.

Payment is to be made. The Scripture doesn’t comment on this, but actually, there is no payment that can be made for our sins. There is nothing that we can give God that is equal to our sins. So this actually is a permanent selling, a permanent exile away from God.

So what does he do? He falls down before his master, this sinful servant, and says, be patient with me and I will pay thee all. Now, the Scripture does not lie. He will pay all. This does not mean that we can give God anything that He needs, or that we can in any way do some work that would obliterate our sins. The “payment” is us becoming good so that we can be in the presence of God Who is good.

God will help us with this payment, and we should not think of it as a payment in terms of exchanging money for goods, money for service. No, this is God helping us to become what we are predestined for; to be in the presence of holiness and to be holy in that presence.

The Lord has mercy on His servant and forgives him the debt completely. But what does the servant do? He goes out and finds another servant that owes him a very small amount of money, and he throttles him and takes him to the debtor’s prison so that he can get everything possible for that debt. And of course then people find out about it.

The “fellow servants” are the angels at the time of the judgment; they know what this wicked servant has done, and tell the Lord. At the Last Judgment this servant will have to make an account for why, when he was forgiven ten thousand talents, he did not forgive someone who owed a paltry sum to him; he will have no answer, and he will be bound hand and foot and be cast out into the outer darkness.

This represents useless repentance. In this life you can have useful repentance. Repentance is to be sorry for what you’ve done and to do something about it, to try to change. Perhaps your change might be glacially slow, but if you are making an effort to change, then you are repentant. But in the next life there will be no useful repentance. There will only be the first portion of repentance, and that is to be sorry, but only sorrow filled with shame and anguish.

You know that feeling when you have done something wrong? It’s a very heavy and painful feeling. Those in Hell will never have that feeling go away. That is what will happen to that servant who has not served his Lord: To be “bound hand and foot,” meaning to be incapable about doing anything about his sins, which he will remember, in minute detail, with crystal clarity. In this world we forget our sins. Do we know what we did fifteen years ago? It might have been very evil; we haven’t thought about it for a while. But the Lord remembers all, and the soul remembers all too. So when it comes time for the judgment, if we have no answer to the Lord, we’ll remember everything, but we’ll have no capability of doing anything about it.

 

So what does this parable teach us? Well, at the end, the Lord says sort of the outer meaning of the parable. Remember
I’ve told you that a parable always has one or more outer meanings and then many intricate inner meanings. And I’ve

already told you some of them.

The outer meaning or summary of this parable is that if we are forgiven, we should forgive others. And that in and of itself is powerful.

 

But it is more powerful is to consider ourselves and know ourselves and have a sense of gratitude for what we were and what God has helped us become. And with this gratitude and mindfulness we will be guarded against hatred toward our brother, and we will love our brother, and we will forgive him because we have been forgiven. It’s one thing to say forgive because you have been forgiven. It is another thing to feel deeply your own innate need and your own innate sinfulness and that God has cleansed you of this and delivered you, and therefore, forgive everyone.

 
There are many virtues, of course, and there are some virtues that are higher than the others, and especially help us with our salvation. Other virtues are descended from these cardinal virtues. Of course, the preeminent virtue is love. If we love as God loves, then everything follows.

Perhaps we would say that following that is purity. Because the person who is pure follows God’s law, which means that they would do all things that are pleasing to the Lord.

 

Do you and I love very well? Not all the time, inconsistently. Perhaps with more respected persons than we would like to admit. Are we pure? Sometimes. Sometimes we are not. Other virtues such as zeal can help you when you are struggling against sins. You’re going to struggle no matter what. You’re going to try hard no matter what.

 

These two Scriptures, including the other one which is about the sinful woman who had anointed the Lord’s feet, are about gratitude and mindfulness. Because the servant who had his debt relieved should have been as the sinful woman who had been forgiven of the Lord, with a sense of incredible gratitude to have been delivered from his sins.

Gratitude is a very powerful force, brothers and sisters. All right, you have sins in your life; you have things you do that you shouldn’t do, things that you don’t do that you should do. But if you have a sense of gratitude, you will do an important thing; you will love your brother because you remember that God loves you despite your sins.

 

Gratitude is wrapped up with a sense of knowing who you are, what you’ve done, and what you deserve. Gratitude should be a motivator. It should be this inner force within you that reminds you, sometimes perhaps even when you cognitively think about it, but most of the time it is an inner, silent motivator that makes you forgive your brother.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive.

 

So this is critical. Just saying that we must forgive to be forgiven is something that we forget easily, but gratitude for what has been done for us can truly help us to remember and therefore forgive. Use anything you can to remember God and to remember what He has done for you, and you will forgive others.

For example, look in this parable and see how much you resemble this unmerciful debtor. No, you’re not throwing anybody into prison.

But do you hold anything against anyone?

Are you bitter about anything?

Is there anyone that you don’t forgive? Is there anyone that you don’t like?

Is there anyone about whom you say, ‘I forgive them but I just don’t want to be in the same room with them?’

Or, ‘I forgive them but I don’t want to go visit them?’

If there is bitterness in your heart, there is lack of forgiveness.

 

If you can fight this bitterness just by force of will, then you are very powerful indeed. For the most part we must fight this kind of bitterness by remembering who we are, and this is what the parable is teaching. Remember who you are. Remember where you came from. Remember what God has done for you, and then you will be willing to forgive your brother.

 

May God help you.

 

Transcribed by the hand of the handmaiden Helen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.    

 

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