Archive for September, 2010

Parable Of The Talents. Receive Not The Grace Of God In Vain. 16th Sunday. Audio/Video Homily.

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Synopsis:Both the epistle and the Gospel story of the parable of the talents express the same basic idea: we must, as the Epistle puts it "receive not the grace of God in vain." The epistle discusses in great detail how we can "trade" with this grace (called talents in the parable).

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You can watch this sermon in two parts: Part 1 Part 2

More homilies on the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


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Beheading of the Glorious Prophet Forerunner and Baptist John. Possibilities and clarity. Text/Audio Homily.

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Beheading of the Glorious Prophet Forerunner and Baptist John
Possibilities and clarity.

Kontakion of the feast.

Permanence
2008
 

The beheading of St John the Baptist. Possibilities and clarity. That is sometimes, brothers and sisters, what I feel during the Divine Liturgy, especially the early Divine Liturgy. The liturgy today at six o’clock in the morning was for the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. During that liturgy, there was a moment when the Kontakion was sung that everything seemed so clear.

 

Has that ever happened to you? It just seems clear what your purpose is, what is right and what is wrong. You see things as they really are and then you have within you this feeling that “I’m going to do better”.

Saint John spoke against immorality and against sin, against the status quo, and yet his life externally looked like a failure: He went to the jail, and later on he was beheaded and forgotten by the Jewish leaders. And yet we remember him as the greatest born of woman[1].

Sometimes that moment of clarity tells us what’s right, and what I should do. And somehow you have this confidence in you that you are going to be able to do it with God’s help. You think that: “somehow, me, the lump of clay, is going to somehow be able to become truly good.” Christ promised it. I talk about it all the time. It’s true.

 

And yet, the evidence is to the contrary in the way we live. But sometimes there’s just those moments. And for me, the moment was during the Divine Liturgy at two times. One was during the singing of some of the verses of the Beatitudes, and those verses are taken from portions of the Canon from Matins. It was contrasting the sensuality and lust of Herodias and her daughter and the lack of courage of Herod with the courage and righteousness of Saint John. After these were sung, then comes, after the Entrance, the singing of the Troparion, Kontakion. And this Kontakion just seemed like it was a laser into my heart. It was beautiful.

This is the Kontakion:

 

“The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was part of God’s dispensation that he might proclaim to those in Hades the coming of the Savior, that Herodias who demanded the iniquitous murder, therefore lament. For she loved not the law of God nor the age of life but rather this one, false and fleeting.”

Just the night before, I listened to a video on prayer by the Romanian Elder Cleopa. And I’m eventually going to send it to the entire blog because it’s such a beautiful video. He speaks in Romanian, but it’s translated into English, with very simple words but very powerful words. He speaks about the transitoriness of life.

 

And this Kontakion speaks about that.

 

Herodias was married to Herod’s brother Philip, but didn’t want him because he must not have been a powerful enough person, and she became the consort of Herod and was rebuked for it by John the Baptist. The interesting thing is Herod would listen to John’s rebukes. It says in the Scriptures in Saint Mark’s Gospel that he actually listened to him gladly.[2] So in Herod, there was something in the man that wanted to be good. Just not enough.

 

I think we’re like that a lot. We hear Christ gladly, but then when it comes to truly doing the things of Christ, we fall short.

 

Now, in Herodias, there were no pretenses with her. She didn’t hear Saint John gladly. She wanted to get rid of him, and for a long time she worked to be able to kill him, but the Scriptures say that Herod held him in protection.

So then comes the time of drunkenness and feasting and dancing, which is really a euphemism; she danced lewdly, and the bunch of drunken old man clapping and thinking everything was fine and enjoying themselves and then Herod in his cups, saying something very foolish, saying, I will give you everything you want, up to half of my kingdom[3]. His kingdom is fleeting. The only thing permanent in Herod’s life was what Saint John said to him, and he listened, but he did not do. So it was as if he didn’t even hear him.

So of course we know the story. The Baptist’s head was cut off and taken on a platter to the mother, and John’s life was over – His earthly life. And yet his life was not false and fleeting because he did something permanent in life. He lived according to the Gospel. He lived according to the way of righteousness. He knew what was permanent and what was not.

 

Herod was in the presence of permanence when he spoke to Saint John. But he didn’t love permanence more than he loved his own life and his own depravity and fact that he can give parties and be the first at feasts and be called king. And eventually he would die and his life, like a candle, would be snuffed out and would be no more.

That’s the way it is with people who don’t follow Christ. Their life is snuffed out and they are no more. Whatever they did, whether they built bridges, whether they became kings and presidents, whether they were powerful, whether they were paupers, it’s all done, it’s all over when they are dead. And this we know and yet we don’t live like it.

This Kontakion speaks of a false and fleeting life. Herodias loved the life of parties and of being desired by a king and of power and of her beauty. And eventually she died, and all of it was gone. And all that kind of life flashed through my mind when I heard that Kontakion, and within my heart I thought I am NOT going to follow the life that’s not false and fleeting. Jesus Christ abides within me. Here I am serving right at the altar and the Unbloody Sacrifice is about to be accomplished and what possibilities there are for me now if I just live my life according to what’s true and not what is false and fleeting.

We must evaluate everything that comes across our eyes and our life -  is it permanent or is it not? If it’s not permanent, we should not want it. If it’s permanent, then we must do what we can to keep it.

 

The only thing that is permanent is Jesus Christ. Nothing else lasts. Nothing else is worth trying to keep.

May God help us to live the life that is according to truth and according to permanence. Not one that is false and fleeting.

 

.

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-saints-08-29_2008-09-11+beheading-of-the-glorious-prophet-forerunner-and-baptist-john.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-saints-08-29_2008-09-11+beheading-of-the-glorious-prophet-forerunner-and-baptist-john.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-saints-08-29_2008-09-11+beheading-of-the-glorious-prophet-forerunner-and-baptist-john.mp3

 

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[1] “And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?  (8)  But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.  (9)  But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.  (10)  For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.  (11)  Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:7-11 )

 

 

 

 

[2] “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” (Mark 6:20)

 

 

[3] “And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.  (23)  And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.” (Mark 6:22-23)

 

 

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Abba Moses the Ethiopian. Icon, Sayings, and Life

Friday, September 10th, 2010

abba Moses the Ethiopian

Today we celebrate Abba Moses the Ethiopian. He is one of my favorite Saints, and last year, a large article was written about him which included many of his sayings:

http://orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/2009/09/10/abba-moses-the-ethiopian-icon-sayings-and-life/

Abba Moses

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Apostle Titus of the Seventy. His life epitomizes two virtues we must have.

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Apostle Titus of the Seventy

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Sin makes you stupid.

Ya gotta know what you are not to become what you should be!

Commemorated Aug 25/ Sep 7

 titus-apostle-of-the-seventy-bishop-of-crete-01

 

Today we remember the Holy Apostle Titus. He was one the Seventy [1], and an eyewitness of the preaching of Jesus Christ, a close friend and disciple of the Apostle Paul (accompanying him of his missionary journeys)  and eventual Bishop of Crete.

 

His life is extraordinary, because it shows clearly a two virtues we must have in order to be saved. The Holy Titus possessed a longing for purity and humility in abundance.

 

You can read his life below (taken from the excellent Menologion program), but at in all lives of the Saints, there should be some things that are extraordinary that stand out.

 

The Holy Apostle Titus was born a pagan. Unlike the rest of his society, which valued sensual pleasure above all things, Titus preserved his virginity. This was as extraordinary then as it is now. When an entire society does not value purity, it is hard to remain pure. Our young people have a difficult task ahead of them. Almost everything in society gives no credence to the virtue of abstinence, and virginity. They now, as Titus was then, are immersed in a culture which values pleasure and not morality.

 

The value of maintaining sexual purity is not immediately apparent, but there will be enormous fruit which blossoms from a chaste tree. In the case of Titus, his good heart sought after truth, even as a pagan. He was prepared to accept the truth when he encountered it. This was a DIRECT RESULT of his inner morality and sexual purity in the midst of an immoral and licentious society.

 

Titus illustrates a very important principle which is almost forgotten in our day: wisdom and understanding is only possible if we strive to live a pure life. Any less pristine but absolutely true and maybe a little bit “catchy” way to express the same truth is: “SIN MAKES YOU STUPID”.

 

At the tender age of twenty, the virgin pagan Titus had a dream that suggested to him that he abandon Hellenic wisdom. He started reading the Holy Prophets, starting with Isaiah. By God’s providence, he opened to the 47th chapter and saw himself in the prophet’s words. His vita does not give an indication of which verses most resonated with him, but perhaps they were these:

 

Come down, sit on the ground, O virgin daughter of Babylon: sit on the ground, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and luxurious.  (2)  Take a millstone, grind meal: remove thy veil, uncover thy white hairs, make bare the leg, pass through the rivers.  (3)   Thy shame shall be uncovered, thy reproaches shall be brought to light: I will exact of thee due vengeance, I will no longer deliver thee to men.  (4)   Thy deliverer is the Lord of hosts, the Holy One of Israel is his name.  (5)   Sit thou down pierced with woe, go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: thou shalt no more be called the strength of a kingdom.” (Isa 47:1-5 Brenton  )

 

Babylon was also a pagan culture, and Titus has the incredible humility to apply these words to himself, a pagan. This is a rare virtue. This would not have been possible for him if he were not living a pure life.  So many of our young people (and older ones too) do not understand this simple truth!

 

 

The Disciple from the Seventy Titus was a native of the island of Crete, the son of an illustrious pagan. In his youthful years he studied attentively at Hellenistic philosophy and the ancient poets. Preoccupied by the sciences, Titus led a virtuous life, not devoting himself to the vices and passions characteristic of the majority of pagans. He preserved his virginity, as the Priest-martyr Ignatios the God-bearer (comm. 20 December) testified about him.

 

For such a manner of life the Lord did not leave him without His help.At age twenty in a dream Saint Titus heard a voice, suggesting to him to abandon the Hellenistic wisdom, not providing salvation for his soul, but rather to seek out that which would save him. After this dream Saint Titus waited still another year, since it was not actually like a command, but it guided him to familiarize himself with the teachings of the prophets of God. The first that he happened to read was the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Having opened it to the 47th Chapter, he was struck by the words, speaking as it were about his own spiritual condition.

 

            When news reached Crete about the appearance in Palestine of a Great Prophet, and about the great miracles worked by Him, the governor of the island of Crete, an uncle of Titus by birth, sent him there. This Prophet was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, incarnated of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and having come into the world for the redemption of the race of mankind from its oppression of the original sin.

 

At Jerusalem Saint Titus beheld the Lord; he heard His preaching and believed in Him. He was a witness of the suffering on the Cross and death of the Savior, His glorious Resurrection and Ascent to Heaven. On the day of Pentecost the future disciple heard, standing in the crowd, how the 12 Apostles, — after the descent upon them of the Holy Spirit, spoke in various languages among which was the Cretan language (Acts 2: 11).

 

Saint Titus accepted Baptism from the Apostle Paul and became his closest disciple. He accompanied the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, time and again he fulfilled entrusted tasks, was involved in the establishing of new churches, and was with him in Jerusalem. Saint Titus was numbered among the 70 Disciples and was ordained by the Apostle Paul as bishop of Crete.

 

Around the year 65, not long before the second imprisonment, the Apostle Paul dispatched a pastoral epistle to his selected one (Tit. 1-3). When the Apostle Paul was taken like a criminal to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, Saint Titus for a time left his flock in Crete and went to Rome to be of service to his spiritual father. After the death by martyrdom of the Apostle Paul, the Disciple Titus returned to the chief city of Crete — Gortyn.

           

The Disciple Titus peacefully guided his flock and toiled at enlightening the pagans with the light of faith in Christ. He was granted by the Lord the gift of wonderworking.

 

During a time of one of the pagan feasts in honor of the goddess Diana, Titus preached to a gathered crowd of pagans. When he saw, that they would not listen to him, he prayed to the Lord, so that the Lord Himself would show to the mistaken people the non-entity of idols. By the prayer of the Disciple Titus, the idol of Diana fell down and shattered before the eyes of all. Another time the Disciple Titus prayed, that the Lord would not permit the completion of a temple under construction raised up to Zeus, and it collapsed.

 

By such miracles the Disciple Titus brought many to faith in Christ. Having enlightened with the light of faith the surrounding regions, the Disciple Titus died peacefully in the extreme old age of 97. At death his face shone like the sun.

 

A great article on the Holy Apostle Titus with some very unique and beautiful icons is here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/08/holy-apostle-titus.html

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-09-07+apostle-titus-of-the-seventy+purity+virginity+humility.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-09-07+apostle-titus-of-the-seventy+purity+virginity+humility.html

 

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[1] The ‘Seventy Apostles” were those who had been with the Lord Jesus Christ for His entire earthly ministry, but were not of the twelve Apostles. Some of the better know apostles of the Seventy are, Titus, James The Brother Of The Lord; Mark And Luke, Evangelists; Cleopas; Simeon; Barnabas; Josiah (Justus); Thaddeus; Ananias; Stephen The Archdeacon And First-Martyr. They are commemorated individually throughout the year, and their “sobor”, or “gathering”  (when all are commemorated at once), is January 4/17.

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Give the first fruits of your day to the Lord. The “Four Bows” Audio/Text

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

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The "Four Bows" – a simple set of prayers that should begin the day for everyone. Excellent for children. Also descibed in the article The Four bows

This short talk is part of a series of very short after liturgy talks. There is so much to say, and so little time!

More catechetical talks and articles are HERE


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If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/catechism/orthopraxis_2010+the-four-bows.mp3


If we are honest with ourselves, we should lament our inattention to God, our weak and inconstant prayer, our false priorities, the time we waste on things that are not effectual for our salvation. We are weak creatures, driven by habit, and many of these habits are sinful and destructive. So many of our activities are thieves – they steal time from prayer.

It is precisely because of our nature that I have counseled most of you to do "4 bows" in the morning. There is a superb article, from an old "Nicodemus" publication (which later became "Orthodox America") which provided the seed for this instruction. In the article, a bishop was instructing a group of children. I will try to reproduce the gist of his words here.

Our hearts are like coal, which is cold, but may be lit with persistent effort. Coal lights very slowly, and much care must be taken to tend it, even when it is burning. Our prayer is like blowing on the coal, which gradually becomes warmer, and eventually a hot fire, but only after much persistence on our part. The key is persistence, and not to lose heart. Even a small effort is rewarded by God, if we are persistent.

The bishop then went on to instruct the children to do three bows in the morning, IMMEDIATELY after they got out of bed. I added one more bow to the list, and have told almost everyone in confession or another time about this rule. This rule follows, and I beg all of you to follow it with all your strength.

The Four Bows

Upon arising in the morning, before anything else , direct your heart and mind towards God, and face your icons, or face East and with compunction, and without haste, make four bows, or better, four prostrations. Do this with hope in God, and the sure belief that He will receive your prayer, as He received the widow's two mites, and protect you during the day, even if you fall into inattention and these prayers are the last you will say for the entire day.

Making the sign of the cross, with a bow of prostration during each prayer say:

1 Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.
2 Most Holy Theotokos, save us.
3 Holy Saint ______ (your patron saint), pray to God for me.
4 Holy Angel of God, my guardian, pray to God for me.

After these prayers, it is best to continue with your morning prayers, and then turn your attentions to the cares of the day. Even if the weakness of the flesh compels us to abandon our prayer and rush into our day, perhaps not to return to our morning prayer, at least we have begun the by giving our "first fruits" to God. Let us do these "few things", four short prayers that take under a minute, so that in time, our heart will become aflame with the love of God, and our Lord will say to us: ""Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." (Mat 25:21)


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The Dormition of the Theotokos. A short talk.

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

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This Sunday was the leavetaking of the feast of the Dormition. Here is a short talk about the Dormition of the Theotokos.

  • Dormition means falling asleep
  • The Story.
  • A balanced view.
  • The intercession of the Theotokos.
  • Heresies about the Theotokos:
    • The heresy of the Theotokos as "co-mediatrix"
    • The heresies of The "Immaculate Conception" and "Original Sin" are discussed at length. VERY IMPORTANT!
  • The ever-virginity of the Theotokos explained.

If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/catechism/feasts-of-the-theotokos_2010-08-28+dormition+after-liturgy-short-talk.m3u

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The Greatest Commandment. 15th Sunday of Pentecost. Matthew 22:35-46 Audio Homily 2010

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

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More homilies on the 15th Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

Matthew 22:35-46 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.


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What *is* Christianity”? Earthen Vessels. 2 Cor 4:6-15. Text, Audio Homily.

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

What *is* Christianity”?

Earthen Vessels

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Cor 4:6-15, Mat 22:35-46

2002

 

More homilies on the 15th Sunday after Pentecost are HERE


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

 

What is Christianity, brothers and sisters? It can be defined many ways. The Gospel speaks many times, giving different definitions of what it is. Today we have another way in which it is defined, for those who read carefully.  

 

The Apostle tells us that "the God who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness has shined in our hearts, to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” [2]

 

That's a pretty good summary of the Gospel right there. The Lord Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to see the glory of God.

 

He lived as a man, making it possible for our flesh to obtain the knowledge of God. He who shined before all things hath now brought the light into our hearts. But in order to truly have this light be illuminating all of our hearts, we must understand how to live, because the Lord's mission on the earth was not only to make us capable, but also to teach us how. In order to accomplish a task, you must know something about it, but you must also have the ability to do it. Without the ability and the knowledge, you cannot be successful. The Lord gave us both of these things.

 

Now, the Apostle goes on to say, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” [3]

 

Hasn’t this always been sort of a riddle to you – your life, how the Church is perfect, spotless, the spotless bride of Christ [4], and yet somehow you, a sinner, are within this spotless bride? How the Lord performs a miracle for you all the time, but certainly on Sunday when you take the Holy Mysteries – and yet you don’t feel completely changed, you don’t feel completely warm from the fire that is within you?

 

Isn’t this a bit of a riddle? It should be for a Christian, but we should understand part of the answer :we are earthen vessels.

 

If we had no struggle to become righteous, then we would become proud, we would not appreciate holiness.  

 

The greatest and most gifted creature there ever was or will be became the greatest devil [5]. The Lord wants to keep us from this terrible condition, so we are earthen vessels. We make many mistakes. We forget a lot. We sin a lot. We have many weaknesses. There is much that we want to do that we can’t. Slowly, we get stronger and are able to do more – but in the Lord’s time, so that we don’t give any credit whatsoever to ourselves.

 

We have the light of God within us. This light is not from us; it didn’t come from us! It always was; It was before all things were created, and now the Lord abides in us! What a wonderful privilege it is to be a Christian! But a Christian who feels this privilege should at every moment realize that none of it is of himself. So when you sin, let it humble you, let it make you remember that you are still weak, and without God are naked.

 

“We are troubled from every side,” the Apostle says, “yet not distressed. We are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our body.” [6]

 

These words have frightened many people away from being true Christians. The Apostle is not just talking about his office as an Apostle; it’s also our office. It’s our office to live as Jesus Christ lived, to feel as He felt, to react to things as He reacted to them. Now, He was constantly dying; His whole purpose to live was in order to die! The whole reason He came into the world, from the moment He was born, His purpose was Jerusalem, and to be crucified.

 

Now, we are to die as well, but let us not be morbid about it. This is not a dying that should give us anything but joy! This is a dying of things that are useless anyway, a dying off of our selfishness, a dying off of our sinfulness, of our passions, of things which obscure the light. A Christian should gladly die.

 

At no time does a person feel more free than when he is giving of himself, dying as it were, denying his own needs for the needs of others. We see examples of this in every culture, in every society, Christian or not Christian, where this kind of altruism, giving ourselves to others, is magnified and is considered to be the highest pinnacle of human endeavor. The Lord is the highest pinnacle of this human endeavor, as well; the highest of all the highest, because He showed us how to die daily, how to die minute by minute.

 

He had no sins to die from and no passions to die from. His dying was accomplished for us, to make us able to die. In the same way, He had no need to be baptized, but He was baptized in order to make us desire and need to be baptized.

 

We are to live as Christians. To live as Christians means to be like Christ, which means to enter into His mind, which means, to die, which means to react as He reacts.

 

When you read these words, do you feel that you fulfill them?

Are you troubled, but not in despair? [7]

Are you always bearing about in your body the dying of the Lord Jesus? [8]

Are you giving up of yourself, and giving to others?

Are you trying to put away selfishness, greed, thinking for yourself?

Are you thinking of others first?

 

If you are doing these things, then you are not far from the kingdom of heaven. [9] Or even if you are trying to do these things (and not doing very well) , but you acknowledge that these things are a necessity, as much as eating, or breathing, is a necessity, then you are also not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Dying to our own will is a necessity. Our Lord’s will is perfect. We can’t see that will, we can’t realize or understand it, without killing off some of our will.

 

So we must die, in order to be true Christians. That’s the only place where happiness can occur. The only true happiness is when we are feeling, seeing, experiencing the uncreated Light within us. What a marvelous thing it is! We, who are earthen vessels, hold something that is so precious! We must live like this. We must live like we believe this. We must protect this precious cargo that the Lord has put within our hearts, by everything we say and do.

 

Christianity is beautiful. We must feel this beauty, we must guard this beauty. He Who created the heavens — He Who was before the heavens — lives within us, earthen vessels that we are, sinners that we are, and yet He helps us to get better. I can’t think of any better news.

 

I certainly don’t want to live forever, not on this earth, because this earth is passing away, and this earth has too much that is wrong with it. The Lord gives us the opportunity to have Him forever, if only we live as He showed us how to live.

 

I’ve told you this before. I believe that the reason why our Church loves the saints so much, and why we pray to them, and why we put their icons on the walls, and why they’re a part of our daily life, is because they reflect Christ. And anything which reflects Christ should fascinate us. We should never grow tired of seeing such a thing. And their reflection of Christ shows us that indeed it is possible to be what He has told us to be.

 

It’s one thing to say, and to believe in our minds, O yes, the Lord has come, and He has become man for our sake, and made us capable of eternal life, made us capable of becoming holy. It’s one thing to say that, but it’s another thing to see that all the saints have accomplished it, which means that we can, too. We accomplish this by attempting to enter into the mind of Christ. His mind is not closed to us at all; it is very open. He desires us to know everyting.

 

The only way to understand is to do.

 

Live as a Christian. When you have troubles in your life, go to the Lord in prayer. Don’t despair over them. When you have some difficulty, ask the Lord to help you. It doesn’t mean you won’t have difficulties, it doesn’t mean you won’t be sad. It doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes be perplexed, as the Apostle says. It doesn’t mean that you won’t feel tired, and lonely, and very sad. All these are human things, that even occurred in our Lord Jesus Christ’s life. But how did He live? How did He react when He was tired, and lonely, and sad? By living righteously at every moment. By never failing to struggle. By never failing to die daily.

 

So, brothers and sisters, we should die. Let us not be afraid of dying. Let us not be afraid of getting rid of that which is already a festering sore in us anyway. Let us get rid of these things, of our evils, and of our desires for ourselves, and of our desire for comfort, of our anxiety about the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Let us live just as Jesus Christ lived. He’ll make us capable of doing it. And if we die, then we know what the end will be. The apostle says, “Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus Christ shall raise us up also by Jesus, and present us with you.” [10] The Lord will raise us up.

 

Now, if we have not lived as He has taught us to live here, on the earth, then in the last days, we won’t know Him and we won’t understand Him. Salvation is not a judicial concept, being in the Chuch does not guarantee we will go to Heaven and not Hell.

 

To be with Christ — truly to be with Him, to understand Him — is to live as He lived on the earth, and as He has shown through all his saints how to live. Then we will understand him. Then there will be this marvelous, shall we say, meeting of the minds. Our little, weak, small mind, like a drop of water, in the ocean of the knowledge of God. May God bless you, and help you in all things. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010    

 

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[1] This Holy was preached on the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, 2002. The Scriptures read on this day were 2 Cor 4:6-15,  Mat 22:35-46

[2] 2 Cor 4:6

[3] 2 Cor 4:7

[4] Cf. [Rev 21:1-3]  And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. {2} And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. {3} And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

 

[5] Lucifer

[6] 2 Cor 4:8-10

[7] Cf. [2 Cor 4:8-10]  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; {9} Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; {10} Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

[8] See Note 2

[9] Cf. [Mark 12:32-34]  And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: {33} And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. {34} And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

 

[10] 2 Cor 4:14

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