The Path of Faith

(What follows in a quick translation of a sermon written in Russian. The original is posted here.)

 

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

Beloved brothers and sisters, today the Holy Church celebrates the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the victory of the Orthodox Faith over all heresies, and today's readings explain the essence of Orthodoxy the difference between Orthodoxy and heresy.

The Apostle Paul writes about how the old-testament righteous "through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." (Hebrews 11: 33-34). And how did they attain this? How did they live? Moses voluntarily adopted the "reproach of Christ" (Hebrews 11:26), and others "had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, and, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented…."(Hebrews 11:36-37) – that is, they placed all their faith, all their trust in God and therefore hastened to follow Him, even when that meant tribulations and trials in this earthly life. And so the Apostle admonishes us to follow their example: "seeing we also are encompassed with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

Brothers and sisters, this is the path of faith. The saints believed in God, and they believed Him when He said through the prophet Isaiah: "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the earth" (Isa. 1:19). This is what distinguishes Orthodoxy from other religions. Our moral ideal is Divine likeness – that is, perfection in sacrificial love for God and our neighbor. And we can strive for and attain this, because we act not by our own power, but by the power of the Living God who acts in us. On our part, we need to desire to become what God has ordained us to be, and to humbly obey Him.

 

Knowing all of this, we then hear the Evangelical call: "Come and see" (John 1:46). Philip said to Nathanael: Come and see Him Who will save the world from sin, Who vowed to rescue Moses and saved him through faith. And the Church today tells us: come and see Him Who can save you, come and see the One in whom you can place all of your trust.

 

On a billboard near a mega-church in Dallas, it says: "Come and see – not our church, but our Christ." As often happens in heterodoxy, this text contains both truth and falsehood. Truly, all of our hope is in Christ our Lord, But it is also true that we, along with Christians from the earliest times, believe not only in Christ but also in His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is his Body. In Holy Baptism we were reborn and have become part of His Body. In the Mystery of Holy Chrismation we were given to seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who preserves us and will preserve us until our last breath. Through the Holy Eucharist we live in Christ and He in us. His Most Holy Body is united to our body, and his Most Precious Blood flows in our veins.

 

In this manner, we not only can be saved ourselves, but can also say to others – in both word and deed, and in our very lives: "Come and see" the God who is able not only to forgive sins, but also to transform a person, renewing in us the likeness of His image. To our God be all glory, honor and worship – the the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

dNP

 

 

 

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