In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Hristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!
I want to tell you, before I begin, about some people that I want you to remember during the Liturgy. There is an especially important time, right after the Epiklesis, the calling down of the Holy Spirit, when we are to pray for those we especially care for or that have special needs. We also of course commemorate sometimes people that have special needs in the entrance, in the Great Entrance ‑‑ which will be coming up soon ‑‑ and also of course we have the custom of praying from a list, a public list, of people for just their general needs, travelers and among the sick.
Now, among the sick that I want you to remember, I want you to do this after the Epiklesis, now, because this is a holy responsibility of everyone. It is not only the responsibility of the clergy, absolutely not! Everyone should pour their heart out to God during the Divine Liturgy. And this time after the Epiklesis, is the time especially to pray with your heart for God.
[Several people and their needs were mentioned] Try to remember those names, and as a sacred trust during the Epiklesis pray for those people. It's very, very important. We are not passive in Liturgy. It's part of the reason why we stand and part of the reason why pews are such a terrible thing: Because they encourage passivity. You are participants in the Liturgy. The Liturgy means "the work of the people". It's not the work of Father Nicholas and myself. It's the work of the people. So pray for those people, okay? And you will hear them in the entrance and also hear them in the list of people that we pray for in the fervent Ektenia.
Among the most important words in today's Gospel that are truly amazing, that are too big to talk about or understand, are when it says that Joseph become bold. Remember, our Lord had just been crucified. The Jews were looking to kill everybody that was associated with Him. People were in terror. Everybody had run away. But Joseph became bold. This is a marvelous thing. It was dangerous to go and ask for the body of Jesus, who was a known felon, a criminal, a heretic. Boldness doesn't care about danger.
You know what boldness cares about? It is only one thing. True Christian boldness is based on one virtue. Love. Where there is love there is not fear. Now, I don't mean that you won't have emotional fear, but you won't be paralyzed with your fear.
Absolutely, Joseph was frightened when he did this, but he knew he had to do it. His heart told him he had to do it, and so he became bold and did it, and he went in to crave the body of Jesus and got it, and Nicodemus helped; St. John adds that detail. And they worked very quickly in order to be able to put Him in the grave in order to still abide by the Jewish Sabbath which was fast approaching.
This kind of boldness is what you and I need, brothers and sisters. It's the same boldness that the Myrrh‑Bearing Women had because they also were doing something extremely dangerous, and not only this; but they didn't even have any idea how they were going to accomplish it. There was a gigantic stone that had to be rolled with many men using a fulcrum to be able to get it in front of the tomb, and now the tomb was guarded by the best of the best, the centurions, hard men who wouldn't hesitate to kill someone. They weren't going to help roll away the stone.
They had no idea how they were going to accomplish their task, but they were bold. They had been frightened before but then they were bold. Where there is the love of God, perfect love casteth out fear. We have to aim to have this kind of love, brothers and sisters, and this kind of boldness.
We are now in an era where there are a lot of micro persecutions. There will be major ones soon enough. But there are micro persecutions now. Perhaps your management is coercing you to give to the United Way. The United Way gives to a lot of things that are completely un‑Christian. You hear people talk about different kinds of immorality and perhaps you feel afraid to say what you really feel.
I have noticed that there are Christians now, Orthodox Christians that are changing their opinions about things that God has always spoken of, because they're afraid. They see that most other people don't have this opinion; it seems like most of the world doesn't have this opinion.
You must beg the Lord to help you be bold. But this boldness comes from love, an all‑consuming love for the Lord. We must have this boldness.
Now, an interesting thing, a very important thing about the boldness of Joseph and Nicodemus and the Myrrh‑Bearing Women, is that what they were doing was because of a misunderstanding. Our Lord said He would rise again. He had made it very clear. In retrospect, they understood that it was clear. So what need would they have to anoint the body? None. Our hymns even say that: "Why do you seek for the living among the dead?". He is alive. But they thought He was dead. But their love for Him made them bold even though only shortly before they had been terrified and they didn't get it right. The Myrrh‑Bearers were going on an errand for someone Who was not there. But they didn't know that. And so with what they knew, with their feeble understanding, they acted out of love.
And if you act out of love, God will always make a good come out of it. Always, without fail. You might not see the good. There might be bad things that happen to you. But always, always God's Word will not fail to return back to Him. And the love that we give to God will always be good, always cause our Lord to work in some merciful and unseen way that will be for our salvation and the salvation of others. Every time, without exception.
So the fact that the Myrrh‑Bearers were doing something that showed that they did not understand what the Lord had been talking about for the past three years, is not important. And you must apply this to your life. I have learned now, being a priest for so many years, there's so much ignorance. Oftentimes I feel like I don't know anything and yet I do. Based upon whatever knowledge I have and the small amount of love that I have for God, I do. And then I see things happen that are completely unrelated to what I thought was going to happen.
It should be that way with you, too. Ignorance is no excuse. You still have to act on what you know with boldness. Don't be afraid. Act on what you know because of love for God. You will have many opportunities, today, tomorrow, the rest of your life, always to act with boldness and love for God. And your ignorance God will enlighten. But only those who love God will He enlighten. So we must follow the example of these Myrrh‑Bearers and of Joseph and Nicodemus and be bold.
Now, boldness comes out of a deep longing to be with God, a deep love for Him. You don't have to be smart. You don't have to be theologically astute, but you do have to desire to know the things of God. I would say it's not possible to be bold if we don't cultivate our love for God through our prayer, through fasting, through reading of holy things, through the Services. Otherwise, our hearts are cold. We might know a few things. But we will be making compromises in our lives and we won't even realize that. Many times. Or when we do realize, then we will have dug ourselves a hole; we will be afraid to speak the truth at that point.
Cultivate your love for God, and realize that you are a soldier; you're called to service. The Scripture says the Kingdom of Heaven is being won by violence. That violence is our boldness to do what is right because of love for God, no matter what the consequences.
So let us follow the example of these Myrrh‑Bearers, of Joseph and Nicodemus who acted in boldness. That boldness was given to them by God. They didn't possess it on their own. It was given to them because of their love for Him, not because of their knowledge, because they were wrong; they were administering to a dead man and He wasn't dead.
Let us be like these holy saints. Cultivate your love for God, brothers and sisters, and look for opportunities to be bold. And when you're not bold, when you're afraid to make the Sign of the Cross in front of a bunch of people you don't know or your family or at your business meeting, or when you're afraid to speak out when people are saying things that are wrong, or when you do not feel moral authority because of your own sins, force yourself to be bold. This latter obstacle is probably the major source where we are not bold, where we need to correct someone whom we love, but we look at ourselves and we think I'm such a terrible person, I have no right at all, no strength to be able to talk to this person. That's not humility acting. That's cowardice. You have no right to not do something good because you think you are bad!
If you have boldness before God, it is because of love for God and even in the midst of knowing your sins, God will tell you, call your name; and you must be like Samuel and say, "Here am I." Then, no matter what it is, do it. There's many things all of us need to do. But it starts with loving God, and the love for God will wash away our ignorance and our timidity. May God grant it. Amen.
Transcribed by Helen, May the Lord save her and her loved ones.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2012
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