Archive for the ‘Pascha:Sundays of’ Category

2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday “Believing disbelief” is the most important part of the story. Text and Audio.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012


2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday

"Believing disbelief" is the most important part of the story.

John 20:19-31

2011

 

Icon of Thomas Sunday http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/feasts-of-the-lord-thomas-sunday-01.jpgIn the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Christ is risen!  Christos voskrese!  Christos aneste!

This is now the eighth day of Pascha; on the eighth day, the Lord visited the disciples with Thomas being present.  He had been absent on the day of the resurrection.  Let us go through some of the important theological points of this reading, and then, saving the best for last, the most practical and the most important for our spiritual life.

On the day of the Resurrection, the Lord comes to the disciples, minus Thomas, and He goes through shut doors because, of course, He's God; He can do anything He wishes.  The first words that He says to them are, "Peace be to you."  This is very important.  One way of describing the goal of life is to have peace because, if there is peace, there is God. And they will achieve this peace, not with a peaceful life because there will be many things that will happen to them and they will all be martyred save one.  But they will have peace in their heart because God will abide in them. 

 

Then He breathed on them and said:  “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”  In Scripture the breath is often indicative of wind, and the wind is indicative of the Holy Spirit because the wind blows where it wills, but we know not how it does it.  It's the same way with the Spirit[1].  That's what Jesus explained to Nicodemus.

 

To this day the priest, when a baptism is conducted, the priest will breathe on the one being baptized three times in the sign of the Cross.  This breath is not the giving of the Holy Spirit.  It is indicative; it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  And when Jesus said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit, they did not receive It; He was speaking of what would happen in time.  He was basically prophesying[2] because our Lord was all things so He was also a prophet, as well as God, as well as a King.  The Holy Spirit would come on Pentecost, fifty days after Pascha. 

He also said to them, "Whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins you retain they are retained."  And that is why we have the practice of confession with a priest in the presence of God.  And then the priest has the awful responsibility of determining:  Has the person repented of their sins?  Repentance is the only reason why a person can be forgiven.  Repentance is the desire to change; your sins are forgiven, if you have desire to change.  Please note! You may not be very good at changing! You may still be a weak sinner, with the need for healing and strengthening of the will. God does not forgive based on your personal perfection, but only on your honest desire to change and reach perfection.

 

Now, Thomas saw the disciples, perhaps on the same day, but after the Lord had seen all of them, and he could not believe.  In fact, he was very explicit about why he would not believe.  He said:  "Except if I see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe."  This is not the recommended way to speak about our Lord Jesus Christ!  It was a blunder on his part.  Clearly!  But even though he blundered, he waited and he still was with the disciples.

 

Now, eight days later Jesus stands in the midst of with them, and Thomas is there.  So He tells Thomas:  “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing”[3]

And then Thomas says something very important; the first time ever in Scripture that the Lord is declared to be God and Man: "My Lord and my God."[4]  That is indicating that Jesus Christ has two natures and is God and Man. 

 

So Jesus says to him, "Thomas, because thou has seen Me thou has believed?  Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed."[5] 

 

And this ties in with the most important part.  It is important to know theological facts about God.  To know dogmatic things and be correct, that God is Trinity, Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin,  the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is given to the faithful through Christ.  Those things are all important.  But none of it matters if you don't endure to the end because if you give up, then you will not receive the things that you are striving for. 

 

So Thomas, although he made a terrible blunder when he said he would refuse to believe, he stayed with the apostles, even though his heart was broken, even though he did not believe.

 

But one can say that it was not a hundred percent that he did not believe.  There was some part of him that hoped, and that part of him kept him with the disciples.  And that is the most important part of this reading, brothers and sisters, because all of us are a lot like Thomas.  We make blunders, sometimes serious ones and sometimes we do have doubts.  If you're honest with yourself, you will believe this; you will know this.  And if we are like Thomas, we stay with prayer, with fasting, with the church.  We don't give up.  And God will always enlighten us, every time.  It might not happen in the timing that we want it to happen but it will always happen.

 

Now, why do you think this story of Saint Thomas has been preserved?  It's an interesting story, of course.  But why was it preserved in the Gospel?  Why was so much time spent on it by Saint John?  Well, if you look at the day of the Resurrection and the aftermath, it was difficult for people to believe in the Resurrection.  Our Lord had told them all about the Resurrection many, many times.  He told them about the sign of Jonah[6] and told them many times what would happen.  And then it happened exactly as He said.  And then He died.  And then they saw Him no more.  And then on the day of the Resurrection, some saw Him and some didn't, and the ones who didn't see Him just couldn't believe until finally He appeared to everybody. 

 

The Resurrection is difficult to believe in.  Now, okay, we can say we believe in the historical event of the Resurrection.  We can say, oh, it's easy, of course: “I believe in the Resurrection; I'm a Christian.”  Is that the case?  If you truly believed in the Resurrection, you would never sin, because the purpose of the Resurrection was so that you would become perfected.  There is only truth in the Resurrection and the One Who is resurrected, Jesus Christ.  Nothing else is true.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else has any substance whatsoever in this world.  So the more you live according to the Resurrection, the less you sin and the more peace you have. 

 

It's difficult to believe in the Resurrection, that is, to always live according to it, because you see things in life that contradict it.  There are things in your own life,  the things you do that you shouldn't do, the things you don't do that you should do.  And yet we call ourselves Christians. 

 

How do you deal with this conundrum of having belief and yet unbelief?  The same way Thomas did.  You stick with the Lord.  You keep praying.  You keep fasting.  You confess your sins and you struggle. And as God reveals to you things about yourself, you change them, with Him helping you.  And then He will reveal Himself completely to you, as you are able to see Him. 

 

If we are full of sin, we can't see the Lord very well at all.  It is as if we have eyes with cataracts on them.  But those scales will fall away if we struggle, and that's what Thomas did.  He made a blunder; let's be honest about it; it was not intelligent what he said.  He had heard the same things that the other apostles had said, and now all of his friends that he had been with for three years told him, "We have seen the Lord," and he would not believe.  But he would also not go away.  So let's learn that from Thomas. 

 

Let's understand that living according to the Resurrection is hard, and it is our purpose in life.  So let's stick with the Lord, by prayer, fasting, coming to the Services, even if they don't touch you.  Sometimes they don't.  Sometimes prayer is flat and dry.  Sometimes reading the Scripture is difficult or even boring or even confusing.  Do all those things.  And the Lord will enlighten you as much as He enlightened Thomas.

May God help you in all things.  Amen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011

Transcribed by the hand of Helen.May God save her and her loved ones.

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-05-01+thomas-sunday+believing-disbelief-is-the-most-important-part-of-the-story_john20-19-31.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-05-01+thomas-sunday+believing-disbelief-is-the-most-important-part-of-the-story_john20-19-31.rtf

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-05-01+thomas-sunday+believing-disbelief-is-the-most-important-part-of-the-story_john20-19-31.mp3

LOTS more Homilies on the Sunday of St Thomas at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#THOMAS_SUNDAY

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] The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

[2] Of course, the fulfillment of the prophesy “receive ye the Holy Spirit” was accomplished on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Pascha.

[3] John 20:27

[4] John 20:28

[5] John 20:29

[6] “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  (40)  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:39-40 

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Christology and moral teaching in the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus Christ. Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Icon of Christ kneeling in prayer in GethsemaneLISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The Christology of the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus Christ (which He made just before His arrest on Holy Thursday) is explained, and then the moral application of this prayer which is as important as the dogma in it is discussed. Our Lord proves that He is equal to the Father, and gives us two instructions on what we must do to be saved. Both instructions are intimately related to His relationship with the Father, and consequently what our relationship should be with God and our neighbor.

More homilies on the Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council are HERE

 

John 17:1-13TEXT 1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-07_2011-06-05+holy-fathers-of-the-first-ecumenical-council+high-priestly-prayer-of-jesus-christ_john17-1-13.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-07_2011-06-05+holy-fathers-of-the-first-ecumenical-council+high-priestly-prayer-of-jesus-christ_john17-1-13.mp3


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7th Sunday of Pascha – Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council Why do we commemorate the First Ecumenical Council and read the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus between Ascension and Pentecost?

Sunday, June 5th, 2011


John 17:1-13

2010

Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, with Emperor Constantine<br />
 (Arius, whose heresy was repudiated, is underneath them) http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/first-ecumenical-council.jpg

 

Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, with Emperor Constantine

(Arius, whose heresy was repudiated, is underneath them)

More homilies on the Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council are HERE

 

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

Brothers and sisters, this is only now a week before Pentecost. We just had the Ascension this week on Thursday, then Pentecost the next weekend and we will have almost completed the Pentecostarion period.
 

This reading is in context with all of the other readings, all of the other Sundays including Pascha and including the Ascension. We should understand why it is where it is during the church year and what it means.
 

At Pascha the Lord trampled down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowed life. He made our flesh capable of eternal life and conquered death. And then follows the period in between Pascha and Ascension, a time when the Lord is on the earth. And what is He doing with His apostles and disciples? He’s teaching them. He is enlightening them because they didn’t understand everything all at once, and He had to teach them many things, many dogmas, many ways of thinking, to have the right priorities, the way to look at things, interpreting the Scriptures to them. He did this and we have some of His appearances recorded in the Scriptures.

So we have: Thomas, who doubted and then believed and proclaimed the Lord as God and Man when he said, “My Lord and my God”; the Holy Myrrh Bearers; the Samaritan Woman, which is really the dialog with the soul; the Blind Man and the Paralytic. We see how they were enlightened in various ways. It is all about enlightenment during this period of time until Ascension because the Resurrection must be realized inside of us.

The Kingdom of Heaven is within us. The Resurrection as a historical fact has no meaning for us. It must be inculcated in the way we live. If we don’t live the Resurrection, then the Resurrection does not affect us. There are a lot of people that are going down the broad way to hell. The Lord was resurrected for all of them, but many of them will not live. So the Resurrection must be realized in us. That comes from enlightenment.

Now, enlightenment comes from the Lord teaching us and also us being receptive to that teaching and responding to that teaching. So it is God’s grace and our efforts over time which enlightens. And these Gospels and these Sundays preceding the Ascension really are talking about them. That’s the overall theme.

In Pascha, He showed that He conquered death, and in the Ascension he showed that our flesh would be able to rise up and be with Him and be with God the Father because Jesus Christ, as a human being rose up into the Heavens to be at the right hand of God. And so can we rise up into the Heavens to be with Him in the flesh. That’s what the Ascension teaches us.

 

Now we have this in between period, between the Ascension and the bringing of the Holy Spirit. So why this Gospel at this point in time? This Gospel, if you read it carefully, is a dogmatic explication of who Jesus Christ is, that He is fully equal with the Father, that He is begotten, not made, and He is one in essence with the Father. He speaks to the Father as an equal when He speaks to Him as God.

Now, there are other points in the Scripture and even in this prayer of His, the high priestly prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday before He entered into His Passion, where He shows His
inferiority to God the Father because as a human being, as a man, He is inferior. The Scripture says He was made a little lower than the angels; He became man. But when He speaks as God, He speaks as an equal. He says that all the things that He has, the Father has, and all the things that God the Father has, He has.

So it is an explication of Jesus Christ being fully God and fully Man. So He has the authority to send the Holy Spirit to us. He has the authority to tell us how to live. He lived the way He told us, so He has the right to tell us to live that way.

 

And also it is basically a recapitulation of how we should live. And the way of life we should have speaks of what salvation is. You know this verse; I’ve told it many times:

“And this is eternal life, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou has sent.”

 

This is eternal life, to know God. How do we know Him? Part of this knowledge is a proper dogmatic understanding.

 

In First Ecumenical Council which we are commemorating today, the 318 holy fathers proclaimed the dogma of Who Jesus Christ is, that He was not a creature as the arch-heretic Arius asserted.

 

Arius was a protopresbyter of Alexandria, and he was very erudite, and he got himself a bit of a following, and he said smooth words. The Bible says such words that are smoother than oil and yet they are darts. And the simple people and even simple bishops and simple priests started to believe him that Jesus Christ was created by the Father before time but created so He is a creature. A creature is not equal with God. And yet Jesus Christ spoke to the Father as an equal. He cannot be a creature. And this is important. Many people died over this heresy.

There was a lot of  controversy – if we had been there, we would have wondered what the decision might be. The truth was not entirely clear for a while because Arius was very intelligent, very good as a rhetoritician and so he swayed some people. But especially through the auspices of our very own patron, Saint Nicholas, who slapped Arias because of his heresy – and later on the bishops of that council saw in a dream that Nicholas was with God, because they had deposed Nicholas for slapping Arias — the truth won out because the truth always will win out. But remember, when the truth is winning out, it doesn’t always look all that truthful as it is winning. That’s the way life is. We are ascending to perfection, but we are making a lot of imperfect steps on that ascent.

So we are to be one as Jesus is with His Father, but that process is an arduous one and a difficult one and one with missteps. That’s what happened in the first council; we shouldn’t be afraid of saying it. But the Holy Spirit was with them, and the truth won because God had holy ones in that council, Saint Spiridon also, Saint Nicholas, St Athanasius the Great, and others who spoke for the truth and made it clear that Jesus Christ is only begotten of the Father, begotten, not made, one in essence, by Whom all things were made. And about two thirds of the Creed, of our symbol of faith, was formulated in the Council of Nicaea.

 

What did the fathers stand for? Truth. Jesus Christ is truth. Truth is not a thing. Truth is a person. He is the truth and the life[1]. That’s why it’s important to not let anyone sully His name in any way. Most of the major heresies that the church was assailed with were some kind of attack on Jesus Christ. Arianism was only one of the first. There were many others: Monothelitism, all kinds of ones that are really hard to pronounce if you start saying them fast. But they were all attacks against the person of Jesus Christ, either His divinity or His humanity or some combination of attack between the two.

The Creed formulated, for all time, what was always true and what we always believed and what we will continue to believe. But the Creed was not just a statement of factual information. The Creed is a statement of dogma and morality because Jesus Christ is our example of morality. To believe in Him correctly is to follow Him. So this is what the holy fathers were doing. They were proclaiming the truth about Him with courage.

And since Jesus Christ is pivotal to our faith, we partake of His body and blood in every Divine Liturgy. We must know Him in order to have salvation. He is the only path to the Father. He sends us the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father. Everything about our faith is about Jesus Christ. Saint Justin Popovich once said that the answer to every question is Jesus Christ.

So it is very important to have a correct theological understanding of Him. And you can have that correct understanding in words if you say the Creed and even if you believe the Creed as well as you know it. But the only way to really have a correct theological understanding of Jesus Christ is to know Him. Eternal life is the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God comes from living as Jesus Christ lived so that we experience what He experienced and we become what He is,  holy, humble, compassionate, having unceasing prayer. That’s a commandment. Does it seem impossible to you? It is very possible. It has been attained many times. Unceasing prayer while on the earth, by human beings.

Salvation is the knowledge of God, and it is also to be one with God as Jesus said He was one with His Father, these two things, to know God and to be one with Him. And the council shows us this knowledge of God, proclaiming Him correctly, very carefully, dogmatically.

 

And it also showed how to be one with Him. And as I said, the council wasn’t always one. There was argument, and there was really the appearance that Arius would win the day because he appeared to be smarter than anybody else. He was really just an educated fool, but he appeared to be smarter. So for a time there did not appear to be unity. But where there is the love of God, always unity will win out.
 

And so this is why this reading is between Ascension and Pentecost. Because with the coming of the Holy Spirit now comes enlightenment for every man, the Holy Spirit abiding within us, teaching us the things that cannot be uttered, teaching us the things of Christ, the things of God, how to live, how to think, how to struggle, the Holy Spirit abiding in every man. We must believe in Who God is and not have any false ideas about Him. So the Church guards the dogmatic definitions of God carefully, through, for instance, the symbol of faith and really through all of our services and our way of life. But if you don’t guard this definition of God by living according to it, then all is lost for you because the truth is no good to you unless you live it.

And so here we see an example of the truth being lived: Jesus Christ proclaiming the truth about Who He is, and then we see historically the holy fathers proclaiming who Jesus Christ is, with very exact language. And this exact language can only be understood if we live it. Then you’ll know.

Just as the answer to every question is Jesus Christ, also the answer to every question is become holy. If you do not understand how God can be Trinity, become holy and then you will understand. If you cannot understand how God can become man, become holy and then you will understand. These are things that the impure mind cannot comprehend, the mind that’s full of all kinds of stuff that is not of God, can’t understand the things of God.

And remember, eternal life is to know God. He proclaims it. In my opinion, this is the best definition of eternal life — and there’s probably 200 definitions of eternal life in the Scriptures that all basically say the same thing in different ways. But this one says it very clearly: “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.” So I’ll tell you, it is dogmatic understanding of God and living according to that dogma. And we see that example in the holy fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. So we must live according to that example.

Now we are in this period waiting for Pentecost. Of course we know that the Spirit has come. The Spirit lives in us. Let us listen to the Holy Spirit teaching us how to live. What is important? All that’s important is to know God. There’s nothing else that matters in the entire world. Nothing matters except that you know God intimately, personally.

 

The only way you can do that is to worship Him in spirit and in truth. The “in truth” part is dogmatically understanding Who He is, not proclaiming Him to be something that He isn’t. And “in spirit” is to live according to what He taught you. It’s a difficult thing, but with the Holy Spirit we can.
 

May God help us to always proclaim Who Jesus Christ is, not just when we say the Creed, but by how we live. Amen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.    

 

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/pascha-sunday-07_2010-05-16+holy-fathers-of-the-first-ecumenical-council_john17-1-13.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-07_2010-05-16+holy-fathers-of-the-first-ecumenical-council_john17-1-13.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-07_2010-05-16+holy-fathers-of-the-first-ecumenical-council_john17-1-13.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] “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6 KJV  )

 

 

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7th Sunday of Pascha – Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council – sermons and questions and answers

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Icon of the Fathers of the first Ecumenical council


On the first Sunday after the Ascension of the Lord, the Church prayerfully remembers the god-bearing fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.

We know from Church history that the Emperor Constantine the Great, the Equal-to-the-Apostles, called this council in 325 AD in the city of Nicea because of his care for the Christian faith.

The subject of discussion at this council was the heresy of Arius. This is the false teaching that the Son of God is not of one essence with the Father, that is that He is not one with the Father in His divine nature, but is merely the highest of His creations…. More at Homily from collection “Before the Eyes of God's Truth” by Hieromonk Methodius


When is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council celebrated? Speculate why.

What is an ecumenical council? How many have there been? Why in general were they called? How do the Orthodox view the pronouncements of the Ecumenical councils? What was the primary reason for the 1st Ecumenical Council? When and where was it called?

Describe the pernicious heresy combated by the council. Are there any recognizable groups outside the church that still hold to this heresy?

What is the definition of eternal life that Jesus gives in the Gospel for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First ecumenical council?

And other questions and answers at

 

Questions and answers for The Sunday of the Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council


Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
John 17:1-13
2002

Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
What is Heaven?
John 17:1-13
2008

Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
The entire content ot the Christian faith is Jesus Christ.
John 17:1-13
2009
Also in Format: mp3

Holy Fathers Of The First Ecumenical Council
Why do we commemorate the First Ecumenical Council & read the High Priestly prayer of Jesus between Ascension & Pentecost?
John 17:1-13
2010

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The Sunday of the Blind Man. What must I do to be saved?

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Icons of the healing of the blind man

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The story of the healing of the blind man who washed in the pool of Siloam is a primer on what we must do and must not do – to be saved. We discuss some very important dogma presented at the beginning of the reading (what does it mean when is says Jesus "passed by" – it is something very specific, personal and important, questions abut sin, what our Lord's important statement about work during the day means), and then we look at the character of the blind man, and the ruling Jewish elite. A clear pattern emerges of the things WE must do, and the things that God will do it we do these necessary things.

More homilies on the Sunday of the Blind Man are HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Icons of the healing of the blind man

Icon of the healing of the blind man

Icon of the healing of the blind man

John 9:1-38 1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? 9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. 12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. 13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. 17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? 20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. 24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.


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5th Sunday of Pascha – The Samaritan Woman. Literacy, thirst, humility. zeal.

Saturday, May 21st, 2011


5th Sunday of Pascha – The Samaritan Woman

We MUST be theologically literate, having thirst for righteousness, humility, and zeal to be saved

John 4:5-42
2010

 

(More Homilies on the Samaritan Woman are here: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#The_Samaritan_Woman)

 

 

The Samaritan woman at the well. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/samaritan-woman-at-the-well-jruchi-gospels-ii-mss-georgia-12th-cen.jpgIn the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Brothers and sisters, this story about the conversion  of the Samaritan Woman is also in line with all of the  Gospels of this Paschal period about enlightenment.  We can speak of many things concerning it. Since it is a historical event, there are practical things that happened that we can glean from the way the Lord talked to her and the reactions of this woman who has a name, Photini, Svetlana, Equal to the Apostles.

And also, it has a wealth of theology in it, and also, a lot of mystical theology in it as well. And, as it should be all Scripture for us, there should be a practical application, something that touches us. My meaning might be different than yours. I’m speaking of where certain things touch us in a certain way. That’s the way the Scriptures should be for all of us.

 

Now, this only happens if you read the Scripture often. If you don’t read the Scripture very often, then it’s not going to touch you very often because it’s complicated. This story is extremely complicated. The theology spoken of here is very complex. So if we only read the Scripture occasionally, then the full nuance of the story will not reach our hearts.

 

This woman was theologically literate. Oh, she was incorrect in her theology because she was a Samaritan. The Samaritans only accepted the five books, the Pentateuch of Moses. They had little to say about the prophets, didn’t like them very much, and they had mixed in some pagan practices. So the Jews hated them. So her theology was not all correct, but she was theologically literate, as you can see from the story, when she asked the Lord intelligent questions based upon her theological world view.

 

I think we can learn many things from the story, but the most important one, the essence of the story is: how can we obtain the Living Water? Because the focus of the story is our obtaining Living Water, which the Lord offers to her, and of course Living Water is the Holy Spirit.

 

How does one obtain it? The actions of Saint Photini show us how you obtain the Living Water, and her actions were very nuanced, very beautiful. Let’s go over her personality because her personality must be inculcated in our personality.

 

Her errors are probably a lot like our errors. But are our virtues like her virtues? She was theologically literate. She knew the Scriptures. She could ask intelligent questions. So when the Lord had a theological discussion with her, she understood. And as her understanding increased, as the Lord gently brought her along, she had the vocabulary, the background, so that she could understand what He was saying and not merely just be offended when He said, ‘salvation is from the Jews.’ She wasn’t a Jew, but she can understand why He would be saying that. And with the grace of God present, her mind was changed. But if she didn’t have a mind to change, she wouldn’t be changed. If she didn’t have some understanding already, then this conversation would have not meant anything to her. So we must have theological understanding, brothers and sisters.

 

I tell you, this is a difficult Scripture for a pastor to preach about because it’s very complex, very nuanced. There are many roads to go down, and some of them would be unintelligible to most of you and not profitable to you because you don’t read the Scripture enough, because you don’t come to the Services and hear the Scriptures expounded enough.

 

Last night we covered it. These Scriptures were covered. The Samaritan Woman, the Living Water, was covered over and over again in the vigil service. This is the kind of thing you need. You might not think you need it. You might not feel the loss, but you are poorer if you do not have theological understanding. The Lord said it Himself, and He said it in many other places, but today He said it: You must worship God in spirit and in truth.

 

There must be a truth but then you must inculcate it into your spirit. If you don’t know who God is, then you can’t follow Him. It’s important to know that God is Trinity, that Jesus Christ is God and man, that He was born of a Virgin, that He is perfectly God and perfectly man, having two natures that are not mixed together but exist cooperatively in the same person. And having two natures, He has two wills. And His human will, He completely, of His own, subjugated to the Divine will.

 

The Samaritan woman at the well http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/samaritan-woman-at-the-well.jpgThese things are important to know because they apply to us. If they are just static pieces of information that are a little hard to understand, then you’re not reading enough, you’re not praying enough, you’re not struggling enough. So even if you don’t have a perfect understanding, you can become perfected. God will work with what you know. If you don’t know anything, there’s not much to work with. So I’ll tell you, many of you are very much poorer because you didn’t hear the beautiful theology last night that told us so many truths, restated over and over in poetic ways, about the Resurrection, about the Living Water, about the Samaritan Woman.

 

So, brothers and sisters, there is no substitute for being theologically literate. Christianity is not for people who are not intelligent. I’m not speaking about whether you know reading, writing and arithmetic. I’m not talking about that kind of intelligence. I’m speaking about spiritual intelligence. What should be important to you is to know the things of God.

 

It was important to her. She didn’t know all the truth, but what she did know she knew well. And so when God presented the truth to her, she could understand it.
 

So go home, take a look at your Bible. Does it have any dust on it? It shouldn’t. Consider what your priorities are. Do you pray? Do you fast? Yes, fasting is part of learning theology, too. What are your priorities? What’s the most important thing for you today and tomorrow and the next day? Well, it should be to learn about the One Who is meek and lowly of heart, to take His yoke upon us. That should be the most important thing.
 

He’s not a stranger. There’s much that we can know about Jesus. He spoke of it Himself. The prophets spoke about Him, and the fathers after them. It’s all out there for us to know. And I tell you, there’s a principle, a human principle, that you must hear something many times to understand it. It’s very easy to learn one plus one equals two. That’s a simple fact. But to learn that God became man, you cannot speak of it enough, because the only way to really understand it is to live it. That means reading about it. That means praying about it, listening to the hymns about it, reading the Psalter, because every page of the Psalter speaks about Christ. Every page of the Old Testament speaks about Christ. And all this reading and praying and fasting and struggle must help you inculcate the Incarnation in the way you live.

This woman had a good foundation. When the Lord revealed to her the truth, she could understand it. And we could see practical things about her personality that we must also possess. She was a good woman living in a bad situation. She was living with a man. She had had five husbands before. I guess the saying is, there was a lot of mileage on her. Definitely hadn’t had a perfect life. She was going to the well late in the day when it’s hot. Everybody else would go in the morning. She went at noon. Why? Because she didn’t want to be around other people because of her shame.

 

Here’s one of those personal applications of Scripture. Perhaps this doesn’t mean as much to you as to me, that’s okay. Hopefully there’s something else in the story that really touches you, really makes you want to change or maybe gives you hope that you will change, and have confidence that you will change.

 

The woman went to the well at noon because of her shame. The Lord spoke to her about Living Water that cleanses away all shame. And then  - miracle of miracles – her heart was so changed that she didn’t care about her shame, and she went to her own people and became equal to the apostles and told them of the Messiah. A conversation of what? An hour or two, maybe? –  completely changed her. He life became completely different; There was no longer any shame but now hope, now joy, now understanding.

 

That’s what the Lord can do for each one of us. What a wonderful thing it is to have our shame taken away by the Living Water. But it’s not going to happen unless we’re like her. And we have already spoken of her theological understanding. And if you don’t have it, you’d better get it, and you’re not going to get it by sitting at home, and you’re not going to get it by being wherever you are on Saturday night instead of the vigil. You’re not going to get it unless you read and pray and study.
 

Look at her personality. She’s a woman of deep zeal, of interest in the theological things. When the Lord started to speak to her, she was interested. Can you see her in your mind’s eye sitting up and listening carefully, watching the Lord, eyes fixed on His, thinking that this is a holy moment? She didn’t know who He was yet. He was just a Jew who was lax, in her opinion, according to Saint John, because He was asking for water; the Jews shouldn’t even use the vessels of people that are considered unclean. But she was listening to Him with desire because she had thirst.

 

I tell you, the Lord offers Living Water to all of us, to the entire world, and a lot of people are not thirsty. If you’re not thirsty, you’re not going to want the Living Water. Now, everyone should be thirsty, but not everyone is. And even among Christians, there are different levels of thirst. If you desire with all your heart to be holy, God will help you to be holy. Most people don’t desire that. That’s why we live in such mediocre ways.

 

But this woman was thirsty. So when He offered her water, although it was something that sounded impossible because she was thinking of water; you drink water and later on you have to drink more. But He said you don’t have to drink anymore. You would never thirst again. It didn’t make any sense to her. But because of her desire, she continued to question Him and found out about this Living Water, that He was speaking of the Holy Spirit.

 

So we must have the desire. And I tell you, if you don’t have desire, you can gain desire if you want to have desire. More than once I have prayed and I have heard others ask, Lord, help me to have the desire to desire; help me to want to change.

 

Perhaps it is sometimes with a person that we have some trouble with and we want to forgive them, but there’s something in our heart that doesn’t let us. Of course it’s our sins; it’s our darkness. But the desire to forgive them is the beginning of forgiveness.

 

So she had desire. And so should we. And desire just doesn’t fall out of Heaven like manna. Desire comes to you from your effort. If you’re cold, then do something to become warm.

 

Saint John Climacos has this proverb that he says in The Ladder. He says, some people, when they begin to exercise, they do it slowly and their joints hurt, but after a little while of movement the joints warm up and they go faster. And he says, heed this proverbial word. What it means is: if you’re cold, do something to become warm. So you don’t love God, do something to love God. Pray, fast, come to the Services, read the Scriptures, even if they seem unintelligible to you. Struggle to be kind to the person that you don’t want to be kind to. Make small little steps, and eventually you’ll complete the whole journey.

 

Now, this woman was humble because the Lord, He showed her sins right to her. That’s why He said, call your husband. She answered “I don’t have a husband.” She was honest but sort of partially honest, right? There was something she didn’t say because she was ashamed. So she didn’t lie, but she didn’t tell the whole story. But the Lord knows it all. He says, “you have had five husbands, and the one you’re with now is not your husband, and this you spoke truly.”
 

Now, how did she react to this? I think what happened in her heart was there was this little glimmer of warmth thinking: ‘Maybe I can finally be delivered from my shame; maybe I can be rid of this sort of up and down in my life and stop coming to the well at noon because of my shame; maybe I can change; if this man knows this about me, maybe he can help me in some way.’ She didn’t know he was God so from her perspective, she said “I perceive you are a prophet.” She was correct, He is a prophet.

 

The Samaritan woman at the well http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/samaritan-woman-at-the-well-02.jpgCan you feel in her heart this little desire, this little feeling that “I can be changed?” You should feel that every day, you know, just like she did. Every day you should think: God can change me. The things that I am now I won’t be later. The things that I am not now I will be. The things that I cannot do, God will help me to do. The darkness that is in me will become light. Not today maybe but certainly tomorrow.

 

She had the feeling in her heart. This was holy, divine moment because this was a time in which she could be either offended with the Lord and go her way, thinking He’s just like everybody else, judging me. Or she could look into His eyes and see that He held the key to life.

 

And then the rest of the conversation continued. She learned, He’s more than a prophet. He’s the messiah. And then what did she want to do? The first thing she thought of was her own people, most of whom probably judged her, castigated her. All she wanted to do was run to her own

people and tell them: This is the Messiah, we’ve found Him.

 

So we’ve got to be like her too, share the Messiah with others. But you can’t share what you don’t have, brothers and sisters. If you don’t have that hope in your heart to become better, you can’t share it with others. You’ve got to feel it in your heart.

 

I tell you, look in your heart. If you don’t feel it, don’t despair, but do something about feeling it. There’s practical things you can do, I’ve told you, to pray, come to church even when it’s boring, even when you don’t feel like it, fast when you don’t feel like it. But it’s more profound than all of that. Those are just the sort of the external things. I mean they are internal too, they should be internalized. But you must have desire to be different than you are today. You must not be satisfied with who you are.

 

I told you many times that I absolutely, this is truth, I want each one of you to feel the darkness in you, to feel that cold that’s in you. Because it’s there. You’re human. Therefore, it’s there. God came so that you’d become all light, and you’re not all light yet. God came so that you would be perfectly warm, but you’re not all warm yet. You know that. It’s the truth. You’ve got to feel it. This woman felt it. And that’s why she was listening to Him, because she felt how dark she was. When the Lord gave her light, she had enough background to understand what He was saying and the nobility of soul to accept it. That’s how we’ve got to be.
 

So this story, I’ve told you before, is the conversation of the Lord with the soul, and it is the Lord speaking to your soul every day. When the Lord reveals to you – and He does this all the time, that He knows you, and that He has a plan for you, that He wishes you to know Him intimately, and that despite whatever is in you, it can be fixed, there should be in your heart what happened to the Samaritan Woman’s heart, this feeling of I can be changed. And then go out and get this change. It’s not just going to happen to you. It’s going to happen because of desire and because of following through on who the Lord is, worshipping the Lord in spirit and in truth.

 

So brothers and sisters, the Samaritan woman, Saint Photini, is a luminous example of how to listen to God. It’s a whole process. It’s a whole life process. I beg of you, look within your heart and see the darkness and feel the cold, because if you don’t feel the cold and see the darkness, you won’t want to change it. You won’t know it’s there. And then do something about this cold and this darkness. Read, study, pray, fast. Order your life so that you would know the one thing that is needful. And that is: How to obtain this Living Water.

 

May God help you. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010

 

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(More Homilies on the Samaritan Woman are here: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#The_Samaritan_Woman)

 

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The Myrrhbearing Women. Joseph became bold and who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

Monday, May 9th, 2011

myrhhbearers-01

 

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The most important parts of the reading for the Holy Myrhhbearers are the actions of Joseph and the myrhhbearers. We are told that "Joseph became bold" – the same man who had been a secret follower of Christ because of fear. Why did he become bold? This is very important. Three of the myrhhbearers observed the burial of Jesus. Why is this important? Life is full of ordinary things,. but sometimes when we do them, they are extraordinary,. We must do ordinary things in an extraordinary way, as did Joseph and Nicodemus and the Holy Myrhhbearers. In doing these things, we will encounter obstacles, and ask like the myrhhbearers "who shall roll away the stone", and if have fidelity to Christ as they had, the stone will always be rolled away.

More homilies on the Sunday of the Myrhhbearing Women are HERE

Mark 15:43-16:8 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. 1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.


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Sunday of the Holy Myrhbearers. Homilies in Text, audio, and questions and answers

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

 

myrhhbearers-02

Today is the third Sunday after Pascha, and it is the Sunday of the myrrh-bearing women. And it is quite an interesting reading which we have because these women and these men, Joseph of Arimathaea, who is mentioned today, and also Nicodemus, who acted with great love, but also in great ignorance. They were trying to do something that they were not going to be able to accomplish. These women wanted to anoint the Lord with myrrh, and Joseph and Nicodemus had prepared the Lord's body so carefully, wrapping it in clean, fine linen. Myrrh and aloes had been applied, according to the custom of the Jews. All this they did in ignorance. They acted without full knowledge, but with great desire and with great love.

There is a lesson for us. Pascha is God making man able to know God. This is really what Pascha is. It is not an event only; it is a fundamental change in human nature. The God-man becoming incarnate made us able to live. He accomplished our salvation by His death and His resurrection, and basically all of the period from Pascha to Pentecost we think about how He enlightens us and the practical ramifications of what Pascha means for the soul. In essence, it means enlightenment. It means to know God. But to know God you have to be able to live like God, and you must live in virtue before you have full enlightenment. …

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mary-magdalene-01-with-jesus

Mary Magdalene at the tomb

Questions about the Myrrh bearers

Part 1

Mary Magdalene at the tomb

Part 2



The Myrrhbearing women – how to live in microcosm. Audio Homily 2010.

 

 

The story of the myrhhbearers is like ours, in microcosm. Life is full of moments when we must "become bold" as Joseph (and the myrhhbearers) did, and do what is right, even if we do not how we can accomplish the task (roll away the stone and deal with the armed guards) or what will come of it. Even when we have accomplished something, or grace visits us, we may not recognize it or understand it, just like the myrrhbearers, who were afraid after hearing the announcement of the resurrection from the angel. The myrhhbearers who us the way – do what is right, or even what we think is right, no matter ho "possible" it seems or how likely that the outcome will be pleasing, and in time, all will be revealed to us. This Gospel continues the theme of how the enlightenment of the resurrection is actualized in us. LISTEN NOW

Many more Homilies on the Myrhbearers here.

Mark 15:43-16:8 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. 1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.


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myrhhbearers-01

 

Myrhhbearing Women 2009. Act on what you know and you will know more, do what you can do, and you will be able to do more. Audio Homily

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Thomas Sunday – “Believing disbelief” is the most important part of the story. and Why are the altar doors open on pascha? When are they closed and what does it mean? – 2 homilies

Sunday, May 1st, 2011


feasts-of-the-lord-thomas-sunday-01

Thomas Sunday – "Believing disbelief" is the most important part of the story. LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: There are several important parts to the story of the encounter of the Apostle Thomas with the risen Lord, such as why the first words Jesus spoke to the assembled apostles were "Peace be unto you", the promise of the sending of the Holy Spirit and the power that Jesus gave to His Apostles to remit sins. The most important gleaning from the reading is none of these, but is understood in the blunder of St Thomas, and his subsequent behavior, which led to his full enlightenment, and gave him the privilege to be the first to proclaim in the scripture that Jesus is fully God and man. We are all much like Thomas in his mistakes; let us also investigate his great virtue, which the church calls "believing disbelief", without which, scarcely one would be saved.


Why are the altar doors open on pascha? When are they closed and what does it mean? – LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: Five minutes in between Vespers and Matins at the Vigil for Thomas Sunday about the closing of the altar doors, which have been open all of Bright week. There is profound and sobering symbolism concering the closing of the doors which we should understand.


More homilies on the Thomas Sunday are HERE

John 20:19-31 19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


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Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council – Homily by Hieromonk Methodius

Friday, May 14th, 2010

 

The following is my translation of a homily from collection “Before the Eyes of God's Truth” by Hieromonk Methodius, which is on the web at http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/russian/sermons_ierom_methodij.htm)

 

-Dn. Nicholas

On the first Sunday after the Ascension of the Lord, the Church prayerfully remembers the god-bearing fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.

We know from Church history that the Emperor Constantine the Great, the Equal-to-the-Apostles, called this council in 325 AD in the city of Nicea because of his care for the Christian faith.

The subject of discussion at this council was the heresy of Arius. This is the false teaching that the Son of God is not of one essence with the Father, that is that He is not one with the Father in His divine nature, but is merely the highest of His creations.

Every blow directed against the Son of God is directed also at the entire Church, since He is the focus, the center, of the entire christian life, and every false thought about Him is a distortion of that life at its very foundation.

The holy fathers of the Nicean Council understood this. They confirmed the truth that the Son of God is of one essence with God the Father, and as the fruit of their dogmatic labors they gave us the first and largest part of the Symbol of Faith, the Creed.

In our time, the fathers of Nicea present us with a very instructive lesson. Contemporary christian society has almost completely lost any understanding of the importance and overarching significance of the church dogmas, of the truths of the faith.

Truth has become for us something distant, far removed from our life. We no longer love Truth. We have forgotten that every real Truth must manifest itself in life and that every church dogma has moral significance, feeding not only our mind but also the our heart.

The beauty of the Church's authority has been closed to us. We have expelled ourselves from this treasury by our own actions. How often do we see in our days cultured and educated people who are altogether unconcerned with everything having to do with the life of the church? Truly, many of us have become “prodigal sons”, not knowing how to preserve the Father's inheritance and leaving for a land afar off.

And so, in celebrating the memory of the beloved sons who loved Christ's Truth, the Holy Church calls us to the struggle to preserve that Truth. “The days are evil…” Temptations of the mind, heart and will face us on every step of the journey of life.

So so we must remain close to the Church, we must rely on Its unassailable strength.

Christ is in the Church.

And Christ is the way and the truth and the life for everyone who loves the light and who conquers the spiritual iciness and religious indifference in his heart.

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