What then may be done?

I hear many say, “While we are here, and enjoying the privilege of hearing, we are awed, but when we are gone out, we become altered men again, and the flame of zeal is quenched.” What then may be done, that this may not come to pass?
Let us observe whence it arises. Whence then doth so great a change in us arise? From the unbecoming employment of our time, and from the company of evil men.

For we ought not as soon as we retire from the Communion to plunge into business unsuited to the Communion, but as soon as ever we get home, to take our Bible into our hands, and call our wife and children to join us in putting together what we have heard, and then, not before, engage in the business of life.

NPNF1-10. St. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Homily V., Matt. I. 22, 23 – http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf110.V_1.html

As I read things from St John’s homilies on St Matthew, I intend to share certain “golden nuggets” with you. This is actually quite difficult, because I am often sore tempted to send you most of the homily I am reading! That would defeat my purpose, which is to make the readings of the Holy Fathers more accessible to my flock, and to encourage you to read the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers.

St John wrote a very long time ago, before Ipods and television and the Internet, but not evidently, before human nature was very resistant to holding on to holy zeal. We may kid ourselves and tell ourselves that we have more distractions and that living a holy life is more difficult now, but even a cursory reading of St John’s golden words belies that fiction.

Who among us can honestly say that St Johns words, above, do not apply to themselves? How many times are we inspired by a phrase from the Holy Scriptures, or a part of one of our hymns, or even by the preaching of the pastor, and then this zeal and clarity, like a tiny candle flame, is snuffed out as we exit the doors! Most of the time, we cannot remember what it was the inspired us!

St John is giving us the solution to our dilemma. It is not a solution that will work today, or tomorrow, but over time, our poor memories will recall holy things easily, and we will be changed. I hope that any of you who have heard more than three of my sermons knows that this is a constant theme for me.

Here is how we “get there from here”. St John lays is out for us so it is plain to see (which, to be honest, is not always the case for him; many times I must reread a passage many times to get the gist of what he is trying to teach us).

He offers two solutions to our vexing spiritual dilemmas.

1. Watch our behavior, and the company we keep. In the words of his great mentor, St Paul, “… Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

2. Do not rush back into the world after assembling in worship.

We, the people of God, should EXPECT something when we assemble together. We should expect to receive the grace of God, and then hold it close to our breast. After the assembly, our worship should not end. Why should we rush back into the world? Let us take St John’s advice, and take time with our loved ones in contemplation of the holy texts we have just heard read and expounded upon.

I want to be obedient to St John’s admonition, and as a pastor, would like to benefit all of you, and not just my extended family. Shall we begin again to have spiritual talks after the liturgy? I am not sure what form these will take, and to be perfectly honest, it is hard for me to present something every Sunday as I once did in the past, because the environment is often a distracting one, and it does not appear that many are very interested.

I am thinking out loud here, and I invite you to also join in, by commenting on the BLOG, or the mailing list. Shall we have a group discussion about the scripture of the day, or the service texts, or something else?

Let us, as a community, become stronger. We are already doing something to this end, by having more regularly scheduled services. This is critically important to our spiritual growth, and I will endeavor to increase this schedule as I am able.

An important parallel step to our growth as a parish family is our individual emphasis on our inner lives. St John is describing a way to affect our inner lives, by engaging in spiritual discussion together. Will we heed his advice?

Please, let us discuss this.

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