Sunday of Orthodoxy 2009
--- On Mon, 3/9/09, Met. Moses <metmoses@...> wrote:
From: Met. Moses <metmoses@...>
Subject: Sunday of Orthodoxy 2009
To: "Panagiotes Fr." <petercarras@...>, "Fr. Carras Panagiotes" <frpanagiotes@...>
Date: Monday, March 9, 2009, 2:55 AMSunday of Orthodoxy 2009A Sermon of Metropolitan MosesOn the Sunday of Orthodoxy we celebrate the triumph of the Holy Icons and all true doctrine of the Church over false teaching. In this feast we celebrate the great mystery piety, the worship of God and the mystery of the Church and its priesthood. As our Savior said to St. Photini, the Samaritan woman, “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)The grace of the New Testament Priesthood was given unto the Holy Apostles at Pentecost and from that time forward they preached the word of God and offered the Holy Eucharist to the faithful. As they preached they ‘committed the doctrine unto faithful men who were able to teach others also,’ (2 Tim 2:2), that is, the first generation of bishops who became the guardians of the Eucharist and Apostolic Tradition in their local Church. The Church grew and expanded and the God given gift of Eucharist and the authentic Apostolic Tradition has been preserved from one generation to the next by the faithful bishops in their local Churches down to our own day.Beloved Christians, let us reflect upon the great miracle that we the unworthy ones of this last and sinful generation have been granted, that greatest of all gifts, the Orthodox Faith. We have been blessed by the holy confessors that have gone before us who refused to compromise with any falsehood that undermined the true teachings of the Church. In living memory we had the example of that contemporary Holy Father and Confessor Saint Philaret of New York who was a tower of strength in proclaiming Orthodoxy in the face of the heresy of our day Ecumenism. Another contemporary Holy Father, Saint Justin Popovich, has succinctly explained the nature of this heresy for all times:Ecumenism is the common name for the pseudo-Christianity of the pseudo-Churches of Western Europe. Within it is the heart of European humanism, with Papism as its head. All of pseudo-Christianity, all of those pseudo-Churches, are nothing more than one heresy after another. Their common evangelical name is: Pan-heresy. Why? This is because through the course of history various heresies denied or deformed certain aspects of the God-Man and Lord Jesus Christ; these European heresies remove Him altogether and put European man in His place. In this there is no essential difference between Papism, Protestantism, Ecumenism, and other heresies, whose name is “Legion.”The formula is simple, man exalts himself over God and His divinely ordered Church and the result is spiritual disaster. This can happen in different times and places, but the result is always a sad tragedy. Thus we see that pride inspired the Pope to attack the conciliar nature of the truth-preserving episcopate-priesthood and to seek to replace God on earth by declaring himself “vicar of Christ” on earth. This spiritual illness developed further when Luther and his followers abandoned any pretense of the Apostolic succession of the episcopate-priesthood and every man became an interpreter of the Bible without regard to Apostolic Tradition. Time has passed and now faith has been replaced by naked humanism masked as “the faith of indifference to truth” in the congregations of Ecumenism.In the Gospel reading appointed for the Sunday of Orthodoxy our Savior chose to praise the Apostle Nathaniel not for his love, or almsgiving or any other virtue, but said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47) The foundation of Faith is guileless honesty. Without guilelessness, one cannot even begin the spiritual life. If one is to genuinely seek the truth, one must pursue it without preconditions, without ulterior motives. One must be ready to sell all that they have, that is, one must be ready to offer obedience to God and submit without reservation to Apostolic Tradition in order to acquire the Pearl of Great Price. (Matt 13:46) Conversion is not done in half measures. Confession of the Faith cannot be a compromise with falsehood.Guile is the precursor of the cancerous disease of Ecumenism. Ecumenistic bishops are either total unbelievers who are masquerading as Christians or they are deceived believers who think that they can silently disagree with the heresy of Ecumenism and, for the sake of expediency, remain in communion with that heresy. Recent history testifies to the sad reality that guile and expediency have estranged many local Churches from the grace of Christ. The spirit of guile and expediency will eventually unite many to the Anti-Christ.Brothers and Sisters in Christ, though our Church may be only a small remnant, we have a great responsibility to guard well the treasure of our Faith, the Light of Christ found in Holy Tradition for the sake of those seeking the Truth. To allow anything to obscure this by our way of life would be like putting the Light of Christ under a bushel. The only way to prevent such a disaster is to cast out all guile and be true to Christ by our self-sacrificing love. How can one attain to this? In an amazing treatise titled “The Inward Mission of our Church,” Saint Justin Popovich describes the high calling of each Christian and enumerates the five ascetical virtues that overcome the sin that permeates the world and unite a person to Christ. This short excerpt [below] from the above mentioned treatise is, in my estimation, one of the most important expressions of Orthodoxy written in the last 100 years and should be read again and again. It is strong medicine for the soul and I offer it as a conclusion to this sermon:
…The mission of the Church, given by Christ and put into practice by the Holy Fathers, is this: that in the soul of our people be planted and cultivated a sense and awareness that every member of the Orthodox Church is a Catholic Person, a person who is for ever and ever, and is God-human; that each person is Christ's, and is therefore a brother to every human being, a ministering servant to all men and all created things. This is the Christ-given objective of the Church. Any other is not an objective of Christ but of the Antichrist. For our local Church to be the Church of Christ, the Church Catholic, this objective must be brought about continuously among our people. And yet what are the means of accomplishing this God-human objective? Once again, the means are themselves God-human because a God-human objective can only be brought about exclusively by God-human means, never by human ones or by any others. It is on this point that the Church differs radically from anything which is human or of this earth.
These means are none other than the God-human ascetic exertions and virtues. And these can be successfully practiced only by God-human, Christ-bearing ascetics. God-human virtues exist in an organic kinship. Each has its source in the other and they bring one another to completion.
First among the ascetic virtues is the effort of faith: The souls of our people must pass through, and constantly be passing through, this exertion; meaning that these souls may then be given up to Christ as having no reservations and being without compromises; having extended down to the God-human depths and ascended to the God-human heights. It is essential to create in our people the sense that the faith of Christ is a virtue beyond nationhood, being œcumenical and catholic, Trinitarian; and that for someone to believe in Christ entails their waiting on Christ, and only on Christ, with every event of their lives.
The second ascetic virtue is the God-human virtue of prayer and fasting: This being a virtue which must become the way of life of our Orthodox people, becoming the souls of their souls, because prayer and fasting are the all-powerful, Christ-given means of purging not only the human personhood but also society, the people, and the human race at large, of every defilement. It is prayer and fasting which are able to cleanse our people's souls from our defilements and sinning (Mt. 17:19-21; Lk. 9:17-29). The souls of our people must fall in step with the orthodox life of prayer. Prayer and fasting are not to be performed merely for the individual, or for one people, but for everyone and everything ("in all and for all"), for friends and enemies, for those who persecute us and those who put us to death, because that is how Christians are to be distinguished from the Gentiles (Mt. 5: 44-45).
The third God-human virtue is that of love: That love which knows no bounds, which does not question who is worthy and who is not, but loves them all; loving friends and enemies, loving sinners and evildoers, without however loving their sins and their crimes. It blesses the accursed, as the sun does, it shines both on the evil and the good (Matt. 5: 44-46). This God-human love must be cultivated in our people because its catholic character is what sets it apart from other self-proclaimed and relative loves: from that of the pharisaic sort, the humanist, the altruistic, the nationalist, and likewise from animal love. The love of Christ is all-embracing love, always. By prayer it is acquired because it is a gift of Christ. Now the Orthodox heart prays with intensity: Lord of love, this love of Thine for everyone and for all things—give it to me!
The fourth ascetic virtue is the God-human virtue of meekness and humility. Only he who is meek at heart can appease fierce hearts that are in uproar: only he who is lowly in heart can humble proud and haughty souls. To be "showing all meekness unto all men" (Tit. 3:2). But a person becomes truly meek and humble when he turns his heart of hearts into the Lord Jesus, humble and meek, He being the only true "meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29). The soul of the person must be rendered meek by Christ's meekness. Every person must learn to pray: Meek, gentle Lord, assuage my fierce soul! The Lord humbled himself with the greatest humility—he was incarnate and became a man. Should you be of Christ, then humble yourself as a worm: embed your flesh in the pain of all who are in pain, of everyone sorrowing and in grief; in the trial of everyone who, impassioned, is thus tormented; and in the trauma of every animal and bird. Humble yourself lower than them all: be all things to all men, but be of Christ and according to Christ. When you are by yourself, then pray: O humble Lord, by your humility, humble me!
The fifth ascetic virtue is the God-human virtue of patience and humility: Which is to say, to endure ill-use, not to render evil for evil, to forgive in total compassion all assault, slander and hurt. This is what it is to be of Christ: to feel yourself perpetually crucified to the world, persecuted by it, violated and spat upon. The world will not tolerate Christ-bearing men just as it would not tolerate Christ. Martyrdom is the state in which a Christian brings forth fruit. This must be imparted to our people. For the Orthodox, martyrdom is purification. Being Christian does not simply mean to bear suffering cheerfully, but to pardon in compassion those who cause it, to pray to God for them as did Christ and the archdeacon Stephen. And so, pray: Long-suffering Lord, give me forbearance, make me magnanimous and meek!
Our Church's mission is to infuse these God-human virtues and ascetic exertions into the people's way of living; to have their life and soul knit firm with the Christ-like God-human virtues. For therein lies salvation from the world and from all those soul-destroying, death-dealing, and Godless organizations of the world. In response to the "erudite" atheism and refined cannibalism of contemporary civilization we must give place to those Christ-bearing personalities, who with the meekness of sheep will put down the roused lust of wolves, and with the harmlessness of doves will save the soul of the people from cultural and political putrefaction. We must execute ascetic effort in Christ's name in response to the cultural exercising which is performed in the name of the decayed and disfigured European being, in the name of atheism, civilization, or the Antichrist. Which is why the major task of our Church is the creation of such Christ-bearing ascetics. The watchword which should be heard within our Church today is: Let us return to the Christ-bearing ascetics and to the Holy Fathers! To resume the virtues of Saint Anthony, Saint Athanasios, Saint Basil, and Saint Gregory, of Saints Sergios and Seraphim of the Russians, of Saints Savva, Prochios, and Gabriel of the Serbs, and others like them because it was these God-human virtues which brought about Saint Anthony, Saint Gregory and Saint Savva. And today only Orthodox ascetic efforts and virtues can bring about sanctity in every soul, in the soul of all our people—seeing that the God-human objective of the Church is unalterable and its means are likewise so, since Christ is the same yesterday, today and unto all ages (Heb. 13:8). Herein lies the difference between the world of men and the one in Christ: the human world is transient and time-bound, whilst that of Christ is ever whole, for evermore. Orthodoxy, as the single vessel and guardian of the perfect and radiant Person of God-human Christ, is brought about exclusively by this extension of virtues by grace, through entirely God-human Orthodox means, not through borrowings from Roman Catholicism or Protestantism, because the latter are forms of Christianity after the pattern of the proud European being, and not of the humble God-human being.
This mission of the Church is facilitated by God Himself because among our people there exists an ascetic spirit as created by Orthodoxy through the centuries. The Orthodox soul of our people leans towards the Holy Fathers and the Orthodox ascetics. Ascetic exertion, at the personal, family, and parish level, particularly of prayer and fasting, is the characteristic of Orthodoxy. Our people is a people of Christ, an Orthodox people, because—as Christ did—it sums up the Gospel in these two virtues: prayer and fasting. And it is a people convinced that all defilement, all foul thoughts, can be driven out of man by these alone (Matt. 17:21). In its heart of hearts our people know Christ and Orthodoxy, they know just what it is that makes an Orthodox person Orthodox. Orthodoxy will always generate ascetic rebirth. She recognizes no other.
The ascetics are Orthodoxy's only missionaries. Asceticism is her only missionary school. Orthodoxy is ascetic effort and it is life, and it is thus by effort and by life that her mission is broadcast and brought about. The development of asceticism...this ought to be the inward mission of our Church amongst our people. The parish must become an ascetic focal point. But this can only be achieved by an ascetic priest. Prayer and fasting, the Church-oriented life of the parish, a life of liturgy: Orthodoxy holds these as the primary ways of effecting rebirth in its people. The parish, the parish community, must be regenerated and in Christ-like and brotherly love must minister humbly to Him and to all people, meek and lowly and in a spirit of sacrifice and self-denial. And such service must be imbued and nourished by prayers and the liturgical life. This much is groundwork and indispensable. But to this end there exists one prerequisite: that our bishops, priests, and our monks become ascetics themselves. That this might be, then: Let us beseech the Lord.
[From: “Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ” a compilation of some of the writings of Saint Justin Popovich, translated by Asterios Gerostergios, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies pub., Belmont Massachusetts, third printing 2005, p. 21-31]
Holy Father Saint Justin pray that we preserve the Faith in our evil days by our God inspired ascetical self-sacrificing love! Amen.