A Sermon for the Second Sunday of St Matthew
- A Sermon for Second Sunday St Matthew
By Metropolitan Moses
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We have just heard from the Gospel appointed for the Second Sunday after Pentecost where in our Savior called the disciples and they left all things in order to follow Him and He “went about Galilee…preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease…” (Matt 4:23)
In our local Church, that is, the Holy Orthodox Church in North America, there are printed calendars that indicate that on this Sunday we celebrate the Sunday of All Saints of Russia and All Saints of Mount Athos. There are many wonderful saints from both Russia and Mount Athos, yet it is completely appropriate for us to celebrate our own local saints in North America on this Second Sunday after Pentecost as we strive to establish the local Church in the land in which we live. Most of us call North America our home and we have no plans of relocating elsewhere. Following the Traditions of the Church our goal should be to establish our local Church and each local diocese within it in a manner that would be recognizable to the sanctified hierarchs who we commemorate throughout the year. These saints “preached the gospel of the Kingdom” each in their own land.
We have our own local saints who were called to this evangelic labor. Saint Herman was called from the Holy Monastery of Valaam to be a missionary in Alaska, and with him came Saint Juvenaly, who not only preached the word of God, but also was martyred by those to whom he brought the message of the Heavenly Kingdom. Also, we have Saint Peter the Aleut who preached the gospel of the Kingdom by confessing Holy Orthodoxy unto death when he was slain by the Roman Catholic Franciscans in San Francisco for not renouncing his Orthodox Faith. Saint Innocent of Alaska preached the gospel of the Kingdom, serving for many years as a missionary in this land before he was called to return to Russia and later elected Metropolitan of Moscow.
Another saint that was a light of Orthodoxy in our land, if even only for a few years, was Saint Tikhon, who later became Patriarch of Moscow and suffered a martyr’s death at the hand of the Bolsheviks. During his years here from 1898 until 1907 Saint Tikhon strove to unite into one flock the Syrians, Serbs, Greeks and all Orthodox Christians from the various Orthodox homelands with bishops for each ethnic group in order to spread and maintain the light of Orthodox Christianity for all. Subsequent historical events prevented his vision for a united Church administration in North America from being realized.
Saint John Maximovich spent the last four years of his life, from 1962 until his repose in 1966 as Archbishop of San Francisco. Despite the fact that Saint John served as a bishop here for just a few years, his life and subsequent miracles after his death have made a profound impact on many.
Saint Philaret the Confessor, the adamant of Orthodoxy, shone forth in our own land as the first Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, serving as Metropolitan of New York from 1964 until his repose in 1985. While serving in New York he was as a light that was set on a lamp stand and from that See, he confessed Orthodoxy in the face of the betrayal of Orthodoxy by many of the ancient Sees of Christendom. In the face of indifference to the truth he made a stand for truth against the Pan-Heresy of Ecumenism and oversaw the decree of the anathema against that heresy.
We are blessed by the legacy of All Saints of North America and this day wherein we commemorate them should be for us a day of thanksgiving. We should endeavor to become familiar with the account of their lives and their writings. This day should be for us a day of self-examination, that is for all of us, both clergy and laity. We need to ask ourselves, have we done all that we could have done all that we could have done to facilitate “the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom?”
Each one of us is called to be a witness to the Gospel of Christ in our daily life. We do this first by seeking sanctification, by seeking union with Christ through prayer and longsuffering, self-sacrificing love. We need to ask ourselves, do we seek to serve Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom or do we seek to serve ourselves? Have we become complacent or do we serve some sort of a status quo, rather than what our Savior has intended? This day should be for us a day wherein we prayerfully seek the will of God for ourselves as individuals, for our families, for our parishes and for the Church at large. It is a time to put personal agendas aside for the sake of the good of the Church.
Our Protodeacon George recently informed me that in Greece there is a collection of lay people who call themselves the Greek Orthodox Movement for Salvation and they plan to gather a large number of people and hold a 33 hour vigil beginning at 3 pm this Friday until midnight Saturday night to pray for the unity of all of the Traditionalist Orthodox Churches. The present divisions do not help the Church or the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. One of the great deeds that we can accomplish in our time would be to unite all rightly confessing Traditionalist Churches that are presently wrongly divided. For the sake of the “preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom” in our own land we must do all that we can to unite with all Traditionalist Orthodox Christians.
Let us strive to accomplish the unity in Genuine Orthodoxy in North America that Saint Tikhon so desired. At his last Divine Liturgy in North America on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1907, Saint Tikhon exhorted all to remain steadfast in guarding Apostolic Tradition with the following words:
“It is not enough, brethren, to celebrate the "Triumph of Orthodoxy." We have to concur in this triumph. And for this, we have to guard sacredly the Orthodox faith, to stand firm in it, disregarding the fact that we live in a non-Orthodox country; not giving heed to opinions one hears, such as: "This is not the Old Country, here. This is a free land. Therefore, supposedly, we may not have to observe everything that the Church requires." As if the Word of God is suitable only for the Old Country and not for the whole world. As if the Church of Christ is not catholic! As if the Orthodox Faith is not the one that "sustains the universe!
But guarding the Orthodox Faith sacredly and loving it is not enough. Christ the Savior said that lighting the candle, one does not put it "under a bushel, but on a candlestick." (Mt. 5:15), and the light of Orthodoxy is lighted not for a small circle of people. No, the Orthodox Church is catholic; she remembers the will of her Founder: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, teach all the nations." (Mt. 28:19, Mk. 16:15). We ought to share our spiritual wealth, truth, and light with others. ... Thus, each of us should consider this task of propagating the faith as his own task, dear to his heart…”
Each Traditionalist Orthodox parish is a light in the darkness of confusion during these times of the betrayal of the “faith once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3) Lack of unity among the Traditionalists has become for many a bushel that hides the light. North America has been called the “New World,” yet even here we must observe the order of the Church that was established by the Apostles. Overlapping jurisdictions and divisions among the Traditionalists are not consistent with the proper order of the Church.
Now is the time to pray that our Savior will remove all barriers to unity. I ask you to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ in the land of Greece especially on this Friday and Saturday and to pray with them for the unity of the Traditionalist Orthodox for the sake of the “preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom” both in Greece and in our own land. Amen.