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398Homily for 5/16/10 - Pascha 7 - Holy Fathers, eternal life

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  • Fr David Moser
    May 16, 2010
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      John 17:1-13

      In a couple of weeks we will celebrate American Memorial Day, when we
      honor the memory of all those in the armed forces that fought defending
      this country from its enemies. Last week we also marked Russian “Victory
      Day” honoring the memory of those who defended the Russian land from her
      enemies. Today we have, in the Church, a sort of “memorial day” of our
      own; we remember those who have fought to defend the Church from those
      who would try to lead us away from the Truth into various errors and
      heretical beliefs. We pray regularly for our bishops that God would
      preserve and strengthen them that they may “rightly divide the word of
      Truth”, that is that they might see clearly to discern truth from error
      and thus lead us unerringly toward the Kingdom of Heaven. Today we
      celebrate the memory of the Holy Fathers, the bishops, of the first
      ecumenical council who stood in defense of the Church against the heresy
      of Arius.

      In the Gospel we heard read the archpastoral prayer of our Lord Jesus
      Christ. He prays to the Father that we who believe on Him and who follow
      Him, might be protected and safely granted eternal life, saying, “And
      this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and
      Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Eternal life is to know God, eternal
      life is to know Jesus Christ, eternal life is to live in union and
      communion with the Holy Trinity. Thus in order to have eternal life, it
      is necessary to avoid false ideas and notions about God and about
      Christ, and to hold fast to the truth that He has Himself revealed to
      us. If eternal life is to know He Who is Truth, then it is imperative
      that we steer away from any error and from those who would lead us away
      from truth into error.

      For this reason God has given to His Church the pastors and archpastors
      to care for His flock, the flock of Christ and to keep us from wandering
      away from the truth and to preserve us from those spiritual wolves that
      would steal us away from the Truth and lead us away from God and into
      all kinds of error, thus depriving us of the opportunity to know God and
      so depriving us of eternal life.

      The heresy of Arius was that he taught that Jesus Christ was not of the
      same essence of the Father, that is not begotton of the Father as we
      confess in the Creed, but rather that He was at some time created by God
      and so had no essential commonality with God. Certainly, Arius taught,
      He was an elevated and godlike being, imbued with the energies of God,
      but not with His essence. This heresy infected many people and it was
      spread by the popular preaching of Arius and by other means, including
      popular songs that spread among the people that supported this heresy.
      This heretical movement, away from the Church, caused a great stir in
      the empire and began to lead to a great deal of civil unrest. The
      Emperor, wanting to preserve the internal peace of the empire and of the
      Christian people, called together to the city of Nicea all the guardians
      of the faith, all those who were given the responsibility to “rightly
      divide the word of truth” and to shepherd the flock of Christ – that is
      all the bishops of the Christian Church. They were given the task of
      evaluating this Arian teaching and deciding once and for all whether or
      not it was the truth. The gathered bishops, after hearing Arius present
      his teaching and after much prayer and discussion, came to a decision
      and solemnly proclaimed this teaching of Arius to be in error and
      condemned it as “anathema”, that is “cursed”. Arius was deposed from his
      rank and excommunicated (that is, he was cast out of the fellowship of
      the Church).

      Now we may think, what difference does this really make. Does it matter
      whether or not we think of Christ as “begotten” of the Father or whether
      we consider that He comes from the Father in some other way. What is the
      difference to us really as long as we love God and follow the teachings
      of Jesus Christ. The Church teaches that Jesus Christ is the God/man,
      that is He is God incarnate and as such is fully God and fully man. His
      humanity is joined inseparably to His divinity (and for this reason when
      He ascended into Heaven, as we just celebrated, He ascended with His
      body and did not leave it behind, for now His humanity was inextricably
      linked to His divinity.) Arius on the other hand taught that Jesus
      Christ was God and man – that His humanity was alongside but not joined
      to His divinity. According to the teaching of Arius, the divinity could
      be separated from the humanity allowing for a sort of “dual life”. This
      imperfect union of God and man then made it possible for us to be saved
      on one hand, but also to have our own private life apart from the life
      of Christ on the other. We could live as we wished in our private life,
      and that would not then affect the life our “spiritual” side. We could
      pray and attend the divine services and receive the sacraments on one
      side – but then put all that aside while we lived as we wanted during
      the rest of the time allowing our passions and temptations full and
      unfettered expression.

      But we know that this is not possible, we know that just as Jesus Christ
      was truly the God/man and His divinity is inseparable from His humanity.
      There is no separation and thus we must conclude that a Christian must
      always and everywhere *be* a Christian – in our private life and our
      public life – in all ways and at all times we live the life of Christ.
      Thus the Holy Fathers said, in effect, to Arius, “You and your followers
      cannot be Christians for you do not understand the meaning of Christ’s
      coming to earth. Christ is incarnate, not only to reveal to us the true
      teaching about God, but also to live according to God. He came on earth
      to fulfill the commandment of love for God and neighbor. And He requires
      fulfillment of this commandment from us in every aspect of our lives.
      Those who do not fulfill this commandment remain outside of the Church
      and are alienated from God and from the eternal life that He gives to us.”

      Just as the Church rejected the teaching of Arius and insisted that we
      cannot separate our Christian life from any other part of our life so we
      are taught the same thing. We are followers of the God/man Jesus Christ.
      We have accepted the life that He gives, His own life, as our own. Just
      as He, in His incarnation, inseparably joined humanity to divinity so in
      us, he joins His divinity to our humanity so that we might live in
      eternal union and communion with Him. “And this is life eternal, that
      they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast
      sent.”

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org