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Homily for 7/16/06 - P5 - Confess and Believe

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  • Fr David Moser
    Romans 10:1-10 The goal of our Christian faith is the deification of the whole person so that we actualize in ourselves the image and likeness of Christ. In
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 15 12:34 PM
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      Romans 10:1-10

      The goal of our Christian faith is the deification of the whole person
      so that we actualize in ourselves the image and likeness of Christ. In
      order to do this we have been given by God many gifts, many helps.
      Sometimes we look at these spiritual gifts and think that they apply
      only to the salvation of the soul and we forget that we are beings
      comprised of both a soul and a body. When we focus only on the salvation
      of the soul forgetting the body, then many of the behavioral
      prescriptions take on the patina of legalism or phariseeism . But this
      is only because we forget that we are not only working to incorporate
      God’s grace into the life of the soul, but also we are working to
      incorporate God’s grace into the life of the body as well.

      In the Epistle today, the nature of our salvation was explained to us
      again by the Holy Apostle Paul. He reminds us first that our salvation
      is not something that is “away up there in heaven” that we do not yet
      have access to, nor is it something that happened only when our Lord
      descended into hades and defeated the evil one, freeing us from the
      tyranny of sin death and the devil. This is important, yes, but it is
      not the whole story. For the Apostle goes on to remind us of what it is
      that the Gospel says - that it is “near you, in your mouth and in your
      heart”. Our salvation is not something far away, something in the future
      or something that we will receive only after we die. Nor is our
      salvation something that was accomplished without our participation
      while we stood by as spectators. Our salvation is immanent - it is
      present here and now, both in our outward life (in your mouth) and in
      our inward life (in your heart). This means that we are in the midst of
      our salvation, and because it involves our whole being we are intimately
      involved in its implementation.

      The Apostle elaborates on what he means when he says “if you confess
      with your mouth … and believe in you heart .. you will be saved.” This
      is only a restatement of the Psalmist when he prays, “Let the words of
      my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O
      Lord.” Here we come to the realization that our salvation encompasses
      all that we are. When he speaks of confessing with the mouth, this is
      not limited only to the words we speak but encompasses all of our
      actions. Our words are the expression of our inner thoughts and our
      expressions are not limited to only our words but the whole of our
      being. Often we talk about “verbal and nonverbal” communication. All of
      us have had the experience of even without saying a word, being able to
      tell if someone is angry or sad or sincere or joking. Even spoken words
      without the visual cues of appearance, hand and facial expressions,
      posture and so on are sometimes hard to understand correctly. There are
      many more examples of the various aspects of communication - of the
      “words of the mouth” When the Apostle tells us that we must “confess
      with your mouth” he is telling us that our whole outward life must be a
      confession of Christ. All of our behavior, all of our actions, our whole
      appearance and demeanor must uniquely and clearly speak to the world of
      the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ which is within us. It is for this
      reason that we are given, in the Church, certain prescriptions about
      such things as what to wear, what to do, how to maintain our appearance.
      Many of these prescriptions may seem at times to be arbitrary and
      without relevance in our current society. We may be tempted to dismiss
      them as “outdated”, “primitive, “unenlightened“, “old fashioned” or “old
      world” - but they are none of these things. They are aids to cultivating
      that expression of the Life of Christ that the Church offers to us.

      The Apostle says secondly that we must also believe in our heart.
      Whereas the “words of the mouth” are the expression of our inner
      condition, it is the heart that bears the essence of that condition.
      That essence is the Life of Christ finds its place in us through faith.
      It is this Life that makes its home in our hearts and it is this Life
      that the words of our mouths confess. This is the hidden, internal
      spiritual life that we all have. It is our struggle to eliminate the
      passions and cultivate the virtues in our lives. It is our struggle to
      cooperate with the grace that God showers down upon us and incorporate
      it into our lives. This is our work of prayer, our self denial, the
      cultivation of spiritual reading and knowledge. Just as the Church gives
      to us behavioral prescriptions to help us with our external life, so
      also we are given similar aids to the development of our internal life.
      First and foremost we are given the various sacraments which become the
      avenues by which God pours out His grace upon us most abundantly. We
      receive first the sacrament of baptism for the remission of our sins and
      the cleansing of unrighteousness and the healing of the soul. Then we
      receive the sacrament of Chrismation, the seal of the gift of the Holy
      Spirit by which God Himself takes up his abode within us. We also
      receive the Holy Mysteries of the Precious Gifts, the Body and Blood of
      Christ, by which we are nourished and by which we touch God and are
      touched by Him. Additionally we have the sacraments of Confession for
      repentance and help in gaining the victory over sin and temptation; Holy
      Unction by which the illnesses of the body are overcome and we are
      strengthened for our external struggle; Holy Matrimony for the joining
      of a man and a woman in marriage who then become partners in working out
      their salvation together and who stand as an image of the union of
      Christ and the Church. There are other sacraments and blessings which we
      are given which communicate to us the grace of God. Beyond the
      sacraments, we are also given the prayers of the Church to teach us how
      to pray, enabling us to cry out to God from the depth of our hearts.
      These prayers are both private (personal) and public (corporate). Our
      private prayers cement the bond between the soul of man and Christ. Our
      public prayers create and maintain the unity of our community - the
      whole Body of Christ of which we are all a part and which extends not
      only to those we know and see but to the ends of the earth and to the
      beginning and end of time and space. Our inner life is also nourished by
      the Church in the hearing of the Gospel and the hymns of the Church.

      All of these things together, both the inner Life of Christ in the heart
      and the outer expression of that Life in our bodies work together for
      our salvation. The Apostle finishes by saying: “For with the heart, one
      believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to
      salvation.” See here how he reverses the order and speaks first of the
      heart and second of the mouth. This is to remind us that the words of
      the mouth only reflect the condition of the heart. It is the faith of
      the heart that leads to righteousness. This is the inner condition that
      is the result of the transforming effect of the grace of God and the
      Life of Christ with which we are united. And as the heart is transformed
      into a condition of righteousness, then the confession of the mouth
      expresses that condition and leads us to salvation. Both the inner and
      the outer life are in harmony, both united to Christ and both necessary
      for our transformation into the image and likeness of Christ which is
      our salvation.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Ask Fr David: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/frd_private/
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