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Homily for 12/7/08 - P25 - Love God with your whole being

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 10:25-37 “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. (Love) your neighbor as yourself.”
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2008
      Luke 10:25-37

      “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your
      strength, and with all your mind. (Love) your neighbor as yourself.”
      These are the two great commandments of the Law and these commandments
      teach us how to love God with great precision.

      Man is the most perfect of all created beings for he has a likeness to
      all parts of creation and then extends even beyond created things and
      bears within himself a likeness to the Creator Himself. There are parts
      of us which are strong, hard and unfeeling (such as our hair and nails)
      like a stone. Just as a plant grows so also we grow and eat and are
      nourished. We reproduce after our own kind just as the plants do. This
      all concerns our bodily life, for plants are purely the life of the
      body. Like the animals we also have feelings, we become angry and have
      desires and drives which influence and help determine our behavior. This
      is the life of the soul which we share with the animals. However we are
      not animals for our soul is different in its essence from theirs, it is
      unique and superior, given to us by God in a separate creation. The soul
      of the animal is mortal and when the animal dies, its soul perishes as
      well and ceases to exist. The soul of man, however is immortal and is
      possessed of a spiritual nature. The soul does not dissolve or disappear
      when separated from the body, instead it continues to exist, awaiting
      the resurrection when it will again be reunited with the body. The
      spiritual nature of the soul (that which we call our spirit) is not like
      the animals or like any other worldly thing, but is fashioned in the
      image of God. It is in our spirit that we commune with God and are
      touched by Him. It is through our spirit that we are filled with the
      grace of God and are transformed by that grace into His likeness. Our
      spiritual nature elevates our mind and heart and even our body above the
      earth and into communion with God.

      Knowing this, we can look again at the great commandment and understand
      a little more. We are to love God will all our heart. By this our Lord
      means the part of us that is physical and organic, that part of us which
      is the bodily life which we share with the plants. We are to love God
      with all our soul. By this our Lord refers to the force of our human
      life that feels, which desires, which thinks, which wants and chooses.
      This is the life of the soul that we share with the animals. We are to
      love God with our mind. This is the part of our being that sets us apart
      from the plants and animals, our higher nature. In the mind we not only
      think but reason and grasp abstract concepts, and even conceive of those
      things which are beyond our physical nature. By the mind, here we refer
      to the spiritual life with which we were endowed in the image of God so
      that we might bear not only in ourselves the likeness of the world, but
      the likeness of God as well. And then our Lord goes beyond this and
      instructs us to love God with all our strength. By this He means that we
      must harness all these powers of the soul and body which are part of our
      being to pull ourselves to God and to come into union and communion with
      Him, not in part but in the fullness of our being.

      We must love God with our organic, bodily nature. For this reason we
      shape and mold our environment and the world around us so that the
      worldly barriers to union with God will be lessened or removed and those
      things which bring us nearer to God will be always around us. In our
      sinfulness, we have misused this ability to shape and mold the world
      around us in order to fulfill our own fallen desires, to remove the
      barriers to self satisfaction and self love. This ability was given to
      us so that we might echo the Kingdom of God in the created world.
      Instead, in our sins, we shape the world to serve our fallen and self
      centered desires and interests. To love God with all of our bodily life,
      we must first purify that life of the dirt of sin. God helps us
      accomplish this by His grace and especially in the sacrament of baptism
      which washes the dirt of sin from us and chrismation which seals us
      against further contamination. But we are still called upon to live pure
      and holy lives after this keeping the impurity of sin from returning to
      our bodily life. In this again, God helps us for when we repent of our
      sins and confess them, He forgives us our sins and in the sacrament of
      Confession cleanses us again from the stain of unrighteousness. Our
      tears of repentance brought about by sorrow for our sins cleanse us from
      this pollution just as we were once cleansed by the waters of the
      baptismal font. To love God with our body, we must strive with all our
      strength to live a pure and holy life avoiding the pitfalls of sin,
      resisting temptation and relying upon the grace of God to raise up in us
      the virtues and to keep us from the pollution of sin. By restructuring
      our environment, we guard our senses (which bring the outer world to our
      inner life) by refusing to allow them to be exposed to sights, sounds,
      touches and other sensations and stimuli which might lead us into sin.

      We also love God with our whole soul – that is our animal life, our
      desires, our wants and needs, our will, and our basic ability to think
      and direct our life in fulfillment of those needs. Here is where we
      encounter the choice to deny ourselves, to take up the cross and to
      follow Christ. It is the purpose of the soul to guide and direct the
      body under the rule of the spirit. In the fall, the nature created order
      of our being is reversed and the spirit is crushed and imprisoned by the
      soul which itself is enslaved to its own passions and to the
      satisfaction of bodily needs and impulses. When we turn to our Lord
      Jesus Christ and cry out to Him to save us, He restores the natural
      order of the soul and resurrects the spirit from the prison in which it
      was buried and locked away. But this newly created order must be
      strengthened and maintained. To this end we have already set up the
      external guarding of the senses, now it is necessary to guard the
      reception of sensations – only accepting those sensations which lead us
      into a greater love of God. Thus it is necessary to weaken the natural
      impulses of body and soul that we call the passions and to set aside our
      self will so that we might be directed by the will of God instead. This
      is the struggle of self denial to which we are called. This struggle
      leads to the cross upon which we sacrifice even our own life so that we
      may have instead the life of Christ. Having structured the life of the
      body to remove the occasions of sin and to surround ourselves with those
      things which provide for the life of righteousness, now we must follow
      up with the life of the soul. By self denial, we weaken the self, we
      weaken our self centeredness, our self love, our self reliance, even our
      self esteem (that is pride) and shift the focus of our inner life away
      from our self and onto to God. We replace self centeredness with God
      centeredness, self love with love of God, self reliance with reliance
      upon God, self esteem with the esteem of God. To love God with our whole
      soul means to replace the “self” with God. This is accomplished through
      self denial and through fostering love for our Lord Jesus Christ in the
      soul.

      To love God with the whole mind then refers to our higher nature, that
      is to those things which are above the life of the plants and animals.
      This includes our reasoning, our imagination, our spiritual life and so
      on. Here it is necessary to go beyond self denial and taking up the
      cross and continue on to follow Christ. We must use our higher powers to
      shape and direct the rest of our life to follow the path that is set out
      for us by Christ. This path is the path of salvation, of becoming not
      only a stranger to sin, but also of becoming a friend to Christ. We not
      only cleanse ourselves of the dirt of sin, but we also foster and
      develop the light of Christ and the gems of the virtues in our lives. We
      not only flee from sin but we turn toward Christ and pursue Him. This is
      the positive aspect of our salvation which brings us not only out of
      enslavement to sin, but into the life of Christ and which transforms us
      into His likeness. This we accomplish by filling our lives with the
      reading of the scripture, with prayer, with the lives and writings of
      the saints. Having turned away from sin, let us then actively with all
      our strength turn toward Christ.

      We are the perfect creation of the perfect Creator. We encompass in
      ourselves the life of the body, the life of the soul and the life of the
      spirit and thus we can stand before the Creator as the crown and glory
      of His creation. But we have sinned and fallen away from this path and
      have misused the powers of our soul and body to fulfill our own desires
      and passions and center our lives upon ourselves. We are now called,
      with God’s help, to engage our whole strength, that is all the resources
      of our being, to reject this life of sin and turn away from it and
      reorient and reorder ourselves so that God is the center of our lives
      and we are following His path and purpose so that we might be filled
      with His Spirit and so be transformed into His likeness and stand before
      Him, our Creator, again as the crown and glory of all creation.

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