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Homily for /18/08 - b4 theophany - transtion

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 1:1-8; Luke 18:18-27 A few weeks ago, just before the feast of the Nativity of our Lord we observed how all of creation moved together, under the guidance
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2009
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      Mark 1:1-8; Luke 18:18-27

      A few weeks ago, just before the feast of the Nativity of our Lord we
      observed how all of creation moved together, under the guidance of the
      Holy Spirit to bring forth the most perfect human being possible, the
      Virgin Mary. Even though she was the best that the human race could
      produce, still she was not able to reach God herself, let alone bring
      the rest of humanity with her into the presence of God. Therefore, God
      Himself came down and through her birthgiving took flesh and became man
      and dwelt among us so that He might draw all men to Himself and raise us
      up, with Himself, to the heavens. On that day, the day of the
      incarnation, the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of God came
      into the world. But though the Light was present, it was not yet
      revealed to the world. Today we stand on the eve of the feast of the
      Baptism of Christ, also known as Theophany, that is the “showing forth
      of God”. When Jesus was baptized the Light was revealed to the world and
      began to shine forth, even to all the corners of the earth. That Light
      still shines today as He lives in us who have become the light of the
      world (as He said to the apostles, “You are the light of the world” Matt
      5:14)

      The baptism of Christ is a turning point in the history of mankind. Up
      until this point we were guided by the law and the prophets; men were
      overshadowed by the Holy Spirit but not indwelt by Him; God showed
      Himself in mysterious and difficult to grasp ways. It was the prophets
      who spoke the words of God and who instructed the people in the meaning
      of the law. These prophets were men who had been called out and set
      aside by God for that special purpose. The Spirit of the Lord would come
      upon them, and overshadow them and they would speak as the Spirit gave
      them utterance. But the Spirit did not remain with them and dwell within
      them. He came upon them as a man puts a cloak upon himself for a
      journey, and when he rests from his journey, he removes his cloak and
      sets it aside. This is how the prophets related to the Spirit of the
      Lord. The greatest and last of these prophets was the Forerunner and
      Baptist John. Just as the Virgin Mary was the ultimate fruit of the
      generations of mankind striving for perfection as a race, so also the
      Forerunner was the ultimate prophet, the pinnacle of the generations of
      prophets who spoke the words of the Lord. There was none that was so
      accomplished in the life of the prophet, none who was so adept at
      putting on the mantle of the Spirit of the Lord, none who was so
      familiar with the voice of God. He was the greatest, and last, of all
      the prophets.

      In the second Gospel (Luke 18) today we heard how a young man came to
      Jesus seeking eternal life. He had lived all his life according to the
      law and yet sought something more. Jesus replied to him that he must
      also relinquish all that he has in this world and leaving all, come and
      follow Him. The young man was distressed at this for he had great
      wealth. Seeing this, the disciples were struck by the fact that even the
      keeping of the law could not bring eternal life and asked, “Who then can
      be saved” Jesus replied to them, “With men these things are impossible,
      but with God all things are possible”. Here we see the pivot point upon
      which the eternal destiny of all of mankind turns. Our best efforts are
      still not sufficient to bring us to God, but God Himself comes to us and
      brings us to Himself.

      The Holy Virgin Mary, as perfect as she was, still was not able to reach
      God on her own for her perfection was a worldly perfection and like the
      tower of Babel which men built to reach heaven, that perfection was
      insufficient to reach God. The Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John
      was the greatest of all the prophets, the one in whom all of the skill
      and experience of the great prophets of old was gathered and focused,
      and yet the Holy Spirit did not dwell within him and transform him into
      the likeness of God. The young man who kept the law and lived according
      to it from his birth could not obtain eternal life through the Law, for
      it could not of itself raise him up to that great height. The only
      salvation for these was that God came to us and took flesh and dwelt
      among us that He might take us to be with Him. The old way of life,
      exemplified in its greatest perfection by the Virgin Mary, by the
      Forerunner and Baptist John, by the rich young ruler who kept the law
      from his birth, had raised up mankind to the highest level possible, and
      still man fell far short. The old way of life, governed by the law and
      guided by the prophets, had run its course, had done all that it could.
      But that was not enough for with men it was impossible to be saved and
      to gain eternal life.

      What is impossible with men, is however, possible with God. With the
      coming of God in the flesh, with the incarnation and the birth of the
      God/man Jesus Christ, a new life was revealed to the world. A new door
      was opened that only God could open and a new path was laid out before
      us that only God could walk. To gain eternal life, we must, like the
      young man in the Gospel, let go of all that we have in the world, let go
      of the old life, and instead follow Christ, embracing the new life that
      He gives to us.

      John the Baptist knew that he was only preparing the way for someone
      greater than himself, someone whom he had encountered even while in the
      womb, someone who would bring to the world the life that it desired.
      That Someone was Jesus Christ, God incarnate. John spoke of this to
      those who came to be baptized by him saying, “I baptize you with water,
      but there comes one after me who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit
      and with fire.” The baptism of John with water was a well established
      ritual cleansing from all uncleanness and it washes from us the effects
      of sin and cleanses us from the dirt of unrighteousness – it is an
      external cleaning. Baptism with the Holy Spirit opens the soul to the
      indwelling of the Spirit of God and it burns out the sources of sin in
      us and cleanses us not only on the outside, but transforms us on the
      inside as well. John knew that Jesus Christ was coming to do what he
      could not, to touch the hearts of men. When his disciples asked about
      Jesus, John said to them, “I must decrease, but He must increase”
      meaning that the old way of life according to the law and the prophets
      was now finished having accomplished all that was possible for it to do
      and the work of our salvation now passed on to the new life given to us
      only by God Himself who had come among us in the flesh.

      By our own efforts, eternal life is out of reach, it is impossible to
      obtain. It only comes to us by the grace of God which does not
      overshadow us from the outside, but which enters into us and settles
      into our joints and members, into the very core of our being and with
      the fire of the Holy Spirit burns out the root of sin in us and
      transforms us into the likeness of God, realizing that for which we were
      created.

      Today we stand on the cusp of that transformation, hearing for the last
      time the cry of the forerunner to prepare the way of the Lord for
      tomorrow the Lord will come and will be revealed to us in His own
      baptism. He will sanctify the water of baptism so that it no longer
      simply cleans us on the outside, but rather it now imparts grace to us
      which renews and restores us to the very core of our being so that we
      are prepared to receive the Holy Spirit. No longer will the Spirit of
      God overshadow a chosen few, but the Holy Spirit will enter into all of
      us, uniting us with Christ and with the new life that He brings to us.
      With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

      --
      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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