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Homily for 2/15/09 - PS - lawful and expedientr

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  • Fr David Moser
    1 Corinthians 6:12-20 “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 15, 2009
      1 Corinthians 6:12-20

      “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all
      things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

      When we were children, our parents made many rules for us. Perhaps they
      told us “don’t touch the stove” or “don’t cross the street without an
      adult” or “stay in the yard”. Those of us who have had our own children
      made the same kind of rules for them. These are the laws that we give to
      children when they are young to protect them from dangers that are
      beyond their ability to anticipate or understand. As children grow older
      their understanding increases and the rules become less and less
      necessary and they become more competent and stronger so that things
      which were dangerous to them as young children they can now endure
      without injury. The rules change and those childish prohibitions are no
      longer in force, however, the principle behind them remains the same,
      and the child adjusts his behavior to face those dangers which were once
      hidden behind the rules.

      This is the same thing that the Apostle is telling us today. When
      mankind was unable to fully comprehend or understand the spiritual
      dangers he faced, God gave the law to protect us. Certain things were
      prescribed while others were prohibited but all of the Law was given to
      protect us from the spiritual dangers that were beyond both our
      comprehension and our strength. Throughout the generations mankind grew
      more spiritually mature as he was prepared by God to receive the miracle
      of the incarnation. When finally the God/man Jesus Christ entered the
      world, mankind was ready to face some of the dangers hidden behind the
      law and with the coming of the Holy Spirit was given the strength and
      ability to cope with those dangers in a more mature manner. The Law, in
      its former form, was no longer necessary for those who had “put on
      Christ”. However, the principles and dangers behind the provisions of
      the Law were still true, but they were faced in a different manner –
      with the tools given to us by Jesus Christ.

      Do not misunderstand here. This does not mean that those who lived
      before our Lord’s incarnation: the patriarchs, the prophets, the holy
      men and women of ancient times, were spiritually inferior to those of us
      who have lived after the incarnation. The saints of old saw more deeply
      into the spiritual life than many of us do today, despite the fact that
      they viewed that life through the lens of the Law whereas we view that
      life through the eyes of the Holy Spirit living in us. They were not
      lesser than us, they were in fact incomparably greater than us. Let us
      not make the mistake of dismissing their wisdom and spiritual stature,
      but rather let us be humbled by their greatness.

      The principle that the Apostle is teaching us today is that we are no
      longer bound by the law for having been born anew in Christ and filled
      with the Holy Spirit we are now ready to face directly those spiritual
      conditions and dangers from which the law previously protected us. Now,
      rather than simply relying on the mandates of the law to govern our
      lives, we must take on the task of discerning which things are
      profitable and which are not for us in our spiritual lives. Those things
      which lead us to the acquisition of the Holy Spirit and which facilitate
      in us the growth of the virtues is to be greatly desired. Those things
      which separate us from God and feed the sinfulness of our fallen nature
      are to be avoided – and not only avoided but resisted. This is what the
      Holy Fathers call spiritual warfare or conducting the war on the passions.

      The Apostle, immediately goes on, after telling us that now we must
      embrace those things that are profitable, but that we must avoid those
      things which are not, to give two prominent examples of the passions
      which influence us. First he speak of the stomach for indeed hunger is
      the most prominent and pervasive of the passions – assailing us every
      day and in many forms. This passion, when uncontrolled, leads to
      gluttony and to the inability to exercise even the least amount of
      self-discipline. The second passion is that of lust, or sexual desire.
      This too is a passion that exists at a basic level and continually
      assaults us in various ways each day of our lives. These two passions
      are built into our fallen natures as aspects of the drive for self
      preservation. For this reason, they stand in the instruction of the
      Apostle, as a general example of all the passions – those drives and
      desires which push at us from a basic level. These two passions are no
      more deadly or difficult than many of the other passions, such as anger,
      envy, greed, and so on, they simply stand in at this point for the whole
      array of passions with which we struggle.

      What spiritual harm then do passions inflict upon us that we must
      struggle with them so intensely? The passions hold us to this worldly
      life; they relate to our sinful condition and so pull us away from union
      with God. In their most basic form, the passions express a good impulse,
      but that impulse is distorted and misdirected and ultimately deadly to
      our spiritual life. For example, hunger finds its origin in our desire
      to draw our life from God – but it is distorted in that hunger drives to
      seek to find our “life” from other sources. The fathers teach us that
      anger is only properly used when it is directed against sin and
      temptation – however it is distorted in us such that it is directed
      towards others and even towards ourselves and thus becomes destructive.
      The passions are those distorted and misdirected impulses which were
      originally meant to lead us towards God but which now drive us away from
      union with God and create barriers to our salvation.

      The only cure for this spiritual illness is the grace of the Holy Spirit
      which we acquire through the life in Christ. We cooperate with the
      healing action of the grace by loosening our hold on the objects of our
      passions and thereby weakening their hold on us. The most pervasive and
      basic method by which we do this is by attacking these basic passions
      such as hunger and sexual desire. Sexual desire we attack through
      chastity – through keeping ourselves pure, only allowing the expression
      of this desire in those ways which are within the sacrament of Holy
      Matrimony. In this, as the Apostle reminds us, we direct our urge to
      union with another person towards its proper target – to unite ourselves
      to Christ and not to dissipate it by finding useless or even destructive
      objects of union. Hunger we attack through fasting. We do not allow our
      belly to dictate what we eat and how much, but when we fast we eat only
      the simplest of foods and of these we eat not to satiety but in just
      enough quantity to get by. This is the purpose behind Great Lent, the
      primary fasting season that we approach in just a few weeks. During this
      whole time we are strict with ourselves about what and how much we eat –
      but that is not all that the fast is about. During this season, more
      than any other season of the year, we intensify our spiritual warfare by
      cutting off every worldly passion that we experience. We deny ourselves
      not only in the areas of food and sexual desire, but we also fast from
      such things as inordinate anger, the dissipation of our attention
      through entertainments and diversions, the tendency away from bright and
      flashy clothing and other adornment. Instead of these passion driven
      activities, we focus our time and energy instead on feeding our soul
      through prayer and the reading of scripture and spiritual books. We
      attend to the state of the soul, examining our conscious and our way of
      life so that we might find the sin that hides in us and through
      confession and repentance eliminate it from our lives. Great Lent is a
      time when we focus more tightly on loosening the hold of those things
      which are not expedient on our lives for our salvation and replace them
      with those things which unite us to Christ and draw us nearer to Him.

      In the times of our ancestors, man was given the Law and guided by the
      prophets for God was not yet incarnate in the world and we therefore did
      not yet have the ability to contend directly with the passions. But now
      the God/man Jesus Christ has come to us and through Him we are born anew
      and from Him we receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Now
      we are equipped for this new battle – to resist the temptations of sin
      and to strive for the heavenly kingdom and life in union and communion
      with God. Let us therefore reject that which is not profitable or
      expedient for us and instead embrace those things which are for our

      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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