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Homily for 5/3/09 - Pascha 3 - body and soul

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  • Fr David Moser
    Acts 6:1-7 The book of the Acts of the Apostles, from which we read during these Sundays during the Paschal season, is the history of the beginnings of the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2009
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      Acts 6:1-7
      The book of the Acts of the Apostles, from which we read during these
      Sundays during the Paschal season, is the history of the beginnings of
      the Church. The Gospel of the Resurrection of Christ, proclaimed by the
      Apostles spread quickly and powerfully. The miracle of the Resurrection
      was fresh in the memory of the Apostles and they spoke with the power of
      the Holy Spirit which had descended upon them at Pentecost. We hear, in
      the book of Acts, of hundreds and even thousands added to the number of
      believers in a single day. We also hear how this company of believers
      lived holding all things in common, giving freely to one another for the
      good of the Church and all those within her arms. The money and
      possessions given to the Church were administered first by the Apostles
      for they were the leaders of the community. But as the Church in
      Jerusalem grew large, this task quickly outgrew the resources of the
      Apostles and they were distracted from their primary work of prayer and
      of preaching the Gospel in order to distribute food and other goods to
      the people of the Church from the common treasury.

      Realizing that they were unable to care for the needs of those in the
      Church on one hand and focus on preaching the Gospel of Christ and
      prayer on the other the Apostles decided to appoint others who would
      carry out the service of the needs of the people while they themselves
      were then freed to carry on their primary task of preaching the Gospel
      and caring for the spiritual well being of the flock through prayer.
      Those they appointed were called deacons or “servers”. These men were
      selected for the evident fruit of the Holy Spirit working in them for as
      the Acts tell us, they were men “of honest report, full of the Holy
      Spirit and wisdom.” From this we know that it was not simply
      administration of worldly goods that was asked of these men, but rather
      theirs was a spiritual ministry as well; using that which was worldly
      for the spiritual welfare, as well as the physical welfare, of the
      members of the Church.

      This has always, even to this day, been the underlying duty of the
      diaconate. The deacon is the member of the clergy who comes out from the
      altar among the people during the service and gathering from the
      faithful all of their petitions, he stands before the Royal Gates and
      sets these petitions before the Holy Altar in the form of the litanies
      that we hear. The priest (or bishop if he is present) takes these
      petitions of the people offered upon the altar by the deacon and lifts
      them up to heaven through his intercessory prayer on behalf of all the
      people. It is the deacon, however, that is the one who goes out to the
      people and who has the task to become acquainted with the spiritual and
      physical needs of all the people and who makes sure that none is
      forgotten so that all the needs of all the people will be brought to the
      altar and lifted up our common prayer in the Divine Services. It is not
      surprising, then that the deacon is often called “the eyes and ears of
      the bishop”.

      Not only is the deacon the one who gathers up the petitions and needs of
      the people, but he is also the one charged with ministering to those
      needs. It is the deacon who arranges for the good order of the parish
      community, seeing that all are working together for our common good.
      Those who have had the honor of serving in the altar when the bishop
      visits are well acquainted with the organization and direction of the
      deacon. While the bishop and the priests are praying, it is the deacon
      who makes sure that each person is in his proper place and fulfilling
      his proper task. Even those in the congregation can see this for at
      certain times (such as the singing of the Creed or the “Our Father”),
      the deacon will often come out of the altar and direct the singing of
      the whole congregation. The deacon also assists the priest in the
      distribution of charity, in the work of teaching in the parish and in
      the care for the sanctuary and holy things.

      Not all parishes have a resident deacon. This is not by design, but
      rather because of the constraints of the parish life – the lack of
      ability to support both a priest and a deacon or the lack of good
      candidates for the diaconate. Ideally every parish would have one or
      more deacons to assist the priest in caring for the parish. One very
      important thing that the presence of a deacon brings to the parish is
      the recognition that no one person can do everything. Just as the
      Apostles were increasingly distracted from their primary work of prayer
      and preaching the Gospel by the need to care for the physical welfare of
      the Church, so also the priest in a parish without a deacon is often
      stretched so thin by all the demands of his ministry that very often he
      is not able to pray as he ought – not for himself and not for others.
      And yet, it is this prayer for all the people in the Church who are
      under his care that is the primary task and responsibility of the
      priest. When there is a deacon, we see that not only is the care for the
      spiritual life (the responsibility of the priest) necessary, but the
      care for the physical needs of the members of the Church (the
      responsibility of the deacon) is equally a part of our life in Christ.

      This is indeed a very important point to take from the life of the
      Church in the Apostolic times. Our salvation is not only restricted to
      spiritual activity, but it also involves the physical as well. The
      health of the soul is important, and yet caring for the needs of others
      is not to be neglected. Our own lives, like the life of the Church
      should be a balance of “spiritual” activities such as prayer, meditation
      upon the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the reading of scripture on
      one hand and “worldly activities” such as feeding the hungry, clothing
      the naked, giving to the poor, loving our neighbor and our enemy on the
      other. We are not just made up a spiritual nature but we have a physical
      nature as well. Just as within the Church there are those who care for
      the soul (the bishops and priests), there are also those who care for
      the body (the deacons). In the same manner we must each maintain a
      similar balance in our own lives taking care of the soul by prayer and
      meditation as well as caring for the worldly side of our life by fasting
      and almsgiving and other works of righteousness. God created us with
      both a body and soul, with both a spiritual and physical nature and thus
      when He calls us to serve Him, He calls us to serve Him as complete
      beings to serve Him in both body and soul, in both spiritual activity
      and worldly activity. He will save us as complete beings, as a perfect
      unity of body and soul. Therefore it is necessary for us to care for our
      whole being, both body and soul.

      It is important to note that when the demands of the physical began to
      overwhelm the Apostles, they did not neglect the spiritual work and
      neither did they dismiss the importance of the physical life. Rather
      they appointed deacons that the physical life of the Church and those in
      her would grow and develop alongside the spiritual life of the Church.
      We live in the world and therefore it is necessary to live the life of
      Christ in us in the context of the world. But we are not of the world
      for we live not our own lives, but rather the life of Christ. Therefore
      let us work diligently to develop our spiritual lives – by prayer, the
      reading of scripture, meditation on the divine mysteries and the
      spiritual readings. At the same time let us not neglect the salvation of
      the body as well, brought about by fasting, self denial, almsgiving,
      charity and other works of righteousness. God has called us to the
      salvation of our whole being, let us therefore bring our whole selves –
      both soul and body – to Him as a living sacrifice.

      --
      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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