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Homily for 9/13/09 - P14 - engagement to God

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  • Fr David Moser
    2 Cor 1:21-2:4 It is beautiful to see a wedding. There, in the Church, are two people who are being joined and made one by the grace of God. This is a great
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2009
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      2 Cor 1:21-2:4

      It is beautiful to see a wedding. There, in the Church, are two people
      who are being joined and made one by the grace of God. This is a great
      mystery, a mystery that itself echoes the mystery of the unity of the
      Church and of the Holy Trinity. The sacrament, beautiful in its own
      right with a spiritual beauty that comes from within, is surrounded by
      external beauty – the clothes, the flowers, the music, the decoration of
      the Church and hall and so on. Indeed it is a beautiful thing to behold.
      The wedding, however, is but the culmination of a process that can last
      sometimes many years. That is the process of getting to know one another
      and growing towards one another by the couple that we call the
      engagement. The engagement is a promise to marry, but not yet married.
      We recognize this in the wedding service itself by celebrating first the
      betrothal (the promise to marry) which is sealed by the exchange of
      rings and then afterwards the crowning or the sacrament of marriage
      itself. It used to be quite common, when it was supported by the culture
      to celebrate the betrothal separately from the wedding, at the beginning
      of the engagement, rather than at the end. Even today this is done
      occasionally when it is necessary or beneficial for the couple who will
      later be married. The betrothal is in fact a formal promise to marry and
      once contracted cannot be broken except through a Church divorce or
      annulment.

      In modern practice, which mirrors many ancient practices, the engagement
      is marked by the giving of a ring to the bride. That ring is the
      security of the groom to keep his promise and to consummate the
      engagement by a marriage at a future time. Even the service of the
      betrothal the promise to marry is marked by the exchange of rings, each
      person giving a ring to the other as a security of the promise that they
      will, when the time is right, enter into the sacrament of matrimony.

      Just as the earthly marriage is an image of the heavenly reality of
      unity of the Church so also the engagement has a heavenly counterpart.
      The Apostle today tells us that God Himself has “sealed us and given an
      earnest of the Spirit in our heart”. All of us who are members of the
      Body of Christ have been engaged to the heavenly Bridegroom. The Church,
      of which we are a part, is the Bride of Christ. God, in His inifinite
      love for mankind gives each of us who are members of the Bride of Christ
      a “ring” which seals our engagement to Himself. That “ring” is the
      indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. Celebrated together with the
      sacrament of Baptism there is also the sacrament of Chrismation in which
      the newly baptized is anointed with a specially blessed oil (chrism) by
      which he is “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”. This sacrament,
      this “seal,” is the mark of God’s promise that one day we will be united
      with Him completely just as the bride is united with the bridegroom on
      the day of their marriage.

      This engagement, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is felt by some more
      acutely than others. There are those who, having been given the seal of
      the gift of the Holy Spirit, consider that they cannot even enter into a
      earthly marriage, so strong is their awareness of their engagement to
      the heavenly Bridegroom. These are the monastic saints, those who
      preserved themselves holy and pure in this life knowing that their true
      unity will come only with the heavenly Bridegroom when we enter into the
      heavenly kingdom. Virgin saints such as Thekla, Katherine, Barbara and
      Adrian and Natalie, to name but a few of the men and women who refused
      to enter into any earthly marriage, choosing instead to perfect their
      union with Christ. Others among the saints, however, used their married
      life as a means by which they perfected this unity with Christ. Those of
      us who are married constantly work to break down the barriers of self
      centeredness, self will and selfishness which stand between and separate
      us from our spouse. In this way we too prepare ourselves for the unity
      with Christ and the heavenly marriage of which our earthly marriage is
      but an image.

      This engagement to God of which the Apostle speaks is the close
      relationship that binds us to Christ. We live with the Holy Spirit in us
      constantly moving and directing our lives so that we come closer and
      closer to God – just as an engaged couple will grow closer together
      throughout their engagement. We are brought nearer to God through the
      life of the Church and the sacraments. In Baptism we are reborn and
      given the new life in Christ, in Chrismation we receive the seal of the
      gift of the Holy Spirit, and when we receive the Holy Communion, we take
      the most Holy Body and most Precious Blood of Christ into our own bodies
      and are thus mystically joined to Him. We live and breath the atmosphere
      of faith and as we do our kinship with Christ grows and we feel ever
      more strongly His love for us. Even if we momentarily forget this love
      and stray from the path of our engagement through sin, our loving and
      merciful Lord is quick to restore us through repentance and the
      sacrament of Confession.

      Just as an earthly engagement is filled with moments of great joy that
      foretell the joys of the unity of marriage, so also as we live out the
      period of our engagement to Christ in this earthly life we experience
      moments of spiritual joy and bliss that are but a foretaste of heaven.
      We are the members of the heavenly Bridegroom and in this life we are
      being prepared for the moment when the culmination of our growing ever
      nearer to God arrives and we are united with Him and become one with
      Him. That is our motivation in this life to live the Christian life, for
      it is a life of preparation – preparation for the heavenly wedding, the
      joining of God to us that we might live in union with Him in His
      heavenly kingdom through eternity.

      We are engaged to God – he has promised to unite us with Himself. In
      earnest of that promise He has given to us the seal of the gift of the
      Holy Spirit so that we might adequately prepare ourselves in this life
      for the great wedding day in heaven when we will be united with Him. In
      this life, then let us grow constantly nearer to God, just as an engaged
      couple grows nearer to one another, looking forward to the fulfillment
      of God’s promise that we will be united with Him in eternity.


      --
      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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