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Homily for 12/27/09 - 2B4 Nat - Preparing to meet Christ

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  • Fr David Moser
    Col. 3:4-11 Just the other day, while at the youth conference, we participated in a workshop to learn how to bake the prosphora, that is the bread that is used
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 27, 2009
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      Col. 3:4-11

      Just the other day, while at the youth conference, we participated in a
      workshop to learn how to bake the prosphora, that is the bread that is
      used in the sacrament of Holy Communion. One of our instructors was
      priestmonk who bakes his own prosphora regularly for his parish. This
      priestmonk appeared before us in a cassock (the long black robe worn by
      monastics and clergy as daily attire) that was covered with splotches of
      flour and dried on dough. This was his “work clothes”. It was a good
      thing that he wore these work clothes while baking since the rest of us,
      at the end of the session were also covered with flour and dough. Later
      that day, we met the same priestmonk at the Church for services. Gone
      was the splotched, floury cassock and now he wore one that was clean and
      neat and had put on over it his riassa and mantia and covered his head
      with his klobuk.. He was no longer dressed for the messy work of bread
      baking; now he was dressed for Church, to stand before God and to pray.

      This Sunday is the first of two Sundays that prepare us for the
      celebration of the coming feast of the Nativity of Christ. As part of
      this preparation, the Apostle gives us some instruction in our reading
      today. He tells us to get rid of all the splotches that mar the soul
      saying, “put off all these; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate
      affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
      anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
      Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his
      deeds;” In our daily lives, we have picked up some “splotches” of sin on
      our baptismal garments and now it is time to clean ourselves so that we
      might come to the feast appearing at our best. When we come to the
      Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings, we each put on our best clothing –
      women wearing their beautiful dresses and men in their clean trousers
      and shirts (often with suit and tie as well). If we care so for our
      outward appearance, how much more should we care for the inward
      appearance of the soul. Thus it is necessary to look at ourselves and
      seeing the dirt of sin which we have accumulated throughout the week or
      even months prior, we strive to make ourselves clean again so that we
      might appear at our best before the throne of God, especially at the
      festival of His Incarnation.

      Our spiritual preparation for this feast, and indeed for any time we
      come into the presence of God, is to put off the old and stained
      garments of sin. In order to do this we must first look at ourselves,
      examining the heart in order to see what sins have attached themselves
      to us. What sins have we allowed to fall upon our heart and stain it.
      This self examination is the first step in ridding ourselves of these
      stains of sins. Self examination starts with prayer, asking God to
      illumine our eyes that we might see where these stains that mar our
      hearts are and what they are. For this, the prayers of confession that
      we find in the prayerbook, especially in the evening prayers the prayer
      to the Holy Spirit and the Daily Confession of Sins, are very helpful
      tools. We have other general confessions, such as that of St Dimitri of
      Rostov, that are helpful as well. These prayers of confession list many
      sins, some that we know all too well and some that we may not think of.
      As we look at these prayers, we ask ourselves of each sin, “Have I done
      this? How have I done this?” so that we might examine ourselves and see
      what sins are there.

      Once we have an accounting of our sins, then we look to the promise of
      our Lord that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive
      us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. We come to the
      spiritual physician, our priest, who has been given the grace, through
      ordination, to forgive sins (as our Lord first gave this grace to his
      Apostles, and through them to the bishops and from them to the priests).
      We then stand with him before the Gospel and the Cross and confess our
      sins to God with the priest as our witness and helper. The priest, as
      the spiritual physician, all this time prays for us that God will pour
      out His grace and heal the soul of all the wounds and diseases of sin
      that afflict it. When we have unburdened ourselves of the sins that we
      carry, he will then continue to pray, this time that the grace of God
      will descend upon the repentant one and forgive and absolve all the sins
      he has confessed, cleansing the soul of these splotches that have soiled
      it. Seeing the repentance of the sinner and hearing both his prayers and
      the prayers of the priest, God then pours out the grace of forgiveness
      which not only washes the soul from the dirt of sins, but also fortifies
      the soul against the return of those same sins so that when we are
      tempted to repeat them, we will have greater strength to resist that
      temptation.

      Having cleansed ourselves from the sin which has marred the soul, we
      then proceed to adorn ourselves as best as we can; “Put on the new man,
      which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.”
      These adornments are the virtues, that is the characteristics that God
      Himself exhibits and which He also desires to see in us. These virtues
      are all expressions of the love of God for man and therefore in us are
      the expression of our love for all men, for our neighbors and friends,
      for those who are strangers and even for our enemies. The first and
      mother of all virtues is humility in which we regard all others as more
      worthy than ourselves. Humility is born in the confession of sins as we
      see our own faults and weaknesses and are made aware of our complete
      dependence upon God. On the foundation of humility we build all the
      other virtues, compassion, mercy, purity of heart, peacemaking, and
      more. Many of these virtues we find in the beatitudes of the New
      Testament which we sing at each liturgy and which we read frequently in
      the Gospels. These are the adornments of the grace of God which has
      found a place to rest in our hearts. More and more we strive to acquire
      this grace and so more and more we clean out the “junk” of sin that has
      accumulated so that we might fill the space with the treasures of the
      virtues.

      God is coming to us and in just a few short days we will stand with the
      shepherds and the magi at the side of the newborn God/man Jesus Christ.
      As we prepare to approach Him, we must first put aside all the dirt and
      stains of sins which we have accumulated and which mar our soul. Having
      cleansed ourselves through confession and repentance and having put on
      the grace of forgiveness, we should also adorn ourselves with such
      virtues as we have acquired through the grace of God. In this way, clean
      and resplendent in our best spiritual attire, we approach the God/man
      Jesus Christ and worship Him in His incarnation.

      --
      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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