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Homily for 1/10/10 - afternat - Touched by God

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  • Fr David Moser
    Gal 1:11-19 Our Orthodox faith isn’t about having the right doctrines, or the purest practices or the fullest measure of Holy Tradition. Our faith isn’t
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 10, 2010
      Gal 1:11-19

      Our Orthodox faith isn’t about having the right doctrines, or the purest
      practices or the fullest measure of Holy Tradition. Our faith isn’t even
      about reading the scripture or studying the Fathers. Our faith isn’t in
      reading the services or singing in the choir. Certainly all these things
      contribute to our faith, but our faith is really about something
      entirely different. Our faith is about a personal encounter with the One
      True God, the creator of the universe who transcends time and space (for
      they are His own creation) and upon Whom all things depend for their
      existence. He is the only self existing one and He invites us to share
      in His life. That is the essence of our faith, to live in a continual
      encounter with God.

      The elder Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) of St John the Baptist
      Monastery in Essex, England was the spiritual child of St Silouan. In
      the introduction to his spiritual autobiography (We Shall See Him As He
      Is), Fr Sophrony writes about how his life changed after he encountered
      God on a personal level: “Before my visitation from God I would peruse
      the Gospels or the Epistles without understanding them. Life showed me
      that , without real experience of God … possession of intellectual
      information does not reveal … [or] lead to … knowledge … of God. … In
      the hours when Divine Love touched me I ‘recognised’ the approach of
      God. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God
      in Him’ (1John 4:16). After my visitation from on High I read the Gospel
      with a different awareness – profoundly and gratefully rejoiced at
      finding confirmation of my own experience. This wondrous congruity
      between the most vital elements of my consciousness of God and the data
      of the new Testament revelation is incalculably dear to my soul – a gift
      from above. God Himself praying in me.” This radical change, from simply
      reading about God in the scripture without understanding and reading the
      same scripture and finding it vibrant and full of life, touching the
      very soul, is brought about simply by the encounter with God.

      The Holy Apostle Paul, as he reminds us in this morning’s epistle
      reading, had a similar experience. He was an ardent enemy of Christians,
      pursuing them and persecuting them. He thought that he was serving God
      by this, however, it was quite the opposite. The apostle had a vision in
      which he was touched by God. At this encounter, the light of Christ
      which illumines all men shone into the soul of the Apostle and revealed
      the truth to him. He was changed in that instant from the enemy of the
      God/man Jesus Christ to his friend and servant. “But I certify you,
      brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For
      I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the
      revelation of Jesus Christ. … it pleased God, who separated me from my
      mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me,…” St
      Paul was convinced that the Christians were in error and would not have
      listened to any of them, but God, in His great mercy touched the heart
      of the sinner Saul and revealed to him the truth of the Gospel. Now the
      words of the Christians, which before had sounded to his ears as
      blasphemy, rang in his ears with Truth and he recognized in them the
      same life and truth that he had experienced from the hand of God. It was
      his encounter with God that awakened the Truth in his life.

      My brothers and sisters, we are no different than these holy men for we
      too must encounter the living God. it is not enough to simply read the
      scriptures or to study the writings of the Holy Fathers. It is not
      enough to learn about the Church or to be an expert at the services of
      the Church. All these things are helpful certainly, but in order for
      them to be effective, we must each encounter God and be touched by Him.
      The good news is that this is not impossible, nor is it even difficult.
      The God/man Jesus Christ has come to us so that we might not only know
      about God but that we might experience God as well. All we need to do is
      to allow him through faith to touch us. When you read the scripture, do
      not simply read it as one would an ordinary book, but read with the
      awareness that this is the finger of God reaching out to touch you and
      in each word, each phrase, each paragraph that you read, you encounter
      God. When you say the prayers of the Church, whether in private or in
      the services, let the words of the prayer enter into you beyond your
      mind and sink into your heart. The prayers express not only ideas or
      thoughts but also the divine feelings and when you embrace those
      feelings and make them your own then God touches you through the words
      of the prayer. When we stand in Church God is with us. If we truly “lay
      aside all earthly cares” and allow the hymns, the prayers, the
      movements, the incense, the icons and the whole prayer of the Church to
      enter into the deepest parts of the soul then we will be able to say
      with the emissaries of the Great Prince Vladimir “we knew not whether we
      were on earth or in heaven” for God will touch us and we will be changed.

      Too often we do not recognize the touch of God’s hand for we seek to
      hold Him at arm’s length; allowing Him to come close, but not so close
      that He might interfere with our own ideas of what life should be like
      or with the things that we want to do. I remember that as a child, I
      began to think upon the second coming of Christ in glory to take us all
      to Himself. I greatly desired to go to heaven and to be with Jesus
      Christ but I also considered that I had my whole life ahead of me and if
      Christ came too soon, I would lose so many experiences and so many of my
      hopes and dreams would remain unfulfilled. I began to pray, “Come Lord
      Jesus - - but not until I’ve had the chance to do this or experience
      that” I had a desire to know God but did not want knowing Him to
      interfere too much with my life. There came a time, however, when
      finally I overcame my fear and put myself in God’s hands, abandoning my
      own desires. When I did this, when I let down all my conditions and all
      my defenses, giving myself entirely to God, He did come and touch me and
      from that moment on I realized that the coming of Jesus Christ did not
      interfere with my life but rather fulfilled every desire that I had and
      brought the true and vibrant life of the Trinity into my soul. Until a
      person relinquishes control over his own life and gives himself
      completely to Christ, his experience of God will be “at arms length” and
      like Fr Sophrony, he will read the Gospel without truly understanding
      and his knowledge about God will be dry and without impact. Only when we
      allow Christ to touch our lives, only when we unreservedly give
      ourselves over to Him, only when we embrace Him without condition will
      we recognize the Truth and will God become real and vibrant and a part
      of our lives. Only then will we experience, as Fr Sophrony says, “God
      Himself praying in me.”

      My brothers and sisters if this all sounds foreign to you, it may be
      that you have not yet allowed God to touch you. As St Herman tells us,
      “from this very day, from this very hour, from this very moment” begin
      to love God with all your heart and call out to God. Offer Him your
      whole self, your entire life without reservation. Trust Him with
      everything that you have, everything that you are, everything that you
      hope to become, every desire, every dream, every ambition. Set it all
      before Him and open your arms wide that He may not only touch you but
      embrace you. If you will do this, if you will sacrifice yourself to God,
      He will indeed accept your sacrifice, He will indeed touch you and
      embrace you and He will illumine you and His life will course through
      you. You will see in the Gospel, in the lives of the saints, in the
      writings of the fathers, in the services of the Church the echo of your
      own experience. You will see in the life of Christ which is the life of
      the Church, your own life, your own experience. You will know that God
      Himself is praying in you.

      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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