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homily for 3/14/10 - L4 - patient endurance

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  • Fr David Moser
    Hebrews 6:13-20 “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” God has given to us many promises upon which we depend, not only for our
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 14, 2010
      Hebrews 6:13-20

      “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.”

      God has given to us many promises upon which we depend, not only for our
      physical lives, but also for our spiritual lives. Just as God gave
      promises to our spiritual forefathers such as Abraham, so also He gives
      promises to us. And we are encouraged in that He kept His promises to
      our forefathers, no matter how unlikely they might have seemed, so also
      we know He will keep His promises to us. Here the Apostles reminds us of
      a very important truth – that God’s promises are not always fulfilled at
      once, but require from us faith and patient endurance. There is no other
      time during the year than Great Lent that we experience this necessity.

      Our Lord Jesus Christ has promised to deliver us from the power of sin
      and death and to raise us up into new life with Himself. He has promised
      us His grace and His help in living this new life that we might be
      transformed and realize in our own lives His image and likeness. He has
      promised to return to the world in glory to judge the living and the
      dead and He has promised to take us to live in His kingdom in union and
      communion with Himself. All of these promises He has given to us and it
      remains only for us to await in faith for their fulfillment. And so,
      with patience and endurance, we do await His promise.

      What does this mean, to await with patience and endurance? Such patience
      is not a passive thing where we sit inactive as if we were in some
      cosmic waiting room. No this is not what patient endurance means. Let us
      look at the example of Abraham to see how he waited for the fulfillment
      of God’s promises to Him with patient endurance. God promised Abraham
      that he would be the father of a great nation, a nation which would
      possess the land of Canaan into which God had led him. God promised
      Abraham that from this nation, of which he would be the father, would
      come the Messiah who would save the people from their sins. God promised
      Abraham that He would bless him and multiply him. Abraham simply had to
      wait with patient endurance for God to fulfill His promises. But this
      waiting was not an idle thing. Abraham, believing the promises of God
      began to act in faith, acting as though these promises were already a
      reality that he could see with his own eyes (for in fact, he did see
      them with the eyes of his heart). He began to settle and live in the
      promised land, making it his own. He had a son and began to raise him up
      to love God and to serve Him, for Abraham knew that in order for this
      great nation to continue and come to a realization of the destiny for
      which it had been chosen, it would have to serve the one true God.
      Abraham did not sit idly by, but became an active participant in the
      fulfillment of the promise of God. In this we see the essence of his
      patient endurance.

      This same patient endurance should define our lives as well. God has
      given to us wonderful promises and we must begin to act on those
      promises now and to become participants in their fulfillment. In faith,
      we will see that we have been indeed delivered from the power of sin and
      death and therefore need no longer succumb to their allure and pressure.
      In faith, we will do all that we can to acquire and use the grace that
      God so abundantly pours out upon us. In faith, we will live in union and
      communion with God in as much as it is possible for us in this life.
      Although we have not yet received the fullness of the promises of God,
      we live our lives as participants in their fulfillment.

      Today, we also remember the great saint John of the Ladder. St John is
      so called because he has given to us a book in which he has laid out for
      us steps by which we can realize the promises of God. These steps he
      likens to rungs on a ladder leading from earth to heaven. Like the steps
      of a ladder, some are more easily grasped than others (the ones nearer
      the ground can be grasped immediately while the ones near the top
      require that we climb the ladder before they are even accessible to us).
      Thus we begin, on St John’s Ladder of Divine Ascent, with those very
      basic acts that are within our grasp and having mastered one step we
      climb to the next until we have reached the very top where we find that
      the promises of Christ have indeed been fulfilled in us and we have
      entered the Kingdom of God.

      The first 5 steps (of which there are 30) on this ladder are all about
      turning away from our sinful lives and turning toward Christ. We find
      that we must first renounce the world – that is, we must express our
      desire to no longer follow our own inclinations and to be led about by
      our “natural” worldly pressures and desires and instead to follow
      Christ. Having renounced the world we take the second step and that is
      to actually act on our renunciation and begin to detach ourselves from
      the world. It is one thing to say that we will do this and another to
      actually do it. We all know that such renunciations and even the
      beginnings of the effort to follow through are common in our lives – but
      that too often our efforts fall off and we drift back into our old
      habits. How many “new year’s resolutions” to turn over a new leaf or
      develop new habits or to live in a new way have begun with enthusiasm
      only to fall by the wayside after a few weeks or a month as we return to
      our old way of life. Only those resolutions which we persistently put
      into practice until they become habitual and a part of our way of life
      survive. And this is the third step – having renounced the world and
      begun to detach ourselves from it, we make our detachment a habit and
      begin to live as though we were exiles and that this world is no longer
      our home, but that our home is elsewhere (that is in the Kingdom of
      God). The way that we make this happen is to reorder our lives and to
      take the fourth step which is to live in perfect obedience to our Lord
      Jesus Christ. These steps are like the Gospel wherein our Lord says that
      those who would come after Him must first deny themselves (renunciation
      and detachment) take up their cross (exile) and follow Him (obedience).

      If we were strong enough to live in perfect obedience from the very
      beginning, the rest of the ladder would be simple – but the fact is that
      we often fail at our obedience and so we continue on to the next step:
      repentance. Painstaking and true repentance is the recognition that we
      have fallen short (in fact that we ma have fallen off the ladder
      altogether) and so we again repeat the first four steps as often as
      necessary. It is as though we are tied by a rope to the ground and we
      only get so many steps up that ladder until the rope tightens and pulls
      us off. Each time we repent and climb the ladder again, the rope
      stretches a little so we can get a bit further and finally it breaks so
      that sin no longer has a hold upon us. Here we can see the purpose of
      the Lenten struggle for during Great Lent we struggle to deny ourselves
      with a greater than usual intensity and we immerse ourselves in the life
      of Christ through prayer and the increased services of the Church. In
      this way, we intensify the sense that we are living in exile, not really
      a part of this world as we can see more clearly into the next. We take
      greater pains to reorder our lives according to the life of Christ and
      we invest greater effort in living in obedience to His commandments.
      Constantly, we become aware of our own failings and our own falls from
      the ladder and we repent again and again (and during Great Lent the
      sacrament of confession becomes our great help and strength). This is
      the time given to us by the Church to make our maximum effort to pull on
      that rope of sin which causes us to fall and to stretch it and weaken it
      so that in the coming year we will be stronger and more able to resist
      the many temptations that will assail us.

      God has promised to save us and by awaiting the fulfillment of that
      promise with patient endurance, we become active participants in the
      realization of the promise. On this day we are reminded of the Ladder of
      St John which is a tool that helps us go step by step into the Kingdom
      of God, and with each step we increase our reach and open new heights of
      the spiritual life to ourselves. There are many steps on that ladder,
      however if we even master the first few steps then we will be well on
      our way to attaining the realization of the promises of God. Let us then
      constantly take these steps of renunciation, detachment, exile and
      obedience to Christ until they become familiar to us. And when we fall
      we have the step of true repentance which leads us on to the higher
      steps and greater virtues that before were unobtainable – even
      unimaginable – such as the steps of true holy and blessed prayer, which
      is communion with God; and the heaven on earth of Godlike dispassion and
      perfection. God has promised to bring us into His Kingdom and His
      promise will not fail. Let us then act on that promise and through
      patient endurance become a part of its fulfillment, acquiring the grace
      of God and living in union and communion with Him.

      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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