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Homily for 6/5/11 - Pa6 - watch and remember

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  • Fr David Moser
    Acts 20:16-18, 28-36 John 17:1-13 Earlier this week we celebrated the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. We remember that after the Resurrection, Jesus
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2011
      Acts 20:16-18, 28-36
      John 17:1-13

      Earlier this week we celebrated the feast of the Ascension of the Lord.
      We remember that after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples
      a number of times and finally having gathered the twelve apostles along
      with some of His other principal followers (most notably the Virgin
      Mary), Jesus charged them to care for his “flock”, promised them that He
      would send the Holy Spirit to them and then ascended into heaven. After
      this the Apostles must have been almost at a loss – by His death, Jesus
      was taken from them, but then He returned, having risen from the dead.
      Now He was gone again, leaving them only with the promise that He would
      send “the comforter”, that is the Holy Spirit, to them. What were they
      to do now?

      Before His ascension, Jesus instructed them to go to Jerusalem and wait
      – and so they did. Just as we lived alongside the disciples during Holy
      Week and Pascha and again encountering Christ with them during the
      period following the Resurrection, now we too wait with them. They did
      not know how long they would wait or exactly what they were waiting for,
      however, we do know these things. We know that in just a few days from
      now, the feast of Pentecost will come and we will celebrate the descent
      of the Holy Spirit. Because we are filled with the Holy Spirit and
      sealed by the Holy Spirit in our Chrismation, we already experience in
      our daily lives that union and communion with God through His presence.
      But the Apostles had not yet had this experience, they did not yet know
      the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within themselves. They did
      not yet live in union and communion with God. And so they waited.

      The eve of the Ascension is the leave-taking of Pascha. Up until this
      day we have freely used the Paschal hymn, “Christ is Risen from the
      dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs
      bestowing life” in our prayers. It especially replaces the prayer to the
      Holy Spirit, “O heavenly King…” with which we begin all our services and
      prayer rules. But now we no longer insert the Paschal hymn, and yet
      neither do we resume the prayer, “O Heavenly King…” until Pentecost. It
      is as if we liturgically share the waiting of the Apostles – Christ is
      ascended but the Holy Spirit has not yet descended.

      During this “waiting period” we are reminded of the intercessory prayer
      offered on our behalf by our Lord Jesus Christ. “I pray for them: I pray
      not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; … And now I am
      no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.
      Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me,
      that they may be one, as we are.” Knowing that He would no longer be
      with us physically in the world, He commends us to the care of the
      Father that we might be “kept” by Him and that through His care, we
      might become one – as the Father and the Son are one. This unity with
      one another is accomplished by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The
      Holy Spirit in each of us unites us not only to God but to one another
      as well and knits us together so that we are no longer a collection of
      individuals, but rather we become the one Body of Christ, living in
      unconfused union with one another just as the Father and the Son and the
      Holy Spirit live in unconfused union.

      The reason that Jesus, knowing of His immanent departure from the
      disciples through first His crucifixion and later His ascension, was so
      attentive to arranging the ongoing care for His disciples is that He
      knew that these events would change the way they perceived their
      experience of Him as God. He knew also that these events and changes
      would bring challenges and dangers. The Apostle Paul spoke of these
      dangers saying: “… after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in
      among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men
      arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
      Therefore watch, and remember … ” He warns us and he warns those in
      authority over us to beware the false teachers who will come and try to
      draw us away from Christ. Thus we ourselves must take care to preserve
      our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must be able to discern the true
      faith, the true path to salvation, from the errors and temptations that
      will come. Knowing the Truth, we must also then “watch and remember”

      What does this mean, to “watch and remember”? First it means that we
      must know the Truth – both as a Person, for God is Truth and the witness
      to the Truth that is the life and teaching of Jesus Christ given to the
      Apostles as the revelation of that Truth. This teaching comes to us
      through the Church, for this is the means, the channel, by which God
      communicates it to us. He revealed Himself to the world through His
      incarnation. During the time of His life, He chose certain witnesses to
      His life and His teaching, notably the Apostles and His own mother, the
      Virgin Mary. These witnesses then, enlightened and empowered by the Holy
      Spirit so that they might remember without error and interpret truly
      this revelation, communicate it to the whole world so that all mankind
      might know God. This witness of the Apostles we call the “good news” or
      the “Gospel”. Some of what the Apostles taught about Jesus Christ is
      written in the Gospel and the rest of the New Testament Scripture. But
      not everything could be written down (as the Apostle John says, the
      world could not contain all the books if this were so) and therefore the
      entirety of this Gospel is contained in the Tradition of the Church,
      both written and spoken. Most importantly though, this witness is not
      just a collection of facts and stories and remembrances, but it is a way
      of life – the Truth must be lived. We must therefore “watch” and be
      attentive to our way of life, to be sure that we are living at all times
      within the Truth given to us by Christ. We must also “remember” all that
      He has shown us, all that has been passed down to us so that we might
      never be led astray but that we might follow the true faith, the true
      path to salvation.

      This is what the Apostles themselves did, especially in this time after
      the Ascension and awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. They watched,
      attentively awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit and remembered,
      bringing to mind all that they had seen and heard from Jesus Christ so
      that nothing would be lost or forgotten. We too must prepare ourselves
      now to “watch and remember” in the same way that as we move on from the
      events of our salvation which we re-experienced in Holy Week and Pascha,
      leaving behind the celebration and moving on with our lives. We must
      “watch and remember” living our lives in attentiveness to the Truth
      revealed by Jesus Christ and remembering always the Gospel, the Truth
      that has been revealed to us through the incarnation. We “watch and
      remember” that we might never be led astray or fall away from the true
      path of salvation – the path that leads to union and communion with God

      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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