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Homily for 12/18/11 - P27 - Thanksgiving

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 17:12-19 Today we recall the memory of St Sava the Sanctified. St Sava is considered to be the father of the ascetic hermits of Palestine. His monastery
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 18, 2011
      Luke 17:12-19

      Today we recall the memory of St Sava the Sanctified. St Sava is
      considered to be the father of the ascetic hermits of Palestine. His
      monastery in the Judean desert is the oldest continually occupied
      Orthodox monastery in the world. St Sava lived a life completely
      dependant upon God for everything. There is very little in the Judean
      desert (what today is called the West Bank of the Jordan) except for
      rocks; it is a hot and dry land with few natural resources. St Sava,
      already formed as a monastic in a cenobitic monastery, was given a
      blessing to withdraw into the life of a hermit and so ventured out into
      the desert to live a life completely devoted to prayer in the presence
      of God alone. One thing that is abundant in the desert are caves which
      are cut into the sides of steep ravines and cliffs. In one of these
      caves St Sava took up residence and began to pray. His life is full of
      examples of how God provided for him but we will only visit a few of these.

      As his presence in the desert became known, other monks wishing to live
      a similar life of withdrawal and solitary prayer began to seek St Sava
      out for guidance and took up residence in caves that were nearby. As
      this monastic brotherhood grew, St Sava noted that the only source of
      water was far away and simply bringing water for their needs took up an
      inordinate amount of time away from the life of prayer. As with
      everything else, St Sava took this need for water before the throne of
      God and put the matter in God’s hands. Rising from prayer, he noticed a
      donkey in the bottom of the ravine where his cave was located. It kicked
      the ground with his hoof and then seemed to drink from the place where
      his hoof had made a depression. St Sava went to this place found that
      although there was no flowing water there, it was possible to get water
      from the ground in this fashion. He built a shelter and a small cistern
      there which allowed the water to collect and remain rather than be lost
      through evaporation in the hot sun. This well provided a source water
      for the monks that was nearby, therefore allowing them to devote more
      time to prayer. That miraculous well remains even today as a source of
      water to the monastery. It does not flow with water but droplets of
      water seep from the rocks and are collected in the cistern.

      Another need of the brotherhood was a place to gather for their common
      prayer. There was nothing with which to build a Church there in the
      desert and so St Sava laid this need too before the throne of God.
      During his prayer he noticed a vision of a pillar of fire on the
      opposite side of the ravine. This pillar of fire remained and St Sava,
      upon investigating the place where it touched the earth found a
      previously unknown cave which is shaped exactly as a Church should be –
      with rooms in exactly the right place for the nave and the altar and a
      sacristy. This cave was established as the Church for the monks and
      remains so even today.

      When we see how it is that God provided for St Sava, we are moved first
      by the great faith of St Sava, who depended upon God for everything,
      even water and shelter; and second by the faithful provision of God,
      giving to St Sava all that he needed. Noting the providence of God in
      the life of the saint, we are able then to begin to look for the
      providence of God in our lives. One of the ways by which we can see the
      providence of God in our lives more clearly is by giving thanks for all
      that we do see. By giving thanks to God for the blessings that He gives
      to us, we begin to focus on God’s intervention in the events of our
      lives. Once we do this, we begin to see more and more ways in which God
      is present in the way that we live and we see His hand touching our
      lives in more and more places.

      In the Gospel we heard of the leper who, being healed by our Lord Jesus
      Christ, returned to give thanks to Him. Despite this clear and
      unmistakable miracle received from the hand of the God/man Jesus Christ,
      only one of the ten that were healed thought to give thanks. This is
      often how we find ourselves; completely surrounded by the evidence of
      God’s miraculous care for us, we begin to take such things for granted
      and neglect to thank God even for His outright miracles. We should take
      the example of the one leper who returned to give thanks for this
      miracle. As soon as he realized that he had received this gift from the
      hand of the God/man Jesus Christ, he stopped what he was doing (going
      with the others to fulfill the requirement to “show themselves to the
      priests” that they might be declared disease free and permitted to
      return to live among society) turned around and went back to give
      thanks. He did not wait until later, he did not even finish this
      required inspection – but stopped what he was doing right in the middle
      and gave thanks to God. If we would learn to give thanks to God then we
      can do the same: stop right where you are, no matter what you are doing,
      and give thanks to God in the instant that you become aware of His
      blessing. In doing this you begin to train the eyes of your soul to see
      the hand of God more clearly and so will notice other blessings for
      which to thank God.

      Over time you begin to see more and more of God’s providence in your
      life. Seeing the providence of God in your life, this will prompt you
      also to trust God more. He has provided in the past and so you will be
      able to have confidence that He will not stop His love for you and will
      provide your needs today and tomorrow as well. By practicing
      thanksgiving to God, one result is that our trust in God is strengthened
      and we can begin to rely on Him for even the small things in our life as
      did St Sava.

      Seeing God’s abundant provision and care for us through the lens of
      thanksgiving we are inspired as well to a greater love for God. Our
      gratitude begets love for the Giver of all good things in the soul. The
      more that we give thanks to God, the more love for Him will grow in our
      hearts. When the love of God lives in our hearts and burns brightly,
      then it also becomes for us a protection and help from the temptations
      to sin. We will resist sin not because it is a rule or a law or even
      “the right thing to do”, but we freely choose to turn away from sin
      because we choose instead to turn towards God. The attraction and allure
      of sin fades and falls away when compared to bright and burning love for
      God.

      When we see how God provides for us every good thing; when we see His
      hand in every event of our lives, then we also become aware of how
      little we are able to do on our own and how utterly dependent we
      actually are upon God. This awareness leads to humility and the poverty
      of spirit for we recognize that we have nothing in ourselves, but that
      we receive all things from the hand of God. To be poor in spirit is the
      first of the beatitudes and promises that he who possesses this poverty
      will receive in return the kingdom of God. Humility is called the mother
      of all virtue for from its seed all the other virtues will spring up in
      the heart. These things are the result of our awareness of God’s
      constant and complete care for us which is in turn the result of
      thanksgiving. Therefore, if you wish to receive the kingdom of God and
      if you wish all the virtues to sprout from your heart, begin with
      thanksgiving.

      Very few of us are called to the life of a desert hermit such as St
      Sava, but all of us are able to imitate his complete dependence upon the
      providence of God. The way that we do this is by practicing thanksgiving
      in our daily lives. Inasmuch as we are able, we can begin to stop and
      thank God whenever we see His hand in our lives. The more that we thank
      God, the more that we see His hand. The more we are aware of His
      intervention and care for us, the more we trust Him and love Him. As our
      trust and love grows then we begin to depend upon Him more and more,
      allowing the poverty of spirit and humility to grow in our lives and
      thus bringing forth the fruit of the virtues and opening the doors to
      the kingdom of heaven.

      Here, my brothers and sisters, we see that there is a simple path laid
      before us, a way for all of us to imitate the God pleasing life of St
      Sava and to enter with him into the kingdom of heaven. That path is the
      path of thanksgiving in all things. To stop at the very moment we become
      aware of the blessing of God in our lives and to give Him thanks. In
      this way we too can become God pleasers and companions of the saints –
      and together we will enter into the Kingdom of 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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