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Homily for 2/5/12 - P&P - New Martyrs of Russia

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  • Fr David Moser
    Rom 8:28-39 The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia shine as a beacon for us of the faithfulness of God. These men women and children, nobility and
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2012
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      Rom 8:28-39

      The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia shine as a beacon for us
      of the faithfulness of God. These men women and children, nobility and
      peasant, clergy and laity, young and old, strong and weak, are all
      together glorified by God for their steadfast faith and confession. They
      experienced and withstood every difficulty, every struggle, every
      calamity that a person could face and still trusted that God would
      deliver them. In them are the first words of the epistle today
      demonstrated: that “all things work together for good to those who love
      God...” (Rom 8:28) Each one of the New Martyrs loved God above all else,
      sacrificing their comfort, their homes, even their lives keeping only
      their faith in God. Each loss, each struggle, each difficulty combined
      to bring each person to the point of martyrdom, to receiving the crown
      of the heavenly kingdom. How did they get to this point, how were they
      able to endure, how was it that their faith was so strong?

      When we hear this portion of the epistle, often we only think of the
      present, of our own difficulties and we lean on the promise that God
      will bring good out of whatever difficulty in which we might find
      ourselves. But there is much more here. The apostle says that “all
      things work together” not just one or two things, not just the bad
      things, not just the present - but *all* things. Everything in every day
      of your life is part of the whole, a piece of the puzzle. Every event in
      your life has made you who you are today and even today you are
      incomplete, you are like an unfinished composition of music or work of
      art, for “all things” also includes the future. Even up to the last
      moment of your life, you are not yet complete, for there is still
      missing the final note, the final chord, the final resolution of all the
      various strands of your life - that is your own death. Physical death is
      not to be feared and avoided, it is rather something to be anticipated,
      and for which to prepare. Physical death is the completion of your
      earthly labors and as such can bring everything to a glorious finish, no
      matter what went before. Only after one’s death can the whole of the
      life be fully grasped and properly understood.

      The New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia understood this - knowing that
      suffering and death were nothing to be feared but were rather an
      essential part of the whole of the life that they will offer to God when
      they stand before Him. God will see their lives as a complete whole,
      from beginning to end - He will see each success, each fall, each
      misstep, each bold confession, each blessing, each sin, each event in
      life not individually, but rather as an integral part of the whole - He
      will look at the end result, at the final compilation of the whole life,
      even including the death. It is this whole tapestry of our earthly life
      that we offer to Him and which sets the course of our eternal life. This
      eternal perspective is what allows the New Martyrs to endure, to have a
      strong faith that they can trust in God’s help and provision, even in
      the face of suffering and death. They knew and firmly believed that
      everything in their lives was given to them by God for the good
      completion of their lives, for the final working out of their salvation
      and so rather than avoid the struggle, rather than turn away from God,
      they were able to embrace and use everything that came to them as a
      tool, as a means of strengthening and expressing their faith in God even

      The apostle also emphasizes the fact that once we have placed ourselves
      in God’s hands there is nothing that can pull us away from Him. “For” he
      says, “I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor
      principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
      height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us
      from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38&39)
      Consider this promise for a moment. Nothing can separate us from God -
      neither life nor death - that is there is no condition of the soul or
      body where God is not present, where God is not with us and where He
      does not love us. Whether in life or in death it makes no difference,
      God is there, God loves you. He continues, nor angels, nor
      principalities, nor powers. These are three of the ranks of the angelic
      hosts - there are angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues,
      dominions, thrones, cherubim and seraphim. The apostle doesn’t name them
      all but only three, not to imply that there are some who can separate us
      from God, but rather the three stand as a representation of the whole.
      The angels are those who are closest to us and from their ranks are
      drawn the guardian angel that is given to each of us by God at the
      moment of our baptism. The principalities are those angelic beings who
      are responsible for maintaining the order of the whole universe and the
      keeping of all earthly kingdoms. The powers are those angelic beings who
      are primarily engaged in battling the demonic forces and protecting us
      from their fury and destructive force. They repulse the temptations and
      strengthen those who struggle in self denial and spiritual labors and
      who struggle with the passions of the soul and body and with the evil
      thoughts suggested to us by the devil. He names these three angelic
      orders for they represent the whole of our spiritual struggle - the
      guardian of our soul and body, the keepers of the kingdoms of the earth
      and the order of the universe and the warriors against the demonic
      forces of the devil. By this he indicates that nothing in heaven or on
      earth, no angel nor demon or any spiritual being can separate us from God.

      The promise goes on to say that not things present nor things to come
      can separate us from God. There is no event of our life that can keep us
      from God. The past is washed and healed in our baptism and so cannot
      keep us from God - the present and the future are subject to our faith
      and trust in God and so by themselves cannot separate us from God. No
      event in our lives will be able to prevent us from being united to God.
      Not only the events of our lives, but neither height nor depth - that is
      any condition in our environment and the world around us - can separate
      us from God. There is no place where God is not able to be found,
      whether we ascend into the heights God is there or descend into the
      lowest depths, God is there. God is with us in every place and
      circumstance - He never abandons us. There is nothing in the world
      around us that can separate us from God. And in case he missed anything
      the apostle finishes by saying that not any other creature is able to
      separate us from God. No other being, whether spiritual or physical,
      whether known or unknown, whether strong or weak, no matter who it may
      be - no other creature is able to separate us from the love of God which
      is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the confidence of the martyrs and
      this is our confidence as well - that God has chosen us and He has
      become as a Father to us, taking us as His sons and daughters. Having
      embraced us, there is now nothing that can come between us, nothing that
      can tear us out of His hands, nothing that can pull Him away from us or
      us away from Him.

      There is in fact only one means by which we can be separated from God
      and that is by our own choice. If we were to be foolish enough to turn
      away from God, then, He would not hold us against our will and would
      allow us to separate ourselves from Him. But even then the love of God
      is great and without limit for if we should regret our rebellion and
      repent of our error and even at the last moment of life, with the last
      breath return to Him and confess Him again, He forgives us, He receives
      us, He embraces us as if we had never been apart from Him. This is God’s
      great mercy that there is no sin so great that God is unable to forgive
      and unwilling to receive us back into His arms, into His family, into
      His eternal kingdom. And it is this confidence that the martyrs took
      with themselves into the struggle of their lives. Nothing could separate
      them from God, nothing could tear them out of His hands and away from
      His love as long as they remained steadfast in their faith and their
      confession of Him, He would welcome them into His presence saying, “well
      done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into your rest.”

      Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia pray for us that we too may
      finish the course of this life in the love of God without stumbling,
      without fault and with boldness and confidence and unwavering faith.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
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