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Homily for 6/10/12 - All Saints - Ascending and Descending

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38, 19:27-30 Brothers and sisters, it seems as though we have been either feasting or fasting now for quite a long time. 6 months ago we
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 10, 2012
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      Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38, 19:27-30

      Brothers and sisters, it seems as though we have been either feasting or
      fasting now for quite a long time. 6 months ago we were preparing for
      the feast of our Lord’s Nativity, which is followed almost immediately
      by the feast of His Baptism. These are the twin feasts celebrating the
      incarnation – that God has become man and dwelt among us in order to
      reveal Himself to us and call us to follow Him. Heaven descended to
      earth on these feasts, He Who dwelleth in the highest has condescended
      to take flesh and become like us in order that we might become like Him.
      Shortly after these feasts we begin the preparation for Great Lent and
      Holy Week. We follow our Lord, the God/man Jesus Christ, throughout His
      life and finally through the final week of suffering, betrayal, torture,
      death and burial. He goes from earth and descends even further to the
      lowest depths of hades in order to confront our enemy death face to face
      and there defeat him. Having conquered death our Lord frees the
      captives, those who had died and were trapped in hades by the devil,
      leading them finally to paradise opening for them the gates which had
      been shut and locked by sin that they might enter in. Just in these
      short few weeks we have traveled from the highest heaven to the depths
      of hell. But death could not hold Him, hades could not confine Him and
      He rose again from the dead. Our God having descended from earth to hell
      has now ascended again to earth in the Resurrection. His work however is
      not done for after briefly appearing again to his disciples, teaching
      them and encouraging them, He ascended into heaven opening for us the
      same path into the Kingdom of Heaven that we might follow Him. Again, He
      ascends from earth to the heights of heaven, but has left for us all the
      doors open that we might ascend with Him.

      He did not, however, leave us alone to fend for ourselves and try to
      walk the path to heaven on our own. He sent to us the Holy Spirit – God
      again descending from heaven to earth – that He might guide us and
      strengthen us and walk with us as we follow Christ on the path that
      ascends from earth to heaven. So here we are, having liturgically begun
      in the highest Heaven, descended to earth and again to the lowest depths
      of hades, and ascended from there again to earth and on to the highest
      heaven. From heaven, our Lord has reached down to us again and sent to
      us the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow Him in His ascent.

      Today, celebrating finally the feast of all saints, we have set before
      us the result of the descent and ascent of our Lord and the indwelling
      of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is precisely what “the saints” are
      – they are those who have, in their lives, embraced the One who
      descended from heaven and followed Him even to the depths of hell and
      ascended with Him in the Resurrection. They then saw before them the
      path to Heaven as He ascended and with the help of the Holy Spirit
      walked that path. The saints, through their lives, show us the process
      and the result of following Christ. All the saints being remembered
      today followed the example of Christ. And all of them in their time, in
      their circumstances of life, fulfilled God’s commandment of love of God
      and neighbor. Occasionally their times were difficult, maybe more
      difficult than ours; and not infrequently their circumstances in life
      were more dangerous in spiritual terms, and often in worldly terms were
      worse than ours. But they still proceeded, struggled, and reached the
      abodes on high where they now triumph. As we look at the lives of these
      saints we see a wide variety: martyrs, confessors, ascetics, fools for
      Christ, educated people, simple people, rich, poor, bishops, monastics,
      lay people. The Church is all-embracing, and there is room for each of
      us within her arms.

      Like us, all of the saints were different people; and their paths were
      different. But all of them, absolutely all, had three qualities which
      they all possessed identically. These qualities are pointed out to us in
      today’s Gospel. They are obligatory for everyone, and this means for us,
      too; we cannot escape them. Here they are: ‘Whosoever therefore shall
      confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father, which
      is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32). This is the first thing. Do you see how
      important this is for us modern-day people? It is as if the whole world
      around us asks: “Are you Christ’s or one of ours?” We cannot leave this
      question unanswered. In our speech, our actions, our thoughts and
      feelings (for our feelings are somehow passed on to the others), we must
      answer loud and firm: “Yes, I am a Christian! – I belong to Christ!”

      Here is the second: “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not
      worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not
      worthy of Me” (Mt. l0:37). Here and now, the Lord demands from you and
      me this all-consuming love — to love Him more than everyone and
      everything. And only through this love for Him will we really be able to
      love our relatives, strangers, and even our enemies.

      Finally the third: “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth
      after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Mt.l0:38). This instance does not even
      require explanation. Each of us has his own sorrows and difficulties in
      life; they are personal for each of us. It is a difficult and burdensome
      cross, but we are commanded to take up our cross and follow Christ; and
      this means these are the Will of God for us and work in us for our
      salvation.

      Here today we stand on the path of salvation, the path to Heaven, the
      path of following Christ that He has revealed to us and opened for us.
      Here today we have been filled with the Holy Spirit so that we might
      never lose sight of the path and that we might be strengthened by His
      grace to follow that path as we ascend with Christ from earth to Heaven.
      We too are called to be saints and like all those we remember today, we
      too must confess Christ with our whole lives, love Him above all else
      with an all consuming love, and we must follow Him, even through the
      cross and the descent into hell that having descended with Him, we might
      also ascend with Him and remain with Him in Heaven.

      Today, as we look at the Church we see the whole choir of the saints who
      have gone on before us. They have shown us that no matter who we are in
      this life, no matter what our circumstances, we can follow Christ and
      with them, we will enter into His Heavenly Kingdom to live in the light
      of His countenance for eternity.

      --
      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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