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Homily for 11/11/12 - P23 - Spiritual Children

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  • Fr David Moser
    Gal 5:22-6:2 Very often we speak of our spiritual fathers and mothers, referring to those who have gone before us in the faith and who help us as we also
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11 7:27 AM
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      Gal 5:22-6:2

      Very often we speak of our spiritual fathers and mothers, referring to
      those who have gone before us in the faith and who help us as we also
      struggle to follow them as they follow Christ. But do we stop and
      consider what it means to be a spiritual father or mother. We are
      accustomed to consider others to be our spiritual forebears, but too
      often we forget that we are also the spiritual fathers and mothers to
      those who come after us. For those of us in families, this relationship
      becomes immediately apparent when we think of our own children and how
      we are both their physical as well as spiritual parents (at least in
      their youth). As parents we teach our children not only how to live and
      get along in the world, but be also teach them the necessary spiritual
      lessons – to love God, to pray, to do good and so on. We are all
      spiritual parents, communicating the life of Christ to those who come
      after us, just as those who have gone before us are our spiritual
      parents, communicating the life of Christ to us. While a certain amount
      of this communication is done by teaching and instruction, the vast
      majority of our labors as spiritual parents imparting the life of Christ
      to others, is simply by example. In the Epistle today we heard the
      apostle list for us the fruit of the spirit, “love, joy, peace,
      patience, kindness …” and so on. This spiritual fruit in our own lives
      benefits not just us, but is the means by which our spiritual children
      are nourished. We are spiritual fathers and mothers when we bear in our
      lives these fruits of the Holy Spirit. Today we remember two saints who
      give us examples of spiritual parenthood in their own lives.

      St Anastasia, the Roman, was orphaned at the age of 3 years old and she
      was taken in and cared for by an elderly nun – the abbess Sophia. St
      Anastasia was raised in the monastery and had as her spiritual mother
      the abbess Sophia who taught her to love God, to pray, to fast and to
      love only those things which brought her closer to Jesus Christ. These
      things were not taught in a school, but rather they were taught by
      example – Sophia and the rest of the monastic sisterhood communicating
      to St Anastasia the path of coming nearer to Christ by their own actions
      which were filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. St Anastasia was
      taught the life of Christ by the example of her own spiritual mother,
      Abbess Sophia.

      The other major saint of the day is Abramius. He was a recluse who
      separated himself from the world for the love of God. He struggled every
      day with the temptations of the evil one and gained victory over these
      temptations only by steadfast reliance on the grace of God. His holiness
      was noted by the bishop who was searching for a priest to send to a city
      which had been very resistant to the Gospel. Seeing Abramius, the bishop
      knew that he had found the one to send as a priest and missionary to
      this city. St Abramius built a Church there even though there was no
      congregation and went every day to the Church to offer prayers. The
      people of the city mocked him and mistreated him and eventually even
      beat him. But the saint continued to live the life of Christ, a living
      example of the love and compassion of our Lord for the whole world, even
      for those who hated Him. St Abramius did not argue with the people of
      his city, nor did he seek to coerce them to believe in Christ – he
      simply lived the life of Christ before them day in and day out like a
      spiritual tree, laden with fruit of the Spirit ripe for the picking.
      With this unwavering example before them, the eyes of this recalcitrant
      people were opened and all at once they embraced the truth of the Gospel
      that they saw lived out daily before them by the Saint. He was their
      spiritual father, bringing them to life in Christ and he did this only
      by living the life of Christ before their eyes.

      In the lives of these two saints we see the importance of being a
      spiritual parent and of bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our own
      lives. However, the Apostle doesn’t stop with just telling us of the
      spiritual fruit that we will bear, but he also reminds us that there
      will come problems and difficulties and that some will stumble and fall.
      When we see someone who is “overtaken by temptation” , that is who falls
      into sin, he tells us that we should reach out to that person, not with
      judgment or condemnation, but to restore them with “gentleness,
      considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” When we see the sins of
      others, we should be reminded of our own weaknesses and humble ourselves
      lest we too fall into sin. Finally, he tells us that we should “bear one
      another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

      Truly this is a further description of the work of a spiritual parent.
      When our spiritual children fall, we do not judge them but rather are
      filled with compassion and reach out to them so that we can lift them up
      out of their sin. All the while we also take care for our own souls with
      humility so that we do not end up falling into sin ourselves. This is
      part of being a parent – to reach out to those who have fallen and
      restore them with gentleness and love to the path of salvation.

      In the life of St Abramius, we also see a beautiful example of this love
      and compassion. After bringing the citizens of the city to which he had
      been sent to Christ and establishing them there in the life of Christ,
      he returned to his life of reclusion. Although he had no children of his
      own, the saint had a brother who died leaving a young daughter, Mary, in
      the care of the saint. St Abramius, took the child and settled her in
      the outer cell of his hermitage. There he taught her to love Christ
      above all and soon she too began to live just as her uncle. But the evil
      one, seeing this new warrior of Christ, was determined to tempt her
      thinking that he would not only bring down the girl, Mary, but also
      would wound St Abramius who had invested much labor in her spiritual
      upbringing. As it happened the evil one succeeded in his plot by
      inflaming the passions of a youth who came to visit the saint and seeing
      the young woman laboring in virginity became filled with lust for her.
      He managed to tempt and seduce the girl, Mary, and she fell into sin
      with him. Immediately though she bewailed her sin and fell into despair.
      Without revealing her sin to her uncle, she abandoned the spiritual life
      having lost all hope. After a short time St Abramius noticed her absence
      and began to search for her. Leaving his seclusion, he took on the garb
      of a soldier and found his niece Mary living in a brothel. Hiding his
      identity, he contracted with the owner of the inn to have her sent to
      his room for the night. When she appeared, he spoke with her and
      revealed his identity to her and with gentle kindness and the soothing
      balm of forgiveness restored hope to her and brought her again to the
      hermitage where she resumed her life of spiritual struggle with a
      renewed energy and purpose.

      This is the love and compassion of Christ that the apostle commands that
      we all demonstrate. When we see one who has fallen into sin, it is our
      task to reach out to them with gentleness and forgiveness in the hope
      that they might be restored to the path of salvation. We need not
      condemn nor judge, we only need to reach out with the gentle hand of
      compassion and forgiveness, offering help to the fallen one to leave
      behind their sin and return again to the life of Christ.

      We all have our spiritual fathers and mothers who have nurtured us with
      the fruit of the Holy Spirit, communicating the life of Christ to us
      through their lives. When we are tempted they stand beside us and
      strengthen us and when we fall they reach out to us and lift us up. In
      our own turn we too become spiritual parents, nurturing others with the
      fruit of the Holy Spirit that we bear in our own lives by the grace of
      God and reaching out to those who have fallen and with gentleness
      restoring them to the path of salvation. They, in turn will become
      spiritual parents to those who come after them and so on, thus
      perpetuating the life of Christ in the Church. For this reason it is
      necessary that we all strive to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in
      abundance. Above all we must bear in our lives the love of God with
      which we reach out to those who have fallen so that they might not
      remain trapped by their sins, but that with our help they might return
      to the life of Christ and the path of salvation.

      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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