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Homily for 5/12/13 - Pascha 1 - of one accord

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  • David
    Acts 5:12-20 “They were all of one accord…” This is how the Acts of the Apostles describes the nature of the Church during the time immediately after
    Message 1 of 1 , May 12, 2013
      Acts 5:12-20
      “They were all of one accord…” This is how the Acts of the Apostles
      describes the nature of the Church during the time immediately after
      Pentecost. What does this mean, to be “of one accord”? The Church at
      that time was gathered around all the Apostles (and the Virgin Mary).
      They came together at the temple to pray and to hear the teaching of the
      Apostles. They were “of one accord” because they shared the same mind,
      the same interest, the same value, the same purpose. What they shared
      was a belief that Jesus, Who rose from the dead, was the Messiah and had
      come to open for them the way into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Apostles,
      as the chosen companions and witnesses to all that Jesus had said and
      done – and most importantly to His Resurrection – were the ones who were
      recognized not only as the leaders of the community, but also as the
      ones by whom the teaching, the life and the life-giving power of the
      Holy Spirit was imparted to the Church and to the world. There was no
      question, no dissention, no argument because all lived in agreement that
      to gain the life of Christ was more important than anything else and
      that this life was poured out to them through the Apostles, as the
      chosen shepherds of the flock of Christ.

      We, who are part of the Church today, also live within this same accord.
      We share with those first Christians the firm belief that the God/man
      Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and that without Him
      there is no life. We believe, with those early Christians, that not only
      did our Lord give us new life and set us on the path of salvation, but
      that He has shown us the way to follow that path without wandering or
      getting lost. Like them, we believe that this way that He has shown to
      us, He has given to us through the witness of the Apostles empowered by
      the grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon them by Christ after His
      Resurrection(John 20:21-23). In that sense, we are “of one accord” with
      those Christians and live in complete harmony with them and with one
      another. But too often we do not experience that harmony. It is
      disrupted by competing interests, by differences of opinion, in short by
      our own self-centered sins. Here is the evidence of our own weaknesses,
      our own imperfections, our own immaturity in the faith. Surely there is
      nothing lacking in the work of Christ as He ascended the cross, suffered
      death, descended into hell and rose again conquering sin, death and the
      devil. Surely there is no fault or deficit in the grace that God has
      bestowed upon us through the sacraments and the work of the Holy Spirit
      in us. The imperfections and deficits that tear us away from the place
      of living “in one accord” with one another, with the first Christians,
      with the Apostles and with Jesus Christ Himself are the result of our
      own sins.

      For this reason, it is our task to leave them behind that they might not
      pull us away and rob us of the joy and peace and one-ness which we
      gained in the Resurrection. We are given gifts of grace by the Holy
      Spirit which are the tools we need to enter into and maintain this “one
      accord” with Christ and with the Church. St Nicholas Cabasilas points
      out that we are given these things because we are expected to use them,
      “What would be the point of strengthening and arming him who was to
      remain and sleep at home? … Were there no contests for virtue, what
      would be man’s work? Or rather what would be worse than the case of
      those who achieve nothing… It was therefore necessary to grant to men a
      place for works and a time for struggles and to give to those who had
      already received perfection and ability from the Mysteries an
      opportunity to make the effort befitting their nature.” Therefore it is
      up to us to turn away from those things which tempt us and try to pull
      us away from Christ.

      What then disturbs the harmony of the Body of Christ? First of all there
      is the “original” sin of our first parents who were convinced by the
      evil one that they were wiser than God and thus could act on their own
      ideas and impulses. This tendency is with all of us still and overcoming
      it is a basic part of the struggle we face. Our Lord, by giving us new
      life has put the “genie” of self will “back in the bottle” – but how
      fiercely it struggles to get out again. This is the basic element of
      “self-denial” – to submit our own ideas, our own reasoning, our own
      thoughts to Christ and allow Him to lead us through the Apostles and the
      Church rather than trying to forge our own path. Do not proceed
      according to your own ideas, but rather follow the path that our Lord
      sets before you each day which is bounded and defined by the witness of
      the Apostles, given to us by the tradition of the Church.

      Another disruption of the harmony of the Body of Christ that erupts from
      our fallen nature is our passion. The raging demands of our passions for
      fulfillment at any cost create tempest of selfish demands that
      constantly threaten to overwhelm us. One of the primary means by which
      we weaken these demands of the passions is quite simply fasting. By
      keeping the fasting seasons (such as Great Lent which we just finished)
      in obedience to the tradition of the Church, we chip away constantly at
      the strength of the passions by bringing one of the strongest of them
      (that is the belly) under the control of the will (rather than allowing
      it to control the will). Every time we say “no” to the demands of our
      desires, we weaken the passions a little bit. Thus the fasts are the
      forefront of our war against the tyranny of the passions – and we
      continue that battle by every act of self-denial, every act of setting
      aside the fulfillment of our desires.

      Most notable among the disturbances of our unity is the insistence of
      having one’s own way; of having one’s own opinion prevail. This goes
      back to the temptation to put our will above that of God. If we can’t
      tell God what to do – well then maybe we can at least tell our neighbor
      what to do. This is linked closely to pride, to putting oneself ahead of
      others. Also coming from this pride is the desire for praise and
      recognition. How often do we act not out of love for others or for the
      benefit of the whole Church, but rather out of a desire for someone to
      notice what we have done and praise us for it. The answer lies in
      humility. We must cultivate humility in our hearts. I read recently a
      saying that expresses the practice of humility very clearly and I would
      like to share it with you. To be humble is not to think less of yourself
      – rather it is to think of yourself less. It is good to act with
      confidence, to exercise to their fullest the gifts that God has given to
      you, however, do so in a way that does not bring attention to yourself,
      but rather in a way that builds up your brother or sister in Christ, or
      even your neighbor whoever he might be. By His grace, God has given you
      skills and gifts and innate talents that you should use to the best of
      your ability. In using them, however, do not think of yourself, of your
      gain, of your benefit, but rather think of your neighbor, his needs and
      his well-being. This is humility – to always put others before yourself.

      The first Christians were all together “of one accord”, living in
      perfect peace with one another, striving together for the same goal – to
      follow Christ as He led them into the Kingdom of God by the care and
      teaching of the Apostles. So we too should strive to live in one accord
      with them and with each other – working together to follow Christ and to
      enter, together, 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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