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Homily for 1/19/14 - Theophany - regenerating and renewing grace

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  • David
    Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7 Today, or rather earlier today, the Patriarch of Jerusalem goes down to the Jordan River to celebrate the feast of our Lord’s baptism
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2014
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      Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7

      Today, or rather earlier today, the Patriarch of Jerusalem goes down to
      the Jordan River to celebrate the feast of our Lord’s baptism and to
      bless the water there. For the first time, as the God/man Jesus Christ
      entered the waters of the river Jordan and was baptized by the hand of
      the greatest of the prophets, John, the mystery of the Holy Trinity was
      plainly revealed to the world. The voice of the Father proclaimed Jesus
      Christ to be the Son of God and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove
      descended from Heaven confirming this declaration. On this day our
      salvation is revealed for we see clearly that Jesus Christ is God
      incarnate and He has come to bring salvation to us. In this moment we
      see the grace of God poured out upon the world and bringing to us
      eternal life, just as the waters of the River Jordan are poured out upon
      the dry land, bringing it to life. The waters are blessed by the
      presence of the God/man there and they continue to confer that blessing
      upon us even today in the Great Blessing of Water which we celebrate as
      a part of this feast.

      The Apostle speaks also of our salvation saying that the “grace of God
      that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.� This grace is
      bestowed upon us by our Lord Jesus Christ through the working of the
      Holy Spirit. This feast today is one of two that speak of the descent of
      the Holy Spirit pouring out the grace of salvation upon us. The other,
      of course, is the feast of Pentecost where we remember the descent of
      the Holy Spirit upon the Church which continues even to this day. It is
      this grace of God which cleanses us from the sin which has distorted and
      warped our being and which then transforms us, renewing in us the image
      and likeness of God with which we were created.

      This outpouring of grace, the apostle tells us, instructs us to live
      godly lives that are righteous and sober, turning away from worldly
      lusts and ungodliness in this present world. The Apostle later points
      out, however, that we are not saved by the works of righteousness, but
      according to the mercy of God. The way that we live our lives does not
      in itself save us, for our salvation is beyond our own strength, but
      rather by denying worldly lusts and ungodliness and living instead
      soberly, righteously and in godliness, we are prepared to receive the
      grace of God so that it might fill us and accomplish our transformation.
      By this grace we are first washed and regenerated – that is we are
      cleansed and born anew in the grace filled waters of baptism – and then
      we are renewed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All this, the
      Apostle reminds us, is “shed abundantly on us through Jesus Christ our
      Savior.�

      Today we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit upon our Lord Jesus
      Christ as he is baptized in the waters of the Jordan. At this moment we
      see clearly the purpose and means of our salvation. We see the union of
      God and man in Jesus Christ. We were created to live in union and
      communion with God, being filled with His life and living in complete
      harmony with Him. This is accomplished in us by first the washing of
      regeneration – that is the water of baptism which bestows upon us this
      grace of rebirth. Having been washed and born anew by baptism the second
      thing which is needed to bring us into our salvation is the transforming
      and renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, Who we see at the Baptism of
      Christ descending from heaven in the form of a dove.

      Today we also bless water, asking that God bestow upon us the same
      blessing upon the water here as He did upon the Jordan at His baptism.
      This water, once blessed, becomes a means by which God refreshes and
      renews in us the grace given to us at our baptism. It is not the water
      itself which is beneficial, but the grace of God by which the water is
      blessed and which is communicated to us through partaking of and being
      sprinkled with this water. In the same way it is not our worldly works
      which save us, but rather the grace of God which fills us as a result of
      these works and our cooperation with that grace which transforms us and
      brings us into union and communion with God. It is not enough therefore
      to be immersed in this water in baptism or to be blessed by the
      sprinkling of this water or by drinking it – we must cooperate with the
      grace bestowed by it and allow that grace to work in us, not resisting
      its action to change our lives, but giving up our attachment to the
      values, priorities, interests, impulses and “lusts� of the world so that
      they might be replaced with the divine values, priorities, interest,
      impulses and “righteousness� of God which that grace seeks to instill in
      us. We cannot save ourselves, however, we must cooperate with the
      salvation that God bestows upon us.

      This water which we bless today is a gift given to us by God as a help
      to give us strength to rise up out of our weakness, to loosen the hold
      of the world on us, to encourage us to cooperate with His work in us.
      This water is not “magic� acting on us with no effort on our part, but
      rather it is only an aid to empower and strengthen our own actions that
      we might live according to the righteousness instilled in us by the
      grace of the Holy Spirit. This grace transforms us and unites us to God
      and instills in us the new life of Christ. In this way we fulfill our
      purpose and destiny to “be made heirs according to the hope of eternal
      life� living in blessed union and communion with 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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