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Homily for 6/13/04 - All Sts of Russia

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  • David Moser
    Last week we celebrated the memory of All the Saints of the Church and today we celebrate specifically All the Saints of the Russian Church, which are those
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 13, 2004
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      Last week we celebrated the memory of All the Saints of the Church and today
      we celebrate specifically All the Saints of the Russian Church, which are
      those saints from whom we draw our own heritage. These Russian saints
      labored not only in Russia, but due in large part to the diaspora,
      throughout the world. There are Russian saints to be found in every corner
      of the world, and especially here in America. The lives of the saints can be
      inspiring, they are examples of how the life of Christ is worked out in
      "real life". But they can also be daunting for as we look at some of the
      exploits of the saints - the foolishness of St Xenia, the energetic schedule
      of prayer and service to others of St John of Kronstadt, the ascetic self
      denial of St John of San Francisco, or the feats of prayer of St Seraphim of
      Sarov - it is easy to think, "I could never do that". It is important though
      to remember that the saints began not as a spiritual giants, but rather just
      like you and I, simple people with a burning love for God.

      On occasion various people have said to me something like, "Father, I can't
      do all those things like the saints, I just want to come to Church and say
      my prayers, isn't that enough?" Indeed, it is enough if we just do that.
      This is, in fact the foundation of sainthood - to pray and to live the life
      of the Church. In the epistle we heard read that it is not the "hearers of
      the word" that will be saved, but the "doers of the word" It does not matter
      how may sermons you hear, how many books about the spiritual life you have
      read, how deeply you understand the writings of the fathers or even whether
      you have had a divine vision. All of these things are "hearing the word". In
      order to be saved, we must simply be "doers of the word", we have only to
      put these things into practice, beginning with the most basic and simple of
      things.

      First of all, pray. St Seraphim reminds us that prayer is the most powerful
      of spiritual tools and it is the most accessible as well. We can pray no
      matter where we are and no matter what is going on around us. Making a habit
      of prayer in every aspect of your life is a very simple thing to do. Learn
      to respond to every thing in your life with simple prayers such as "Glory to
      God" or "Lord have mercy". Let these prayers become a habit replacing the
      usual habits such as self aggrandizement or swearing. It is also important
      to set aside a little bit of time every day exclusively for prayer - the
      same amount of time each day, preferably at about the same time each day.
      During this time set up a little "rule" or discipline of personal prayer
      using the prayers from the prayerbook, the Jesus Prayer and a list of
      intercessions or remembrances of people and things to pray for. This daily
      personal prayer connects us to God in a direct manner.

      But we are not saved alone. We are part of the one Body of Christ, the
      Church and so we must also pray with the rest of the body. Thus if we are to
      be "doers" of prayer, it is not sufficient only to pray at home in our
      private prayers, but also to pray in the services of the Church. Here we
      raise not only our own voice to God, but we join our voice and our prayer
      with others and together we offer our corporate prayers, our unity of heart
      and soul and body, to God. It is important to come to the services of the
      Church as often as possible in our daily lives - for some that may be every
      day, for others to set aside just one day for public prayer is all that is
      possible. In any case it is important to regularly participate in the
      prayers of the Church. The public prayer of the Church unites us together as
      the Body of Christ and it brings us into harmony with the whole Church -
      even the saints.

      The next thing, along with prayer, is to live the life of the Church. That
      is to keep the feasts and fasts of the Church, to remember the celebrations
      of the saints, to let the rhythm of the Church become the rhythm of your own
      life. We all do this constantly. One of the most basic "rhythms" of modern
      life is the "work week". We work or are in school 5 days a week and on the
      weekend we rest. Our whole life is built around the work schedule. Even when
      you aren't working, this schedule still influences your life. Other
      "rhythms" are determined by the individual interests and activities of each
      person. A sports fan will develop a "rhythm" of life based on which sport
      season it is and when games are played and so on. A movie buff will set the
      "rhythm" of his life around what movies are playing when, the premiers of
      new films, the lives of actors and actresses and the various awards and
      events the surround the movie industry. A gardener's life will be shaped by
      the growing season, the cycle of life and the routine of his various plants.
      There are plenty of other examples - these are just a few of the common
      worldly "rhythms" of our life. If we would be doers of the spiritual life,
      then the "rhythm" of the Church should become our own rhythm. The routine of
      daily prayers is the foundational beat of the rhythm. Added to that element
      are the daily and weekly services, the 12 Great Feasts of the Church and the
      4 fasting seasons. Again, start with the basics - the daily prayers, the
      weekly Vigil and Divine Liturgy, the fast days. Once you get used to that
      much, then add to it as you are able slowly but surely making the rhythm of
      your life in synch with the rhythm of the Church.

      The third thing that is necessary and vital is the regular reception of the
      Holy Mysteries. We begin our Christian life with the Mysteries of Baptism
      and Chrismation and we maintain our Christian life with the Mysteries of
      Confession and Holy Communion. The various major "events" of our lives are
      punctuated with the Mysteries such as Annointing and Marriage or Monastic
      tonsure. Our earthly lives end with the Mystery of Christian Burial. The
      Holy Mysteries are basic to being "doers" of the word for it is from these
      that we receive most strongly the grace of God. It is not possible to live a
      Christian life without the Mysteries and so if we neglect these things then
      we cripple our ability to live the life of Christ and so make our spiritual
      struggle all the more difficult. The Holy Mysteries are essential to the
      Christian life.

      This then is the basis of the saintly life for us all - to pray, to live the
      life of the Church and to receive the Holy Mysteries. It is truly simple and
      does not require great learning or understanding or even great ascetic
      feats. If you do these things: pray, both in private and in the Church
      services; keep the fasts and feasts of the Church; receive the Holy
      Mysteries regularly - you too will join the choir of the saints.
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