Monthly Archives: June 2019

SYNAXIS OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES – Hearing and Responding to “Follow Me”

Two weeks ago we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost at which the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord’s followers, making them members of His Body, the Church. A week ago we celebrated the Sunday of All Saints, remembering all those who have become living icons of our Lord’s salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since then, we have begun the Apostles Fast, a period in which we embrace a fairly light discipline of self-restraint in our diets in order to gain the spiritual strength that we need to become more like the apostles who responded faithfully to Christ’s command “Follow Me.”

When the disciples first heard that command, they were involved in their daily work as fishermen. But the Saviour called them to the fulfillment of their fishing, for they were to learn how to catch people for the Kingdom, how to draw them into the blessing of God’s salvation. That required leaving their homes and occupations in order literally to follow Christ around in His ministry and to learn from His teaching and example as best they could. Of course, it was not until after His resurrection that they really understood who He was and were empowered by the Holy Spirit for their unique ministry.

Nonetheless, it was essential that the first disciples obeyed the command to leave home and follow the Messiah. Even though their understanding was quite limited, they were prepared by their close association with Christ for what was to come. Had they not obeyed that initial command, they would not have become His disciples. Literally leaving home and following Christ were necessary dimensions of their preparation to unite themselves with the risen Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit, as well as for their leadership of the Church. Their discipleship provided the context within which they would find the healing of their souls.

We live well after Christ called His first followers to leave their nets and become fishers of men. Many centuries have passed since the day of Pentecost when our ascended Lord sent the Holy Spirit to empower the Church. As members of the Body of Christ, however, we participate in the eternal truth and reality of these events. They are present to us in the life of the Church, especially as we enter into the heavenly banquet in the Divine Liturgy. That means that He calls us as He called them. That means that He enables us to share in His life as He did for those gathered at Pentecost. The Apostles Fast provides us all with a good opportunity to consider whether we are placing our lives in a context that enables us to follow their example of faithfulness to the Lord.

Even small acts of self-denial, such as abstaining from meat in the Apostles Fast, remind us that our strength comes from God, not from our own will being accomplished or our desires for pleasure being fulfilled. We humble ourselves when we put our own preferences for food or anything else aside in order to orient ourselves more fully to the Kingdom. Fasting periods are times of training, of learning to say “no” to our self-centeredness so that we will find it easier to say “yes” to Christ, especially when He calls us to follow Him in ways that challenge our inclinations to place our own comfort and desires before the demands of serving Him faithfully.

In some ways, we may think that the disciples had it easy when Christ walked up to them and told them straightforwardly what to do. They had to leave home and their livelihood, but at least the Lord made that crystal clear to them. Our challenge is a bit different because we encounter Him in our hearts and souls, which are not pure and so easily misinterpret what He wants us to do. We typically get so caught up in our thoughts and self-centered desires that we hear only what we want to hear. It is much more appealing to make God in our own image than to take up the cross of truly becoming more like Him in holiness. It is so tempting to fill our minds with whatever fuels our passions such that we have little interest in devoting ourselves to prayer, Bible reading, or the lives and teachings of the Saints. It is so easy to fill our eyes and ears with entertainment that denigrates the holiness of the intimate union of man and woman, that celebrates violence and hatred, and that worships at the altar of money and what it can buy.

In so many ways, we are caught up in nets that make it difficult for us to follow the example of the apostles who left everything behind in order to follow Christ. The good news, however, is that we have all we need in the life of the Church in order to hear and respond faithfully to the call of our Lord. The path that leads to the healing of our souls is open to all and quite obvious. We have died to sin in baptism and risen with Christ into a new life of holiness. We have received the Holy Spirit personally in chrismation and are nourished with “the medicine of immortality,” our Lord’s own Body and Blood, in the Eucharist. When we fall short of living faithfully as those who are in Christ, He Himself receives us through repentance and forgives us through Confession. Through our life together in the Church, we have innumerable opportunities to serve and love Him in one another. In a world so obviously corrupted by the worship of the false gods of power, pleasure, and possessions, we have tremendous resources in the Church for a radically different way of living in which self-righteous judgment and self-centered indulgence have no place at all.

It is tempting to think that all this is fine for the Saints, but not for people like you and me who have spent decades weakening ourselves spiritually in one way or another. We all bear the burdens of our brokenness, both personally and collectively. The Church is a hospital for us all, and the therapy is not always easy or pleasant. Old habits are hard to break, and pursuing a life of holiness can be as difficult as undergoing physical therapy for muscles that have grown weak through disuse or become mangled by disease or accident. So it is rarely going to be easy or appealing for us to embrace the healing of our souls. Work and sacrifice are required, but this is not simply a journey of self-help. It is, instead, always a matter of opening ourselves as fully as possible to the gracious healing energies of the Holy Spirit by embracing the humble path of discipleship as best we have the strength to do at this point in our journey.

It really is a simple path. If you want to discern faithfully what Christ is calling you to do in life, devote at least a few minutes regularly each day to prayer. As your physical health allows, fast as best you can according to the guidelines of the Church. Give as generously as you can to the needy and in support of the Church’s ministries. Read the Bible each day and turn your attention away from entertainment that inflames your passions. Learn more about the teaching and example of the Saints and give less attention to the rich and famous of this world. Confess your sins in humility and strive to reorient your life to Christ. Pray for those who have offended you every day and do your best to mend broken relationships. Ask forgiveness of those you have wronged. When someone asks for your forgiveness, give it readily. Pray for the departed and for everyone in need. Refuse to judge anyone else and focus on repenting of your own sins. Prepare to receive the Eucharist with prayer, fasting, and regular Confession.

Do these things persistently throughout your life as you call upon the mercy of the Lord with the humility of the Jesus Prayer. If you do so, you will be able to hear and respond to His command “Follow Me.” And, by His grace, you may even become a Saint.

Fr. Philip LeMasters

Comments Off on SYNAXIS OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES – Hearing and Responding to “Follow Me”

Filed under Feast Days, Readings, Saints, Sunday Homilies

St John Maximovitch: God saves His fallen creature

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

St John Maximovitch: . . . God saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man’s love for his Creator is also necessary. Now the Church consists of both her earthly and heavenly parts, for the Son of God came to earth and became man that He might lead man into heaven and make him once again a citizen of Paradise, returning to him his original state of sinlessness and wholeness and uniting him unto Himself.

This is accomplished by the action of Divine grace grated through the Church, but man’s effort is also required. God saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man’s love for his Creator is also necessary; without it he cannot by saved. Striving towards God and cleaving unto the Lord by its humble love, the human soul obtains power to cleanse itself from sin and to strengthen itself for the struggle to complete victory over sin.

St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, “The Church as the Body of Christ,” Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco

Comments Off on St John Maximovitch: God saves His fallen creature

Filed under Readings, Wisdom of the Church Fathers

Everyday Holiness: Homily for the Sunday of All Saints in the Orthodox Church

If you are like me, sometimes when you read the lives of the saints you shake your head and think, “I could never do anything like that.” Many endured horrible tortures to the point of death because they refused to deny Christ. Others denied themselves food, clothing, and shelter in ways that seem beyond the strength of human beings. Some accepted insult and abuse while forgiving their tormentors and turning the other cheek in a fashion that seems not of this world. As today’s epistle reading reminds us, the Old Testament saints endured such trials purely in anticipation of the coming of the Saviour. Most of us, who have received the fullness of the promise in Christ, cannot fathom how we could be nearly as faithful as was this cloud of witnesses who point us by their examples and prayers to commend our lives to Christ.

On this Sunday of All Saints, we commemorate all those who have united themselves to the Lord to the point that they have become radiant with His holiness by the power of the Holy Spirit, including those whose are not formally canonized as saints by the Church. The canonized saints are like the members of the hall of fame who stand as shining examples of obedience to the Lord. We celebrate them because their lives are such vivid icons of what it means for a human being to become a partaker of the divine nature by grace. We do not know the names of all the saints, of course. Not all who are illumined with the divine glory are known publically as such; of course, the point of holiness is never simply to draw attention to oneself. It is, instead, to be faithful in offering our lives to Christ. Only He knows the names and number of those Who have done that, for He alone knows our hearts.

If we want to join their number, then we must attend carefully to Christ’s teachings today in the gospel reading. “Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father Who is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father Who is in heaven.” No doubt, these words concern the importance of remaining faithful to the Lord even in the face of fierce persecution. Martyrs and confessors continue to refuse to deny Him, regardless of the physical abuse they suffer in many countries around the world. But we would let ourselves off the hook by thinking that this teaching refers only to those who lives are literally at risk for being faithful Christians. We must also ask whether we acknowledge Him before our neighbors every day of our lives in what we say and do. It is only our pride that makes us think that true faithfulness must be dramatic and spectacular. Most of us struggle to be faithful even in our routine trials and temptations. We will fail to unite ourselves to Christ in holiness if we fail to see that the most common challenges that we face are our opportunities to acknowledge that we belong to Him, and not simply to ourselves.

The Saviour said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” There is nothing wrong, of course with loving our parents or our children, but if we are to become radiant with the holiness of God, we must keep even our strongest loves in proper order. We must remember that our parents, children, and spouses are gifts of God to us. His love is obviously the ground of all love worthy of the name. Our calling is not to worship people or make them ends in themselves, but to relate to them in a way that fulfills God’s gracious purposes for them and us. If we make false gods out of others, we will make them miserable and probably drive them away. And since God created us in His image and likeness, we will learn the hard way that we will never find fulfillment in anyone but Him.

“People pleasing” is quite dangerous because it is ultimately a self-centred form of idolatry in which we crave the approval of others to the point that we will sacrifice anything for it. Instead of offering even our most prized and intimate relationships to the Lord for His healing and blessing, we end up offering ourselves to others, willing to compromise our faithfulness for the sake of giving whomever we want to impress what we think they want. That is not taking up our crosses, but sacrificing our obedience to the Saviour in order to serve lesser gods. And since what drives this attitude is our self-centered desire for the approval of others, it is ultimately a way of worshiping ourselves.

The Lord said that, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My Name’s sake, will receive a hundred fold, and inherit eternal life.” That is not only a promise for those who have physically given up their families and possessions, but also for those who have made the less dramatic sacrifice of putting Christ first in how they treat and speak to their spouse, children, family members, and friends. It is a promise for those who have denied themselves in order to have more time, energy, and resources to share with the poor, sick, and lonely. It is a promise for those who turn away from self-centeredness by offering themselves to the Lord in daily prayer, regular worship, and conscientious fasting.

Too often we think that holiness occurs only within the context of the four walls of the Church. If we are to take up our crosses and follow Christ, we must also learn to see the infinite opportunities of dying to self out of love for Him and our neighbors in our daily lives. That means we must take a painfully honest look at ourselves. For example, we may enjoy filling out minds with entertainment—such as news, social media, video games, film, etc.–that only inflames passions of worry, fear, hate, envy, and lust. If so, we need to turn away from it as we focus on the words of the Jesus Prayer or at least something else that does not inflame our passions. If we can-not learn to make such small sacrifices, we will never have the strength to make larger ones.

Regardless of our age, we likely are close to people whose values and way of life are apparently not consistent with obedience to Christ. Even as we must not condemn them personally, we must resist the subtle temptation to compromise our faithfulness to the Lord in what we say and do in order to gain their approval. It is one thing to show everyone Christ’s love as best we can, but another to fail to acknowledge Him by engaging in conduct and conversation that contradict our primarily loyalty to Him. That would be a form of putting other people, and ultimately ourselves, before God, which is a path only to greater weakness for them and us. We must all discern mindfully and prayerfully whether we are acknowledging Christ in situations where it is much easier to act and speak as though He were not our Lord. We must all be willing to take up the cross of obedience to Him even if it means that we will be met with disapproval.

“Many that are first will be last, and the last first.” The Saviour’s statement applies to all who have put Him first in their lives, for doing so requires sacrificing much that the world worships. It is obviously the case for martyrs and confessors to this very day, but also applies to everyone who sacrifices, even in small ways, in order to seek first the Kingdom of God. When we direct our time, energy, and attention to serve Christ, His Church, and our neighbors in whom He is present, we take a lower place in the estimation of the world. When we refuse to sacrifice ourselves on the altars of conventional accounts of success and happiness, we embrace the humility of Christ. Even when we do so in seemingly ordinary ways, we take step in running “with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfection of our faith.” That is how, we too, may join that great cloud of witnesses who have become radiant with the holiness of our Lord. Nothing dramatic or spectacular is required, but only true faithfulness.

Fr. Philip LeMasters

Comments Off on Everyday Holiness: Homily for the Sunday of All Saints in the Orthodox Church

Filed under Feast Days, Saints, Sunday Homilies

The Holy Apostle Peter & The Holy Apostle Paul

The Holy Apostle Peter ~
The son of Jonah and brother of Andrew the First-Called, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida. he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (Jn 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt, 16:16). His love for the Lord was very strong, and his faith in Him went from strength to strength. When the Lord was put on trial Peter denied Him three times, but it needed only one look into the face of the Lord. and Peter’s soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit. Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his first sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and in lllyria. He performed many wonders, healing the sick and raising the dead, and even his shadow had the power of healing the sick. He had a major struggle with Simon the Magician, who declared himself to be from God but was actually a servant of the devil. He finally put him to shame and overcame him. Peter was condemned to death on the order of the wicked Em-peror Nero, a friend of Simon’s. After installing Linus as Bishop of Rome and exhorting and encouraging the flock of Christ there, Peter went to his death with joy. When he saw the cross before him, he asked the executioner to crucify him upside-down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. And so this great servant of the greatest Master went to his rest and received a crown of eternal glory.


The Holy Apostle Paul ~
Born in Tarsus and of the tribe of Benjamin, he was formerly called Saul and studied under Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians. He was wondrously converted to the Christian faith by the Lord Himself, who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptised by the Apostle Ananias, named Paul and enrolled in the work of the Great Apostles. He preached the Gospel everywhere with burning zeal, from the borders of Arabia to the land of Spain, among both the Jews and the heathen, and receiving the title of ‘the Apostle to the Gentiles’. His fearful sufferings were matched only by his superhuman endurance. Through all the years of his preaching, he hung from day to day like a thread between life and death. Filling his days and nights with toil and suffering for Christ, organising the Church in many places and reaching a high level of perfection, he was able to say: ‘I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2:20). He was beheaded in Rome in the reign of Nero, at the same time as St Peter.

Comments Off on The Holy Apostle Peter & The Holy Apostle Paul

Filed under Readings, Saints

THE FEAST OF PENTECOST

John 7:37-52, 8:12 ~ Save and sanctify all who know You as God

I will try to say a few words to analyse this sublime line taken from the hymn for this great day of Pentecost.

In Cyprus, the suffering island, where Greek Orthodox identity is more purely, fully and faithfully upheld, they call this day ‘the day of the flood’. Which means that the heavens and God Himself flooded the world – not with threatening waters, as when the world was destroyed in the time of Noah. Instead, He has flooded the world with endless gifts, which the life-giving death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, has opened up for all of us on earth.

That is why this is a great and unrepeatable day. Within it, the whole mystery of the divine Economy reaches its pinnacle. God became flesh for this day. Christ was sacrificed for us to reach this day, to reconcile us with God the Father, to wash us of our sins.

And who among us does not have sins? Not only the original sin! This is the least of our concerns today, unfortunately. It was a great sin, but we are washed of it in our Baptism.

Each of us has their own sins: sins of the day and sins of the night, our immeasurable sins. I with mine, and you with yours. However, we are cleansed of these sins by the death of the God-Man, the Theanthropos. It is the precious and holy Blood of the Lord which cleanses us of our sins, and washes us in the font of regeneration. It offers rebirth.

And after all this, the springs of the Holy Spirit gush forth today.

Following the Ascension, God sends the Holy Spirit to guide us unto all truth, and only in so doing is the knowledge of God made complete.

We worship God the Father; we have come to know God the Son as a man; today we shall meet the Holy Spirit poured out, proceeding, being distributed but not divided, in the form of tongues of fire.

After all was finished, we can say that we have now come to the knowledge of the true God. We no longer believe in idols. We no longer believe in ourselves. We believe in God. Not an imaginary god, but God in Trinity. We are, then, “those who know God”. We have come to the awareness of truth. We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit. Precisely what we chant at every Liturgy!

However, more is needed. When we know God, and when we confess the true God while knowing the truth, we still need the forgiveness, pardon, benevolence and mercy that come from above. This is why we chant “Save and sanctify all who know You as God”.

It is not enough for us to be saved. It is not enough for Him to take us from the left where the goats are, and deliver us to the right where the sheep are. It is not enough for Him to make us righteous after we were sinners. It is not enough for Him to turn us, out of children of wrath, into children of light and obedience and adoption and love. Justification is not enough for us. We want sanctification.

This is why the cry of the Church reaches sky-high; we heard it in the hymn we chanted this morning: “Save and sanctify all who know You as God”. Not just a few people, or even many people – but all!

This is the prayer of the Church. This is the wish of the Church today. This is the supplication of the Church today. This is the proclamation of the Church today. That no one is condemned forever to death and decay. Because to those who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, light has shone in Christ. Now there is light, life, salvation and sanctification. But if even one person remains outside the kingdom of God, we will have sorrow. If only one loses salvation, humanity will mourn.

Because He created all people out of nothing; all creation is His.

For this reason, the flood of the Holy Spirit today will cleanse, enlighten, save and sanctify.

Let us honour this great day with repentance, with edification, with doxology towards the Trinitarian God. Amen.

Writings & Homilies of Archbishop Stylianos of Australia


Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of Pentecost
This great Feast of the Church is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom on the Sunday that is the fiftieth day after the celebration of Pascha. The Liturgy is conducted on the day of the Feast, and is preceded the evening before by a Great Vespers service and on the morning of the Feast by the Matins service. On the day of the Feast a Vespers service is conducted that includes the kneeling prayers. These prayers mark the beginning of the practice of kneeling during the Liturgy at the time when the holy gifts of bread and wine are consecrated as the body and blood of Christ.

The practice of kneeling has been suspended during the Paschal season. On the Monday following the Feast, the Divine Liturgy is conducted in commemoration of the All-holy and Life-creating and All-powerful Spirit, Who is God, and One of the Trinity, and of one honour and one essence and one glory with the Father and the Son.
From the Synaxarion of the Feast


Prayer of the Holy Spirit
Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, the Treasury of good and Giver of life: come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, Gracious One. Amen.

Comments Off on THE FEAST OF PENTECOST

Filed under Pentecost, Readings, Sunday Homilies

On the Holy Spirit, the Comforter

‘But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’ (John 14:26).

What practical meaning have these words other than that we must pray every day that the Holy Spirit be sent to us, just as we pray every day for Our daily bread?

God is willing every day to send us the Holy Spirit, but He seeks from us that we pray every day for Him to be sent to us. For as, with regard to bread, there is sometimes abundance and sometimes dearth, so it is with regard to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and leaves us according to our good works and our patience. Therefore the Church has ordained that the first morning service in church begin with the invocation of the Holy Spirit: ‘O heavenly King, O Comforter, Spirit of truth – come!’, and after that comes the prayer: ‘Give us our daily bread.’ Why? Because, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot even make use of bread in the way that we must for our salvation.

‘He shall teach you all things.’ That is: every day and every night, according in the situation in which you find yourself, He will instruct you, advise you and direct you in what you must think, say and do. Therefore, ask God only for the Holy Spirit, and He will Himself bring all that you need in any given moment. When He has descended upon you, you will know all things and be capable of all that is needful.

‘And bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’. That is: do not fear that you will forget My teaching and My words. The Holy Spirit knows all that I know; so, when He is present with you, then all My teaching will be present in you together with Him.

O Lord the Holy Spirit, be pleased to descend upon us, not according to our merit but according to the merit of the Lord Jesus, and according to Thine endless goodness. To Thee be glory and praise forever.

St Nikolai Velimiroviċ, The Prologue from Ochrid

Comments Off on On the Holy Spirit, the Comforter

Filed under Pentecost, Readings

The Holy Fathers of the First Council

John 17: 1-13

Today we remember the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of 325 A.D. The Church brings into remembrance those faithful Fathers who defended the Apostolic Faith in the face of one of the greatest challenges to the truth of Christ. We remember so that we may be vigilant in our own day and in our own lives to safeguard the truth of Christ that we may truly know Christ.

It’s important to remember that the Council was summoned to respond to the challenge of the priest Arius, who propagated the erroneous belief that “there was a time when (Christ) was not.” Arius denied the eternal divinity and being of Christ, believing Him to be a creature of God’s making. The Fathers retorted that Christ is “Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father,” which we continue to believe as Orthodox to this day.

Doctrine matters: it safeguards our thinking, our knowledge of God, and therefore, our ability to know God as He’s revealed Himself. Christ says in today’s Gospel: “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent… And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

If Christ were not truly God, truly divine as the Father is divine, then He could not defeat sin and death on our behalf. He could not renew, re-create, human nature on our behalf, making a way of salvation for the fallen race of Adam. It’s in knowing Jesus Christ as He’s revealed Himself to be to His Church, that we’re saved. Were He a creature like us, He could do nothing.

As St. John the Theologian testifies at the beginning of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The same Word that created all life is the very Word that took on human nature to renew that life and defeat sin and death, creating a new race of man capable of “putting on Christ” and likewise becoming victors over sin and death by virtue of that sacramental relationship with Christ.

This is the wonderful truth we testify to in our celebrations of Pascha and Ascension. Christ God has completed His salvific mission to redeem the fallen race of Adam. He’s gone up with a shout to where He was before so that we who have put on Christ in baptism and are living out our baptism, may likewise be transformed, resurrected, and ascend to heaven as well.

St. Athanasius the Great, defender of Orthodoxy against the Arians, puts it this way, “It was in the power of none other to turn the corruptible to incorruption, except the Saviour himself, that had at the beginning also made all things out of naught; and that none other could create anew the likeness of God’s image for men, save the Image of the Father” (On the Incarnation).

The faithful Orthodox Fathers of that age rightly understood that Arius threatened the salvation of many and had to be condemned so the right faith (Orthodoxy in the Greek) could continue to be proclaimed. Only in this way would generations hence continue to come to know and be in communion with the One true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In our own day, we hear people making Jesus into whomever they want Him to be, whatever suites their lifestyle, their own ‘personal’ beliefs, what they’ve decided Jesus to be. Modern man has flipped the axiom: it’s no longer we who need changing, conforming to the likeness of God, but rather, God whom we think to change and conform to our likeness or that of our culture and its humanism. Needless to say, this won’t work – we’ll have made of God a ‘straw man’ who isn’t the God who’s revealed Himself to us, and, who alone has the power to save us.

A watered-down Jesus, representing some non-judgmental, vague notion of ‘humanity,’ ‘peace,’ ‘friendship,’ whatever, is not the same Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, co-eternal with the Father, who loves all by calling them to repentance, healing, and salvation, to new life in Him by ‘water and the spirit,’ baptism and chrismation (John 3).

Many today say that they are ‘Christians,’ but they want Jesus without the Christ and Christianity without the Church, which turns out to be rather another ‘man-made’ religion. Christ on our terms is a god we’ve made and not the God who has revealed Himself to us through His Church and who alone can illumine and enlighten us, bringing us healing form our
sin-sickness and grant us salvation, eternal life with Him who has no beginning.

What does it mean to ‘have Jesus’ if we water down the Gospel or conform it to our culture to become more ‘inviting’ at the expense of the fullness of the truth? If Jesus is ‘dumbed-down’ then whose likeness are we acquiring? If Jesus is my friend but not truly my Saviour, then I’m still stuck in my sin-sickness because I’ve not recognized that I’m a sinner who needs a Saviour.

Indeed, Christ commanded His disciples, the Apostles whom He sent, to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity AND to teach the people “ALL that I have commanded you,” i.e., not just some of the truth, but the fullness of the Truth He is.

While we decry the dumbing down of Christ we see in much of the non-Orthodox Christianity around us, we as Orthodox also must judge ourselves: If we know the fullness of the truth of Christ and come to church every weekend but aren’t striving to live the faith, struggling to incorporate it into our daily lives, fervently praying to God for continued growth and illumination, then a change in our priorities, in our hearts, is also required of us.

Salvation has always been for Orthodox Christians communion (koinonia), participation in the life of God the Holy Trinity. When we receive Christ God into ourselves through the Holy Eucharist, when we participate in the sacramental life of His Church, when we pray, when we worship Him, we are growing in that life that He alone is. We don’t need just part of Jesus, or Jesus on our terms, or just some of the tools of salvation Christ entrusted the Church; we need all of Jesus Christ – the whole Life that He is, that is in Him alone and that’s been revealed and lived faithfully in the Church for 2,000 years.

That Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” convicts us, helps us, saves us, heals us, and grows us into the fullness of godly manhood, womanhood that we’re created to be as part of the new race of Adam. We safeguard the Orthodox Faith by living out this faith in our daily lives, as we ‘run’ the race of faith, witnessing to the truth that Christ is and in whose likewise we are being conformed. In this way, we keep the Apostolic Faith alive, which has its fullness only in the Church of the Councils. And so, we ask the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council to pray for us and for our salvation this day that we may keep and live the true Orthodox faith in Christ, that believing, we may come to know the One true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent for this is eternal life!

Fr. Robert Miclean

Comments Off on The Holy Fathers of the First Council

Filed under Readings, Sunday Homilies