For Christians to talk about their faith together, and build one another up.
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For Christians to talk about their faith together, and build one another up. Non-Christians may post here but should respect the Christian emphasis of this section.

Re: Sermons

Postby mpempa » December 23rd, 2009, 11:10 pm

Irenaeus of Lyons: Why the Word of God Was Made Man

For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God.

For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality.

But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that we might receive the adoption of sons?

For this reason [it is said], “Who shall declare His generation?” (Is. 53:8), since “He is a man, and who shall recognise Him?” (Jer. 17:9).

But he to whom the Father which is in heaven has revealed Him (Matt. 16:16) knows Him, so that he understands that He who “was not born either by the will of the flesh, or by the will of man” (John 1:13) is the Son of man, that is, Christ, the Son of the living God.

For I have shown from the Scriptures that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord.

But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 3, 19, 1-2.
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Re: Sermons

Postby Theophilus » December 28th, 2009, 6:49 pm

The Slaughter of the Innocents, and Free Will

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Brothers and sisters, on this [the 29th of December] we hear about the flight into Egypt and the reason for the flight into Egypt: Herod wanted to kill the young child Jesus, and after he could not find Jesus killed in a rage, according to our tradition, at least 10,000 holy infants.

Now there are many events in the world that we cannot understand even in our own lives, minor events, large events that the entire world knows about, and historical events that we cannot understand such as this one. How does one make sense out of such carnage, out of such evil? We know intuitively, (because God has given us his image, made us in his image) that such murder of infants is unspeakably evil. But why would God allow such a thing to occur? He came into the world to save us. Couldn't he have saved those ten thousand infants? Why was it that they died?

Brothers and sisters, you can only apprehend the answer to this question, if you have faith.

Your faith is not something that you just follow blindly. It is where you follow with understanding. Now there are many things in this world we don't understand and yet we still derive benefit. Does any man understand at the fundamental level the principles of gravitational attraction or of the flow of electrons in electricity, or any of the physical laws? Do we understand these things in their essence? No. There are men and women who spend many hours trying to find the fundamental essence of these laws but they don't ever completely understand. Yet any child knows that if you throw a ball into the air it will fall to the ground.

But we cannot understand the principle that causes the ball to fall to the ground. We may call it by a name but we cannot understand its essence. Now, we can trust that when we throw the ball up into the air it will fall to the ground. That's because we know something of the law. Because we have seen it repeated over and over. Now, if we apply this type of reasoning, this type of philosophy, to events in the world that we don't understand, we may be able to live with better faith.

Now, there is a principle that the Lord obeys because He chooses to: our free will. We were made in the image of God, which means we are able to freely choose between good and evil. This is a great gift. This is the greatest of gifts. But great gifts have great responsibilities.

Because of free will men can choose good and evil freely, o that when a man chooses Christ it is not under compulsion but because of love. The Lord then helps our will and assists us in following Him. But never does He constrain us. Never does He force us. Instead He educates us, enlightens us, and allows us to choose at every moment of our life between good and evil.

Herod also had the gift of free will, as all men do. He chose to use this gift in an evil way and he slew over ten thousand holy infants. What a terrible scene it must have been. Most of us have children, or know children. All of us know children. Sweet babies. I just baptized a sweet baby yesterday. Sweet baby boys in Jerusalem were murdered right in their mother's arms, in all different bestial ways. Rachel weeping for her children. The reference is to Rachel from the Old Testament. She was buried there. Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they were no more.

The only way we can understand such an event is by understanding that God allows us to choose and that there is a law that He follows, of His own will. He follows His principle. He allows men to choose. Sometimes men make terrible choices and they are far from God and they end up in perdition. And then, sometimes, men make choices where they become holy. God, when He sees the smallest desire to become holy, He aids us. He buttresses us up with His grace, and allows us strength to make the next choice for good.

It is truly a wonderful gift that God gives us, the ability to choose. But this gift has consequences, which the Lord chooses to obey. Because if He were to give us a gift, but then, take it away, according to His fancy, then this would be capriciousness. The reason that there is evil in the world is because the Lord allows us to choose. And the reason He allows us to choose is because He made us in His image. And He made us in His image so that we could have perfect freedom, and indescribable happiness.

The Holy Trinity is three Persons, one undivided God. Three Persons perfectly in communication with one another, perfectly obeying one another's will, with perfect love for one another and with perfect freedom. So God, when He wanted to make man, made us able to have this perfect freedom.

Now, we are weakened because of sin, so it is often very difficult for us to choose correctly, not because we're not allowed to by God, but because of our own blindness, and our own depravities, our own bad habits and because of the provocations of the evil one and of his henchmen, the demons. God assists us if we struggle.

In my experience, often times people are very, very confused about the events, just in their own life. Why could such a thing happen? Because God allows us to choose, and if He allows us to choose, He allows others as well. He wants us to come to Him free and unconstrained so that we, when we cry 'Abba, Father,' do it completely from our choice and so we would have joy in full. In obeying this principle, which He has created and chosen to obey and will continue to obey because He is steadfast, there are evil things that occur.

Even we ourselves do evil things. Sometimes we're hurtful to people or slander people or hurt people in various other ways, some very terrible. God allows us to make these choices. He helps us if we desire to choose about good and about purity. And sometimes in His sovereign mercy, He arranges things so that when we do evil we have an opportunity to repent, to see that we are doing something wrong.

He did the same thing with Herod, just, Herod didn't listen. Herod was too ambitious, too paranoid, too full of evil, and he did not listen to the Lord. And because of this he killed many, many holy infants. Brothers and sisters, when Christ was born He knew that this would happen. He knew that He, as a divine infant would be at risk, and instead of choosing to fight evil with violence, He fled into Egypt.

This doesn't bode well for people who are proud. They think that you should stand and fight, or go out into the wilderness and conduct guerilla warfare or something. No, Christ chose to flee into Egypt. In another place He says resist not evil, so He didn't resist evil. That is how we should be. We should accept God's providence in everything we do and not resist.

Do you know what meekness is? The Fathers speak of meekness in the Philokalia quite a bit. Meekness is accepting God's will. Meekness is accepting God's will in your life, everything that happens, believing that God arranges and allows and that there is nothing that occurs that is not for your benefit. This is true meekness. It is a difficult virtue to obtain because the only way to obtain it, due to our blindness and hard heartedness, is to go through trials and to see that God does stay with us and helps us.

I'm in a very odd situation as a priest. I tell you about mercy. I tell you about happiness and I believe that is why I became a priest, because I wanted to talk about these things. I wanted to share these things with people. But the devil does not sleep. So as I speak of happiness, many times the devil robs me of happiness. I still believe I know that God wants us to be happy, that He wants us to be completely fulfilled, lacking nothing, with no sadness.

But sadness comes into my life. Yet I look at this sadness with faith, brothers and sisters, and I want you to, too. I know that it is provocation of the evil one. I know that it is a temptation to try to make me to lose courage, to give up. But where did God promise me when I was baptized that all things would always be to my liking, that even my feelings deep inside me would be those that I would wish? But He did promise that He would give peace and in the midst of sadness I feel would peace.

I've seen many things as a priest that have saddened me in ways that I cannot even express. And yet, I accept. Why? Because there is some understanding of this principle in my heart. This principle of God giving us free will. So I of my free will desire to tell you of God's mercy. And the devil tries to steal what He cannot have. He cannot have salvation. He cannot have happiness. He cannot have freedom from anger. He's always angry. So he tries to steal these things even though he cannot possess them; he tries to steal from all men, from you, and from me.

Whenever you want to make a good start, then things become difficult. You must understand this is not showing that your path is wrong. Indeed, it's showing that your path is correct if you have temptations. Don't be afraid of temptations, brothers and sisters. Don't be afraid of violence. Don't be afraid of evil. Be afraid of not becoming complete and at peace.

If you look at events in the world such as the slaying of these children, or, more recently, an event that the entire world mourned over, the attacks in New York and in Washington, D.C., the only way that you can rationalize these events is by believing that God truly is merciful and allows us to freely choose; He allows the good and the evil to choose. This is a difficult thing to understand. It's a very interesting thing in my own life when I felt God's mercy most distinctly, most vibrantly. It is in times of greatest temptation, greatest sadness, and sometimes, times of greatest falling that I have made a mistake or sinned and felt the consequences for myself and more often for others. Brothers and sisters, allow God to work in your life. Be meek.

Live the Christian life so that you will understand. The only way to understand God's purpose in your life is to trust Him. Now you trust gravity although you don't understand it. Trust God although you cannot understand Him, and yet He reveals Himself to you. This is what the Lord teaches us by His actions, which we read about today. Resist not evil. Accept it when evil provokes you to do something wrong. Believe in God. Hope in God. Then all things are clear. You'll understand. You won't be confused. May God help you. Amen.
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Re: Sermons

Postby Theophilus » February 7th, 2010, 10:16 am

Sermon on the Sunday of the Last Judgment

Fear is an emotion oft mentioned in the services for this preparatory Sunday before the onset of the Great Fast: fear of the Last Judgment, fear of the divine justice of God, fear of the just punishment awaiting sinful man. One encounters here an emotion that many in the modern world are loathe to address or discuss, much less ponder, still less cherish. Yet it is this very emotion that pours forth in abundance from the hymns and prayers of the divine services celebrated on this great day, and one therefore that deserves our fair and full attention...

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Fasting Abundantly

Postby Theophilus » February 17th, 2010, 3:20 pm

Fasting Abundantly
by Fr. Vasile Catalin Tudora

The idea many Westerners have about fasting is strongly linked with renunciation, with giving-up, with sacrificing something for God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church however, fasting achieves a much richer meaning. Fasting is not only about giving up, but it is actually more about gaining, about being able to reach things that are possible only through this spiritual exercise.

In a legalistic understanding of salvation some believe that Christ has come on earth to fulfill a duty, to repair an offense that man has brought unto God. His sacrifice on the Cross satisfies this need and mankind enters again in God's favors. From this perspective fasting is a similar symbol: a personal sacrifice that one makes to step back into God's grace. This can be anything ranging from giving up chocolate to abstaining from Facebook for the Lenten period. But such frivolous renunciations really don't cut it into the genuine meaning of fasting. God doesn't need any of these sacrifices as He does not need the whole burnt offering of the Old Testament anymore. It is us, not God, who need the fasting rule.

Reducing the fasting to a symbol, to a mere idea of fasting, the entire exercise of Great Lent is perverted. Fasting becomes a theoretical notion that can be achieved through an act that involves little or no effort because, at the end, is not the fasting that is important, but only the idea of fasting. This intellectual reduction is yet another symptom of our brokenness, of the ontological separation between our mind and our heart. Seduced by dry rationality the mind construes an entire new reality that we confuse many times with the true authenticity of existence that only a heart open to God can perceive.

In this world, made-up by our minds saturated with secular values, the importance of the complete involvement of the body in fasting is forgotten, because for the mind a symbol is enough. But man does not exist in a fantasy of the mind, but lives in the real world, as a true person, body and souls, both physical and spiritual.

Christ saves the world not by spreading the idea of salvation, but coming down Himself, taking body from the Virgin Mary and physically becoming one of us; not a ghost, not a spirit, but flesh and bones. His death on the cross was not a symbol, but a painful reality. His resurrection was not a simple story full of morality, but the defining moment of a new stage in human existence. By reducing everything to symbols we end up living in our minds and missing the genuine existence.

In the Orthodox understanding man is utterly aware that living in a physical world, with a corrupted and fallen nature, the body is subject to passions that affect the state of his entire being. Controlling the body through fasting directs the entire human being towards God, because "a body subdued by fasting brings the human spirit freedom, strength, sobriety, purity, and keen discernment." (St. Ignatiy Brianchaninov). In a paradoxical way by starving the body the entire human being is nourished spiritually and is able to "ascend on high, to contemplate lofty things and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life." (St. John Chrysostom).

We don't want however to reduce the experience of fasting to a mere vegetarian diet. The Great Lent is a period of total transformation, of metanoia, as the Greek fathers call it. The faster should strive to change his or hers entire way of life, redirecting priorities, seeking new avenues to God, striving for perfection in Christ. As St. Basil the Great advises "True fasting lies in rejecting evil, holding one's tongue, suppressing one's hatred, and banishing one's lust, evil words, lying, and betrayal of vows."

From this perspective we can truly say, paraphrasing St. John Chrysostom, that fasting of the body is a feast for the soul. A soul liberated from the weight of an overfed body and nourished with the manna of virtues can reach into the spiritual heights, free of the passions that drag it to the ground. Such a soul can pray more, can forgive more, can love more. Fasting is not a simple renunciation but an exercise of love, as salvation is not an honor satisfying sacrifice but the greatest act of love ever seen.

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Re: Sermons

Postby Andrew L » February 27th, 2010, 11:52 am

Here are some:-

Chris Railton is a professor in the engineering department of Bristol University, and is a physicist in background.
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Re: Sermons

Postby Theophilus » April 4th, 2010, 10:11 pm

Paschal homily
Written by John Chrysostom

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.

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Being True Witnesses to the Resurrection

Postby Theophilus » April 25th, 2010, 2:21 pm

O Jerusalem, be exultant, dance and leap for joy, for you have witnessed Christ the King coming forth as a Bridegroom from the sepulcher
-Verse from the Pascha Hymns

It is magnificent to participate in the Church services on Pascha night, to be part of the joyful festival of light that the Resurrection of Christ brings on earth. The only sad part is that we start with many and end up with a few. Many people come, they receive the light, listen to the Gospel and hasten to go home thinking they have fulfilled their duty as Christians. But just witnessing the Resurrection is not enough, and is not the goal, what comes after is equally important. The miracle of Christ’s Resurrection is, or at least should be, a life changing event; should be the spark that would ignite your whole being in fire, should be the ferment that will initiate your complete refashioning, should be the impulse that will keep you going until the very end on the right path of salvation.

But who believes in miracles today anyway? The Words of Abraham, addressing the unmerciful rich man from the parable of poor Lazarus, make more sense now than ever: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, even though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:31). It is true: even after Christ, God Himself, has risen from the dead, we still want more proof. We still want God to prove, personally, to us, that He exists and all about Him is true. However, no matter how much proof we get, as stubborn children, we don’t want to understand and we keep fabricating explanation after explanation to every piece of evidence God puts in front of us.

Starting with the prophets of old and the history of the people of Israel, the Mother of God and the Apostles, continuing with the victorious Martyrs, the Fathers of the Church and all the saints, the miracle working icons, the uncorrupted relics of the saints, and we can go on and on, God surrounded us by “a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). We cannot continue to ignore all this testimonials that point unmistakably to the existence of a most powerful God Who loves mankind. We just have to read the lives of the saints - those recorded in Scripture and those recorded after - to see God at work: healing the sick, changing sinners into saints, doing justice to the wronged, giving hope to the hopeless and joy to the mourning. We have to be blind to overlook what should in fact overwhelm us.

What we see in the lives of the saints is nothing but the effect that Resurrection had on them. They did not limit themselves to be observers, to be spectators, to watch the “show” of Resurrection; they decided to play an active role in it. Each one of them declared: I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself on my behalf. (Gal 2:20)

Being witnesses to the resurrection of Christ should prompt us to do something different, to loose the old habits that take us away from Him and replace them with new ones that will unite us with Him forever. If we don’t know Him, now is the time to be introduced, if we don’t come to church, now is the time to enter, if we don’t pray, now is the time to ask His mercy, if we don’t love, now is the time to partake in His unmatched love for us.

Don’t let this opportunity slip away by rushing home too soon. Christ is here and extends a hand to you, a hand that can take you out of the Hades of a superficial existence. Take it and be lifted up into life; take it and let Christ show Himself to you, personally, melting away all the doubts with His presence and replacing them with redeeming faith; take it and let this day be the first of your new life in Him.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

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Re: Sermons

Postby Theophilus » December 9th, 2010, 12:47 pm

Homily on the Reversal of the Barrenness of Saint Anna, for the Feast of the Conception of the Mother of God


A Homily Preached by V. Rev. Fr. Cherubim Apostolou, Elder of the Skete of Saint Anna, Mount Athos on the Feast of St. Anna, 2005.

      "She who was barren bore the Theotokos, nurturer of our life."
      -Kontakion on the Birth of the Theotokos

Saint Anna, the ancestor of God, is the precious vessel chosen by the Holy Spirit. The good and blessed tree that is the standard of natural development, which our Lord Himself confirmed, saying: “Are grapes harvested from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Matt. 7.16) Every good tree brings forth good fruit, but the bad tree brings forth bad fruit. “A sound tree cannot bear unsound fruit, nor can an unsound tree bear sound fruit” (Matt. 7.18). Saint Anna is the good tree and her lovely and most sweet fruit is our Panagia. The most beautiful fruit of human production. What the Evangelist Luke says of the parents of St. John the Forerunner pertains also to Saint Anna and her husband Joachim: “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless” (Luke 1.6). Saint Anna was virtuous in the eyes of God, and, of course, her life was pure. She walked always in accordance with the will of the Almighty, in accordance with His soul-nurturing commandments. Saint Anna, who bore the all-holy Theotokos, she who was barren and without creative power, whose womb was opened in advanced age by the Lord, to transform the disgrace of barrenness to the joy of a unique fertility, was a descendant of the tribe of David. Her parents, the priest Mathan and Anna, were pious and god-fearing and lived in Bethlehem. Mathan was a priest at the time of Cleopatra and the Persian King Soporus, before Herod Antipater, and had three daughters, Maria, Sovi, and Anna. Of these, Maria married in Bethlehem and bore the midwife Salome, Sovi also married in Bethlehem and bore Elisabeth. Anna was married in Galilee and bore the Lady Theotokos. This honor was bestowed upon her by the gift-granting Lord as a reward for her piety and her charitable works toward orphans and the poor.

But what does the name Anna mean? It means “grace.” When the Archangel Gabriel greeted the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation, he gave her the epithet “full of grace:” “Hail, you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1.28). As a daughter of grace, the Virgin Mary had bestowed upon her that element which is lacking in the Old Testament: grace. The Old Testament represents the age of law. The New Testament represents the era of grace, since it is the “Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24) and all of the faithful “are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6.15). That is why when our Panagia reacted to the words of the archangel with modesty and simplicity, the great Archangel Gabriel hastened to explain to her: “Do not fear, Mary, for you have found grace with God” (Luke 1.30).

And so this maiden, full of grace, was born of a mother whose name means “grace.” That name was not granted to Anna by accident, nor was it by chance that Anna bore the Theotokos. We know that Saint Anna was elderly and barren. She could not conceive. The field of her female nature was barren, dry and infertile. No seed could take root and grow within it. The field of the barren Anna resembles the field of the pre-Christian world. The world had grown old in sinfulness and the law of God was not observed. A solution had to come from heaven. And the solution was the rightful reward of evil works and eternal death or forbearance and grace—salvation and liberation. But there was no salvation in the ancient world. Men lived in the shadow of original sin, in the darkness of curse, the dark threat of disintegration and death. They could not enjoy grace and the joy which that grace brings generously to all of us. Saint Anna, by the grace of God, dispelled the disgrace of her barrenness, and also the disgrace of the curse upon those living before Christ. That is why the Kontakion on the feast of the birth of our Theotokos says: “Joachim and Anna were freed of the disgrace of childlessness, while Adam and Eve were freed of the corruption of death through your holy birth.”

My dear brethren, the blessing of God caused the barren Anna to bear fruit, in order to open the path for the grace of God to bear fruit and for the fragrant flower of salvation to blossom in the field of His creature made of dust, which was poisoned by sin. That connection between the fertility of the barren Saint Anna, and the pre-Christian world which was barren of grace is also made by the sacred hymnographer in a troparion of the Vesper Service: “Today barren gates are opened and a sacred virgin gate comes forth. Today grace begins to bear fruit.”

Anna and her husband Joachim lived a godly life and strictly observed the divine commandments. Yet, unfortunately, for many years the couple remained childless and accepted the shame of childlessness with patience and faith, having placed their hope in God, to whom, despite their advanced age, they continued to pray for offspring. And God heard their prayers and sent to Saint Anna an angel who announced to her the will of God, which was precisely to answer her desire for a child. She was then 58 years of age and Joachim was 69. Excited and joyful, Saint Anna shouted: “The Lord my God lives! Whether the child I bear be a girl or a boy, I will bring it as an offering to my God, to serve Him all its life.

And indeed she conceived, and when our Lady Theotokos reached the age of three, her mother brought her—like a three-year-old heifer—to the temple of God, “to be nourished by the angels,” as the sacred hymnographer tells us.

The reversal of the barrenness of Saint Anna was the fruit of prayer. It was impossible for her to conceive and give birth at such an advanced age. But “what is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18.27). In our own lives, as well, many things seem impossible to us. We find ourselves in a state of powerlessness from which only prayer can remove us. Our unique armament in all difficult moments is prayer and humility before the Lord. And I say with certainty that the miracle will occur. The barren earth will bear fruit, and God will send down the rain of His grace, to soften our hearts so that the seeds of soul-saving success in Christ may take root.

Let us therefore invoke Saint Anna, who experienced the disgrace and sadness of childlessness and be certain that she will transform our worries into joy, our indolence into cheerfulness, our sadness into unending joyfulness and exultation.

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Re: Sermons

Postby Andrew L » January 24th, 2011, 7:01 am

Here are some

The one entitled The Character of God from 23 January 2011 by Chris Railton is especially worth listening to.
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Re: Sermons

Postby Theophilus » February 20th, 2011, 7:41 pm

Sermon on the Elder Brother of the Prodigal
by Archbishop Chrysostomos

One of the more beautiful parables of the New Testament is that of the Prodigal Son,which incorporates into what is a story in miniature of the fall and redemption of man — his alienation from the Heavenly Father and his return to the Father’s “house,” after a life of dissolution and the squandering of his spiritual inheritance — an image of love that cannot be read without bringing spiritual tears to the innermost recesses of the soul. There is no Christian who does not feel the munificence of God in the simple retelling of the story of the son who returns to his Father in disgrace, yet is received with honor, affection,and extravagant love and is recompensed for betrayal and perfidy with all of the signs of honor that his father can bestow upon him. This enduring parable is fragrant with the Christian message of redemption,redolent with the aroma of love,and spiced by the pungence of forgiveness and Grace: the Father restoring “to the Prodigal the tokens of his proper glory..., mystically...[rendering him]...glad on high” (from the stichera of Saturday Vespers to “Lord I have cried,” Sunday of the Prodigal Son). As St. Augustine, in his Confessions, movingly expresses it, we behold in this story the forgiveness of “a kind God,” Who gave much to the Prodigal Son before his fall, yet Who “was kinder still when he returned destitute” (Book I,§18). A kind father — as the Divine Chrysostomos summarizes the tale — gives a wayward son “greater honors” than those shown to an older brother, who had remained with the father and “who had not fallen,” thereby underscoring the “greatness of repentance” (“Letter to Theodore,”I,§7).

But Scripture, palimpsest that it is, is sometimes more profound in what it suggests at a deeper, arcane level than in what it directly says, averring dimensions of truth written upon truth, light leading to unfathomable brilliance. Like Scripture itself, which the presumptuous man interprets to his destruction (II Peter 3:16), the Parable of the Prodigal Son contains lessons which lie in the sagacity of God and yield only to humble study. If we examine the parable carefully, we find that it contains, aside from the exhortative lesson of the repentant and restored Prodigal Son, a caveat against the anger and jealousy of the elder brother, who, seeing lavish fatherly mercy bestowed on his repentant sibling, imagines his virtue to be slighted.

The well-known Church writer Tertullian saw in the image of the elder brother the Jews who envied the Christians for their “reconciliation” with “God the Father,” thus winning for the New Israel the promise originally made to the “Chosen People” (“De pudicitia” [On Modesty], chap. 8). Similarly, St. Ambrose of Milan, in his Exposition on the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke, which contains this parable, speaks of the envy of the elder brother for the wayward son, also drawing a parallel between the former and the Jews (Book VII, §§239-243) — a parallel, as an aside, that is not, as many wrongly imagine, an anti-Semitic slur. Following a slightly different interpretive tradition, the Blessed Bishop Nikolai of Ochrid, though he identifies the Prodigal Son with the worldly man and the older brother with the spiritual man, also asserts that the latter serves as a lesson to us not to be “puffed up in our own righteousness and, in our pride, scorn repentant sinners” (Homilies [Birmingham, 1996], Homily 10, “Sunday of the Prodigal Son”).

In yet another Patristic approach to the imagery in the story of the return of the Prodigal Son,

"St. Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that Christ delivered this parable ‘immediately after the Pharisees and scribes murmured against Him, saying, This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.’ Seeking to enlighten His detractors,the Lord spoke of a younger, prodigal son, who represented the sinners and publicans, and of an elder, faithful son, who represented the scribes and Pharisees. This, says St. Cyril, is the key to understanding the Prodigal son. ... [T]he younger son, like the publican, through humility and repentance washed away his vices, while the elder son, like the Pharisee, through pride and judgmentalism sullied his virtues." (See Hierodeacon [now Hieromonk] Gregory, Orthodox Tradition, XII, 2, p. 74.)

This is precisely the imagery employed by St. Gregory Palamas, as well, who mentions the elder son’s anger, suggests that this anger manifests itself because the son is “ignorant of the riches of God’s goodness,” and points out that, just as the father receives his wayward son, so he “pleads with the elder one, teaching him what is fitting” (Homily 3, “The Parable of the Lord on The Prodigal Who Was Saved,” §§22-23).

Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria, says of the elder son — whom he also identifies with the Pharisees — , that he does not understand the “outpouring of God’s compassion.” Theophylact does not, like some of the earlier Patristic commentators, directly accuse the faithful son of envy, but of a spiritual blindness and of “grumbling,” in the manner of the Pharisees, at seeing repentant sinners so freely and lovingly received. Acknowledging the variety of interpretative images attributed to the two sons, he asserts that the younger son represents the sinner who turns from iniquity and the older one the righteous who stand sorely “vexed” before the ineffable “judgments of God.” He argues that the parable was meant for the Pharisees and the self-righteous, to warn them against their weaknesses. In the gentle quality of his rebuke, he stands at one end of the spectrum of Patristic admonitions against the elder sibling in the parable of the Prodigal Son. And it is in his balmy counsel, perhaps, that he is able to bring together the extremes in imagery employed by the Fathers in drawing our attention to the dual message of the story: that of the glad reception of the repentant sinner in the abode of the Father — whatever the actual reason for his final return — and that of the spiritual harm that can befall those who fall to envy, to anger, or to resentment of the loving action of the Father. In every image that the Church Fathers invoke, it is in the love of the father that all is resolved, as he embraces his wayward younger son and soothes the vexation of his older son. Here the extremes in images meet and are fused in the forgiveness of love.

Let us, as Great Lent approaches this year, look anew at this parable and draw hope from the wayward son. At the same time, let us examine ourselves carefully in the light of the weaknesses of the elder son, lest we succumb to the wily temptations of self-righteousness, which can lead to passions and to spiritual waywardness produced by pride, if not by envy and undiscovered hidden darkness.
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