The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 2 years ago

Bread Alone - St. Mary of Egypt Sunday


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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a new sixpart lecture series by Father Maximus Constas, entitled the life and Teaching of Saint Basil the Great. Saint Basil of Cesarea, one of the three holy hierarchs, is a foundational figure in the life of the Christian Church. His Life and works have inspired and guided the faithful for almost eighteen centuries. In these lectures, the highly esteect petrologist, Father Maximos leads his students into a deep dive into the life and thought of this holy father, first by unveiling the contours of Saint Basil's life and then by surveying the major aspects of his teaching and ministry. The lecture titles are as follows. Lecture one, the life of Saint Basil the Great. Lecture two, the ascetic writings. Lecture three, the Trinitarian controversy. Lecture four, scripture preaching Liturgy. Lecture Five, social and philanthropic works. Lecture six, Saint Basil as the paradigm of the priesthood. Summary and conclusions for these and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org and now the arena with Father Josiah Trenna, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. What a deadening absence not to hear the hundreds of voices say, all men after the invocation of the name of the Trinity. How much you are missed, brothers and sisters, how empty we feel to be serving in the church without you this morning. We send our love, we send our best wishes and can't wait to see you soon. May the experience that you heard the disciples enjoyed in the Orthros Gospel this morning, when they were huddled in a room with the door shut in fear, and then the Lord entered into that room with his presence and brought great joy to them and he said peace be to all. May Christ be in each of your homes as you gather this morning to pray with us through this link, and may his peace be with you in this time of great trial. I've entitled my reflections for you, brothers and sisters, bread alone, question mark, bread alone. We are experiencing a world upside down, and how grievous it has been and worrisome in our state, our abortion clinics remain open, our weed dispensaries remain open and our liquor stores remain open, but our churches are shut fast by the authority of the state. Evidently we know how to practice social distancing at supermarkets, but evidently it's impossible to practice social distancing in the church. And everyone knows, don't they, that man does not live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, but man lives by bread alone. Right or wrong, veterinarians are considered essential services, but we priests are not.

We're banned from entering hospitals and are forbidden to aid the sick. We can't even stand next to our own parishioners in the hospitals, though we are more than willing to wear any protective outfit that the nurses and doctors themselves are wearing. The collaboration, the classical, long standing Western collaboration between physician and priest in our health care has been tested in this trial and has found to be completely vacuous. It does not exist. Personal protective equipment is required for the health of the body, but the sacraments, which are the personal protective equipment of the soul. We can dispense with. So the authorities think. King David writes in the fifty third psalm these words. He says God looks down from Heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any that are wise, if there are any that seek after God. They have all fallen away. They are all alike, depraved. There is none that does good, not one. There they are in great terror, in such a terror as has never been unquote some fifty three. All of us are terribly disturbed. Were gripped by circumstances that press US sorely. We feel in a way. I've never felt the awful press of fallen time from so many angles. It terrorizes our minds, it causes our hearts to flutter and for the moment, it seems that circumstances are only getting worse. Those who have responsibility over public health are becoming desperate. It appears that some of their fears may be materializing before their eyes to a degree that they have pushed past providing guidance and advice. Now they are making demands with the force of law and with the power of the police force behind them. We all must wear masks in public. Churches. Cannot be gathering places of any number of people whatsoever, even in our own homes. We may only gather in our homes with those who live there. Phone lines have been opened up for citizens to report on the activities of other citizens that they think are perhaps not properly heating the requirements of the authorities, and the police have been called upon to enforce the health official guideline lines. Truly, these are unique days. Yesterday morning, after several weeks of waiting for the trail near my house, Mount Rubedou, to be reopened. This is a trail very precious to everyone in the area. Most of you know this mountain, upon which is that magnificent forty foot tall Sarah Cross overlooking the city. There's been a big illumined sign that says mountain...

...trail closed March nightteen through April third, which was Friday, and so on Saturday morning I drove by the sign and it remained exactly that, and so I went home happy that I could, on April fourth, take my daughter in a stroller and and Kuria Catherine and go for a short walk up the mountain. And so we walked up the back side of the mountain and as we got near the top of the mountain. All of a sudden, from nowhere, a riverside police helicopter began to circle the top of the mountain and then came and circled right over our own heads and stayed right above us. And then we heard the helicopter's microphone, usually used by the police to tell car thieves to stop speeding and driving into pull over or to give warnings, we heard them say to US leave the mountain immediately, leave the mountain immediately, and so we did, saddened again, not able to go to church and now not even able to walk in public on trails to get to the cross that overlooks our city. Truly, we are pressed, brothers and sisters. We are terribly concerned. Fallen time all around us is crushing us, which is why we're here this morning. It's the great glory of Liturgy itself. Liturgy transports us from the press of fallen time and joins US directly to the Kingdom of God, to unfallen time, to redeemed time. We escape the press of fallenness when we pray and when the Lord is in our midst in the Holy Liturgy. This is why we need to keep close during these times we need to keep close and be careful, to stay close to the Lord who loves you much more seriously. You need to watch your closeness to him than at any other time. In just a moment will begin the Anaphora in the liturgy and you usually hear Proto Deacon Elie say to you these words. Let us stand a right, let us stand with fear, let us attend that we may offer the holy oblation in peace. This is the call, those words from the Liturgy, which you'll see and you'll hear in just a moment. I think this is a word from God to us about how to keep our feet, to stand a right, to stand with fear, the fear of God and the fear of nothing else, because when you fear God, you fear nothing else. To stand firm, to stand in our faith and to attend that we might be able to pray in peace. If we do not stand well, we can be terribly harmed by this corona of virus, for sure, and I don't refer to being physically harmed. We aren't afraid of sickness or death. Jesus himself has transformed them. Both sickness and death for us he's made them, other things, pathways to his presence, a road to glory. Now the harm that I'm referring to is the harm which can happen to us during these unique times, the harm of sin, the harm of losing faith, the harm of allowing despair or fear to...

...overshadow God's peace which is in us. But have to be guarded, it has to be preserved and watched over and cared for. I refer to the heart of the harm of allowing our repentance to slip through our fingers in this lent because of the press of fallen time, the press of News, the press of the immediate earthly calamities, or even the fear of milk which is not yet spilled, possible future calamities, even those are in our minds and in our mouths. We have to be very careful to stand aright and to stand in the fear of God and to let our oblation of be offered, our prayer offered in peace. Remember, remember, in this magnificent county of two point six million people, over the whole course of this month we have only eighteen deaths. Eighteen deaths, and may the fear that our health officials have that that will greatly spike. May the Lord Intercede and help us and help every one that those numbers not come to come true if we succeed in averting the virus. But in the process of averting the virus we lose our lent, if we lose our prayer, if we lose our peace, if we become the judge of our neighbors and we think for one moment that the Lord would bless us to pick up the telephone and and report people because we think there might be a car or two too many in our neighbor's parking lot. If we do those things, which would be very big mistakes, then we'll come out at the end having loft instead of gained. This trial is for our benefit, this trial is for our salvation. We have to be very careful not to be anxiety at ridden, be crippled by anger or the discomfort of the circumstances which are so suffocating. I want to encourage you with the example today, on this Sunday, of Mary of Egypt, this magnificent saint. Every fifth Sunday of great lent we remember her and I'm sorry you're not here with the we few of us who get to look at her magnificent icon on the wall. Maybe the live streamers will show you the icon with the camera at the end. Our Father Among the saints, Gregory Polya Moss, in his homily for this Sunday, the fifth Sunday of lent, he begins as homily in an extremely relevant way for us. He says these words. He says there are certain parts of the ocean which team with huge beasts like sea monsters, and those who sail in these waters hang bells over the sides of their ships so that the creatures will panic and flee from the sound. Many wild things, far more horrible, breed in the ocean of our own life. By this I mean the evil passions and the even more evil demons who supervise them. What a word, what a word. What should...

...we be concerned most about? The sea monsters of the ocean or the sea monsters that breed in our own lives? Particularly, our passions are sins and the devils that are behind stirring up those sins. This is, in fact, the very thing that St Mary of Egypt teaches us. This is why it's so appropriate to quote Saint Gregory Paulamas a sermon for the Sunday, we say, in her troparion in thee the image was preserved with exactness. Oh Mary, for taking up Thy Cross, Thou didst follow Christ and by THY deeds, thou did teach us to overlook the flesh, which passes away, but to attend unto the soul, since it is immortal. wherefore, all righteous mother Mary, THY spirit rejoices with the angels this feast. They, as were, so gripped with concern for physical health. St Mary is calling us, and Saint Gregory Palamas is calling us, to be concerned far more with the health of our souls. This doesn't mean irresponsible behavior towards physical health. It just means a proper Christian emphasis, not so much on the body, which is passing away, but more on the soul, which is immortal and will determine the future of the body. We can have a perfectly healthy body, but if it's faithless and gripped in anger and a lack of trust in God, it will not survive and both body and soul will be subject to eternal death. If we have a soul that lives, if we give attention, as Mary did, to the soul. Even if our body is racked by the virus, it is a short, temporary reality, because the health of the soul will lead to the eternal glory of the body as well. Saying Gregory Paulamas, he continues, after speaking of the far more wild things that breed in the seas of our own life. He says God's Church sails upon this sea like a ship and instead of bells, it has spiritual teachers to ward off the invisible beasts by the holy sound of their teaching. prefigure this, errand's robe had sweet sounding bells fastened to its edge and it was decreed that when Aaron ministered, their sound should be heard. Do you hear this, brothers and sisters? This is what saying Gregory is saying. The way to keep those monsters of passions and the evil demons that stir them up away from us that threatened the health of our soul, which is our great concern, is to sub humble yourself and listen to the spiritual teaching of the church, because these sacred words that give life, ward off those wild monsters and drive away the threat of the virus of sin that can destroy our lives. There are terrible monsters in life, like this virus. But there are, in the saints words, many wild things far more horrible than breed in the sea of our own life. On this marvelous Sunday of St Mary of Egypt, we remember the great, immeasurable patience of the Lord God, though this young woman, from the time she was twelve until she was twenty nine, in her own words, sought every form of unnatural debauchery. She literally reveled in a life of rebellion against God. And yet he never took...

...his eye off of her, he never ceased seeking her salvation, and he got her as she was entering into the church in Jerusalem to venerate the Holy Cross. Her life says that she was stopped by an invisible force, the hand of the Lord, telling her you're unworthy to enter. But immediately, she says, she knew at that moment, even when he was disciplining her so hard with his hand, that he was, in her words, seeking for my salvation. This is what we must remember to day. The immense past all tracing out patience of God for us who are sinners. We sinners are one to the Lord by his immense patience. We also remember the emptiness of sin. A woman here who, in the bloom of her youth, tried to find satisfaction in any possible way and never could find it, except in love with God. True Pleasure, true through happiness, is not something that the world can produce. We also remember the total insufficiency of being an Orthodox Christian in name only. She was baptized if a baby, she came from a Christian family, she was Orthodox. And yet, because that faith was not combined with a life of works, because that faith wasn't combined with a life of obedience and repentance, what did it do for her? Nothing. Brought her no joy, brought her no peas, brought her no happiness until she learned to you, to yoke her faith to repentance. And this is the last thing we remember in Mary's life. Is the power of repentance, which is the most powerful force in the entire world, and it eclipses and it dissolves every threat that exists to our existence in our life. Right now, this repentance can be accessed by every single person. All we need to do to obtain this is to have a sense of our own need, coupled with a turning to God. This is what we call repentance, attorney away from the pursuit of our own will and a turning to him in humility. Then there is literally no limit to what we can become. The greatest debauched the woman who was fixed more to the earth like a creature on four legs. That's how Mary lived till she was twenty nine years old. All she cared about was what was on the earth. She was completely a slave. And yet when she embraced repentance, not just a feeling but a life of repentance, she not only overcame the evil one, but she was freed from the earth so much that when Zosima saw her praying, she was literally floating above the Earth about an elbow's length. Can you imagine? This woman who didn't even think that heaven existed in didn't allow it any influence in her life? By the power of repentance, became so close to God, so much his friend, even in the body, that before the General Resurrection,...

...when all of our bodies will be lifted up into paradise, her body already was being lifted up. Her soul was so powerful that it literally lifted her body with her in its yearning and its outreach to God. This is what's possible through the gift of repentance. So I leave those things, brothers and sisters, with you. Let us together stand a Aright, let us stand with fear and let's guard our peace so that we can really worship God and not have our faith stolen by the pressures of fallen time. To the glory of his thing ament, we hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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