The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 years ago

Do Not Let Go of the Cross


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We need to hold the cross up and say Hiss, you have forgotten who god is, you have forgotten your sins and you're tearing our own nation in pieces because of it. Let us not forget the cross. Ancient Faith Radio and patristic nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah Trenne. Father Josiah is the pastor of St Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. For more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. And now, Father Josiah, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God, brothers and sisters, I was doing some reading yesterday that recalled my mind to a trip that I took many years ago. In one thousand nine hundred ninety seven, presuytera and I left and we went to Greece and we took with US little baby and Estacia, who was just a little thing. It was a memorable trip it. We really went for two reasons. We went to venerate all of the holy sites associated with St Nctarios and we wanted to go to the ancient city of Thessaliniki to take pilgrimage to all those beautiful ancient Byzantine churches. It was on that visit, in fact, that the design of this church came to my mind from St Catharine Church at Tesliniki. It was a memorable trip also because I had never been to Greece before and I was a Californian. I didn't know that priests shouldn't be zooming around on scooters with their cassocks. We would pass the the Yah Yahs on the side of the road and they would be so aghast at seeing a priest, a Presley Tera and a baby in a backpack on a little scooter swimming around that they would cover their faces. So finally I just told Pressu Thea, as we go by, just put your hands over my eyes. I don't want to see there what they're what they're saying, what they're thinking. On that trip we became we were hosted by a magnificent priest, by the George is his name. He was taking care of the church rich of St Minas agiasa Minas, a very old, beautiful church in downtown Tsliniki, and when he was... us a tour of the church, he showed us, just as we walked into the church, a gate, the main gate to the church, and he said one of our saints was martyred here. I couldn't believe my ears and it was true. And in fact this saint, his name is Christodolos and his Feast Day was yesterday. This is why the whole trip came back to me. I was reading his life again. He, on the twenty eighth of July, was hung by the Ottomans from the main gate of the church in one thousand seven hundred and seventy seven, just a year after our country's independence. He had been a tailor. He was from Hulky Tiki, just to the northeast of Tesliniki. He had come to apprentice as a tailor and on one occasion his heart was terribly grieved because he saw a brother, a Bulgarian Christian, living in Tesliniki. He saw this brother actually apostasize and become a Muslim. He was so burdened, he was so upset that he decided then and there that he was going to confront his brother and he was going to embrace martyrdom. So he went into his house and he got his cross, he had a hand cross, and he went out into the street where, inside a roadside cafe, his brother, his Bulgarian Christian brother, was celebrating his circumcision with some Janissaries, some soldiers, some Ottoman soldiers, and he went he walked in. Cristothles walked into the cafe with his cross and he walked right up to his brother and he said Hiss the Lord, and immediately the soldiers jumped up, beat him to a pulp, stabbed him many times and in that blooded condition, they brought him to the judge, because only the judge could issue the order of execution, and the judge began to criticize the man and the man looked at him. He said, would you like to become a Christian? And then he was condemned and hung. They weren't. The Christians were not allowed to touch his body. They left it naked in the church courtyard for two days before the Christians could get to it, and then he was given reverend burial and immediately the account of his lice as miracle took place through the shreds of the rope used to hang his neck and from a little bit of his garments. So great as the grace of God, so triumphant over the fallenness of this world. And Apprentice Tailor Saint, he knew not to allow himself ever to be separated from the...

...cross of our Savior, and he also knew that his brother's main problem was that he allowed himself to be separated from the cross of our Savior. Don't let go of the Cross. Christololos is a witness to this, and he was hoping to bring back his brother. He didn't think his brother could actually look Jesus in the face there on the cross and continue following a religion that denies on principle that he ever went to the cross. We cannot let go of the Cross. As long as we hold on to the cross, as long as it's first in our life, we will always remember who God is, will remember how man loving he is, what he's done for us, how much he seeks us, and our hearts won't grow cold as long as we hold on to the cross. Will also remember how terrible sin is, how really awful our sins are, so awful that the only way that we could be saved and redeemed was the death of the son of God on that cross. And we'll have compunction because of that and will have an attitude towards righteousness that's fueled by the memory of the cross, will avoid our sins and will work hard against to conquer our sins because of the cross. And, brothers and sisters, if we hold on tightly to the cross, we also will hold on tightly to each other. The Cross is the very unity of the church. The Cross and our being at the foot of the cross is what keeps US bound together in heart and soul. This is why, in holy week, I can't, I've never been able not, to watch the most marvelous night, on holy Thursday night, after we've read all the Gospels and after the Lord is on the Cross and everyone comes in darkness and expresses who they really are by falling down in front of the cross of our Savior and you're hearing those beautiful him sung he who hung the earth on the water to day is suspended on the cross. I always hide, usually on the side of the Church and watch until the last person's done, because this is when I see you for what you really are. This is we're never more united than then and the Chalice and before the cross. I'm telling you all this because that pull, the temptation to forget who God is, to think lightly of our sins and not to take them seriously, and then to fracture...

...the church. It's always prevalent and a big temptation. You heard it in the epistle lescent. Saint Paul wrote this Episto, lescent to the Corinthians because the church, that itself was fractured into pieces. Some were saying I am of Paul, others were saying I am of Cephus or Peter, others were saying I follow Apollos. You know how Paul solved that whole conflict, that hideous embrace of Spiritual Guruism, following this priest and that bishop sick? You know how he solved it. He's all that by asking one question. Maybe you heard it in the epistolescent. Was Paul Crucified for you? That was his question. Later in the epistle he would say the apostles, they're nothing. One plants another waters and God causes the growth. Apart from him, we are nothing. The greatest men, the greatest Christian leaders with the most magnificent gifts are nothing more than Tokens of God's saving grace. This is what Paul believes, this is what he taught us to think. The person who is everything's right there, and staying in front of the Cross, bowing before the Cross, is the way that we remember that and that we hold on to each other tightly and we don't get broken into bunch of pieces. We are Christ centered people and the church is his body, and living in the truth keeps US loving God, humble about our sins and holding on to each other in love. Now I want to put a thought in your mind the conclusion of my homily. You know that the meal you in which we live today is not holding on to the Cross. We are very aggressively forgetting the cross in our society, and I don't just mean that we are hiding the literal cross, as we are doing that. For twenty years, different governments, local, state and federal, have waged, or at least permitted to be waged, a war in the name of secularism and a misreading of our constitution against crosses throughout our land and there are lawsuits designed either to get crosses removed or protect crosses, because it's so natural for Christian people, in a nation where eighty percent of the nation self identifies as Christians, to place crosses everywhere, and we have them everywhere. But that's not what I mean when...

I say that we're not holding on to the Cross. That's one small aspect, but what I mean by that is that we're not holding on to what the cross is proclaiming to us. We're not remembering the men loving God, which is why we're allowing ourselves as a nation to be enticed by so many other things less worthy and less wonderful than the knowledge of God himself, because we're not looking at the cross, we're not remembering our sins and things that are for pair our forefathers, our grandparents, would not even speak out of their mouth, are all over the public media, everywhere you look in society. This is because of a distancing from the cross and a rejection of believing in the seriousness of sin that was only solved by Jesus as precious blood. No one who takes the Cross seriously takes sin lightly. Perhaps you heard this week about the conflict over the CEO and the company Chickfill A. I made some reference to them some months ago because I found out that they keep their shops closed on Sundays and I like that. I like that, but I was shocked to see that simply because the company has as a policy to encourage the law of God the following of the law of Gone Society, because the company actually supports what the Church says is marriage, what the Bible says in marriage, the company has come under massive attack. Major mayor's of Bofton and Chicago actually had the gumption to subject very clearly that the company has no future in their city. Really, that laughed at about twenty hours until someone reminded them what this nation is and something called the US Constitution and something called freedom of religion. They had to be reminded of it by the Mayor of New York City and so they revised their statement and said, well, we didn't really mean that they couldn't do business in our cities. It just means we don't share our values. So they added a both face lie upon their attack on Basic Christian things, that principle, that idea that if we don't go along. If we don't go along with apostasy, if we don't take wickedness lightly, then we aren't going to have a place to do business in this... This is very important spirit for us to discern, brothers and sisters, and we have to hold the cross up and say kiss it, because most of the people who are proclaiming this have memberships in churches in this land, most of them, not all of them. We need to hold a cross up and say, Hiss, you have forgotten who god is, you have forgotten your sins and you're tearing our own nation in pieces because of it. Let us not forget the cross. Let us not forget the cross, and that wickedness degrades a nation, righteousness lifts up a nation, exalts a nation. For those of you who have been finishing up, trying to finish up strong in the Bible reading this month, we're about to enter the last month. We've just finished reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, fifty two chapters of incredible text, written mostly to believers who had been taken into exile into Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon was the predominant power of the age and terribly degraded and immoral. It was not a place believers wanted to live. But Jeremiah told them take a deep breath, you're going to go there for a time. Invest love that land, spread out and multiply and God will bring you back. And then he made this beautiful prophecy. He wrote his final word on a scroll and he sent it with Sariah to go from Judah to Babylon and he wanted it read out publicly there. And then he told them. In that prophecy he announced the judgment that was coming on Babylon and the return of the exiles. And then he said, when you're done, tie the scroll to a rock, walk to the Euphrates River and throw it into the river and watch it sink. It was a prophetic symbol, he said, because as you watch that scroll sync with the Rock, so Babylon will sing. This is how he ended his prophecies. Brothers and sisters, Babylon became a type used by the apostles and the fathers to describe a world system not serving God, a system of darkness. Saint Peter and his first epistle, when he's in Rome, just before his martyrdom, he writes and he says at the end, she, who is in Babylon with me, sends you greetings. Here he's calling Rome and the Roman Empire Babylon, an empire that was...

...stained, that had hands dripping with the blood of Christians. Saint John and his apocalypse. When he was writing the revelation and dictating it to Prokreros, he describes in great detail the judgment that was to come upon the city of the beast, the city of the false prophet, which was Babylon. And he prophesied, in fact, that for the blood of the saints on its hands, it would fall. And the whole Hallelujah chorus found in the nineteenth chapter of the revelation and made so famous by Handel, the whole Hallelujah Chorus, Hallelujah for the Lord, our God, the Almighty Reigneth, is proclaimed by the people of God in response to the fall and judgment of Babylon. I'm telling you, all of his brothers and sisters, so that you believe that Babylon will fall. Babylon will sink without question. Men can rage, the gentiles can get all in a huff against the Lord's Christ but they will fall and everyone who does not align himself with the Lord God will also fall. We're not afraid, we're not trembling, and it's not written. America is Babylon. It's not written America has no future. I hear this all the time and it grieves me. Who is the prophet that announced that America is going to continue going down the tubes? Who is this person? I have yet to find out his name. I've never seen him validated by the people of God. I don't believe that. Where do you get this idea that America, because we've been on a downward slope, means that we're going to stay on a downward slope? All America is as a collection of individuals? We're more than that, but we're not less than that. When you see an individual going down a hill, does that mean that they're going to continue down? Can individuals not change their minds? Is Repentance not possible? Is it not possible for someone WHO LOVES WICKEDNESS TO LEARN TO LOVE righteousness? Absolutely, you all bear witness to the fact that God changes hearts and enough of those hearts change, nations change. Have you ever heard of a city called Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire so wicked that God sent Jonah there to announce his destruction, and the Lord visited them with repentance and he stayed his judgment and the people became believers. This is what I want to happen for our country. I don't know if it will. I don't know, but let's not give the nation to the devil and say, Oh,... must happen, as though we believe in fate, as though we don't serve a God who respects human freedom. We do. Let's not talk that way. And even if there's so many bad signs and we say, well, look what happened to Europe and we're following in the same trend, don't give in to fate. Pray for a return to the cross. Hold it up and ask those who are tottering and are on the edge of Apostacy, and there are many. We've never had as many unbelievers and atheists in our country ever as we have now, those that you know and love. Hold the cross out to them. Let them see it, let them be reminded about the man loving God. Let them be reminded of what the solution to human sin is. Let them have the chance to be united together in the cross, in the blood of Christ. May God hear us. May God hear us and Exalt the cross of his son save us and our nation. A then, 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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