The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 11 months ago

Orthodoxy in Vain

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a new five lecture series entitled ContemporaryWomen Saints. Saint John of Sinai, in his ladder of divine assent,writes that the lives of the saints arouse us to emulation of their courage andlead us to the virtue of humility and compunction. Contemporary Saints are particularly importantsince they acquire their love for God and holiness in the midst of our currentmilieu and demonstrate that spiritual acquisition is possible even in our own troubled times.The five lectures are as follows. Lecture number one the life of Saint Zaniaof Saint Petersburg. Lecture number two the life of Saint Elizabeth, the newmartyr. Lecture number three the life of Saint Maria of Paris. Lecture numberfour the life of Saint Metrona of Moscow. Lecture number five the lives of motherMaria of Olonettes, Schema Num Macaria, the beloved cepher, and Matushka Olgaof Alaska. For these and other available titles, please visit our websiteat patristic nectar God Org and now the arena with Father Josiah Trenna, thename of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Lastweek I expressed the preciation for all of our parishioners who are outside and nextdoor and have been for these very long months and months and months. Ialso thank God. Besides thanking them for their their beautiful example of endurance,I also thank God for the beautiful weather that he's given us. Hopefully thatwill be a small reprieve and an encouragement to those who are praying and tryingto concentrate on prayer outside of the House of God. It's a very sadposition to be in. Usually those who are outside are the lowest form ofPenitence who are allowed to come into the church. We've been living this wayfor so long. I was thinking this morning, as I was meditating againon how many of our prishioners would be outside, that think of our brothersand sisters in times past. I remember the first time I ever visited themagnificent Basilica Church of the Great March or Demetrius and Tessoliniki Greece, one ofour oldest and most beautiful churches. I think that church itself had is builtfrom the fourth century and it's built on top of a Christian Altar in thecatacombs, in the ancient Roman catacomb. So you can go behind the altarand then down into the place where, on the same topography, we prayedin the first century, when it would have been considered by believers to havebeen a great luxury to have a church at all, let alone to beable to stand outside of the church. Those days we prayed in secret.Think of the challenge of those days. Some of the parishioners kept the sacredtexts in their homes, illegally and secretly, and they would bring them to church. Other parishioners would bring the candlesticks and they kept those at home.Others would have the discosts, someone else the chalice, someone else would bringthe wine. And this is how we...

...lived and this is the condition inwhich the church triumphed over Roman paganism. No matter what, in any circumstance, never to abandon the suffer of God, never to abandon the Eucharist and thegathering together of the Faithful. This is the the core of our reality. So this week we had a signal victory in law thank God, thankGod. Finally, our tyrannical governors oppression of Christian churches, his disregard ofthe importance of worship, public worship, was dealt a very serious blow thisweek by the Supreme Court, and so his order, which still stands,or I should rather say still stood until a few days ago, forbidding allworship inside of the churches, it has been overthrown, thank God, thankGod, it's just done, just done by a sixty three ruling of ourSupreme Court. Of course, that's a that's a small consolation. It's anice thought to think if we ever went through something like this again, let'sall make the cross. God Forbid, God forbid, if we ever wentagainst through something like this again in the near future, we would be ableto avoid the tremendous sorrow that that order has caused believer us all throughout ourstate. I'm very thankful for that. Brothers and sisters, the Epistle andthe Gospel today are very challenging texts and they share a common theme. BeforeI address that common theme, I want to share with you a small portionof the gospel of Matthew, which I have always found fascinating. It's agood entree into a discussion of the epistle test today that we that I wantto make. It comes in the twelve chapter of St Matthew's Gospel and it'sa very, very faceting and strange text where Matthew records the Lord Jesus sayingthe context, I should tell you the context before I tell you the verses. The context of that Jesus has been performing many, many exorcisms, castingout demons from many people, delivering them from the sicknesses that those demons hadeffected in these people's lives. And the Pharisees were growing very agitated because Jesusis popularity as a deliverer from death and from evil and from the tyranny ofthe devil was growing immensely. So they made an incredible accusation against him.They said that he only had power, our savior only had power over thesedevils, seemed, was only so free to cast them here and there,at a near word, because he was in fact their master, being beelsible, the chief devil himself. Oh the depths to which pride makes our mindsgo. Jesus simply said to them, if that's the case, and weknow that a house divided against itself. Cannot stand why would Satan cast outSatan? Why would the chief devil be destroying the work of his minions?And then he tells this. That's the background, and then he tells thestory. He says that a devil was cast out of a man and itwent into the desert seeking a place for...

...rest itself and it found none.It's a facinating, strange comment about what a particular devil would do, beingcast out of a person. Finding no place for rest, it gathers sevenother devils and it comes back to its original house, meaning the person thatit had inhabited before, and it finds it clean and swept but unoccupied.And so it takes these seven devils and re entures that house, that person, and the worst, the last state of the man is worse than thefirst. He thought he had it bad when he had one devil in himand Jesus had to deliver him. Now the man ends up with many devilsin him. What is that all about? What does it mean to be cleanbut unoccupied? I think the answer can be seen in today's texts,in the epistle and in the Gospel. It's possible to be freed from thedevils, to be freed from a life of slavery to Satan, as SaintPaul describes our life before we were Christians. We were held captive by him todo his will. Paul says it's possible to become freed, to haveour allegiance to evil broken, but not to replace it with an another appropriate, glorious allegiance to Christ and then to end up in a very vulnerable positionwhere we could possibly be reinfested and end up worse than we ever were.Oh, rather scary, rather scary text. Have that in your mind when youhear the first word of the epistle. Lescent brethren, I beseech you notto receive the grace of God in vain. That's how Saint Paul startedthe text. Today, brethren, I beseech you not to receive the graceof God in vain. And then keep that text also in mind that Imentioned earlier when you're thinking about the Gospel lesson, where Jesus describes himself asa man distributing talents, and he gave this many to one and this manyto another and this many to a third, and then they were expected to goout and use those talents and to return a prophet. And when thegiver of those talents came back, two of the three had produced a harvesttoo, had invested their talents to had taken what God had given them andactually used it and had something to offer him at the day of reckoning.But one did nothing, one was unoccupied, one had received the grace of Godin vain. He had been given it and he did absolutely nothing withit. The theme today in these lessons is vain Orthodoxy, Vain Orthodoxy,and it's a common beseeching the Lord and Saint Paul, a common beseeching ofus to make sure that we aren't like the person who has been delivered andhas not replaced in allegiance to evil with...

...an allegiance to God. We havehad the evil cast out, but haven't opened our hearts and our inner selvesto be filled with a new allegiance, so that when that nasty demon comesback, it finds our house full to the Brim with the grace of God, overflowing with the presence of the Holy Spirit. That's the normal state ofa Christian. That's for us. What does it mean? What's the differencebetween those who receive the grace of God unto salvation, and those who receivethe grace of God in vain. First notice the description. We are recipientsof the grace of God. We believers have been given the greatest gift,God's very life, his presence, his energy. This is ours, thisis our inheritance. What we do with it is up to our freedom.God is the beginning of our salvation. He Sustains our salvation, he completesour salvation, but he doesn't do it without our cooperation. He respects ourfreedom. If it didn't involve our freedom, if the grace of God came tous and just the presence of grace ensured that we were going to besaved, like some Christians teach, then there would be no emphasis upon receivingit in vain at all, because it couldn't be received in vain if italways triumphs. Unfortunately, the grace of God does not always triumph in people'slives. Because the Lord respects our freedom, he expects us to cooperate with him, to Labor with him, to invest our talents, to use theenergy that he's given us to serve him. What's the difference between those who reapa harvest unto Salvation Grace has come, and those for whom it's in vain. There's, I think, a very simple way to understand this,and it's explained by by a passage in the apocalypse that I really love.You know that at the beginning of the revelation, Jesus appears to His Servant, the Apostle John, and he gives him seven letters. He dictates sevenletters to give to local churches in Asia minor where John had had an apostolicpresence. The first of those letters is to the most powerful of all thechurches in Asia Minor, the one with the biggest reputation, and this shouldalways remind us not to sit on reputation. We could easily do that here atSt Andrew could easily do that. We have so many beautiful founders,even though they're they're going one by one these last years to their rest,and they left us such a glorious inheritance in this parish that it would beeasy for us to sit on our laurels and on the past. Very easy, big mistake to do that. Ephesus received the first letter. There wasno more glorious city in Asia Minor Than Ephesus. It was on the coast, it was extremely wealthy. It had one of the seven wonders of theworld, the incredible statue to Artemis. I mean it was an unbelievable placein the church was also very, very famous. Paul had spent time there. He wrote a whole letter to them and it was a circular but atwhat it looked like it would originally to...

...them. It's called the epistle tothe EPHESIANS. John had been there saying Timothy had been their bishop. Imean they were an incredible church and they received the first letter and in thatletter the Lord said to them that he knew a lot of the good thingsthat they had done. He said, but I have this one thing againstyou. You have left your first love. You've abandoned your first love. Whatincredible words to describe that. Jesus uses to describe his relationship with us. It's not legal language, it's love language, it's spousal language, it'slover language. He's grieved because though they had done many good things, therelationship, the deeds that that parish, that that church had at the beginning, they had left. Somehow. Jesus had been demoted. Their hearts weren'thot for him like they had been, like everyone's heart is hot for afirst love. Instead, they had made him Hunos, second, third,and Jesus accepts one position to one position only. First, he expects usto maintain our hot love for him, to love him more than we loveany other person, to love him more than we love our husband and wife, love him more than we love our children and our grandchildren, more thanour best friends. Number One love is Christ and unfortunately this church had startedout so good. They had had a great, hot love for Christ,but they abandoned it and they were on their way out. Unless he said, you repent and do the deeds that you did it first. Another church, exactly the opposite, is the fourth recipient of the seven letters, andthat church is a little tiny town called Fiatira. FIETA was a nothing town. It was nothing compared to Ephesus, and yet of all the seven letters, it got the longest letter. Jesus spent the most time with Thietira andhe wrote to Thiatira and he told them, I've seen your love, I've seenyour perseverance, I've seen your suffering, I've seen your service and even moreso. He said, this is the amazing statement. Your deeds oflate are greater than at first. Your deeds of late are greater than atfirst. The exact opposite of ephesis. They started out with the hot loveand then they were tailoring off Fiatira. Started okay, but they were building, they were maturing. Their deeds of late were becoming more and more magnificent. And this, brothers and sisters, is the difference between someone who isreceiving the grace of God unto salvation and someone who receives the grace of Godin vain. What's the difference? The difference is those who receive the graceof God unto salvation, their deeds grow. And of course, this is inthe context of addressing churches, parish churches. You could apply it,of course, the individuals, but Jesus's words are to a whole parish.And so I wonder about us. I wonder about us and what the encouragementof today's lessons are. We have to not only, brothers and sisters,make sure we don't live on the laurels of the incredibly sacrificial gifts that ourfounders have given to us. We can't live off of their love. Youdon't have many times you've heard me make fun of and tease people who havetalked with me and I'm I'm just meeting...

...them and I find out that they'vebeen living in town for a year or two and this is the first timethey're coming to church, and I'm like, well, could you know, please, I want you to come, come, and then they say somethingto me like this. Well, you know, my grandfather's a priest andI always tease them and poke them. I said, well, that's verygood for his salvation, but what about yours? Do you think having agrandfather and his good deeds, it's going to please the Lord and that meansthat you're going to have a good a good standing on the Day of Judgment? No, that can be better that you never even knew he was apriest, if you're going to use that as a crutch to avoid loving Godand fulfilling his Holy Commandments. And it's the same with us, brothers andsisters. We have to make sure. We have to make sure that ourdeeds have laid our great greater than at first. We have to carry thebeautiful inheritance that we've received and improve it. In this way, of course,we honor God, and this way we also honor our founders. Thisis exactly what they would want. This is exactly what they've taught us todo. We have to fulfill it. The Lord knows. The Lord knowshe's pouring out His grace upon us. He's giving us himself so that wecan spread the love around, share the light and not end up like thoseundevoted people with no true allegiance to him who get repossessed and end up havinga terrible end to a short beginning. You know one of my favorite preachersthat I like so much. I like him much because he is in atremendous preacher, but also because of his own patrimony. His name is SaintCesarius of Arley. Harley is in southern France and he lived in the fifthcentury. He was born about seventy and we have an incredible three volume.This is one of three volumes of his sermons. He was such a prolificpreacher. One of the reasons I love his sermons is because I can smellSaint John Chrysostom in his sermons. And the reason I can smell Saint JohnCrasostom, even though Saint John Prosostom died in four hundred and seven and hewasn't even born for sixty three more years. Is that he learned his theology fromthe writings of Saint John Cassian, who died in for thirty, onlyforty years before his birth. and Saint John Cassian was the spiritual son ofSaint John Chrysostom and had left Constantinople at the time that Jean John Krasostom wasbetrayed and he took he took letters of appealed to the bishops in Italy andto the pope, Pope Innocent, and then ended up going to France andstarting a beautiful monastic community that Saint Cesarius inherited a way of life from.I want to close my sermon by reading a quote from him about our subject. He's writing about how Christians could know that they have not received the graceof God in vain. This is what he says. We too, dearlybeloved, without any preceding good merits, have received such great goods from theLord through his generous graces, and have merited to be changed from bitterness andto sweetness, summoned from barrenness to the fruitfulness of good works. Therefore,let us, with God's help, prepare our minds for every good work,considering what the apostle preaches when he says, I entreat you, brethren, notto receive the grace of God in vain. What does it mean toreceive the grace of God in vain, except to be unwilling to perform goodworks with the help of His grace?...

What does it mean, except todefile with impious thoughts and pollute with the dissolute words what he himself has madeclean? What except to destroy what he has built up and to kill whathe has animated? Therefore, dearly beloved, let not the divine benefits be destroyedin us by succeeding evil deeds, lest vices overtake us and virtues beexcluded from our hearts. Then would be fulfilled in us? What is written? If a man again touches a corpse after he has bathed, what didhe gain by his purification? If virtues are driven away and we are willingto accept vices, we should fear that there will be fulfilled in us thewords when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man he roams through dryplaces in search of a resting place and finds none. After this, hereturns to the house which he left and he finds it unoccupied. That hetakes with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and the last stateof that man will be worse than the first. Let us, brothers,who have merited to be freed from all evils by the grace of baptism,with its assistance, strive to be filled with spiritual goods, and then,when the heavenly farmer comes and begins to fan his threshing floor, we willnot be burned by unquenchable fire along with the chaff, but may deserve tobe stored away, like we in the Heavenly Barn, with the help ofour Lord Jesus Christ, to whom his power and might forever and ever.Amen. You know, the last few months I've been feeling that maybe thisis the hardest period I've ever faced in the life of the church. Weput lots of responsibilities on our shoulders. One after another, we're doing threemajor things at the same time. Usually we've done one. We're doing three. I don't know why. I guess I could blame myself, but you'vevoted for it all. We're in this together. It just may be thatGod wants to show us how faithful he is, how much he can helpus, even though we have a sense of being in such need, andmaybe also because he wants us to make our founders proud and he wants ourdeeds of late to be greater than those at the beginning. May God helpus. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentationoffered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing thespiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interestedin 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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