The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 1 year 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 Contemporary Women 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 and lead us to the virtue of humility and compunction. Contemporary Saints are particularly important since they acquire their love for God and holiness in the midst of our current milieu 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 Zania of Saint Petersburg. Lecture number two the life of Saint Elizabeth, the new martyr. Lecture number three the life of Saint Maria of Paris. Lecture number four the life of Saint Metrona of Moscow. Lecture number five the lives of mother Maria of Olonettes, Schema Num Macaria, the beloved cepher, and Matushka Olga of Alaska. For these and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar God Org and now the arena with Father Josiah Trenna, the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Last week I expressed the preciation for all of our parishioners who are outside and next door and have been for these very long months and months and months. I also 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 that will be a small reprieve and an encouragement to those who are praying and trying to concentrate on prayer outside of the House of God. It's a very sad position to be in. Usually those who are outside are the lowest form of Penitence who are allowed to come into the church. We've been living this way for so long. I was thinking this morning, as I was meditating again on how many of our prishioners would be outside, that think of our brothers and sisters in times past. I remember the first time I ever visited the magnificent Basilica Church of the Great March or Demetrius and Tessoliniki Greece, one of our oldest and most beautiful churches. I think that church itself had is built from the fourth century and it's built on top of a Christian Altar in the catacombs, in the ancient Roman catacomb. So you can go behind the altar and then down into the place where, on the same topography, we prayed in the first century, when it would have been considered by believers to have been a great luxury to have a church at all, let alone to be able 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 sacred texts 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 bring the wine. And this is how we...

...lived and this is the condition in which 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 the gathering together of the Faithful. This is the the core of our reality. So this week we had a signal victory in law thank God, thank God. Finally, our tyrannical governors oppression of Christian churches, his disregard of the importance of worship, public worship, was dealt a very serious blow this week by the Supreme Court, and so his order, which still stands, or I should rather say still stood until a few days ago, forbidding all worship inside of the churches, it has been overthrown, thank God, thank God, it's just done, just done by a sixty three ruling of our Supreme Court. Of course, that's a that's a small consolation. It's a nice thought to think if we ever went through something like this again, let's all make the cross. God Forbid, God forbid, if we ever went against through something like this again in the near future, we would be able to avoid the tremendous sorrow that that order has caused believer us all throughout our state. I'm very thankful for that. Brothers and sisters, the Epistle and the Gospel today are very challenging texts and they share a common theme. Before I address that common theme, I want to share with you a small portion of the gospel of Matthew, which I have always found fascinating. It's a good entree into a discussion of the epistle test today that we that I want to make. It comes in the twelve chapter of St Matthew's Gospel and it's a very, very faceting and strange text where Matthew records the Lord Jesus saying the context, I should tell you the context before I tell you the verses. The context of that Jesus has been performing many, many exorcisms, casting out demons from many people, delivering them from the sicknesses that those demons had effected in these people's lives. And the Pharisees were growing very agitated because Jesus is popularity as a deliverer from death and from evil and from the tyranny of the 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 these devils, 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 minds go. Jesus simply said to them, if that's the case, and we know that a house divided against itself. Cannot stand why would Satan cast out Satan? 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 the story. He says that a devil was cast out of a man and it went 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, being cast out of a person. Finding no place for rest, it gathers seven other devils and it comes back to its original house, meaning the person that it 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 the first. He thought he had it bad when he had one devil in him and Jesus had to deliver him. Now the man ends up with many devils in him. What is that all about? What does it mean to be clean but 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 the devils, to be freed from a life of slavery to Satan, as Saint Paul describes our life before we were Christians. We were held captive by him to do his will. Paul says it's possible to become freed, to have our 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 position where 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 you hear the first word of the epistle. Lescent brethren, I beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain. That's how Saint Paul started the text. Today, brethren, I beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain. And then keep that text also in mind that I mentioned earlier when you're thinking about the Gospel lesson, where Jesus describes himself as a man distributing talents, and he gave this many to one and this many to another and this many to a third, and then they were expected to go out and use those talents and to return a prophet. And when the giver of those talents came back, two of the three had produced a harvest too, had invested their talents to had taken what God had given them and actually 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 God in vain. He had been given it and he did absolutely nothing with it. 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 of us to make sure that we aren't like the person who has been delivered and has not replaced in allegiance to evil with...

...an allegiance to God. We have had the evil cast out, but haven't opened our hearts and our inner selves to be filled with a new allegiance, so that when that nasty demon comes back, 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 of a Christian. That's for us. What does it mean? What's the difference between those who receive the grace of God unto salvation, and those who receive the grace of God in vain. First notice the description. We are recipients of the grace of God. We believers have been given the greatest gift, God's very life, his presence, his energy. This is ours, this is our inheritance. What we do with it is up to our freedom. God is the beginning of our salvation. He Sustains our salvation, he completes our salvation, but he doesn't do it without our cooperation. He respects our freedom. If it didn't involve our freedom, if the grace of God came to us and just the presence of grace ensured that we were going to be saved, like some Christians teach, then there would be no emphasis upon receiving it in vain at all, because it couldn't be received in vain if it always triumphs. Unfortunately, the grace of God does not always triumph in people's lives. Because the Lord respects our freedom, he expects us to cooperate with him, to Labor with him, to invest our talents, to use the energy that he's given us to serve him. What's the difference between those who reap a 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 seven letters to give to local churches in Asia minor where John had had an apostolic presence. The first of those letters is to the most powerful of all the churches in Asia Minor, the one with the biggest reputation, and this should always remind us not to sit on reputation. We could easily do that here at St 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 be easy for us to sit on our laurels and on the past. Very easy, big mistake to do that. Ephesus received the first letter. There was no 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 the world, the incredible statue to Artemis. I mean it was an unbelievable place in 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 at what it looked like it would originally to...

...them. It's called the epistle to the EPHESIANS. John had been there saying Timothy had been their bishop. I mean they were an incredible church and they received the first letter and in that letter the Lord said to them that he knew a lot of the good things that they had done. He said, but I have this one thing against you. You have left your first love. You've abandoned your first love. What incredible 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's lover language. He's grieved because though they had done many good things, the relationship, the deeds that that parish, that that church had at the beginning, they had left. Somehow. Jesus had been demoted. Their hearts weren't hot for him like they had been, like everyone's heart is hot for a first love. Instead, they had made him Hunos, second, third, and Jesus accepts one position to one position only. First, he expects us to maintain our hot love for him, to love him more than we love any 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 than our best friends. Number One love is Christ and unfortunately this church had started out 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, and that 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 and he wrote to Thiatira and he told them, I've seen your love, I've seen your perseverance, I've seen your suffering, I've seen your service and even more so. He said, this is the amazing statement. Your deeds of late are greater than at first. Your deeds of late are greater than at first. The exact opposite of ephesis. They started out with the hot love and 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 is receiving the grace of God unto salvation and someone who receives the grace of God in vain. What's the difference? The difference is those who receive the grace of God unto salvation, their deeds grow. And of course, this is in the 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 encouragement of 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 our founders have given to us. We can't live off of their love. You don't have many times you've heard me make fun of and tease people who have talked with me and I'm I'm just meeting...

...them and I find out that they've been living in town for a year or two and this is the first time they're coming to church, and I'm like, well, could you know, please, I want you to come, come, and then they say something to me like this. Well, you know, my grandfather's a priest and I always tease them and poke them. I said, well, that's very good for his salvation, but what about yours? Do you think having a grandfather and his good deeds, it's going to please the Lord and that means that 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 a priest, if you're going to use that as a crutch to avoid loving God and fulfilling his Holy Commandments. And it's the same with us, brothers and sisters. We have to make sure. We have to make sure that our deeds have laid our great greater than at first. We have to carry the beautiful inheritance that we've received and improve it. In this way, of course, we honor God, and this way we also honor our founders. This is exactly what they would want. This is exactly what they've taught us to do. We have to fulfill it. The Lord knows. The Lord knows he's pouring out His grace upon us. He's giving us himself so that we can spread the love around, share the light and not end up like those undevoted people with no true allegiance to him who get repossessed and end up having a terrible end to a short beginning. You know one of my favorite preachers that I like so much. I like him much because he is in a tremendous preacher, but also because of his own patrimony. His name is Saint Cesarius of Arley. Harley is in southern France and he lived in the fifth century. 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 prolific preacher. One of the reasons I love his sermons is because I can smell Saint John Chrysostom in his sermons. And the reason I can smell Saint John Crasostom, even though Saint John Prosostom died in four hundred and seven and he wasn't even born for sixty three more years. Is that he learned his theology from the writings of Saint John Cassian, who died in for thirty, only forty years before his birth. and Saint John Cassian was the spiritual son of Saint John Chrysostom and had left Constantinople at the time that Jean John Krasostom was betrayed and he took he took letters of appealed to the bishops in Italy and to the pope, Pope Innocent, and then ended up going to France and starting 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 grace of God in vain. This is what he says. We too, dearly beloved, without any preceding good merits, have received such great goods from the Lord through his generous graces, and have merited to be changed from bitterness and to 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, not to receive the grace of God in vain. What does it mean to receive the grace of God in vain, except to be unwilling to perform good works with the help of His grace?...

What does it mean, except to defile with impious thoughts and pollute with the dissolute words what he himself has made clean? What except to destroy what he has built up and to kill what he has animated? Therefore, dearly beloved, let not the divine benefits be destroyed in us by succeeding evil deeds, lest vices overtake us and virtues be excluded from our hearts. Then would be fulfilled in us? What is written? If a man again touches a corpse after he has bathed, what did he gain by his purification? If virtues are driven away and we are willing to accept vices, we should fear that there will be fulfilled in us the words when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man he roams through dry places in search of a resting place and finds none. After this, he returns to the house which he left and he finds it unoccupied. That he takes with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and the last state of 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 will not be burned by unquenchable fire along with the chaff, but may deserve to be stored away, like we in the Heavenly Barn, with the help of our 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 this is the hardest period I've ever faced in the life of the church. We put lots of responsibilities on our shoulders. One after another, we're doing three major 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've voted for it all. We're in this together. It just may be that God wants to show us how faithful he is, how much he can help us, even though we have a sense of being in such need, and maybe also because he wants us to make our founders proud and he wants our deeds of late to be greater than those at the beginning. May God help us. 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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