The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Silence is Golden

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Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Learn more about Patristic Nectar Publications.

Silence. Brothers and sisters, quiete sehia. It means inner stillness. It's the position of the heart ofthe true believer before the mysterious presence of God. It's what we try tocultivate in ourselves through the use of the Jesus prayer. It's why you haveprayer robes. It's why you say, Lord, Jesus, Christ son ofGod, have mercy on me. You're trying to quiet your heart in him. You're not saying anything complex and you're not thinking compounded thoughts. You're humblingyourself in the presence of the Lord, trying to create silence. You're notspeaking because you do believe and you know in whom you believe. Ancient FaithRadio and patristic nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with FatherJosiah trenem. Father Josiah is the pastor of Saint Andrew Orthodox Christian Church inRiverside, California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, anonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the HolyFathers. For more information on patristic nectar publications. Please visit our website atwww dot patristic nectar dot org. And now, Father Josiah, in thename of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, oneGod, I greet you, brothers and sisters, on this Feast Day ofthe Nativity of the forerunner. This incredible birthday is the third most glorious birthdayin the history of mankind. Our Savior's Nativity in the flesh, of course, is the first, which we celebrate...

Christmas Day, the Virgin's birthday,September eighth the second greatest birthday, and to day, the birthday of theforerunner, on the twenty fourth of June. He was six months older then hiscousin the Lord. We celebrate this as one of the three fundamental feastdays of the forerunner and Baptist. His main feast day is the day aftertheophany. January six is the feast of our Savior's baptism. The next dayis the fore runners day. We also remember his beheading on the twenty ninthof August, his martyric witness, and then to day, his Nativity.He has other feast days as well, but these are the three major feastdays. I wonder if you prepared for his birthday. I wonder what you'regoing to give him. We are going to celebrate with a little lenton chocolatecake today following the liturgy, but don't miss brothers and sisters celebrating the birthdayof the forerunner and the baptist. Show him by your concern, by yourattendance at his services. And they don't. Doesn't always fall on Sunday. It'snot so easy to keep his birthday always, except one in seven years. Honor Him by remembering this sacred feest. It's more important than your birthday orthe children's birthday. Are you going to forget those? I don't thinkso. I don't think so. Remember his birthday. Come with me,if you would, to that mysterious announcement of John's birth, the great miracleof the conception in the womb of Elizabeth, who had been barren. Come withme and stand next to the Prophet Zacharias as he's fulfilling his priestly dutyin the temple, when he receives that shaking revelation from the Archangel and hehears that even though he's an old man...

...and even though his wife is anold woman, and though they have prayed for many years and decades faithfully fora child, and though they have endured the sorrow, much greater then thannow, the sorrow of childlessness, Zacharias is shaken and is gripped by fear, very much like every other great man and woman was gripped in the presenceof the Archangel Gabriel. He hears that Elizabeth will conceive and that the childwill be quote great before the Lord. Now that is a marvelous prophecy,and that is the true desire of all believing parents, is to have theirchildren not great before men but great in God's sight, able to stand beforethe Lord without shame, to be esteemed by the Lord himself. Zacharias hearsthis, not only will he have a child, but this child will beesteemed by God, truly great, a man of immense character. If,then he hears that he will be the forerunner of the Messiah and that hewill come to fulfill this function in fulfillment of the Prophets, in the spiritand the power of Elias, this means that he would take up Elias's mantle. Nine centuries later, he would be like Elias, a man of extremeasceticism, someone who was a contradiction in the world, who would forsake familylife, who would live as a proto monk for off to day. Thisis common then it was unheard of.

He would wear a leather belt abouthis waist as a sign of his mortification of his generative organs, the factthat he was mortifying his flesh in the service of the Lord. He wouldlive, like Elias, in the desert. He would eat things that human beingsdidn't eat, things that could only be found in nature, Acrida orlocusts. This is how he sustained himself. He would also be powerful before men, like Elias was. He would speak to kings who were rebellious inthe name of God without fear. He would preach repentance. Then it saysthat he would not touch liquor or wine. He would be at Nazarete from hisbirth. He wouldn't drink anything. Instead, he would be saturated,intoxicated with the spirit of God. The forerunner would be of spirit bearer amongstmen. Interestingly, that combination Saint Paul picks up and applies to all Christianswhen he says in his epistle to the EPHESIANS. Don't get drunk with wine, that's debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul's takingthis Nazarite combination that was found in John the Baptist's life and applying it tothe church. To be great before God means that we are under his control, under the influence not of chemicals that alter our moral sense, but underthe influence of the spirit of God. This is what the forerunner manifest theprophecy goes on and says that he will do three turnings, three turnings one. He will turn many to the Lord.

This is his work of repentance.What is repentance but a one hundred and eighty gree turn from pursuing sinfulthings or selfish things to pursuing the will of God? The prophecy said thathe would turn many, he would be successful, and you can think,in fulfillment of this prophecy, of the crowds, the hundreds gathered at theJordan river when he spoke. People felt the movement on the inside of theirlife. The greater the life of the teacher, the more potent his words, the more clear it is that he is not someone interested in speech asmuch as in life. He turned many to the Lord and he also turned, it says, the hearts of the fathers to the children. This isa cryptic state statement. Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children couldmean that he was, through his influence, through his ministry, the stabilizer,the uniter of families, causing father to consider their children to be theirgreat glory, their prime investment being willing to bend low and care for theirchildren. I think it also could have larger generational context. The point isthat his ministry, though it was a ministry of profound call to repentance,affected unity in society. It brought together old and young, multiple generations,fathers and their children, in a powerful adhesive of the certain service of thewill of God. This is what happens when people are about the Lord's business. They value unity in the family.

And lastly, it says in thisprophecy that he would turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, hewould turn many to the Lord, he would turn the hearts of fathers tothe children and he would turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.He would grab those who were intoxicated with their own self, seeking with theirown disobedient pleasures. He would grab them and he would say convince them byhis life that that was not a good idea. This is the calling ofthe Prophets of the priesthood to convince those who are disobedient to the words ofGod that such a life is foolishness and it's better to accept the wisdom ofthe righteous, put yourself on course, to follow those that you respect beforeGod. He affected these turns and there was great joy, it says inthe text, joy and gladness, at his birth. When the most purevirgin received the Annunciation of her conception of the Lord from the Archangel Gabriel,she immediately dropped everything that she was doing and went to see Elizabeth, andElizabeth was already in the sixth month. And when she crossed the threshold ofher house, the forerunner, already inspired as an infant, as a fetus, already inspired by the Holy Spirit, danced and leapt in his mother's wombat the presence of the Virgin and of the Christ child. He already wasa forerunner before he even got out of the womb. His mother, Elizabeth, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and then the virgin uttered those magnificentwords that we sing in the ninth ode of every Arthros. My Soul Dothmagnify the Lord that inspired canticle. There was an outbreak of joy starting inthese holy homes, but that would fill...

...the whole world because of the comingof the forerunner and up because of the word that he was preparing the worldto receive. Zacharias, however, had difficulty. Zacharias had doubt. Hewas worn down by his prayers. Perhaps he thought that the delay in theprayer was a sign of rejection. Maybe he thought, because he had askedfor decades, that God had turned to deaf ear to him, and sowhen he saw the archangel he doubted him. He thought, can this really be? It was a hideous sin of unbelief. We should not miss howtragic it was and watch out for it ourselves. Saint Paul says that thewhole forty years of the wandering in the wilderness that was done by the Jewswas done for one reason. They could not enter the promised land. SaintPaul says in Hebrews, because of their unbelief. Zacharis doubted and then helearned a hard lesson. The Archangel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, made him mute and because he couldn't accept the right disposition, thepious disposition, in front of the mystery and the Providence of God, whichis silence. Because he didn't freely choose it, it was imposed upon himand he had a nine months penance. For nine months he wasn't able touse his tongue and make any speech at all. It wasn't until the birthand then the naming of his son that his tongue was loose and he,who came as the voice of the word,...

...loosed his father's tongue. Silence,brothers and sisters. Quiet e Seehea is what we call it in thechurch. E Seehea, it means inner stillness. This is what the Archangelwas attempting to teach to Zacharias. It's the position of the heart, ofthe true believer before the mysterious presence of God. It's what we try tocultivate in ourselves through the use of the Jesus prayer. It's why you haveprayer robes, it's why you say Lord Jesus, Christ son of God,have mercy on me. You're trying to quiet your heart in him. You'renot saying anything complex and you're not thinking compounded thoughts. You're humbling yourself inthe presence of the Lord, trying to create silence. This silence is notunbelief, it's not doubt. You're not not speaking because you don't believe.It's a silence of conviction. You're not speaking because you do believe and youknow in whom you believe, that he is far past tracing out, thathis ways are not our ways, that no one has ever been his counselorno one has ever told the Lord do this or do that. He knows. And it's because of your conviction about who the Holy Trinity Is, whothe True God is, that you practice silence and that when we don't understandthings, we accept them. We take the position of convicted silence. Wedon't become quiet because of the absence of God, but because cause of hismysterious presence. That's why we take up the position of quiet. We haveall together, you know, too much talk and all together too much talkabout our faith, even when we need quiet so that we can accept God'smysterious presence and see the miracle that he's...

...working in front of us. Thiswonderful account ends by saying that John Grew what every prey parent wants to seetheir little ones growing. It says that John Grew and he became strong inspirit and he had his time in the wilderness. The character of the Baptistwas manifested even when he was young. Don't think that character can't be manifestin children. It is, and John Demonstrated it. And it says thathe was strong in the place that God cares about most, strong in spirit. No commentary about how Johnny was for foot tall or developing some big muscles, but commentary about his insides, that he had learned to be strong and, even as a child, to say no to the worthless enticements of thislife. He had learned that the world and its losts were worthy of disdain, and so he took refuge to seek God, even as a young child, to see God in the Wilderness, and he found him and he stayedthere for decades until the word of God visited him and told him to comeinto the Holy Land and to make ready because the son of God was aboutto appear. This is the great man, the man it's incape were in capableof himing. No and Camian can praise him worthily. Only the Lordcould do that, and he did.

He said, of this man,no one is greater, there is no person, no man born of awoman greater than John the Baptist. When you have Jesus testify to you,what else can anyone else do? I congratulate you, brothers and sisters,and I celebrate with you on this feast day of the birthday of the Baptist, of the voice, of the word, of this magnificent shining torch, oursavior says, a shining torch heralding the coming of the light of theworld, a radiant star whose movement across the course of the people of God'slife, heralded the coming of the Sun of Righteousness. To the forerunner andBaptist John, we wish a magnificent birthday and a happy feast. You've beenlistening to a presentation of ancient faith radio and patristic nectar publications, the arenaSunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenum. Father Josiah is the pastorof St Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is also the founderof Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirstywith 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. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org. Until next time,.

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