The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 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, quiet e sehia. It means inner stillness. It's the position of the heart of the true believer before the mysterious presence of God. It's what we try to cultivate in ourselves through the use of the Jesus prayer. It's why you have prayer 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're not saying anything complex and you're not thinking compounded thoughts. You're humbling yourself in the presence of the Lord, trying to create silence. You're not speaking because you do believe and you know in whom you believe. Ancient Faith Radio and patristic nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenem. Father Josiah is the pastor of Saint 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, I greet you, brothers and sisters, on this Feast Day of the Nativity of the forerunner. This incredible birthday is the third most glorious birthday in 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 the forerunner, on the twenty fourth of June. He was six months older then his cousin the Lord. We celebrate this as one of the three fundamental feast days of the forerunner and Baptist. His main feast day is the day after theophany. January six is the feast of our Savior's baptism. The next day is the fore runners day. We also remember his beheading on the twenty ninth of August, his martyric witness, and then to day, his Nativity. He has other feast days as well, but these are the three major feast days. I wonder if you prepared for his birthday. I wonder what you're going to give him. We are going to celebrate with a little lenton chocolate cake today following the liturgy, but don't miss brothers and sisters celebrating the birthday of the forerunner and the baptist. Show him by your concern, by your attendance at his services. And they don't. Doesn't always fall on Sunday. It's not 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 or the children's birthday. Are you going to forget those? I don't think so. I don't think so. Remember his birthday. Come with me, if you would, to that mysterious announcement of John's birth, the great miracle of the conception in the womb of Elizabeth, who had been barren. Come with me and stand next to the Prophet Zacharias as he's fulfilling his priestly duty in the temple, when he receives that shaking revelation from the Archangel and he hears that even though he's an old man...

...and even though his wife is an old woman, and though they have prayed for many years and decades faithfully for a child, and though they have endured the sorrow, much greater then than now, 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 presence of the Archangel Gabriel. He hears that Elizabeth will conceive and that the child will 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 their children not great before men but great in God's sight, able to stand before the Lord without shame, to be esteemed by the Lord himself. Zacharias hears this, not only will he have a child, but this child will be esteemed by God, truly great, a man of immense character. If, then he hears that he will be the forerunner of the Messiah and that he will come to fulfill this function in fulfillment of the Prophets, in the spirit and 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 extreme asceticism, someone who was a contradiction in the world, who would forsake family life, who would live as a proto monk for off to day. This is common then it was unheard of.

He would wear a leather belt about his waist as a sign of his mortification of his generative organs, the fact that he was mortifying his flesh in the service of the Lord. He would live, like Elias, in the desert. He would eat things that human beings didn't eat, things that could only be found in nature, Acrida or locusts. This is how he sustained himself. He would also be powerful before men, like Elias was. He would speak to kings who were rebellious in the name of God without fear. He would preach repentance. Then it says that he would not touch liquor or wine. He would be at Nazarete from his birth. He wouldn't drink anything. Instead, he would be saturated, intoxicated with the spirit of God. The forerunner would be of spirit bearer amongst men. Interestingly, that combination Saint Paul picks up and applies to all Christians when 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 taking this Nazarite combination that was found in John the Baptist's life and applying it to the 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 under the influence of the spirit of God. This is what the forerunner manifest the prophecy 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 sinful things or selfish things to pursuing the will of God? The prophecy said that he would turn many, he would be successful, and you can think, in fulfillment of this prophecy, of the crowds, the hundreds gathered at the Jordan river when he spoke. People felt the movement on the inside of their life. 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 as much as in life. He turned many to the Lord and he also turned, it says, the hearts of the fathers to the children. This is a cryptic state statement. Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children could mean that he was, through his influence, through his ministry, the stabilizer, the uniter of families, causing father to consider their children to be their great glory, their prime investment being willing to bend low and care for their children. I think it also could have larger generational context. The point is that 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 the will 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 this prophecy that he would turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, he would turn many to the Lord, he would turn the hearts of fathers to the 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 their own disobedient pleasures. He would grab them and he would say convince them by his life that that was not a good idea. This is the calling of the Prophets of the priesthood to convince those who are disobedient to the words of God that such a life is foolishness and it's better to accept the wisdom of the righteous, put yourself on course, to follow those that you respect before God. He affected these turns and there was great joy, it says in the text, joy and gladness, at his birth. When the most pure virgin 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, and Elizabeth was already in the sixth month. And when she crossed the threshold of her house, the forerunner, already inspired as an infant, as a fetus, already inspired by the Holy Spirit, danced and leapt in his mother's womb at the presence of the Virgin and of the Christ child. He already was a forerunner before he even got out of the womb. His mother, Elizabeth, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and then the virgin uttered those magnificent words that we sing in the ninth ode of every Arthros. My Soul Doth magnify the Lord that inspired canticle. There was an outbreak of joy starting in these holy homes, but that would fill...

...the whole world because of the coming of the forerunner and up because of the word that he was preparing the world to receive. Zacharias, however, had difficulty. Zacharias had doubt. He was worn down by his prayers. Perhaps he thought that the delay in the prayer was a sign of rejection. Maybe he thought, because he had asked for decades, that God had turned to deaf ear to him, and so when he saw the archangel he doubted him. He thought, can this really be? It was a hideous sin of unbelief. We should not miss how tragic it was and watch out for it ourselves. Saint Paul says that the whole forty years of the wandering in the wilderness that was done by the Jews was done for one reason. They could not enter the promised land. Saint Paul says in Hebrews, because of their unbelief. Zacharis doubted and then he learned 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, the pious disposition, in front of the mystery and the Providence of God, which is silence. Because he didn't freely choose it, it was imposed upon him and he had a nine months penance. For nine months he wasn't able to use his tongue and make any speech at all. It wasn't until the birth and 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 the church. E Seehea, it means inner stillness. This is what the Archangel was attempting to teach to Zacharias. It's the position of the heart, of the true believer before the mysterious presence of God. It's what we try to cultivate in ourselves through the use of the Jesus prayer. It's why you have prayer 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're not saying anything complex and you're not thinking compounded thoughts. You're humbling yourself in the presence of the Lord, trying to create silence. This silence is not unbelief, 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 you know in whom you believe, that he is far past tracing out, that his ways are not our ways, that no one has ever been his counselor no 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, who the True God is, that you practice silence and that when we don't understand things, we accept them. We take the position of convicted silence. We don't become quiet because of the absence of God, but because cause of his mysterious presence. That's why we take up the position of quiet. We have all together, you know, too much talk and all together too much talk about our faith, even when we need quiet so that we can accept God's mysterious presence and see the miracle that he's...

...working in front of us. This wonderful account ends by saying that John Grew what every prey parent wants to see their little ones growing. It says that John Grew and he became strong in spirit and he had his time in the wilderness. The character of the Baptist was manifested even when he was young. Don't think that character can't be manifest in children. It is, and John Demonstrated it. And it says that he 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 this life. 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 stayed there for decades until the word of God visited him and told him to come into the Holy Land and to make ready because the son of God was about to appear. This is the great man, the man it's incape were in capable of himing. No and Camian can praise him worthily. Only the Lord could do that, and he did.

He said, of this man, no one is greater, there is no person, no man born of a woman 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, our savior says, a shining torch heralding the coming of the light of the world, a radiant star whose movement across the course of the people of God's life, heralded the coming of the Sun of Righteousness. To the forerunner and Baptist John, we wish a magnificent birthday and a happy feast. You've been listening to a presentation of ancient faith radio and patristic nectar publications, the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenum. 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. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org. Until next time,.

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