The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 1 year ago

The Glory of Praying Man | Sunday After Transfiguration 2021


The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar is pleased to offer a new nine part series entitled the Mother of God in our lives. This offering is the fruit of a three day conference hosted by Patristic Nectar Publications, a collaboration of many clergy scholars, including the keynote speaker, His grace Bishop Irenae of London, as well as his Grace Bishop Basil of Wichita, Archimandrite Maximos Konstas, Father Kalinique Burgher, Father Chad Hatfield and father John Parker. The lectures are dedicated to an edifying examination of the great feasts of the Mother of God, as well as additional lectures on particular aspects of the life of the most holy Theotokos, and her role in the lives of Christian believers. For these and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar. God Work and now the arena with Father Josiah Trenna, the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. A blessed Lord's Day to all of you, brothers and sisters. I've entitled my homily this morning the glory of praying man, the glory of praying man. This is the Sunday following the feast of the transfiguration of our Lord on Mount Tabor, a Glorious Day for us, a day in which our Savior took Peter, James and John to the top of the mountain, a magnificent mountain that has become a holy site, a place of sacred pilgrimage, of inspiration to Christian vision ever since. It's a grief. I think that many Christians know very little about the transfiguration. We, of course, celebrated every year on the sixth of August. We spend a week dancing under its light, making sure that it is deeply impressed into our hearts, that it informs our reason for life. But many don't, especially Christians who call on the name of Jesus and have no Christian calendar. They never have celebrated the Feast of the transfiguration. The really robbed of this this glory. transfiguration sets the aspiration for a Christian. What Jesus experience, the radiating of his humanity with the glory of God that he intentionally experienced in the presence of Peter James and John, has set the... has helped us understand God's purposes with us, what he intends for us, what our future holds. You know, it's just this vision which has captured the Christian heart for the last two thousand years and has led to great effort and great humility on the part of Christians, which has opened up the floodgates of God's grace and has made saints. It's just this vision that we particularly lacked right now. It's just gone our great men, the great influencers of our time, some would say the robber barons of this age. They have no vision inspired by Tabor. They have a vision for man, but it is a grotesque vision, it is a beanal vision, it's a vision completely measured by the exterior and completely measured by the physical. The vision of men like Bezos and Zuckerberg and white and mosque is a vision of perfect acting man's physicality, of increasing his his brain. So instead of the glory of praying man, which is the Christian vision which you see today, it's the glorying of thinking man. I was listening to a new interview of Elon Musk this week on his concern, his growing concern, about artificial intelligence he has a deep worry that, as companies are and nations are building artificial intelligence, that we're doing it without the proper protocols, without regulation. He's very concerned. In fact, he has said many times that in his mind, the development of artificial intelligence is far more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Can you imagine saying something like that? He doesn't explain in great detail exactly what what it calls digital intelligence is going to do to us and frankly I think his evaluation is quite skewed, because even when a man becomes a materialist like musk is, you can't escape the innate reality, the fact that God fashioned you in his image. Even if you don't want to acknowledge God, even if you don't want to think that you have that inherent dignity, you still can't keep it from coming out and the way that you think and ascribing some sort of sense of greater a greater destiny of humanity. And so he is often going between his descriptions of the brain. He has a company that's designed just to increase the use of our brain space, to make smarter people smarter, because that is evidently supposed to help the human race. Evidently our troubles in life...

...are because we're not smart enough. I wonder how you would apply that measure to the devil. A man smarter than any human being has ever been or ever will be short of paradise in some reason his smarts haven't helped him some produce some beautiful end. No, unfortunately, this very sad, reductionistic view of humanity can't address humans real problems, which is not that we aren't smart enough. Something much more complex. Are Sins. If we had a little more brain power would we be would we be more faithful people? If we were a little bit smarter, would we lie less or would we lie more? What about our conscience? If we increase our smarts, what would we do with our conscience? Does neural link solve the problem with the human conscience? What about our own internal yearning for meaning? Is it really going to be satisfied by just being able to drive faster cars and have them drive for us, or just taking that exponentially out? More technology is going to somehow satisfy our yearning for ultimate meaning, or is that something that can actually be squished right out of the human race? What about our own sense of being fractured, our own perception of alienation, and I don't just mean alienation between each other, I mean alienation within ourselves, being fractured people. Do the great leaders of our time, who are throwing out a vision that they wanted to spend all of our money and resources to acquire, have a solution for that? Is the coming singularity going to solve our problem with our own sense of alienation? And what about our real enemies? What about them? It certainly must be a terror for a materialist to actually meet a demon. It certainly must be a there it's shaking enough for Christians to do so, although, as you saw in the Gospel, since we have the savior that we have, who has such a complete dominance over the unseen world and over the dark powers, we are able to negotiate our lives by faith in him without too much terror. A deep sense of care for sure, but not terror.

And I think the materialists are on principle, since they don't believe that there are such things as immaterial beings. Certainly I doubt that the demons are going to leave them alone forever, for a little while, maybe to further their purposes. C S Lewis says that the demons have hidden themselves from much of Western secular man because they've already won and to appear to them would in fact undo their accomplishments and get materialist man to start thinking about the next life. And so they hide themselves. But I wonder how long they'll do that. And then, of course, the ultimate threat. Does this vision of thinking man ever improving? CAN IT solve death? Can it bring someone to peace with death? I think not. No, the transfiguration, brothers and sisters, provides the vision of human life, of human destiny that we need. Vain. Is the quest of human perfection that are elite offers us today, then, all unsatisfying. Instead, we have Tabor, this marvelous mountain that has become so dear to Christian hearts. You know, we have our own mountain. I know many of you have been to Mount Tabor, at least some of you have, but even more have been to Mount Rubadaux, our own mountain. Mount Rubidoux has that sacred cross, and so many of you walk it. So many of you use it as an opportunity to clear your head, an opportunity to go up and stand beneath that forty foot cross and to have some perspective, envision and to pray. Mount Tabor is eighteen hundred and eighty six feet tall. It's not a very big mountain. It wasn't Everest. Jesus wasn't trying to make the point that it's impossible to seek glory. He was trying to make the point that you can't seek glory without making effort, without intentionality, without striving to seek God. Our Mount Rubidoux's thirteen hundred feet. It's close, only five hundred feet smaller. I'm holding this marvelous rock as my Mount Tabor rock. I actually have two, but one is out right now doing its wonders, no doubt reminding people of their future, especially when they're confronted by these enemies that I mentioned, especially when we're confronted by sickness. I like to bring my Mount Table Rock to the ill in the parish and let them hold it for a few days. Many of our parishioners have died with the Tabor rock on their body or next to their body to remind them of our vision, the vision that Jesus has given us. Dear ones, he went up to the mountain, it says.

I want to make one central point about what took place on that mountain, and that is that this glory, this transfiguration of Christ, when the veil, so to speak, of his humility and his flesh was pulled back and the radiance of his divinity shone through and we could clearly see that he assumed humanity without ceasing to be divine, joining humanity to his divinity. He did this in a state of prayer, and this is what I like to emphasize. It says to introduce the pericope. It says that they went up to the mountain to pray. There's no notion that Jesus went up on the mountain so that he could be glorified and make it about to be about his glorification. He went up to pray. Why? Because he had just told the disciples that he was going to be betrayed, that he was going to be given into the hands of sinful men, he was going to be falsely accused and he was going to be murdered. He went up onto the mountain to strengthen himself for the Cross and he brought Peter, James and John, very much like he brought his disciples into his presence when he went to get seventy and they're in his Agonia, struggled to accept the passion of the Cross. This is what's happening here. He went up to pray, and I think that's extremely important to see. The Glory of Christ and of Christians joined to him takes place in prayer. Look at the kind of prayer that we're dealing with here, intentional prayer. This is the first thing about this prayer. I want you to see. There was an intentionality. They went for one reason to pray. Is this not a beautiful example for us? And do we not know that when we intentionally devote ourselves to prayer, not just a prayer here and there, but when we have intentionality to do something, when we climb that mountain because we have a burden on our heart and we want to get up there using our prayer rope and come down using our prayer rope and to sit under the cross on Mount Rubador to pray exclusively, this is wise. This is wise when you come to church with the intention, the chief intention, to stand in this house for one reason, to pray. There's a lot of sub reasons to be here, but none of them are the chief reason. The chief reason is to pray. Come here to pray. When you go to monasteries on pilgrimages, of course it's wonderful to go to monasteries. It's wonder volt to visit their bookstores, to meet lots of...

...wonderful people, to see magnificent places. None of those are the main reason for going to a monastery. We go to monasteries to pray. When we go out to rejuvenate our souls into nature to have some peace, it's wonderful to see the streams, it's wonderful to fish, it's wonderful to feel fresh air, but when we do it for our souls, when we retreat to nature for our souls, we do it to pray. INTENTIONALITY is key. And notice also they went up. Emphasis upon up. It's not just intentionality, it's striving. It's striving. Not everyone can ascend a mountain comfortably. I don't know if Peter, James and John were super fit. I don't know. I don't know what their first thought was when they heard from Jesus were going up that one thousand eight hundred foot mountain. I don't know what your thought would be if I said after Church that they were all going up Mount Rubedo. Some of you would be yes, let's go, others he would be oof, oof, but they went up, they pushed themselves, and the point is that that they were leaving their earthly concerns. They didn't bring them with them to the mountain to pray. They pushed themselves to leave aside those things so that they could truly be with God. And that's what you do, I think, when you come here to pray. Right we're about to say those precious words, let us leave aside all earthly cares that we might receive the king of all who comes to us in visibly, unborn by the angelic coasts. Leaving aside the earth is exceedingly important, brothers and sisters, if you want to have a prayer that's glorious, a prayer that is effective, a prayer that actually brings union with God. They went up to pray and then, the Gospel writer says, as he was praying, his his garments shone as white as light as he was brained. You see the emphasis on prayer. The Path, brothers and sisters, to glory is intentional, effort filled prayer. It's in prayer where all of our great struggles are reconciled. This is why Jesus, burdened by the Cross, took his disciples to prayer. And what happened? Unspeakable glory. He revealed his divinity. Moses and Elias appeared speaking with him about the cross, two men who had done exactly this. They had fashioned themselves as mighty prayer warriors. Moses...

...was able to save the entire people of Israel more than once when God had resolved to judge them. God even told Moses, Moses, get out of the way, I am done with this people and I am going to destroy them now. And Moses, by his prayer alone, changed God's mind. That's how powerful the Prayer Warrior Moses was. Eli Is opened and closed the heavens by his prayers. Elias breathed on the face of a dead boy and brought him back to life. Alias caused a little handful of flower and a little pinch of olive oil to sustain a woman and her child and himself for days and days and days, maybe up to a year. Alie is called fire from heaven down to the Earth by his prayers. Now you may be thinking, father, that's Moses, that's alias, that's not me. How do I have a glorious prayer like this. You know, this exactly what the St James in his epistle thought you would think when you hear stories like that. When he says in the fifth chapter of his Epistle, St James says the effectual prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. He Thought, oh well, you're you're talking about the prayer of a person like Elias and he's special. I'm not a prophet, he said in his epistle. He said Elias was a man with a nature like ours, and he said to the heavens, don't reign for three years, and it didn't reign for three years and six months, and then he said reign in the reigned again. He was a man with a nature like arts. He fashioned him self, brothers and sisters, by his intentionality, by his willingness to strive to form prayer, by his yearning for God, he fashioned himself into a prayer warrior. I'm not a prophet, father, don't use that for me. You might even be saying I'm not even a shouldn't even be called a decent Christian. Okay, I'll give you that. Even that doesn't mean yet you can't fashion significant, powerful, glorious prayer. You can. He might even say, well, father, I'm just a pagan. Then, even then, I would say you can fashion powerful prayer. Do you know the story of Cornelius, the Centurion, acts chapter ten? A Pagan, a pagan, and yet he strove with what he had, with the light that he had, he strove to pray and he brought heaven to the Earth. God dispatched an angel to him because he was praying as a pagan. So sincerely, no, brothers and sisters, the glory of Man is in his prayer.

This is the glory of Man, not thinking a little better, not being able to process mental equations faster. No, the glory of Man is union with God. The glory of Man is the joy and the dignity of being able to pray. Sincerely, this is what we should be striving for. This is the greatest human accomplishment, the greatest human creation, the greatest human invention, the greatest masterpiece of any human person is a life of prayer and it's the path to glorification, not just for Christ, for us, Jesus is radiance. This is our future. This is what he says. He says a time is coming, when the angel of God, Angels of God at the end, will be sent for from the father and they'll gather out the sons of the kingdom, and then they will shine like the sun in the glory of my father forever. This is the future of believers, a radiant, unspeakable glory. I want to end with this beautiful quote. It's meant for people like us who are doubting that we can strengthen our prayer. It comes from St Philoret of Moscow, who died in eighteen sixty seven. It comes from a newly translated sermon that he gave on the transfiguration, and this is what he says. This is how he ends the sermon, given eighteen twenty. He says pray, Oh Christian, with a strong prayer, with the full strength of your soul, with attentive and persistent prayer, with good and pure prayer. If you do not find such prayer within yourself, then pray for that kind of prayer and through prayer you will first find sincere and active prayer and then, together with you, it will defeat all evil and it will find everything for you, leading you up to Tabor or revealing tabor within you. It will call heaven down into your soul and it will raise your soul to heaven. I 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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