The Arena
The Arena

Episode 567 · 8 months ago

The Koinonia Miracle | Saint Pachomius the Great | Sunday of the Paralytic 2022


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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Hey everyone, Christ is risen. It's father Josiah. I want to tell you about our upcoming annual patristic nectar conference. It's entitled Holy Orthodoxy, presenting the Christian faith. It's going to be June three to five here at St Andrew Church in Riverside. I'd like to invite you all to come. You can come in person or you can schedule yourself to participate in the live stream, including q and a, and you'll be able to have all of the presentations put into your account at the conclusion of the conference. We have a great lineup of speakers. The keynotes father maximus constants, but Dr t Conpino will be speaking, father bog done buckler and myself. Hope you can come. God be with you. For these and other titles. Please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trenna. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, I've entitled my homily this morning the keen onea miracle. I am deriving this title from the life of St Pocomias, which you'll find out in just a minute. But you heard that Marvelous Gospel of the healing of the paralytic that we always read on the sport Sunday of Holy Pasca. The Gospel presents to US Christ in the midst of his church, healing us. The church heals people, dear ones. We all know this from our own lives. It's where Christ meets us and it's where he asks us. In these walls, he asks us that important question. Do you want to get well? Do you want to be better? The issue is not whether we can get well, but if we really want to get well or not. Is it really the chief ambition of our life to become healthy, to become what God is asking each of us to become? Or have we set limits on this? And our answer to his question that he asked the man, do you wish to get well? Is Our answer to that question. Yes, Lord, but only if it's easy. or Yes, Lord, but only if you don't ask me to do that. or Yes, but you fill in the blank. I could draw from my pastoral life many words to fill in the blank. Yes, Lord, but not if you ask me to forgive Soanso, not if you ask me to stop nurturing my anger, not if you're saying that I have to love that person who did that to me. Yes, Lord, but not if I have to keep trying and never stop trying. Yes, Lord, it not if I have to refuse to give in to depression or whatever it might be. Often, I think we think we're not well because, like that man said, there's no man to help me. We projected, when in fact it maybe that we have limiting conditions that subsequently prevent our own healing. And there are all sorts of reasons why we sometimes don't want to get well. Too, maybe the answer isn't even yes, I want to get well. Like if we have to accept responsibility and put aside the excuse crutch, or we have to stop the pity party, because there isn't anything left to elicit perpetual sympathy in our life. As a consequence of being healthy, whatever, we have to look into our own hearts. Today, though, we are celebrating a man who absolutely wanted to get well. He didn't just want to get well, he was willing to do God's will, no matter what it was, to make it so... his own life and then to become a great healer in the church, which is what St pocomias became. He is one of the great spiritual physicians who taught widely, thousands and thousands of people how to get well in his own lifetime and since that time he is most famous for teaching believers how to live healthy both in body and soul, and how to live with each other. This is why I call it the keen nonia miracle. When he was done with his life, at the end of his life, after he had taught thousands and thousands of people, mostly monks and nuns, but also, through them, people like us who live in the world, how to live healthy lives with each other and with God, he named his community keen Nonia and ever since that time, Saint pocomias has been sat pocomias and his key no Nia, his sweet Christian fellowship, his communion. He is the great teacher of this and I want to share some snippets from his radiant life that I think are of incredible importance, especially to us who live here and now as Orthodox Christians in the falling west of the twenty one century. Let me tell you a little bit about his early life. He was born in Upper Egypt around two hundred and ninety two, into a pagan family, born and raised a pagan. His parents were active pagans. They practiced their polytheism. They ate food sacrifice to idols and they thought that was a very important thing to do. They took their children to the Pagan temples to hear the prophecies of the Oracles, which were in fact demons appearing as idols. This is how pocomias grew up with his parents. His life says that as a young man he felt a deep aversion, a growing discomfort with this life, with this relationship to the idols. When he was about twenty years of age, the emperor, the Roman emperor, ordered a conscription, a mandatory draft into the Imperial Army. It was forcible under arms and confinement, and so pocomias, is a young, strong twenty year old, was taken, as were lots of other men, and they were kept in a military camp for training, but also military camp under guard lest the men leave. He found himself with many other young men in rather uncomfortable and threatening conditions, and this is where he first encountered us. He first met Christian people when he was in this camp, because Christians near the area would come in the evening and visit the young soldiers, bring them homemade food, encourage them and sought nothing from them except God's reward. This absolutely blue pocomias. The way. Who are these people? They don't know me. Why are they coming to the camp and making me homemade food, making me feel better since I'm missing my family? Why are they encouraging me and why do they do this and ask for literally nothing from me? He was deeply attracted, deeply impressed, and when pocomias was released from his service, he went right to them. As soon as he got out of the military, he went right to see the Christians, received catechism and was baptized, and he lived for three years in a community near where he was released, deepening his devotion to Christ. Notice that I want to point out a few things from this early part of his life. First, pocomias was a convert to Holy Orthodoxy, and yet became a great saint and a guide to the whole world, and remains such today. It matters very little whether we're born Orthodox or if we convert to orthodoxy. What matters is if we live orthodoxy, if we don't learn to live for...

God, neither background is going to save us. Note also that the church only mentions his being a convert here in a short biographical note. If you didn't know his life and you had been reading his teachings in the church, fathers and the other Gettinos for your whole life receiving instruction, you would have no idea that he was a convert at twenty years of age. We only know because of this short biographical note at the beginning him his long recorded life. And this is our tradition for basically all the very many convert saints. There being a convert or born our Orthodox matters very little to the church except as a basic biographical datum. That's it. So for us we ought to be very careful about talking about converts and cradles as though these epithets actually mean mean anything at all. They mean nothing about a person's piety, about a person's virtue, about a piste, person's reliability. Doesn't matter. You may be the thirty ninth generation of Orthodox people from such and such a village that has great saints in it, and you may be a devil and it made mean nothing to you except a great weight of judgment on the last they are. You may be a convert who really changed your whole life and gave your life to Christ, et Cetera, but you only last a month and you're gone. What does it matter? What matters is who you are and how you're living. Are you practicing the faith? Are you loving God? These epithets don't actually tell us anything, since sometimes they're used as pejoratives by opposing groups. Cradles sometimes talk about those converts. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, as though to cast aspersions of fanaticism upon them, and converts sometimes talk about the cradles to cast aspersions of nominalism, like they got it in their blood but not in their head. In reality, both those who are born Orthodox and those who convert to orthodoxy can be fanatical, and both can be nominal, and sometimes both in a single lifetime. Note also that same Pocomius was one over to the Christian faith both by a deep dissatisfaction with paganism and by a deep attraction to the loving behavior of Christians. I want you to see that, because this is a common recipe for everyone who joins the church, for everyone who decides, for Christ's safe to be, become an Orthodox Christian. There have to be some measure of dissatisfaction, or else why would they be open to such a radical change? And there have to be an attraction. This is always the case, and it was the case for him. By the inspiration of God, he was deeply suspicious of idolatry, and by the example of the loving and self sacrificial service of Christians who engaged him completely altruistically, he was drawn to Jesus and to our faith. It's exactly what the Lord said. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have loved one for another. Christ like love, joined to fervent confession of the truth is the powerhouse that drives church growth. Then and now, our brothers and sisters and thevies where he was on the northeast portion of the Nile that up into the north in Egypt. They were in the middle of the third century when they were doing this, a time it was very dangerous to be public Christians, and yet these brothers and sisters of our started among the Ministry to visit new soldier conscripts who were a difficult spot. They sought nothing from them. They only wanted to...

...bless them, they only wanted to encourage them. This kind of tangible, creative, what I call off the property of the church. Engagement is absolutely splendid, Super Glorious, and look at the fruit. The love starts here, for sure, in your families and between all of us, but it can't stop here. It has to spread to those who visit us here and also spread to those outside that we can go visit ourselves, naturally, beginning with our family and friends and continuing. While I was preparing this sermon, I took out the list of new converts this year. I looked at those thirty seven names and I went one by one by one to see if I could recognize who had first brought them to church. How did they end up here? Families and friends, families and friends bringing the love of God outside. This is how it happened universally. Let me tell you a little bit about his monastic life. After three years, the Commius sought the guidance of a spiritual father. His name was St Paul Moon. He's commemorated on August the twelve. He was very zealous living as a hermit. He ate once a day, at sunset in summer every other day in winter. You know the desert fathers from this time and on focused very carefully on the issue of gluttony. Of all the passions in the writings of the desert fathers, of all the passions that are addressed, nothing receives more teaching than how to be temperate in eating. They considered it fundamental. Besides Palmon's ascetic discipline, he also read the psalms constantly and punctuated after so many psalms, he would read prayers and they go back to the psalms. He labored in the memorization of Scripture and he worked with his hands constantly to provide for his own needs and to have a little bit of money to share with the poort he made. He wove a little baskets of palm fronds and, having established his devotion to God in an unwavering commitment to his spiritual father and to his guidance, God appeared to him and called pocomias, the disciple, to build a monastery there by the Nile in Tabanisi. He began by himself, and then his older brother came John, who had become a Christian too. They labored together and then an angel appeared to pocomias and said this. He said it's God's will that you serve the human rays, to reconcile them with him. What an incredible vision. Mostly we think when we see people run to the deserts or withdraw from Urban Society, we think that they are leaving the human race, they're leaving us, but that is exactly not what they're doing. They're leaving US temporarily to embrace good, to deepen their relationship with God in an undistracted way so that then they can, in response, embrace the world set Sila one is the most recent, having reposed in one thousand nine hundred thirty eight. He's the most recent voice for this Pocomian heart that came from the angel, which came from God. I want you to do this. I want you to serve the human race. Comius got it from then. Men came to learn from him from many places. He established them in a prayer room, he served them himself, he cooked for them, he guided them, he tended the sick. He had every man live alone, but joined together for many common devotions and teachings, and the men were rough for five years, for Commius endured unbelievable abuses from those that he was serving and after five years of extreme patience, he established a certain rule, a common king onea...

...a rule of life that got himself had given through the angel. That was written down, and anyone who wouldn't agree to it he drove away. The monks lived in cells that were established in common houses. Each house would have different cells in it, between twenty and forty months in each house. Each house was usually associated by a common labor these are the men who build huts, these the men who we've baskets, these are the men who cultivate the fields. Each would be in its own house. They gathered three times a day to recite common prayers. All the monks were forbidden by pocomias to be ordained or even to talk about it, and Sat pocomias himself fled ordination. He greatly feared the possessing of authority and he thought that the desire for ordination would end up causing conflicts and divide the brothers. In fact, was a beautiful, famous story. Saint Athanasius the great heard about Saint Procolmias and was so taken by St Pacolmias that the Great Patriarch of Alexandria went to see him, and pocolmias got word that Saint Athanasius was coming and when say Athny's just showed up, pocomias disappeared. No one could find him. He hid and he didn't come out from hiding until Athanasius left, and Athanasius his opinion of him only went up. He didn't take him as an insult, he took it as the men was serious. This is how much he feared leadership and authority. After one hundred men joined pocomias, he built a church and he asked the local village priest to come and serve the liturgy regularly for the months because he didn't want any of the monks and himself to be a priest. Three times a week sat pocomias gave a catechesis from the scriptures, a teaching of formal teaching to the monks and on the fast days of Wednesdays and Fridays, the head of each house, each one of those houses had a head, the head of House also gave a catchisis expounding the holy scriptures and teaching on the spiritual life from the fathers, his books. Sa Procomius, his sister Maria came to him and he made her a nun and he established a convent in the local village. Many people came that the saint did not accept, but with those that he did accept, those who he thought were meant business, he labored day and night with every person, each one, to free them from the bondage of their passions. One year he sent one hundred months away from the monastery for their recalcitrans and at that time they were only three hundred months living with him. One third of his community he sent back into the world because he thought that their lack of commitment would undermine the work of the monastery. It's written in his life these words. He taught that the spiritual healing of souls which, turning from error or negligence, come to the knowledge of the True God and repent, is greater than the healing of the body. This is our vision, and he never asked God for special revelations or visions. He got them, but he never asked for them. And when he was asked about his visions, this is what he said. Quote. If you see a man that is pure, if you see a man that is humble, that is a great vision. For what is greater than such a vision to see the invisible God in a visible man? The Temple of God. Eventually he founded nine monasteries and too convents, and the number of his monks and nuns reached seven thousand. They would all gather together once a year for the celebration of POSCA. All the monks and nuns would come for POSCA and he called this massive community his Keynoonia, his communion, his fellowship. He lived out his life exactly as one of them. He didn't have a special room, that said Abbot, he didn't have special clothes.

He dressed ate and acting exactly like everyone else. He kept his chores in his house like everyone else. He taught the scriptures, he provided spiritual guidance, lived as a simple monk, as a member of the house, following the same disciplines. And around Pasca, three hundred and forty six and epidemic struck. He nursed those who had the disease. One hundred of his monks died and so did he, and when he died, Saint Anthony the great, who was still living. He was almost a hundred years old at the time of pocomias's death. He's actually older than pocomias by forty two years. Anthony was born into fifty, but he lived until three fifty six. At a hundred and five, he was still living when pocomias died, and when pecomias died. Saint Anthony from the desert said that in his eulogy that he was a new apostle from God and he was the founder of the CENABITIC light. He taught the way to live together as monks and nuns. His life and his teachings inspired the desert fathers and their ridings in the other get, you knows, have guided believers for the last seventeen centuries. This is same for Comius. Let me conclude my homily by making a couple more applications to us. Note that the great goal for St pocomias was to fashion humble and loving people. That was the goal. That's what he considered the grand vision. This is what he really wanted to see. This is his prophetic vision of glorious transformation of Christ likeness. This is what he cared about and this is what everything was focused on. The formation of people like Christ who were humbled. This is the future he labored for and foresaw, and note also his abhorrence of exercising authority over others. He wanted, like his master Christ, to be amongst the brethren as one who serves, not as one who was served, and this servant mentality is what animates true fellowship, true Kinoea note also the importance that he placed upon gracious community standards, but also not compromising them. He didn't build his keenoia by demanding that all the monks lived according to his standard. The standard that he set was much lower than he was living is a matter of fact. When he deceived the rule from the angel, he protested. He said this is way too easy, there are not enough prayers. He was afraid of establishing two low of a standard, and the angel replied and said this. All that I prescribe is to ensure that even the little ones can observe the rule without discouragement. As for the perfect, they have no need of laws. In their cells, they consecrate their whole lives to the contemplation of God. What a vision, what a vision. Healthy parishes nourish servants, healthy parishes cultivate humility. Healthy parishes don't try to be monasteries, but they also don't allow scandalous laxity or what I call the lowest common denominator mentality of spiritual devotion and note. Lastly, the centrality, the serious commitment to spiritual study, to catechesis, to the scriptures. We all know because we've witnessed it for the last thirty years of our parishes existence and, by the way, our formal thirty year anniversaries is November. We all know that serious catechusis grows the church. We've seen this.

We know this. We give our catechumen serious catechism and they because we take them seriously, they take Christ seriously and they take the process seriously. We learned this, of course, from the Great Commission. Make Disciples of all the nations, he says, our Lord, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. What a sweeping catechtical task Michael. Michael's driving our catechism ministry. That's a huge task, a massive task. But notice he didn't Pocomius is focus on Catechisis wasn't for the converts, it wasn't to get them into the church. That's important. It was to keep Christians, Christians in the church. Five catechy season week, two on Wednesdays and Fridays, from the house master and three from St pocomias himself. Five days they heard sermons and spiritual guidance five days a week. Brothers and sisters, there is no becoming what we need to be, there's no transformation into loving and humble people without the scriptures and without serious catechesis. As believers, we can't put these things aside and say, oh, that's for the converts. It's not for the converts, it's not for the catechumans. Is for every believer. The word of God is the bread that makes our Christian life grown. Jesus says you do not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. I want to say this from St procomias. Is Life to stir you to keep your commitment to learning, to reading the Psalms and the scriptures fervent until your last breath. This will energize you from God. It will forward, move forward your transformation and will be healed. The church hells people us, as she does it through the Agency of true Christian Fellowship, of sacred communion of the keenonea miracle. Our life is a miracle of change, of transformation, and may the prayers and the example of St procomias guide us like it has guided our forbears for one thousand seventeen hundred years. Christ has reason if the catechumans would please come for prayer. 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 would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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