The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

The Saints: The Great Cloud of Witnesses

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First Sunday after Pentecost. Learn more about Patristic Nectar Publications.

Many American Christians do not understand thesaints. They have no relationship with the saints on principle. They think we'resuperstitious, if not outright idolatrous, for having a relationship with the saints,for believing that they're alive, for engaging with them, for calling upon themin prayer. The lives of the saints, this essential aspect of the Christian life, is a stumbling block for many today. Ancient Faith Radio and patristicnectar 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 committedto nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. Formore information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristicnectar dot org. And now, Father Josiah, the name of the fatherand of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Brothers andsisters, we are in that time of the year when we acknowledge in ourfamilies our graduates, our children and grandchildren, who have reached a very significant pointin their life and are graduating from high school, from university, fromgraduate school. Many of us will, if we haven't already, attend theseparties and celebrations. They're significant to us. We honor those who have reached thisimportant point of their life and no doubt in the course of the celebrationsand probably at the graduation itself, we will listen to the advice of someoneesteemed wise, some sage. It's my experience that this is often a mixedbag. We listen to advice given to our children and it depends what's setting, it's in, depending upon what the school is, what we're going tohear. I heard some interesting things this year, a combination of the good, bad and a hockey one of the main themes was to be powerful,hm deep, profound or not. Lots of advice. We gathered in thestadium, hundreds of people and there were...

...the graduates down on the field.You heard in the epistle lesson that exact same image. You heard the exactsame description and you heard very wise advice from St Paul. He's describing inhis epistle to the Hebrews, which was read this morning. He was describingthe lives of the truly honorable, those who have truly graduated from the mostimportant course and lesson of life, the saints, in this case the saintsof the Old Covenant. He names them by name, many of them.He mentioned some of their victorious deeds, how, by their faith, theyconquered evil and triumphed over the works of the enemy, stared down death inthe face, received their own beloved back by resurrection, suffered terrible persecution andconsidered faithfulness to God supreme. They were willing to go into the deserts andcaves of the Earth and hide there and to flee city life at the time, because the only way that they could hold on to their faith without compromisewas to do so. It's a marvelous list about the saints. And thenhe says this, therefore, and here's the image, therefore, being surroundedby so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run the race that isset before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfectorof our faith. You get it right. There is a competition going on.There is a race being run on the field of the stadium. Thatrace is being run by us, by the recipients of St Paul's epistle.There are those who have already run that race and successfully won it, andthey have moved from the field to the stands. The saints are in thebleachers. They are a cloud of witnesses surrounding us. They are no longerstruggling. Their cheering, their praying, their interceding and their presence is essentialin our victory. Their presence is the message not just of the epistolescent,but of this Sunday, All Saints Day. Brothers and sisters, the lives ofthe saints we cannot live without. They manifest to us what we areto thee. This is why this Sunday always follows pentecost. The Holy Spiritdescends upon pentecost and fulfillment of our Savior's promise. And always, one weeklater, the church calls our attention to...

...what is the work that the HolySpirit does? He makes people gods, he wins hearts, he turns sinnersinto saints, he produces all of these magnificent saints that constitute this beautiful iconof All Saints, men and women, young and old, from every walkof life and every culture, who have one thing in common their love forGod and their holiness. He is, at this moment, covering the earthwith the knowledge of God, like the waters cover the sea. He's changingmen and women, and this, above any other vocation or calling, beingpowerful or whatever you're going to hear at some graduation day, this is thecalling in vocation of every man, woman and child to become God's holy theLords, to become set apart to his service, to become numbered with thosewho will dwell in his kingdom forever. This is the message of All SaintsDay. Now I should mention what you know to be true, and thatis the lives of the saints constitute a massive stumbling block today for many ofour fellow Americans. Many American Christians, do not understand the saints. Theyhave no relationship with the saints on principle. They think we're superstitious, if notoutright idolatrous, for having a relationship with the saints, for believing thatthey're alive, for engaging with them, for calling upon them in prayer.We know this to be true. The lives of the saints, this essentialaspect of the Christian life is a stumbling block for many today. This isbecause of a teaching, and erroneous teaching, about salvation, which wants us tobelieve that salvation means that you're forgiven of your sins and when you dieyou go to heaven as a forgiven person. There's not much more to it thanthat. This is not our view of salvation, although we extol theLord's mercy, we Adore His grace for his free forgiveness. We embrace it. As the chief of sinners, each one of us, we know thatwe're justified and saved by the mercy of Jesus, our Savior, who cameto redeem us. We believe this, but that is where salvation begins.That is not where salvation ends. It starts there and it leads to thesanctification of people in mind, body and soul, and it leads eventually totheir union with God and their transformation such...

...that they become like Christ. Theyknow like he knows, they see like he sees, they love like heloves. In the words of the Holy Fathers, we become by grace whathe is by nature, and that theos is that transformation is what enables thosewho have gone on before us, to be alive far more than they wereever alive in this life, to see far greater than they've ever seen.There's a beautiful account of this transformation in the life of a saint that wecommemorated yesterday. His name is Columba of Iona, one of the Great GreatIrish Saints Sixth Century and seventh. He built a monastery in the Hebrides island, chained on the west of Scotland, and he evangelized all of northern Englandand southern Scotland. He was an incredible man. His life was written byan Abbot of the monaster he established on this island that succeeded him. It'sa penguin classic. You can get it at the book store. On oneoccasion he was walking around the island doing his prayer walk. He came tothe west side of the island. It's only about three miles to make thewalk. He was on the west side, on the Atlantic facing side of theisland, and he had a foretaste of Tabor at glory. He hada personal experience of theos as he was praying and he was looking at thecove and as he was praying. He ascended higher and in his vision hewas able to see the entire island. And then he has sat ascended higher. He was able to see all of southern Scotland and northern England, hisflock, his evangelistic field. And then he describes that he was able tosee the entire sphere of the earth, the entire earth. This is calledseeing with Christ's eyes. It's foreshadowed by many experiences in the scriptures, likethat which was experienced by the Prophet Elijah in the Old Testament, who wasable to see into the Syrian king's tent three hundred miles away. He wasable to hear all the mill Terry plans that that Syrian king was making,where he was going to send soldiers and how many. And Elisha, theProphet, sent to the King of Israel all of the status the all thestrategy plans of the Syrian king, so that time after time after time,when the Syrian king attempted to attack Israel, the soldiers were waiting for him andhis forces were slaughtered. He thought what any reasonable person would think,there's a traitor in my midst. He began to interrogate his most loyal subjects, until a little slave girl who had been taken from Israel said you know, don't you know, about the Prophet Elisha. He sees and hears fromhis tent everything you're saying in yours.

Well, how does he do that? He was a human being. Right, of course he was, but hewas a human being in the spirit, a human being united to God.He was a foreshadowing, a taste of what takes place with every believerin the process cell of salvation going into the next life. Jesus is thehead of a body. Brothers and sisters, when he appears in glory, heappears in his saints, surrounded by those who are his magnificent trophies.He's not a decapitated head floating around in the air that individuals just jump upand grab. If you get him, you get the saints without question.This means that if we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and are notliving with the saints, we are suppressing truth. We are, on principle, missing a part of Christ and his wonder and glory and His saints.To honor the saints is not to dishonor Christ, it is to honor hisimage in them is to see him in his fullness. It's to love thosewhom he loves. How can you love someone dearly and not love those whomthey love? Starting with his mother, but with all the saints, andthe saints are real. One of the great father's, Athonite fathers of theearly twenty century was a man named Callistrato's father, callistratos. When I readhis life as a new priest, I could I've never forgotten in I thoughtof it every year, because it says in his life that he knew this, what I'm telling you, the reality of the saints, the fact thatthey're more alive than we are. He knew this in experience. I broughta little quote from his life. Listen to this. For callistratos, realitywas in those who existed behind the icons and frescoes, the saints who weredepicted, those who moved about him clothed in flesh and blood. That's us. Those who moved about him clothed in flesh and blood and wrapped in clothingseemed to him just symbolic and deceptive as shadows. Though dead, he consideredthe saints his true friends, but the living he considered uncertain. When onebishop asked him what is the most important thing for a priest, he answeredthe most important thing is to communicate first with the master, afterwards with theLords of the master servants and finally with...

...the master servants. The master ishe who he called Christ, the Master Servants Lords are the saints, butthe master servants are the people of this world. So who exists really?What a shame to even question the reality of the saints, who exist moretruly than we do. They exist, they care. You heard that inthe Eppis so lessen. They're in the stadium watching carefully. They see whatwe're doing, they care that we succeed. Their cheering US on. If youdon't think crowds help, you didn't watch the basketball game last night inMiami. Trust me, the saints are important. We have a beautiful visionof this, this interest of the saints in us on this Earth, givento us by St John, the divine, the theologian, in the apocalypse,in the apocalypse and the six chapter, he sees the fifth seal open andthen he sees the souls of the saints and they're dwelling under the altarof God and they are doing what many Christians think they're doing. They aren't. They're just leaping from cloud to cloud in bliss, plucking their proverbial harps. Is Not what they were doing. They were engaged in intercession for theliving. They were praying to the Lord, saying, Lord, Lord, howlong will you allow this vicious persecution against the saints to continue on theEarth? They knew that the persecutor was alive, they knew that their brothersand sisters on the Earth were still being persecuted and they were taking action onour behalf. This is what the saints do, their intercessors, and they'renot intercessors, brothers and sisters, like we're intercessors. You know, Iknow I've heard many of you use this illustration when you're talking to Protestant friendsand you say to them, well, praying, asking for the saints,of the prayers of the saints, is like asking your grandmother or your friendsto pray with you or for you. Sorry, that's just not true.It might work a little bit, you might get the door open a littlebit, but let me tell you, brothers and sisters, getting the prayersof the saints is a Gazillion I don't know what that means. A gazilliontimes more powerful than asking the prayers of your grandmother, unless she is asaint. Maybe she is. The saints are no longer in the grip ofsin. They see there with Christ. They have boldness and access to him. They get things done. Of course...

...we pray to them, not inplace of Christ, God forbid, who would do that? We pray tothem because of Christ. We honor the saints and pray to the saints becauseJesus is in them. That's why they're saints. We touch Jesus, USin our hands, fall onto them. It's impossible not for that not tohappen. And, brothers and sisters, without them we really don't know whatit means to live the Christian life. They teach us how to do it, especially the saints of our time. They ground us, they put ourfeet on the ground. They tell us this is how you walk, thisis what's possible, this is how you love God. In the midst ofit, I got reminded this week of the importance of being grounded. Itook Presbytera out to dinner this week Monday. We went to the California Pizza KitchenI like the California pizza kitchen because they have Sam Adams on tap.eraised that from the table and so I ordered my Sam Adams and then themost wondrous thing happened. The most wondrous thing. The waitress looked at meand she said, May I see your ID? I tried to get upto kiss her. I said thank you. I said, is this a trickso you can get a big tip? Well, anyways, and then shesaid something else woul made me very happy. She goes everyone who appearsunder forty. I'm required to ask him like I'm thank you again. SoI was waiting for my Sam Adams and Pressy Tera had to go freshen up, so I thought I would share my joy. So I sent the textto my spiritual father with my little phone and I said, guess what,I went out to dinner. I just got carded. Life is good.He happened to evidently be with his phone, because he sent me immediately back atext saying well, thank God, and I didn't know California pizza kitchenhired the blind. I was grounded. I was grounded, brothers and sisters, and it takes those who love us, who will tell us the truth.Really, those who love God,...

...the saints, they do tell usthe truth by their lives and they put our feet on the ground and theythey shake the fog from our head. Love them, read their lives,especially your own saint. Read it over and over again and imitate them,and then you'll run your race with your eyes on our Lord Christ and you'llsucceed, glory to his name. You've been listening to a presentation of ancientfaith radio and patristic nectar publications, the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections withFather Josiah Trenam. Father Josiah is the pastor of St Andrew Orthodox Christian Churchin 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 theHoly Fathers. For more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our websiteat www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectardot org. Until next time,.

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