The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

The Saints: The Great Cloud of Witnesses

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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

Many American Christians do not understand the saints. They have no relationship with the saints on principle. They think we're superstitious, if not outright idolatrous, for having a relationship with the saints, for believing that they're alive, for engaging with them, for calling upon them in prayer. The lives of the saints, this essential aspect of the Christian life, is a stumbling block for many today. 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, the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Brothers and sisters, we are in that time of the year when we acknowledge in our families our graduates, our children and grandchildren, who have reached a very significant point in their life and are graduating from high school, from university, from graduate school. Many of us will, if we haven't already, attend these parties and celebrations. They're significant to us. We honor those who have reached this important point of their life and no doubt in the course of the celebrations and probably at the graduation itself, we will listen to the advice of someone esteemed wise, some sage. It's my experience that this is often a mixed bag. 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 to hear. 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 the stadium, 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 exact same description and you heard very wise advice from St Paul. He's describing in his epistle to the Hebrews, which was read this morning. He was describing the lives of the truly honorable, those who have truly graduated from the most important course and lesson of life, the saints, in this case the saints of the Old Covenant. He names them by name, many of them. He mentioned some of their victorious deeds, how, by their faith, they conquered evil and triumphed over the works of the enemy, stared down death in the face, received their own beloved back by resurrection, suffered terrible persecution and considered faithfulness to God supreme. They were willing to go into the deserts and caves 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 compromise was to do so. It's a marvelous list about the saints. And then he says this, therefore, and here's the image, therefore, being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfector of our faith. You get it right. There is a competition going on. There is a race being run on the field of the stadium. That race 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, and they have moved from the field to the stands. The saints are in the bleachers. They are a cloud of witnesses surrounding us. They are no longer struggling. Their cheering, their praying, their interceding and their presence is essential in our victory. Their presence is the message not just of the epistolescent, but of this Sunday, All Saints Day. Brothers and sisters, the lives of the saints we cannot live without. They manifest to us what we are to thee. This is why this Sunday always follows pentecost. The Holy Spirit descends upon pentecost and fulfillment of our Savior's promise. And always, one week later, the church calls our attention to...

...what is the work that the Holy Spirit does? He makes people gods, he wins hearts, he turns sinners into saints, he produces all of these magnificent saints that constitute this beautiful icon of All Saints, men and women, young and old, from every walk of life and every culture, who have one thing in common their love for God and their holiness. He is, at this moment, covering the earth with the knowledge of God, like the waters cover the sea. He's changing men and women, and this, above any other vocation or calling, being powerful or whatever you're going to hear at some graduation day, this is the calling in vocation of every man, woman and child to become God's holy the Lords, to become set apart to his service, to become numbered with those who will dwell in his kingdom forever. This is the message of All Saints Day. Now I should mention what you know to be true, and that is the lives of the saints constitute a massive stumbling block today for many of our fellow Americans. Many American Christians, do not understand the saints. They have no relationship with the saints on principle. They think we're superstitious, if not outright idolatrous, for having a relationship with the saints, for believing that they're alive, for engaging with them, for calling upon them in prayer. We know this to be true. The lives of the saints, this essential aspect of the Christian life is a stumbling block for many today. This is because of a teaching, and erroneous teaching, about salvation, which wants us to believe that salvation means that you're forgiven of your sins and when you die you go to heaven as a forgiven person. There's not much more to it than that. This is not our view of salvation, although we extol the Lord's mercy, we Adore His grace for his free forgiveness. We embrace it. As the chief of sinners, each one of us, we know that we're justified and saved by the mercy of Jesus, our Savior, who came to redeem us. We believe this, but that is where salvation begins. That is not where salvation ends. It starts there and it leads to the sanctification of people in mind, body and soul, and it leads eventually to their union with God and their transformation such...

...that they become like Christ. They know like he knows, they see like he sees, they love like he loves. In the words of the Holy Fathers, we become by grace what he is by nature, and that theos is that transformation is what enables those who have gone on before us, to be alive far more than they were ever 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 we commemorated yesterday. His name is Columba of Iona, one of the Great Great Irish 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 England and southern Scotland. He was an incredible man. His life was written by an Abbot of the monaster he established on this island that succeeded him. It's a penguin classic. You can get it at the book store. On one occasion he was walking around the island doing his prayer walk. He came to the west side of the island. It's only about three miles to make the walk. He was on the west side, on the Atlantic facing side of the island, and he had a foretaste of Tabor at glory. He had a personal experience of theos as he was praying and he was looking at the cove and as he was praying. He ascended higher and in his vision he was 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, his flock, his evangelistic field. And then he describes that he was able to see the entire sphere of the earth, the entire earth. This is called seeing with Christ's eyes. It's foreshadowed by many experiences in the scriptures, like that which was experienced by the Prophet Elijah in the Old Testament, who was able to see into the Syrian king's tent three hundred miles away. He was able 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, the Prophet, sent to the King of Israel all of the status the all the strategy 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 and his 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 from his tent everything you're saying in yours.

Well, how does he do that? He was a human being. Right, of course he was, but he was a human being in the spirit, a human being united to God. He was a foreshadowing, a taste of what takes place with every believer in the process cell of salvation going into the next life. Jesus is the head of a body. Brothers and sisters, when he appears in glory, he appears 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 up and 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 not living 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 his image in them is to see him in his fullness. It's to love those whom he loves. How can you love someone dearly and not love those whom they love? Starting with his mother, but with all the saints, and the saints are real. One of the great father's, Athonite fathers of the early twenty century was a man named Callistrato's father, callistratos. When I read his life as a new priest, I could I've never forgotten in I thought of 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 that they're more alive than we are. He knew this in experience. I brought a little quote from his life. Listen to this. For callistratos, reality was in those who existed behind the icons and frescoes, the saints who were depicted, 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 clothing seemed to him just symbolic and deceptive as shadows. Though dead, he considered the saints his true friends, but the living he considered uncertain. When one bishop asked him what is the most important thing for a priest, he answered the most important thing is to communicate first with the master, afterwards with the Lords of the master servants and finally with...

...the master servants. The master is he who he called Christ, the Master Servants Lords are the saints, but the 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 more truly than we do. They exist, they care. You heard that in the Eppis so lessen. They're in the stadium watching carefully. They see what we're doing, they care that we succeed. Their cheering US on. If you don't think crowds help, you didn't watch the basketball game last night in Miami. Trust me, the saints are important. We have a beautiful vision of this, this interest of the saints in us on this Earth, given to us by St John, the divine, the theologian, in the apocalypse, in the apocalypse and the six chapter, he sees the fifth seal open and then he sees the souls of the saints and they're dwelling under the altar of 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 the living. They were praying to the Lord, saying, Lord, Lord, how long will you allow this vicious persecution against the saints to continue on the Earth? They knew that the persecutor was alive, they knew that their brothers and sisters on the Earth were still being persecuted and they were taking action on our behalf. This is what the saints do, their intercessors, and they're not intercessors, brothers and sisters, like we're intercessors. You know, I know I've heard many of you use this illustration when you're talking to Protestant friends and you say to them, well, praying, asking for the saints, of the prayers of the saints, is like asking your grandmother or your friends to 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 little bit, but let me tell you, brothers and sisters, getting the prayers of the saints is a Gazillion I don't know what that means. A gazillion times more powerful than asking the prayers of your grandmother, unless she is a saint. Maybe she is. The saints are no longer in the grip of sin. They see there with Christ. They have boldness and access to him. They get things done. Of course...

...we pray to them, not in place of Christ, God forbid, who would do that? We pray to them because of Christ. We honor the saints and pray to the saints because Jesus is in them. That's why they're saints. We touch Jesus, US in our hands, fall onto them. It's impossible not for that not to happen. And, brothers and sisters, without them we really don't know what it means to live the Christian life. They teach us how to do it, especially the saints of our time. They ground us, they put our feet on the ground. They tell us this is how you walk, this is what's possible, this is how you love God. In the midst of it, I got reminded this week of the importance of being grounded. I took Presbytera out to dinner this week Monday. We went to the California Pizza Kitchen I 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 the most wondrous thing happened. The most wondrous thing. The waitress looked at me and she said, May I see your ID? I tried to get up to kiss her. I said thank you. I said, is this a trick so you can get a big tip? Well, anyways, and then she said something else woul made me very happy. She goes everyone who appears under forty. I'm required to ask him like I'm thank you again. So I 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 text to 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 a text saying well, thank God, and I didn't know California pizza kitchen hired 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 us the truth by their lives and they put our feet on the ground and they they 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'll succeed, glory to his name. 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 Trenam. 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,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (568)