The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 1 year ago

Theophany Radiance - Sunday after Theophany 2021

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Good Deeds: Cultivating a Life of Virtue


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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present good deeds cultivating a life of virtue, a seven part lecture series. These lectures expound the place of good worksin the salvation of the Christian the nature of virtues and vices and the traditionalmeans for cultivating virtue in the Christian life. Saint John of Damascus, in histext on the virtues and the vices in the Philocalia, writes that everyman is said to be made in the likeness of God as regards his imitationof God through virtues and God like actions. The study and cultivation of virtue isthe quest both to love God and also to become a true human being. The lecture titles include Lecture One, good deeds, understanding virtues and vices. Lecture two, the Cardinal Virtue of Justice, Lecture Three, the CardinalVirtue of wisdom. Lecture for, the Cardinal Virtue of courage, Lecture Five, the cardinal virtue of temperance. Lecture six, conquering the seven deadly sins. Lecture seven, after God, the failure of the secular ethic. Forthese and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trenna, the name of the fatherand of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Days of joy and peaceand rejoicing, beautiful days we've been celebrating, brothers and sister, since the Nativityof our savior. We celebrated that from December twenty five through the endof December. Then we commemorated his beautiful circumcision and the preciousness of his name. Then we prepared for Theophany and we've been celebrating theophany now this is theywhat? Five? Or is it six, six, seven, eight, ninetyten five? The Movement from Nativity to Theophany is one of happiness togreater happiness, one of glory to greater glory, radiance of the birth ofthe son of God to a gradier radiance in which the light is exposed.Christmas as glorious as it is, and...

...it's beyond our understanding how the sonof God would humble himself to become a man and to be born of theVirgin. Nonetheless, it took place in a dark cave, in a mystery. A few people witnessed it. Today we celebrate the manifestation of Christ,the son of God. Indeed, we commemorate the manifestation of the Holy Trinity. For this father spoke and the Holy Spirit descended on the river banks ofthe Jordan. This was to the whole world, no more in the dark, obscure places of Bethlehem, now before thousands who would then take the messageof the manifestation of God his self, revelation to men, to the wholeworld. Theophany is, despite the fact that it's so neglected, theophany isa majestic feast, one of the most incredible saving acts of our Savior.I'm so proud. I'm so proud out of you for honoring theophany. Churchwas full for the Feast of Theophany. That hasn't always been the case.I trust it is the representation of a new piety that will remain. Butmany, many years of my priesthood I've been sad and had to keep backtears from celebrating theophany so many comfort Christmas. But we don't have the same consciousness, the same support. We have no cultural support for the celebration oftheophany. In fact, the vast majority of Christians don't celebrate theophany at all. They have no idea the incredible significance of Jesus's baptism, what his baptismmeans. Brothers and sisters, think of all of the things that theophany accomplished. When Christ went under the waters, he drowned the Old Adam. Hebrought him low. When he was raised from the waters, he bore thewhole world up into a newness of life. When Christ went into the waters,he didn't go into the waters because he needed something. Like we goin the waters, we yearned to go in the water to receive. Jesusyearned to go in the waters to give. And by going into the waters hesanctified the waters. And through the waters he opened the womb of thechurch so that innumerable men and women and children all over the world could beborn again, could become new, could...

...have a new principle in their life, which was God, in them becoming sons and daughters of God through thefont. There's an incredible parallel between the sorrow of the children who were slaughteredat the time of Christ by that wicked Herod and the happiness brought to thechildren that we can't count, when Jesus entered into the waters of the Jordanand the Holy Spirit descended and the birth of Christian baptism took place. Forwhat is Christian baptism except the priest and the people standing before water and supplicatingGod to come to be with us, to send his Holy Spirit upon thiswater, within this water, so that it becomes a labor of regeneration,a place where people are made new, where a new relationship and a newprinciple as given to them of life. Theophany is simply radiant. We needthe sunglasses on when we're standing on the River Jordan. There's so much glory. This is what theophany has accomplished for us. Light does three things.I want to suggest that this feast of Lights, as Theophany is called,this feast of Light, this Feast of blinding revelation of God, where theHoly Trinity is made manifest two men tangibly. You know, we didn't come toa confession of the Holy Trinity because we're smart. We didn't figure Godout. We didn't, you know, study philosophy and logic and then writesome books and come to the conclusion. Is God, the Holy Trinity.That is not how we came to confess the true God. We came toconfess God by his revelation of himself to us on the banks of the JordanRiver. If you were there, if you are part of that humble mass, you would have heard God speak, you would have seen his son bebaptized and you would have seen the Holy Spirit, as a dove, descendand all on Christ and remained there. And then you would know that theone God has a son and a spirit. There it is by experience. Ourforefathers have passed this on to us in the church, because the lightis past as you see, every Pasca, from one hand to another, fromone generation to another. Light, the light of this feast, doesthree things. It illumines us. It...

...causes beautiful things to grow and blossom. The second thing it does is it exposes darkness, and the third isthat it exposes that darkness within us so that it can be transformed into light. Let me mention a little word about each of those three functions. Theophanyand the celebration of this feast, Brothers and sisters, and the light whichhas been manifested from God to us, has lit us up it has broughta knowledge of the purpose of life, a knowledge of who God is,who we are, what the path of salvation is. This is what's beengiven to us. This is our patrimony, this is our true inheritance, wherepeople who know we're people who walk the way. That was the firstthing we were ever called in the Gospels, in the acts of the apostles.Church was called the way. This is what light does, just likethe roses outside and the beautiful trees. They received the light and they blossomforth, and that's what happens to us. Saint Gregory of of the theologian,Saint Gregor the theologian, the great father, Cappadocian father and great teacherof the Holy Trinity. One of his most famous texts is his oration numberthirty nine, on this feast on Theophany, and he says that on This Day, light enables us to become ourselves deiform. In fact, he saysthese beautiful words, three words. Make yourselves deiform, be conformed by thelight into the image of Christ. You heard it in the text today,in the epistle. God has given us the Church and all of her mysteriesand all of her gifts, for one purpose, so that you might servehim and become a mature human being according to the stature of the fullness ofChrist. This is what's happening to us. The light of God's working in usis getting rid of the darkness and it's causing to blossom all sorts ofgood things, love and joy and peace and forgiveness and intrift in others anda desire to worship God. All of these things come from his light thatwere celebrating on this day. This is what light does. It causes togrow. Your calling is to embrace the light, to let it have itsway, to put forth the fruit, to become deiform. The second thinglight does is it exposes darkness. You know in this oration that Saint Gregorythe theologian gave a ration thirty nine. He spends the first one third,it's a long, twenty page hummeling.

He spends the first one third ofhis teaching on theophany exposing the inadequacy of the Jewish rites. He points outthat those who saw God in the Old Testament, even the pious, whenthey saw God when there was a Theophane, were absolutely terror struck. Think ofthe people with Moses at the base of Mount Sinai and God appears andthey say to Moses, Moses, you go up the mountain, we're justgoing to stay here. Think of Manoah when he saw God and he turnsto his wife and he says, sweetheart, we're going to die because we haveseen the Lord. Think of even the Great Prophet Daniel, who wasa god lover and an ascetic, yet when he saw the Lord, whenhe saw glory, was completely undone and was sick for three weeks, onthe verge of death. Gregory points out. Now, now in Christ, withthe showers of grace, God appears and man doesn't die, man trulylives, man is purified, man is strengthened, men reflects the glory hehas, the image restored in him in Christ. This feast exposes darkness andGregory spends a lot of time talking about it. We no longer are dependenton the Jewish feast and their sprinklings and their baptismal types, which didn't doanything. Then he turns his attention from the inadequacy of the Jewish rights tothe vanity and the worthlessness of the Greek gods and their myths and all oftheir rituals and he goes one by one. He starts with Zeus and he goesthrough all of the common gods and Goddesses of his people, of theGreco Roman people of his time, mid fourth century, and all the ritualsthat are involved in great detail, including the orgastic rituals involved with aphrodities worship. He goes through each one and mocks them, pointing the out that allof these mythologies simply exist to provide some sort of ultimate cover for an immorallife. Oh, I act this way and I do these things will becausethis God or that God did it. He says. What does this haveto do with dignity? What does this have to do with salvation? Nothing. Theophany has exposed the darkness of Paganism, and it's natural. That's what lightdoes. There's no way you can have light without exposing the darkness.This is why, when Christ says to us, you are the light ofthe world, that's a twofold charge one.

You have to bring the truth andin the process you have to expose the darkness. We do it withhumility because we know that, apart from Christ, our light, we aredarkness, we are darkness and the difference between those who are living in nonsenselike our culture is literally drowning is. I know I don't even have tosay much about this. You have the pain in your heart with what's happeningin our land. You have the sorrow you see so many beloved people havingtheir lives turned upside down by believing in utter, total nonsense that has noroot in truth and nothing to do with God. Our task is to exposeit. We can't just run away, brothers and sisters. You can't abandonthose that you love. You can't abandon a land that you love. NotIf you have the light, you have to hold it up. You haveto help people find it. Sometimes that takes listening very carefully to them andthinking very hard about what our culture is saying, developing some articulate response,articulate enough to help your friends, families, coworkers and friends and relatives who arelistening to this. We all have them. So many. Look howquickly things are changing, how many are being swallowed up by the secular lie. This feast is the solution for that. Light exposes darkness. And the thirdpoint I want to make about light is that it exposes darkness also inus. In us. At the end of his oration thirty nine on theophanysaying, gregory the theologian says he turns his attention. Remember he was patriarchof Constantinople. He turned his attention to the many catechumans who were there,and I'd like to turn my attention also to our catechumans. And of courseit applies to all of us what I'm going to say. In order tolet light, the light of Christ, have its way, in order toblossom and grow and to expose darkness, we have to start on the inside. For us, the darkness we should most be concerned about is not thedarkness that's out there, it's the darkness that's in here. It's not theerrors that are out there, it's the errors that are in here, andthe light of Christ brings to pass a cleansing on the inside. This iswhy you just heard from Matthew. For in the Gospel that as soon asJesus was baptized, as soon as the...

...light was revealed to the world,what did he do? He preached repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. Repentwhat the first word out of his mouth they give the Kingdom of God'shere saying. Gregory points this out to the catechumens. He says, look, if you want to have the light of Christ, all the catechumens arepreparing for baptism and this parish and in all the parishes of the world wherethere are catecumans, throughout all this time. And Gregory says, look, don'tmake the mistake of being interested and distracted by things that are not worthyour consideration. When you're a Catechumen, have your whole focus on this.That what you need most at this time. Christ is providing a model for allof Jesus is teaching all of his miracles, all of his signs,happened after his baptism. You can study the gospels from beginning to end,looking for something that Jesus did, miracles that he performed, teachings that hegave prior to his baptism. You will be looking in vain. He instead, he came to baptism and he came with incredible humility. He put himselfunder his own servant, John The baptist. John was not happy, but Jesustold him put aside your concerns. This is the way that God's righteousnesswill be fulfilled. This must be done. Baptize me. Sat Greg returns hisattention to the catechumens says, look, don't open your mouth, focus onyour baptism, learn to be humble, put your confidence in Christ, prepareto be washed and make sure that you mean business so that what wasa part of your past, which you yourself are escaping by the grace ofGod, doesn't continue into the church. Do you know that that common sayingthat we all we all have our baggage? That's saying we all have our baggage, right, which is true? Which is true, we do.But there's baggage that we have that we're holding on to, that we canlet go of. There's other parts of baggage we don't even see and itcomes out later and we have to go oh, that needs to be discardedand we can discard it. But the word to the CATECHUMANS is leave yourbaggage at the door. Do not bring your baggage into this parish. Focuson Jesus's words, on repentance, prepare for baptism, don't become anyone's teacher. If Jesus refused to be anyone's teacher until he humbled himself in the watersof the Jordan for baptism. How much...

...less should we ever presume that untilwe are something Gregory said. If you want to help someone, help yourself. If you want to light someone up, become light. If you want toheal someone, become healed, because no sick man makes another sick manwell. This is the way to do it. This is the way todo it. Follow Christ. I'll end with this word from the Prophet Isaiah. When we were blessing the waters such a beautiful occasion, twice, onceon the fifth and once on the sixth, we read both on both of thegreat sanctifications, three different passages from the Prophet Isaiah. And Isaiah makesthis incredible prophecy, six hundred years before it takes place, about theophany.He says, let the deserts break forth with streams of water, let theredeemed draw from the wells of salvation the water of life, for there inthe desert will appear the way of holiness and the saints will walk in it. This is the fruit of Theophany, brothers and sisters, and this isthe conclusion of light coming into our life. Christ baptized us today. He openedheaven for us so that we could stand in the presence of God andnot be destroyed. He sent the Holy Spirit to us to give us peaceand joy. He gave us his light and the knowledge of him and hisfather and his Holy Spirit, so that we ourselves can become light and wecan shared this life. We have a road set before us in the desertof this life. It's called the way of holiness according to Isaiah, andthe saints enjoy are to walk on it. May that be our our calling,may that be our focus together, and God bless us all, especiallyyou. catechumens. Were anxious and thirsty to receive you into the church andto see you become the light of God busted feast. We hope that youhave enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic NectarPublications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachingsof the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or ifyou would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website atwww dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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