Tag Archives: Holy Fathers of the First Six Councils

Remember

Sunday, July 28 (OS July 14), 2019: 6th Sunday after Pentecost; Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Councils; Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Volodymyr, enlightener of the Kyiv Rus (1015); Martyrs Cyricus and his mother Julitta (305); Martyr Abudimus (4th c.).

Ss Cyril & Methodius Orthodox Church
Madison, WI

Epistle: Hebrew 13:7-16/ Galatians 1:1-11
Gospel: Jn. 17:1-13/ Jn. 10:1-9

Glory to Jesus Christ!

We cannot hear enough what we heard this morning; “remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.”

On one level St Paul is telling us to reflect not simply on his teaching but his life and the lives of all the apostles. If the teaching of the apostles–contained above all in the Scriptures–is the touchstone of the Christian faith, it is the integrity of the apostles’ lives that demonstrates the truth of the Gospel.

The first thing I learn from the saints is that to grow in Christ, I must return again and again to the text of Sacred Scripture. To borrow from St Jerome, “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

We fulfill St Paul command to “remember,” through our faithful, daily, reading of Scripture. But while we begin and end in the Scriptures, we don’t limit ourselves to the text; to so limit ourselves is to betray the Scriptures themselves.

For the Scriptures, creation itself is a type of revelation. Since “the creation of the world, Paul says, God’s “invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20, NKJV). This is why St Paul chastizes the Gentiles for their lack of faith. Even though they didn’t have access to Scripture, they could have known God through reason. God is there to be seen in Creation.

King Solomon tells us God has “arranged all things by measure and number and weight” (Wisdom 11:20, NRSV). Reflecting on the empirical character of creation, St Augustine confesses he doesn’t know “why mice and frogs were created.” Nevertheless, he does know “that all things are beautiful in their kind, even if, because of our sins, they seem otherwise to us.”

He then goes on to say

When you see in all these beings their measure, their proportion and their order, look for the Creator in them, since you will find none other than the One in whom is supreme measure, supreme proportion and supreme order, that is, God, … In this way, in the smallness of an ant you may find more reason to praise God than in crossing a river astride a tall beast of burden (On Genesis: Against the Manichaens, 1.16.26).

Scripture reminds us that God draws us to Himself not only on words printed on a page but through the diversity and beauty of the material world. And to the fount of faith, we must add Creation itself. And not only as a whole but in all its pieces.

We must not, however, confuse how we come to know God with Who teach us about Him. In both Scripture and Creation, we are instructed, as Paul says of himself, not by “man” but by Jesus Christ through the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.

It is Christ Who speaks in Scripture, the holiness of the saints and Creation. Though different in form, they are in harmony with each other. This is because the have the same Source.

And because they also share One Source there is a harmony, a synergy between what revelation reveals and what reason grasps.

This harmony is found not in the human mind, it is not something we impose on the world around us. No, the order of the material world, the partnership of reason and revelation, of Scripture and Creation, and the witness of holiness down through the ages is found in God Himself.

What Jesus says about how “the Scriptures are fulfilled” by His death and resurrection apply as well to Creation. For St Ireneaus, far from being motivated by the Fall, the Incarnation of the Son and the subsequent establishment of the Church are the very reasons for Creation.

God creates, the saint says, so that His Son can be Incarnate and the Son becomes man so that humanity can come to share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) as members of His Body the Church (see Romans 12:5;1 Corinthians 12:12–27; Ephesians 3:6; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 24).

All this means that far from being limited to an artificial sphere of human life called “religion” or “spirituality,” the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the key to how we understand not only salvation but all of human life and creation itself.

This may seem an extravagant claim. And in a sense it is. Jesus Christ is a challenge to the fantasy that I can live a neatly ordered life merely according to my own desires.

In my confusion, I cling to my own projects as if these were the source of my worth rather than God’s love for me.

And how easily I fall into thinking that my salvation, my happiness, my peace, and joy depend on the success of my plans rather than God’s great love and mercy for me.

In the face of these, to human willfulness and much as our best good intentions, the Scriptures tell us “remember.”

Remember the martyrs and saints, who found glory in their obedience to Christ.

Remember our teachers and friends who introduced us to Christ and the Gospel.

Remember all that God has done for us day in and day out.

Above all, remember God Who has come to dwell in our hearts in baptism and Who makes us His tabernacles through Holy Communion.

Remember all these things. Remember Jesus.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Working Together

July 29 (O.S., July 16) 2018: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Councils. Hieromartyr Athenogenes, bishop of Heracleopolis, and his ten disciples (311). Martyrs Paul and two sisters, Chionia and Alevtina, (308). Martyr Antiochus, physician (4th c.). Virgin-martyr Julia (440).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17/Hebrews 13:7-16
Gospel: Matthew 14: 22 – 34/John 17:1-13

Ss Cyril & Methodius Mission, Madison WI

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Because we are co-workers with Christ, we are also co-workers in Christ with each other.

Just as the gifts (charismata) we receive in Holy Baptism are the concrete ways in which we are connected to God and come to share in His life, so too with our working together. Our communion with Christ is embodied and lived out on our willingness to share a common life and work.

Or, as an ancient Christian maxim has it: unus Christianus, nullus Christianus. One Christian is no Christian.

The importance of our co-laboring with each other in Christian is why for the fathers of the Church, schism–division in the Church–is as bad and even worse than heresy. While heretics “violate the faith by thinking falsely about God,” St Augustine says, that “schismatics break away from fraternal love by their wicked separations although they believe as we do.” (De fide et symbolo, 21).

To refuse to work together with the whole Church is to pursue my own salvation while neglecting your salvation.

Co-working with Christ means, as we’ve already discussed, that I commit myself willingly to helping you pursue faithfully and generously your own vocation. This isn’t my obligation because I am a priest but because I am a Christian. Ordination–like all vocations–builds on and confirms the dignity we receive in Baptism.

Does this mean that the clergy have no unique or particular obligations? God forbid we should think this!

Today we celebrate the fathers of the first six ecumenical councils. Briefly, these councils were called to heal divisions in the Church. The councils, in other words, we called to defend not just the common faith of the Church but also the bonds of charity of our co-working in Christ with each other.

From this, we get a sense of the obligation of the clergy in the Church. The clergy’s task is to defend and strengthen the bonds of charity that unite us to Christ and each other. There is nothing sentimental about the love that binds us to each other. Christian charity is concrete. It is the practical and tangible manifestation of divine grace in our life together.

This means that my job as the priest is to help you discern and live your personal vocations. This must be done in harmony with the Tradition of the Church. But a purely formal adherence to the moral or dogmatic Tradition of the Church is not sufficient for salvation any more than not committing adultery makes for a happy marriage.

Helping you live your vocation means helping you help others live their own. The clergy, in other words, are set aside in the life of the Church to help us learn to work together, to be co-workers with Christ and each other.

There shouldn’t be anything that resembles coercion in our co-working. What we do together we must do freely, that is personally. This means that we must shun any hint of emotional or social–much less, physical–violence in our life together.

As a practical matter, this means that there will be times when not much will get done because we lack agreement among ourselves. But these disagreements are different or at least should be different, then what we see in the world.

Our disagreements are not a matter of who is “right” and who is “wrong,” who is the “good” Christian and who the “bad” Christian. Statements like this are more often than not, subtle (or not so subtle) ways of refusing to work together.

No for us, our disagreements are the opening moment of discerning God’s will for us. The question is not who is right and who is wrong, who is moral and who immoral, but what does God want from us here and now in the concrete circumstances of our life together?

My brothers and sisters in Christ! We are called by Jesus not only to be co-workers with Him but with each other. This is why we can gather together this morning to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ.

And it is our working together with each other in Christ, that is at the heart of what it means to be saved.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory