Beyond the Hope of Redemption?

22nd Sunday After Pentecost

Galatians 6:11-18
Luke 8:26-39

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. How much destruction can sin really cost? To what depth is a man ready to fall before he repents and returns to his real self? Is there such a thing as falling too far, a soul falling beyond the hope of redemption? If there ever was one such a soul, he is depicted in this morning’s Gospel according to Saint Luke. He is a soul who is falling so far as to be without a name. He is simply referred to as the demoniac, his possession by evil demons being so complete it seems to have swallowed up the man and he does not even speak with his own voice. Saint Ambrose of Milan says, “We are authors of our own tribulation. If someone did not live like a swine, the devil would never have received power over him. If he did receive power, it would be power not to destroy but to test him. After the Lord’s coming, the devil could already not corrupt the good. So perhaps he now does not seek the destruction of all people but only of the fickle.”

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The Posture of Prayer

2 Timothy 3:10-15
Luke 18:10-14

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory Forever. For those who came to vigil yesterday evening, we heard for the first time what might be called the theme song of Great Lent. If you were not there to hear it, perhaps the choir might sing it during communion.  Today marks the opening of the book of the Lenten Triodion, which literally means the book of the three odes. It’s theme song also speaks of an opening:

Open to me the doors of repentance, O Life-giver, For my spirit rises early to pray towards thy holy temple. Bearing the temple of my body all defiled; But in Thy compassion, purify me by the loving kindness of Thy mercy.

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Beyond Mere Appearance

Sunday November 7, 2021; 20th Sunday after Pentecost

Galatians 1:11-19
Luke 16:19-31

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. A classic Danish film portrays the theme of this morning’s gospel in the person of a French maid. Babette’s Feast features a penniless woman cast out by circumstances in her home country to foreign land in the north. Like poor Lazarus, she arrives at the home of two unmarried sisters cold, alone, and in need of help. But if a person were to conclude that Babette’s outward circumstances defined her inward disposition, they would be wrong. For while she was poor in possessions, her artistic soul made her rich beyond the reach of mere circumstance. As the apostle says, “…being poor, yet making many rich“, she managed in the end to exhaust her entire bank account towards a feast for her friends.

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Becoming a Fool for Christ

8th Sunday after Pentecost

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 14:14-22

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Glory to Jesus Christ, glory forever. Saint Basil’s Cathedral which sits on the southern edge of Moscow’s Red Square has stood for almost five centuries as the symbol of all of Russia. With its 11 smaller chapels all united under a network of colorful iconic domes, it is a testimony to the protection of God over this ancient land and victory over the enemies of his peaceful Kingdom. The natural question asked by most visitors to this grand temple has a surprising answer. Who was St. Basil? After which great saintly monarch, patriarch, or general is this grand symbol of Russia named?

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Resurrection Healing

4th Sunday of Pascha of the Paralytic

Acts 9:32-42
John 5:1-15

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is risen! Truly he is risen! The Pascal Canon declares “This is the chosen and holy day, the first of Sabbaths, King and Lord of days, the Feasts of feasts, Holy Day of holy days on this day we bless Christ forever more.”

And on this Sunday of the never-ending day of the resurrection we remember a man who seemed to possess never-ending suffering. The paralytic in today’s Gospel had been by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years. Yet he does not waver in his desire and perseverance to be healed, even when as he confesses that he has no man to help him into the healing pool. The question put to him by the Lord is quite striking and may even sound offensive to some of us, “Do you want to be healed?”

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Ancestors of God

Sunday, December 14/27: Holy Forefathers of Christ

John 20:1-10 (7th Matins Gospel)
Colossians 3:4-11 Epistle (29th Sunday)
Luke 14:16-24 Gospel (28th Sunday)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Beloved in the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ, Today is Family Day. It is the day we recognize and remember the Holy Ancestors of God. What a wonderful expression— Ancestors of God. It may sound scandalous to some who believe only in a God outside of time who stands aloof and unconcerned with the affairs of humankind. But we Christians confess Emmanuel— the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, whose earthly ancestors form today a spiritual choir inviting us mere mortals to a heavenly feast of faith.

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The Unrelenting Love of the Father

Sunday, February 10/23, 2020

Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare)

1 Corinthians 8:8-9:2
Matthew 25:31-46

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! What does it take to get our attention? All we have needed the hand of the Creator has provided yet sometimes it takes extraordinary measures for God to wake us up from the slumber of sin. We sinners spend far too much time wallowing in the filth of this world, being amazed at the depths of depravity to which a human soul will plunge. Our reality TV shows compete not in deeds of righteousness but in more and more bizarre acts of disgust, revenge, and betrayal. In last Sunday’s Parable of the Prodigal, we are far more interested in the prodigal’s lifestyle, the pig’s food he had stooped to eating, than in his eventual return home. And yet he did return home after he had come to himself and returned to his senses. What brought him to that moment of repentance, the moment of return? Father Patrick suggested in last week’s sermon that a better title for this parable might be “the Parable of the Loving Father” for in the end, he is the star of the story; it is his unrelenting, ever-pursuing love that brought home the prodigal.

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Christ the True Light

Sunday, January 13/26, 2020; Sunday After the Baptism of the Lord

1 Timothy 1:15-17
Luke 18:35-43
Ephesians 4:7-13
Matthew 4:12-17

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is baptized! An old Gospel hymn says, What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me pure within? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, on this Sunday after Theophany, the great Feast of our Lord’s baptism in our human flesh, what darkness covers our minds? What sickness is asking for the blood of Jesus to cure? The blind man in this morning’s Gospel dwelt in a literal darkness, yet his enlightened soul knew who to ask for help and mercy. We live in a supposedly enlightened age but are blind to God, so that while we see with our physical eyes, our spiritual sight is quite limited.

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Give to the Poor, Inherit Life

December 2/15, 2019

Ephesians 5:8-19
Luke 18:18-27

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. What does it mean to follow the Lord Jesus Christ? All the martyrs, apostles, and saints through the ages have provided a pattern for being disciples of Christ. The rich young ruler in today’s Gospel asks the age-old question for the would-be disciple, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord who knows the heart and sees its true intention perceives that the man is not genuine in his search. He first rebukes him for his flattery in calling him “good teacher” without recognizing his divinity. Then he issues the same call that he did to all disciples, “sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow me.” The man who only wished to ensnare the teacher with his question became suddenly sad for he was very rich.

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Dramatic Reversals of Grace

Ven. Hilarion the Great4166599

Galatians 1:11-19
Luke 16:19-31

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Beloved in the Lord, don’t we all enjoy a good story like this one in which the forgotten and downtrodden beggar becomes the exalted hero? And where the former persecutor becomes the fearless advocate of the oppressed? They are both examples of dramatic reversal that makes us wonder about the world– its true nature and the paradox that seems to govern all despite outward appearances to the contrary. Continue reading