January 19, 2017
Yesterday, Christ was born; today, He is baptized.
Yesterday, God immersed Himself in our flesh; today, our flesh is immersed in the Most Holy Trinity.
Yesterday, the Timeless Son of the Virgin-Father was begotten in time of the Virgin-Mother; today He gives birth to us as sons of God forever.
Yesterday, the Uncreated Light was hidden in the earth of our flesh; today, this Uncreated Light dawns forth, illumining our flesh.
Yesterday, heaven came down to earth; today, earth leaps up to heaven.
Yesterday, those who searched for God in the heavens had their vision lowered to earth, upon the most humble God Who was born thereon; today, those who gaze upon Him here below now have their eyes raised to heaven, beholding it opened and the Trinity revealed.
When Christ was born, the Father took pleasure in the Incarnation of His Son in silence; and now when Christ is baptized, the Father declares aloud: “Thou art My Son, in Whom I am well-pleased.”
When Christ was born, the Holy Spirit brought down the Son; and now when Christ is baptized, the Son brings down the Holy Spirit.
When Christ was born, He sprang forth from our depths as a new-born Babe upon the earth; and now when Christ is baptized, He pours forth upon us the over-flowing grace of the Holy Spirit from the heights of heaven.
When Christ was born, the Virginal Bride of the Spirit gave birth to the Son of the Father; and now when Christ is baptized, He gives birth to His Bride, the Church, by the waters of baptism filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now, we sit co-enthroned with the Son of the Father in His Kingdom, reigning as kings by the grace of the King of kings, crowned with divine life, clothed in pre-eternal majesty and light, holding fast the scepter of eternal power, established forever as gods by the grace of the God of gods.
How shall we repay and thank our God for such incomprehensible blessings?
Shall we again seek vanities, distractions, and pain-producing pleasures? Or shall we raise up our eyes to heaven, and our voices to God?
Shall we rove about in the soul-numbing slime of gluttony, and bury ourselves in the suffocating underworld of covetous grasping, envious ambitions and evil attitudes and deeds, devouring one another?
Or shall we seek to dwell with the humble, peaceful, and singly-united hosts of many angels, who ceaselessly serve the Triune God, praise Him, and partake unceasingly of Him Who is our Spiritual Feast and Everlasting Joy?
How shall we truly embrace our God, Creator and Redeemer like the River Jordan, leaping up to meet His embrace?
How, beholding all these marvelous gifts of God to us, can we again return to the stinking vomit of our old sinful habits which we once cherished, but now know to be eternal death?
How again shall we take delight in sorrow-producing mirages of delight when we have been over-filled—body, soul and spirit—with divine, unending and ever-increasing joy and beauty?
How again shall we become beast-like and spiritually ignorant, thinking that the height of existence is tingling nerves, rushings of blood and sensual thrills, we who have been purified by Christ and made His spotless, divine, and co-glorified Bride?
How again shall we bear hatred, grudges and judgment, when we have been reconciled to God, reborn as His sons, made brothers of Christ, and immersed within the uncreated and unending life of the very Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
Where is our repentance? Where is our thanks? Where is our love? Where are our streams of many tears to spiritually baptize and purify us? Where are our tender-hearts, the unspeakable groans of spiritual humility which come forth from a heart completely crushed by pain over its countless sins and reciprocal love and gratitude at the understanding of God’s unfailing and limitless mercy?
Today we are gathered together, and immersed within the ever-new reality of the Theophany of Christ, as the animate temple and Body of Christ.
This Body is holy; this Body is divine; this Body is set apart for God, is united with God, is glorious in God; this Body is one and yet many members;
This Body was conceived by the Spirit in the womb of the Virgin; this Body was born from her; this Body was immersed in the streams of the Jordan; this Body was crowned and chrismated by the Spirit Who ever descends as a most gentle and gracious dove upon the Church; the Holy Bread at every Liturgy becomes this Body of Christ; and this Body is given to us, making us His Body;
This Body of the Bodiless One came forth from the body of the Virgin; this Virgin came forth from the body of mankind; all men came forth from the body of Eve; this Eve came forth from the body of Adam; this Adam came forth from the body of the earth; this earth came forth from those ancient bodies of water; these waters came forth from bodiless nothingness by the Word and Spirit of the Father.
And today, the incarnate Word of God is baptized in these same waters; the voice of the Father bears witness to Him; and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him, sanctifying and deifying our human nature, and renewing and perfecting all created things.
The waters of the earth are blessed by His most gracious touch as they embrace Him, and in turn all creation is embraced by, and immersed in Him, made completely new.
All things are made new today and all things rejoice. Let us truly become new then: thinking, feeling, speaking, seeing and living as befits divine children; as ones who have been reborn by being baptized into Christ; for the first grace of our baptism is renewed today by His Baptism!
Let us renew our vows of baptism: let us spit upon and drown with disdain satan and all his evil works; and let us be clothed in Christ Who desires much more than us to immerse us in Himself, making His abode in us, together with the Father and the Spirit, for all eternity.
The waters saw Thee, O God, the waters saw Thee and were afraid! Today, the demons, and the passions which they affect, which swirl about and within us as many confused and tumultuous waters, they behold God, and are mightily afraid.
The haters of God and men behold Him today, crushing their power completely. We, their former slaves, they behold set free by Christ, re-fashioned by Christ, made completely new by Christ, over-filled with the Holy Spirit by Christ.
Emmanuel is come; God is with us! Who is this God Who is now with us? He is the Ever-Existing God Who humbled Himself, becoming a little Child.
God is with us! Who is this God Who is now with us? He is the God Who entered the waters of the Jordan, filled them with His grace, immersed us in these very waters at our Baptism, and Who now gives us again these same life-giving waters for our complete purification and renewal of soul and body.
God is with us! Who is this God Who is now with us? He is the God Who took upon Himself our human nature, was crucified, suffered, died according to the flesh, and was buried, that He might fill human death with His divine life.
God is with us! Who is this God Who is now with us? He is the God Who not only immersed Himself in the waters of the Jordan, but Who has immersed Himself in the depths of hades, seeking the souls of those who have sat in darkness and the shadow of death.
He has known the complete depths of our suffering, our agony, our torments, the wicked and destructive effects of our passions and sins which we take delight in, but which pierce Him with incomprehensible pain and sorrow. He has known the complete ruin and horror of spiritual death; and He has completely conquered it.
This God is with us! Understand, O ye nations, and submit yourselves; for God is with us! If again, O wicked demons and passions, you strengthen yourselves, again you shall be vanquished, for God is not with you, but with us!
He is our Creator, our Re-Fashioner, our Healer, our Judge. He is the Light Who shines upon us, not only revealing all the ugliness and twisted deformity of the most secret places of our soul, but Who heals it. He has known the depths of this, our fall, even before all existed. And now, revealing it unto us, He purifies us with painful, yet most saving divine fire, and He sanctifies us that we might be fully cleansed of all satanic and self-loving pride.
Today, He enters the depths of our human nature; our human nature which before cried out with the psalmist: “the waters of evil have come in unto the very depths of my soul!” But now, He purifies us with His Holy Spirit Who is Light; He completely drowns and consumes and banishes every dark and evil thing; and He mingles us with Himself, and makes us all light, sons of the Light, over-filled with His ever-abounding joy.
God is with us! Come, let us worship and fall down before this very God, and let us weep rivers of tears in repentance and thanksgiving before Him Who has created us, and Who has re-created us; our God Who is today revealed by Christ the God-Man as Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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April 09, 2017
April 03, 2017
Given at Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Wayne, WV after Pan-Orthodox Vespers.
What was it that made St. Mary different from us? What made her into such a wondrous saint? And as we look back on our Lenten struggle, and as we look forward to Holy Week and Pascha, what is there left for us to do?
What did St. Mary say herself about her life of repentance in the desert?
April 02, 2017
Given at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross during the Sunday Liturgy.
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt. We have become acquainted with her throughout the whole of Lent. We first chanted about her works in the first week of Lent during Compline when we chanted the Great Canon. We next heard of her life only a few days ago when the Great Canon was chanted in its entirety during Matins this past Wednesday. Today, as we come toward the end of this time of Lent and repentance, we reach the summit of our awareness of St. Mary on this Sunday dedicated to her commemoration.
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