Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 2, 2009 - Feeding of the five thousand

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, glory to Jesus Christ!
Glory forever!

You know, it’s easy for clergy, and even lay people to complain about how often the same events seem to come up in the readings of the Church. Bishop Benjamin mentioned how the herd of swine that ran downhill and drowned in the sea appears three times, and suggested that we have a bacon Sunday, a ham Sunday, and a sausage Sunday. And what he was reflecting was that it seems, on a superficial basis, hard to say something original over and over again. But this particular gospel today outdoes the herd of swine in how often it appears. It’s the story of the feeding of the five thousand, and the reason why it appears so frequently is because it is included in all four of the gospels. It is considered one of the most important events in Jesus’ ministry, and in fact there are two feedings that occur in St. Luke’s gospel: one of the five thousand, and one of the four thousand. So five times, we have accounts of Jesus seeing the multitude, having compassion on the, having his disciples seek out what food is there for the crowd didn’t come planning to stay for supper, they didn’t know that they were going to be enthralled, that they were going to be staying there that long; discovering a small number of loaves of bread of cheap grain – barley – and a few fish – and these fish were not trout, or salmon, or bass, they were… What does it say at the beginning of Partly Cloudy With a Chance for Meatballs? It says, “All the people could afford was sardines, because sardines are nasty.” They were sardines. They weren’t really, they were small fish though. Little fish that are what’s called “savories.” They were little fish that you took your knife and you spread them on your hard barley loaf so that you could choke it down. Little fish that were soaked in olive oil. And then Jesus took these and blessed them, and everyone was fed, and an amount of food was gathered back together that surpassed by far that with which He had begun.

This is one of the richest events in our Lord’s ministry. There are so many details to give ear toward. There are so many consequences, theologically and mystically, that follow it. And so many types that lead up to it, that it does lend itself to dozens of sermons. I’m not going to preach dozens of sermons today, but I am going to talk about this feeding of the five thousand and its purpose for us. What it was meant to show, besides an act of compassion for starving people.

Long, long before our Lord appeared in Palestine, His ancestor David, the one who had been chosen by God and who had been anointed by the prophet of God Samuel to replace Saul as king, anointed as a little child, who had been brought up in Saul’s court and toward whom Saul had developed a great jealousy. David fled. He fled form Saul’s camp after having had Saul attempt, on several occasions, to kill him of have him assassinated. He fled into the hill country with a few of his loyal soldiers, and he came to Shiloh, where the arch of the covenant was kept in its tabernacle. And he came to the priest Abiathar, there, who was the high priest of Israel at that time, and David and his starving little band of loyalists, those who for several years would protect and support him as he waited for God’s hand to place him on the throne for which he had been destined. They approached Abiathar and asked for food, but there was nothing there at the tabernacle except the twelve loaves of Show Bread which were placed on a table inside the tent and were placed there as signs of the twelve tribes of Israel. Every Sunday, new loaves of bread would be baked, and the twelve heavy crusted loaves would be placed in three rows of four on the top of the table to represent Israel’s life. And then, on the Sabbath, the day on which it was not lawful to make anything by lighting a fire or preparing food, on the Sabbath the priests would take the twelve loaves and that would suffice for their supper for that day. It would be their nourishment. They would eat the loaves, and on the next day, Sunday, they would be renewed; they would be replaced. And David was far from being a priest after the order of Aaron or of the ancient covenate. He was not a Jewish priest. He was from the tribe of Judah. And David approached Abiathar and said, “Give us to eat,” and Abiathar, knowing that this was a command from God and not from man, indicated that he had no food he could give away. And David said, “Of whatever loaves you have, give me five to eat.” And so Abiathar broke the commandments as they were generally interpreted, as Moses had given them, and he entered into the Holy Place, into the tent, and took David with him, and he gave into the hands of David five of the twelve loaves of Show Bread. And David ate and he gave to his disciples to eat as well, to his followers, and thus his life was sustained, and he was delivered out of the hand of Saul and became king of Israel, and the ancestor in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And so, it was shown, by anticipation, that God with five loaves would nourish the world. Our Lord took these five barley loaves and two small fishes, which, we’re told, were all proffered by one little boy whose mother had the foresight to pack his lunch, and that this little boy eagerly and joyfully shared what little he had with those there. The disciples, meanwhile, asked, “What are these among so many?” Now, the five loaves represent the food that had already been given to Israel – not only the five loaves with which David and his men were nourished, but the five scrolls that constitute the Jewish Torah, the law of the Old Covenant. They were nourishment through the fall of man as these loaves were to be nourishment to there bodies. To this day, in the divine liturgy, when the priest prepares the gifts, he takes five loaves – there are others there – but five loaves set apart for the removal of particles to be placed on the discus and offered as the divine gifts. The five loaves represented the Jewish torah, and the five fish represented life that comes from water. If we descend into the catacombs of Rome today and look at the ancient sketches drawn on the walls of the burial cave where Christians gathered for their liturgies, or where they buried there dead, we will see this motif in at least three different forms: a basket, or a stack of five loaves of bread, and a fish on either side. Or in another case, a large fish swimming, on his head is a basket and on the basket are five loaves of bread, and the fish is looking back, and he is making certain that the smaller fish are all following him – he’s leading them into the kingdom of heaven. Of this Tertullian says, “fish acquire their life from water, and we Christians, born again of holy baptism acquire our life through water. And so,” he says, “we spiritually are fish. And Christ is our great fish, the fish who leads us into the kingdom.” And our Lord, having blessed and broken these loaves, prefigured the Divine Liturgy, for the loaves were distributed and He had the people sit down on the grass in groups of hundreds, so that they represented Israel in the desert, camped around the tabernacle. When the Israelites would come at night to the place where they were going to stay, they would set up their tents, and they would camp in groups around the tent which was in the middle. The tent would then be set up, in the morning it would be taken down, the Ark would be taken up, and they would sing, “Let God arise! Let His enemies be scattered.” And the people would go forth again. So this camp, this gathering of people to hear our Lord speak, was a reiteration, it was a type, of Israel gathered in the desert. And the people gathered around Him who was, Himself, who is, the Ark and the Tabernacle of God among men. And food was distributed. And when the five thousand were fed, what remained was twelve baskets of bread fragments – thus revealing to us that by the twelve apostles, the twelve tribes of the new Israel would be nourished forever with the bread of heaven, with the flesh of Christ, with His holy Body. The twelve baskets represent the twelve apostles, who distributed the mystery of the liturgy from the rising to the setting of the sun. And it is said, in the divine liturgy, when the sacrifice is broken, when I take in my hand the lamb and I break it into pieces after it’s consecrated, “Broken and divided is the lamb of God, who is divided but not disunited, ever eaten, but never consumed, and giving life to them that partake thereof. And so, this mystical feeding in the wilderness was a type of the Divine Liturgy, by which the whole world would be fed.

Then again, our Lord performed this mystery. He performed it this time for four thousand people. And the four thousand represent the four corners of the world. They represent the gentiles, the people not of Israel who would as well be fed of the bread of heaven. And as he gathered together the seven loaves, these represented the seventy apostles who would carry the gospel of Christ to the farthest corners of the world. And the seven loaves, and a few small fishes, were distributed and from these they gathered together seven baskets of fragments representing the entire human race.

Now following this mysterious feeding of the people… And by the way, if you want to interpret this allegorically or symbolically, you make nonsense of the gospel. All four of the evangelists make it very clear that either they, or the people from whom they heard the story, were astonished, startled at a little bit of food feeding a great multitude and there being much, much left over. It was God simply multiplying food. But after Jesus has finished feeding the five thousand, and He and His disciples, as you’ll hear in the gospel during the time after Pascha, He and His apostles got up and went somewhere else. The crowd followed Him. They didn’t follow Him because they wanted their souls filled with the world of God, or their hearts fed with the divine grace, or because they wanted the spirit of God to dwell in them and Christ to nourish them. They didn’t even follow Him because they believed the words He had spoken. They followed Him because He had given them free food. They followed Him like a mob that will follow a demagogue. They followed Him like the masses that will go after any leader that tells them he is going to give them something for nothing. So when they came to our Lord, our Lord made it explicit to them in John’s gospel precisely what this all represented. He said, “In the wilderness when your fathers camped in tents around the tabernacle, every night the manna came down, and you gathered it together. And every day you ate the manna that you got the night before. Day by day, God fed you.” The Syriac version of the Lord’s prayer doesn’t say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It says, “Give us day by day the bread of tomorrow,” referring to the bread gathered at sunset with the expectation that it will nourish us through the following day. And if any of the Israelites had doubted, if they said, “Hey, I’d better put a little extra bread under my bed because who knows what God’s going to do the next day,” when they took it out it had worms in it, because they had not trusted, and because it was the bread of tomorrow, the bread of each day. And when we pray, we pray not, “Give us next week 30 points increase in the Dow,” or, “Put back what we lost in our IRA.” We pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread. Give us this day the bread of tomorrow.”

“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they are dead,” He said. “But whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is my own flesh, which I will give for the life of the whole world.” And what did they say? You know what they said, I’ve told you before. “Yuck!” Either, “This man is very bad at making metaphors – we really don’t want to even think about eating human flesh or drinking blood,” or “What kind of a nut is He? Moses told us we can’t even eat meat with the blood in it, and now He’s saying we must drink His blood to have life in us.” And so they all asked Him again, “Hey, you know, we’ll listen to some more of this craziness if you’ll just give us the food now. Feed us now, then we’ll listen.” Jesus didn’t do it. He knew the crowd had come to make Him king. Anybody, any trickster, any phony philosopher, any purveyor of theories of human salvation by human hands, can promise people that they’ll feed their stomachs, and the mob will follow them. How often in history have ten thousands of people who one day were faithful Christians, thrown away their prayer books and their crosses to go follow after someone who promises land, bread, meat? What did they get? No land, less bread, and ceaseless warfare. Right? The crowd then said, “How can this men give us His flesh to eat?” And Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, lego humin.” That amen is how we end our prayers, you know that. “In truth, in truth, in very truth, I say unto you, my flesh is truly food, and my blood is truly drink, and unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have life in you.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord was not speaking of gnawing on human cellular matter, or drinking plasma. He was speaking of our having His life inside of us, becoming one with His body by partaking of His body, of having His life inside of us by partaking of His blood. What did Moses teach when he told the Jews that they had to salt their meat so that all the blood was out of it? He said, “The life is in the blood.” And does that mean that blood somehow is cursed? No! It meant that God through Moses was teaching a lesson: That the life of God is in God’s blood, and that we are not nourished by the blood of animals – of bulls and of goats – but we are nourished by the life of God Himself, poured out through is precious wounds on the cross, by which He makes us to be branches of the vine which is Himself, His body, and to bear fruit through the nectar of His precious blood running through the branches of the vine.

As you leave today, maybe look up to the right, there’s a primitive Romanian icon done by a peasant at a time when the Turks didn’t allow people in that part of the world to write icons. You’ll see that it shows Jesus, and Jesus is sitting, and He is taking from His side a grip on a grape vine that is coming from the wound the spear made on the cross. And with the other hand, He is squeezing into a cup the juice of a bunch of grapes, and the cup is the Holy Chalice. He is showing us thereby mystically, that it is from the life that flows from His side that we are made one with Him. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches, and it is My Father’s will that you bear fruit. Every branch that beareth not fruit is cut off from the vine and burned. And every branch that bears fruit, it is pruned that it may bear more fruit.”

So you see, brothers and sisters in Christ, this event, this feeding of the five thousand, is not just a story that we tell over and over again, on four Sundays during the year. It is a central theme of our salvation, our participation continually in the life of God. It is a sign of the mystery we are about to partake in, whereby God, not with His dead flesh and lifeless blood, but with His living flesh, and with the life that is contained in His blood, will make us to have life in our cells.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, glory to Jesus Christ!
Glory forever.

August 1, 2009

This body of Christ has become for us our reentry, our restoration, into the joyous paradise that Adam and Eve lost because of their compound rebellion against God. First, possessing the light, being able to know the truth, having it implanted in their hearts by nature, being themselves vessels of the uncreated light, they chose to disobey God. They chose to place their own passions above God’s desire for them. They chose to have what they discerned to be knowledge, that is to say to have laid upon them the burden of discerning good and evil, rather than allowing God to simply pour into their hearts the knowledge of what was good. And then, having thus rebelled, they tasted of the fruit. Their second rebellion was in this: that rather than coming to God and saying, “Oh Father, creator. We know that we have sinned against you. We know that before this apostasy we had your very voice proclaiming in our hearts what we ought to do, and to think, and to say, but now we have become both death and dumb concerning righteousness, and blind concerning your glory. For we see ourselves as ugly, and as broken clumps of clay rather than as beautiful lamps emitting the uncreated light of your divinity. Please forgive us. Please accept us back. In so far as it is possible, restore us. But no, they didn’t do this. Seeing that they had apostatized and abandoned their own good, the rather justified themselves. Was it not true that the serpent said to them, “Ye would be as God, knowing good and evil?” Well, now they knew good and evil, and they did evil. Was it not true that the serpent who had tempted them was created by God? Was it not then God’s fault that they had been tempted? Was not the woman taken from the side of the man by God’s command, and therefore was not the man justified in that it was the woman whom God created who tempted him? So each of them, Adam and Eve, in their own heart devised a scheme by which they could blame it on someone else. It is God’s fault that I have sinned. It is God’s fault that I am blind spiritually. It is God’s fault that I am deaf and cannot hear the gracious words. It is God’s fault that I am dumb and cannot speak the gospel of righteousness and salvation.

And they went and sought to hide themselves from Him, as a teenage girl hides herself from the face her former friend whom she has slandered, or as a boy hides himself from the face of his comrade of whom he has told lies. They went and sought to remove themselves from before the face of God so they would not be ashamed and embarrassed. And they looked on each other as disgusting things, as things of reproach. They looked on their own flesh as though it were dung. And then when God approached them, they spouted out those stories, those justifications that they had contrived. “The serpent whom thou didst make gave to me and I did eat.” “The woman who thou gavest me did give to me and I did eat.” It’s your fault God. It’s the fault of the creation you made. It’s the fault of your having made human beings man and woman. It’s somebody else’s fault. It’s not my fault. And because of this triple apostasy – having eaten, and then having hidden, and then having lied to themselves and repeated the lie to God – they were cast out of the Garden. And only then, when they stood before the closed gates of Eden with the seraph with the fiery sword turning all ways guarding its entrance, only then did Adam fall down and repent and Eve lament, bewailing their own apostasy and misfortune that had befallen them.

And with that repentance came to them the consolation that even though by the sweat of his brow man would eat his bread all the days of his life and feed his family with it, and his wife would have pain in child birth, and that the earth would not easily yield its produce but it would have to be forced from the earth with the blade of a plow, by the strain of the back, and that the serpents offspring would continue to strike the heel of man, was the promise that the woman’s seed would crush the head of the serpent. That someday the flaming sword would be withdrawn, the doors of paradise would again be opened, and that human beings would again be allowed to enter in.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came and he manifested in the world during His ministry the presence of the kingdom of God. When we pray in the liturgy, we say “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We announce its presence. When Jesus preached He said, “The kingdom of heaven is here,” but He taught us when we pray to say, “May Thy kingdom come,” because the kingdom is come in its potential, but not in its fulfillment, not in its fullness. But we experience the kingdom now. And so, our Lord performed miracles that began to undo on the physical plane the curse that had fallen on humanity as a result of the triple apostasy of Adam and Eve.

Today He opens the eyes of two blind men because they believed He could do it. And by opening their physical eyes, giving back to them sight, by touching their eyes and allowing them to see the natural light, He prefigures for them that through the waters of baptism will be available to them the uncreated light that illumines the eye of the heart. Today He unstops the ears and loosens the tongue of a man held deaf and dumb by demonic power, so that now he can hear the gracious words of the gospel, and having heard them, he may proclaim them. And He lays out for us the pattern of the vocation to which we are called – that first, through water our spiritual eyes are opened and the words of the message of salvation enter through the ear into the heart, and that then from the lips should come out a proclamation, not only of our faith, but of God’s good will toward the human race, making each one of us an evangelist, a preacher of salvation, of liberation, of righteousness, of restoration, and of truth.

But the lesson of the gospel today is solidified in the last line, because, you see, having stood and beheld, having seen these two blind men given their sight, having seen this possessed man unable to hear or to speak now able to hear and to speak, the Pharisees were confronted by a choice. God now meets you. God now stands before you. God now manifests his power. It has never been so; no, not ever before in Israel. And what do the Pharisees say? “In the name of demons, he casts out demons.” In other words, they uttered an absurdity. They repeated the lie of Adam and Eve who blamed their sin on God, and the serpent, and each other, by saying, “It is not by the power of God that he has released people from obsession to Satan, but by the power of Satan.” Now they, in their wisdom, in their learning, in their study of scripture, had to know in the depths of the heart that this itself was an absurdity – that Satan is not divided against himself. That hell does not cast out hell. That evil does not admit of opening the doors to good. And yet, why did they tell this lie? Because like Adam and Eve they were confronted with the wickedness of their own choices to have rejected Him as what the two blind men proclaimed Him to be: the Messiah, the Son of David. And having hardened their hearts and stopped their ears so that they should not hear, they had to have a lie to replace the truth. They could not say, “This is the Son of God. This is the King of Israel,” so they said, “He is a magician who casts out devils by the power of the devil.”

And you know, this is not a story, brothers and sisters, that is just contained in the gospel. If you look into the commentaries, to the Talmud of the Jews, when it discusses Jesus it does not deny that He, who is called there “such and such a one,” it does not deny that He gave sight to the blind, or braced the paralytics, or made the bent over to stand up, or drove out demons, or caused the deaf and dumb to speak. No, it does not deny any of those miracles. Rather it says, repeating the lie of the Pharisees, that He did it by magic, by the power of Satan. So not even His enemies could deny the magnitude of His great, miraculous, manifestations of God’s unconquerable power, but from generation to generation they repeated to their children the lie that He had stole the name of God and by the power of the devil had performed these signs.

Now, we can understand the judgment of the Jews for this, and one doesn’t hear these stories much anymore although they’re still in the commentaries of the Talmud and so, observant Jews still know them. But we have to not cast the light on someone else and scapegoat them and blame them, but cast it back on ourselves and ask ourselves, “How often has God opened our blinded eyes, has He shown us the corruption, the twistedness of our way of life, of our thinking, or our objectives, of the direction in which we’re traveling, of the things for which we hope and desire; how often having had our eyes opened have we sought to shut them again, nay, even to have them blinded because we did not desire the illumination that compels action? How of often, having heard the words of the gospel proclaimed, having had our hearts tickled, as it were, by the power of the words of salvation, have then said, “Yes, but we can’t really live like that”? How often, having had our tongues loosed, having had the cord bound by demons of our tongues no longer bound, have we passed over the opportunity to bring another human being, either before the throne of God in prayer, because we didn’t like them or they deserved what was happening to them, or to say the gracious words of salvation and to bring them to the fullness of the Orthodox catholic faith and to salvation? And we wished that our tongues could again be tight, and our ears stopped, and the eyes of our hearts temporarily blinded, because, you see, it’s very, very difficult to live that kind of life.

I give you, in conclusion today, Jacob Nestiva, a Russian-American boy, half Aleut, half Russian, educated in the seminary of Russia, meant to be a priest in the Church in Eastern Siberia, who answered the call of God and returned to Alaska. And he preached to his own native people in Alaska, and he brought thousands to salvation. And then it occurred to him, that not very far from his village, were tens of thousands of Eskimos, and tens of thousands of Indians, people with whom his tribe had been at war for centuries, perhaps for millennia; people whom his people had regarded as not people at all, calling themselves Inuit – “real people” – and the other as something other than real people. It occurred to him that he had been sent, not just to preach to people he liked, people with a pretty face like him in is opinion, like his mother’s face, but people who looked different, who spoke with different accents or languages, who ate different foods, who had killed his grandfather, who had warred with his ancestors for generations. And he allowed the light of God to shine in his heart, hears ears to be unstopped, his tongue to be loosed, and he went and he sat with his interpreter in the midst of the camp of the Native American Indians, of his tribes mortal enemies, and he proclaimed the gracious words of salvation, and that day, that day alone, did he write something positive about himself in his journal. You know, every Russian priest kept a journal, and he wrote in it every day. He said, “I spoke to the people for eight hours. I made several thousand converts. I believe, by God’s grace, I did a good day’s work.”

That’s all that God asks of us is that at sundown, we can say, “Whether I liked what I was doing today or not, whether it was what I wanted to do or not, whether it was pleasant for me or not, whether it was difficult or easy for me, I believe by God’s grace, today I did a good day’s work.” This comes from an illumined heart, from an opened ear, from loosened tongue, from the grace of not only knowing Christ, but living in Him.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, glory to Jesus Christ!
Glory forever.

July 19, 2009

You know Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco, our last bishop, used to refrain from ever praising anyone because he’d say, “If I praise them, I take away their reward.” I was always annoyed by this because I always thought that people need to be encouraged, and they need to be strengthened in their good works by having it pointed out to them that they were doing things that were pleasing to God. But I understand what he meant, and that is that if the praise becomes the thing that one is working for, if the recognition becomes what one labors for, then that is the reward one receives and there is no other reward. If it is serving God that motivates, then if men praise us we will be a little bit embarrassed, but we will not turn our praise into the pay for the good works we’re doing.

What we’re being told today in the epistle reading is that everyone of us has been given by God special tools for the ministry of the body of Christ for building it up, and these tools vary as we get older. I stand sometimes, or sit around, feeling pity for myself because I used to be able to do all kinds of things: climb up ladders and carry squares of roofing on my back, and get down on my hands and knees and dig in the ground, and now my knees don’t bend and my back won’t carry those shingles anymore, and I feel as though somehow or the other I’m failing. But what it is is God is telling me, “That was your job then. There’s another job now.”

What I want to point out to you without turning you into self-worshipping pagans, is how you ought to really glorify God for the work he has done here recently. There’s a myth of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral. The myth may have come because I always pointed out our good points, and the myth is that somehow or the other, like a deus ex machine, like a divinity out of a machine, Fr. Joe appeared here and things God better. Well that wasn’t the whole story. The first picnic that we had here I enjoyed. I got to meet a whole lot of people. By the third picnic I was praying that it would start to rain about four o’clock so that I could get out of there. It was just a big coffee hour, done outside, and just before it was time to clean up, everybody would get in their cars and go home. And so, it ended up with the Cahenzli kids, and my kids, and a couple other of the children, carrying tables and carrying chairs for an hour and a half after we got through, and I would say to myself, “Why couldn’t we have just done this in the hall and saved all this work?”

As time went on, it was not always clear that everyone here who worked for the church was doing it for God. People would do something wonderful, and meritorious, something that really built up the church or that helped strengthen the community, and then they’d turn around and say to me, “Why doesn’t anyone else do anything?” As soon as they said that, they took away from themselves their reward because they were judging themselves to somehow be righteous because of what they should have been doing out of love. But just recently, and I don’t want to put the idea in your hear or open it up to the devil for you to then boast about it because then you’ll become arrogant and it will become your sin. Just recently our people have become joyful in their service. They have stopped complaining for the most part, and when they do complain, they get over it very fast. Last night I had people come to me. They said, “We sold everything in our booth. Can we go out tonight and buy more food and cook some more?” Can you imagine that? What would have happened ten years ago? People would have said, “Hup. Sold all my stuff. Won’t see me tomorrow.” But people received joy from what they were doing. They received joy because they could see that that the labors they were undertaking were redounding to good. We can now understand how our transformation, which has taken decades, has transformed the community around us. How this is now a low crime area. How the people surrounding us have gone from being poverty to being middle class people – not that we kicked out the poor people and brought in better earners, but that the whole community life has been regenerated in a real way. We understand those things.

Of course, all it takes is for someone to come over from ** and tag something and then we’re all back to where we started right. We’re all pessimistic again. But now we’ve got people down in Globeville who have learned from our church. There’s a guy that drives around, marks on a sheet of paper whenever he sees graffiti, goes home an gets the paint and covers it up. It’s not worth it for these gang bangers to come into our neighborhood any longer and to mark our walls because it’s not going to last until sundown, and if it does it will be gone by the next day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have given joy to the people around us. We have given them encouragement. We have taught them that laws can be enforced, that codes can be carried out, that the requirements of statutes do not just apply to lighter skinned people living in Cherry Creek. We’ve also taught them that they can approach power, political power, and request with dignity and intelligence what it should be their right to have, and get it. That the answer to everything is not to form a group of guerilla soldiers and go out and fight a revolution. That the answer is to use their human dignity to access the wheels of power, and to gain for themselves what they should always have had.

And our community here, it’s such a wonderful thing to have people come to me from a half dozen parishes, people who were here yesterday, clergy and laity, saying, “When we have an event, we work and work and work. We forget about church. We just work on the festival, and then we all go in there and we get as much money out of people as we can, and we’re all tired and we’re all angry when we’re through. But your people, they said, they have a good time while they’re doing it. They enjoy it. And you don’t gouge people when you offer them something for sale. You give them value. Why can’t we do this?” Well, they can. But we’re not going to lecture them and tell them that. We’re going to let them see how we do it and let them copy that.

What I’m saying to you today, on this Sunday of the Fathers of the First Six Councils, is that if the Holy Spirit dwells in us… but not just as individuals. We’re not a bunch of protestants who take our Lord Jesus, our personal savior, and our little deposit of Holy Spirit and go off in our little corner and boast about our salvation. We are a body, a community. And the Spirit dwells in us, as a people, the same way He dwells in us as individuals. If we allow our preaching to be a cause of our being caught up in ecstasy about our rhetorical skills, if we allow our good works to be a cause for us to be arrogant and proud, if we allow our charity be something where we go around and judge ourselves better than others, we make a lie of all this. But as long as we are laboring for the building up of the body, whether it’s our family which is a microcosm of the church, our parish which is our home away from home, the whole Church in America, or the universal Orthodox church as we contribute to it through IOCC and OCMC, and other charities, when we build up the church on any basis where two or three or two million or three million are gathered and laboring in the name of Christ, then we become a spirit filled community. And when the Holy Spirit is in us, and working in us, unless we turn our eyes back to that ____ that once had enthroned itself in our hearts, as long as we keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith, we can accomplish miracles beyond the imagination of those who even have seen the marvelous things that the Lord has done in our sight.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, glory to Jesus Christ!
Glory forever!

July 5, 2009 - Ss. Athanasius and Sergius

St. Paul tells the Romans that he is speaking to them in an allegorical sense because they are weak people, but he’s speaking to them of freedom and of slavery. He tells them that before they found Christ, they were slaves to their passions. They were slaves to the elemental spirits of the world. They were slaves to the earth from which they were taken. He tells them that before they found Christ, they were wholly owned by their own unbridled lusts. And he says to them, “These things that dragged you to and fro, that tormented you, what profit, what fruit did you have? In what way did you benefit by them? You experienced temporary satisfactions of earthly passions, which by the law of diminishing return then demanded greater and greater needs for physical satisfaction. You received honor which only led to the desire for more honor. You understood the meaning that power corrupts, and that greater power corrupts greatly, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Whatever it was you possessed in your own name, it was not your servant, it was your master. It was something that controlled, that owned, that manipulated, that possessed, and that corrupted you.” But he said, “Now, in a human sense of speaking, you have become slaves to Jesus Christ.”

We in our culture of freedoms and rights, and especially in the post-slavery era of Western civilization – which was never a thing that Western civilization practiced until it was taught to them by the Muselman – we now bridle at the word slavery. We’re shocked by that word. “What about my freedom?” Well, indeed, brothers and sisters, the slavery that are under to God is a voluntary slavery. It is a slavery from which any day we can choose to be released. We can return to the corruption of the flesh, to the freedom of immorality, which is no freedom at all but is itself slavery to matter and passions.

But what does it mean, then, to be a slave to righteousness? To be a slave to anything means to be owned by it, so to be a slave of righteousness means to be owned by righteousness. To be a slave to God means to belong to God. And what does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be a person bound for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, but to have subjected ourselves to slavery to righteousness, having voluntarily sold ourselves not to the passions and lusts of the flesh, but having delivered ourselves from that earthly nature which held our flesh and spirit captive, and now consigned our souls to the Spirit of God, to the Spirit of liberty? We now possess the freedom to be truly human beings.

Two saints are celebrated today. Both of these men were men who sought to be slaves to righteousness. They are both men who handed their lives over to God, but who had an idea what God was going to do with their lives. One of them is St. Athanasius of Athos, a young man whose parents died at an early age and who was raised by a pious nun, an aunt. Being brought up in her presence, he did nothing but imitate her life of prayer, and fasting, and self denial. The other was St. Sergius of Radonezh, who from his infancy showed a great proclivity to serve and to love God and to suffer for his sake. Both of these men wanted one then. What they wanted – and it was a righteous desire – was to give up everything that you think you want. To give up possessions, to give up security, to give up power, to give up gregariousness and being surrounded by friends, to give up reputation. They wanted ultimately to disappear into the desert somewhere, whether it was the far side of Mt. Athos, or the woods of Muskovy, and to never be seen again. To live there, to pray, to communicate God through His angels, through His saints, through nature, until only their bones were left there and their souls were reunited to Him.

But since both of these men made themselves slaves to God, to righteousness, and not to their own will, God made of each of them something other than what he wanted to be. St. Athanasius, going to the far side of Athos and making his little hut in a place that was remote and deserted, the most inhospitable place, found himself gathering disciples. People who came to be taught by him, to be instructed by him, to simply be in his presence. And, to each man, he taught the art of living as a hermit. But they’d gather together and offer the liturgies, and finally built a catholicon, and it was in the completion of this catholicon that St. Athanasius gave his soul over to God. We are told that on the day when the dome was raised that he and his six disciples and his architect climbed up on the roof of the building, and as they stood there, there was a shaking and the building fell, and that the six, together with him, all died – the six immediately, and him a few hours later. But he had been called by God to end his life at that point, after having done something he never wanted to do, and that was to build a community and to erect a structure. So today we celebrate his soul fleeing away to God taking with him that little band of disciples. And we celebrate that great monastery which has been erected there on Mt. Athos for a thousand and some years in memory of his prayer there.

And St. Sergei wanted to flee into the woods. He wanted to be a person with God, to pray for the world, and to be in contact with it by his intercessions on behalf of the Christian people. Not to be esteemed by them. In fact, he found himself surrounded, surrounded by disciples, so that a bigger and bigger monastery arose there. And when finally a bishop prevailed up him to allow himself to be ordained – because there’s a saying among the really pious monks in history: “Flee from women and from bishops, because one wants to make you a husband and the other wants to make you a priest.” But giving in to the order, to the command, to the direction of his hierarch, telling him that his monks needed to have the divine services held on the holy days and on Sundays, he allowed himself to be ordained. And you know what happened immediately? His own brother, who had come to join him in the monastery, then became jealous. As soon as he found that his brother was jealous, St. Sergei fled from the monastery, went back in the woods, and tried to regain his solitude. But it wasn’t what God wanted. He had not made himself a slave to Sergei’ pious desires, dreams, and delusions. He had made himself a slave to God and to righteousness, so he returned and forgave those who had envied him, only allowing himself to return on the condition that nothing be held against those who had been jealous of him and who had murmured about his elevation to the priesthood. In time, it was through his holy prayers and intercession, and his good advice, that the Russian land was saved from the Tartars, and ultimately probably from Islam. It was by his prayers that the faith was established in the Far North. You know, when you read the Psalms, it says, “We have heard of it in Mishach, we have found it in the field of Jaar.” Mishach is the far north. The word Muscovy comes from that Hebrew word. It means, “So far north that nobody should ever live there.” But the people had to flee there because they were being tormented by their enemies, their foes. They had to hide and find freedom in the woods. And to that state, grace was given through Sergei.

Two men today then, two men who having freed themselves from slavery to the passions and lusts, desires of the flesh and the delusions of the mind, then allowed themselves also to be freed from their own pious aspirations in this world, and instead accepted God’s will for themselves and became founders of great institutions. One of a monastery on Mt. Athos, and the other of the Holy Trinity of Lavra and in a very real sense, of the whole Muscovite church.

Through the prayers of these men and their examples may we also set ourselves free from slavery to the passions and lusts of the flesh, in which there is no profit, and become slaves of righteousness, for the wages, at the end of the day, that are paid into our hands by sin are a handful of dirt, a boxful of bones. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Him be glory forever and unto ages of ages. Amen

Monday, August 24, 2009

July 15, 2009 - St. Vladimir of Kiev

We know the legend of St. Vladimir, how it is recorded in the primitive narratives, the saga of old Russe. We are aware that he was one of a number of princes of the Nordic tribes that had come down the Dnieper River and settled in that valley, and who had performed the service of pacifying the raging Slavic communities along the riverbank and inland by imposing their tyranny over the local tyranny. We know that he, as a man, had two influences acting on him. One was the religion of his people, which was a variant of the Nordic religion, the worship of the god Perm who was the divinity of food, drink, and of human sacrifice. We also know that his grandmother, the wise Olga who had been herself a sovereign and ruler of one of the towns of the Russe confederation, had gone to Contantinople and embraced Orthodox Christianity, and had come back and had been quietly allowed by her husband, and then by her son, to practice her faith.

At a certain point in St. Vladimir’s life, the Spirit came upon him that told him that the way that his people lived, the way they behaved, was not befitting of true human beings. We underestimate the conversion of St. Vladimir if we think of it as simply a change in religious doctrine, or a change of opinion. It was a change entirely, of lifestyle. A change from a life totally dedicated to blood and acquisition of wealth, not even for the sake of enjoyment of the wealth, but its possession, for among the Vikings it was common to hide one’s treasure away in a cave, or to send it out to sea in a flaming ship at the time of one’s death. It was as important to keep it out of the hands of others as it was to have it in ones own hands. It was from a religion based on each man satisfying his own passions, to a faith that taught there were absolute laws of right and wrong, of good and evil, and that men had to convert. They need not only change their opinions, but they needed to change every aspect of their behavior.

Vladimir’s cousin, who was Prince Olaf of Denmark, had already embraced Christianity and was struggling with this metamorphosis from a man of blood, and passion, and violence, of fire and treasure, to a Christian soul. Vladimir was not going to simply follow the example of his grandmother or of his cousin. He was going to find for himself, and so with a spirit of inquiry, he sent out his agents. They encountered at that time the four main religious systems that were offered in that part of the world. They encountered Islam and we’re told, cynically sort of by the author of the primitive narrative, that the Moslem’s hesitation to drink alcohol or to drink pork was an impediment to them. It may have been a discouragement to them, but it was certainly the similarity between the Islamic lifestyle and that of the Nordic people from whom he descended that put him off. For it was not really changing anything, except what he called his deity to whom he sacrificed human beings, the mode by which he sacrificed them, and the orientation of his daily prayer.

And then his men confronted the Kashars who had newly converted to Judaism, and he found among them a people who admitted themselves that they had disappointed their God and were under a curse from Him; that they were exiles from their own land, and their desire was not so much for the kingdom of heaven as for the restoration of a monarch and the acquisition of access again to a city which they had once possessed. He thought of this as a pathetic, as a sad and tragic story. His agents confronted Roman Catholicism in the empire of the Francs. And they found it to be perfunctory, simple, and unedifying. By this time the low mass had become the norm. Worship was simply watching someone go through gestures, and mumble a few words, and occasionally utter out loud, “Sanctus, sanctus” or “ “ And added to this was the annoyance of the newly invented bellows organ. They reported back to Vladimir that there this contraption in the church that wheezed terribly and made a sound that distracted their minds and their hearts from prayer. Now this isn’t as bad as their thoughts about the Muslims or the adherents of Judaism, but it was enough to make them then go on and follow St. Olga’s footsteps to Constantinople, where the church of Agia Sophia, at the divine liturgy, hearing the angelic hymns proclaimed, maybe even some of them in the Slavonic that they understood that had been centuries earlier prepared for their conversion by St. Cyril Methodius, they were carried up into heaven itself, at least in the heart and in the mind and soul. They said, “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, We only know God is among these people.” So missionaries came to Kiev and instructed the leading citizens, and mass baptism took place – probably some of it not entirely willingly. The truth of the legend is found in the account that on the day of his baptism Vladimir had all of the statues of the pagan gods thrown into the Dnieper river. This was questioned by historians, especially of the Soviet era, until with the use of sonar they were able to find all of these gods in the mud at the bottom of the river that had been thrown in that day.

God did not desire, however, that Vladimir should intellectually obtain, comprehend, and accept Orthodoxy as simply a preferable religion, as the one that seemed to offer the fewest downsides and the most upsides. So God allowed blindness to best Vladimir. If he were going to question his choice, this is certainly the event that would have led to it. He might even have said, “Perm has blinded me because I am turning away from offering human sacrifice, and pigs, and beer, and wine to him.” Instead, Vladimir quietly, passively, peacefully approached the waters of baptism, there declaring before his baptism, his Orthodox faith. And after emerging from the water, having his eyesight restored as it had been to holy Apostle Paul, giving thanks, he thanked God, not only the God who brought him from the darkness of idolatry to the light of the worship of the one true God and spared him from twisted and warped versions of ethical monotheism to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the true faith of the Orthodox.

If we need, however, evidence of Vladimir’s sincere and total and perfect conversion which took the rest of his life to be completed, as it will each of us, we don’t simply find it in the fact that a lot of Russians became Orthodox. We find it in the lives of his two sons, born to him after his conversion to Christianity, Boris and Gleb, who not only did not desire the acquisition of wealth and power, prestige and glory in this life, but who, when presented with the possibility of having everything taken from them, knelt down piously and allowed themselves to be slain like lambs, understanding that their brother Sviatopolk, if he could acquire the throne and the crown in his own name and without opposition, while remaining a pagan, would not molest the young Christian church. But if they resisted, even if they were victorious, that great travail would befall the believers in every place controlled by those of the former pagan religion. And that if they failed, that the church and the spark of Christ’s faith would be stamped out to return only long in the future. So they became the first among the saints to achieve the title and honor of “Passion bearers.” Not martyrs – they were not killed for their faith – but sharers in the suffering of Christ who said, “Greater love hath no man than this: That he lay down his life for his friends.” So they are the crowning glory of St. Vladimir, canonized before he was canonized. When he was canonized it was originally under the title of Basil, his baptismal name, only later was his honorific name at birth, Vladimir, “Ruler of the world,” used not any longer as an appellation for him, but as an identification of him with the Pantocrator, the Lord whom he had chosen to serve throughout his life.

Through his prayers may the church be granted peace, unity, and tranquility, and may many from east and west, come and share in the fellowship of Orthodox belief, casting aside twisted faiths, heresies, and errors of old, to enter into the one fellowship with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, glory to Jesus Christ.

Glory forever.

Memory Eternal

Fr. Joseph Hirsch passed away this evening after a two week struggle in the ICU. May his memory be eternal.

I am behind a few sermons, but will post those over the next few days.

Monday, August 17, 2009

June 21, 2009

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Our Lord Jesus Christ's first action after having been baptised in the waters of the Jordan and going into the desert and fasting and praying, was to create the first parish. He was gathering together the first congregation of Orthodox Christians. Rather, the first congregation of Orthodox catechumens, because these men were to spend the next three years being instructed by Him in the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, in the plan of salvation, in what it meant to be a disciple of the Son of God. At this point they are not called apostles yet. They are called disciples, those under the discipline or obedience of a master. Later, He would send them out two by two to the cities of Israel and they would become apostles. Finally, He would send them out to the ends of the earth. But for now, they are gathered together to be instructed, to be formed.

Today, we celebrate also as well, in the secular sense which certainly our Orthodox culture seeks to transfigure, the national day dedicated to fathers, and we also remember grandfathers and spiritual fathers on this day. And we're reminded that the head of a family ought, by right, to be a father. Not because he's the boss of the mother. The two of them stand equally under God. But because he's the one who is supposed to be the face of the family, the one who takes the hits, the one who displays the aggression. And also the one who... In the formation of a well balanced child, there are two things needed: One is conditional love that requires that one conform in order to receive. And there's the other, which is unconditional which doesn't have to be earned. The unconditional love is the mother love. It accepts the children and says, “You are mine. You came from my body. You will always be mine. There is nothing you can do that will make me deny you.” And the conditional love is the father saying, “You tow the line, or I'm not going to pay any attention to you. You do what's right, or you will not have my favor.” If you don't have mother love, you have a complex. You become insecure, and that's not good. But it you don't have father love, you become a psychopath, and you pray on society, and you abuse people, and you think only of yourself. So that's why both of these are needed.

As I was contemplating these things, I listened to a lecture that was given at St. Vladimir's seminary this week, that was broadcast, telecast, live on the computer. The lecture I noted was one that was given by Fr. Alexander Garklavs The chancellor of the OCA, whose grandfather, who adopted his father was archbishop John Garklavs who ordained me. And Fr. Alexander was talking about the great synod of the Russian Church that took place after the revolution had begun – actually, the revolution happened in the middle of it. And he mentioned this: That, eighty six bishops, ten years earlier when the council was supposed to be held because everything in Russia crept along like a cockroach with only two legs, went very slowly. And so ten years earlier when questionnaires had been sent to the bishops to ask them about life in their diocese, and there are thirteen volumes of these answers that had been collected, every bishop of sixty-eight diocese that responded said their biggest problem was the death of parish life in their diocese. That for about two hundred years, the parishes of the church within Russia had become sort of religious curio shops and supermarkets. The priest came into church. He waited for people to come to have molyemins said, or to have panahedas said. He served the sluzhbas, he served the scribes services, he collected trebi and he went home. There were exceptions to this, but by and large, the priesthood had become professionalized. The priests had stopped being in a real sense patushki to their families, they'd stopped being fathers. They had become practitioners of priest craft. They had become liturgizers.

All the bishops said, “We need to change this.” But where was the pattern going to come from? Well obviously from the scriptures. In the early church the Christians lived in one accord, they shared their goods when they needed to. They cared for one another. Widows and women who wished to live a celibate life were supported by the church, and in exchange they worked for the building up of the community. But what pattern could they look to in order to restore parish life in the great Russian Empire? They found two patterns. The first and most primitive form of this was that which was in existence in parts of the Ukraine, and in parts of Valencia and Bukovina, where the people lived under the rule of Catholic kings. In those countries, the Orthodox had to band together to defend themselves. They formed brotherhoods, and the brotherhoods had to build the churches. The churches weren't built by dukes and princes. There was no national government to build churches in those Catholic countries. In fact in most of them they couldn't even be built out of stone or brick. They had to be built out of wood so that if the local ruler got aggravated with you he could burn the church down. So in these places, the communities formed brotherhoods, sisterhoods. And these brotherhoods and sisterhoods cultivated family life within the parish. The parish began to take on, in these places, the nature of a community. It was no longer simply the sacred supermarket where you went to get your grace and then go home. It was the place where you came together to meet, to love, to care, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep. That's why in a real sense every service that happens in this church, whether it's a funeral, or a wedding, or a baptism, even though it may be called a trebic service, a needs service, it's still a service of the entire church. Everyone should always be welcome to it, because they are things that happen in the family of God.

And then they found another iteration of this parish family idea. And that was that the people who had come to America, most of whom were from Ukrainian or Carpatha-Russyn backgrounds, and who had left Uniatism and had become Orthodox Christians again. These people had formed parishes complete with parish charters, with bylaws, with councils, with brotherhoods, with trustees who built churches and took care of them. And the priest, then, was a member of the community. He was not a dictator. He was not a petty over-groupen fuhrer. He was not a tyrant, nor was he the mystical wizard who had all the secrets, but the leader of worship for the people. And so, it turns out that just about the time of the Octoberist uprising, one of St. Tikhon's priests arrived late from America to participate in the great council. What he carried in his hand was the statutes of the churches in North America, the parish constitutions that directed that their ought to be staretzi, and that there ought to be trustees, and that together with this group of people, the priest was to work – not as their employee, but neither as their dictator – as their father. Not as Pope, but as patushka. To build up the body of Christ. To make it a family. And although it was never implemented as it was supposed to be, and even today has not been implemented in Russia, this American statute was adopted by the great council as the guiding statute of the reorganization of parishes throughout the Russian empire.

This means, brothers and sisters, that even though our American church was small – about eight thousand Russians, about seven thousand Ukranians, about six thousand Galizians, four thousand Romanians, and four thousand Bukovinians, about two thousand Arabs – and I'm not getting these figures right because I'm trying to remember them from the back of my mind – and, Tikhon added, 250 Estonians and Americans. He groups them together. Even though it was small, it had already started to give gifts back to the mother churches of Europe. The idea of how a church should be structured. But brothers and sisters, you must understand this: If a parish is as it's supposed to be – a family – that it has to function as a family. It means everyone in it taking their responsibility. It means that those who take greater responsibility not either boasting about it or feeling abused, but rejoicing in God that they are able to carry a heavier load. It means not shirking. It means knowing that if you don't go to work today there won't be bacon on the family table tonight, that being a parish family is different from having your name on the roles of a religious department store where Orthodox mysteries are dispensed. It means bearing another's burdens and thus fulfilling the whole law of Christ.

So there is an awful involved there. Some of you probably read that Andrew Jones died Friday. Eight years and six months his mother took care of him. His father suffered watching him. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week she cared for him. He had a breathing installed when he was three years old, and so for five years she had to every half hour of his entire life aspirate him, draw the fluid out of his lungs. She bore a dreadful burden, and she bore it like a hero. And what she did was, she perfected a saint. She took a little life that was given to her, a little life that, because of the lottery of genetics, that unfortunate thing that came into the world because of the fall of man, the good and bad genes and all that – which if you have good genes, or you think you do, then you become some kind of fascist and you want to look down on everybody else, and if you have a problem, you say, “Why did it happen to me?” It's the lottery of a fallen world. It's the way the roulette wheel falls out as the process of human procreation goes forward. She took this life from God, she brought it to the waters of baptism. The baby was immersed and given new life. He lay in his bed and never uttered a word. He received holy communion four, five times a year. He watched VeggieTales bible stories, and he had the ones he liked and the ones he didn't like. He had a lively life in his mind because his mother talked to him all the time, but no life at all in his mind. It was a prison, until God completed the work He had begun in a very short time. Having lived a short time, he accomplished a great time and God took him to Himself and now, sinless, he shines among the saints of heaven. And, if it were not out of our place to do so, because it's a canonical matter, we could say, “Holy child, St. Andrew, pray unto God for us.”

This is what a family does. And I've managed, because our church owns some graves that I wangled out of a relative that needed a tax deduction once, and because we've worked with a funeral home for a long time, and because the family was receiving some help from MedicAid, we only owe about $400 for the opening and the closing of the grave. I'm going to ask anybody who wants to to contribute to that, and you can have a part in this. But, the church has taken care of everything. We've done it because we're a family and because it's our job to do that as a family. And we have given to the world an ideal, and if we forget that ideal, we will have betrayed our patst, we will have betrayed St. Tikhon, St. Alexander Holovitsky, St. John Kcharov, the brave men who trod across this land, Sebastian Dabovich, and Bishop Rayfield, and founded the church, from shore to shore. You know, in1890, there were only two churches of the Russian Church in America. Now there is no Russian Church in America, canonically, there is only the Orthodox Church in America. With many parishes and many sister churches here.

What it all means though is that we have to understand that although the parish hall is not as important as the altar and the temple, that it is an extension of that, just as the family table in the house of an Orthodox husband and wife is an altar on which they, as priests of their household, offer sacrifices of sweat, and blood, and labor; to nourish each other, to nourish their children, and from which they give to the poor and for the support of the church, so that, gathering place there is our village. If all things were as our predecessors, the founders of this church, thought they were going to be, we would all be living in houses around here. Thank God we've got three people that have houses here. We'd all be living around here, and when the bells rang everyone would know somebody had died. And when services were going on, if the priest decided to start services a half hour early and rang the bell, you'd say, “Oh, Father got anxious,” like deacon John did this morning when they cut off the third hour. But we're not, we're scattered. And so there's no place for us to meet. It's not appropriate for us to socialize in the temple, is it? This is where we gather to work for God. This is the factory where we grind out grace, where our liturgy, our work for the people of God, is done. And that's the place where then we gather to share our love for one another, our community, our companionship, our fellowship; to mourn with those who mourn, to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to bear one anothers' burdens.

And so today, on this Fathers' Day, I, who am celebrating this for the twenty-fifth time – and it would be the twenty-sixth except I came after Fathers' Day in 1984 – this day here, I want to say to you that the vision we have here, brothers and sisters, is in a very really way the fruition of St. Tikhon's vision, of St. John Alexander's vision, of the vision of the great Sabor – the vision that was never realized in the Russian land but by God's grace may be someday – of a collection of families, of communities, of brotherhoods and sisterhoods gathered under the loving care and intelligent guidance of a patushka who is not on a power trip, to work out their salvation together for the triumph of the kingdom of God. What we have done is more than they imagined, for they imagined a community made up of Romanian, and Serbian, and Arab, and Russian, and Ukranian churches. We have created a community made up of Serbian, and Ukranian, and Russian, and Romanian, Bulgarian, Eritrean, Hispanic, African American, and just plain old Irish, and Scotch, and English Americans in one congregation, under one roof, at one altar, receiving grace from one chalice. We must never let that die. My fear is that when I fade off into the sunset, that someday somebody's going to have an idea that's going to turn this place into some kind of a rigid single nationality, ethnically exclusive, old-time, ghetto church. And that all that we have been able to accomplish will somehow or the other disappear. But you know, it's not my job to preserve it. It's not the dad's job to stay alive for 150 years to make sure his kids are good. It's his job to make sure they know what they're supposed to do so that when he's gone, they'll keep the work going.

So, to our Lord Jesus Christ, who made us one family, who tore down all the walls of dividing, who made of us from many nations one holy people acceptable to Him, a chosen generation, a royal and peculiar people, priestly before Him – to Him be glory and dominion and majesty, and may His blessing descend upon and abide with this congregation unto the consummation of the ages.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, glory to Jesus Christ!

Glory forever!