Our Faith is the Apostolic Faith

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Our Faith is the Apostolic Faith
Altar Feast of the Consecration of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem
transferred to 19 September, 2010
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 16:13-19


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

People are very often worried about how they are going to come to their end, and what will happen when they are coming to meet Christ. People very often speak to me as though they think that there is going to be a theological exam presented to them which they have to pass before they can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Very often people think and speak in the same terms about life today in the Church. They think that there has to be some sort of “theological system” that we personally are following, that is correct.

Today, the Lord asks His disciples : “‘Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?’” This question is prompted by theories that various other people were promoting – that He was Elias, for instance, or someone else. This first response of the disciples is based simply on logic and guessing. Then our Saviour asks them : “‘Who do you say that I am?’” The Apostle Peter answers : “‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’”. This is the correct answer, and is the answer from the heart.

When we are living our Orthodox Christian lives, this is the same question that is asked of you and of me. We should be able to give the same answer. We, ourselves, are very much like the Apostle Peter : in the course of our lives we are listening to one sort of thought or another, getting disturbed and becoming afraid. Our experience is the same as the apostles, also : when we listen to our hearts, then we encounter Christ and we have peace.

We cannot forget that there was a time when the apostles were in a boat in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. At that time, which we will treat as if we were present, our Saviour comes walking to the apostles on the water. At first they are afraid, but our Saviour says : “‘It is I; do not be afraid’” (Matthew 14:27). Then the Apostle Peter says to Him : “‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water’”. The Lord says to him : “‘Come’”. Listening to his heart, the apostle walks on the water. He comes to the Saviour, but then his mind begins to take over. He notices that it is windy, and the waves are high. The attention of his heart is diverted from the Saviour to the wind and the waves around him, and immediately he begins to sink. Quickly and correctly he cries out : “‘Lord, save me!’”. Our Saviour reaches out His hand, pulls him up and says : “‘Why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:27-31). When the Saviour asks : “‘Why did you doubt?’”, He is asking, in effect : “Why did you let yourself become divided”. Doubt has to do with division. In this case, the heart and the mind became divided from each other, and the mind was starting to take over the precedence.

The apostle learned (as we all must learn) that the head is not the chief. It is the heart that is the chief. It is in the heart that we have our connexion and encounter with Christ. When the heart is in order with Christ, then the heart puts the correct order in the thoughts of the mind. Trying to put this principle into computer terms, it is possible to say that the mind is full of all sorts of random information which is not necessarily in any particular order. If we are going to have proper order in the mind, then the heart (being the operating programme) must put order into all this information. The heart has from Christ the correct programme for making sense of all the information that is in the mind. If we want to know where there is the truth, then the understanding of truth has to come first from the heart, from Christ, who is the Truth. The truth in our mind becomes clear in the light of the Truth in our heart.

The apostle had his heart straightened in two ways today. Our Lord says to him today : “‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it’”. By the way, the name of the Apostle Peter is from the Greek word “petros” which means rock. The rock of the apostle is his faith in Christ. The rockiness is his example of love and trust in Jesus Christ. I am saying all these things because when we come to the end of our days, we are not going to be asked all sorts of specific questions about how we believe. We are going to come before the Saviour Himself, and He is going to say, as He says today : “‘Who do you say that I am?’” We are going to be able to respond : “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, because we are already living in our lives the love of Jesus Christ. With the apostles, we will recognise Him in His love.

This is the same way that Saint Vladimir’s emissaries (and then he, himself) recognised Christ. It is his Relic that miraculously is with us today. With the apostles, and the equal-to-the-apostles, at our end we are going to be saying to the Saviour : “You are the Christ”. His love will help us to confess Him in this way. Facing Him, we will see in the course of our lives every way in which we have betrayed Him, strayed from Him, hurt Him, and disappointed Him. Because of His love, we will immediately say to Him : “I am sorry. Please forgive me, my Saviour, and have mercy upon me”. In His love, the Saviour will hear us ; He will forgive us ; He will wash us, and He will bring us to Himself. It is extremely important for us while we are yet on this earth to cultivate love of Him in our heart.

For some years now since I have been coming here, this Temple has been very full. This is very good, and it is important to say : “Glory to God that this is the case”. Nevertheless, Russian immigrants have become like Canadians in that we Canadians do not like to stand too tightly together. As a result, many people are standing quite far from the iconostas. That does not happen only here ; it happens everywhere in Canada. It will be obvious that we are not behaving in Canada as they do in Russia. There, they stand as close as they can to the iconostas, and it is the back that is empty. I keep thinking that this is because in Canada people are afraid that someone will ask them a question that they will have to answer. Whatever the reason, people are standing far away and it is hard for them to participate in the services. I have heard that the parish council and others are thinking about making adjustments to the building so that it will be easier to allow more people to get into the Temple itself to worship, instead of having to stand outside. This will allow them to come closer to the Holy Table. This adjustment can be possible without making too many drastic changes to the nature of the building. However, we are far from any final plan or decision. It will be very good if everyone would pray, and that we would all together hear the Lord tell us in our hearts what He wants us to do.

Therefore, let us pray and listen. When the time comes to start talking about anything concrete, then our hearts will be guiding us, in harmony with Christ’s will for His Church. In the meantime, may the Lord send the Holy Spirit upon you all. May the Mother of God spread her veil over you and protect you. By the prayers of the holy Great Prince Vladimir, may the Lord give you courage and strength. Let us continue our offering to the Saviour and glorify Him, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.