Bright Saturday

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
“He must increase”
Bright Saturday
3 May, 2008
Acts 3:11-16 ; John 3:22-33

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

In today’s reading from the Holy Gospel, we can hear that people are addressing the Holy Prophet and Forerunner John mistakenly, because they seem to think that he is the Christ, that he is the Saviour. He emphatically says that he is not. Not only does he say that he is not the Saviour, but he also says most importantly : “'He must increase, but I must decrease'”. This is an important word for us all to remember at all times, because the way of the world is not like this saying. Rather, in the fallen way of the world, people are more likely to insist : “I must increase, and everything else must decrease”. This fallen mentality would easily go farther, and people would dare to say : “God should be put in His place so that He does not get in my way and bother me, my life and my plans”. That is more or less how many people seem to treat the Lord.

The attitude of the Forerunner is absolutely our pattern as believers. Christ must increase in everything, and I must decrease. This decreasing does not mean that I have to disappear as a person or anything. It means that my rebellious will, my will which operates against His will, my will which is not in harmony with His will, must decrease so that, in everything in my life, Christ will be all in all. This increase of Christ means increase of love. That is what God is. That is Who He is – Love. If there is going to be “increase”, it has to be increase of love, because where love is, there, of course, is also Christ.

We can see the result of the putting into practice of this “I must decrease” in the Acts of the Apostles. In the passage in which we encounter the Apostles Peter and John today, they have just finished healing a man who was paralysed and sitting outside the temple begging. When he is asking for alms, the Apostles Peter and John come to him. “Fixing his eyes on him” the Apostle Peter says : “'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk'” (Acts 3:4, 6). And he does. He arises and jumps up. His ankles, his feet, his legs are all instantly made whole. Up he gets, and he leaps about and praises God.

Then, in today’s passage, the apostle is telling people in effect that this means : “It is not I, the Apostle Peter, nor is it the Apostle John who does this. It is Jesus Christ who does this”. The Apostle Peter was referring everything to Jesus Christ : everything. All the apostles did the same thing. They always referred everything to Jesus Christ. The apostles knew their own weaknesses. They remembered very well (what we just experienced a week ago in Holy Week) how they were timid, afraid, ran away, and so forth. They certainly did not forget that. Even when the Grace of the all-holy Spirit filled them, and they were given Grace to do amazing things, they still remembered their own weakness. They remembered that it is only by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and by the love of Jesus Christ, that we are able to do anything good.

It is very good for us, also, to remember this. If we do any good, it is because of the Lord working in us. It is His love at work in us. Certainly He gives us gifts, and we are responsible for exercising those gifts, and for developing those gifts, but not apart from Him. Everything does not revolve around me. I must give up the mentality of an infant. Everything is always concerned with glorifying Jesus Christ.

Let us consider, for instance, Bach. What a gift God gave that man ! Bach is not alone, for there are others of the same calibre. However, because he had 22 children, I suppose that is particularly impressive. When you have a family of 22 children, and you can still produce by hand (with a quill pen), much of the time using a candle for light, all this sublime music, you have to have not only a very strong wife, and a very orderly household, but you also have to have somehow the ability to focus yourself, and to allow the Lord to produce this through your heart. In the case of J S Bach, he was blessed to have had two strong women to support him. His first wife reposed after having given birth to the first two children. An average human being (even the most gifted human being, I think) in the atmosphere of 22 children, would not be able to do what Bach did unless he had put into practice already exactly what the Apostle Peter is talking about, and what the Forerunner is talking about. Giving glory to God in everything must come first. Then all sorts of amazing things can occur. I hope that I, myself, can learn a lesson from these examples, and from these words today.

Let us do our best to allow the Lord to increase (and our egos, separate from Him, to decrease). Let us allow ourselves to become our true selves living in harmony with Him. The way of Christ is not like the Buddhist way in which the ideal is that you disappear as a person or as a distinct creature or whatever. This is the opposite of the way of Christ. The way of Christ is simply to understand that when our wills are contrary to God’s way, then, that way is death. We kill ourselves when our way is contrary to the Lord’s love. His love is life. If we go contrary to it, we go into the way of death. The way of Christ is health. If we go in the opposite way, we go in the way of illness, sickness and other sorts of things.

Harmony in His love brings health, life, strength, hope, joy, peace, and all those fruits of the Holy Spirit. It always brings these things. It always allows each human being to become truly himself or herself, as the Lord has created us to be. That is the main purpose of our decreasing this willfulness, this scatteredness, and allowing the Lord to increase in our hearts, so that we can become our real selves.

Certain authors in the secular world are actually showing us with their stories, allegorical examples of how we become our real selves. C S Lewis, in his book, The Great Divorce, shows us through allegory an unforgettable example of what our real self can be. It is good for us to look at such stories from time to time, because they help us to understand this. It is not that we, as persons, are supposed to disappear or become nothing. Rather, we are supposed to become, in our harmony and in our unity with the Lord, far more substantial than we can imagine ourselves being. We are to become substantial like the Apostle Peter, like the Apostle John, whose prayers raised that man and who did other amazing and wonderful things to the glory of God.

Let us do the amazing things that the Lord has given us to do for His glory, for the life and salvation of His creation. Let us glorify the Lord in everything : Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.