Sunday of All Saints of North America

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Like the Apostles, serving our Saviour
Sunday of all Saints of North America
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
6 June, 2010
Romans 2:10-16 ; Matthew 4:18-23


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

Today, our Saviour has begun calling the Twelve. Whenever we use this term “the Twelve”, we are referring to the Twelve Apostles. Our Saviour is coming by the shore of the Sea of Galilee to these particular men, and He is saying to them : “‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’”. When He says this to them, He says the same thing to us now, here. It is our responsibility to do the same as the apostles did, and follow Him. They immediately followed Him.

Our hearts want to follow the Lord immediately also. However, our hearts are very often distracted by one thing or another. That does not stop the Lord from calling you and me. He is constantly calling you and me to follow Him because He loves us. He desires that we will participate in Him eternally, in the fulness of life. He wants us to become our real selves, our full selves, our healed selves, our corrected selves, our repentant selves, our selves as He created us to be in the first place. He wants us to live an abundant and full life, not shackled by fear, not weighed down by unnecessary cares, but free in Him and alive in Him. That is why He is constantly saying to you and to me : “‘Follow Me’”.

I am certain that there is not one day that passes by in which the Lord is not calling us. He is calling us every day in this way. When He is calling us, He is also in our hearts enabling us, in His mercy and in His love, to say “yes” to Him. From without He is calling, and from within He is enabling so that we can have the strength. We human beings, scared sheep that we are, really do have difficulty believing the depth of His love (we are not called sheep for nothing). Yet, the Lord in His mercy and His care does love us. His love for us is stable, and it does not end. He wants us to live in Him, with Him, and to be like Him.

We pass through our lives facing various struggles, as we try to co-operate with Him, as we try to respond to Him, as we try to be faithful to Him, except that we still keep getting distracted by oppositions, earthly cares, and all sorts of other details. Nevertheless, the Lord continues to pursue us in His love because we are His creatures, and He wants us to live in Him.

As we hear, the Apostle Paul is telling us today that it is important for us to remember that the Lord has created all of us to be equal : “There is no partiality with God”. Every human being, every creature in the universe is created by Him. Whatever is created is the product of His love because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). I keep having to say this endlessly (just as the apostle had to keep saying it endlessly) because we (including myself) are so slow to accept that God really loves us in this way. “There is no partiality with God”. He cares for every human being equally. He does not make any distinction between us and amongst us as we do. We divide ourselves up into every imaginable category : black hair, white hair, black eyes, blue eyes, yellow skin, brown skin, and so on. We categorise ourselves like this. The Lord sees us all equally and the same as His beloved children. Why is there such variety amongst us in our appearance ? It is because God created us to have such variety of appearance. We can see in the whole universe that God does not create only one thing in one particular way. God creates life, varieties and abundance. His love is productive, and His love embraces everyone and everything.

The undercurrent of this are the words of the Lord, Himself, which come from the Old Testament and which are repeated endlessly : “‘You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy’” (3 Moses [Leviticus] 11:44). We are in Him. We are in His likeness, and He created us to be holy. He created us to be like Him. To be holy means to be full of love. To be like God can only mean to be full of love, full of life-giving love, full of selfless love.

Last week, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we remembered all the saints in the whole world. Today, on the second Sunday after Pentecost, we are keeping the memory of all the local saints. On these two particular Sundays, we remember all the saints, known and unknown. In fact, many of them are not known by name, and not even known by us to be holy ; but they are known to God. By their intercessions, people are saved (even though they do not know that this is why). Today, we, here, are remembering the local saints in North America. In Canada, in particular, we are remembering Saint Arseny of Winnipeg. The icon of Saint Herman is representing North America. The icon of Saint Arseny is primarily representing Canada ; but he is the founder of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and also the seminary there, and he began his missionary work in the USA. These two holy men are our representatives here in our midst today. Here, in Canada, we can truly say that we do not know all the saints by name. We know some of them, but we certainly do not know them all.

In the course of my life here in Canada, I have encountered many people who truly have lived holy lives. Their lives have testified to the Lord’s love, and their lives have been productive in the Lord’s love. Through their prayers, people have been healed by the Lord. All sorts of good things have happened through these persons here in Canada. They are unknown to you (however, I know their names). Perhaps some day the Lord will reveal them as persons who are interceding for us, and He will ask us to identify them more formally by official glorification. The wonder of holiness, however, is that it does not absolutely have to be recognised openly and be on the ecclesiastical calendar of the whole Orthodox world. True holiness is usually hidden. The holiest people try to hide this fact about themselves. They just are. They make no trumpetting of anything. They try not to draw any attention to themselves. This can be seen in the life of the holy Elder Porphyrios (Bairaktaris), the Kapsokalyvite of Mount Athos, especially during his years of service in Athens. We see it also in the well-known holy Elder Paisios (Eznepidis) of Mount Athos. They draw no attention to themselves, but out of love, they pray. They live lives that are productive in love. They do, and live God’s will. I have met many such people in the course of my life, and I still am meeting such people (in case you think that it is in the past tense).

We can see how opposite this is to so-called “normal” Canadian life. I am saying this because we all need such encouragement as we live our lives swimming upstream, as it were. Sometimes we think that we are all alone trying to follow the Saviour, but we are not alone. We are in the same situation as of the Prophet Elias when he was complaining that he alone was left. The Lord said to him, in effect : “No, not at all. I know of 7,000 people. Get back to work” (see 3 Kingdoms 19:13-18). We sometimes think that we are alone, but we are far, far from being alone. The Lord is giving us work to do. Even if no-one ever says thank-you to us for anything, true love in Christ does not require any thanks from any human being. Living in the love of the Lord, true love expresses gratitude to the Lord all the time.

From time-to-time you will hear certain holy people saying that they think that there is a handful of people around the world upon whose shoulders it seems to fall to keep everything from falling apart in the world. These are persons such as I have been describing : hidden, Christ-loving persons whose lives are completely occupied by intercessory prayer, and upon whose shoulders everyone else is supported and protected. There are people such as this in Canada, too. There may be even more than a handful supporting us. The Lord is looking after us. He is caring for us. We remember how He called the apostles this morning. Immediately afterwards, as usual, He began healing people, as He always does. In the same way, after He calls us, He brings healing to us ; and He brings healing through us to those around us.

Let us ask the Lord to give us the ability to co-operate with Him more and more, day by day. In this harmonious relationship, He will be with us and protecting us and supporting us, as we are struggling to be holy as He is holy, and struggling to be like Him as He invites us in His love to be. Thus, may we with purity and power, freedom and joy glorify the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.