Year 2003

Confessing Christ

Bishop Seraphim : Homily
Confessing Christ
21 September, 2003

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

We must always be prepared to confess Christ. We do not know what is going to happen on any day. We do not know what the Lord is going to ask of us at any particular time. For instance, let us recall all those Orthodox Christians who lived 100 years ago or so in Russia and Ukraine. What happened to them ? They were living their lives peacefully, and along came the Bolshevik Revolution. During this revolution, people were being killed right, left and centre, very often only because they were Orthodox believers. These Orthodox Christians had no idea that they would end their lives as martyrs for the sake of Christ. They were just plain, Orthodox Christians, living their lives faithfully.

However, when the time came that they were challenged to deny Christ, they responded : “Absolutely not” ; and they suffered terrible tortures. All this is described in the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. There are also the two books written about Archimandrite Arseny (Streltsov) in the prison camp in North Russia. There are also the words of Father Alexander Men, who was himself a martyr in the same way. These writings help us understand what sort of suffering people endured for the sake of the love of Jesus Christ. All these people were ordinary, everyday people like you and me.

I hope that most of us in North America are not going to be put in such a position (although anything is possible). Open persecution could happen here, too, but God forbid that it should happen. In the meantime, it is important for you and for me to confess that we are Orthodox Christians, that Jesus Christ is everything in our lives. There are people all around us who are hungry, thirsty and looking for hope. In this country which has become so secular, there are people who have nothing to live for except some sort of small creature comforts. They have no hope. Hope has gone from them. However, if we live our lives with joy, and if we show love to people around us, then we can bring Christ to them. We can bring Christ to them, even if they are not ready to recognise Him yet ; and maybe, eventually, in due time, they will be ready to ask questions, and perhaps to accept Him. They may even become Orthodox Christians.

We Orthodox Christians in North America are here not just to be comfortable, to have a good life, or to have things better here than anywhere else. As Orthodox Christians, we are here to show the love of Jesus Christ to those people around us. Because we are Orthodox Christians, this is our responsibility. We, Orthodox Christians, carry without any distortion the whole truth about Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. He is the Truth that people are looking for. In Canada these days, it is so popular to hear : “Well, that is true for you, and this is true for someone else”. What is being said is that something is true for this person, and something else is true for that person. However, if truth is like that, there is no such thing as truth. By definition, there can only be one truth. If there is more than one truth, then one of the so-called truths has to wrong, deficient or lacking. There can only be one truth. That Truth is Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He is the Only-begotten Son of God, who took on our human flesh, our human condition, and our fallenness out of love in order to save us.

We have with us here, today, Mrs. n, who was not long ago in the hospital and was expected to die because of a heart problem. The doctors did not expect her to live. However, the priest and the people of the Church prayed, and here she is with us in the Temple of the Lord. Like Father n, she was and is confessing Christ with her life. There is also Matushka n, who had a very serious case of pneumonia only last year. She had double pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. However, the Church’s priest and people prayed, and she is here with us, strong as ever, serving the Saviour and confessing Him. Then we have n, who is in the hospital right now. Very recently, she was in a coma for a whole week. Her sister told me that the doctors gave her a 1% chance to survive. After the prayers of the Church (by priest and people), in due time, she woke up ; and even without any life-support system, she is walking around the hospital as though nothing had happened. She is definitely praising God and giving thanks to Him.

God is merciful. The Grace of God is amongst us here in this congregation. The Lord is hearing our prayers, and that is really what I want to emphasise. We can get very much carried away with the burdens of our daily life, and our responsibilities in maintaining this Temple and glorifying God here. Being carried away with such burdens, we can let these wonderful things I have mentioned fall into the background of our memory, instead of remembering every day what glorious things God has done for us, and is still doing for us. Even when we are having difficult moments, He is still with us. During Great Compline of the Great Feasts of Christmas and Theophany, we love to sing that God is with us. Truly, He is with us. We also love to sing : “Who is so great a God as our God ? Our God is the God who does wonders”. We are right in loving to sing these glorious praises of God. We are right to rejoice in Him in this way in these verses from Psalm 76.

In this Temple, the Lord has given us as a sign to this city, and not only to this city. Do not forget that this community is the mother community of all the other Orthodox communities in this city, and in this province. If there are Orthodox communities anywhere in this province at this time, then they are children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of this parish. The witness of this community of believers has been here almost 80 years and it has borne good fruit in this province. However, there is much, much more to do yet, because this city is very far from being an Orthodox city.

It is our responsibility to continue praying, working and witnessing for Jesus Christ as those who have gone before us have done. May those around us be able to see, believe, and come to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and glorify Him along with us. May we all together have the hope of entering the heavenly Kingdom, there to glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.