It is High-time for us to live more seriously

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
It is High-time for us to live more seriously
(Memory of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council)
25 October, 2009
Galatians 1:11-19 ; Luke 7:11-16

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

Today, when our Saviour is raising the dead son of the widow of the village of Nain, people obviously will be asking questions. The question that people will be asking is : “Who is this that has such a gift and such authority to raise the dead ?” These people would have remembered, of course, that such things happened in the times of the Prophets Elias and Elisha. However, they had not seen such a thing in their days. In fact, even in our days, to see someone raised from the dead is very rare. I do not say that it never happens in our days, because God is who He is. However, it happens seldom.

Who is this that has the ability, the gift, the authority, to raise someone from the dead ? The answer, as we now know, is simple. This is the Only-begotten Son of God. God, who reveals Himself to us always as love, is shown to us today in His Son as the enacting of love. He knows the needs of this poor widow who has lost her only son. Without her son, this woman would have to become a beggar on the streets. In those days, there was no social safety-net such as we have in Canada. Even here in Canada nowadays many people are living on the streets. Perhaps it is possible even in Canada now for a widow to come to the same desperate condition. I have to say (as I have said before in other places) that the situation of this woman was repeated just recently in China. In the country of China, it is the policy of the government that in every family there may be only one child. In China there is still not the safety-net socially that we think there is. Therefore, when the catastrophic earthquake happened in the Szechuan province, very many parents lost their only child. It was reported on the news that these people were in a desperate condition because they were depending upon their child to look after them when they would become old. Understanding this, we can very well understand the situation of this widow in Nain. He who has raised her son from the dead is the compassionate Lord, Himself. This is the same Lord who was encountered by the Apostle Paul as we heard in the Epistle reading this morning.

While he was on the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul (who was then known as Saul of Tarsus) encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who is love in the flesh. After he had encountered God who is love, the Apostle tells us that he did not go immediately to Jerusalem, but instead he went away for a long time into the desert. Why would he go to the desert ? He went to the desert in order to spend time with the Lord whom he had now encountered face-to-face. The Saul whom we see persecuting the Church in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, is very different from the Paul that we see at the end of the Acts, who is building the Church very quickly. God, who is love, completely changed the life of this man. Thus, the Apostle went to the desert to be with the Lord, and to allow the change to take place in his whole understanding of the world. What the Apostle had to understand is that God Himself took flesh and became a human being. The proof of this is precisely shown to us today in the raising of the dead son of the widow.

Today, we are also remembering the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. It is these Fathers who defended the existence of, and the use of icons in the Church. They understood and they taught that it is precisely because God took flesh and lived amongst us that we can make these images. These Fathers did not invent a new teaching. They only stated more clearly what the Orthodox Church believed from the beginning. Always, there have been people who are afraid of the possibility that God could empty Himself, as He did, and take flesh, as He did, and become a human being, as He did. Because there were many such people, there was a period of several hundred years when these people were destroying the icons. In my opinion, the main reason that they were resisting this fact of the Incarnation is because it did not fit their philosophy, their reason and their logic.

Living in Canada, we Orthodox Christians today encounter many such people who have this sort of opinion. However, God is not subject to our logic and our philosophies. It is not for God to obey our intellect. Instead, it is for us to accept that even if we cannot understand how or why God did it, He did empty Himself, and take flesh as a human being. Thus He has given us these beautiful icons through which to approach Him. The Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council say, and also Saint John of Damascus says that when we come to this icon of Christ, here, and we kiss this icon, we are not simply kissing this piece of wood on which Christ is presented. Our veneration goes to Christ Himself. His blessing comes to us from Him through this icon.

We had the blessing very recently of another demonstration of the love of God for us. The icon of the Mother of God of Pochaiv was sent by the Lord to us. The Mother of God, together with her Son, brought Grace to believers all across this country. In the same way that the Lord had compassion on the woman of Nain, and that the young man was raised from the dead, so our Saviour healed people through this icon in Canada and gave consolation to very many people, besides. The Mother of God came to us in this icon, and she is pointing us, as she always does, to her Son. She is reminding us of His love for us, particularly. He does not only love us generally. He loves us particularly, and personally.

By coming to us in this way, the Mother of God is asking us, and even telling us, as it were : “It is time for us to live more seriously as Orthodox Christians”. It is high-time for us to unite ourselves to the love of her Son. It is for us not to hide the Orthodox way, but to show it openly. People in this country are starving to death spiritually because they need the love of Jesus Christ, which we carry. This country needs from us what the widow of Nain needed from our Saviour.

Let us ask the Lord to give us, through the prayers and the protection of His Mother, the strength to do this, so that we will be able with trust to submit our lives to His love. May He be able to work freely through us without any interruption so that our whole life may glorify the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.