Feast of Saint Nicholas

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Our Lord intervenes in our Lives with Love
(Feast of Saint Nicholas)
26th Sunday after Pentecost
6 December, 2009
Ephesians 5:9-19 ; Luke 17:12-19
Hebrews 13:17-21 ; Luke 6:17-23

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

In North America, when it comes to the relationship which we have with our Saviour, we seem always to be living in some sort of tension. This is especially so in North America, it seems to me, although it is certainly not exclusive to this continent. The tension that I am speaking about is that between Christ as a Person, and Christ as an idea or a proposition or a principle.

In these days, the tendency amongst the majority of North Americans is, in our thinking and writing, to try to keep Christ confined in some way. Through so-called logic, we try to limit Him to being merely a historical person ; or some clever philosopher, but certainly no more than a human being. Over the last several centuries in North American thought and attitudes, we can find changes in how Christ is regarded. In this environment, He becomes more and more disconnected from daily human life. This is exactly the opposite of Who Christ really is. Christ is the Son of God. Christ is above us, not we above Him. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is never changing ; He is always loving us.

Today, we see our Saviour healing ten lepers. We also see our Saviour giving the Beatitudes ; and in the context of giving the Beatitudes, He is healing people of their diseases. The Lord loves us. He is Love. We cannot change Who He is, but we can change ourselves. Perhaps it would be better to say that we can let Him change us so that we can finally become the persons that He created us to be, and not the distortions that we turn ourselves into in our independent pride and arrogance. The Lord comes to us and intervenes in our lives with love. He heals us from our brokenness. He helps us up from our darkness into light. He helps us onto the right way – His way, in Him who is the Way.

As demonstrations of His love for us here in this community, for many years we have had this Wonder-working icon of Saint Nicholas, which is right in the middle of our Temple on his feast-day. Because of our “North-Americanness” and our forgetfulness, not so many people are paying attention to the fact that this is such a Wonder-working icon. This icon came to this community more than thirty years ago (before I ever came here), in the time of Father Oleg Boldireff. The icon came by taxi to the church with a note attached saying that people, venerating this icon have been being released from addictions through the intercessions of Saint Nicholas. In those days, alcoholic addictions were specifically mentioned, but other addictions apply. Since then, there have been other people who have been released from these addictions through the intercession of Saint Nicholas through this icon which has been with us all this time. It is important for us to remember this.

Last September and October, the icon of the Mother of God of Pochaiv came to visit us. The Mother of God brought to us healing, love, and repentance in the lives of people in our midst. She brought this to people all across the country. A little more than a week ago, I had to go to Ukraine unofficially (that is, it was not an official visit in obedience to the Metropolitan). It was, nevertheless, official in that it was necessary that I personally thank Metropolitan Volodymyr, the Monastery of the Dormition at Pochaiv, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for blessing this icon to come to Canada. I tried to get away with only sending letters, but it did not work because this is the Orthodox world. For something that is very big, a letter is not good enough : one has to go oneself, personally. Even at my advancing age, I still learn these lessons slowly. Each time, one has to go oneself to say thank-you. Thus I went to Ukraine with Protodeacon Nazari, and Father Oleg Kirillov from Toronto went also. Many blessings came from that visit. We have in our midst a continuation of that visit of the icon of the Mother of God of Pochaiv because when we were in Pochaiv saying thank-you, we were able to acquire this icon, which is another copy of the original icon. This one has been blessed on the original in the same way that the Wonder-working copy or replica, which brought such Grace to Canada, was blessed over 450 years ago. This type of icon in Russian is called a spisok (English does not have the right word for this sort of copy). When we say spisok, we know that this icon has been touched to the original, blessed on the original. In many cases that blessing, that connexion, extends Grace from the original, as was the case with that spisok that came to us two months ago. This icon, which has been blessed in this way, is going to stay in the middle of the Temple until we establish its permanent place.

It is important for us on this feast-day of Saint Nicholas to remember (in the context of the life of Saint Nicholas) God’s immediate love for us as His love was shown all throughout the life of Saint Nicholas, himself. He extended the ministry of love of Jesus Christ, and he still does extend through his intercession the ministry of the love of Jesus Christ. This love is being extended to us again and again here in this community. It is essential that we be like the Samaritan leper (not like the other lepers), and say thank-you to the Lord. Openly and freely let us express our gratitude to the Lord who keeps intervening in our lives again and again, assuring us of His love, His presence with us, and His healing care for us. As the Apostle exhorted us this morning, let us live lives that are full of thanksgiving to God for His love for us, for His care for us, for His nearness to us, for His being with us, in fact, for His protection of us, and for His saving of us. With Saint Nicholas and with the Mother of God, let us glorify the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.