That True Faith is Impossible Without Works of Repentance (Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas)

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But if he fails to prevent them initially, he sets up other devices by which he can render them useless once they are underway. If he is unable to make them worthless when they are half way to completion, he knows other tricks and ways to invalidate them even once they are finished, and makes them a source not of reward but of harm to all but the most careful. First of all he points out how laborious and difficult to accomplish virtue is. In this way he fills us with laziness and despair, as though we were attempting difficult and impossible things and were therefore incapable of putting our intentions into action.

Then he engenders disbelief in the rewards which God has promised to those who struggle. But we, brethren, should rise above this trap by our soul's courage, eagerness and faith. We should bear in mind the fact that just as the earth cannot yield worthwhile fruit without labor, so the soul cannot acquire anything which pleases God or leads to salvation without spiritual struggles. But while it is possible to find earth which is unsuitable for cultivation, every human soul is naturally suited to virtue. As we are all unavoidably condemned, however, by the judgment given against our forefather, to live by labor and toil, let us turn necessity into an honor and willingly offer to God what is ours not by our own will.

Let us give up transitory things in exchange for things that endure, and receive what is beneficial in exchange for what is harmful, transforming short-lived toil into a means to gain eternal ease. If we labor here for the sake of virtue we shall certainly attain to the rest promised in the age to come. He who promised is trustworthy and is at hand to help all who readily take on the struggle for virtue. If He who can do all things gives us His help, is anything impossible to achieve? When we remember this and eagerly apply ourselves to virtuous actions, the evil one, knowing that nothing can be good unless it is done in a good way, strives to persuade us not to accomplish any good work with the object of pleasing God or of winning His approval, but to look for other people's approval.

By this means he can deprive us of our reward from God and of all spiritual and heavenly honors. Let us frustrate these efforts of his by considering the great recompense stored up for those who live as God pleases, and how insignificant other people's approval is. Not only is it not worth mentioning in comparison with the great and holy glory to come, but it is also insufficient reason to neglect and waste our flesh.

Even after suffering this defeat, the originator of evil undermined us with pride, the last and worst abyss. He suggests conceited thoughts and persuades us to boast as though we had managed to be virtuous through our own ability and intelligence. But let us remember that the Truth says, "Without me ye can do nothing" John , and fend off all the evil one's schemes. Let us do good works in a good way, with appropriate humility. If someone has a jar of precious perfume, whether he pours it out on to dung, or pours dung into the jar, he ruins and destroys the perfume.

Be aware that, in the same way, whether someone rejects and discards virtue by his inaction, or mixes evil with his virtuous actions, he equally ruins and destroys virtue. I am speaking to your charity on this subject in this present season of fasting, so that we may observe it together for our own sake unalloyed with anything evil.

Fasting was of no benefit to that Pharisee in the Gospel, even though he always fasted two days a Week, because he had adulterated it with pride and condemnation of his neighbor Luke Not that this means fasting is unprofitable. Moses, Elijah and the Lord Himself showed how beneficial it is for those who fast properly in a way pleasing to God.

Moses fasted for many days. Awaken your minds, I entreat You, and lift them up at this opportune time, in company with Moses when he went up the mountain towards God. In this way may you start off afresh on your ascent, and be lifted up together with Christ, who did not merely go up a mountain but up to heaven, taking us with Him.

Moses fasted for forty days on the mountain and according to the Scriptures he saw God, not darkly but face to face Exod. He talked to Him as someone would speak to his friend Exod. In the beginning He brought the whole visible creation out of nothing all at once, just by a nod and His will.

The earth was interspersed with water, and both were full of air, animals and plants of various kinds, whereas the heavens were full of the various lights and fires, from which the universe is formed. So then, "in the beginning God made heaven and earth", as matter able to endure anything and strong enough to bear everything, rightly thereby dealing a blow from a distance to those who falsely hold that matter existed independently beforehand.

Then He developed the world and embellished it. In six days He assigned to each of His creatures which made up His world its own due order. By His command alone He made the distinction between things, as if He were drawing out different kinds of treasure stored up in secret. He disposed and composed all things in complete natural harmony between themselves, each in relation to all, and all in relation to each.

He surrounded the motionless earth, as a central point, with the higher circle of the perpetually moving heavens, holding them it, place by means of what lies between, all according to His wisdom, that the universe might stay stable while in motion. When the heavenly bodies all around were moving unceasingly and at great speed, the motionless earth had of necessity to take its place at the center, its stability counterbalancing the motion, test the sphere of the universe roll off its course.

When the great Craftsman had assigned to each of the two boundaries of the universe its place, He made fast and set in motion this whole orderly world. He allotted to everything between heaven and earth its own properties. Some of His works He placed aloft and ordered them to move along a high course, going round at the same time as the upper boundary of the universe with beautiful regularity for ever.

Such heavenly bodies are light, highly active and can be turned to the advantage of what lies below. They are wisely set very high above the central point so that, turning all around, they can sufficiently disperse the earth's excessive coldness, while their own extreme heat is contained in its place. In a way they can also restrain the excessive speed of the upper heavenly limits by themselves moving in the other direction, and they keep these limits in place by their counterbalancing orbit.

They provide us with the great benefits of distinct annual seasons, a means of measuring periods of time and, to those who are able to understand, knowledge of God who created, arranged and ordered them. So some of His works He set spinning and dancing round in mid-air in the upper regions, both for the sake of the world's beauty and to bestow a variety of benefits.

Others, those which are heavy and have a passible nature, he put low down round the center. By their nature they come into being and pass away, are distinguishable from, yet comparable with, one another. When they suffer change they become more serviceable. He laid down an order for those creatures and how they relate to each other, that the whole might truly be called a world of perfect order. This actually changes my life. Too many have the first kind of belief and think they are fine with God, but do nothing about their own sin. They lack a need for God to change them. They do not repent.

Then we read Matthew 7 and we have a big problem. Mat Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in thy name, and in thy name cast out demons, and in thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye workers of iniquity. This is what the parable of the sower is about, not all believers last and go to the Judgement Seat with a good answer at the dread day of judgement.

I want to confess something to you about myself. As your spiritual father, I am jealous for you. Because I love you and because I bear responsibility before God for you souls, I am jealous. As God is a jealous God, not wanting us to follow after false gods; I am a jealous priest, not wanting you to appear before the judgement seat without a good defense. I want what is best for your souls. What is best for you, what has always been the best for you, is a life of repentance, a constant awareness of your inability to save yourself, or to do anything good on your own.

To have a good defense before God. This is what I want for all of you. This is what I lay down my life for. That you may be saved, and in the end to stand. That you enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, not into condemnation. That also means I want you to want that too. If you are not living a life of trust and belief now, when will you start?

I have been an Orthodox priest now for 22 years. It is not always an enjoyable experience. I have seen a few good deaths. I have seen many that were not so good. People in this life are deluded by this deceitful age into thinking that everything is alright, that the next life; if there is one; is just all the good parts of this life, with none of the bad parts of this life.

Jesus uses parables to try to shake people up, to make them re-examine their lives- -Before they come to their deathbed. Who knows if you will reach a deathbed in your right mind with a chance to repent? Do not be deceived, Come to Jesus in repentance, admitting your need of Him to save you from yourself, from your fractured soul, your distracted mind. Do you see how much the Lord cares for us? His love pushes Him to be real with us. Looking closer at this parable: What is the wedding garment in the parable? Obviously you could not bring this special garment with you to the wedding.

It had to be given to you. If you did not have the proper garment, you were not allowed into the wedding. You were cast out in shame. In the Ancient Middle East, special garments were awarded as gifts on special occasions to honor the guests. These were provided by the host. Part of the joy of the celebration was the removal of the dirty garments worn in everyday life, soiled from travel; and to put on a new, clean, special garment. It was a great joy. Clearly the image of the wedding feast is a picture of the Kingdom of God.

What is called in Revelations, the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. My brothers and sisters, we have been given a wedding garment by the Master of the Wedding Supper in heaven; Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom. In baptism we receive it. In life we make it dirty. How is it to be cleansed?

How shall we prepare the garment of our souls for the Wedding Supper of the lamb, the wedding banquet of Christ and His Church? A life of faithful repentance 2. A life of confession and healing. It is not enough to come to the Divine Liturgy. If I go and stand in a garage, will I become a car? Neither will you be a Christian by standing in a church. The Life of an Orthodox Christian is one of active participation and commitment. A daily struggle to follow Jesus and obey Him, no longer living for myself. Are you in that struggle? The Reading from the First Epistle of St.

Paul to the Corinthians. Let all that you do be done in love. Paul has some advice for us today. Be watchful 2. Stand firm 3. We need to be watchful for the Lord will come like a thief in the night, we need to be watchful because the devil roams around like a lion seeking whom he may devoir. We need to be watchful because we constantly excuse our own sin.

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In those woods an essential tool was a flashlight. You did not want to go to the latrine without a flashlight in those woods, lest you trip and fall or walk into a hole. So the rule was. Bring batteries. In deep darkness you can only see as far as the light goes. If the batteries get weak, you see less. This is dangerous. Stand, an interesting word. Stand firm, do not be moved. Secure in Christ, the devil cannot rock us.

Did you know there is not a single place in the Holy Scripture indicating a sitting position in worship or prayer? It was pretty shocking to learn that the Orthodox do so much standing. No Orthodox Church ever had pews, until they were influenced by Protestants. But there is a more important part of standing strong. Standing strong in the Orthodox Faith, the Orthodox Ethos.

Who is this parable talking about? Who is the Lord addressing? Who needs to change? Maybe the Jews as a whole, maybe the Pharisees and Saducees. Bearing no fruit. Even with the Law, the Prophets, the Kings, no fruit of holiness, just rules. Then they reject and kill the Son who comes for the fruit. Maybe the Lord is talking about the Church, on a second level. That the universal Church has not born the fruit of holiness. SO when you read the Bible, how should you interpret it?

How would you interpret this parable. Lets say one day you are sitting around having coffee and talking about God and theology, or Church history. And if you never do, maybe your need so me new friends. One of them wants to know, what does this parable mean? How do I apply this to my life? Understand, there are layers of meaning.

The first level is the historic level, in other words, the people to whom Jesus was actually speaking. On the second level is other people, in history or in your life. The third level is the most difficult. This level is about you, personally. How does one apply the vineyard to their own life? How is Jesus talking to me today as I read this? The Lord has put us in a place with everything we need, like this vineyard.

He tells us to care for it, that one day He will return to get the fruit that is due Him as the owner of the vineyard. When He sends representatives we ignore them or turn them away. We are busy, no time to pray, to go to prayer services at the church. No time for the poor, the outcast. Only time for ourselves. The Lord is looking for the fruits of repentance-holiness. Our Lord comes to each one of us every day. Sometimes He comes as a thought to pray. Sometimes He comes in the person who is needy or sick. Sometimes He comes to us in the word of the Scriptures and especially in the gospel.

Sometimes He comes to us as bread and wine. Rev Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. He that overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Jesus stands at the door and knocks, how do we receive Him? Is He ignored? Do we cast him aside and live our own lives as we see fit? Do we crucify Him again by falling back into sin and rebellion? Or do we receive Him with open arms? Do we show Him honor and gratitude by bearing the holy fruit of love? Nothing is more important in our lives than overwhelming love for God and for His Son. This love can be cultivated through intense prayer, and through the humble preparation for and participation in the holy mysteries as we do at every liturgy.

Our love is also cultivated through our love for others but not just our friends and family. Let us exert ourselves to Love God more, to love our neighbor. This is the greatest commandment. There are many questions people ask in life- Should I invest in Microsoft or an apartment building? How much do I need for retirement? What is that spot on my face? But some questions are more important than others.

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The most important questions throughout history go something like this. Why am I here? How did I get here? Is there a God? What comes after death? Today in the readings we have several questions that are very important. Three questions that are difficult: 1. He asks the question of Jesus, Jesus does not give an answer but asks a return question.

He does this repeatedly. It puts you into a conversation rather than a lecture. Here is a hint from the Lord—if you have difficult conversations with people about spiritual things; try asking questions rather than making statements. You can just say, what do you mean by that? Or, tell me more about that. Or ask, what do you believe about Jesus Christ? And just let them talk for a few minutes.

Jesus does this with this man. Jesus gets him talking, then pulls the rug out from under him. Getting to the core issue, your wealth is an idol. This discussion with Jesus and the man leads to some questioning from the disciples, who then can be saved? How to be saved. Believe 2. Ask 3. Believe- John But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: John Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

John But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. John For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. There is no salvation without true belief. Believe without faith, all is lost. When times are hard, believe.

Ask- You have not because you ask not. What do we ask for? Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of Lights. We ask of Him what we cannot get ourselves. Forgiveness, to know our sin, for healing of soul, for repentance, for a good defense at the dread judgment seat. Ask for humility and all the virtues. Ask to become more like Jesus. What is the most important thing you can ask God for?

Hint, things eternal. We are good at asking for things in this life, think bigger picture. It reflects the parable of the fig tree condemned by Christ because it bore no fruit. It is aimed at individuals. If the tree was doing some good, Christ could have revived it, brought it back to life.

What can go wrong? Brethren, I would remind you in what terms I preached to you the Gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain. We are given salvation as a gift. The fight is to work with God to Keep It.

This is why God wants our attention, to keep us in His Grace, to keep us on track for Heaven. When God wants to get your attention, He knows how to do it. I will tell you two stories of God wanting to get our attention,. A few years after Nancy and I got married it was discovered that I had a strange looking mole on my back.

He discovered that it was a melanoma. That got our attention. The second story happened a number of years later in Alaska. We had three kids, healthy, growing. We were thinking that in just a few years we would be done raising kids. Then Nancy becomes pregnant. We were gonna have four kids, not three. Sometimes its through a very wonderful and beautiful event. We thought we had enough kids, God had a better idea. Why is God trying to get our attention? Hear St. In this busy life the obligations can scarcely be counted: sowing, plowing, working new land, sailing, grinding, cooking, weaving.

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And after all this hard work your life comes to an end. Look at what you suffer in this wretched life that you so love. And do you think that you will always live and never die? Temples, rocks, marbles, all reinforced by iron and lead, still fall. And a person thinks that he will never die? Learn therefore, brothers, to seek eternal life, when you will not endure these things but will reign with God forever. Jesus uses stories to prick the hearts of men and teach a lesson, usually upsetting the applecart at the same time and overthrowing our expectations.

But another way to look at parables is- they are stories about who God is, and therefore how we should be. So often the expectations that are upset are those of the predominant culture. It is quite popular in our culture to believe that forgiveness is unconditional. You will be forgiven, if you forgive. You will receive grace with the same measure that you give it out to others.

Rather than the rich and famous being in favor, it is the outcast, the poor, those with no power. OR Those who are truly humble; truly repentant; truly preferring others ahead of themselves. The Transfiguration is a parable without a story. This is consistent with His parables, Transformation. So what we must take note of in the Transfiguration is 1.

Normal people were able to see The Kingdom. Normal people themselves were transformed by what they saw. Let us also remember that Not only Jesus was changed by being there and seeing Jesus Transfigured. This is a preview of the Kingdom, and ourselves when we are in Christ. The goal of the Liturgy, the goal of Christianity is transformation.

A caterpillar coming out of a cocoon. This is why we pray, to be changed by God. This is why we have weekday services, to invite Grace, to invite Saints and Angels to dwell among us. What we are building here is a saint factory. Saints are made in church, being transformed by prayer and the Church. When God interrupts the normal flow of life, change happens. When we invite Him to change us, it happens quicker. When we interrupt the normal flow of life and ask God to enter in, He very quickly goes into action.

What happened to Saul, God interrupted his life, and Saul became Paul. Recently Chris Kourapis read what I have written about how I grew up, through high school and after, up to the point of my marriage. She was amazed. That is what happened when Jesus interrupted My Life. I suddenly Saw. After Saul became Paul, he was blind for a time, then he was prayed for and he says his eyes were opened, like scales falling off his eyes. This was true of myself as well.

Suddenly the world went Full Color, 4K. We read an amazing story last night in Vespers. Everyday we have a service, I read the lives of the Saints. So we have heroes. So we know how to be ready. I want to close by reading it to you.. When the bishop of Comana died, St. Gregory the miracle-worker and Bishop of Neo-Caesarea November 17 was then called to preside at a council to elect a new bishop.

Both clergy and laymen alike were present at the council. However, the electors were unable to agree on one person. At the time of evaluating a candidate, they all primarily paid attention to the points of his externals: external dignity and behavior. Gregory then said that they need not look so much at the external characteristics as much as at the spirit and spiritual capabilities.

Then some jesters mocking cried out: then we should elect Alexander the charcoal-burner as our bishop! General laughter then ensued. As a charcoal-burner, he was completely soiled and in rags. His appearance again evoked laughter in the council. Gregory then took Alexander aside and made him take an oath to speak the truth concerning himself.

Gregory ordered Alexander bathed and clothed in new attire and, with him, entered the council and before all began to examine Alexander in Holy Scripture. Alexander was unanimously elected bishop. By his sanctity, wisdom and goodness, he gained the love of his flock. This is the transforming power of Jesus Christ. It is available to all who Truly seek it.

Be a true seeker. At that time, Jesus made the Disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. The Lord made His disciples get into the boat and cross over to the other side of the lake.

They had heard the words of wisdom that came out of His mouth. They were fed spiritually. Then, the compassionate Lord satisfied even their physical needs. He provided for them abundant food, as He did of old with the Israelites in the wilderness. The people were satisfied.

So the disciples left, and as they began to sail back the Lord went to pray. While the Lord prayed alone, the disciples had their hands full. All of a sudden the small, tranquil and pacific lake Gennesaret turned into a raging tempest. Who could imagine such a turn of events? Some people imagine that bad things happen to bad people and only good things happen to good people.

I experience this when I travel. And when there is more than one priest, they get really happy! I said, You do realize that priests die too?! Yes, but I feel better. This is based on the mythology that bad things happen to bad people, so when something bad happens to a good person the question is always Why? To which I answer, Why not? It is not only the life of the fisherman and mariner that is full of dangers and unexpected turns, but life in general. Life without tears and suffering is a utopia. Even those who believe and trust in God. Perhaps they more so than others.

Read the lives of the saints and you will see. Perhaps the pious and devout people have certain expectations, and perhaps others have certain expectations of them. You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

Well, the disciples were handpicked by the Lord. So surely He would protect them. Especially when He Himself had constrained them to leave Him. Yet, there they were, in the middle of the lake, wrestling with the high waves that threatened their boat and their lives. How is it possible that the Lord would abandon them in their greatest need? Jonah was involved in a great storm—but He was fleeing from God! Was God unfair to them? Obviously not. He was with them, as He is with us, even when everything seems pitch dark around us; when one calamity succeeds the other.

What gives? Has God abandoned us? Why is He behaving as the false gods, the Baals, when their prophets prayed to them and did not reply? But our God, the true God, why does He remain silent to our pleas? God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?

So the good Lord allowed the disciples to be tested. While the disciples were fighting for their lives, at the height of their despair, when all seemed lost, then the Lord appeared to them, out of nowhere, walking on the foamy waves as if they were a smooth dance floor. What else could they think, upon seeing Him, but that He was a ghost? To the fear of the waves was added the fear of this strange apparition. Help is right here, next to us. At times, all we have to do is to stretch out our hand to receive the helping hand we are seeking, yet fear, generated by incredulity, blinds us, paralyzes us.

Fear and trembling came upon them, when they were confronted by the unknown. Fear and trembling comes upon us when we feel all alone, abandoned, desperate. The I AM. God almighty. The One Who Is. It is I. At the sound of His words confidence returns; calm on the water and to their spirits. The presence of the Lord strengthens us, brings us peace. Even Peter, after vacillating and losing the little confidence He acquired, upon hearing the words of the Lord, finally recovers. He found the Savior.

Was it possible that He would abandon His creation. This is all He wants to hear from us: Save me! And His omnipotent right hand is stretched to grab us and bring us to safety, to salvation. When we lift up our heart to the Lord in prayer, something strange happens: fear goes away.

Full confidence returns. Responds St. John Chrysostom: Because when our faith is strong we can face winds and every other difficulty in life: because God strengthens us and protects us, and as St. The Lord shows us the way to face every adversity and test in life with confidence and trust: through prayer. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. This is how we know that when we have fear of the future, our are worried about circumstances, that it is a feeling not from God. Have no fear.

We are safe. Glory be to God. At that time, when Jesus went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Then Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. Preparing soil, digging, planting, removing weeds, harvesting, etc. I noticed as a young boy how tenacious plants can be.

How can a tree grow in the crack of a sidewalk? How can ferns grow on a brick wall? The large boats would anchor and smaller boats would come out to take us to shore. Here was a Samaritan, a member of a despised race, an outcast and a stranger in Jewish society. Yet he proved to be the noblest of all. This man, when put to the test, showed mercy to his neighbor when his neighbor needed him the most.

And that is expected of us. We, too, must show mercy, that is, to be merciful even as God is merciful. We are to love as God has loved us. We are to love others as we love ourselves. The first step, as Christ suggests, is to learn to love ourselves. Love that is selfish is actually a form of hatred. Selfish love excludes all others, even God. Love includes — it includes God, neighbor and self. When it comes to loving self, it means to know ourselves as we really are. And, as well, it is to know how God intended us to be.

He created us in His own Image and Likeness. A true child of God respects and honors, that is, loves, his body, mind and soul as a gift given by God. Thus it is natural to look from self to our neighbor and to God. Humanity has received these gifts as a common heritage. God gives equally to all; He shows no special favors. He loves us all. What greater example of this is the Cross? On the Cross, the Son of God showed all of us His love.

He showed it to those who know Him as Savior. But he showed the same love to those who reject Him; even to those who crucified Him. So who is our neighbor to whom we show love as it has been shown to us? In a very practical way, it starts with the neighbor closest to us. It is said that it is more difficult to love our neighbor in need next door than to love our neighbor is some remote corner of the world.

Our first concern should be for the neighbor in need closest to us. The story is told of a mother with many children. She was asked which of her children did she like the most. Which of her children did she favor? The mother answered simply that it was the one that was in trouble. It was the one that was in need at the time. That is where we, too, begin to love our neighbor. It is the one who is in need nearest at hand. But how about loving God? How do we do that? He has no needs for us to fill.

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He is not in trouble. God does not need us. He is our Creator. He has made us in His Image and Likeness. And we have hidden that Image behind our sin and disobedience. But God did not leave it that way. He has chosen to continue to love us in our need. He showed that love by sending Christ to the Cross to save us and restore His Image in us. And what does He ask for in return? Only that we share that love as He has loved us. We share it with our neighbor who is also created in the Image and Likeness of God.

And we start by caring for the Image of God that is in our own selves. The time of preparation of the Holy Nativity is such a time. Confession, fasting, prayer — these are all ways of caring for the Image of God in us. And we love our neighbor in need because he, too, has been made in that Image. Let us strive to be as this Samaritan. Let us be Good, even as the Samaritan was good to his neighbor.

How is it that so many seem to have great communication with God, yet I seem to be praying to an empty heaven? Others are getting healed. Others are getting blessed. Others are prospering. Others seem to get everything they want out of life. Where am I missing it? How can I get what I see others getting?

Have you ever felt like just another face in the crowd? Is it like you were not making any difference to anyone? Is it like you were not needed or necessary? Is it like you were just passing time and taking up space? Does the grass always look greener on the other side of the fence?

The feeling of being just another face in the crowd can be a very lonely one. If you have ever been on the streets of Manhattan in the middle of the day, you know. There you can easily find yourself swept into the flow of the crowd. Before you know it, you are surrounded by hundreds and thousands of unfamiliar faces.

Even though there are multitudes around you, all seemingly content and completely comfortable in their surrounding, you feel isolated and alone and totally out of place. Being lost in the crowd is a frightening experience. Have you ever been separated from your child in a crowded department store? If you have found yourself taking the wrong exit into a bad area of a large city, you know the knot that appears in your stomach. She is in a large crowd, this desperate woman. She is pushing her way through that crowd. She had suffered 12 years.

She no doubt had spent all that she had to find a remedy. She abandoned all customs and rules to get to Christ. Here she was, a woman, out in the middle of the day, pushing her way past men. She must have been desperate. What is important here? He had done so many times. It wasn't even that He had healed someone who had been afflicted for a long period of time. After all, He had healed another woman who had been sick for 18 years. He had also healed another who had been blind since birth! It wasn't even the fact that this woman should not have been there. What is important here may not even be that this sick woman had to persevere to even get through to Christ.

What is really important here may be the question asked by Christ. Everyone here is touching you. You may sense the presence of the Lord. You may feel the mystery and majesty of the Liturgy. You may even be excited about what you see. Yet, how often do you walk away from the experience of the Liturgy just as lonely, just as broken, just as jealous, just as miserable and just as depressed as you came.

There is a reason. Like a shark or alligator locking onto something. The word implies grabbing hold without the intention of ever letting go! And the crowd around Christ? We were all witnesses as to what took place. We can testify as to what happened. We might even have felt something really good while it was going on. The woman saw Christ as her only option! So we find Christ surveying the crowd looking for that one who would touch Him. No, not just feel him.

He looked for the one who would "fasten onto Him so as never to let go. Do we just feel Him now and again? Or are we fastened to Him, so as never to let go? We are yet again in another season that has been come to be called Halloween. With the help of merchants and advertisers, society has come to link Halloween with demons and evil spirits. We also have come to link thoughts of Halloween with grave markers, tombstones and skeletons.

We even decorate our homes with images of such things. Sorry to say, but in the world around us, demons and evil spirits have been stripped of their true power. Let us not let ourselves be fooled, however. Demons and evils spirits are real. They are powerful. We have only to look at our reading from the Holy Gospels for today. In this reading from Luke, Jesus meets a man under the influence of demons.

The demons that lived in the body of this man were fierce and violent. Luke tells us that the demonized man lived naked and among the tombs. Among the tombs. He ought to live among dead bodies and skeletons. That may be part of our Halloween connection. And it may be partly why many are fearful of walking through a cemetery at night. These demons who lived in the man were so fierce and violent, we are told, that even chains and fetters could not hold the man.

When Jesus passed by, the demons confronted Him. Do not torment me! They knew that Jesus was the Son of God. They knew that the time for their power to be taken away was near. These demons knew of the power of Jesus, the Son of God. They even knew what Jesus had planned.

They knew what was going to happen. When Holy Evangelist Matthew tells this story, Matthew tells us that Jesus said one word to these demons. It is right to the point. There is no argument. There is no justification. There is no explanation. There is simply a one-word command: Go! Peter had scolded Jesus when Jesus had told the disciples he would have to die. Jesus then was right to the point with Peter. No matter what the source. No matter who is doing the tempting. It calls for a clear, quick and to the point rejection. Evil has no place in a world of people created in the image and likeness of God.

When an alliance is made with evil, only evil can result. There is no middle ground. There is no compromise. A swift rejection of evil makes an alliance with God. When we ally ourselves with God in Jesus Christ, we come down squarely on the side of good. We ally ourselves with beauty, perfection, peace, harmony and unity.

Any force that would tempt us away from this godly path must be rejected. We must reject it fully. We are reminded how important it is not even to get into conversation with evil. He says that man made himself vulnerable to sin when he began to talk with the Serpent in the Garden. It opens up a middle way. And when it comes to evil and sin? There is no middle way. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, tells us so. A professor at Loyola College in Maryland has written something interesting.

It is no wonder the world is in the state it is. May God grant us the power of the Holy Spirit to always ally ourselves with Him. In our Epistle today, Paul writes to the Galatians. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God. May we believe in the power of God to overcome evil. And may we ever walk in the new life that God has granted us through the life, death and resurrection of His Son. As citizens of a democracy, we have the ability to make our voices heard.

It should be noted, however, that voter apathy among Christians is very high.

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Is that fair to say? So we ask the question: where do our Christianity and country meet? How can we be good Christians and good citizens? I would propose to you tonight as we pray for the salvation of our land that love for God helps us to love our country. First of all, remember what the apostle Paul wrote. The authorities that exist have been established by God. And as Christians, we are to be in submission to the governing authorities even though we may not always agree with them. Paul goes on to tell us the purpose of government.

The first purpose is to do good. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. We all know that is true. Every time you hear a siren or see red lights behind you, what do you do? And do you wonder, "Is my seat belt fastened? Do I have my insurance card?

Is my inspection sticker up to date? Is my registration sticker current? If the people become pagan and immoral and violent, then the government becomes pagan and immoral and violent. For example: Suppose there were 5 people on an island, 3 men and 2 women. The 3 men vote to rape the 2 women. So democracy has the capability of becoming an evil form of government if the people are evil. That, brothers and sisters, is a real concern.

They are addressed to His people, to us, to us who are believers. Our president needs our prayers. Our governor needs our prayers. Our county government needs our prayers. Our leaders and all their support staff, the legislators, and all in authority over us need our prayers.

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Finally, in becoming the best Christian citizens that we can be, remember where your citizenship really is. Again, St. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of…Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame…. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. They made the ultimate sacrifice, and some are still doing it, so you and I can be live freely to do just what we are doing tonight.

The famous Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky told the story of the time he was arrested by the Czar and sentenced to die. The Czar, though, liked to play cruel psychological tricks on some of his prisoners by blindfolding them and standing them in front of a firing squad. The blindfolded prisoners would hear the command to fire and the rifle shots, but would feel nothing.

Then they would slowly realize that the guns were loaded with blanks. Dostoevsky went through this experience himself. He said that going through the process of believing that he was really going to die had a transforming effect on his life. He talked about waking up that morning certain that it would be his last day of life.

He ate his last meal and savored every bite. Every breath of air he took was precious. Every face he saw, he studied with full intensity. Every moment was etched into his mind. As they marched him into the courtyard, he felt the heat of the sun and appreciated its warmth like never before. Everything around him seemed to have a magical quality. He was seeing the world in a way he had never seen it before.

Then when he realized that he had not been shot and that he was not going to die, everything had changed. He became thankful for everything about his life, and grateful for people he had previously hated. You and I may very well die this night. If not, when the morning dawns bright and clear — what will your life be like?

Will it have changed at all as life was changed for Dostoevsky? Our ability to have the freedom we do is dependent on those who die to protect it and those who live to preserve it. Our Orthodox way is to continue to grow in holiness, and to bring those around us to the same holiness. God has the power to save our land.

He shares that power with us. We must decide how and when to use it. The next big opportunity? Tuesday, November 6, Of all the religious teachers in history, Christ was the only one qualified to speak with authority about death and the afterlife. He is the only one who claimed He would die and return from the dead. And then He did just that. First lesson: financial status is no reflection of faith. Wealthy people were rich because they were good. Poor people lived in poverty because they were evil. However Christ said he ended up in the flames of hell!

That is, as long as the rich acknowledge God as the source of wealth. His sin was not in being wealthy. His sin was ignoring the needs of Lazarus who was begging at his doorstep every day. Thus, financial status is no reflection of faith. The second lesson from this story of Christ is this. In contrast to the rich man, Lazarus was a man who had a relationship with God. When he died he was escorted by the angels into the presence of Abraham. He went to heaven. Christ said he was a beggar. Not only was he a beggar, but he had some kind of painful skin disorder. Christ said he was covered with sores.

What a picture of a sad, suffering existence! Which of those two people, Lazarus or the rich man was right with God while he was alive? Many might have picked the rich man. Many would have been wrong! There are some who preach a health and wealth gospel that says if you are right with God, you will always prosper and always be healthy. The truth is, sometimes righteous people suffer a great deal in this life. But thankfully, this life is not all there is!

So, lesson three: when your body dies, you will continue to exist — either in heaven or in hell. The rich man and the poor man each lived totally different lives. But they had one thing in common: they both died. At the point of physical death, the body ceases to function. But the soul continues to live on. While together, the soul and body have journeyed through life. They have hopefully ascended the ladder toward heaven. If the soul and body together are at the top of the ladder to heaven at death, the soul will continue on in eternal bliss with God.

And the glorified body will follow at the final judgment. The icon of the "Ladder of Divine Ascent" depicts that ladder going from the bottom left to the top right of the icon. At the top is Christ in glory with hands outstretched towards those people who are climbing the ladder. In the air and on the ground are a number of demons. They are trying to shoot with arrows or drag people off the ladder.

Some people are falling from the ladder. The point is that no matter how high a person might ascend, no matter how close to God one may come, it is still possible to fall. It is still possible to turn from God. Yes, life continues after death. The question is where? And who is not! We will not only see Lazarus there. You remember thief who were crucified with Christ. What was the difference between the two thieves? What was the difference between Lazarus and the rich man? The difference is the choices that each one makes while still alive!

It is the choice to repent of sin or not. It is a choice to belong to the Body of Christ or not to. It is the choice to trust in the way of riches and the world, or the way God has provided through the Church. It is our choice, too. Oh, yes — there is one more lesson. This directly from this story: after death there are no more choices. After death there is no repentance. The time is now! Jesus Christ is the final Truth in the Church. There are two ways to know the Truth of Christ.

First, we know the Truth by His words contained in the Gospels. And second, we know the Truth above all by His actions. And the most important of His actions? Of course it is His Resurrection from the dead. How then is the Truth of the Church known? Who can speak for the Church? Can the Truth of the Church be stated by one man? By a lowly priest in North Georgia? By a Pope? By an Emperor or a King?

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By our own Bishop? The answer is simple. We do know where the Truth of the Church lies. We can find that out in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. There we find that, after Pentecost, the Apostles gathered together in a Council. They discussed and prayed about some problems in the Church. This gathering is known as the Council of Jerusalem.

At the end of this Council, the Apostles made decisions. In other words the Truth of the Church comes from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, we often pray, is the Spirit of Truth. Christ Himself says the Spirit will be sent from the Father, to lead us into all Truth. There the Bishops, successors to the Apostles, gathered.

At these Councils, there were not a dozen bishops. There were not a hundred bishops. Rather there were hundreds and hundreds of bishops from all over the Christian world. Thus these Councils were called Ecumenical, or world-wide. The bishops in council defined the basis of our Orthodox Faith. The last of these Councils took place in the eighth century.

It was the Seventh Ecumenical Council. The icon showing the Fathers of this Council is in the middle of the church. Through that icon, we, today, are with the Holy Fathers in that Council. Some people may ask, but why is it that the last Council took place so long ago? And why were there only seven of them? The reason for this is simple. It is because these seven Councils resolved all the great issues defining our Faith.

For example, the Seventh Council in the eighth century spoke to many of the great issues of later times including our own. At that Council, the Fathers said that since Christ truly became a human, we can make images or icons of Him. Moreover, we can paint images or icons of saints too. For although the saints were flesh and blood like us, they, like us, were made in the image of God.

Although fallen from that image, all of us have a high calling. We are to become icons of Christ Himself. We are called to return to that image in which we were created, the very image of God. The enemies of the Fathers of the Seventh Council said the opposite. The enemies, known as iconoclasts or image-breakers, said that Christ was not truly human. Thus, icons of Christ, they said, were no more than pieces of art. They were idols.

The iconoclasts denied the very essence of the Faith. And what is that? admin