An Orthodox Christian
of St Nicholas
June 26/July 9, 2000
Vol. 04.10 - Third Sunday after Pentecost
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
FEAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL
BAPTISM OF KATYA
PILGRIMAGE TO RUSSIA
THOUGHTS ON THE 3RD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
" WHO SHALL SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST?"
GLEANINGS FROM THE FATHERS
Salvation in the city
We must live the commandments in order to understand them.
Who will cure my soul
Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul
We will celebrate the feast of the Holy Apostles this coming week with vigil on Tuesday evening, June/ 28 July 11, and Divine Liturgy at the bracing hour of 6:00 AM on Wednesday morning, June 29/July 12. Since the feast falls on a Wednesday, carnivores must wait one MORE day to eat meat, but we may have all the grilled salmon we can eat!
Baptism of Katya
Pilgrimage to Russia
Fr Seraphim will leave for two and a half weeks in Russia next Sunday, AFTER the Divine Liturgy. He will be out of the country from July 7th through Aug 4. He will be home by Saturday, Aug 5th, and there will be services as usual that weekend. During his absence, there will be full reader's services each weekend, with reader's vigil at 6:00 PM on Saturday , and the hours and typica, follwed by our usual meal, at 10:00 AM on Sunday. If there are any emergencies, contact Matushka Marina at the rectory ( 972 529-2754), or our starosta, Michael Daum (mobile phone: 972 849-0013, home: 214/337-8713). They will know whom to contact.
Thoughts on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost
" Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
On this third Sunday after Pentecost we also celebrate the memory of the Holy New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke. The reading from the Epistle today should inspire us. It has a different message, in parts of it, than the Gospel reading for today, in which the Lord tells us to take no care for the things of the world. The contrast is deep and must be understood by a Christian if he is to live as a Christian, and really be a Christian, in deed and not in name only.
The Apostle tells us, "and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose"1. This is a fundamental tenet of our faith. We must understand also, all things do not work together for good, unless they are according to God's will. There are things that work not to the good; they're not blessed. We can have great confidence, if we are living in the will of God, that all things in our life, things that are pleasant and unpleasant, will work together for good. But concerning the unpleasantness we bring upon ourselves because of our own lack of constancy, our own materialism, our own laziness, our own false priorities: we cannot have confidence that those will work together for good. We must live in the light of Christ for things to work to good.
The apostle speaks then about great Christological facts, which I would like to discuss, but we have so little time. And then he says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?"2 The answer to this question is a resounding no. None of these things can separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing whatsoever can separate us from the love of Christ, if we live according to this love. Then he says, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."3 What amazing words! What inspiring words! The saints lived according to these words; they were etched in their hearts. They could not be separated from the love of God.
But this is not the full story. There are things that can separate us from the love of God. Not peril, not the sword, not height nor depth, nor any creature, but there are things that can separate us from the love of God. We must fear those things. And our Lord speaks of those things in the Gospel reading for today.
He begins by speaking of the eye: "The light of the body is the eye. And therefore if thine eye be single, if your eye is whole", if your eye is healthy, sees well, "thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thy eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness, and how great is that darkness!"4 Those words should chill us, but what follows should frighten us more, because here He is just describing the wretchedness of darkness in a man. He hasn't yet described what brings about this darkness. We know that there is darkness. We as Christians want to avoid it -- we don't want our eye to be dark. Because we know that darkness is the abyss, where there is no hope.
But what brings about the darkness? Not peril, nor the sword, not any principality or any demon -- none of those things bring about the darkness in a man's eyes. What brings about the darkness is what our Lord speaks of. He says, "No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other."5 He had just spoken of darkness; now He speaks of two masters. We must hold to this idea. It's very important to understand, because He is about to speak about something that's very practical. He says, "You cannot serve God and Mammon."6 Mammon -- it's not just money; it is materialism. It is living life according to our flesh, according to our own desires. To a great extent it is expressed in how we handle our finances, absolutely and positively. Our Lord spoke about money more than anything else. One cannot serve two masters.
Now we would protest perhaps, deep within our hearts, and say, 'I don't hate God. Maybe I'm not as generous as I should be, maybe my priorities are not exactly what they should be, I take a little bit too much care for myself, and not enough care for spiritual things -but I don't hate God.' That's not what the Lord said. You will hold to the one and despise the other. One can despise spiritual things, but in a way that's a little less extreme. A little bit more acceptable.
Too many in our life live according to that fairy tale about the emperor's new clothes. It's a very instructive fairy tale. He gets hoodwinked, the king, by these tailors who are going to sew him new clothes. And actually they don't do anything at all. So when it comes time for him to be arrayed in his clothes, he walks down the street naked, and everyone claps, and everything else. The people weren't aware that he was naked. God help us to have some understanding. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve the way of the world and Christ. It's an either-or proposition. Although we won't be foaming at the mouth against God if we still have our false priorities, there's really darkness in us if we do.
The darkness -- what a terrible thing! To be dark, and not to know that we're dark, even though we are promised that neither height, nor depth, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come -- none of these things can separate us from the love of Christ! And all the saints saw this, and they lived in this light. But if we have false priorities, we don't share in it. I think this is chilling, terrifying. Part of the reason it's so terrifying is because it's so ordinary. The Christian life is to live in the ordinary and to make it extraordinary, supernatural. It's just ordinary things that our Lord is talking about here. He's not saying, you'll be separated from me if you're a murderer, or an adulterer. He's saying, you'll be separated from Me if you try to serve two masters, if you serve materialism on the one hand, and call yourself a Christian on the other.
Our Lord goes on and says, "I say to you, therefore, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on."7 Because, if you serve one Master, He will take care of all these needs for you. You can take care of those needs yourself as well, but if you serve two masters, your eye is dark. And there is a great darkness, and our Lord in another place talks about a man stumbling in the darkness, who does not know who he is. We must shine the light upon ourselves -- or actually, allow it to shine upon ourselves, so that we can see everything, and not be in darkness. Darkness is where you can get killed. In the light, you can see your enemies. God will reveal them to you. And the enemies are within -- your own passion, false priorities, worrying about things you need not worry about, and pushing away, because of those worries, things that you must be concerned about, and care about. Our Lord orders us, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."8 All the things you're concerned about. Many things, especially in our modern society, where people are always concerned about providing for themselves, the next house, the next IRA account, providing for their vacation, providing for their old age, etc. etc. etc. What about providing for their salvation? Don't serve two masters.
Now, we are gathered together because we call ourselves Christian. So, we don't have any overt hostility towards God. We're not against the Christian teaching. But if we look at ourselves honestly, we don't always live according to this teaching. Look at the Gospel! Honestly, we must fear, then, that there is darkness in our eyes. And how great that darkness is!
There is great hope for us though, because all of the saints were able to live in the light. The same grace of God shone upon them as shines upon us. There's a great promise, that we are called together, that "all things work together for good for those that are called according to His purpose", that applies to us. The same great privilege, to be a Christian, to someday be able to say with full sincerity, with full depth of feeling, with full intimacy, "Abba, Father"9, and to hear, "friend, come up higher."10
What a great dignity we possess! We must live according to this dignity. The dignity is invisible to the world, and because of our false priorities, it's so much invisible to us. But the dignity is there. Such great worth we have, that our Savior has given us.
Don't worry about the world. Don't worry about the next material thing that you must deal with. Deal with it. Work to earn your bread. Do what you need to do in the ordering of your life in society. But prioritize. Seek first the kingdom of God. Give to God first of your substance. Not second, not last, not if there's leftover at the end of the month -- first. Worry later about giving to the other people who are asking for your funds. God only asks; the other people demand. And yet God's request is more obligatory. Seek first to say your prayers. Seek first to order your life for the salvation of your soul, and not for the accomplishment of some dream or desire or ambition. Everything must be subordinate to Christ. A man can still obtain some ambition in life, but only if it is subordinate to the salvation of his soul. Everything must be subordinate to the salvation of his soul. And if it isn't, then he's serving two masters.
Perhaps we have trouble understanding the reading of this Gospel. That means that there's darkness in your eye. How great the darkness is, only God knows. God will save sinners, of this we are sure, but we are also sure that he will only save sinners who struggle, sinners who desire. No sinner who does not desire to change will be saved.
Serve one Master. Serve the Master who has prepared many mansions. Serve the Master who wishes to call us friend. Serve the Master who pours oil and wine upon all of our wounds, and heals us. Don't serve the world. Serve only one Master. Give up that taskmaster which will lead you to perdition, not to salvation. If you don't pray, or if you don't fast, or if you're weak in your thoughts, or if you have some sin which you have a difficulty with, those things fret about, confess them, struggle against them. But as far as material things, do not mortgage your salvation for material things. Because you serve the one great Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Gleanings from the Fathers
Salvation in the city
There was an old man living in the desert who served God for many years and said, "Lord, let me know if I have pleased you." He saw an angel who said to him, "You have not yet become like the gardener in such and such a place." The old man marveled and said to himself, "I will go off to the city to see both him and whatever it is that he does which surpasses my work and toil of all these years."
And so the old man went and came to the place he had heard about from the angel, and found the man sitting and selling produce. He sat with him for the rest of the day, and as the man was leaving, the old man said to him, "Brother, can you give me shelter in your cell tonight?" The man was overcome with joy and welcomed him. Therefore they went to his cell and after the man had prepared things for the old man's refreshment, the old man said to him, "Have charity, brother, and tell me of your manner of life."
Because the man did not want to speak of it the old man persisted
While they were getting ready to eat, the old man heard people in the street singing bawdy songs, for the cell of the gardener was in a public place. Therefore the old man said to him, "Brother, wanting as you do to live according to God, how do you remain in this place and not be troubled when you hear them singing these songs?" The man said, "I tell you, abba, I have never been troubled or scandalized." When he heard this, the old man said, "What, then, do you conceive in your heart whenever you hear these things?" And he said, "That they are all going to the kingdom." When he heard this, the old man marveled and said, "This is the practice
We must live the commandments in order to understand them.
To try to discover the meaning of the commandments through study and reading without actually living in accordance with them is the mistaking of the shadow of something for its reality. It is only by participating in the truth that you can share in the meaning of truth. If you search for the meaning without participating in the truth and without having been initiated into it, you will find only a besotted kind of wisdom. You will be among those whom St. Jude categorized as 'psychic' or worldly because they lack the Spirit (cf. Jukde:19), boast as they may of their knowledge of the truth.
Who will cure my soul
Who will cure my soul if not Thou, O Christ, the only Physician of
"Redeeming the Time" is an almost weekly Journal of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas. Distribute this text if you wish, but only if attribution and all contact information are included. I would appreciate being contacted if any large-scale use of this text is desired. All unsigned or unattributed portions (c) 1999 Fr Seraphim Holland. All rights reserved
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1 Rom 8:28
Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Phone: 972 529-2754
Priest Seraphim Holland
Snail Mail: 2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071, USA