Sunday of Orthodoxy 2015
Sunday of Orthodoxy 2015
A Sermon by Metropolitan Moses
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We have completed the course of the first week of the struggle of the fast on our journey to the Pascha, that is, the celebration of the passing over from death unto life of our Christ.
Those of you who have had the opportunity to struggle in fasting and practicing a little quiet and withdrawal from the din of the media know by experience the many benefits of the Great Lent. Already we are at that great feast of the Church, The Sunday of Orthodoxy. On this Sunday we celebrate the Seventh Ecumenical Council and the triumph of the holy icons and the recapitulation of the triumphs achieved by all of the Ecumenical Councils that came before. On this day we celebrate the incarnation of the God-Man made manifest as depicted in holy icons. In words, in writings, in deeds, and in our sacred art forms we proclaim the Way of Salvation to the world.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we celebrate God’s great condescension and love for us, how our God put on our human nature became the God-Man. We depict our God Who has become Incarnate for us and He has provided that we be sanctified by all of our senses and led up to a knowledge of Him through the sacred rituals of the Holy Church. Our God has done all things well so that we might be saved. As the proclamation is expressed in the service for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, “What God is as great as our God? Thou art our God, Who alone workest wonders.”
Especially in these latter days, these days of spiritual confusion, we have all the more reason to be grateful for this feast. This feast more than any other, expresses the principle by which we can discover the way to direct our lives to Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The way to direct our life to God is to follow the consensus of the teachings of the Holy Fathers.
As the Synodicon proclaims:
As the Prophets have seen, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have set forth in dogmas, as the whole world has understood, as grace has illuminated, as the truth was demonstrated, as falsehood was banished, as wisdom spoke boldly, as Christ has awarded; thus do we believe, thus we speak, thus we preach and honour Christ our true God and His saints, in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in temples, and in icons; we worship and respect the Former as God and Master, and we honour and apportion relative worship to the others, for the sake of our common Master since they are His genuine servants, [Exclamation from Without] This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this Faith hath established the world.
To use an image from sea faring, the consensus of the teachings of the Holy God-bearing Fathers from the time of the Apostles until today is as a great lighthouse that helps us direct the little boats of our lives over the sea of life. This consensus is represented in the teachings of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Pan-Orthodox Councils of the Church.
Even if a person considers himself insignificant and is only beginning his spiritual journey and it seems like the goal of salvation in the Heavenly Kingdom is a long way off, that person can see this lighthouse through the teachings of the Holy Fathers, because it is the light of the teachings of the Holy Spirit. As long as a man keeps his eyes on the lighthouse of their teaching, he has good hope directing the little boat of his life and arriving in the Land of the Living.
Yet, conversely, if a person who seems to be illustrious and his life is, as it were, a mighty ship and he has made spiritual progress and, yet, he turns away from the light of the teachings of the Holy Fathers through spiritual presumption or pride, that man will be lost. These things will be so whether that man has the title of Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, Bishop, Archimandrite, Priest, Elder, renowned ascetic or layman. The Holy Fathers feared the changeability in man’s nature that was demonstrated by the many men who made a good beginning and then went astray. For this reason the Saint Ieronymos of Aegina used to say, “Call no man blessed before his end.”
That is why the great Apostle Paul taught us that even if an angel were to come from heaven, or a man that seems to live the life of an angel, and teaches doctrine or morality that we have not received from the Apostles and the Holy Fathers, we proclaim to him Anathema, that is, that he is outside of the Church of the Christians. Numbers mean nothing, titles mean nothing, many have fallen away even after initially demonstrating what seemed to be a good life.
We are most blessed in that we have within North America as our guide an illustrious successor to these Holy Fathers, that is Saint Philaret, Metropolitan of New York, whose incorrupt relics are a clear testimony to his sanctity. His teachings are enough to help a man or woman of our day find the right path. He warned us all that the greatest sin of our age was indifference to the truth.
We rejoice in his memory and yet there is sadness on this feast in that there is only a tiny remnant in the Russian Church who strive to follow in his footsteps of the confession of the faith or acknowledge the importance of his life and work to all Orthodox Christians.
All Christians who desire to remain faithful to the teachings of the Holy Fathers should read Saint Philaret’s two open letters to Patriarch Athenagoras and his First and Second Sorrowful Epistles. In his life and writings Saint Philaret stood like another Saint Mark of Ephesus and professed Apostolic truth in order to lead those who desired out of the darkness of heresy and confusion into the light of the true teachings of Christ.
The present day union between the Patriarch of Constantinople and Rome is essentially the same as the false Union of Florence.In 1965 Constantinople lifted the excommunications against Rome. At that time the canonist of the new calendar Greek Archdiocese of North and South America, Reverend Theodore T. Thalassinos, wrote: “The removal of the mutual excommunication between the two Churches restores canonical relations between Rome and New Rome. This restoration is a canonical necessity, since there is no possible third situation between ecclesiastical communion and its negation: ecclesiastical excommunication.”
The present day clergy of the Greek Archdiocese in North America are in Union with Rome. Members of the laity of that Church are being led astray. I know that many of you have family members who are part of the Greek Archdiocese. They do not belong to a “new calendar” Church they belong to a Uniate Church. I ask you, did Saint Mark of Ephesus refuse to speak the truth about the false union in his day, or did he proclaim the truth? Of course he proclaimed the truth and spent two years imprisoned at the fortress on the Island of Limnos because he refused to compromise.
We must speak the truth with love. In fact, according to Saint Photios the Great, the greatest act of love is to speak the truth. I ask you to think about these things when you are planning to baptize your children and understand that we cannot allow people who are members of the Uniate Greek Archdiocese to be godparents of children who are members of the Orthodox Church. To allow such a thing would not be an act of love, but rather it would help to keep those very people away from the light of the saving teachings of the God-bearing Holy Fathers of the Church and communion with the true Church. Saint Mark wrote concerning the Unionists of his day, “I am convinced that the further I depart from him (the Patriarch) and from those like him (the Latin-minded), the closer do I draw near God and all the Saints; and the more I am separated from them, by so much more am I united to the truth.”
Because of the human element found in the Church, heresies and scandals arise from time to time. This does not reflect on the Church, but on those who have gone astray. If we keep our eyes on the lighthouse of the teachings of the Holy Fathers, no false teaching or scandal, no matter how great, can deflect us from arriving at our true homeland, that is, participation in the grace of the Holy Trinity.
May the God-Man Jesus Christ preserve you and your families in the truth. Amen.