Faith and worship

The Lord is everything to me. He is the strength of my heart and the light of my intellect. He inclines my heart to everything good; He strengthens it; He also gives me good thoughts; He is my rest and my joy; He is my faith hope and love.

St. John of Kronstadt

Recent sermon

The feast of All Saints

19th June 2022

Today is the liturgical culmination of what God is doing for us. We see the victory of life in the glory of the Saints, human beings as God means us to be. God creates every person in his image, reflecting his glory. God’s presence is always found in the deepest part of the human heart. Jesus is the eternal Word of God made flesh, crucified to annihilate spiritual and physical death, communicating to us his eternal glory in his flesh given to us in the Eucharist. Human nature is made to be divine, and anything less is below human nature.

This is the Good News at the heart of the life of the Orthodox Church. God will see his purpose through. For this reason we cannot think of anyone as hopeless. Even those who have torrents of blood on their hands are intended to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, however long that may take. They, and everyone, need to have hatred drained out of them. They need to be healed by God’s love. This is why we pray: not to make God do this or that, but to open ourselves to God’s presence.

We are members of the body of Christ, not yet entirely healthy ones. Our sins are an illness. Yet it is not right to say that there is no difference between our sins and the atrocities committed by those who deliberately confuse evil with good, and present mass murder as a crusade on God’s behalf. A bland blurring of the terrible reality of great crimes colludes with the godlessness of evil. In contrast, Christ, our crucified Master, learned and showed perfect obedience to the Father, and for the joy set before him, took up his reign when he was raised upon the Cross, destroying the power of evil by allowing it to exhaust itself on his divine limitless love.

All his apostles were martyrs, except for John. Theirs was not a half-obedience. They endured because in their hearts they knew the invisible glorified Christ. Beforehand, they had wandered around the world without a home, often suffering hardness and indignity. Our prayer is that Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, will make us unafraid of the Cross, but venerate it daily, and frequently makes its sign on ourselves.

Most of us are probably not called to be martyrs. Our obedience is far easier: to establish the love of God’s truth in our hearts, that we may see everything in its light, and trust its teaching. God’s grace has led us to his light, the eternal, divine and righteous truth. Our role is to cling to it.

It is a treasure hidden in the field of our soul, a foretaste of the joy of the Saints. Besides saying prayers, we need to give time frequently to the silence which takes us deep down into our heart, to that place where the apparent nothing is God’s presence, too bright for us to see anything, yet unmistakable.

There is a real danger for everyone, to fill life with so much external activity that we take too little time to savour the presence of God, available to us not only when we receive communion, but at all times in the deepest part of our heart.

This is also where we meet the Saints, whom God has brought to safety through the temptations, the turmoils of earthly life, sometimes the brutality of martyrdom beyond human endurance. If we must not minimise abominable crimes, neither should we imagine that the martyrs, most of whom suffered in the twentieth century under totalitarian governments, were somehow protected from feeling physical and psychological pain greater than what people can endure.

While we are still on earth, we can live and rejoice in the company of the Saints. Their beauty is beyond what the world can offer. They are the friends of God, who praise him on our behalf better than we could achieve. They are clothed in divine glory. They share God’s reign as King. In the power of the Holy Spirit, they are conquering, perhaps slowly, but ineluctably, every corner of the universe to enable the entire creation to be like them.

Amen.