Homily 313 – 2nd after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 10, 2018
Epistle: (81-ctr) – Romans 2:10-16 and (330) Hebrews 11:33-12:2 (Saints)
Gospel: (9) Matthew 4:18-23; (10) Matthew 4:25-5:12 (Saints)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
The celebration of the Saints of North America – the saints of the local church – is perhaps not as well known as last Sunday’s commemoration of all Saints.
It is, for us, an opportunity to look at the lives of those who have come before us, and look at the example of their lives, and contemplate how those lives can be a model for us in our lives.
For some of us, we may not even know the names or stories of these holy ones who have gone before us.
In the hymnography at vespers, a few of them are names. St. Herman of Alaska, the first Saint of the North American continent.
The martyrs Juvenaly and Peter, the holy Hierarchs: Innocent, Tikhon, Nicholai, Raphael, and John.
The holy Fathers Alexis and John.
Others that have not yet been recognized, but are certainly venerated, like Matushka Olga Michael of Alaska, or Metropolitan Leonty of the OCA.
What we find in the saints will vary among each of us, because we are all different. We all have different needs, and the saints are able to guide us with something tailored to each of us.
The saints also have a significance for us as a community. They, like us, are missionaries.
If you’ve never thought of yourself as a missionary, you aren’t alone. But you are one. We all are missionaries.
While Christianity may be the norm, Orthodox Christianity is not normal in central Iowa.
While our brothers and sisters of different traditions are Christian, they hold beliefs that are not Orthodox in content, to one extent or another.
They worship in a way that is foreign to the consensus of the Orthodox councils and bishops, to one extent or another.
Some are closer than others, certainly. And to be honest, it is less about the difference in belief, and more about the seeking of truth.
Is isn’t where they are – it is where they, and we, are headed. Are we moving toward Truth? And, because Truth is Christ, are we moving toward Him?
They perhaps don’t even realize the error of their ways. Many of them, and more than a few of us, never even consider what we believe, or how we worship, the praxis and activity of our faith.
It is why our ads on the Cyride buses say “True faith, true worship, true life.” That’s what we offer our community. That is our message to our neighbors and friends.
That is the message of all missionaries. That was Jesus’s message – I am the way, the truth, and the life, He told us.
The interesting thing about the Orthodox missionaries is that they rarely if ever preached. They weren’t standing on the corners preaching and proclaiming this message.
Rather, they were disciples themselves. They demonstrated their message, their faith, through their behavior. Through their very being.
St. Herman came with a group of monks from Vaalam Monastery in Northern Russia. His fellow monks lived in a monastery on Kodiak Islands, in the Aleutian Islands south west of Anchorage.
St. Herman himself, though, was a hermit. He built a cave, then a constructed cell, on Spruce Island, separated from the monastery by a mile and a quarter strait. Later, he built a chapel, and a structure for a school and guesthouse.
He grew mushrooms, he grew potatoes and cabbage and other vegetables. He lived in solitude, but then began caring for orphans and providing schooling for some of the surrounding villages.
He had an amazing – even miraculous – insight into the lands and peoples in which he lived. His letter to the Administrator of the Russian American colony expressed it like this:
“Our Creator granted to our beloved homeland this land which like a newly-born babe does not yet have the strength for knowledge or understanding. It requires not only protection, because of its infantile weakness and impotence, but also his sustenance. … therefore I, the most humble servant of these people, and their nurse stand before you in their behalf …”
The most humble servant of these people, and their nurse.
That, dear brothers and sisters, is the essence of missionary mindset. This humble, gentle monk, who left his home and his homeland to visit this continent – to visit us.
And we share his message with our brothers and sisters. They may not be ready to hear – but like children, they see.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!