The rules apply only to me.
Homily 310 – 7th of Pascha (Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 20, 2018
Epistle: (44) – Acts 20:16-18, 28-36
Gospel: (56) – John 17:1-13
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
It is fitting that we end the Paschal season the same way we began great lent – honoring the holy Fathers of an Ecumenical Council.
The first Sunday of Great Lent, we honor the fathers of the seventh Ecumenical Council, the restoration of the icons.
This Sunday, the last Sunday of Pascha, the Sunday before Pentecost, we honor the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.
It may be worth our time to consider the importance of the councils to our Church, to our faith, and to our salvation.
Aleksander Solzhenitsyn wrote a book called the Gulag Archipelago. In it, one statement he makes especially stands out.
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an un-uprooted small corner of evil.
Sometimes, people take the canons issued by a Council, or even those of an individual, and use them as a lawbook.
And then, they look around and attempt to become citizen law enforcement for God. Especially these days on the internet. Never mind that interpretation is left to the Bishops.
They haul people before the bishops – a bishop, any bishop – and make their accusation.
They notice what everyone else does wrong. They did this – they did that.
Solzhenitsyn reminds us, each one of us, that the only place we are allowed to look, the only place we can notice, is in ourselves.
The one place where it is the most painful to look.
Jesus Christ Himself offers the same directive. Remove the log from your own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from another.
We can’t see what is in the heart of someone else. We can’t know their motivation, their intent.
We don’t know their struggles, their demons, their illnesses.
We don’t know their loneliness. Their brokenness.
Our own hearts are a tangled enough web. We don’t clearly see everything in our selves. If we did, confession and repentance would be easy.
The recesses of our heart are mysterious and hidden, even to us. Especially to us.
The Evil One tempts us to look outside ourselves. He tries, and many times succeeds, in convincing us that we’re OK – but others aren’t.
That, brothers and sisters, is a lie.
Solzhenitsyn recognized it. If we are honest, we recognize it too.
We don’t want to. It is difficult. It is painful. But we can recognize it.
We don’t have to fix it all at once. In fact, we can’t fix it all at once, because the Holy Spirit leads us, through time, bringing up new things for us to fix.
Things that we didn’t even know about, or didn’t know needed fixing.
And we will fail. Oh boy, will we fail. Over, and over, and over …
Every time we fail, we will be forgiven. We already are forgiven. So that we have the freedom to begin again.
In the midst of everything – we discover peace. A sense that we know we are broken, and that’s OK, because we are being healed.
We know what the future holds – healing, love. And yes, pain, and sorrow, and death.
This morning as we contemplate our Lord’s love for us, and we consider our offering to Him, and His offering to us, remember also the rules the Church offers us.
But remember – they apply only to us.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is risen!