Homily 419 – 4th Sunday APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 5, 2020
Epistle: (93) Romans 6:18-23 and (213) Galatians 5:22-6:2 (Ven. Sergius)
Gospel: (25) Matthew 8:5-13 and (24) Luke 6:17-23 (Ven. Sergius)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
We hear the words, the admonition, of St. Paul to “consider yourselves to be dead as regards sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is likely a low percentage of us who step back and contemplate the meaning of being dead. Just saying that phrase – being dead – brings up a wealth of emotions.
Yet, if we are to understand what St. Paul is asking of us, what Christ asks of us, we would do well to perhaps understand the significance and meaning of that phrase. Through that phrase – consider yourselves to be dead – we find the path to life – alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Echoes of what our Lord Himself said – deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow.
Now, to be very, very clear – we are not contemplating physical death here. We do not have the prerogative to choose the beginning or end of our life. That is God’s and God’s alone.
St. Paul tells us – “consider yourselves to be dead.” Live as if you are dead.
How do the dead live? What can we learn about life from the dead?
Saint Macarius sent a young man who desired to become a monk to a cemetery to rebuke and then to praise the dead. Then he asked him what they said to him. The young man replied, “They were silent to both praise and reproach.” “If you wish to be saved, be as one dead. Do not become angry when insulted, nor puffed up when praised.” And further: “If slander is like praise for you, poverty like riches, insufficiency like abundance, then you shall not perish.”
One way to be as one dead is to be indifferent in how others treat you. To be indifferent in how the world treats you.
Another way to be as one dead is to be benevolent to all you encounter. It is further said of St. Macarius that, “Just as God sees the whole world, but does not chastize sinners, so also does Abba Macarius cover his neighbor’s weaknesses, which he seemed to see without seeing, and heard without hearing.”
We can see a theme here. We have no reaction to the things in the world. We are indifferent to it – the world is irrelevant to us. Not just “these are good, those are bad.”
Irrelevant. Both those things called good and those things called bad are completely and utterly beside the point – to the extreme.
As followers of Christ, we are not of the this world. Meaning, we are not created to be part of the fallen-ness of this world.
Creation, before the fall of humanity, was good. And, at the core, all creation – including humanity – is still good. But fallen. Cut off.
And in order to retreat from fallen-ness and attain the pre-fallen transfigured state of humanity:
We have to die to this life. We have to die to everything about this life.
It sounds, and is, extreme. So was the fall of humanity. The rise of ego, the relegation of God in our minds and hearts to the “irrelevant” pile.
The fallen world, and the holy divine, cannot both be relevant – which one will be irrelevant to us?
Some will rightly ask, what about the love of God for the world? Is that at least one place where the fallen world and the holy divine come together?
To be honest, no. The love of God extends to the prefallen world, not the fallen one. God loves the goodness in us all – but to the extent the world – the fallen world – has our attention, the scriptures speak of God being angry and jealous for us.
Which is why it was necessary for God to be incarnate, in His great mercy, as a human. To die, and reconnect us fully to the source of life, the source of salvation.
The source of Love.
He showed us that love by ascending the precious and life-giving cross. He showed us that great love in that while we were sinners – fallen – He gave His only- and uniquely begotten Son, our Lord and God Jesus Christ.
That whosoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life. Brothers and sisters, we get to choose. Remain with the world, remain in sin, and perish.
Or die to sin, die to the world, and live in Christ and with Christ, and have the life which is Christ’s.
We do well to recall that Jesus on this earth, though He was and is and will be God, became like us. He did not demand service, though service was certainly and rightly owed to Him. He did not demand worship, though worship was rightly due to Him.
He offered Himself a servant. He sought nothing – no praise, no adoration, no wealth. In order that we could become through grace what he is through nature.
Returning to the words of St. Macarius: Earthly life has only a relative significance: to prepare the soul, to make it capable of perceiving the heavenly Kingdom, and to establish in the soul an affinity with the heavenly homeland.
“For those truly believing in Christ,” he tells us, “it is necessary to change and transform the soul from its present degraded nature into another, divine nature, and to be fashioned anew by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
And so, let the transformation, the transfiguration, begin anew.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!