Holy Ascension of Christ
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Sermon from Fr. Nicholas
Sermon for April 23rd, 2023
Gospel: John 20:19-31
Epistle: Acts 5:12-20
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers & Sisters: Christ is Risen!
Skepticism is defined as, “A doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind” or simply, “disbelief”. In modern academia skepticism is highly praised and faith is often scorned. But, is questioning automatically the enemy of faith, or can they exist side-by-side?
The Lord’s interaction with the Apostle Thomas in today’s Gospel reading shows that doubts do not necessarily block our way to God, as long as our hearts are not shut.
Christ appears to His disciples after His resurrection, greeting them with the same words an Orthodox priest uses at the services “Peace be unto you.” The Apostle Thomas isn’t with them. Jesus shows the other disciples His hands and feet, and it says that they are glad when they see Him. Their reaction was just as He said it would be when He spoke to them before His passion, saying, “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John 16:22) So the Lord comes to His disciples and in this atmosphere of peace and joy, He says to them again, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” This is the beginning of the final stage in the creation of the Church, which culminates on Pentecost. Christ is telling His disciples to continue the work which He had started when He was sent by the Father.
Now, as we have said, "Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came," and when the others told him, "we have seen the Lord." He, therefore, said, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20: 24-25) Thomas is like so many of us in that he would require tangible, visible proof that Christ is really active in the lives of His people, caring for creation, and that He was what He claimed to be: "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." (John 14:9) Some today desire generally that kind of evidence even for God’s existence, "irrefutable" evidence making it impossible for man not to believe. That type of unquestionable, undeniable proof, we can say, will be put forth only at the end of this age, when "the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him..." (Matthew 25:31)
When the Lord comes back again, Thomas is with them. And as we read in the Gospels, “saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.”
But what is the difference between the Pharisees skepticism and the Apostle Thomas’ doubt? It all has to do with what is in the heart. Abstract arguments do little with regards to belief, though this is what the world uses as the primary method of “proving” something intellectually. However, Orthodox Christianity has always been about experience leading to belief: over the past two weeks, we have experienced the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, we experience the Grace of God when reaching out to Him and His saints in times of dire need, and we experience the Lord Himself, every week, in the Mystery of Holy Communion. These are just three examples from a great multitude and the great richness of our experience, if we would only open our hearts, points to why the Church that Christ founded cannot be summed up in four bare walls, a Bible & a sermon.
But the Apostle Thomas *did* have his heart open, and he did believe when he opened himself up to experience the presence of God. Was there weakness here? Yes, for as the Lord says, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us in the peace and joy of the Paschal season, live the life in Christ by experiencing Him in the life of the Church. Let our belief be grounded on this firm foundation and let us avoid the temptation to meditate on doubts and skepticism.
Lord, Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen! Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!
!المسيح قام Cristo ha resucitado! Hristos a înviat!
Lazarus Saturday & Palm Sunday
Adult Baptisms & Chrismation
Pascha & Bright Monday
On April 27th, 2023, Eleonore Gretzinger passed from this life.
Grant rest O Lord to the soul of Thy departed servant, Eleonore, who has fallen asleep.
May her memory be eternal! Вечная Память!
FOR A DETAILED CALENDAR, visit our website: https://www.holyascensionofchrist.org/calendar
May 5 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
May 7 - Sunday of the Paralytic
- General Parish Meeting after Coffee Hour
May 12 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
May 14 - Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
May 19 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
May 21 - Sunday of the Blind Man
May 25 - Holy Ascension (Parish Feast Day)
- Hierarchal Vigil at 6:30pm (5/24) and Divine Liturgy with festive procession
May 26 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
May 28 - Fathers of the First Council
Please note the following service schedule:
- Vigil is served at 6:30pm each Saturday and before each Feast.
- Hours and Divine Liturgy are served at 9:00am unless otherwise noted.
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Check out our monastery, St. John of San Francisco Monastery, and our seminary, St. Photios Orthodox Theological Seminary.