Holy Ascension of Christ
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Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
Sermon from Fr. Nicholas
Sermon for September 7th, 2008
12th Sunday After Pentecost
Apostles Bartholomew & Titus
Gospel: Matt. 19:16-26 (§79)
& Matt. (§11)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s first gospel starts with a young man approaching Christ and posing a question, “Good Master”, he says, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
This is the most important question. The question that should make us stop and then carefully take in and examine the answer. And the answer that Christ gives is so nuanced, so easily misunderstood that we require guidance from the Fathers in order to have a clear view.
Immediately we should notice what Christ addresses first – the fact that the young man called Him good. Jesus answers, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” St. John Chrysostom writes that Christ often answers the hidden thoughts of a questioner, and in this case, the young man believed that Jesus was just a Jewish teacher. Some of the Fathers also note, that the young man, while not wicked, nevertheless seems frivolous and living too confidently under the law. So, in a sense, Christ addresses his question *with* a question that is meant to lead him from spiritual immaturity to spiritual growth if the young man *chooses* to embrace it. Careful consideration of these words of Jesus would reveal that they point to a confession of Christ as the Son of God and this is just as much of an answer to the young man’s question as anything Jesus says afterward. But, God never forces.
Christ then says, “But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young man asks, “Which?” And the Lord answers, “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Now, many of the Fathers make a point of calling attention to Christ’s specific choice of words when He says, “If thou wilt *enter* into life” as opposed to “If thou wilt *have* life” indicating the beginning of this route but not its completion. St. Cyril of Alexandria writes, “[Christ pointed him to the law] not because the law is perfection, for ‘no one is justified by the law’(Gal 3:11), as it is written, but because the life lived according to the law is a kind of introduction to the eternal life, briefly acquainting trainees to the things above. ‘For (as it says in Galatians) the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ’” (Gal 3:24)
If we, my brothers and sisters in Christ, look at this gospel reading through the prism of what St. Cyril writes, we can see that Christ is answering the young man according to what he needs to hear, but he is too immature to understand, for he answers and says, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” This man does not see that the *commandments* that he claims to have followed from his youth are all pointing to Life in Christ. They are *not* God, and so many, both then and now, would like to turn them into God. But then, there is something *else* that possesses this young man’s soul. Jesus turns to him and says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
The young man’s boast turns into a challenge from Christ: free yourself from that which has enslaved you, and follow me. But the young man, so sure of his righteousness only a moment before, suddenly feels the chains around his heart and goes away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Christ casts away all illusions from this young man and, for a moment, he sees the stark reality of his soul, though he is not ready to see it. How many of us, my brothers and sisters, take the time to look beyond the smoke & mirrors that we have set up for ourselves and strive to see our souls as they really are? And how many of us then live life accordingly?
Jesus said to His disciples “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” And the disciples were amazed, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
St. John Chrysostom writes, “If you want to learn the way and how the impossible becomes possible, listen. He did not make this statement that what is impossible for man is possible for God merely so you could relax and do nothing and leave it all to God. No, he said this so you could understand the importance of calling upon God to give you help in this rigorous contest and that you might more readily approach His grace.”
What St. John points out is that our *exit* from slavery to whatever self-centered passion holds us in its grips, comes only through a reliance on God. We live in a world where bondage to the things of this world is not only practiced but any mention that this is unhealthy is met with ridicule. But we should not give up. We should never take our eyes off Christ and only by doing so can we conquer: love of money or anger or self-pity or arrogance or lust or judgment or any passion that would make us sorrowful if the Lord were to ask us to cast it aside. May the Lord guide us.
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Feast of Transfiguration
St. Xenia's Camp!
Several youth and many of our young people joined Fr. Nicholas and Matushka for a wonderful and edifying week!
From the Feast of Dormition
O ye Apostles from afar,
Being now gathered together,
Here in the vale of Gethsemane,
Give burial to my body;
And Thou my Son and my God,
Receive Thou my spirit.
From the Sisterhood
Thank you to all who helped prepare, set up, grill, clean-up, and make treats for our parish picnic! It was a beautiful day and a wonderful success!
Glory to God for all things!
O Lord, save Thy people!
From the Parish Council
Thank you to Seraphim Wieber and his crew of helpers for refinishing the front doors to the church and to Fr. Deacon Peter for his original design. (You can view the doors in the first picture of this newsletter.)
We would also like to thank Sasha Soubotin and his helpers for maintaining our riding lawn mower. We now have new front tires! Thank you also to our chief mower, Andrew Chernjavsky!
We are truly grateful to all for your daily and weekly prayers and labor for our church and community.
If you are interested in helping with projects and chores (large or small), please reach out to our church warden, Sasha Soubotin (email@example.com), or our head sisters,, Vicky Selznick (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Stephanie Rindell (email@example.com).
FOR A DETAILED CALENDAR, visit our website: https://www.holyascensionofchrist.org/calendar
September 1 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
September 3 - Holy Apostle Thaddeus & the Apodosis of Dormition
September 8 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
September 10 - St. Moses the Ethiopian
September 11- Beheading of St. John the Baptist - Fasting Day
September 15 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
September 17 - St. Babylas of Antioch & the Holy Prophet Moses
- Parish Picnic following Divine Liturgy
September 21 - Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos
- Vigil on Wednesday at 6:30 PM; Divine Liturgy at 6:00 AM
September 22 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
September 24 - St. Theodora & the Apodosis of the Nativity of the Theotokos
September 27 - EXALTATION of the Life-giving Cross
- Vigil on Tuesday at 6:30 PM; Divine Liturgy at 6:00 AM
- Parish Council Meeting at 7:00pm (moved from the 9/28)
September 29 - Vespers at 6:30 pm, Catechetical Class to follow
September 30 - Vigil at Holy Ascension- 6:30pm
- October 1 - Everyone is invited to attend the Feast of St. Maximus in Owego for Divine Liturgy. (We will not have service at Holy Ascension.)
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.