Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Met. Ephrem's Sermon for July 17, 2011

This sermon was given on Sunday, July 17 in the Church of St. Marina in Amioun. The Arabic original can be found here.

In the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit,

Beloved, you heard this passage from the Gospel of Matthew that is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. It is one of the most important passages from the Gospel, beginning with the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." And he says in this passage from the Gospel ,"You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before the people so that they may see your good works and praise your Father who is in heaven."

"You are the light of the world," he says to the disciples. Everyone who follows Christ is expected to be light for the world, to shine into the world because this world, as you often see, is in darkness and perdition and is in need of people to illuminate them, to show them the right way. Christ comes to the disciples, meaning to the Christians, that is to us, and you must shine into the world, show them the right way. How can a person be light?!

Is ther light in your eyes? One who studies physics knows that the eye does not have any light in it- it reflects outside light! It reflects the light of the sun and likewise we are expected to reflect the light of Christ. Just as the sun is the source, so Christ is the source of light, because he says, "I am the light of the world." Those who among us can reflect the light, can be light, if their heart is pure. If, like the eastern Fathers say, Grace is active in us, then each one of us who has God's grace has the Holy Spirit whom we received through baptism. However, God's grace is not active in each one of us! The Lord gave us freedom. Some accept for the Lord Jesus to be active in them and some refuse! Some love to come to church and some do not like to come to church. Those who want the grace of God that is present in their hearts to be active within them, at that point their mind is illumined, at that point grace is active. How is grace active? When we give a good example in order to "shine your light before the people so that they see your good works and praise your Father in heaven." There are Christian people who live Christ's commandments and give a good example in their life and there are those who do not care and God's grace is not active in them. Today we celebrate first of all the holy fathers at the Fourth Ecumenical Council. What is the meaning of the holy fathers from all the world who gathered at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in a city called Chalcedon, near Constantinople, today Istanbul? What was their decision? They decided the basic belief of the Church, which is that Christ is perfect God and perfect man.

The Christ in whom we believe is first of all God. The Jehovah's Witnesses say that Christ is not God, but our Orthodox belief says in the First and the Fourth Councils that our Christ is our God and he is our savior. If he were not God, then he would not be able to save us. Second of all, he is perfect man. In some sects, they believe that Christ is God who outwardly became incarnate, meaning that he is not fully human, that is he did not take on all our being, all our human weaknesses. This is something very important, because it shows us the way that we must follow in order to be saved. He came and lived as a human just like us on this earth. One who reads the Gospels knows that he got tired and wept and was sad... he had all human emotions and at the same time he was God.

For this reason he suffered on the cross and died, but by his divine power he rose from the dead. This is the teaching of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. However, the second feast, and the one that you are celebrating today is your feast of Saint Marina. Who is a martyr? How can a virgin or a lady become a holy martyr? Every one of us can become a saint! In foreign languages they say 'martyr' [the Arabic is shahid] and in the original language it is 'martyr'. A martyr means one who bears witness and a martyr is one who is prepared to die for Christ's sake! At the same time, he lives his Christianity and is a martyr,that is a witness, meaning that he witnesses through his life that he is a Christian. This is found in the Gospel passage that you heard today, which says at the end of the sentence, "One who does and teaches is called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." It is not enough to teach as we are. It is not enough for one to teach and preach and chant. We must live the words that we read and chant. One who teaches them must live them, otherwise he will develop schizophrenia, saying one thing and living something else. No, a holy martyr is one who believes and lives and embodies his faith, so God makes him holy by His grace. We celebrate and remember him and he intercedes for us, amen.

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