Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fr. Pandeleimon Farah's Sermon for All Saints' Day, 2011

Arabic original here.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages, amen.

Today we commemorate all the saints who are throughout the world. We commemorate all those who shone, east and west, north and south, as well as those who will become saints. Holiness is not limited to a time or to a certain number of people but rather it spreads like light that disperses the darkness. In this way, Christ's grace spreads among humankind, and those who approach it possess holiness. The saints do not belong to a long-lost time that has passed. They are present now in our era and they will also be present after us. There is no limit to sanctity, so we commemorate them all in order to know that we are not limited by the feasts of saints whom we know and the dates of whose feasts we know and so celebrate at certain times. Rather, we commemorate all the saints as a result of giving glory to God, who gave us the grace of holiness.

This is an opinion that we must adopt and a teaching that we must follow in order to know that we are also called to holiness. Did we not receive this grace at baptism?! So we must cause it to bear fruit and be serious, as the Apostle Paul teaches about those whom he remembers in today's epistle, how they suffered, asking us to patiently struggle. This is what is asked of us, to be patient in our struggle, to be patient in or sufferings and our temptations. When we are patient, we will inevitably be victorious, because God, who arranged for us to undertake this struggle, is with us, struggling with us, sanctifying us, and ministering to us, so that we might be victorious and He might be pleased with our struggle.

In this way He looked upon the struggles of Saint Anthony in the desert. After being exhausted from toil and worn down and wounded by many blows from the devil, Anthony asked the Lord, "Where were you? I I called upon you often, and you did not come to me?" He said to him, "O Anthony, I was with you, rejoicing in your struggle and now I will appear to you in order to confirm to you that you are in a righteous struggle and on the true path." Do not ask for a miracle immediately. God is with you, so be patient in your struggle. When He sees your patience, He will help you even more and will reveal victory to you.

So let us struggle in patience and let us be persistent. What is the point of this life that we live, if it is not training for us to arrive at holiness? What use is it? It has no use, if it does not lead to holiness and the kingdom. This is the valley of the shadow of death, where man toils and grieves and sheds much sweat, but God will crown his patience with victory, holiness, and the life of the kingdom.

So struggle, especially early in life, because in this way you will become accustomed to following this path. When someone becomes accustomed to loose living and distances himself from the Lord, it is hard for him later to follow this path, just like with sports. If you have trained every day from your youth, then in adulthood and old age you will persist, because you have become used to this regimen. But if you come to train after seventy years of relaxation and immobility, then you will not move at all. So struggle while you are young in order to arrive at victory starting now. Then you will become accustomed to being victorious and evil will not overcome you. Do not be careless and do not allow yourself to submit to the temptations that come your way, lest you become negligent and in your negligence you will not be victorious. But in your struggling and your patience in the suffering, difficulty, and temptation,  that you go through, you will be victorious and your reward will stick to Christ and in this way you will become holy.

If you want to know more, you should read the lives of the heroic saints that the Church has announced, not in order to say, "we have many saints" but in order to say to your, "these are the guiding models, you should emulate them and walk in their footsteps." Then, in your familiarity with the righteous, you can come to Christ and in your daily prayer and reading of the Bible, you will be upright and set limits in your life, so that you do not deviate into sin. In this way you will preserve yourself through discipline and you will struggle with patience and steadfastness and so receive the great reward of being with Christ in the kingdom.

So let all the saints intercede for us, those whom we commemorate in every country and place. Notice that the Church is not limited to local saints. She seeks their intercession, but she commemorates and rejoices in all saints in every place, because they also bear the grace of the Lord and possess this grace in order to sanctify and enlighten us. So by learning from their biographies and their lives, we emulate them and are also filled with their graces, abundant blessings, we are made holy, strengthened, and advance in our struggle. May they bless us on this blessed morning and may they make our life story be in imitation of their story and their holiness, so that we too may receive blessed victory from the Lord. May His name be holy in us, amen.

Archimandrite Pandeleimon (Farah)
Abbot of the Monastery of Hamatoura
June 22, 2011

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