Sunday, October 2, 2011

Met. Ephrem: Two Sermons on St. Thekla

This sermon was originally given at the vespers for the feast of St. Thekla September 23, 2011 The Arabic original can be found here.

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

Beloved, today we celebrate the feast of this martyr, this great one among the martyrs, the equal-to-the-apostles Thekla, this saint of our country, who was the first woman to be martyred for Christ. For this reason the people love her very much and she has worked many miracles for those who believe in her. Miracles do not come out of the unknown. They come out of faith.

Saint Theka was one of the good young women who left the things of this world in order to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. She was called “Equal to the Apostles” from the first centuries because she was a disciple of the Apostle Paul, who attracted her with his words and preaching.

If you read her life, you see that her mother opposed her and wanted to marry her off. She was betrothed to a person named Homer but despite this she followed the dictates of her heart and her faith and so she fled from her country, which was in Asia Minor, today Turkey, and went to the city of Antioch and attached herself to Paul. From Antioch—to which we as a church belong—the apostles went to evangelize the entire inhabited world of that time. She became attached to the Apostle Paul as she sat by the window listening to him speak. He would talk for long periods of time since in ancient times they would spend hours preaching the words of the Lord and people would listen, but today people are annoyed if the priest speaks at length.

When the people of Antioch learned that she was a Christian, they seized her and took her to the area of Ma’lula. There some wicked people took hold of her and wanted to kill her, but the rock split and she went into the rock and was martyred there. Her body remains in that region and those who visit her monastery in Ma’lula bow down at her grave there.

Saint Thekla bears witness to this bravery that today we are very much in need of from our young men and women, those who prefer their faith to the empty spectacles of this world and who are martyred for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and for their faith, who give us a good example of holiness which alone is able to win the kingdom of heaven.

We ask for her intercession and for the intercession of the great saint whom we also celebrate today, Saint Silouan the Athonite, who has a beautiful book that I advise you to read. Pray to them this evening and read their stories, so that the Lord will bless you and your families, amen.

This sermon was given on the Feast of St. Thekla, September 24, 2011 in Kfarsarun. The Arabic original can be found here.

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

On this blessed day we celebrate the feast of the martyr Thekla who is loved by many of the faithful. You also love her, since she suffered and died as a martyr. Where does this love come from, and from where this honor? The Apostle Paul was her teacher and she left her fiancé and her family in order to follow him. He attracted her with his words, since he was one of the greatest of the apostles who established the Church and he suffered and was martyred with Peter in the city of Rome—Paul’s head was cut off and Peter was crucified.

What did Paul say in the epistle? “All those who want to live in piety and faith in the Lord Jesus will be persecuted.” This means that each one of us who wants to live in this world today, in the hardships of this world, as a true Christian according to the teachings of Christ, must expect to be persecuted and to be tormented because he lives in an upright fashion according to the teachings and commandments of the Lord Jesus, to the point that he might be tormented by his very family, just as Thekla was tormented by her mother.

The Lord Jesus said, “He who loves his father or his mother more than me does not deserve me.” He also informs us that the way to Christ is the narrow way and that usually people—as you see and witness in the news—on account of their weakness—and we are all weak—want to walk along the easy way. They want to obtain money without toil. They want to lie, to be jealous and combative, and also to kill.

For this reason Saint Thekla reminds us not to fear, even death. They threw her to the wild beasts, but because of her faith the beasts were not able to kill her. In the end she fled and the stone opened and swallowed her and she died a martyr. In this way Saint Paul and Saint Thekla teach us to preserve our faith and our love for the Lord and to always remain faithful to Him. May the Lord keep us from evil through their intercession and the intercession of the Virgin, amen.

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