On Being Filled with the Spirit - Pentecost

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Sermon XIV

On Being Filled with the Spirit
Pentecost
"Be filled with the Spirit." (Eph 5:18)

The soul of every feast is the presence of him whom we honour.  Therefore to those who are commemorating the feast of the Holy Ghost, what can be more desirable than that this heavenly Comforter should crown that feast by His gracious visitation.

O that He would, if no longer in the form of tongues like as of fire irradiate our heads, at least touch our hearts with the mysterious spark of His holy fire, and warm them by a sense of the presence of God, like as of old He warmed the hearts of the two disciples who were "slow to believe," so that those same hearts were able at least to trace the presence of the Lord; "Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way?" (Luke 24:31)  This is so great a blessing, that I know not whether we even dare to ask for it of the Treasury of blessing without an inward shudder, and a certain degree of amazement at our own boldness: although the Church, it is true, both daily, and every time at the beginning of our prayers, invites us to pray unto the Holy Ghost that He should not only come, but take up His abode in us.

But that, my brethren, which appears to us so difficult even to wish for, how simply and how abundantly does the Holy Ghost now offer unto us through the lips of the Apostle; nay, not only offer, but command, exhort, and ordain as a law – "be filled with the Spirit."

How blessed, but how wonderful, how inscrutable a commandment dost thou give us, O divine Paul, – "Be filled with the Spirit."  But does it then depend upon our own will to be filled with the Spirit?  If this treasure be so near and so accessible, why is it then so rare and so little known?

Christians, among our Ephesian co-disciples, to whom the Apostle of the Gentiles first addressed that instruction which we are now considering, there certainly was not one who did not understand him, or who could have opposed to him those doubts which we now feel.  Had it been otherwise, the divinely inspired teacher would have doubtlessly anticipated the question by an elucidation.  So did those who of old thirsted, know the way, once indicated by the prophet in the words, "Ho, every one that thirsted, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come; buy wine and milk without money, and without price."  But now it appears as if we "spent money for that which is not bread, and our labor for that which satisfieth not." (Isa 55:1-2)  It seems to us as if the Lord set too great a price upon His bounties, and as if it were not our hands that are too weak to hold those spiritual gifts, but rather His own had become shortened in the distribution of them.

Nay, the Lord doth bountifully "pour out His Spirit upon all flesh." (Joel 2:28)  If we are not "filled with the Spirit," it is not because His gifts are wanting, but because we ourselves are wanting to them.  Let the poor in spirit be comforted.  Let those who are weak in the flesh take courage,  Let the Lord be justified in His words.

There was a time when the Apostles, pre-eminently the temples of the Holy Ghost, were not conscious of Him Who abode in them.  They were already in possession of the gift of miracles, but yet they knew not the source, nor could they perceive the direction, of that power which was working in them.  The spirit of love manifested itself in them as a spirit of wrath, and they who were called to be ministers of salvation were ready to command the fire of destruction to come down from heaven.  He Who was Truth itself thus convicted them of this strange ignorance of themselves, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." (Luke 9:54-55)

Hereafter, when this same Spirit, which in the beginning had worked in the Apostles with mysterious power, having visited them in His solemn descent and filled them with knowledge and wisdom, they then came to know this same Spirit so plainly, so intimately, that they could clearly distinguish it form their own spirit, as well as from the universal spirit working in the natural man, not yet regenerated by the Spirit of God, and which had perhaps formerly worked in themselves also.  "Now," says one of them, "we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (I Cor 2:12)

Let us note, my brethren, that the Apostle does not say, "the Spirit was given to us," but "we have received the Spirit."  As if he would say, "It is known that God gives His Spirit to every one who is disposed to receive it.  But men are mostly enslaved and blinded by the spirit of the world.  Now we have thrown off the dominion of the dark spirit, and have received into our souls the light-bearing influence of that Spirit which proceedeth from God, and thereby the knowledge and consciousness of the gifts pre-ordained unto us by God were made manifest in us.  'Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.'"

Thus, if you believe not us, unworthy servants of the Word, then believe those chosen instruments, the messengers and heralds of the Spirit of God, that notwithstanding there always is a certain amount of independence and freedom of action in man, he not only may be, but generally always is under the guidance of one of the other of these two principles, – the spirit of the world, or the Spirit of God, according as he freely receives the influence of the one or the other of them.  If you seem not to experience this in yourselves, it is only a sign that "ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."

In order that I may bring these mystical relations of the spirit of man to the Spirit of God, as near as possible to the understanding of you all, let me make use of a parable, or a simile, in which even Divine Truth frequently clothed itself in order to manifest itself unto the eyes of man, who is always more or less sensual.  The infant in the womb has its own soul and life; but its life is so to say in the life of its mother, is penetrated and nourished by it; to that, compared with the fully developed existence of a man, it can hardly be called life; here then you have an image of the condition of the natural man in this world!  His spirit has its own existence and freedom; nevertheless, being in the flesh it is enveloped and imperceptibly governed by the power of the world; he thinks, but he does so after the rudiments of the world; he desires, but he does so under the influence of the all-powerful, in this world, "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life;" (I John 2:16) he acts, but only in the narrow and low sphere of the sensual; he lives, but after the spirit of the world, "being alienated from the life of God." (Eph 4:18)  However the confinement of the infant in the womb is not the final intention of nature, but only a means and a way by which the infant is led into full being, and it will come into the light to see the world's beauty, to taste of its good things, and to learn to know its Creator: such also is the highest destiny of the spirit of man wrapped up in the flesh and confined in the world: "Ye must be born again;" (John 3:7) ye must, for this, according to the will of God, is not the fortuitous lot of a few, but a confirmed law and a predestined state for all mankind, a state for which all natural life is but a preparation and a state of transition.  The captive of this world must be "brought out of his prison," that "he may praise the name of the Lord," (Ps 142:7) that he may be "enlightened by the light of Christ, and taste of the heavenly gift, and the powers of the world to come," (Heb 6:45) while yet in this present world; to receive in this world "the Spirit which is of God," to begin, even upon earth, to breathe the atmosphere of heaven.  And as the new-born infant, detaching itself form its mother's existence, has no difficulty in seeking out its new life, but carries within itself the germ of growth, which is ever developing and perfecting, and everywhere around finds the atmosphere necessary for its respiration; thus also man, withdrawn from the world by Grace, and called to birth from above, is nearer to the sphere of his new life than he thinks: for it is we alone who may be far from the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of God cannot be far from us.  This Spirit "goes through all spirits," (Wis 7:23) as Solomon says, being inaccessible in its Holiness, and omnipresent in its Grace.  It is poured upon every power and faculty which submits to its influence, and in the very heart of the old man it opens a fountain of a new life: "He that believeth on Me," the Giver of the Spirit said, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  But this," adds the beloved disciple, explaining the words of the heavenly Teacher, "but this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive." (John 7:38-39)  Finally, here is the important difference between natural and spiritual birth: the former is achieved and completed by a necessary process of nature, whilst the latter is attained by a free aspiration towards God, by faith in Christ, "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. "  And wherefore whole rivers from one drop of the fullness of Grace sufficeth to quicken thousands of spirits?  For this reason, as the Scripture hath said, that the unbounded wealth of Grace might be manifested, by which the Holy Ghost not only filleth, but overfloweth the measure of our readiness to receive Him; and, so to say, giveth us more than we are able to receive.

Is it for us, then, children of faith, not to acknowledge the presence of the Holy Ghost among us, and to ask of His dominion, Where is it?  And yet even before His solemn descent upon the Church, the children of the law felt His Omnipresent and Almighty power so forcibly, that nowhere could they hide themselves and rest, from a feeling of reverential awe: "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?" (Ps 139:7) exclaimed David.  Is it for us to doubt how the free action of the spirit of man can still exist while under the increasing influence of the Almighty Spirit?  And yet in the time of Job, it was already known, that there is "a spirit in man"; and the inspiration of the Almighty "giveth them understanding." (Job 32:8)  Need we also call to mind our own confession, so often renewed by us at the call of the Church, by which, while drawing nigh unto God in prayer, we proclaim the Omnipresent and all-filling might of His Spirit?  Everywhere present, and filling everything!

"Filling everything!"  But why then are not all filled with Him?  It is evident we must question ourselves upon this.

Can we "be filled with the Spirit," when the flesh unceasingly warring against the spirit finds in us no check to its dominion?  If in the satiety of the flesh, in its pleasures, its enjoyments, we extinguish even the innate hunger of our spirit for the Word of God, and its thirst after righteousness; if we live only in the flesh, in which, as a man of God assures us from his own experience, there "dwelleth no good thing:" (Rom 7:18) in such a case we are willingly hurrying ourselves towards the fearful judgment of God, pronounced upon the first world: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh." (Gen 6:3)  "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting." (Gal 6:7-8)

Can we be "filled with the Spirit of God, whilst we are animated but by the spirit of this world, whilst we fill our mind with its earthly wisdom alone, enliven our imagination with its charms alone, excite our hearts solely with its passions, govern our will but by its laws, strive by our deeds to please it alone.  Can we be filled with the Spirit of God if our better feelings, our virtues even, are infected by the pernicious breath of the spirit of this world, our love by partiality, deference, by adulation, nobleness by pride, industry by avarice, charity by ostentation, dignity by contempt of others, great actions by ambition?  They only can "receive the Spirit which is of God, who have not received the spirit of the world," or have driven it out by "loving not the world, neither the things that are in the world." (I John 2:15)

Can we "be filled with the Spirit" whilst we are still engrossed by ourselves, that there is not in us even one spot free and pure enough, in which even one drop of that "living water," which through the length and breadth of time and space, "is springing up into eternal life" (John 4:14) might fall and not be changed into mire through our self-love and our sinful impurities?  Our uncleanness is a dam which separates us from the flood of the living water of the Spirit of the Lord, which like unto the waters of the spring-time, are "sent everywhere to create" new life, "and to renew the face of the earth:" (Ps 104:30) but this is not a manifestation of the wrath, but rather of the mercy of God, that these waters do not break through into unworthy souls; for the holy and sanctifying water of life, falling on that which is unclean, would break out into an all-devouring flame.

Therefore let not those murmur against the Holy Ghost, who though having renounced with their whole might, the flesh, the world, and themselves, come unto Christ with a spiritual thirst and yet do not drink of the fountain of blessings, do not feel in themselves the comforting presence of Grace, sanctifying and regenerating them, – or having felt it for a time, lose it again.  It is written in the Gospel, that once when Jesus Christ Himself was preaching "of the Spirit, which they that believed on Him should receive, the Holy Ghost was not yet received, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:39)  In another place He tells His disciples that even after their constant following of Him, they must first be tried by the loss of His visible presence, and then only be admitted to the mysterious communion of the Holy Ghost: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." (John 16:7)  And even after His resurrection, when "all power was given unto Him in heaven and on earth," the Apostles needed fifty days of "patience and unanimous prayer and supplications" (Acts 1:14) to be purged of all that is worldly, and finally be filled "with the Holy Ghost" alone, and begin to live in this fullness.  Only when thus purged of all this did they become worthy to keep the great feast of God.  Perhaps, unto you also, who are desirous of following Christ after the manner of the Apostles, but who do not feel in yourselves the "anointing of the Most Holy," – perhaps unto you also is "the Holy Ghost not yet given, because Jesus is not yet glorified" in you; perhaps you as yet received Him only as a Prophet, bearing the word of God on His lips, but have not as yet dedicated yourselves unto Him, as unto the Priest, that He may, in the communion of His universal sacrifice, raise you up also as a pleasing offering to His Father; perhaps you have not yet exalted Him as a King, so that no desire, no thought, should arise in you without His will.  Perhaps if you "know and seek Christ" more "after the flesh" (II Cor 5:16) than after the Spirit, it is expedient for you also that the blessed Bridegroom should be taken away from your souls for a time, in order that the loss of spiritual comfort might purify your faith, exalt your love, fortify your patience, incite your prayers, expel dangerous self-gratification, and prepare for you a double bliss.

But they in whom "the anointing," by a mysterious hand, if not yet felt, has at least commenced, "need not that any man teach them; but the same anointing teacheth them all things." (I John 2:27)  But what shall we do, we who live only in the flesh and blood: and who "cannot inherit the kingdom of God?"  What will become of us, who are dead in the spirit, cold and dry, like the bones dispersed in the valley in Ezekiel's vision?  "Can these bones live?" (Ezek 37:3) asked God of the prophet, wishing to send down on them His quickening Spirit: "He who wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live," doubtless looks down on these spiritual skeletons also, with the same compassion, and with the impatient desire, if we may thus speak, that they may be quickened by the Holy Spirit: "Can these bones live?  O Lord God, Thou knowest."  And now, O Lord, say Thou Thyself, what Thou saidst of old to Thy prophet; for there is none among us who can say it: say Thou Thyself unto these bones: "Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall love; and ye shall know that I am the Lord!"

Amen.





































































Pascha Sunday

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Sermon X
Christ is Risen!
Pascha Sunday

We have already passed some of the solemn and significant hours of the greatest of feasts.  The question arises in our mind, – do we sufficiently understand the very first moments of today’s solemnity?  Let us turn from this bright day unto the past night, dark in its commencement, but afterwards not less bright than day, and let us meditate on what has taken place. 

At midnight the Church hastened to gather us together for the beginning of the solemnity.  “Why at that hour?  Because it was desirable to bring the time of the beginning of the solemnity as near as possible to the time when that which was solemnised occurred, that is, the resurrection of Christ.  This hour itself is not perfectly known to us. When the holy women at sunrise came to the sepulchre of the Lord, it was already open, and the Angels proclaimed the resurrection of Christ as already accomplished.  Long ere this the earth had been shaken around the Lord’s sepulchre, the Angel had rolled back the stone from the grave, and had by the glory of his presence terrified the sentinels so that they fled, leaving to the holy women and to the Apostles free access to the sepulchre.  Still earlier then did the resurrection take place, since it was accomplished even while the grave was still sealed up, as the treasurer of Christ’s mysteries, the holy Church, bears witness.  Yet not before midnight took it place, because, as the Lord had foretold that three days were to elapse, therefore it could have happened but in the first hours after midnight of Saturday.  It is during these hours that we desire to await that unrevealed moment, that matchlessly bright and wondrous instant of the resurrection, so that by the hour of the beginning of our celebration, we might as far as possible identify ourselves with the celebrated event, as we are called to become one with the Author of the feast.

Immediately before entering into the triumph of Christ’s resurrection, we have sung the canticle of His three days’ resting in the grave.  Wherefore this?  Firstly, here also does the order of commemoration follow the order of the commemorated event, since the resurrection of Christ followed His three days’ burial.  Secondly, immediately before this same gladness, the excitement of a pious sorrow was to prepare us for a more correct and a clearer comprehension, and living sense of the divine gladness which followed it.

We opened the solemnity by a canticle in which we confessed that the resurrection of Christ was being sung by the Angels in heaven; and then we prayed for grace to be able to glorify it with a pure heart; and this Canticle was previously proclaimed in the closed sanctuary, when the church was yet silent.  What signifies this rite?  Here also we see the order of events.  The Angels knew and glorified the resurrection of Christ before men, for men learned it first from Angels.  Heaven was not manifestly opened unto earth when Christ invisibly opened it by the power of His cross, and at His resurrection led into it the patriarchs, the prophets, and the saints of the Old Testament to the sounds of the glorification of Angels.  By faith and not by sight do we know of this solemn procession of the Church of Heaven, and that our knowledge of it may not be too dark, and the shadowy image of it by the Church on earth not too lifeless, we have need to pray Christ the Lord for His grace and a pure heart, for “the pure in heart shall see God." (Matt 5:8)

Having besought the risen Christ Himself for aid to glorify Him worthily, we began to glorify Him with uncommon rites.  Leaving the altar and the temple, we stood in darkness towards the west, before the closed doors of the church, and there we sang the first glorification of the Holy Trinity and of the risen Christ.  The censer and the cross opened unto us the doors of the temple, and then we entered from outward darkness into its inward light, and there we surrendered ourselves unrestrainedly to the joy of the feast.  We see here such unusual things, that they might be considered unbecoming if we did not suppose in them some secret and deep significance.  What is that significance?  The same which has already been partly pointed out.  In the visible acts of the Church upon earth there is as far as possible delineated the image of the invisible triumph of the Church in Heaven.

It is the ancient and sublime law of the Divine Service of the Church that it should represent the image of heavenly things.  Thus does the Apostle Paul write of the priests of the Old Testament, that “they serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things." (Heb 8:5)  And the Christian Church is nearer to the heavenly one than that of the Old Testament.  The Church of the Old Testament offered in most parts foreshadowings of the advent of heaven upon earth, that is, of the Incarnation of the Son of God; the Christian Church, after Christ's Advent upon earth, should above all represent the time when He, in the words of the Prophet, “hath ascended on high, hath led captivity captive"; (Ps 98:18) or to speak more clearly, when He captured the captives and the slaves of hell, and led them into freedom and bliss; when He “received gifts for men,” that is, when by His death on the cross He had acquired for men a right to the gracious gift of the Holy Ghost.

The resurrection and the ascension of Christ began not from His grave only, but even from hell: for after His death on the Cross, He was as our Church confesses: “in the tomb bodily, in Hades spiritually, as God; He descended even into hell and there destroyed reigning darkness.”  Until then, although the patriarchs, prophets, and just men of the Old Testament were not plunged in deep darkness, wherein sink the unbelieving and the unjust; yet they emerged not from the shadow of death and enjoyed not perfect light.  They possessed the principle of light, that is faith in the Christ to come; but only His advent and the touch of His divine light could light up their lamps with the light of true heavenly light.  Their souls, like the wise virgins, were near to the door of the heavenly mansion; but the key of David alone could open this door, and the heavenly Bridegroom alone could enter it and lead along with Him the children of the feast.  And therefore the Savior of the world, after He had been crucified and died to this visible world, descended into the invisible world, even unto hell, illumined there the souls of the faithful, led them out of the shadow of death, opened unto them the door of paradise and heaven, and then again in this visible world He “showed the light of His resurrection.”

Do you perceive now how the Church links the invisible with the visible and shadows out the one by the other?  As if along with the inhabitants of the invisible world, – in the west, in the darkness of night, as if in the shadow of death, we stood before the locked doors of the temple, as before the closed gates of paradise.  And thereby the Church designs to tell us that thus it was before the resurrection of Christ, and it would thus eternally have remained without that resurrection.  After this the glorification of the Most Holy Trinity and of the risen Christ, the Cross and the censer opened unto us the doors of the temple, as well as the gates of paradise and heaven.  By these symbols the Church says unto us: Even thus do the grace of the Most Holy Trinity and the Name and Power of the Risen Christ, faith and prayer, open the gates of paradise and heaven.  The tapers burning in our hands did not only symbolise the light of the resurrection, but at the same time they reminded us of the wise virgins, inciting us to be ready, with the light of faith, with the oil of peace, love and charity, to meet the second and glorious Advent of the heavenly Bridegroom in the midnight of time, that we may find the royal doors open unto us.

These are some of the symbolizations of today’s mysterious teaching of the Church.  Let us be attentive, my brethren, that we may also be faithful to the mystic instruction of our Mother the Church.

Glorifying Christ risen for our sake, let us at the same time look up with a contrite heart to Christ, Who was crucified for our sake, Who has suffered, died, and been buried, that our joy may not forget itself and become foolish.  He alone possesses the perfect, absolute gladness of Christ’s resurrection, who is risen himself inwardly along with Christ and who has the hope to rise up triumphantly: and this hope belongs but to him, who takes his share in the Cross, in the sufferings and death of Christ, as the Apostle teaches: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Rom 6:5)  “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom 8:17)  A festive gladness, which grows forgetful of the Cross and death of Christ calling upon us to crucify the flesh with its desires and lusts, is in danger – to end in the flesh that which was begun in the spirit, and to convert those who celebrate Christ’s resurrection into such as crucify Him a second time.

Following the angels we have entered into the triumph of Christ's resurrection; together with the patriarchs, prophets, and just men, we have united symbolically therein, and as into paradise and heaven we were led into the Church for the solemnity. 

Reflect then of what nature ought to be our feast ! It should resemble that of the angels; it ought to be worthy of the communion of the heavenly Church of the patriarchs, prophets, and other saints; it ought to be worthy of paradise and heaven.  Think not that this demand is too great and difficult for our infirmity.  He who celebrates this feast with a pure heart, celebrates it together with the angels.  He who celebrates it with love to God and to the Risen Christ, and in a spirit of brotherly love to his neighbour, celebrates it in communion with the Church of heaven, for heaven is no other than the kingdom of divine love; and if, as affirms St. John, "God is love; and he who dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him,” (John 6:16) then certainly he dwells not lower than paradise and heaven.  But if it is not very difficult to elevate oneself to the celebration of the feast in communion with the angels and the Church of heaven, then to our sorrow, it is even as easy to fall off, and to withdraw from their communion.  He who merges his spiritual gladness and buries it in carnal joy, no longer celebrates it together with the angels.  He who so absorbs himself in earthly things, that he forgets those of heaven, is no longer one with the Church of heaven.  He who strives not to preserve himself from sinful works, does not celebrate the feast together with the saints.  He who does keep up and feed his inward light, but neglectfully suffers it to grow extinguished, has no great hope to find open to him the royal gates of the heavenly mansion, although he sees even upon earth the royal gates of the sanctuary open.

O Christ our Saviour!  Who art glorified in heaven by the angels and the blessed souls of holy men!  Grant to us also, to glorify Thee upon earth with a pure heart.

Amen.





Immortality of the Soul and the Resurrection of the Dead


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- odd spelling of Mahomet


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SERMON IX.
THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL, AND THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

Preached on a Sunday which was also the Feast of S. Alexis, Metropolitan of Russia, was born in the year 1293.  He was chosen Metropolitan by the Grand Duke Simeon the Proud, and was ordained at Constantinople by the Patriarch Timotheus, 1354.  Having occupied the Metropolitical throne of Russia during twenty-three years, and throughout this time proved himself the friend and the counsellor of her sovereigns, as well as the light of the Orthodox Church, he died on the 12th of February, in the year 1378.  His relics repose in the monastery of Choudow in the Kremlin.

“He ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves."
– Luke 24:12

The Gospel, narrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, among various details, draws our attention to the following particulars; that the stone of the sepulchre was rolled away by an angel, whose descent from heaven was accompanied by an earthquake; that the holy women found the sepulchre open; that Peter, and after him, John, having glanced into the sepulchre, saw the linen clothes of the Lord laid by themselves, that is, the shroud, in which His body was wrapped for burial, the napkin, that was about His head, and, probably, the girding also which was on Him during His Crucifixion.  “Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves."

What does the Gospel narrative mean by so much occupying itself with the clothes, no longer necessary to the risen Lord?  What does it mean, that our risen Lord leaves and preserves His clothes in the sepulchre so that they might be seen?  It means that even the clothes of the Lord were to be among the witnesses of His resurrection.  If the Jews should say, that the body of the Lord was stolen by His disciples; if the disciples themselves should think, as Magdalene for a time did think, that the body of the Lord had been removed by someone elsewhere; then His very clothes cry out against the slanderers and teach those who err.  Would there have been any time for him who had stolen away the body, to unwind its shroud and the napkin, and then to refold them, and to lay them apart and in order?  Why should he, who was removing a buried body, strip it naked, when on the contrary it was more fitting for him to cover the naked body, both for the purpose of its removal and in deference to the opinion of the Jews about touching the bodies of the dead?  Thus, even the lifeless clothes of the Lord proclaimed His resurrection.


And we also, who are now assembled here, have come unto the sepulchre of a servant and follower of Christ.  And this sepulchre also was opened by an event which it is difficult to suppose could have taken place without the aid of an angelic agency: for the wooden temple under which this sepulchre lay hidden for some tens of years, suddenly fell in during divine service, by its fall causing injury to no one, but only serving to disclose the sepulchre before us.  And what do we behold in this open sepulchre?  We shall not sin if we say, that we behold clothes lying by themselves, not the clothes of the body, but the very body itself, as clothes, as the covering of the immortal spirit, which he has abandoned here, when entering into the life of heaven; we see them lying in order, not thrown down in confusion, not rent in pieces, that is, we behold a body, which has undergone neither corruption nor decay, but reposes undefiled and peaceful.

What means it then, that the follower of Christ in life, imitates Him even after His death, by presenting to us His open sepulchre and the incorruptible garment of His body?  As the silent clothes of the Lord proclaimed His resurrection, so also do the silent and uncorrupted remains of this follower of Christ, recall to our memory our future resurrection; not as something unknown to us, but which, in the vanity of present life, is often forgotten.


If it were necessary to converse on the immortality of the human soul, and the future resurrection of the human body itself, with an ignorant man; then, in order to give him an idea of immortality, one might direct his attention to the very substance and nature of that which lives in man and of that which dies in him.  That which we see dying, is the visible, material body: and that, which lives in man, is the invisible, ethereal power, which we call the soul.  The body itself reveals its own mortality, because it is evidently divisible and corruptible: whereas, the soul, not only shows no sign of divisibility or corruptibility, but manifests an entirely opposite property in the faculty of reasoning, which presents the varied notion of things, in one, indivisible and indissoluble unity, wholly incompatible with the properties of a divisible substance.  The body dies while yet in the course of its life, and it certainly dies many times in its parts, daily separating some dead portion of its substance; whereas the soul, during the whole period of life, experiences but one continuous existence.  The body participates in life, as if against its will, being brought into movement by the power of the soul, and always weighing it down more or less, by its sloth; whereas the soul even when the activity of the body is suspended by slumber or disease, continues its own life and activity, independent of the body.

We could call as witnesses of the immortality of the soul, the best and greatest part of mankind, whole nations, even from among the most enlightened to the least civilized, so that in this case even error itself may in some way testify to the truth.  However sensual may be the ideas of a future life among the followers of Mahomet; however rude the notions concerning it current among the heathens; however striking the power of the spirit of darkness and evil over some of them who consider it a virtue to be buried alive for the sake of the dead; still even in this perversion and confusion of ideas and feelings, and in this predominance of the animal and bestial instincts over the human, truth, like the spark in a heap of ashes, is not wholly extinguished,—that truth, that after this present life there exists for man a life to come.  If the ancient or modern Sadducees strive to reject that truth, it is only because it hinders them from listlessly enjoying sensual pleasures; for the idea of immortality requires this mortal life to be in conformity with the immortal life of the future.

It would be possible, in order to convince man of a life to come, to force even mute and inanimate nature to speak.  For throughout the whole world: it is impossible to find any instance, any sign, any evidence of the total annihilation of however insignificant an object; there is no past which does not prepare for a future; there is no end which does not lead to a beginning; every individual life, when it descends into its own particular grave, leaves therein only its former decayed bodily covering, and itself rises into the vast and invisible realm of life, in order to reappear in new, and sometimes a better and more perfect garment.  The sun sets, to rise again; the stars fade in the morning from the sight of the earthly spectator, and rise again in the evening; seasons end and begin; dying sounds arise again in echoes; rivers are entombed in the sea, and rise again in springs; the whole universe of earthly vegetation dies in autumn, and revives in spring; the seed dies in the ground, and therefrom arises the herb or the tree; the creeping worm dies, and the winged butterfly rises; the life of the bird is buried in the inanimate egg, and again rises from it.  If creatures of inferior degree are destroyed but to be created anew, and die but to a new life: is it for man, the crown of creation, the mirror of heaven, to drop into his grave, only to crumble into dust, with less hope than the worm, worse than the grain of mustard-seed? 

One might also turn man's attention from outward things to the depth of his heart, and then let him hearken there to the presage of a life beyond the grave.  Everything living upon earth, except man, following the instinct of nature, cares only for present life; except in the case when the presentiment of a future life works as in the worm, which prepares for itself a silken or spidery tomb, hoping to rise in the form of a butterfly; whence arises that man even when forgetful of his own future life, strives so much for a so-called immortality in posterity?  Is not this bent of the human heart a sprout from the root of true immortality,—an irregular sprout, but one which shows the strength of the root?  Again, every human heart acknowledges, and the nobler it is the stronger does it love goodness and truth, notwithstanding that in the present life goodness and truth often suffer from malice and injustice: where then in human nature is the origin of this deep recognition of the worth of goodness and truth, or of conscience, if not in the deepest most intimate consciousness of that kingdom of goodness and truth which borders upon this present life by means of the grave?

But perhaps I am wrong to speak of this though even in a passing manner to Christians, for whom the future resurrection needs no investigation or proofs whatever, as a fact of certain, confirmed and acknowledged experience.  “For if we believe,” says the Apostle Paul, “that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (I Thess. 4:14).  “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.” (I Cor. 15:20).  If any one having this proof of the resurrection should choose to perplex himself with doubts as to how it can be accomplished, when the manner of destruction of many dead bodies seemingly leaves no room for the hope of their restoration; then the same Apostle not only empowers me to solve this difficulty by a consideration, grounded on the nature of known things, but moreover empowers me to express indignation against a doubt, which is an offense against faith, and does no credit to the intellect which has devised it.  “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat or of some other grain; but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body.” (I Cor. 15:36-38).

Methinks that it is not necessary to explain, or to prove immortality, resurrection, and the life to come, but only to remind you of these important subjects, which, as may be observed, are for a long time of less interest to many than the veriest trifles.

The Apostles call themselves “witnesses of the resurrection” (Acts 2:32) of Christ, though their ministry was to bear witness not of His resurrection alone, but also of His whole doctrine.  So important do they deem the truth of the resurrection to be.  And indeed as soon as this truth is confirmed, so soon is also confirmed thereby the truth of all that which our Lord did and taught.  But inasmuch as the truth of Christ's resurrection is important to faith, the truth of our resurrection is important to our life.  When this truth is confirmed, all the rules of a holy and godly life become firmly established in us. 

“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (I Cor. 15:32).  This precept which the Apostle pronounced in derision of those who either know not, or would not know of the resurrection of the dead, and which seems worthy of the moral philosophy of irrational beings, if they had the privilege of philosophizing, this same precept would indeed have become the whole wisdom, morality, and law of mankind, if the thought of a future life had been taken away from them.  In such a case be not angered, my neighbor and brother, if thou also wouldst have become the prey of those who love to eat and drink, for if it is not worth while to reform one’s own life, since “tomorrow we die,” still less is it also not worthwhile to spare another’s life, which tomorrow the grave shall swallow.  Thus a forgetfulness of a life to come leads to an oblivion of all virtues and duties, and transforms man into a brute or beast.

O man, inevitably immortal, though thou thinkest not of this, and even desirest it not.  Be careful not to forget thine immortality, lest forgetfulness of immortality become a deadly poison even for this thy mortal life, and lest that immortality forgotten by thee, slay thee to all eternity, should it suddenly come upon thee, unawares and unprepared.

Say not in despair, “tomorrow we die," to rush the more headstrong in search of the pleasures of this mortal life; but say with hope and fear, “tomorrow we die” upon earth, and shall be born either in heaven or in hell; and so must we hasten to plant, and strive to nourish and strengthen in ourselves the germ of a birth unto heaven, and not of a birth unto hell.

What is the beginning and germ of a heavenly birth?  The Word, and the Spirit, and the Power of the risen Christ, Who is both our resurrection and life.  Receive this divine seed of eternal life through faith, plant it in thy heart with love, deepen it by humility, keep it warm by prayer and divine meditation, feed it or water it with tears of contrition, and strengthen it by virtuous deeds.


In order to destroy in thyself the seeds of the tares of an unholy life, and to live at length with the pure and full life of the risen Lord, thou must die to everything which is not His life, that is, thou must do nothing contrary to His will, thou must not live to the world and the flesh, to thy desires and lusts; thou must not set thy heart on wealth, nor be puffed up by worldly pride.  With Paul, “count all things but dung, that thou mayest win Christ, that is, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” or the righteousness “by faith, that thou mayest know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death", that thou “mightest attain unto the resurrection of the Lord." (Phil. 3:8-11).  If thus thou wilt live and thus die, then shalt thou also, leaving in the grave thine earthly, corruptible garments, receive in heaven new ones, washed white in the blood of the Lamb, and on His marriage-day thou also shalt “be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev. 19:8).  Amen.

Christ is Risen!


italics are in blue
Sermon VI 
Christ is Risen!
St. Philaret of Moscow


“Then openeth He their understanding.” (St. Luke 24:45) 


How many chambers are unlocked, how many doors are opened this day, by the Key of David alone, and with but one turn of it! 

The doors of a house are strengthened and fastened to keep out thieves, or to restrain a turbulent inmate.  So is it in the House of GOD. When the tiller and keeper of the paradise of GOD plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge, then was he driven out, paradise was closed against him, and a guard mightier than he, armed with a flaming sword, was placed at the entrance. Moreover, since it behoved the transgressor to be also punished – since, even after his banishment, a turbulent, criminal spirit still continued to live in his seed, therefore both he and his posterity were one after the other conveyed through the gate of death to prison, there to be held captive, not for days only, but for ages.  Hence is it also self-evident how the very house of the LORD, that is, heaven, to which the way lay through the garden of Eden, was barred and closed against the unworthy inmate. 

At length, the only-begotten SON of the LORD of heaven, according to His mercy, and His love toward man, comes to free the captives, and to bring back the banished.  The Key of David, unlocking all doors, is the Incarnation of JESUS CHRIST, whereby as the Divinity shares all the conditions of humanity, so also does humanity partake of the nature of Divinity.  The revealing action of this key is the Resurrection of CHRIST.  By it the prison doors are opened, and its captives released; paradise is opened and receives the banished; Heaven is opened and awaits the Elect.  What I now say in your hearing, the same does the Church speak unto your eyes1 by keeping open, throughout the whole of the present feast, the doors leading to the altar of the Divine sacraments. 

1 "The king's doors," as the chief entrance into the sanctuary is called, in general remain shut, except during certain parts of the Divine Service; but throughout the whole of Bright week they are left open.


Let us also take notice of another door which this same Key of David, and at the very same time, openeth; a door not very large, perhaps, but one which leads to the great treasury of GOD: “Then opened He their understanding,” writes the holy Evangelist.  Then opened the LORD the understanding of His Apostles.  When was this? when He had risen from the dead, appeared unto them, showed them His wounds, broken bread in their presence, when He had fully confirmed their faith in His Resurrection: “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures; and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved CHRIST to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (St. Luke 24:45-47). 

May, then, the understanding of all who now hear this, be opened to receive the important truth now being revealed unto us, that the resurrection of CHRIST, and faith in that resurrection, opens the locked up human intellect unto the true understanding of sublime and saving truths.

And truly, how long it is since “JESUS began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (St. Matt. 4:17).  And earlier than others did the Apostles begin to listen to that preaching.  How long it is since they themselves were sent out on the same mission of preaching: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (St. Matt 10:7).  Thus for a long time did they both listen to the preaching of repentance and the kingdom of GOD, and preach it themselves.  But still their understanding was yet locked up.  This is hardly credible; and yet, according to the word of the Lord, it is true.  It was not till after His Resurrection that “He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures;” and it was as to persons already understanding that He said unto them, “Thus it is that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name.”

Till then they knew of repentance as of a deed of faith; now do they more fully understand repentance in the name of Jesus to be the spirit and power of it.  They had known repentance more in the sense of a necessity and a duty: now do they more perfectly understand its fruit and reward -- the remission of sins.  Then they were able to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.  Now they can bear witness of its actual manifestation unto themselves and in themselves.  At how early a period also, how frequently, and how minutely did the LORD foretell His Passion and His Resurrection to His Apostles!  At times He veiled this prophecy in parables -- as, for instance, when He said to the Jews: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (St. John 2:19). At these words they thought of the temple of Jerusalem: "but He spake of the temple of His Body (St. John 2:21).  But even His parable on this subject was at times as intelligible as a plain statement, as when He said: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (St. Matt 12:40). 

But this is not all.  It was thus that He spoke to strangers in the presence of the Apostles, but to the Apostles themselves He more than once spoke of this not in parables, but plainly, precisely, in detail, as -- “Behold, we go to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the Prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.  For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again” (St. Luke 28:31-33). 

Could any one speak more plainly?  Does it seem possible not to understand this?  And you will probably say, did they really not understand it?  The holy Evangelist foresaw this doubt, and assures us with particular emphasis, that they really did not understand it. 

“They,” that is to say the Apostles, “understood none of these things, and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” 

Another Evangelist relates, that on one occasion the Apostles hearing from the LORD of His resurrection, were so perplexed at His words, that they stopped at them as before an inexplicable parable, and disputed among themselves as to their meaning.  “And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean” (St. Mark 9:10). 

It was indeed then only after the resurrection that the LORD "opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures; that thus it behoves CHRIST to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (St. Luke 24:45-46).

I fear however that notwithstanding the clear testimony of the Gospel, this darkened condition of the Apostles' minds previous to the resurrection, and this sudden enlightenment of the whole sphere of their understanding at the mere sight of the risen CHRIST, will still be to some of us a hidden saying.

Oh that the Lord would open our understanding also to utter something convincing, and to hear something instructive as to how the understanding is opened by the light of the risen CHRIST, and by faith in Him.

The word of God calls the mind, the eye; the understanding, vision; ignorance, blindness.  As for instance, when the Lord says, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind (St. John 9:39).  We know that the Advent of CHRIST into the world did not blind the eyes of any, but that many at the time were found to be blind in their minds.

Let us then follow out the conditions and functions of the mind, as shown to us in the Word of God, by contrasting them with the conditions and functions of the eye.  The eye sees objects, partly in consequence of the property of those objects themselves, as for instance, it perceives light to be luminous, partly by reason of its own construction and peculiar condition, as for instance, the eye of the blind man being gradually opened, at first "sees men as trees walking," but when completely cured, "sees every man clearly," partly according to the common action or mediation of light between the spectator and the object viewed; as for instance, it is one thing to see objects by moonlight or starlight, and another thing to see them by sunlight.  In like manner does the spiritual eye see spiritual objects; in other words, the mind comprehends them, partly in consequence of the property of those objects themselves, thus, "The invisible things of GOD from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made" (Rom. 1:20); partly according to the manner of its own inward construction and particular condition, as for example, the infant mind sees objects more sensuously, more superficially, and for the most part without any order or connection in its ideas, whereas a cultivated mind sees less sensuously, penetrates objects more deeply, and discovers in them connection and order; partly according to the action of the light mediating between the mind and the objects viewed, which light may be either natural or supernatural, either peculiar to the world in which we live, a compound of the sensual and the spiritual, or else, purely and even Divine, as it is said, “In Thy light, O LORD, shall we see light” (Ps. 36:9 or 35:10)

The structure of the bodily eye is not adapted to many kinds or degrees of light, for a certain diminution of light deprives it of the power of vision, and in like manner a certain increase of light blinds it.  The structure of the mind, as a spiritual organ, is incomparably more extensive and varied.  One and the same human mind may become either a kind of night bird, to which darkness alone gives a power of vision, and of which light deprives it; or a beast, which by the light of the moon and stars prowls about in search of its prey; or else, as is natural to man, it can do its work in the light of day, and contemplate the manifold beauties of the universe.  It sinks, and is then imprisoned in the sphere of sensuality; it rises, and becomes itself capable of spiritual light, it becomes purified and then open to the reception of the divine light. 

For those who would see spiritual objects, it surely is not enough to open their fleshly eyes, or to light a lamp of material light.  The more elevated the objects to be contemplated, the more sublime should be the condition of the eye, and of the light which serves as the medium of vision. Consequently to contemplate divine objects, we need a divine light, and a condition of the mind in harmony therewith.  “In Thy light, O LORD, shall we see light.” 

The Word of GOD, the mysteries of the kingdom of GOD, the saving doctrine and the saving works of CHRIST are surely divine objects, therefore to contemplate them clearly and purely, man is in need of a divine light, the light of CHRIST, the light of the HOLY SPIRIT, and the opening of his understanding by the power of that light.  So long as this has not been accomplished in man, so long is he unable to comprehend the compass, height, and depth of the Word of GOD, though he may hear it, and even see its effect; for his spiritual eye still abides in the lower region of natural light, and is adapted to it alone.  For this reason the Apostles even after seeing with their bodily eyes the resurrection of the widow of Nain’s son, could not yet rise to the contemplation and solution of the question, “What the rising of the dead should mean” (St. Mark 9:10).  For this reason did the LORD say to the Apostles, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (St. John 16:12).  When then, O LORD, will they be able to bear Thy word and to understand Thy works?  His answer is, “Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” (St. John 16:13).  But what prevents the Spirit of Truth from coming sooner?  Again the Gospel tells us, “The HOLY GHOST was not yet given, because that JESUS was not yet Glorified” (St. John 7:39).  At length He rises from the dead.  And now instead of Divinity in Him sinking into humanity, as it did till now, humanity in Him rises unto Divinity.  In this way His humanity is manifested, and superabundantly filled no longer with a hidden, but rather with the manifest light of the Godhead which it diffuses around itself; the God-Man appears as the Sun of mankind, and begins to part the clouds and darkness which encompassed humanity; His divine light strikes those eyes, which faith in His resurrection had already opened and directed to contemplation, opens them still more and raises them to a new, heavenly, divine perception or understanding of the Word of GOD and the works of GOD.  “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand.” 

If this opening of the understanding or spiritual enlightenment appear to be sudden and unexpected, it must not seem strange, but rather a property of light, and particularly of spiritual light.  The sun when he rises reveals a whole universe of varied beauties; is it then wonderful that the light of grace, the light of the HOLY GHOST, whose action on the heart the Apostle likens “to a day dawning and the day-star rising” (II Pet. 1:19), should suddenly and unexpectedly reveal the boundless region of spiritual understanding.  Howbeit natural light as well as light divine has for those whom it enlightens its own dawn and its noontide; for the Apostles a bright dawn arose when the LORD “breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the HOLY GHOST” (St. John 20:22); but the fullness of day came upon them in the descent of the HOLY GHOST in the form of "cloven tongues, like as of fire" (Acts 2:3).  But if our eyes be still too weak to enjoy the fullness of light with which the risen Lord opens the understanding, let us for a moment glance upon the opposite darkness, that we may more love the truly marvelous light into which we are called.

See how at the very same time that faith in the risen Lord opens the understanding of the Apostles, unbelief in Him locks up the mind of the Jews in tangible, incredibly gross darkness.  What do they think, and what do they say of the Lord's resurrection?  "This saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day" (St. Matt. 28:15).  What saying? the saying which their high priests and elders had taught the soldiers, the watch of the Lord's sepulchre, "His Disciples came by night and stole Him away while we slept. (St. Matt. 28:13).  It was this saying then which was noised abroad among the Jews, and they believed it.  Was this possible?  How could they have stolen Him away when you surrounded His sepulchre with soldiers?  They slept, say the Jews.  The sentinels slept!  Even so, was the opinion of the Jews.  Was every one of them asleep?  Every one.  What, did not one of them awake, when in order to take away the body it was necessary to roll back from the grave a stone which was very great, and to do which would have required the help of several men, and could not have been done without noise?  Not one of them awoke.  But who is it that bears witness that the body was stolen?  The very same sentinels.  Do the very same sentinels who slept, and did not awake, bear witness of that which happened during their sleep, and which they did not hear?  Who can be so daring as to report such a fable?  The unbelieving Jews.  Who can be so senseless as to believe it?  Unbelievers.  One more question, How came it to pass that the Disciples of JESUS, who at the sight of the first danger which threatened Him forsook Him and fled, how came it that they should have resolved upon so daring and so useless an undertaking as to steal away the body of their dead Master from a sepulchre sealed and surrounded by a guard by order of the authorities?

Unbelief does not reason; it scatters abroad throughout the whole world words which please it simply, because they savor unbelief.  But if it was known that a theft had been committed in spite of the watch and the seal of the government, and the very thieves were known, then were not the watch and the thieves delivered up to judgment?  Nothing of the kind.  The military chief of the watch is unconcerned, the watch are untroubled, the pretended thieves abide at least eight days in Jerusalem, and not one of the elders of the Jews, hitherto so severe, cites them before the tribunal for so important a theft.

Is it possible then that after all this, the fable of the stealing away of the body of JESUS by His Disciples could still be circulating among the Jews as something worthy of attention?  Yes, possible indeed, for the mind hardened in unbelief, like a bird of night, sees only in the darkness of unbelief, loves only its own dreams, and flees from the light of truth which scorches its eyes: "And this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."

O Christians, the risen CHRIST opened the understanding of the Apostles, and illumined them by faith with divine light, not for their sake only, but that they should open our understanding also, and that we also, through faith, might become the sons of light.  He suffered this absurd saying, showing the extreme blindness of the unbelieving Jews, to come down to us that we should dread unbelief.  Say not with Thomas, "Except I shall see, I shall have no faith."  Remember the words of the LORD, "Because thou hast seen thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (St. John 20:29).  "While ye have light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light" (St. John 12: 36).  Let faith and love draw down upon you the light of life which hath shone from the grave; may this light open your minds to the understanding of the mysteries of your salvation, and your hearts to the consciousness of the kingdom of GOD, which is in you, and unto your heart thus opened to the kingdom of GOD may Heaven and Paradise be revealed.  Let us not then through sin and unbelief, lock from ourselves that which hath been opened unto us by the Key of David.  Amen.




On Setting the Affections of Things Above

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St. Philaret of Moscow

Elibron Classics

Sermon XII

On Setting the Affections of Things Above

Ascension Day

"While they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9)











Against Worldly Sin Nativity - Preached on the second day of Nativity


This one I'm leaving the footnotes in their original archaic form.    The previous sermons I did have the modern form – sermons I, III, V, VI

Anything you want changed let me know and I'll resend it.
At home I can click on "Command" + "F" and it permits me to customize each occurrence of a word, example:  "change CHRIST to Christ" and it changes all of them.  I assume you have this feature once you transfer it to your text editor, but if not, just send it back to me with instructions on what to change.
 -jh


Italics in blue

changes I've made to the original in red
- the sentence makes more sense with "that" or "which" added
- Go to now, I erased the "to" – in the Bible it is just "Go now"


Select Sermons
St. Philaret of Moscow

Elibron Classics

Sermon II

Against Worldly Sin

Nativity (Preached on the second day of Nativity, at the Court-chapel, in the presence of Empress Maria Feodorowna and the Grand Dukes.)

"The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." – S. Matth. ii. 13.

How wonderful and fearful!  Angels whose nature the SON of GOD did not adopt, celebrate His earthly birth.  Angels strive to save the life of Him Who came to save man; while man, for the sake of whom the SON of GOD became the SON of Man, seeks to destroy his SAVIOR.  The heavenly host proclaim peace on earth: but in its stead arises an unheard of strife.  On one side: King Herod and the whole of Jerusalem; on the other: the Child JESUS and His bodyguards, all the infants of Bethlehem.

True it is, the king did not overcome the Child; the host of infants did not deliver its leader into the hands of His enemies, but with its own blood ransomed the life of the Redeemer of all; while an invisible retribution visits Herod and his accomplices; for they died which sought the young child's life (S. Matth. ii. 20.).  But this victory did not bring peace, nor did it bring security to the victor.  Joseph dares not even bring Him into His native city, he was afraid to go thither (S. Matth. ii. 22.).

After this it is no longer a matter of wonder, that the growth of the Child JESUS should have brought upon Him new struggles, new dangers.  No sooner shall He appear in the world than all that is of note in the world shall aspire to dim His glory.  Pharisees, scribes, priests, princes, judges, and rulers, will turn against Him, each with his own weapon.  And when victory shall raise Him into Heaven, all the powers of earth, nations and rulers, wise men and Cæsars, will rise to sweep His kingdom of peace from the face of the earth.  The bloodshed, begun at Bethlehem, will imbue kingdoms and centuries.

Turning from the remembrance of these sorrowful events, with what comfort does the spirit rest at the sight of the great and powerful of the earth, humbling themselves before the Child of Bethlehem, deeming it their brightest glory to serve Him, seeking their joy in His Gospel.

But what was it, Christians, so long excited, and may be still, in a certain measure, that excites men against JESUS CHRIST, against Him Who, on the very day of His might, was meek and gentle as a child, and commanded all His followers "to become as little children" (S. Matth. xviii. 3.)?  Friendship of the world! is the answer offered to us by the example of Herod, which the Gospel now presents to us, and thereby gives us an opportunity to bear witness against that love, as vain, as it is hurtful and ungodly.

Let us not speak of that love of the world, which, the world itself, together with the Gospel, acknowledges to be enmity with GOD.  Denounced by its own self, it has no need of further accusations.  There is another love of the world, which seemingly may be reconciled with the love of GOD: a love which consents to make offerings unto GOD provided it be not hindered from accepting offerings from the world; ready to works of charity, provided its deeds be seen and applauded by the world; fond even of going into the temple of divine worship, provided the world follow after.  It is from that false and pretended love that we must tear the mask adorning it, and cast it under the severe judgment pronounced in the Gospel against every worldly love without exception: the friendship of the world is enmity with God (S. James iv. 4.).

Those, who wish with all their desire to belong to GOD, yet are unable to tear themselves from the world, are bound to it more particularly by a triple knot: the seduction of its good things, the force of its examples, and the hope of making the love of the world compatible with the service of GOD.  The word of the Gospel, like a spiritual sword, cuts asunder this meshwork of deceit and reveals to the impartial eye the vanity of the good things of the world, the danger of its examples, and the secret seed of enmity with GOD, contained in the most innocent, as it is called, love of the world.

There, where the world assumes all possible greatness and splendor, in order to attract gazes of those whom it cannot but value, where the spirit of imitation, which is an attribute of the world, clothes it in the semblance of those perfections which it admires, and incites it to follow high examples in order to be able to impose its own with greater power, where the proximity of the great throws a certain shadow of greatness even upon the smallest objects; there it might so happen that this splendour would be likely either to dazzle the penetration, or to shake the firmness, or to destroy the confidence of the servant of the Word, bound in the face of the world itself, to bear witness to its insignificance.  But the Spirit of GOD, Who is come "to reprove the world" (S. John xvi. 8.), has anticipated this difficulty by raising up to Himself a witness who can be charged neither with boldness or partiality, nor with ignorance or inexperience.  He has invested the wisest and happiest of kings with the title of Ecclesiastes, that is, the preacher, and has inspired him with the word of judgment on all the good things, all the happiness and all the glory of the world.  What then does this royal Preacher say?  "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanity, all is vanity.  I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.  Lo, I am come to great estate, and having gotten more wisdom than all that have been before me in Jerusalem; I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.  I said in mine heart, Go now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.  Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity.  Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun" (Eccles. i. 2, 14, 16, 17; ii. 11, 18.).

S. Chrysostom found the preaching of Solomon on vanity of such great importance, that he wished it "to be written on the walls, on the garments, in the public places, on the houses, on the roads, on the gates, on the inner doors, and above all, in the hearts of every one."  One may say that vanity is indeed inscribed everywhere, but not always on the front and face of things, and we generally happen to read this edifying inscription, only after having already for sometime handled those very objects on which it is inscribed.  Verily, what does it mean, that the ornament of yesterday ceases to please today; that repeated melody begins to weary the ear, that the acquired honours of treasure but excites in our hearts new desires, than an enlarged sphere of knowledge serves only the more to reveal to us the boundless region of the unknown, and to discover in ourselves the unquenchable thirst after knowledge?  Does this not mean that our spirit involuntarily finds the striking inscription of vanity upon everything which interest us in the world; on our pleasures, on our wealth, on our dignities, and on our very wisdom?  The Creator of all things hath scattered upon them this superscription, as a careful father writes on the toys of his children the letters which they  must learn.

Woe to the thoughtless children who will not receive instruction in their play.  The playthings will be constantly taken way from them, while the hateful teaching remains and will attack them with the weapons of threats and punishments.  Thus, if we also, whilst using the good things of this world, will not hasten to perceive in them the vanity of vanities, and to see that all is vanity: then, while these perishable goods will be hourly fading away in our hands, vanity will abide in our hearts as thorns after flowers, and by its inflicting upon us various stingings will beget at last vexation of spirit.  Then the very satiety of the senses will become a source of eternal hunger; the sweetness of gain and possession will be poisoned by the cares of preservation and the fear of loss: the happiness and glory of others will seem to be our misfortune and shame: the light of knowledge, as a phantom of the night, will be at one time flickering unsteadily in the smoke of pride, at another, sinking despairingly into the mire of an impure life.  But above all, the thought of death, like a stern mentor, suddenly appearing, will confound and terrify the lightsome children of pleasure.  In this way an abundant harvest throws the servant of pleasure into the same embarrassment which the poor man experiences from want of daily food; "What shall I do?" (S. Luke xii. 17.).  The grace of miracles, manifested in the carpenter's Son, torments the ambitious leaders of the people more than the plagues of Egypt: "What do we? for this man doeth many miracles" (S. John xi. 47.).  The vague rumour of the birth of an unknown infant, brought into the capital by strangers, shakes the king on his throne, on the stability of which he relied the less, the more he prized its splendour: "When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled" (S. Matth. ii. 3.).

"Ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?  how long will ye love vanity" (Ps. iv. 2.) instead of being taught by it?  Why "do ye seek after leasing" by which the world seduces you, and do not perceive the truth which the world is unable to conceal?  "The fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Cor. vii. 31.): not the fashion of a few things only, but the fashion of the whole world; and what will become of the love of the world when the world itself shall pass away irrevocably?  "The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 S. Peter iii. 10.).  Where then shall our immortal desires repair, accustomed as they are to feed on things of the earth?  What will become of the deepest philosophies which were also dug out of the earth?  "There will be new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah lxv. 17.); shall we be suffered to carry thither together with our heart, the relics of the old world?

But let us turn to the wisest of kings.  How happily does he perfect his wisdom by vanity, having perceived the worthlessness of those things, which, by their vain splendor, have so often led astray the judgment of the wise and spiritual.  How by vanity also does he heal the torments of vanity, showing the vanity of vanity itself; vanity of vanities!  How through the vanity of this world does he prepare himself for a better and an eternal world, ceasing to love this world of vanities: "Yea, I hated everything that is in the world" (Verse 18 of chap. ii. of the Book of Ecclesiastes begins in the Slavonic Bible by the above written sentence, whereas in the English Bible we read, "Yea, I hated all my labours," &c.).

Unfortunately, many know more of Solomon, moving like others in the turmoil of the world, and lose sight of the Ecclesiastes, abiding in the sun of truth, and preaching the vanity of everything to the earthborn. The woeful blindness of men seduced by the world, is the more aggravated by the fact that the blind choose the blind also for their leaders, or else allow themselves to be carried away by the multitude, upon which they lean on the right and on the left, and deem themselves secure against falling.  For what then, Christians, is the eye of our own intellect given to us, for what then is the lamp of revealed truth lighted for us, if we were able to grope our way with the help of the world's examples alone?

Let us enter Jerusalem, in which the Gospel presents us a miniature image of the world, and let us note whither the examples of the world lead when they are accepted in blind imitation.  The tidings of the birth of CHRIST the King are brought to Jerusalem, which expected in Him its Liberator.  Herod, raised upon the throne of David, not by the sacred right of inheritance, but by his own ambition, and who strengthened his power more by hypocrisy and violence than by a truly beneficent rule, could not quietly hear of the lawful King of the Jews, although He was still in swaddling clothes, and as yet unknown.  "When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled."  But what of Jerusalem?  Doesn't it know the time of its visitation?  Does it raise its head, bent under a foreign yoke?  Does it rejoice?  Does it "bless the Lord GOD of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for them in the house of His servant David" (S. Luke i. 68, 69.)?  On the contrary.  The image of the troubled sovereign is reflected, as in a mirror, in the participators of his unrighteous rule; and from them this same image is impressed on their fawning sycophants; it is circulated by curiosity, malice, and impudence, and at length all Jerusalem is filled with foolish restlessness and ungodly anxiety concerning the event so full of blessing to Israel and to the whole world.  "Herod the king was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."

Let those consider this who suppose they are living as they ought, when they live like the multitude; let them consider whether at the time of the troubling of Jerusalem, Zacharias, or Simon, or the wise men of the east were bound to follow the example of the majority, and to regulate their feelings and actions according to prevailing opinion.  Or was the world gone astray in Jerusalem alone?

Blessed be the age and the land where the example of the great and powerful is as a lamp to the people, and suffers not that obscurity to thicken, which is spread abroad in the world by the princes of darkness.  But until the kingdom of our Heavenly FATHER comes, invoked by us in our prayers, there will ever be found even under the outward reign of piety, secret self-lords, to whom CHRIST the King is unwelcome, for He requires thorough submission, and the renunciation of our favorite passions and desires, and the captives of worldly examples will follow in their footsteps without perceiving that they are really enslaved by them.  What then is the sign of these trouble makers and their victims?  O CHRIST, our King, the world will not believe it, but Thou Thyself assurest us that the sign of those who do not belong to Thee, is their multitude; that many are called to Thy kingdom, but few are chosen (S. Matth. xx. 16.); that those to whom Thy FATHER has vouchsafed to grant the kingdom, are a "little flock" (S. Luke xii. 32.); that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (S. Matth. vii. 14.).  No, the world is not a guide to be followed, but a foe to be overcome by the children of GOD; "whatsoever is born of GOD overcometh the world" (1 S. John v. 4.).  The most approved mode of thinking and feeling is not seldom the one most dangerous; the example against which we are commanded to guard ourselves, is indeed the one most general; the custom accepted at all times and everywhere; the spirit of the time, which we breathe and in which we live; be not conformed to this world (Rom. xii. 2.).

Perhaps, Christians, you would wish to see the image of this world presented by the Gospel more clearly and distinctly, that you may distinguish the more infallibly what in the sons of this world is unworthy of the sons of the world to come; but He, Who did not suffer the wheat and the tares to be separated before their time, lest in uprooting the latter, the former also should be plucked out, but left "both to grow together until the harvest" (S. Matth. xiii. 30.), the same has also left the decaying fashion of this world, and in its very midst, the fashion newly-designed by His hidden hand of the world to come, in undecided, confused, and broken lines, until the predestined time of its accomplishment, when at length upon the whole hosts of the servants and the enemies of GOD, and on every forehead shall appear, here, the shining name of the Heavenly Father, and there, the terrible mark of the beast (Rev. xiv. 1, 11.), that has to declare an open, but to itself a destructive war, against the Lamb, CHRIST.  At present we know but this, that the world is the cave and the lair wherein the beast is born and bred, and the field whereon the wheat ripens together with the tares, that are doomed to the fire.  But is not that knowledge sufficient to guide us in the prudence enjoined upon us?  The deeper "the whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 S. John v. 19.), so that the difference between good and evil becomes therein the less perceptible, the more circumspectly must we handle even those things in it which seem to be good.  If all the world is full of tares, and until now could not be cleared of them, then can it be that a soul full of the world is entirely free from them?  If the enemy of GOD is secretly begotten and lives in the heart of the world, then can the love of GOD dwell in the love of the world?

And thus it is in vain that some strive to refine their love of the world, instead of rooting it out; and instead of overcoming it by the love of GOD, endeavor to reconcile the one with the other.  Howsoever much a man may strive to clothe his love of the world with the outward cloak of virtue, such as, with temperance, industry, disinterestedness, meekness, beneficence, still, as love is the soul of every virtue, so do all his virtues but betoken in him a son of this world; they breathe and live only for the world, and together with the world will they vanish.  And as two souls cannot animate the same body, thus also two loves – the love of GOD and the love of he world, cannot animate one and the same soul. "If any man love the world, the love of the FATHER is not in him" (1 S. John ii. 15.).  And where there is no love of GOD, there must necessarily be an enmity against Him, although at times hidden and unnoticed, for in the presence of the highest good there is no room for indifference.  In the kingdom of the Omnipotent every separate alliance is a rebellion against the universal Sovereign; the more so then is an alliance with a power evidently infected by a spirit of contumacy and rebellion.  "The friendship of the world is enmity with GOD."

Let us look once more at Herod, in whom the Gospel so fully reveals the deep and excessive evil of the love of the world.  This love in Herod appears to ordinary view to be of such a kind that those who wish to save it from the name of vice, and make it an associate of virtue, might begin with the present example.  The birth of the King of the Jews troubles Herod.  What of it?  Is it not pardonable to feel some trouble at the threatened loss of sovereignty and honour?  And moreover this troubling of spirit was apparently but a short-timed impulse of passion, which was soon subdued by reasoning.  Herod did not forbid the wise men to make prudent inquiries after the King of the Jews, but even aided them therein by means of competent persons.  "When he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them."  He himself confessed the coming of CHRIST by asking, "where CHRIST should be born" (S. Matth. ii. 4.).  He desired to have trustworthy information about His coming: "Go and search diligently for the young child."  Finally, he was himself ready to worship CHRIST; "that I may come and worship Him also" (S. Matth. ii. 8.).  What impartiality and godliness! probably exclaimed the people of Jerusalem.  The world would have remained under the false impression produced by the love of the world, but suddenly heavenly truth appears, "the angel of the LORD appeareth."  He leaves unnoticed the artful words, and the virtues displayed for show, he introduces us into the very heart of their author, and reveals the desire, perhaps unknown yet to Herod himself, rising from the depth of his soul: "Herod will seek."  And what do we now see?  The death of the SAVIOR of the world written in the soul of the lover of the world, "Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him."

O, if we could but confirm ourselves in the blessed assurance that the world does not raise among us against the Lamb of CHRIST, men like unto this fox!  "For they died which sought the young child's life."  But when those who are called to fight under the banner of Him Who "hath overcome the world" (S. John xvi. 33.), are seduced to the cause of rebellion, by the price of corruptible goods; when the sheep of the Shepherd, Whose flock is small, think to find a better pasture among wild beasts and unclean animals, when they are content with merely having "the form of godliness" (2 Tim. iii. 5.), written in the handwriting of the world, and do not surrender themselves to its consuming and regenerating, alike deadening and quickening power; then do they not still seek, though not in Herod's way, do they not seek, however, to destroy the child?  That is, do they not rebel, although unwittingly perhaps, against the true Spirit of CHRIST?


Let us leave to Solomon, whom we have called as the chief witness against the love of the world, to seal this testimony, by giving to the present discourse its befitting conclusion: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; Fear GOD, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl. xii. 13.).  Oppose to the seductions of the world, the fear of God, and according to His commandments accept or reject examples which are offered to thee, and do not make to thyself thine own law from out of the examples approved of in this world.  Keep the commandments of GOD, lest the world under pretense of regulating and adorning thy outward activity should steal them from thy heart.  "For this is the whole duty of man": that is to say, a filial fear of GOD, and the keeping of His commandments, in the centre of which dwells the love of GOD, are everything for every man; therein is his joy, his plenty, his glory, his rest, his bliss, and his temporal as well as his eternal life.  Amen.