We are all tax collectors. We are born into a world -- and a civlization and a society -- that we did not create. We pretend to be self-made, but in reality, we tax our society and civilization to our own advantage; and we exploit others. Meanwhile, we seldom acknowledge this debt -- often, not even our debt to God the Creator of all things.
To "tax": means "to put a strain on, to press others by being difficult, to seek advantage over others by put stress on them, to "wear them out" to our advantage; to exploit the spiritual wealth of others to our own gain. For example, "He often taxes my patience."
We tax our society whenever we exploit opportunites for ourselves. And, there is nothing wrong with this, so long as we acknowledge our debt. After his conversion, Zacchaeus remained a tax collector, but a humble one -- like the tax collector in Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.
As someone asked at coffee hour after Liturgy, what does the example of making an especially difficult pipe have to do with today's reading? Fair enough. The example was about the process of someone with less skill than necessary making a pipe that demanded perfection. Over and over, something went wrong. What went wrong had to somehow be brought into the process of making the pipe, or the project would have to be abandoned. In the end, a pipe whose design demanded perfection, but had gone wrong over and over, was redeemed by humbly working through the problems that prevented fulfillment of the design. Every failure had to be incorporated during the actual process of making the pipe.In the end it worked perfectly – not because the skill of the participant in the design was perfect, but because the design is perfect.
The Son of God, the man traveling in a far country, gave his imperfect servants something of His own to invest in a world where the greatest resource is suffering, sin, and death. They are the very things we want to have happen least of all. That is just how the making of the pipe went for me. Like any faithful maker of something that is beyond his actual skill, the servants who invested what Christ gave them of Himself, did so by dealing with the world as He had done. That is, by reinvesting the suffering of their missing the mark over and over, but always continuing to re-orient their efforts toward His fulfillment of the perfect “design” of our humanity, Jesus Christ Himself.
Inescapable suffering is the greatest and most abundant spiritual resource in this world. It is itself the wages of missing the mark, and it falls short of perfect life. But Jesus Christ, by humble self-sacrifice and His triumph of divine virtue incarnate in our humanity, enables us to re-orient and transform every seeming dead end toward a redemptive oneness with His Resurrection. Life is our share in this Great Work. "Spiritual capitalism" takes the problem of suffering, sin, and even death, and converts and re-invests them in eternal life. You might even say that it takes Donny Deutsch's famous motto, Often Wrong, Never in Doubt, and applies it to the realm of faithful and courageous spiritual investment. Had we Deutch's over-riding worldly confidence, and faithfulness regardless of every misfortune, but instead, an over-riding faith, regardless of how often we missed the mark, then nothing could ever stop us.
We feel we have the weight of the world on us. And so, we are tempted to delusional and prideful depression, dispair, and self pity. But it is not so. Christ Himself has dealt with the weight of the world. Doing that was His Cross; not ours. But, even though He has done this, He has not done it as we imagine that it needed to be done. And so, we are tempted to be ashamed of how He dealt with and deals with the world. For this reason, we are ashamed of Him and His way. And we are so delusional as to imagine that the weight of the world still falls on us – that the world somehow still needs to be fixed – to be saved – by us – by me. It is not so.
Guile: sly or cunning intelligence. Self-serving cunning in gradually attaining a goal; crafty or artful deception; duplicity. Cleverness, craftiness, cunning, deceit, deception, sharp practice to worldly ends, either material or spiritually negative.
This traditional icon shows workers for the foolish rich man busy about the task of building barns to store his worldly "food," while the soul of the man grows weaker and weaker on his deathbed. Meanwhile, Christ-God offers the eternal food the soul needs for eternal life.
I've often thought of discontinuing the recording and posting of sermons, which seems vain to me. Encouragement to post them when technical problems have arisen with recording devices and such, and breaks in posting have occured, has kept me continuing. On the other hand, there have been those times when, as I edit a sermon for listening-length by deleting interruptions, etc., I find what was said, unaccountably to me, was as close to the sermon I felt responsible to ask God's help to give at the time as it could have been, given my limitations. I'm wondering if there is any interest in transcriptions of some of, at least those, sermons? More or less adequate software now exists to make that possible and I've transcribed this sermon as an experiment. I've attached the file below. Please send feedback to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday of All Saints:
Confession of the Son to the Father
We only come to the sacrament of repentance and confess having missed the mark in order to accomplish the confession of Christ -- in order that we might learn to begin to be such a confession.
Explanation of the icon:
Behind Christ, His disciples follow, usually headed by Peter and John – both Apostles being described as “pillars of the Church” by the Fathers.
The Twelve Apostles are often shown deep in conversation; good iconographers will depict them with expressions mixing wonder with apprehension. This is not surprising, as they had already shown consternation at Jesus’ insistence in returning to Judea due to the Jews’ threats (John 11:7-10). Now, not only is Jesus in Judea, but returning to Jerusalem itself, the seat of the Jewish religious authorities so determined to kill Him. They are also perplexed at Christ’s choice of transport. “These things His disciples understood not at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him” (John 12:16).
For this reason, in some Icons, Christ is shown turning back to the Apostles, as if exhorting them to continue.
Out of Jerusalem’s gates come the Hebrews who had gathered to celebrate the Passover. They are crying out: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”(Matthew 21:9). Children are breaking off branches from the palms and laying them before Christ’s donkey, whilst others are laying their clothes before Him.
That children are laying down their garments and cutting down palm branches is a detail found in almost all Icons of the Entry into Jerusalem, despite not being explicitly stated in Scriptures. However, the Icons are in perfect harmony with the hymns of the Church, which do specifically mention children:
Mounted on the throne in heaven, Christ God, and the colt on earth, you accepted the praise of the Angels and the hymn of the children who cried to you: Blessed are you who come to call back Adam.
(Kontakion for Palm Sunday).
The message is clear: it is those with child-like simplicity and devotion who truly praise the Lord, whilst the adults – both the Apostles and the Jews – tend to get distracted and start wondering among themselves. In many icons the children taking off their clothes are revealed to be wearing white robes underneath, further emphasizing their purity and innocence. From the 14th century onwards a small detail appears of a child pulling a thorn from the foot of another. The thorn is picked up from climbing the palms, but the message behind this is that it is the spiritual ascent which is rough and uncomfortable, even for innocents.
Metropolitan Philaret & Christ in Prayer on the Mountain
grant that I may meet the coming day in peace.
Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will.
In every hour of the day,
reveal thy will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me
throughout the day with peace of soul,
and with the firm conviction that thy will governs all.
In all my deeds and words,
guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget
that all are sent by thee.
Teach me to act frmly and wisely,
without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me the strength to bear the fatigue
of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will.
Teach me to pray.
Pray thou thyself in me.
Below, as I promised two of you, is a link to the article that inspired this sermon.
It could inspire many sermons and more than a single day of study.
Body & Matter in Spiritual Life - Metropolitan Anthony [Bloom] of Sourozh
Magnify, O my soul, the most precious Cross of the Lord!
You are a mystical Paradise, O Theotokos,
who, though untilled, have brought forth Christ;
through Him the life-bearing wood of the Cross was planted on earth.
Now at its Elevation,
as we bow in worship before it, we magnify you.
Here is a link to a couple-minute video explaing the icon in an exceptionally helpful way!
Here is the text referred to in the sermon, compared with the translation from the Masoretic text:
King James Version, last verses of the book of Job:
Job 42:16-17 – "After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days."
Septuagint, last verses of the book of Job:
Job 42:16-18 – "After this affliction, Job lived one hundred and seventy years, and all the years he lived were two hundred and forty-eight; and Job saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days. It is written that he will rise with those whom the Lord resurrects.
19-22. This man is described in the Syriac book as living in the land of Ausitis, on the borders of Edom and Arabia. Previously his name was Jobab, he took an Arabian wife and begot a son named Ennon. But he himself was the son of his father Zare, one of the sons of Esau, and of this mother, Bosorra. Thus, he was the fifth son from Abraham. Now there were the kings who reigned in Edom, over which country he also ruled. First there was Balak the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dennaba. But after Balak, there was Jobab, who is called Job. After him, there was Asom, who was ruler out of the country of Teman. After him, there was Adad the son of Barad, who destroyed Midian in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Gethaim. Now his friends who came to him were: Eliphaz, of the children of Esau, king of the Temanites; Bildad, ruler of the Shuhites; and Zopar, king of the Minians."
Footnote in the Orthodox Study Bible translation of the Septuagint on Job 42:18 – "Job is, after all, a book about resurrection from the dead – the continual hope of the Old Testaments prophets. Job's physical healing was only a foretaste of what he will experience in God's kingdom. The final verses serve to establish Job in history, as an historical person. St. John Chrysostom remarks that the exiled Jews in Egypt included this section because they knew they would soon return to Jerusalem, 'and desiring this, they could find in the history of Job a significant brazier with which to rekindle their piety.'"
Angels protect the candle of divine life in the darkness. Even if Christ lives in us only as a candle in the darkness of a stony heart, we know that light is the same uncreated light known by the saints. Our lives and theirs are lives of the same kind and from the same source.
Whenever Christians sin against others by judging them instead of loving them as they are in Christ and forgiving their sins, we wound Christ, and as He we are members of His body, suffer.
Whenever we repent of our false judgment and forgive them, then we are able to love them. And then, others become persons who inspire our joy in Christ.
The Icon of Unexpected Joy
The name of the woman whom Christ cured of the issue of blood is known.
It was Veronica. She is also the woman who gave her handkerchief to Christ as He carried His cross towards Golgotha. When Christ paused in exhaustion, Veronica lay her handkerchief on His to dry his sweat. When she looked at the cloth again, she saw that an image of Christ's face had appeared on it. This is often called the first icon. Veronica's name itself is said to be derived from the Latin words meaning true (verus) image/icon. Her feastday is celebrated on July 12th.
Troparion (Tone 8)
The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother,
For you took up the Cross and followed Christ.
By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away,
But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.
Therefore your spirit, O Holy Mother Veronica, rejoices with the Angels!
Notice Jesus stance on the waters is the same as his stance in icons of the Resurrection.
His lifting us out of every kind of influence and type of or fear of death in the midst of tempation to doubt,
is at one with the Resurrection.
The sermon above was inspired by Fr. Thomas Hopko's series, If We Have Died With Him, We Shall Also Live With Him. That series of lectures deals with the famous "Toll Houses," and is presented, in full, below.Each part is 30 minutes in length.
This icon of the Last Judgment is one of several types. This one is the easiest to grasp and interpret, and it is dealt with in this sermon. There are several other icons of the Last Judgment, each of which is written to say additional things, but this one follows the most ancient writing of the Last Judgment icon, and it gives the fundamental message of the icon. There are also icons of the Last Judgment that show a serpent biting the heel of Adam. Each of many rings around the body of the serpent refer to some particular sin that must be dealt with if we are to are to repent and return to Christ's life by repentance -- by freeing ourselves of attachment to that sin. This is not a matter of a legalistic confession & formal forgiveness by Christ, but by our actually dealing with that temptation and sin by choosing Christ instead. Those icons are much more complex and have often been misunderstood. Those icons require study and explanation as to their actual meaning.