2 May 2011

sermon concludes

Throughout history, Mary comes to us as the Immaculate Conception; the one whom God preserved from Original Sin so that she could be the perfect and flawless Mother of God the Divine Son; so that she could give God back his own gift to her by giving him a perfect and flawless humanity to unite inseparably with his Divinity. And Mary comes to us as our Mother too, as well as the Mother of Jesus. Because if we are one with Christ, one in Christ, as S Paul teaches, then Christ's Mother is our Mother too. When we kneel at the Altar to receive the Lord's Body and Blood, what the priest puts into our hands or onto our lips is the Body that Jesus took from Mary and the Blood which flowed in her veins before it flowed in his. Mary is our Mother; and what is it that mothers are always having to dish up, except food? Our Mother Mary brings food for her children "in this our exile", food neatly packaged for the journey we are making through this Vale of Tears; food to give us strength until we reach our True Native Land. beth lehem is Hebrew for House of Bread; and when we come to Communion the Mother of this House, the Great Mother of God Mary Most Holy, brings from her cupboard and sets within us the Blessed Fruit of her womb Jesus. Because Mary is not locked away in Bethlehem or Nazareth; she's not even a fixture who only made it as far as Lourdes. Mary walks down the centuries and across the seas and countries and hurries to make her way to this country of England in this our Mary Month of May; she comes this afternoon to this place and to this moment of time; comes to be your Mother and your merciful guide and advocate, here, in your own land.
The sermon is concluded.


fieldofdreams2010 said...

If the True Adam is to be partnered by the True Eve, she must be both unfallen and one flesh with him.
"Vergine madre, figlia del tuo figlio, umile ed alta piu che creatura."

Sue Sims said...

Wonderful sermon, Father, but one rhetorical flourish doesn't quite work for me: when you write: "what is it that mothers are always having to dish up, except food?", this mother mentally replied: "Clean, ironed clothes, taxi services, academic coaching and homework provision, birthday, Christmas and consolation presents, time and...money. Lots of that last."

Sorry to bring this elevated discussion down to earth, but hey...

GOR said...

Beautiful and inspiring, Father!

And Sue – while your list of maternal concerns is true and not exhaustive, what is it that mothers first give their babies? A hint: “Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the paps that gave thee suck”

Dale said...

Would it not have been better to state, "Since 1854..."

bronzetrumpets said...

The Immaculate Conception wasn't made-up in 1854. The feast is medieval in origin (though it wasn't extended to the whole Latin Church in the fifteenth century).

The idea of Mary's especial holiness goes all the way back; the big late-medieval debates were over whether she was sanctified at the moment conception or later.

Священник села said...

The sermon is concluded

... is a statement of greater import than one might think. I look forward to things after the Long Vacation.

Christ is Risen!

Священник села said...

[For the June newsletter]

The Divine Liturgy is the most powerful means of pastoral service

God has gone up with a shout! The Lord with the sound of the trumpet!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ -

We begin June with two great feasts - first the Ascension and then ten days later Pentecost. I have always thought it interesting how the movement from the Ascension to Pentecost mirrors in time our personal experience in the Divine Liturgy. In our celebration of the eucharist we ascend liturgically, mysteriously, sacramentally into the realm of heavenly worship, the Kingdom of God - and then there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us and the gifts of bread and wine that we have offered. In short: we ascend with Christ; we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our participation in Communion is like a personal Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit makes Christ present in and for and of us. This is a very deep and rich mystery and deserves much continued spiritual reflection. It is something that can be unpacked, so to speak, in many ways. It is at the heart of Christian life.

Our pre-Communion prayers touch on this personal, eucharistic appropriation of the Ascension and Pentecost:

Through Thy glorious ascension Thou didst make the flesh which Thou didst assume divine, and placed it on a throne at the Father's right hand. Grant me to receive a place at the right hand with the saved through communion of Thy holy mysteries.

Through the coming of Thy Spirit, the Comforter, Thou didst make Thy consecrated disciples to be honorable vessels. Show me also to be the receptacle of His coming.

I am thinking of this movement as I write today as something profoundly connected with priestly ministry, since it is the ordained priest who leads the faithful in ascending to the heavenly places and distributes to them the holy, sanctified gifts.

Perhaps this priestly, liturgical theme is why June used to be called 'Seminaries Month' in the Orthodox Church in America and we regularly took special collections for our seminaries and seminarians.

Just recently we witnessed His Grace, Bishop Matthias ordain Nicholas Hubbard to the Holy Priesthood in a beautiful, moving hierarchical service on the feast day of St Alexis (Toth), the first pastor of this parish and a most excellent model of what it means to be a priest. This too was an epiphany of Ascension and Pentecost in a rich and full way.

Recently I have been asked many questions about my own understanding of priestly ministry, and I would like share with you a text and teaching that, along with many liturgical texts, has shaped my priestly sensibility. It comes from a great teacher (much admired by my own beloved teacher Fr Alexander Schmemann), Archimandrite Kyprian (Kern) who was closely connected with the pastoral formation of clergy at the famous St Sergius Institute in Paris.

Священник села said...

(Part 2)

He writes: The priestly service includes many responsibilities. The priest must satisfy all the requirements of his rank. They include the duties of teaching, spiritual guidance, missionary work, and divine service, taking care of the sick, prisoners, sorrowful, and many other things....

However, God can give or not give certain talents to a priest as to anyone. A priest may prove to be a poor speaker or incapable administrator of his parish, a dull instructor of the Holy Scripture. He can be an insensitive or even too demanding a confessor. He can be at a loss socially. But this will be forgiven him and will not blot out the worth of his spiritual work, if only he possesses a feeling for the Eucharist, if his main occupation is the stewardship of the Mysteries and service at the Divine Liturgy for the mystical union of himself and his flock to the body of Christ, for the sake of being partakers of the divine nature in the words of the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:4). A priest is given no greater authority or mystical means than this service to the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ. This must be the life's work of the priest.... Nowhere and by no method are prayer and spiritual exploit so realised in a priest as in the sacrament of the Eucharistic sacrifice....

The most spiritually compelling priests always took great joy in their celebration of the eucharistic service and its prayers...

Summing up what has been said about the pastoral gift, we must draw the following conclusion. A special gift is given to the pastor in the laying on of hands... the joyous responsibility of renewing and enlivening souls for the Kingdom of God. This renewal can be accomplished in part through a moral influence upon the personality of those guided, through compassionate love for the guilty, through a sympathetic encounter with their personalities, but, mainly, through the Eucharistic service and joining the faithful, through it, to the mysterious Body of the Church. Anyone beside a priest can influence a neighbour. A mother and educator can commiserate. A close friend can share one's sorrows. But the leading of the celebration of the Eucharist is the responsibility of the priest. The Divine Liturgy is the most powerful means of pastoral service... A priest must always remember that he is called to bring God's mysteries into the heart of the community... [this] is the most powerful means of pastoral influence through which to bring about the moral and mystical revival of the faithful and the parish.

(Archimandrite Kyprian Kern, Orthodox Pastoral Service).