Sunday of all Saints

“…whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father…”

Dear brothers and sisters!

Having joyously celebrated the Decent of the Holy Spirit on last Sunday, today, we cheerfully honor the memory of all the saints, who, being filled with divine grace, by the manifestation of the miracles worked by God in their lives, shone like the stars in the firmament of the Church. Today, more than ever, the Holy Church reveals to us the meaning of the words of the Lord: “him will I confess.”

The Lord teaches us that no one, lighting a candle, hides it, but rather sets it on high so that its light would be visible and useful to many. Today, on the memorial of all the saints, the narrow way into the kingdom of heaven, the way to salvation, is lit by the light of their holy lives as with a multitude of candles, lit and set high in the heavens by the Lord God Himself. Indeed, one should not look at the multitude of miracles, worked by those who pleased God by the power of the Holy Spirit, as anything other than the light which is illuminating for us the way to God, showing us the example which is worthy of all honor and imitation according to one’s strength.

How great is God’s providence which, by miracles, clearly glorifies the laborers of piety, who were hiding from this world and earthly glory in the deserts, in the caves, in the forests, and under the guise of foolishness and madness! How many saints spent their earthly days in wont, in sickness, and in suffering, at the same time delivering others from sorrows of all kinds! Saint Anthony the Great, healing people, always used to say: “The Lord Jesus Christ healeth thee” in such manner giving the glory to God, always considering himself the chief of sinners.

For their great humility, for the patient endurance of many torments and sufferings, for sincere love toward Himself and toward the neighbor, for the confession of Him in the face of death, the Lord confessed – glorified – His saints in His kingdom. In our days, there are left among us those who please God, those who do His will. But for our sins, for the hardness of our hearts, for our immeasurable high-mindedness and for our pride, the Lord hid them from us and does not reveal unto us the light of their sanctity in order not to have to judge us more harshly on His righteous judgment.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us follow the example of those, whom God did glorify, whom the Church does hymn, in order that together with them we may obtain the kingdom of heaven. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council

“…That they be one, even as We are…”

Dear brothers and sisters!

How much meaning is in these words of the Lord! Praying for His disciples, for His Church, God the Son asks God the Father that we, Orthodox Christians, members of the Body of Christ, be one even as the Holy Trinity is one. Let us note that the Lord does not say ones, but specifically one, that is one whole and not many that are whole.

Oneness is a quality of the Most Holy Trinity, our God. Oneness with God and with the Church is a quality of every Saint. Oneness is a quality that is seen less and less frequently in us and our contemporaries.

The enemy of the race of men, the enemy of the Church of Christ, has fought against the unity of the faithful since the beginning of time. Yet in all the history of mankind he did not reach such progress as in our days. Never before, as it is now, have nations, and even families been stripped of their unity.

Armed with pluralism, individualism, and pretended freedom of self-expression, we have severed our spiritual oneness with the Holy Church, and thus, with God. While masses of people unite for the achievement of political or economical goals, the spiritual oneness and unity is subjected to criticism and mockery everywhere.

From the billboards to the TV screens, from all sides we are called to indulge our uniqueness one more time, to proceed according to our own understanding one more time, to attain our own personal goal with no regard for the established customs of the surrounding society one more time. Simultaneously, any inclination to follow the advice of the old days, in the best of cases, is seen as old-fashioned, and in the worst, as the weakness of character or even retardation.

All of this makes a person appear more and more like a mad animal which by its own intent separates from the flock, and being alone, perishes in the paws of a predator.

Yes, man is not a herd animal; man is created in the image and likeness of God. The oneness and unity of the Church is not at all a mindless crowd. As such, it would not hold up even at the first attack of the enemy. The personal free will of its members is not crushed in the oneness and unity of the Church. The oneness and unity of the Church are the life in Christ, the union with God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, how shall we attempt to live in Christ, if we have torn within ourselves the spiritual unity with His Church: with each other?

May the words of the Lord be fulfilled in all of us! May we all be one, for our God – the Most Holy Trinity – is One. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought us together…

These words of the stichiron from the service of the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem are very important to us. At a quick glance, they contain simply a narrative meaning, but after a prayerful consideration, one can see in them a profound spiritual meaning.

In honor of the feast, we bless pussy willows and palms and, at the end of the service, take them with us for the blessing and sanctification of our homes. But can we apply the words of the stichiron to ourselves based solely on that?

When the Lord entered Jerusalem, He was met by a multitude of people. Many cried: “Blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But, alas, after a few days the same people shouted: “Take Him, crucify Him!” That makes it obvious that it was not the grace of the Holy Spirit that gathered many that day. More likely, they were gathered by their personal interests, political or economical, interests, which were not satisfied with the coming of the Lord.

Wherefore, we too must ask ourselves: “what is motivating us, bringing us to church?” Is it our love of honor, or desire to be known as – not at all to be – pious? Or is it a hope of satisfaction of selfish desires, when the Church is only a firing range for the achieving of selfish goals, be they financial, political, or psychological?

God grant that for every one of us the reason will be the same: the salvation of the soul. For if we came to the Church for salvation, then truly “…the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought us together!”

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko