Archbishop Seraphim Kykkotis, Orthodox Church of Zimbabwe
Sunday Sermon 3rd March 2017
In the Orthodox Vineyard of Africa
The feast day of Orthodoxy was instituted in 842 for reason of the victory of the right faith (right praise > right opinion>Orthodoxy) for the God-Man person of Jesus Christ and to honor our Saints through the holy icons.
Gradually however, the festival spread, acquiring special importance in the sense that is started to constitute a recollection of the victory of Orthodoxy against every form of pagan belief, that is, of every heresy, and more generally the proud victory of the Church against her various enemies. This is why in certain Orthodox Churches, like those of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, in order for the triumph of Orthodoxy to be emphasized, the Creed is read as a special prayer and constitutes the most concise text in which our Church, through her holy fathers who participated in the first two Ecumenical Councils, (Nicea 325 and Constantinople 381) underlines clearly the basic foundations of the content of teachings of the Christian faith.
The festival of Orthodoxy is of great Theological importance for the Christian’s life, because it is connected to his salvation. The attempt on the part of the heretics to distort and to falsify the correct Christian teaching of our Church as it was revealed by the Triune God and taught to Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles and their successors (Apostolic successors) in reality is an attempt to block the salvific path of man, to keep him distanced from God, far from salvation through Christ. Hence, the issue of Orthodoxy was an issue of prevailing truth. The appearance of pagan beliefs was an attempt to inflict lies. With lies, man is neither boosted nor saved. The darkness which engulfs him becomes ever darker. Rottenness sets in. We are recognized by forms of life worse than that of animals, like those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Destruction occurs as well as pain and misfortune.
In Today’s contemporary world of progress, but also of anguish, the role of Orthodoxy continues to constitute a living hope for a better and more just world. The responsibility and the consequence of the Christian towards the foundations laid down by the Gospel, constitutes a basic assumption for a faithful Orthodox testimony in the world that we live in. We are invited to become Apostles of Christ, having first become disciples close to him, leaving behind at that point the old person of sin and beginning to establish in our lives with struggle and consequence the Divine Commandments of Jesus Christ. We must acquire the faith of our saints, which as the Apostle Paul says in today’s Epistle extract “who by faith subdued kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promised blessings, closed the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of frailty and weakness won strength and became stalwart, even mighty and resistless in battle, routing alien hosts Women received again their dead by a resurrection. Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release, that they might be resurrected to a better life. Others had to suffer the trial of mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death; they were lured with tempting offers, they were sawn asunder; they were slaughtered by the sword; they had to go about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated. Men of whom the world was not worthy, roaming over the desolate places and the mountains and living in caves and holes of earth. (Hebrews 11:33-38)
Only when we participate in the life of Christ do we live a Christian life. An indication of this truth is when all the above mentioned tribulations vividly described by the Apostle Paul occur in our lives a well as in the lives of our Saints. Then, whether we are lay people or whether we are clergy, we are ready to assume with outspokenness toward our neighbour the same phrase which we heard in today’s Gospel extract when Philip sought for and found Nathaniel (John 1:46) in order to persuade him that they both become disciples of Christ: “Come and See” (John 1:47).
The mistake of today’s atheists, unbelievers and those who are indifferent towards the message of the Gospel is that they reject the word of God before they give themselves the opportunity of the salvific information of Jesus Christ. They remind us of those sick people who try to avoid medical treatment because they are victims of an ideology which does not want to accept the scientific achievements of medicine. In this way, they are unfair to themselves and naturally to the society in which they live, in the sense that this becomes a reason for the development of complicated social problems because unconditional love is absent from their lives or at least an attempt towards the brotherly and loving co-existence of people. Just as it is impossible for us to become doctors or mechanics if we do not study for a number of years, in the same way it is impossible for us to fully understand the meaning of Christian life if we don’t try to establish in our lives first the Divine Commandments of Jesus Christ, hence to study the holy life of our church, with our obedience to her teachings. Simultaneously however, the holiness of our life and especially of those who lead us constitutes the strongest and most faithful form present of the Christian message in order for the people to believe and to become saints.
The theological content of the festival of orthodoxy is expressed clearly in the Seventh Ecumenical Council in support of Orthodoxy in which it is stressed that: “As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles taught, as the Teachers decreeded, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth; as truth was revealed, as falsehood has been disproven, as Wisdom has been presented, as Christ has rewarded: this is what we believe, this is what we declare, this is what we preach; Christ our true God, and we honor his Saints in words,, in thought, in sacrifices, in Churches, and in icons. We worship Christ as God and Master; His Saints we honor as the true servants of our Lord and so we grant them veneration. This is the Faith of the Apostles! This is the Faith of the Fathers! This is the Faith of the Orthodox! This is the faith which has established the Universe. (Triodion).
The Sunday of Orthodoxy is the feast day of those who remain standard bearers and pioneers in the struggle and testimony of Orthodoxy in today’s world. God’s grace exists and works within us when our life comes close to Christ’s life. With our worthy participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the whole world becomes part of our body. This is the mysterious, orthodox dimension of divine grace: to understand, feel and live the problems of the world as ours. God’s grace exists within us not only when we speak well about Theological issues but when we feel an improvement within ourselves. Our life is a time of repentance. In order to be conscious of our limits, weaknesses and imperfections we must compare ourselves to the figure of Jesus Christ. Whatever happens without there being faith in Jesus Christ, there exists the danger that we will perform a sinful deed.
To live in a Christian-like manner means that you must behave appropriately wherever you find yourself. The life of the faithful one is hidden in the life of Christ: when we partake of His life, when we copy His life and His works-when we love all people and we do the very best we can for them.
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