In my homily for St Seraphim’s Feast on the third Sunday of July, I referred to his understanding of our Orthodox faith. He reminded us of the importance of our baptism, restoring us as we should be and, by associated chrismation, giving us ‘the seal and gift of the Holy Spirit - the most precious gift we can ever receive’. He added, ‘The grace of baptism is so great and so indispensable to mankind, so life-giving that it is never taken away’. even if we fall into error, the grace remains with us.
St Seraphim continues, ‘If, after our baptism, we never sinned, then we would be eternally holy, blessed, God-bearing, pure and free from all impurity of body and spirit, pleasing to God. However, the trouble is that gaining in age, we do not gain in grace, or in godly wisdom, as Our Lord Jesus Christ did. Instead, we gradually become corrupted, denying ourselves the grace of the All Holy Spirit of God, and becoming, in varying degrees, sinners, yes, most sinful people’, We fall away from what we should be.
Here is our aspiration and our failing; good intentions but difficulty achieving them. Yet there is one who held fully to these aspirations and did not fail, and she is our exemplar and one for whom we should give thanks, praise and follow.
Yes, on this day, when we celebrate the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, we remember the Most Holy Birth-giver of God, even Our Blessed Lady and Ever Virgin Mary. She was the one who did not fall into corruption (sinfulness). Born of ageing parents, through the special grace of God, she remained innocent and pure as all children born to mankind. In her, this purity and innocence continued. She became prayerful, attentive to God, ready to be the first Christian Saint when called to be so.
Although the devil deceived Eve and she together with Adam fell from God, in due time He found a woman, so pure, prayerful (totally in tune with Him) and lovely, that He was able to give us the Saviour born of her seed. She filled with the Holy Spirit, and with her eternal motherly care, not only gave birth to and supported her son but in doing so, crushed within herself the serpent’s head. She was not immaculate by conception, but by prayer and faithful attentiveness to God. Hence, the Church is able to sing out:
O blessed Lady, the creator of All dwelt bodily in your womb in order to refashion mankind which was fallen and wandering because of the serpent. For our sake, you ineffably gave birth to our God in the flesh, thus, delivering from death and renewing the human race. Wherefore, we sing and glorify the grace given you by God, O pure Virgin, unwedded Bride, and entreat you to be delivered from all suffering.........He ineffably emptied Himself within your womb; and rising from you like a Sun, He shed the light of His Divinity upon the whole world, delivering it from the darkness of idolatry. (Aposticha, Saturday vespers, Tone 4).
‘The Fire of the Divinity dwelt in you and nourished the Lord and Creator of all’.
To follow the Holy Mother, as St Seraphim inspires us, the aim of our life, like hers, is to acquire the Holy Spirit. ‘Fasting, vigils, prayer, chastity and all other good deeds done for the sake of Christ, however good they are, do not alone, constitute the aim of Christian life. The aim of our life is to understand what doing good deeds for Christ really means; it is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which these works bring us. It is by gaining and acquiring this grace (achieved through good deeds) that alone is the aim of Christian life’. Good deeds done for the sake of Christ bring forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit since the Holy Spirit came into the world for the sake of Christ.
But, ‘If not done for the sake of Christ, (a good deed) does not bring the blessing of the Holy Spirit’.
All good deeds are pleasing to God. Everyone who loves God and does what is right is pleasing to Him. Here is the key; Love God and not just goodness alone. What is important is not virtuous deeds on their own but what is given through these deeds, namely the fruits of the Holy Spirit and increasing love of God.
The Holy Spirit prepares in our soul the throne of God dwelling with our spirit, in accordance with the Word of Our Lord. As scripture says, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk among them; I will be their God, and they will be my people (Leviticus 26:12, 2Corinthians 6:16). This is the Oil that keeps the lamps burning. Or, as Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman, ‘The water that I shall give shall be a well of water springing unto eternal life’.
On this Feast of the Birth-giver of God, we remember that she is the only one of the human race who lived her whole life filled with the Holy Spirit and continues so in her heavenly throne. We must always honour her and know her important role in God’s saving plan. She exactly shares the fullness of the humanity of the son born of her which why, at her Falling asleep, she realised the first fruits of her son’s Resurrection and was. thus, bodily lifted into heaven.
Most Holy Mother of God pray for us and hold us in the saving grace of your Son.
This mainly contains homilies and messages from our priests, although there is some scope to share thoughts and interesting articles which we may want to share with others