Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Welcome to the Feast that celebrates ALL of the saints!
It was only last week when we celebrated Pentecost and the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit over the whole world. God Himself had predicted this through the Prophet Isaiah, saying, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3). And the Lord Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
If we are listening carefully, we hear that there are two outpourings of the Spirit being talked about here; two outpourings of the Living Water. 1.) The outpouring from heaven and 2.) the outpouring from those who believe in Jesus.
That’s right. We human beings, we Christians, are supposed to be vessels that contain the Holy Spirit. That’s why St Paul commands the Christians in Ephesus to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). If he commands them to do it, it must mean that they can choose not to do it, right? He gives them this command to make them choose between worldly pleasures or the Holy Spirit. The entire quote is this, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5: 17-19). The true believers are the ones who love Christ and follow His teachings and His commandments. The ultimate true believers are the ones who are not only filled with the Spirit, but also overflow with the Spirit. These are the special ones out of “whom flow rivers of Living Water.” These are the saints.
The great 4th century desert father, Abba John the Dwarf said,
“The saints are like a group of trees, each bearing different fruit, but watered from the same source. The practices of one saint differ from those of another, but it is the same Spirit that works in all of them.” That’s right. The same Spirit fills them, and the same Spirit flows out of them in holy words, holy deeds, and astonishing miracles.
Now, changing gears somewhat, what if we, as Christians, are not capable of containing the Spirit because of our sins and our worldliness? Then not only is our sanctity jeopardized, but even our salvation! Listen to what God Himself says through the Prophet Jeremiah, “Be stunned by this, O heavens; be shocked and utterly appalled,” declares the Lord. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2: 12-13). Cisterns? Cisterns are water-holding tanks or vessels. God gave us a vessel to contain the Spirit, the nous or the heart. It was meant to contain the living water of the Spirit. But those who are Christians in name only (CINOS) live their lives as if God doesn’t exist, has no impact on their daily lives, has no influence on their choices. They have made their “belly” the vessel that contains all that the world, the flesh, and the devil have to offer. They replace God’s blessing with their own brokenness! Now, I’ve used the word “belly” because St. Paul used it to describe some other “Christians in name only” as those “whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). Broken cisterns. We don’t want to be like them. We want to aspire to be like the saints, filled with the Spirit and overflowing with grace toward others.
Before closing I want to take a minute or two to talk about how important the saints are to us. On this Sunday especially, we are called upon by the Holy Church to celebrate the saints, reflect on them, to honor them, and yes, to imitate them. So why are the saints so important to us? St. John of Kronstadt tells us,
“We ought to have the most lively spiritual union with the heavenly inhabitants, with all the saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, prelates, venerable and righteous men (and women), as they are all members of one single body, The Church of Christ, to which we sinners also belong, and the living Head of which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is why we call upon them in prayer, converse with them, thank and praise them. It is urgently necessary for all Christians to be in union with them if they desire to make Christian progress; for the saints are our friends, our guides to salvation, who pray and intercede for us... God’s saints are near to the believing heart, and are ready in a moment to help those who call upon them with faith and love.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are all spiritual mountain climbers, aren’t we? The peak is Heaven. And we are struggling to ascend. We don’t ascend alone. No, we are part of a rope team, the Church. We are all tied together, each one helping the other not to plunge to their death, unless they willingly untie themselves and go their own way. Above us are the saints. They are on the peak, but still tied to us who struggle below. They pull on the rope to make it easier for us to ascend. They are our security who stand together with Christ Who is our Rock and our anchor. They love us, they care about us, they encourage us, they guide us, and they pray for us. What a privilege to have them as our friends! What a blessing to have them as our family! Amen.