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Sermon For Sunday of the Fathers of the First Council
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christ is Ascended!
Satan inspired the pagan Roman State to persecute the Church with cruel tortures and rivers of blood. He sought to kill the Church from the outside. When Christ prevailed, and St. Constantine assumed the throne, Satan tried a different tactic: Heresy – try to kill the Church from the inside, using agents from within the Church. The former was a direct, physical attack, like wielding a sword. The latter was a spiritual, more subtle attack, like metastatic cancer. Your own cells turn on you and seek to kill you. That was the demon-inspired priest Arius. Puffed-up with the delusion that his own theological intellect was superior to that of the Apostles and Martyrs, he spread his toxic philosophy far and wide in the early 4th Century. What was the result? Divisions in the Church, deep illness in the Body of Christ, the tearing of the robe of Jesus. Those who fell under the sway of the smooth talk of Arius seized the temples of the Orthodox, or formed their own churches, in opposition to the authentic, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The Orthodox fought, and again, aided by St. Constantine the Great, and the Council that he convened in Nicaea, Truth prevailed and the unity of the Church, and the Truth of the Faith were least on paper. Arianism was a huge threat well into the 7th century. Much later, some Protestant forerunners of the “Untarians” called “Socinians” embraced the Christological arguments of Arius, as do the modern Unitarians themselves. The Christology of Jehovah’s Witnesses is also a form of Arianism, for it upholds the unity and supremacy of God the Father, and calls the doctrine of the Holy Trinity a pernicious invention of Constantine.
The truth is, Satan never stops attacking the Church. He never stops the internal attacks, and he never stops the external attacks. Look at Egypt. The ancient and martyric Coptic Orthodox Church does not cease to offer up the blood of her children in witness to Satan’s hatred of the Church, and of Christians, and of goodness, and innocence. We weep for them. We weep for Egypt today. You know, the holy fathers refer to Islam as a “heresy,” not another religion, but rather a corruption of ours. And like all heresies, it’s deep aim is to destroy Christians and Christianity. Why? Because Satan is at its core. Does that mean that all Muslim people are satan-inspired agents of hatred toward Christ and His Church? Not at all. God will judge each person as an individual. As for us, we must not judge, but rather love and pray for the return of all those who are lost to the True Faith.
But what about the internal attacks? Do they still exist? Yes they do. There are even more subtle attacks going on now, than were occurring in the first four centuries of the Church’s life. The controversies about Who Christ is has been settled. Seven Ecumenical Councils have created a fortress so strong around the Church’s dogmatic statements that she is least for the moment. So Satan sets his sights on other things, lower-hanging fruit. And what are those? What is that lower-hanging fruit? Ah, he says, perhaps I can use the world’s secular upheavals for my own purposes. I will create divisions in the Church, divisions among good, believing Orthodox Christians, by utilizing politics, political and social outrage and backlash. I shall extol moral relativism, situational and/or compartmentalized ethics, and in fact, entirely compartmentalized lives. Politics here, personal philosophy right next to it, faith somewhere in the rear. The poor things. They’re so easy to trick. They don’t even know what their own Church believes or teaches; or why! Some will follow one way, others another way, still others a third way, all based on worldly models. And thus I will have them. They will all take sides. They will all begin to hate one another, all believing themselves to be right, all believing themselves to be righteous, never realizing that I was present in all of it.”
Beloved Brethren, perhaps none of us will ever be called upon to defend the Truth of the Dogmas. But we might! Perhaps none of us will ever be called upon to surrender our lives because we are Orthodox Christians. But we might! But one thing is for sure: we are called upon today, right now, to cease being low-hanging fruit for Satan to bring divisions among the brethren. St Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one that is coming” (Hebrews 13:14). The word “city” in Greek is “polis.” The word “politics” comes from the same root. This world’s “city” is NOT our abiding city. The City that we seek is the New Jerusalem, a Holy City that will descend from the heavens and comes from God. Our worldview, our understanding of justice, truth, morality and righteousness must come from THIS City, not the world’s.
My dear, late professor, Fr. Alexander Schmemann once wrote: “We live in the era of ideologies which in their attempt to be all-encompassing, exist in continuous strife, and this strife fills the world with fear and hatred. We live in a world where mercy and charity are exiled, and that is perhaps the most frightening thing about it, the sign of its dehumanization.”
May God enlighten our minds and hearts to withstand and expose the subtleties of Satan’s wiles set against us and against our holy Orthodox Church. Amen.


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