The holiness of the Church
During each and every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, we, as the people of God, recite the Nicene Creed. This ancient declaration is the very core of our common faith, and connects us to the teachings of the Ancient Church. In this creed we declare that we believe in “The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. The word “holy” is something we often fail to see as having anything to do with us, personally. The Church is holy, but we are not, we tell ourselves. Yet the first Christians called themselves “the holy”, precisely because they knew the Holy Spirit was in their midst, sanctifying the Church. They knew they were not simply members of a religious body, but that they WERE the Church.
Because the Holy Spirit sanctifies the Church, they, as members of the Body of Christ, were sanctified, even if they often fell short of the Glory of God. But how could the Church be holy when she so often experiences moments of darkness, and when even her priests and bishops fall short the standards set forth in the Gospels? How can we call the Church holy, when we are all such sinners?
The Church is holy because her founder is holy, and because Christ has never abandoned His Church. The Church is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit. She is holy because she is always being purified and transformed anew, by the Holy Spirit. The Church is not holy because of anything we have done, but because God has made her holy.
If the holiness of the Church was dependent upon her people, most of us would have to be banned from membership. Yet this very holiness is based upon the fact that the Church does not turn away we sinners, but welcomes us with open arms. Because of the great mercy of God, and His tender love for us, we enter the very threshold of the Church with the expectation we will receive healing and forgiveness. It is within the boundaries of the Church that even the weakest of sinners can become holy, for holiness is the destiny of every Christian. Every Christian is called to holiness because our weakness is overcome by the strength of God’s mercy. It is not about living extraordinary lives, but about being transformed by an extraordinary God.
With love in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
Saturday April 21, 2018 / April 8, 2018
Second Week of Pascha. Tone one.
Holy Apostles of the Seventy: Herodion, Agabus, Asyncritus, Rufus, Phlegon, Hermes, and those with them (1st c.).
New Hieromartyr Sergius priest (1933)
St. Niphont, bishop of Novgorod (1156).
Venerable Rufus the Obedient of the Kiev Caves (14th c.).
Martyr Pausilippus of Heraclea in Thrace (117-138).
St. Celestine, pope of Rome (432).
New Martyr John Naukliros (“the Navigator”) in Thessaly (1699).
Monk-martyrs Josias and Joseph of Mt. Kharasam, Persia (341).
New Martyr John (Koulika) (1564).
St. Philaret of Seminara, Calabria (1070).
Spanish Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (792).
The Scripture Readings
21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
Apostles on Trial Again
22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
Jesus Walks on the Sea
15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
The Bread from Heaven
22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”