MORTALITY

And He approached and touched the bier, and those bearing it stood still. And He said: “Young man, I say to thee, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to talk. And He gave him to his mother. [Lk.7:14-15]

 
The young man in the Gospel reading this morning was lifeless; his very heart had stopped beating. His future earthly plans were now in shambles; his mother was grieving for her great loss. And then into the emptiness of death walked the brilliance of everything that is. And those lifeless members of his body that were dead were now restored to life and humanity.

 
Both the mother and son would eventually repose in their mortality because this life that we now struggle with is just temporary. But there is another kind of death that we wrestle with that is even greater than mortality. If we spend our days and hours without Christ we will truly learn what it means to suffer. Venerable St. Bade says: “Whoever will not guard his senses, leaves open a way for death to enter!” And St. Ambrose writes: “You must not be greatly troubled about many things, but you should care for the main thing — preparing yourself for death.” St. Ambrose of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

 

 

Our body will return to the earth but not be lost, and our soul will embrace judgment. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believeth in Me, though he die, he shall live; “and everyone who liveth and believeth in Me, in no wise shall ever die. Believest thou this?” [Jn. 11:25-26] These ideas are captured in the Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief; however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the general resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or vice.” (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18)

 
Be not afraid for God is working in our lives to save us from our destruction. His grace is an invisible element in the air we breathe with visible results. His grace is the love of your Heavenly Father longing for you to come home. Christ touches our deathly bier at the Sacrament of Holy Communion, restoring that which was confessed to newness. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

 
St. Dorotheos of Gaza writes: “A man obtains the fear of God if he has the remembrance of his unavoidable death and of the eternal torments that await sinners; If he tests himself every evening as to how he has spent the day, and every morning as to how he has spent the night, and if he is not sharp in his relations with others.” (St. Dorotheos, Soul-Profiting Teachings, 4)

 
Let go of this world and its death and thirst for the next! Do not be troubled and hold on to Christ who has defeated death with death and is waiting for you to come home!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10/22/17

FRESH MEAT

I have always been fascinated with animals and their instinct of survival. Every day, their life actions and movements usually catch my attention. Nature is survival to the fittest! We all remember the survivalist hiking motto that while we are in the mountains at Reddish Knob or Big Meadows, we don’t have to be the fastest one in our group but we can’t be the slowest! If we are slow or weak, we may become the first offering to the wild and untamed carnivores!

 
At home during my cave-time, I like to watch a show on the History Channel called Mountain Men. At the beginning of each episode the announcer states: “Beyond the edges of civilization, man is not at the top of the food chain. And, nature gives no second chances to those fighting to survive…”Every week I watch these folks survive amongst extreme weather conditions, unpredictable rivers or ice, and red-blooded animals fighting to survive in their inhabitant. A sign of weakness would surely bring the predators in and a confrontation with the mountain men. To survive in these conditions, weakness will result in certain death in the midst of this natural food chain.

 
As a contrast to this theme of survival, we must become fresh meat. As Christians, we must surrender our weaknesses to the wild untamed world, becoming prey for those lost in the deep thickets of life and submissive to a life that prospers in the deathly wealth found in the darkness of our choices. St. Isaac the Syrian once said, “He who senses his sins, is greater than he who raises the dead with his prayer. He who groans one hour for his soul, is greater than he who benefits the whole world. He who is made worthy to see himself, is greater than he who is made worthy to see angels. To him who knows himself, is given the knowledge of all things. For the knowledge of ourselves is the fullness of knowledge of all things.”

 
Unlike the Mountain Men episodes, we as Christians focus not as much on our here and now human needs but more about where we will find rest after our human bodies fail to exist. Our future survival depends on us exposing our weakness and relying on Christ to strengthen us. We read in the Epistle this morning: “My grace is sufficient for thee; for My power is being made perfect in weakness.” [2 Cor. 12:9]

 
We remember the great Creator of all things in His example to us crucified upon the cross! We heard the choir sing: “He who suspended the earth upon the waters, is suspended upon a tree.” No matter how strong we are physically or emotionally we must empty ourselves so that we may be filled with the greatest survival kit available to mankind, the unfailing power of the Holy Spirit! “For whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” [2 Cor. 12:10]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-15-17