Homily for October 9, 2016

Source: Pillar and Ground of the Truth

October 9, 2016

In
this life, everything is hidden under its opposite.
That is a great mystery, and yet it is true. And if
we learned the lesson, it would revolutionize the way
we live. The sorrows we face could be tokens of
mercy; the joys we experience could be calls to
repent and return.

In today’s epistle, St. Paul draws a remarkable
contrast: “We are treated as impostors, and yet are
true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold
we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful,
yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as
having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

On the one side he puts the way that things seem. We
seem to be imposters, unknown, dying, punished,
sorrowful, poor and having nothing. On the other side he
puts the way things really are. We are true, well
known, live, are not killed, are always rejoicing, making
many rich and possessing everything ourselves.

We Orthodox have a category of saint, the holy fool, who
embodies these words of St. Paul. St. Basil the Blessed,
St. Ksenia of Peterburg, St. Andrew of
Constantinople—all these were given the grace of
Christ to live their lives as homeless, sometimes naked,
always disconnected from the ‘normal’ life
around them but profoundly connected to the life of the
living Christ. If you’ve seen the movie
OstrovThe
Island
—you’ve seen a depiction of a holy
fool.

It doesn’t matter to me which side of the political
spectrum you stand on: liberal or conservative, Democrat
or Republican or Libertarian—every Orthodox
Christian must see that if any time and place called for a
holy fool to arise, ours is surely it. Look where we have
gotten with our much-vaunted reason and education!

We have completely lost the human person. Women are
treated as objects. The unborn are ripped from the womb
and left to die. The poor are dishonored and disrespected.
We identify ourselves with our greed and desires, and
enshrine them in law. We are caught between slogans like
“Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives
Matter” and “All Lives Matter.” We talk,
but don’t listen; we give advice, but don’t
take it; instead of works of mercy to the poor, we give
words on social justice about the poor. We try to make the
rest of the world in our image, and do not deal with the
problems at home. When Scripture pronounces God’s
harshest judgment, it does so in these words: “And
so God gave them up to their own desires.” Are we
not there, friends? Are we not there?

This is no time for nostrums, or pious pronouncements.
Nothing can save us now but repentance. We must give up
trying to look respectable. As St. Paul told the
Corinthians, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of
you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you
should become “fools” so that you may become
wise.”

With repentance there is hope, even in the midst of death.
As we carry the corpse of western culture out to the
cemetery…as we see its promise end in
silence…perhaps we shall encounter Christ again, as
did the widow in today’s Gospel. He raised up Russia
after 70 years of atheist Bolshevism. He can do the same
for us.

So let us live in repentance, dear brothers and sisters of
Christ. Let us stop measuring with the world’s
measure, and learn to measure all things by the wood of
the cross—the only truly straight edge. Let us
embrace, as we are able, the foolishness of him who
foolishly gave himself utterly and completely to
ungrateful slaves. Let us embrace, to the degree we can,
the weakness and shame and scandal of the Cross. For as
our Bishop reminded us a few weeks ago, there can be no
resurrection Sunday without first knowing the pain of
Great and Holy Friday.

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