митрополит Антоний Су́рожский (Блум)

Sermon For Unity

Praying for Unity

Our Lady of Victory

23 January 1985

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Scriptures tell us, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem because in the holy city there is fullness/wholeness,” not the Jerusalem of this earth but the city of God, the city where God and man shall be one, where there will be no death, no sin, whence darkness and pain, evil and agony will have fled away. And this city of God is the Church in which we believe, and indeed we must pray that this be given us as St. Paul puts it in his Epistle, it is not for us to build this city without the help of God, it is a gift of grace and yet grace even in our midst despite our sinfulness, grace is carried by us in the earthen vessels of our hearts and minds and of our lives, wills and bodies because we are called to give glory to God not only in our souls but in own very bodies. We must be each of us on earth a shining, a ray of the resplendence of the living God and this again we cannot achieve by our own strength; but has not the Lord spoken to St. Paul when he was asking for strength and has He not said to him, “My grace suffices unto Thee, My power is made manifest in weakness”? Not in our habitual weakness, sloth, cowardice, laziness but in another weakness, in the recognition of our frailty and in our surrender to the tenderness and to the strength of God, in our becoming transparent to the divine light so that indeed seeing our deeds, our lives, people may give glory to our Father who is in Heaven.

And so indeed we are right praying for unity – and yet praying is not enough. God does not work our salvation one-sidedly, as St. Paul again puts it, we are called to be co-workers with God. The effort, the endeavour, the faithfulness must be ours, the strength, the grace will be His. Co-workers with God… And to do this we must grow into that measure which will make us truly Christian. We cannot aim at becoming saints in the way in which the great saints of Christendom were holy but we can aim at being supple in the hand of God, being obedient to His will and make it possible for Him to work His saving will on earth.

Long ago already when we began to realise that no theological dialogue, no conversations, no mutual friendship, affection and recognition could recreate or rather create that unity of the Church, which we aim for, the then Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey said that the only solution was saintliness because it is only if and when Christians will become truly Christian that they will discover that they are one, not as a result of human efforts but as oneness in the living God. We can perceive this already now, in so many ways dividedness and oneness do not coincide with the frontiers of the various Churches. We can hear within the same Church words of a true proclamation of the Gospel and words which make us shiver in horror and reject the false, the lying message which is delivered in the name of God. When we pray together in one another service, we may ask ourselves how much are we at one, who are those who truly commune at that moment. It is not always the members of the local congregation or of the given denomination gathered together who are at one between themselves while visitors are separated from them, it is those who are truly immersed in prayer, those who are truly communing with God, who are at one with one another while their brothers and sisters of the same denomination whose mind wanders, whose hearts are cold and closed are alien to the very service which their Church is performing. We must learn to discern this mysterious oneness in Christ, in the Spirit, in God across all barriers while we still recognise that the barriers are there and that we are not only separated by the accidents of history but by loyalty to what is the truth as opposed to what we believe to be error or heresy. We are called to acquire the spirit of discernment but this can be done only if we become increasingly Christ’s own people possessed of the Holy Spirit of God, at one with Christ in thought, partakers of the mind of Christ, to use St. Paul’s words, become the temples of the Holy Spirit, partakers of the divine nature in the words of St. Peter.

And at every step each of us must ask himself, “Am I a Christian?” Of course we are Christian, we were baptised – but this is not enough. Baptism is like the sowing of a seed, this seed may have brought forth a harvest or none, it is a beginning, it is not a fulfilment. Indeed we receive communion, but don’t we remember the words, the warning words of St. Paul when he says that we must beware how we receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, lest we sin against them.

But it is not only in such lofty terms that we must examine ourselves. We must ask ourselves questions which we never ask ourselves because we take the answer for already secure in our minds and hearts. And the first question I would like to ask myself, which I do all the time, and suggest that each of us asks himself or herself is this. We read the Holy Gospel, we say, this is the word of God, we call it the Good News: now, to what extent is this Gospel news to us and good news? I am not speaking of theological statements about the incarnation of the Son of God, about the salvation of mankind through the Cross and the Resurrection, I am speaking of something much more direct and intimate. Reading the Gospel, hearing the Gospel day after day, have we ever perceived its newness and the fact that it has brought into our lives, into my life, each of us could say, something radically new and that this newness was good? that before that I lived in the twilight or in darkness and of a sudden light has shone, before that I lived without a meaning and now everything has acquired meaning, before that I was alone and of a sudden I discovered that I belong to a living body and that God’s own life flows in my veins that God’s own life pervades me, that I am a partaker of eternity already now and therefore I can face life and death without fear because life eternal is already me and what can do temporary death? And because having accepted death as liberation, as a door that opens up to eternity, as the only way for me to meet the Lord face to face in the wonderful encounter for which each of us longs knowingly or unknowingly.

So what is new in the Gospel for me? What newness had it brought? In the Book of Revelation Christ says, “Lo, I make all things new.” Has it made anything new in me, for me? If not, I must reconsider all I’ve believed about myself and all the experience I have of Christ, of the Holy Spirit of God, of God, my Father and Creator.

So this is the first question: is the Gospel news or an old tale, which I have inherited from centuries past of Christianity in my land and from my parents? or is it something which is new every day with the newness that belongs to eternity and which brings the dimension of God into the small space, which is the earth, and in small span of time, which is my life?

And again another question. We read twice in the Gospel once of Nathaniel, the another one time of Thomas the words “My Lord and my God”. What does it mean in my life, what is the lordship of God in my life? The lordship of God should mean that I listen with all the intensity of which I am capable, all the attention and passion which I can afford to whatever the Lord will say to receive it in my heart and to bear fruit of it. It means that I listen in order to hear and I want to hear in order to obey, to do, to be a doer and not only a hearer of the Gospel. Is that my attitude or is it that both in doctrine and in life, in behaviour, I try to adjust God’s own word so clear, so trenchant, which is like a sword that divides darkness from light? Do I try to water it down, to force it into a compromise with my lack of faith, my lack of devotion to God, do I try to make words of the Creed or words of the Gospel to mean what they never meant to those who wrote them?

We have just read aloud together the Apostle’s Creed. Why not test our faith by its words and ask ourselves, do I believe what I say? Did I believe that Christ was born of the Virgin? Do I believe that I expect, I long for (end of side A)

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