The Fullness of Time - A Homily on Patient Endurance for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (2021)

January 07, 2021

The Fullness of Time - A Homily on Patient Endurance for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (2021)

 

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

Introduction

Today, you who are sick from the pleasures of this world, thirsty in this barren desert, hungry from the secular diet; your Physician has been born to give health to your soul;

Today, you who are barren and made sterile by our present world, the Giver of Life has come;

Today, you who are bereft of virtue, behold the author of your course and encourager in the race;

Today, you who live in darkness, the New Day has dawned with the rising of the day star in your heart;

Today, you who are dead, Life has come into the world;

Today, when the crowds declare that God is dead, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, in unison, declare, “Christ Immanuel is born!”

Narration

Christ is born, but only after about six thousand years after our first parents, as the Church counts it. Throughout these years, the Hebrew Scriptures have always heralded His birth.

From the Book of Genesis when the Lord promises Adam and Eve that Satan would be overcome when He says to them that the serpent’s head would be bruised (Gen. 3.15);

to the Book of Numbers when the Lord promises a Star out of Jacob and a Scepter out of Israel (Num. 24.17);

from the Prophet Micah through whom the Lord promises a ruler from Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5.2);

to the Prophet Daniel that a stone would become a great mountain and fill the whole earth (Dan. 2.35);

to the Prophet Isaiah, through whom the Lord promises a root from the tree of Jesse upon Whom the Spirit of the Lord will rest (11.1-2), when He will be born from a virgin (7.14), and Who will be called the Prince of Peace (9.6).

Partitio

God has made promises and continues to make promises. Whether the promises relate to the coming of the Messiah, the Second Coming of the Lord, or in response to our prayers, He will fulfill His promises in his own time. Until that time, we are asked to be patient and not depend on our own understanding, but trust in the Lord and He will direct our ways (Prov. 4.5-6).

The Virtue of Patience

Why is patience a virtue?

Patience is a virtue because, when nurtured, it produces hope in God and leads to a love for God that is sweeter than life itself.[1] When combined with courage, it puts to rest wrath and anger.[2]

The Fathers unanimously say that patience is a fruit of the fear of God and of faith in God - fearing to break the Lord’s commandment and therein grieve Him; and faith in the promises that He has given us in the Scriptures. Ultimately, patience is a fruit of understanding – understanding how God works in our life and how he has worked in the life of those we find in the Scriptures because this is our experience of Him.

In addition, St. Peter Damascene uniquely observes that patience is the consolidation of all the virtues because without it, not one of the virtues can come to full bloom but will wither prematurely.[3] Even if one should receive many divine gifts, only he who patiently endures life’s afflictions will obtain the fruit thereof, not those who flee from God or give way to faintheartedness, for, as the Lord says, only he who patiently endures to the end will be saved (cf. Matt. 10.22).

The Lord encourages our patience

However, we are not abandoned to patience because the Lord seeks to fortify us in our patience, to support us, and not let us grow despondent as we wait for what is not yet manifest. The jar of manna, the rod that budded, the tablets of the Law, all witnessed to God’s care for Israel. Mirrored in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says Christ not only left us words, but He also left His Apostles and Disciples whose teaching was confirmed with many signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 2.4), through which Christ desired to strengthen those Christians. The Apostle Paul, though persecuted, tortured, and left for dead, assures us that if we know the love of God, then we will know that nothing, nothing whatsoever, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8.39).

The trial of patience

Perhaps, though, our patience is being tried, and we are feeling the tension, the pulling, a certain crush. St. Isaac notes,

Every adversity and affliction, if not accompanied by patience, produces double torment; for a man’s patience casts off his distress, while faintness of heart is the mother of anguish. Patience is the mother of consolation and is a certain strength which is usually born of largeness of heart.[4]

And how do we acquire such patience? He answers: ardent prayer and tears – plead with God for patience and to be able to endure such trials, for how else can we overcome. If we lose courage and become fainthearted, if we turn from God into the hands of the devil, we will suffer at the hands of one who lies to us, gives us deceiving thoughts, and seeks to destroy us.

Pillars of Patience

Recall the patience of St. Symeon the God-bearer to whom it was promised that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ, which then came three hundred years later. The same is true for the Prophetess Anna, who served in the Temple for eighty-four years, waiting for the Consolation of Israel. It is to the virtue of patience that we are encouraged in the Parable of the Wise Virgins who kept their lamps lit, always working for Christ until they should finally hear, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh” and blessed is he who is found watching, who is not neglectful of his salvation, and who did not become fainthearted waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

The Hope of the Impatient

Such is the lot of the righteous. For us, though, who are impatient, weak, slothful, lazy, complainers, and bedazzled by the glitter of the world, there still remains hope, namely repentance and hope in the mercy of God. Like the sunflower whose face always turns towards the sun, we must always look to Christ. But is this an unwarranted hope? God forbid, for as King David, that lyre of the Spirit, says, “for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” (Ps. 130.7).

Be patient – with yourself, with your brother.

God is patient with us. Despite our many passions, despite our many falls, God is patient with us.

A brother asked Abba Poimen: “If someone falls into sin and repents, does God forgive him?” Pensively, Abba Poimen answered: “Would not He, Who gave to men the commandment that they must forgive, Himself fulfill it? It is well known that He gave an order to the Apostle Peter to forgive those who do wrong and repent, even seven times seventy.”[5]

A certain brother asked Abba Sisoes:

“Counsel me, Father, for I have fallen into sin. What am I to do?”

The Elder said to him: “When you fall, get up again.”

With bitterness, the sinning brother continued: “Ah! Father, I got up, yet I fell to the same sin again.”

The Elder, so as not to discourage the brother, answered: “Then get up again and again.”

The young man asked with a certain despondency: “How long can I do that, Father?”

The Elder, giving him courage, answered the brother: “Until the end of your life, whether you be found in the commendable attempt at lifting yourself up from sin or falling again into it. For wherever it is that a man is found at the last moment of his life on earth, whether it be in things good or things evil, there he will be judged, going forth either to punishment or to reward.”[6]

Judas lacked patience, says St. Peter of Damascus, and because of his inexperience in spiritual warfare suffered a double death (temporary and eternal). Peter, chief of the apostles, possessed patience, being an experienced warrior, and when he fell, he defeated the devil who had overthrown him.[7]

CONCLUSION

In God’s time, if the temptations do not cease, we will learn how to deal with them. In God’s time, His grace will be manifest. In God’s time, the day star will rise in our hearts. If you have been waiting for the Consolation of Israel to enlighten your darkened heart, to enliven your numb soul, to grant youthfulness to your old spirit, He will.

Beloved Fathers and Brothers, Mother and Sisters, “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4.4); “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isa. 9.6), and He will be with us until the end of the world (Matt. 28.20). Amen.

CHRIST IS BORN!

 

[1] The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011), 439.

[2] Cf. St. Theodoros the Great Ascetic, “A Century of Spiritual Texts” and St. Maximos the Confessor, “Four Hundred Texts on Love,” in The Philokalia, eds. and trans. G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware. (London: Faber & Faber, 1981), I:18, 53.

[3] “Twenty-four Discourses” in The Philokalia, eds. and trans. G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware. (London: Faber & Faber, 1981), III:221.

[4] The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011), 344.

[5] The Evergetinos: The Complete Text. eds. And trans. Archbishop Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Patapios. (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008), I:6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Twenty-four Discourses” in The Philokalia, eds. and trans. G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware. (London: Faber & Faber, 1981), III:222.




Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Sermons & Homilies

Let This Mind Be In You - A Sermon for the Nativity of the Mother of God (2021)
Let This Mind Be In You - A Sermon for the Nativity of the Mother of God (2021)

September 21, 2021

The way of Christ-like humility is the way of the Cross, which is foolishness to the world and deeply repugnant to our fallen ego. For the ego considers its own rights to be non-negotiable, its own life and activity essential.

Continue Reading

The Gospel - A Homily on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost
The Gospel - A Homily on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost

September 12, 2021

The gospel is what Jesus preached and what his disciples and apostles expounded, and about which the Apostle Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” why?

Continue Reading

A Shortcut to Heaven and a Shortcut to Hell - A Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost
A Shortcut to Heaven and a Shortcut to Hell - A Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost

September 05, 2021

My brothers and sisters, we have just heard one of the most important Gospel parables which the Lord ever spoke. At the heart of the Christian religion is forgiveness — and how our hearts yearn for such forgiveness! For who among us does not know — at least somewhere in the depths of our heart — that we too owe just such an immeasurable debt as did the servant in today’s Gospel? Who among us does not feel — at least from time to time — the same sense of complete desperation, the sense that it is utterly beyond our power to set aright all the countless mistakes we have made in our lives, to mend all that we have broken, to heal all the harm that we have done? Who among us does not realize — at least in moments of honest sobriety — that there is nothing left for us to do than to fall down before God and beg for mercy?

Continue Reading