2013.6.16 sermon by Fr. Jonah
紀念第一次大公會議中的神聖教父 Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council （中英文）
Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council John 17:1-14
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. 6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. 9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world,I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
The Gospel for today is one of the most important and the most beautiful in the Church because it has the prayer of the High Priest, the prayer of Jesus Christ before he was arrested. This so important for us, and especially for people here, for Chinese people. Because many times when I teach here and I talk about eternal life, some people say to me, “I don’t want eternal life. I don’t want to live eternally, but to die and just disappear.” But Jesus Christ says to us today that eternal life is not something that starts after death, but it starts from now. It is so unique, what Jesus Christ says. And this is eternal life, He says to His Father, “To know You as the only God, the Father, and to know Him who sent Jesus Christ.” From this point of view we understand something unique: we had been thinking that eternal life is the soul, and when we die it lives forever. But it’s not this. Everybody, anyway, we all live by the Grace of God and the Love of God. But the Gospel says that eternal life is to know the Father.
This knowledge is not an intellectual knowledge, like we study and we know by our minds so many things. This knowledge, as the Bible says, is a participation. It is like the husband knows his wife in a very unique way. It is as the Apostle Paul knew Jesus Christ, because he said, “It is not me who live, but Jesus, who lives in me.” It is this kind of knowledge, and it is to know God and to have this communion and participation in the life of God, to know God not as an abstract power, as many people think today, “Oh, God, something abstract.” [waving his hands in the air], but to know Him as Father, as Communion. And we cannot know him as Father without knowing the Son, and to know the Son, we know Him not only intellectually, but because He became human and we open our bodies to receive Him through the Holy Communion. And this is the deepest knowledge that the Son of God wants to have for Himself. Someone could say, “And where is the Holy Spirit, why doesn’t He mention it.” But the Holy Spirit is that which makes us able and possible to have all this communion with God. Because, as the Bible says, “In Your light we will see light.” And only in the Holy Spirit can we know the Father and can we face the Son.
So this knowledge of God is the life of the Trinity that comes to us, and we should live this life, and we live this in the Church. So this is eternal life, to know the Holy Trinity. This is why in another chapter, in Chapter 6 Jesus Christ says, “He who has the body of Jesus Christ, He who knows and believes in Him, will not taste Death.” Because in this life already he already feels and starts the eternal life forever
And He says also, “Thank you Father because You sent me to this world, and I give everything, I did everything You said to me to do.” He says, “Glorify the Father as you glorify Me when I am with you.” And to glorify the name of the Father, “Father, glorify Your name.” But what kind of glory is Jesus asking for? Is it human glory, like “Glorify me because I am so good?” Of course, absolutely not. The word glory, voxa in the Bible, always has the meaning of glorifying, and worshipping and knowing God. And it ios the glory of the Name of God, because the name is a presence: the Name of God is not Mr. God, or Mr. Abcd, or something, but it is the Father and it is the glory and it is the uncreated energy of God that goes everywhere. And this Glory of God, the sikhina in Hebrew, was in Moses when God made Moses full of light. And Jesus Christ in the Transfiguration was full of this, and He allowed the disciples to see Him once as He was.
And when He says, “Glorify me Father,” what is the glory that He wants? It is the glory of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection and the glory of the Ascension. The Cross and the Resurrection and the Ascension and the Second Coming cannot be separated, but they are all different manifestations of the one Glory of God. And this Glory of God is not just for God, but to attract us and to unite us with God, with the mystery of the Holy Trinity. In the next Sunday, when our Church celebrates the Holy Trinity, we will say more about this; but today Jesus says, “Father, everything that is Yours is Mine, and everything that I have is Yours.” And He says “everything” because He prays for His disciples. And in praying for his disciples, He does not pray only for them, but in the same chapter (17:20-22), He prays for us. This why, please, when you go home, you should read Chapter 17. It is a prayer for us, and we must be very happy for this. And He says, “Father you gave to me these Disciples, and from you they were, and I kept them from the Word. And I did not lose any of them, except for the son of perdition (He means Judas.)” And why does he say this, because, yes, everything belongs to God – but it’s not everybody who is saved. God gives everything and everybody of us to the Son. But we are not just things. If we believe and we accept this, then we really belong to God. And this is why he mentions Judas, because Judas made his choice even though Jesus Christ many times told him not to do that.
But it is also important to understand this cooperation that we have with God. God is always coming to us. What it is for us to do is to open ourselves and say, “Yes, Lord, come.” To know God and to have eternal life, it is not enough just to know, but [it is necessary] to keep the commandments of God, as the Gospel says. Because in the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “He who keeps the commandments, Me and my Father will come and make a home in the heart of this person.” So, when we keep the commandments of God, it is not keeping a law, but it is a special way to make the Life of God practically in my heart and in my faith.
And Jesus says something that is so meaningful for our condition, He speaks about the unity. He says, “Father, make them One as We are one.” This unity, it is not a human unity, it is not like a unity of a political party or a nation or a religious group. It is the mystery of existence, It is the way of God, because God is a unity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one essence, one will, one power, and this unity in diversity is the way that we should live. But we don’t live in it, and this is the Fall. And when we live in it, this is Paradise. And we see the drama of human beings – that we are separated in space, in time. We understand ourselves by this separation, by coming out of the mother’s belly with cutting and crying, by a separation. And we want union, we want to love, to be united with somebody, a perfect union, and this is marriage. But death comes and separates us, and it is not only death that separates, but it is so many problems that we have. Now you understand how important and how deep is this way of existence that God is calling us to have. And this is what we are doing in the Church, and this is why we come to the Liturgy. Because in the Liturgy, finally, the Holy Spirit in the Body of Jesus Christ makes us One, even if we have human weaknesses and our own personalities with all the troubles that everyone has. And this is why, especially in the Liturgy of St. Basil, but in every Liturgy also, we say, “God, may all those who participate in Your Body to become One.”As the Holy Trinity – three Persons, one essence, humanity – many persons, one essence: the Body of Jesus Christ. And who is making this mystery? The Holy Spirit, which is in the Church, but we don’t see it, it’s invisible. From this point of view, it is so important to keep and to improve this unity.
Unfortunately, in the Church we have had so many bad situations and bad people, who broke this unity. The Church is so concerned with heretics not because of what they believe, but because they break the unity of the Body of Jesus Christ. And this is why today the Church, before the Sunday of the Holy Trinity next week – the Pentecost, the Church celebrates the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. It is because the Fathers protected the body of the Church, and they told heretics to go out because their belief does not lead to the unity of God, and to the knowledge of God, but it is out of the Church. So the Church is not only the Church of Jesus Christ; it is not only the Church of the Holy Spirit. It is the Church of the Apostles, and it is the Church of the Holy Fathers, who gave us and protected the faith and the unity of the Church. St. Alexandros, the bishop of Alexandria, saw a vision and he was crying when he say the cloth of Jesus Christ, which had been one piece of cloth without any cutting, split because of Arius, the heretic.
But we don’t talk only about these people [from the past]; we have the very sad privilege to see a split here, in our church. See what we read in the Epistle for today, Apostle Paul before he dies in Ephesus, in Miletus, he says, “I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come among you.” (And we saw the wolf coming from Hong Kong to destroy our church.) “And from among you, from your own selves, will arise men speaking covert things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” [Acts 20:29-30] to take out the people from the Church. Now we read the Epistle for today, and we saw them here, smiling, confessing on this balcony, and opening their mouth to receive the Body of Jesus Christ, and trying to split him, like Judas did. They play with the sacraments of Jesus Christ. And their leader did Liturgy here as Judas; he is the new Judas. So Apostle Paul, when he says this, and when we read the Bible, it’s not only for those people; it is here today. And today they will read these same things from the Bible. They are directed to them, but they say the lies that they are trained to say in front of God. And there is no bigger sin than to split the Church, as Chrysostom says. Even if someone who splits the Church becomes a martyr, God will not forgive him because he split the Church. And because there is no need: it is different from somebody having a personal weakness (I have even more than you.) and even to quarrel with others, it is not so good, but it is a personal weakness. But to destroy on purpose, and to plan for years to do this to the Church, trying secretly. Now, you can see their smiles and you can remember and you can understand.
But I also say that the Church is the Church of the Fathers, and I say this because some people say to me, “Oh, I don’t come to the church, but I have icons in my house and I can pray to God; that is enough.” This person who says these things is not an Orthodox person. He has some other religion, but not the Orthodox religion, because the Orthodox religion is a unity, all to be one in the Liturgy, and if you take this out then there is no other thing in the Orthodox Church. And what is Hell? It is separation. You see, many Fathers of the Desert say that Hell is not to see others, but just to live in individuality: this is Hell. So, from this point of view, it is very important to understand how deep is the unity.
And when we pray, we don’t say, “My Father who art in Heaven,” we say “Our Father.” Because even if I am alone in the mountains and I don’t see anybody, still the Father is the Father of my brothers, the Father of my enemies; it is God the Father. So from this point of view, try to keep the unity. And if we have the unity, Jesus prays to the Father, “To have my joy in them.” This is the joy of God that every Christian should have in bottom of his heart. Yes, we may have a lot of troubles, but in the heart, in the very center, we should have always the joy that is not from this world, it is the gift of Jesus Christ. He says at the end of the Gospel today, “Father I want to have my own joy in their hearts.” And this joy that is Jesus Christ you should keep in your heart. May the Holy Trinity protect us all.