Matthew 馬太福音9:1-8  Romans 羅馬書12:6-14

2013.8.4 sermon by Fr. Jonah

http://www.justin.tv/dao_love/c/2688965

今天的使徒書信寫得非常動人,它的內容既實際又中肯,與教會的日常生活緊密結合。在此,我想與各位分享它的內容。

使徒保羅在致羅馬人的書信中提到,教會中每個人都擁有上帝的恩賜。恩賜的種類繁多(例如「愛」就是其中一項。)每個人擁有的恩賜也不盡相同,然而,我們擁有一個共同的恩賜,就是「信仰」,這是上帝給我們最偉大的恩賜。

或許有人認為:「我沒有獲得任何恩賜。」這是絕對不可能的。我們的生命本身就是上帝珍貴的禮物。除了生命之外,美好的親情和友誼、我們所愛的人…等,這些都是上帝的恩賜,甚至,有時候,痛苦和挫折也是上帝的恩賜。我們可以藉由痛苦的經歷,參與、瞭解世界的苦難,這難道不是一個珍貴的禮物。由此可知,我們每個人,或多或少都擁有某些恩賜。

使徒保羅提到一些特別的恩賜,像是「先知」的恩賜。我們所說的「先知」,不只是預先知道明天或十年後會發生什麼事情。重點是,傳講上帝的訊息。初期教會的先知非常卓越,他們是宗徒最初的繼承人。每一個地區,總是在先知預言之後,就會出現一群人、持續不懈地(為教會)奉獻:他們擔任了主教、神父、執事…等職務。

在舊約中,先知們不僅預知未來,也預告當下這一刻。他們也會說過去的事情,例如:先知摩西告訴我們,過去上帝創造了世界。教會中的預言總是蘊藏在信仰之中,先知所說的話,無非不是為了建構信仰,幫助人們過著基督徒的理想生活。由古至今,先知們不斷向人們傳達上帝的旨意,從未間斷。

教會內總是有先知存在。今日,教會內仍有一些非常聖善的人,我曾經遇過這些人,像是Porphyrius神父,或是一些生活在阿陀斯聖山的隱修士。

此外,保羅還提到在教會內服務。在教會內,神父為教友服務,教友也為教會服務。總而言之,我們共同為上帝服務。我們應該謹記在心,我們來到教會是為人服務,而不是等著被別人服務。

中國是禮儀之邦,人們懂得怎樣的禮儀才合宜。我有一位朋友在台灣擔任教授,他的父親在美國哈佛大學任教,是一位有名的教授。他的兒子去哈佛大學讀書的時候,經濟非常充裕,然而,他的父親還是讓他去餐廳當服務生。有些人不能理解為什麼要這樣做,但是,這位哈佛大學的教授認為,讓孩子學習為別人服務,是一件非常棒的事情!在年輕的時候,如果沒有學會如何幫別人服務,等到步入婚姻之後,你要如何學會為丈夫或妻子服務?

人們在教會的言行,反映出他們平常(在教會外)如何對待別人。有些人在用餐時,用包包和衣服各占了一個座位,他們並不在乎別人是不是有位子可以坐,從這些行為可以看出,這些人的心態極度地傲慢與自私。

在教會還有另一件重要的事情,就是「教學」。這就是為什麼「證道」也包含在聖禮儀之內。在念誦福音之後,就是「證道」的時間,然而,我們把它挪到整個禮儀的最後,因為,很遺憾地,許多不太守時的人,總是姍姍來遲,為了讓他們也能聆聽珍貴的教理,所以只好把「證道」安排在最後。

並非每個人都可以在教會內擔任教師,向眾人介紹基督宗教和信仰的內涵,只有擁有教會的祝福的人,才能擔任此項工作。在教會內擔任教師,並不是隨便說一句:「來吧!基督教非常好,我展示給你們看看。」擔任教師最重要的,就是不要製造教會內的分歧,讓教友分裂成小團體。還有另一個重點,有學生才有教師。在教會服務,最令我苦惱的事情,就是人們來到教會追求許多東西,卻一點也不想聆聽教導。許多次,我在這裡發起每週五晚上的聖經研究課,人們來了一次之後就不來了,因為,他們還是想要利用小週末和朋友聚會、小酌一番。又有許多次,我們在台北車站附近的教室開設聖經研究課,因為,大家告訴我,新店太遠了,應該找一個交通方便的地方,結果,除了Pelagia之外,只有一位教友來上課。

基督宗教並非理論。我們不應該把教會藏在口袋裡面,以防萬一死後真的有來世,才拿出來使用。拒絕聆聽教會的教導,等於拒絕了耶穌基督的教導,把耶穌基督排拒在門外。這一點,還要懇請各位好好留意。

此外,保羅還提到了「安慰人心」:教會必須安慰人心,而教友之間也必須互相安慰。因為,很不幸的,今日的社會,許多人看到別人遭遇不幸,不但不會安慰別人,還會幸災樂禍、落井下石。現代心理學和許多當代思維都告訴我們,我們的心中有許多軟落、矛盾、問題,我們並不如自己想得這麼健全。例如:許多自卑的人,很喜歡攻擊身邊愛他們、幫助他們的人。為什麼呢?因為,他們知道,這些關愛他的人絕對不可能反擊。他們讓別人痛苦,並且把它當作是一種成就。這種相互折磨的模式,在現代人的家庭關係、感情關係、人際關係之中普遍存在。在我們的教會裡,我就觀察到許多這樣的例子。

我們自稱是東正教徒。東正教徒的身份,並不是一個面具,讓我們戴上之後才去教會。在中國,人們喜歡為團體製作制服。成為東正教徒,並不是穿上東正教會的制服,戴上東正教徒的面具,然後進到東正教會參加禮儀,等到禮儀結束、出了教會的門,就卸下這些裝扮。我們來教會,是為了治癒心靈的疾病,就算沒有完全痊癒,至少,讓自己變得更健全。

使徒保羅還談到了「領導」的能力,誠然,教會需要一些優秀的領導者。保羅說的「領導」並非一般的領導(例如:我是台北基督正教會的負責人,我的領導人是主教。)事實上,「領導」指的是「率先為教會做事情」。例如:Johanna是主動為教會唱頌讚美詩的第一人,也是主動為教友準備食物的第一人。值得留意的是,在教會服務時,我們不該太強勢、凡事都依照自己的主張來行事,因為這樣一來,即使我們做了許多良善的工作,也會失去自己的靈魂。舉例來說:若是某位教友為教會烹煮食物,同時,又批評別人都不願意幫忙清理廚房,這樣就失去了自己善良的本心。Johanna曾經說,她是為了上帝的子民而烹煮食物。

每個人都可以發揮領導權。然而,我們應該明白,「領導」並不是一件輕鬆的事情。教會的領導者,心中總是滿懷熱忱與愛,經歷千辛萬苦,才能承擔起重大的責任。今天,我們能夠擁有這個場地舉行聖禮儀,並且在聖禮儀中享有上帝的平安與愛,這是許多領導者用心付出的成果。使徒保羅說:「你們可能很難瞭解,我來到這裡,準備好所需的一切,背後必須付出多少努力、承擔多少苦痛。所以,我很需要你們的祈禱。」

使徒保羅還談到「仁慈」,這也是我經常提起的主題。念誦「求主憐憫我」的同時,我們應該提醒自己,「我」不只是自己,還代表了其他人。擁有仁慈和善解的美德,才稱得上是一位基督徒。St. Issac the Syrian曾說:「什麼是純潔的心靈?一顆純潔的心靈會因為對所有人、所有受造物的愛而燃燒。」我們對萬物的愛,對動物、石頭…的愛,都會讓我們的心變得炙熱。充滿愛的心靈就是純潔的心靈。

我不敢奢求各位給我友誼或包容,我只奢求各位給我一點點的愛。生活並不容易,因為,我們的生活已經失去了愛,處處充滿了誤解。但是至少,我們可以用一種美好的態度來生活。就算我們無法保持這種美好的生活態度,也要在心中保有一點仁慈,至少我們不該傷害任何人。我們都應該不斷練習,用仁慈的心來過生活。

以上內容,都是使徒保羅與我們分享的教導,它們都是非常實用的提醒,我們應該好好去實踐。關於實踐的方法,在此,我想要向各位說明一下。

使徒保羅說,每個人都應該擁有「philadelephi」,它的意義是「愛身邊所有人,把他們當作自己的兄弟姊妹一般。」我們來到教會,不應該把彼此當作陌生人,好像恰巧在這裡遇到、坐在隔壁的路人甲。為了不用有任何交集,我們轉過身去,甚至連「你好」都不說一聲。我們應該練習把所有人當成兄弟姊妹,如果一開始這樣做很困難,至少我們不要對對方充滿敵意。我鼓勵各位買一個出氣包放在家中,就像是練習打拳擊的那種沙包。如果你很想攻擊,就攻擊這個出氣包,不要攻擊別人。我們可以把氣發在這個出氣包上面,而不要把氣發在太太、先生、朋友或其他人身上,這就是心理學所說的「解離」。

為什麼我們要把所有人當作自己的兄弟姊妹?因為,〈主禱文〉中寫到「我們在天上的父」,而不是「我在天上的父」。上帝是我們的天父,然而,祂的孩子不只我,還有其他人。我們來到教會不僅僅是為了耶穌基督,當然,我們是為了耶穌基督而來,我們也為了耶穌基督的大家庭。教會裡面的這群人,並不是每個星期日早上十點半就會聚在這裡的陌生人,禮儀結束之後就鳥獸散。我們之間雖然不是常常聯絡,但是藉著祈禱,我們永遠都在上帝的愛中緊密相連。祈禱的思惟,連成一個愛的網絡,在這網絡的背後就是上帝,祂愛我們所有人,將我們合為一體,祂說:「非常好,我的孩子彼此相愛!」

使徒保羅也談到「榮耀」,我們應該敬重每一個人、把榮耀送給每一個人。每個人都是值得尊敬的。上帝非常尊重每個人,祂甚至願意成為人類。(想像一下,自己變成一種非常骯髒的生物,像是老鼠或蟑螂。如果是你願意嗎?)然而,我們往往不太尊重上帝。無論你覺得某人很好或很壞,我們都應該尊敬他,因為上帝愛他,他是上帝的肖像,沒有人可以改變這個事實,即使是魔鬼也無法改變。

有時候,我覺得很遺憾,因為,身為基督徒,我們常常忽略了人應有的禮儀。我非常敬仰日本人的禮儀,他們遇到人總是不自覺地深深鞠躬。禮儀當中往往蘊藏了深刻的神學,我們對聖像畫敬禮,我們也應該對人敬禮,因為人類是更神聖的聖像。(此時,神父的手指向教會內的聖像畫。)

使徒保羅談完對別人的尊重和禮貌之後,又談到一個重要的主題,就是「懶惰」。懶惰可以摧毀一切。我們對於上帝的熱忱不應該被懶惰減弱。我的屬靈父親Porphyrius神父曾經教導我一件非常重要的事情:所有的藉口都起於懶惰。剛開始,我們對自己說:「等一下再做好了。」之後又告訴自己:「明天再做好了。」兩天之後,我們什麼都沒有完成,魔鬼也漸漸進入我們的生活中。身為基督徒,我們應該鍛鍊自己、告訴自己:「我現在就去做,明天還有明天該做的事情。」我們的生活需要計畫和訓練,也需要一些所謂的「標記」提醒自己:我的做法成功嗎?這一週我有沒有變得更好?我有沒有修正自己的壞習慣?

談到「教會的愛」讓我想起一件事情,去年我們出版了一本關於「婚姻」的書,並且請大家幫忙流通。那是一本很好的、免費的書,但是,我發現只有兩個人幫忙把書送出去。我希望各位都能發自內心為教會做一點事情,不一定要捐款,我從來沒有要求各位捐款,只希望大家都為教會貢獻一點點心力。

我們應該透過不斷地練習與實踐,才能在基督宗教的道路上精進,如果一個人沒有任何鍛鍊,根本就不可能有任何進步。基督宗教並非紙上談兵的信仰,我們無法拿出一個身份證件證明自己是東正教徒。唯有藉著不斷地實踐、每日付出努力、盡自己的一份力量為教會做些事情,才能讓自己變得比昨天更好,因為,我們都不是孤獨一人,而是教會的一份子。教會就是耶穌基督,祂此時此刻就與我們同在,我們是一個共同體。

使徒保羅也說,我們的生命應該懷抱喜悅和希望。我們往往忘記這一點,許多人認為,基督徒都是一群帶著罪惡感、喜歡讓自己受苦的人。在台灣,我在一所神學院教授聖禮儀的神學。有一位學生問我:「神父,您教導這麼美妙的神學,為什麼都沒有談到罪?」我發現,這位學生的心中充滿了「罪」的思想,他認為自己舉手投足都是罪,我委婉地建議他,或許他可以尋求心理師的幫助。因為,基督徒應該是常常喜悅的,因為我們知道,上帝深愛著我們,我們領聖餐,上帝總是與我們同在,除此之外,還有什麼事情能夠比得上上帝的愛?在我們此刻的生命裡,甚至是來世的生命裡,再也沒有比「與上帝合一」更棒的事情了。

使徒保羅也談到,我們應該祝福那些迫害別人的人,不應該一直譴責他們。保羅一直告訴羅馬人,羅馬的教會並沒有受到迫害。保羅還提到,人們常常為了金錢或其他事物爭吵不休,甚至詛咒別人:「你偷拿我的錢,你的下場一定很慘。」有些人把詛咒的話語掛在嘴邊,每天都不斷詛咒、詛咒、詛咒,當然,這是非常不好的。

教會會將一些刻意分裂教會的異端人士逐出教會,甚至,頒布命令驅逐他們(在嚴重的情況下),這種作法並不是一種詛咒或懲罰,而是要保護我們的教會和教友,並且,幫助那些人瞭解,他們之所以被逐出教會,是由於他們不適當的行為。

讓我在此做個總結。我認為,對基督徒來說,最重要的永遠是「愛」。沒有愛,我們就不能算是基督徒。「愛」是最困難的事情,也是最容易的事情。為什麼呢?許多人自稱願意為了自己愛的人拋棄生命,但是,和自己愛的人同居一週,甚至是一天,都無法忍受。因為,他們不願意犧牲自己、成全對方的喜好,所以選擇犧牲對方。

基督宗教所說的「愛」就是上帝。要說明這個概念並不容易,隨便說一句「喔!我就是愛你。」並沒有任何意義。就算我們無法做到真正的愛,至少,我們不該傷害身邊的弟兄姊妹。如果我們能夠做到這一點,就可以試著鼓勵自己,幫別人一點忙、多瞭解別人一點,或是,花一點時間為別人祈禱。日積月累,真正的愛就會在心中開花結果。

培養心中的愛必須循序漸進,沒有速成的方法。如果想要培養心中的愛,應該時時提醒自己:隨便說一句「我愛你,我願意為你而死!」很容易,但是,真正與對方生活在一起、凡事為對方著想、犧牲自己的喜好來成全對方,卻是無比困難。基督宗教最重要的理念就是「愛」。讓我們試著實踐它。我們所有人都應該為了這個目標而努力。

願聖三守護我們每一位。阿門。

2013.08.04 Romans 12:6-14 The Christian Practice

Romans 12:6-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

 

I wanted to remind you that [the day after tomorrow ], on the sixth of August we celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, but because that is just a normal day and you work, we will have Divine Liturgy and a celebration on Monday at 8:00 PM we will have the Liturgy here. Please come.

 

Today I wanted to say a few things from the Epistle because it was so beautiful, so useful and so practical, and because it has to do with the everyday life of the Church. The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans and he gives practical advice. He speaks first about the gifts that everybody has in the Church. There are different gifts: not everybody has the same gifts in the Church. Of course we all have the gift of faith, which is a great gift of God; this is the same. And there are many other gifts that we should have, which is love, of course, as we will discuss later.

But somebody could say, “Well, I don’t have any gift.” That is impossible; everybody has a gift of God. Even our life is a very precious gift of God. And not only our life, but our relationships, the people we love, everything we love, it’s a gift of God. Also, even to suffer is a gift. If somebody says, “I’m not rich, I have nothing.” Even to suffer and take this suffering, not cursing God but taking this suffering as participating in the suffering of the world, it’s a very great gift. And so everybody has something.

        Apostle Paul here speaks first about some special gifts and then about the gift that everybody must have. The first he mentions today is the gift of prophecy. When we say prophesy, we must understand that prophecy is not just to say what will happen tomorrow or what will happen after ten years. It can be this, of course, but the most important thing is to proclaim the word of God. In the early Church, prophecy was very strong, and the first successors of the Apostles were the prophets. And after the prophets later we see people permanently established in places: the bishops, the priests, the deacons and so on. But even in the Old Testament, the prophets did not only speak about the future, but about the present, because they say what is the will of God for me, for you, for everybody to do today.

And prophecy is also about the past. For example, Moses is a prophet, but he spoke about the past, how God created the world. So the Church has prophecy, but this prophesy is within the faith: the prophet is doing whatever he is doing in order to establish the faith and the Christian life.

The Church always has prophets. Today, there are still holy people, who are holy people in the Church; I have met people like that. Father Porphyrius and other people I met on Mount Athos, there were prophets among between them. And the other thing that Apostle Paul says is about serving in the Church. Serving is not only that I serve, of course, God; all of us understand that we serve God. This is why many times that we that we have a service today, you see, a service of God. And also, the priest serves you. You don’t serve the priest, but altogether we serve God. So we must remember this thing, that in the church we serve, and we must keep the idea that we serve, not that we come here to be served. And it is very important, especially in the Chinese world, that people know li [sometimes translated politeness or ritual] how to serve. A friend of mine, who is a professor here in Taiwan, told me that his father was a very famous professor in Harvard and he took his son to study in Harvard, but he put him to work as a waiter in a restaurant. And some other people asked why, since he had enough money, he put his son to work serving other people? He said, “He will learn how to serve. This is a very great thing” If we don’t learn how to serve when we are young, later when you are married how will you learn how to serve each other?

The way that people behave in the church reflects the way they behave with each other outside the church. The way that we eat and the way that we sit and we may take one seat for my bag and one for my clothes, and I don’t care that other people may not have a seat – this shows very practically the ultimate pride.

Another thing in the Church that is very important is teaching, and this is why the sermon is actually part of the liturgy. It should come after the Gospel, but we do it at the end of the service because, unfortunately, many people do not come at the proper time, but at least we do it.

But to teach in the Church, it and it is not everybody to be a teacher. It is not for everybody to introduce Christianity, our faith, to others; you must have the blessing of the Church. It is different to say, “Christianity is very good. Come, I will show to you.”: but not to create different small denominations in the Church. And also, another point is that the teacher must have students: if the people don’t want the teaching, what’s the point of the teachings? It is very important that people want the teachings. My very painful experience is that many people want anything except the teachings of the Church. Many times I tried to have Bible study here, but the people would only come once; all the other Fridays they would go out to drink beer. And other times, when we did it in the Taipei Main Station because people said it was not easy to come here, only two people from the church, Pelagia and another one, were coming, nobody else.

So I say it is very important that Christianity is not a theory; the Orthodox Church is not something we have in our pocket just in case of the next life. The refusal of teaching is a refusal of Jesus Christ’s teaching, and of Jesus Christ himself. So once more, I remind you from the painful experience of this church, please consider again.

And another thing that Paul says today is about comfort: that the Church must comfort and the people of the Church must comfort each other. Because unfortunately today many people not only don’t comfort – when they see somebody suffering they beat him more. There are many things that even modern psychology says about people, that we are not as good as we think we are. And we have a lot of weakness in our heart, and a lot of complexes, a lot of problems. Many people, for example, have a complex of feeling low self-esteem. The result is to attack everybody who helps them and everybody who really loves them. Why attack a person who loves them? Because they know that that person loves them and will not attack them back; they would not dare to do this to other people who don’t care for them. And of course in doing this they feel that they can do something, they can make the other suffer, and that is an achievement. (Actually, here in our church I have seen this many times.) And it is a very painful achievement.

We must understand that because we say that we are Orthodox, this Orthodoxy is not a mask that we put on to come to church. Many Chinese people like to have a uniform, but Orthodoxy is not having a uniform and coming here dressed in a special way, putting on an Orthodox mask that you take off when you go out the door. So we bring our diseases to the church to be cured, or at least to be less – not to be more. This torturing, which is so common today, continues to the family, to friends, to every human relationship.

And the Apostle Paul also speaks about leadership because, of course the Church needs some leadership. And this leadership is not only a leadership, for example, of who is responsible here: I am the leader here and my leader is the bishop. It is not only this. Leadership is everybody to start to do something. For example, I can speak of Johanna because she is not here. She started singing and cooking. We must be careful because when you do something in the church you should not consider that it is about you, and you control everything, because if we do this we will lose our soul in every good thing we do. Fore example, if you cook food for the church, but then you judge and condemn the others because they don’t clean anything and don’t care, you will lose your soul. Johanna actually says she cooks for the children of God.

So leadership is for everybody. And you should understand that the leader is not to give everybody an easy target because you don’t know how much struggle, how much love, how much pain the leader has to live here and take the responsibility of the church. There are many, many things that you don’t know, that are necessary so that this Liturgy can be peaceful and at least there is a place where it can be done with the peace and the love of God. As Apostle Paul said, I need your prayers because it’s not easy to come here and find everything; you don’t know how much pain is behind.

And now Apostle Paul speaks about something else, which I will say many times because he speaks of it. Mercy, you must have mercy. And when we say, “Lord have mercy,” we must remember to have mercy on each other. Mercy and understanding. A Christian who is not merciful is not Christian. St. Issac the Syrian ays, “This is the pure heart: to have your heart be burning for mercy to every person and every creature” for the birds, for the animals, for the stones, for everything..A merciful heart is a pure heart. And I would dare to ask only mercy from you. It is so difficult to ask for friendship. It is so difficult to ask for understanding. All that I can ask for is a little bit of mercy. Life is very hard; it is merciless. We know that there are always misunderstandings, and they will be for as long as the world exists. But at least we could have a good attitude, or if we don’t have a good attitude but if we have a merciful heart, at least we will not strike the others. So it is something that we must be trained in, to have mercy. For all these things we hear of from the Apostle today, and they are such practical things, we must have training. I will say more about this training later, but I will remind you about it now.

Paul says now for everybody to have philadelephia, which means to have brotherly love, to consider each others as brothers and sisters here, not to come here just like strangers you happen to see because they happen to sit in the next chair, and not to say even hello. And because of this, we must train ourselves to consider everybody as our brother or sister. If we cannot consider someone as our brother, at least we should not consider him as our enemy, or as the object of our torture. I was thinking to encourage you to buy punching bags, like the ones they use for boxers to train, so you could have in your house something to hit, because if you hit this bag then you will not hit your friend, your wife, your husband, or anybody else. From a psychological standpoint, this is disassociation, so if you need to beat something, beat this, don’t beat another person.

Why do I say that we must consider everybody as our brother or sister? Because we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” our Father, not my Father. We can never forget that if God is our Father, he has other children. So we come to the Church not only for Jesus Christ. Of course we come for Jesus Christ, but we also come for the family of Jesus Christ, to meet our brothers and sisters. And meeting our brothers and sisters, we meet God. So the Church is a family; it is not just a group of people who come here on Sundays at 10:30 and then leave. It’s not that. And even if we are not together, we are always connected by the love of God and by our prayers: “How about you? How about her, God and everybody pray for me.” It a network of prayers. And again behind these prayers is God himself; who loves us all and unites us and he says “My children, they love each other, this is good.”

Apostle Paul also says about the honor we must give to everybody. There is no one here who is so low that he should not be respected. God respected us so much that He became like us, He became human. But we don’t respect God. If you imagine yourself becoming something very dirty, like a rat or a cockroach. No matter how bad or good someone is, we must respect him because God loves him, and he is an icon of God, and nothing, not even the Devil can take this away. I feel many times very sorry that, as Christians, we don’t have the politeness that human beings should have: to prefer the other, to say, “Sit, please,” to be very polite. I admire so much the Japanese people who bow in front of everybody. Even though they don’t know this, it is a very theological thing because, just as we bow in front of the icons we should bow in front of human beings, who are even holier icons then these [pointing to icons in the church].

So, having this politeness, Apostle Paul also speaks about something that is very important, and that can blow up everything – this is laziness. We must be very fast, our minds zealous for God, not to be lazy. My spiritual father, Father Porphyrius taught me something very important, that reason for all these things is laziness. We start a little bit, saying, “We will do this later, or tomorrow.” And after two days we gradually start to lose everything and evil things gradually start to come in. This is the Christian training, to say “I will do something now and tomorrow I will do what I have planned to do tomorrow.” All these things, I say, need training, need a program in our life, need to have – let’s say – some marks to see: did I succeed in some way, did I become a little bit better this week, did I correct some bad attitude that I have?

I remember, about the love of the Church, last year we put out that book about marriage. I gave it to people and said for people to give it to all of their friends. But I think only two persons gave it, no one else. And it was free and a good book. So the training that we should do something for the church, not giving money – you see we do not ask for money – but a little bit from your heart. And again I say, without training, forget about it, you cannot improve in Christianity. Christianity is not just an intellectual belief, like “I am Orthodox, I have a card here that says I am Orthodox.” It’s not like this. It is this practical, everyday struggle to do something, to become better than yesterday, and to do something for the Church because we are not just individuals, because the Church is Jesus Christ, here, now.

And Apostle Paul also says that we should have joy and hope in our lives. We forget many times about this, and many people think that Christians are those who are always feeling guilty and suffering. I went to a theological school here in Taiwan to introduce the Liturgy, and somebody told me that in introducing such beautiful things about the liturgy, I had not said anything about guilt. I told him that he should see a doctor because he cannot live without thinking about guilt, so he needs some psychological support. Christians must have happiness because God loves us, and we know this, and we take the Holy Communion, and we have Him in our heart, what more could there be than this? There is nothing greater than the Holy Communion in this life, or in the next life, nothing greater.

Apostle Paul also says to bless those who persecute others, and not to curse them. Apostle Paul is speaking to the Romans, and the Church in Rome was not yet persecuted at this time. He is speaking about the everyday quarrels that happen between people, about money or other things. Many people may curse others and say, “May something bad happen to you because you took my money,” or things like that. Of course, this is a very bad thing. There are people who have this as a habit, and they say for everything, curse, curse, curse. A Christian should not curse, but rather bless. Of course it is a different thing when the Church condemns by excommunication or by aphorism (which is much stronger) people who split the Church or who are heretics. This is done not because of punishment, but to help these people understand that what they are doing is putting them out of the Church, and to protect the others in the Church.

Most of all – and I will finish with this – is that Christians must always have love. Without love, we are not Christians. But this can be the most difficult thing, which is also the simplest thing. But it is so difficult because anyone can say, “I can die for you.” But i could not live with you for even one day or one week. I would crucify you after one week, but when I am apart from you I think I could die for you. When we speak about love, we must understand that we speak about God. It is not so easy. And we must simply have the words , “Oh, I have love.” This is nonsense. If we don’t try every day, if not to have love, we should at least try not to crucify our brothers or sisters, not to hit them. Later, try to help him a little bit, try to understand him a little bit. And later pray a little for him. This is how real love comes; there is no other method. So if we want really to have love, remember this: how easy it is for somebody to say, “I could die for you,” but I could not live with you. Love is the most important thing in Christianity. Try. All of us must try. May the Holy Trinity protect all of us. Amen