A sermon for Bright Week
The coronavirus and its consequences are very much on the minds of all of us today. Let those of us in Orthodox Church let us consider the question: Does the Coronavirus Restrictions deprive us of grace?
In his renowned conversation with Nicholas Motivilov, St Seraphim of Sarov has taught us that the aim of the Christian life is the acquisition of the grace of the Holy Spirit. He tells us that practicing virtues and ascetic endeavors bring us this grace and he instructs each of us to practice the virtues which bring us the most grace. Sometimes we see that God, in His providential care for us, causes our life to proceed in such a way that we may find ourselves involuntarily obliged to practice various virtues or ascetic endeavors at various periods of our life. Although the coronavirus restrictions distress and even scandalize many people, we might also be able to view this as an opportunity. This time can become for each of us an opportunity to practice patience and faith, and, in this way, to acquire grace.
So let’s begin with faith. St. Paul instructs us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) And again, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35-9)
If we have faith then we can exercise patience. The Lord said, “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19). So now is the Lord asking us to be patient? The Apostle Paul says, “We glory in tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). It is exactly when we are in such a state that we are prepared to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. So then, let us “be patient in tribulation” (Rom. 12:12), knowing that “that through many tribulations must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). In all the lives and ascetic writings of the Holy Fathers we see that “the kingdom of God” is not only hereafter but accessible here and now, and is synonymous for the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is risen and Eternal Life has shown forth from the tomb. Nothing can separate us from the Eternal Life God gives us. In the gospel reading for Pascha we hear: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. That was the true Light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:4, 9-13)
In contemplating this gift St. John the Theologians writes in his first epistle: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (IJohn 3:1). No one can this from us, therefore, let us rejoice in the good that God has given us.
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
And unto us He has given Eternal Life,
let us worship His resurrection on the third day.