St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church

The weekly homilies are now also available on YouTube in video format:  Homilies

7/7 - She Who Before Was Barren - Fr. Matthew Garrett

The first thing that God said to Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis was “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” Many have naturally taken this to refer to procreation, to the begetting of children in the union of marriage.

Today, we celebrate the Nativity of the honorable, glorious, prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. And we heard in the hymns and the gospel reading for today about the barrenness of his mother Elizabeth. When she finally conceived a son in her old age, she said that the Lord had taken away her reproach among people. 

The Lord told the Israelites that if they would keep His commandments and obey His voice, that no one would suffer miscarriage or be barren in their land. By implication then, it was assumed that there must be something wrong with those who are denied the fruit of the womb. And yet in the examples of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, the wife of Manoah, Anna the mother of the Theotokos, and Elizabeth, we see that so often, children are not merely the natural fruit of the womb, but are the fruit of intentional prayer.

The same commandment is given to all the descendents of Adam and Eve. We are all called to fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply, to replenish the earth and subdue it. Some will fulfill it in the natural sense by begetting children, and some in a spiritual sense. Indeed, it is the spiritual sense that is more important by far.

The Great Commission of our Lord given to His disciples just before His Ascension into the Heavens was “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” The disciples were given grace to show fruit in their spiritual lives, and called to multiply the believers in Christ’s Church by begetting spiritual sons and daughters through Holy Baptism, and to subdue the whole earth, not by conquest, but by teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded.

When we look at Saint John the Forerunner, we see that he was the fruit given to a formerly barren womb, but that he was then planted in the desert. Rather than withering and dying in such a desolate and barren place, he flowered, and put forth more fruit. When some of the Pharisees and Sadducees came seeking baptism without real repentance, he scolded them saying, “do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

When we seek to overcome our barrenness and bear good fruit, we must not trust in ourselves, but in God, but we must labor for it. There is a curious passage in Mark’s gospel in which our Lord goes to a fig tree, and finding no fruit on it, He curses the tree and it withers. But we are told in the passage that it was not the season for figs. How can our Lord expect fruitfulness when we are barren, or when it is not the right season? He expects this because He can make the barren womb fertile, He can raise up children from stones, and he can make us bear fruit at any time if we are willing. We must be ready in season and out of season.

Living in such a way may seem impossible to our foolish and unbelieving hearts, but the testimony of the Church is that with God all things are possible. Last week because it was the Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrated the Feast of All Saints, and we saw that the Great Commission has been fulfilled in all nations even if there is still more work that can be done by those of us here and now. On this second Sunday after Pentecost, we would usually celebrate the Saints of local veneration, those of the Russian and North American Lands. This year, because of the importance of the feast of the Nativity of the Forerunner, we will celebrate those Saints next Sunday, but it is a marvelous thing that wherever the gospel is preached, whether it is to barren lands, in the desert, or in fertile lands, even when the world around us is hostile to the faith, that gospel still bears fruit, because God is with us “always, even to the end of the age.”

God stands ready to help us, but if we want to find fruit in our own souls, we must be like Zachariah and Elizabeth, righteous before God and walking blameless in the Lord’s commandments. Like them we must be prayerful, and tend to our duties. We must pay attention to the way that Zachariah was struck deaf and dumb for his mistrust of God, and seek to always trust in the promises of God even when they seem impossible.

Keep the commandments, not merely the Ten Commandments, but everything from the first commandment that our Lord Jesus Christ gave in the gospels, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” to the last command, the Great Commission. Choose to turn the other cheek, to bless those who curse you, to love your enemies, to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and hear the voice of the Lord Who says, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”

This is the means by which we go from being barren to being God-bearers. This is the means by which we bear Christ into all nations, by first having Him dwell in us. Seek to do all things, to be righteous and virtuous because our Lord is working within you.

Tend to all of your duties as a Christian. Rise up in the morning to pray, and pray before you take rest in your bed at night. Ask His blessing on all that you do so that everything might be part of your service to Him. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned. If you have vowed to do some good work for the Lord, do not rest until you have at least begun that work. Be diligent and faithful in all that you do so that in your seeking to be close to Him, He will draw ever nearer to you.

We are all called to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth. Even before Adam knew His wife, he was called to this task. The barren righteous ones of the Old Testament bore fruit even when the fruit of their wombs was withheld, those in monastic orders are called to be fruitful even in their virginity. Indeed, the most fruitful womb, and that womb which is called blessed – the womb of the Mother of God, was not fruitful because of marital union, but because the Theotokos sought a spiritual fruit by constant prayer, by fasting and reliance on God’s providence, by keeping vigil over every thought and movement of the mind and spirit, and by works of mercy and service.

If we desire to be fruitful -- to have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, or temperance in our souls as fruits of the Spirit, we must dedicate ourselves to seeking God wholeheartedly, so that what once was barren might be made fertile. We can only multiply these fruits, and subdue the whole earth, making disciples of all nations, if we first acquire them for ourselves. There is no one so barren, or advanced in years as to be unable to receive the seed which is the word of God’s Kingdom. By God’s grace, each and every one of us can bring forth fruit a hundred fold. So be fruitful and multiply, make disciples of all nations, and our Lord will be with us always.

6/30 - What a Saint Is Not

Matt 10:32,33,37-38 & 19:27-30
Heb 11:33-12:2

Today we remember all the saints, both known and unknown, who have graced the Church throughout the ages and who stand in heaven before the throne of God glorifying Him. The question naturally occurs to us, “What is a saint?” and “How do I become a saint?”  Our Lord, in the Gospel reading that we heard today, answers these questions in a rather unexpected manner. Rather than describing what a saint is (something which He does elsewhere, most notably in the beatitudes) He tells us today what a saint is not. This “backwards” instruction tells us first what to avoid if we wish to become saints.

First our Lord tells us that He will deny before God, those who deny Him before men. If we would be saints, let us first be careful to proclaim Christ in all that we say and do.  Also let us be diligent that we do not neglect Him out of laziness, shame, vanity or for any other worldly reason.  If we wish our Lord to recognize us in heaven before the throne of the Father, then we must declare Him here in this world before men.  This scenario of standing before the throne of God in heaven also contains a seed of a necessary condition for us to fulfill this calling to sainthood which we will return to later.

Secondly here our Lord says to us, that whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, or even our spouse more than Him, that person is not worthy of Him.  Does the Lord here tell us to neglect or even hate our parents? Do we forget our spouse or children? Of course not, however, He does take those whom we love most dearly according to the natural law and tell us that if we would be saints, that our love for Him must surpass even these, the greatest of our natural loves.  We must love Him with a supernatural love, a love that surpasses nature.  We must love Him above all else.

Earlier this week we heard read the words of our Lord in the sermon on the mount saying, if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it away.  Surely this is another extreme statement along the same lines.  If anything in this life, even the members of our own body (and who does not love their body above all else) separate us from our Lord Jesus Christ, it must be cut off and cast away.  Again He tells us that our love for Him must exceed any natural love or affection – it must be supernatural.

Again, the Lord says that whoever does not take up his own cross and follow Christ is not worthy to be with Him.  Anything that prevents us from carrying our cross must be set aside if we wish to follow Him and walk along the path that brings us to sainthood.  Of course many things come to mind that make this difficult in our own lives – laziness, love of pleasure, love of our own ego, in fact any of the passions, and so on.  Let me, however, mention a couple of things that perhaps we don’t usually think of here.  One difficulty in taking up our cross is the tendency to complain.  Complaining gets in the way of carrying our cross simply because it does not come from humility and obedience to Christ, but it comes from pride and egocentricity.  Of course our cross will be difficult, of course it will be inconvenient and will even result in suffering and sorrow.  That is the nature of the cross.  If we take up this difficult, inconvenient and sorrowful cross with the joy of our love for Christ, then He will enable us to carry it with ease (for did He not say “my yoke is easy and my burden light?”)  If we see our cross as the key that opens the door to the kingdom of heaven for us, then we will take it up with joy for we know that it is this which will unlock the gates of paradise for us.  On the other hand if we pick up this cross grudgingly, recounting how difficult it is, how meaningless, how foolish it is.  If we constantly think of better things we could be doing, or of the pleasures we could engage in if we didn’t have this cross holding us back, then we will soon tire of it and cast it aside thinking that it is worthless.  Beware of complaining for it is a thief which steals the grace of God from you and leads you to put your cross down (even for a few moments) and take a detour from the path of following Christ.

Another barrier to carrying your cross is your own reason and intellect.  We can think of countless “better” ways to work out our salvation than this.  We want to understand exactly how it is that this cross is going to benefit us and get us to heaven and if we don’t understand it, then we’re just not going to even start.  We think we know how to get into heaven by a more sensible path.  Multitudes of philosophies and religions have been invented by man’s rational intellect which serve as “alternative” paths to salvation.  Doesn’t it make sense to choose the easiest path?  But did our Lord not say, “narrow is the gate and straight is the path that leads into the Kingdom of God”? Just because a philosophy or theology seems reasonable doesn’t make it right.  Only the path that is given to us by the One Who Himself opened the way into the Kingdom of God is the one that will indeed get us into that Kingdom.  Every other path leads us astray.  And that path always leads through the cross – through the death of our sinful self and through acquiring instead the life of Christ.  We must take up our cross – there is no other way.

All this seems impossible – to have “forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake”.  How are we able even to begin to do this.  In the epistle to the Hebrews that we heard read today, the key is given to us. The key is faith – faith in the existence of eternity and possibility of eternal life.  We must believe that our existence is not limited to this worldly life and in fact that this worldly life is but a small fraction of our eternal existence. There is a purpose and meaning to all the struggles that we face and that in the end we will receive the reward for our efforts, as He said to the apostles, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”  We were created by God and our Creator made us in His own “image and likeness” – that is He made us to be eternal creatures destined to live with Him and in communion with Him in eternity.  Our life in this world is only a preparation for that eternal life in the presence of God.  This faith, this belief in eternity, is that which enables us to love our Lord with a supernatural love and to joyfully take up our cross and follow Him as He leads us along the straight and narrow path of salvation into the Kingdom of Heaven.

In our infancy we are protected by our parents from the dangers and responsibilities of the world so that we might grow and become strong and develop many of the tools that we will need to live successfully as adults.  In the same way our Creator has placed us in this material and mortal world in order that we might be protected from all the dangers and responsibilities of the spiritual world while we develop and grow in spirit and gain the grace that is needed to live joyfully in the presence of God.  When we consider that this worldly life, this small fraction of our existence, is the preparation for an eternal life of unbounded joy and inexpressible bliss, then all things because bearable for we know that this is not the end, we know where we are headed and we look ahead to the reward for all our worldly labor.

Not only do we have this faith to help us, but we also have “a great cloud of witnesses” that is all those who have walked this path before us and who have arrived at the gates of the Kingdom of God and who are awaiting our arrival that we might all enter together into the presence of God.  These are the saints that we recall today – not only that they have run the good race and finished the course of their lives, but that they now await us, that they assist us by their prayers, that they reach down to us from the heavenly heights and lift us up.  We are not saved alone, we do not enter into heaven alone but all-together with the choir of all the saints.

At the head of this choir, directing all of us is our Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate; Who Himself walked this same path; Who Himself freed us from the chains and weight of sin which hold us back; Who Himself is not only the author, but also the finisher of our faith, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Where He awaits us that He might present us as worthy to enter into our destiny – eternal union and communion with God our Father and Creator.

6/23 - Pentecost - Fr. Matthew Garrett

On this blessed feast of Pentecost, we return to saying a prayer which has been absent from our services and from our personal prayers since the day of Pascha, “O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life -- come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity and save our souls, O Good one.” On the one hand, we affirm that the Holy Spirit is of one essence with the Father and the Son, Who alone are everywhere and in all, and yet we also marvel at the mystery that the Holy Spirit would come and abide in us. But why marvel when the Holy Spirit is already everywhere?

When we look at the old covenant, we see the work of the Holy Spirit, indeed the hymns for this feast tell us “in the prophets Thou didst announce to us the path of salvation,” and “that which of old was preached by the Law and the prophets hath been fulfilled; for today the grace of the divine Spirit hath been poured forth upon all the faithful.”

In the very first verses of Genesis, we read “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” and the Holy Spirit has always been present and active in Creation. The Holy Prophet and King David said, “Where can I go from your Spirit? O where can I flee from your presence?” But while He is everywhere present, and filling all things, we are each called to receive Him personally. It is for this reason that we invite Him to come and dwell in us.

This indwelling is the desire of God for us that is spoken of by the Prophets. We read last night from the book of Numbers, in which this desire is expressed: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, whenever the Lord shall put His Spirit upon them.” Or in the prophecy of Joel: “I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” This is His desire for both men and women, young and old.

So the Holy Spirit is given freely to all, that is, He is available to anyone, but we must receive Him. But how can we receive Him Who fills all things if we are already so full of ourselves, and of the cares and concerns of this world? We must empty ourselves of all of these things if we are to receive Him. The hymns of the feast remind us that the apostles were ignorant, unlettered fishermen. They were not the powerful of the world, they were not rich, or well educated, or without character flaws. On the day that our Lord ascended into the Heavens, they were still hopeful in anticipating the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. The Lord deflected their question and told them to await the coming of the Holy Spirit.

It was in this new hope, having emptied themselves of the cares of the world that they were gathered in oneness of mind in the upper room when the Holy Spirit was sent down upon them. There are a multitude of reasons why we are unable to call down the Holy Spirit upon ourselves, but we are without excuse when all we are asked to do is empty ourselves of the things of this world and receive the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles is described as tongues of fire. He is light for us and warmth. By this light we are able to see our own sinfulness that He might cleanse us of all impurity, and we are able to see the path of salvation that He might save our souls. If this light does not appear within us, if we see neither our sins, nor the path of salvation, we must continually seek for the light that has been given to us and ask Him to shine it into those dark places into which we have not yet invited Him.

By His warmth, our heart is filled with love for God and for our neighbor. If we have grown cold, we must rekindle the fire which was given to us by asking for and seeking this love. And when we have even a small flame, we seek to share that with others knowing that our light is not diminished when it is shared, just as a candle lights another candle without extinguishing, and bringing more light to the world.

This fire is divided among the apostles, not resting fully in any one of them, but given to all of them in measure. So it is in the Church that those who receive gifts of the Holy Spirit are given personally what they need for the work that they are called to, that we also might be built into the Body of Christ together. “Undividedly divided, partaken of while remaining complete” as Saint Gregory Palamas tells us.

The Holy Spirit is also described this morning as the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and we know that the Spirit blows wherever He wills. We are all either unmoved because we are tied to the cares and concerns of this life, or we are carried about by the waves and currents of this tumultuous life. We must detach ourselves from earthly things, and allow ourselves to move freely at the direction of the Holy Spirit. Again, however, we see the importance of this corporate action of the Holy Spirit -- that He descends upon those who are gathered in one accord, and then directs them in unity. This unity is not uniformity, but neither is it self willed chaos.

When the disciples had received the Holy Spirit, they went forth to preach, and their words were understood by those of many different nations and tongues. Though they were heard in many different languages, they spoke as one voice because they spoke the truth. Unlike the division of tongues sent upon those who built the Tower of Babel leading to confusion, there is a quiet symphony in this preaching on the day of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit gives light to those who are tired of not seeing, warmth to those who can bear the cold no longer, movement to those who have been beaten by the surges of temptation and desire to be carried in His love, and unity to those who desire to be of mind and one heart. We must see what the world does to us, and desire for something better, and we must empty ourselves of the things of the world if we hope to receive Him.

The Prophet Ezekiel said “I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you, and will cause you to walk in Mine ordinances, and to keep My judgments, and do them.” The Holy Spirit is life and the Creator of life, light and the Bestower of light, Himself good and the Source of goodness, and the reception of the Holy Spirit is for our transformation, for following Christ, and walking in the way of His commandments.

This is not just a commemoration of a historical event, not just a birthday party for the Church, or the end of the Paschal season, it is a call to our renewal. “O Almighty one, renew Thou within us who have received Him the true and upright Spirit, Who eternally proceedeth from the Father while remaining wholly united with Him.” Receive this great gift anew from God Who is everywhere present and fillest all things, but Who desires nothing more than to come and dwell within you, cleanse you from all impurity, and save your soul.

6/16 - Spiritual Fathers

Acts 20:16-36; John 17:1-13

We all have a father, and today we remember those fathers and pray for them.  Not only do we have earthly fathers, fathers of the flesh, but in the Church we also have spiritual fathers. Spiritual fathers differ from earthly fathers in that they primarily deal not with the worldly condition of their children (although that often does happen) but rather with their spiritual condition.  The role of the spiritual father is to lead one into the kingdom of heaven.

When we talk about spiritual fathers in this sense, we are not speaking of one’s “godfather” that is the baptismal sponsor.  Although a godfather does share the responsibility for helping his godchildren to grow in the faith, he is not generally given the task of being a spiritual father.  The capacity to become a spiritual father is not innate in a person – it is not part of his nature given at birth, but rather it is a capacity that is given to certain persons by God through the bestowal of grace.  One means, in fact the most common means, by which that grace is bestowed is through the sacrament of Holy Orders (ordination).  It may be that a person who is not ordained but who is advanced in the spiritual life may also be given this gift outside of ordination, however, that is beyond our conversation today.  Today we want to look at our spiritual fathers, the ones who are given to us by God through the sacrament of Holy Orders, that is our bishops and priests.

In today’s Gospel we hear part of the great high-priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who is the Father of us all – not by “ordination” but rather by nature for it by His hand that we are created.  In this prayer, we see the interaction of two persons of the Trinity – the Father and the Son.  Jesus Christ as the Son of God incarnate in the flesh addresses the Father, interceding for those who would believe on Him, first on the Holy Apostles, and on those who would come after them in the faith.  The Lord Jesus in this prayer refers to “those whom Thou hast given Me”. This is a key element of spiritual fatherhood – the spiritual father receives his spiritual children from God – he does not take them himself, nor does he generate them by himself, but rather he receives his spiritual children from God Himself.  No one can become a spiritual father except by the gift of God, and if there is someone who tries to become a spiritual father without God’s help, he is an imposter, a robber, who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs over the wall to steal, cheat and deceive and eventually destroy the sheep.

I said earlier that the sacrament of Holy Ordination bestows upon the person the grace which enables him to become a spiritual father, however, this does not mean that every person who is ordained is the spiritual father to every Christian.  In the Church there is a particular order by which this responsibility and ministry are bestowed.  We all belong first and only to our Creator and our God, our Lord Jesus Christ.  He gives to the bishop the responsibility of being the spiritual father to the flock of spiritual children who comprise his diocese.  The bishop in turn gives the responsibility of being a spiritual father to the various priests who are assigned to each parish.  A bishop or a priest does not come into a diocese or parish that is not his own to “recruit” new spiritual children for himself, rather he receives the flock given to him by God.  Thus the primary spiritual father of every Christian is the priest of his parish.

What then about those Spirit-bearing elders (usually monastics) who function as spiritual fathers to people from various places?  Indeed there is no conflict here for it is one and the same Spirit who bestows upon each of us this grace and who brings us to our spiritual fathers.  When things are working as they should within the Church one’s primary spiritual father (his parish priest) will give a blessing for a particular person to seek advice, direction and spiritual care from such an elder (and true elders are very careful to only accept spiritual children with the blessing of their regular spiritual father). In this way the one Holy Spirit works seamlessly through the clergy and other spiritual elders for the welfare of the Church.

What then does a spiritual father do?  In both the Gospel and the epistle that we heard today, the tasks of a spiritual father are described.  First we hear the words of our Lord speaking about His care for the Apostles saying: “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known … and they have believed …”  The spiritual father therefore first teaches his spiritual children both by word and by example the word of God.  For this reason the spiritual father both preaches and teaches the word of God.  Also he lives his life in such a manner as to be an example of how the word of God is to be shown forth in the way we live.  (Of course, we who are bishops and priests are also sinners and so there are many times when we fail at this example, however, we hope that if you see your spiritual father’s flaws that you will also pray for him and see his example of repentance.)  The goal of this teaching is that each of you might “know” and “believe”.  This knowledge that we need is the knowledge of God, His characteristics, His ways and His will. For this reason we read daily (or hear read) the Holy Scripture in which God is made manifest to us.  We also read and meditate on the lives of the saints for they exemplify by their lives, the life of Christ in them.  We see the works of God around us and through the beauty and order of the natural world we learn about our God who created that world for us and who created us as the pinnacle of that cosmos.  Having come to know about God, we are led then to “belief” in God – that is the desire to know Him, to become like Him and to be united to Him.  We believe that He loves us, we believe that He cares for us, we believe Him when He shows us the means by which we can draw near to Him.  To make this knowledge and belief manifest to us is the task of our spiritual father.

Our Lord also said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine … that they may be one, as we are.”  Here is the second task of the spiritual father, to pray for his spiritual children, and to pray not just in a general way, but specifically for each of them, for their needs, for their struggles, for their joys and rejoicing.  We should all pray for the world, however, in addition to this the spiritual father is given the task to specifically and intentionally pray for his spiritual children.  In order to truly pray for his spiritual children, the spiritual father must also become acquainted with them, with their lives, their struggles, their joys, their hopes and accomplishments.  He must mourn with them and rejoice with them.  He must become their co-struggler before the throne of God.  Our spiritual father is one of our great intercessors before God.  There are those who think that a priest only “works” on Sunday when he celebrates the divine services and gives a homily – but that is only a small part of his task, only the “tip of the iceberg” as it were.  Every day, every hour, he labors in prayer for his spiritual children, asking God to watch over them, to care for them, to be merciful to them, to hear their prayers and pour out His grace upon them. 

The third task of the spiritual father we hear from both the prayer of our Lord and from the voice of the Holy Apostle Paul.  In his prayer the Lord said, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition” and from the Apostle we heard his instruction to the priests of Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.”  That is the spiritual father is called upon to protect his flock from all spiritual danger, not sparing even his own well being and his own life in order to defend his spiritual children from the spiritual dangers that will confront them.  Our Lord made His prayer even on the eve of His own passion and suffering, taking upon Himself the brunt of our sins in order to deliver us from them and free us from our captivity.  The Apostle Paul spoke of caring for the flock that God has given even as he was on his way to the events that would lead to his arrest and eventual transfer to Rome as a prisoner.  And so he warned the priests in Ephesus of the dangers that would visit them – the wolves who would attack to flock of Christ both from without and within.  This warning he gave so that the presbyters might themselves be prepared to defend their spiritual children from danger and so deliver them safely into the Kingdom of God.  This is the task of the priest, not only to care for his children but also to defend them to the utmost limit of his strength from every spiritual attack and danger that confronts them.  Thus we see that many of the martyrs were bishops and priests who stood fearlessly before the persecutors and so received martyrdom not only for their faith, but for the faith of their spiritual children.  In these days we don’t know what dangers might confront us for our faith – but whatever it might be, it is the place of the spiritual father to clearly proclaim the word of God, to state without fear what is right and true and Godly and to stand between his flock and the wolves who seek to destroy.

The final result of the actions of the spiritual father in his spiritual children is summed up in the words of our Lord, “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”  This is the desire of every spiritual father for his children – that they might each have the joy of the Lord fulfilled in themselves.

And so, my brothers and sisters, on this day pray for your fathers, both earthly and spiritual.  Pray for your priests and your bishops.  Just as it is our task to pray for you, so also we need your prayers that our all-Good God may continue to bestow His grace upon all of us and that together we may experience the fullness of His presence and His joy.

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