(Memory of St Basil the Great)
Colossians 2:8 – 12; Luke 2:20 – 21, 40 – 52
Hebrews 13:17 – 21; Luke 6:17 – 23
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Putting first things first, and having things in their proper order has always been our difficulty as human beings. Because of this, it’s no wonder that when Jesus was in the temple both listening, and asking questions (and also teaching at His young age), His parents did not expect to find Him there. It is not necessarily the first place that any of us would be searching for our child who is missing. Nevertheless, the Saviour gives us a very good word in His response to His parents, and that is: I have to be about My Father’s business. These are the words for us all, all the time. We have to be about our Father’s business.
The first priority for all of us always must be the Saviour, and the worship of God. This has got to be our first priority. Why? Because of love, and only because of love. Not because it is written in stone that we must do this, or else. It is because of love. The relationship between us, and God is always, only, about love. It is the response of love to God who loves us first. Our whole lives must be lived out in this context if we are Christians, and we profess Christ. As the Apostle reminds us: We are buried in Christ. We are raised in Christ in our baptism. We are alive in Christ. Everything must be in the context of Christ in our lives.
It is true that we get distracted by all sorts of things: by worldly cares, by business, by activities, and by responsibilities. It is not for nothing that at every Divine Liturgy (except two) that we are singing this hymn of the Cherubim, and exhorting each other “to lay aside all earthly cares”, to put them aside for a while. We do this in order to allow the Lord to be first today, so that when we leave this holy temple He will continue to be first in our lives. The rest of the day will be in the context of His being first in our lives. The next day we will have hope of beginning with Him and His service first, asking Him first: Lord, what to do today? What to do better today? How better to serve in You today? Everything for us must be in, of, and about the love of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, because He is the only reason for our life. He is really our only joy, our only consolation, our only protection, our only healing, our only hope.
As we saw Him coming down to the multitudes today, and healing all of the people, so He continues to heal us all to this day. He, Himself, is our prime example of service – this self-emptying love which is so life-bearing, and life-giving. This self-emptying love is, and always has been characteristic of us Orthodox Christians. It produces endless hospitality, endless concern, endless care, and endless intercession one for another, for the living, for the departed. We are constantly praying, and interceding for people who are in trouble, and in sickness. That is the nature of our prayer, and worship, and of our daily lives. Everything is in the context of Jesus Christ who is the Head of our Church, who is the Head of our life.
As the Apostle Paul recognises in his words to us, we very often we get confused, and distracted by one thing or another. This happens especially when we are trying to explain our hope to people who are in the world who don’t understand Christ. They don’t understand why we should have such joy, such peace, such hope. We can sometimes get mixed up ourselves when we try to put it in words that they understand. People may not be so conscious about it in daily life, but most people apart from Christ are living according to some philosophical principle or other which they may have learned from their parents or the circumstances of life or listening to the radio or reading some sort of interesting books. When we are explaining our life in Christ to them, we have to use terms that they understand. However, we have to be very careful in using these words that we, ourselves, don’t get confused by these philosophical principles, and forget our experience of Jesus Christ as the Only-begotten Son of God. We cannot forget WHO HE IS. We cannot make excuses to change, and soften up WHO HE IS to make it somehow easier, and more palatable for people.
This is where we have always gotten into trouble. That is how Arianism, and other sorts of distortions show up. They show up because of over-accommodation with philosophy. Always we have to be checking ourselves in our words, our conversation, our reason, and our logic: Is Jesus Christ still WHO HE IS, whom I have experienced, and whom the Church has always experienced? Is He still the same Jesus Christ who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)? In the words that I am using, am I faithful to Him? Everything, every day of our lives must always be measured by Him, who is the Truth. He is our Truth, the one Truth. There are not multiple truths. There is only one Truth. Everything else that is true comes from Him.
Are we measuring ourselves by Him? Are our lives conformed to Him? Do our lives reflect Him? Do we allow Him to give us the strength that we need to live our daily lives? Do we accept the healing that He is constantly offering to us day by day, as He is doing to the people today, healing them? Do we let Him heal us also?
Let us ask the Mother of God, who is our prime example of obedience, conformity, and unity with the love of Jesus Christ to intercede for us, so that the Grace of the Holy Spirit will come upon us more today, and tomorrow. May we be enabled more and more, with greater and greater joy and peace to glorify our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in everything, in every day of our lives, together with His Father, who is from everlasting, and His all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
† Archdiocese of Canada – Orthodox Church in America