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Orthodox Spirituality

Sermons of Archpriest Anthony B. Gavalas

The Lord Keeps His Promises

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
26 May/8 June 2003

+ + + In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. + + +

My beloved brothers and sisters, this past Thursday we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of Our Savior, and today we celebrate the memory of the holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. We have to understand that nothing in the Church is by chance, or haphazard, or coincidental. Everything that is in the Church---the way that the Feasts are set and celebrated---each of these things, all of these things have their purpose and have their plan and their meaning.

Therefore it is important for us as Orthodox Christians to understand these things, so that we become truly children of the Church, and we become truly knowledgeable in those things that our Lord has revealed to us that have to do with our salvation. First of all as a general principle we must understand that all of the feasts of the Church that we celebrate, all of those commemorations of the events in our Savior's life, while being great in themselves, while being miraculous in themselves, while being of the most extraordinary and sublime pinnacle of the revelation of God, are not simply observed by us as historical events and commemorations of anniversaries of various happenings in the life of Christ. Because, although they are great in themselves, we celebrate them not only for their greatness but also because they have something to do with our salvation. Because very one of these feasts has a soteriological dimension, that is it has something to do with your salvation and my salvation.

So it is that when we celebrate the Ascension of our Savior, we must understand that it is the fulfillment of His Incarnate Dispensation, in that that Flesh, that Incarnation that He received through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit from the Most Holy Theotokos, that human nature has been lifted up along with the Divine Nature, and now sits at the very throne at the right hand of the Father, that our Savior Jesus Christ, Who is One of the Trinity and Who took on flesh for our sakes, that He has lifted up this human nature and has set it at the right hand of the Father, fulfilling His promises that He was going to the Father to prepare a place for us, to prepare the mansions, to prepare those dwellings that we will live in into eternity if we are among those who have been saved.

The feast of the Ascension of our Savior therefore, while great in itself, while causing amazement to the angels who saw for the first time, humanity, human nature lifted up above the heavens, beyond the heavens -- Elias in his human nature was lifted up into the heavens, our Savior was lifted up beyond the heavens--and there that human nature now sits as it has been united to the Divine Word of the Father at the right hand of the Father.

What does this mean for us? It means first of all that our Lord keeps His promises. It means that what He says that He will do for us, He will do. He is not double-minded, and He never forgets His promises to us. And the other thing that it means is that we that we who are of the same nature as the Most Holy Theotokos have an opportunity to have our human nature also lifted up into the right hand of the Father. This we see in the fulfillment of the promise which our Lord had given to His Mother, for she was the first fruits of the fulfillment of His promises. In her all of the things that our Lord promised to human nature were fulfilled. She became in exactness God bearer, while we become by grace God-bearers if we become saints. And we see that she after her blessed Dormition that death could not hold her, could hold neither her soul nor her body, for she was lifted up beyond the very heavens, to the right hand of her Son, there interceding for our sakes, interceding for the sakes of us her children before the throne of the Son.

Therefore my beloved brothers and sisters, give heed to these promises, and know that our Lord keeps His promises if we will live as He has told us to live, if we will unite ourselves to Him through our Holy Orthodox Faith, through the holy mysteries of the Church, through all of those means that the Church as given us from the time we are baptized and chrismated, through holy Communion and holy Confession, through blessed Matrimony, through the holy priesthood, through holy Unction for our healing, through all of these things. If we will live these mysteries of the Church then for us, when we are separated temporarily from our bodies--our souls and our bodies are temporarily separated in death -- this promise will be fulfilled when He comes again to unite our souls and bodies and takes us to dwell with Him.

Keep therefore the Orthodox Faith, live the Orthodox faith and the holy mysteries of the Church, and be assured that even as our Savior ascended into the heavens that He will come again as He promised to the angels that witnessed His Ascension. He will come again to judge and take unto Himself those who have by the grace of God desired His coming, desired to become His children, desired to become co-inheritors of the Kingdom, and there to dwell eternally in the Kingdom in the heavens. Through Christ Jesus our Lord, Who together with His Father and the Holy Spirit is worshipped unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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