Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
I am happy to report to you that He who promised to be always with us is in our midst. There is nothing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that promises that we would be free from the suffering that is inherent in this fallen world. The promise is that through it all we would never be alone. There is in the very core of us a place that cannot be touched by disease or death or suffering. This is the kingdom of heaven within.
I dare to quote George Harrison tonight from his song “Awaiting for Us All” with these lines from his lyric, “We don’t need to designate or to emigrate before we can see Jesus. If you open up your heart, you’ll see he’s right there. He always was and will be, he will relieve you of your cares.”
This is so true. And allow me to quote this beautiful sacred poetry, wisdom from the East: “Know him to be enshrined within your heart, Always. Truly there is nothing more to know in life…realize that the world is filled with the presence of God.” “Wake up from this dream of separateness. Know God and all fetters will fall away.”
Open up your hearts then. Wherever you are, there He is. Wherever He is, there you are. Although we cannot all be together this Holy Week, we are always united. Nothing writes St. Paul can separate us from the love of God. And since this is true, then our love for Him and one another flows freely. If we are open to the energies of God flowing in us, around us, through us, then “all manner of things will be well.”
Listen carefully to the tremendous longing in the incomparable Hymn of Kassiani, the song of the Woman Who anointed his feet with spikenard, her longing for the Lord’s mercy and for the Lord Himself is intense and powerful. Pray with us wherever you are.
~St. Mary Orthodox Church, Central Square, Cambridge, MA, https://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/sermons/2020/christ-is-in-our-midst.
On Holy Tuesday the Church [Matins celebrated by anticipation on Holy Monday evening] calls to remembrance two parables, which are related to the Second Coming. The one is the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-3); the other the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). These parables point to the inevitability of the Parousia and deal with such subjects as spiritual vigilance, stewardship, accountability and judgment.
From these parables we learn at least two basic things. First, Judgment Day will be like the situation in which the bridesmaids (or virgins) of the parable found themselves: some ready for it, some not ready. The time one decides for God is now and not at some undefined point in the future. If “time and tide waits for no man,” certainly the Parousia is no exception.
The tragedy of the closed door is that individuals close it, not God. The exclusion from the marriage feast, the kingdom, is of our own making.
Second, we are reminded that watchfulness and readiness do not mean a wearisome, spiritless performance of formal and empty obligations. Most certainly it does not mean inactivity and slothfulness.
Watchfulness signifies inner stability, soberness, tranquility and joy. It means spiritual alertness, attentiveness and vigilance. Watchfulness is the deep personal resolve to find and do the will of God, embrace every commandment and every virtue, and guard the intellect and heart from evil thoughts and actions. Watchfulness is the intense love of God.
Hymns of the Bridegroom Service
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.
Thy bridal chamber, O my Saviour, do I behold all adorned, and a garment I have not that I may enter therein. Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.
~Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) https://www.goarch.org/bridegroom
The Lenten Triodion, translated by Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1994), pp. 59-60, 511-547.
Calivas, Alkiviadis C. Great Week and Pascha in the Greek Orthodox Church (Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 1992), pp. 29-49.
Farley, Donna. Seasons of Grace: Reflections on the Orthodox Church Year (Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 2002), pp. 130-132.
Wybrew, Hugh. Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter: Liturgical Texts with Commentary (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), pp. 89-100.