CLERGY CONFESSION FOR CLEVELAND, PITTSBURGH
AND WASHINGTON DEANERIES
Monroeville, PA - On Wednesday April 13, 2011, clergy confession was held for the Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Washington Deaneries which this year was hosted by the St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, Protopresbyter Stavrofor Dr. Mateja Matejic served as Confessor.
His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan of Eastern America officiated at the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Serving with His Grace were the Episcopal Deputy Very Reverend Stavrofor Dragoljub Malich and Deans: Protopresbyter Stavrofor Janko Raljich, Protopresbyter Stavrofor Srboljub Jockovic and Protopresbyter Stavrofor Stevan Stepanov and Archimandrite V. Rev. Leontije (Alavanja) and V. Rev. Stavrophor Rastko Trbuhovich. Protodeacon Milan Medakovich and Deacon Ljubisa Mitrovic also served.
His Grace delivered the following homily:
The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded.
Awake, then, and be watchful,
that Christ our God may spare you,
Who is everywhere present and fills all things.”
Kontakion of the Great Canon
We sing thus on the first and fifth weeks of this Great and Holy and honorable Fast. And not only during these days but I think we should direct these words to our soul every day. For how many days are there, how many hours and minutes of our lives that our souls are sleeping, not knowing whether it will awaken, or not knowing that it is sleeping or snoozing, being drunk with sinful passionate thoughts. And at that moment we don't remember, as if we are drunk or fallen and in an unconscious state. As our people would say: We've fainted. But when our souls sleep then our bodies sleep especially. The body doesn't do anything until the soul desires it. For this reason do the Holy Fathers say, “the body is a good servant and an awful ruler.”
O, how many are there who called themselves Orthodox Christians and do not know that their souls are sleeping. They think they are feeding the soul if they feed the body, for they adhere to the old saying: “In a healthy body, a healthy soul.” Yet see how many there are who have a healthy body and an unhealthy soul, and the opposite. Let us consider Saul of Tarsus. Healthy, young, full of energy, enthusiastic, good mannered, highly educated in both religion and the world of that time. He had healthy, open eyes but only for this world. But he was unhealthy and blind for the New Testament glad tidings of Jesus of Nazareth. Even though his legs and hands were healthy and fast yet it was only for the capturing and throwing in enprisonment of Christ's followers. However, his soul was sleeping, for it did not see in Jesus from Nazareth the promised Messiah.
O, how our soul sleeps and we are not aware of it nor do we consider it important! When it is time for prayer and we are lazy, is not our soul sleeping? When we offend or sadden our brother and we do not ask his forgiveness, is not our soul sleeping? When an opportunity is presented us to do some good deed and we don't do it, is not our soul sleeping? Not to mention when we sin and we don't ask forgiveness from our Heavenly Father, is not our soul sleeping? Our souls need to awaken not only out of shame before others or anger at ourselves or out of fear of eternal judgment but because we have offended our good and all merciful Heavenly Father who, for our sakes, gave His Son (John 3:16). That is the perfect soberness of the soul. Or as St. Theophan the Recluse says: “...in your hidden actions give this direction: be more conscious of the great love for mankind God shows towards us, and in contrast to it think of the great ingratitude we show whenever we sin...”. St. Theophan continues: “Like the one who has difficulty breathing in a stuffy room rushes outdoors to get some fresh air or the one who can no longer bear the tight clothing and at the first opportunity he throws it away, so too a sinner who, out of sinfulness, has become unhealthy throws the sinful burden from himself and flees from the unclean and infectious house of sin to the clean area of the Godly life.”
We go to the doctor for a check-up to make sure we are healthy and he tells us: All in all you are healthy! Your heart is healthy, there is no damage; you lungs are in good shape, there are no stains, your kidneys are working fine, your eyes are good, you look good, you didn't lose weight, your blood work looks good, you don't have cholesterol, etc. But we know we aren't healthy, for our souls tell us: I am unhealthy. Find another physician who will tell you my true state about me and you. You say that your heart is healthy, but it is not the place where God dwells. You heart is not God's abode, the prayer of the mind is not spoken in it: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.” You say that your blood is healthy. But does the immortal blood of the Son of God flow through it? Do you feed it and give it to drink of the heavenly Bread and immortal drink?
We know that after a difficult surgery the doctor has to restore our consciousness, or at least not allow us to fall asleep under anesthesia. Thus it sometimes happens that God triggers us from the earth, throws us from the saddle of our easygoing lifestyle, as He did to Saul of Tarsus, so that we come to our senses. And then truly should we cry out, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" (Acts 9:6). But not only that we cry out but also do that which God commands. Or that an invisible hand not allow us to enter a sanctuary, as was the case with the Venerable Mary of Egypt, whom we celebrate this evening and tomorrow. Only when this Venerable one understood to what depth of Hades her soul had sunk did she begin to think why is she not permitted to go and venerate the Honorable wood of the Cross. And as the Venerable one said to the Elder Zossima: "... the illuminous commandment of the Lord, which enlightens spiritual eyes, showed me that my smoldering (infectious) actions were not allowing me to enter the church.”
Let us awaken our souls, dear brethren, from the sinful sleep that we might bear the priestly burden. But only with Him is every yoke easy and every burden light regardless of how heavy it is (Matt. 11:29-30). Without Him and His help even the smallest of life's spiritual yokes and burdens are heavy, too heavy for our souls and bodies.
That we might free ourselves of the bodily weight we eat lighter food, fruits and vegetables, with less calories. May the fruits and vegetables for our souls be good deeds, forgiveness, meekness, abstaining from passions, putting away anger from our hearts and souls. And especially that our souls be reconciled with God and our neighbors. If, therefore, we are not reconciled with God, with our conscious, with our neighbors, we will not reach the joyous Pascha of Christ. Let us extinguish the fire of passions in our souls and bodies like St. Mary of Egypt of whom the Venerable Fr. Andrew writes: “To extinguish the flame of the passions, O Mary, thou didst ever shed rivers of tears and fire thy soul with divine love. Grant also to me, thy servant, the grace of tears.” We ask of the Venerable one that she pray to God for us that He grant our souls inner tears with which we will drown the spiritual pharaoh.
When I was in Brazil a week ago I saw an ad on a bus that said: “One for all and everyone against the Denga”. And I asked the priest what is a denga. He replied: “A denga, your Grace, is a dangerous mosquito that spreads infections and oftentimes its bite is deadly.” For us that deadly denga is the devil, sin and death which kill the soul and body. And the only salvific medicine against such a bite is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we will be able to say together with the Holy Apostle: “O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory” (1 Cor. 15:55).
Let us say to our souls: “Approach the Creator of all you miserable soul with your body, confess, turn from your previous imprudence, and weep to God in tears of repentance.” Lord, “enlighten the darkness of our souls.” AMEN.