A SERMON ON THE GOSPEL OF THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ST LUKE
THE NOBLE AND THE GOOD-HEARTED
“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8 : 15)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
When we listen to to-day’s Gospel During the Divine Liturgy, we come to a certain conclusion. What is this? Out of all the people who have the privilege to listen to the Word of Christ, only about one-fourth of them remain steadfast in the faith and strive to cultivate the evangelical truths within themselves.
The other three groups of the audience, under certain circumstances and plausible justifications, decline from their attempts, sooner or later, and they stop cultivating their souls. All of us then, must place ourselves under the mirror of the evangelical teaching so as to become aware in which group we belong.
Those of us who would come to the conclusion that we belong to the fourth group must have some qualifications as well as the appropriate credentials. The first criterion which we must have derives from the good and willing intention of our inner being. These people when they receive into their souls, minds and hearts the word of God, have accepted it unconditionally. They do not hide their thoughts, they do not look to their own interests and their relationship with the faith is neither reserved nor opportunistic.
The next criterion is the steadfast and permanent relationship and cultivation of the divine word within the soul of man. Apart from the good and willing intention there is a need for fertile land. However, we know that the land itself does not produce anything. There is a need for cultivation and enrichment of useful ingredients. The human soul, which is our spiritual field, is nourished lavishly and appropriately through the regular studying of the Bible. Additionally, the soul is nourished by the regular participation in the Holy Sacraments and progresses spiritually through prayer and the regular cultivation of the evangelical virtues within the soul.
It is well known to everyone that the life of man in general is not full of flowers. Regarding this matter Christians are not exempt. All of us go through temptations, difficulties, persecutions, illnesses and diseases, falls, disappointments and so on. For this reason we need to have patience during the course of our life. Patience reveals in the end those who are deemed worthy, those who really believe, those who truly belong to Christ, those who are ready for sacrifices and ceaseless offering. The life of the faithful should not differ from the emptying life of Jesus Christ the crucified.
On this Sunday the church recalls the events which preceded the Seventh Ecumenical Council. We refer to the iconoclasts and the worshippers of icons. During the eighth century the Christians of the East were divided into those against and those in favour of the icons. During that era, Byzantium was confronted with Islam and others, who were against the idea of representing on an icon what is divine, especially the icon of Christ Jesus.
There were misunderstandings from both sides and the exploitation of religion from various types of men, who wanted to escape from their obligation towards the Empire and avoid serving in the army. These people took refuge in monasticism. This action provoked the Emperor and he placed himself negatively against them. In addition, the clergymen were divided amongst themselves regarding the icons.
Emperor Leo the Third (Isavros) first gave instructions to take the icons away from the places of worship. However, he was confronted by a large number of faithful. Thus, in 730 A.D. he circulated an edict stating that the icons should be placed higher to make it difficult for the faithful to venerate them. The problem regarding the icons was resolved by the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 A.D. This Synod took place in Nicea of Bethany. The Synod was convened after the order of Irene the Athenian who was the guardian to her minor son Constantinos.
At that time the office of Patriarchate was occupied by Tarasios in Constantinople, Pope Andrianos in Rome, Politianos in Alexandria, Theodoritos in Antioch and Elias in Jerusalem. Three hundred and sixty-five god-bearing Church Fathers participated at the Synod. The Synod adopted the teaching of St John the Damascene. In brief, the Synod taught that we venerate the icons but we do not worship them. The honour given is referred to the image of the persons depicted on the icons and not to the materials with which the icons are made.
The god-bearing Fathers of the Church, then, on the one hand became the sowers of the word of God in the hearts of men and on the other hand they were the good and fertile land where the divine word was accommodated. Through their inner cultivation and warm faith, they produced fruit a-hundredfold, for the glory of the Lord, for their salvation and the salvation of their fellowmen. Amen!
C O M M U N I T Y N E W S
MEALS FOR THE ELDERLY: The meals for the elderly during the months of September and October were subsidised by the following: Evridiki Demetriou in memory of her beloved Ioannis, Sophia, Alexandra, Christodoulos and Loukia; Theodora Minaides in memory of her beloved husband Georgios and parents Styliani, Georgios, Nicolas and Maritsa; Pavlos and Georgia Kanari in memory of their beloved parents Alexandros, Archontia, Ariadne and Hectoras; Angela Eliadou in memory of her beloved father, Phedias; the Greek Women’s Philanthropic Association (Finchley & Barnet); Androulla Joannides in memory of her beloved husband Savvas and her father Christophis and the Ladies’ Auxiliary Society of PANTANASSA. We thank all the kind donors for their generosity towards this worthy cause.
RENEWAL OF SUBSCRIPTIONS: The subscriptions for the Community (£50.00), Pantanassa (£25.00) and the Archdiocese Magazine (£15.00) are now due. If you have not already paid your subscriptions or wish to subscribe to any or all of these you may contact our Community’s offices.
SCHOOL CONCERT FOR NATIONAL DAY: On Sunday, 25th October 2009, the pupils of St Barnabas Greek School will be presenting a concert to celebrate. The concert which begins at 4.00 p.m. will consist of poems, songs, plays and dances. Parents and friends of the Greek School are invited to attend, so as to encourage their children and enjoy the celebration.
ANNUAL FEAST OF CYPRIOT SAINTS: On Sunday, 4th October 2009, the Feast of the Cypriot Saints was celebrated in our Cathedral. His Grace, Athanasios, Bishop of Tropaeou, presided at the Divine Liturgy and also spoke about the saints. Mr Andreas Christodoulou, the president of ESTIA, together with his co-workers, attended the Liturgy. The Greek Embassy was represented by Mrs Sophia Stamateli and the Cyprus High Commission was represented by the Deputy High Commissioner, Mr Demetrios Argyrou. The celebrations ended with a reception in our church hall, organised by ESTIA and the Ladies’ Auxiliary Society of PANTANASSA.
We thank the two organisations for their warm hospitality. We pray, with the saints of Cyprus, that soon there will be peace and freedom in Cyprus.
FIFTY YEARS OF SERVICE: On Saturday, 31st October 2009, the Greek Orthodox Communities of Great Britain, in conjunction with the Trustees of the Archdiocese as well as other Associations of our people, are having a celebration to mark the Archbishop’s fifty years of service in the United Kingdom. The event will take place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY at 7.30 p.m. Price of each ticket is £65.00. The main purpose of the function is to create a fund so as to be able to assist financially the education of the future clergymen of this Archdiocese. Donations are welcomed.