Divine Liturgy, Star Dojran ( 09.12.2007 )
Today, in the monastery of St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Gregory Palamas in Star Dojran, H.E. Nahum, Metropolitan of Strumica, celebrated the Divine Liturgy. While interpreting today’s Gospel, the Bishop stated:
“Martyrdom, monasticism, and foolishness for Christ are the three most extreme ways of renunciation of this world and are therefore—ways of life which unite man with God in the most rapid and most intimate way. Thus, most often with these ascetics, according to St. John of the Ladder, we can notice the abundant outpouring of all of God’s gifts of deification: the ‘unceasing mind-and-heart prayer’, and the ‘beholding of the uncreated Divine light’, and the ‘rapture of the mind’, and the ‘spiritual body’ and the ‘gift of wondermaking’, as well as the ‘love towards the enemies’.
These three ways of Christian life mutually pervade each other and are inseparable in their essence. The martyr is almost always a monk (alone) and fool for Christ. The true monk is almost always a fool for Christ and a martyr. The fool for Christ is almost always a martyr and a monk. Whether the Holy Spirit—Who out of love for Christ incites man and gives him strength to extremely renounce this world—will decant that love in a monastic-, martyr-, or fool for Christ-like struggle, depends on the historic exigencies and conditions of the Church as well as man’s free choice. I speak of the essence of these appearances, not of their form.
Also, the life of Holy Great-Martyr George (and no less the life of Holy Alypius the Stylite) as well as the lives of all the Holy martyrs are in essence merely unsubdued testimonies of extreme renunciation of this world which continuously awaken the indolent Christian conscience throughout the centuries: the martyr, in full and healthy consciousness, renounces himself and all which he owns, preferring even bodily death so that he does not renounce his Lord Jesus Christ and lose Him: But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:33). And what did we see in today’s Gospel reading? We saw men bonded by their passions. We saw men who, in order to satisfy their passions, renounced the Godman Christ and renounced His ‘Great Feast’; although some of them tried to excuse and apologize themselves, one way or another. We noticed, too, that the one who got married became so blinded that he forgot his good manners and did not even bother to apologize. This same renunciation of Christ, does it not happen even today, everywhere around us? Do we not notice the same lukewarm and incoherent struggle with the passions and inside us. Lord, have mercy…!
Do not misinterpret me, I speak not of the satsfying of the basic needs for life, nor against the lawful acquisition of assets, nor against marriage, but, I speak to you, against converting God’s gifts in a purpose in and of itself. The Godman Christ is the purpose to Christian life, while the gifts of God are merely the means through which this purpose is accomplished.
Therefore, why did we emphasize the entirely opposed examples mentioned above: the renunciation of Christ for the world—on the one hand, and the extreme renunciation of the world for Christ—on the other hand? So that we could more easily find ourselves in these borderline conditions, to repent and avoid, in a timely manner, the fearsome judgment: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).”