Strumica Diocese: News

Do not rejoice in My gifts, but rather rejoice in Me ( 23.11.2007 )

On the feast of the Holy Archangel Michael, Metropolitan of Strumica Nahum celebrated Divine Liturgy in the monastery of Venerable Maximus the Confessor and Saint Gregory Palamas in Star Dojran. While interpreting today’s reading from the Gospel, the Bishop, among else, said:

It is interesting that exactly this Gospel reading, which refers mainly to obedience and loving attitude towards God to self-denial, was selected by the Holy Church of God as the most suitable for this day, when we honour the Holy Archangel Michael. In other words, I think the Church wants to tell us that obedience and loving dedication to God make the angel an angel, while disobedience and self-love can make a demon even from an angel, as, unfortunately, we have seen many times so far…

As I have mentioned at the last monastic assembly: the war against absolute pride, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, is waged with absolute humility, i.e. with absolute obedience. Christ our Lord has shown us by personal example and has established the practice of absolute obedience: He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). It goes without saying, absolute obedience was not necessary to Him, it is us who need it.

            In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord explains us the sacramental hierarchical structure of the practice of obedience in the Church: “He who hears you [meaning, the Apostles, or at present the Episcopes] hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me.”

            However, not everyone can discover and come to know this great, fundamental and essential mystery of our Christian struggle: In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to the little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.” When He speaks about the wise and prudent, the Godman Christ has in mind those who reject the practice of obedience and humility, trusting only to their sense and wisdom. Whereas, when He talks about the little children, our Lord has in mind them who simply, like children of God, for the sake of healing of their mind, heart and soul, although sensible and wise become insensible and unwise, abiding in the practice of absolute obedience up to the moment of revelation of the place of their heart, fulfilling in practice, with simple faith and trust in God, the words of Christ: “He who hears you hears Me.” Only the concrete and absolute obedience in practice is a feat of genuine ascetical love in practice, without which graceful love cannot be attained…

            Then the seventy returned [from the practice of obedience] with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” In other words, Christ tells them: do not rejoice in My gifts, but rather rejoice in Me, rejoice in the union with Me and rejoice because My Heavenly Father has made you, by grace, His children and My brothers (and sisters). For, even if you had all the gifts in this world, if you do not have Me you have nothing and you are nothing. Here it is how much impressively the Holy Apostle Paul lives this mystery: And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).

            Owing to this simple faith and trust in God and obedience, common and anonymous people became Apostles, became martyrs, became venerable, became fools for Christ, became teachers of the Church and became children of God. Owing to this simple faith and trust in God and obedience, the ordinary and anonymous angel Michael, too, became an Archangel, the first angel next to God. Once, at the critical moment of general apostasy of the angels deceived by the one who until then was the brightest and closest angel to God and now is the proud and dark archdemon, this common yet obedient angel stood up in the middle of Heaven and said: Let us stand aright! Let us stand with fear!—calling in this way the other angels to remain with love and obedience in the order established by God, their Creator.

            Because of his intercession, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on our enemies, then on the whole monastic order that follows the example of Michael and on all Your people. Amen.














P.S. We dedicate this homily to our Toše Proeski, for his 40-day commemoration.