After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY


Sermon Mountain View Consecration

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A Sermon by Archbishop Sophroniy,
given at the ROCA church consecration in Mountain View, NY
July 21, 2013
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
I would like to preserve this feeling throughout the entire Liturgy, that we are celebrating a Paschal service, that Christ is with us, bringing us good cheer and comfort on this great and holy day.  That Saint Nicholas is with us today at the consecration of the church, invisibly, through his holy and myrrh-streaming image, and know that this type of God’s blessing and this kind of Grace of God is always present in the church, if worshippers enter with a pure heart to pray to the Lord and to ask of God forgiveness of their sins.  To not enter to say to the Lord, that “Lord, all is well with me, all is good.  I will light a candle for You, while You help me keep it that way going forward.”  The Lord does not wait for such people.  The Lord established a Church of the penitent and if a person recognizes himself or herself as penitent, then come to this spring, fall down and be sated by the life-giving body and blood of Christ and then you will be revived and will be able to sail forth on the waves of life’s sea.
Therefore, my loved ones do not forget what we have; what the Lord has given us, what the Lord has handed us - the Holy Eucharist on Earth, and we, as so often is the case, neglect to spend our time at the Liturgy.  Something else, some worldly worries distract us, and sometimes we do not hurry to attend the Liturgy. Do not hurry to the place where the Lord Himself has come with his disciples, arrived and waiting, asking when will my children come to ask for forgiveness for the sins they have committed?  When will the prodigal son arrive? And the Lord, unseen, looks out of the temple at us, greets us, all those who come to church for repentance, and those who have only just thought of going to church. The Lord certainly helps us, blesses our intention, kisses us, but know that Satan is fighting against our salvation, he also trying to ensnare us.  Just as the Lord tries to ensnare us in the nets of salvation of our souls, so does Satan wish to ensnare us in the nets of his world, as he schemes to place obstacles before us.  You all know this quite well and I should not remind you and speak of this, but you must remember on every Sunday or at every Liturgy that you cannot battle your sins alone, but only with the help of the Church, with the Lord’s help, with the protection of the heavenly powers can we conquer our sins.
The Lord may give us His Grace to conquer sin, but if we remain alone outside of the vessel, then we are floundering in the earthly waves.  It seems to us that outwardly all is well with us, it seems we are living well, but in our souls, when we are alone with ourselves, we notice some sort of longing; that all is not well with us after all, if we rarely attend Liturgy.  We sense it and our conscience reminds us that all is not well with us inside, if we rarely fall before the source of living water, the immortal source of the Body and Blood of Christ.  When we hunger for water or food, we do everything to fulfill our bodily needs.  If we are travelling, we stop somewhere to strengthen our body.  If we are at home, we run immediately to the kitchen, open the refrigerator and do everything possible to feed our bodies and satisfy our flesh. 
If our thoughts turn to prayer or repentance, then bless those who feed their spiritual needs the same way, bless those who immediately arise to pray, for usually we only remember, “Oh, yes, Lord, forgive me a sinner.”  And that is where it ends, forgotten, as if by this we have nourished our soul, while we should think with tears in our eyes and a broken heart of our lives and ask, “Lord, help me, change my way of thinking, change my attitude to sin, let me be Your son or Your daughter.”  These are the kinds of thoughts we must engender in ourselves, these are the words of prayer with which we can sate our souls and at the first opportunity, we should run to church, go to church and attend the Liturgy.
Therefore, my loved ones, I call upon you to treasure that which the Lord has bequeathed to us today, that which He has given us today.  He has given us today this magnificent, wonderful and extraordinary altar of the Lord, in which the Divine Liturgy was celebrated.  Hold onto it; hold onto to this blessing, so that you may want to say every Sunday, “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!  I will start on this day forth to battle my transgressions, I will begin to change, I will start on this day to stop answering evil with evil to others, I will start to respect my neighbor.  If he or she says something against me, I will remember that the Lord sent me this person also.”  There is no happenstance in this world.  Remember that the Lord is always thinking of our salvation.  It is pleasing to Him that we achieve this salvation through others, that is, through your neighbor.  “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31)  We must constantly remember that the person whom you meet is sent from God.  That one who speaks evil against you, who judges you, is sent from God to you today.  How can I turn my neighbor away, how can I chastise or answer back to my neighbor?  My neighbor is sent by God for my salvation, to test me.  The Lord has sent this person.  The Lord has sent the person who praises me, who is pleasing to me, for that person is also sent by God.  The Lord has allowed this to test me, my faith and to what degree I love God.  When I hear flattering, pleasant things said about me, will I forget God at that moment?  Will I think at that moment that this is all possible because of my actions, that I deserve such praise? 
Therefore remember, my loved ones, that the Lord concerns Himself with our salvation every day.  Every day on earth the Great Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ takes place.  You all understand and know how God created the earth’s sphere and that somewhere the Liturgy is beginning, somewhere it is in the middle and that somewhere it is concluding.  The cycle continues all day, the Divine Liturgy continues constantly.  Love the Divine Liturgy with all your heart.  Hurry to it and try to remain still and reverential during the Liturgy and restrain your thoughts here inside the church.  Do not allow them to stray to earthly concerns.  “Leave all your cares..”  These cares are not going anywhere, while the Liturgy will end.  It will last an hour and a half, maybe two hours, and that is that, only once a day.  Occupying yourself with some chore you can do later all day, but the Liturgy lasts two hours.  Therefore, try to focus your thoughts in the sanctuary, and stand not only physically, but be present mentally, because it is here that the Lord presides unseen on the altar.  He looks into our hearts to see if our hearts are ready to be an altar for Him. 
Therefore, my loved ones, on this glorious and holy day of the consecration of this church to the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, I not only want to congratulate you, but to instruct you to be just as loyal to the testaments as the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia were as exemplified by their lives and their sacrifices.  Hold fast to that which you have, to that which the Lord gives us.  This time is precious and it is time for prayer.  We do not know what lies before us and what awaits us in the future.  A time may come when we may not be able to gather together and pray like this, openly, and calmly celebrate the Eucharist without rushing off somewhere. 
Treasure this time, appreciate it.  Do not attend church to see what others are wearing and what others may be saying, but attend church to determine how the Lord looks upon you.  Try to feel God’s gaze upon you while in church.  The gaze of the living God, who looks in our hearts, and ask yourself, will you behave carelessly before the eyes of God?  Certainly not!  Certainly, we will have a fear of God and we must not look to either side and we should not think of earthly concerns.  We should look to the East; we must await the coming of the Lord from there, for the Lord may come to us today.  We do not know which day will be our last.  Therefore, my loved ones try to be present in the church physically and mentally.  May the Lord, our Jesus Christ, and the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia and all the saints help us.  Amen.

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