Homily St. Gregory V, Patriarch of Constantinople
By Our Father Among the Saints, Gregory V, Patriarch of Constantinople
Martyred by the Turkish Moslems in the year 1821
(Orthodox Christian Witness, May 26/June 8, 1986)
I, therefore, the bondsman in the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all humility and meekness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love; endeavoring to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph. 4:1-6)
The blessed Paul, being free from all conceit, did not seek honor and glory from the Christians who came to believe in Christ through him; rather he considered himself as one of the many and the least of all. For this reason, he now calls himself their servant and entreats them, even as we heard today, not with authority and by commands, but with entreaty he writes to the Ephesians for their salvation and not for his own profit. Since being a bondsman for the sake of Christ’s name has such great dignity and loftiness — indeed, even more honor than an earthly kingdom — for this reason does he call himself neither teacher, nor apostle, nor evangelist, but a bondsman for the sake of Christ: “I, the bondsman in the Lord, beseech you.” For the soul of the blessed Apostle, in imitation of the Lord, preferred to be tormented, to be fettered with chains, and to be found in prison rather than to dwell in Heaven with the heavenly hosts near the throne of the Master, Who for the sake of our love condescended to suffer dishonor, to be crucified, and to call death “glory” for our sake, even as He says in the Gospels, “Father, glorify Thou Me.” He uses the word “glory" to refer to the condemnation He endured when, in the midst of two thieves, He was hung on a cross out of love for us.
And verily, Paul is not to be held in awe so much for his being taken up into the third Heaven, for the revelations which he received, for his resurrecting the dead and his other miracles, as much as he is esteemed as blessed, and is reverenced by the angels, and is a scourge to the demons because of his being found fettered in the prisons. For even the Lord does not esteem as blessed those who raise the dead and heal the blind, but those who are persecuted by men, and are reproached, and against whom all manner of evil is spoken because of His Name. Therefore, desiring to exhort the Ephesians to humble-mindedness, the Apostle sets forth his bonds and brings to mind the calling and vocation of the Faith which is great and lofty, inasmuch as they who are called Christians have Christ as their Head, Who raised us up, and seated us together with Himself in the Heavens, and made us sons of God by grace, and heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom with eternal glory.
First he entreats them to be humble-minded, for the evil one had sown discord and malice among the Ephesians, just as he had among the Corinthians because of the gifts the believers had received from God. He enjoins them to conduct themselves with all humble-mindedness, that is, that they should not only be humble in speech, but in manner and disposition of soul as well. He entreats them not to be humble in one respect, and boastful and audacious in another, but humble in all things, both to friends and enemies, to young and old. For then is there true humble-mindedness according to the commandment of the Lord, when they who accomplish something or receive a gift from God are poor and humble in heart, and when they who are meek and longsuffering do not become angered at their brethren, but bear one another with love. For when we do not bear any of the faults of our neighbor, how will God forgive us who sin daily? Therefore, it is evident that love is acquired when we are zealous to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the bond of peace, just as the body of man which has various members is sustained and held together by one spirit, one soul, and thus the various members of the body constitute one unit in a bond of peace. In like manner, we, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, although divided according to bodies, nevertheless have all become the one body of Christ by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, which is one and binds us together in the unity of the spiritual body, just as the soul being one, holds the various members of the body together in concord and gives to each individual member due strength and provision, without ever disquieting the members among themselves.
Wherefore, we are encouraged to this spiritual intimacy by this one calling and vocation of the Faith, by one God and Father, who is Lord and reigns over all, Who provides for all, and Who dwells within all of us; by this we know, believe, and incontrovertibly confess that all Christians who are dispersed throughout all the regions of the earth, both they who are alive and they who have reposed in Christ, the righteous who pleased God before the incarnation of Christ, and they who in the future shall be born until the end of time, are all the one body of Christ, and Christ is the Head of all; for the Lord promises to all without exception eternal life and immortal glory, although here in this present life grace distributes to each one certain spiritual and bodily gifts according to the measure of the gift of Christ, just as the members of our bodies have varied functions. Without one member rebelling against and envying the other, they continue in their work assisting, helping, and showing compassion for one another, and thus they accomplish the will and resolve of the body and the one head. So in imitation of the body of man, the spiritual body of the Church must also labor and act without envy and discord in order to accomplish the one purpose of its Head, which is Christ.
The Apostle was compelled to write these things to the Ephesians because the enemy had sown tares among them and many other believers, and also among the Corinthians, on account of the various gifts which they had received; that is, some he led into arrogance, some into envy, others into dissension, still others into grief and despondency. He wrote with more exactness concerning these things to the Corinthians, for there to a greater extent these aforesaid passions of envy, discord, despondency, and haughtiness had become predominant. For this reason, in order that he might accommodate all, the divine Paul, according to his apostolic understanding, said there that the distribution of grace is given according to the faith of each individual, but here according to the measure of the gift of Christ, so that he might not grieve those who were not deemed worthy of great gifts.
So then, if we wish to acquire and partake of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, which is given by Christ our Head, we must be united among ourselves as the members of the body are. For there are two ways in which we divide ourselves from the spiritual body of the Church: the first is when love towards one another grows cold, the second is when we treat one another in an unbecoming manner; because by these two ways we sever ourselves from the entire body of the Church.
What is the proper recompense due to those wretches who have been appointed by God to correct and bring peace to others and who, instead of this, themselves divide and confuse them? Nothing is able to divide the Church as can the love of power: And nothing provokes God as does a Church that is divided. Even if certain individuals succeed in accomplishing 10,000 good things. yet if they are guilty of dividing the Christians — be they many or few — they shall not suffer lesser punishments than those who sever and cut off the members of the physical body. A certain holy man once said something fearful concerning those who scandalize and bring confusion into the Church of Christ. He said that not even martyrdom would blot out their sin. For how is it possible for one who spills his blood for the sake of God’s glory and sacrifices his life for the love of God’s Name, to be also responsible for bringing turmoil into the Church of Christ and among his Christian brethren, for whom Christ sacrificed His life? Let us hearken to what the Apostle Paul says concerning this fearful sin: “I am not worthy to be called an apostle, for I persecuted the Church of Christ.”
The harm which is brought upon the Church of Christ by impious enemies and heretics is not as harmful and ruinous as the harm which is done by brethren of the same faith. For the injury caused by enemies is actually a cause of great splendor for the Church of Christ, but that which comes from those of the same faith is a cause of shame for the Church, which becomes like one persecuted and warred against by her own children. For when enemies behold those who have been spiritually born and nourished by the Church and who have communicated her ineffable Mysteries, undergoing a sudden change and conducting themselves inimically towards their own mother, of course they will conclude that there is great error in our Faith. When some have contrary teachings, and they believe and preach them, we must in no wise associate with them. But when we believe the same teachings, and yet we are severed from the fullness of the Church and we cut off others, we manifestly show the aim of accursed vanity and love of power. Because of this same wickedness of the love of power, the earth was rent asunder and swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiron (Num. 16:31-33). For this very same reason, a most fearful punishment is prepared for those who scandalize and bring turmoil into the Church, even though by God’s unfathomable longsuffering they do not receive here the due punishment for their love of power.
Such, indeed, are all those who teach heresy, who through love of power disturb the fullness of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. Let us neither say nor think that they also believe in one Lord, have one Baptism, and confess the one Faith. If their opinions are correct, then by necessity our own must be incorrect. But if our own doctrines are upheld and believed and given credence and confessed by all as being good, true, correct, and unadulterated, manifestly then, the so-called sacraments of all heretics are evil, bereft of divine grace, abominable, and loathsome, and the grace of ordination and the priesthood by which these sacraments are performed has vanished and departed from them. And when there is no priesthood, all the rest are dead and bereft of spiritual grace. We say these things, beloved, lest anyone — either man or woman — be misled by the heterodox regarding their apparent sacraments and their so-called Christianity. Rather, let each one stand firmly in the blameless and true Faith of Christ, especially that we may draw to ourselves those who have been led astray and unite them as though they were our own members to the one Head, Christ, to Whom be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Translated from An Explanation of the Apostolic Lections, Thessalonica, 1984 (in Greek).