32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.’ 36 “And ‘a man’s foes will be those of his own household.'”
WHOEVER DENIES ME BEFORE MEN, HIM I WILL ALSO DENY BEFORE MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN
by St. Cyprian of Carthage
At last, dear brethren, peace has been restored to the Church and, though the pessimists thought it improbable and the pagans impossible, we have recovered our liberty … Was it something unheard-of that had happened, something beyond expectation, that made men recklessly break their oath to Christ, as if a situation had arisen which they had not bargained for? Was it not foretold by the prophets before He came, and by His Apostles since? Were they not inspired by the Holy Spirit to predict that the just would always be oppressed and ill-treated by the Gentiles? .. Could a servant of God stand there and speak – and renounce Christ, whereas it was the world and the devil he had renounced before? .. .It is Christ who must not be left; it is giving up one’s salvation and one’s eternal home that must be feared …
Let no man deceive himself, let none be misled. Only the Lord can grant mercy. Sins committed against Him can be cancelled by Him alone who bore our sins and suffered for us, by Him whom God delivered up for our sins. Man cannot be above God, nor can the servant by any indulgence of his own remit or condone the graver sort of crime committed against his Lord, for that would make the lapsed liable to this further charge, that he knows not the words of the prophet: ‘Cursed be the man that putteth his hope in man.’ It is our Lord we must pray to, it is Our Lord we must win over by our satisfaction; for He has said He will deny the man that denies Him, and He alone has received all power of judgment from His Father …
But let none, my dear brethren, let none besmirch the fair name of the martyrs, let none rob them of the glory of their crown. The strength and parity of their faith stands unimpaired: nothing can be said or done against Christ by one whose whole hope and faith, whose whole strength and glory abides in Christ. ..
A [lapsed] man who, in spite of his sin, also presumed secretly to join the rest in receiving of the sacrifice offered by the bishop, was unable to eat or even handle Our Lord’s sacred body; when he opened his hands, he found he was holding nothing but ashes. By this one example it was made manifest that Our Lord removes Himself from one who denies Him, and that what is received brings no blessing to the unworthy, since the Holy One has fled and the saving grace is turned to ashes …
Let each one, I entreat you, brethren, confess his sin while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession can still be heard, while satisfaction and forgiveness granted through the priests are pleasing to God. Let us turn back to the Lord with our whole heart and, expressing our repentance in deep sorrow, implore God for His mercy. Let our souls bow before Him, let our sorrow be offered to Him in satisfaction, let our hopes ill rest in Him. He Himself has told us how to ask (Ref. Joel 2:12) … But those among you, my brothers, who are responsive to the fear of God and who despite your fall are conscious of your plight, let the sight of your sins move you to penance and sorrow; acknowledge how grievously your conscience reproaches you, open your soul to the realization of your crime, neither despairing of God’s mercy nor yet claiming instant pardon. While God, in His fatherly affection is ever forgiving and kind, in His majesty as Judge, He deserves our fear.
(St. Cyprian of Carthage. The Lapsed. Texts 1, 7,8,10,17,20,26,29,35.
B#41A pp.13, 18,19,20,27,30,34,36,40).
I DID NOT COME TO BRING PEACE BUT A SWORD
How then did He enjoin them to pronounce peace on entering into each house? And again, how did the angels say, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace’? (Lk,2:14). And how did all the prophets also come to publish it for good tidings? Because this more than anything is peace: when the diseased is cut off, when the mutinous is removed. For thus it is possible for Heaven to be united to earth … The war is not then the effect of His purpose, but of their temper. For His will indeed was that all should agree in the word of godliness; but because they fall to dissension, war arises … For this cause the prophet admonishes, saying, ‘Trust not in friends, do not have your hope in guides. Yes, beware even of the woman who lies in your bosom, as far as communicating anything to her.’ And remember, ‘A man’s enemies are the men that are in his own house’ (Micah 7:5,6).
(St. John Chrysostom. Homily XXXV on Matthew X, 1,2. B#54, pp. 232-233).
On the Image of Christ
By Fr. Philotheos Faros in Eastern Orthodoxy in a Western Ethos published in the Word Magazine, May 1976
It is amazing how Western Christianity distorted the scriptural image of Christ and presented him as condemning human aggression and as a sickening, soft, and effeminate man with rosy cheeks and blond wavy hair. It is deplorable that so many Orthodox are offended by the strong, powerful, dynamic, scriptural Christ of the Byzantine art although they are infatuated by this nauseating Western Christ. It is amazing how Western Christianity managed to visualize the fiery eyes of Christ which “looked around” at the Pharisees “with anger,” (Mark 3,5) as sweetish and wishy-washy, how it resolved to present as soft and effeminate, the powerful Christ who made “a whip of cords” and drove with it all the merchants “out of the temple” with their sheep and oxen, and “poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” (John 2, 13-16) It is amazing how Western Christianity managed to describe as quiet and soft-spoken Him who uttered the dreadful “woes” and called the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites,” “blind fools,” “blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” “serpents” and “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23) and told his tempting disciples “Be gone Satan.” (Matthew 16, 23) It is inconceivable how Christ disintegrated to a eunuch prince of peace although he stated very emphatically, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and man’s foes will be those of his own household,” (Matthew 10, 34-36) Christ did promise peace but not a hypocritical external peace but a real inner peace. He said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14,27)
ON ALL SAINTS SUNDAY by Fr Andrew Phillips
(…) Today’s Feast is the result of all that has gone before it. The purpose of all the events in Christ’s life, from His Conception to the Resurrection and the Ascension and Pentecost is to make Saints. That is the purpose of the Church, to make people holy. Today’s Feast is the Feast of the identity of the Church, of Her sacred personality. For a Church that does not make Saints is not a Church, it is merely an institution which abuses the word ‘Church’. What is a Saint? Firstly, we should understand that Saints are not born, they are made. We are all born potentially to become Saints. The only difference between ourselves who are not Saints and the Saints, is that they are people who are continually picking themselves up after sinning, continually repenting until they attain holiness, whereas we give up. We should also say that there are two sorts of Saints – Confessors and Martyrs. Some Martyrs led very bad lives but then, when it came to the ultimate sacrifice, they found Faith in themselves, sufficient for them to prefer to confess Christ rather than live, and so sacrificed everything for Christ. We recognise their sacrifice and honour it. However, in our time, in our land, it would seem that we are not called to be Martyrs, but Confessors. What is a Confessor, how do we recognise a Confessor?
First of all, we could ask people who live near the person whom we believe to be a Confessor. They would know that person’s way of life. But this would not be enough in itself. This would tell us only if the person were righteous or not. And holiness is more than righteousness. Holiness is that utter devotion to God, the confession of Christ before men, the taking up of one’s cross and following, to which Christ will bear witness before His Father in Heaven. It is never denying Christ. It is this devotion of which He speaks in today’s Gospel, which is above devotion to husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter. And we can be even more precise than this. We have already said that the purpose of the Church is to make Saints. And the characteristics of the Saints are also those of the Church. At every Liturgy and at morning prayers we sing and read the Creed, in which we confess that we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. These words which define the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, are also words that define the Saints. The Saints are One because they are all together. We speak of the communion of the saints. And in today’s Gospel, our Lord speaks of those who have followed Him who will judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel seated on the Twelve Thrones around Him. The Saints are One, they are united. The Saints are also obviously holy. The word Saint means holy. The Saints are also Catholic. This word does not mean Roman Catholic. We mean ‘Catholic’ in the original sense of the word. ‘Catholic’ means the same in all places and at all times. Thus today, on this Feast of All Saints, we commemorate all the Saints of all countries and of all centuries and of all backgrounds. We recall Saints of all ages, of all nationalities, men, women and children, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the healthy and the sick. They all confessed the same Orthodox Faith. The Saints are universal in time and space; they are ‘Catholic’. Finally, the Saints are Apostolic, for they share in the same Faith and Tradition as the Apostles. (…)