Monthly Artic

Let God Arise

Archpriest Daniel Kovalak

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

In God’s “strategic plan” for the life of the world and its salvation, He decisively intervened, in Person, “trampling down death by death.” In the radiant light of Jesus’ glorious resurrection, darkness is overcome, creation is renewed, disappointment and despair no longer have the final word, sorrow is turned to joy and death has lost its sting. There is hope for all because Our God lives!

In his youth, the popular Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, boastfully declared his belief in no religion, saying they were all myths created by man. Years later, as he considered the implications of Christ’s resurrection, he experienced a heartfelt conversion. In a reflection entitled Surprised by Joy, he wrote, “No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word interference. But Christianity placed at the center what then seemed to me a ‘transcendental Interferer.’ There was no region even in the innermost depth of one’s soul which one could surround with a barbed wire fence and guard with a notice: ‘No Admittance.’ And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, ‘This is my business and mine only.’”

Here, Lewis expresses the sentiments of many today which are seldom spoken.  We all want to feel independent, safe and secure in ourselves; to fence ourselves in and say to others and even to God, “Back off! Don’t bother me. Leave me alone.” Indeed, we have the right to say this.

But our crucified and risen Lord—the “Transcendental Interferer”—also has the right to step into our human situations, relationships, circumstances, schedules and plans to pursue us with His divine Love and persistent mercy. As He says to the self-satisfied Church of Laodicea, so He says to us: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelations 3:20).

Are we willing to open the door and invite into every aspect of our lives Him Who is incessantly knocking, knowing full well His Almighty presence will “rock our worlds,” challenge our status quos, and interfere with our personal agendas?

After Our Lord raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, His critics posed a significant question to one other: “What shall we do, for this Man works many signs?” (John 11:47). This is a question with which every generation—indeed every soul—must wrestle. How do we welcome and respond to “this Man;” this “Transcendental Interferer?”

The early Church knew exactly what to do! Not only did they invite the Knocking Christ to fully enter and transform their personal lives, but as the new “Body of Christ,” they proceeded to preach, teach and invite all to do likewise. And their enthusiastic and resolute conviction bore amazing fruit; the Lord multiplied the believers and added to the Church, daily. So persuasive and convincing was the testimony and living witness of the apostles that they were accused of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

This is the faith we must each rediscover and apply to our busy lives and troubled times—the Paschal faith that rolls away the stones from our self-imposed tombs and shouts with David, “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered.” This is the faith that responds eagerly and joyously to the incessant knocking of the Transcendental Interferer and opens the door to His Divine Love and persistent mercy.

By His abundant and amazing grace, the Risen Lord is still knocking. He stands ready to fill us with faith, light, hope, forgiveness, mercy and love—to interfere in our lives in wonderful and extraordinary ways—if we but open the door!

“Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:3-4).

(Archpriest Daniel is rector of Holy Cross Church, Williamsport, PA, a Missionary, an Instructor at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary, and a frequent contributor to many publications).

Good Friday

Good Friday

(Silence in the Face of Injustice)

Fr. Alexander Men

(This year Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Pascha will be celebrated respectively on April 22, 23, and 24.  In anticipation we offer the following sermon by Fr. Alexander Men.  According to one source:  "Father Alexander Men (1935-1990) was a great leader, and one may say architect, of religious renewal in Russia at the end of the Soviet period. He was a pastor, who found the time to write a great number of books including a seven volume study of world religions, ranging in style from the academic to the popular. He lectured widely, at the end gaining access to radio and television and becoming a nationally known figure...He was assassinated in 1990 but through his writings and through his memory and his spiritual heritage he still speaks and it may be is an increasing presence in the world as his work becomes better known.")

The last Gospel of Christ -- St. John's Gospel -- describes the Lord's trial, His sufferings, death and burial.  Throughout three short years the Lord had preached every day.  As St. Mark tells us, sometimes He and His disciples didn't even have bread to eat.  He spoke and did a great deal.  John the Evangelist says that if all the things He said and did were to be written down, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

However, when He stood before unjust judges, Christ was silent.  This is mentioned by all the evangelists.  He answered the high priest only once and then was silent.  When He was ridiculed, beaten and mocked, He was silent.  When He was brought before Pilate, He also answered him briefly and then fell silent.  What did this mean?  Why was He, who formerly inspired people with faith and hope now keeping silent?

It was because He had already said all He had to say and also because His unjust judges would have remained deaf to His words and His defense. That was the reason for His silence.  Only once during the trial, in answer to the question, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" did He reply, "I am," adding "and you shall see the Son of Man coming in glory, in the clouds of heaven."  He said this and once more fell silent.  Then, when He was dying, those standing around the Cross heard only a few words from Him.  He suffered and died in silence.  How many bitter words He could have found for the ungrateful human race.  But He was silent, for He was the God-Man, through whom the Lord revealed Himself to us.  He had said everything, taught everything;  He had opened the doors, and thereafter He was silent.  He submitted to insults, ingratitude, flogging and death.

Is it not the same in our lives?  We sometimes feel that the Lord is silent, that He does not respond to our sufferings and sadness, to our sorrowful prayers.  In fact, however, He is listening.  He knows and feels for us, just as He did then, at the time when He Himself was suffering.  He suffered when He stood before me blinded by envy, hatred and malice, yet was silent because His heart was moved even for them:  for their degradation, their sins and blindness.  In the same way our Lord suffers for us, seemingly without speaking.  We appeal to Him, but we must not think that His divine silence signifies indifference, that He "doesn't hear," as we say.  He cannot fail to hear.  It is simply that, as before, He has told us everything.  He has said more to us than the world or our hearts could contain.  He has shown us the read to life and now He is silently awaiting a movement of the heart or will in each one of us.

In the same way that He broke His silence then, and spoke of the Son of Man coming to judge the living and the dead, so now the Lord tells us that He is longsuffering.  He silently endures our sinfulness, our meanness, our lack of faith -- all our unworthiness -- but not for ever.  A time will come when all will be weighed by the justice of God.  For us, the silence of the Cross is both a reproach and a call to a real Christian life  Most important of all for us is the fact that He acknowledges us, for we know that the One who was silent on the Cross, who is silent in heaven, is also the One who is our Savior, who has not forgotten or left us.  He is our only hope.  Amen.