Dear Friends and Parishioners of St. Theodore of Canterbury Orthodox Mission, Toronto!
During this trying time for all of us, I hope we may remain together as St. Theodore’s family by exchanging greetings and messages by ‘phone and email. I will attempt to send out a sermon every week. We buried three of our parishioners in the past two weeks: Antonia Karaganis, Nicholas Galimanis and Antony Grushenko. I was able to bring each of them Holy Communion within a day or two of their passing; and Nicholas Galimanis had Communion within two hours of his repose. Thank God this was possible before any quarantine was placed on us!
Presbytera Justine and I have been doing the moleben (service) “In Times of Epidemic and Pestilence” in our house chapel, “Holy Russian Royal Martyrs”.
May God hear our humble prayers so that we may all soon be reunited at St. Theodore’s and St. Raphael. Nicholas and Irene.
Love in Our Lord,
OUR CHURCHES WILL BE CLOSED THIS SUNDAY, MARCH 29. THERE WILL BE NO DISTRIBUTION OF HOLY COMMUNION
Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 29, 2020
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23)
Last week’s gospel, brothers and sisters, hints at the Transfiguration of Our Lord: (Mark 9:1) “Verily, I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste of death till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”
St. Theophylact the Bulgarian commenting on today’s gospel says that Jesus took the three up the mountain, and when He returned he saw the nine who remained behind being questioned by the Pharisees. They took advantage of Jesus’ absence to try to turn His disciples away from him. St. Gregory Palamas says that they made a few blasphemous comments when they saw that the disciples had no power to cast out the deaf and dumb demon. He says that the Jews never needed an excuse to blaspheme…why, if they blasphemed when miracles were performed before their very eyes, imagine what the had to say if Jesus’ disciples couldn’t perform them!
St. Theophylact says that the deaf and dumb demons are the worst, because they are deaf to Our Lord’s commands, and pretend to be dumb, unable to comprehend His will.
St. Gregory says that the boy’s father didn’t ask Jesus to cast out the demon, because he didn’t have faith that He could do so. He had not fallen down at Jesus’ feet, nor did he beseech the Lord. “If Thou canst”, “If you can”, he said. See how lacking in faith, St. Gregory says.
Jesus replies in kind to the boy’s father: “If thou canst believe”..if you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes. The boy’s father replies with tears, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief!”
Now notice that the presence of doubt does not imply the absence of faith.
St. Theophylact agrees with St. Gregory that this demon was extraordinarily defiant as proved by the Lord’s rebuke: “…and enter no more into him!” If it had not been for this command, St. Gregory says, the demon might have returned after being cast out.
St. Gregory says that taking the boy by the hand shows the Lord’s human nature, and raising him up unharmed shows His divine nature.
When the disciples asked why they could not cast out the demons, Jesus told them that this particular demon is cast out only by prayer and fasting, not on the part of the possessed for he is unable to help himself, but on the part of those who would cast out the demons.
It is not necessary for us to drive out demons! It would be of no advantage if we live carelessly. St. Gregory quotes Matt. 7:22: “Lord, have we not cast out devils in your Name?” What is Jesus’ response? “Depart from me ye that work iniquity.” It is much more profitable for us to banish our passions than to cast out demons.
“This kind is cast out only by prayer and fasting.” The apostles were almost always fasting. St. John Chrysostom says that these are the two wings that lift us up to heaven. But if your body is too weak to fast continually, he says, at least avoid luxurious living.
The gospel says that the father of the child cried out with tears. This is what moved our Saviour to compassion. Do we have tears?
Jesus didn’t say “IF you fast”, but “WHEN you fast”. Fasting is not optional for Orthodox Christians!
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”