Homily on St. John 2:1-11

miracle of the wine

St. John 2:1-11


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit


We have entered a new season of the Church this morning – the season of Lent in which we prepare for Easter.  Lent will last forty days until March 26th and will be followed by the fasting periods of Lazarus Saturday and Holy Week.  This period of forty days was already part of  Church practise during the time of St. Irenaeus who lived in the second century.

During this time, we are to look to our lives and examine what needs to be repented of in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.  We also take this time to spend more time in prayer and use the money that we save in giving alms.

The Miracle of the Wine in Cana

We begin Lent by looking at the wedding in Cana.  It happened on the third day.  This third day the fathers take with great significance.  First of all, three speaks of the Trinity and it was also on the third day that Christ was raised from the dead and His spouse the Church was created.

This miracle being the first is significant in its placement as Eusebius of Caesarea points out that in the Greek version of Isaiah 9 the prophecy reads,

Drink this first.  Act quickly, land of Zebulon and Naphtali, Galilee of the Gentiles.”  And the miracle was a sign of the mystic wine – that wine of faith of the new covenant that is transformed from bodily joy to a joy of mind and spirit.

Prophecy Fulfilled

First, the water is turned into wine and then His ministry begins.  He went to the wedding to give wine and not to drink it.  His ministry from the beginning was for others.  If we look back a little into the previous chapter, we see that Christ has been declared the Lamb of God by St. John the forerunner and has received His first disciples.

So then, we see the establishment of who Christ is followed by the fulfillment of prophecy.  In the orchestration of this miracle, we see also an example of the ministry of the Theotokos.  She intercedes with Christ for this family because they have run out of wine.  Whether this family asked her, or she did it on her own, it shows that the Theotokos cares enough for our needs to ask her Son.  Therefore, we should be bold in asking her to pray for us.

Ministry of the Theotokos

In the first miracle, the ministry of the Theotokos is integral in it being accomplished.  We see honour being given to her in the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  In fact the term that some of the fathers use in this situation is that Christ venerated Mary in His giving honour to her in this miracle.

Jesus responds to His mother’s request with the words, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?  My hour is not yet come.”  In the narrative the fathers point out that the Theotokos is referred to as mother, but in Jesus’ response He calls her woman.  Why is this?

The term mother points to Jesus’ humanity.  We call her Theotokos or Mother of God because we are recognising that through the Virgin Mary, God took on humanity.  His use of the word woman reminds us that He is the creator both of Mary and of all things.  It is as the Son of God rather than as the Son of Man that He is able to work this miracle.

God took on our humanity, but His miracles of healing, multiplying food, walking on water etc. is a function of His divinity.  He is bringing the power of God into the physical world through his union with the flesh.  These miracles show first of all His love for mankind and second that God has united with man.

He states that His hour has not yet come, but as we have read the passage this morning, we see that He does indeed accomplish it.  Why does He say this and why does He change the water into wine afterwards?  He says this because everything that God does is in  a planned order.

Reasons for the Miracle

There are two reasons why he performs the miracle.  First, to demonstrate to all who observed it that while He ordered all events, He was greater than that order.  He was the creator of the order, so it was subject to Him rather than Him being subject to it.  He had the freedom to adjust it.

Second, to show that the greatest honour is to be given to parents.  He out of reverence for His mother, did what He had not yet willed to do.  This miracle was a full transformation of water into wine as St. Hilary of Poitiers explains,

It was not a mixture, but a creation: the simple nature of water vanished, and the flavour of wine was produced; not that a weak dilution was obtained, by means of some strong infusion, but that which was, was annihilated; and that which was not, came to be.1

Others among the fathers point out that these vessels were used for water.  There is no room left for trickery.  It is like Elijah preparing the altar by pouring water on it.  For there to be fire then and wine here, it had to be a miracle.

Spiritual Allegory of the Miracle

A physical miracle happened.  However, there is much spiritual significance and allegory that the fathers see in this miracle.  First, it brings men out of spiritual apathy, when they see the power of God and causes them to worship Him.  Through this miracle the glory of God was manifested.  I’ll explain how it was manifested in a little bit.

Second, these water pots were normal water pots, but in them water was turned into wine.  In the same way the Theotokos was a normal human being, but in her womb the nature of the Son was transformed into humanity so that He is now fully God and fully man.

Third, the water pots gave birth to wine just once.  This miracle only ever happened once.  In the same way the Virgin conceived and gave birth to Emmanuel and did not give birth again.

Fourth, it points towards our Lord’s death and resurrection.  He was placed in the tomb dead and came out of it alive.

Fifth, it is a picture of Christ pouring His teaching into the Jews during His ministry.  Then after His resurrection, when He opened the eyes of His disciples to what was written in the law and prophets was the wine being poured out for all of the Church to enjoy.  The Scriptures without Christ understood in them is tasteless like water, but when He is understood in them then it is as tasteful as wine.

Sixth, our weak and fickle wills are like water before they are transformed by the grace of God.  Once we were driven and tossed by every doctrine, but now through having been changed by Christ, we have body and strength.  Our will is no longer as St. John Chrysostom puts it washy.  It is solid and able to lay hold of Christ.

Glory Manifested

At the end of this story, we read that Jesus manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him.  The fathers take a look at this and say, “Who saw His glory manifested?”  Presumably, the feast had been drunk dry so probably most of the guests were not in a condition to notice this miracle.  Further, it was only the servants and disciples who saw it take place and the ruler of the feast who noticed.  St. John Chrysostom sums it up,

He manifested it at least for His own part, and if all present hear not of the miracle at the time, they would hear of it afterwards, for unto the present time it is celebrated, and has not been unnoticed. That all did not know it on the same day is clear from what follows, for after having said that He manifested forth His glory, the Evangelist adds,

And His disciples believed on Him.2

It is manifested or made known through the testimony of the disciples and the Church through the centuries.  St. Cyril of Alexandria of this miracle says,

Many most excellent things were accomplished at once through the one first miracle. For honourable marriage was sanctified, the curse on women put away (for no more in sorrow shall they bring forth children, now Christ has blessed the very beginning of our birth), and the glory of our Saviour shone forth as the sun’s rays, and more than this, the disciples are confirmed in faith by the miracle.3

Divinity of Christ

What was it that the disciples believed?  St. Maximus of Turin tells us that it was not what the disciples could see happening that caused them to believe but what could not be seen by physical eyes.  This did not cause them to believe in the Virgin birth because that was something that they already knew.

Instead, this caused them to believe in the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God.  This miracle proves that Christ is both the Son of Man (He has a mother) and that He is the Son of God (He can do wonders).  St. Maximus concludes,

Let us believe not only that He shared our nature but also that He was consubstantial with the Father; for as a man He was present at the wedding, and as God He changed the water into wine.  If such is our faith, the Lord will give us also to drink of the sobering wine of His grace.4


Let us purpose to embrace this season of Lent by spending time in repentance, prayer, and looking for ways to give.

We ought to praise God that through this first miracle the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled.

As we saw in this passage, the Theotokos interceding for the family of the wedding, let us also ask her to pray for us.  There is an Orthodox prayer that states, “The intercessions of a mother have great effect to win the favour of the master.”  We saw the truth of that in this passage.  This whole miracle took place because of her intercession.

To ask her to pray for you is quite simple.  In the western tradition a request to her has been passed down, that you will often hear sung in Latin around Christmas, but the English words are:

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Also, as she is the mother of our Saviour, let us follow His example and venerate and honour her.  My particular background was that anything to do with the Blessed Virgin Mary was looked upon with suspicion to the extent that her role was downplayed, however, let us follow the example of Jesus in honouring her.  Let us follow the example of Elizabeth and bless her.

Finally, let us believe today as we confessed in the Nicene Creed that Christ is both the essence of God and Incarnate of the Virgin Mary.  Finally, let us with the Church proclaim this first miracle that manifested the glory of Christ.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew



David, Gérard, ca. 1460-1523. Miracle at Cana, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46657 [retrieved May 2, 2019].

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

4 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Homily on St. John 5:30-47

St. John 5:30-47


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

The Father and the Son

Jesus can do nothing of His own.  This is not because Christ does not have the power to do it Himself, but to show that there is only one Godhead.  It is to show that the will of the Son and the will of the Father are one and the same.

Furthermore, He was made a man in the incarnation and took the form of a servant.  In His humanity, He is under law, He is under God.  He is subject to the Father in the capacity of His humanity.  If the Father desires something, then the Son being subject to Him desires it as well.  They are one Godhead with one purpose.

St. John the Forerunner

The only begotten Son of God says, “I seek not my own will.”  Is this our attitude?  Speaking for myself, we often seek our own will.  We want our own way and will do everything we can do attain it.  However, the Son humbles himself and seeks the will of the Father.  Let us follow His example and do the will of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the Trinity has one will, power and majesty.

Jesus appeals to the witness of St. John the Forerunner and yet He says, “I do not receive testimony from man.”  Why does He appeal to a man then?

First, John was sent from God, so the words he spoke were from God.  In just the same way as Moses and all the prophets bore witness from God to Christ.  Therefore, the testimony of John and all the prophets is the testimony of God not man.

Second, it is because of the mercy of God.  The people respected John as a trustworthy source and as a prophet.  They believed the words that John spoke, so God bore witness through the instrument that they believed.

Lamps Vs. Light

St. John the Forerunner was a burning lamp.  In fact, the Holy Apostles and indeed all people are lamps St. Augustin tells us.  We are lamps because we can both be lighted and extinguished.  If we trust and follow Christ we are lit, if we turn away, we can be extinguished.

In comparison, Christ is not a lamp but a light.  For He cannot be lit or extinguished like us.  He is always shining.  Just as the Father has life in Himself, He has given to the Son to have life in Himself.

The Works of Christ

In our passage today, there are four testimonies about Christ – God the Father, John the Baptist, His own works, and the 1st Testament Scriptures.  In verse 36, we are looking at the works.

The Only begotten, appeals that the proof of His Sonship is that He has done the works of His Father.  This is an appeal to the power of God and not just the name of God.  He does the works of His Father as these people have seen and we have read numerous times throughout the Gospels.

St. Hilary asks the question which you may have asked yourself what do these works prove?  They prove that He was sent.  Notice that He isn’t doing His own works, but the works of His Father.

His being sent and doing the works proves a second point.  It proves His Son-like obedience to the Father and the authority of His Father.  These works can only be accomplished by One who is sent by the Father.

Never Seen God?

Jesus states that the Jews here had never heard the voice of God or seen His form.  However, we know from having read the 1st Testament that God has appeared to Abraham, Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah and so on and so forth.  What does He mean here?

First, He is not speaking of seeing God in literal sense but more of a philosophical sense, but we’ll get to that shortly.  Second, In St. John 1:18 we have another statement, “No one has seen God at any time”.

No One Has Seen God

It is a valid point that no one has seen God, but it is not the point of our passage this morning. However, in the 1st Testament when God appears, it is God the Son and not God the Father who is appearing.

In the Theotokos and Pantocrator icons, we can see God the Son depicted not God the Father.  In my home, I have an icon of the Holy Trinity which has three figures.  I was curious and wondered who was who, and I found out that you don’t depict God the Father in icons.  Each figure represents a person of the Holy Trinity, but you don’t get any more specific than that.

The Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit

To sum up God the Father is only seen through God the Son.  No one has seen God the Father but the Son has explained Him.

What Does it Mean to See God?

Back to the context of Jesus speaking to these particular Jews.  St. John Chrysostom explains,

He [Christ] means to impress upon them the philosophical understanding that God has neither voice nor shape but is superior to such modes of speaking about Him.  For as in saying, “You have never heard His voice,” He does not mean to say that He has a voice but that they cannot hear it.  And also when He says, “Nor have they seen His form, “ no tangible, sensible or visible shape is implied to belong to God….But why, He says, do I bring these things up?  I do so because not only have you never heard His voice or seen His shape, but it is not even in your power to assert what you are most proud and assured of: that you received and kept His commandments.1

Therefore, to hear and to see God is to receive the commandments and to live them.  It is to read the Scriptures and the Fathers and to follow the instruction that they have given.  It is not necessarily to physically see or hear God.  When our manner of life changes, then we know that we have seen and heard God.

The Witness of Scripture

Jesus then moves from speaking of the form of God to speaking of His Word.  The Word of God who is Christ incarnate is the image, expression, and form of His Father.  The Jews did not receive Jesus who spoke to them and thus they also did not receive the written word – the Holy Scriptures.

The Fathers tell us that the Pharisees liked to think that the Divine Word was with them and that they had come to a greater level of knowledge.  However, their rejection of Jesus as Christ was proof that they had not truly received the Divine Word of God.  Let us take this as a warning, lest we also fall into this trap and think that just because we know the Holy Scripture, we know God.

St. John Chrysostom sums up the problem and failure that the Pharisees had,

It was not even in their power to assert what they boasted the most about, that is, that they had received and obeyed God’s command….Although God instituted them, you do not have them.  For if the Scriptures everywhere tell you to believe in me and you still do not believe, it is clear that His Word has departed from you.2

The Necessity of Finding Christ in the Scriptures

They search the Scriptures, Jesus says.  This is the very thing that they should be doing.  We are not to just have a cursory knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, but we are to search them.  However, in their searching they had missed Christ.

The Holy Scriptures were given to them and to us because we were not present when God spoke to Moses or any of the prophets.  They were given so that we could read the testimony of the Father and the Prophets of Christ.

By light we see light, the Holy Scriptures tell us.  In the same way, in the spiritual realm, we are able to see God who is light through the light of the Holy Scriptures.  Additionally, we are able to see His justice which is filled with light.

Furthermore, the effort that it takes for us to read and search the Holy Scriptures benefits our prayer life.  We have a more fervent love for God after we have spent time reading and been purified through meditation.  God fills us with joy as we spend more time with Him, and this is revealed as we pray afterwards.

The Jews and the Pharisees did not receive Him, and He states that He does not receive honour from men.  St. John the forerunner commended and testified of Him which He did receive.  The difference is stated in verse forty-two – they did not have the love of God in them.

The love of God changes the honour that we give from the honour of men to the testimony of God.  In these verses, Jesus is not reproving them for not giving Him honour but rather for not having the love of God in them.

Oneness of the Godhead

Here in the last few verses of the passage, we circle back to the oneness of the Godhead.  Christ comes in the name of the Father.  This means that He is not the same person as the Father and yet He has the same essence of the Father.

In the last couple of verses, Christ tells us in the clearest way that the writings of Moses are His words.  St. Irenaeus tells us that from this we can know without any shadow of a doubt that the words of all the other prophets are His words as well.  We briefly discussed this toward the beginning of the passage – the testimony of the prophets is the testimony of God.  It is not the testimony of men.

Finally, St. Augustin tells us that Christ is hidden under the mysteries of the law and the prophets in much the same way as a seed is hidden in its husk or shell.  It needs to be shelled to receive the benefit of it.  In the same way the Scripture needs to be searched, expounded and explained to receive the truth of it.


I would encourage you to recite the Nicene creed on a daily basis which affirms that the Father and the Son are the same essence.  From my understanding, our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters declare it at least twice daily.

We must also imitate the humility of Christ.  He always sought to do the will of His Father.  We must also follow suit and do the will of God.  If you are unsure of what the will of God is, read through the Gospels and the book of Acts as a starting point and follow the commands and examples that are there.  I remember an older believer repeatedly telling a group of young people that I was a part of that God will not tell you anything new to do before you are faithful in what He has already given you.

We are lamps.  Let us seek to do the will of God that we might be lit and never extinguished.

Jesus tells us in Matthew five that the pure in heart see God.  Are we seeing and hearing God?  That is, are we following  what we have read and heard in Christian instruction?  If there is something that you are having difficulty following, please speak with your priest or a spiritual mentor.

Let us seek to know God through the Holy Scriptures.  We must not be satisfied with a knowledge of know the truth, but me must press on to know God fully and intimately.

Finally, we ought to seek to maintain the love of God in us.  If we find we have lost that love, we must do everything in our power to reclaim it.  There may be times when we may not have desire to read and search the Holy Scriptures, but we must keep on because love is not an emotion but a way of life.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Fr. Matthew


Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Homily on St. Mark 1:14-34


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Ministry Transition

After St. John the Forerunner’s ministry came to a close, Jesus’ ministry began.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church Theophany or Jesus’ baptism is immediately followed by a commemoration the following day of St. John the Baptist on the seventh.  St. John participated in the baptism and after this we read very little of him throughout the rest of the Gospels.  In one sense the ministry has now been passed from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

We see Jesus preaching a very similar message to the one that John the Baptist had begun.  “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand and believe in the Gospel.”  The pains of repentance must come first, before we can have the joy of a holy conscience.  St. Jerome likens this to what we see in nature – bitterness of medicine in order to have good health, nuts must be shelled before we can enjoy them, the expectation of gain makes pleasant the perils of the sea and several other examples.  If we want to be holy, we have to pay the cost.

Calling the Lowly

As He begins His ministry, He calls His First disciples.  The Fathers point out the great mystery of who he picks.  It isn’t people of grandeur, wealth or even an honoured profession – it was fishermen.  Men who did not have that great a grasp on language.  (The Gospel of St. Mark is believed to have been dictated by St. Peter has some of the poorest Greek in the New Testament.)  Even today, in our own society, professional fishermen are looked down as ones not being exceptionally bright or well educated.  Consider the number of Newfie jokes and to a lesser extent the Maritimer ones.


St. Eusebius tells us that God choosing these lowly men reveals the grandeur of His nature.  He came from heaven and taught and sent out the very lowest of society to establish His kingdom.  Thinking it good to use the most unsophisticated of men, he taught the world of this salvation and of our Christian religion.  As St. Paul would later testify, it is not by clever arguments but the power of God that our faith rests in.

The Effectiveness of the Early Disciples

Their effectiveness as we know from studying Church history was phenomenal.  Origen who lived a mere 200 years later testifies of it.

And we may see, moreover, how that religion itself grew up in a short time, making progress by the punishment and death of its worshippers, by the plundering of their goods, and by the tortures of every kind which they endured; and this result is the more surprising, that even the teachers of it them­selves neither were men of skill, nor very numerous; and yet these words are preached throughout the whole world, so that Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish, adopt the doctrines of the Christian religion.  From which it is no doubtful inference, that it is not by human power or might that the words of Jesus Christ come to prevail with all faith and power over the understandings and souls of all men.1

The Cost of Following

These fishermen left everything, even their very livelihood for following Christ.  The fathers tell us that in the Scriptures that any relations too dear or trades are to be left behind for the Lord’s sake.  We see this not only in the calling of the disciples in the Gospels but also in the calling of Elisha and others among the prophets.

The Fathers, furthermore, caution us against being hesitant to leave our livelihoods because of our parents and children.  Some of you have probably been faced with that dilemma to a certain extent when you came here.  Personally, I have been privileged in that my being involved in ministry is something that pleases my parents, but I know that is not the norm.  Metropolitan has various examples of the difficulty in several of his books.  Tertullian tells us that none of those that the Lord chose ever said, “I have no means to live.”  We can also be confident that this will be true for us as well if we continue in our calling.  I am reminded of Hudson Taylor’s famous quote:

God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply

We make a beginning in following our calling from the Lord, by imitating the example of these first disciples.  They left livelihoods and families, but the principle is that we leave anything and everything to follow our call.  This is going to look different for each person.

Examples of those who followed

It could be property and wealth.  This was the case for C. T. Studd and I think for the whole of the Cambridge seven.  They had great wealth, but they gave it up to follow Christ’s call to share the love of Christ to the millions in China.

It could be social class.  I think of Florence Nightingale.  Nurses of her day were from the lower classes, but she followed the call to minister to the sick, injured and dying.  Reflect today in following Christ’s call what does it require you to give up?  What is impeding you in following wholeheartedly after Him?  St. Jerome reminds us that the focus is not what they left but what they found.

They left their father of the flesh to follow the Father of the Spirit.  They did not leave a father; they found a Father.2

From that day forward the disciples followed him closely and resolutely and didn’t depart from Him.  They made their home in following Him through the countryside of Palestine and listening to His teaching.  Let us today make a home for Him in our hearts where He may come among us and teach us.

The Healings of Christ

Continuing on in the passage, he enters Capernaum where he casts out demons and heals the sick.  Notice, the order though, first, He casts out demons and then He heals the sick.  His first healing medicine is in operation against the means that death entered the world and then he deals with its effects in sickness.  The root problem is first dealt with and then the symptoms.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. Ojéda

Confessing Christ

We see the demons making, as it were, a confession of faith.  However, this confession did not result in salvation.  Why is that?  The fathers point out several reasons.

First, they confessed Christ under compulsion.  As we can see here in this passage, it is a confession of fear. “Have you come to destroy us?”  Salvation comes through a confession of the free will.

Second, the confession must not be merely words but also the affections of the heart.  Here after the confession, Christ rebukes the demon.  Later, when St. Peter makes a similar confession he is blessed.  The difference is that He spoke in love and the demons in fear.  St. Augustin tells us, “Only the faith that works by love is faith.”  In addition, Augustin also says, “Faith is mighty, but without love it profits nothing.  The devils confessed Christ, but lacking charity it availed nothing.”

Third, even though what they said was true, it came from an unrepentant and unclean mouth and heart.  Christ did not wish that the truth should proceed from such a source lest it should be mingled with the malicious desires of the evil one.  To sum up, confession needs to be of free will, it must be spoken from love, and it must be spoken from a repentant and clean heart.

Confession of the Truth

Even though this confession was spoken from unclean lips it still proves the truth as St. Irenaeus explains,

…all thus indeed seeing and speaking of the Son and the Father, but all not believing [in them]. For it was fitting that the truth should receive testimony from all, and should become [a means of] judgment for the salvation indeed of those who believe, but for the condemnation of those who believe not; that all should be fairly judged, and that the faith in the Father and Son should be approved by all, that is, that it should be established by all [as the one means of salvation], receiving testimony from all, both from those belonging to it, since they are its friends, and by those having no connection with it, though they are its enemies. For that evidence is true, and cannot be gainsaid, which elicits even from its adversaries striking testimonies in its behalf.3

In short, truth gets borne out by both its enemies and its friends.

The healing took place in the town of Capernaum on the Sabbath.  St. Jerome tells us that Capernaum means town of consolation and the Sabbath means rest.  Therefore, he was healed through consolation and rest just as the human race under bondage since Adam was healed from every uncleanness through consolation and rest.


Let us endeavour to follow Christ’s command and repent and believe.  Metropolitan Athanasius recently shared that an attitude of repentance needs to be maintained even if we are currently aware of a sin.  We need to be praying the Jesus prayer often, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.”

In our call, in following Christ, let us look and see if there is anything hindering us from following Christ closely.  In certain seasons of our life this may look different than other seasons of our life.  At certain points there have been certain activities that I have not been able to participate in because they were hindering my spiritual growth, at other times I had the freedom to participate in these things.  We must remember the maxim, “Others may, but I cannot.”  Examine your life and see if there is something that is hindering you from following Christ.

We must also look to our confession.  Are we confessing Christ because we love Him or are we confessing Him another reason?  If it is no longer out of love, we must repent and ask God to restore our love for Him.  We remember Christ’s warning to the Church in Ephesus, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

Finally let us rejoice that we and the human race were healed through consolation and rest.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew



1 Alexander Roberts, D.D. & James Donaldson, LL.D Editor, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 4, Tertullian Part Fourth; Minicius Felix; Commodian; Origen Parts First and Second, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 350

2 Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament II (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 19

3 Alexander Roberts, D.D. & James Donaldson, LL.D Editor, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 469


Duccio, di Buoninsegna, d. 1319. Christ Calling the Apostles Peter and Andrew, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=49261 [retrieved May 5, 2020]. Original source: www.yorckproject.de.

Limbourg Brothers. Jesus Casts Out the Unclean Spirit, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56401 [retrieved January 13, 2021]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Folio_166r_-_The_Exorcism.jpg.

Homily on St. Matthew 2:1-12

St. Matthew 2:1-12


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

First and Second Coming

Merry Christmas!  Throughout Advent, we have the first coming linked with the second coming, here in our passage today, we have another parallel.  King Herod was not the proper King of the Jews, but rather a usurper.  He had taken away their liberty, upset their established order and caused things to be in disarray.   We are told that it is fitting that Christ came to bring help to them without human help.  It was right for God to free the human race that no human could free.  In the second coming St. Peter Chrysologus explains,

In just this way will Christ come again, to undo the antichrist, free the world, restore the original land of paradise, uphold the liberty of the world and take away its slavery.1

As we celebrate our first deliverance let us look forward to the second one that will appear.

The Star a Sign

On Christmas Eve, in our lectionary reading, we hear of the angels who spoke to the shepherds, but here it is merely a star that the wise men followed.  The Shepherds, who were of the Jewish people, were believers or members of the covenant.  Therefore, God spoke to them through a reasoning being i.e., an angel.  The Magi were Gentiles, so a sign was given to them to guide them to Christ.  As St. Paul has written,

“prophecy has been given for believers not for unbelievers, but signs have been given for unbelievers and not for believers.”

Therefore, signs were given to the Gentiles and prophecy to the Jews.  Furthermore, St. Gregory the Great tells us, it was reasonable that the silent elements should preach Him when He was not yet speaking and that preachers should make Him known after His birth.

Missing Christ

Why was Jerusalem troubled?  Salvation was at the very door and they were troubled and disinterested.  As in so many previous generations, they remained troubled because of their idolatrous affections that had caused them to turn from God in the very moment that He was pouring His greatest benefit on them.  They were once more desirous only of the things that they could have in Egypt and forgetful of the slavery.

The arrival of the wise men should have caused them to think that foreign kings and empires are trembling at His birth and are sending emissaries, should we not also take note?  Alas, however, they were disinterested and explained his birth to Herod and the wise men and left it at that.

Remove Dullness and Envy

We must also take this as a warning to ourselves.  If there is dullness in our minds for what God is doing or envy for the sin for which we formerly had delight, we must be more fervent than fire to root these out of our minds.  Remembering Christ’s words,

“I am come to send fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.

The Holy Spirit is also referred to as fire throughout Scripture and we must ask God that His Holy Spirit would cleanse our minds from this dullness and envy.

The Desire of Herod and the Magi

King Herod desired to find the child in order to destroy Him, but Herod couldn’t say so to the wise men who so earnestly sought him.  He, therefore, pretended that He desired to worship the Child.  However, human malice and deceit is no match against the divine plan.  After presenting their gifts to Christ and worshipping the Newborn King, they were warned against returning to Herod.  Herod symbolises today all those who make a show seeking God but are not earnest and therefore never manage to find Him.


The Magi, in one sense came to Herod and Israel as emissaries of the Gentile world.  They came to intercede for peace to be created between Jews and Gentiles, and they hoped that there might be one fold and one Shepherd for all the peoples of the earth.

Perceiving nothing of the deception that Herod offered to them because so full of awe of this great gift that God was giving to man, they could never have imagined that anyone would have attempted such wickedness against something so marvellous.

The Star of Bethlehem

As they journey on, we see the true marvelousness of the star.  It is no ordinary star.  It moves, stops, goes on again, before finally resting above Christ.  The star’s purpose first of all was to point the Magi to Christ and then later to point the rest of the world to Christ.  It remained above the house because there was nothing significant about the place.  It was needed to point to Christ.


This star reminds me of the Theotokos icons.  Just as the purpose of the star isn’t to look to the star but to Christ, so the purpose of the icon is to point to Christ and not to Mary.  Our attention is to be towards our Lord and Saviour.  In our own lives, we are to live so that Christ is seen rather than drawing attention to ourselves.

Worshipping the Saviour

Their journey, at last over, was not without fruit.  Their longing to see the one Anointed king of the Israel was fulfilled.  We understand that Israel is not just those who believe among ethnic Israel but also the Gentiles who believe according to Divine grace.  They had hoped to see the reconciliation of the nations and here they worshipped the reconciler in his crib.  They recognised in their worship that He truly is Divine.

Through this Advent season and now entering the Christmas season we have seen the testimony of angels, of prophets, and of signs given.  We have seen one marvel linked to another marvel.  If only one of these things had happened there might be reason to doubt.  But now the Fathers tell us with all this accumulated evidence, even the most skeptical mouths are stopped.  Let us join the Magi this morning in worshipping our Saviour.

The World and We join in this Worship

As Isaiah prophesied that all the nations would come presenting gifts, these wise men are representative of all the nations of the world in offering their gifts.  Each of these gifts had a different purpose.  First, gold was given in recognition that He is a King.  Second, frankincense was given a beautiful gift that speaks of the soothing speech of the Holy Spirit.  Finally understanding that life is but a sepulchre, they offered myrrh.

These three gifts also have a spiritual meaning for each of us today.  We are to offer each one of these gifts as well in our worship of our God.  Gold speaks of wisdom, incense of prayer, and myrrh the mortification of our bodies.  St. Gregory the Great explains,

And so do we too offer gold to the newborn king if we shine with the brightness of wisdom from on high.  We too offer Him incense if we enkindle on the altar of our hearts the thoughts of our human minds by our heavenly desire.  And we offer Him myrrh if we mortify the vices of our bodies by our self-denial….we are offering myrrh to God when we employ the spice of self-restraint to keep this earthly body of ours from decomposing through decadence.2

Let us then in this coming year worship Him in such manner.  May our speech be seasoned with grace and wisdom always encouraging and lifting one another up.  Let us consistently spend time in prayer, maybe we could purpose to add an additional time of prayer at some point in our day.  Finally, we must work on putting to death the passions as we have heard repeatedly from the Fathers.

After Worship Follow Christ

The Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they departed another way.  This is a picture of our turning away from the path of sin.  Once we have come to know, worship and adore Christ, we abandon the path that we were travelling before i.e., the path of error.  We may now walk the narrow path of following Christ.  He is our guide to leads us back to our place in paradise from which Adam was driven out.  This is the land of the living that is mentioned in the Psalms.


As we celebrate Christmas today and over the next twelve days let us rejoice that our Saviour has come to remove sin from the world.  Let us also look forward to the day that He returns to remove the Antichrist and set everything right again.

We must not be as the religious leaders and those in Jerusalem, but instead we need to ask God to purify our hearts with His Holy Spirit so that dullness and envy can have no place in us.  We must keep our eyes open to what God is doing in our lives no matter what our circumstances are.  This period of restrictions may cause us discouragement, but we need to keep our eyes on God and see what He is doing.

Let us rejoice today that just as Herod’s design against the Christ child were no match for the Divine plan, so also the workings of Satan and his demons are no match for it in our age as well.  God is still on the throne and His purpose will not be frustrated no matter what is conspired.

May our lives like the star, and like the Theotokos point to Christ.  We need to remember that what we do is not to proclaim ourselves but to proclaim our Lord and Saviour.

Finally, let us in this coming year speak with wisdom, pray more earnestly, and seek to put to death the passions in our lives.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew



1 Thomas C. Oden and Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament Ia (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 21-22

2 Ibid, 28-29

Herod with the Three Kings, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56312 [retrieved January 14, 2021]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint-Gonery.Drei.Heilige.Koenige.jpg.

Journey of the Magi, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56279 [retrieved January 14, 2021]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albanipsalter_DreiKoenige.jpg.

Luini, Bernardino, 1475?-1533?. Adoration of the Christ Child by the Three Wise Men, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46634 [retrieved January 14, 2021]. Original source: http://www.yorckproject.de.

Homily on St. Matthew 1:18-25

St. Matthew 1:18-25


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

The History of the Theotokos

Today we look at the Annunciation to St. Joseph.  The tradition of the Church tells us that the Theotokos grew up in the temple until she was twelve.  When she was twelve it was no longer permitted for her to be there so the priests looked through Israel for a suitable husband for her.  They cast lots to know the will of God and the lot fell to Joseph.  He, being old, attempted to refuse the selection but the High Priest told him the lot was the will of God and Joseph must not refuse God.

The Theotokos was betrothed to Joseph for the next two years and the annunciation to her and the conception of Christ occurred while he was working in another region.  Our passage opens when he returns and is perplexed as to what to do.

The Theotokos is with Child

She was found to be with child.  How was she with child without being with a man?  This is the question that caused Joseph so much trouble and has caused centuries of meditation and contemplation.  St. John Chrysostom tells us it is not our place to figure out exactly how it happened.  He states if we were to know, then either St. Matthew or Gabriel would have explained.  We must be content to know that the conception came from the Holy Spirit.

He furthermore warns that we aren’t to imagine that we understand what happened by saying that it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  His birth or in Chrysostom’s words His generation is a mystery.  We remain ignorant of many things while learning of them.  He then asks this series of questions,

[H]ow the Infinite is in a womb, how He that contains all things is carried, as unborn, by a woman; how the Virgin bears, and continues a virgin. How, I pray thee, did the Spirit frame that Temple?1

First Two Stars


These questions leave us in wonder and worship to God of what He has accomplished.  In this verse we cover the first two stars on the Theotokos icon.  She was a virgin before the conception – the first star and she was a virgin as she carried God in her womb – the second star.

Conception by God or Man?

Another one of the Fathers asks the question, “Does the conception of a woman depend on a man?”  If we look through Scripture, we see that God is the one who opens and closes the womb.  We remember the words of Jacob to Rachel, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of your womb?”

We see then that it is not when man so desires that a woman conceives but when God so desires.  This father then asks the question,

Therefore, if a woman’s conception does not depend on a man but God, what is so incredible if God should wish to give her offspring without a man?2

Difference of Christ’s Birth

Furthermore, it was not fitting that the only Son of God should be born in the normal human way, since Christ was not born for himself but for us and all humanity.  He was for sure born into flesh that would undergo corruption, but He was born to heal that corruption.  The state of a virgin is incorrupt and human corruption does not come from a virgin.

The purpose of His birth is different than our births as well.  We are born so that humanity might exist, He was born out of His merciful will to save.  It was right that He was born contrary to human nature because He was beyond human nature.

Christ would be born of a virgin betrothed as an example of what would happen for all the saints.  We are born from the virgin church which is betrothed to Christ.  Remember, the marriage supper of the lamb has not yet happened.  The Church is the promised or betrothed bride of Christ.

St. Joseph’s Dilemma

St. John Chrysostom points out that it is very interesting what Joseph decides to do here.  There was no precedent for it.  He was faced with a dilemma, to keep Mary in his house was a transgression of the law but to expose her would be to deliver her to death.  He chooses to put her away secretly.  St. John Chrysostom tell us this shows us that grace was beginning to shine forth and change the way people acted.  Christ was already here in the womb of the Theotokos.  He was beginning to cast light on the world which caused Joseph to act in a manner of the heavenly kingdom rather than according to the Old Covenant.

God, however, is merciful and appears to Joseph to explain what has happened.  He is made aware of the heavenly mystery so that he might know the truth of the pregnancy.  He is also made aware so that he will not fall into the sin of jealousy and suspicion and be able to receive the good of the mystery.

The Incarnation Reverses Corruption

Let us also take note of the order of this mystery: in the garden the devil spoke to Eve the first virgin and then to man that he might give to them the word of death.  Now, in the incarnation, the announcement of the undoing of corruption is done in the same order.  The Theotokos first and then Joseph receives the angelic visitation.  St. Chromatius states,

In the former case, a woman was chosen unto sin; in the latter case she was chosen unto salvation.  In the former case, the man fell through the woman; in the latter case, he rose through the virgin.3

Woman Given Honour

Woman was given the honour to bring salvation to mankind.  In the incarnation, any reproach she had from the garden of Eden is taken away.  Furthermore, it had to be a union between God and a virgin since corruption comes through man.  Woman is taken from being the entrance of sin into the world to being the entrance of salvation into the world.  Woman has done far more than any mortal man could ever do in the working of our salvation.

Joseph Cares for the Theotokos

What is meant by, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife?”  It means to take her into his house and not put her away because she has been entrusted to you by God.  The angel was telling him that Mary was being committed to him not for marriage, but to dwell with him.  In the same way that John the Apostle would be entrusted with the Theotokos at the crucifixion, Joseph was being entrusted now.  God saw to it that she was a virgin and that she had protectors throughout here whole life.

The one Father points out that there are three main reasons that the angel appeared to Joseph.  First, so that an ignorant but just man would not do an unjust thing, for a just reason.  Second, for the honour of the Mother of God.  By keeping her in his house she would be protected from shame.  Third, so that Joseph would know it is a holy conception and would not have relations with her in the future.

Perpetual Virginity

This third point is the third star on our Theotokos icon – her perpetual virginity.  Being raised in Evangelical Protestantism this is a point that took me a bit to accept a few years ago when I began to look into it.  However, the Fathers are emphatic on this point and seem a little baffled that anyone would consider her having relations with anyone else.  They also point out that to say so would be to impugn or slight the character of Joseph.  They state that he is just man and that there is no way that he would have done so.


St. Joseph had no part in the conception.  However, God gave him the honour of naming the child.  For though the offspring was not his own, he was called to give a father’s care to him.  We then have the two names that always kind of puzzled me.  The angel tells Joseph to call His name Jesus, but the prophecy that St. Matthew cites His name as Emmanuel.  St. John Chrysostom explains,

Because he said not, “thou shalt call,” but “they shall call,” that is, the multitude, and the issue of events. For here he puts the event as a name: and this is customary in Scripture, to substitute the events that take place for names. Therefore, to say, “they shall call” Him “Emmanuel,” means nothing else than that they shall see God amongst men.4

He is to be named Jesus because He is to be a Saviour.  He is a Saviour in a way that will exceed all expectations.  The people of the time were looking for a saviour like Judas Maccabees who would deliver them from the Roman oppressors.  However, Christ was not a Saviour from visible oppressors but from something greater.  He is the Saviour from sin.  This work of salvation had never been possible up to this point.  We have an understanding of this in the story of the paralytic, when the Pharisees ask, “Who can forgive sins but God?”  Forgiveness of sins has come down to man through Jesus.

Grace Has Come

We see here the union of the 1st Testament with the 2nd Testament.  The grace that had been prophesied for generations and which the prophets of old had rejoiced in was now come.  Christ’s birth did not happen by chance but was predicted from ages before.  Let us rejoice this morning as we look at the candle of joy that our Saviour came to bring salvation from sins.

Let us rejoice in the mystery of the incarnation.  While we should not pry into the details of how it was done, we ought to praise God that it was effected by His Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, we ought to take time to praise God for keeping the Theotokos a virgin or pure before, during and after the incarnation.  Although we will never be able to understand it.

Let us also praise God that through His incarnation, he was able to heal the corruption of the flesh.  We can also rejoice that we are made saints through the virgin church, just as Christ was born through the Theotokos.

We ought also to praise God for the mercy that He showed to Joseph in explaining what had happened with Mary.

Finally, let us also praise God that he undid the fall in the same manner as the devil perpetuated it.  We ought also to praise God for the honour that he has restored to women through the Theotokos.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew



1 Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D Editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Volume 10, Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1880 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 22

2 Thomas C. Oden and Manlio Simonetti Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament Ia (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 15

3 Ibid. 

4 Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D Editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Volume 10, Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1880 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 32

St. John 10:22-38


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Feast of Dedication

It was the feast of dedication and it was winter.  The Fathers tell us that the temple was dedicated three times twice in the fall and once in the winter.  The first two are Solomon and Ezra’s dedication.  The third took place in the time between the two testaments when Judas Maccabeus dedicated the temple.  Today we know this festival as Hanukah which will be taking place in about a month.

Dedicating the Spiritual Temple

Winter tells us not only which feast of dedication, but also the proximity to the Passion of Christ.  He would be crucified the following spring.  For us, the fathers take the wintertime as our time in this wicked world.  We must take the time to celebrate our spiritual temple in this life by always renewing ourselves, and always rising upwards to Christ.  Today as we celebrate dedicating the church let us remember to dedicate our lives as well.

In the statement, “It was winter.” St. Augustin sees a lead into the question that the Jews are asking.  He compares the cold weather to the spiritual coldness of the Jews.  He says,

They had become icy cold to the sweetness of loving him, and they burned with the desire of doing him an injury.  They were far away, while there beside him.1

Our proximity to Christ does not guarantee our warmth towards him.  The Jews had been there observing and listening to his teaching for much of his ministry and they remained cool towards him.

Reason for the Question of the Jews

The fathers see two reasons why the Jews asked him this question – “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”.  The first is because Jesus preferred to demonstrate that He was the Christ by His actions rather than by his words.  So, there is a possibility of ignorance in some of the Jews in asking this.

The second is from hatred and spite.  This is taken from the fact that Christ was always at the feasts and said nothing in secret.  They lead into their marks with subtleness or flatter, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense?”  They are speaking as if they are eager to know the truth, but they are merely looking for something to grasp a hold of which they might be able to hold against Him.

There were probably Jews in both of these groups.  Notice, however, how Jesus answered them.  His answer was full of grace and love.  This fit both those who were asking from ignorance and those who were asking from spite.  He did not bring up all the things that had been said against him in the past.  As St. John Chrysostom tells us,

He did not reply, “What enquire ye of me? Often have ye called me demoniac, madman, and Samaritan, and have deemed me enemy of God, and a deceiver, and yes said but now, Thou bearest witness of thyself, thy witness is not true; how is it then that ye seek and to learn from Me, whose witness ye reject?” But he said nothing of the kind, although He knew the intention with which they made the inquiry was evil.2

What an example for us to follow!  Our Lord and Saviour who knows the thoughts and desires of every heart, responds in love to spite.  How much more for us ought we to respond in love and grace to those around us who seem to be acting toward us in spite.  He did not hold those things that had been previously said against him by them.

Gentleness of Christ’s Response

In another place we know that he responded to a question by saying why are you tempting me, you hypocrites?  But here, he said nothing like that “teaching us not always to rebuke those who plot against us, but to bear many things with meekness and gentleness.”  Even in His response he was encouraging them towards himself with the words “not my sheep”.  He is offering to them what could be theirs if they became his sheep.

Whether we choose to follow Christ or not is not a statement on the validity of Christ being a shepherd but rather a revealing whether we are sheep.  Those who follow are sheep, but if we aren’t, Christ remains a shepherd to those who are.

Who Are Christ’s Sheep?

If we are a sheep, we will hear the voice of the Shepherd.  What is the voice of the Shepherd?  It is that repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name throughout all nations.  The voice of the Shepherd is a calling to repentance and forgiveness.  If we accept this message, we are one of his precious sheep.

What is the distinguishing factor of Christ’s sheep?  Isn’t it their willingness to hear?  His sheep hear.  St. Cyril of Alexandria tells us that included in the word to hear is obedience.  He also says,

The mark of Christ’s sheep is their willingness to hear and obey, just as disobedience is the mark of those who are not his.3

Let us, therefore, purpose this morning to be those who hear and obey the words and instructions of our Saviour.  St. Cyril also says,

By a certain God-given grace, believers follow in the footsteps of Christ.  No longer subject to the shadows of the law, they obey the commands of Christ and guided by his words rise through grace to his own dignity, for they are called “the children of God.”4

Obedience to Christ

We can obey, we can live the words of Christ through the grace that has been given to us.  It is through His power that we can become the children of God.  He promises His sheep, that is us, eternal life.  We are to understand this in a twofold way.  First, we understand that we have eternal life with Christ freed from death and corruption.  Eternal life is not merely endless days and life after the resurrection, for all men good and bad will have life after the resurrection.  Rather it is a passing or a living of those days in endless bliss.

Second, we understand eternal life as the blessing of the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist, Christ plants his life into us as we partake of the body and blood of our Saviour.  Just as it says elsewhere, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”

We are safe in His hands, and no one can take us from him.  However, the Fathers warn us that while no one can take us from His hands from without, we can fall from his hands if we are negligent.  We also remember St. Paul’s warning,

No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

Eternally the Son

Our passage now shifts from a focus on who the sheep of Christ are to Who He is.  In this passage we learn things both about the deity and the humanity of Christ.  He is the Son of the Father, which means that He received His divine nature eternally from the Father and not after His physical birth as Arius and others have claimed.  Forever the Son, He has always had His nature, which is why we affirm in the creed.

Begotten of the Father before all worlds

He states that He and the Father are one.  They are not one flesh or even one spirit, but something infinitely greater.  They are one God.

Father and Son Distinct Persons

There is a heresy that has existed from the early days of the Church that the Father is the same person as the Son and the Son as the Father, just manifesting in different ways.  I have personally encountered this a few times throughout my life, you may have as well.  The Fathers see this  passage as a rebuttal of such a belief.

Their argument is that basically such a belief arises from not understanding grammar, but they are far gentler than that in explaining it.  Christ states that He and the Father are one.  First, we have the two persons the Father and the Son.  Second, we have the plural form of the verb to be – are.  Novatian tells us we could take this view if Christ had said, “I, the Father am one.”  However, by saying, I and the Father are one, he severs or distinguishes the person of the Father from the person of the Son.  They are two persons, but one God.  The Son could have no existence at all unless He and the Father were and are two.  In the words of St. Cyril of Alexandria,

Rather, we believe that the Father and the Son are two unique persons, and we regard the two together in one identical essence, knowing that they possess one might, so that this divine essence is seen without variation in both.

While heretics of succeeding generations have not understood Christ’s statement of unity with the Father, the Jews of the time did.  They understood that to claim God as His Father, Jesus was claiming deity.  However, despite this the fathers tell us that they crucified Christ in ignorance.  Why?  While they understood the implications of such a statement, they didn’t understand that Christ was who He said He was.  They only perceived His human nature and not His divine nature.  As far as their understanding went, they were correct.  For a man to claim deity, it is blasphemy.

Deity Revealed in Works

Finally, we recognise the deity of Christ because of the nature of His works.  The miracles and the healings that Jesus did in His body were because He had the divine nature, yet at the same time He was fully man.  His works prove His deity, but we are left with the mystery of His incarnation.


Let us then purpose to renew ourselves each day in Christ always turning our thoughts upwards to Him.  We must not think that just because we have received a lot of godly teaching that we are close to Christ.  We must still take the time to seek Him each and every day.

Second, we must always respond in love and grace to the questions that are asked of us, no matter the attitude of those asking the questions.

Third, we have all heard the voice of Christ and have become His sheep through repentance and received His forgiveness.  We must continue listening to the Shepherd in all things.  Remaining in Him through our willingness to hear, we cannot be snatched from His hands but we can fall if we are negligent.  Let us seek to follow Him closely.

Fourth, let us affirm that Christ is both God and Man.  Let us affirm that Jesus is the Son of the Father begotten before all worlds.  Let us affirm that they are separate persons of the Trinity.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew


Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 356

2 Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D Editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series Volume 14, Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Hebrews, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1889 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickoson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 222

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 356

4 Ibid.

Homily on St. Matthew 22:34–46

St. Matthew 22:34–46


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

An Unneeded Conversation

In our Gospel reading, we see a conversation begin that the fathers tell us never should have happened in the first place.  Everyone had been put to silence by the words he had replied to the Sadducees, but the Pharisees chose to question him further.  This is the tendency of human nature.  We always want to have the last word.

What was their motive in asking this question?  St. Cyril of Alexandria tells us that it was one of hypocrisy.  They desired to find a pretense to make an accusation against Christ rather than to learn something of the law and be benefited by the response.

Jesus’ Response

Jesus, however, reveals the evil that they were doing.  They were hoping that he would answer in such a way that would declare that He had authority over the law.  (We remember back in chapter 21 that this conversation began as a question of where Jesus got His authority).  Instead of answering in this manner, Jesus’ answer pertains to the purpose of the law.

Love God and Our Neighbours

He teaches in His answer that we don’t measure out our devotion by loving God in part and clinging in part to the concerns of this world.  Our approach to life is to love.  First God with all our being and second to love our neighbours as ourselves.  St. Theophylact of Ochrid tells us that these two commandments keep us from falling into unholy doctrines.

We must love God; so that we do not lead a corrupt life, we must love our neighbour.  For he who loves his neighbour fulfills all the commandments, and he who fulfills all the commandments, loves God.  So, by means of each these two commandments are welded together and united, containing within themselves all the other commandments.1

St. Cyril of Alexandria also testifies of this saying,

For the person who is grounded in the love of God clearly also loves his neighbour in all things himself.  The kind of person who fulfills these two commandments experiences all the commandments.2

Love the Sum of  the Law and the Prophets

Our God has called us to love everyone without qualification.  This is the sum of the law and the prophets.  Origen asks how this is so?  Since the law and the prophets contains laws on leprosy, ceremonial procedures and other varied things.  The prophets deal with visions and the destruction of Jerusalem and other historical points?  He answers,

It seems to me that the answer is something like this.  He who fulfills all that is written concerning the love of God and neighbour is worthy to receive the greatest thanks from God.3

St. John Chrysostom adds that to love one’s neighbour is how we keep all the commandments.  When we look at all the laws, prophecies, and histories of the 1st Testament, we see the working out of the love of God.  Whether it is God loving the world or man responding to that love, or man refusing the love of God.  We have both an example of how love works and what happens when love is rejected.  The central theme of all those stories is that man is to love God and his neighbour, and this is what pleases God.

Who is my Neighbour?

I think that I have mentioned in the past, but it is good to repeat.  Neighbour refers to all of mankind and not just our friends.  It refers to our enemies as well as those who are easy to get along with.  We must remember the story of the Good Samaritan and that he was merciful and showed compassion to the one who was considered an enemy, just as Christ was merciful and compassionate to us when we were His enemies.

Teaching with a Question

After answering this inquiry into the law, Jesus turns and asks a question.  This question is not a challenge to the authority of the Pharisees, but rather a means to teach them in any way that He can.  It is returning good for the malice or evil of the questions that had just been asked.  Furthermore, we must also remember the crowd is mixed.  He asks a question first, to try and teach those who are questioning His authority.  Second, He is asking a question to further teach those who desire to be taught and questioned.  He is boldly setting Himself against the false teaching of the Devil on one hand and on the other is giving instruction to those who wish to learn of Him.

St. John Chrysostom tells us that Christ is taking a quiet approach after all these signs had been manifested through His ministry and after all these questions had been asked and answered to lead them to the point of confessing that He is God.  Jesus’ response to all these questions and inquiries was to ask a question that would open the door to inquire for the proof of who He was, rather than forcing them to accept who He was.

Christ’s hope in this discussion with both the Pharisees and the Sadducees was that they would respond in a fitting manner.  The point of questions is not to trip up others in their words or to look for a way that we can accuse them but rather so that truth and knowledge can learned.

Questions From Ignorance

Even in their presumptuous questions, the fathers recognise that these questions were done from ignorance.  They were tempting Jesus believing Him to be a mere man.  They would never have tempted or tested him if they had understood or believed that He was God.

In the interest of bringing them to where they could accept the truth, He could not simply say that He was the Son of God.  He needed to break it to them gently so that they could grasp it.  We see this same principle in our education and schooling.  When we were learning to read, we were taught simple one syllable words, with simple three- or four-word sentences.  We were not taught four or five syllable words with complex sentences until the groundwork was put in place and we could understand this higher level of understanding.

The truth of who He was, could not be silenced so He needed to convey it to them.

And it was for this reason that he propounded this ingenious question to them, in order that while he was silent his question itself might show them that He was not a man but God.4

Just because the complexities of a truth cannot be conveyed to everyone, it does not mean we should not share the simple summary truth.  For e.g. a simple summary truth that we can share with those who are young or outside of the faith is that God is Trinity.  The complexities of that truth will take a lifetime if not eternity to comprehend.

Christ Did not Challenge Authority

Notice also that he asks this question submissively.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the authorities in Israel.  He does not wish to challenge their authority, but rather to proclaim who He is.  The truth to be gleaned from this question is that Christ is both David’s son and David’s Lord.  How can this be?  St. Augustin explains,

Thus, you have heard that Christ is both David’s Son and David’s Lord:  David’s Lord always, David’s Son in time.  David’s Lord, born of the substance of His Father.  David’s Son, born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Let us hold fast both.  The one will be our eternal habitation; the other is our deliverance from our present exile.5

In the Nicene Creed each week these are some of the truths that we declare and affirm that Jesus is both God and Man.  Furthermore, the fact that it is the Father putting the enemies under the footstool of Christ does not denote weakness or inability in Christ’s nature.  Rather it teaches us the union of His nature with the Father.

After all of this, having been confounded in their questions, the Pharisees and Sadducees asked nothing further.  St. Jerome asks what they did instead.  The only thing that was left outside of acknowledging who Christ was to turn him over to the custody of the Roman authorities.

From this we learn that the faults of the jealous are indeed able to be overcome but are difficult to be put to rest.6

People can be convinced of the truth, but if they don’t want it, they will still reject it.  St. Ignatius has said that our work in Christianity is not in persuasion.  It has to be the Holy Spirit that will convince men of the truth.  I read when I was younger, I think it was probably Tozer that if someone can be argued into Christianity, then they can be argued out as well.


As we have taken a look at this passage, let us determine to ask questions in order to learn and to be benefitted by the response.

Second, we must love.  First, we must love God with all our being and second, we are to love our neighbours as ourselves.  It is through living in this life of love that we are kept from falling into wrong doctrines.

Third, let us always be eager to learn more of the Lord, like the silent hearers in this passage and not be stubborn in our hearts like the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

Fourth, let us be gentle and compassionate with those who are seeking a chance of offence against us.  We must follow Christ’s example of explaining the truth of the Gospel in an understandable way.

Fifth, as we have already done this morning, let us affirm the truth of who Christ is through the Creed often.

Sixth, we must always be submissive to the authorities over us no matter how much disdain that they have towards us.  We must remember to give them the honour that is due them.

Seventh, let us leave people to be convinced by the Holy Spirit rather than to be forced by our arguments.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit


1 https://catenabible.com/mt/22/35

2 https://catenabible.com/mt/22/37

3 https://catenabible.com/mt/22/40

4 Thomas C. Oden and Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament Ib (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 160

5 Ibid, 161

6 https://catenabible.com/mt/22/46

Homily on St. Matthew 21:23–32

St. Matthew 21:23–32


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Ignorance is not Humility

This morning as we continue our journey through the life of Christ, we find the chief priests and elders confronting him.  Their question appearing innocent enough, the fathers tell us actually reveals something about their character.  The fathers tell us that it reveals the elders infidelity or unfaithfulness.  The chief priests and elders were attempting to show to the crowds their humility in not knowing.  However, since Jesus and John the Baptist had both received their authority from heaven, if the chief priests and elders had been faithful to God they would have known.

What of ourselves, do we fain ignorance at times so that we may appear humbler, rather than examining our lives to see if things would be revealed if we sought wisdom from our heavenly Father?

Answers with a Question

We notice that he doesn’t answer them directly but gives them a rhetorical question as a response.  This is to show first that if they had been willing to see his authority, they could.  Second, so that they would be hindered from questioning him further.  Earlier in St. Matthew 7, Christ admonishes us not to cast our pearls before swine or to give what is holy to dogs.  It is not fitting that the Lord should violate his own command.

Furthermore, if we take the hypothetical approach and look at what could have been if Jesus had answered directly, the Fathers tell us it would have accomplished nothing further to their understanding.  For,

“a darkened will cannot discern what is of light.  What good is it to show something beautiful to a blind man?1

Summing up this conversation one, of the fathers, says,

It was proper that the Lord teach his interrogator and weaken his tempter in whatever way he could and confound the cleverness of his reproach with rational arguments, while not making known the truth of his own mystery.2

Be Willing to Answer

In this exchange, we see that both Christ and the religious leaders knew the answer to both of these questions – John and Christ’s authority.

“It was if he had said, ‘You know the truth because you are men, but you deny it because you are evil; I know it because I am God, but I will not tell you because you are unworthy.’  Liars will lie to themselves if they have no one to deceive.  Similarly, truth will keep itself pure, if it finds no one to save.3

You may have had the experience, when you had a secular job of people asking questions about your faith or lifestyle with malicious intent.  I had a co-worker who would ask me these kinds of questions frequently.  One time he asked a question that had double meaning, and I asked him to refine it a little bit so that I knew what I’d be answering, and he quit his line of questioning.  Most of the time the questions were merely meant to shock, and I really didn’t know what to do with them and replied nothing.

However, because some ask malicious questions, we must not allow that to deprive us of our willingness to answer questions about our faith and life.  Br. Harv and I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to answer such questions.  In leading up to that my mind was rolling with the questions, “Is he genuine or is he spoiling for a fight?”.  We must be aware of the dangers, but we must never lose our compassion for those who are seeking God.

God the Father

Coming now to the parable of the two sons, we see first of all a Father.  One of the fathers describes him this way,

“Who is this if not the God who created all people and loves them with a fatherly affection, the God who preferred to be loved as a father rather than to be feared as a lord, even though He was Lord by nature?  On this account, at the beginning of the commandments of the law, he did not say, ‘You shall fear the Lord with all your heart’ but ‘You shall love the Lord with all your heart’.  To elicit love is not a characteristic of a Lord but of a father.4

This is the God and Father who comes to the two sons who are representative of the whole world.  He asks the first son to work in His vineyard.  The fathers tell us that to work in the vineyard is to do justice.  Therefore, he asks the first son who is representative of the Gentiles to do justice and he would not.  He is the older son because the Gentiles existed before the nation of Israel.  Later, however, after the apostles were sent out, he began to do justice.

Israel the Second Son

The second son, which is Israel, heard the command of His Father, Moses and all the prophets promised to do the will of the Father but ultimately failed to do so.  These are they who in Exodus said, “All that the Lord shall speak, we will do and hearken,” but ultimately in their works they were disobedient.

He shows that this self-same thing condemns them, like as Paul also says, Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For this intent, that He might make them even self-condemned, He causes the judgment to be delivered by themselves, like as He does also in the [following] parable of the vineyard.5

Israel had the law; they knew that they were to do justice and to love mercy and from the responses to Christ’s questions in these parables they knew what they were to do.  They were judged by their own mouth.  The Fathers tell us that it is better to do righteousness without promising than to promise and not to follow through.  I think Solomon also warns us that it is better to not vow than to vow and not pay.  We must be careful that we do what we promise.

Are we the Second Son?

What of us, many of us here have been raised in the Church.  We can probably get around the Bible backwards and forwards through what we have learned from our Sunday School classes, kids’ clubs and teaching from our parents.  Are we being obedient to what we have been taught?  I think all of us have a greater knowledge of God and the Christian life than many professing Christians.  However, the question is are we living it or are we revelling in the fact that we know such things.

We have been studying church history this year and we have seen that the Western Church was spared from much of the heresies of the first 1000 years because they had to live their faith and pay for it dearly.  The Eastern Church facing much less upheaval had the time to acquire knowledge and argue out some of the early heresies.  Safety is not necessarily a good thing for the Church.

We can look at North American Christianity as well.  We have a life of ease but ancient heresies have begun cropping up among us.  Since I started Bible School in 2006 and started paying attention to these things a bit more, I have seen different Christians reject the Trinity or have some weird ideas about it, embrace Marcionism, accept universalism, have parts of Gnosticism creep into their faith and more.  We have been taught the Christian faith are we living it?  Or are we trying to acquire more knowledge so that we can cast judgement on God and the faith?

Just to be clear the point is not to stop learning but as we learn, to remember to put it into practise.  We have the Scriptures and the Fathers not so that we can pass tests about our knowledge but so that we can live in a way that is more holy and righteous.

Process Towards Sin

The fathers also see in this parable the process that leads to sin.  It first begins by saying in our hearts, “I will not”.  It is to first say I will not do justice and then to proceed towards wickedness.

As the Fathers pointed out the Father is loving and compassionate and here in verse 31, we see the same characteristics in the Son as he asks a question and pronounces judgement.

If he had said simply, harlots go before you, the word would have seemed to them offensive.  But now uttered after their own judgement [on the two sons], it appears to be less harsh.6

We see a similar thing when the Prophet Nathan confronts King David.  God convicts us from the judgements from our own mouths.  In St. Matthew 7 we are warned that we will be judged in the same measure as we judge others.  God condemns us by our own standards, so that we are without excuse.  However, he has compassion and mercy on us beyond what we mete out.  Origen tells us that the Jews are not shut out forever, but only until the fullness of the Gentiles is completed after that they may enter in.

Opportunity Given to the Righteous First

Jesus says to them that John came to them.  He did not come to the harlots and tax-collectors but to them first of all.  His care was for the religious leaders and the Jews, however when they did not pay attention to him, the door was opened to others those who were considered greater sinners.

We see this pattern of ministry in the life of St. Paul as well.  He would go first of all to the synagogues and only after they rejected him would he go to the Gentiles.

The phrase, that they are going into the kingdom of heaven before you, is not to say that the religious leaders were also currently going but that there was a hope for them to enter as well.  He mentioned these who were considered to be involved in great sin to provoke them to jealousy so that they might after repentance enter the Kingdom of heaven as well.

The Fathers raise the question, “Are we to believe that the religious believers did not believe because they were less sinful than the tax-collectors and prostitutes?”  They answer emphatically to the contrary that they did not believe even when they were reproved by the repentance of these who seemed to have more sin demonstrates that they were full of sin.  They state that were more contemptuous of God, more arrogant, lovers of vainglory, hard-hearted, wanting neither to lead these greater sinners in faith nor to follow them.


This morning then, let us look to ourselves and not walk in the example of these religious leaders.  Do we fain ignorance because we do not want to confront ourselves with the truth that we have been unfaithful to God?  Are we jealous of the ministry or the role others have in the Church?  We must repent lest they go into the Kingdom of heaven and we are left outside.

When we are confronted by those asking malicious questions about our faith and lifestyle, we must seek to answer wisely so that we do not give holy things to dogs.  Perhaps this means answering with a question or in another instance remaining silent.  Seek the Lord continually that you will have wisdom in how to respond.  Always seek to be compassionate and not cynical so that you can receive with love those who have earnest questions.

Let us praise God that He is a compassionate father and desires the best for us.  We must walk in what we have been taught through our years in the Christian community.  Let us not seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake but in order that we may live in more godliness and holiness.

Finally, let us never pass judgement on those who seem to be greater sinners than us since in the compassion of God they may go into the Kingdom of Heaven before us.  We can become proud that our standing before God is secure and look down on others not realising that pride and arrogance are destroying our faith from the inside.  If we begin to cast judgements on those that we don’t believe can be saved, we must run to our loving and compassionate Father in repentance and ask for His mercy which He will give.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit


1 Thomas C. Oden and Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament Ib (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 134

2 Ibid, 134

3 Ibid, 134

4 Ibid, 135

5 https://www.catenabible.com/mt/21/28

6 https://www.catenabible.com/mt/21/31

Homily on St. Matthew 16:13–20

Son of Man

St. Matthew 16:13–20


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Two Questions

Jesus asks the disciples two questions.  First, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?”  Second, “Who do you say that I am?”.  From these we learn the confession of others and the confession of the disciples.


The Fathers draw attention to the fact that he asks these questions in Caesarea Philippi rather than in Judea.  There were a couple reasons for this.  First, he wanted to bring them away from the Jews to the land of the Gentiles, so that they wouldn’t be confined by what the Jews thought in their answers.  They would be freer to speak their mind among the Gentiles, than among the Jews.  He asked among the Gentiles because we are less significant in the eyes of Jews.

Second, the circumstances were to become a prophecy.  The land of the Gentiles was honoured as the place where St. Peter would make his great confession that is not revealed by Flesh and blood.  This points to the future reality that in the Church far more among the Gentiles would confess the Son of Man as Christ than among the Jews.  This was also the city where Cornelius, the first Gentile believer, would confess Christ.

Who is the Son of Man?

Next, let us take note of what group of people that He asks about.  He does not ask what the opinion of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, or others who were his enemies, but rather of the people.  He is seeking to bring to light the understanding of those to whom He is ministering.  For us, we need to be much more concerned about the opinion of those we are ministering to, rather than the opinion of those who oppose us.

Jesus asks this question about the people for two reasons.  First, so that we would know what the understanding of the Jewish people of the time was.  Second, as a precedent for us to learn from.  We need to learn to inquire and learn what the people around us understand about Christ.  If it is bad, or in error then we must seek to remove the cause of that incorrect opinion.  If it is good, then we must seek to encourage them in that understanding.

What are the People Thinking?

In His question for the people, He uses the term the Son of Man to show that he both appears and is also truly fully and unchangingly man and yet at the same time He is very God.  If we look at how He phrases this question, we see that He is not asking the disciples their opinion of what the people think, but what the people are thinking.  God was setting the stage so that we could see the difference between the people’s opinion and the disciples understanding.

Furthermore, Jesus was very particular about when he asked this question.  It was not at the beginning of His ministry, but rather at the turning point of His ministry.  Before this point he had taught them through many things and performed many miracles, so they had context to base their confession on.  After this confession, as we would see in verse 21 if we had read it that He would begin speaking of His Passion (crucifixion and resurrection).

The Deity of Christ

In the second question, we see that the deity of Christ is emphasised more.  Referring to Himself as “I am” rather than the Son of Man.  St. Hilary of Poitiers tells us that St. Peter pondered the difference between these two questions and St. John Chrysostom tells us that Jesus was trying to guide them to think of a higher mental picture than the previous question.  To an answer and a judgement that is more fitting of His dignity.

Therefore, what judgement concerning Himself did He desire?  It was a secret he was asking about, into which the faith of those who believe ought to extend itself.1

Affirmation of the Faith

Through this questioning and St. Peter’s confession, we have a strong affirmation of faith passed down to us to our present day.  This affirmation is very important. In confession we see hear him saying, “You are the Son of the Living God.”  Christ is affirmed as Son which means that there is a Father.  This is also a denial of some if not all forms of Arianism.  You may have run across some people who believe that since Jesus only said that He was the Son of God, He was not claiming deity.  Epiphanius the Latin explains why this is impossible,

If Christ is the Son of God, by all means He is also God.  If He is not God, He is not the Son of God.  But since He Himself is the Son, and as the Son takes up all things from the Father,  let us hold this same one inseparably in our heart because there is no one who escapes his hand.2

Christ’s Power Over Death

God the Father and God the Son are both God and they are distinct persons.  Besides affirming the deity of Jesus, St. Peter’s confession also proclaims that death has no power over Christ.  St. Cyril of Alexandria explains,

Thus, using the definite article, he said, the Christ, the Son of God.  And in calling Him Son of the Living God, Peter indicates that Christ himself is life and that death has no authority over him.  And even if the flesh, for a short while, was weak when He died, nevertheless it rose again, since the Word, who indwelled it, could not be held under the bonds of death.3

St. Peter therefore proclaims through the centuries that Christ is the Son of God the second person of the Trinity, He is fully divine, and that He has overcome death.  He encapsulates the truth of Christmas and Easter into one statement.

A Contentious Statement

Christ’s blessing upon St. Peter to this answer full of faith has been a point of contention throughout the history of the Church.  Coming from a thoroughly Protestant background, I would totally reject any suggestion that the Church was built upon St. Peter.  We boldly affirmed that the Church was built upon a confession and it really didn’t matter who had said it first.

The Roman Catholics as I understand take this verse to mean that St. Peter and his See of Rome has primacy over all the other sees and bishops.  As I have looked at the fathers and studied Church history over the last few years, it seems that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

If you have seen an icon of St. Peter and St. Paul, you will see that usually they are holding up the Church together, neither one is  greater nor is less.  These two Apostles represent the two branches of ministry in the Church Jews and Gentiles.  We see then the Church views the Apostles as equals not one having primacy over another.

Honour is Due to the Apostles

The error on my part must be addressed as well.  If I am to look at it for what it really is, it is a manifestation of pride.  I am saying that the Apostles have no greater honour than I have and since they made this confession before me, it was merely a circumstance of history.  However, we must honour St. Peter and the other Apostles since it was upon their confession that Christ has built the Church and the gates of hades have not overcome it.

Why is St. Peter blessed?

The fathers point out that others such as Nathanael and the disciples after the storm had affirmed Him as the Son of God.  What made the difference in this particular case?

The difference St. John Chrysostom tells us is that it was revealed by God and not man and that St. Peter acknowledged Christ as very Son.  It was at this point that this affirmation of Christ changed from a human opinion to a divine doctrine.  Many would say after him by the Father in Heaven that Christ is the Son of God, but He was the first.

This is the point where St. Peter is transferred from being a disciple to being a shepherd.  It was now the beginning of his responsibility for those who were on the edge of believing and those who would believe in the future.

First Pillar of the Church

This is a great reward that St. Peter is the first apostle appointed as a pillar of the Church.  The rest would later join him.  One of the Fathers tell us that this confession is the foundation for everyone who intends to build their house of faith.  He warns that no matter how many virtues that we add after we have laid the foundation that if it has been laid upon a different foundation, it would be the same as if the whole structure was rotten and ready to collapse.

The gates of hades are those who would stand opposed to the Church of God.  This is both those who would physically persecute, martyr, slander, etc. and also those who would seek to introduce heretical doctrines into our Orthodox confession.  This Father concludes by telling us that if we have been established on the confession of Christ, even our sins will not prevail over us.

This authority of binding and loosing while initially given just to St. Peter here, would after the resurrection be given to the other apostles and has been passed down to the Bishops in every age and is in their care to this day.


Let us rejoice that God has had compassion on us Gentiles to extend salvation to us as well as to the Jews.  Let us praise God that we were honoured with this confession and blessing in our land.

We must seek to learn the understanding of those around us of who Christ is.  After we learn their understanding, we must either seek to correct their understanding or encourage their understanding so that they might know who God truly is.

We must confess that Jesus is both fully God and fully man and that He as life has overcome death and hell.

Let us remember to give St. Peter and the other apostles the honour that is due them for giving the foundation confession of the Church.  Let us always affirm the divine truth that Jesus is the Son of God.

Finally, we must be particular that our faith is based on an Orthodox confession.  This morning we are focusing on the person of Jesus Christ but make it a priority to know all parts of the Nicene Creed and why it is important that we confess these various points of belief every time we meet.  Our whole Christian life is in danger of crumbling if we forsake our confession.  If you are older, you probably know people that you grew up with that have turned away.  If you are younger, you can probably ask those who are older about people that they know who have turned away and the heartache that it causes them.

We must know what we believe and we must live what we believe and not turn aside from Christ.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew


1 Thomas C. Oden and Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament Ib (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 45

2 Ibid, 45

3 Ibid, 45

Perugino, approximately 1450-1523. Christ gives the keys of the kingdom to Peter, detail, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55925 [retrieved March 29, 2022]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Entrega_de_las_llaves_a_San_Pedro_(Perugino).jpg.

Stavrakis Margaritis, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Homily on St. Matthew 14:22–33


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

St. Matthew 14:22–33

Actual and Figurative

In this Gospel passage, as with other stories in the Gospels, the Fathers see both something that is being taught to the disciples as well as a figurative understanding of what is going on.  We’ll first concentrate on the actual events and what Christ was teaching through them first and then we’ll take a look at the figurative meaning.

Follow the Example of Christ and Pray

He sent the disciples away in a boat and then he dismissed the crowds.  After doing both of these things, He went up on the mountain by himself to pray.  He was teaching us that solitude and seclusion are good when we pray to God.  To this end, we see multiple times in the Gospels where he would withdraw to a solitary place to pray.  The Church and the Synod has been encouraging us during this time of Covid-19 to make family altars and to pray as a family, which is good and needful.  However, we must also take the time to nurture and grow in our relationship with God alone.  It is not either/or, but both.  We must develop both types of prayer as we walk with our Lord.

Fear and Its Treatment

The disciples had a problem with fear, as I do as well and probably many of you.  Our Lord’s solution or treatment for it, is not something I like.  St. John Chrysostom tells us that Christ cast them into a situation where their fear would be increased.  They would be in rough weather without him.  We remember that previously in chapter 8 of St. Matthew they had been frightened by the storm, but He was with them and had silenced the storm.  Now He sends them off by themselves that they might develop a greater longing for Him and a continual remembrance of Him.


He then comes to them walking across the sea. Saint Chromatius asks the question,

Who was able to walk on the sea if not the creator of the universe?1

Indeed, this was prophesied in the First Testament Scriptures through the Holy Spirit by Job, Solomon and David:

who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the Sea;

I dwelt in the highest heavens,
and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
Alone I compassed the vault of heaven
and traversed the depths of the abyss.

Your way was through the sea,
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.

These passages point to Him both walking on water as well as the ground.  St. John Chrysostom points out that He did not speedily come to them.  He allowed time for their fears to increase.  They were troubled not only by the storm but also by the great distance to land.  He was training them through these fears and teaching them how they were to endure during their ministry later.

Wait for Deliverance

St. John Chrysostom, furthermore, tells us that He was teaching them to not be to hasty in seeking deliverance, i.e. to have the patience to wait for the deliverance of Christ.  This is something that I really struggle with.  I have my problem and I want it fixed now.  However, several years ago I saw the example of Asian brothers which has challenged me.

When I took a trip to an Asian country, I was confronted by a different culture.  It was one of waiting in prayer.  Whereas I often pray, and the answer doesn’t come in a few days, then I think of it as a non-answer or a no.  However, a believer in that country explained that they pray about projects and then seek permission from the government officials.  If the request is denied they don’t take it as a no, but rather as something that needs more prayer.  They will continue to pray until they have the freedom to go ahead with the project.

St. Peter’s Faith

Jesus walks across the water, the disciples see him, and St. Peter asks to come to Him.  St. Peter’s faith is always ardent and vocal.  Sometimes it was misplaced, like when he desired to be crucified with Christ, but his affection was always strong.  St. Peter the first among the apostles, asks to come to Christ, while the others merely gaze in awe.  He believes that he can do by the will of Christ, what Christ does by His nature i.e. walk on water.  St. Peter walked on water not so much rejoicing that he could walk on water as that he could come to Christ.  The strengthening of faith through the storm had had its desired effect upon him.

The Lord enters the boat and by His presence the winds cease.  The first time he spoke to calm the storm and this time His power is revealed merely through His presence.  For this reason, the disciples worship Him and say, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Figurative Pictures

Apostolic Ministry

Now let us take a look at some of the things that the Fathers see this passage saying figuratively.  He orders the disciples away and He dismisses the crowds, then He goes up on the mountain.  This is an image of what the apostolic ministry and the ministry of the Church would be.  He orders in the great commission that He be carried throughout the whole world until He returns, just as He is on the sea with them and He is coming to them.  When He comes, He will come in dazzling brilliance bringing salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

The Church

The boat carrying the disciples within it is a picture of the Church with the saints within it.  While the boat is rocked and shook by the waves and storm, the Church is shaken with the storms of temptation and the winds of adversity.  The Devil attempts to keep the storms raging against us, while Christ comes to us and strengthens and keeps us from being tossed from the boat through the storm.

While it is still dangerous in the boat in the midst of the storm, outside of the boat is certain death.  The Church alone carries the disciples and believers, therefore in the midst of storms, we are to stay inside the Church and call upon God.  When sailors are unable because of storms to reach port, they call upon God for deliverance.  Because of this, St. Augustin asks this question,

Therefore will he who helps those who are sailing to reach port safely, abandon his church and prevent it from arriving in peace and tranquility?2

Christ Coming to the Church

Jesus comes to them in the fourth watch of the night or the final watch of the night.  The Fathers see these watches as four periods in the history of the world and they have slightly different ways of splitting up the different periods.  I would encourage you to study them and glean the benefit of these different perspectives.  We’ll be taking a look at St. Hilary of Poitiers understanding of the four periods.

The Lord comes in the fourth watch.  This is the fourth time that he comes to a shipwrecked Church.  His concern is just as great as the first time that He came to the Church.  He came first in giving the law through Moses.  Second, he came through the prophets.  Third, He came in His incarnation and finally He will return in splendour.

But he will find the church in distress and beleaguered by the spirit of the antichrist and by disturbances throughout the world.  He will come to those who are restless and deeply troubled.

He will come when the church is exposed to temptations of every kind and when we are terrified by things that are from our own imaginations and from things that are real.

But the good Lord will then speak out and dispel their fear, saying, “It is I.” He will dispel the fear of impending shipwreck through their faith in his coming.

He comes walking at the fourth watch of the night i.e. at the end of the world, He will come to our rescue.  Although we in the Church are tossed by the storms of temptation, we will see the glorified Christ walking upon the billows and waves i.e. upon all the powers of this world.  He conquered these powers through his Passion i.e. His crucifixion and resurrection.  These waves that He submitted himself to willingly for our sakes were stilled as the prophecy states,

“I came to the height of the sea, and the storm swallowed me up.”

Once he got into the boat, the wind and sea calmed down.  Once Christ returns in His eternal splendour, peace and tranquility are in store for the Church.  When His arrival is made known to the world with great wonders, everyone will exclaim, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  As St. Paul also testifies that God has given Jesus a name above every name that at His name every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.

All people will then declare absolutely and publicly that the Son of God has restored peace to the Church, not in physical lowliness but in heavenly glory.

We see then that this story of Christ walking upon the waves is a story of His triumph over the powers of evil, salvation for us, his blessed second coming, and His acknowledgement by the whole world that He is truly the Son of God.


Let us first, find a place where we can pray alone with God whether that is your bedroom or a corner of your bedroom if you share your room, or your office.  Take it upon yourself to find a place where you can draw away and be alone with God.

Second, we must embrace the building up of things in our lives that cause us fear that we can learn to overcome.  God desires so much to teach us to endure and be faithful in the midst of any situation, and still St. Paul stated that he ministered with trembling.  Fear may remain with us, but we can learn through the help of Christ to overcome.

Third, let us be patient to wait for the deliverance of Christ that will come.  He will deliver us, let us remain in prayer until that happens.

Fourth, let us desire that we will come to the point where we want the presence of Christ more than the solution to our problems.  In the same way that St. Peter desired to walk to Christ rather than to be freed from the storm.

Fifth, we must remain in the church despite the great storms and temptations of life.  For while it may be difficult to survive in the Church, it is impossible to live outside of it.  The Church preserves the saints.

Sixth, let us look to the coming of the Lord and the restoration and the salvation that will bring.  It will mean the end of all storms and that we can celebrate and glorify God that our salvation has come.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit


Daniel of Uranc. Jesus Walking on Water, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=59668 [retrieved June 28, 2022]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jesus_walking_on_water._Daniel_of_Uranc,_1433.jpg.

1 Thomas C. Oden and Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament Ib (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 12

2 Ibid